Thursday, February 2, 2017

Busy Days in Lauderdale

Our week in Fort Lauderdale has flown by as we've made the final push to get ready to cross to the Bahamas. We won't actually be going until Feb 11th or later (weather dependent) but I'll be flying to Atlanta on Saturday and won't be returning until the 9th, so I really had to get all my stuff done this week.

Sunday was indeed a planning-and-organizing day; otherwise we took it easy and explored around Ft. Lauderdale a bit by dinghy. I've spent a bit of time here with my airline but I gotta say it's a whole 'nuther town on the water...a much cleaner, much richer, much more exclusive place. Some of the megayachts docked on the ICW are simply obscene; at this point they don't really even catch my eye until 150 feet LOA. Windbird is a bit of a bath toy here. And yet, we get the same peaceful water views as those with apparently bottomless pockets....

Monday we rented a car from Enterprise and made a ton of stops picking up miscellaneous things we never got around to getting in Charleston and have been making a list of ever since. We stopped at a cool old hardware store, NAPA auto, 84 Boatworx (to drop off our MOM8 man overboard unit for service), West Marine, Bluewater Books, Electronics Unlimited (to inquire about changing our VHF MMSI number), Walmart, and Southport Raw Bar for lunch. At West Marine we ordered several more new pieces of running rigging: our main halyard that we should have replaced in Charleston except we forgot it was still on the mast (off the boat), our staysail furler as the 3/8 line was a little too big (we got Samson 8mm furler line instead), and a longer reef 2 clew line as our new mainsail has slightly deeper reefs than the last one. On Tuesday I dropped off our car and caught a ride back to West Marine to pick up the rigging with Jack, who along with his wife Linda and their granddaughter is on Lani, the Leopard 40 cat right beside us here in the mooring field. We've also made friends with Tony and Michelle on a Prestige 42 cat whose name escapes me at the moment. We're all in our first year and scrambling with boat work to get in a few months in the Bahamas.

Also on Tuesday Leandro from Patagonia Yacht Division came out to the boat to do an estimate on our nav lights / bow pulpit, and I found contractors to look at our SSB and diesel (the former has had very weak reception and even weaker transmission; the latter has nothing wrong, just inspecting it). Yesterday I tightened some engine belts that had loosened up before we ran it a bit to top off our batteries, and later in the day I replaced the exhaust mixing elbow. There was nothing wrong with our current one persay - it actually turned out to be in pretty good condition so I saved it for a spare - but the cast aluminum Yanmar part is known to have a service life of only about five years, so I replaced it with a stainless steel version crafted by a shop in Vancouver, WA. Dawn and I ran the new halyard up the mast and put the new furling line on the staysail but saved the reef line because we knew our new stackpack was on its way from Doyle, and we'd have to take the mainsail off to put that on. Later we took the dinghy all the way to Southport Raw Bar - a good 2.5 miles down the ICW and up a side canal - to go to Winn-Dixie just across the street. You pay $10 to tie up your dinghy but can use it as a same-day credit towards food or drinks. Dawn had a glass of sangria and I had a Yuengling, which came to $10 exactly. This is one of the few options for dinghy dock access in Ft. Lauderdale, believe it or not, one of the reasons we've been paying a ridiculous $40/night for a mooring (which comes with dinghy access at nearby Las Olas Marina - a must to take Piper ashore a few times per day). We only went to Winn-Dixie for fresh produce and other interim provisioning; we still have to do our last major provisioning, and Dawn will be taking care of that while I'm gone.

Our standing rigging loosened up quite a bit on the trip down here, which is typical of new wire rope, so I took a wag at tightening it by eye & feel yesterday. Windbird has a bit of a starboard list and always has since we bought her, which I attribute to the heavy tools and spares in the starboard lockers as well as the starboard-side galley, so it's a bit of a trick tightening the shrouds equally. Our friends Dan & Isabelle on Epiic arrived Tuesday afternoon, and today Dan lended me his Loos rigging tension meter which revealed the rigging was still quite a bit undertensioned. So again I cut off the rigging tape, pulled the pins, and tightened the turnbuckles. Our backstay was particularly lax on this last sail, allowing the yankee to sag considerably to leeward; proper backstay tension should improve our pointing ability by several degrees.

This morning Reggie from Atlantic Radio Telephone came by the boat to look over our Icom M706 SSB/HF installation. Our reception has been quite weak and interference-prone, even for HF; at times I've been unable to receive transmissions that boats right next to me were reading just fine. Worse, I've only been able to transmit in a (marginally) readable fashion only once. Reggie confirmed that there's nothing wrong our antenna or installation, but said that our problems were pretty consistent with internal damage to the radio caused by lightning. Earlier this week Yachtline finished adjusting our lightning claim (they were quite fair to us, considering how much we upgraded our electronics) but kept the claim open at my request...looks like we may have something to add. Reggie took the SSB with him to the shop to test it out...but given the time available, there's a pretty good chance we'll be getting a new M802.

Tonight we received our new stackpack from Doyle Sails. We were previously planning to make the old one last this season - and Dawn restitched the zipper in Daytona Beach two weeks ago - but ultimately decided we weren't sure it'd last and asked Doyle if they could make one last minute; they cranked it out in only a few days days and gave us a good price to boot. The result is gorgeous but there were a few miscommunications that resulted in a somewhat different stackpack than we ordered. First off, it has a boltrope that's quite incompatible with our mainsail that also has a boltrope. So for now we'll be going to a loose-footed main (which is what most modern boats have) until we figure something out. And it was also quite a bit longer than we ordered, which again we can work around with a few small modifications. We put it on tonight and naturally the wind picked up as soon as we were trying to feed the mainsail slides into our strongtrack. We'll finish running the reef lines tomorrow morning when it'll be hopefully calmer.

Dawn's birthday is on Saturday, but we'll start the celebration tomorrow afternoon with a daysail with our friend Ivy Rivera out of Port Everglades Inlet, followed by sundowners back at the mooring and then dinghying to Coconuts for a dockside dinner. On Saturday morning I'll make Dawn breakfast in bed (kinda funny as "bed" is all of 14 feet from the salon table), then we're doing a stand-up paddleboard lesson and rental. Around noon we'll move Windbird to her slip at Hall of Fame Marina, just catty-corner to here. And then I fly out to Atlanta at 6pm.

While I'm gone Dawn will rent another car for a day and do a number of errands including that final provisioning. On Monday Judy Handley (Windbird's last Admiral) will be on a long layover at FLL; her sister-in-law will pick her up and they'll visit Dawn on Windbird and then have dinner at Coconuts. That morning Patagonia will be working on our nav lights / bow pulpit and will hopefully get that done quickly. Also on Monday the diesel mechanic from Complete Yacht Service will inspect our engine. I was at their shop on Wednesday to pick up some spare part$ (raw water pump, starter) & decided since we never had an engine survey done and it's fairly high-time it wouldn't hurt to have a professional set of eyes on it, if for no other reason than to give me an idea of some improvements I can make over the next year.

A few nights ago I caught up our maintenance logbook to include all the improvements from the boatyard refit, and both the scope of the refit and the total cost was eye-opening. We've spent far, far more than we were planning when we started the refit; and yet our total expenditures are still somehow within the budget that we established when we started the search for "our perfect boat" (Windbird's purchase price was at the bottom end of our budget, but her refit made up for it). Of course this boat still has several things that could end up costing us a ton of additional money, namely a high-time engine and original teak decks. Our friend Lance Lindsay, who sailed with us from Charleston to Fernandina Beach and is planning on going cruising with his wife Amy within a few years, asked me if I have any regrets. I replied that I would have dealt with the refit & boatyard differently if I did it over again, but I'd still buy Windbird, absolutely. We really like this boat; she's proven quite ideal for us thus far, she's become our home, and I've come to really trust her as I've become more familiar with her hefty construction over the course of the refit. Quite honestly, a boat of this provenience - having been safely sailed around the world by people we've come to care about - makes us want to take care of her and make her better whether it makes economic sense or (more likely) not. The fact that this is our one and only home for the next several years, and we have virtually no other expenditures, makes it easier to put our money into her as well.

I've been meaning to do a "refit in retrospect" post for a while now but I don't think I'll get it done before I leave on my work trip; maybe I'll take the maintenance logbook with me and I'll get it done. For now, suffice it to say: prospective sailboat owners, take that "enlightened estimate" which you've padded with time and money beyond what you think is reasonable...double the money, triple the time, and then you'll be close. I base this not merely on our own experience but virtually every other new sailor we've met thus far in this journey. Still worth it, in my opinion, and the best is yet to come.

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