Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Part II Florida * The ICW

Day 14 - 15 - April 14th & 15th. 

 Well, after a long radio silence… 2 ½ days that seemed like a week to me… I spoke to Bruce Saturday evening.  They made very good time and cut a day off of the estimated time it would take to do this last offshore leg.  They left the ICW just south of Cape Fear on Thursday mid day and came in at Fernandina Beach, Fl.  They were shooting for Jacksonville, but the light winds and wallowy seas slowed them down near the end so they ducked in just before dark yesterday and got a slip.  Bruce says its very nice in Fernandina Beach.  He is glad for once that I am not there because he thinks I would have a hard time not doing major damage to our credit card in the cute little shops along the way.  I think it would have been a prime opportunity to test my new "cruiser mode" mentality of not buying everything I see... but we may never know.

Bruce is increasingly pleased with the boat.  They motorsailed most of the way with only about 8 hours of sail only time.  Bruce said that they had a really great 6 our sail and another about two hours until the winds became very light.  He said that in light winds with 6 ft waves, the boat would come down off a wave and go nowhere without the motor.  They were nervous that they wouldn’t make it in before dark but the winds came up suddenly near the entrance and they had speeds of 8+ kts at the end.  He said that they had 80% uneventful times, 10% great times and 10% action, no fear or danger, just tense action. 

Steve, George, Bruce & Chuck
Chuck knew some people in Fernandina Beach… I think he knows “some people” everywhere… so they will have some assistance with getting to the grocery to restock their dwindling provisions.  They are losing Steve and George today and had engaged Lynn Walton to join them for the next jump.  In the light of morning today, it looks like the winds will be on the nose making an offshore passage foolish.  So… Lynn will not be joining them after all and they will continue on in the ditch, at least for the next couple of days.

The new plan is to head for Ft. Lauderdale, estimating 6 days.  Kevin has graciously agreed to join them there and they will proceed to Ft. Meyers, FL. (estimating 3 or 4 days).  They will spend a couple of days there at least, re-provisioning and waiting for weather, then head across the Gulf for Port A.  They will be conservative with the possibility of ducking in at Mobile, Gulfport or Galveston if weather becomes an issue.

My hopes of meeting them in Florida are dashed most likely.  It’s just difficult to time taking off work on the whim of the weather.  I guess there is a slim possibility but it’s very very slim, that I would get to go now.

After fueling up and provisioning, the guys got some local advice and decided to get a head start on it. They caught the afternoon tide going south and anchored at some unknown place, Bruce called it St. Mary’s but it could be something else.

Day 16 - They upped anchor early again this morning and made 40 some odd miles to tonight’s spot just south of St. Augustine.  They motored with a short sail at 4 to 5 knots all day with either current or wind against them much of the time.  At least they weren’t dealing with both together. 

Bruce had a chance to have conversations with both Lewis Eisenberg (is that right? Scotty & Lewis…) and Karl Stein yesterday, soaking up advice.  Karl had told him that the tides were 3 hours off the tables and Bruce said he was spot on 3 hours.  Thanks Karl!  Scotty & Lewis were just returning from a sail on their boat to the Dry Tortugas.  Karl and Jan just got home from a week aboard White Pepper in Florida right around near where our boys are now.

Bruce says the banks are lined with mansions and he is astounded by the wealth evident here.  They haven’t had mosquitoes and they’ve found shorts weather finally.  The water in the ICW is still icky. 

They hope to make it to Daytona Beach tomorrow.  They looked at going outside today but the winds were unfavorable. I wish I was there...

Days 17 - 18  Tuesday was another motor day doing mostly under 5 kts.  They made just over 40 miles or so in the ICW.  They anchored near Edgewater, Fl.  They could have gone further in the late afternoon with favorable tides, but there would have been nowhere to anchor, so they dropped the hook early and settled down to their allotted two beers and dinner. 

Breakfast at anchorage
Wednesday morning I was getting pretty tired of being by myself.  My husband wasn't doing much better as he was chafing a little bit at my weather report.  How can it be that the winds are directly on their nose no matter which way they turn.  I've been watching Passage Weather and it looks like the winds will continue to be favorable... everywhere Dos Libras is not!  Next week may get better for the Gulf crossing - at least I'm crossing my fingers and hoping.

 I spoke to Bruce in the evening and he was feeling a bit better.  Maybe just more resigned to this fate would be more accurate.  At least this way they aren't pounding themselves or the boat.  Maybe he's feeling sorry for me as I beg for pictures... he actually sent some.  He called these homes "low rent".  I guess they were compared to the sprawling homes along yesterday's route. 

They were passing Coco Beach and hopes to make it near Ft. Pierce in the remaining daylight hours.  There are places to anchor all along this stretch so they aren't being forced to drop anchor early today.  As long as they reach Ft. Lauderdale by Sunday for a rendezvous with Kevin, things are alright. 

All along the way, they seem to be going the wrong way... this is the time of year when cruisers are making their passage North.  Maybe that will be us next year! 

Day 19 -
Bruce and Chuck made really good time today.  I got a call from Bruce between 5:30 and 6:00 our time.  He said they were running from a storm.  I pulled up their position on the SPOT and consulted the weather radar.  They were near a place called Ft. St. Lucie and they were headed for Hooker Cove.  It looked like they were going to be passed over with a big storm on either side, maybe get just the tail end of the southernmost ball of rain.  I took a look at the area around them, found it to be very secure looking and I was OK.

I happily went off to dinner with Judy safe in the knowledge that they would be fine.  After dinner, I called Bruce up again and he said that they were anchored in 8 ft with lots of room all around and had nearly nothing at all out of the huge line of thunderstorms that had straddled them.  Not even a gust!  Yay weather radar and whatever luck is following my husband around.

I guess he got cocky though, he asked me to consult Passage Weather to see if they could escape the ICW through the outlet just right up the way from their current location.  I quickly dashed his enthusiasm with the forecast of more winds on the nose and the Gulf Stream screaming in the opposite direction to their intended path at 4 knots at 8 am tomorrow.  Combine that with waves coming from the other direction and across… I think it will be unpleasant.  Take the bridges over that mess and count yourselves lucky.  They still have until Sunday evening to make less than a hundred miles… TAKE THE BRIDGES! 
In the land of the "Big Money"
Days 20 - 21  Well,  we can call this a plan if we must give it a name… All that good time they've been making has at least positioned them close to the rendezvous point with Kevin.  Bruce called me on Friday evening after a previous text…” we’re running from a storm”.  They were motoring in the ICW nearing Boca Raton with angry clouds looming.  I consulted the Internet and found that indeed, they were going to get it. 

They moved aside to allow a couple of trawlers moving purposefully along and decided to follow them.  Radio contact confirmed that they knew where they were going so our guys fell in behind and followed them to  Lake Boca Raton where they dropped the hook and settled in.
They had thoughts of an early departure on Saturday morning to take advantage of the tides and a possible leap outside for a run to Miami.  In the wee morning hours, Bruce woke Chuck with news that the normal nightly decrease in the winds had not occurred so they went back to bed.  Incidentally, one of the trawlers they followed into the anchorage had drug anchor nearly hitting Dos Libras.  (Maybe being the only boat in the anchorage with a secure hold is not such a good thing… food for thought) 
Saturday morning found some wet spots inside the boat after the deluge.  One due to a port improperly secured, others due to minor drips, so they are drying things out as best they can with the continued rains coming down.  Forecast is for rain all day today with some local flooding.  Luckily no fixed bridges between here and Ft. Lauderdale.  They have done some strategic planning and all thought of going outside to Miami today (wishful thinking) has been banished.  They have some fuel docks noted and will head for a Marina in Lauderdale to await Kevin’s arrival tomorrow afternoon. 
Bruce plans to pick Kevin up from the airport and head for Kerry Ann (the boat) in a rental car.  Bruce and Kevin will do whatever needs to get done on his boat, leaving Chuck with Dos Libras.  They will not plan to leave Ft. Lauderdale until Tuesday at the earliest when conditions improve, then will shoot straight for home.  Currently, it looks like they will have favorable conditions through Thursday of next week.  No more far reaching information is available. 
Day 22 - 24  Well, it continues to be true "cruising" in that the plans change and change again.  But the basics remain.  Kevin arrived on Sunday afternoon (Day 22) and came back to Dos Libras to check her out.  He had hopes of getting the SSB to work.  They did get it revived somewhat but with an improperly installed antenae, the Jury is still out on that.  They slept aboard and in the morning, Kevin took the rental car to his boat in Cape Coral.

Bruce and Chuck stayed in Ft. Lauderdale where the sun proceeded to shine.  They went to work on a leaky hatch, luckily gaskets are some of the spares that came with the boat.  They went to West Marine and Sailor Man along with multiple other stops for boat stuff.  They got a Hypalon repair kit and found that there was already one among the dinghy spares aboard, so that went back to the store.  Hooray for spares! 

They generally filled their days in Ft. Lauderdale with preparing the boat for the journey, topping off the fuel and water tanks, finding and filling Jerry cans, provisioning and laundry.  They did some visiting with Chuck's friends.  They marveled at the other boats in their neigborhood... most of which made them feel like poor relations on our "little boat". 

Kevin returned on Tuesday (Day 24) and they finished their final preparations.  They were supposed to vacate their slip by noon but slightly overshot that mark.  The Marina was good about it.  I think they made liftoff sometime near 2pm and headed offshore for the next and final leg of this journey.

I'm missing Bruce almost as much as he is missing me.  I asked him if he was ready to get off that boat and he replied correctly... "no, I just wish you were here with me".  So he's still loving the boat and assures me that we are going to love it together.  Good times are ahead!  They hope to make it to Port A in about 10 days and I'm counting down. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boo Boo

While I was in Rhode Island visiting our New Boat before Bruce began the homeward journey, some of you might recall that I smashed the bejeebers out of my finger while cleaning the boat.  I've been very good and patient in the month since then, but the demons in my head overpowered my fear of needles this week and I got our radiology department at work to do a mammogram on my finger.  Lo and behold... it was broken! You can see the tip of the bone there is clearly not attached!

Today I saw Dr. Chris Miskovsky ( who my friend Karl once tried to get me to date) of Orthopaedic Center of Corpus Christi.  I had a "real" x-ray to take along with me and thankfully the time from the image above to the visit was short.  This allowed only minimal internal mental drama before the wonderful Dr. Miskovsky assured me that if he "fixed it", it would probably do more damage than good.  YAY!  I'm not going to die.  No sinister pins or annoying splints for me. 

He said that the gap in the bone would probably never calcify completely and maybe not at all.  He said that there was already tissue filling the gap and because of the millions of nerve endings involved, it would feel painfull or tingly for a while.  He advise that I spend some time in trying to desensitize it, likening the nerves to the hearing of a mother with small children...you know when it's just normal hubub and when it's serious.  I must convince my nerve endings that what they are feeling is normal hubub. 

It's still early days and the swelling hasn't gone down.  He said my fingertip would continue to feel hard for 3 months or more, but that massaging it with lotion would help with the desensitization and with helping the ravaged scar tissue inside return to pliability.  So... I will sleep better tonight. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Epic Journey - Part I

Day 1 -  Bruce and Chuck left Greenwich Bay Marina, home to Dos Libras since we purchased her.  They had planned to fuel up and sail to Block Island for a night, but changed plans and headed straight offshore... destination - Norfolk, VA. and the Chesapeake Bay. 

I had a brief text and phone call from Bruce as the neared Block Island to let me know of their plans to skip it.  

Day 4 - The next contact we had was when they were 88 nm from the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay with current against them. They had a storm in the forecast and were trying to make it in before it hit. Chip had put them in contact with a woman named Joan, who is a member of the SSCA.  She had a slip prepared to accept Dos Libras complete with a -buy one night get one free - plus an additional free night courtesy of their organization.  Once they got the boat tied up for the night at the Hampton Marina, the guys collapsed in relief and exhaustion from their gruelling three and a half day shake down cruise. 

Days 5 & 6 - Bruce and Chuck spent all day Thursday and Friday avoiding the rain, recuperating, getting the dinghy up and running, doing some repairs and provisioning for the next leg of their journey.  They had dinner with Joan and her husband on Thursday night and she would take no kind of repayment for her help.  She brought Chip's SPOT (which he had shipped to her) so that we at home could follow along on the rest of the journey.  Thanks again Chip! 

Day 7 -  The boat left early in the morning on Saturday headed for the ICW, next stop Coinjock, NC.  They spent the 12 hour day motoring in the mucky mud-colored waters that Bruce said made our Laguna Madre look like the Caribbean.  I guess we'll have the "ICW Beard" by the time they reach home...  Bruce was nervous about the bridges.  He had purchased the famed Skipper Bob cruising guide but, unfortunately, got the Marina guide instead of the ICW guide.  What he needed was the information about the multitude of bridges that they would pass through.  I got online here at home and found them the information they needed on the Blue Seas Website.  This had all the information he needed to prepare him for his first experience with bridges and locks.  After this day, he felt like he had really become a Cruiser.  He was gaining knowledge and confidence and I was so jealous!  But, I was also glad to see him get this.  This experience is taking the "fear of the unknown" out of going cruising for us. 

They spent the day rushing against the current to arrive in time for the opening of the bridges, waiting for them to open once they arrived and then scurrying onward to the next one trying to make the schedule.  Bruce learned how to get the boat to hold position in currents going both with and against the boat.  Again, a fabulous learning opportunity and I'm jealous!  But it's good that he got to do it, since I would probably have been at the wheel had I been there... 

The guys were headed for what they were told would be an old marina that was no longer in business but where boats could tie up overnight for free.  When they arrived, they discovered that the information they had received was outdated.  There was now a working marina where they could tie up with water and electricity for $90 per night!  Well, it was not so bad, they got free wi-fi so that they could surf the Internet and check out Passage Weather, a site that Chip advised me about.  (why did we not know about this before?).  They spent the evening relaxing after a long stressful day. 
Day 8 - Sunday, April 8 Under way early again, the guys crossed Albermarle Sound and headed for the Alligator River.  They had little or no cell phone reception and planned to anchor out for the night.  I have no details about that day, only that they anchored in this SPOT near 5 or 6 other boats of many different types.  They didn't make contact with the others, just had dinner and a couple of beers and slept.
Day 9 - Monday, April 9  I got a text from Bruce late in the day telling me that they had been having a nice day, not much sailing, mostly motoring.  At about 4pm the winds cranked up to 18kts on the nose so they were motoring in a large bay punching through 3-4 ft waves doing just over 3kts.  He wasn't very happy about it.  Finally they neared the end of this day's journey and anchored near the opening to the ICW where narrows and crosses through some farmlands.  They were all set for the next day.  I spoke to Bruce briefly on the phone but didn't get many details.  They had made 75 miles that day and were pretty tired. They just pulled over once the ICW narrowed a bit and picked a SPOT to anchor for the second night out.  It was all starting to run together.  Time for dinner and a beer.  They were not far from Beaufort, NC where they planned to spend the next day.
Day 10 - Tuesday, April 10  After an early start, Dos Libras arrived at their slip in Beaufort.  It was a short motor from the anchorage where they spent last night and their new crew members were waiting.  We welcome Steve and George! 

I got a call from Bruce and felt much better about life.  After spending a very nervous day thinking they were going out at Beaufort which would mean that they would sail through the Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear, I found that they revised their plan.  They will continue on in the ICW for another hundred miles or so past Cape fear and will then come out into the Atlantic with what looks like a very favorable forecast. 

The guys spent their day provisioning and preparing the boat for the next leg of the trip.  Bruce worked on cleaning the seals on the windows and moistening them with Vaseline.  Hopefully this will keep things dry when they take a wave over the top. 

Day 11 - Bruce called from the anchorage after making 65 or 70 miles today in the ICW.  He was pleased to say that they motor sailed most of the day.  This was the first day he actually got to use the mainsail and he was very happy with how easy it was to raise and drop the sail.  He is still very happy with our choice.  He did say that it will take some adjustment for us as Elan didn’t slide much, I guess due to the deeper draft, but Bruce noticed a definite difference in Dos Libras.  He also said that it was not really possible to  steer from the low side because of the smaller wheel.  Oh and one more thing, (OK, Chip… take your told-ya-so…) sitting behind the wheel, he noticed decreased forward line of sight.  But!... he did say that you could see more all around…  So, there are trade-offs, but we knew that going in.

The route today required near constant attention of three crew members, one on lookout, one on the map and the third on the wheel.  Navigation through the narrow ICW was more demanding of them than any of the other days and they’re all ready to get offshore and stretch their legs a bit.  For now, the guys are preparing dinner in an anchorage with hopes of making it to the coast south of Cape Fear and breaking out into the Atlantic by around noon tomorrow. 
They think the weather looks favorable with decreasing winds on Friday.  Saturday looks to have the winds shifting around to the South which has them thinking they’ll come back into the ICW.  They’re hoping to make around 300 miles with 2 days of favorable winds.
Day 12 -  Dos Libras pulled up anchor at 6 am local time.  They rejoined the ICW for this last bit with plans to go offshore later today. I sent Bruce a text advising him to check in with Chip before going offshore to update their current plans.  Bruce called me and we talked.  I reminded him that Chip was taking his role of Emergency Contact very seriously. 

I realized this morning that I have been thinking of little else since their departure from Rhode Island.  I have created a place in my mind to live along with him constructed of the the little tidbits of information he has given me, photos sent and the pictures of their locations from the SPOT and Google Earth.  In this place I am right there with him.  He fleshed it out a bit for me... describing the grace and luxury of the manicured lawns and old homes lining the ICW at this point.

Meals are good, (Bruce isn't cooking)  Provisioning checked off, even the laundry has been done.  Unfortunate casualties include the loss of our Flamingo bed sheets...  Evidently they took too long in the dryer so the guys went to dinner while they waited.  After a beer or two, they walked right past the laundry building on their way to the boat.  No further thought was given until bedtime many miles away.  Bruce considered calling the place but didn't want to admit to ownership of Flamingo sheets. Well, I can't complain to much.  I'm proud that they did laundry at all!

He also fleshed my mental world out with a veiled reference to a clogged holding tank vent but stopped short of the final description and exact details of how they figured this out...  For now, I'll live with that scene unfinished in my mind's world.

Today, they leave the ICW.  Weather report is good.  Temperatures in the 30s overnight and I'm hoping that they arrive here in "Spring" on this next leg and can pack away the winter clothes.  I've got SPOT to keep me company and it helps to know that Bubs is out there rooting for them along with me.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Registering Your VHF and EPIRB

Click the picture for details
The boat came with an old VHF radio built into the Nav Station but it didn't have DSC. It's a newer technology that allows the user to signal a distress call through the radio by programming in a unique MMSI identification number that tells the SAR (search and rescue) authorities who and where you are.

Bruce picked up this radio in Rhode Island after doing some research and reading reviews.  This is an inexpensive model that basically coordinates with the boat's chart plotter to show other vessels within range as it also contains an AIS receiver.  It will actually post other ship's positions on the radar with information about the ship using AIS. Older DSC enabled VHF radios had to be connected to a GPS externally. This model has an internal GPS which cuts out that vital and often missed step.  

This unit does not transmit our position via AIS however.  There are other radios that do both, but we plan on purchasing a separate AIS unit closer to the time we go cruising.  This way we can choose between the latest technology and the slightly older versions that should have slightly lower prices... at least that's what we hope.  It also separates the two functions so that if one goes down we don't lose both. 

Anyway... this radio has internal GPS as well as connecting to the chart plotter.  It adds a layer of safety on top of our EPIRB for sending out a distress signal.  Bruce and Chuck were in charge of installation and functionality, while back home it was my job to make sure that we obtained our MMSI number and registered the EPIRB.  Coincidentally, while all of this was going on, I ran across an article about what happens when your EPIRB is deployed.  Thanks to Cruising World Magazine for the valuable information.

First the MMSI:  Chip has been an invaluable source of information and I can't thank him enough for his help in pointing me in the right direction.  The Boat US Website handles the registration of the VHF radio.  It is a simple process of entering the required information online.  A certificate is then emailed to you containing your MMSI number.  It's free, it's easy and it makes it possible for SAR teams to find you should you ever have to press that button. 

It is important to know that your MMSI number is attached to that VHF radio on that boat.  If you sell the boat with the radio you must de-register so that the new owner can use it.  If you install the radio on a different boat, you must update the MMSI registration with the new boat information. 

The MMSI number is also listed in your EPIRB registration so get one before you begin the next step.  NOAA is the entity that provides for registration of EPIRB units.  It's another easy online process.  You will receive a certificate and a sticker.  Make sure that you have chosen your emergency contact people before beginning.  You should also update your registration at least yearly.  Remember:  Your emergency contacts should not be ON THE BOAT WITH YOU and they should know your up-to-the-minute plans and contingencies.  These are the people that the SAR authorities will contact if they are unable to reach you on the boat when your EPIRB is deployed. 

If you sell the boat with the EPIRB, you should update this with the NOAA website.  Otherwise, when the new owner attempts to register, the process is delayed until they can reach and verify with the previous owner that the boat was sold. 

It was very empowering for me to be a part of this process.  Educating myself in small digestible bits about life afloat makes the process a bit less daunting.  It also makes me feel that we are moving purposefully towards our goal.  Another feeling this process gave me was comfort.  I know it was dangerous out there for Bruce and Chuck.  It's "Big Water" and they were out there on a relatively unfamiliar vessel.  Bruce said something to me once they were safely tied up in a slip in Hampton, VA.  He said that while they were underway, they never raised the mainsail.  They had jacklines in place but one of them would have had to leave the cockpit and go to the mast to raise the sail.  If one of them were to fall overboard in these cold waters, the other would have had only about 30 minutes to get them out of the water or he would be dead.  They didn't want to risk it so they stayed in the cockpit.  Somber thought...  Properly register your DSC and EPIRB before going offshore.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Buying a Boat

This is written for the sake of documenting the process of “going cruising” from a “How to” standpoint.  If you aren’t, then skip this post.  Whether you buy a boat from an individual or from a broker, you should know what forms you will need to get your new boat’s ownership documentation transferred from the previous owner to you.  There are decisions to be made about where you will call “home”.  These differ from State to State, so educate yourself in advance so you won’t end up scrambling for signatures after the closing.

We live in Texas.  However, we will soon be cruising and are strongly considering calling St. Petersburg our “home port” in the next year or two.  We thought about listing that on our documentation to cut out a step, but decided that we will leave Corpus Christi as our home port, at least for now…

Our new boat held current US Documentation through the US Coast Guard.  The USCG requires the use of their own Bill of Sale (Form CG 1340) when transferring ownership, which must accompany form CG 1258 and the appropriate fees which can be paid by credit card (using the form for that…).  The entire process is quick and easy assuming that you’ve got these forms signed by the seller at closing.  You do not have to send in the executed previous US Documentation certificate if you have the completed Bill of Sale.  This saves you money as they charge you by the number of pages you submit.  It can all be submitted by faxing the forms with a cover letter to Fax #304-271-2415.  DONE!  You will receive your certificate which must be kept on board.  There are specific requirements for displaying your Official Number as well. 

Texas passed a law a few years back that requires boat owners to pay sales tax on boats purchased out of state or show proof of sales tax paid.  Before this law was passed,  US Documentation could be filed on a vessel in lieu of State Registration. This caused a lot of grief for people who bought their boat outside of the date allowed to dodge the tax for “grandfathered” boats.  We paid it on our previous boat.  I guess we will be paying it again for Dos Libras, although we really won’t be here forever.  You must register your boat in Texas and must show proof that you’ve paid the sales tax to do so.  You must go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife and download form PWD 143.  This form is used in registering boats in several different situations.  It was the right one for us.  We also registered the dinghy and the outboard motor.  Texas requires the completion of form PWD 504 for outboards even though many other states have no registration/title process for outboard motors. 

When selling or purchasing a boat, it is also a good idea to have a signed manifest.  This is a list of all of the items that will transfer with the sale of the vessel.  Be sure to list everything that isn’t attached permanently to the boat.  Otherwise, if it’s visible in the listing photos or if it’s on the boat when you show it to a potential buyer, it goes with the boat.  You should  list exclusions specifically.  This will cut out any issues and takes precedence over verbal representations of items “included in the sale”. 

That’s it!  You own it… well… after you write that big check that is.