To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Week 27: Crossing To Florida

This was painful, but necessary.

  1. Stuff broke. We knew something was amiss when Mr. Lehman developed an unusual new smell on Saturday or Sunday. Really. A new smell. We'd learned all of his various noises. And a diesel engine has a characteristic smell. But this smell was new and different. Time to be alarmed? Maybe.

  2. St. Lucie Inlet (Stuart, Florida) is a big mistake for a place to check in to the US. It means a cab ride or car rental to drive to the airport in Fort Pierce. But Stuart (really Port Palermo) is where the broken boat is, so we have to work around the rules of Customs and Border Patrol. They boarded the boat; but CA still has to present herself at the airport because the boarding by the interdiction cops doesn't count for identification by the immigration cops.

  3. While we'd like to sail outside to Beaufort in one 4-day marathon, we'd have to wait several days (or weeks) for a good weather window. We're going to swallow our pride and pick our way up the ICW until we get a favorable weather window some smaller outside jumps.

18th. Monday.

Started at 25°38.846′N 078°40.8269′W on Mackie Shoal

We're bound for Hen and Chickens Shoal. Sailors always cover their bets by being "bound for". They may not ever make it. But they started out bound for it.

Hen and Chickens has a nice, wide, well-known passage off the Great Bahamas Banks. The original idea was to sail all day, exit the banks during daylight, and then press on NW toward Cape Canaveral, FL, and from there to Beaufort, NC. The Cape is 150-160 miles away (another couple of days) and Beaufort is almost 500 miles away. The Gulf Stream should help.

Sadly, this first day had a lot of downwind running. Dead downwind. As we've noted elsewhere, we're not skilled enough to run downwind effectively.

Yesterday, we had tried main, mizzen and yankee. When the wind started to get gusty, Red Ranger was headed up by pressure on main and mizzen. The best we could do was 120° off the wind. Eventually we dropped the main entirely, since it was just twisting us off course.

Today, we tried yankee alone. We found that we could drop down to 150° off the wind. Better. But not really useful. Our rhumb line course to Hen and Chickens Shoal was precisely downwind—180°—and all we do is gybe back and forth with the yankee flogging itself to death. To be more stable, we had to head up a little, and broad reach at 150° off the wind to starboard, gybe, and broad reach at 150° off the wind to port.

Deep Waters

This 150* course meant that popped off the Banks and into the New Providence Channel way east of where we'd been bound. The New Providence Channel is deep water, just like the Tongue of the Ocean. Thousands of feet deep. With appropriately scary swell and waves.

By the time we got there, the wind was blowing 20 and gusting to 30. The seas were piled up into waves of well over 6 feet tall. Well over. The cockpit benches are about four feet above the water. When you're looking up at the wave behind you, it's at least 7 feet high.

At one point we had green water the entire length of the port side. That's at least a 5' swell while we were being rolled over by an errant gust of wind. Good thing I had scraped the barnacles out of the scupper drains in the Bahamas.

Sweat and Strain

CA had the unpleasant joy of surfing down a wave in a 23,000 pound boat. The breaking wave is splashing on port and starboard making a huge sighing and splashing sound as the boat hurtles forward.

For the next four hours, she fought the wheel, trying to keep us on a course that approximated NW. The wind slowly died away, so that my turn on the wheel wasn't quite so challenging. Indeed, I finally had to start the engine and motor sail until midnight.

I put Mr. Benmar (our autopilot) on duty, so we didn't need to hand steer all night.

Ended at 26°22.115′N 079°07.748′W.

Our watch bill for this leg:

time Crew
0000-0400 SFL
0400-0800 CAB; wake SFL up at 0630 to listen to weather
0800-1200 SFL; CAB serves breakfast
1200-1600 CAB
1600-2000 SFL; CAB serves dinner
2000-0000 CAB

This allows us (mostly) four solid hours off-watch, except for CAB's meal prep times. She likes to sleep below in the comfy bed. I like to sleep in the cockpit when it's warm and dry.

Today we only made about 64.2 nm for 10:20 of engine runtime.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 25°38.846′N 078°40.8269′W
Waypoint Midnight 26°22.115′N 079°07.748′W
Time 10h 20m
Distance 64.2 nm

19th. Tuesday

Started at 26°22.115′N 079°07.748′W

Motor-sailed through the night with a few light breezes alternating with some serious pummeling from the rain squalls.

During CA's 2000-0000 watch, the winds built back up and we had towering waves and a little rain. In the dark. The boat would roll and she'd hear the sigh of waves as Mr. Benmar surfed. She didn't like that action at all. I was mostly asleep and missed most of it.

I was, however, sleeping on the cockpit bench. Big waves would roll me off the bench. CA suggested I lash myself in. A bit of line around the hips and over the cleats works wonders.

Some Sailing

During my 0000-0400 watch, the winds dropped away to a level where I could put out some stays'l to make some speed in excess of Mr. Lehman's output.

During the 0400-0800 watch, the winds backed a hair and CA got no benefit from the sails. Indeed, by the time I woke up at 0800, the wind was dead ahead. Straight out of the NE, blowing straight from our destination (Cape Canaveral) straight down at us.

And that dead-ahead wind had built to 15 knots.

That's 15 knots out of the NE, straight into the Gulf Stream. If that wind continues, the Gulf Stream builds into huge, lumpy, scary seas. We've already seen some of that, thank you, and don't want any more. We can't continue NE without risking yet more big waves.

Sigh. Time to give it up.

Bound For Someplace New

After much debate (what else is there to do on the boat, but discuss each maneuver at length and in depth?) we elected to fall off to whatever course Poseidon would grant us and see where that turned out to be in Florida.

In our case, it was the St. Lucie inlet near Stuart, FL.

The New Smell

One we got out of the main part of Gulf Stream, the seas flattened. Just after 1200, during CAB's watch, the boat was flat enough that I felt comfortable poking around Mr. Lehman's office with the engine running. (The idea of whirling machinery and being knocked off balance keeps me out of there in rough seas.)

I found the source of Mr. Lehman's new smell.

The rigid fuel line from lift pump to secondary fuel filter had been chafed through. It was in contact with a hose clamp on a heat exchanger and had sprung a leak. So there was diesel fuel spraying down the side of the engine block and pooling in the pan under the engine. Gallons of diesel. Gallons.

It's not a fire threat. It's an environmental hazard, however. We turned off the primary bilge pump.

Lessons Learned

While we'd hoped to make better use of the wind and sail more of the return trip, there were some problems.

  1. The wind wasn't very cooperative. On this trip, it was either 180° behind us or 000° ahead of us for three solid days. There are three kinds of wind: Too Strong, Too Weak and Wrong Direction.

  2. We're not very patient. While we could have gybed and tacked all over the ocean; we just didn't feel like taking that much time to get back to the US. It would have made progress very slow, and our weather window would have closed, leaving us sailing all over the place as the winds shifted.

  3. We're not very skilled. Clearly, we lack a good downwind sail plan. We think that an asymmetric spinnaker might help us get closer to running dead downwind. But our current inventory either isn't appropriate or we're not using it properly. (We'd like to avoid trying to sail wing-and wing; it's too challenging. With main-yankee, below 120° off the wind blankets the yankee. With yankee alone, below 150° off the wind is a series of gybes.)

Today we dropped the anchor in Manatee Pocket. We have two challenging jobs:

  • CA's Right and Legal "presentation" to CPB. That means taxi or shuttle bus or rental car to Ft. Pierce airport with all her paperwork and have them. Um. What? I assume they'll simply be confused and it will be $100 of transportation for nothing. At best, they look at her picture in the passport. They took my word for me. Maybe my SVRS number is my secret password.

  • Diesel Mechanic. The replacement part is readily available from American Diesel in Kilmarnock. I should probably simply order two of them. But for delivery where? General Delivery at the Post Office in Port Salerno, FL? If I can find a mechanic, then I can have parts shipped to a boatyard. It may be an easy repair. Cleanup, however, will be a huge pain.

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

Today we covered just over 60 nm and ran the engine for 15.5 hours.

Dinner was the last of our minestrone soup with drop biscuits.

The only problem with Manatee Grotto? Shallow. I think we're sitting in the mud at low tide.


Attribute Value
Waypoint Midnight Position 26°22.115′N 079°07.748′W
Arrive Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W
Time 15h 40m
Distance 56 nm

20th. Wednesday

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

CA drove up to Ft. Pierce to do her official presentation for check-in. Enterprise car rental drove over to the Pirate's Cove Resort to pick her up.


I took the dinghy over to the Hinckley Marina. A large, sophisticated boatyard with numerous skilled marine services. They'll accept a package for me from ADC in Kilmarnock with my new fuel lines (and some new secondary fuel filters.) They'll also accept my old diesel pumped out of the pan under the engine and out of the deep bilge.

So far, it's been 5 gallons of a diesel-water-grit mixture that I pumped out of the engine pan and deep bilge. I'm not done pumping yet; there's another gallon or so that's proving difficult. I took the jugs to Hinckley to dispose of in their waste oil/waste diesel containers. The mixture is mostly fuel, and with some filtering is probably fine. But who wants to take that risk?

While we had the car, we went to West Marine and bought a bunch of stuff we need. New oil absorbing sponges, a boat hook to replace the one we lost in Nassau, a new macerator pump, flag halyards, and a "Fender Step" to make it easier to get up to the boat from the dinghy.

Back at the boat around 5-ish to learn that our anchor dragged.

Our boat had dragged out into the channel!

Our neighbors rescued Red Ranger for us. Two of them towed her back into the anchorage; George of Glide Path climbed up onto our bow and threw out all 100' of chain (plus some of the rope) to be sure that we had enough down.


We're deeply indebted to people we don't really know yet.

"What can we do for you?" we asked. "We've got bottles of Caribbean Rum, we can bake you some bread or cookies..."

"Nothing really," the crew of Glide Path said. "Cruisers are a tight little community looking our for each other. You'll help someone else out someday."

Turns out, they're getting ready to put the boat on the hard for the summer, so there's nothing we can give them that they can really use. Anything perishable has to be used or tossed.

Praise and Thanksgiving.

Dinner was a simple can of chili. We had a great lunch at Pirate's Cove restaurant.

Draining the Bilge

Tomorrow, I'll work on extracting that last gallon or two from the bottom of the deep bilge. I think I can use the bilge pump (and some soapy water) to clean things out properly.

It turns out that Red Ranger's bilge pump is also a deck washdown pump. There are two principle operating modes:

  • From Sea Chest to Deck Fittings. This is "washdown mode." CA uses it when pulling up the anchor. We have two on-deck hose fittings: one by the anchor and one in the cockpit. We rarely use the cockpit output. We turn on a manual override switch for this.

  • From Bilge to Overboard. This is normal bilge pump mode. There's a float switch to activate the pup.

  • We can configure a third useful mode. We can pull from bilge and pump to deck. If I rig some jugs by the cockpit fitting, this will pump the last of the bilge water into jugs for disposal.

  • There's a fourth, useless mode: from Sea Chest to Overboard. That just wears down the batteries.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W

21st. Thursday

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

Big jobs today. Not all of which worked out well.

  1. Confirmed that our almost-new Jabsco Par-Max Plus 5.0 GPM bilge pump was dead. I think it was some fine particulate that got past the little screen. The West Marine guy thought that the pump would not work with anything but potable drinking water. Sea water was right out. So I replaced the dead pump with a 4.0 GPM "Washdown" pump, because that was more likely to work with random water. It has fewer valves to fail.

  2. Since we were at West Marine, I bought a shiny new 36" manual bilge pump. I used this to extract the final half-gallon of diesel out of the bilge. Once that was up, I threw a half gallon of soapy water down there and pumped that out. Then I put another gallon of soapy water in and pumped it out. First gallon jug was half diesel and half water. Second jug was just a thin line of diesel on top of the water.

The diesel is gone. The boat smells better. The bilge pump works. So far, so good.

However, things are not always so smooth. When lifting the dinghy pump (with a 72" hose), I managed to pour the bilge water from the hose down the walk-through passage.

CA claims she was going to wash that piece of floor anyway.


As long as we're doing engine work, we might as well look at the heat exchanger zinc. After all, the shaft zinc was pretty well shot when we dove that back on Staniel Cay.

Apparently, I haven't been attending to the heat exchanger zinc.


The zinc was gone. Gone. Nothing to protect the engine parts from galvanic corrosion.

Taking a second look, it appears that the zinc broke, leaving a plug inside the heat exchanger. The bronze nut had some zinc in it, but the heat exchanger had the rest of the zinc firmly lodged in the opening.

What now? I can't force the new zinc in with the old zinc in the way.

How to extract that plug of zinc? What can I do?


Can I drill it out? Tap a hole in the zinc, screw in an extractor bit and back the remains out?

I can't fit the drill down there. I might be able to use the right-angle jig.

But it's awkward. Really impossibly awkward.

Take a short break and contemplate alternatives.


Instead of drilling, maybe I can jiggle it around with the dental pick we use. Would that extract the plug of zinc?

This is an awkward job. I have to lay across the engine, head down between engine and transmission. Just getting tools back there is painful. The drill was a no-go. A socket wrench is tricky. A mirror, flashlight and dental probe is difficult, too.

Once I got the mirror and flashlight in position, I dropped the dental probe down under the engine. After 10 minutes of cursing I got it back out.

Then, I dropped the flashlight down under the engine. After 5 more minutes of cursing, I got it back out.

Okay. Where do we stand?

Right! Pick out the remains of the zinc. That's what we're supposed to be doing. Not throwing tools down under the engine.

One more time: lay on top of the block, position the flashlight, hold the mirror out of the way, and apply the dental probe to see if the zinc plug can wriggled out.

A little pushing reveals that it's just a skin of zinc. It breaks and crumbles; raw water comes pouring out of the heat exchanger. Yay!


We can finally put in the new zinc.

And that's it for me today. Time to run the generator for two hours and top off the batteries. Not that they need a lot of topping off. We've recently motored over 24 hours. But, we need to rig the generator because we're certainly going to be here for several more days.

Dinner was a cabbage stir-fry.

Tomorrow we'll stroll down to the grocery store or perhaps do laundry at Pirate's Cove. Maybe I'll replace the flag halyards. Something simple that doesn't involve wrenches or diesel fuel.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W

22nd. Friday

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

Took a walk around Port Salerno. We find the diner we needed.

A few days ago, probably at the 0400 watch change, I told CA that I was thinking of eggs and bacon and home fries and grits and toast. She was grumpy because that's all she could think of on her watch. And all we had to eat was granola bars.

Today, we finally satisfied our eggs and home fries urges at Sammies here in Port Salerno. Yum. And he has Wi-Fi.

When CA wants to go running, I know where I can hang out.

Then Washing (one of the W's: wash-up, waste, water, whiskey, wi-fi, walkies, watts and victuals) at the Pirate's Cove Marina. Yes, the machines are for guests only. But the folks at the front desk figure that our quarters are as good as anyone else's.

Back to the boat for lunch.

Wind out of the ESE (and spitting rain). After our anchor-dragging debacle on Wednesday, we're panic-stricken that we might be dragging. We set the anchor alarm and we're staring at the little chart is produces that shows us just 171 ft from our position yesterday.

171 feet? Isn't that a large arc?

Since we have all 100' of chain, then we swing in a circle with a 200' diameter. 171 feet is OK. But. We dragged day before yesterday. So we're cautious.


Our engine probably won't start. So what can we do if we drag?

What we can try is dropping a second anchor.

It could be a royal mess. Or it could help us get Red Ranger under control.

CA rigged the Bruce anchor. We can lower it into the dinghy, drive out to a better location, drop the Bruce and kedge Red Ranger into a better location with that.


While studying the anchor situation, I started replacing the flag halyards. That's a fun boatswain kind of rigging job. I saw a little note somewhere (magazine? on-line?) on how temporarily stitch two lines end-to-end so that you can reave the new halyard without climbing all the way to the top of the mast to pass it through the block up there.

I'm three-for-four so far. Then it started to rain.

No word today from the Hinckley Boat Yard on my package from ADC in Kilmarnock with the replacement fuel line. That means we won't hear anything until Monday.

Dinner was Crab Cabbage Curry with Coconut Milk.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W

23rd. Saturday

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

We're a little worried about our anchor position. The dragging doesn't concern us. But when the wind is from the ESE, our stern hangs out into the channel. The polite thing to do is use the dinghy to tow Red Ranger to a slightly better position.

We've never tried towing with the dinghy. We're not even sure it can be done. Red Ranger weights 23,000 pounds. But, she's largely frictionless, so it's all a matter of momentum. And current. And wind.

It's also a matter of how much stress we can put on the D-rings on the dinghy. And how much stress we can put on the fiberglass transom of the dinghy. We doubt the dinghy can take the strain.

Even though we're close to the fairway, the anchor is set. Well set. We hate to mess with that.


To be sure that we can cope with dragging, we dried the diesel fuel and tried to wrap the fuel line in ResQ Tape. Maybe the engine will start and maybe we can motor out of any difficulty.

Today's jobs included Wi-Fi, Wash-up, Victuals, and Watts.

For Wi-Fi, I went to Sammies diner while CA went for a run.

For Wash-Up, we snuck into the unnamed resort/marina shower rooms for showers. I doubt they'd approve. But the place is pretty empty. We'll drink at their bar to offset our costs.

For Victuals, we walked the mile or so to Winn Dixie to get fresh veggies and beer.

For Watts, we ran the generator for two hours to charge up the batteries.

It's been breezy and big, scary Florida-scale thunder showers are predicted. Red Ranger dragged once. We're reluctant to leave the boat. The location is pretty, so that makes up for some of the cabin fever.

Dinner was a Zatarains pasta and rice mix.

The weather, thankfully, was calm all night. No worries about dragging.


Attribute Value
Depart Started at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W

24th. Sunday

Anchored at 27°09.252′N 080°11.748′W in Manatee Pocket, near Stuart, FL

Walkies to Sammies for breakfast. CA went for a 5k run for her walkies. I walked a few blocks.

CA tackled some sewing. She'll make something pretty and useful. She also tackled stowage and the "clothes purgatory": the stuff we haven't worn and probably don't need.

The Ongoing Problem

I'm supposed to tackle the broken macerator pump. I need to avoid spilling poop in the bilge. And when I'm done, we can't use it (or even test it) until we're offshore. And it's gusting to 25 knots here in Manatee Pocket. Red Ranger is bouncing around in the breeze. Not the best work environment.

Instead of the macerator pump, maybe I'll sit in the cockpit and read catalogs looking at rigging parts. I think I want to replace our simplistic slab reefing with something that doesn't require as much on-deck leaping about in high seas. In mast furling is nice; they have some "behind the mast" furling that may be easier to add to Red Ranger. We lose the battens, but we gain safety and simplicity.

Or, maybe I'll look at new autopilot systems with new hydraulics. Chart plotter integration with the autopilot system would be a safety feature: no more diddling the dial to get Mr. Benmar back on course. Also, we could replace the massive Benmar compass with a smaller, more reliable fluxgate compass to backup the GPS. Bonus: we might also get a rudder position indicator to see the load on the helm from mis-trimmed sheets.

Or, maybe I'll stare at new instruments for wind speed, and depth. It would be nice to rip out the three aging DMI displays in the cockpit (and one at the nav station) and put in two new digital displays in the cockpit and one at the nav station. Right now, there are four holes in the cockpit for three instruments, and they're not even on the binnacle. A pod on the binnacle with new instruments would be a huge step up in the world.

Wireless TackTick? Or wired? Such a lot of reading to do.

In My Dreams


I pulled up the floor and tackled the poop-filled macerator. The old unit came out pretty neatly, with only minor dribbles of poop. I'm getting better about jamming a paper towel in the pipe and covering it with a plastic bag and rubber band.

Not great. Just better. There is poop.

The new macerator went in almost as easily as the old one came out. Four bolts to hold it down, two wires, two hoses. Done. Not volcano of poop ("shitcano.")

For final cleanup, CA was doing quality assurance.

And smelled diesel.

The engine pan is above the (decommissioned) center fuel tank. The fuel tank's forward edge is part of the bilge into which macerator poop would trickle. The fuel tank's after edge is a cascade into the deep bilge. Clearly diesel fuel from the engine pan slopped down onto the fuel tank.


So we spent a few hours mopping up about three quarts of diesel and a quart of water from the top of the fuel tank. Then we rinsed the area were we'd been working. We moved aft and pumped another gallon of half-diesel half-water out of the deep bilge.

So. New pump. More diesel cleanup. Busy Sunday.

I did manage to screw up the flag halyard and topping lift. The new halyard line is a little too slick for a buntline hitch. Or, more likely, I mistied the buntline hitch.

Dinner was salmon with green pepper over homemade pasta.

In trying to fix the errant flag halyard after dinner, I lost the topping lift line, also. Two epic mistakes. Back to back. We had a bit of a scramble to climb far enough up the mast to snag the errant topping lift and flag halyard.

No sooner did have have the lines under control than we had an amazing downpour. Followed by flat calm. Striking difference from winds gusting to 30 earlier today.

This Week

Engine Hours: 25. Diesel Gallons: 0. Water Gallons: 0. Miles Run: 124.

Books: The Looking Glass War, The Man Who Ate Everything.

Read Aloud: A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire.


Attribute Value
Engine 25. h
Diesel 0. gal
Water 0. gal
Distance 124. nm