Wednesday, May 30, 2007

20 Bridges! (West Palm to Ft. Lauderdale)

We got up at 6:45 today, with plans to get the anchor up and be underway by 7:30. We had a long way to go, 20 bridges with restricted openings to negotiate, and we wanted to get there mid-afternoon to try to get a crack a mooring at Las Olas.

Everything went smoothly except the one bridge a little south of West Palm--we were about 2 minutes late getting there for the scheduled opening. There was another boat with us. There were no other boats waiting. There was very little traffic on the bridge. The bridge tender called us at xx:01 and says "It's 1 minute after the scheduled opening time and you are not close enough yet, you'll have to wait til the next scheduled opening." That guy must have been on a HUGE power trip. I STILL cannot believe he wouldn't open for us at xx:02. But that was the only asshole of the day. Even the bridges in downtown Ft. Lauderdale were courteous and professional, and at least once, held the bridge a little for us to be able to get through.

We had called ahead about moorings and found out they were charging $30 per day (!!). That's a lot for us homeless cruisers. We had also called the SSCA office and found someone familiar with the Lake Sylvia anchorage. They gave us a few hints on how to get in (hug the east seawall until all the way in--to the end of the pilings--and then proceed cautiously). We almost ran aground going in because we didn't follow directions to the letter, but a homeowner hollered at us and we avoided the one shoal spot. We anchored in about 10' of water and had a nice nite. There's a little raw bar on the south side of the Bahia Mar basin that has a dock and didn't seem to mind that we left our dinghy there for a few hours (we did stop and have a drink).

We had a nice evening with some of Dave's CSY friends, and then brought them out to Soggy Paws to cut a hole in the floor. (Dave's friend Steve had a special saw). Dave is trying to get into a bilge area to reroute some pipes. After a good dinner and a couple of glasses of wine, the lines weren't too straight, but it's not in an area that is visible to most people (unless you have your head under the nav station!).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Wifi on the Fly

Sitting in Old Port Cove playing with wifi. (and still learning)

The laptop built-in wifi is unable to connect with any signal, but using the little Engenius EUB-362 EXT, and a tiny $15 omni antenna, a wifi scan shows about 15 access points, about half of them unencrypted. There is one commercial operation--the strongest signal. But they want $15 a day to use their wifi. I can connect pretty easily with 2 of the next strongest signals that are unencrypted, for free. Access is pretty steady, though occasionally I lose the link as we swing (not sure why, exactly...maybe
the mast gets in the way?) Since I'm not sure where the access point is, it's hard to speculate.

While we were motoring down the waterway yesterday, I spent an hour playing with the EUB-362, and was able to actually pick up signals on the fly as we went by more populated areas. I had to be pretty quick, though. The signals faded pretty quickly as we went by, and it takes about 30 seconds to connect. And I'm collecting my AOL email via Outlook and it's kind of a pig. I'd have trouble getting a completed send/receive on email (checking about 4 different mailboxes these days!). Dave even offered
to slow down the next time I got a good signal. What a good guy.

I was fooling with the settings on our 'Big Gun' wifi setup (the EOC-3220) night before last and managed to change a setting on the configuration, that shut down my access to it. This morning I figured out how to do a factory reset on it (thanks to notes from a friend who had done the same thing). But it doesn't seem to be necessary to use that much power in here and I can use the little guy without needing to turn the inverter on.

I highly recommend the EUB-362 for a simple solution for mobile people looking for a little more boost to their signal. See the Electronics page on the website for links on where you can get one.

Old Port Cove, North Palm Beach

We are sitting anchored in Old Port Cove, a nice lagoon lined by ritzy houses and condos at the north end of Lake Worth, in North Palm Beach.

We decided to take a lay day to let Memorial Day go by and wait to travel the West Palm to Lauderdale run when most of the crazies are back at work.

Rumour has it that this yacht belongs to Jack Nicklaus. And left, a photo of Dave fixing the windlass control cable.

Yesterday we did 11 bridges, 7 of them drawbridges, and 4 fixed bridges. The fixed bridges are easy for most people, but we have such a tall mast that we have to make sure no big wakes are going by when we go thru, and then inch up and go thru slowly. It's impossible to tell from deck level whether you're going to clear. (and I don't trust the posted height boards). Most of the bridges we went thru yesterday were over 65'. (in Melbourne they are 63-64', which is close enough to make our VHF
antenna hit). The draw bridges were not too bad except when we got near Palm Beach, they were all on a schedule, and we had to keep pushing to make the next opening.

We went hard aground once... 6 feet inside the channel marker in Jupiter Inlet. I thought we were never going to get off... the current was wicked and pushing us on, as was the wind. But Dave just assessed the situation and decided to try blasting off first. We were successful in inching off without any assistance.

We also had to shut down the engine once. One of the injector connectors was leaking fuel. Dave insisted we had to shut down RIGHT NOW and fix it. We were in a narrow part of the waterway--no anchoring room. So we inched over to the side, threw our anchor over in 5', and sort of lay ahull along the bank while Dave made the repair. He was done in 10 minutes and we were only a little aground, so it wasn't hard to get moving again.

The wind forecast is still indicating stiff Easterlies for the next few days. We'd hoped to be able to go outside and do some sailing ... at Ft. Pierce ... then at West Palm. But we aren't really ready for 6-8' seas on the beam (too much stuff unstowed). Now our latest plan is to motor down to Ft. Lauderdale on the inside tomorrow and then see what it looks like. We have to go outside around Miami anyway, so if it is still blowing like stink on Wed, we'll pop back in at Miami and go down Biscayne Bay to Pumpkin Key. There we can pop out at Angelfish Creek and be behind the reef and heading SW away from the wind. So we estimate ETA Marathon about Thursday at the earliest.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Down the ICW on Memorial Weekend

What were we thinking??

It's bad enough going down the Waterway on a normal weekend, but it seems that Memorial weekend has brought out all of boating's best and brightest. It warmed my heart to see the Marine Patrol handing out a ticket to a power boat that was blatantly ignoring the 'no wake' signs.

Someone in America is making some money, for all these powerboats to be cruising up and down the waterway at 'max fuel burn' speed.

Well, we had a nice evening on the hook at Marker 21. The last time we'll be doing THAT for awhile (snif). Sorry we missed TGIF at MYC, but we just needed to get going.

Tonight's stop is a wide spot in the ICW about 10 miles south of Ft. Pierce then on to West Palm tomorrow.

The boat's working pretty well. The autopilot and refrigeration are working well. The anchor windlass isn't... an electrical problem in the remote control. It still works manually. Dave spent an hour today troubleshooting and repaired one break in the wire. Still didn't fix it. So we'll use the old-fashioned manual windlass and repair it properly when we get to Marathon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


As of 3pm, we are outta here!
Marker 21 or Sebastian tonight.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Getting Ready to Pull Away from the Dock

We have a few more hours of preps (mainly just moving the last of our bits out of the condo), but should be underway by about noon.

I forgot to put milk on the 'Last Publix Run' list when Dave took the rental car back, so I have to hoof it out to the 7-11 for a half gallon of milk before we leave. Yep, we're really cruising!

I think we'll anchor at Sebastian tonight, and perhaps even stay there tomorrow and finish getting organized. There's no big hurry because we can't (easily) go south of West Palm til the wind quits howling... about Mon or Tue.

We'll try to send in a position update via Winlink about every 8 hours or so.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Leaving Tomorrow! (Friday)

Yes, we really are going to do it... soon.

The freezer is behaving nicely and full of food.

The Monitor wind vane is mounted

Dave's car is parked in Clermont at his friend Jim's house.

More Photos

The home phone is turned off, and newspaper delivery canceled

The water level has dropped about 6 inches

Looks like we're going to pull out of here tomorrow morning some time!

We could have made it out of here today, but it's blowing like stink, so we're stalling a little and watching the forecast. We can spend a day or two inside the waterway before the high winds will impede us, so our plan is to head south to about West Palm and wait for winds in the 10-15 kt range, to make an outside hop down to the Keys. Hopefully that will be Mon or Tue.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Refer is ON!!!

Well, as usual, it took a *little* longer than the half a day that Dave estimated. But also as usual, he did a primo job, so everything went in better than it came out, and is all shiny and neat.

As of 5 minutes ago, with 5 minutes of running time, the compressor was running fine and the plates were cooling.

Here are some photos of the freezer going back together.

This is the removable plywood/epoxy box with the plates inside sitting on a heavily insulated box. The upper box slides down inside the blue insulation. This is so the system can be easily removed to be taken off and worked on.

To the right you can see the plywood box now down inside the insulated box. On the lower right is the hole that the pipes go thru to connect up to the compressor system.

Below, located on a shelf above the engine, in the engine room, is the compressor setup. In the foreground, the shiny silver thing is the evacuation pump (attached temporarily to pull a vacuum on the system). The compressor is behind the evacuation pump. The gauges provide readings on tempurature and vacuum status.

This was the last major project we had to complete before we could leave. Now we just have to finish up about 20 minor ones! (ie time to get off this stupid computer and keep working on my list!)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Long-range plans update

Our original schedule (when we were leaving 1 April) had an ambitious schedule to backtrack and enjoy some of the Western Caribbean before making the Panama Canal transit in the fall. Then enjoying the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Ecuador, doing some inland South American travel and launching across the Pacific in the April 2008 timeframe.

The schedule has now slipped about 2 months, and we've finally admitted we can no longer 'suck it up' without making some hard decisions. It's not possible to just push the entire schedule as is back by 2 months, because there's a 'Pacific crossing window' we have to make(April/May). So the choice is either to skip some of the Western Caribbean and get back on schedule, or lolly-gag a little and push the 'cross the Pacific' date out another year.

I think we've decided that we're tired of hurrying, really do want to spend some time diving Mexico, Belize, and Honduras, and don't mind letting the whole schedule slip some. Haven't updated the Cruising Plans page yet, but will do that soon.

Well, we’re not ready to leave today. Dave told a friend in an email last night ‘maybe Tuesday’, and we’ve started having anything we order sent to the Keys instead of here. We have made a lot of progress in the last week.

The first thing we did was cut Dave's '3 Major Projects To Complete' down to 2 by putting off the head bolt issue til we get to the Keys. Dave's friend Jim (another CSYer) has volunteered to help him pull the head and re-tap the one bolt that has the garbled threads.

I got all the food stowed yesterday (except the cold stuff, which is still in the house freezer). Provisioning is all done except for the last trip for fresh veggies and eggs. We have just one more prescription to pick up at the pharmacy today, and the medical stuff is done (I even got the sutures I’ve been whining about from friend, Donna from ECSA, who's a nurse. Plus she gave us some 'Dermabond' so we don't have to SuperGlue our cuts.)

Dave's first project, to make sure he has all the pieces parts for assembling a new watermaker when we get to the Rio Dulce, is nearly complete. One more stop for a couple of small items at Advanced Water Systems will finish this task.

Dave got the 2nd cold plate installed in the fridge in yesterday, and he was smilingas he finished up. Today’s job is to swap out the freezer plate (with a bigger one). He thinks this will be the easier of the two jobs. (but we probably won’t know until we turn the whole system on). Then we have to pump the refer system down and check for leaks and let it stabilize out. Then we can load it with all the food I bought. And then leave!

While we’re waiting for the freezer to freeze, we have to mount the wind vane and get the 15HP motor aboard. And I have to collect up all my electronic bits and pieces laying all over the floor and stow them.

I have a date with the insurance man this morning (insurance for my 2 rental properties, which have been non-renewed by USAA).

No more going away parties allowed! I think they’re bad luck at this point.

One final thing we're worrying about is the water level in the Indian River. Our mast height is 64', meaning we just barely fit under the bridges when the water is 'normal'. A few weeks ago the water level was low and we cleared easily. The last 2 weeks of wind has pushed the water level up about 18" higher than it was... it is within 1 inch of our 'no clearance' level, and we are holding our breaths and hoping it will go down soon!! (but it hasn't much in the last few days).

FYI anyone who knows Tom and Jean on our sistership Jean Marie... they have been getting ready for their circumnavigation (via the '5 Great Capes') and Tom and Dave have collaborated and commiserated on many projects.. (and Jean has given me lots of sympathy and advice)... they pulled out of the Dragon anchorage 2 days ago and are up in the Cocoa area ‘waiting for weather’. Tom wants something mild and ‘not North’ for the first day—to get across the Gulfstream. Their path is east and south, with a first landfall in Guadeloupe (and ultimately Trinidad for a haulout). Yesterday would have been a good one, but he had ‘one more project to do’. (sound familiar?)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last day in our old house in the Keys with the family still here...

We've spent the weekend helping Dad get packed up and sorting family treasures. We've had some fun, had some disagreements, and shed some tears over a few items. But it's nearly done now. Dad and my sister and brothers and the truck pull out this afternoon. Dave and I and Nicki will stay over until tomorrow so we can noodle around Marathon a little without feeling like we're shirking our family responsibilities.

Then we're back to Satellite Beach by late Monday, for the last push to get our To Do list finished up, and off on Soggy Paws by the end of the week.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Meandering Tropical Storm Andrea makes me nervous...

What a surprise when TS Andrea popped up off our coast! But at least it gives us a legitimate reason as to why we haven't left yet!

We are busy provisioning and stowing the piles of stuff that have been sitting in the living room for the last 6 months.

There really is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Latest ETD: About mid next week.

Monday, May 7, 2007

MYC Seafood Raftup 2007

Well, didn't think I'd get to see another of Hasty's famous Seafood Raftups for a long long time, so it is one side benefit of getting delayed. See Nancy's pictures here.

We had a nice time, got to play a little with Jean-Marie, got to play a little with the wifi hookup (got a good connection from the middle of the river off Melbourne Beach Pier).

We actually went *gasp* sailing on the way home, and made it back to the dock before the big winds hit.

I took a video on my new camera. See my sailing video here. (It's a 5MB MPEG file).

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Well, we're not going to make May 5 as a final departure date, but we really are getting close. Latest target date is the 15th.

Dave and I looked at each other on Monday and said "No way we'll be ready by Saturday". So the latest plan is to go to the raftup (today), have a nice weekend (and get some 'aboard' projects done), and come back to the house and keep working down the list.

Next Thursday (hopefully by then, nearly ready), we'll move the boat to MYC, so Nancy can bring her boat here over the weekend. We still have to go to the Keys the weekend of the 12th--we'll do this by car. As soon as we get back from the Keys and get the car stashed in Orlando, we can leave. (I hope).

The major things we've accomplished this week:

  • Got all of Dave's storage unit stuff packed away neatly in the storeroom, and all the boat stuff out of the storeroom and in front of us in the living room

  • The engine is back together again and aligned (major deal)

  • The new sails are on

  • Our personal shots are up to date (I needed 4 shots!)

  • Most of our emergency prescription medications are sorted out for the boat

  • Our 6 SCUBA tanks (and 2 for Jean Marie) have been taken to the dive shop, inspected, tested, and filled

  • Fabric for the new cockpit cushions is in

  • Spent some more time with Amy, my replacement webmaster, teaching her the specifics of maintaining some of the realtor websites

  • Research into a backup PTC-2 modem for our HF email capability

  • An 'unlock' kit for our phones--to unlock them from Cingular so we can use foreign sim cards as we go from country to country. ($15 on eBay)

  • New propane hoses to replace existing hoses and plumb in our new water heater (to be installed at some future date).

  • More electronic gadget stuff, including an iTrip for the iPod, and spare batteries and a memory cards for the new camera.

  • A major chart operation with our friends on s/v Jean-Marie, comparing our paper and electronic charts with theirs and doing some copying to fill in the holes.

  • Got the new Garmin GPSMap 76 GPS hooked into the computer, and checked with Garmin for updates. (the 76 makes 6 GPS's aboard Soggy Paws).

  • Purchased 2 large membranes for the watermaker system Dave plans to assemble when we get to the Rio Dulce

  • Installed the USB-Serial 4 Port device on Sherry's computer and made sure we had the drivers for it.

  • Boat insurance squared away

  • More financial and banking stuff done
The boat medical supplies are coming along, but we're still short a few things. It took some major dancing to get the doctor at Patrick AFB to write prescriptions for the stuff we thought we needed. We finally got everything we need except some of the severe pain meds, syringes and sutures. I spent an hour (and $175) down at Walgreens filling out the over-the-counter medications.

We spent quite a bit of time in the last 2 weeks working on insurance for Soggy Paws. Getting insurance for year-round open ocean cruising with just 2 people aboard is hard. Some companies just won't insure you. Some have a more-than-2-crew requirement, and ALL companies are all freaked about hurricane season. We finally settled on the 'Jacklines' coverage by International Marine Insurance Services in Maryland. When we queried our distance cruising friends, nearly all of them used IMIS, or went 'bare'. (The going 'bare' philosophy is to put that $5000 in insurance into boat systems that will minimize the risk of loss, vs. paying it out to some insurance company). Our experience in dealing with IMIS to get a quote was great--they were very responsive and it was apparent that they understood what we were trying to do and were willing to help us get the coverage we wanted for a reasonable price.

Next week we will concentrate on getting the remaining stuff aboard (it's still in stacks in the living room) and provisioning.