Guests and Art Projects

Ron and Danielle stopped by to spend the night.

Put that way, it sounds so low-key 

Actually, they drove down from Sarasota. A serious undertaking.

The V-berth worked out nicely. It was — for non-sailors — a bouncy night. Seas were 1’-2’ and there was a 5-7 kt breeze that kept Red Ranger moving.  We had to warn them: a boat at night can be loud relative to a house in rural upstate New York. 

Some nights, of course, Red Ranger is silent. Some nights there’s the patter of rain on the deck.

And some nights it’s blowing 35 and we wake up every time she jerks on the snubber.

We wanted to take them sailing, but the schedule just didn’t work out well. They couldn't get here much before 2:00-ish, and there’s hardly any afternoon left. Maybe next time we’ll be able to slip the mooring and sail around Biscayne Bay for the afternoon. 

It appears that Coconut Grove is right up there with Charleston as a great place to have guests. Lots to do. And we can easily go sailing. ICW locations (like New Smyrna Beach) are very nice, but there’s no easy way to go sailing.

The Color Card

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CA got her Kona Fabrics color card. 

Now she knows what she’s ordering online. It’s difficult to make a fabric choice based on the colors shown on a web page.

  • How accurate was their scanner calibration? You assume a fabric company would spent time on that, but you don’t really know.
  • How did they map the color to the RGB space that’s used on the web? There’s a subset of RGB that’s “web safe” where most browsers will handle it. Did they map to web safe or did they map as accurately as possible?
  • How accurate is the display calibrated? Modern Apple Retina displays are supposed to be very good. But, there can be variations.

Collaborating on color selection is difficult. The client’s view of the Kona web site may not be all that accurate. It almost seems like CA needs to buy samples and mail the samples to the client so the client can mail them back after confirming the colors. 

A Tiny Quilt as a decorating accent may have to precisely fit an existing color scheme.

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Here’s our view of Coconut Grove.

That Big-Ol’ Bass

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In addition to the Mighty Uke, we have El Guitarron, the big old Tobias acoustic-electric bass. 

The bass lived in the V-Berth unless we had guests. Then it sort of rattled around the saloon. An unsatisfactory arrangement. 

Now, it has an official hanger on the forward end of the saloon. We screwed some eye straps to the wall to use bungie cord to hold it there. It’s out of the way (more or less.) Yet more accessible because it’s not buried among pillows and spare sleeping bags in the V-berth.

This makes it much easier to prep the V-berth for guests. The only things that have to be moved are the bikes: they go on deck at the end of the day.

That was it for today. Cleaning and restowing.

We’re expecting guests tomorrow.

In the long run — if we ever have crew for longer passages — we need to work out a better solution for bike stowage. One extra crew is easy: they can sleep in the saloon on their off-watch. Two extra crew becomes a bit more complex. We might be forced to stow the bikes on deck.

But for now, the V-berth is clean. 

Cruiser’s Meetup

Sunday night, 16:00 Dinner Key Picnic Pavilion. Great early-evening potluck dinner with some of our neighbors here in the mooring field.

It’s not a standing date. 

In some cruising communities there are regular meetups. Maybe it’s a potluck. Maybe it’s a local bar. In places like St. Augustine it’s an amazing amount of activity. Vero Beach had a snack and cocktails weekly. 

The cruiser's net is on VHF channel 69 at 09:00 every day. We’re often at the coffee shop well before then. So we miss the net. But we did get word about this meetup.

We’d like to see if we can convince folks that a potluck should happen every week. Or maybe 1st and 3rd weeks of each month. More often than random would be good.

That Pressure-Cooker Feeling

After wrestling with Mr. Lehman, I have a residual feeling of “omigod omigod omigod what am I supposed to be doing now!?!?”

Wait just one second.

Take a breath.

Check the list.

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The answer is… 

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip point doo-doo.

It’s not absolutely zero, but it’s more like nothing pressing.

The list includes lower-priority things like the following:

Add GFCI outlets. Why? Our insurance company demands a survey every five years. Most everything is ship-shape except the outlets. The boxes may not be big enough for these larger outlets. So we may need new boxes, too. The good news is that there are only two circuits involved, so two outlets will cover all the bases. One outlet in each circuit must be a GFCI and the others must be on the “load” side of that one outlet.

Get a 15” x 23” piece of ¼” Masonite countertop to make a new frame around the galley sink. Why? The sink we have doesn’t fit the countertop opening. There are chunks of (thin) cutting board framing up the wrong-sized hole. They cutting-board stuff is falling apart. 

I have to install another USB charger outlet usable from the cockpit. Why? It will allow us to run the Dual XGPS and the iPad from the cockpit without worrying about battery life and the need to recharge. Nothing more awkward that needing to refer to the backup charts on the iPad and finding that the iPad battery or the XGPS has died.

The all-hands-on-deck panic mode of an engine not running is past. It’s time to catch our breath.

One higher-priority concern is our range light doesn’t work. That means two trips up the mast: one to survey the problem and then another to replace the light.

I’ve also got to look at the bent piece of steel that covers the “bang rail” on the starboard side. That’s a real sheet-catcher that can interfere with sailing. Fixing that steel is a complex and unpleasant task: it involves somehow filling the fractured wood with epoxy and then straightening and reattaching the old steel. Or replacing the bent metal. Doing the epoxy work is a right awkward task while afloat. 

These are things to think about. Slowly.

Mr. Lehman’s New Understanding

I’ve gone the full round of sparring with Mr. Lehman, eventually got in two waza-ari, and came out victorious. And I have the cuts and bruises to prove it.

Earlier (Miami Connections) we rounded up the parts: Cole Hersee push-button starter switch and M202 solenoid. 

The question is this: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

We struggled with a replacement solenoid that was actually dysfunctional. The original solenoid tested okay on the work bench, but didn’t fully work in the engine. 

What gives? 

I’m not 100% sure, but I think I have a story.

It starts with rust. Lots of it. In two places: the starter button and the solenoid that kicks in the actual starter motor.

Mr. Lehman’s starter motor is so huge that it would need bulky #8 wires up to the key switch and the starter button and back down to the engine. This is some heavy-duty (and expensive) wiring for an engine that otherwise can cope with #12 wire. There aren’t many push-buttons that can handle the current flow, either.

The engineering solution to this problem is to use a solenoid on the engine. A small wire with very little current trips the solenoid. The solenoid uses two 6” lengths of bulky #10 wire to engage the starter motor. The starter uses #0 wire to the starter battery. It’s ½” in diameter. Think wires almost as big as the copper pipe in your household plumbing.

Yesterday, I was pretty sure I saw only 10V going to the old solenoid. I just didn’t get it at the time. 

Based on today’s results, I now theorize that If the solenoid is caked with rust, then some current is routed through the rust. Other current goes through the wires.

What made it more confusing yesterday was that the replacement solenoid — one that was was in the cache of spare parts when we bought the boat — was simply damaged internally. It clicked a little, but it never completed the primary circuit. It merely surrounded an already confusing problem with more smoke and noise. 

Replacement Parts

I have now installed a new starter button to replace the old one which was flaky and which I destroyed unscrewing from the binnacle.

I have also installed the new M202 solenoid on the starter.

I turned on the engine alarm circuit. I hit the button. 

And...

Wham!

Good crank. Immediate firing. Cooling water spraying out the exhaust. Oil pressure alarm silenced.

Yes! 

We have lift-off!

Interesting Observation

Here’s the interesting bit. The voltage meter on the binnacle used to read about a volt less than the voltage shown on the main panel below. It always read a volt low. I assumed the gauge was crap.

Today, it read much closer to the system voltage as shown on the panel. The analog gauge looked like it was pointing at 14V which is almost the bulk charging voltage.

Now I’m convinced that it was corrosion in both the switch and the solenoid. The gauge was right all along; the engine wiring was crap. I’m wondering if this low voltage situation is the root cause for the hour meter on the tachometer not working.

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Here’s my theory: the wiring through starting circuit was somehow compromised, leading to two parallel circuits: one with relatively low resistance through the proper wires and one with relatively high resistance through rust and corrosion in the starter button and solenoid. Parallel resistors each take a share of the voltage. If the wire was 2Ω, and the rust was 10Ω then that might explain why 10V showed up at the solenoid. The other 2V were disappearing into a “short” circuit through the corrosion.

Having a theory to explain some of the anomalous readings on the multimeter makes me confident that I might actually understand what’s going on.

Strange data means either measurement error or a wrong theory. A wrong theory of Mr. Lehman’s wiring is a distressing thing. There aren’t that many parts to the wiring in the first place: a failure to understand something so simple is a profound kick in the pants.

Now I’m happy and successful. And bruised. And I have muscle strains from many hours in awkward positions in the engine room.

I have fought with Mr. Lehman and yet again arrived at a completely victorious outcome. Mr. Lehman knows his role, and may be happier with proper wiring and voltage levels.

Moving to the Mooring

The net effect is that we’ve moved Red Ranger about ½ mile closer to shore. CA picked up the mooring ball on the first try — in 10-15 kts of wind. That kind of breeze creates an awkward situation that she handled nicely. 

Picking up a mooring requires deft timing, a strong back, and staging the various lines in the right place to avoid fumbling around at the critical moments. She had all three elements. 

Since the engine ran, I had hot water for a shower after my fight with Mr. Lehman.

Miami Connections

This seems a little weird. Maybe it’s not as weird as it seems. After all, this is Miami; a giant city. But it isn’t. It’s really Coconut Grove, in Dade County, a small part of Greater Miami.

I called the local West Marine to look for starter solenoid (Cole Hersee M202.) They have a new starter button, but no real heavy-duty intermittent-style solenoids.

Then I went to the Cole Hersee web site to get all the distributors in Miami and march down the list to see who’s got an M202. 

I started with Hopkins-Carter Marine. They have an electrical department that’s an official Cole Hersee distributor. And they’re reasonably close. Close in the global sense of being somewhere in Dade county. A bus-train-bus kind of journey.

Ronnie at Hopkins-Carter used to work at Crook & Crook, which is much closer to where we’re anchored. Ronnie told us to call his buddy Manny; Manny could order the thing for the afternoon drop off. 

Really.

I called Manny; he placed the order. The truck could arrive any time between two-ish and four-ish. 

I didn’t call any other local Cole Hersee distributors because the Ronnie-Manny-Crook&Crook connection was so fortuitous. Why tempt fate? I say we go with a bird in the hand instead of beating the bush hoping for yet more birds.

We took the 249 Circulator bus (25¢) up to West Marine to get the starter button. Ann at West Marine reminded us to say “hi” to Ray who works at Crook & Crook.

Then we walked the mile up US 1 to Crook & Crook. We said “hi” to Ray and Manny. Now we’re camped out at Dunkin’ Donuts to wait for the truck to arrive.

How did we get into the loop of four local folks in the marine hardware business? Maybe we have discovered some good people that we can rely on.

More Weirdness

We’re crossing 27th at Dixie Highway. The crew of Dream Ketcher is driving a borrowed car to get transmission parts up at Shell Hardware.

The odds of finding each other are low. But. Not all that low. We’re both fixing our boats. Why wouldn’t we be visiting all these businesses up on 27th? The “at the same time” part is a bit of a surprise.

They have a fair amount of work. Two of their transmission mounting bolts sheared off. They had to get towed to the dock. They have to reassemble transmission and engine and then realign the shaft. Ouch.

We’re hoping to get the electrical problems sorted out so we can get to a ball under our own power. Otherwise, we’ll be following Dream Ketcher and getting towed in closer so we can get a mechanic onto Red Ranger.

The Starter Issue (Part II)

Previously, we have noted that Mr. Lehman has been reluctant to start. The starter solenoid is a little rustball, and perhaps is on its last legs. For some history, see Mysteries, Cleaning and Watching.

Today, the starter didn’t work.

Now we have time to do some diagnostics. 

Previously, we could push the starter button a few times and eventually, the solenoid would click and away we’d go.

Today, nothing. When I listened in the engine room (other than the alarm buzzer) nothing. No click from the solenoid. Nothing from the starter, but that’s not surprising if the solenoid’s not sending juice to the starter.

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Okay.

That means it’s time to actually wrestle the old solenoid out from its awkward position between the starter, a cooling hose and the air filter housing.

Two hours later, it’s out. Seriously. Two hours to remove two awkwardly placed screws. 

I replaced the two wires from solenoid to starter. The positive feed wire was falling apart. That may have been the original root cause problem. But. Maybe not.

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Drop in the spare solenoid that was in a box under the bed, and we should be ready to go, right?

Diagnosis Round Two

Nothing. 

When CA pushes the starter button, my digital multi meter shows voltage flowing into the contact for the relay. It must be properly grounded, or there’d be no voltage.

No noise. No click. 

And nothing from the starter itself. Not surprising, if the solenoid doesn’t work.

Maybe what we’re seeing is a problem in the starter button. This is a dumb idea, but I’m getting desperate. The meter shows voltage, but it seems to show a lowish voltage (10-11) not the proper voltage (12-13) in the starting bank. 

The sun’s out. The thing is charging. The solar array is pumping out 14+ volts; the batteries are getting full. A faulty switch is a dumb idea born of desperation.

So I made a mess of the starter switch wrenching it out of the binnacle in the vain hope that the switch has a poor connection. Very vain — there’s no way it’s the switch. We see voltage at the starter. It seemed low, but it was voltage.

Some probing with the meter shows that the switch may be flaky. The meter shows that it’s unreliable at making a circuit. But it’s not like it’s putting out only 10V instead of 12V. It’s a switch. All or nothing.

I think I tried using jumper wires to across the switch. I think it didn't make any solenoid click down below. I’m not 100% sure I did this properly, though. I may have merely touched wires that weren’t really part of the switch circuit. I was desparate. I need to try that part again.

Diagnosis Round Three

I put some jumpers on the old rustball solenoid to see if it works. This was a simple setup on the workbench. I opened the panel to get 12V and ground. I wired up the solenoid directly to a breaker on the panel.

It worked. Zapped it with 12V DC and it clicked. Loudly.

Unpleasant. That means that it may have worked all along and something else was wrong. Like the positive feed wire’s ring terminal had fallen off. Except that would have click but no start. I’m didn't hear a click.

So I take the new solenoid back out of the engine. Awkward job that it is. 

I set it up on the workbench. I zap it with 12V DC and it clicks quietly. But it clicks.

So I put the probes across the two main Single-Pole-Single-Throw contacts. It appears that there is no useful connection in this solenoid when it’s energized.

New In Box. Apparently Dead. What are the odds of that? 

[I checked it again while writing this. It really does click quietly but there’s no connection.]

Round Four

I put the old solenoid back in. It had worked when I bench tested it. I could make it click. And the resistance across the SPST switch drops from almost infinity to 6Ω more or less: current should flow.

When I reconnected the meter down at the engine and had CA hit the starter button, I saw 12+V flowing through the solenoid. But it did essentially nothing. No click from the solenoid when mounted on the engine.

How can there be no click when mounted on the engine, but a click when sitting on the workbench?

Broken connection? Grounding? No. Current flowed to the stud on the top of the solenoid.

Low voltage? Not really, my last reading was certainly 12+ V. The wire runs are short: 12’ or so from engine to binnacle and back. I can’t explain the 10+V I saw earlier.

Then the sun went down.

Gloom

We have our binnacle torn apart with a starter switch sort of hanging out under the instruments. I made a mess of the old switch getting it out of the binnacle: it has to be replaced. I also scratched up the binnacle. Sigh.

Since we see 12V at the engine, the switch seems unlikely to be the culprit. But it has to be replaced anyway.

The engine is back together with the old solenoid in place. It may work. It may not. It worked on the bench. But it’s not working now. But maybe it’s the switch.

Tomorrow: switch and solenoids. I can try another plastic Standard SS-581. It may be easier to track down at an auto parts store in the greater Miami area. I’d prefer to get a Cole Hersee M202 which is the original equipment. I may order one from American Diesel in Kilmarnock tomorrow just to have yet another backup.

We’re anchored about a mile from the marina. A mooring ball came available this morning. We really want to move Red Ranger in closer to shore.

But if Mr. Lehman won’t start, there’s not much we can do.

I’m not desperate enough to short around the solenoid with two screwdrivers and force the engine to start that way. Not yet, anyway.

We’re paying for the mooring and not using it. But. It’s warm and we can get to shore. It’s just a loooong dinghy ride.

Whitby Rendezvous Miami

Back in October, the Whitby-Brewer Rendezvous Group decided to have a Rendezvous South. It was great. Small but great.

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We had five crews in attendance: Indefatigable, Joie de Vivre, Red Ranger, Dream Ketcher, and Simbi.





What makes a good Whitby-Bewer Rendezvous? Besides enthusiastic owners, of course.

  1. An associated event — in this case, a boat show. The North Rendezvous precedes the Annapolis Sailboat Show. The South Rendezvous came just after the Miami Boat Show.
  2. Shared meals; at least one. In this case, we had a potluck lunch and a dinner at Scotty’s. In the North Rendezvous, we had catered dinners at the West River Sailing Club facility.
  3. Boat tours. In this case, we saw The Incredible Hull. In person is better than photos on the big screen from the overhead projector.
  4. Some kind of program. In this case, we had a long, general discussion of boating, problems and solutions. Including the recommended way to handle a cockroach in your ear. Really. And we had a small meeting about future directions.

Delightful.

Dream Ketcher’s transmission mounts had failed sometime during our overnight passage from Vero Beach. They’re scrambling to find nuts and bolts and rebuild their tranny. Since we had local support from Miami-based Simbi, there was a fair amount of running around and meeting up with skilled mechanics.

Next year’s goals: more boats, more scheduled program material, and maybe a better location. 

The dinner key picnic pavilion isn’t bad, but we can’t easily do boat tours when boats are all over the mooring field. But. The price was right.

Overnight from Vero to Miami

Started: Vero Beach Marina, 27°39.69′N 080°22.35′W

Ended: Coconut Grove  near Dinner Key Marina, 25°42.92′N 080°13.63′W

Log: 155 nm. Time: 24 hr. Engine: 24 hr. Fuel: 29.1 gal.


Dropped the anchor at the edge of Biscayne Bay. Not a lot of protection here, and it’s shallow. But we’re here. Problems? A few. We handled the problems. We didn’t break out Plan B; but we thought about it. We even handled the weird stuff. 

Some folks ask for details on how this whole sailing offshore works. Some folks don’t. I’ll elaborate on the trip and the problems we faced and their solutions. I’ll explain the Designated Worrier.

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Often we’re asked how we keep from spilling the olives out of our martinis in a sailboat that heels over so far. We have a solution for that, too.

Pre-Planning

There is no such thing as pre-planning. It’s just planning.

Since we don’t know where we're going, we start with a bunch of local information. 

There are three prominent kinds of local information, you’ll need them all.

  1. Print. Heavily edited. Very reliable. Slow to change. To be competitive the cruising guides have to be good. Some are sponsored by advertisers and have a lot of slick color pictures. Others are less slick, with less advertising, but no less valuable. Mark and Diana Doyle. Dozier’s. That kind of thing.
  2. Online. Less heavily edited. Often reliable. Frequently updated. Salty Southeast Cruiser’s Net. Active Captain. 
  3. Word-of-mouth. We get this from other cruisers. This is a lot like an on-line cruising guide, but it involves more beer. It’s called “chart talk”. You bring a chart and some beer and they color in the important details. Some folks are very trustworthy; some have damaged recollections; some are reckless knuckleheads; some have a different kind of boat. It takes some sifting.

Which brings us to critical resources and their role in planning.

Resources

Charts. In addition to guidebooks, charts are essential. 

They’re a legal obligation for obvious reasons. 

The prudent mariner never relies on a single source for navigation information. For us, this means multiple charts: paper as well as electronic. And multiple electronic charts. Our iPhones, iPad, MacBook Pro and the Standard Horizon chart plotter in the cockpit all have charts in addition to the big MapTech Florida East Coast paper chart kit.

Weather. We have several weather apps on our iPhones. Plus we talk to other sailors. We use Intellicast Boating, Windfinder, AccuWeather Marine Weather, plus the http://weathercharts.org links to the NOAA surface analysis and the 500 mb analysis.

It’s not like we understand more than about 50% of the weather information. We’re struggling to understand the difference between cold front and occluded front. 

But. 

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We do get wind and wave height. And we understand the effect of wind going one way and the current going the other. We’re aware that frontal boundaries move counter-clockwise around the big L's on the surface analysis chart. And we know that a big H involves happy weather.

A Detailed Plan

For Red Ranger, The Commodore insists on three parts to the detailed plan:

  • Objective. She sets the objectives. The rest of the crew (me) implement it. Sailors are careful about keeping the goals low-key. We’re taught to say that we’re “Bound for Miami”. We’re not going there. We may never get there. We may go somewhere else first. But we’re bound for Miami.
  • Some sequence of events with estimated times. Plan A. She requests and requires that I write this down and circulate it. They call it a “Float Plan”. (Who are they? Not sure. US Power Squadron? US Coast Guard Auxiliary?) We email it to a selected few contact people, including our Designated Worrier.
  • Contingency plans. Plan B, C and on, and on. We don’t publish these. But we have them.

In this case, the objective was Dinner Key, also known as Coconut Grove in Biscayne Bay, just S of Miami, FL. 

We send our overnight “float plan” to selected contact individuals. The same folks are also the recipients of our Spot locator messages. One person, The Most Venerable Great Aunt Diane, is our designated worrier. We generally send a midnight position and a final position to show our progress for overnight passages. If she doesn’t get the Spot messages, she’s in charge of altering the USCG of an overdue vessel.

We also send separate text, email and often phone calls, just to be sure she’s been informed. 

Sample Float Plan

Our Float Plans have two parts. The top bit is a detailed vessel description. We think this will answer most questions the USCG will ask about the vessel, and its safety features.

The second part is a sequence of waypoints: departure, zero or more intermediate positions, and a final position. This is our detailed sequence of events for meeting our passage objectives.

The idea is to provides some sense of where we might be along the way in case something went amiss. 

On this trip, something did go amiss, but we fixed it, and it didn’t cause a significant delay. Indeed, we were mostly ahead of schedule the entire time.

Plan B Review

The Commodore insists on a formal review of Plan B and C and any other bright ideas I may have.

In some cases, she catches me without much of an answer. That forces me to go open up my passage notes files on the computer and report something half-assed and dumb-sounding. I’m getting better about having the necessary Plan B information entered into the chart plotter on deck.

This time, however, I had a really good answer. Mostly because we did this trip last year, and I had updated the chart plotter information for this trip. 

The MapTech books provide a series of navigational waypoints that are strongly-worded suggestions. They’re not “official:” they don’t necessarily correspond to specific buoys or other aids to navigation (ATONS). But they’re  places you really should program into your chart plotter. You’ll want them handy.

For example, MapTech has a waypoint FE116 which is more-or-less the location of the light for the entrance to Miami harbor. We don’t have all of the MapTech positions in the chart plotter, just the ones for the easy-to-navigate inlets: St. Lucie (Stuart), Lake Worth (West Palm), Hillsboro, Ft. Lauderdale. Each of these is its own bail-out spot.

Plan B Execution

Back in December, leaving Charleston, we did a Plan B Bailout. We tucked into a creek and waited for the sea state the settle down, then resumed our trip a day later and much happier.

Because The Commodore insists on having a Plan B, there’s no big problem in executing the Plan B. We just do something instead of Plan A. They’re all good plans — switching plans is not a failure, it’s just an alternate form of success.

On this trip, we had an odd engine noise. 

We don’t hear it often. And the first few times we heard it, we had no clue what it was. Now, I’m pretty sure it’s simply a fuel filter. It’s hard to be sure. But switching the Racor filter from the port side filter (the one we normally use) to starboard side eventually rectified the problem. 

Emphasis on the eventually.

In previous encounters with this specific noise, I would switch filters expecting an instant response. Since I didn’t get an instant response, I was unsure what was going on in the engine. This time I gave Mr. Lehman 10 minutes to respond. And he did. Problem solved. Lesson learned, too.

Standing Watches

With just two of us on Red Ranger, we do four hours on watch and four hours off watch. CA wants dawn, which is 04:00 to 08:00. So I get 08:00 to 12:00, 16:00 to 20:00 and 00:00 to 04:00.  She gets her dawn watch, plus 12:00 to 16:00 and 20:00 to 00:00. 

For offshore, we generally try to sail during the day and motor-sail at night. Since we’re only doing coastal cruising, we can afford to burn fuel like that. We burn less than 24 gallons in 24 hours of motor-sailing, so we can go three full days without much trouble. 

If we were trying to cross oceans, we would reduce sail at night, but not motor extravagantly.

We don’t like the idea of scrambling around on deck to reduce the mainsail at night if the wind picks up. We like the idea of pre-reefing at night. Or sometimes swapping out the main entirely.

This last run, for example, we had a pleasant NNE wind in the morning. We put up the full mains’l and the big yankee. The wind — by itself — wouldn’t get us to Miami in 24 hours. So we motor sailed to keep our speed up.

At 17:00 (prior to sunset) we struck the mains’l and put up the mizzens’l. We sailed like this until something like 23:00 when the wind backed around into the SSE. At that point, we were no longer broad reaching, but beating, so CA put down the yankee and put up the stays’l. 

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That worked until about 02:00 when the wind backed further S and became so light as to be useless. So I rolled up the stays’l and we motored on under mizzens’l and Mr. Lehman.

Timing the Entrance

We can't actually sail at maximum speed. Weirdly, we have to slow down so that we can arrive about dawn. We can’t arrive early because we don’t know the entrance and don’t want to risk attempting the entrance in the dark.

In this case, the trip is about 123 nm in the offshore legs; 155 nm overall. 155÷24=6.45 kt as an overall average speed. We typically try to motor at about 6 kt, so — if anything — we’d need to push for more speed, right?

Not so much. The first 12 hours — with a few exceptions — showed speeds as high as 6.9 kt. Motor-sailing with a fair following breeze is a wonder. We knew we’d get into trouble around sunset as we we passed the Jupiter Inlet. The Gulf Stream is only a few miles offshore from there down to Ft. Lauderdale. The current would be set against us, slowing us down. Old salts told us to stay inside the 10-fathom line to avoid the Gulf Stream.

We saw some effect, from the stream, but it was minor. We kept up our speed and until we figured out that we were a full 3½ hours ahead of schedule. 

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Clearly, the stream wasn’t slowing us down much at all. Sometime during her 20:00 to 24:00 watch, CA cut our speed and cut our speed again until she had us timed to arrive in Miami at marine twilight (48 min. prior to dawn, about 06:07.) 

And she had to do the calculation is based on a route that included the south tip of Key Biscayne. Our chart plotter’s ETA was computed for a point 19 nm beyond the Miami government cut entrance.

Of course, entering Miami means that there will be container ships and cruise ships occupying the channel. Carnival Victory (I think) chugged past us as we poked our way up the channel in the growing daylight.

The good news is that our radio/chartplotter combination reports the AIS information which includes a computation of how close and how soon. If it’s real close and real soon, we need to take evasive action. Otherwise, we can move at our usual stately pace.

The Martini Issue

There are actually three solutions to the problem of keeping the olives in the martini glass when sailing on a boat with a big heel angle.

  • We never drink underway. Coffee, tea or water is it. 
  • We try not to heel. There’s an optimal angle of heel; beyond that, the sail is spilling wind because the boat is tipped over too far. Many hulls are designed to lean at no more than 15°. I think that’s probably true for Red Ranger, even though we’re sometimes uncomfortable at that angle. We’ll often reduce sail to keep her flatter.
  • Sippy cups.
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Looking forward to exploring Miami.

If you’re in the area, call or write. We’ll go sailing.

Hopefully Leaving Vero Beach

It’s not that we’re hopeful about leaving. We’re leaving. We’re hopeful about the weather.

Meanwhile, we’re cleaning and cleaning. Books, in particular, need frequent airing out to prevent mildew damage. Here’s a typical example.

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Our friends at 4ShadowsBooks were horrified that we would let good books degrade like this.  But they’re antiquarian booksellers, and these aren’t collectable first editions, signed by the author, with original undamaged dust jackets.

They caution us that prevention was our best choice. That ship — so to speak — has sailed. There’s nothing meaningful we can do to reverse water damage. More assiduous cleaning might slow or stop the mildew. CA is going to increase the tempo and intensity of cleaning.

We also have to watch out for the clothes that we don’t wear very often. They’re largely doomed if they’re not worn and washed frequently.

See cargo pants and a t-shirt for more of The Commodore’s thoughts on this subject. 

Floating Leaf Tiny Quilts

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Interspersed with cleaning, CA has another TinyQuilt in the hopper. That means fabric selection.

A fair number of choices. 

Once upon a time, she would have had a massive “stash” of fabrics. But. She took a class from an artist who suggested that the stash acts as a constraint on one’s vision. Instead of seeing a work, you see a work within the context of the available collection of fabrics such as they are. Why impose limits?

Weather Watch

Today, we’re just waiting for the last few gusts of the frontal system. Then we’re out of here early tomorrow.

Today’s Synopsis for Zone AMZ555 (Sebastian Inlet to Jupiter Inlet) sounds like this [emphasis added]:

A COLD FRONT WILL MOVE SOUTH OF THE WATERS THIS AFTERNOON. GALE FORCE GUSTS WILL OCCUR WELL OFFSHORE NORTH OF CAPE CANAVERAL INTO THIS AFTERNOON...WHILE OTHER AREAS WILL SEE A FRESH TO STRONG WESTERLY BREEZE. HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD IN BEHIND THE FRONT TONIGHT WITH THE RIDGE AXIS BECOMING ESTABLISHED ACROSS THE PENINSULA AND INTO THE ATLANTIC EARLY NEXT WEEK. THIS WILL BRING FAVORABLE BOATING CONDITIONS.

Gale Force Gusts (!) north of here. Ouch. It may be well offshore, but still: lookout St. Augustine.

Sunday looks like this in AMZ555:

North winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 3 to 4 feet with a dominant period 9 seconds. A light chop on the intracoastal waters. 

Sunday Night in AMZ650:

Northeast winds 7 to 12 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Dominant period 6 seconds. Intracoastal waters a light chop. 

And Monday Morning in AM651: 

East northeast winds 8 to 13 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Intracoastal waters a moderate cho

So, it looks like a really good sail down the coast. Let’s not get over-optimistic. But. We can be hopeful.

Winter Storm Warnings

Well, hellish winter storms for all our friends up north. Just chilly here in Vero Beach.

The Whitby sandwich is great because our friends are right next door. Want to chat with the neighbors? Bang on their hull. 

But the last two days have been rough on Red Ranger

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The piece of string on the left side, holding the flap of steel? That’s a piece of Red Ranger that has been broken off because we’re bouncing against Dream Ketcher.

We had already taken quite a beating on the starboard side. Now we have to take the repairs a little more seriously.

We’ve been looking closely at the weather since Monday. We’re not postponing the trip south, we’re waiting for optimal weather. We don’t have to be in Miami until Tuesday, the 18th. We can leave as late as Monday and still (barrely) make it.

Weather Watch

The Friday weather looks good to us. But not to the crew of Dream Ketcher. We’ll defer to folks with more experience and wait 24 hours.

The WindFinder.com weather is a bit more accurate. This link, in particular shows some details the that National Weather Service omits.

http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/fort_pierce_buoy

Saturday shows slightly more wind than Friday, but a flatter sea state. They predict 3-4 feet with a 7-second period on Friday. A slightly nicer 2-3 feet with a 10-second period is predicted for Saturday. A longer period means less “jerky rocking and rolling” and more “slowly rising and falling."

The NWS forecast looks like this for a Saturday to Sunday trip down to Miami.

This is the Saturday departure (AMZ555) zone.

Saturday: West winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 3 to 4 feet. A moderate chop on the intracoastal waters. 

Saturday Night: North winds 10 to 15 knots diminishing to 5 to 10 knots after midnight. Seas 3 to 4 feet. A light chop on the intracoastal waters. 

Sunday: Northeast winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 3 to 4 feet. A light chop on the intracoastal waters. 

This is the Sunday arrival (AMZ651) zone.

Saturday: West northwest winds 12 to 17 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Dominant period 4 seconds. Intracoastal waters a light chop. 

Saturday Night: Northwest winds 6 to 11 knots becoming north northeast 5 to 10 knots after midnight. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Dominant period 5 seconds. Intracoastal waters a light chop. 

Sunday: Northeast winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Dominant period 0 seconds. Intracoastal waters a light chop. 

It will start out a bit sporty on Saturday, but then settle down by Sunday to really fun sailing conditions.

Mysteries, Cleaning, and Watching

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We’ve lost track of our mystery case files, so I don’t know what number to assign this particular case, but it was as baffling as any case we’ve tackled.

Earlier this week, CA went looking for her favorite black hoodie. And came up dry. No hoodie.

Clearly. It’s misplaced. Right?

A few days back, she cleaned half the saloon. No hoodie.

She poked around in all of the storage spaces on the boat. There aren’t that many. V-berth. Fwd Hanging locker. Galley. Aft Hanging Lockers. Aft Berth. Two Heads. Bins under the beds. On-deck lazarette. Engine room.

No hoodie.

You know you’re a cruiser when you’re trying to look for lost things in places you used to be.

Maybe we left it at Meehan’s Pub in St. Augustine? Since then (Daytona? New Smyrna Beach? Titusville? Eau Gallie?) has it been too warm for the hoodie? Maybe Hottie Coffee in NSB?

We’re usually really careful about leaving stuff behind us. We try to check twice were we’ve been sitting to be sure that we didn’t leave something hanging over a chair back. 

CA cleaned the rest of the main saloon yesterday. All of the cushions came out to get some airing on the aft deck.

Ah.

Hoodie.

Underneath Frankencushion. Good. That’s a relief. The boat’s not that big.

Laundry Day

Today’s agenda? No more mysteries for us, thank you. We’re doing laundry.

You know you’re a cruiser when you’re laundry schedule is based on places you’ve been and places you’re going, not the calendar.

There are a fairly large number of laundry machines here, but if you’re not in the laundry room pre-dawn, you’re going to wait. 

We’ll do a lot more cleaning after the laundry is done.

Intermittent Starting

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When changing the oil on Saturday, it took two tries to get the engine started. Down from four. Up from the ideal of one.

I cleaned parts of the starter relay. That’s what I’m hoping is giving me some starter complaints.

The relay is nearly inaccessible because it’s under the air intake, the exhaust elbow and one of the hoses for the raw-water part of the cooling system.

The wire on the bottom of the picture is adjacent to the block and nearly impossible to reach with a wrench. I can get a socket wrench on it, but I’m reluctant to apply significant force because the body of the device is just a little sheet-metal wrapper around plastic. Applying too much force to the stud could easily break the solenoid.

It’s really a two-wrench job. An open-ended wrench on the inner nut and a socket wrench on the outer nut. I can’t seem to get the open-ended wrench in there. There aren’t very many paths of access to that nut. A mechanic told me that it’s sometimes necessary to have the machine shop cut a perfectly good wrench down to make it just a few inches long.

With some care I can glimpse the screws on the mounting bracket. Maybe that’s the avenue.

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Here’s what a replacement to looks like. Note the absence of rust.

I’m not sure this replacement is up to the marine environment. Maybe it is. It came with the boat.

But I still haven’t proven whether it’s the relay or the starter itself which is glitchy.

The problem is intermittent. So it’s not simply a failed relay or starter. If Mr. Lehman starts, there’s nothing to diagnose. 

Next time he doesn’t start, I have to run below and listen while CA tries the starter. I need to hear if the relay clicks or the starter solenoid clicks. I may even need to run some jumper wires so I can attach the multimeter and watch the voltage levels across the various parts of the circuit.

I’m not going to reach over an engine which might start using little hand-held probes. That’s an invitation to disaster.

One of these rainy days when we don’t feel like a walk on the beach, I think I’ll have to tackle this job more seriously than just attempting to clean the wires and connectors.

Weather and Departures

We're watching the weather. We won't make a Tuesday-Wednesday departure even though that weather window looks good. There’s too much going on. Our daughter is in Orlando on business. We’re going there to visit her; that pushes back our departure.

Here’s part of the synopsis from Sebastian Inlet to Jupiter Inlet 0-20 nm (AMZ555) from Monday Feb 10, 2014: 

WIND AND SEA CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE WEDNESDAY NIGHT INTO THURSDAY WITH IMPROVING CONDITIONS RETURNING FOR FRIDAY.

Friday-Saturday to Miami? We’ll wait and watch. We’ll consult with Dream Ketcher, since they’re doing the same run to the same destination for the same reason. 

And do more cleaning.

Vero Beach Coffee

Cravings. Coffee (good coffee!), Power, and Wi-Fi. A short hop from the beach in the posh resort section of Vero Beach. This appears to be called Ocean Side.

It’s a pleasant 1+ mile walk from the marina. Perfect.

Good, fast Wi-Fi helps with our passage planning. We’re looking at the coastal weather forecasts for our trip to Miami.

The resort area has cool-looking, expensive bars and restaurants. We’re trying to avoid hanging around here too much. Just the minimum: coffee, power and Wi-Fi.

Yesterday we changed the oil. I’m getting better at this and didn’t make as big a mess as I’ve made in the past. Also, I got back about 6 quarts out of the 8 quarts that went into the engine. 

That’s important. 

Before replacing the oil cooler, I had some weird oil changes. One oil change only pulled about 4 quarts out of the engine. That was a hint that something wasn’t quite right. After that shocker, I scribed a “full” line on the dipstick, took more careful notes, and started adding oil when the level got down. 

Since replacing the oil cooler, the level hasn’t dropped significantly. In the last 200 hours, I didn’t add any oil. Yes, Mr. Lehman clearly ate about a quart. But that’s a lot better than ever in the past.

Note to Self. Change the fuel injector oil every 100 hours. After 200 hours the injector pump was full of thin diesel, not think SAE 30-weight. It’s only a few ounces of oil in the pump, and I now have a good funnel and bucket system that avoids splashing the old oil all over the water pump. There’s no good excuse for ignoring the injector pump.

The bad excuse is laziness.

Cleaning

CA washed half the saloon with vinegar water to tackle the mildew problem. It now smells pickle-fresh.

Today, we'll tackle the aft cabin. Maybe on Monday we’ll get to the V-berth.

Bar

We’re thinking of replacing the little plastic windows on either side of the bar with sheet caning material. More airflow is essential. Much more air flow.

We don’t need much sheet caning material (a foot or two of 24” width will do.) The awkward part appears to be prying the old backing strips off and nailing them back on again.

One option may be to remove the old window plastic. We can then cut openings in the plastic which is slightly larger than the openings in the woodwork. We can carefully tack or glue the caning material onto the plastic. Epoxy or even Gorilla Tape. Then we can put these back into their original spots.

I also need to actually clean the contacts on the starter relay. Been talking about it. Haven’t done it yet. Too busy doing… um… you know.

Weather Window

We’re watching the Atlantic Coast weather systems prior to leaving next week. We have three coastal forecast zones: AMZ555, AMZ650 and AMZ651. 

The forecast synopsis includes this: “BEHIND THE FRONT, WEAK HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD IN FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK.” 

Yes.

Here’s what we’re seeing for AMZ555 for an overnight passage to Miami.

Tuesday: East winds 5 to 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. A light chop on the intracoastal waters. 

Tuesday Night: East winds 10 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. 

Wednesday: Southeast winds 10 to 15 knots. Seas 2 to 3 feet. Slight chance of showers. 

This would be delightful if the weather works out as predicted. The weather around our arrival — Wednesday morning in zone AMZ651 — would be “Southeast winds 9 to 12 knots. Seas around 2 feet.” S or SW winds would be right on the nose. SE winds might not be too bad. The wind down there will be in the process of clocking from NE through to S. 

Dream Ketcher is talking about waiting until Thursday. Right now, that’s beyond the short-term, reliable forecast horizon. We’ll find out more tomorrow.

Vero Beach Rendezvous

There’s a standing Thursday night party here at the Vero Beach City Marina. Fabulous. We got to meet many of the cruisers who are staying at Vero. Some are leaving soon to get south ASAP. Others are leaving eventually.

IMG_2244

And more are showing up, too. Today, for instance, we added a fourth Whitby to the mooring field. 

So far, Vero appears to be coffee-shop hell. After finding cool coffee shops in Green Cove Springs, Titusville, and St. Augustine, we’re a bit grumpy about the lack of local coffee shops near the marina in Vero Beach. 

We’ll take a stroll down to the beach — about a mile from here — and see what we can find tomorrow. The issue is finding a triple-threat location: coffee, outlets and Wi-Fi. 

On balance, though, the local GoLineIRT Indian River Transit is amazing. We’re on route #1, and the bus goes straight to the big mall. The cost? A donation. Really.

The marina showers are nice and there are a fair number of washing machines. The trick is to get there early. Since CA is an early riser, that’s easy for us.

Cooking and Cleaning

CA restored our cookie and beer supplies through some baking and shopping. We need to do a lot more cleaning. The mildew issue is excessive. All we can do is clean and clean. And open every hatch when it’s nice out.

We’re past the wickedly cold part of winter. So we think we might be able to do a lot of cleaning and airing over the next few months.

Repairs

I reconnected our rebuilt inverter today. Hopefully, this time I can get the connections tight enough to prevent the arcing and melting that happened when we plugged high-current electric heaters.

The wires passed the tug test. They don’t pull back out. 

The vendor — it appears — recommends ferrules. This isn’t in the installation guide. It’s just a thing they said in an email.  So apparently, I need a wire ferrule crimping tool plus a handful of ferrules. The tool can be used when building weatherproof connectors for solar panels, too.

http://www.digikey.com/catalog/en/partgroup/terminal-block-wire-ferrules-phoenix-contact/5577

http://www.altechcorp.com/HTML/Ferrules-A.html

Sadly, we only need 6 ferrules for AWG 12 wire. It’s hard to buy fewer than 100, though. 

Tomorrow I think I’ll look into the oil change.

Whitby Rendezvous

This mooring field now has Creola, Red Ranger, Dream Ketcher, and Fleur de Lys. And three of us (Creola, Red Ranger, and Dream Ketcher) are tied to the same mooring ball! 

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Yes, it’s crowded. 

Since we have different colored sail covers, we can tell the boats apart.

It’s safe and secure. Red Ranger and Dream Ketcher are leaving for Miami in less than a week. We’re both going the same place at about the same time. We’ll probably travel with them.

Vero Beach

Started: Eau Gallie (N), 28°08.16′N 080°37.53′W

Moored: Vero Beach Marina, 27°39.69′N 080°22.35′W

Log: 31.5 nm. Time: 6¼ hr. Engine: 6¼ hr.


Rafted up with Creola here at Vero Beach. This is a small mooring field, very well protected. But small.

They have relatively few transient moorings and therefore, folks will sometimes have to double up on a mooring ball. Creola was there to catch our lines and make the two boats fast.

Trying to raft up against an unoccupied boat could be right awkward. It’s not like hitting a dock, it’s got to be done much more delicately. And someone has to jump onto the other boat to secure lines between the two.

Time for us to ease back a bit. We’ve gone from Green Cove Springs on the 20th of January to Vero Beach on the 5th of February. So far, so good. That’s about 200 nautical miles in 15 days. 13 or so miles per day overall, allowing plenty of time to sight-see along the way.

We’ll do laundry here and get some groceries. We need to resupply the beer.

We’re waiting for our mail to catch up with us, including our inverter and some other parts that we’ve ordered.

Our daughter has a business trip to Orlando. We might rent a car and drive over there to see her.

Eau Gallie North

Started: Titusville (N), 28°37.83′N 080°48.44′W

Anchored: Eau Gallie (N), 28°08.16′N 080°37.53′W

Log: 32.2 nm. Time: 5½ hr. Engine: 5½ hr.


Making progress toward Vero (“Velcro”) Beach and some anticipated repairs. We chugged down the Indian River in beautiful weather. Sunny. Warm. Scattered Showers.

Red Ranger is anchored near the Eau Gallie bridge. This is near the library. Many cruising guides point this spot out. It has a little bit of protection from wind blowing exactly from the SSW. Any other direction and this is kind of exposed.

Our anchorage in Titusville could have been much worse in a blow — there was no cover at all. We’re reluctant to squeeze into small, protected spots. We’re willing to put up with rough conditions.

The town of Eau Gallie is packed with amenities that are a short walk from the water.

In spite of how nice Eau Gallie is, we’re leaving Wednesday for Vero Beach. The moorings are Vero are so much in demand that boats are often rafted up. We’ve asked to be rafted up with Creola.

Our inverter should be arriving soon at the Vero Beach marina. We really want to get that hooked up so that we can charge the computer without going ashore. That would be a good time to look at the starter issue.

We need to avoid the Velcro effect of Vero Beach. We want to be in Miami for a Southern Whitby Rendezvous synchronized with the Miami Boat Show.

Repairs

Mr. Lehman's starter system has developed a quirk. It doesn’t always engage the first time I push the starter button. I think I hear the solenoid. It’s hard to be sure because the alarm buzzer is so loud. We’ll need to diagnose the problem. If there’s no click, it could be a failing solenoid which an easy electrical fix. 

If there’s a click and a whirr or a click and nothing, then it’s the starter itself. That’s a much more painful operation: removing the starter, having it rebuilt, and then reinstalling it. Other Whitby folks have noted that the starter is in an awkward spot and is surprisingly heavy.

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The old vented loop, which dripped onto the solenoid

The tricks appear to be to (1) wrap a strap around the starter so it doesn’t drop down behind the engine and wedge itself under the motor mount where you have absolutely no leverage for pulling it out and (2) take out the top bolt and replace it with a double-ended stud. Then you can take out the other bolts and the starter will be hanging from the top bolt where you have a fighting chance to wrestle it out of the engine compartment.

Don’t forget to fully disconnect all wiring from everything. There’s a lot of current available in those batteries.

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The new vented loop, which also dripped for a while

The solenoid is a little ball of rust. It’s underneath the vented loop. So there was some saltwater drippage from the old vented loop. When I replaced it with a new Groco loop, the new loop also dripped for a while. I’ve since taken the Groco apart and cleaned it. It no longer drips. But the solenoid is still a little ball of rust that should probably be replaced.

Titusville Marina

The only thing open on Sunday in Titusville appears to be The Coffee Shoppee with no electrical outlets nor any WiFi. Friendly. Good food. Antiquated.

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The Municipal Marina screen porch has outlets. That’s a start. And it has WiFi. That’s good, too.

It was so foggy this morning…

[How foggy was it?

It was so foggy this morning that the fog itself was worried about collisions.

It was so foggy this morning that the condensation had condensation on it.]

Actually, it was so foggy this morning that we could only see three nearby boats — perhaps 200 yd visibility. We’re anchored about 1,000 yds off shore, close to ½ mile. We could not see any shoreline, just a vague nimbus of light to show us which way the sun was rising.

It was so foggy this morning that we took a hand-bearing compass and brought up the local small-scale chart on the iPhones to navigate in.

It was so foggy this morning that when I stopped staring at the compass, I turned slowly through about 45° because there’s no way to stay oriented.

We found the Titusville Municipal Marina — eventually. We had to drive down each slipway to try and find the dinghy dock. 

We think we’ve found a bar to watch the Super Bowl: Irish Pub & Fish & Chips.

Titusville North

Started: New Smyrna Beach/Sheephead Cut, 29°01.65′N 080°54.93′W

Anchored: Titusville (N), 28°37.83′N 080°48.44′W

Log: 28.5 nm. Time: 5 hr. Engine: 5 hr.


Great visit in NSB with some more friends who date back to high school. Breakfast, shopping, lunch, movie, dinner. They had to head N yesterday. We waited out the rain before we headed S today.

Today dawned clear. Then fog filled in. Aggressive fog. The kind of fog that’s itching for a fight, and doesn’t want to be messed with. Really low-down mean fog.

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We had been pottering around below decks, getting ready to start. I popped up, started the engine and then realized that the fog was building. And building. It got so dense we couldn’t see ¼ mile. By 0930 it had burned off and we could see to navigate.

By 1500, when we dropped the hook in Titusville, the weather was gorgeous! 26°C (almost 80°F) on the boat. Cumulus clouds portend rain later tonight. For now, we opened up every hatch to try and reduce the dampness somewhat. The combination of wintery weather and rain leaves the boat damp. The chainplate openings which leak are — of course — an even bigger problem: they leave puddles of standing water in the aft head shelf. 

Now that it’s warmer, I can apply some more goo to those openings with a reasonable hope that the goo will set up properly. 

Tomorrow, we’ll hang around Titusville. CA uses Yelp to locate the things we want to see. Things like Breakfast. And Wifi. And maybe a bar in which to watch the Super Bowl. Maybe. That involves a longish dinghy ride late at night. We’ll look over the bar alternatives first.

Monday, we’ll chug 37 miles from Titusville (ICW 877) to Eau Gallie (ICW 914.) Then 37 more miles should put us in Vero (ICW 951.)

We might have skipped Titusville and pressed on to Cocoa West (ICW 897.) That makes two 50 mile/8 hr days between NSB and Vero; it would get us to Vero sooner. But why? Titusville seems to have coffee shops, too. 

  © Steven Lott 2016