Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bahamian Sunset

Bahamian Sunset
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
Yes, we are now in the Bahamas, blue blue ocean, east winds and beautiful sunsets. This one is at Shroud Cay, part of Exuma Land and Sea park. We sat in the cockpit and watched our first unobstructed Bahamian sunset. Rum punch in hand and camera at the ready we hunted for the infamous green flash. As the sun set one of the other boats in the anchorage called out over the "WE" HF radio "Did you see the Green Flash?" to which the second boat replied "No I don't think so." The first boat responded "Yea the only sure way to see the Green Flash is to hold up a empty green Hienekin bottle just as the sun goes down". Yes we are back in the Bahamas.

We will back up a bit, to talk about our stay in Nassau. Basically in Nassau, you have to go to a marina to check in. Customs/Immigration is set up to come to your marina, to check you in and collect your $300, if you are over 35'. We do not like to go to marinas, and if we have to, always choose a "working one" which usually is one of the less expensive. We are not cheap, just frugal. The Explorer Charts show Bayshore Marina in Nassau as one that would match our needs, 75 cents a foot, and it has a travel lift, just in case you need it. Perfect -- no Yacht club or Atlantis for us. After hanging on the hook in front of the yoga center for a day, to recouperate from our adventures getting to Nassau, we called for a reservation. We had been warned about the current in the marinas in Nassau, so planned to go in at slack tide. Glad we did, because the winds were blowing 15+ and even with 2 marina guys onboard, and 2 on the dock, helping us get into the slip it was an experience. Not that we are complaining, but the slip is really was only 2 poles, placed over 50' front the main dock. RAFT was too small, our dock lines weren't long enough. But eventually we muscled her into place. Boy, we hate coming into marinas. But the staff were wonderful. A tip and a beer go a long way!!

Immigration and Customs came, and we are legally in the Bahamas. The boat next to us was Wahoo, a charter fishing boat. Since we were there on American Thanksgiving, they were busy, in and out twice a day with fishing charters. But the clients only wanted the sport, not the catch, since they were just in for the weekend. The result is, that after a lesson on how to catch Wahoo, at the shelf drop offs 7-8 knots, ballyhoo for bait, and a cleaning/steaking lesson, we were given a wonderful set of Wahoo steaks, and we BBQ'd them and enjoyed them. Bev has made it a personal mission, that on this trip, she will catch a Mahi Mahi, they are surface eaters, look for the birds. (Capt's instructions)

We met Ari and his family, and Ross got a tour of the industrial sites in Nassau, trying to get a socket to tighten Keel bolts. They were unsuccessful, but really tried to help. Nice, Nice People. Then we went and toured the Cruise Boat docking and shopping area, downtown Nassau, a "fairyland" not the real thing, and definitely not what we came to the Bahamas to see. so we skipped Atlantis and headed out.

We had a great sail from Nassau to Shroud Cay. Left at 8:00 am which was a little later than planned but the winds picked up to 17-20 knots from the NE to give us a closehauled to a 7 knot average speed on the 45 mile run down to Shroud Cay. Otto performed well and RAFT worked to shake off the bruises and stiff joints from the trip over. Everything went great and as you know great is a relative term. (In case you haven't heard this before, cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places) We had a couple of minor gremlins in the works that we had to chase out early on. The reason we left late was that the weather reports we rely on did not come in on time. But this prove to be a good thing because it delayed our arrival on the Yellow Bank south of Nassau which allowed the sun to be higher in the sky. This makes the coral heads easier to spot on the trip south. Then, just as we left Nassau Harbour the GPS had a flashback moment thought the boat was back in Georgian Bay, Canada. It was working real hard to get to the waypoint a 1000 nautical miles away. The GPS obviously lost its satellite link so it just required a restart to find itself. Lastly we seem to be chewing up Alternator belts like a chain smoker on a Nicorette habit. Broke the second one in three days. This belt only had 2-3 hrs of engine operating time on it. Snapped right in two. Didn't shread or burn, just broke. Had to be defective but its pretty difficult to run back to the Tractor Supply store in FT Pierce to complain. We will try to get some more spare belts in Georgetown. We have also adjusted the voltage regulator to reduce the amperage output to 50% of max. This should cut down on the belt loading. We really don't us the high output alternator that much for charging batteries. The solar panels and the wind generator pretty well handle all of our generating needs.

Now we are back in Exuma Park, a place we truly enjoyed last year. We hiked up BooBoo Hill to retrieve our Momento to date our return visit. Tomorrow we plan to hike to Pirates Lair, so Bev can have her picture taken in the hammock.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
Picture attached: Art Deco architecture Movie Theatre

We really enjoyed Miami, at least South Beach. We had thought that Miami would just be a big dirty city, not friendly to cruisers, with minimum anchorages, and a place we would want to blast right through. However, we found it quite the opposite. After our perilous crossing under the Julia Tuttle Bridge, with a couple of feet to spare, we then had to sound our way past the Miami yacht club. Normally you would want to do this at a higher tide, as the chart indicates only 6 - 8' of water, and we draw 5+. But of course we wanted to go under Julia Tuttle at low tide, to safe the $500 of wind instruments on top of the mast. And we of course, are expert at ungroundings. AS we skirted the sunk boats, and boats washed up on the shores, all remenants of Wilma, we marvelled at how accurate our electronic charts are. Although the depth alarm, set at 8 feet, was screaming, we didn't touch at all, the least we saw was 6'2".

Boaters we had talked to in Fort Pierce and Lake Worth, recommended we anchor at the extreme east end of the waterway, near Collins Creek and we followed that advice. It was great to Stuart & Marilyn, from Union Jack, as we had been looking for them. We had heard they had been in Miami for Wilma, and didn't know how they had fared. Actually, they had gone to a marina in Lauderdale, and had some toerail damage, but otherwise they are all right.

From the anchorage, just a short dinghy ride away, is the neighbourhood of South Beach. It is an easy walk to the Atlantic beach, but on the way, you pass through a pedistrian mall chock full of upscale shops and restaurants. But what is really neat, is that a lot of the stores, and apartment buildings are built in the art deco style of the 50's??. Even the newer buildings and stores are built to mimic that style and fit in, no neon signs, etc. If you are tired of walking, there is a local ciruit bus that will take you all around the area for 25 cents. There are 2 Publix and an excellent chandelry at the Miami Marina which is on the bus route. The local people are trying to discourage long term liveaboards, and they have passed a new ordinance limiting anchoring to seven days, apparently bought a new police boat and hired officers to enforce it. wilma had delayed its implementation.

But it is not our intention to stay in Miami any longer than necessary. The weather reports have been very confusing. Yesterday, Friday, it seemed that Sunday would be a great long weather opportunity to cross and continue through the Bahamas. So we moved down to Key Biscayne to get ready. By the time we arrived Tropic Depression Gamma has raised its ugly head once more. This morning, Saturday, the reports continue to give mixed reviews, so we wait.

You will have to check out the next report to find out, if we are in the Bahamas or still hanging out in Miami.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Peck Lake to Miami

Peck Lake to Miami
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
One complaint we have had about our blog, is that the pictures are labeled the blog title, which is not necessarily what the picture depicts. When the blogs are sent by email, from RAFT, we cannot control the picture titles, so what we will endeavour to do is, identify the picture at the beginning of each report.

Picture: Remains of a dry marina after Wilma, just north of Miami

We are now continuing south. We spent a couple of days in North Lake Worth anchorage, doing the last minute shopping, and making phone calls. We had planned to stay the weekend there, having been warned that you do not want to be travelling the ICW on a weekend. Leave the waterways for the the weekend yahoos. But we wanted to get going, so Saturday afternoon we took off, initially planning just to go to the south anchorage near the Lake Worth outlet and then decide what to do. The weekend traffic was hectic, but as soon as we passed the outlet, it quieted right down.

For those unfamiliar with the ICW in Florida, there are 20 bascule bridges (draw bridges) between the Lake Worth outlet (West Palm Beach) and Fort Lauderdale's Lake Sylvia anchorage. At each bridge we have to check our Skipper's Bob guide -- don't travel the ICW without it -- for the schedule, call the bridge tender and wait for the bridge to lift and us go through. Most of the time we have to "dance" by the bridge, sometimes in a 2-3 knots of current, for up to 30 minutes. And this is what we call fun!!

So even though it was Saturday, we decided to continue on to Lantana, 5 bridges to the south, and anchor there, giving us the leg up for the rest of the trip to Lauderdale. Things did go according to plan, arriving in Lantana well before sunset and had a quiet night. There is a real neat looking beach bar there, but we didn't check it out. Sunday morning we got up bright and early to do the last 15 bridges, anchoring in Lake Sylvia in the early afternoon. Again, we were surprised how few weekend boats were actually on the waterways. There were only 6 to 8 boats in this popular anchorage. Maybe the gas prices or Wilma has had an effect.

Fort Lauderdale's homes of the rich and famous did not let us down. The different architectures, huge, modern, fabulous homes that there is no way we can afford, and Bev doesn't want to clean, lined the ICW. And the size of the homes and the boats tied up beside them increased as you approach Fort Lauderdale. It isn't known as the Yachting Capital of the World for nothing.

Now we have to contemplate our trip to Miami. There are 2 choices, inside along the ICW, 9 opening bridges and one 56 foot one that doesn't, Julia Tuttle, or you go outside and deal with the strong east winds 20+knots. We had done a 55 foot bridge in Cape May at low tide so Ross felt reasonably confident in his 53 foot calculation above the water to the top of the mast and wind instruments and antennae. But we still wanted to take advantage of low tide, to make sure we did keep that $500 worth of equipment on the top of the mast. We calculated that low tide in Miami would be about 2pm, and we had 24 miles to go, so there was no point in starting too early.

Leaving Fort Lauderdale, we were pleased to come into north Hollywood, which still maintains its old Florida appeal, looking like Florida was in the sixties, before the rich invaded it. Next came South Hollywood, a brand new venice subdivision showcasing housing trends which will be cutting edge in Canada in the next few years. We also saw more and more evidence of the damage Wilma caused as we headed south, blue tarped roofs, etc. The "dry slip storage" pictured was completely destroyed, complete with all the powerboats inside, was located at the north end of Biscayne Bay.

Here also, we experienced a left over from Wilma. Skipper Bob had warned that the ICW near Bakers Haulover Inlet was shoaled in, especially on the east side. We were being very careful, favouring the west side, but still managed to drive through the first sand bar, and get stuck in the second, right beside the new added green 6B marker. Remember, that we wanted to go through Miami at low tide for the Julia Tuttle bridge. Yes, tide was falling and we were stuck. Reversing the motor wasn't working, so out went the foresail, and again we were saved, able to sail off the sandbar. Going to send Skipper Bob a note, maybe we will get a new book!! Maybe we should have renewed our TowboatUS tow insurance policy.

Will save our arrival to Miami for the next entry.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Getting RAFT back in the water

Getting RAFT back in the water
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
Now that Wilma is over, and the new transmission installed we want to get going. We had been in Florida for three weeks, and we still were on the hard. Wilma was still delaying us indirectly. Riverside Marina where we were staying is a busy boatworks, and one of the few working marinas left. With the onset of Wilma, the marina hauled out 20-30 boats in the last couple of days. Problem was, they didn't have enough room for them all. The result was hauled out boats were stored in the laneways, and RAFT was blocked in by three other boats. Now that these boats are out of the water, the owners now wanted to get work done on them, ie bottoms painted etc. so didn't want to have them launched immediately. The boats like ours, who were already delayed by the hurricane now all wanted out. However Riverside was now busy receiving boats that were damaged in Wilma, and many of these had priority, pull them out before they sunk. And everyday there seemed to be boats coming in by trailer to be repaired or launched.

So in order to get RAFT launched and masted, we had to wait for many boats to be moved. And there was nothing we could do about it. Finally as the sunset on Thursday (Nov. 3rd) RAFT was in the travellift and dropped in the water. We spent that night in the launching slip. Friday morning, we endured a difficult masting procedure, using a long forked forklift truck. But it worked, the stick was us, and we moved over to a slip to get sails on, tune rigging, and everything else that has to be done to return RAFT to a sailboat.

Saturday, we helped Breakaway V (CS 36 out of Hamilton, Ont) get masted, it went a little smoother as we had all learned from our experience. John and Robin had shipped Breakaway from Canada and were experiencing Florida sailing, salt water, tides and currents for the first time. It seemed strange to be the "expert" with only one saltwater sailing season under our belts. They rewarded our efforts with cocktails that evening. Bill and Jeannie, who had lent us their house, during Wilma, had returned to Riverside, their home marina. So Sunday we went to Archie's, the local biker bar complete with staff dressed as pirates, and interesting place on the beach, for lunch. While the guys drank beers and drooled over the bikes, Jeanne and Bev went for a long walk on the beach.

Early Monday morning, we starting our regular inwater routine, listening to the weather nets, and Chris Parker predicts there could be a short weather window to cross the stream Thursday/Friday this week in advance of a norther. This info pushed us to get all our last minute stuff done, and get out of Riverside. We picked up the gas selonoid we had been trying to get in Fort Pierce, even though it meant we had to drive to Jenson Beach, went to the Airport to fix our cruising license issue, filled our water jugs and propane tank, did laundry, did last minute shopping, dropped the car off at Bill's, helped Bill replumb his hotwater tank, had a goodbye beer with John (Breakaway), settled our account with Riverside and managed to sail out with the tide.... We went through the bascule bridge and anchored just off Harbourtown Marina. Our first day's mileage -- .5 mile SOUTH!!

It is a good thing we knew where we were going, because we really had forgotten basic boating skills, ie VHF channels, how to get the little blue boat moving on the electronic charts. But it was great to set down the hook. It had definitely been too long. That evening Ross installed the cooler system on the transmission, tightened and conditioned the alternator belt, reconnected the radar mast wires, and gave the engine a routine check. It is amazing how much you can get done, when you have a deadline.

We left Ft Piece at 6:30 this morning to start the journey south to Lake Worth. Previous weather reports indicated the weather window to jump to the Bahamas would be Thurs so we needed to make tracks south. Part way through the journey we got a updated weather report and the Grib files in from winlink that told us the weather window was closing and that we would have to wait for the next one. Well sailors plans are always made of jello so we altered our plans to stop at Peck Lake and enjoy the beach and the day in general. We had sailed past Peck Lake twice before, so now we had the time, we were going to enjoy it.

While trek south we managed to check out more our system and put the motor and transmission through their initial breakins for the season. Every thing seemed to work out okay so that means it was a good day-- not quite. A good day is when nothing breaks or you don't run aground. Well we managed to do both today. Ross took Skipper Bob's directions literally on entering the Peck Lake anchorage and ran aground twice. Fortunately the wind was blowing the right direction and Bev popped the foresail and pulled us off. Good thing that the bottom is soft here. Our bow nav lights were not working, so we decided that we would have a look at repairing them in Peck Lake. Bev, the "electrician" yanked on the wire and is broke off in her hand. This no means that we have to remove the pulpit, remove the V-berth shelf and empty the anchor locker to access the wire and completely rewire the bow section now. Well now that the weather window is closing we will take on this repair in Lake Worth where we will be close to stores for parts even though Ross says he has everything to fix it. Bev has learned, it is always better to have a West Marine close at hand, as he usually makes a gift to the water gods during repairs. Should only take a day right (remember that cruising is fixing your boat in exoctic locations)

But Bev did see a dolphin, our first this trip and that usually means good luck. The anchorage at Peck Lake is just a sand dune away from the Atlantic ocean, and we did get a wonderful walk on the beach, a dinghy exploration trip and a gorgeous sunset as we enjoyed our ceasar chicken salad. Things are only getting better....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Aftermath of Wilma

Aftermath of Wilma
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
Wilma is our first hurricane. We were concerned, but actually happy to be experiencing our first one in such great circumstances. RAFT is on the hard, at Riverside Marina, her mast down, and securing held up by 8 jack stands, a cement block, all chained and roped together. Her location was about 1/4 mile from the Indian River, backing onto a treed areas, quite protected from North winds. Our primary concern was the sailboat directly west of us, unfortunately no one seemed to be looking after her, so Ross went around and checked, and added new jackstands, and the marina added chain. Her mast was still up with sails....Bev thought seriously about boarding her and adding some ropes to reduce the windage but didn't. At this point, the predictions were that Wilma would pass south of Fort Pierce, putting us on the less dangerous side, and the primary winds from the east...that should cause our neighbour to fall away from us, if it fell at all.

Sunday, we vacated RAFT, went to Bill's house, with ample food and drink, BBQ and flashlights. We took over our water jugs and filled them up so we would have lots of water. That evening felt like Christmas Eve, not being able to sleep Sunday night, knowing something is coming...By morning we were hearing the reports on the radio (Bill's house didn't have Cable connected so the TV's didn't work) 0630 eye at Fort Myers, 0930 we lose power 1100 eye south of Fort Pierce winds 60-70 mph, lots of rain 1300-1400 backside of the eyewall The worst weather was the second half of the storm when the backside of the eyewall passed over us. Took everyone around here by surprise including the weather guys. Winds topped 100 knots and swung around to the west. The house we were staying at was fine. There was a transformer fire across the road, and a window broken on a neighbours house.

1700 winds down, rain passed, and we just had to go over to Riverside to see how RAFT and Cilcia (Dave's boat) fared. We just had to know if they were still standing. And they were. There were about 6 boats down in the marina but not RAFT or the boat next door. Satisfied, we returned to Bill's. Driving around Fort Pierce, we knew the power was out in most of the town, and there were lots of tree branches down, but it didn't look as bad as things were last year. Fortunately, the eye did pass south of us.

Tuesday, still no power, but we moved back onto RAFT and started to set her back up. Wednesday, we did a road trip to Indiantown Marina to check on friend's boat. There are over 400 boats in this landlocked marina. We found 30 boats had fallen over and probably another 30 leaning. Its always sad to see. Evergreen was okay along with other boats that we knew from last winter (Imagine, Aislinn, Kyeta, Dejarlo, Siggy'sDancer).

Enough sight seeing, it is time to get back to work. We plan to start bottom work and the last few parts for the transmission should be in by Friday, actually showed up Monday. Ft pierce is getting back to normal. All the stoplights are now working and the stores are busy, Fema is still on the ground here handing out blue tarps and ice. There is still a curfew on here and a restriction on the sale of alcohol. Good thing we stocked up a little before hand. The bridges are still closed so we can't go anywhere yet.

A week later, we now have the transmission installed, the bottom painted, and we are ready to get splashed. Problem is the marina is busy righting the upset boats, bringing in the boats which we damaged in Wilma, and we need at least 3 boats moved in order to get us out. Hopefully it will happen this week. We are all provisioned up and ready.

Wilma's acoming!!

Wilma's acoming!!
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.
Our first week in Florida and we have been hard at work, getting RAFT ready to go!! We have put up the canvas cockpit enclosure, put the wind generator and solar panels back up. We have determined that the source of soot must be the trains, because it seems there are several train each hour passing close enough to cause the RAFT to shake. We also found out that the weatherstripping adhesive had dried out, allowing water to enter the head. Ross was extremely disappointed to find out that the major leakage was through the side windows. All the work he did in the past to stop the leaks in the side windows has been for nought. The Plexus released and the Acrylic windows are opening up again. As a quick fix, Ross will rechaulk with 4200/5200 to get through the rainy season.

RAFT is positioned way back in the yard, next to a property fence, tidal stream and trees. When we take a break, we enjoy woodpeckers pecking for food, lots of skinks, squirrels jumping between the trees, a possum running along the fence and 2 quite friendly land crabs. They sit outside their holes in the shadows, their bodies being a blue shade, and their one large right claw, yellow.

By midweek, we knew from NOAA, and the marina we had to prepare for a hurricane. How could this be happening to us, isn't it too late in the season, obviously not!! Plus Fort Pierce had 2 last year, so statistically this shouldn't be happening. Regardless, Wilma is predicted to make a visit.

The days leading up to Wilma's arrival have changed our focus somewhat. The boat yard is a hubbub of activity as boats are reblocked, chains installed and new ones are brought in to be hauled out. People are taking hurricane prep seriously here. Our plans call for us to strip all the canvas and solar panels off the boat by Friday and to go to Bill & Jeanne's house Friday night--- taking all of our important documents, and money will us.

We reblocked the boat beside us to today so that if it falls it will be away from us. Stores are starting to line up with people buying supplies. Wilma is expected to pass 50 miles south of us according to the latest forecast we have received. Expect to see 60- 75 mph winds and lots of rain. We will be fine. Should all be over by Sunday afternoon then we can restart the prep work.

Otherwise, it has been sunny, light winds, and except for the radio weather reports, you wouldn't know anything is coming. Maybe it won't.... Wilma's arrival is now delayed until Monday, so we continue to do boat projects, that don't involve changing the outside structures, and jacks -- ie the hurricane protection. Bev finished waxing the hull, and dropped out the chain from the locker, to let the rainwater give it a freshwater bath, and maybe hurricane force winds will knock off some of the rust that accumulated over the summer. The transmission arrived, missing the cooler, and with the wrong drive plate, they sent the one for a Yanmar 3GM instead of a Yanmar HM. One phone call, and things have been straightened out, and everything should be delivered Wednesday.

The boatyard continues to be busy, pulling boats out of the water and parking them all around us. We will be delayed getting launched just because other boats will have to be moved. All the charts and books I ordered from Bluewater books were delivered today, so we will have something to study while we are enduring Wilma.

Sunday, we know there will be no more delays. Wilma is coming Monday, so it is time to leave RAFT, and move into a more secure location. We are very happy to have boater friends that will put us up.