Saturday, November 19, 2016

1000 Hose Clamps Corroding in Unison

We had a nice week with Cedric and Gisela. But we didn't go very far. The weather was looking difficult for going north into the Exumas National Park and we were thinking we would just jog southeast to Long Island .. when the windlass broke. It really broke, with loud crunchy metal-breaking noises, which left the chain-grabbing gypsy spinning free and the motor running without doing anything. Dead gearbox. So we called Joe Hanko, asked him to ship us the replacement stuff, and we came up with Plan B to hang out in the harbor which is so large it really is more of a sound. The challenge was how to handle the anchor, because as the weather clocks around with front passages, we like to move around the harbor to anchorages with protection from wherever the wind is from at that time. In the interim, we worked the anchor up as a group (thanks Cedric and Gisela for the heave-ho'ing!) and tied up to a mooring ball for a night. But that was right next to the local beach bar hang out and it was Saturday night, and the wind was due to clock around on us and .. So we were motivated to move.

We did eventually work out how to both hoist and drop the anchor as a team, and moved from one side of the harbor to the other, closer to town and with good protection from the north and west, in anticipation of a strong front. Ahead of fronts, the weather usually goes warm and sunny and balmy and nice, so we took that day to zip across to a rarely-visited beach and spent the day there playing inn the water and picnicing in the sun. That night Cedric and Gisela took us to a brand-squeaky-new restaurant in the harbor that is a farm-to-table style place and we had a lovely evening with the moon rising over the restaurant's lagoon, great food, service that is still working out their kinks, and a fun ride from Elvis' water taxi to/from our boat in the dark.

The next day, departure day for Cedric and Gisela, we got them in to town and on a taxi to the airport about an hour before the front arrived. And it arrived with nearly 30kt gusts from the northwest, threatening squally clouds, lumpy white-capped seas in the harbor; boy were we glad we had worked out how to manually anchor and had moved.

Then the next day, after the whoopdeedoo died down, then up-anchored by ourselves and worked our way at high tide into an all-weather anchorage back of town called The Litter Box – it is very shallow such that only catamarans can get in and is all sand, ha ha ha. And now we are hanging out waiting for our windlass parts to get here ..

So why do I call this post “1000 Hose Clamps Corroding in Unison”? Because that's kinda what is going on – lots and lots of parts all slowly going bad due to the corrosive environment. I am sure that's what happened to the gear box, lots of metal gears on the foredeck exposed to copious soakings with salt water (the housing and seals and drains all designed to keep the salt water out do work, mostly). But in the meantime, as we have traveled along this fall we have replaced roughly a dozen hose clamps, stainless steel bands that keep the hoses on their hose barbs (when they come off the hose barbs the ocean comes in through the hoses), which had rusted through and just fell off when bumped. We learned this again when the salt water wash down pump died. It gives us water to hose off our anchor (remember the anchor?) as well as supply pressurized water to our toilets to flush them. This pump of course was attached to its hoses by hose clamps, two of which were corroded through. But we actually had a replacement pump on board!! And more hose clamps. So the swap-out took about 15 minutes and we were back ready to do business. Next up is to replace the sacrificial prop zinc's. They are mounted next to the props, and are “sacrificial”, they corrode before the props. So when they are almost gone, we put new ones in place. Zincs are cheap, propellers are not. That requires that I get in the water and I am waiting for a quiet warm day, we have earned it.

But its a great place to be stuck. So while keeping watch on all the hose clamps, and trying to figure out why the generator will start one day and not the next ...I'll get on those zincs, and check on parts shipment. The big project will be the windlass gearbox when it arrives,...and since this is the Bahamas (100 miles and weeks away by mail), it could be awhile.

First Night Out

5 NOV 2016

It almost doesn't get better than this. Sailing down the Tongue of the Ocean on a quiet, brilliantly starry night at 5kts in light seas, listening to Keith Jarret's lovely and emotional Koln Concert, the sky-glow of Nassau off to port. We shot across the Gulf Stream today starting in unpleasant conditions of winds 15-20 directly out of the north east that were working the 'Stream into one of it's well-known wind-against-current churn-fests. But we got through a rain bank and found the wind abating and the sun out. We crossed onto the banks north of Bimini after a 6 hour run from Key Biscayne settled in for the long stretch over the banks. It was wonderful to be back in clear turquoise water again! Dinner as the sun set behind distant Bimini. We cleared the Northwest Channel light at midnight and set off down the Tongue of the Ocean under full sail. And so here I am, on watch at 04:00 on this lovely night.

We are headed for the Exuma chain where Jennifer's brother Cedric and sister in law Gisela are due in to spend a week with us. So we have a deadline to get there but the weather seems to be cooperating and we are scooting right along.

Musing on Perches

4 OCT 2016

We are heading south from our summer roost in northern Massachusetts to get back to Cerca Trova.  We had a first frost up there and the furnace was running day and night, so it was time to go.  We spent a lot of the summer in Austin or in Utah, so we only had a few weeks at our roost because we really want to get out of Florida and as far south as we can early in the season before the cold fronts really start running hard.  Which means we have to get a move on. 

But our rushed summer also left us musing about where we will perch when we do, inevitably, move back ashore.  We know we will not cruise forever, we are not getting younger and the cruising gets slowly more difficult, we get tired of the nomadic living and the scrounging for resources, we miss our family and realize we are missing time-spent with them that cannot be replaced.  So, we will move ashore.

But where?  We have become intolerant of raw weather but love the bracing rip of a good clean winter storm.  We feel disillusioned by the selfishness of Western civilization but crave the enlightenment and comfort.  We will want to get off the boat but can't be away from the sea. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Summer Break and Lists

It's been a busy summer. After tucking into Stuart, FL for some needed repairs, we have been traveling junkies. Two graduations, a wedding, trips to see family in SLC and Mass have been wonderful, but we are ready.
The temps are starting to fall, the swamp maples tinged with red, and we are busy with our lists. There's the spares list, the provisioning list, the ETOH provisioning list ( it gets its own list!), the general supplies list, the Amazon list, the Defender list and of course,....the Repairs list. Thankfully, we managed to complete most of our repairs in June and July, but there are a few remaining ones we still need to knock out.
We head back in early October for Stuart, then up to Ft Pierce to finish up our repairs and provisioning, then we are off. It's time.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

There is no paranoid

There is no paranoid

3 JUN 2016

Stuart, Florida, USA

It is said that there is no Paranoid, only Prepared, Lucky or Dead. And of these, Prepared is the one we have control over.

There are a lot of ways to be prepared. It is partly about carrying spare parts. But the boat is built from 30,000 parts and you can't carry a whole new boat with you, you have to choose. Coming across from Mexico last month, our boom vang sheared off the mast and left our main sail only under limited-at-best control. Obviously, we weren't carrying a spare boom vang.   But, being prepared, we had enough blocks on board to rig a temporary soft vang and used the spare main halyard to keep the boom from crashing down on to our cockpit-top Bimini cover. Score one for Prepared.

And then there's the weather. We do the best we can with the usual shore-side internet-based data sources, but even with modern supercomputers running models that predict out 7 days, the predictions beyond three days are not much better than general trends. And it often takes more than three days to get where you are going. So we also have a subscription to a weather services guy who specializes in supporting cruisers and he communicates this information by shortwave to most places in the world. That really helps us to stay aware, and therefore prepare for what's coming, or choose to not go at all. 

And then there are hurricanes. It really doesn't matter much if you know one's coming. Yes, you can prepare, on the dock, by stripping off everything loose above decks, double tying the boat, choosing your marina wisely, closing all stopcocks and breakers before you leave. But when the wind and storm surge is so strong they will drive straws through palm trees and strip asphalt roads right off the ground, there's only so much you can prepare. That's what insurance is for. And Luck.

Or not: Long Beach Island, NJ after Sandy went through

Home on the Range

Stuart, Florida, USA
2 JUN 2016


We made it, just, to our youngest's graduation.  To do that we had to pull in at Stuart, Florida via the St. Lucie River Inlet and tie up at a marina, rent a car and dash north the last 200 miles at 75 mph.  But we got there in the nick of time.  And had a marvelous time celebrating her accomplishment and setting her up to head out into the world herself.  She drove herself, by herself, across most of the southwestern US to go stay with my mother while she (Emily, not my mother) hunts for a real career-type job. 

Probably no reasons now to go on to Jacksonville, so we are staying put in Stuart.  We really like it here.  The home town of Jennifer's good friend Karen from school days in Rhode Island.  The home base of Frances Langford.  Quaint downtown with shops and restaurants.  And up the road in Ft. Pierce there's ... Marine Liquidators!!  On the plus side, the marina has floating docks (we aren't on one but we will ask to move in event of a named storm approach), good services, great location w.r.t. town, lots of liveaboards, tolerable cost, and about as far from the east coast of Florida as you can get on the east coast of Florida for protection from names storms. On the downside there's a big road bridge near us, and the water is grossly polluted by the discharges from Lake Okeechobee.  Most of that is due to the cane growers pumping their discharges into Lake O.  But we are staying.  Is the best of a limited set of choices when we have to be doing so much in various places in the US this summer. 

If you are passing through Stuart this summer, stop in and say 'ahoy'!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Three Hundred Mile Threshold

14 APR 2016

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

We are on the three hundred mile threshold of home trying to find a window in the weather to get across.  The situation is this: a strong north current off of Isla called the Yucatan current that will carry us north and then it bends east to become the Gulf Stream as it rips along north of Cuba and south of the Florida Keys.  And prevailing winds from the east.  So the current helps but the winds do not, in fact the easterly winds blow against the east-setting Gulf Stream and suck the waves into a really nasty state..  So we are waiting for unusual south winds to sail it or no winds to speak of and motor across.  We are stuck, therefore, in a vacationers' paradise trying to leave.

It has been a tough cruising season.  Lots of strong fronts got down to the Bay Islands of Honduras where we were for December and January.  Then a respite up the Rio Dulce.  Then a couple of weeks in Belize while we got Blair, our guest/crew, up to speed and waited for some parts to repair the water maker.  Those parts helped but the water maker is still not working well.  So we set of for Mexico relying on tank water to keep us going between ports. 

We had a good time in Belize, got out to the barrier reef, South Water Cay and Tobacco Cay, got up the Sittee River to see our friends the Wrights who live there, got to spend several nights in the Pelican Range and had the time to get to know Dustin and Kim who run the Hideaway Cay Resort (one room on AirBnB) and serve a mean rum punch.  But we needed to get back to the States: my dad was in very poor health and was admitted to hospice while were setting up to leave Belize. 

We set off with a solid south east wind driving north after a late cold front had blown out.  We had 2-3 knots of current pulling us north too.  We saw 10 knots over the ground reliably as we screamed north.  We were going so fast we had to slow down as we passed Cozumel so that we didn't arrive at Isla in the dark.  And my dad died while we were coming into the port on Good Friday.

We got into Isla Mujeres on Good Friday morning.  We refueled, took on more water, and set off again for the US the next morning with the advice from our weather router that the winds would be stronger but still from a good angle and would then go even more southerly so we could turn east and make it to the Keys.  It was a lot stronger.  It was blowing at least 10kts harder than when we arrived and the seas were now topping at 10 feet.  We had to aim the boat east to start gaining ground towards the Keys and that put the seas onto the back quarter of the boat, "aft the beam".  Extremely rough and difficult to control the boat.  Then the current started pulling to the west.  Hard.  So we had to turn even more to the east to try to fight it, setting the seas directly on our beam and made the conditions simply intolerable.  Imagine your house being thrown 6-10 feet in the air, both up and sideways, in a semirandom cycle every 15-20 seconds. 
(no pictures, it was just too much work)

Intolerable. We bailed out at the last point we could, turning west to hide behind the most northerly of the islands of the Yucatan, Isla Contoy.  We made it in, anchored in the lee, and enjoyed a lovely sunset while trying to figure out what to do.  Easter morning, remember this was now Easter, dawned with clouds of sea birds wheeling over the boat.  And the Guarda Parque alongside in a launch demanding that we leave!  "This is a preserve, you are not allowed here, it is the rules"  We pointed out the waves breaking 50 feet in the air on the far side of the island, asked where he thought we might go, and finally we claimed safe harbor.  Eventually he relented and allowed us to stay if we didn't leave the boat.  Of course!  So we spent Easter on the boat, watching the amazing bird flocks and relaxing. 

The next morning, the Guarda showed up at 06:30 with a girl who spoke English saying "It is time to say goodbye!".  We replied that we needed better light and then would be gone.  Which we were.  A very interesting route that took us 100 yds inside the 5 miles of reef running south from the island towards Isla Mujeres.  Blowing hard still but manageable.  We worked our way across the open water inside of Isla Mujeres, approached the harbor, and called our marina from last year for a slip.  We knew our favorite spot was open as of Good Friday, and the manager said, sure-come-on-in.  And we did. 

We got into Isla and got air tickets back home for a rushed trip to Salt Lake for my father's memorial via Cancun.

And here we are now, going to the beach while our youngest's college graduation in Florida is getting nearer, and watching the weather like hawks for a window to cross to get home.  Sometimes cruising isn't much fun.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sweet life in the Rio Dulce

23 FEB 2016

Texan Bay, Guatemala
“And the goodbyes make the journey harder still. Will you carry the words of love with you?”
We are leaving the Rio today. It is a place full of like-minded ex-pat folk making their lives what they will in a third-world country. We are very fond of most of them, extremely fond of a few of them. We know many of the Guatemalans too and have found a deep respect for most of them. It is hard to say goodbye. The best part is knowing that we will be back, eventually, perhaps as early as next fall to get some major fiberglass work done by Arny, a local fiberglass wizard. Even his prices are at the top of our budget, can't imagine what it would cost to get it done in the States. So we leave looking back and thinking very fondly of this wonderful backwater place.

“ooh baby baby its a wild world.”
We got word a few days ago that a wonderful couple running an ecolodge in Roatan have been let-go by the owner. They had just renewed their Honduran residency the week before. They are the kind of folk who do the Right Thing because it's the right thing. They transformed the lodge from a mess to a joy, everything was really well repaired and well run, great food and wine, fun dive operation, and the dogs were more insteresting than most people we know. We don't know the back-story, and there's always a back-story, but it is a shame to know that they are Out. Their replacements, said to be much lower-paid than our friends, are not the kind of people we seek out, so it puts this ecolodge and the bay it is in into question for when we return. But we are glad to have known them and been able to experience the lodge in great conditions with great people and great fun.

“I will always remember you like a child, girl”
Life in the Rio is slow and long. One place we frequent, The Kangaroo Hotel, run by Gary and Graciela, is up a mangrove canal nearly to Lago Izabal. It is a three-generation family place with a new 2-year-old grandson already playing in the water and absorbing the way of running the inn. Graciela is Mexican and the source of their astoundingly good Mexican food. And the wizard behind their margaritas which are the best margaritas we have ever had, really, eeryone else says so too, and there's a story going around that a guy in Mnahattan is hot to get her recipe but she won't give it out. It is an example of the innocence of the Rio. We can feel the Outside World pressing on it, but the nature of the place is to just live life as you choose, with the people you care about around you. Many of those people get pulled away by the Outside World, but those who are right for the Rio seem to come back. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it might be better if they forged on out and made a bigger life. Yes, there's internet and cell phones and plastic stuff. But there's no sense here of the kind of the materialistic emptiness that is so pervasive in the First-World. People here aren't obviously trying to find meaning in their life, they just live. They certainly don't define their self-worth by how big their house is. But that's changing even here, and probably everywhere these kinds of economic-backwaters exist.

“Blackbird has spoken, like the first morning”
We are off to Belize and north towards the States. I am tempted to say “north towards home” but that isn't quite right. But it does feel like it's a new beginning again, another voyage driven by being called to go somewhere. The sun is rising in a totally clear sky. The birds are calling and clucking and zipping around. The mist is rising over the mangroves. It feels like time to go.