Saturday, January 28, 2017

Made it to Ft. Lauderdale

After I posted while sailing offshore on Thursday night, the foul current continued to increase as we neared Lake Worth Inlet. By then the water temperature had ticked up by a degree and a half, which made it pretty clear that the Gulf Stream was a whole lot closer to shore than the NWS marine zone forecasts were saying. I had already revised our route to go much closer to shore but was having trouble getting there as the wind remained stubbornly WSW. I strapped in the sheets and was beating upwind but it wasn't moving us inshore quickly enough as our speed over ground was rapidly deteriorating. At 12:20am I decided we had to tack inshore but tried to hold off until Dawn came up for her watch at 1am (we have a rule about not leaving the cockpit when alone at night, and tacking in our boat sometimes requires leaving the cockpit to help the yankee through the foretriangle - it often hangs up on the baby stay). By 12:35am our SOG had further deteriorated to two knots (!) on six knots speed through water - a four knot current - and deciding we couldn't wait any longer, I called Dawn up early. We tacked and the current took us rapidly back north as we made our way towards shore. I went slightly beyond our course to make sure we could lay the new waypoint off Lake Worth Inlet, tacked back south at 1:25am in a nice easy half-knot current, and promptly went to sleep as Dawn took over.

At 2am Dawn woke me to inform me that the wind speed had dropped below 8 knots and she was starting the engine. It was the only time she woke me during her watches despite a fair amount of traffic (that she told me about after-the-fact) - she did a really nice job her first time standing solo night watches. The wind angle was just westerly enough to motorsail with both mainsail and yankee flying (we had furled the staysail before tacking) at 6.5 knots. I had figured we'd have to motorsail at some point as the wind was forecast to die during the night, but coming inshore hastened it. Oh well - we had 10 fantastic hours of sailing on a beam reach, a close reach, and a beat.

I woke up and took over for the 4am-7am watch. Piper had been fairly lethargic earlier in the night but was now quite active, which seems to be his usual pattern offshore. He jumped up next to me and curled up with his head on my lap - perfect for the chilly night. I finally finished the fairly long Kindle book I've been reading in my sparse downtime for a few weeks ("Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945" by Tony Judt), reheated some coffee, and then enjoyed a really nice sunrise as we passed Dania Beach. Dawn took over at 7am and I dozed a little before getting up to fix some granola, yogurt & banana for breakfast. The wind finally veered to the west but stayed pretty light despite some tantalizing puffs. Our speed over ground started picking up as we finally caught one of those Gulf Stream eddies...nearly a knot of fair current. Finally, 5 miles north of Port Everglades inlet, it consistently blew at 10 knots and we killed the engine to enjoy a leisurely sail in. Of course then it backed worries, we had fun tacking around the cargo ships anchored outside the harbor. Entering the inlet the wind was right on the nose so we started the engine, furled the sails, and headed in to make the 11am opening of the 17th Street Bridge. By chance our friend Dave Strong, who is a pilot for Spirit Airlines, was laying over at a hotel right next to the bridge and we were able to alert him in time to come down to the dock and take a photo of us coming through.


We decided to take a mooring ball near Las Olas Marina if one was available and otherwise anchor in Lake Sylvia. Making our way up the ICW was a little stressful for Dawn (who was at the wheel) due to a ton of boat traffic and a bit of current, but she did a great job. A mooring was available so we took that, checked in at Las Olas, got Piper to shore to do his business for the first time in 24 hours, and took the dinghy back down to 17th St to pick up Dave. We only had him aboard Windbird for an hour since he was flying out later that afternoon, but it was nice seeing him. His wife, April, is good friends with Dawn - they did the ASA 101/103/104 course in the San Juan Islands (WA) together in June. We definitely plan to have them both aboard Windbird for a week or two sometime, possibly this spring.

After we ran Dave back to his hotel, we came back and did some putting the boat back together from the passage, had a late lunch, I tried calling a bunch of marine service providers for the boat repairs, and then we kinda lapsed into a lazy funk. As the sun went down I decided I should get a plan organized so I wrote out a list for this week and then tackled the bilge pump that's been sporadically malfunctioning the last couple weeks. I took it apart, cleaned it, and discovered the problem (the timer switch had somehow been jarred out of place). I had bought a spare in case I couldn't fix this one but it'll remain just a spare.

This morning was quite chilly as the slow, weak cold front had finally passed during the night. I made my Mexican Breakfast (eggs, chorizo, and hot & sweet peppers in corn tortillas) with coffee and tea, took Piper to shore, did some more calling around, and then launched into my major project for today: the forward head. It's been bubbling up noxious fumes every time we flush it to the holding tank (but not when flushing directly overboard). This is our only usable head within 3 miles of land as the aft head goes directly overboard, so it really needs to be working. My initial thought was the vent, and I had gone through it all the way to the holding tank a few weeks ago. It was obvious the joker valve was also bad because it was allowing water back into the bowl (as well as the bubbles) but this wasn't the primary cause of the pressurization of the holding tank - only the reason it became obvious to us.

My first step was to run muriatic acid through the head and discharge lines to dissolve any scale. This made the head easier to pump but it bubbled as furiously as ever.  Next I replaced the joker valve - along with the entire manual pump assembly (it had started to leak and on closer inspection had numerous worn parts). I could have rebuilt it using our spare service kit, but Dan & Isabelle from Epiic had bequeathed us a perfectly working Jabsco manual pump since they had converted their heads to electric, and we already have another spare manual pump assembly, so I decided to use their pump and save my service kit (which is very nearly as expensive as an entire pump, anyways). The new pump stopped the bubbling but it was obvious the holding tank was still under pressure, and that would certainly affect head usability down the road. I disconnected the vent hose from its filter, connected our garden hose to it, and tried to flush it using our raw water washdown pump. Nothing went through. I disconnected the end at the holding tank, put the vent hose in a bucket, and tried again. First a trickle of water, then some "debris," and then a torrent of water came out. So that was clear, but the tank was still under pressure. So I used my set of dental picks (which are some of the most useful tools on the boat, incidentally) to poke inside the vent fitting on the holding tank. Suddenly there was a noisy squeal as pressurized air (and millions of poo particles, ugh) rushed out of the holding tank! I used the picks and then some stainless safety wire to further dredge out the fitting, and then hooked the vent hose back up and further flushed it with the garden hose. Finally, we have a perfectly working head with a perfectly vented holding tank!

While I was doing all this Dawn was holding her nose, inventorying provisions, and figuring out what we'll need to get in our final provisioning before the Bahamas. We can't bring all our food for three months (much with guests) so we are prioritizing non-perishable or freezable foods we know are difficult to obtain in the Bahamas, followed by stuff that's expensive there. Dawn will do the final provisioning while I'm on my work trip and then in Atlanta next week.

Tonight we took Piper for a walk out along Las Olas Beach. He couldn't go on the beach itself because pets are prohibited, and he spazzed out a bit at the milling crowds spilling out of the party bars lining A1A, but nevertheless seemed to enjoy the exercise. Back at the boat I rewarded myself for a productive stinky day with a glass of Four Roses bourbon, and Dawn made a scrumptious pot of chili with cornbread for dinner. Tomorrow will be a planning-and-organizing day, and then we'll really get busy on Monday. It's good to be here and making the final push to get ready for the Bahamas.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Too Clever by Half

It's 11pm, I'm on the 10-1 watch while Dawn is below, and we're roaring along at 7 kts on a close reach with all three sails flying in 12-15 knots of true wind. However our speed over ground is hovering around 5 and that's the best it's been in hours. I really screwed us by planning this curved route that took us 6-8 miles offshore to stay in good wind at a hot angle. The sailing has indeed been fantastic since we exited Ft. Pierce Inlet at 3:50pm but within a couple hours we hit this really foul 2+ knot current. It's not the Gulf Stream persay - water temp hasn't gone up - but it must be it's kissin' cousin. After a while I changed our route further inshore, but getting there has taken a bit as the winds have remained stubbornly just south of west until about 30 minutes ago, when they finally clocked to 270. We've been sailing with the autopilot in wind angle hold mode so we can stay fast and fairly comfortable on a close reach and get inshore as the veering winds of this cold front allow. We could get in faster by strapping the sails in and beating but that'd be slower & harder on the boat, & is no good for sleeping offwatch. I suspect we'll have to go all the way to the 20 or 30 fathom line to get out of the current (or, perchance, catch one of these fabled Gulf Stream counter-current eddies I keep hearing about). Even at current speed over ground we'd get to the anchorage in Ft. Lauderdale by noon, which would be just fine. 

I napped in the cockpit for over an hour during Dawn's 7-10 watch, and I just checked & she's fast asleep in our aft berth. Piper dozed much of the day but is suddenly active and in a cuddly mood, which is nice on a chilly night watch. It's very nearly a new moon and the stars are gorgeous, though we're within sight of shore lights (and 4G data!). Beautiful night to be sailing in the Atlantic Ocean, foul current or no.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Velcro Beach

We arrived at Vero Beach on Monday afternoon and have now been here two full days, and they've really been quite full, yet I feel like I haven't got as much done as I wanted to. We've taken Piper to the dog park everyday; we've done a couple loads of laundry; we've been to Publix twice for minor provisioning; we've been to West Marine but it was an Express location that only had one of the four things we need; we went to the dive shop and got Dawn a nice set of snorkel equipment. We've topped off the dinghy gasoline. I've finished my column, caught up on emails, listened to Chris Parker weather, scheduled an array of medical appointments, started arranging for repairs in Ft. Lauderdale (correcting problems from the Charleston refit), ordered a new stackpack, finished my Flying column, planned our offshore passage to Ft. Lauderdale, and have done a number of minor boat projects including fixing the boom bail that broke on Monday. Dawn collected packages and started an onboard garden (in jars). But I haven't taken our small bilge pump apart despite planning to do so both days, and we still have major issues with our forward head / holding tank though I took the vent apart last week. Now that I list everything we actually did do, those two omissions don't seem so bad. But we could certainly stand to stay here another night, or maybe two. Heck, it's only $15 a night for a mooring ball with full marina amenities.

Nope, not gonna do it. Cruisers call this place Velcro Beach for a reason. It's a little too nice, a little too comfortable...people sail in planning to spend a night and the next thing they know the season's over and it's time to head north again. We've certainly had a pleasant couple of days here, and I can easily see how people slip into staying. We met a really nice solo sailor, John, who's on a Hans Christian 43 with his two cats Max and Athena (he was rafted up with Dan & Isabella on Epiic). He came here planning to spend a week fixing his outboard engine - he's now two months in and neck deep in the middle of a complete diesel repower of his boat! The friendly, experienced cruising couple we're rafted up with, Greg and Lynn of Paperbird, have been here two weeks waiting on a suitable weather window to the Bahamas (which, because we're still fairly far north, would have to be a pretty sizable window - but they quite pointedly state they're in no hurry). So as nice as it is here, I'm determined to get south to Ft. Lauderdale in a safe & timely fashion, get our boat stuff done, and be ready to cross to the Bahamas on the first weather window after February 11th.

It's 105 nautical miles from here down to Ft Pierce inlet, outside to Port Everglades Inlet, and up to Lake Sylvia in Ft. Lauderdale; at 5.5 knots it'd take just over 19 hours.  Tomorrow the wind is supposed to be WSW at 10-15 knots tomorrow swinging NW at 5-10 early Friday. My plan is to be off the mooring here about 1pm tomorrow, be out Fort Pierce Inlet right around slack water at 3:11pm, & arrive at Port Everglades Inlet around sunup. If we're slow we'll arrive later in the morning; if our initial beam reach is fast we may have to slow down a bit in the early morning hours to avoid a night inlet entry (won't be hard to go slow on a broad reach!). We'll go a bit offshore as needed to keep a hot-ish angle to the wind and sail as much as possible, but stay close enough to keep out of the Gulf Stream (9-17 miles offshore, per the National Weather Service). This will be Dawn's first time standing a night watch - the first overnight with just us - so I'm planning to sleep in the cockpit while off watch. If we decide for some reason not to go all the way, we can easily duck in Lake Worth Inlet; though it'd be a night entry, it's a well-lit, deep & wide inlet with an easy anchorage just inside.

If anyone has any idea why a head would bubble up noxious holding tank fumes for 5-10 minutes after being flushed, seriously, let me know. My first thought was a blocked holding tank vent but I went through that last week and it's clear all the way from the outside to the vent filter to the tank. The one possibility I can think of is that there is, ahem, sludge at the top of the tank's interior blocking the vent port, but I'm not that keen to "dive in" to the tank to check that out. It'll likely be one of my first tasks once we get to Lake Sylvia, because the nearest toilet will be a long dinghy ride away. Should be fun. So yeah, if anyone knows of anything else to check out, let me know. The one possible clue is that water slowly leaks back into the bowl after it is pumped dry with the selector valve on dry...according to Nigel Calder that's likely due to a bad joker valve (which I have a spare for, and will also replace), but I can't see that being responsible for air bubbling back up if the vent was clear. We'll see.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Windbird in the Wind

It's been a couple of very active weather days here but we've managed to stay on the move and get 110 miles south from Daytona Beach to Vero Beach since Saturday afternoon. Yesterday morning we left the city dock at New Smyrna Beach in the dark at 6:30 am, knowing we had a long day ahead of us. We actually made pretty good progress for the first several hours, until passing through Haulover Canal, but after that our progress was stunted by heavy headwinds. The Indian River has small tides but for the most part the movement of its water is dictated by winds. Having them against us not only slowed our progress through the water (due to drag against the boat as well as big wind chop) but also set up an ugly counter current, and we made little better than 4 knots speed over ground for much of the day. We passed Titusville around noon; that was our alternate bug-out plan but the storms looked like they would hold off until evening so we continued. South of there, the wind increased to 30+ knots from the south-southwest. We finally got to Cocoa at 4:15pm, tucked up as close to the shore as I dared to go in 7.5 feet of water, and dropped the hook. It grabbed immediately, but the boat was still moving quite a bit in the gusts.

We dropped the dinghy and took Piper to shore right away, and then walked through the very nice beach town. I forgot my wallet so we didn't spend any money. Back on the boat we grilled salmon with avacado salsa and had that with veggies with hummus for dinner, and then waited for the weather to roll in. It was a pretty serious line, and Dawn was rather worried by the tornado watch and reports of tornadoes further north. She went to bed listening to music on headphones while I headed up to the cockpit with a beer to watch it come in. We actually got a tornado warning - though none was sighted - and there was an impressive display of lightning, including a ground strike that apparently took out a transformer and plunged the shore into darkness. The gust front registered no more than 40 knots, though, which wasn't much more than was in the anchorage before the storm came through. We stayed firmly planted in place, swinging a 70-foot arc around our anchor.

This morning when we woke up another line of rain was moving in, and we hustled to get Piper to shore and come back before it hit. It proved to be short-lived and rather light, and we got the anchor up shortly before 8. It was immediately apparent why we hadn't moved during the night: the chain and anchor brought up a thick, concrete like mix of mud with seashells.

The cold front passed almost immediately after we got underway; the wind swung to the west and freshened. This is an area of the ICW where the water is fairly deep outside the main channel, which along with westerly winds made it the perfect day to sail. We originally put out the full main and yankee, but the wind soon became too much for that and we rolled up the Yankee (easier said than done - there was an override in the furler I had to unsnarl) & rolled out the staysail. Another hour along and we put in a reef. Around noon, the wind was starting to consistently gust over 30 knots and we were getting frequently overpowered - but I didn't have the second reef tied into the mainsail yet (remember, we took it off in Daytona to repair the stackpack). So, we just dropped the main, started the engine, and motorsailed at close to 7 knots with just engine and staysail. I tied in the second reef while the sail was in its stackpack but Dawn had had enough of stressful sailing for the day (including one accidental gybe that broke the boom vang's bail, the second time that's happened) and the channel had narrowed again so we continued motorsailing at a very good clip. We arrived at Vero Beach City Marina at 3:45pm - 47 miles in only 7.8 hours.

The mooring field was full due to the weather and we were directed to raft up to a Pearson 422 - "Paperbird" - owned by Greg and Lynn from Maryland. After securing the lines and talking to them for a while, we launched the dinghy to take Piper to shore and register with the marina. They told us about the nearby dog park, so we took Piper right away. What a nice dog park! He was in doggie heaven and ran a good bit of energy out. He's been super good on the boat but doesn't get to be nearly as active as he'd like, I think. Afterward we dropped by Epiic - Dan and Isabelle have been here two days already. They currently have relatives aboard, Bill and Bonnie, who lived aboard their 34' Seaforth and sailed the Bahamas from 1998 to 2004. We stayed and chatted with them for a while, as well as Jon, who owns the Hans Christian 43 that Epiic is rafted up with. Then we came back here and I cleaned up from our sail today while Dawn made a delicious beef stew.

We're going to stay here a few days and catch our breath before hopefully sailing offshore to Ft. Lauderdale. There's an easily accessed Publix and West Marine here, which along with the dog park covers 90% of our needs these days. I need to get my Flying column finished tonight, it's overdue. I think we'll both sleep well; it's been a somewhat stressful, tiring couple of days. We've made the most of them, though.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Back on the ICW

I spent part of yesterday in a hospital waiting room and the rest either passed out cold or in a drug-induced euphoric haze, which is pretty much the best possible way to avoid witnessing the death of the American Experiment as it happened on Capitol Hill (judging by the tiny penis crowd sizes that Benito Cheetolini can't help obsessively raging over, guess I wasn't the only one in avoidance mode). We also found a cool pizza joint near Emory's campus ("Slice&Pint"), bought new shoes and a sunglass case for Dawn, and went on an extended wild goose chase through Nowheresville, GA for a heavy-duty rivet gun that took us to Ace Hardware, a Northern Tool & Supply, and a Tractor Supply Co - all fun stores to browse, though none had a rivet gun that could handle 1/4" rivets. I ended up just buying one on Amazon and shipping it to the Vero Beach City Marina. So overall it was a pretty good day, colonoscopy and political death spiral notwithstanding.

 Atlanta was stormy this morning and our flight to Daytona Beach was slightly delayed due to lightning that closed the ramp and delayed the inbound aircraft. We got to Daytona Beach about 11:45, caught an Uber to the marina, collected Piper from the gracious DogVacay lady who dropped him off for us, and set about getting Windbird ready to go. We topped off our water tanks, slipped out of the dock, and headed over to the fuel dock to top off on diesel and collect some packages from the marina office. We took on 38.3 gallons; we've run the engine about 46 hours since the last topoff, so she's using about 8/10ths of a gallon per hour. Not bad. Getting Windbird off the fuel dock was a bit tricky as there was a decent wind holding us on, but we eventually got off & were motoring down the ICW by 1:30pm.

We had a little adverse current but nothing too bad, and enjoyed a high-tide lift over the shallow spots near Ponce de Leon Inlet. We were originally planning to anchor out at New Smyrna Beach but by the time I got the anchor ready we were already most of the way through Sheepshead Cut and realized that the free town dock was vacant. So we decided to do that instead. It's curved and fixed (vs floating) and you have to tie off to pilings rather than cleats, but it's otherwise a pretty nice dock - and the price is right! The unofficial dock greeter, James, came down from his nearby condo to welcome us to NSB. Super nice guy, and actually everyone here has been quite nice. The locals use this dock for fishing and quite a few talked to us tonight - the Minneapolis hailing port is of course quite an attention-getter. Tonight Dawn & I walked Piper through the cute downtown and stopped at the Half-Wall Bar & Grill for a pint and then ended up staying for dinner. The waitresses and patrons all fawned over Piper and he was pretty good...he mostly only barked at skateboarders passing by!

There's a big weather system in its way; in fact it's already wreaked havoc further north. Tomorrow there are supposed to be strong southwesterlies and then thunderstorms in the afternoon; the cold front won't actually pass until Monday morning, though. We're planning to get up early and try to get to at least Titusville (29nm away) before the storms hit. Cocoa (46nm) would be even better but I don't know if that'll happen. And actually if we get up and it looks like the storms might hit before we get to Titusville, we'll just stay put here at the town dock for another day. It's protected from SW through NW, making it a fine place to ride out a cold front, and I certainly don't want to be battling a severe thunderstorm with big gusts and restricted visibility within the narrow confines of the ICW. But if we can safely get south, we will.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Atlanta

It was a long day off the boat, our first in quite a while, as Dawn and I woke early to finish putting Windbird in order for our several-day absence & then caught an Uber to Daytona Beach airport for our 7am flight to Atlanta. From there it was a quick connection to CHS and then another Uber to Charleston City Boatyard, where we picked up our Nissan Xterra. I'll be stashing it in a Delta employee lot near the Atlanta airport for use whenever I'm back in town, but in the meantime we can use it to drive to and from my appointment tomorrow. It's normally a five-hour drive to Atlanta but several crashes and then typical rush-hour traffic added a bit to that. I was restricted to a clear liquid diet the whole time - I have a colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow, fun fun - so I couldn't have anything other than Gatorade or Chicken Noodle Soup (hold the chicken and noodles) & was quite hungry. Once we got to our hotel here I had to start the other part of my prep - basically overdosing on laxatives. So we've had a quiet night in the room, watching sailing videos on YouTube. We finally caught the documentary Chasing Bubbles. I was familiar with the story and tragic passing of young circumnavigator Alex Rust from Cruisers Forums but didn't realize there was a documentary about him. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow I'll be fairly doped up after the procedure (which is just as well considering what's going on in DC) so we'll be staying here a second night. On Saturday we'll take the first flight back to Daytona Beach, retrieve the pooch, and return to Windbird. What happens then depends on the forecast. If the coming cold front stays strong and fast-moving, we'll get an extra night or two in the marina and ride it out there. If it peters out a bit and/or slows down, we'll likely head south to New Smyrna Beach for the night and Cocoa on Sunday. The plan is to spend a couple nights in Vero Beach next week and then press on to Ft. Lauderdale. With a good forecast, we'll go outside at Fort Pierce Inlet and do the whole shebang in one overnight. There are an absolute ton of bascule bridges south of Ft. Pierce, many with restricted opening times, which along with general congestion tend to slow one's progress along the ICW. If we can skip them, great.

I did some calling to marinas in the Ft. Lauderdale area during the drive today. As near as I can tell, they're all either full or expensive. We got on the waitlist for two of the more reasonable municipal marinas, but absent any openings I think we'll do some combination of anchoring out, mooring balls, and a couple nights at expensive marinas as needed. We still have some work to do to Windbird when we get there plus several things to be addressed professionally (related to work the boatyard did) - and of course the usual reprovisioning and other last-minute errands before casting off for the Bahamas. We'll celebrate Dawn's birthday in Ft. Lauderdale, right after that I'll fly a 3-day trip on Feb 5-7th to reestablish my landing currency, and on the 8th I have two more Dr's appointments in Atlanta. On my return we'll move the boat to Miami, where my brother Steve is flying in Feb 11th to do the crossing with us. We'll leave for Bimini or Chub Cay the next weather window after that. I've been keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts & reports and war-gaming the crossing. Thus far this year the windows have been regular and fairly lengthy (this week Tues-Fri was a good one). We'll hope that holds true into February.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day at the Dock

Mark and Judy took Windbird around the world over six years and took a dock something like five times. Dawn and I made it nine days! I jest...we put Windbird in a slip at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach so I could fly to Atlanta tomorrow for a doctor appointment on Friday morning. But we took advantage of the time on the dock today to take our mainsail down and do some major surgery on our stackpack. We've had continuing issues with the zipper fabric ripping every time we zipped the stackpack closed - the last time after I spent two hours precariously balanced in the stackpack in freezing cold weather hand-sewing a patch on (it subsequently ripped in a different spot). Taking the mainsail off proved surprisingly easy, but Dawn ended up spending a good four hours reworking the zipper with her sewing machine. First she went over the zipper seam everywhere it was ripped with a Z stitch, then she sewed on reinforcing patches down the full length of both zippers. She has an older Kenmore sewing machine that seems fairly stout, but a Sailrite it is not, and she had several delays while she worked through issues. Meanwhile I made Curried Rice & Shrimp for lunch and then took the Votran bus on a run to Publix. Oof, rough-looking crowd on that bus.


Dawn was almost done when I got back, and then went about bending the sail and stackpack back onto the boom and mast. It went much, much smoother than last time, everything fits better, and it looks great. I zipped the stackpack closed, no rips, and this time the entire sail fits down inside it. Once that was done we hurriedly set about cleaning the boat before our friend Traci showed up. She's a SWA pilot who lives at the nearby Spruce Creek Airpark, which is pretty much pilot heaven. We met her through the AirVenture Cup Cross-Country Air Race which I participated in for several years with my flying club Piper Cub and then our Piper Pacer (Traci and her husband Mike raced their Diamond Twin Star). We had a really lovely evening showing her our new home, enjoying sundowners in the cockpit, eating grilled steaks & a strawberry-spinach salad, and talking boats and aviation.

Piper's DogVacay sitter picked him up at the marina at 10am this morning so he missed most of the excitement, but she's sent Dawn text updates with photos showing him having a great time with her four dogs in their expansive backyard. After Traci left tonight Dawn and I zipped up the enclosure in preparation for leaving the boat. We'll be up early tomorrow and have a couple more things to do before catching an Uber to the Daytona Beach Airport.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Droning to Daytona

Yesterday went about as planned or maybe even a little better. We were up at 5:30am; after running Piper to shore and putting the dinghy on its davits, we got the boat ready to go and were off the mooring by 6:50 to make the Bridge of Lions' 7am opening. We had a flood tide helping us at first, then slowing us for a few miles before Matanzas inlet, then helping us again. Once past Palm Coast the tides become quite small and well separated from the inlet tide times, but we did have a little adverse current on the Halifax River past Ormond Beach to Daytona.

It was a fairly nice stretch of the ICW, but inevitably got boring after hours of motoring at 5.9 knots. We still haven't had a chance to autotune our autopilot so it's a little too wandering for use on the ICW, and we hand-steered the whole way, alternating one-hour shifts. The only really notable events were when I was eating breakfast at the helm and distractedly mistook a green daymark for a red, very nearly running us up on a sandbar in the process, and when we had to divert out of the charted channel at Matanzas Inlet to skirt a very large, very shallow shoal. At one point we saw 6.8 ft on the depth sounder, which got our attention real quick! Our track on the chartplotter actually showed us going through land, though in reality we were about 30 feet from shore.


We ended up going to one of the southern anchorages in Daytona, just past the remains of Memorial Bridge, which is being very noisily demolished. Thankfully the work ceased shortly after we arrived at 3:15pm, and has only been sporadic today. This anchorage is on the other side of a 3' bar from the main channel but Active Captain had good instructions for getting in and we saw no less than 8' on entrance. We're anchored in 11' just off the dock of a very nice mansion. As we were anchoring the security guard came down to the dock in a not-so-subtle show of force. No cruiser scum welcomed here! At first we had the anchorage to ourselves, but two other boats came in later. Last night we used a public boat ramp near the municipal dock across the river as our dinghy landing, but it's in a not-so-nice area and is far from optimal - you have to beach the dinghy on some slippery rocks. Late last night I took Piper over to do his business, and upon hoisting him back into the boat slipped in the mud and scratched up my leg pretty good. It looks like I had a tussle with the killer honey badgers of Daytona Beach.


Last night was a touch chilly but Dawn made homemade artisan bread, simultaneously warming up the boat and making it smell delicious! She also made Indian Butter Chicken Curry with rice, which is quick becoming one of my favorite meals. Today is a "lazy day" so we slept in until about 8:30, after which I put some more gas in the dinghy tank and went exploring with Piper. We found a much better boat ramp / dinghy dock option inside the Halifax Harbor basin, which is where we'll be taking the slip tomorrow. The grounds are quite nice, with a riverside path perfect for dog-walking. After our walk I went to the marina office to confirm our slip for tomorrow and get a list of local marine service providers. The manager at Charleston City Boatyard agreed to pay for replacing the nav light wiring which is apparently pinched under the bow pulpit structure, so we just have to find someone to do it while Windbird is at the dock the next few days.


Although it's a lazy day I'm going to try to be productive by getting a bunch of little maintenance tasks done around here, and write my monthly Flying column. I'm also going to take a dip in the Halifax River to try to free our triducer paddlewheel...whether due to seaweed or a barnacle, we had zero Speed Through Water readout yesterday. I'll do a little scraping the bottom while I'm down there. At the dock tomorrow we'll be taking down the mainsail and stackpack to reinforce the stackpack zipper with Dawn's sewing machine, and I'll also be reworking the reef lines and our staysail furling line. That'll be a good day's project. Piper's DogVacay sitter will be coming by the marina at 10:30am, so we're planning to move the boat over at 9am. Dan and Isabelle from Epiic are coming down from St. Augustine today, so I expect we'll probably do happy hour on one boat or another tonight. And tomorrow our flying friend Traci Farley, who lives at nearby Spruce Creek Airpark, is coming for dinner. Then we fly to Atlanta on Thursday, get back Saturday, and on Sunday we head south for Fort Lauderdale.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Epiic Arrival

A few hours after I posted yesterday our friends Dan and Isabelle on Epiic pulled into St. Augustine with their Jeanneau 41. They've been daysailing from inlet to inlet so we had leapfrogged them with our overnight passage, but didn't get too far ahead as they have a faster boat. We invited them over for sundowners, but before they came over Dan took a couple of spectacular shots of Windbird with his SLR camera.

After an hour or two of socializing in Windbird's cockpit we all agreed to move the party to Tradewinds Lounge, which the municipal marina dockmaster had recommended as a good place for live music. The place was fairly jammed, and the band (four old duffers playing mostly 60s & 70s tunes) was quite good. It was a fun night.

This morning I was up quite early for some reason; I set about putting together a spreadsheet (and later photographing the receipts) for our lightning strike insurance claim. Now that the work is finally complete, hopefully we can settle it quickly. I was glad to note that the bilge pump is working correctly today...after I posted yesterday I fished it out of the bilge and cleaned it up. I think the pressure port was clogged. Our nav lights, however, are hopeless. I did some more troubleshooting and poking around this morning after breakfast and it's obvious that the wires got pinched by the bow pulpit when the boatyard reinstalled it on the bow. It's going to need to come off again to correct the problem. I wrote the boatyard manager asking them to pay for it, we'll see what he says.

This afternoon Dawn and I walked to West Marine and Winn-Dixie, since the Sunshine Blue Bus doesn't run on Sundays. It was only 1.5 miles each way, a rather nice walk. Dawn took Piper for a walk this morning; this afternoon we succeeded in convincing him to go up and down the companionway ladder on his own.

Tonight sundowners were on Epiic. We both went to dinner in town, but in separate locations, but then we got together afterwards for a nightcap. We called it an early night since Dawn & I have to be up early tomorrow to scoot down the ICW to Daytona Beach, but it was a good time. The four of us really get along well, & it's been a pleasure getting to know Dan & Isabelle. Like us, this is all new to them, but they're smart and eager to learn. We're headed the same places so I'm sure we'll see each other quite a bit more, but we're not buddy boating per se. Both being new, I think it's good that we all go at our own pace. It sounds like they'll be coming down to Daytona a few days after us. We'll be anchoring at first and then in Halifax Harbor Marina the 18th-21st. Dawn found a DogVacay for Piper while we're in Atlanta; the lady is even picking him up at the marina.

Ok - early morning for a long day tomorrow. Off to bed with me. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

St. Augustine

A week straight of short nights had me dog-tired last night, and I fell asleep shortly after dinner - around 8pm - despite plans to go catch some live music at Tradewinds Lounge here in St. Augustine. But we're here several nights, and we plan on going out tonight instead. Dan and Isabelle on Epiic should be arriving in an hour or two - they were in Fernandina Beach last night.

We were anchor up in Fernandina Beach shortly after 5am yesterday, but it took a bit longer than planned to motor out of St. Mary's Inlet. I knew we'd be fighting the tide, but wasn't expecting over three knots of adverse current. Windbird only does 5.8 kts under power! I moved well outside the channel, up against the Amelia Island shore, which gave me another 1.5 knots speed over ground - but was a bit nerve-wracking in the dark. There was plenty of water, though.

We had barely a breath of wind to start, as expected, and we motored along rocking & rolling in 5-6 foot long easterly swell. Finally the wind filled in enough to put up the mostly slatted around. But the breeze never got much above 8 knots, which simply isn't enough to sail on going anywhere near downwind with our boat. Later when it was apparent we'd be arriving at St. Augustine Inlet a bit earlier than planned I rolled out the yankee and gybed along to stay at a hot angle (145 degrees apparent wind seemed to work well)...but I still had to use a little engine power, turning it off produced only 3 knots boatspeed. I considered trying the spinnaker but would like an extra set of experienced hands on board the first time I do that.

The most exciting event of our day was being intercepted by a Navy Patrol Boat off St. John's River Inlet to warn us of a warship ahead and request that we stay 500 yards away. As we got closer we were surprised to see a nuclear submarine sitting on the surface with her crew on top! They had been getting towed by a Navy tugboat. As we passed the tug disconnected and the crew went below; shortly after they got underway and headed out to sea, passing less than a mile off our port side! We were hoping they would dive under but no such luck. Still, something cool you don't see every day.



The second most exciting event was entering St. Augustine Inlet. It's shallow with a shifting bar; the channel buoys are moved frequently for this reason (Garmin charts don't even bother showing the markers). Current advice is to favor the red side. We arrived after low tide but there was still some outgoing current to jack up the easterly swell; it was a slightly exciting ride as we surfed our way in. We saw 10-11 feet twice across the inlet bar, and then 8.9 feet in the calm water at the entrance to the St. Augustine mooring field. I tried raising St. Augustine Municipal Marina on the VHF and couldn't; when we called he assigned us Mooring 3. Dawn drove while I tried and failed to snag the mooring pendant with the boathook; we got it on the second round. Later we discovered our VHF was not transmitting; I found the loose antenna connection this morning and secured it.  Our Command Mic is still not working properly; I think there's a loose wire inside the plug, because by bending it just so you can get it to work. So we'll be fixing or replacing that.

We dinghied Piper to shore soon after arrival so he could do his business; we checked out the very nice marina and found the dockmaster to pay for our mooring ($20/night includes dinghy dock, water, pump out, & showers), then went for a short walk around St. Augustine. Back at the boat Dawn made a fantastic dinner of Tortellini, Carrot & Spinach soup; as mentioned I passed out soon after, went to bed an hour later, and didn't wake up until 6:30 this morning.


The thing that woke me was our small bilge pump going on for extended periods, and a bubbling sound that both Dawn and I thought sounded like water entering the boat on the starboard side. I shined a spotlight into our bilge but couldn't see any apparent ingress. Hmm. I looked under the aft head sink and didn't see any leakage from those through-hulls; then I tore apart the cabinet behind the shower to access those two through hulls. It really sounded like it was coming from there, but there was no water leaking. I went topside and looked over the starboard side and saw bubbles coming up from one of the through-hulls. That means a leak somewhere, right? Fortunately I was interrupted by the necessity to take Piper to shore, so I didn't tear anything else looking for the leak. On our return, from the dinghy it was clear what was happening: the current was holding the boat broadside to the wind and waves were splashing into the inlets as the boat rocked. On closer inspection we saw the bubbles were actually coming from both inlets, whenever they were submerged for a minute or two after a period of rocking. Silly. Of course that doesn't explain the bilge pump activity. I shut it down for several hours and the bilge level didn't go up at all. I think it may be clogged (it works off of pressure), I'll be checking that out in a few minutes now that I'm sure no water is actually coming into the bilge.

The rest of this morning and afternoon we scrubbed the deck, did various boat projects, did a couple loads of laundry, and planned a provisioning/West Marine run for tomorrow. I should note that we're anchored right in front of the Spanish-era Castillo de San Marcos and they've been firing muskets and cannon all day, which has been pretty cool. The big cannon startled Piper a few times but not too badly.


Ok, off to do more boat work and then have some fun in St. Augustine tonight.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Beautiful First Passage

We were off the Charleston City Boatyard dock at 6:50am Tuesday and anchor down in Fernandina Beach at 3:45pm for a total passage time of 32 hours 55 mins. We covered 171nm including 150nm inlet-to-inlet. We chose a curving route that took us about 40nm offshore in order to take advantage of forecast northeasterly wind at the beginning of the trip and southeasterlies at the end. We got both, but no was 6 kts or less about half the time. Thus we only sailed a bit over 10 hours, motored 7 hours, and motor sailed the remainder (when boat speed consistently  dropped under 4 kts, we started the engine). 


Nevertheless it was beautiful weather: mostly clear, great viz, only a small spritz of rain, with easterly swell mostly around 1m except late Tuesday night when slightly larger quartering swell plus no mainsail up in dead calm wind had us rockin-and-rollin. The nearly full moon made for a gorgeous night. Andy, Lance & I split the night watches at 3 hrs apeice: Andy 10pm-1am, Lance 1am-4am, and me 4am-7am. It was a beautiful sunrise that brought a fresh breeze to hoist all sail and enjoy a lovely beam reach for the 4 hours it lasted.


Dawn was a bit seasick all day Tues but didn't vomit; she was fine yesterday. Piper was lethargic and slept in the cockpit all of the first day but recovered his usual verve at night. Andy finally got him to pee on his mat after midnight but we never could get him to poop till we got to shore in a Ferd Beach...then he went four times straight! Overall he did really good on the passage that will likely be our longest for a while.


The autopilot wasn't doing a good job when we started off down  the Wando River so Lance and I played with a bunch of settings & had it working pretty well shortly after we exited Charleston Inlet. Our nav light CB kept tripping so there's a short somewhere I'll have to find today...we just used the masthead tricolor instead. A fuse in the chartplotter/radar power supply blew the first time we tested out the radar but I was able to track it down & replace it, and everything worked well from there on. I really like the sailing instruments & plotter we got. There's a ton of information, very well presented.


At sunset yesterday we caught our first fish from Windbird, a little Bonito that provided the perfect amount of meat for a grilled fish & rice dinner for four. We used a hand line with 80 lb test & a plug/skirt squid lure which is a rig we've used with some success in the BVI. We don't have an offshore rod yet, I want to use the hand line & yoyo and see how that goes before buying more expensive equipment.


There's a lot of damage from Matthew here. There are three sunken boats in the mooring field and a number of others ashore; the Fernandina Beach Municipal Marina suffered severe damage and is mostly closed st present. The moorings are now decommissioned but there was enough room to anchor in between in about 8' MLW.

After anchoring we launched the dinghy from the foredeck and headed to shore so Piper (and Lance!) could do their business. We walked around the very picturesque downtown enjoying the warm sunshine, then stopped at a dog-friendly bar for a celebratory beer. Unfortunately Piper kept barking at strangers and we had to take him out before he got us kicked out. Time to start using that bark collar. Back at the boat we had a nice chili dinner with rum cake for dessert, and at 9pm headed back to shore for a nightcap at The Palace - supposedly the oldest bar in Florida. Cool place.


This morning we were up early so Lance & Andy could shower and catch an uber ride to the Jacksonville Airport. Since then Dawn and I have been cleaning up around here and planning our next week or so. We've had a change of plans - instead of ducking into Jacksonville we're going to continue south to Daytona Beach and leave the boat in a marina there when we fly up to Atlanta the 19th-21st. The weather looks great for a 9-hr offshore passage to St. Augustine tomorrow. It would be a 2-day trip on the ICW. We'll spent three nights in St. Augustine before starting down the ICW for Daytona Beach. It feels great to be in Florida at last & headed further south soon.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Here We Go!

Dawn and I have been running full bore 16 hours a day for the last 4 days but everything has come together at the last minute, and we're ready to head out tomorrow morning. Our friends Lance & Andy are here, we're socializing, and we're going to be up early to be off the dock at 6am so this will be a very short post. Yesterday was a long bitterly cold day mostly spent outside doing various rigging projects; today was much more enjoyable with a test sail with the riggers in the morning and a sea trial to commission the autopilot in the afternoon. We paid our boatyard bill (yikes), Dawn picked up Lance & Andy, I ran to top off our propane & get miscellaneous last-minute items, we've checked the weather and picked a tentative route...we're ready to head south. A few nights ago I wrote up a comprehensive list of the total work done on our boat over the last three months but that post will have to wait for the next anchorage where we have good wifi.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rigging Friday, Provisioning Saturday

The last two days involved long and arduous hours for Dawn and I, but rewarded us with monstrous progress towards being ready to leave early this week. We've been going from sunup until well after sundown both days...tonight we finished stowing provisions and were shocked to find it was already 11:30pm. We have full days planned for both tomorrow and Monday, but the end of the end is in sight.

Yesterday Dawn and I were up early, anticipating the imminent arrival of the riggers. In fact our breakfast was interrupted by a hard-charging craftsman, but it was Donnie the carpenter, who had come to reassemble the last salon cabinet. He had held off because a fair amount of moisture had leaked in through the deck while the chainplate was off and we used some big fans to dry it out thoroughly. Once he finished, the salon looked couldn't tell the cabinets had ever been disassembled, unless you looked really closely for the joint where he had sawed them with a Japanese fine-blade saw.

While Donnie was working below, Dawn and I started rerigging the boat up top. The previous day we had put on the boom and ran the outhaul and reef clew lines, but hadn't done anything at the mast. We ran into problems immediately as the pilot line for the topping lift was stuck in place. I had somewhat expected and dreaded problems with twisted and caught pilot lines, and already had the bosuns chair out; I tied it to the main halyard and climbed our 55' mast. The problem was immediately apparent: one pilot line was wrapped up in the main halyard sheave and another in the yankee halyard sheave, seizing both. Like an idiot, I had neglected to bring any tools up with me. But in a flash of brilliance I had turned on all the mast lights so I could check them up close while I was up there. It turned out the tricolor and steaming light were both out...we had just replaced the steaming light with an LED so I was pretty sure the polarity was merely reversed. After a quick trip to deck level to equip myself with tools, I switched the steaming light around and it worked. I ascended to the masthead and took the cover off the tricolor/anchor light & tried reseating the dice. I checked the voltage with a multimeter, it checked out, so I had a rare burnt out LED bulb. I had also brought the Garmin Gwind with me; attaching that to its bracket was a 20-second job. That left the wrapped up pilot lines...those were tricky business because, first, I didn't want one severing and leaving me without any decent means of guiding its assigned line down the interior of the mast, and secondly one of them was wrapped around the sheave that was supporting my weight. Our mast has steps and I was able to get my weight off the main halyard enough to get it off the sheave and unwrap the pilot line. Whew.

Once the pilot lines were sorted I just stayed aloft while Dawn sewed the bitter end to each rope and then helped her feed each though its assigned sheave. Our bosun's chair is quite comfortable so it was a peaceful, enjoyable way to pass some time in the warm sunshine. A dolphin was playing quite close to our dock all morning, and it was neat to see him swimming just under the surface of the water before breaching with a gasp of his blowhole. Piper napped on deck and paid the dolphin surprisingly little attention. Once we had the topping lift, yankee halyard and spinnaker pole hoist in place I moved down to the second spreaders where we set up the staysail halyard and dinghy hoist after a false start caused by me incorrectly remembering which went through which sheave (my notes in "The Book of Knowledge" were below). Once those were set I'd had enough time in the chair for one morning so I came down for lunch. Afterwards I applied some sunscreen, put on my cruiser hat, and went back up to run the flag halyards from the first spreaders and tie the lazy jack turning blocks to the second spreaders. Right about the time I finished up the riggers finally showed up. They weren't actually late...they'd been waiting on an overnight Fedex delivery of some parts to finish building new intermediate backrunners, which had been accidentally cut too short. Pete got the new backrunners strung in no time while George finished assembling and pinning the staysail furler, then they set about tuning the rig.

Meanwhile Dawn and I rigged up the dinghy hoist block & tackle and then pulled out our new Doyle mainsail and the stackpack and got each in position on the foredeck. When the riggers were finished George took off for another job but Pete stuck around to help us get the sail bent on. We were racing diminishing daylight but I really wanted to get the sail on while it was calm, as we had a big blow forecast for the next two days with the passage of a major cold front (referred to as "Winter Storm Helena" by the hucksters at the weather channel). We ended up taking the boom off the gooseneck to help get the sail on. It was a bear even with Pete's help, but we eventually got it slid into place and we bid him goodnight. Then in the gathering dark we got the main halyard hooked to the head of the sail and started feeding the slugs onto our new Strongtrack. As soon as we did so, the wind picked up markedly. It was a bad feeling being right in the middle of a big job that depended on calm wind, knowing it wouldn't abate for a good 70 hours. Nevertheless we got the entire sail may have been the only time I've heeled 15 degrees at the dock! We got the lazy jacks attached to the stackpack and attempted to insert the stackpack battens only to discover that the canvas guy has stitched the openings shut!!! We said "screw it," released the mainsheet, dropped the sail, and set about cleaning up. When I went to zip up the stackpack, though, the fabric split in the exact spot it split last July! Ugh. I'm going to try to repair that with backing fabric tomorrow.

At this point it was 8pm, pitch dark, and starting to blow hard. After a hugely productive day our spirits were rather low, we were hungry, and neither felt like cooking dinner. So instead we went to the local sports bar, Gators, and felt much better when we got back. I called my mom, Dawn did some reading, I turned on the radiator-style electric heater, and we tucked into bed.

This morning was cold, windy, and rainy; it got colder yet throughout the day. I took Piper out to go potty and made a detour to the boatyard office for Keurig coffee, and ended up staying over an hour talking airplanes with Bill, one of the boatyard managers who is a Private Pilot who lost his medical. When I got back I reinstalled a speaker that had been removed from the port salon cabinet when it was taken apart; interior music restored, Dawn and I tackled putting away the provisions she had bought Thursday while I was in Boston. She had been out with Isabelle from Epiic and so had limited herself to one cart containing $450 (!) of cans & dry goods; it was a daunting amount of food, but Windbird swallowed it up into two lockers behind the port settee. After lunch we headed out to Dick's Sporting Goods, Kitchen & Company, Ace Hardware, West Marine, and finally Walmart for finishing provisioning. We were nearly able to finish buying cans, dry goods, beverages, soda and beer for 4 months, meat for a month, and produce and dairy for 2 weeks for an extra 2 carts and $550 (!!), then went to Harris Teeter and found the missing pieces before heading home at 8pm. It was a very full truck and I was astonished that we were able to get it down to the boat with only two heavily overloaded dockcarts.

After a late dinner of leftover chili (yum!) we worked together to stow the mountain of provisions in a couple of hours. We remove all extraneous packaging - the better to avoid extra garbage in remote places where its not easily disposed - often transfer the contents to Ziplock bags or Lock-n-Lock containers, add bay leaves to discourage creepy crawlers, and find a good spot in the most appropriate place. All of our food storage is in the freezer, refrigerator, or dry storage space under the galley counter; in the surprisingly-deep cabinets on two sides of the galley; in fruit & veg hammocks hanging from the galley and salon ceiling; under two sections of the port settee; in two lockers behind the port settee; or in the aft cabinets above port and starboard settees. Non-food provisions go in forward and aft heads, except booze and mixers which go below our berth in the aft cabin. We use our labelmaker to make labels for anything that's not instantly identifiable from the outside and also for the outside of all deep storage compartments. I was a little skeptical everything would fit - Dawn was quite nervous about it - but again Windbird just swallowed everything up. The freezer and refrigerator are only maybe 2/3 full each, and two of our designated food cabinets are half-empty. Absolutely amazing. I can see how you could easily provision this boat for any ocean crossing on earth, especially utilizing the V-berth space (which is suddenly getting empty for the first time in months!).

Tomorrow is supposed to be still bitterly cold and somewhat breezy but I have a fairly long list of outside tasks...and inside tasks...and a couple errands to run. So I'm going to sleep quick. We don't have a ton to do Monday except take a quick test sail with the riggers to make some final tweaks to the rig, and pray that the electronics guy shows up to finish the autopilot installation. Assuming that rather crucial detail works itself out, we should be ready to head out Tuesday. The forecast isn't nearly as good for going offshore as before...nothing nasty, just much lighter winds than previously I suspect our overnight to Fernadina Beach FL will be one long motorsail. I don't care. I can't wait to get out there.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Back from Boston

Back on Windbird after 4 flights, a long day of travel, and about 2 1/2 hours in Boston with Windbird's last admiral Judy Handley. We had a nice lunch at the historic Warren Tavern, in operation since 1780 making it Boston's oldest watering hole (reportedly a favorite of Paul Revere's - his home isn't far away). We talked about Windbird's new lightning-prompted upgrades, Judy's favorite places cruising, and the YouTube adventures of the Delos crew (Judy wasn't familiar, I think I got her hooked). I got the medical kit I came up for, as well as some miscellaneous hardware, receipts and paperwork. Poignantly, one of the folders Judy gave me had "Bahamas 2015" on it with a gorgeous pic of a typical Exuma contained her research for their last abortive trip on Windbird that they cut short when Mark got the bad test results that prompted the return to MA for his final, ultimately unsuccessful cancer treatment. It's sad they didn't get a final season in the Bahamas together, but I know it makes Judy happy to know that Windbird is headed that way one year later.


While I was gone Dawn had a VERY full day provisioning at several stores, plus doing several loads of laundry and picking up a spare water system pump for me at West Marine. When we got home from the airport she was tuckered out. We're both heading to bed earlyish tonight & will be back at it early tomorrow for the home stretch of getting Windbird ready to go. I'll be getting up at 7 to listen to Chris Parker's weather on the HF. If the final rigging and electronics work goes ok, we should be ready to pull out early Tuesday morning for a 28-hour downwind jaunt offshore to Fernadina Beach.

Off to Boston

I'm currently at Charleston Airport at 5:30am to fly to Boston for the day, via LGA on the way up and ATL on the way back. Judy Handley has their duffel-bag-sized medical kit & some other boat stuff for us, and we're going to lunch across the river in Charlestown. If all goes to plan I'll be back at 8:15pm. Should be one of those fun little daytrips that only make sense if you're an airline employee or have a whole mess of frequent flyer miles. Dawn is staying home to do some major provisioning...she's spent several days making a long list. 

Mike and Alex from CCBY spent yesterday reinstalling the stem iron, anchor rollers, bow pulpit, and associated hardware. It took a lot of cutting and rewelding over the last week & a half to get the stem iron to fit correctly, but it sits right and looks good now. The riggers George & Pete (brothers) showed up mid-afternoon and started tuning the rig. At first they thought the lowers were longer on the starboard side than the port side, but I think the problem was that the boat has a bit of a starboard list...the salon cabinets on the port side aren't completely reinstalled yet and are thus mostly empty while the starboard side has a lot of heavy tools & spare parts in it. There's still a problem with the intermediate backrunners, they appear to be too short. Not sure how that happened, the brothers are bringing the originals today along with some longer toggles and will try to make it work without having to make up a new set of stays.

Yesterday Dawn and I put the boom back on & rerigged the mainsheet, outhaul, reefing clew lines, and boom vang. I started to rerig the Gybe-EZ and realized that the new shroud toggles on the mid chainplates are just a scosh larger than the originals, precluding me from clipping snatch blocks there with D-shackles as Mark did. I'll lash them on with Spectra instead - we definitely want the Gybe-EZ in place if we sail south early next week, as it's looking to be a brisk downwind run. I also hooked up the SSB antenna & tested it out listening to the USCG high seas forecast. Reception seems to be less than optimal, but I didn't shut down much of the equipment in the boat and there may be a fair bit of RF interference in the yard.

We may have some company for our sail to Jacksonville. Lance and Andy, two good friends & fellow airline pilots who are experienced cruising sailors, have the time off and are interested in going offshore with us. Lance has actually sailed on Windbird before, back in September when we took her for an overnight to Southport NC & back. But if we're going to sail Tuesday as I'd like, a lot still has to happen between now & then. We're making progress on our list but not quite so quickly as I'd like. Ideally the brothers would finish rigging today, Jeff from Tidal Marine would finish the autopilot install & we'd do commissioning/sea trials on Friday, Dawn and I would finish with the running rigging & bend the sails on over the weekend, & the riggers would do a final sea-trial tweak on Monday while giving the rig a bit of a workout in forecast 25-kt northeasterlies. That's a lot of ideals and very little of this refit has gone ideally, so we'll just see what happens.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Liferaft & Stem Iron

Last night at 3am we had a pretty good squall line blow though...because as any cruiser will tell you, they always blow though at 3am! At least being tied securely to a dock I was spared the fire drill this time, but I didn't get a ton of sleep listening to the wind whip though the rigging and feeling the boat hobby-horse in the wind alarm came prettty early this morning and I may have hit snooze once or twice.

Nevertheless we were at Air-Sea Safety & Survival in downtown Charleston shortly after they opened at 9am to pick up our Switlik 6-man life raft. They've had it for nearly two months as they had several replacement parts on backorder. We were on the fence about keeping's an old raft (1996) but it has held up remarkably well, inflating immediately and retaining its air thereafter. The repacking/refurbishment came to $1800, over half the cost of a new raft of a cheaper brand. Our decision was made when the repacker, having seen the condition it was in, remarked "frankly, I'd rather be at sea in this 20-year-old Switlik than that 2-year-old Viking over there." 

After we got back to the boatyard we hoisted the heavy raft into its cradle and started to reinstall the hydrostatic release when another line of heavy rain chased us inside. There we repacked the ditch bag and finished the mast wiring plus a couple small projects before the rain let up enough to finish with the raft. We had lunch and then drove to Ace Hardware, West Marine, Petco, and Bed Bath & Beyond for a long list of items we need before heading south. We were remarkably productive as we found almost everything we needed, except for a spare water system pump (I used the spare to replace the original in August)...West Marine will have that in tomorrow.

We got back just as all the boatyard workers were heading home but were happy to see that the stem iron had been delivered and put on the boat (temporarily, with two carriage bolts). So full installation, finishing the standing rigging, and starting the running rigging should commence tomorrow.

The rainy day became a fairly pleasant evening and we grilled salmon and asparagus outside on our stern grill. During one of the lulls today we installed our enclosure curtains so our cockpit will now stay fairly warm and dry. This weekend we're supposed to have three days with highs in the 30s/40s and lows in the 20s. Brrr. I know I've been saying it a lot lately...but time to get this jalopy headed south!

Monday, January 2, 2017


I just wrapped up a long work stint - 11 out of 12 days - with a long New Years Eve layover on the island of St. Martin. I've been there once before, a few years ago, when I raced in the Heineken Regatta with a number of friends (winning "Fastest Bareboat Around the Island" in the process). Windbird has been there twice with her previous owners, and will visit again during our Caribbean itinerary. But it's also a special place because of the airport's role as a sort of mecca for airliner spotters and other airplane geeks (like yours truly). The approach and landing over Maho Beach makes for some of modern aviation's most iconic photos. As an airplane-besotted tween I drooled over online pics of Air France and KLM 747s landing at SXM, and would then recreate the act on Microsoft Flight Simulator. So it was pretty cool - and a little surreal - to be landing a Boeing 757 there myself some twenty years later.

While I was ordering a painkiller at Sunset Bar and waiting for the Air France A340 to land, Dawn was moving us out of our temporary beach apartment and onto Windbird. Yes, we are liveaboards at last! The boat still isn't quite done, as noted in my last post (supposedly the stem iron goes back on tomorrow), but at least it's in the water and back together enough for us to settle in. Dawn did a lot of work cleaning and organizing while I was working, and I gotta say the boat looks pretty darn good.

Dawn hosted an impromptu New Years party on Windbird - Dan and Isabelle from Epiic and Jon and Sarah from Polox joined her aboard for appetizers and drinks. Kinda funny that we have three young newbie cruising couples all headed the same way, all trying to get off the dock and head south. I was kinda bummed I missed the party...though it was hard to be too bummed in St. Martin! Jon and Sarah left yesterday before I got back to Charleston, but I'm sure we'll run into them again down the line. They're spending tonight at anchor in Charleston Harbor and will head offshore tomorrow.

I got into CHS late last night and slept in today. I spent much of the day setting up and playing with our new electronics. I really like our new Garmin 7607 chartplotter. It's pretty intuitive and integrates really nicely with the radar, autopilot, AIS, and our iPads/iPhones. I downloaded the manual to our Icom M422 VHF and played with the DSC functions a bit only to discover that the old MMSI is still programmed in and cannot be reprogrammed without taking it to a dealer. The Tidal Marine Electronics guys are coming by tomorrow to finish the autopilot install so I'll see if they know the trick to reprogramming it before actually taking it out of the boat.

This afternoon Dawn gave me a haircut & tonight we went grocery shopping. We're still getting our provisioning list together and will do a major provisioning run for non-perishable goods before heading south. It's easier to do it while we have a car than waiting until we get to Florida. We really have a lot to do in the next week before heading south and I was rather lazy today but will hopefully get a jumpstart on the list tomorrow. A lot will depend on whether the stem iron job finally gets done - then the riggers can finish their job, and then we can rerig the boat, and so on....