My time is up at Wabasis Lake and I need to find a camping spot for the 4th of July holiday. I figured that I’d find something further north and away from big cities. I was fortunate to find a site in Manistee, MI. Manistee is a nice little town located on the shore of Lake Michigan between Ludington and Frankfort. I’ve stayed at Manistee before both by boat and by RV.
I spent a long and quiet 4th in Manistee. Daughter Deb’s stay at Grand Haven ended and with the holiday couldn’t be extended. There were still vacancies here in Manistee so she came with her motor home on Friday and spent the weekend. Monday she headed to AnnArbor for an appointment and I headed further north. I still don’t have a destination or goal for travel but am thinking to head west along US2 near the Canadian border. With the border closed, I figure there will be fewer US travelers in that area in that the border will be a ‘stopper’ and zero Canadian travelers with the border being a ‘cork’ for them. US2 is a wonderful East West northern version of RT66 stretching from Maine to Seattle. It’s generally a good highway, lots of travel stops, easy fuel stops, local eateries and camping opportunities.
I’ve also finally gotten the motorhome title which needs to be re-registered in MT (I used my MT LLC to buy the MH as MT doesn’t have sales tax). MT uses a vendor for LLC registrations by mail and so far I’ve not been able to get a response from the vendor. So maybe I’ll register it in person at my ‘home’ DMV near Glacier.
I ended up going north of US2 to the south end of Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. There are thunderstorms going on here which actually sounds relaxing to me but hampers picture opportunities. There are two things I’d like to see within a hundred miles. One is Whitefish Point. All Lk Superior commercial shipping has to clear dangerous Whitefish Point which is known as The Graveyard of the Great Lakes. It is home to the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum. I visited it a few years back but there were still ice burgs on the water (small ones) and it was snowy and cold. I’d like to revisit. It’s about a 40 mile side trip – same road in and out – so the weather needs to be hospitable or it’s not going to happen.
Another reason for heading past US2 further north is that I’d like to see Tahquanamon Falls. I think I’ve been told I saw them when I was a kid but I don’t have a memory of it and it seems to me that I’ve been hearing about them all my life. I still need to research how much walking is involved.
I can then either cut back south to US2 (the U.P. is only about 50 miles north to south in this area) and head west along the northern shore of Lk MI or continue west along Lk Superior to Pictured Rocks and later merge with US2 near Ironwood and the WI border. Stay tuned
After a really nice visit with Jon & Vicki Ruiter and grandchildren Charlie and Juliana, I left the DC area this morning. I have a reservation at Wabasis Lake Campground just north of Grand Rapids. It’s part of the Kent County park system. Though I lived in GR for nearly my first 40 years, I’ve never been to Wabasis Lake. Daughter Deb stayed at the campground for a week or two leaving only 2 or 3 days ago and she told me it was a nice pleasant campground so I’ll try it. I plan on staying there 6 nights.
It’s about a 660 mile drive and I had hoped to split the distance in two. 330 miles got me to the Pittsburgh area and I didn’t feel like stopping there. Some of the OH turnpike service plazas have RV facilities. It’s barebones separated parking area with 30/50 amp service. I had overnighted in one some years ago. So I pulled in to refresh my memory. Sites are small for my motorhome. I would need to unhook the car only to hook it back up in the morning. And, though it’s not near the truck parking area, it is next to the noise of both the turnpike and the service plaza. For that they charge $20. I elected to drive on.
I pulled into a Cracker Barrel in Sandusky, OH making it a 450 mile day with lots of wind and quite a number of rain showers. I don’t need to make a habit of that! I had dinner at CB and still have $$ left from what I didn’t spend at the service plaza “campsite”. This parking lot ‘camping’ is a lot like anchoring out for the night without the moon on the water panache.
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Finished the segment ending uneventfully at Wabasis Lake Campground. The route was a bit longer than originally planned because I added some miles by taking the I66/I81 route out of the DC area and then by going cross country from Sandusky to Toledo. I did the former to stay on major interstates and avoid cross country with this rig in the DC area and the latter to enjoy being off limited access highways. I enjoy cross country so much more. Anyway this second day was 250 miles for a segment total of 700 miles. I quickly settled into the first of my 2 sites. I’m to be in an electric only site for 2 nights then moving on Saturday onto a full hookup site for 4 nights. Though generally located in my old stomping grounds of 30+ years, I had never been to this Kent County Park. It’s very nice and the campground is very pleasant – generally about 20 miles NNE of downtown Grand Rapids.
Thursday afternoon brought a short visit at the campground from my brother Ron and SIL Gert. Friday morning I drove into Greenville to reprovision the motorhome groceries. That was followed Friday with a visit at their home and a home cooked meal. Delicious meal and nice to catch up again. Last time I saw them was in late Jan or early Feb 2019 in Cortez, FL when my boat was ‘on the hard’ (blocked up on land) post purchase but pre launch.
Saturday afternoon, I was invited to Gun Lake for a fish fry with nieces Joan, Sue and spouse and nephew Bob. They have adjoining cottages on Gun Lake about a half mile from Yankee Springs State Park. Gun Lake is about 25 miles south of downtown Grand Rapids. Unbeknownst to me until then, daughter Deb was staying for a couple of nights in her motorhome at the State Park (I thought she was in Grand Haven) so she was there as well. Sue’s daughter and family as well as some neighbors were also there. The afternoon was spent visiting and the kids went riding, tubing and water skiing on the flotilla of pontoon and speed boats as well as jet skis. A neighbor furnished some Alaska caught salmon. I’m not sure where the sea bass and the blue gills came from. Besides pan fried blue gills, the salmon and sea bass were divided with half smoked and half grilled and those were subdivided into portions done with lemon or herbs or spices; a veritable potpourri of offerings from the sea. The table was filled out with an assortment of salads, salsa, breads, fries etc etc. Must have been 20 or more people there. Needless to say, it was past 9 pm and long past my bedtime 🥱😴 before I got back to camp.
Returning to campsite I found a note in my door indicating I had missed a visitor, Rick Ruiter. I knew he was around and might stop by but not when. Rick is a retired Kentwood police officer, one of many I knew from my days at Kentwood Natl Bank. Used to have lots of fun with those guys. My girls remember Rick especially. One great Saturday afternoon decades ago, we were anchored with our boat by the Grand Haven State Park just sunning, relaxing and swimming off the stern. In the distance a swimmer had broken from the larger number of swimmers at the beach and was heading towards the boat. It turned out to be Rick who had recognized the boat so he came aboard for a brew. I do know that in his retirement (I’m betting it’s an active one) from the force, he travels the country some driving a charter bus load of folks from a retirement home or delivering new fire trucks to various FDs.
It was years later that I learned, with it finally sinking in, that Rick and my son in law Jon‘s father from Massachusetts were brothers. Then Jon told me that his aunt Mary knew me in high school. I had no clue. I had jumped ahead a grade in high school and between a shortened tenure and a huge class (guessing 3 or 4 hundred) I didn’t know many kids. I later figured whoshe was, and as slow as I am, then figured out that Rick and Mary were brother and sister. I think Mary gets her frequent camper miles at the various Lake Michigan State Park campgrounds. Small Dutch world. Sorry I missed you, Rick.
Did a little more grocery shopping on Monday and will do laundry on board tomorrow (Tues) before breaking camp Weds morning and heading further north to find a place for the Fourth of July.
Took leave of South of the Border Campground mid morning and after a 1/4 mile crossed over into North Carolina. It was a dismal day with frequent showers and nearly constant drizzle. And it was cold. It didn’t even get to 70 degrees today. The only thing of interest was just south of the VA border. Cruising along at about 67mph when there was a sudden major jolt and push to the side of the road. No bow waves from a passing truck. As suddenly as it appeared, it stopped. I figure it must have been a severe micro burst. Then on the news this evening the weatherman reported a verified small cold weather tornado this afternoon in that area and about that time. Who’d a thunk it?
I was going to stay the night at the Cracker Barrel in Emporia VA but I wasn’t tired so I left and headed to a CB about 50 miles further north – off I295 east of Richmond. Means a shorter run tomorrow to Bull Run Park Campground a few miles from daughter Vicki’s house. 😇😄
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Well that was a mistake! I said it ‘means a shorter run tomorrow’. In miles that was true. In time, not so much. Since it was going to be a short day, I stopped at a Blue Beacon. For those of you who don’t frequent truck stops, Blue Beacon is a nationwide truck wash. Having driven thru days of drizzle and rain the rig was really dirty and today was a nice sunny day. The rig needed to be washed and there was only one truck ahead of me (plus the one in the bay). After being attacked by 4 guys with pressure washers and then completely rinsed with RainX, the MH and car came out shiny and ready for the day.
It was but 10 miles or so back on the road and the traffic came to a standstill on I95. Stop and start, mostly stop, for 5 miles and nearly an hour. By the time I got to “the spot”, whatever happened was cleared and I never got to see what caused the delay.
Nearing DC, it was again slow going cross country to Bull Run Regional Park and Campground. Have been here many times. The park is huge and contains in one corner 150 wooded campsites many of which are full hookup. The campground is 2 miles from the park entry. I tried to get a site thru their reservation vendor, Reserve America. What a disaster. No availability and the campground just opened up from COVID19 2days ago. So I called the on site office for the campground and they got me a full hookup site for 5 nites. Arriving here, I’d guess about 20% of the sites are occupied though I’m sure it will get busier at the weekend.
I went to Jon and daughter Vicki’s for supper. It was also my youngest grandson’s, Charlie, 22nd birthday. He came home from Univ of Oklahoma for spring break and due to COVID19 hasn’t been back. Unfortunately he only packed for a short spring break. Granddaughter Juliana was also there having not returned to Univ of VA from spring break. She, at least, was close enough to be able to drive back and pack up more clothes. Jon has not been overseas since early Jan and has been working from home. Vicki has had plenty of company at home while recuperating from cervical surgery.
Friday June 19, 2020
Sunny morning and did a badly needed grocery shopping. Afternoon – monsoon time. So much water!!! Flood warnings issued. Campground roads had 4-5” standing water. Motorhome did NOT float away. 😅😅😅😅
Today was a no travel day. As mentioned in my last blog post, the ride height of the motorhome wasn’t level. Last Friday Savannah Freightliner diagnosed the problem as a failed air height leveler and ordered the part. I showed up for my appointment at 9 am this morning and by 2 pm the part was installed, adjusted and tested by a test drive.
I also had a failure of the entry step to extend or retract. This item needs to function as it is just shy of a three foot distance from the MH platform to ground. Too far for an old man to jump down and/or hoist himself up frequently. So after leaving the Freightliner shop I drove 5 miles to a Camping World. The service manager thought it was probably the step motor and crawled under to take a look. The motor was located in an area between the steps and he was unable to see the part number. He warned me that they probably did not have the replacement motor in stock. He then went back under the step with his cell phone and pointed it towards the motor and snapped some pics. One of the was clear enough to show the part number and, my lucky day, they did have a new replacement motor.
So I disconnected the car (again) and the mh went to a service bay. Out with the old motor and in with the new. It also needed a new control board. Don’t know if the control board fault blew the motor or vice versa but with both replaced, I now can get in and out like a normal person and not put on a show. Yay! Since it was now after 5pm and a little late to start a travel day, I drove the whole 2 blocks to the Cracker Barrel and again took advantage of their corporate hospitality and stayed the night.
Tuesday June 16, 2020
I left at a reasonable hour heading north. Overcast and cool – months since I’ve seen temps in the 60s. Actually felt quite chilly. Still not sure where I was heading today. I had thought about heading towards Charleston and then Myrtle Beach but as I drove I started thinking about the side trip I made on Saturday to Beaufort. It was a totally different town than the one I saw just months before while slipped at the marina. Coming by road, the town looked like so many other towns. Coming by water was so much different. The only view one had was a vibrant marina in the heart of historic old downtown. Saturday I even walked the marina and it didn’t feel the same – the sense of ‘belonging here’ was absent.
So as I was driving I thought about it. Am I trying to recreate my boating itinerary by going next to Charleston and then Myrtle Beach and then…? I’ve been to those places in a way I’ll never do again and would revisiting live up to the memory or be a flop like Beaufort was? By the time I95 intersected US-17 which headed to Charleston I had made up my mind and continued north on I95 and to new adventures. Oh, I’m sure I’ll see many of the same places I’ve seen before but in the context of prior road travel and I won’t compare them to the memories of a great water adventure and exploration.
I put on about 200 miles and stopped early for the day. I am SOB. No, not that. I’m at Pedro’s South of the Border campground. It’s a kitschy complex consisting of a fuel stop, restaurants (4), hotel, souvenir shops, miniature golf and other kiddie attractions and a campground – heralded for a hundred miles north and south on I 95 by equally kitschy billboards every mile or two (literally). It is located right at the SC/NC border. The campground however is a first rate overnight stop. Level paved or gravel long pull thru sites with full hookups, 30/50 amp svc and gated access and pool privileges at the hotel. Have probably stayed here 10 times over the years.
There’s an advantage traveling as I do, without plans, and that is flexibility on dates, routes etc. There’s also a disadvantage and that is when you actually want to be somewhere at a specific time – that decision is usually late and making reservations is difficult. Now that I know where I’m not going, I can plan the time for where I will be going and that is to visit daughter Vic and family. Of course the reservation service for the nearest campground to her shows no availability (it’s a big county park). This has happened before and so I called the actual campground and spoke with the ranger. They still had some sites available from the allotment held for non reservation drive ups and the ranger was able to put together a stay for me with only one site move (where you have to change sites during your stay – another advantage to being flexible). Woot woot!
I arrived in FL around mid-November 2019 heading southbound by boat and today I finally put FL in the rear view mirror of my motorhome and heading north. Along the way had a wonderful 2.5 month stay in the Keys and a 5 week Covid19 stay in Marineland. I watched my crew say goodby (temporarily I hope) as she resumed her full time lifestyle in her motorhome. I bought a car and a motorhome, moved off the newly for sale boat and onto my motorhome and said ‘sayanara’ to FL, for now.
This is going to take some getting used to – 128 miles in under 2.5 hours driving time using probably 15 gal of diesel. By boat that would have been 2 full days of 6-7 hours each and burning a total of 110 gal of diesel.
The rear drivers side of the motorhome is sagging a bit so I stopped at Freightliner of Savannah where they diagnosed a faulty air height leveling valve. They need to order the part to be installed on Monday so I needed to stay in the area over the weekend.
It was late and I couldn’t find a campground opening for the weekend so I accepted Cracker Barrel’s invitation to the camping public to stay overnight on their parking lot. It was a very secure and quiet spot shared by 3 motorhomes. The downside is the narrowness of the parking slots means you don’t extend your slide outs. The upside is price. $0.00 —- vs $100-$125/nite or more for a marina slip.
Saturday I called around a bit more and found a nice campground about 10 miles away. Full hookups, level site with concrete patio, pool, lake etc with availability for Sat and Sunday night. So the slides are out, the AC is running on park power vs generator and I’m comfortable. It’s a fairly short drive by car from the campground to Beaufort SC. Town looks different (not better) arriving by car than by boat.
So I’m a landlubber again. It’s been nearly a month since I last posted and a lot has happened. I’ve closed on and taken possession of the AllegroBus motorhome. Daughter Deb left on her motorhome for parts north – she needs to keep a doctors appt. I moved the MH from Tampa to Jax and took the campsite Deb vacated the day prior.
And then I started packing my stuff on the boat and began the many trips, over days, from the marina to the campground. Pack up 4 tubs of stuff, unload off boat onto a dock cart, pull/push dock cart down the docks to the parking lot and load tubs into Jeep, drive Jeep to campground, unload and then put stuff away on the MH, drive back to marina, find an empty dock cart and take it to the boat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Did I say that each day was hotter and more humid than the prior? On my second to last load, I collapsed hauling the dock cart from the boat to the car. Cart overturned, my belongings all over the dock with some apparently sunk. Some people came to my aid and put me in my car. Then they reloaded my stuff and hauled it to the car and loaded it for me. I was driven to the campground where they unloaded the stuff onto the MH. I drank a lot of fluids with some hydration pills mixed in. I felt horrible and had some breathing issues for days. I pretty much stayed in bed for 5 days starting to feel incrementally better the last 1.5 days. I knew I was feeling better when I finally felt like going out for dinner – though I probably shouldn’t have gone.
Finally back in business, I resumed packing, loading and moving and finished the job. I was officially off the boat moved back on terra firma. I spent a couple of days aboard cleaning up. I met and made arrangements with a recommended Captain. He and his wife will do a deep clean of the boat in and out. He has 5 other boats in the marina ‘in his care’. He’ll clean the sea strainers (needed frequently in the nutrient rich warm waters). He’ll also turn on the AC etc the day before any showing. We went over the idiosyncrasies of the boat. When a sea trial is required for a buyer, he’ll run the boat since I won’t be around. He’ll also take it out the day prior to sea trial to make sure all is running well for the next day. In the event of storm watches/warnings etc. he, in conjunction with the marina staff, will put out the rest of the fenders and double, or more, tie more lines.
I also spent the past week learning more about the motorhome. There’s nearly as many switches as there were on the boat and you don’t want to be trying to find one while going 65mph. Today I moved the motorhome about 30 miles north to a regular RV park. The one I had been at did not have a dump station for grey and black water and this park is full hookup. I’ll be able to test dumping here as well as the washing machine. I’ve found a problem with the entry step which has stopped going in and out so I’ll troubleshoot that as well. I also added to my checklist to be sure the parking brake is off the Jeep before I tow it. Old habit is to start a tow with a slight turn to the right and then the left so I can see the car in the mirrors as well as the camera. I noted in my mirrors that the rear wheels of the Jeep were locked up on the gravel parking lot. I figured I had done something wrong setting the vehicle transmission for towing (only my second time) and it only took me 10 min to figure out I had accidentally engaged the parking brake. Too many things to learn all at once!
In a couple of days, I should be ‘on the road again’.
As I write this, it’s been 12 days since I arrived at the Marina at Ortega Landing, Jacksonville, FL. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.
My crew consolidated her vehicles by getting her motorhome and Jeep first moved to the parking lot here at the marina. Then came the task of packing her clothes, sheets, pillows, blankets, toiletries, food and dog stuff and moving it off the boat, carting it to the motorhome and moving it on and putting it all away. She then moved her motorhome to a nearby campground.
We took several trips to look at a number of motorhomes for me. I saw one about 100 miles away that was of interest, for sale by owner. It needed some work but was nice and realistically priced. I calculated the cost to fix, mentally split it, and made an offer. The offer was better than 97% of asking. That’s when the seller told me he couldn’t take the offer since he had received a call from someone (a stranger) in North Carolina who was interested and who wanted to drive down to FL to see it by 11am the following day. The seller said he didn’t know if the prospects had even left NC yet but he felt an obligation to show it to them. Apparently he didn’t feel the same obligation to me – who was actually already there, who had actually called first, who had actually already inspected the coach and made an offer, etc. Or maybe the seller wanted to play my offer against this stranger, several states away who might or might not have left, who might or might not show up, who might or might not like the coach and who might or might not offer, have money or good credit to finance? Seller told me he’d call me the next day if the guy didn’t show up and buy. I apparently was second choice. The seller actually watched a real buyer who made a very good faith offer drive away!
That evening I decided I wasn’t going to buy the rig because I didn’t think I could trust him. I Imagined being at a closing with $ in hand and the seller getting a call from some Nigerian prince offering $millions and the seller telling me the closing was delayed to see if the prince wired the funds. It was satisfying when the seller called the next day, told me that the NC folks came but did not make an offer and so he, the seller, was going to take my offer!!! Before I hung up I reminded him that he turned my offer down and had watched me drive away. Apparently there’s still some work to do improving the gene pool.
Back to the drawing board. And it was worthwhile. Another overnight trip A few days later found us looking at a rig in Orlando and then another one just south of Tampa – within a few miles of where I found my prior Winnebago. After an afternoon looking in all the crannies, test drive etc. I bought myself a new home! A Tiffin Allegro Bus 40QSP. The dealer needs to replace the tires, replace an awning motor, order a new dual pane window and install to replace one that has fogged between the panes and fix some other minor issues. Then it will be taken to a nearby CAT center (even though a Cummins) where they will pull samples of all the current oil from engine, trans and generator for analysis, then change out all oil, coolants and filters and check and replace any belts and/or hoses showing wear. I expect to take delivery after Memorial Day.
With that done, I need to buy a car. Time to pull the motorhome magazine towing guides to see which cars, which models and which years can be towed with 4 wheels on the ground (toad). I once towed with a tow dolly and will never do that again. The guides also tell you any special instructions for the various toads – like this one can’t be towed faster than 60mph or that one needs to be started and placed in drive for 5 minutes every 5 hours etc. The maker that has the most towable models and has been fully towable since the ‘80s and has no speed or distance/time restrictions is Jeep. And that’s what I went looking for.
I found and really liked a 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4WD. Called to make sure major franchise dealer was open for business due to COVID19 and said I’d be there in 2 hours to see a specific vehicle. Arrived on time and the Jeep was buried/‘parked in’ in the middle of the lot. They got access to it only to find out that not even the interior lights would come on. Battery flat dead. They brought out a mobile charger but it didn’t work. They brought out the wimpiest jumper cables I’ve ever seen and tried to jump it from the next car which was running but the Jeep wouldn’t turnover. Immediately next door was a PepBoys. Their paved lots adjoined. I suggested to these wise people that they get a new battery next door. They looked at us like we were nuts and said, ‘we’d need to drive it over there so they can replace it but we can’t drive it there till it starts’. Walk??? Where do these people come from? Apparently slimed out of the same gene pool as the motorhome seller. Two hours standing in the hot FL sun maintaining social and gene pool distance and we left without ever seeing the Jeep start and move so much as one inch.
I got an email during the night from my crew who found a ‘sister’ Jeep for sale from the same franchise but in Orlando. So we called at 9am to be sure it was available and they were open, told them which vehicle we wanted to see and that we’d drive there and be there before noon. Arrived and…guess what… it wouldn’t start. This one didn’t have a battery in it and they hadn’t managed to get one during 2 hour drive. Apparently the ‘main office‘ has parts contracts with certain suppliers and this battery is a sealed AGM and their suppliers didn’t have one “but we think we can get one tomorrow!” Their personnel folks must take special courses to be able to hire these specialized no customer service people!
My crew and I went to lunch and while there I called a Jeep Chrysler dealer 5 miles away and gave them the VIN. Yes, we have that OEM battery for that vehicle in stock and it’s $243.00. Back to the stealer/dealer and advised them that their almost next door Jeep dealer has the battery in stock and did they want to go pick it up or would they like me to go get it. And if main office doesn’t like buying from this supplier, lower the price by that amount and I’ll go buy the battery.
To keep a story from getting longer (and there’s more idiocy) I now own a really clean 2019 Jeep Cherokee to tow behind the motorhome. And we got back to JAX by 9pm that night.
I’ve ordered from Blue Ox in Nebraska a tow bar and a base plate that needs to be attached to the front of the Jeep’s frame. I hope they arrive this coming Tues and that I can get the base plate mounted yet this coming week. If not, I’ll see if I can get the Tampa motorhome dealer to throw in a base plate install. I’ll wait to install the supplemental braking for the toad till the motorhome and toad are together.
Once I get the motorhome in JAX, then I can start moving myself off the boat and turn it over to the broker
Other thoughts. Getting sick of masks, gloves and wipes. At least the thin rectangular ones masks are more comfortable than the N95s
An absolutely beautiful day for a swan song. Bright sunshine, nice breeze, temps in the 70’s and a boat ride!
It was a long and tiring day. After 5 weeks sitting still, safe distancing at Marineland Municipal Marina, I had kind of forgotten how long the travel days can be and how tiring. Planned on an 8 am starting time but getting the boat ready to travel took a bit longer than usual. It was a 7.5 hr travel day covering 69 miles. Got a slip for showing the boat for sale on the C dock T Head (the cross dock at the end of the CDock). The Ortega River is fairly lightly used so it should not be rolly from passing boats. The marina is anticipating a regular slip availability and will 16.1move the boat to it when vacated.
I started this actual travel adventure April 1, 2019 and so I’ve been a traveling live aboard for 13 months and 4 days. Many times I spent multiple days in one port. What quickly comes to mind is a month in Baltimore, 3 months in the Keys and 5 weeks “safe distancing” in Marineland. Actual travel days were 70. Distance traveled by boat was 3,210 nautical miles or 3,694 statute miles. Average distance per travel day was 52.7 statute miles. Longest single travel day was 92 statute miles and there were two days during which the distance traveled was only 16.1 statute miles per day.
Looking back, it was about a month ago in Ft Lauderdale that I had ‘outside’ food and that was takeout supper brought back to the boat to eat. Prior to that was another takeout on March 19 from a COVID19 shuttered restaurant in Key Largo, also taken back to the boat to eat. The last actual restaurant experience was in Marathon before March 1. It has been incredibly quiet waiting out the stay at home order in the marina for the past 5+ weeks. Big benefit – stayed healthy.
Over the past week have made two trips with my crew. Rented a car and did a round trip single day trip to Miami to pick up crew’s car from storage. I95 and the FL Turnpike were pretty empty but still a long day. Stopped at an ARBYS drive through for some food. Not exciting.
Two days later took crew’s car to Tampa to pick up crew’s motorhome and bring it back. Another drive through. Ugh. All done in preparation of the crew moving off from the boat prior to putting the boat up for sale with a boat broker
So this past Weds was a little bit of a treat. Went to a nearby barbecue joint for supper. Wait outside standing on the sidewalk X’s until your turn, one at a time, to go in to order and pay. Then back outside and wait for your name to be called. Pickup is on the patio/porch entry on the side of the building. Big deal you say. Well it was. The restaurant is immediately next door to a large waterfront closed county park with lots of really well spaced out picnic tables. Buying dinner and not having to eat it in a car or boat! Felt really good!
My broker to be was able to get me a slip in my preferred marina. They’ve been full and not taking boats for over a month. I had had a slip reserved at a not as nice boat yard. This one has amenities that might help set the mood for selling the lifestyle. Also has the practical amenity of good floating docks which makes ingress and egress on to the boat really easy. The boat makes the one day trip next Monday.
That leaves me with a project. I have to find a home. One of the brands of used motorhomes I’m interested in had one for sale about 120 miles away. Also saw it this past week but not for me. There is another one in Phoenix and 2 in Las Vegas. I checked the engine serial numbers with Caterpillar and the Phoenix one had a serious engine issue (severe overheating) about 140 miles ago (probably why for sale) and CAT tech said ‘don’t go there’. The 2 in Vegas checked out fine. Last thing I want to do is don a mask for a whole day, climb on a plane and fly cross country only to find the coach doesn’t live up to the photoshopped pics or have other issues.
I’ve made some shopping preference adjustments and have found what seem to be really nice units of another brand – 3 within 150 miles. All three of these are Cummins and I checked the engine SNs with Cummins. One had an engine speed sensor issue some years ago but that’s not a big deal. One had a warranty repair of a rocker housing gasket and rocker pin but nothing in the several years since. Saw the first today and it actually would be acceptable. The cabinetry is too dark for my taste but acceptable. A bit warm and uncomfortable digging around a coach for hours in a mask and gloves.
Hoping to be able to see another one Saturday which based on pics, color etc is probably a better fit. Cummins reported zero engine issues with it. It’s only about 100 miles away. Fingers crossed!
Once I have the home and know if there is towing equipment on it or not, it’ll then be time to get a tow behind car (toad) followed by moving all my stuff off the boat and getting the boat detailed in and out. If you’re looking for a fine vessel and want to buy commission free, give me a holler – quickly😎🤪😃
Another long segment. Something went wrong with my mapping program and it dropped the final 25% of the route but picked up the destination when I stopped the program upon arrival. I’ve added a red arrow to show the completion. Total distance today was 82 miles and a lot of it was dodging pleasure boaters. Apparently the prevailing philosophy amongst the young is that this is vacation time and packing your runabout with 8 people or 20 people on your pontoon boat qualifies as social distancing cause they’re outdoors, drinking beer and playing loud rap. 🤬😡😠🤯
As mentioned, picked this Marina because it should be a good quiet (smallish) marina for a long stay. Not much housing nearby so there will be opportunity to walk a bit. A Publix with Instacart only a couple miles away. One block away is the ocean beach so if it’s not banned, walking the beach is a possibility too. This marina is about 150’ off from another county where beach walking has been banned so it is possible that this beach could be crowded by people banned elsewhere.
Got to sleep in Monday morning. What a treat! Moved the boat over one space to a vacant slip this morning so that I’m now close enough to the pump out cart without further moving. Their pump out hose wasn’t quite long enough. With no center piers between slips, it was easy to just loosen line and with the help of a little breeze, use the lines to just pull the boat across.
Spoke with the dockmaster. He attended a telephonic meeting Monday morning and believes the governmental marinas will be closed in FL, as soon as perhaps Tuesday. Reading comments on the various boating forums, it appears that there’s quite a flotilla heading north of boats kicked out of the Keys (government and private marinas closed), of boats leaving the Miami and Ft Lauderdale area and of boats leaving the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos etc. Miami – Dade and Palm Beach County have closed all marinas. Then Tuesday Miami – Dade rescinded or altered its order to allow marinas to handle commercial fishermen and recreational liveaboards. Palm Beach County apparently has its Sheriff Dept on the water preventing, ticketing and stopping boats that are transiting the ICW. Sure would be nice if local pols would think things through before shutting down/ reopening etc. Counties don’t have legal authority to shut down the ICW. That authority belongs solely to the US Coast Guard Commandant in charge of each particular area and has never been ceded to states or their subdivisions.
The dockmaster here knows we picked this as a ‘harbor of refuge’ in case of a long stay and I’m quite sure he’ll be able to make that happen. This morning (Tues) I told him we’d stay at least a week. The next harbor that we’d consider as a good one if needing to hole up for a week or two is three days travel away. So it has relieved some stress to believe that we can stay here if needed or prudent.
This afternoon changed out the big Racor fuel filters on both engines. The old ones, changed only a week ago in Islamorada, were black! Will keep changing them frequently as long as they keep needing it. The new little shut off valves installed at the filter to prevent fuel from draining out of the line worked perfectly. Both engines started right up😁😄😅.
While traveling Saturday, the generator quit right after starting. I was sure that the genny Racor, which hadn’t been changed, had fouled. So troubleshot that this afternoon as well. The genny has a separate fuel line from the tank and it turns out with all the work done in Islamorada, that line was shut off and never turned back on. That filter was also dirty and now has been changed to a clean one and the fuel line opened. Primed the generator (easy to do as it has a 12v pump) and the ginny started right up. Great insurance policy, if marinas are not available, to anchor out and use the genny for power, air conditioning, cooking, etc.
Enjoyed a great homemade spaghetti dinner last night courtesy of the Instant Pot. One pot spaghetti sort of sounds bad to me but it honestly is the best I’ve ever had. The pasta while retaining its integrity is actually infused by the sauce. Have tried a number of different versions and I like the recipe at Salty Marshmallow the best.
Used some time here in Marineland to track down a little leak in the engine room. There was some water accumulation in the bilge area below the port engine. It was water, not coolant. Crew investigated and found a little trace of salt running down one of the new hoses. It was a hose carrying sea water to a cooler. The hose clamp needed tightening. Retightened it as well as all other clamps on both engines. Also pulled the sea water strainers from the air conditioning system, from both engines and from the generator and cleaned the mud, grass, shells and other debris from them and reinstalled. Below decks has never been better!
Also had a leak in the vacuflush bellows for the main stateroom head. It’s part of the middle system that pumps stuff from the head to the holding tank. So I took it apart and installed a new bellows from the onboard store of spare parts. Ordered new O rings for the install as well. A crappy job! No pictures of ..it will be posted🤪. It still leaked so the next day I tore it down again, found a couple of bolts not tightened enough against the O ring and fixed that. The system, as it’s name implies, is vacuum driven and the loosened bolts allowed air to bypass the O ring, enter the system (and let stuff out) and without sufficient vacuum levels, the pump kept running and the stuff kept flowing downhill. Now it is fixed right and working the way it should.
I already had a new vacuum generator in the “cart” on the internet so not having to order it saved $1250.00 plus install time. The forward head vacuum generator bellows also leaked a few months back in Marathon and I had it fixed be a repairman from a local boatyard. Total bill for that fix, including new $80 bellows/rings was $950.00 and there was still a small vacuum leak he couldn’t find (it has subsequently disappeared). $1,250 parts for a new system plus something close to $900. in labor meant fixing it myself was a worthwhile savings.
The first time I had the Racors changed, northbound in Savannah, the total for that, including parts and oil change, from a Cummins authorized svc center, was $1950.00. And for that, their svc rep used a wrench to tighten a ‘hand tighten’ spin on secondary filter which then 10 hours of use later split along the crease created by the wrench and dumped 40 gal of diesel in the bilge. That necessitated a tow which ended up in a heavy grounding with the towing boat. Results of that ‘professional‘ authorized svc center job? Pumping out and dumping 40 gal of diesel from the bilge, gallons of detergent and hours of cleaning the bilge, a mechanic to troubleshoot and fix the filter problem, and two props being pulled and fixed. In all, about $2,800. Having Mr. ‘no name’ mobile boat mechanic two weeks ago install the new shutoff valves at the Racors cost maybe $150.00 including marine grade parts which now enable us, without priming the engines, to change the filters ourselves. Figuring how and then ‘doing it yourself’ is worthwhile both in money and getting it done right.
Have done two Instacart shopping trips since arriving here. All the talk of Amazon and Instacart strikes, NC, MD and now SC and much of GA being off limits and marina closings reports pouring in everyday are a little spooky. Pretty much have 2-3 week food supply on board but time to augment with another couple of weeks. Even now, somethings are hard to get. Soups, canned vegetables, canned meats, noodles, ground beef (the stuff that has a long shelf life and that you can easily throw together into a casserole without thinking) are limited or not available. So I thought it might be interesting to tell you how we manage it.
Ordering online, I find, is more difficult and time consuming than in person. I’m a visual person and can visualize my pantry, zoom down every aisle and “see’ what I need. Rarely do I forget something. Online, I don’t find the organization to be intuitive or even if it is, I don’t trust it. So I’ve learned to write my handwriting list as I go and hand it over to my crew to be done online. The boat is basically, for food purposes, divided into 3 areas.
First is the galley and fridge/freezer space. It is for food to be used in the near foreseeable future and for refrigerated items. Included in the first area is the port side of the outside cockpit for cases of water and soda. Second is the lower bunk in the third stateroom. It is the storage area for foodstuff that can be immediately ready for moving to the first space or for use. Food in this area is “clean”, that is it has been there long enough that any virus present on packaging will have died, i.e., it’s been on the boat for at least 72 hours before moving to immediate use status. The third area is the upper bunk in the third stateroom and the starboard side of the cockpit. That third area is the quarantine area where newly purchased food, water and soda, will sit for 72 hours for any virus present will die.
Any food purchased that is needed immediately or has to be refrigerated/frozen is taken out of the plastic bags on the dock and each can, package of bacon or whatever is wiped down on all sides before coming aboard and being put away. The empty plastic grocery bags from those items are segregated from the boat’s bag supply for 72 hrs. The dock cart used to bring the groceries from the shoppers vehicle to the boat is also wiped with soapy water before use and hands are gloved. Both myself and crew would be considered ‘high risk’ and see no reason to have these items which have been handled who knows how many times in a store and in a shoppers care come on the boat without some cleaning or thought.
You also have to deal with shortages. The last shop there was no ground beef available, a staple for so much. So a quick flip to buying prepackaged hamburger patties is a good substitute. Patties for burgers or combine a few to make 1.5# of ground beef for spaghetti or tacos. No canned chicken breast on the shelves. So had the shopper buy 5# of fresh chicken breasts which, after seasoning, went into the InstaPot to make some bags of chicken for casseroles or for making sandwiches.
The last few days have been very very quiet. Maybe see a person every 3-4 hours. Cones with yellow tape guard access to the dock. Access not denied but it’s an ever present reminder of “do you really need to get off your boat” etc. Glad to watch the market begin to bounce back (it’s nice to have satellite TV). Thinking of staying through mid week, like maybe to April 1st or so. More marinas ahead (north) have been reported as closed or closing. Working on getting a slip at another safe marina for a month a little further north. Should know 3/30/20.
A full travel day today. A good start just after 8 am and the travel leg was aided by zero bridge opening, light winds and calm water. A good portion of this leg is not subject to “no wake” zones so I was able to average nearly 13 mph for the almost 80 mile segment.
Again a pretty strong wind out of the East today so no running on the outside. At this point though the FL ICW isn’t too bad. There were probably 15 bridges today but only one required opening. The rest could be passed without waiting – just a brief slowdown as bridges are always “no wake’ zones. It was a nice sunny day with many sections of the ICW where I could just set the auto pilot and sit. There is less concentration of housing at this point but what there is is very nice to look at. Left before 9 am and ended at 4:30 pm including a half hour wait at the fuel dock for boats ahead of me. Took on 409 gallons of diesel. The Middle East oil war with Russia is paying dividends. Fuel was down to $2.15/gal. There was one fuel dock in Ft Lauderdale that was down to $1.89 for diesel but I didn’t want to make a separate special stop.
Have traveled 150 miles so far since leaving Marathon and just passed ICW S M 970 so there’s 970 more miles to Norfolk (S M 00). The intention is to go some distance north of Norfolk In the Chesapeake to find a location for marketing the boat this summer.
A relatively hard day. A definitely tiring day. Have I said before that boating is hard tiring work? Today was only 42 nm but it took nearly 7 hours. Didn’t do an actual count but had to pass under at least 20-25 bridges today and 1/2- 2/3 had less clearance than the 21.5’ I need. That means they need to lift for me. They are for the most part “timed” for a specific non specified speed. Some bridges open on the half hour and on the hour while others open on the 1/4 and 3/4 hours and there was one that open every twenty minutes and the lowest one, a 10’ clearance if I remember, opened on demand. But you have to call the bridge operator and request an opening or it may not happen. So the exercise is to check the charts for the next bridge for which you will need an opening, then calculate how far away it is from your current position, check the charts to see it’s opening schedule and then you can calculate what your average speed needs to be in order to arrive at bridge opening time.
Problem is you can’t count on boat traffic that might slow you down. The ICW is quite narrow and the channel can be even more narrow. A boat in fron of you out ‘for a Sunday drive’ with oncoming traffic may mean you can’t pass. You are stuck. Then there are the slow No Wake zones past marinas, slow manatee zones, bridges you can clear but the zone before and after is “idle speed”. For probably a half dozen openings I had a ‘pack’ of sailboats about mile behind and strung out another half mile. So I’d arrive ‘on time’ for an opening but the sailboats would be late and the bridge operator seeing 4 boats coming a mile away would decide to wait on opening till the first arrived. So now if the next bridge is 1/2 hour away, you’ve only got 25 minutes to get there. That would be fine if the next bridge operator was also a soft touch but odds are it is a bridge operator Mussolini trained. It is a real PITA to miss an opening and have to hold position in front of a bridge for a half hour. Likewise it’s a pain to hurry and arrive 10 minutes early and have to hold in place for 10 minutes. Best to have your between bridge plan calculated accurately and executed well. When trying to make time, it’s a little stressful as is holding your position in the wind and current. It nice now that the worst is behind as there are fewer bridge crossings from the mainland to the barrier islands as populations diminish.
Made good progress today (61 nautical miles). Boat ran like a top (for those younger than me that means it ran fantastic). The breeze of yesterday stayed constant overnight and waves in the ocean were building so decided to continue running the inside route. Have not done this part of the route before. 6-7 miles into the run depths increased to the point of pretty much always having 3-4’ under the keel. By the time I got into Biscayne Bay depths generally increased to 6-12’ under the keel and crab pots disappeared. Was able to make good speed all the way to the Government Cut in S. Miami which is where I went offshore three months ago heading southbound.
It was a bit eerie. Passing thru Miami there are many places where you are close to the edges of the ditch (ICW) and there were virtually no people walking the waterfront sidewalks. Passing some of the waterfront hotels, saw some common areas such as pools, ‘barricaded’ with yellow tape. OTOH, passing other less ritzy appearing hotels, the pools and pool decks were jammed with kids- spring breakers who don’t have a sense of responsibility? Passing to the east of the Miami airport, I was struck with the lack of arriving/departing planes though there was plenty of such activity in Ft Lauderdale. Both the Port of Miami and Port Everglades (Ft Lauderdale), major cruise ports, were filled with floating petri dishes, a/k/a cruise ships. One item of possible concern were postings on various boating forums that I frequent of marinas that are closing down for both slips and fuel. Not a lot of them but hoping it’s not the beginning of a trend. Cruising on the boat is a pretty good example of social distancing. Some of those closing are governmental marinas like the Fort Pierce Municipal Marina. Presuming counties or cities are making decisions to close govt operated facilities (schools, city centers etc) and unable to differentiate, they close the marinas as well. Wait till they shut down their other modes of transportation (subways, planes, buses, barricaded roads and interstates) and see how that goes over.
The mechanics arrived about 8:30am to go with us on a sea trial. Underway before 9am and out the long channel. Tide was going out and we touched bottom going over the bar. Sea trial was about 5 miles. Two clamps needed to be tightened and that was it. Tried a slightly different route back to the marina and with the additional falling tide, went aground. Since it was going to be another 4 hours before the tide bottomed out and then returned up to the current level before we might have floated off, I called BoatUS. I am a member and they are like AAA for boats. Provided my GPS position and within 15 minutes we saw their boat coming. Tied a line to each stern corner and in 5 minutes we were off the bar floating free. He radio’d how to get past the bar (outside the channel marker) and we headed back to Postcard to drop of the mechanics. Pulled in at their fuel dock and got a needed pump out as well. The boat runs like a top.
Left the marina again at 10:45 am. Started heading north and quickly started to call for reservations. There were no vacancies on the ocean side so we decided to go inside – in the ICW on the Gulf/Florida Straits side. We’re charting this change ‘on the run’ and when we charted to go inside by crossing at the Snake Creek Cut, the charts showed a max 3’9” depth. Last Resort draws 4’2” so we turned back south about 7 miles towards a different route to the inside. On the way, we called BoatUS, told them where we were, where we wanted to go and our draft. They told us to go to Snake Creek Cut and cross over that way. When we asked about the less than 4’ charted depth, they told us we’d actually find 6’ at that point. So we turned around again and headed to Snake Creek Cut, went under the Overseas Hwy and into the Gulf.
Going inside was not a favorite. Very shallow and lots and lots of crab and lobster pots. I would guess that probably half of the run was done with a foot or less water under our props. At one point I came too close to a pot (hard to dodge them) and cut the line with my prop. Big vibration at above 1000 rpms on the stbd side. But some miles later had to use reverse and unwound the line. No problem from then on.
Stopped for the night at Anchorage Marina at the base of the US1 bridge that leaves Key Largo and heads towards Homestead. Following are some pictures along the way:
As my Scottish good friend Rabbie Burns would say “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley”.
The approach to Postcard Inn Marina is a mile + long, idle speed, channel much of which is quite shallow. Alongside the channel, maybe 1-200’ away there were 50 or more speedboats, pontoons etc in the flats with people wading around. Obviously a real party gathering place. At times there was only a foot of water beneath my keel and a few places, less. At one point I felt the boat touch very lightly and very briefly.
This morning, Thurs 3/12, planned to leave around 9 am which would be mid tide and more depth. I was hoping for a long travel day to Miami. Pulled out of the slip and out into the channel. Once past the last channel marker I advanced the throttle and whoa… The port engine responded running up to 2000 rpms but the starboard engine would go above 1200 rpm with vibration above 1000. Discounted fuel as I have a single tank and the fuel filters have just been changed. Discounted trans problem as those filters have just been cleaned, new fluids put in and they were checked, as they are every travel day, and were full. No leaks detected on the new white absorbent pads beneath the engine and trans. The dripless shaft seals which had just been adjusted, were in fact dripless. Most obvious possibility was that I picked up some line/rope yesterday coming in or this morning going out and it wrapped around the starboard prop and shaft.
I turned around and idled back to the marina and pulled into the slip and called a diver. While waiting, I found that I needed to vacate the slip by 2pm as it was reserved for another boat. The diver arrived and told me that there was nothing wrapped around the props or shafts. Best case scenario was that the line had untangled and gotten free. Worst case was that though there were only some minimal nicks on the props, there was evidence of some sand abrasion at the edges so it’s possible that one of the 4 blades was knocked out of line (pitch). Since the props blades are tuned via computer with 1/1000 of an inch, such misalignment would not be visible to the naked eye, especially underwater.
The props, with each blade at a precise angle and cup, act as two big counter rotating port and starboard corkscrews. The cork is the water and the corkscrew propels itself through and pulls the boat with it. Each of the 4 blades per prop must follow precisely the path of its predecessor blade in order to work. As in the case of a drill, try drilling a straight and clean hole with a bit that is malformed and imagine that scenario moving 44,000 pounds through heavy solid water. It was time to do a sea trial and determine which of the two scenarios was correct. So out of the marina I went, down the channel to open ocean and found that the issue remained. So it was time to shut down the use of the starboard propulsion. (Even though I couldn’t feel vibration at 1000 rpm or less, doesn’t mean there wasn’t vibration below and the vibration was being absorbed by bearings and rubber. It’s just not worth loosing a shaft or other expensive parts just to use two engines.)
Knowing that Postcard Inn Marina was full, crew started contacting nearby marina in ever increasing distances. The closest found that had availability was 25 miles away. Then my phone rang. It was the owner of Props & Bottoms, which had dived the boat, asking if the problem had been solved. Advised him “no” and that the nearest marina with a vacancy was Gilberts. He didn’t want to have to dive Gilbert’s as the water was too dirty and had many crocodiles. He said he’d call me back. He found one marina but my draft was too deep for it. But, he said, he had gone to school in NC with the Postcard Inn dockmaster and that he’d talk to him.
Received a call back that Postcard Inn had an opening in the charter fleet section (not as nice) and if I would bring the boat to the fuel dock, they’d help me get into the single vacant charter slip. And so once again I turned around and on one engine limped back to port. Within an hour, the divers were back and pulled the props. I gave them a printout of what the prop specs should be and should hear tomorrow if indeed the starboard prop was a problem. If so, the props should be reinstalled on Saturday. Based though I what I saw of the props on the dock, I seriously doubt that the props were the problem. Whatever – Woohoo. Get to sleep in tomorrow.
Wow. Two trips in one day for a total of 10.9 nautical miles!
Friday morning I got a call from the tech at the prop shop. He was very surprised with the props. To paraphrase, ‘few boats have props with blades that thick. These props are ones you’d normally find on a tug. They aren’t going to bend with a small hit so he doubted the props were my problem. But they hadn’t been sand blasted yet and run on the computer so this was just a heads up that he thought I should look at other sources for the problem.
As busy as it is down here, not even finding an overnight slip within 25 miles, I figured some transient old fart like me calling around for mechanical help wasn’t going to get the time of day. So I enlisted the help of the dive shop owner who, based on charter fishermen’s greetings and comments, seemed to be well respected and I asked Him who I should contact. He gave me a couple names and a recommendation and then he offered to call the guy and ask him to take my call. He also had us drain some diesel fuel from the bottom of the starboard racor filter onto a white clean cloth.
Though the red dyed diesel fuel looked good through the bottom glass (above), unscrewing the bolt at the bottom allowed some fuel to drain on the white towel and the red fuel had numerous eraser sized black spots that were a bit gritty. Undoubtedly one or more injectors (one injector for each cylinder) are fouled and though the computer would ship more fuel to the remaining cylinders it wouldn’t be enough to replace the power lost by the fouled cylinder(s).
Diesel fuel is literally food for microbes which live their lives in the fuel, multiply and die. The engines hadn’t run in over 2 months so there were probably many dead microbes settled to the bottom of the tank. Those were probably stirred up by the addition of 400 gal of fuel added Weds morning (I’m assuming that fuel was fresh) and then further stirred up by the rougher morning sea conditions. While running at speed Weds, these ‘carcasses’ were probably forced through the system but then clogged after the engines were shut down Weds night causing the problem Thurs morning. This hasn’t been proved yet but is my best guess based on what I saw.
The mechanic stopped by late Fri afternoon and confirmed it as his best guess as well. He will be back and all the filters will be changed and injectors checked and cleaned as needed (both engines). I will keep my spare set of filters on hand in case another change is needed while underway. Hope to be ready to go early next week. Hope the nice weather and calm seas hang around.
Meanwhile the prop tech has called and the props are done. Some very minor welds, a little tweak and a polishing – definitely NOT the problem. Divers should reinstall the props on Saturday.
Saturday evening. The prop shop and diver came mid afternoon and in about 1.5 hours the shiny polished props are now re installed under the boat. I’d sure hate to have to horse around 150# props down from the dock to the harbor bottom and then lift each up to the shaft, line it up so the key bar lines up in the shaft and prop channel and then install the 2 big nuts that hold it together. It is a precision install even when the boat is hauled on land to say nothing of underwater.
CJ, the mechanic called and confirmed that he’d arrive Monday morning and that he had all the requisite filters and equipment. Will be paying close attention in the event it might be needed to do the filter changes and re-priming while underway somewhere else.
Not a bad place to hang out while waiting. The marina is smallish – maybe two dozen slips for the charter fishing and dive boat fleet and 15 or so slips for pleasure boats. Hotel, pool, a really nice Italian restaurant, a large tiki bar, an elevated raw bar, lots of scattered out door seating areas with gas fire pits and a clothing boutique. Across the Overseas Hwy channel bridge within easy walking distance are two more large restaurants. Put in an order to Publix to supplement the groceries on board and for the more perishable fruit etc. plus another 5 cases on bottled water to be delivered via Instacart. That was Friday morning and the soonest it could be filled was Friday @10 pm or Saturday noon. Opted for the latter as 10 pm would be well past my bedtime😴😴😴
Monday 3/16. The mechanics came this morning as promised. They are finding evidence of contaminated fuel pretty much throughout the stbd engine. Apparently the filters on the port engine did a better on. Not sure why. Crew walked a mile to West Marine this morning and bought all 8 of their Racor filters. I already have 2 spares and the mechanics will be installing 2 fresh ones from there supply so I’ll have enough for 5 filter changes once underway. The filters that came out were pretty black.
The injectors on the stbd engine needed attention as well. So they were pulled, taken to the shop, bathed twice and all cleaned up and tested for pressure and spray. All A-OK. They arrived back around 5pm and are being reinstalled.
One of the hindrances to me changing out the filters has been the engines losing their prime when changing filters. The last time they were changed it was by a Cummins authorized service center. After installing the new filters, they could not restart the engines.
Schematically, the fuel exits from near the bottom of the fuel tank and flows to the Racor filters which are located very near the floor of the engine room. From there, the fuel is taken by the fuel pump to a secondary filter on the engine and then all the way to the top of the engines where the fuel is injected into the cylinders and exploded. So the fuel flows from low to high and the elevation distance probably exceeds 4’. So the problem is when you open the Racor canister and remove the filter, the fuel in the lines, by gravity, flow down and the lines are filled with air or vacuum rather than diesel. When that happens, the engines won’t start and the system needs to be re-primed.
I don’t have a clue how to do that. What I’ve read is that there is a little finger pump somewhere which when you push, forces fuel up the lines to the fuel pump. The fuel pump takes over but the non-compressible air in the lines between the fuel pump and injector makes flow to the cylinders totally or nearly impossible. Engine won’t run. You need to slightly loosen an injector, crank the starter until the air is pushed out by fuel, retighten the injector and repeat individually for the remaining injectors till the engine starts. Repeat for second engine.
The mechanic has now installed a simple shutoff valve between the Racors and the fuel lines up to the engines. Want to change filters? Close the shutoff so the diesel won’t flow by gravity back down, open the canister, pull the old filter, install the new trying not to displace any fuel in the canister. After being sure the canister is still full, close the canister, open the shutoff valve and start the engines.
Mechanic is telling me that as I head north I should again change filters in St Augustine, then again in Savannah, maybe again in Myrtle Beach etc until it’s obvious with the white rag and clean filter that the fuel has been cleaned (it’s called polishing the fuel).
Far more fuel is pumped through the filters and into the engine than is needed and the excess fuel not needed for combustion is returned via another line back to the fuel tank. In this way, cycling fuel over and over through the series of filters, the fuel is polished/cleaned. You can also hire companies to come and run lines from your tank to their equipment and they will polish the fuel.
Eight pm Monday and the job is finished. The mechanic will be back in the morning and we’ll do a sea trial to make sure all is well. Then, after a pump out, I can resume heading out to points North. Hoping when I am able to get out, that the Coast Guard doesn’t close ports to pleasure boating!
Left Marlin Bay this morning about 8:30am after a very enjoyable 70 days.
LONG FIRST LEG. Traveled about a 1/4 mile to Keys Fishery to fuel up. Keys Fishery is strictly a marina for crab and lobster boats plus an area for commercial charter boats (plus a so so restaurant, tiki bar and fish market with great Key Lime pies). Waited for a half hour or so for a crab boat to finish fueling and then took my turn. Took on an even 400 gal. Keys Fishery has the lowest diesel price in the Keys $2.46/gal plus 7.5% sales tax so that was good.
It was a nice cloudless day. Still breezy but down in the 15-20mph range. Seas were still running 4-5’ out of the East so it was a bit bumpy heading East. By noonish the wind was dying down and by 2pm the seas has laid down to a foot or so. Had intended to make Key Largo Pilot House Marina but on contacting them they advised against it with my draft. They were experiencing a negative tide and I’d probably ground in their channel. I stopped there in December and their channel is nearly a mile long with two blind turns (use your radio to announce yourself to oncoming traffic). While the channel is wide enough, barely, for boats passing each other it’s not wide enough for me to turn around should I not be able to make it. So instead I stopped short and pulled in at Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina, just east of the Whale Harbor Channel, Islamorada.
In keeping with my prior post and commemorating the last couple of weeks here in Marathon, I’ve dusted off the iPhone to take more memory pics.
Tuesday 3/10/20. The crew’s Jeep, which has been here in Marathon for the past 2.5 months, has now been brought north and put into safe storage. It has been invaluable having it available for grocery, shopping and restaurant runs, doctor and surgery runs here in Marathon and Miami (5 trips to Miami), and 5 runs between Marathon and Key West. Marlin Bay Resort and Marina (www.marlinbay.com) has been most accommodating. They have little onsite parking for the marina with the few boaters who have cars parking on the street. Marlin Bay reserved an onsite, within the gates, site for the exclusive use of the Jeep.
Their concierge, Barbara and staff, dockmaster Jose and staff and head of maintenance, Buffalo, have been super accommodating – actually pampering. At slip pump outs were always done within an hour of requesting. Local questions etc received good responses and recommendations including physicians. Every evening the mail was delivered to the slip along with pleasant conversation. Was told that Last Resort was, hands down, the biggest recipient of Amazon and other packages (including big and small boat oriented packages like 40# of hoses and clamps, gallons of oil, 17 gal of coolant, filters, dryer belt etc.) Marlin Bay is a truly enjoyable first class resort for boaters and for land visitors. If you ever have family or friend get togethers and want to stay together, consider Marlin Bay. Their single family style overnight or weekly rentals with 3 or 4 bedroom/en-suites might be ideal. No shortage of great sun and swimming out the door and lots of nearby exploring, diving, snorkeling, sport fishing, head boat fishing, boat or jet ski rentals nearby. Dolphin hospital and a turtle hospitals are nearby. Restaurants of every type and easy day jaunts to Key West if you want crowds.
On my boat side, the engines are all put back together, fluids all fresh, new filters, all new hoses and clamps (and there are a lot of them). The engine and engine room paint is touched up, the bilges degreased, scrubbed and rinsed, and new white fresh oil/diesel absorbent mats laid down under the engines, shafts and transmissions. Strainers have all been pulled and cleaned. All spare parts and pieces below deck are organized into labeled plastic containers. Water tanks filled and holding tanks emptied. Thanking my crew.
Have my quarantine flag aboard in case COVID 19 should blow off shore.😇. At least two weeks or more of groceries, soda, bottled water, meat, TP, hand sanitizer and more are stowed away. RXs all filled for 3 months. No problem shopping here but as one travels, stores are limited to those within walking distance of the marinas and, according to some news, even some services such as Instacart and Uber etc might be limited in availability.
Ran the engines this morning to bring them up to operating temps; checked for leaks (tightened one hose clamp); and operated the transmissions (while tied in the slip). Turned on and checked all the electronics. Updated all the electronic charts. After a week of high winds, they are getting lighter today and departure day, tomorrow, promises to be a bright warm sunny day with winds 10-12 ENE. First stop will be about a 1/4 mile away to fuel up at Keys Fishery (should be between 300-350 gal) and then maybe 10 miles to Moser Cut/Channel under 7 Mile Bridge and on into the open ocean headed towards Miami and then the Chesapeake, some thousand plus miles away where the boat will be put up for sale.
What a location! The sunsets etc here in the Keys are fantastic and this marina location is a few hundred feet off the shoreline and my location in the marina has an uninterrupted western view. And so, I stay ‘on watch’ capturing the views
Completion of the engine maintenance is on hold for a few days. Apparently there are two types of configurations for the connection between the engines and heat exchangers and the supplier of custom hoses sent hoses for the “other” configuration. What was sent was a large diameter formed hose. My configuration has a metal portion between the two so two shorter hoses are needed and of course an additional set of marine stainless clamps. So the correct hoses and clamps are being sent from CA and I’m returning the incorrect ones. The new ones should arrive Monday. So reinstallation of the heat exchangers is on hold as is adding all the new fresh coolant. Paint touch up continues.
I’ve written previously that I wanted to tone down the night lighting on the flybridge hardtop. After some missteps, I finally found properly sized blue LEDs for the nine existing fixtures. I needed to enlarge the bulb hole in the reflector but I think the final result looks good.
I’ve now had another post op appointment on my eyes. Pressures seem to have steadied at around 14 vs low 20s pre-surgery so that should bode well. Restrictions have been lifted so I can swim, lift more than 5 pounds etc. My 3 additional types of eye drops are down to one and in two weeks I can discontinue that one and be back to my normal 3 types.
Went back to the Dockside for a supper. Dockside is at a nearby marina and is a tent type operation serving a burger type menu. Had a home made chicken pot pie and it was great. I’ve written about the place a couple of posts ago. It also features live music, mostly country 60s, with good musicians and the place draws a big crowd. I just wish I could get better sound than with an iPhone at a distance. Oh well.
Now to continue the engine maintenance task. All the old hoses have been removed. New hoses are sorted for each engine and installed on one engine. The aftercoolers and heat exchangers have been soaked clean. The pitting on the port ac was ground out and the units pressure tested just fine. Parts have been repainted and reinstallation has started.
Possible/probable future plans.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about future plans over the past weeks. Crossing to the Bahamas isn’t going to happen. Up in the air is whether to extend here in Marathon for two addl weeks – to the end of March.
When I bought the boat late last February, it filled a desire that I’ve had for 40+ yrs which was to again own a significant boat and then to live aboard it and cruise. I’ve now done that and enjoyed it to the fullest I’m able. I also had hoped to do the America’s Great Loop which I planned to do in one year. Due to circumstances, I only got to do, perhaps, a third of America’s Great Loop. But years ago, as a family, we cruised for several years, most of Lake Michigan’s east coast and I’ve sailed/crewed several trans Lk Mi races and one Chicago-Mac race. With this past year’s cruising I had great fun and a wonderful learning experience doing it. So many fun stops at towns and cities.
However it will not be possible to complete the Loop this year of 2020. The locks in Illinois portion of the Loop will be completely shut down for maintenance the latter part of the summer and early fall leaving 3 alternatives.
One would be to rush, rush rush up the ICW to NY, Canada and the Great Lakes to reach Chicago and the IL River by August. I’ve found boating to be very tiring and I don’t want to compound that by having a schedule that demands a full travel day 5 out of 7 days. How could one smell the roses?
Another would be to run the Loop in reverse and take the IL locks in the Spring/early Summer. To do that, I would need to go north UP the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers which, at any time and especially in the Spring, is against the current. In the Spring one probably will encounter flood waters, floating trees and other debris, flooded marinas etc. Dodging crab pots is not nearly as dangerous as dodging logs at a closing rate of 10-15mph. Last Resort has powerful enough engines to make speed against a current running 5 knots or greater but why work that hard?
The 3rd possibility and the one many Loopers plan to do is the typical slow northerly run up the ICW to Canada and the Great Lakes but then in the fall have the boat hauled and winterized in Canada, Michigan or WI, fly home for the winter and recommence the trip the following 2021. I have no home to fly to and I don’t want to be in cold climates. Further after a year of cruising, I know I am too old to continue for two more seasons.
Boating, even with the autopilot, is EXTREMELY tiring and often on the ICW or rivers, the autopilot is not that useful. You just can’t set it and relax for a half hour. You are always on watch, always maneuvering around a shoaling area, around another turn or always adjusting speed for No Wake zones, for passing other boats or being passed, checking the charts to see where you are or where you should have been, and checking depths in the narrow, shallow ditch known as the ICW. I found that running 40-50 miles in a day is exhausting to me. Sometimes I need an hour of rest after coming into a marina just to get enough energy to walk down the dock to the dockmaster office to register and pay. Dinner plans are shelved in favor of a 6pm bedtime. So there’s no mistake here, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I enjoy the travel very much but not the effort. To give an idea of what I mean — if I were in Savannah right now and decided that it would be fun to head to Myrtle Beach, by boat/ICW, that would be a 5 day trip for me and I’d probably need one rest day mid-trip and at least one more at the end. By motor vehicle, it would be a 3.5 – 4 hour trip followed by a relatively short nap.
To repeat, I have enjoyed the experience and the boat immensely. I am in so much better shape than when I started and for that I’m grateful. One needs enough agility to jump on and off the boat, strength to haul on the lines, stamina to wash down the boat (it’s a big boat). When I bought it, I was barely able to climb aboard without effort and nervousness afraid I’d fall.
The boat itself has been oh so comfortable! It is built so well – I really like all the beautiful wood joinery. It’s as much a pleasure to live on as any house, condo or RV I’ve owned. It is very stable regardless of weather and a joy as far as handling or docking. It is not something I could handle alone however.
I’ve enjoyed learning all the systems on the boat and there is a lot to learn. Though I have difficulty getting down in the engine room and am grateful for a crew that enjoys it, I have liked learning all the diesel and other systems and maintenance etc. I am only now beginning to evaluate a problem and decide what the most probable cure might be.
It’s been 45 yrs +/- since Sharon and I took Power Squadron (class room boating classes). But charting then was paper, pencil, parallel rules, a geometry style compass and a protractor. While I still have paper charts, they are my backup. Today the charts are electronic and plotting is done while sitting on the sofa and Bluetooth(ing) it to the boat chartplotter. Learning to read the charts again, to pick from the many mapping programs and learn how to use them has been fun. I enjoy the radio traffic between the boat and lock or bridge operators and between boaters. I have really enjoyed the challenge of entering a strange marina, finding the assigned slip and backing the boat in. For the most part I got it right the first time and, I think, only once did it take more than two tries (and that time was a total failure with 10 or so attempts🤢). I really liked experiencing the rivers, streams, canals, cut offs, bays, ocean and cruising the East Coast.
I have missed seeing mountains and desert-scapes though.
So what can I do?
One alternative, but one I’ve pretty much discarded, would be to turn Last Resort into a floating condo. Spend the winter in a southern marina, hire a captain to move me and the vessel north before hurricane season and dock it in a marina or two for the summer and fall, reverse and repeat. Not using the boat as a boat is not good for it. When boat shopping last year, I saw some boats that rarely were used and though the owners seemed to be proud that they only put 20 hours on the engines in a year, the engine and systems surveys told a different story – that the systems liked to be worked. Last Resort is ready on a moments notice to run from the Keys to Maine and beyond, either inside or on the open ocean.
So my present thinking is that I enjoyed full time RVing for 14 + years followed by two years of summer travel by motor home and almost one more year of full time RVing and I find that my wanderlust is still there. I probably would buy another motor home, probably a 40 footer, and a toad and once again travel full time by RV.
This is present thinking, subject to change. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile there was dinner to enjoy…
…before the end of another wonderful day
Today, Tuesday, drove to Key West for lunch. It’s about an hour away. Having been there a number of times there was no need to spend hours there. As always, the chickens/roosters are all over.
I am now 12 (Left) and 5 (Right) days post cataract surgery and have zero regrets. Should have done it 5 or 10 years ago. No pain or irritation. At my followup appointment on Friday, my right eye tested at 20/25 and my left at 20/50. Pre-surgery, the left was 20/250 (20/200 is considered legally blind – I didn’t know that before🥴). I certainly see better with much more color and clarity. I can even read reasonably well now with my left eye!
As previously posted, the oil and oil filters have been changed. Nervous about it as a DIY job but it went well. The diesel antifreeze/coolant has now been drained and disposed of. Awaiting delivery of fresh from Cummins. Internet shopping is so nice. The aftercoolers have been taken off and the cores removed.
No leaks are allowed. The water and hot air must never mix as water introduced into the turbo can be catastrophic. So the parts are soaked in a lot of brake cleaner followed by soapy water and thorough rinsing. The aluminum casting is air pressure tested to be sure it has no leaks of any sort.
The cores of both aftercoolers were pristine as was the starboard alum casting. It was installed new last Feb as part of the boat survey/purchase. The port casting is showing corrosion and pitting with the pitting at the opening being of concern. Can it be ground smooth enough while retaining tolerances to reinsert the core and holding under a pressure test? It is undergoing that shop analysis now.🤞
Also removed from the engines this afternoon were the heat exchangers. They are sent out for cleaning etc much like the aftercoolers. Have not heard a report on those yet.
So all that sea water going in and out of the boat travels through rubber hoses and those also can get fouled. In addition, the rubber tends to get old, get brittle and or deteriorate. Clamps are subjected to the hot and humid engine room conditions as well. While ALL hoses are dual clamped for safety, a failed hose or broken clamp many miles from land is not good. Some clamps are showing wear and there is black speck evidence on the white engine and floor of some hose deterioration. So new pre formed hoses and marine grade stainless steel clamps were ordered and have arrived. Did I say internet shopping is great?
Also have checked all the belts and replaced those needing replacement, the O rings on the sea strainers and moved one of the bilge pumps to better drain an area of the bilge. Stagnant water is not healthy but also increases steam and humidity in the engine room creating rust. Also coming yet via internet order is matching white Cummins engine paint for touch up. I will have to get someone to adjust the new dripless shaft seal that was installed in May. There is a bit of dripping and the adjustment is in millimeters. I also will need to get a Cummins mechanic to do a valve lash adjustment on the engines (adjusting the clearance usually within a 100th or thousandth of an inch between the rocker arm and valve stem. I’m not an expert on that but I do know what happens if not done
You may have read or heard about the 7.7 magnitude earthquake south of Cuba/north of Jamaica last week. I’ve experienced one once before in N VA when Sharon was in an inpatient physical rehab facility. The building shook and after my mind did a few seconds processing, I knew what was happening.
Not quite so much on a boat. I was sitting in the boat salon that afternoon. Glass like a mirror. All of a sudden the boat starts rocking side to side which is really pretty rare. It rocked three times and stopped. I got up to see what boat in or near the marina was throwing a wake. Not a boat moving in any direction and the water was still or again glassy. It wasn’t until a bit later when I heard about the earthquake via a text from one of this blog’s readers that I realized what had happened and it was confirmed to me, in my mind, when I later heard of buildings rocking and even evacuated in Miami. At least there are no cracks or leaks in the spa and swimming pool here😂.
Last Thursday I went by car to Miami for laser cataract surgery and a simultaneous MIG procedure on my left eye. A week later the same will be done on the right eye. The MIG is a stent implant designed to reduce eye pressure or at a minimum keeping it from going higher. I don’t have a lot of expectation for the left eye due to previous retina problem but we’ll see😆. The procedures themselves took about 10 minutes though with travel etc it blew through 10 hrs. I had a follow up appt Friday with the local referring Doc and she though all looked very good. It is a fact that already I do see better, though not great, with the left eye and the left eye sees more color. I can distinguish a semi truck from a bicycle now😂.
But enough about fixing me. Before heading to the Bahamas mid March there’s a lot of scheduled maintenance to be done and as reported in the last blog we put together a list. Based on the list of what needs doing we put together a list of all the parts needed and I ordered them from Seaboard Marine in California – a major Cummins parts supplier. Some $2,200 in parts should arrive next Weds. Due to surgery and upcoming surgery I will be out of the equation for repairs. As it was I wasn’t strong enough from the bent over position in the engine room to break loose a nut that holds a zinc in the engine block.
I was impressed with the guy who fixed my dryer a week or so ago. 40ish- not old like me, shorter (helpful in the tight engine room), agile and seems to be knowledgeable. He has a boat about the same size, lives on it and does his own work. So I had him come over to review the scope of the work and he and my crew will get it done🙂. I just got a message from another boater that I met in Baltimore who is in another marina in Marathon stating that they heard I was going to use this guy (how did they hear?) and that they use him and that I will be pleased. 🤞
One of the things I’d like to do is replace the 9 white LED lights in the flybridge hardtop with blue one. So I’ve replaced one of the nine today to see how it will look. I think nine of the wattage I’ve tried will be a little much but if I get lower wattage bulbs, it should make for a soft glow?
My new friends on Knot Ready left this morning (as did a number of other boats. Knot Ready is heading to my old stomping grounds, Everglades City, for a birthday airboat ride before heading towards Ft Myers/Tampa area where the boat will be berthed or put on the hard while the owners head back home to Los Angeles for awhile. Their slip didn’t stay empty long before a sailboat arrived
Coincidentally, this morning a shared a memory on Facebook of a picture I took of Sharon in 2004 while RVing through Pella
I am a member of a number of internet groups featuring boating: several America’s Great Loop groups, trawler groups, Bahamas travel groups, owners groups for a couple of manufacturers, and even a marine HVAC group. Lots of good and perhaps some not so good info is available. Some groups are very technical while others have formal social components like educational seminars. A few have informal get togethers with internet postings along the lines of
“Boat Name X” has arrived at “name of harbor/marina” and if anyone else is here please join us Thurs (or whatever) at 4pm at Slip # X or at “Y” restaurant. Bring snacks.”
Being as social as I am, I’ve never participated. I don’t enjoy the small talk dance involved in meeting new people and certainly embarrassed to not remember someone’s name 60 seconds after introduction. There are lots of Loopers in Marathon at this time of year and the new friends from the vessel Knot Ready (that recently arrived in the marina and whom I’ve written about in the last blog post and earlier Miami post) told me of such a gathering happening in a marina a couple of miles down the road and invited the Last Resort captain and first mate to join them.
We went. The marina had a large tiki hut with a bar and small ‘order at the window‘ restaurant in the hut (as opposed to the nice restaurant also on the premises). Apparently the Keys are a place where musicians who are between gigs congregate in the winter and get together with other like minded folks to jam. This marina is known as such a place.
There were a couple of local regular musicians playing with three transient musicians that night and most of the music they played and sang was 60s type Country. Most all of it was slightly different arrangements than the popularized ones of Johnny Cash, George Jones etc. And they just kept playing – like 60 min sets. Not once did I hear a mistake or anything off key. The Looper group fluctuated but generally was 12-15 people. Enjoyed meeting some of them, talking boats, eating a burger, drinking a couple of diet Cokes and listening to some really great music. Haven’t enjoyed that much live music of my youth since attending a Six Pak gig two and three years ago. Maybe I should get out more?
During a recent FL cold spell, the news carried stories of iguanas falling from the trees. Temps in the 40’s apparently shut down their systems and the iguanas become comatose, lose their hold on branches and are known to fall out of the trees and remain like dead where they land until rewarmed by the sun. Apparently this fellow, seen on the marina sea wall, has warmed up in the FL sunshine and decided to hang around the nearest grill area in case some food might appear.
Scattered along the docks on both basins are areas with propane grills, tables and of course the ubiquitous seating areas oriented to the sunset views. Sunset watching is an official Keys pastime.
Yesterday I had a pre surgery physical (my first eye is being done together with a MIGS [shunts] procedure to reduce eye pressure on Thurs followed by the other eye the following week). I went to a licensed nurse practitioner and liked it. Far more thorough – far more – than any Dr I’ve been to in years, probably decades. I had to have an EKG and I reported ahead of time that there would show a bundle block and how over the years, the doctors get all excited and send me for stress tests, chemical stress tests and even heart catheterizations. I provided the clean reports from those procedures. They did the EKG and the NP told me that she knew the Drs in Miami and that the ‘anesthesiologist will have a cow’ when he sees my EKG. So I gave her the physicians’ names that have done EKGs on me over the past 10 yrs (good to keep your health records in the cloud) and she obtained the EKGs since 2015, saw zero change and cleared me for surgery. Phew!
My crew has put together a list, rather long, of maintenance that needs to be done (hoses, belts, clamps that are due to be replaced, impellers checked, aftercoolers, heat exchangers, turbos etc servicing etc.). One does not want something to fail while on the ocean traveling to the Bahamas. I already have heard I’m not to have a lot of strenuous exertion post op so I’m trying to find some knowledgeable labor source.
So yesterday and today (Sat) has been interesting and very different for me. I am not mechanical. Don’t remember ever having changed a tire even on my cars (actually I now remember having changed a flat in my condo drive a few years ago and a neighbor who runs a car dealership in Iowa felt sorry for me, walked over and finished it for me). Certainly never ventured under the hood. As I recall, and recollections are getting dim, the last time I owned a power lawn mower was probably around 1985 and my idea even back then of performing maintenance like an oil change etc. was to trash the old mower and buy a new one.
Time to get my hands dirty.
Three months ago, in Savannah, it was time for the oil, filters, engine zincs etc. to be changed. I had Cummins come to the marina there to change the oil in the 2 engines, 2 transmissions and generator. The charge was well over $2,000 of which $1,600+ was labor. From what I’ve read, that’s on the lower end of labor charge for oil change and fuel filter change. To be fair, that charge also included changing the generator oil. Included in that figure for ‘professional’ labor was their certified Cummins mechanic tightening a hand tight spin-on secondary fuel filter on the port engine, not with his hands, not with the strap type wrap around filter wrench but rather with a huge wide jaw pliers. It scored and creased the outer ‘skin’ of the filter which subsequently split a week or two later near Camp LeJune. You may remember my writing in this blog of the horrible job of mopping up and carting off 40 gallons of diesel fuel out of my bilge resulting from this split open filter – not to mention ridding the boat of diesel fumes.
As you’ve also learned reading this blog, I’ve met with little (read ‘zero’) success dealing with marinas and their vision of ‘service’. Enough is enough! It’s now time to change the oil again. Time for a DIY! I was VERY STRESSED about a DIY but my crew attempted to quiet my fears.
The boat is equipped with a “Reverso” system which is an electric pump mounted on the forward wall of the engine room. It has 5 permanent hoses attached to it. One hose to each engine, one to each transmission and one to the generator. Use the selector switch to pick a hose, flip the switch to “out”, push the button to turn the pump on and the old oil is sucked out of the selected engine or tranny and pumped through an outlet hose into a 5 gal bucket. Bring in a 5 gal bucket (the engines take 5 gal plus 3 qts in the oil filter) of fresh oil, insert the outlet hose now being used as an intake hose, reverse the pump and the bucket of fresh oil is pumped into the engine. All that then remains to complete the engine oil change is to spin off the oil filter, fill the new one and reinstall. Repeat for the other engine, trannys, and generator if it’s being serviced. Being a monkey helps.
While on the hard in Ft Pierce, I found Rotella oil at a good price at Advance Auto so I stocked up with the buckets of oil I need for the engines and trannys for $270. I haven’t put that many hours on the genny so as to require an oil change for it. While here at Marathon ordered all the needed filters for engines, trans. and generator, from Amazon. Also got a fresh anode for the 20 gal water heater – all for $210. So I have all the needed materials for less than $500. I have all the replacement pencil zincs on hand already and I think all the right sized impellers are already in the spare parts locker on the boat.
So first up was draining and refilling the transmission oil. These transmissions don’t require transmission fluid but rather single viscosity motor oil. Just short of 5 quarts in each transmission. The filters are actually magnets to accumulate metal particles. Pulled those and they were clean. One transmission is only 2 yrs old and the other was replaced new by the seller as a condition of sale 11 months ago. The transmissions were easily accessible and the fluid change took maybe 1/2 hr total.
Next up was draining the port engine of oil. EZ PEAZY. Selected the port engine because it would be the most difficult. It’s massive oil filter is located on the hull side of the engine rather than down the roomier center walkway. On the hull side, what floor there is is severely slanted by the shape of the hull. To get back in there, one has to slide past the generator, the very large battery box (@ 2’x3’ by 2.5’ high) and past the fire suppression system. Once past, your feet fight for space on the angled hull and around numerous hoses, water heater, seawater water pump and more while having enough head room to be in a stooped position. I am not able to get in there. Then from that awkward cramped position, one has to remove a large, heavy, dirty oil filled filter pretty much by feel and the reinstall a new large, heavy, clean oil filled filter again by feel. Thankfully, my crew was able to get back there and accomplish the task
I had a brand new flexible oil filter wrench but the filter would not budge even by using a rubber mallet as an “inducer”. So it was off to NAPA to dispose of to solve the stubborn filter issue. NAPA was a big help taking the filter measurements and then getting me a filter wrench of the right size used by semis. Attached to it they provided an 18” steel 1/2” ratchet handle to turn the filter wrench and provide leverage. $60. Correct tools then made the disassembly job easy. Reattaching the heavy, oil slippery filter from a cramped position was quite difficult. Then pump 5 gallons of fresh oil into the engine block. Probably spent over an hour just removing and replacing the port oil filter.
Following that, it was a quick matter to do the starboard engine. Drain the block, take off the old filter and put on a new filter and refill the engine block. Probably a bit less than an hour for all of it. The filter is on the center aisle side of the engine, the aisle is nearly 3’wide with a flat floor and one can sit on a stool while performing all the work.
Felt good to save $1,600+ —— at rates here in the Keys, probably closer to $2,000 in labor cost. All it cost in labor was pizza for the crew whose help and confidence was invaluable. Total time spent including 1 hour trip to NAPA was about 6 hours. Having done it once now, think I can cut at least 2 hours from that time.
Still to do is replacing the pencil zincs (the zincs are sacrificial to prevent corrosion due to the dissimilar metals on a boat (like iron and bronze etc), salt water and electrical currents. The zincs are kind of pencil shaped, maybe 3/8” in diameter and 3-4” long which are insertedinto a brass nut and then bolted into the engine block, after coolers, heat exchangers, generator and transmissions.
Also still to be done in the next month or so is to inspect and replace, if needed, all the impellers. Impellers are used in water line type of equipment – like engine water cooling, air conditioning water pump etc. The impeller looks like a rubber water wheel on an old fashioned mill. The vanes help propel the cooling water thru the system and if the rubber vanes deteriorate, cooling efficiency diminishes and if the vanes become brittle and start breaking, the rubber particles will start clogging further down the system equaling expensive repairs.
A few weeks ago I wrote of my docking experience at Bill Bird Marina in Miami and the absence of dockhands on a very windy day. A fellow boater tried to help with my aborted attempt and after finally tying up, my crew and his crew visited on the dock for a half hour or so. They are from the Los Angeles area and are nearly completed with their Loop. Their boat, “Knot Ready”, left Miami heading to the Keys a week or more before I did and communicated the crab pot situation en route via the NEBO messaging system. When I arrived in Marathon we got together at a restaurant near their marina and got acquainted.
Since then, they left Marathon for a stay in a Key West marina for a week or ten days and then headed back to Marathon. Late Friday afternoon we got together again and yesterday, Saturday, they moved Knot Ready to the marina I am at. I took a short video of their arrival (with the northerly winds for the past few days, the marina has accumulated quite a covering of ICW grass) since you don’t often get pics of your own boat underway. They are slipped directly across from me and sent me a pic of Last Resort taken from their foredeck at sunset.
Water heater stopped working. Went down below and photo’d make & model and googled the manual. Followed the troubleshooting protocol and fixed it. The electric water heater is assisted, if the port engine is running, by a heat exchanger running hot engine water thru the water heater coils. That part of the system is closed and, I think, was low on antifreeze fluid when I headed here from Key Largo resulting in an internal tripped circuit breaker. Ten minute fix and all is well.
Not a 10 minute fix however is the clothes dryer which stopped working Monday. I think the belt on the drum broke. The dryer is a tight fit inside a cabinet above the washer. I won’t have the strength etc to remove it either to fix or replace so I have a repair person coming. Since the cabinet is furniture quality, I did the disassembly of all the face trim and of the disappearing accordion sliding doors. Not being mechanical etc., I was amazed at the design and build intricacies of the cabinetry. A jigsaw puzzle made to be taken apart. It needs removal for access and I don’t want some appliance repair person using a screwdriver and hammer to pry things apart. The repairman, unfortunately, ruptured his appendix and was EMS’d to Miami. Hopefully it’ll be fixed early next week and even more hopefully, I’ll remember how it all thet trim goes back together😄.
Today, Friday 1/10/20, I had lunch with a couple of boaters who started cruising at about the same time I did. I first met them 4-5 weeks ago at the Bill Bird Marina in Miami. That’s the marina about which I wrote unfavorably – nice facility but horrid or maybe I should say non existent management. When I tried to dock there in very high winds there were no dockhands. I didn’t pay that much attention at the time, being busy to not be blown into the neighboring boat and trying to avoid fouling my props with marina lines floating in the water, but there was a fellow boater on the dock trying to catch our lines to no avail. Later in that day or the next, the female side stopped at the boat and visited a while. Turned out they were heading to the Keys as well.
They headed out of Miami somewhat weeks before I did but messaged me a few times via NEBO about their route and progress. NEBO is the tracking program I use to keep visual track of my journey, it’s individual legs and statistics. It’s the program that provides the maps that I use for most of my posts. NEBO also shows the current locations and status of boats that are subscribed to it and it has a feature wherein you can message back and forth between boats – a handy feature to ask a fellow boater who is a day or so ahead how they got through a shallow area or what an upcoming Marina is like.
So anyway they also ended up in Marathon for two weeks in a marina about a mile or so away and today we got together for lunch. For someone like me, not too social, I enjoyed it and had a little opportunity to practice my social skills. Turns out that prior to buying their boat a year ago, they also spent a lot of time RVing. They do live in the Southern CA area. They had been planning to leave today for Key West for a couple of weeks but the high winds we’ve been having caused them to extend a day or two. They’ve been enjoying Marathon so much that when they’re done in KW, they are heading back to Marathon and have booked a week or maybe two at the same marina I’m at.
It has been very windy and that is predicted to be the case for the next week. Steady winds of 20-25 mph out of the east and constant small craft warnings. I’ve started the process of taking care of my eyes/cataracts and hope I can have both done while I’m here. Also will see a doctor next week. My prescriptions have run out and the prescribing doctor, hundreds and hundreds of miles away, won’t renew unless he has another billing opportunity/sees me. So the concierge here at the resort is getting me a appt next week and I can get a full set of new prescriptions.
Today 3 more boats arrived at the marina one of which is another looper boat. There are now 8 Americas Great Loop boats in the marina, far more than I’ve seen in one marina at once so far. Temp is back up to 80+ and wind today was below 12 mph – a marked improvement.
Woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. Had stayed the night at the Pilot House Marina in Key Largo. It is located on ‘Lake Largo‘, a small interior lake, actually a basin, about 1/2 mile inland from the Atlantic. Their ocean canal entry is about the narrowest I’ve seen. I wasn’t really sure it was an entry, just looked like a small gap in the shoreline. Crowd sourced navigation notes warn of shallows, of rocks, of blind turns (radio your presence to possible oncoming traffic) etc. Coming in was the slowest I’ve ever run the boat mostly in neutral and coasting with an occasional engaging of the starboard or port transmission for steerage and minimal speed. Crew was positioned on the bow as a lookout and headsets used to warn me of the rock ledges on the sides. Did I say the channel was narrow ~ about 2 boat widths?
So I woke stressed about exiting in the morning. As it was, leaving was to be late in order to wait for the incoming tide. I just couldn’t get back to sleep. Actually the marina, the basin and on site restaurant we’re very nice. Left about 10:30 am and with my lookout and tracing yesterday’s tracks on the chartplotter, I made my way back to the Atlantic without incident. The ocean was a bit bumpier than yesterday with waves running 1 and 2 feet. Winds increased through the afternoon and my course plotted last evening was to be just short of 60 nautical miles. A long distance but with higher speeds in the ocean, it should be a 3 hour day. WRONG!
As I passed south of Key Largo and on to Tavenier and then Islamorada, there were many patches of crab pots and in the sunny shimmering waves, they were very very difficult to see. Passing Islamorada and nearing Marathon, the patches of crab pots morphed into a sea of them. It didn’t seem to matter at what depth of water I ran. It’s both crab and lobster season down here. Lines of white pots running this way with lines of red ones intersecting and running that way. In between would be lines of impossible to see black or blue pots and then there’s the lines of green ones. Since were running out of colors, this red line is marked with TWO red floats instead of one at each location. Literally, there were times where I had to change directions 3 times in the space of 1.5 or 2 boat lengths. It became a slow and stressful and tiring day. But finally around 4:30 pm I arrived at my ‘home’ for the next couple of months. And a nice home it is going to be.
As there won’t be travel the next few weeks, upcoming blog posts will be fewer and more in line with ore typical sightseeing.
New Yers Eve Day brought a new (almost) experience.
Some 40-45 yrs ago I thought nothing of heading out on our 30’ sport fisher onto rough Lake Mich in 5’ and greater waves. I remember wavesbreaking on the foredeck and washing up and over the flybridge and even, once, washing the chairs in the rear cockpit right out of the boat (crossing the Grand Traverse Bay from Charlevoix to Northport). Or in that same time frame, heading out of the fairly treacherous St Lucie Channel in Stuart, FL miles out into the Atlantic to fish In a 22’ SeaRay (also had break over the boat).
Years have passed and with them, bravado. The big waters now make me nervous. So today, for the first time in decades and For the first time with Last Resort I ventured into the Atlantic. I came close north of Jekyll Island a couple of months ago when I crossed St Andrews Sound and probably came within a 10th of a mile from exiting the Sound and entering the ocean. If you read my last post I’ve been watching for a weather window to run from Miami to Key Largo and on to my winter destination, Marathon Fl. The inside route via the ICW is a shallow shallow slow route. Reports are in some areas that there are so many crab pots that you can almost walk on water. The outside, ocean, route adds maybe 10 miles or so but is in deeper water, no crab pots and double or more speed.
As reported in my prior post, I planned on leaving yesterday (Mon) but cancelled when I saw how much better of a travel day today and tomorrow would be. It was worth the extra days wait. After a brief light early morning fog, the grey skies turned a cloudless blue. Humidity dropped significantly, temps were in the mid to upper 70s and winds diminished to about 7mph. And so, after waiting for a foot of incoming tide to raise the boat off the bottom, I left Pelican Harbor Marina, my home for the past 8 days, headed for the police dock to the house with the green awning and into the main channel. Five bridges later, two of which required an opening (40 min of total wait) I entered Government Cut towards the Ocean. Govt Cut is the channel for all the cruise ships out of Miami but none were in port today. Out of Govt Cut I entered the ocean for the first time this trip and in decades.
The waves for the entire leg were 1’ and less. For the most part I ran between 3 to 5 miles offshore. Not that much to see but a much speedier trip than I’m used to.
Friday, 12/20/19 I was unable to extend my slip for more nights at the marina in Ft Lauderdale but did find availability for 2 nights at Bill Bird Marina, part of the Miami-Dade park system, 14 nm south. Am guessing I’ll be able to extend beyond the two nights due to the holidays and weather. The weather continues to be poor with the forecast showing the next weather window on Christmas Day and the day after. So lines were untied and Last Resort headed out into the heavy winds. Only 5 bridges and 3 openings encountered.
A decent marina built by politicians with public funds. Unfortunately it’s also managed by bureaucrats as well. On approach, about a mile+ out, I hailed the marina probably a dozen or more times over a half hour on both the hailing channel 16 and their published working channel 68 seeking entry instructions, slip assignment and to request dock hand help with lines in the extreme winds. No response. Made several calls on my cell and the calls went to voice mail. Left messages for my requests and asked for a return phone call. No return phone call.
Finally entered the marina basin and circled, while calling and hailing, the dockmaster office. Still nothing. Saw no one on the docks. After 20 minutes circling and trying to get their attention, I did a temporary tie on the face dock . Did the long walk to the Dockmaster office. There was a receptionist at the phone desk and a uniformed lady (Dockmaster) leaning on the desk counter, both deep in personal conversation. Remembering that I still hadn’t checked in and that I’d most likely be asking to extend, I put on my most cordial voice. I did explain that there had been ‘issues’ whereupon she explained they were short handed by 6 people and THEY HAD BOTH BEEN TO LUNCH! I did pleasantly remind her that they had voice mail messages from me from over an hour before and here they were chatting when I walked in and showing my phone while maintaining my most cordial voice, noted my phone was not yet ringing with a call back..
They told me what slip I was to go to but they have no marina map for me to look at. I said I’d be doing a stern in and asked which side of the boat I should pre set lines and fenders. Extremely windy, good current and I wanted to be prepared ahead of time. With the high winds, I wanted to have the finger pier to leeward so the wind would blow me into the pier rather than into the boat next to me. They absolutely had no clue whether I needed to set up for a starboard or port tie and no clue which side of the slip would have the finger pier. So much for being a dockMASTER. So I did the extra 1/2 mile walk to see where the slip was etc and then went to the boat to set up.
Bringing the boat to the slip, I discover that it’s too narrow (about 6” on either side) plus on the outside piling there was a nest (like 3) of lines hanging well down in the water. The wind was bringing their bitter ends near the surface and my approach, in reverse, roiled the water more actually floating the lines midway into the well. No dockmaster, no dock hands! It’s not only a bad thing to foul a line in your prop costing you a diver’s time, it’s a very dangerous one. A heavy line in a prop will stall an engine which you don’t want to have happen in close quarters and heavy wind. Your neighbor doesn’t want your heavy boat hitting his.
I made about 10 tries, with one taking out a small corner of my swim platform on the piling, and gave up. In dead calm, I could have threaded that needle. Rarely do I need even a second pass and this was the first time to concede defeat. Not helpful not having someone on the dock to catch and quickly tie off a line or two. So I headed back to the prior spot on the face dock, tied up again and called the dockmaster and told her where I was tied. Turned out the big boat that is in this face dock slip is actually in a yard somewhere for some repairs and I’m welcome to stay in this very easy slip Friday and Saturday night. Running a marina full of expensive boats with staff that doesn’t care to learn the basics of the Marina property they supervise and with a lack of manpower to operate safely, is inexcusable. But it’s government🤬
The short trip on a grey day was not without interest though. More lavish mansions after lavish mansions, more obscene yachts after obscene yachts. And through Port of the Everglades, dozens of cruise ships being loaded and unloaded.
Sunday was still a crummy day with very heavy winds straight out of the East. Made for a rolly time in the slip. I found out that the occupant of this slip is not coming back till Monday morning so I can stay another night. The dockmaster says there are no more slips. I think there are and it’s just poor management. There are numerous gaps between boats on the face dock – gaps paced out at 200-250’. Based on power pedestal placement the gaps are meant to be occupied by multiple vessels and the smaller 3/4” size of the dock lines indicate occupancy by 50-70’ vessel which would mean even if the boat returned, there would still be something like 150’ Of available space with power. I just don’t think government mgt has the experience or incentive to run a tight ship and maximize the utility of the marina. But it’s their enterprise, not mine. Hoping that Monday morning finds some relief in wind strength and direction and that I can find some space elsewhere. At least if I have to anchor out, it won’t be a weekend in a busy metropolitan boating city.
Sunday night brought a tornado watch for the entire night. My phone screeched me awake at 3 am broadcasting a flood alert. 4” of rain reported and 45 mph winds. But I’m already in my ark and tied and blown/pinned securely to the faced dock so it was back to sleep. Weather had marginally improved in the morning so I called the dockmaster office (it’s nearly a half mile walk) to see if there was a possibility of extending another night. Surprise! No one answered the phone and as of this writing, 4 hours later, my voice mail has not been returned. Winds were down to 11 mph and sun alternated with fog.
Found another Miami-Dade Park system marina 4-5 miles further south. Called and they had slippage for tonight (Mon) and Tues and indicated I could extend over Christmas if desired. So after the fog finally lifted for good, I started south down Biscayne Bay to Pelican Island Marina. It is built on a spoil island. Negatives are that there are no ATONs (Aids To Navigation) like signs and bouys to use to navigate from the main channel to the marina and the Bay is shallow – out of the main Bay channel there’s only a foot beneath my keel. Official navigation help was
“between the bridge and the first channel marker, you will see a house on the mainland West Bank. The house has a green awning. Looking the other way you should be able to make out a beige/cream colored building on the east bank. When between the two, turn left/towards the mid point of a police boat dock in front of the beige building and follow in a line from the awning to that mid point. When you get to the dock, take a hard turn to port and aim for and alongside the marina bulkhead in front of you.” (Note – the awning was not a bright Caribbean green but undistinguishable Forest Green)
Five-ten grand less spent on their beautiful two story dockmaster quarters complete with large 50 person capacity conference room and spent instead on 4 private channel markers might have been a better decision but I guess it’s close enough for government work. I arrived, pumped out, fueled up, got my slip assignment and after plowing mud with my props, found my slip and got settled for at least two nights. It’s actually very nice here, very “Florida-ish” complete with a big sandy beach and picnic tables and the marina has a very helpful staff and very wind protected slips so this should be a relaxing stay.
Christmas Eve day. Slept in and that was wonderful. A beautiful blue sky, mid 70’s day! Put in a order via Instacart to Publix for normal provisioning as well as for preparing nice Christmas and New Years Day dinners, carted it a hundred or so feet to the boat and stowed it. Enough work for the day! Wishing a Blessed Christmas to everyone.
Christmas Day was another clear blue sky day and I extended my stay here for another night. The Bay seemed as quiet as a mouse. Took a nice little walk along their beach. Got the grill out in anticipation of grilled steaks. Gotta be flexible when boating. Not enough propane left to even heat the grill. So into the freezer go the steaks and out of the freezer and into the Instant Pot goes the New Years Day roast. EZ PEAZY. New to-do list item – propane fill.
Thursday 12/26. Alarm set. Up for an early start. Oops. Yesterday was a holiday and I didn’t check the weather forecast. Though protected in this slip, it seems weather around me has deteriorated. Small craft warnings both off shore and in shore. Waves to be 7-9’ off shore (there goes taking the shorter quicker ocean route) and 4-6’ inshore route through big Biscayne Bay. And it looks similar now for a couple of days. No rush, still have a week to run the 100 or so miles to Marathon.
In case you’re interested, for weather, I use the weather forecasts as shown on TV for a macro view but very inadequate for marine forecasts. VHF Channels 1,2, and 3 are NOAA weather channels on my marine radios and they provide more marine specific info, but again a ‘big’ picture. I also have a half dozen weather apps and the one I use most is “WINDY”. Since I’m not going to travel today, I’ll use a bit of time to show what I see this morning on Windy.
So that’s why, even though there’s no rocking and rolling in the slip, today is an in-port day. And it’s looking like it may stay that way for another few days. And the fact that the current municipal Marina is only $1.50 per foot per night vs $3.50 in Key Largo has nothing at all to do with waiting out the weather here vs there😎. Ended up staying through the weekend hoping for a Monday departure. Well, a Monday departure has morphed into Tuesday, Happy New Years Eve.
Went to my bunk last night thinking that I could probably sleep in. Today (Weds) was forecasted to be thunderstorms all day with winds of 10-20 mph out of the north. But I set my alarm for 7 am and later changed it to 7:30am so I could get up and have a “look see” before heading back down for more shuteye. Well, there were grey skies but no rain and no wind. Radar projections showed no rain in the 3 hr projection and so I left heading south towards Ft Lauderdale.
It turned out to be a long long day. The ICW here is truly a concrete canyon. Covered 41 nm today with 17 bridges. About half of those were low enough that it required opening and only one of thos was an ‘open on request”. The balance opened on a schedule such as on the hour and half hour or 15 and 45 minutes after the hour. Most, practically all, of the run is “no wake” with good sections of “idle speed”. Makes it hard to ‘time the bridges’ so there were numerous times of holding position in front of a bridge waiting for the witching hour. These bridges do no open even a minute early. So the 41nm took 7 hours.
It was not a great day for pictures – too gloomy. Nonetheless while waiting for a bridge, I did get a pic of Mar a Lago on the day our President was impeached😖.
I looked hard to see if the Donald or Melania were on the shore waving to have one of his first supporters come on over for lunch. No such luck.
Some observations though. Along the entire 41 mile route I have never seen so many Trump 2020 flags – many huge. Apparently there are a lot of folks who like this economy and want it to continue. Another observation – this is a rich country. Literally 1000’s of multi million $ homes and most appear to be second (or more) homes (not yet opened up for the season). I wonder how many billions or maybe trillions of residential real estate I passed today. And the there are the yachts – what can I say?
Thursday also was a FL east coast balmy, blustery and mostly rainy day. Under a gale warning all day though I don’t think the winds ever reached that velocity. Predictions for the next week indicate lower rain possibilities but continuing strong winds. Will have to figure something out as this slip is spoken for Friday afternoon and on.
Walked across a block, across A1A, Thursday evening for dinner at Bubba Gump. Disappointing both as to menu selection (I was looking for more shrimp dishes) and food prep. I settled on the Lt Dan platter of baby backs and skewered shrimp. Ribs were fine but the shrimp were split/butterflied with the shells still on and overdone. The flesh was like rubber and it was actually not possible to peel the shell off. You needed to gnaw it like corn on the cob. Gary Sinese, you need to reclaim your stage name. Bubba Gump, you are a shrimp place ~ learn how to prepare your signature dishes! On the other hand, BGump is located on the beach and though dark, the lights and crashing surf made for a pleasant evening.
An early (ish) morning departure. Today, Monday, will be a complete ICW run with lots of bridges. In fact, the entire run from South of Jupiter through Miami will be bridge city with many requiring openings. The barrier islands along this route are highly developed with luxury homes and high rises and local government can’t get away with bridges every 20 or more miles so the bridges are frequent. Further, with that many bridges, the government budget can’t afford very many 65’ clearance high bridges so most are in the 14’ – 25’ clearance range and open on the 1/2 and 1 hour. I require 21.5’ clearance so there will be lots of bridge opening timing or waiting for the bridges to open.
Remember well the route from Jensen Beach south to Jupiter. Some 40-45 yrs ago I was down here with the 22’ Sea Ray and with Sharon and the girls we did that route as a day trip. It was quite the adventure for us then. The water color at the Jupiter Inlet is incredible and inspiring.
It was a fairly windy day and generally overcast and with the bridges, a nearly 6 hour transit ending with a nice slip at Riviera Beach Marina. I like their system. Made reservations while on the way (it’s busy down here) and they confirm the ressie with a text which includes a diagram of the marina and directional arrows to your assigned slip. Very helpful. The city has done a great job of developing their waterfront including a nice restaurant within a very easy stroll.
The wind really picked up straight out of the south all day Tuesday, so I elected to stay here another night. No need to be in a rush as I have 2 weeks to get to Marathon.
Friday, 11/15/19. Today was another soggy day! I could have split today’s days leg over a couple days but just wanted to get it over with. Even ran into maybe a mile or so of good (actually bad) fog but the instruments made it easy to follow the channel. My destination, Fort Pierce, will be “home” for a few weeks.
Today’s leg was just under 63 nm completed in a little less than 6 hrs. I am docked in a slip at another condo project private marina. I visited this marina by car a year ago. At that time there was a very nice 50’ Novatec for sale which I really wanted to see. I spent three days trying to arrange it through Curtis Stokes brokerage but apparently they had something better to do that week than to sell a boat. Back then, I drove into the marina parking lot and walked the dock multiple times each day before finally giving up. By the time folks got around to actually show the boat I was in Myrtle Beach looking at a different boat. So now I’m back – but by boat, my boat.
Monday I had the boat hauled out of the water and blocked on dry land at Cracker Boy Boat Yard. Cracker Boy is a DIY facility where they provide the haul out, optional bottom pressure wash and space for the boat to be blocked while being worked on. The space includes a power pedestal so the boat fridges etc can continue to operate. Unfortunately the heat and air conditioning need raw water to function so they are not operational. For work you don’t want to do yourself, that’s me, the yard is semi ringed by small bldgs etc of independent contractors who you can independently hire or you can also hire tradesmen from anywhere.
To be free of having to accept whoever and whatever a marina sends/says is great and while a typical marina may discourage you from direct supervision (‘insurance prohibits customers past this line’ type of thing) the DIY yard is the opposite – in fact you can live, cook, sleep on the boat, if you wish, so long as you can climb the ladder up to the boat. I could and I did. The yard does keep a list of contractors by trade that they’ve found to be responsive and responsible – really nice if you are unfamiliar with the area.
After hauling, I was pleased to see that the bottom was quite clean and did not even require pressure washing. Based on the diver’s report back in June/July of a badly scratched bottom, I was expecting that the bottom might need repainting ($$$) while hoping maybe I could get away with just touch up. No painting was required!
The hull and topsides were severely oxidized and there were some areas that were marked up from docks. There are also some areas of fiberglass cracks at stress points (some cleats), some age related minute spider cracks and a couple of pitted areas. Water can intrude at these places and water under the fiberglass is a severe enemy. Some prior repair had been done without proper bonding and was chipping and flaking off. Some prior ‘repaired’ areas had paint that was not matched well and had lots of orange peel. So I hired a company that does fiberglass work and detailing. The glass work will be fixed. The boat will be compounded from top to the waterline, from front to back, first with a cutting compound followed by a second round of a more medium grit and a third round of a fine polishing grit before then being completely waxed. The crew started the morning following the haul out and has been there from 7am to 4-5pm, 6 days a week for nearly 3 weeks. Most days it was two men and some days 3. What a difference it makes to have the boat detailed.
I also had Island Electronics (the company that installed the new electronics last May) install a new through hull depth finder transducer since the boat was now out of the water. The boat has never had a thru hull finder before. Until now, the transducer was located physically inside the hull and ‘shot’ energy through the hull. I was nervous watching them drill a 3” round hole in the bottom of the boat for this new transducer to go in and physically have contact with the water. Supposed to be more reliable and accurate. I was also 2 software releases behind on the chartplotter so after updating, they calibrated the transducer to display depth under keel.
Also done while out of the water was replacing all the external sacrificial zincs (will replace the engine, tranny and genny zincs when in Marathon), rebedding a 6’ section of run rail and some other small items. Both props were a bit loose and the port side had lost the cotter pin behind the jam nut. So both props were tightened down etc.. And while staying aboard but not having to travel, I sanded down and refinished some pilot house interior woodwork.
Staying aboard In an active boat yard was interesting. Boats of all sizes and styles being hauled and others launched everyday.
I got to see boats being literally totally being rebuilt while others had just the bottoms painted. Watched props being taken off, new shafts installed and the yard crane taking an engine out through the cabin door while another boat receives a new engine being dropped in via the cockpit.
When Last Resort is returned to water, it’ll be time to change the engine and transmission fluid and filters. Intend to do that in Marathon and without a mechanic for the first time.
I also took a dreaded (I hate flying – the 2nd best place to get sick right after a hospital) flight north to cold northern VA for Thanksgiving with daughter Vic, Jon and grandkids. Enjoyed the holiday and of course Thanksgiving dinner, thank you. Grandkids arrived from southern VA, Oklahoma and Minnesota. And then, after a 3 am Saturday wake up, it was over and I joined a multitude on the flights back home to the boat. The airports were sure busy Saturday and I was happy to get back to a holiday-quiet boatyard. And yes, I’ve had a horrid head/chest cold ever since I got back.
The crew finished their detailing on Friday (12/6/19) afternoon but the yard’s scheduling for splashing boats was already full for Saturday so I did some reprovisioning in anticipation of a Monday morning splash. The weather has warmed back up a bit so the last couple of nights have been more comfortable for sleeping. I think there were 4 or 5 straight nights of temps in the low 40s and without heat, it was a bit chilly sleeping. Guess the head cold I got should not be surprising.
Saturday night, feeling crappy, I headed to my bunk early only to hear loud noises shortly after. Very unusual as the yard is like a morgue at night. As far as I can tell, I and the guy next to me are the only two who stay on their boat – he’s been here 70 days rebuilding his bow pulpit and will also be relaunched on Monday. So I got in my sweats and went out on my bow. There were dozens of cars in the lot and young rag muffins running all over – even using the big straps on the boat hoist as swings. Doesn’t today’s generation have any sense of control over their kids? Let me answer that. There was a car parked in the narrow passage between my boat and the boat on the other side of me (where you see the scaffolding in the first repair picture above). There were kids running and playing ‘tag’ under our boats. Then another carload came and tried to park their car in the same narrow passageway.
Ever the ogre and not thinking anyone of those folks could begin to pay for the damage they could do if they only hit one of the blocks holding the boats up, I told them to move. The guy got very argumentative and I thank his wife for calming him down and convincing him to park elsewhere. Not sure where security disappeared to.
So my neighbor and I were on our respective bows and he told me that the Fort Pierce Christmas Boat Parade was supposed to come into the basin between Cracker Boy and the very busy Harbortown Restaurant across the basin. I abandoned my plan for an early shuteye, opened up a seat on the flybridge and awaited the festivities.
Am guessing, but perhaps the story got around down by the dock edge because maybe a half hour into the wait, 4 kids came near the boat and called up to me that they and their parents were going to go get some meatball subs and would I like to join them. I didn’t but appreciated the gesture.
The parade consisted of about a dozen or so boats most of which were modestly decorated. One of the better boats was probably 24-26’ with a sleigh fashioned in the stern and white reindeer rising up over the bow. The captain, I think, had imbibed a bit for he seemed rather reckless in crowded quarters on a dark nite. The star of the show was a three story tug boat that was festooned with lights and music (and loud horn). I enjoyed watching it and getting some pics from my perch on the flybridge. It was fun and the yard returned to solitude within 15 minutes of the parade ending.
One last surprise while here was that my niece from MI came down to her place in Nettles Island, about 15 miles south on the Intracoastal, and called today so got to have lunch and a nice visit along the Fort Pierce inlet. Thanks Joan!
Monday 12/9/19, a beautiful cloudless day, the boat was splashed at 11 am. It was so nice to be back in the water and, since the weather is warming up again, it is good to be able to open the through hull to the air conditioning water pump so as to have AC or heat for the first time in 3 weeks.
Took all of two or three minutes after touching the water to being underway to the Harbor Isles Condominium’s marina for a few days to wait out some weather and to put the boat back together for travel before resuming the southward trek.
And so, after a month in Ft Pierce, I headed out on a boat with all nicks and blemishes freshly repaired on a shiny clean boat.
Thursday. This was going to be my last blog post till some time after Thanksgiving or early December. Now it’s not only the last for awhile but it will be short. Seems like after my voyage from Daytona Beach to Cocoa Beach, instead of stopping the voyage on NEBO, the mapping/tracking program I use, I tapped on the Delete icon instead of Stop. So the program dutifully deleted the log. So I’ll substitute a screenshot of my nav chart with all the planned waypoints.
Total mileage for the day was just over 60 nm over 5.5 hours. Found a slip at Cocoa Village Marina associated with a cond development in Cocoa Beach. Another grey day. Finished it off with a dinner of Bangers and Mash at a English style pub a block away
Well no race but off to Daytona Beach. With one exception, it was an easy calm travel day. About 10 miles south of St Augustine I came to Mantanzas Pass.
There have been reports of dredges working the pass over the past month plus. Literally not a day goes by without reports of numerous boats going aground. In addition to severe shoaling, the channel, such as it is, is narrow. This is complicated by the fact that there are 3 dredges working plus 3 tugs all of which take up what channel there is. It’s a game of Dodgem. The captain on the main dredge is helpful — if only he was understandable. The directions for southbound traffic was to head starboard to the western bank and when you get to the bow of the dredge, hard to port and cross right in front of it and immediately past it, head starboard again right along side the dredge – like close enough to shake hands with the dredge operator. The problem has been the boats can’t turn fast and close enough and are too far away from the dredge. So I’d been dreaming, bad dreams, and dreading this pass for a few days.
By this morning the dredge had moved a couple hundred feet And one of the little tugs was deployed at the corner to force your turn. That plus timing to go through within an hour of high tide made the passage easy. Whew!!
Wednesday was a horrible weather day. Rain started Tues night and it turned cold and very very windy. The wind came straight out of rhe north and down the ICW slot. I was on the inside of the outer face dock, no break wall, with the stern directly facing north. The waves, and yes there were waves and whitecaps came bashing into my stern. The swim platform was almost continually well awash with water. I have a fairly heavy step I use to get from the swim platform to a dock which I place on a heavy rubber backed mat (to keep everything from sliding) on the swim platform. This morning the rubber mat had washed away and the step was washed and pinned against the transom. Oops!
The lousy weather and wind was forecasted to continue all day and the next leg will probably end with anchoring so rather than anchor in heavy wind I elected to stay another night. Comfy day inside and got my laundry done and watched the impeachment hearing all day. YAWN!
Saturday. A beautiful morning/day. Bright sunshine all day. Chilly – -mother 10 degrees would have been nice but based on the weather in general since leaving Norfolk, I’m not complaining. Another full day running the boat from the lower station. Shortly after leaving Brunswick southbound and after passing Jekyll Island you come to St Andrews Sound – a large open bay with an inlet to the Atlantic.
There are two passages through the Sound. This Spring I took the most used route which on the screenshot above would start at waypoint 15, head westerly to waypoint 5-6 and the s northerly through 3 to waypoint 1. There are lots of shallows and twists and turns which show better when the screenshot is zoomed in. Another route heads East to the Atlantic inlet. It’s more straight forward and deep water but far more open to the ocean. I elected this second route today and you can see my blue dotted line of my actual track. You can see from the northern most point of the route where it diverges from waypoint 1, that the route is progressively exposed to more open ocean until it does a sharp 120 degree turn back at BST04 waypoint. The winds were out of the north and the current ran heavily from the south – building waves the entire way. Mostly ran 5-6’ and breaking but the boat handled it well. I haven’t found any report on the sites I frequent of anyone actually having run that route. My opinion is that it was easier. At BST03 waypoint you can see the yellow triangle with the warning “!”. The pop up window for that warning says:
So the trip today was 57.5 nm covered in 6 hrs 20 minutes. I found a vacant spot along Sisters Creek free docks on the north side of Jacksonville, FL. It is exactly as advertised. A floating face dock next to a public launching ramp that can accommodate a half dozen or so boats. No water, no power, no dock hands, no reservations, first come first served free tie up. I took the last spot. Turned on the generator, plugged in the InstantPot and made up a mess of home made chili. Delish with 2 more meals packed and in my new freezer. (The boat came with a portable Dometic freezer that was set in the Pilothouse. there are two under counter sub zero frig/freezers in the galley plus this portable unit in the Pilothouse and an ice maker on the bridge. Anyway the portable died in Charleston and two days later, my friend Amazon delivered a new larger portable to the dock.)
I’ve been trying to find availability for two months in the Keys. I had previously secured a slip for January and this afternoon I received a call back from a marina and now have February covered as well. Woot!
And back to water….
Headed south from Sister Creek to St Augustine, FL. Easy transit. Beautiful day but still a bit of a chill and breeze.
St Augustine, what a great town. I can’t count the times I’ve breezed by with my impression of SA formed from I 95. I think the one time I actually stopped at SA was 21-22 yrs ago soon after we started full timing and we had our 1st 5th wheel. And I got a bad case of PTSD From that. My rig wandered down one of their narrow streets and I knew I was in deep trouble. Then I saw the street stop and it appeared that I’d not be able to cut the corner. The choice was one. Back the rig back down the street a couple of blocks to a major intersection. Sharon got out to block traffic and direct me. Finally a cop arrived and blocked the intersection so I could ‘escape’ and escape I did, totally humiliated and never to return again by vehicle. And so I triumphantly return by water.
The current was really running strong and I had a short wait at Bridge of Lions until it opened for me and the 3 sailboats. On the north side of the bridge is a very large mooring field (where floating mooring balls are anchored to the bottom to which you can tether the boat. This is a favorite anchoring way for single screw boats to hangout without having to dock with or against the currents. Immediately south if the bridge is the St Augustine Municipal Marina followed by another large even mooring field.
I received my slip assignment and direction by radio and after setting up for a stern in, starboard side tie, I proceeded to dock. It went easy though room was tight for spinning to back in. I’m 48’ long and the fairway, open distance between opposing docks, was showing only 36’. It was more and I think they post that so the captain doesn’t fall asleep. I know I stayed alert.
Hooked up to power and the dock power pedestal immediately blew a breaker. Kept trying to no avail. Let out motor cord and tried a different pedestal with no luck. Everyone said it was the new style GFI sensitive pedestal mandated for new marinas of ‘remodeled’ one several years back. Having had the boat retired last April and having been at numerous new installs this summer and never having tripped before, I didn’t or do think so. Checked all the usual suspects – on board tripped GFIs etc. resorted to turning of all boat circuit breakers, plugging in and turning breakers on one by one to find the culprit. It was the breaker for one of the galley fridges.
So everything was OK? Nope. ~ settled in and discovered that no electric plugs on the main level work.. flybridge plugs are fine. Engine room plugs too as are the plugs in the lower staterooms and heads. With salon and galley plugs dead, there’s no power to the salon TV, to the micro or the 2 fridges and the new portable freezer. Electric range was OK. Had to dump the fridge perishables. Ran an extension cord from below stateroom up to the portable freezer and got out the old ice chest/cooler for some new supplies. Another boat gremlin 🤬! Have some work scheduled already next week so will add this to the list. Guessing only receiving one leg off the 50amp circuit but concerned cause that should go away on generator but it doesn’t. [edit – Pluged in at the next Marina today and all was OK. Despite their protestations, their loose fitting plug was only connecting one leg 😄😅
The marina, in addition to its mooring fields, is quite large and filled pretty much with transient vessels. Very busy with lots of boat watching. Right across the narrow street from it is old town St Augustine. Restaurant and art gallery Mecca. Really cool town for walking.
Shoved off this morning on another dreary day. Enough already! Never saw the sun till mid afternoon. Went through a number of areas known for shallow, narrow shoaling water, most notably Hells Gate. My depth sounder has decided to quit so it showed 19.3’ of water the whole way while the chart plotter showed the entire width for 5 miles in a deep red color – extremely shallow. I traced, slowly, Bob423’s route and emerged from the south end unscathed. The run again today (Thurs) was over 7 hours and my longest single day distance yet. At ICW speeds and curves and switchbacks, that was a long day.
I’m sure most or all of you have heard about the “Golden Ray”. It was a car carrier that grounded and then capsized in the Brunswick GA harbor a month or so ago. It had 4,200 new cars in the hold. It is still there big as life. They are erecting, or going to erect, a steel wall/dam around it. Then they will pump the water out of the entire area. Once the ship is no longer ‘in the water’, they will cut the ship apart with torches and remove it section by section. Suggest you all beware of bargain basement priced Kias and Mercedes next year. Brunswick is the host of 40 overseas car carriers per month with some carrying 8,000 vehicles. The pic below does not do it justice.
Friday turned out to be lousy weather as well so I extended a day and spent some time getting chores done.
With a relatively long day planned, I left the dock early, or at least early for me. It was an easy run but slow due to many shallow spots and continual course changes and switchbacks. It was also cold. It was after 1 pm before I ventured up to the flybridge and even then it required a good jacket.
I barely had time to take a nap upon arrival in Beaufort SC before it started to get dark. What a bummer! Maybe we need to reconsider moving the clocks back.
Nothing shakin going on in Beaufort so it was early to bed. Woke up Tuesday to rain and rain. Decided to head back below to continue my sleeping. Late afternoon it became pleasant but it was too late to leave and head to another port. Weds proved to be a dry day albeit chilly and completely grey. Saw a sliver of a sunset and that was as close to a nice day as it got. I kept wondering all day if the fog was going to descend but it didn’t.
First time since owning the boat that I spent zero time piloting from the flybridge. Even ran a couple hours with the generator on so that there was heat.
Was planning on stopping at Savannah but since it was not even 1 pm when I hit Savannah, I decided to just continue on. Found another marina about 20 miles further south at the southern end of Skidaway Island. The entrance to Delegal Creek and the marina was a bit counterintuitive. You could see it but the way to it was a bit convoluted. By phone, the marina assured us to follow the markers and not to pay attention to the charts. I did but watched the charts as they showed the boat going across dry land. A post or two ago I mentioned that NOAA basic charts are sometimes dated. The last charting showing that dry land was 1976!…And apparently the Corp of Engineers hasn’t surveyed since.
Anyway, following the markers was the trick. The marina is excellent! The dockhand was great. The area is a chichi area (wrong word since the pretentiousness isn’t there) and very typical Georgian Coastal. The marina was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew (2016) and has been totally rebuilt. The area reminds me of Jekyll Island, Hilton Head, or Amelia Is., FL.
Borrowed the golf cart and did the 6 mile round trip to Publix to ‘touch up’ the perishables before returning to the boat for leftover spaghetti. BTW, last night I made the spaghetti in the instant pot pressure cooker. All made together in one pot and under pressure for 8 minutes. Seemed strange to just layer uncooked spaghetti over the ground beef with sauce covering and no stirring. I think it was the best spaghetti – home cooked or restaurant. It was fabulous.
So I’m now back in GA and have traveled a little more than 2,250 miles since leaving the Sarasota area.
A very short travel day done, for reasons explained below, at super slow speed. I will remain in Charleston for 9 days.
Being a Saturday, I wanted a reasonable start to miss some of the crazy weekend traffic and afternoon rain (which didn’t materialize till 8 pm). But I didn’t want to arrive till noonish or after to minimize the heavy fast current (2.5 knots) at Charleston’s City Marina. Slack tide was to be at 1:39pm. The ocean inlet is only a few miles east and there are numerous rivers at Charleston with currents ebbing and flowing. So this run was by far the slowest that I’ve done and even so I burned an extra 45 or so minutes waiting til 1 pm to dock.
The City Marina is very large in every way befitting a major harbor. It has over 15000 lineal feet of docks and the country’s longest transient floating fuel dock. In the picture above you can see Last Resort correctly positioned on the inside of what is named The Mega Dock. The walk from Last Resort to the cross dock and then to shore is 1/2 mile. Did I say I get more exercise boating than I did living in the condo? Anyway, they can fuel from every foot along the whole length, both sides, of this massive dock. They berth boats on both sides of this face dock. When the dock is busy, as it is now, you are assigned a space along the dock and if the boats in front and behind are already in place, you need to exercise your parallel parking skills to get into your space.
The space in front and behind me were already occupied so I had to shoehorn my 50’ into an empty 60’ slot. I was glad it was nearly slack tide. All went well – EZ in. Quite different from last Feb when I bought Last Resort and it took a full month to work up the courage to take it out of the slip. This boat is sooo easy to maneuver, knock on wood.
After taking my post-docking nap 😃 I came up to the salon to find the sun disappearing even though it was only mid afternoon. The empty slot on the outside/across the dock from me was getting A new occupant And blocking the sun😄. The low cabin 70’ sailboat fueling across the dock was now gone and a larger vessel was going to dock for the night. So as to not be obvious 😂😂😂 (docking is always a spectator sport) I went up on the flybridge to watch it dock.
“It” was 154’ and the slot was barely 165’ and the current was now ripping. The captain missed, significantly, on his first try. Having taken stock of wind and current, he did a 360 and tried again.
He succeeded. The loud sound you hear, in the video, over the wind is the vessel’s bow thruster motor (engine?) being worked overtime. Towards the end of the video you will see that the captain got his stern within 2’ of the bow of the 75’ green charter catamaran in order to have room to swing the bow in. 10 crew members and 2 marina dock hands and no panic. If I owned and had been on board the cat, I would have panicked.
Most every boat along this dock is 60’ or more. There must be well more than a dozen exceeding 100’. And then, at the end, is a “BiggerIt” – one at a mere 250’. It’s beam is 44’ – only 4’ less than Last Resort’s length. ‘Bigger It” is aka “BELLA VITA”. When I walked past it this evening I surreptitiously peeked towards the lower aft deck windows. There must be at least 60’ of aft length inside space filled with two big power boat runaboutS, pwc’s and other toys. The 100’ sport fish with immense tuna tower, docked next to it, looks tiny in comparison. I found it curious that there were no power cords running to these two mega yachts. The marinas apparently do not have enough power capacity for them (despite large movable mega yacht power booster ‘carts’ scattered along the dock) and so these boats use their own generators. Not even a whisper of sound from the generator! Incidentally, the ‘ Bigger It”, a Lurssen yacht, is available for charter for a mere $650,000 and change per WEEK (includes crew and towels😎, I think).
It’s been 3 days here in Charleston, so far, and weather has been deteriorating each day. Not nice enough to go sightseeing. Will be here for a half dozen more days (crew needs to fly north for a doctor’s appointment) so hoping weather gets better as I’d like to see a bit of the city.
Meanwhile I haven’t been wasting time. Over the past couple of months, have been researching marinas in the Keys for part of the winter. I’d also like to cross over to the Bahamas for part of the winter. Finding a place in the Keys hasn’t been easy.
I don’t want to move every day and most marinas from the middle keys to Key West seem to have repeat seasonal visitors – sort of like all of FL in the winter. Plus most marinas, it seems, lease their under water bottom from the state (vs owning your parcel of LAND and then excavating your LAND to dig a marina on YOUR land in which case you own the bottom). So most lease bottom right from the state and when dealing with a government, everything is screwed up. The leases, it appears, limit those marinas to having mariners stay on board their vessels for no more than 7 days per month. That’s a problem when you are living aboard. I find it hard to understand a state that has the country’s highest tourism budget but then discourages wintertime stays on a boat – all because there are some former live aboard boats which, after hurricanes, have become derelict and a blight on some wealthy, politically connected contributer’s visual horizon. Rather than addressing derelicts and budgeting for removal, just make the boaters move. Off soapbox. So anyway, it’s been a problem.
So yesterday I saw a post from a boater who was enjoying a 3 day stay in a marina in Marathon – my #1 choice of Keys – a stay obtained as a door prize at a northern trawler rendezvous. The boater was raving about it and I hadn’t heard of the place before. A little research showed it was primarily marketed as a gated resort community of new homes built as a rental alternative to a hotel. It was started in 2006 but the real estate turndown bankrupted the developer well before he finished. An unusual project, it languished incomplete til acquired by an investment group in 2016. It took 2 yrs to complete including a marina and so 2018 was the first season. The resort is still working on developing its clientele.
Finding the explanation to make sense, I contacted them and they returned my email inquiry with a phone call with 30 minutes. A major departure from a Keys marina tradition of not returning inquiries for days, if ever. I was told they had good and bad news. Good news – they had availability for me for both months. Bad news – under the terms of their lease, as a brand new marina, with the State, I could only live aboard for 1 month. Moderating news – they are changing their company documents which should allow them to have live aboard for 2 months and expect the entire process complete within the next two months. Would I like to take a chance?
After conversations over two days, I decided to take the month of January. The resort agreed that if the 2 month live aboard was approved, I would be able to extend in that slip for another month – in effect renting that slip in Feb to anyone else would be off the table unless I agreed. I would continue to look for a slip for Feb and if I found one I’d release them from their Feb obligation Immediately and if I changed my mind and decided to just go to the Bahamas or elsewhere earlier, I’d similarly release them. So I have a place to stay in the Keys and not just a place but a spectacular one. Hopefully I will have a signed agreement today. More on that in future posts.
I received an email asking some questions about navigation charts. I’ll try to answer here, based on my limited knowledge, on the assumption it may be of interest to others.
So what do I have?
Decades ago, when boating on Lake Michigan, I used paper charts. I think that’s all that was available. There wasn’t much more of a need than a chart being updated every 5 or 10 years as Lake Mich didn’t shoal that much and was not subject materially to tides. One just needed to pay attention to weather and, back in those days, watch out for an Ark filled with animals. The marine charts I was and am familiar with are produced by NOAA.
Speaking of today, they make thousands and thousands of changes and corrections during the year but produce the printed chart available in marina stores etc only once per year. So a chart segment printed last month can be out of date this month due to the effects of a bad storm. Printed charts can be obtained in the interim ‘On Demand’ from special sources. Paper charts are expensive and cumbersome – paper charts take storage room. Hello charts in bits and bytes!
So what do I have/use? I have a hybrid – like a layer cake – and it’s available on multiple sources.
I also use an app called Aqua Maps which is downloaded on my iPhone and my iPad. It has the same info as the basic charts. What it also has is, for an enhanced modest subscription fee, more features.
I choose to have my basic NOAA electronic chart via my chartplotter furnished by Garmin. It can be updated annually or by subscription anytime. Garmin adds the thousands of correction & updates but only furnishes them on demand if you pay. These basic charts show the oceans, lakes, rivers with depths, obstructions, markers, buoys, lighthouses, shipwrecks, mariner notes etc. The Garmin electronic version has a magenta line to follow mid channel and an iconic representation of your boat’s accurate gps position on that chart. The chart and your boat scrolls as you move like the little car and map does on an car gps. Also added are icons for marinas, anchorages etc which, when you touch them, expand to a drop down info box (user ratings, available services, up to date fuel prices, dockage fees, phone numbers, depth, navigation tips etc.
While NOAA is tasked with, in the US, the basic charting, the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) is charged with maintaining navigable depths in harbors, designated inlets and the ICW. They also maintain the country’s locks. The US Coast Guard has the responsibility for placing and maintaining in place buoys and day markers. Yes they do move or get destroyed occasionally. So the USACE surveys/sounds the waterway for shoaling and depths quite frequently and they map their findings. Aqua Map acquires the maps that show shoaling and as part of their extended subscription allows the user to download the color coded USACE map and overlay it on top of the Aqua Map basic chart. There is generally an updated overlay along the east coast ICW each day or two. I can send the updates to my laptop and from there download to a SD card which then can go into my Garmin card reader and transfer to my main chart plotter.
But the layering is not finished. I also use info from another online source – a sailboater who maintains a blog and a Facebook page under the name Bob423. He travels north each Spring from the Jupiter FL area to the mid Chesapeake area and reverses it each fall. When the USACE determines that an area needs dredging, it draws up a detailed plan‘ how deep, how wide, how long, and at what headings for each segment. USACE monitors the dredging contract to determine that it is exactly performed. So Bob423 gets copies of all the contract specs, plots a projected course to take advantage of the new dredging and overlays it over the USACE AquaMaps chart.
Those too can be imported to a card and downloaded to my main chartplotter. Another layer on the chart cake.
Finally Bob423 lays down a track when he runs north and again south showing every little turn he makes and publishes those so one can see what he ran vs what he projected. The track is also published, can be imported to a card etc – the frosting so to speak on top of the basic NOAA chart. Everything he does is available without charge.
So there is more to traveling the ICW than pointing the boat in the right direction and staying between the banks. Running outside, a few miles in the ocean, is easier navigation, probably bumpier waves, faster but less interesting. Either way can be tiring.
Also while here in Charleston, I took the marina shuttle van downtown for lunch followed by an hour horse drawn carriage tour through the historic area. Some fascinating logistics. Charleston is surrounded by water on 3 sides. Rigid historic preservation is enforced. The city endured two wars, is very earthquake prone and has suffered at least 5 fires of 500 bldg or more destruction size since the mid 1700’s. These beautifully restored still standing waterfront area homes are expensive – as $millions plus. There are 5 carriage companies running on the city’s narrow streets and thru expensive neighborhoods. So to avoid horse and tourist congestion and too much ‘exhaust’ defacated on neighborhood streets, all 5 companies exercise mutual cooperation. First is a 15 second stop for all carriages at a small hut – Control Central. The areas of historic interest have been divided into separate routes – color coded. The driver calls out his/her name, the name of the horse and number of passengers (a head tax is paid to the city). The driver is given a color and that is the route that particular carriage will/must follow. Infractions for deviation, for holding up too much traffic when a cut out is available (a lot of the tour goes thru busy but narrow downtown streets) incur a fine of $1,070!
The horses are outfitted with leather ‘aprons’ behind their tail which funnels road apples into a container so streets stay clean. The driver has a device that looks like a remote control. If a road apple 🍎 misses the mark and reaches the street or if the horse decides that some portion of the street needs to be washed, the driver pushes a button on the remote and it ‘pings’ the exact GPS location to Control Central which dispatches a super dooper pooper scooper truck, funded by the 5 companies, to clean up the scene. I thought it interesting to see how private enterprise works together to keep the peace vs relying on government which would inevitably resort to one of two solutions – ban the carriage tours altogether
or let the crap just stay on the street until evening when residents can be further disturbed, in addition to a daylong lingering smell, by a nighttime clean up crew. The system here in Charleston must work as frequently these southern residents, walking the sidewalks or sitting on their porches, called out friendly greetings to us.
Another interesting area was the Charleston City Market. It is a 6-7 block long (narrow but long blocks) area which was built with basically open air buildings curb to curb. Kind of reminded me of Detroit’s Eastern Market or Seattle’s Pike Street Market, amongst others. Plantation owners would send their slaves here to provision the plantation and to bring plantation produced products to sell. The northern most bldg was near the Cooper River on the north side of the peninsula and was used in the early days for the fishmongers. I’m slipped on the southern side -the Ashley River. Some 6 or seven blocks away, the southern most building was for the butchers where you could have a cut of beef from a freshly, on-site butchered cow. In the 100 degree, 100% humidity of SC summers, there must have been quite a smell from one end to the other.
My 9 day stay here has turned cold and daylight continues to wane. Mornings are in the very brisk low 50s with afternoon highs in the mid to upper 60s. Time to start the ‘in earnest’ run to FL now that insurance restrictions vis a vis hurricanes no longer apply. Hoping the weather warms up and winds and rain cooperate.
Up before sunrise this morning so as to be ready to cast off at first light. About 1.5 hours ahead, at ICW speed, was an ICW section known as Minim Creek. Very shallow and shoaling. In one section, the channel is 23’ wide extreme Shallow on either side. Then about 10 miles beyond that is McClellanville where there is another couple of miles of extremely shallow water. Both areas at low tide are shallow enough that I could bottom out. Absolute low tide in those two areas would be between noon and 12:30pm. So an early start was called for meaning I should go through those areas between 9 and 10:30 am – mid falling tide.
This was planning and math done by many. By dawn, I joined about a dozen boats leaving Harbor Walk and heading south. Lots of radio chatter! By the time I reached Minim my depth sounder ‘froze’ showing a constant reading of 21.2’ and I couldn’t get it back on line. So I was unable to “see” the depth for the remainder of the day. In addition, there was a dredge halfway through Minim with attendant tugs and lots of floating dredge pipes. As I was first, I contacted the dredge for safe passing directions. The flotilla made it through the hazards and shallows and emerged unscathed on the south side😎. Outside of that it was a perfect sunny travel day. Altogether it was a 50 nm day and I am now almost 460 statute miles south of Norfolk VA and 680 statute miles south of Baltimore.
The goal for the day was to reach Isle of Palms – about 15 nm north of Charleston. Though close and my next stop, I didn’t want to handle the large commercial Charleston harbor in a breezier afternoon and when I was tired. As it was, Isle of Palms was a busy little harbor with frequent ferry traffic and lots and lots of fishing boats. And there was a good strong current running contrary to a rising breeze so backing into my slip next to the 3 wide boat launching ramp and boats around like gnats was challenging. Besides boat launchings constantly next to me, on the far side of the launch is a popular restaurant with boat tie ups and the slip next to me is occupied by a charter cruise boat. Including the sunset cruise tonight, it has been out three times since I’ve been here. Also further down the docks is a ferry service to a nearby tourist island. So there’s no lack of people or boat watching.
Beautiful travel day. Bright sunshine, light breeze and temps in the hi 60s/low 70s. Slow trip with much of it in no wake zones and at least 3 bridge openings. Also had to transit “The Rock Pile”, a 3 mile section of the ICW with many rock danger areas. Opinions seem to be split between running at high tide for max water depth or running at low tide so you can see many of the rocks. I ran at a mid rising tide. While the ICW isn’t that wide, there is a more constricted portion around a bend And oncoming traffic can’t be seen where it’s recommended to make a radio announcing that you are entering the Rock Pile and your direction and ask if there is any oncoming commercial traffic. Not the place to play dodge em with Both rock ledges and barges. Goal for the day was Osprey Marina where there was mail waiting. A three night stay waiting for mail order pharmacy to get their act together. How hard can it be to put the right state on a mail label? So Carolina and proper zip looks nothing like So Dakota and it’s proper zip. These are the folks that fill your rx’s! Always check your prescription bottles. Google your drug mfr for a pic of your pill or capsule and compare. Idiots abound in the workplace (and everywhere). Osprey is about 3-4 miles straight west of Ocean Lakes RV Resort, a mega Resort on the Atlantic and one where Sharon & I stayed many many times.
The next travel segment is a relatively long one without many ports/marinas midway to break it up. Along the way there are two bridges which will require opening and the Camp LeJune firing range any of which can create a delay. Further there are some shallow areas which the US Corps of Engineers survey shows as having shoaled even more due to Dorian. So the segment is long in distance and potentially even longer that normal in transit time. Tropical Storm Nestor is out in the Gulf and is expected to cross N FL, GA, SC before exiting to the Atlantic from NC. Winds for the upcoming weekend are consistently forecasted to be gale force for the Atlantic cast along with heavy rain. The forecast is for calm conditions come Monday. With that forecast I don’t want to anchor somewhere but rather wait it out tied up in a sheltered marina. So the choice is to stay north near the southern end of the Outer Banks or make a quick run south to Myrtle Beach area. Opted to go to Myrtle Beach to wait out the weather and am breaking the trip into three legs. The total distance would be 125 nm but not easily divided into equal or near equal segments.
So I decided that Thursday would be a short run of 17nm from Spooner Creek to Swansboro (technically Cedar Point). It would at least make Friday’s long run bearable. I got a reservation at city run, unattended Church St Dock located across from the inlet to the ocean. I was told by the person at city hall that I would side tie on the T head face dock.
There was a ripping current out to the ocean inlet. The current ran parallel with the dock while the wind was heavy directly away from and perpendicular to the dock. Being at a face dock, there were no poles or finger piers on the ‘other’ side of the boat to ‘lean’ up against and towards the open side was heavy shocking. Tie was by means of cleats mounted low on the dock and of course no one around to catch a line. Between the current pushing me down the dock and the wind pushing me away from the dock and missed attempts to lasso or drop a line around a cleat, it took 3 tries to secure a midship line and hold the boat in place while securing a second line. But happily I’m got all tied up, fenders in place and power working so all is well and leg 1 of this segment was finished.
Friday was a relatively early start to a long travel day of 71.5 nm (82 statute miles). I opted to shorten the upcoming Saturday segment by bypassing a stop at Wrightsville Beach and continuing to Southport NC on the Cape Fear River. I got a slip at Deep Point Marina which shared a basin with a major ferry service to neighboring Bald Head Island, a very touristy place. Think Mac Island or Jekyll Island with no cars on the island. Nice marina. I think there are 4 ferry boats running out of the basin with one docking or leaving every 20 minutes. So there was plenty to watch..
Left Deep Point Marina Saturday morning hoping to beat the rain to N Myrtle Beach. About 8 nm before MB I had an interesting experience. One of the pieces of advice frequently preached to boaters in an unfamiliar area is ‘to seek local knowledge’. I was approaching an inlet area called Lockwoods Folly, known for extensive shoaling. I had updated my chartplotter with a new, month or so old, US Army Corps of Engineers chart of their sounding of the area and it showed a large area of new shoaling on the starboard side (as you head south). I saw in front of me a commercial shrimp boat. “Why is it going so slow? What’s it doing?” I wondered. as I gingerly picked my way past, I saw that it was stopped and the deck hands were just wandering topside. They were grounded and either waiting for a tow (doubtful) or for incoming tide (a rising tide lifts all boats). So much for local knowledge. I wish I had gotten a pic but I was busy.
I had hoped to get reservations at Osprey Marina on the south side of MB but they were full with southbound boating snowbirds waiting out the storm. After a bit of a scramble, I reserved a slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club – actually just over the border in Little River SC. Interestingly to me, I had taken my motor home here in Dec ‘18 to look at a boat in this very marina. Anyway, the Yacht Club is located at the far end in Coquina Basin along with a couple other marinas and you pass by lots of docks and boats to get to the slip. Tied up just before 1 pm and the rain started 15 minutes later. No wind yet though. That’s supposed to blow in during the night hours. Plan on staying warm and dry tomorrow until the storm leaves, hopefully, late afternoon.
Early Sunday morning, 1:30 am, my iPhone started shrieking. Tornado warning! It was a strange warning – only for 1/2 hour and for 1/2 county. The half where I was. Not a lot of choices. Marina offices etc closed not that their bldgs looked like they’d withstand a tornado. So I got up and went up to the Pilothouse where I could sit and have a wide open view to the south and west. During that half hour only minimal rain and no thunder/lightening. When the warning expired, I headed back to bed. Later on Sunday I heard there was a touchdown in N Myrtle Bch damaging 4 homes. During the day saw nothing resembling gale force winds or winds, for that matter. Maybe 10 mph. It was a very grey, light rain and lots of drizzle day. So not nice and good day to be inside.
A nice run in nice weather today mostly within the banked confines of the ICW.
Most of the north south portion of the run was down Adams Creek where I finally ran into significant pockets of humanity.
At the southerly end of Adams Creek there was ample remaining evidence of Hurricane Matthew
At Beaufort/Morehead City, the ICW makes a sharp westerly turn and becomes a much wider body of water with its banks filled with development.
I headed to Spooners Creek Marina a few miles west of Morehead City. It’s a private condo marina that I also stopped at on the way north. The main reason I stopped there was the upcoming weather. The marina is off a small creek off the ICW and is quite protected. Tomorrow is supposed to be 100% chance of rain and windy. Possible gale force winds in fact. A good day to stay in a hidey hole. As long as I was here, I took advantage of their pumpout facility and also fueled up – 362 gal. I still had nearly 500 gal in the tank but the price and volume discount was OK and somehow it always feels good to have some tanks full and others empty. The trick at my age is to remember which is what.
Cabbed over to a nearby Wally World to reprovision. Another ‘tank’ full. Used the opportunity to buy myself a pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt. C’mon storm! And it complied. The rain started during the night and the first real gust that I’m aware of hit around 6 am (a slight bump against a face dock post. The boat is very quiet and very stable. About the only sound you hear is the light sound of water slapping the waterline which does transmit a bit below deck. Probably hear that in my stateroom once or twice a week as I go to sleep. When it’s there, the rythmatic light sound is very soothing. Anyway the following day was very wet outside and windy but far short of a gale. The life ring hanging on a hook at the fuel dock blew off and I took the opportunity during lulls to readjust the fenders and lines – three times ( as wind direction shifted and I was a side tie along a face dock). By late afternoon, the front moved offshore and the sun proved it was still present. A good evening to make spaghetti.
Today was planned to be a longer, for me, route. Actually, with good weather, waves and long runs of open waters, I accomplished the run in a bit more than 3 hours.
I’m back in shrimp and scallops country
I’m in a slip at Oriental Marina which shares the east side of the harbor with another shrimper fleet and processing/packing facility. The marina is small – 8 to 10 slips, with a motel, pool, restaurant and nice lawn.