Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hotel California: You Can Checkout but You Can Never Leave

February 6, 2010
Vero Beach, FL Again

It was a clean getaway.  Up at 7:30, fluids refilled, outboard hoisted aboard, all systems checked, diesel warming nicely the Budget Committee cast off from mooring ball #4 in the South mooring field at VBMM.  Greta, our traveling companions, was only 100 metres back.

Conditions on the waterway were brisk and choppy - as forecast.  The wind, at 8:15 a.m., was reasonable enough out of the West at 15 to 20 knots.

By 10 we were in 25 to 30 knots of wind off the starboard quarter, waves were slapping soundly against poor Meredith's hull and salt water was everywhere on deck.   Forecasts of the weather indicated a continuing delay in the timing of the cold front.  Originally anticipated on Friday, then Saturday and now Sunday night/Monday morning. 

A backup cold front was forecast to arrive as early as Wednesday, kind of a double snowball upside the head.  Our precious window seemed poised to slam shut.   Not very poised actually.

No matter.  Meredith was well provisioned.  Crew agreed we would wait out the bad weather and pounce on the gulf stream as soon as conditions allowed.

Our Cobra chartplotter, replaced with a "new" unit in January of this year chose 11:00 a.m. to start acting up.  It seemed to take a spell, its readouts sputtering a bit and its display offering physical responses increasingly bizarre at increasingly frequent intervals.

At 11:15 it had stroked out.  The screen described our position at 11:15 showing boat accurately aligned with the various day markers on the ICW.  However this is where it ended: like the majority of Florida residents our screen just refused to change.  Meredith was trapped forever at 11:15 a.m. on February 6 frozen in place.  If there were a ship named the Dorian Gray, this was the chartplotter for her.

Not much use, a chartplotter that won't plot.

On that topic for a moment - this is the third unit we have had from Cobra in the past year.  From April 2009 until now Cobra has replaced our Chartplotter 3 times.  Great service but you know what I really want is a chartplotter that plots, or charts.  Our current unit is fit only for an electronic picture frame - and then only if you want the picture that it currently displays.

As luck had it the chartplotter was tied, experimentally,  into the autopilot.  This was a new innovation wired by me into the boats systems over the past two weeks.  Now, I am not sure what language problems were raised when the Cobra stroked out but the autopilot started to misbehave.  Looking up from the gps device I saw, while my attention was diverted, that the autopilot had sent Meredith careening towards a daymarker.  In a channel only 3 boatlengths wide it does not take long to reach the marker on one side or the other.

We narrowly missed the marker.

Rapid discussion ensued.  Yes we wanted a chartplotter.  It is not necessary (our first trip south we did not own one) but on many occasions the chartplotter acts as a third crewmember - always offering the information needed to make an informed navigation decision.

No, we did not want a fourth replacement from Cobra, although they likely would have offered it.

Having a new unit shipped to Peck Lake or Lake Worth or anywhere else along our path would require we book a slip in a marina so the marina could take delivery on our behalf.  Marinas were dear.  Vero is inexpensive.

The weather was bad and not forecast to improve much over the next few days.

Bitterly we turned Meredith about, reported our situation to Greta, and headed back to Vero.

A new chartplotter, Standard Horizon, is ordered for delivery on Tuesday.

Sitting back on mooring ball #4 feeling our boat gyrate in the still raging wind, we are satisfied if disappointed with our decision.  

"What are we going to do tomorrow Brain?"

"Same thing we do every day Pinky.  Try and ..."

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