Monthly Archives: December 2015

Merry Christmas

Harbour Cay Club, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

Merry Christmas everyone!! I hope you all had a good one. We have been enjoying a week of wonderful weather and the last couple of days have been no exception. We have been enjoying time with friends, both old and new. The other day, our friends that have a house on Big Pine Key, Jim and Jackie, came up and took us to the grocery store and Home Depot. Then we went and had lunch together and caught up. They dock in our old marina on Lake Erie and have been friends for several years. Nice to have a car to load up heavy stuff at the grocery. Even better to see good friends! Then the next day, our friends from Lake Erie, Jen and John, picked us up and we went out for happy hour at Sunset Grill. They are the friends we had a dual wedding with and their parents have a house here in Marathon where they are staying for Christmas. We have been close friends since the early 1990s. Great seeing them too.

Last night we had a really nice dinner here at Harbour Cay Club. Everybody pitched in and we had a great Italian seafood dinner. Here are some pictures:

Then today we connected with friends and family outside of Marathon, mostly via Face Time (which is awesome), did some fishing (caught nothing), and had a great surf and turf dinner. It was very different from our traditional Christmas celebration before we started cruising, but was enjoyable. And how can you complain about this view:

Tomorrow…back to boat projects, and then plan a trip to Key West!!

The big flush…and some things I forgot

Harbour Cay Club, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

The rock and roll stopped and the last 2 days have been delightful as the weather goes. Unfortunately, we have not been able to enjoy it with all of the boat work. It took the better part of a day, but I successfully flushed the air conditioning raw water system and got the condensators working again, sucking out the condensation as designed. As earlier in the year, the hoses get lined with silt and dead sea stuff, reducing the flow of water which in turn stalls the venturi effect that the condensators need to do their thing. A quick flush of diluted muratic acid did the trick again. As boat projects always go, it takes several hours to just get all of the tools out of storage and several more putting it all away. This one also involves removing hoses, which always takes herculean efforts, too much time, and much cursing.

Also, as boat projects go, another unforeseen project emerged. The project that we knew about was changing the filter cover for the refrigerator drain pump. When you defrost the refrigerator, some water ends up in the bottom and we have a handy, built in electric pump to purge it out. The filter for this system is in the back of the engine compartment just under an access hatch. We learned the hard way that if you are not careful removing the hatch, you can cause a stress crack in the filter cover, hindering the pump process. It takes about 40 minutes to remove all of the stuff that is stored above the hatch, and about 5 minutes to replace the filter cover. When I lifted the hatch, I noticed that it was wet…it shouldn’t be. So, I thought we had a leaking hose in the engine compartment. I run the engine at various speeds and watched for leaks…none found. After further inspection of the engine compartment, I could see small traces of water droplets in the area above the end of the hatch that was wet, and it leads to the vented tube for engine exhaust water. As usual, it doesn’t leak when I run the engine. I take to the internet and do some research, some saying that a little bit of leaking is normal, but this doesn’t sound right to me. I consult the “cone of knowledge”, a.k.a. happy hour at the Harbour Cay tiki hut, and learn that it should not leak, and that a friend of Eric’s has the same model boat that we have and has had to replace the same part. This whole process fills another day. The next day, Eric’s friend sends me an email with the part number and a place to get it…yay!! A fine example of the way boat projects go, and proof that drinking and happy hour solves problems!

It seems like boat projects have been consuming us this last week or so, but in my last post I forgot to mention our first manatee visit this season. We love it when they come up to our boat and this one was really friendly.

All of the unexpected projects have put a damper on getting Christmas finalized. We didn’t have much to do in that respect, but we are not going to make it. We decided to stay at the marina over Christmas and will try and see all of our friends that live nearby over the next week. I hope you all are ready for the holiday and that you have a good one!

Rock’n and Roll’n and the air conditioning blues

Harbour Cay Club Marina, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

One of the only bad things about staying at Harbour Cay Club is the northern exposure. When winds have a northern component, especially northwest or due north, and the winter fronts move in, we get hammered by the wind and waves in the marina. Today we are getting winds to 36 knots (so far) from the north-northeast and we have been rocking and rolling like a bucking bronco. Not much sleep last night and we will have to endure this weather for another day. Thankfully, it looks like the winds will move further east, which should calm it down a bit. We decided to hang out in the club house for a bit to keep from getting sea sick! To put in my usual terms…we are getting our asses kicked…at the dock!

Up until today, this week has been absolutely gorgeous!! Here are a couple pics from one of our walks that typifies the weather we have been having:

The other day we took our dinghy around the west end of the key, under the Seven Mile Bridge and into Boot Key Harbor. Hundreds of boats in there. On the way back we stopped and enjoyed a couple of happy hours. It was a fun day getting out on the water.

We started one day this week with breakfast and mimosas:

And then we put up our Christmas decorations:

Our friends Hayden and Radeen finally made it here and we have been making more friends at the infamous “Cone of Knowledge”, the tiki hut where everyone socializes for sun down and happy hour drinks. One night I even pulled out my guitar and played with one of the other boaters here that has an acoustic, and can sing very well. It has been great fun.

The temps have started to get into the mid 80’s during the day and only going down into the mid to high 70’s at night, with a decent amount of humidity; so we decided to switch on the air conditioning. We only run it when we have to, to save money on electricity, but it was getting to be 87/88 inside the boat in the afternoons, and lately the winds have been very light, so we broke down. Much to my dislike…the condensators, the small plumbing fixtures that suck the condensation water out, were not working. So…I manually pumped the water out (every 40 minutes for several hours), launched the dinghy, used the dinghy and a water hose at the dock to spray into the water exhaust ports, and viola…it started working! Yay! Not so fast though…it only worked for about 3 hours and then started failing again. Those of you who follow the blog may remember this happening in Southport this summer. I will need to run acid through the raw water system of the air conditioners to get the flow back to the point that the condensators will work. I set about doing that today. Step one…prep a bucket to feed the raw water pump…done. Next, dig a section of spare hose out of the cockpit locker (big enough for a small family to live in, and completely full of stuff…aka not fun to have to dig out spare hose) to run from the bucket to the pump…failed. Rain was threatening and we are getting blown away. It is cool enough to not need the air conditioning for a few days and I am going to delay this project, hoping for better weather tomorrow! You may also remember that I absolutely hate dealing with hoses, so that may have been a factor as well…lol!

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas here…mostly sunny, warm and green…and I can’t believe the big day is next week. We have several options for how we are going to spend Christmas Eve and Day, and we need to figure out what we are going to do……..decisions, decisions.

We will post before and/or around Christmas to wish everyone well. I hope your shopping is almost done and your cookies are baked. Not so much of that here on a boat…

Week one in Marathon

Florida Keys, Marathon, FL
Posted by Bill

Well it has been a full week since we landed in Marathon at the Harbour Cay Club. It is nice to be sitting still for a while. Since we left Southport on the 4th of November, we have had 20 traveling days. Except for the week we stayed in Vero Beach, the only stops we took were for weather, 2 days in Charleston, 1 day in Fernandina Beach and 2 days in St Augustine. We traveled 1,006 statute miles. The trip this year was very different. Last year, everything was new to us and it seemed more adventurous compared to this year. We now have the spots we like, and spots we avoid (if possible), and we know the general “lay of the land” along the way. It was still challenging, especially dealing with weather and other boaters. It was easy to see how much our anchoring, docking and navigation skills have improved, especially when dealing with tides and currents.

The first couple of days here were windy and rainy, but now the weather is settling. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s, and finally some sunny skys.

Our good friends Kurt and Sharon, on Byrd Ketcher, left on Friday for Key West; and since we only had a few days to hang out with them, we hit a daily happy hour…sometimes more than one. We also met up with Mark and Jan on Island Bound (yes another Island Bound…great choice of boat name if I don’t say so myself), who were moored in Boot Key Harbor here in Marathon. They traveled with us from Miami to Bimini and the Berry Islands in the Bahamas in March, and then went south to the Exumas when we went north to the Abacos. It has been good seeing them again and hanging out. They are also headed for Key West tomorrow. We also met Denny and Wanda, good friends of the Byrd Ketchers and Island Bounds. They also moved on to Key West.

When not happy houring, we have been working on boat projects. First up, dealing with our solar panels. Last February we purchased 3 135 watt solar panels from a very reputable company here in Marathon. In return for a substantial discount, we accepted 2 of them on back order. Unfortunately, the company we bought them from has had a major problem getting them due to new import restrictions and tariffs (thank you mr president…not). I maintained my cool talking with the sales rep, and we were able to work out a solution that includes giving back the one panel we have, and getting 4 new 100 watt panels. They should be here in a few days and we can work on installing them.

A good portion of our travel here was in rainy and very humid weather, and since we have not had air conditioning we have developed a mold and mildew issue inside the boat. Tricia wiped every surface down with Clorox Cleanup and it is looking great. I set out to clean the bottom of the boat (since the water is so clear here, I don’t mind doing it versus hiring a diver), pulled the dinghy out of the water and give it a thorough cleaning, cleaned the stainless steel on the outside of the boat, and got caught up on the many financial and administrative things that have been neglected for over a month. We also got the bikes out of storage and made a run to the grocery store. We have a list of things to do to the boat before we head offshore to the Bahamas, and it will definitely keep us busy.

We are planning a couple of trips to Key West in the next couple of weeks to hang with everyone while they are down there. We also have a good friend Shelley that lives there that we want to visit. The cost for slips there is outrageous…beyond our budget, so we will base ourselves here in Marathon and take the bus to Key West. A friend of Kurt and Sharon, who lives near Key West, invited us to stay them them at his house for Christmas Eve and Day, and we are contemplating that. Also, we have good friends that live on Big Pine Key, which is the next key over from Marathon. Hopefully we can see them several times while we are here. Lastly, our good friends (considered family), Jen and John from Catawba (where our lake house is), are going to be here over Christmas staying with their parents who have a house in Key Colony Beach here in Marathon. We had a dual wedding with them back when we got hitched. We hope to spend some time with them while they are here. So…you can see…busy social schedule for the next few weeks.

We got our fishing licenses and plan to do some fishing soon. There are about 5 lobsters lurking in the rocks at the marina boat ramp. Their days are numbered! I have also seen some mangrove snappers swimming in the vicinity that need to end up on the grill, and I got a tip on what bait to use from a guy at the grocery store yesterday. We shall see.

Here are some pictures around the marina including our Island Bound at her slip:

Vero Beach to Key Biscayne

Harbour Cay Club, Marathon, FL
Position: 24 42.631N, 81 06.590W
Posted by Bill

I know…it has been awhile since I posted. Since leaving Vero Beach we have been in bust ass mode and I haven’t had time to post. Also, there hasn’t been anything significant for the most part in our passages…except what you will find below.

The last couple of days at Vero, our really good friends, Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher, finally caught up to us. They had some mechanical problems that delayed their arrival in Vero, but they made it on the day after Thanksgiving. They also had some friends in town who were visiting relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday…Cheryl and Bill, one of Sharon’s best friends in high school whom she has kept up with. They stayed on the boat for a few days and we did some epic partying with all 4 of them around town. On the last full day in Vero, Kurt and I made a provisioning run in Cheryl and Bill’s car and we prepped to leave.

We were happy to be reunited with the Byrd Ketchers and we decided to travel with them to the Florida Keys. We left on November 30 and made our first stop in Hobe Sound, Jupiter, FL…right across from Tiger Wood’s house, where we anchored on the way north in the spring. Position: 27 00.242N. 080 5.712W. Poor Kurt had some anchoring issues during the night as the wind kicked up, but otherwise it was a good stop.

From there we transited the Lake Worth/Palm Beach/North Palm Beach area. If you remember from last year’s posts, this is an area of extreme wealth and mega-yachts. Here are some pics:

We ended the day in Lantana, FL. Position: 26 34.953N, 080 02.889W. We had never been there before because it is on the “inside” route going south, meaning it is on the ICW south of Lake Worth. We usually go “outside” in the Atlantic Ocean from Lake Worth to Fort Lauderdale, but we decided to try the “inside” since we never did it before. Lantana was a good stop. There is a cool Tiki bar right where we anchored at the Lantana bridge and it is a short walk to the beach if you are so inclined. At the end of the day, we had traveled through 10 draw bridges…a major pain in the ass. Pics:
The Tiki bar:

The Lantana Bridge:

From there we traveled to Fort Lauderdale on the “inside”. 14 bridges and a path through the land of opulence. Dozens of miles of expensive homes lining the ICW with yachts to boot. Where do they get all of the money??? Many were decorated for Christmas already, which is strange here because it is 85 degrees and green, with palm trees and swimming pools! Pics:

Iguanas (Caribbean squirrel) on the bridge (for our grand kids…lol):

This display of flags cracked me up:

One of the bridges started to close on us as we were going through…a mistake by the bridge tender. Thank goodness Kurt was listening to the radio and cautioned the bridge tender that we were still in the bridge…major ass puckering!!!

Yesterday, we tried to reserve a slip for the night in Fort Lauderdale to no avail. The only open slips were over $3/foot or were up the New River. We took a slip up the New River last year and I swore I would never go up there again. It borders the main road in Fort Lauderdale, Las Olas Blvd and has lots of stuff to do, but the river is very narrow, has a major current running through it, and has mega yacht traffic…all of which add up to a not-so-fun experience. Many boats crash or get messed up dealing with this river. All of the usual anchorages were full and this ended up being the only option for a slip…did I tell you how much I hate this place?? We get 2 slips right in front of the first bridge that we encounter (so at least we didn’t have to negotiate the 3-4 bridges with all of the other crap. We ended up getting into our slips without any incident and we made it in time for happy hour…thank god because I really needed a few drinks after a day like this one.

All night I worried about how we were going to get off this slip. There is less than one boat length to turn around, and we are bordered by a bridge on one side, with large yachts on the river banks. I need 2 boat lengths to turn the boat, and we had a 2 knot current to boot. After much contemplation and after consulting some boats that have been there for some time, we decided to wait for slack tide at 9:15 AM. We were able to get the boats off of the wall, turned around and on our way out into the ocean to Miami/Key Biscayne. I hate Fort Lauderdale!!!!

Thankfully we had a really calm day on the ocean and we pushed past Miami to Key Biscayne and anchored in No Name Harbour, position: 25 40.579N, 080 09.741W. This was a really nice and protected anchorage in a state park. It has a nice beach on the ocean side and a Cuban restaurant. The weather started to turn and we opted to stay in the boat, not able to enjoy the area because of pouring rain. Pics:
Byrd Ketcher with Miami Beach in the background:

The lighthouse at No Name Harbor:

Another view of Miami Beach and South Beach:

The next day, we contemplated waiting out a day of pouring rain that was in the forecast, but decided to push on into the Florida Keys. There are two routes, one inside the Keys that is very shallow…less than 4.5 feet at low tide in some spots…and one that is outside, on the ocean side called the Hawk Channel. We took the Hawk last year, worried about the depths of the inside route, as we need just over 5 feet of water for our boat. After much research and consultation, we thought we could do the inside route and we went for it. The first night we made it to an anchorage at Cowpens Cut, off of Key Largo; position: 25 00.049N, 080 33.990W. We had the tide working for us giving us depth and we went until dark. Many times we had less than 6 inches of water under us, adding a little bit of stress!! It rained for a good part of the trip, but we have full foul weather gear that kept us dry, and there was little to no wind. Looking back, it was a good decision to leave No Name Harbor.

Today we left early again and used the tide to get through the last of the really shallow areas, and thankfully got in to deeper water as we passed the Channel Five bridge. The winds were increasing and it got a little rough on parts of the passage, but we also got to sail…a good trade off. We pulled into our slip at Harbour Cay Club in Marathon around 2:30 PM. It is good to be back here. We made our goal of getting to Marathon in the first week of December. We will be here for six to eight weeks and then start looking for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. In the mean time, there is a long list of boat projects that need to be tended to.

The trip from Key Biscayne to Marathon via the inside route is do-able for our boat, but I think I would only use it again if it was too rough to transit the ocean side. Most of the time we had 1.5 to 2 feet of water under us, and if we didn’t use the tide we would not have been able to go through a large portion of the route. Pics:

It looked like these birds were trying to figure out how to get their boat off of the shoal: