Friday, January 23, 2009

Sailing with a Porpoise

Dolphins Off the Port Quarter

Travelling the bit of the ICW from Vero to West Palm we had the ultimate compliment. Meredith was joined by several dolphins who swam with us for about 20 minutes. While no longer unusual this is always a delight aboard our boat.

Here is a video of a bit of the fun:

Leaving Vero we made a deal with two fellow Canadian boats to cross the gulf stream together, maintaining at least radio contact during the interesting bits.

The first was Radical Jack piloted by Peter and Heather out of Yarmouth NS:

Peter and Heather hand built Radical Jack of from their own plans adopted I believe from a 40 foot Morris design.

Then there was Grace C out of Port Stanley under the supervision of Dick and Ruth:

Dick and Ruth were among the first employees at Kanter Yachts and before Grace C they sailed 24 foot aluminum sailboat built by Dick.

So what did Bob and Connie bring to this group?

We haven't got a clue. But we are not complaining.

Tension is building amongst the captains as departure time approaches.

Ciao Vero, Hello Memory Rock

Vero Beach Municipal Marina Club House

Freezing temperatures once again stalk the innocent boaters on the Florida ICW. Time to move south. This year the trip has been akin to living a Cormack McCarthy novel.

Meredith, travelling with 3 other boats, decided to move out of the safe haven of Vero Beach and make for Bahamas. Today our goal is Peck Lake, a waypoint and tomorrow Lake Worth from which we shall jump to the Bahamas.

This year we are going to enter the Bahamas at the North End, aiming for Memory Rock. Actually we hope to miss Memory Rock and sail 50 feet either side of it. This trip of 55 nm will take us across the gulf stream and in the process we will be moved some 10 miles northward.

From Memory Rock we make our way to Mangrove Cay and Great Sales Key We have not decided where to clear customs and immigration yet.

All in we are set to sail a good 100 to 130 miles. Departure is set for 9 p.m. to midnight tonight with the slower boats leaving a bit earlier so as to be in the pack when things get interesting, say mid gulf stream.

Next post is from the Bahamas and may be delayed due to lack of internet facilities.

Our Neighbour Doug from Murex helps Meredith unraft and get underway

At Vero all boats are expected to raft up on the mooring balls, up to 3 per ball. We spent two weeks in company with Murex and its single hand captain, Doug. It has taken Doug two years to bring Murex this far south from Baltimore. He keeps finding all this interesting female company along the way and, well, he just can't leave. My kind of dog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting Set for the Crossing

Barring major reversals in the forecast we will cross the gulf stream on Friday, January 23. To do this we would like to have Meredith in Lake Worth, a good jumping off point but two days from Vero.

Temperatures make daytime travel unpleasant or worse. Last night in the low 30's means today's predicted high of 53 (all in farenheit) won't be achieved until early afternoon. Mornings are too cold for travel on the water especially with winds remaining in the low 20 kn range.

We are not sure how it will all play out but we will do all in our power to effect a crossing to West End by week's end.

West End is only 53 miles from the Lake Worth Inlet, a short day. If we clear in there we still have 50 to75 miles or more to the Abacos.

After receiving a phone call from Towboat US yesterday I figure a clarification is in order. My blog on the careening of Meredith indicated we would not rely on Towboat for our towing any longer. Indeed we will not. We joined Seatow after the grounding and are now members of both organizations. The cost of each service is only about $150.

Many cruisers are members of both towing organizations. Now we know why. If one outfit is fully engaged elsewhere we can call on the other.

The two guys Towboat sent to our aid were both willing. The first guy was just very inexperienced and he was sent out in a Bayliner. He was clear from the outset about his lack of knowledge.

The second guy, Randy, knew his stuff. When he showed up at 3:30 a.m. with a properly outfitted boat he had us out of trouble in minutes. He was the dispatcher of the local operation and was thoughtful and expert.

We liked both of the guys.

We had no trouble with a towing organization having their vehicles fully engaged in a life and death search and unavailable to help us.

We did not like being towed into the mud; we did not like being promised a second towing vessel only to hear it sent on another call; we did not feel it appropriate to send a Bayliner to tow a 25,000 pound vessel and we did not like being mislead as to what efforts which would be made.

We would have preferred if Towboat had simply said "we cannot come until tomorrow morning". In fairness that may just the way we feel now. When we realized there was no help coming until after low tide had come and gone we were not feeling terribly charitable to anyone.

We have never had difficulty with Towboat in the past. We have never used Seatow before and, no offence to them, hope we never do. They sound very nice on the radio.

Our recommendation remains that you carry memberships in both towing organizations. It does not cost that much more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Escape from Vero - NOT

Along with 3 other friendlies we are trying to get out of Vero and down to Lake Worth, an anchorage from which we can cross to the Abacos.

It is not happening. No window of sufficient length has presented itself in the 12 days we have been here. A window, unforecast, was available today but of course we were not in place.

Friday looks good and we were to caravan our way south today. However the weather for today promised North winds of 30 knots and the Inland Waters were forecast to be rough.

Temperatures are heading into the 30's tonight (0 for you metric gnomes) not a problem for you guys stuck in -20's but remember we do not have heat. Sort of like living in Toronto in the winter, according to Randy and Donna.

Kudos are due to a few local outfits:

Carter's Marine Mechanics of Melbourne FL.

  • for rebuilding our raw water pump in 1 day for less cost than E & C Marine in Toronto took to do it in 2 weeks.

Novurania, a Vero Beach importer of high end dinghies.

Meredith's dinghy has a leak. West Marine sells Hypalon dinghies but does not sell repair kits. Get this - West sell hypalon glue but not fabric.

We called Novurania about our problem and asked if we could purchase fabric. Sure enough, that afternoon the sales guy from Novurania drove 1 linear foot of new pearl gray hypalon fabric to the marina. Way beyond the call.

NAPA on 12th Street

The lady at the Napa counter has expedited delivery of many spares direct to the marina.

We have 8 oil filters, two new fan belts which they took back twice until we got the ones that fit, and a new can of corrosion resistant spray at less than half the cost of Boeshield T9 at the local West Marine. The new stuff called Fluid Film is used by the US Navy in maintaining its nuclear subs so it should work on Meredith's metal parts.

RBC Bank, Vero Beach

The manager of this branch of RBC Bank in Florida accomplished in 20 minutes what our account rep in London could not do in 4 months. We have bank accounts and online access of both our US and Canadian accounts. RBC is so backward that if you have online access to your accounts through Canada you cannot view your US accounts. If you have online access via USA you can access and transfer between Canadian and US accounts with abandon.

RBC Canada is run by luddites. RBC Bank will soon eat its lunch.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fats Waller and Vero Beach

Just Who is Showing Whom Their Butt?
Shot from the Stern of Meredith

Today I will tell you about breakfast in Vero Beach.

To get to shopping and restaurants in Vero Beach we must dinghy to the dinghy dock in ample time to make the hourly bus. Commonly we like to take the first leg of the bus which gives us a tour through the oceanside shops at Vero before returning to the marina to pick up sailors heading downtown.

This particular morning we caught the first bus of the day, 7:45 a.m. Bob wanted breakfast.

Climbing on the bus we saw it was half full. Unusual as the bus was normally empty. A number of middle aged hispanic and black women were laughing and talking in the middle of the bus. It gave the bus a pleasant ambiance.

As the bus headed down the main road towards the ultra expensive beachside condos it became apparent that the riders of the bus were working class women: nannies and maids heading to their jobs looking after the homes and children of the rich Asian and white families who could affoard the million dollar views their condos provided.

The bus stopped a block shy of where it turned off the main road and entered the exclusive strip of shops, restaurants and condos on the beach row. The women stood as a group to disembark.

It dawned on me this bus stop was located to ensure that no one on the shopping street had to take any notice of the warn clothing and tired demeanor of the people who keep their world working. Sort of a Friz Lang, Metropolis, surreal kind of a moment.

As the women left the bus they joked and laughed with the bus driver. Each woman placed a dollar bill in a little tip cup the bus driver kept for the purpose. They were all good friends.

Although we had ridden the bus many times we had never noticed the tip cup. It was a little embarrasing.

We rode the bus to Toojays, a favourite deli/breakfast place. This restaurant is a bit tony but we could afford breakfast there. The parking lot was always full of Lincolns, Cadillacs and Mercedes, the patrons silver haired, manicured and well dressed. Except for us, of course.

Connie left to get a newspaper and returned with 2 locals to read over breakfast. Suddenly Connie erupted from her chair and with no warning other than a stricken look on her face, ran out of the restaurant.

Fearing food poisoning or diarrhea I followed along to the washrooms at a more relaxed pace to see if I can assist.

Connie was outside the restaurant searching for something; when putting the coins in the paper box she had set her wallet down, forgetting to take it up again when she retrieved the paper from the box.

The wallet was never found. No one turned it in to the restaurant; no one called to tell us they found it; no one took it to the police.

Living in a world of unbelievable plenty the aging rich of Vero Beach had to steal the pathetic $40 in my wife's wallet. It was not enough money to fill the tank of their Lincoln.

It occured to me that the mantra of the ruling class of American people is "I got my mine, screw you".

An old Fats Waller album, recorded live in some white club about the same time Fritz Lang was making Metropolis, has a moment where Fats softens his playing and tells his exclusively white audience: "I wonder what the poor people are doin'. Wish I was doin' it with them."

At the time I thought it was just a crude sexual reference. Again I find myself embarrased.

A day late and a dollar short we always tip the busdriver.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Velcro Beach The Intended Blog

There are things we like about sundown at Vero Beach: the sunset and Happy Hour.

Last night we visited Radical Jack to view an Engel freezer which Peter and Heather Loveridge which interests us. These two are semi retired and have brought their fascinating vessel down from Yarmouth. Oh, yes, and they also wrote the Cruising Guide to Nova Scotia. "The one with the red cover" Heather explains, published by International Marine.

Peter and Heather are on the left.

We ended up on Grace C owned by Dick and Ruth Foster out of Port Stanley ON shown on the right. These two are heading to the Abacos on their first trip. Dick was head of pottery at Hutton House back in London. These two are way cool except,as noted, they are not big fans of Miles Davis. This does not constitute grounds for refusal to drink with them however.

Head Over Heels in Velcro Beach

The Mooring Field at Vero Beach, Fl.
The purple arrow shows Meredith.

Talk about hot off the press. As I sat down to scribble something bland and favourable about Vero Beach the Budget Committee announced she was leaving to do the laundry. Did I want to give her a ride over in the dinghy or would I rather be stranded aboard Fortress Meredith?

Friends, Gary and Ruth aboard Grace C,expressed sincere ambivalence toward the talents of Miles Davis and played some truly horrible over orchestrated schlock in support of their position. For shizzle. Such blasphemy cannot be tolerated by any accolite of the master.

A DVD with Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue was burned and ready for delivery, the playing of either a death blow in war against ignorance.

Delivery of the missile of good intentions meant I needed the dinghy and in turn this meant I had to ferry the queen of the laundry to and fro.

I completed uploading the above photo, climbed out of the companionway and attempted to board the Walker Bay.

Now the Walker Bay is a bit cranky these days. She has a leak or PMS or some other female disease and is often to be found depressed and deflated or rather lumpy. Such was the case at hand, not that I noticed.

Stepping down onto the dinghy seat my right foot touched solid material but did not stop descending. After the foot failed to come to a vertical stop after six inches of decline I decided to pull myself back aboard Meredith and survey the situation. This required I shift my left foot just a couple of inches.


The deck narrows just where we board the dinghy and the spinnaker pole is fixed firmly to the deck aggravating the lack of floor space. There was however just enough distance for my sperry deck shoe to ram its sole under the spinnaker pole and lip of the toe rail. The left foot was firmly fixed in place.

The brain takes in all this information but sometimes fails to issue proper corrective orders to the affected limbs. The fact that the right foot is descending without authorization while the left foot refuses to budget despite increasingly strident commands to this effect left the old command centre paralyzed.

Just as the phrase "seruous sprain" pushed its way through the fog of war gripping the gray matter the left foot pulled free. A good thing right?


The right foot is a foot too low and the left foot, now four or more feet above it lets go, leaving Bob to spin on his right foot. But the right foot is poised on a depleted dinghy tube which seems to have no positive buoyancy whatsoever.

The right foot, bound by Newton's third law of motion (if you push on something it pushes back or gives) pushed harder on the deflated tube. Now the second law of motion kicked in (the one that says the harder you push the faster you go).

I executed a neat double axel and finished with a clutz, I mean a lutz.

Finding myself in cold salty water I waved jauntily to the onlookers aboard neighbouring Kairos who seemed be applauding my synchronized swimming skills and called to the Budget Committee to lower the ladder. "Connie" I called softly.

"Give a minute" was the reply from the companionway where my wife was assembling her kingdom of dirty laundry.

"Connie" came the plaintive call, a touch louder this time.

"I am not ready yet. Give me a chance to get organized.".

This was harder than I thought. "CONNIE. I fell in the water. Lower the ladder."

"Again?" emitted the companionway.

I stayed aboard and let the budget committee helm her own dinghy.

She pointed out she felt safer that way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Diesel Worship or Diesel Hell?

The offending parts - Note the chunck out of the seal and the deep groove worn into the shaft.

The only religion on Meredith is worship of the Diesel. This is not unusual amongst the cruising public as most of us treat our diesels like gods. Sometimes we forget that Mephisto is merely the diabolic implementation of Godhood.

On Douce Folie V Ben and Andree have even named their diesel, Nestor. Ben talks to Nestor for at least 10 minutes each morning before trying to start it. None of us tease him for this because Nestor always starts.

Aboard Meredith obeisance is paid daily in a check of all fluid levels and belt tensions before start.

The sacrificial aspect of this is the torture endured by Bob as he screws his immodest frame into all manner of inhuman shapes to get at the various indicators and dip sticks. Usually this daily immolation suffices to keep contented Meredith's little Beezebub. (On Meredith the diesel is even painted red).

Contentment of the diesel was not the order of the day as we hauled anchor out of Daytona Beach determined to make Titusville by nightfall.

This particular day fluid levels were all acceptable but when Bob stood up the Budget Committee gave a start. A thin smear of oil covered Bob's entire abdomen. As has been mentioned this is not a small surface area.

Looking again at the engine nothing could be seen except a small spatter pattern with no discernable origin.

There were also two drops of water on the raw water pump but the bottom of the outlet hose was also damp and Bob figured there was a small leak there. The budget committee agreed the engine should be checked often while underway.

The first 4 half hourly checks disclosed nothing. The fifth showed increased leakage at the raw water pump which was not from the hose - it was from the pump shaft.

Then all Hell broke loose. Diesel hell it should be noted is different from human hell. Human hell is just hot and you are engulfed in flames. Diesel hell is wet and hot and hot water and dirty engine oil spray over you continuously.

The Budget Committee, assuming Bob had screwed up somehow was unimpressed and expressed her opinion of childlike pranks. Soaked in hot water, his wife on his case and the continued existence of his diesel in the balance, Bob began to think diesel hell maybe was not so different from human hell.

Bob brought the Budget Committee to the companionway and had her put her hand under the shaft, which was now pouring out water out like a little red Manneken Pis.

We limped into Titusville and anchored for the night. Next morning we were up at dawn, moored in a berth and claiming a rental car. The pump was rebuilt by 9:00 a.m. next morning, reinstalled by Bob, blessed by two priests and Meredith was underway for Vero Beach by 11:00.

No more leaks.

St. Augustine to Vero Beach

Just Another Small Home Along the Florida ICW

Leaving St. Augustine Florida heading south we could not help but notice the change in weather. It was January 5 and the midday temps were in the mid seventies. This was joy.

Another thing we could not help but notice was the pace of home construction - things are booming along the waterway. But only if you want a 12,000 sq ft house.

I guess the guys who sold out America in the junk mortgage schemes have decided to sink their hard stolen gains and bonuses in real estate. There were dozens of enormous homes under construction, all attended by multiple trades and scores of workmen. Not much of a slowdown here.

We anchored behind a bridge in Daytona Beach and hit the sheets at sundown, ie. 5:30 p.m. The next day it was up with the sun intending to be away by 7:00 a.m. to make Titusville by nightfall.

Pretty Dull Huh?

It got better the very next day.

Careening Meredith - Summing Up

We attempted to anchor in Pablo Creek, just at Jacksonville Fl to find the entrance impassable. Despite the fact it was high tide we found ourselves stuck immovably in the mud bottom of the creek.

A call to Towboat produced a lot of excuses and discussion resulting in their sending out a Bayliner driven by a scruffy faced teenager who was too young to drive a car. First thing out of the operator's mouth was "I don't know much about towing sailboats".

His lack of knowledge extended well past sailboats.

He ended up trying to pull Meredith's 5 foot draft into 3 feet of water stopping only when he himself ran aground.

Passersby kept stopping and offering to call a tow service for us. They were suitably unimpressed when told by us that Towboat was on site as we pointed to the unmarked Bayliner and its unremarkable operator.

When Towboat quit towing Meredith was in 3 feet of water with a 4 foot tide going out.

As the tide continued its inexorable decline Connie discovered the bottom of the creek on the watery side of the boat was full of concrete blocks, rebar and other construction waste.

We needed to prevent Meredith from careening on the watery side of the boat. To do this Bob, totally naked and crotch deep in cold wet stinking ooze, carried a Fortress anchor to shore connected to a halyard. Connie winched this snug to provide a guy wire to help keep poor Meredith upright.

Returning to the boat and rinsing himself in the dubious water of Pablo Creek Bob then poised his not inconsiderable bulk on the end of the main boom extended 14 feet over said stinking ooze. Connie sat as far to landward as the deck would permit.

We sat down to wait for the tide to finish its seaward progress.

Four hours later, just after low tide, poor Meredith was indeed high and dry, her keel immersed in the said same cold wet stinking ooze. Not only that but Connie, whose legs were hung over an 8 inch rise and toerail had lost all feeling in her legs and could not stand. Bob, his butt stuck over a 6 inch wide boom had long ago gone numb and was to be found sobbing uncontrollably over the permanent loss of his sex life.

About 15 minutes after low tide we discovered the combined effects of the Fortress and Bob had shifted Meredith from a 5 degree starboard tilt (to water) to a 3 degree port tilt (to land).

Quickly we reorganized the crew to the centreline so as not to dump Meredith on her port side. Quickly is relative and must factor in the fact that Connie could not stand and Bob would not stop crying.

As the tide returned it brought support for Meredith with it.

About 11:00 p.m. as Bob slept in the cockpit, Connie stripped naked and lowered herself into the that hellish bottom of ooze to retrieve the fortress anchor, reasoning that it would have to be removed before Towboat returned at 3:30 a.m. to try to tow us once more.

Connie made a bit of noise hauling up the anchor and Bob awoke to find a naked woman covered in mud standing on the deck of his boat.

A bit groggy Bob was delighted. He had not had that kind of dream for decades.

Reality returned. Cold, wet, dirty but with the mast still erect, Bob and Connie slept in their berth for the first time that day.

Towboat arrived at 3:30 a.m. with qualified help driving a boat actually designed for towing and Meredith was quickly released from her temporary prison.

We anchored just out of the channel for the remaining 3 hours of darkness and ran the two hours to St. Augustine next morning. We slept for 15 hours solid.

We still wonder if the whole thing would have been such an adventure if Meredith had careened on the watery side, her hull pierced by the construction waste, her gelcoat scraped and the sailing season at a veritable end.

No matter. This was an adventure.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Careening Part 1 - Towboat or Seatow?

When you run aground and cannot extricate yourself you need a tow.

That is why boaters down the ICW all have towing insurance. There are two companies, Towboat US and Seatow. Meredith has used Towboat.

Until now.

One nice thing about Towboat is that you can call them on the telephone and do not need to announce your incompetence at running aground to the entire boating population over VHF radio.

This may be the only advantage to Towboat.

Having run aground at the Pablo River mouth we called Towboat to assist. The local Towboat base informed us all their boats were on a search for a missing vessel but that they would divert one to assist us. We urged they hurry as tide was still rising a bit and we thought a tow at high tide was a good idea.

When the Towboat arrived, 30 minutes after high tide had passed, the operator was driving a small Bayliner. Bayliners are not towing vessels. They are barely fit to be called boats.

The operator was almost as fit for towing duty as was the Bayliner. Sprouting a dirty face, obviously a failed attempt at growing a beard, he appeared to be 20 years old. Maybe.

The first thing out of his mouth was "I don't know much about towing sailboats."

The tide has turned. The kid in the Bayliner tries pulling Meredith forward. Nothing happened.

A couple of passing boats offer to help suggesting we "call someone, maybe a towing service".

We inform them that "Towboat is here" pointing to the unmarked Bayliner piloted by the highschool dropout. Shaking their heads in disbelief and sympathy the passersby mutter "You have got to be kidding".

Efforts to tow are not working. The kid on the Bayliner is towing with one hand while using the other to get telephone instructions from his base office.

He reaffirms that he knows nothing about towing sailboats. We begin to suspect his lack of knowledge extends even deeper.

Finally Bob calls the Towboat base and suggests that current efforts are not working. He informs the base that the tide has turned. The increasing stridency in Bob's voice is intended to match the increasing urgency of the plight of Meredith. Towboat base informs Bob that high tide is not for another hour and a half. Bob points out that high tide has already passed and they are currently at slack water.

Bob is really disconcerted because the Towboat base is only 1 mile from where he is grounded. Bob figures Towboat knows when High Tide occurs and they are just dicking him around. Bob is wrong. Towboat base is just clueless.

Towboat promises a second boat before the tide is reduced by any significant amount.

The kid in the Bayliner announces he has to stop towing because he is stuck. As he says "And I only draw 3 feet".

The Bayliner is stuck immediately ahead of Meredith.

Bob wonders aloud how the kid in the Bayliner can possibly be aground if he only draws 3 feet. The answer is chilling. "There is only 3 feet of water across the whole front of your boat" announces the kid.

It occurs to Bob to ask why the kid in the Bayliner was trying to pull Meredith into 3 feet of water when she draws 5 feet. It also occurs to Bob that this query exceeds the ability of the kid to answer so he holds his tongue.

The little twerp has been pulling Meredith INTO THE MUD. Good job kid. Why don't you apply for a job at McDonalds. Not as a burger flipper though, it's too dangerous for you.

About the time the second boat is due to arrive to help, hopefully with an operator who has actually towed a boat before, the VHF erupts. A boat stuck at Fernandina, just north of us, is calling Towboat for a tow. (apparently they do not know about the cool telephone communications).

Towboat Base promises a towboat to this second boat "right away".

Almost instantly our cell phone rings.

It is "Randy" from Towboat base who regrets to inform us that his second towing vessel cannot get to us. According to Randy this is because the starting motor for the second boat "blew up" when the second operator tried to start it.

Bob asks if this is the same boat that is now speeding unimpeded to Fernandina to help the guy on the radio.

Randy's response: "Oh, you heard that radio call did you?".

Well, yes Randy we did hear that. What else did we have to do while your unshaven idiot teenage son pissed away his afternoon playing in the mud in his Bayliner.

Bob suggested to Randy that his next call would be to the central Towboat dispatch number to let the guys at Geico, who run Towboat, know why he was buying a Seatow membership.

Randy promised to be at Meredith at the next high tide with 2 vessels. High tide, Randy informed everyone. was at 5:00 a.m. the next morning.

Bob sort of lost it at this point.

Bob's tide charts predicted high tide was at 3:30 a.m. Bob noted that Randy had missed high tide at Isle of Palms by an hour and a half that afternoon. Isle of Palms, Bob pointed out rather testily, was where the damn Towboat Base kept their damn boats.

Randy promised to be at Meredith with 2 towing vessels equipped for towing at 3:00 a.m.

The phone call was terminated.

Careening Part 2 - How to Keep the Mast in the Air

Finding ourselves solidly aground at the mouth of the Pablo River near Isle of Palms Florida we had been unable to extricate ourselves using the high tide water at 3:00 p.m.

Stuck in 4 feet of water with a 5 foot draft Meredith faced an outgoing tide of about 4 feet.

The math here is simple. Meredith was going to be careened, ie. her entire hull was going to be out of the water at low tide.

This is not normal for a sailboat which is designed to float in the water, not sit on the ground. There is history to suggest the British Navy used to careen their boats regularly so the crew could scrape off all the barnacles and sea life that clung to the hulls.

Meredith is a modern boat and certainly not British. We have a head for God's sake. And running water.

Faced with Careening we turned to our first source of emergency information: Nigel Calder's Cruising Guide. Then we argued about whether to implement Mr. Calder's excellent suggestions.

Connie wanted to use all effort to try to persuade Meredith to lie down on her port side, the side closest to shore. Bob thought the effort, which was significant, a waste and that it might be better to careen on the starboard or "water" side.

Connie started to take action: draining the 150 gallon water tanks, moving all the movables to the port side of the boat, circling the deck watching the bottom as the tide receded.

Bob read a book.

As more of the bottom became visible Connie spied a line of concrete blocks and construction debris submerged on the starboard or "water" side of the boat. Someone had dumped unwanted construction fill in the entrance and if Meredith careened on that side she would suffer grievous injury and perhaps be holed.

Bob put his book down and rose, galvanized into action or at least turgidity.

Together we fell into frenzied action. Fenders were rigged to give protection from the concrete blocks. Blankets, our best and only blankets and our new and coveted duvet, were hung strategically over the side to further protect gelcoat and fibreglass from the protuding petards.

On the port side the mud bottom was above water to about 6 feet from Meredith. The boat was heeled about 5 degrees to Starboard - the wrong way.

Now came one of the tricky bits. We wanted to rig a kedge off the port side, an anchor with a halyard attached to help pull Meredith over to port.

Our trusty Fortress anchor was readied for action. Stringing a line on the Fortress Bob tried to throw it over the side with predictable results. It fell well short. We needed to have the anchor several meters off the side if the halyard were to have any effect.

Looking at the mud Bob started to remove his pants.

This did not impress Connie. Her look alone caused Bob to explain "I'm not walking through that mud with my clothes on".

Bob lowered himself an inch or two at a time into the cold, wet, stinking ooze searching with his toes for a firm bottom on which to stand. When his foot stopped sinking the mud was halfway up his thigh. He took the anchor from Connie and clutched it to his chest afraid of losing balance in the mud. Connie took hold of the halyard to guide it clear of shrouds.

So it is broad daylight. A naked fat man is standing in mud flats clutching an anchor to his bosom, appearing to illicitly board a boat occupied by a Rapunzel like girl who is trying to repel the boarder.

This is the middle of the bible belt.

Maybe God does live here because no boater passed Meredith the entire time.

Returning to the boat Bob saw a foot and half of Meredith's waterline already out of the water.

Back on Meredith, Connie had sat herself on the mainsail boom and swung herself out on the port side of the boat. She was hanging directly over the 3 feet of muck on a boom which was 4 inches wide.

It was agreed that Bob, who has considerably greater mass than Connie, should act as the weight on the end of the boom.

So with one of us on the boom sitting over a mud bath and other sitting as far outboard as possible on the port side we settled in for the hours it would take the tide to finish its outbound journey before it would return to save our poor Meredith.

We had done what we could and now we had to wait for our boat and home to fall over.

It was looking like a long night.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 - Benners Not Always Adrift

It is January 10, Saturday.

This is an interim message just to kick start the blog in the new year.

We are headed for Vero Beach, Fl and should make the marina by 2:00 p.m.

Vero Beach is a haven for cruisers, offering inexpensive moorings, free bus service to the shopping areas and a lot of fellow boaters.

Much needs to be done to get Meredith ready for the crossing to Bahamas: Supplies laid in, all minor repairs completed, spares checked and in full supply. Vero Beach is the place to do it.

Our first week back has been hectic, what with our stranding poor Meredith high and dry in Pablo Creek and losing our raw water pump but our progress southward has been almost unimpeded.

We are in striking distance of the Bahamas and can choose now at any time to cross.

Stories on the grounding and the water pump will follow.

A lot of fun surrounds the grounding. The Greeks had it right: a fine line divides tragedy from comedy, the latter often based on the former.

We laugh ourselves silly at some of the things we have done in just one week.