Friday, October 25, 2013

It's Better in the Bahamas

Posted by Scot

After our fiasco with our engine work at Dinner Key, we spent the rest of the day working on the outstanding boat issues that had kept us from leaving for the Bahamas the night before.  The main one was our power monitoring system.  By pulling the monitor out of the wall and trying a new Cat 5 cable to connect it to the power hub, we finally determined that the monitor was fine, but the cable seemed to be shot.  We'll need to run a new cable through the boat to get it back to its original spot, but for now we have it hooked up and sitting under the kitchen sink.

Given that our alternator seemed to be working, and we had managed to start the generator, there really wasn't anything keeping us from heading across the Gulf Stream.  And the forecast showed that Wednesday would be our last day of good weather.  After that, there was a week of strong northerly winds coming through that would make it impossible to get across.  So, we decided we would get up at 2 a.m., have another look at the wind and weather, and if everything seemed OK, we would give it a try.  We were clear that if for any reason either of us was uncomfortable, we would just go back to bed, even if it meant waiting another week.

When the alarm went off at 2, we both woke up full of hope and optimism.  We let the kids stay asleep, and after quickly getting everything ready for our first passage, we headed out into the Dinner Key channel.  Sara sat on the bow with our super bright Lupin headlamp, picking out markers for me and watching for anything in the water, and I used that and the GPS track from our inboud trip to carefully guide us out.  It was tense work.  At one point early on, as we were getting our system sorted out, we came as close to a marker bouy as I ever want to be.  But with some careful work, after about an hour, we were heading out into the Atlantic.

The receding lights of Miami, from the Gulf Stream.
The wind and waves were exactly as forecasted, which is to say, calm.  As we started to relax in the deeper water, Christopher woke up and came to join me at the helm.  He started to look at the AIS readout on the GPS as I stared into the night.  "Dad", he said.  "Did you know that freighter is coming at us, and is going to cross our path in about 15 minutes?  Should we be worried about that?"  Sure enough, I checked the AIS info, and realized that the freighter, which I had thought was sitting at anchor, was bearing down on us.  I had seen lots of freighters around us on the AIS, but since they had always been at anchor before, I had just assumed these ones were too.  Fortunately, Christopher had remembered how to look up their details on the AIS, and had checked them out.  Turns out, most of them were moving.  We altered our course and speed to keep all of them at least a mile away, as the last thing I wanted was a close encounter with a freighter in the dark Gulf Stream.

Sailing in the dark, dodging freighters.
Eventually, Christopher went back to bed, and we motored on into the dark, watching the lights of Miami recede behind us.  Sara and I sat at the helm, and kept each other company, enjoying what seemed like the first quiet time we had to sit and chat in the last month.

A welcome sunrise.
As the sky lightened in front of us, we briefly raised the mainsail to see if it would help our speed at all, but after about half an hour, the wind died completely, so we lowered it again to stop it flapping, and Sara lay down for a bit of a nap.  She woke up again after about an hour, and I took a turn to rest my eyes, too.

Catching 40 winks.
Eventually, the kids woke up, and we had a great morning just hanging around the boat, eating muffins from the Miami bakery, and drinking hot chocolate.  We steered our course trying to use the current in the Gulf Stream to push us along, and made good time, sighting Bimini after about 9 hours.  Almost exactly 10 hours after we left, we were dropping anchor in the little bay next to the Bimini Bay Marina.

As Sara and the kids started to organize the boat, I raised our yellow Q flag, then lowered the dinghy, and headed back down the channel to where the guidebook said customs and immigration was.  It took a little bit of figuring out, and another trip back and forth to Monashee to get all the right paperwork done, but eventually we were cleared in to the Bahamas!

Monashee flying her colors over the Gulf Stream.
I arrived back at Monashee exhausted, having only slept a few hours, and feeling the adrenaline of the crossing draining from me.  We all hung around on the boat for a quiet, hot afternoon.  We couldn't resist taking a couple of quick dips in the water, even though it really didn't seem like the cleanest bay to be swimming off of the boat.  On my first jump in, I was checking out the bottom of the boat, and was a bit shocked to see a huge fish hanging around under our hull (Barracuda?  Tarpon? - can anyone tell from the picture?).  He seemed content to keep his distance, staying at the far end of the boat from me, but he certainly wasn't scared of me, and didn't swim off when I got a closer for a picture.  That put a damper on the rest of our swimming for the afternoon.

He was even bigger than he looks in this picture.  We think about 4 feet long.  Really.
We were all in bed by 8, and I was fast asleep by 8:30, although Sara didn't sleep well.  Despite being up most of the night before, she slept on the salon couch as the forecasted winds started to pick up.  We hadn't had room to let out a lot of anchor chain in this little bay, and she was worried about dragging.

Today, we got up, and could see the forecasted north wind and overcast skies had arrived.  We were pulling hard at our anchor in about 15-20 knots of wind, which was predicted to go up to 30 in the next couple of days. The boat was sitting right at the edge of the little dredged bay, and we would only have to drag a few feet to be aground.  We discussed pulling up the anchor and trying to drop it further into the middle of the little harbor.  There were no other boats here, so there is lots of room, but the harbor is really busy, with sea planes and tourist boats coming and going all day.  We didn't really want to be sitting in the middle of that.

So, I jumped in the dinghy, and checked out the marinas right next to us.  They are both really empty, with only a couple of boats in them.  I went ashore, and realized that they are part of a huge resort complex, which reminded me of Arbutus Ridge on Vancouver Island.  I checked out the price for a night in the marina, and it turned out it was less than what we paid at the civic marina in Miami, but included full access to all the resort amenities, including 2 pools, nice showers and wifi.

Once I was back at the boat, it was a quick conversation to decide we were moving over to the marina. With strong winds coming in, and still exhausted from our passage, a couple of nights tied to a dock seemed to be just the thing.

So tonight, we are the only boat on this entire pier, and are firmly tied to the dock as the wind picks up in our rigging.  The whole resort is dead quiet.  This is definitely their low season, and one of the employees said the ferry that brings guests from Miami has been cancelled for the next few days due to high seas in the Gulf Stream. We really just squeaked in to the end of our weather window.

Looks like we left all the boats back in Miami.  No problem finding a spot for us here.
We spent a rainy, cloudy, and pleasantly cool afternoon in both the pools.  One of the locals took one look at us going swimming in this weather, which is freezing to them, and said "You must be Canadians."  Nailed it!  Ironically, since we actually have power tonight, as the temperature drops, this is our the first time since we got on the boat that air conditioning won't help us at all.

Infinity pool and grey skies over the Bahamas.

We found a mermaid in the pool.
Ironman pose.


Posted by Scot

After our extra long day on Monday, our plans to leave at 3 a.m. to cross to the Bahamas were scuppered, even though that meant we might miss our weather window to get safely across.

Instead, after a good night's sleep, we awoke with enough energy to formulate a plan to address the issues with our dysfunctional alternator on the starboard engine, and our generator which we couldn't get to start.  We also had some ideas about our failed power monitoring system.

First thing Tuesday a.m., I Googled diesel mechanics in Miami.  At 8 o'clock, I started making phone calls. Surprisingly, as I was leaving a message on the machine of the first place I called, someone picked up.  It turned out "J" was available that morning, and if I could get the boat to a dock in Miami, he would come out at 10:30 and look at my alternator and the generator.

So I phoned a few marinas, and it turned out Dinner Key, just across Biscayne Bay from No Name Harbor, had space for us.  In fact, that was where we had dinghied the night before to pick up our Canadian registration, so I already knew the way.  Things were looking up.

Miami's Dinner Key Marina, was in a nice area of the city, which we reminded me of the part of Vancouver where we used to live.
We quickly raised the anchor and headed across to Dinner Key.  As we motored, I was surprised and relieved to see the alternator readout for the starboard engine looked normal, and was more or less the same as the port one.  It hadn't done that at all the day before.

Anyway, we were tied up and checked in by 10:15, just in time for J to arrive.  It turns out he was actually a bit late, but at 11:00 I called his cell phone, and he said he was just signing in at the office, so I walked up the dock to meet him.

When I got to the office, a slightly perplexed looking elderly gentleman was standing at the counter.  I introduced myself, and confirmed he was there to look at our boat.  Then, we stood at the desk in an awkard silence for a few minutes.  Finally, it occurred to me that he was waiting for something from the marina employees, and after a few more minutes, I worked out that he wanted to sign in, but for some reason, wasn't asking anyone.  "How do we get J signed in so he can come work on my boat?" I asked.  With characteristic American brusqueness, someone shoved the sign-in clipboard at J.  Seemed pretty straightforward to me, but after looking at it for a minute or so, he told me he hadn't brought his glasses, and couldn't see what the form said.  As I walked him through it, and showed him where to sign his name, the date, his company, our boat info, etc., I began to wonder how he was going to be able to work on our boat.

Things got worse as we walked down the dock.  Our conversation was pleasant enough, but he asked me at least 3 times what kind of boat it was in the 7 minutes it took us to get there.  And I had already told him on the phone that a.m.  Also, he told me multiple times how little he liked working on Northern Lights generators.  The biggest warning sign, though, was when he started telling me he had driven his classic car to the marina, so he didn't have his tools with him, and if he needed to do anything significant on the boat, he wouldn't be able to do any work until the next morning.  This wasn't working out like I had planned.  At all.

Pier 4 at the huge Dinner Key Marina.  There are something like 10 or 12 piers like this, all full of boats, almost all of which had nobody on them.  It was a little eerie, especially at night with the wind whistling through the rigging.
When we got to the boat, I hopped on, then turned around to see J looking at the gap between the dock and the boat with trepidation.  It was pretty clear he wasn't going to make it across.  He gamely walked up the side of the boat, though, and reached up, grabbed a life line, and shakily hauled himself aboard.  For a moment, I thought I might end up having to pull him out of the water, but he straightened up and steadied himself.  "Not bad for an old man!" he said.  In theory, I had to agree.

We went into the boat, and I showed him the panel for the generator, and explained to him the procedure to start it, based on what I remembered from Gene (the previous owner) showing us a couple of months ago, and what we got from the owner's manual.  J told me he wasn't really familiar with this kind of panel, and I could tell he couldn't read anything on it anyway.

So, I walked him up to the front of the boat, and opened the hatch that the generator is in.  He slowly got down and swung his legs into the hatch, sitting on the edge, but it was clear to both of us there was no way he was getting in there, and if he did, there was really no way he would get out again.  "Go inside and try to start it", he said.

As I walked back into the salon, I said to Sara "He seems like a nice guy, but how do I get him off my boat?"  She was as worried as I was, having witnessed him perusing our panel.  I gave the generator a try, and just like the night before, it coughed and sputtered, but wouldn't start.  "Try it again!" J called.  I could see he hadn't moved from his sitting position in the hatch.

I tried it again, and lo and behold, the generator struggled a bit, started to "lug, lug" slowly, then died.  "Why did you let go of the switch?", J yelled. "Do it again!".  Well, he was the mechanic! So I tried it one more time.  And would you believe, it fired right up!  I was thrilled, not only because the generator started, but also because this meant I might get J off my boat without him actually doing anything.

Another view of the huge Dinner Key marina.  In addition to all the boats on the dock, they have a massive mooring field.
I went back up to the hatch, and said, "Well, that was easy!  Must have been enough just to have you here!"  After I helped him to his feet, we started back to the cockpit.  After one step, though, J slipped and went down on his left hip.  Fearing the worst, I was relieved to see him pop right back up.  "Strange", he said.  "Usually it is French catamarans that try to kill you."

I then talked to him about our alternator, and explained that it seemed to be working better that a.m., but hadn't read the proper output all day the day before.  "Fire up the engine and we'll see", he said.

So, I fired it up, and the readout seemed to work fine.  Without even lifting the hatch over the engine, J said "Yup, that seems to be working well.  No problem.  Now, let's talk about what you are going to pay me.  How about two hours worth of work?"

At first I thought he was kidding, and I kind of laughed a little bit.  But then he started talking about all the time it took him to drive there, and the time he needed to get home, and I realized he was serious  Sara, as keen to get him off the boat as I was, said "Two hours should be fine.  What do you charge per hour?".

At this point, J got pretty confused, and couldn't seem to remember what he made per hour.  "I haven't worked for a couple of weeks, so it is hard to remember.  What did we say, 4 hours?"

"No J, we agreed to 2 hours, but we need to know what you make per hour."

After quite a bit more confusion, it became clear that J was not going to be able to figure out what we owed him.  Sara and I discussed it right in front of him, and decided on a price that seemed fair to us, which we paid him in cash.  He seemed to be relieved and satisfied to have that over with.

The boats that actually catch the dinner at Dinner Key.
As I walked J back up the dock, I couldn't help but smile, a bit sadly, at the whole thing.  He was really a nice man, and I suspect he had probably been a good mechanic in the past.  Now, he had some age related dementia, but was still doing his best to make a go of things.  I think we were both equally relieved that he wouldn't be working on my boat, and I wondered how many times he had been paid to keep him from working on someone else's boat.  As I said goodbye to him and watched him walk away through the gate, I couldn't help but wish him well, and hope that he made it home without getting lost.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Posted by Scot

Julia Tuttle was an American businesswoman in the mid to late 1800s who did pretty well for herself.  She ended up owning most of the land that Miami now sits on, and is therefore known as the "Mother of Miami".  Miamians (?) in her honor, have named a causeway after her.

Why should you care?  Well, you probably shouldn't, and I don't really either, except for the fact that Julia's causeway caused us to go way out of our way, and was the beginning of one of those days where nothing really goes according to plan.

We had headed down to the Hollywood marina with plans to move further south down the Intracoastal waterway into Miami, and then hit a weather window that looked perfect for getting over to the Bahamas. Monday a.m., as we were preparing to head out, I sat down to make a list of all the bridges that we would have to go under, so that when the time came, I'd know who to call on the radio.  Everything was ticking along until I got to about bridge #7.  That's when Julia got in the way.  You see, it turns out her causeway is a fixed bridge (i.e. doesn't lift) which sits 56 feet above the water at low tide.  This is a problem for us, since our mast is 62' above the water.  Assuming we wanted to keep that extra 6' of mast attached to our boat, we weren't going to make it under Julia's bridge.

Julia Tuttle, the Mother of Miami, and namesake of one of the lowest bridges on the ICW (image courtesy of: National Women's History Museum)

So, that meant we had to track back an hour north, and head out into the ocean to turn south and sail down the Atlantic in front of Miami.  Not a big deal, but it added an unexpected two hours to our day, when we were looking for an easy day to rest up prior to heading across the Gulf Stream overnight.

It was a nice morning, though, so we headed on back up to Port Everglades, and out into the Atlantic.  It was actually a beautiful trip down the coast, but the wind couldn't have been any more on our nose if we'd stapled it there.  We could have tacked back and forth under sail, but we were already a couple of hours later than we thought we'd be, so we just stuck it out and motored into the wind.  As we were cruising along, I looked down at the amp meter measuring the electricity being produced by the alternators, and saw that our starboard one was pinned at -80, while our port one was up around +50 amps.  Now, I'm no electrician, but I was pretty sure the alternator on our starboard engine shouldn't be producing negative amps.  Uh oh.  Bad alternator?  Potentially dead starting battery on the starboard engine?  There wasn't much I could do about it at sea, so I stopped worrying about it, planning on checking it out when we anchored.

Sailing south past Miami

As we motored across in front of the main channel to Miami, Sara got a call from our documentation agent to say that our Canadian registration was finally in.  Awesome!  We had all but given up on it, and were planning to have it Fed Exed to the Bahamas whenever it arrived.  Now that it had arrived, we had to figure out how to get it before we left the States.  We were planning to anchor in a little bay called No Name Harbor, which is just across Biscayne Bay from Miami, so we decided we could just dinghy across after we anchored.  It was only 5 or 6 miles, and since the dinghy goes about 20 miles an hour cranked out, that would only be a 15 minute dinghy ride, right?  No problem.

On we went, and finally pulled into No Name at around 4 o'clock.  Just time to get the boat anchored, check out the alternator, drop the dinghy in the water, and get across to pick up our Canadian registration.  Should be easy after a 7 hour motor down the coast, no?

I jumped in the engine compartment, and started pulling wires off the alternator and cleaning contacts.  After a bit of that, I fired up the engine again, but it didn't seem to be working any better.  I then went inside to check our power monitor to see if I could see whether the battery was charging.  I figured I could turn everything else off while the engine was running, and our monitor should show me if I was making amps off the starboard alternator.  Only, when I looked at it, I found the power monitor display wasn't working.  I was sure it had been working a few days earlier, but hadn't checked it recently since we had been on shore power.

While I was inside, I heard a squeal from Katie, and looked outside to see what was the matter.  She had tried to help lower the bow of the dinghy into the water, but it had been too heavy for her, and the rope had slipped fast through her hands, dropping the dinghy with a splash, and leaving some serious rope burn.  Ouch.

As Sara tended to Katie, she sent the boys out in the dinghy to get the engine warmed up for our trip across the Bay.  15 minutes later, as I was still messing with the alternator, I noticed Sara staring across No Name harbor.  "What's up?" I asked, innocently.  "The boys are over there trying to get the dinghy motor going" came the reply.  Uh oh, again.  No time for the dinghy motor to fail.

So, we threw the kayak in the water, and I paddled over.  Fortunately, a good swift pull on the starter fired the dinghy up.  Christopher paddled the kayak back to the boat, and Alexander and I headed out into Biscayne Bay in the dinghy, now about 15 minutes late leaving.

Once out there, I realized the error in our planning.  Biscayne Bay is not deep, but it is a fair fetch of water, and the waves had built up with the wind.  We were either going to be late, or going to have a wet dinghy ride.  As it turned out, we were both.

Anyway, we made it to pick up our registration, and eventually got back to Monashee, glad to be pulling in before dark.  We sat down for dinner, and just as we were getting started, Katie grabbed the milk with her one good hand, and promptly dropped it on the floor.  Pulling out the old adage of no tears over spilled milk seemed to help, but as we were cleaning it up, the no-see-ums attacked us out of the mangroves.  In minutes, we were taking refuge inside the boat, as we were swarmed with these nasty little critters.

Once inside, with all the windows closed, and the day we had just had, the climbing temperature started to put the icing on the cake.  Despite it being the end of October, temperatures here are still easily in the high 30s (Celsius).  Well, we had never run the generator yet.  We were going to need to know how it worked if we were headed to the Bahamas.  Why not crank it up, check it out, and cool us all down with a little A/C?  Great idea.  Except that, after 10 cranks, a thorough review of the manual, and another 5 cranks without getting the generator to start, we confirmed that we were not going to be able to make it work tonight.

So, the grand summary of the day?  An extra 2 hour trip due to an inconvenient causeway, a failed alternator on the starboard engine, a failed power monitor, an 8 year old with rope burn and no-see-um bites all over, and a generator that wouldn't start.  And we were planning to raise the anchor at 3 a.m. to head out into the Gulf Stream and over to the Bahamas.  (On the plus side, we finally had our Canadian registration in hand!)

Sometimes there is nothing better than seeing the end of the day.
Once we settled everyone into bed, Sara and I sat down, and discussed the events of the day.  It was pretty clear that neither of us was keen to head to the Bahamas with all those issues still outstanding, and we were far too exhausted to consider getting up in the middle of the night to do it.  Even though our weather window was closing, we felt we needed to stop and take stock for another day.  With that plan set, we both drifted into unconsciousness.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Up the mast.

Posted by Scot

Morning meeting in the  marina
When John from Nance and Underwood was here putting on the deck hardware for our main halyard, we did a test raise of the mainsail to make sure everything lined up.  When we went to drop the sail, it kind of stuck on the track, and I had to yank it to pull it down.  So John suggested we consider lubricating the mainsail track.

Now, the way he suggested doing this was to get some spray lubricant and the next time we raised the sail, just spray the cars as they went by, and allow them to drag the lubricant up the mast.  But I saw it as an opportunity to go up the mast, clean the track well, and lubricate it on the way down.  That would also give us a chance to practice our "going up the mast" technique.  Plus, I wanted to see if I could re-mount the cell extender antenna that apparently used to be up there, since we have a new one on the boat.

Our mast is raked back, so I found I had to hang on with my legs to keep from swinging away into space.
So, on Thursday, we rigged up our climbing gear and bosun's chair, and up I went.  I am not sure how other people do this, but we came up with our own method a couple of years ago when the main halyard snapped on a charter boat we were sailing, and Sara went up to pull it back through the mast. What we do is to have two completely independent systems, so that if one fails, we have redundancy in every piece of gear holding us on.  I know this is probably overkill relative to how most people do it, but when you are 62 feet in the air looking straight down at a solid deck, the extra degree of safety is a definite comfort.  So, the other day, I tied into the topping lift with my climbing harness, and Sara belayed me on that line.  I also used the bosun's chair, and we tied that into the main halyard, and Alexander cranked me up on the electric winch.

Sara's belay technique is very relaxed.  Checking out the scenery while holding me aloft.
Once I was up there, I had a look around, but I couldn't readily see how to mount the new antenna, and it was kind of breezy, so I decided to leave that for another day.  I did get a great view though, and managed to clean and lubricate the whole mainsail track.  We'll have to see how that works next time we raise the main.

The view from halfway up.
I forgot to take the requisite pictures when I was at the top of the mast, but remembered half way down, so if you mentally double the distance to the deck that you see in this picture, you get an idea what it looks like from the top.

Halfway up.  Sara on belay and Alexander on the winch.  Good view of our solar array from here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Manatee project

posted by Alexander

(Scot) Another in our series of environmental reports by the kids.  We are hoping to see a manatee, but haven't seen one yet.  There are signs all over warning us not to run into them with our boat.  In an effort to verify that they are in fact real creatures, and not just some Floridian prank on tourists, I asked Alexander to do some research about them.  Here is what he found:

There were many signs about avoiding manatees with your boat in Florida. We still haven't seen a manatee so my dad had me do this school project so everyone could learn a little more about manatees.

These graceful aquatic creatures are actually relatives of the elephant. It makes sense given that they have a similar skin tone and can grow to be quite large. They are usually about 2.8 to three meters long. And weighing in at 440 to 550 kilograms, you can thank goodness that these guys are herbivores. Although that’s what most manatees are sized at, some put on a few extra pounds. These manatees can grow to 3.6 meters and 1775 kilograms!

These guys are huge!

The manatees genus is Trichechus (Tri-check-us) and there are three species of manatee. The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), The Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) and the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). These live in the Caribbean sea, the gulf of Mexico, the Amazonian basin, and West Africa. The manatees inhabit estuaries, rivers, bays and shallows. They actually range as far as the state of Georgia but they can go no further because of the cold.

Manatee warning sign
Manatees live up to sixty years and spend that time eating and sleeping. They will eat just about any kind of flora that can be found in their habitats. They usually eat about 50 kg a day.

I thought they were herbivores!!!!!
In manatee breeding season (about every two years) manatees get pregnant and stay that way for up to a year. It takes over another year before the calf will leave it’s mother. Only one calf is born a year.

Unfortunately these awesome and adorable sea cows are in trouble. Because of their slow sea bed potato nature they tend to get hit by boats. A lot. In fact they are often recognized by biologists because of their scars. And for those manatees who get hit by tankers… they get cut in half. So let this be a lesson to you. Don’t drive boats. And be fast enough to avoid them. Those suckers are dangerous.

Manatee fun fact: Manatees are the state animal of Florida.

Sources: Wikipedia
               Basic facts about Florida manatees

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Transport Canada has us trapped in Hollywood

Posted by Scot

We're still in Hollywood, awaiting the final papers on our Canadian registration that will allow us to move about Florida more freely.  We're also waiting for the official end to hurricane season, which technically is over November 1st, although that is a bit arbitrary.  As Sandy showed last year, hurricanes can easily come later than November 1st.  So we'll be keeping our eyes on the NOAA hurricane website and watching the Atlantic weather with interest.

Once we get our Canadian registration, the other thing we'll be waiting for is a decent weather window to attempt our first long passage, over to the Bahamas.  This is between 50-75 miles of open water sailing, which will definitely be a new record for us, although in the grand scheme of things is relatively small potatoes (and will quickly be overshadowed by some longer passages between islands that we will need to do to continue on our way south).  The complicating factor for the first crossing is that it will cross the Gulf Stream, which is a fairly strong current flowing northward between Florida and the Bahamas.  Since the Gulf Stream flows north, any wind blowing from the north tends to fight the current, and big waves can stack up, making the crossing uncomfortable at best, and potentially dangerous at worst.  Given that this will be a new experience for us (although our boat has done it a few times), we will be looking for a favourable weather window that will keep everyone on board as happy as possible.  We have lots of different resources to follow the weather, but one of the best we have found is, which gives nice descriptions of current wind, weather, waves, etc., but also projects them over the next week in a nice animated format, if you want.

Anyway, as we wait, we are managing to stay pretty busy knocking more boat projects off the list.  Today was a particularly big day.  (Anybody who is getting sick of hearing about our boat projects, feel free to skip the rest of this post).

I got up feeling pretty good, and after a couple of Katie's special blueberry pancakes, I had enough energy for a quick run to the local Home Depot.

Breakfast and Bunny Ears!
I am truly coming to dread the endless roaming up and down the aisles of the ubiquitous orange warehouse, desperately hoping to come across an aproned guardian who can point me in the direction of a particular stainless steel fitting that I am looking for.  Just as in Canada, those guardians are few and far between in the Home Depot in Florida, which means that a lot of aimless, gape jawed shelf gazing is a requisite part of any Home Depot foray.  This is, apparently, one of the things that unites us across our borders.

Fortunately, this morning, just as I was descending into the hardware aisle once again, I got a call from Nance and Underwood (the rigging company who has been helping us with our main halyard).  They had the last block that we needed, and were available to come to the boat right away to install it.  So, I happily skipped out of the Home Despot (as I like to call it), and rushed back to the boat.  Sara and I pulled down the salon headliner like old pros, having done it a few times now.  I removed the old block, and just as I was finishing that, John and Bo came to put in the new one.

Once they were gone, we reversed the whole headliner process, reinstalled all the lights, and realized it was lunchtime.  Since the kids were done school, we decided to go out for lunch, then finish up my aborted morning's trip to the Despot.  We checked out a great Pho restaurant in downtown Hollywood.  Pho was a first for the kids, but they (almost) all enjoyed it.

Gratuitous photo to show off our fancy new cockpit cushions.
The return trip to the Orange Megalith was mercifully short, and before long we were back on the boat, hardware in hand.  Sara and I then spent the afternoon fixing things.  First we anchored the stereo to the wall with our new hardware.  While we were at it, I tightened the multi-display repeater for our depth indicator which sits in the salon.

Then, we got to work on the plumbing.  We have replaced the showers, valves, and handles in both bathrooms with spanky new ones (of which we are very proud).  The old ones were looking pretty worn and corroded in places.  However, a truism of boat work is that any project you start reveals two or three more projects that need to be done, which means you can never be truly finished.  One of the things we found when we put in the new starboard side shower fittings is that there was a leak in one of the old connections, which we have been trying to repair with applications of marine sealant.  Since this was the third day we had tried this, and it still hadn't quite sealed the leak, we took the whole thing apart again, cut off all the old sealant, and reapplied new sealant directly to the leaking area.  Hopefully that will do it.

Then, we attacked the port bilge, which has had an annoying habit of very slowly accumulating a small puddle of water, ever since we got on the boat.  It is easy to clean out, but it would be nice to have dry bilges, so we went about tracking down the leak.  First, though, we cleaned all the through hull filters, since we knew that process would put even more water in the bilge.

Once that was done, we cleaned and dried the bilge completely, then started to see if we could track the leak.  Finally, we traced a thin trickle of water from under Christopher's bunk.  We followed it back, pulled up his mattress, and lo and behold, we found a tiny drip in one of the pipe fittings supplying the water heater.  A quick push on the quickconnect fitting, and voila, no more leak.  That was a two hour process for a 6 second fix.

Bunny Ears still on at dinner!
Cleaning everything up and putting the boat back in order took almost as long as the jobs, but finally, we are looking ship shape again, and everyone is ready for an early bed time tonight.  Hopefully our Canadian registration will get here soon, before we manage to fix everything on the boat (which is of course impossible... see above).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lizard Project

Posted by Christopher

Note by Scot:  As part of the kid's school, we are planning to ask them to do some research about the interesting environments they will find themselves in this year.  We figure this can help them learn about science, biology, history, geography, as well as researching topics, and give them some practice writing.  So, periodically we will publish some of their work on the blog.  The first of these reports is this one Christopher did on the weird little lizards we have seen all over Florida.  They are as thick as squirrels around here, and I got to wondering about them, so I asked Christopher to research them for me.  Here is what he found:

You would think this is crazy if you're where I'm from, but we have been seeing these funny tiny lizard’s darting around everywhere. As part of school, I was given the scientific assignment of researching them.

The “tiny lizards in Florida” also known as anoles (ann-oh-leez) come in many different varieties such as the Green Anole, Knight Anole, Bark Anole and the Brown Anole. These surprisingly well adapted creatures stalk insects from shrubs and other greenery. Much like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, they only stalk live prey because they cannot differentiate dead prey from the environment.


So far, in Florida we have mainly spotted the Brown Anole also known as the Anolis sagrei. Their range has been widespread due to being sold as pets, so they currently inhabit Cuba, The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Taiwan, Hawaii, Southern California and many other Caribbean Islands.


The Brown Anole can reach up to 9 inches in length, and weigh about 2 to 5 grams. They will live for about 18 months in captivity, although they can live up to a maximum of five years in the wild.


The Brown Anole will begin to establish territories during the spring in preparation for breeding in the summer. In order to maintain population, the female hatches an average of 1 egg a week during breeding season.  Eggs will hatch about four weeks after being laid and the anoles will become adult size by the end of the year.

Sources: Wiki , Google images, Top Voted Yahoo Answers, Vigil, Stacey (2006)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Moving Day!

Posted by Scot

After finishing up the main sheet work on Saturday, we spent yesterday running around Lighthouse Point and Fort Lauderdale, moving our car south to our new destination (we are not quite ready to give it up yet), getting our propane tanks filled, and making a final dash to Costco for more provisioning. Then it was back to the boat for a huge scrub down before dinner.

All of that was in preparation for today, our official casting off!  In fact, it all happened with relatively little fanfare.  We got up as usual this a.m., and while the kids did school and breakfast, I returned the rental car that allowed us to move our car south.

School was a bit abbreviated in the excitement to get moving.
Then, around 10:00 Betty and Tom came down to the boat to say goodbye.  We took a few pictures, and we were off.

Leaving Lighthouse Point
We headed out through the Hillsboro Inlet Bridge.  We had debated just cruising down the ICW, but we wanted to get back in the open ocean, and we figured we could avoid a few bridges through Ft. Lauderdale by just sailing outside.

We are finally getting this whole bridge thing figured out.
Unfortunately, we had moderately large waves broadside to us the whole way south, with little wind, so it was kind of a rolly ride.  It wasn't the worst we have been on, though, and no one got seasick.  Other than Katie getting her finger caught in the fridge door, which engendered a few minutes of excitement (soon fixed with some hugs and a bandaid), the whole trip was pretty straightforward.  It was a good opportunity to get used to the engines and some of the nav equipment on board that we haven't used much as of yet.

Heading back out to sea.

The sunny Atlantic.
We never did raise our mainsail on our fancy new electric winch, though, since by the time there was any wind to speak of, we were turning back into the ICW at Port Everglades.

We motored through the huge container and cruise ship port, which I thought would be intimidating, but fortunately all the big ships were either at anchor or docked today.  Maybe that is because it is Columbus Day here in the states.

Lots of big ships in Port Everglades.  Fortunately none moving around when we went through.
Anyway, before we knew it we were through a couple more bridges (we are getting pretty good at them now.  Sara and I had a competition going to see who could time our passage the best when the bridge opened), and our marina was in view.

Sara was pretty proud of her bridge judging prowess.  I was just glad we still had the instruments on the top of our mast.
It took us a while to get everything sorted out to dock.  We were fitting our 20 foot beam into a 22 foot slip, so there wasn't much room for error.  Fortunately, Sara realized that our outboard kayak racks would get wiped off on the pilings if we didn't swing them in, so we remembered to do that before we docked.

Then, after a little bit of close space manoeuvring, we were tied up.

At that point, I was pretty much done for the day, but one of the things we noticed cruising with the kids is that once we dock, they are just getting ready to go.  They generally don't use too much energy while we are sailing.  They are keen to help, but when things get quiet, they often lie down and take a nap, or sneak down to their cabins to read.  So when the boat stops, they get started.

This is why the kids are never tired after a day of sailing.
We quickly settled the boat in, then walked across the bridge to the Hollywood Beach, which was pretty crowded, but probably one of the better swimming beaches we have been to so far in Florida, with a decent boardwalk with shops and restaurants.

Sailing is so exhausting!
After a swim, we came back to the boat, then we hopped in the car and headed to downtown Hollywood.  Monday night is their "food truck" night in the park, where all the fancy food trucks from Miami come up to establish a rolling food court right in the park.  So we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with burritos, burgers and kebabs in the park.  I know it doesn't sound too festive, but it was way to hot to cook on the boat.  We decided maybe we will celebrate American Thanksgiving instead this year.

We are thankful for ... hamburgers you can buy from a truck?
Once we got back to the boat, we had a chat with some of our neighbours, who have been cruising for 20 years.  They pretty quickly figured out we are newbies, but were patient with our questions.  Eric even helped me get our electricity hooked up right (who knew two 30 amp connectors could be combined to go into a 50 amp outlet? What kind of math is that?)

We are trying to get through the night without firing up the A/C, even though we have shore power. We figure we need to get ready for moving further south.  So far, though, it is warm enough that I am up blogging at midnight instead of sleeping, even after that long day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finishing touches

Posted by Scot

Just sitting here on the boat, waiting for the rigging guys to come and install the hardware to lead our main back to our new electric winch.  The Saturday rush down our canal to the ICW has already started, and the boat is rocking a bit more than usual.  Sara has taken the kids off to the laundromat to give me room to tear the boat apart so we have the necessary access to bolt down the deck hardware.

The last few days have been about putting the finishing touches on the bigger projects (i.e. ones we need help with) prior to getting ourselves moving.  We are scheduled to head out on Monday, assuming all goes well today.  We aren't planning to go too far to start with.  Just a few short hops down the Florida coast to test out the boat, and make sure we are still not too far away if we find any of our recent changes need fine tuning.

We're excited to actually get moving, though.  The last month has been a bit of a grind, with a lot of work getting done, but not a ton of play time.  We will be leaving with mixed feelings about this part of Florida.  Tom and Betty have been extremely hospitable, allowing our family of five to live in their backyard, and use their pool and bathroom for a whole month, and we are forever grateful.

Pretty nice backyard to hang out in, but after a month, we're ready to move along.
But neither Sara or I are really enamoured with this area around Fort Lauderdale.  The other night, as we were making our umpteenth trip to Home Depot for some random piece of hardware, Sara said "This is just like driving around Surrey."  That totally clicked for me, and for those that know Surrey (B.C., not England), it is a truly apt description of what this place is like.  Lots of highways, traffic, shopping malls, and bedroom communities for the bigger cities further south.  Not that there is anything wrong with Surrey, mind you.  I know lots of people live there happily.  But it is not really our scene, which is why we chose to move out of Vancouver to the wilds of the Monashee mountains several years ago.

Surrey has some big houses, too, although I don't think any sit on the ocean like this one on the ICW.
I guess the one thing that Florida has that Surrey doesn't is the ocean and the beaches, although probably not surprisingly, it seems most people don't take advantage of them during their day to day lives.  I guess they are all at work, school, etc.  In fact, we've noticed that the heat and humidity seem to keep people largely in doors.  In the suburb where we are docked, streets in the day time seem to be full of gardeners, painters, pest control people, etc., but there is an almost eerie lack of actual inhabitants around.  I think this is mostly climate related, but seems strange to us.

Finally got the whole family out for a dinghy ride all at the same time last night.  In this picture is Sara, a relaxing Katie, and Alexander's thumb.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day One of Double Fun!

Posted by Katie

Hello, time to go into a world of Universal Adventures!  But before we go there we have to chat about the night before at the hotel which was also crazy.  All the fun started in the ginormous pool!  After we were done swimming I ate a Deliciously normal hamburger!  (what a crime).  then went the lights and the camera and the action started!  On went the movie and the movie was…

…Wreck it Ralph! We got to watch it at the pool.

We stayed at a really nice hotel.
The next day was to be spent in Universal studios Adventure Land!  the first thing to do was park then get in then have some Double Fun!  The first ride we went on was The Hulk but I wasn’t tall enough so I went on the spinning escape pods when the boys got off they came with us too Smile.

Spinning escape pods.
Next was spider man which was our favorite ride.

This plane crashed right at the entrance to Universal Studios!
The next place we went to was exciting.  It was Jurassic Park!  How delighting with all the sound effects. We were walking through the jungle of adventure with all the creepy statues and sounds!  So the first breath taking ride we went on there was a water ride.  It was supposed to show all the safe herbivores but then the raft went off to the exciting part into the raptors habitat!  And we both know that does not turn out well.  The next thing we knew we were getting sprayed by poisonous raptors but then we got back to the station and haven’t died yet.

The next ride we went on was named Pteranodon Flyers.  It was fun.  You would sit in two chairs under what looked like a Pteranodon and then it would lift up and soar across all of Jurassic park.

Harry Potter World!  There we went straight to the main Harry Potter ride.  It was in the castle!  We got to see the paintings talk and the stair cases move we talked to Dumbledoor or as I call him Dumplingdoor we even got to got to talk to Harry,Ron and Hermione they told us what we were going to do.  We were going to sneak out of a really boring class to watch a quidditch match.  But about everything that could go wrong did so after the ride it went into the Harry Potter souvenir store where my brother Alexander got an awesome Raven Claw hat.

The boys from Durmstrang and the girls from Beaux Batons did a dance in Harry Potter World.
Scary Hogwarts Castle!

The sorting hat talked to us before we went on the ride.  Anything but Slytherin, anything but Slytherin!
Next was butter beer and pumpkin juice!  The dragon challenge ride it was a really crazy roller coster we went on it twice.  Then was the hippogriff it was really quick but crazy I liked it Smile!  Next we went all the way down to the spider man ride and then all the way back up to the Harry Potter world just for more butter beer and pumpkin juice.

The next time we went to Universal, we went on the ET ride.