Sunday, January 31, 2010

So Tell Me Again: What Does Foolproof Mean?

Meredith remains in Vero.

Yesterday the Budget Committee went up the mast.

Several weeks ago while approaching the visitor centre on the Dismal Swamp (a free dock) poor Meredith was piloted into a tree by the Curmudgeon. Not a ground level tree, a great green aerial thingy with branches and leaves and things designed by God to have as their single purpose the mangling of our masthead.

You would be amazed at how often God has it in for the Curmudgeon. He is special you see.

In the process of docking poor Meredith the pilot somehow got his masthead into the skyborn minefield. It dislodged our windex which fell with a clatter and two bounces onto the deck. (For nonsailors the windex is a little arrow that sits on the masthead and revolves in the wind. By looking at the windex sailors can tell how badly they have trimmed their sails. It is invaluable as sailors are always interested in how well they have trimmed their sails (and universally dismayed at how poorly they have done). The windex is conveniently located at the masthead to make it near impossible to see. On a sunny day the windex also acts to ensure that sailors get a full neck tan, assured as they are constantly gazing upward.)

Anyway, ours fell off. And as all sailors know, you cannot sail a boat without a windex.

A new one was ordered from Defender, our mailorder house of choice, and arrived in a timely fashion on Monday last. Which is where it sat until the Budget Committee decided the wind had fallen sufficiently for her to be safely pulled up the mast. Fat chance of that.

In fairness it has been windy.

Friday was the day.

The bosun's chair was made ready by the Budget Committee and stocked with the tools and chemicals she would need to install the new windex. As she tended to this I concocted an intricate series of blocks designed to carry the halyard I would use to haul my beloved to her aerial workshop. The blocks carried the line from the mast to our powered anchor windlass.

Once ready the BC awkwardly (the only way you can do this) stood at the base of the mast with her rear end extended into the bosun's chair waiting for someone to snug up the halyard so she could sit.

A second halyard was attached to a shoulder harness worn by the BC as a safety measure. As the BC was hauled aloft the idea was that the safety line would be kept snug manually by the operator. If the main line failed for any reason the BC would be caught by the safety line and held up by her harness.

Snugging the halyard was simple enough. Wrap the line around the winch and press the "up" button. Yup. Foolproof.

The first go at it produced a snarled mess on the windlass capstan that tightened itself into a Gordian knot. It was nearly decided to cut the halyard until the windlass operator realized that the powered winch would be as effective in reverse as it was in forward.

This allowed the second go at it. Without going into a long embarassing story let's just say that the second go did not work either.

There was one really cool effect however. The Budget Committee got as far heavenward as the spreaders before things went awry. There she sat in her bosun's chair. The windlass operator (that would be me) dutifully snugged up the safety line. Just then the main line snagged itself on the windlass and things rapidly ceased moving. Breakers blew on the feed to the windlass which was disturbing because they were 60 amp breakers.

While the operator fought to free the main line the BC dangled in midair. Finally the windlass was persuaded to give up its hold on the main line and there was slack. The line loosened by a foot or two the operator continued to work at untangling the mess on the capstan.

The operator forgot however about the safety line.

The Budget Committee did not. As the shoulder harness took up the pressure of keeping the hapless BC aloft it tightened itself on the torso of the BC.

That harness settled on the firmest most prominent features of the poor BC and held on tight. The poor BC was being held aloft by her two most prominent projections. Talk about a bustier.

Apparently this was not a comfortable situation as the BC succinctly informed the ground crew. When the ground crew stopped laughing the BC was quickly lowered to ground where a further discussion of tactics ensued.

Moments later the ground crew had rerigged the halyards to the cockpit winches and started the slow labourious process of manually hauling his wife's ass up the mast.

Once there the BC worked like a pro - that is like she was being paid by the hour. Carefully and slowly she removed the remnants of the old windlass, reinstalled a new base and ressurected the windex pole.

And now I always know how badly my sails are trimmed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


January 24, 2010
Vero Beach Fl.

Sunday was shaping up nicely. Gentle breezes kissed us awake and we rose well after 8. While the Budget Committee read I prepared a pretty fair breakfast of Huevos Mutalenos Meredith style.

[recipe included for Peter Loveridge who shared a delightful recipe for blackened anything on Facebook a couple of days ago]

The Meredith style of mutalenos just gives you some freedom: flour tortilla instead of corn being the foremost. Build a lovely open faced omelette with sausage, ham, peppers (bell, jalapeno, chipotle, whatever you have), onions, garlic and cheese with a liberal dose of green sauce and sriracha to taste.

Move the omelette open faced onto a tortilla, roll it up, fry it a bit for heat and serve the wrap two to a plate with salsa and more green sauce. And refried beans if you got 'em. And fried potatoes.

Finishing the last mouthful of coffee I had just hiked the waistband of my old shorts to its position of ultimate comfort and had entered a reverie. A reverie is when I review individually the virtues of each napping spot on the boat and dwell on each of the good points. A fatal blow was dealt my passive imagination by discordant tones emanating from the general direction of the Budget Committee. Something about wanting to get some work done.

"But it's Sunday dear" I suggested hopefully not having heard what was actually said (how could I I was in a Reverie), "A day of rest for all good Catholics".

"You are NOT Catholic" she demurred "And you said we were going to clean the bottom of the dinghy today"

Cleaning the bottom of the dinghy? From what blighted repose in Lucifer's dungeon had that ugly piece of heresy sprung? It was of course too late. Like spirits released from Pandora's box once an idea of the damned is in the air there is nothing mortal man can do to impede its implementation. Which did not mean I did not try, if feebly.

"I SAID NO SUCH THING". It wasn't much but you play the cards you are dealt.

"On Tuesday I said I wanted to clean the dinghy bottom before we hauled the dinghy onto our deck for the crossing to Bahamas. I didn't want a scummy barnicly thing oozing its filth all over the deck. YOU said Sunday would be a good day to get to that job done because we had all day to work on the boat and we didn't need any parts".

Well, of course I had said THAT. But I didn't mean it. It was defensive. The day before we had finished a ten hour run down Florida's ICW in cold weather with mighty cross winds. I wanted a day off. I wanted Tuesday off. And I got it. But to get Tuesday I had indentured myself for Sunday. The Budget Committee does not forget.

So we gathered our cleaners, the brushes, the clothes, the gloves, a bucket, hats for sun protection and our individual shower bags that we kept stocked and hung on the hook on the back of the door to the head. Most of the cleaning products, cloths and brushes were for my shower. Cleaning a dinghy bottom is a dirty job.

In the end the job was relatively easy. We hauled the dinghy up the ramp by hand, removed its innards and flipped it over expecting the same nightmare we had found last time we dared engage in such frivolous activity. Save for a few dozen anemic barnacles the bottom was pretty much clean.

What had happened? The dinghy had been in the water continuously since August 1, 2009. By rights there should be some 6 foot tendrils rooted to her undersides, a marine tribute to Jacques Cousteau sort of thing. There was virtually nothing. We figure a month floating in the St. Johns river at Green Cove Springs had acted like a nice chemical scraper to scour most of the offending crud from the bottom of the dinghy. If so the bottom of Meredith will be so clean.

The barnacles that had attached themselves to the Walker Bay had already read the tea leaves so to speak. They had seen the future and rather than be crushed under the irresistible force of Connie's "Made in Ontario" windshield ice scraper they nearly lept to the ground choosing Bushido honour of seppuku over murder by snow machine.

When the bottom of the dinghy is so easy to clean you must lend yourself to performing a much more complete job of washing the removable floor and subfloor and seat: things I had never before bothered to wash (why? they were just going to stepped on again as soon as we climb back in)

Walker Bay would have been proud of our clean little 8.5 Genesis dinghy I must say. We had finished the cleanout and I was reattaching the removable seat when I noticed the underside of the seat panel was dirty. I pulled it back and started to clean each little cubicle on the underside left where the support members crisscrossed each other. {I wonder why the barnacles don't just congregate there. NO one would ever bother them)

The Budget Committee offered up that my cleaning was probably not necessary.

"But we have given so much attention to all the other parts of this dinghy the seat will feel we don't value it if we don't clean it too" was my automatic and unthinking reply.

"There you go anthropomorphizing again. You talk to the diesel every morning before you start and now the dinghy. You talk the boat as much as you talk to me. Should I be concerned?"

In a split second the thought crossed my mind "Yes but after you Beta (our diesel) and the dinghy are my two best friends". Quickly sanity regained legislative authority over the logic circuits and thank goodness the mouth had not spoken what the mind had in it.

Must be all that lawyer training.

Sunday on the Beach

January 24, 2010
Vero Beach, FL

Sunday at Vero Beach Municipal Marina is necessarily a slow day. Necessarily because the buses do not run. All that is left is reading, corresponding or working on the boat.

The weather is good so work on the boat is a priority - much work was scheduled to be done at Green Cove Springs but was cancelled due to uncomfortably subzero temperatures. We could not even paint as the paint would not set before it froze.

The wind is up so Connie cannot go up the mast to effect much needed repairs - our windex was knocked off in a collision with a tree in the dismal swamp. I fear the anemometer was bent a touch in the same collision but this seems to have improved the accuracy of the wind instrument.

Last night's dock party - every Saturday 4 to dusk - confirmed that our reputation as sailors has been greatly enhanced by our son in law Nic's acceptance into the Coast Guard. For some reason his success translates in the minds of our fellow sailors into our being better sailors.

All I can say is Nic better get promoted soon.

One of the problems with cruising is the loss of contact with family. Sharing Nic's hard won success is one example.

Today is our son, Jake's, birthday. He is off on an adventure to BC where he is working at the Olympics. We think he is in Whistler but of course we do not know.

We sent birthday greetings to our son on Facebook, Facebook message and text to his last known telephone number. All we can do is hope one of them connects. It would be nice to talk to him.

It is not that we worry about him, other than the usual parental concern, but on days such as this we more keenly feel the absence of his company and that of the rest of our family.

No lifechoice is perfect. And none is irreversible. But, at any given moment some are just better than others. And sometimes you are left wondering.

Who Needs a Diagnosis, I'll Just Treat the Symptom

January 23, 2010
Vero Beach FL

Today the Budget Committee laundered 4 loads of dirty stuff. There was more than 4 loads to be done but the BC took pity on another overburdened boat wife and both boats ended up getting not all laundry done but at least the important stuff clean. Had the BC not achieved this we could not have attended the dock party scheduled for every Saturday afternoon - 4 to dusk.

While the BC idled away her afternoon waiting for the clothes cleaning machines to do their work (yes, yes, this is written jokingly) I busied myself correcting the plumbing mess created when I replaced the freshwater pump on Thursday.

Flashback to Thursday which was the day of the repair which lead to the mess:

In point of fact the freshwater pump did not quit, quite the reverse. Rather all at once it just started to pump - and would not quit. It ran and ran and as it did it began to sound increasingly like a runaway locomotive as each of its four little pump pistons slammed themselves mercilessly against the column of water contained in each tiny cylinder. When a system fails on Meredith we have a procedure:

1. Immediately go to whatever part of the failed system we last "fixed". Almost always your current problem is caused by your last enhancement or "fix".

2. In those rare cases where procedure #1 does not work we start with the simplest fix and work our way up through each increasingly difficult fix until we find something that works.

3. If neither #1 nor #2 produce any useful results we read the manual and Nigel Calder's excellent Boatowners manual.

4. If all else fails we look at the cost of a new part or system. Then we check on the cost of repair. When the cost of repair exceeds 1/2 the cost of a new part or system we replace the whole system. Now there is some art to this. Any time estimate by a repairman must be increased by 25% to 100%. Cost of parts suffer a similar inflation factor. Cruisers have not generally had good experience with repairpersons.

Prior to Thursday we had not worked on the pump for a couple of years so it was not my fault. The water tank was full (an empty tank causes the pump to run while it tries futilely to build up water pressure by pumping air. Water is incompressible while air is eminently not.

The taps were all off. We checked the taps for leaks. None were found.

The pump continued to run.

Moving up the "difficulty" chain we had to check the freshwater filter which is placed in the inlet to the pump. It traps any large particles or scum which may have found their way into the water system before the detritus can destroy the pump itself. If the filter is plugged the pump can get no water and again finds itself pushing hard to build water pressure when no water is available.

Now here is the thing about difficulty: the filter is attached to the inlet side of the pump and the pump is located in a locker at the far aft end of the quarterberth.

The Budget Committee had just filled that locker with 3 months worth of canned goods (87 cans in total) in preparation for our sail to Cuba and beyond. Every single can had to be removed from the locker before we could access the pump.

As the BC emptied the locker I dug out the spare pump (we carry 2) and readied it for installation. It needed new electrical connectors installed and one of the power leads needed to be lengthened. Preparing the spare pump was jumping ahead a step as if the filter was plugged we would clean it the repair would be done. I would not then need to install the spare pump. However the BC was working hard in cramped quarters undoing hours of careful packing and inventorying and I found myself shamed into "keeping busy" for the duration.

When we had access to the pump it was obvious the filter was not the problem. It was pristine. This surprised me.

So here was the situation: the pump was running incessantly, the tanks were full, the taps were off, there were no discoverable leaks and the filter was clear. It must be the pump. Good job I had readied the spare eh?

The spare went in in ten minutes and the system tested fine. The pump ran only when the taps were opened. Success.

We figured the pump head on the old pump had worn out and could not hold the 35 pounds of pressure the pump had to hold for the freshwater system to work. Being a cruiser I did not dispose of the old pump as I might need it some day for parts. Instead I carefully stored it with the two other broken pumps which I am saving for the same reason.

The job done the BC carefully repacked the 87 cans (she counted) she had removed from the locker and we replaced the cushions, blanket, spare sunbrella cloth, shade cover, spare stainless rod, books and charts and binoculars to their proper place. The quarterberth is our garage.

Success however is a fickle friend and this ends the flashback and returns us to the beginning of the blog.

The night of the repair as we were lying in bed reading we heard the bilge pump alarm go off. This was suspicious as it had not rained and the engine had not been running so no water was coming in the stuffing box. There should be no other source of outside water getting into the boat. There wasn't.

Moments later the freshwater pump cycled on for 5 seconds.

Half an hour after that the freshwater pump cycled again, only for 5 seconds.

We spent an unslumbrous night listening to the intermittent cycling of the freshwater pump and the less frequent but related operating of the bilge pump signaled by the bilge pump audible alarm.

I spent an hour looking at all the parts of the freshwater system trying to find a leak. At 3 a.m. staring bleary eyed into the bilge the problem presented itself. A very fine and intermittent spray of water was emitting at irregular intervals from a point where the freshwater hose had been cut and repaired by an earlier owner.

We now had a ready fix for the obvious problem but the whole freshwater system was now suspect. In replacing the pump we had repaired only a symptom mistaking it for a cause. It was possible that the intermittent spray leak was the cause of the earlier loss of pressure and that replacement of the pump had not been necessary. We had not looked far enough into the problem.

While the BC did the laundry I removed the old hose and examined the connections. They were rotten. Every connection and there were 10, all rotten. Any one or all of them could have give away at any moment. Had a hose given while we were off the boat the pump would have quickly pumped all 100 gallons of freshwater in our forward tank into the bilge.

Replacing the connectors and hose was a simple task but it required that I once again access the freshwater pump. Which in turn required that I unpack the aft locker, all 87 items, yet again, to permit access. All of which explains why I undertook the job while the BC was off the boat doing the laundry.

All the old connections have been redone and are sound.

The Budget Committee has repacked the aft locker a third and final time in a week (all 87 items). BC has ceased mumbling unheard comments and I am reducing her sedatives.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Finally Some Perspective, or as I Said to My Date: Your Paranoia or Mine

January 22, 2010
Vero Beach Florida

The View from the Porch of the Riverside Bar, 200 metres from Meredith.

Pulling into the Siren Marina at Vero Beach FL you feel the attractive force working over your psyche.

"Meredith, This is Vero Beach Municipal Marina. You are on Mooring Ball #4 just off your Starboard beam. Welcome Back"

"Welcome Back?" This is the first kind word spoken in our general direction since Meredith entered Florida. It got better.

Our gameplan for Vero had grown considerably in size and scope since we were unable to effect any repairs or improvements to our boat in Green Cove Springs. It was too darn cold. In consequence we found ourselves planning spares lists and phoning parts orders for delivery to Vero all along the ICW from Green Cove. The marina at Vero is a secure place to have things delivered.

Day 1, our first ashore in a week of slogging along the boring and frigid inland waterway of Northern Florida, was spent gloriously basking in the luxury of land based services. Long slow showers were followed by big breakfast at Toojays, a $5 first run movie at the Indian River mall and a stroll in warm weather - inside the mall.

We were back to work on Wednesday. Sort of. Connie needed to source out some much needed linen for the boat and I had a need for some 1/2 inch waterline and fittings for the fresh water pump.

Climbing on the No. 1 bus we realized that some changes had indeed inveigled their way into the Vero Beach Experience. The buses were new.

Gone were our old favourite characters: the one legged mother, freaky cell phone guy and the sacary spiky haired guy. These were no where to be found. Hopefully all were in a better place although I fear Spiky Hair Guy might be incarcerated somewhere.

In their place we had new regulars: Bubbles, Rusty and Zula, the last named after the Grace Jones role in Conan the Destroyer. Bubbles, if you have seen only one episode of Trailer Park Boys needs no introduction. Zula, baby in hand and warrior glare fixed in place had her hair pulled well up her forehead and had piled it in a ring of spiky monuments surrounding her face. I will get to Rusty in a minute.

These are new regulars on the bus and were welcomed by the Budget Committee and me without reservation. We in turn were accepted. There is an inclusionary atmosphere on the bus - unless you want to get all superior. Most cruisers participate.

Let me give you some examples:

Riding the No. 2 bus, which you pick up at the transfer point at Pocahontas Park and which carries you to the mall, we found the bus full. There were no seats available when we left the transfer point and we would not be disgorging any until we got to the mall. We would, however, be picking up several travellers along the way.

Rusty had an outside seat one row in front of us.

As the No. 2 came to a stop at the Courthouse, Rusty was out of his seat in a flash. No fuss, no commotion just efficiency of movement which is difficult in a man carrying as much extra weight in as many odd places as Rusty. Before I realized it a single mother climbed aboard the bus, baby in arms. There only 6 feet from her was an open seat. No one to thank as Rusty had made sure he vacated early enough that the mother would not be embarrassed at someone making this somewhat tarnished time honoured courtesy available to her.

Two stops later there were some empty seats. A mother climbed on pulling a three year old boy. The boy had trouble focusing his eyes. As the mother passed the third row of seats the boy spotted a baby girl sitting with her mother. He immediately made a fuss, wanting to see the baby. His mother, frustrated and obviously tired, tugged at his arm. As the mother did this the the woman sitting in the aisle right in front of us climbed out of her seat and moved to a new seat at the rear of the bus. The boy was pacified and happy looking at the baby one seat ahead of him.

Simple things. Small acts of courtesy demonstrating a sensitivity to the needs of others and a willingness to help that had not been in evidence in this bastion of flowing white hair and privilege called Florida.

Returning from the mall that day our old friend, Leonard, one of the bus drivers was driving our bus and we shared a homecoming. Leonard seemed as glad to see us as we were to see him. For 10 minutes we caught up on old news and children. His son graduates from college this spring and that will be a relief to Leonard. Our son, same age, just left home on another grand adventure.

At the transfer point we had another 10 minutes to catch up and we will ride the bus on Monday because Leonard is driving our route that day. We are looking forward to it.

It was nice to find ourselves in a friendly and accepting place. It is rare in Florida. Vero is a real treat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Jolly Polly Fish Heads

January 18, 2010
Vero Beach, Fl

The Budget Committee Feeds the "Poor Hungry Seagulls" who were following in our wake.
This was especially appreciated by Curmudgeon as only the day before he had commented adversely on his inability to entice more birds to use his deck for their daily ablutions.

Yesterday we made 60 nm. This is 70 statute miles or 120 km for the new generation. It was our intention on leaving Titusville at Eau Gallie to visit friends who were sitting with their very sick diesel. After the 5 hours on the water required to accomplish this we examined the situation carefully and chose to keep going. There was a hellish crosswind blowing (22 knots on the beam) and the channel was both narrow and shallow. A bad combination.

Also we were not sure which marina our friends patronized and since there were yards on both sides of the water we were pretty sure we would choose wrong and then have to dinhy across 2 or 3 miles of rough water in high wind. Finally the anchorages were not that well protected.

Actually what drove the decision was the fact we had made 7 knots or better the whole way from Titusville and there was no way on this planet that Captain Curmudgeon was going to give that up.

Another 5 hours saw us home at Vero Beach Municipal Marina. Departure 7 a.m. Arrival 5:00 p.m. Sixty miles to the good.

Needless to say after 12 hours of steady helming we were tired and after a drink and some cheese and crackers we made our way to our comfortable berth finding sleep about 6:30 p.m.

Before bedding down we did try to call Customs and Border Protection. After 12 minutes on hold we hung up and tried again. On the second attempt we got a guy who gave us a phone number in summary fashion and told us to report forthwith. That number did not work. It did not seem to be on the network.

More on reporting and attitudes in a later post.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Equipment and Vendor Review

January 17, 2010
Titusville, FL

From time to time friends ask about outfitting their boats. We tend to research products fairly thoroughly before we buy something for Meredith and so we are always surprised when things are not satisfactory. Our big failure, the Northstar Autopilot and worse, its vendor, Navico, is nearly alone in our list of unsatisfactory equipment. It is difficult to tell someone else how they should outfit their boat but here is some of our hands on experience with everyday cruising products:

1. Garhauer Blocks: First rate, tough rugged and fairly priced. Good telephone support as long you don't get silly about it. AAA product and support

2. Beta Diesel: Our new Beta has been outstanding. We now have 300 uneventful hours on it. It is a dream to work on. The only snag has been the total shredding of an impeller in our raw water pump. However the design of the heat exchanger made the finding and removal of all those little bits of broken vane (in our case hundreds of bits) fairly easy. Fairly easy not totally easy. Then Stanley, the presence of Beta in the US, gave us a new impeller as the old one should not have failed. AAA product and support

3. Cobra Electronics Chartplotter: This is a dark horse entry. We purchased an inexpensive chartplotter from Cobra at the Toronto boat show some 3 years ago last week. We were dubious because of the overly reasonable price. The chartplotter worked flawlessly for 18 months. This is 18 months of 12 hours a day operation. Then the screen died. We returned the unit to Cobra US and they replaced it in a few days. The new unit suffered a button failure about 5 months later - I think it was a software issue but the most important button on the unit would not register. Cobra replaced the unit in 3 days. We like the unit - it is small but has all the features we need. We would not hesitate to buy Cobra anytime. Product - B, Support AAA

4. Tohatsu Outboard: We purchased our 9.8 4 stroke outboard from a local dealer in Lake Sylvan New York. The price was fair and delivery fast. The outboard has performed very well under taxing circumstances. Except for some water and dirt in the carburettor, which is not a problem with the outboard but rather a problem for the outboard, the outboard works - every time. Product AAA, Support - Not Tested

5. Defender Industries, Online Marine Supply: First rate telephone help and delivery. If you are using a Canadian Credit Card ask for the woman who handles the Canadian desk. Prices are fair and followup and service are second to none. I prefer Defender to most of the marine chandleries in Toronto - they give better advice and take care of problems with no fuss. Support AAA

6. Aquasignal LED Anchor Light: This was supplied by Defender Industries and we installed it in Waterford NY. It has worked flawlessly. Current draw is .2 amp compared to 2 amps for the old incandescent. Product - AAA, Support Not Tested.

7. Sensibulb LED Cabin Light Replacement Bulbs from Sailing Solutions: A first rate product. Bulbs for your old fixtures cost about $20 each. Your current draw is reduced by 90% from 1 amp to .1 amp for each bulb replaced. Some incandescents use even more than 1 amp. A common problem with LEDs is the colour of the light - many LEDs tend to be cold blue light. Not the sensibulb. It is warm yellow light pretty close to our old incandescents. These bulbs also have a good broad light distribution patter. We are very happy after 2 years of use. Product AAA, Support Not Tested.

8. LED Cabin Replacement Lights from Cruising Solutions: Another good product but note that Cruising Solutions is NOT Sailing Solutions. Slightly less expensive than sensibulb, gives more light but the light is not as warm. Happy with the bulbs after 6 months but would look at sensibulbs just for the warmer light. Same fabulous reduction in current draw. Product AAA (cause light colour is a bit personal)

9. LED Nav Light Replacement bulbs from Cruising Solutions: For $50 we replaced all the bulbs in our nav light fixtures. Now we can sail all night and use less than 2 amps current total. Highly visible and meets all Coast Guard standards.

10. Honda 2000 Generator: We have used our Honda for 5 years now. You can go cruising without one but you would be brain dead. If you break the bank installing solar and wind power you are most likely to still need your generator. Most honest sailors admit to it. We have 2 solar panels which we keep in our basement - we do not need the hassles and inconvenience and general ugliness. The Honda charges the batteries in place of using our $10,000 diesel, it fires up the ceramic heater on nights when we are just too cold, it acts as an emergency charging source in the middle of the night. Product AAA, Support Not Tested.

11. Link 10 Battery Monitor: You have no idea how important your batteries are when you are cruising. The Link 10 tells you most of what you need to know. We would not go cruising without ours. Product AAA, Support Not Tested.

12. Acer Aspire Netbook Computer: Leave your laptop at home. Our Acer cost $300, has a solid state hard drive and no moving parts other than the cooling fan which never seems to need to run. It uses less than 1 amp of current compared to the 5 to 8 amps used by most laptops and has all the functionality you need. (you can use it for 5 hours for every 1 hour of laptop use) We use it for email, internet, backup chartplotting, television and movie watching. Having no moving parts it does not break. Product AAA, Support Not Tested

13. Soda Stream Soda Pop Maker: Hauling cases of pop to your boat gets to be a real drag. Friends Gord and Laurie on Mystic introduced us to the Soda Stream Pop Machine. Compact, easily stored and reasonably priced we bought one. It was fantastic. You put a bottle of water into the machine and the machine carbonates it using bottled gas. You then add flavour and voila: Pretty Good Pop. However the Sodastream used to be sold in all Boater's World stores but they have gone bankrupt. You have to buy supplies online. When we called last Friday to do just this an insolent little telephone bitch told us "We don't sell to Canadians. If you don't live in our country the company policy is that we won't sell to you". Now this mentally impaired order taker meant that their visa payment processor could not handle online visa payments if the cardholder did not have a US zip code. Her explanation made sense to her. Product: B, Service F

14. VISA: Now before you all go snaky telling me that you can use your Visa card in the US with no trouble just listen to me. You cannot use your Visa card at any gas pump in Florida. You must enter a ZIP code at the pump. If you have a postal code you cannot buy gas. You must go to the clerk and prepay. Instead of fillup at the pump you go to the cashier, return to pump gas, return to the cashier to finish paying. Soda Stream, as said above will not sell to Nonresidents of the USA due to Visa processing issues. Defender Industries has a special desk for non US visa card payments. PYacht laughed in our faces last year at the Annapolis Boat Show telling us "We don't sell to your kind (meaning Canadians)". The problem is a creeping one and may only be in the USA.

15. Northstar /Navico Autopilot Drive Head: The Northstar AP380 autopilot has been a disapointment. When it works it works acceptably. It broke after 10 hours of use and Navico took almost 4 months to replace it. And then they only did something due to pressure from our vendor, Defender Industries. Friends with Simrad Robertson autopilot, also marketed by Navico, found service to be abominable as well and a local dealer (not Defender) told us Navico service is not very good and is very very slow. Product C+, Support F

That is it for now.

Log: You Know, It's Warm When...

January 17, 2010
Titusville FL

Typing this in Meredith's cabin sitting in my underwear it dawns on me that the warm weather has arrived.

Yesterday's run from Rockhouse Creek to Titusville was wearing. Despite early morning fog the winds built early to the 20 to 25 knots forecast. True wind seemed to average 24 knots on the nose (or over the beam or any other point of sail I suppose) for the last 5 hours of the trip which is to say most of it.

When the true wind is 24 knots on the nose and you are steaming at 6 knots into it then you get 30 knots on deck. Motoring through the endless but shallow Mosquito Lagoon you also get lots of water on deck and up over the dodger. Nothing like a bracing saltwater shower every ten minutes or so applied gently to your face with a 30 knot hand behind it.

Actually we preferred the head on winds at 30 knots. Emerging from the Haulover Canal Meredith found the winds right on the beam, and us in a narrow (50 foot in places) channel. Nothing challenging but it kept the helmsman busy.

Arrival at Titusville saw us thread through the anchorage to find a nice spot protected from the wind. An apartment building and Marina workshed provided shelter enough to reduce the wind to 14 knots and despite the 6 foot depth of water we dropped hook. It was low tide (I checked) and the geology of the Mosquito Lagoon is such that tides are minimal here anyway.

All boats that left Rockhouse Creek this morning were safely in Titusville by 4:00 p.m.. The trawler at berth in the marina (of course), Ciprano and Meredith at anchor.

Three a.m. saw a frontal passage with attendant higher winds and I sat anchor watch for an hour in 25 knots of wind. Some sympathy was felt for those boats anchored out of shelter as I watched my fellow boaters bounce like bucking bronchos, observable from their wildly gyrating anchor lights.

This morning brought a continuation of high winds and we elected to remain in our snug bed. Just now the wind clocked at 25 knots winds and it is cycling through about 90 degrees.

But it is warm. Eau Gallie (pronounced "Oh Galley" by the natives) can wait until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pining for the Fjords

January 16, 2010
Titusville, Fl (Cape Canaveral)

Eight a.m. found us riding calmly at anchor in Rockhouse Creek, eating fresh baked bread and drinking hot coffee. Morning is mild but hazy. The best way to wake up on the water. None of the forecast wind out of the south has arrived yet.

The Little White Dot is us on Rockhouse Creek

We departed 7:30 a.m. to get the best of the tide and to make miles before the weather turns ugly which it is forecast to do just after lunch. The fog which was very heavy at 7 a.m. had dissipated by 7:30 and we were off.

We made about a mile, but at least it was a nautical one.

Arriving at the Ponce de Leon Inlet we lost sight of both banks of the river in the reapplied fog. Ponce is a shoaly piece of saltwater and when we could no longer see the channel markers we quit moving, turned about and headed back to the anchorage.

Enroute we encountered Ciprano, one of the three boats which which we shared anchorage last night in Rockhouse. The skipper on hearing of the fog announced he would check it out for himself, always the approved procedure in my book. 4 minutes later we could see his steaming light pointed in our general direction. The steaming light was all we could see.

Ladyhawke (a terribly common name imposed on trawlers) another of the boats with which we anchored was just leaving the narrow entrance to Rockhouse as we returned. Receiving the same announcement from the Captain of Ladyhawke as Ciprano I remarked to the Budget Committee that it was nice to be sharing the waterway with competent sailors. Always check for yourself.

Ten minutes later all boats were once again safely at anchor in Rockhouse Creek enjoying breakfast.

While we ate we mused on the Fates. The morning forecast was for a "slight chance of rain this morning, chance of rain this afternoon". So, you tell me:

what is it doing at this exact time of 7:30 a.m.?

In response to my last badly edited blog Heather Loveridge relayed that she and husband Peter had been unable to find a spot to anchor at St. Augustine last spring due to the unseemly spread of derelict boats. Her tale was the basis of a grand story and ended with their boat mired in the mud twice in an attempt to dock at a marina with too little water and the marina owner buying them dinner and lots of booze to compensate.

Peter's comment was that Florida has become very boater unfriendly and I am inclined to agree with him. The ICW in Florida is like a long stretch of Highway 401: tedious and dull but deadly if you lose your concentration. Sadly you cannot get to the Caribbean without going through Florida unless you are willing to undertake a days long offshore passage.

Increasingly sailors are taking the offshore route and abandoning what used to be pleasant sailing grounds.

So like Monty Python's famous parrot we are not dead yet - just pining for the fjords.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Swing Baby

Still January 14, 2010
Still at anchor in St. Augustine

Conditions were flat but very cool today. The weatherman promised 64 degrees degrees today but 2 p.m. had only delivered 50 of them. The wind was bitter. Must have been warmer on land out of the wind.

In 5 years we have been in Florida 3 times over winter months. It has been bitter cold every single January and February. This year pipes are freezing in people's homes and the northern third of the state is operating under energy conservation rules due to the load imposed on the grid by so many additional space heaters. It seems that Florida can handle a Force 4 Hurricane with relative aplomb. Give it 2 weeks of sub zero weather and the place falls apart.

Feeling the effects of a shared cold Connie and I ditched our initial plan to run outside the waterway to Vero Beach. Neither of us was up to a 2 day offshore in potentially subzero weather. We are still sleeping 12 hours at a stretch.

So today we ran inside and in 50 nm saw only 2 other boats.

Arriving at St. Augustine we took on fuel at Comatchee Cove Marina, our favourite for good fuel at a fair price and proceeded through the Bridge of Lions to the main anchorage. The northern anchorage had but 1 boat riding on rode. It was empty.

The Bridge of Lions gave us a timely opening which was good as the tide was running 3 knots flood and boat control was a handful.

The southern or main anchorage at St. Augustine had maybe 6 boats at anchor which were not full timers. The anchorage was 75% full though, full with near derelict hulls being lived on by a crowd of miscreant landlubbers looking for cheap housing. Many boats do not have masts, all are filthy wearing run down paint covered in guano and worse. All ride on two or even three anchors so they do not swing. In this way they discourage transient boats from bothering them as setting two anchors is just more work than most boaters are prepared to invest for a night's sleep.

We swing baby!

If St. Augustine does not take some action to limit the loss of anchorage many boats will not be able to stop. Too bad because this is a pretty little town.

Since arriving on Monday we have used the generator each evening to power our ceramic heater for comfort and tonight is no different. It is warming however.

We were pleased to make 50 nm today despite adverse tide on 2/3 of the journey.

The lack of cruising boats is eerie and has never been experienced by us before. It may just be the cold but we suspect that more than just the Gulf Stream is putting a chill on boat traffic in Florida.

Arriving at St. Augustine at sundown we realized that 75% of the anchorage is now occupied by full time residents: people living on near derelict hulls anchored permanently. Most of the full time boats carry two anchors which restricts their swing and makes anchoring for transient boats quite awkward. Tonight as we prowled the darkening anchorage for a clear spot most of the boat occupants emerged to conduct an angry watch to ensure no one anchored near them. Meredith produced only frustration for the onlookers as Connie located a vacant spot and we set our hook on short rode despite being advised that "this boat swings you know" by the occupant of a neighbouring vessel. re we will use a small anchorage a couple of miles out of St. Augustine. Holding has never been that good near the Bridge of Lions and the locals seem to be growing increasingly militant.


Jakes Away, "Ask Peter" Answers, Farewell to London, HotchPot

January 14, 2010
St. Augustine, FL

Crew are both down with cold. Still made 8 hours today departing Jacksonville Landing in subzero temperatures at 8:30 a.m. Avoided offshore due to debilitating cold weather and lack of wind.

The Capt has not violated his new year's resolution not to blog after 4 beers. Of course rum is not included in the definition of beer. And who drinks beer for a cold?


Our son Jake leaves London for the wilds of BC in 5 days. His company pays his way out, puts him up for the entire affair (granted in tents), feeds him and pays him. So who would not want to be 21 in Whistler with a bunch of other 21 year olds for the Olympics?

Ask Peter

Last post I wondered aloud about my battery losses during our absence. This baffled me as we had stupidly turned the bilge pump off and there should have been no appreciable drain on the batteries.

Peter Loveridge, award winning Nova Scotia rural doctor, author of the definitive sailing guide to Nova Scotia, designer and builder of his own boat and proud new grandpa of a near 9 pound baby boy (Peter believes if it is worth doing it is worth overdoing even more) weighed in with an opinion. He always does. This is what I like about him. He suggested a lead acid battery would lose about 1% of its charge daily when left aboard. I demurred figuring the losses should not exceed 10% a month. BUT, Peter pointed out, the batteries were stored at sub zero temperatures for an extended period (Florida was that cold). Add to this the fact that the venerable wet cells are now in their sixth year of constant use and I am forced to agree with Peter.

This is perhaps a note of warning to others leaving their boats for an extended period. Know your batteries. The other note of warning is not to turn your silly bilge pump off when you leave.

Vagaries of Nautical Planning

You are probably tired of my endless qualification of my sailing plans as "only plans". Generally I am not a "qualification" kind of guy figuring that most of what emits is, my being God, God's law.

Here are three other boat's plans (the boat names are removed to protect the owners from any adverse publicity or negative fallout):

C^%$#@o, an Ottawa boat, left Green Cove Springs two days ago headed south with dispatch. We passed them today. The cold weather killed their spirit and they are taking refuge in a marina until heat arrives.

E&^ &%%a, out of Collins Bay, left Green Cove Springs on December 9 headed south also with dispatch. They sit in Eau Gallie, just south of Cape Canaveral, where they have been laid up with a blown diesel since December 20. No end in sight.

K*&^%r B*&e, hailing out of Toronto, put in to a yard in North Carolina in October for simple repairs estimated to take "two weeks". The boat is not done yet but is promised "soon".

These are all seasoned sailors with dependable well maintained rigs.

Farewell to London the Old

Leaving London this January we realized that the old group of reprobate sailors with whom we hung might never be the same. Ian and Joy are likely off to Saudia Arabia, Richie and Joan have sold the house and are readying themselves either for a shot at cruising or a new home in Bayfield by the Water, Matthew is starting to get up off the matt and sail that Bayfield again and Gary and Judy may well end up cruising by year's end.,

These guys have been very good friends and we wish them well whattever they get up to. Thanks for the parties Ian and Joy and Richie and Joan. Remember though: you can run but you cannot hide.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 1 of the Return - Our Luck Knows No Bounds

January 12, 2010
GSCM, Green Spring Cove, FL

Fresh off the plane at Jacksonville our bags were expelled by a creaking baggage machine in short order.

Our rental car was ready although it stank of cigarettes and disinfectant.

The rental agent offered us a local map which we declined because as we explained to her "we drove up here and are just going to follow our tracks home".

Walking to the car park we enjoyed a warm (early 50's Farenheit) late afternoon sun.

Immediately we hit the Interstate we realized we did not have a clue where to go. What road would take us to Green Cove Springs. All the road markers gave only the ramp number and road name served by that ramp. No sign to tell us "this road to Green Cove Springs".

We decided Americans are reluctant to put City names on their Interstate highyways to prevent invading communists or muslim suicide bombers from finding their way around with any facility.

Incredible luck saw us guess the correct off ramp. I recommend invading communists rent their attack vehicles from Enterprise and take the map option.

Arriving at the marina after dark we realized the warmth we had enjoyed was a temporary boon offered on a limited time only basis by our old friend Sol. Now I do not want to exaggerate how cold it was last night but this morning we drove by a local KFC and a flock of chickens was at the door demanding to be let in.

Tonight temperatures are forecast in the 27 degree range (-3 C for those of you who are mathematically disinclined or too lazy to hit the convert button on their calculator).

We walked quickly to our dinghy which we had left tied to the mid pier dinghy dock. It was there!!!

No water needed to be bailed out despite the dinghy sitting in the open for a month. The outboard caught on the third pull. The lock we used to secured the dinghy was free moving not frozen with corrosion.

On Meredith everything was tight and dry. Nothing out of order. Nothing. The seacocks which I had closed a month earlier opened easily with no binding whatsoever.

Our batteries, which had been left on and paralleled to max out capacity for the bilge pump were sitting at 11.50 volts not bad after a month.

The diesel would not start but this was due to the low voltage. Our gas generator, the venerable Honda started on the second pull and in 20 minutes we had enough juice stored in the batteries to start the Beta and get some real charging going. Try doing that with a solar panel at 9 p.m.

Then the magnitude of our luck began to make itself known. We manually activated the bilge pump to see how much water was in the bilge. THE BILGE PUMP WAS TURNED OFF. Our Meredith sat for an entire month and somehow despite all our closing checklists, double checked we turned the bilge pump off before we left. What the hell is wrong with us? This is unimaginable. I am in shock.

Then the question comes: What drained the batteries from 12.75 to 11.5 volts if all electrical was disconnected?

Now there is an interesting question. If all the electrical was disconnected what drew down my batteries?

Another critical problem in an area in which I have only the merest glimmer of understanding. And it must be solved.

Guess I am back on the boat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reporting Live from Chicago OHare - Air Travel and Customs in the new age

Jan 11 2010 12:00 pm

Having purchased our tickets before the Nigerian passenger silliness we were compelled by terminal cheapness of spirit to use the return portion of the tickets to fly back to Jacksonville. the flight left this morning.

I am not going to waste any time on the usual searches imposed by the bureaucracy that runs our air travel system. Except to say the searches are more intensive and the guards far more officious. Hard to take at 6 a.m.

All bags had to be checked. The question as to what is an acceptable carry on is subjective and depends totally on the official (root of that most favoured of bureaucratic descriptors "officious") who is at that moment imposing his will, justifiably in his or her view. After all they need a grade 8 education and a 5 day training course to get their job..

Flying from London to Toronto to Chicago to Jacksonville with only a 1.5 hour layover in Toronto we were concerned about clearing customs in time to catch our plane. No need. We deplaned from London, followed the highly visible US Connections/Baggage signs to gate G (up two stories - don't worry they really are well marked).

You slide through a small door manned by a pleasant woman who hands you a Customs declaration form and enter the baggage pickup for US connecting flights.

Our bags appeared almost immediately and we carried them 100 metres to the Customs window at Gate H.

The line for US Customs for connecting flights was about 20 minutes long.

Then it gets fun. You clear customs. Then you are searched again -shoes off, computer bags opened and guts strewn over the counter. The works.

Then you enter the US terminal. And immediately line up to go through another search. This is the enhanced search.

A bunch of mounties with pakistani women helpers (like British mountain climbers they need their sherpas) subject you to your third and most comprehensive search. Here they give you the full pat down. They squeeze things. Lots of things. You do the whole "up against the wall mother#$#$#" routine and while leaning, arms spread on the table you lift each foot on order and the mountie checks your feet for explosive material.

As you leave the enhanced search table you are stopped by another mountie who wants to see your passport and boarding pass. Now this is interesting. We had to show the passport and boarding pass at the following locations:

1. Picking up our tickets in London,
2. Going through airport search in London,
3. Boarding plane in London,
4. Entering the US Connections/Bagggage area,
5. Clearing Customs,
6. Entering the US airport search area,
7. Going through the US airport search,
8. Entering the US enhanced search line,
9. At the enhanced search desk,
10 leaving the enhanced search area (6 feet from where I was searched enhancedly and after the mountie checked passport and boarding pass),
11. boarding plane in Toronto.

We had 1 1/2 hours layover in toronto which left us about 15 minues spare time.

This was for a connecting flight which seems to have priority. It was also Monday morning (this morning) and airports seem slow. OHare is dead.

So all in all not too bad; certainly not the horrow show we anticipated. Everyone was helpful and smiley. Another day with worse moods could have been a disaster.

I will say that flying with no carry one luggage permitted by anyone is a joy. The aisles of the plane are not crowded with tall guys poking too large bags into the luggage rack, there is lots of room for your coat and other encumbrages in the overhead and you do not have anything to worry about while changing planes. Removing all that luggage from the airport - once checked no one carries it around while changing planes has had a very civilizing effect on airports.

If our baggage is actually in Jacksonville when we get there we will call it trouble free.

Captain Curmudgeon and the BC

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Meredith in Green Cove Springs Florida
Crew in London, ON where it is warmer than GCS
January 7, 2010

Our intention was to leave our beloved Meredith at Green Cove Springs Marina while we returned home to spend time with and money on our children. As these things tend to happen we had occasion to lunch with a pair of characters the day before we embarked.

The duo, friends for years, were a comedic dynamo competing incessantly for centre stage. One was an MIT prof and the other a retired naval officer. The navy guy had, the year before, laid up his own vessel at Green Cove Springs for extensive painting and fiberglass repair. He spoke glowingly of the marina, its facilities and local population. As to the environmentals of the marina he was less sanguine. "I made the mistake only once of walking from my boat to the shower without wearing my shoes" we were advised. "It was a week before I recovered the feeling in my feet. I don't know what is in that soil but we could sure use it in Iraq". We were pretty sure he was exaggerating.

This was where we had decided to leave our beloved boat for a whole month.

It was like winning the lottery. OK, a small church lottery.

As it leaves Jacksonville the St. Johns River widens to several miles across. Several miles of inscrutably brown liquid. Miles wide the St. Johns lacks depth which runs from 10 to 20 feet in the winding navigable part of the channel.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

GCSM: Part 1 Working Yards in General - The Corrected Text

Meredith still moored at Green Cove Springs, Florida
Crew in London
January 3, 2010

Along the east coast of the USA boaters will encounter a series of "working yards". At these unique boat yards, owners can have their vessels hauled out of the water and then can live on their vessels while working on drydocked hulls.

Theseyards provide an invaluable service to itinerant sailors allowing us to live inexpensively while working on serious repairs such as bottom fairing and painting, fiberglass repair and serious engine and drive train repair. Most of the yards have staff and equipment to assist or complete repairs which exceed the ability of the boater which is probably their most useful function.

Similar in function no two working yards are identical. Each is a study in John Steinbeck socialization. Think Tortilla Flats and you are on the right track.

Our favourite such yard is Bock Marine outside Beaufort NC. Bock marine is a multigenerational family business formerly a boat building business now owned by Ken Bock. It is basic. Dirty is also an applicable term. The water supply is sulferous. Not for everyone Bock Marine is a favourite of ours. It is reasonably price, the chandlery is well stocked, Ken Bock is a man of fine character, the men who work at the yard are competent and friendly and the live aboards are iconoclasts of the highest order.

Bock is filled with boaters of various degrees of competence. Many of them are punching above their weight class working hard on boat issues that are slightly harder than they are competent.

Only a mile from Bock Marine is True World Marine where friends brought their boat. True World is clean. Beside our friends there are no persons living aboard their boats. The manager is Japanese and the marina is operated with Japanese efficiency and attention to detail. Our friends have had a lot of work done by the professionals at True World.

I believe (not having verified the property records myself) that True World is owned by the Unification Church which used to have a more common name which it now is apparently improper to use. The church in Beaufort uses the True World marina building for their services each Sunday and for various church meetings through the week. The staff are friendly and have made our friends very welcome inviting them into their homes and sharing without reservation.

So you pay your money and you make your choice.

The only sad note to this post is that working yards are disappearing, victims of creeping condominiumization and commercial mallism. Suburban conformists work ceaselessly to exhaust even the fumes of independent humanity out of the atmosphere. You know the type: they live in condos, take their vacations at all inclusive resorts (warm condos) or cruise ships (floating condos) which they get to on crowded airliners (flying minicondos). The mindless sort who prefer ant farm socialization to human striving.

Meredith is currently moored at Green Cove Springs Marina in Northern Florida. We were drawn here by reports from boater friends who share that sense of asocial self reliance that pervades Meredith herself. GCSM passed our test of compatability, and we theirs, in short order.

More on that tomorrow.THe