sailing

By aaron.axvig, 18 July, 2020

Two days ago I removed all of the old engine compartment sound insulation. It was coming loose and had nice carvings in it from the water pump and alternator...since when we bought the boat (1,000 engine hours ago). Today I installed the new sound deadening material so it is finally fixed!

The part that is down against the table (most boat maintenance projects involve trashing the "dining room") is where the steps are, and faces forward when the cover is installed over the engine.

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By aaron.axvig, 3 July, 2020

We motored almost 60 miles to Cumberland Island--a long day!  The next day we went on a long walk on some of the trails there and along the amazing beach.  And the day after we traveled to Brunswick, GA to see our friends Leanne and Mark.  After we anchored near the marina they had us over to their catamaran to visit.  For supper we walked into downtown to find something but not much was open so we went back to their boat and made burgers.  The next day we made the difficult decision to travel on even though we would have loved to stay and visit more.  The holding for our anchor in that spot was not great and storms were forecast, the marina was fairly hostile about us taking our dinghy to their customers' (our friends') boat, there was no other dinghy shore access, and it was very hot.  It was best to keep moving, but only barely.

After a late start at about 11:00am, we made it maybe 5 hours until inclement rain made it seem wise to anchor in a creek that was actually only about a half mile short of where we had been thinking about stopping.  Of course we were still not fast enough and had to do the anchoring in light rain.  That and the next two nights were all spent kind of in the middle of nowhere; Darien Creek, St. Catherine's Island (we noticed magnolia trees/blossoms for the first time here, but did not spot any lemurs), and Skull Creek.

From Skull Creek it was just a short hop to Beaufort, SC.  We found a great nook just south of the city waterfront and ended up spending a little over a week there.  At low tide there was a great sandbar for Louise to play on.  There is a great public dock there so we really enjoyed the town.  One day we rented bicycles and rode on the Spanish Moss Trail which is a "rails to trails" trail...very flat as a former railroad.  Anna dropped her ring off to get a matching band made.  I did a lot of OpenStreetMap editing.  I replaced the air conditioner run capacitor and got the EasyStart working so that we can reliably start our air conditioner using the generator.  It rained a fair amount.  We called the marina to pay for a mooring ball so that we could use their laundry facility; none were available due to maintenance but they were nice enough to let us use the laundry anyways.

Eventually it was time to move on again to so we headed for Charleston.  We stopped short because of a long stretch of opposing tidal currents and approaching storms.  So the next day it was a relatively short day.  At one area called Elliott Cut the tidal current really flows fast.  Our timing was a little off so it was 1.5 knots against us and there was a bridge a couple miles up that had a restricted opening schedule.  A catamaran entered the cut just before us and wasn't going fast enough to make it through the next bridge opening.  He didn't respond to many hailing attempts on the radio so I ended up passing him in the cut.  We had very good maneuverability due to the opposing current but it was still pretty tight in there!  About halfways between the cut and the bridge he hailed us so I was able to explain and apologize for my aggressive driving.  And the bridge opening worked out--we were there on time and he was able to make it through too even though the bridge tender did yell at him on the radio to speed it up!

The anchorage in Charleston was rougher than I liked and I didn't feel like staying there so we motored on the next day to Georgetown.

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By aaron.axvig, 3 July, 2020

From Vero we motored to near Palm Shores, FL.  I changed the oil the next morning and we motored on to New Smyrna Beach.  We anchored, took the dinghy to the nice public dock, walked around the abandoned (COVID19) downtown with Louise, and got some food to go from Panheads Pizzeria.  It was VERY buggy when we got back to the boat with our food.  I think this is the place where so many of the bugs (sort of like gnats?) got into the boat before we put the screens in, that eventually we just left one light on in the v-berth to attract them all.  Periodically I would swat the cloud of bugs around the light to kill as many as possible.

The next day (April 22nd) we arrived in St. Augustine.  We pulled in to the fuel dock for diesel and water and to figure out where to rest for a few days.  A mooring ball would have been ideal but they were not available for two boats or for more than two nights.  We didn't want to anchor because it would be pretty windy and the current really runs through that area.  So we decided to spend three nights at the dock and Keelin' It would do so too.

The current was moderately flowing into the slip which makes pulling in bow-first tricky because you don't have much time to rotate the boat before getting pushed into the slip.  But it was flowing much less near shore where the slips were compared to the fuel dock.  I wouldn't do it again, but we did make it in.  I was about 15 degrees shy of getting the full 90 degrees of rotation that we needed so the port side of the boat went against a piling and Alex on the finger pier was able to push on the bow to complete the rotation.

We had a couple days of lounging and Anna made a huge grocery run with Lisa.  We decided that we would like to spend a month there but Keelin' It opted to continue on.  We had payed about $280 for three nights and it was something like $350 more for the 27 additional days.  At most marinas it is only economical to stay for one-month periods!

We had a great month in St. Augustine.  The marina is right in the historic district so there was plenty to see even with pandemic shutdowns.  Louise got a lot of great walks.  I spent a lot of time walking around making improvements to OpenStreetMap.  We ordered many maintenance and wishlist items.  Anna hosted the cruisers net a few times.  We had sun-downers with our neighbors from our own cockpits.  And eventually it was time to leave.

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By aaron.axvig, 21 April, 2020

Better late than never to write about what we did in the Bahamas...

Our first day in Great Harbor Key we went and talked to Rhett and Deb on SV Twin as we recognized them from the marina in South Bimini (and they have the same model boat as we do).  They were planning to move around a point about 1/2 mile away and we decided to move with them.  We would be more protected from the winds for the next day or two.  Then we went to walk around town.  There was a wild preaching sort of thing going on in the city park, sort of like slam poetry maybe.  The one lady was rhythmically shouting (rapping?) into the microphone and a few others were gathered around.  They had their maxed out PA system pointed outwards so everyone could experience it!  We went to a little restaurant on top of a hill and had some OK food.  We also bought a few things at the relatively well-stocked grocery store.  Then that evening we went over to their boat for supper; I was a little late as I took the dinghy to the marina to get the MyIslandWiFi hotspot unit.  The cut through rock into the harbor is pretty neat.  It was dark on the way back and I had the dinghy lights on.  As I was about halfways back to the boat (a couple miles trip) I felt a wake.  You can tell from the feel of the waves how recently the wake was made, and these felt very recent.  And then I smelled exhaust.  So basically some maniac with no lights on buzzed right past me in the pitch dark.

The next day we decided to go to the beach on the island.  As we rounded the point on the way to the dinghy parking area the waves really picked up.  We were very glad to be anchored on the calm side!  We walked about 1.5 miles to the east side of the island and played with Louise there for an hour or so.  The sand was soooo fine!

We spent one or two more nights there and then went with SV Twin and SV Make Way to Hoffman Key.  We had a really nice sail to there.  Aaron and Rhett went to check out the blue hole.  The anchorage was just OK as there was some surge that made the boat rock in funny ways all night.  Then we motorsailed to Nassau where we fueled up and anchored a bit west of the conch shacks area.  We stayed there for several nights while some wild winds blew through.  We walked a long ways to do laundry one day, went to the grocery store another day (very nearly stocked and priced as well as an American grocery store), and ate at the conch shacks.  Overall we enjoyed it there, despite having heard many bad things.

Then we motorsailed over to Allen's Cay.  We anchored there for a few days and had an amazing time snorkeling and paddleboarding around the boat, exploring some nearby reefs, checking out the iguanas, and just really loving the incredibly clear water and sunny days.  Rhett and Matt had their spears out at one of the reefs and some snorkelers from a tour boat were very upset that we would fish inside of the national park where it is prohibited.  They didn't believe that the park starts about 10 miles south of where we were...probably thought all of the Exumas were in the park.

Our next stop was Norman's Cay.  There were quite a few boats in the channel there but we easily found a spot near the mostly submerged plane wreck which is a very popular snorkeling spot.  So we did some snorkeling and spent a few nights there too.  A big front blew through and one night at about 2:30am our anchor alarm went off.  I quickly determined that it was NOT a false alarm and that we were indeed on the move.  As I popped up on deck and got the engine started our anchor rehooked and we swung sideways into a sailboat that had previously been a few hundred feet behind us.  I was able to drive ahead into the 35-40 mph wind then and keep us ahead of that boat while Anna pulled the anchor up.  Then drove in the dark and crazy wind and two foot waves back to pretty near our old spot and were able to anchor again.  There was no sleep until the wind finally started to abate later in the morning.  As for a root cause, I think that the anchor plugged up with grass and therefore did not handle the 90 degree change in wind direction well.  We talked to the other boat that afternoon and they didn't really have any damage other than some very scared kids.  One of our stantions was bent a little.

Also that night a charter catamaran had one of their lazy jacks break so their mainsail was flying around in the wind.  And then their anchor must have drug too because they were driving around.  Eventually they got re-anchored but still couldn't figure out how to get the sail under control.  They asked for help on the radio but no one was willing to go help them in the dark...I'm certain it would have been different if there was a significant risk of harm to them.  Eventually they figured out that they could lay on the sail and once it was light out and slightly calmer I went over to help them out.  The front end of the dinghy was VERY light in the high winds, definitely a risk of flipping in those sort of conditions.  Once I got there I used an old reefing line that I had brought along and laced their sail down to the boom.

One morning I went with Rhett, Don, and Matt to spearfish at a reef maybe a couple miles south.  It was pretty hard to find as no one had brought any electronic navigation devices but eventually we found it.  It was mostly 15 feet or more deep and there was a pretty strong current.  Don speared a fish and was hollering for us to hurry up and get him because a shark was trying to get the fish from him.  There were lots of barracuda around there too, and I really did not like snorkeling in that spot.

At all of these places we were trading nights hosting dinner with Rhett and Deb on Twin, Matt and Laurie on Make Way, and Don and Mary on Lovely Lady.  It was a very fun group!

By aaron.axvig, 21 April, 2020

About a week ago we decided that it was finally time to leave the Bahamas.  We had basically been sitting on the boat for three weeks as more and more restrictions were put in place.  I don't remember all the details but it was a progression: first all gatherings were prohibited, then all beaches were closed, then more and more until we were literally forbidden from leaving our boat for any purpose.  Grocery delivery was to be arranged with a $150 minimum and $15 delivery fee.

Every time a new restriction was announced it was always slightly open to interpretation so the situation was changing every day as different officials were asked questions.  There were many interpretations of whether travel back to the US was allowed, with or without stops to sleep, refuel, get groceries/water, etc.  I was very stressed out and losing a lot of sleep.  Most recently they did publish guidelines to answer some of those questions, which also included a line "encouraging boaters to return to their home country".

So we eventually came to an agreement that we would start the return trip on Friday.  Then Anna found out that she had a role in a murder-mystery held via VHF radio on Saturday night so negotiated that we would leave on Sunday.  But the weather window was too good starting on Friday and we found friends on SV Keelin It that were also going back to the US on Friday.  We were talking to them at 10:00am on Thursday and they were 60 miles north in Staniel Cay.  We quickly decided to leave at 11:00am to make it 50 miles to Blackpoint and then we would be caught up to them if we just left a little earlier than them on the next morning.  So we got off the phone with them and then quickly prepared to leave.  Aaron had just gotten the steering system repaired the evening before and half of the steering pedestal remained to be put back together!  But we did get everything done and leave at 11:00am as planned.

Another friend, Eric on SV Medicinal, joined us for that trip up to Blackpoint.  We had a nice motorsail for the first half of the trip and then the wind died out and it was just motoring.  We passed through Dotham Cut just as the sun set over the beautiful "White Horses" cliffs.  The cut was in full ebb flow at about 3 knots against us and even with hardly any swell in Exuma Sound it was developing a two-foot "rage" as they call the tide rips here.  Pretty exciting.

We motored north Friday morning at sunrise and Keelin It popped out of the Staniel Cay harbor to join us as we passed by.  We soon turned west to follow the Decca Channel over to the Tongue of the Ocean and then followed that north.  As dark settled in we could see the glow of Nassau to the northeast and a few of the smaller towns on Andros to the west.  We pretty much always had 8-10 knots of wind at our backs so had the motor running just above idle to keep our speed in the 5-5.5 knot range.  I was very nervous about fuel levels as I hadn't filled the tank to overflowing but was "pretty sure" it was basically full when we left George Town.  "Pretty sure" feels a lot like "pretty dumb" when you are out with no land in sight!  Our fuel gauge does not give very good readings when the tank is full-ish.  Anna reassured me that my calculations made sense and that we should be fine, and by midnight we burned enough that the tank level indications became steady enough to inspire confidence, showing that we had 70% of our 35 gallon tank left and 10 gallons on deck.  We burn about 0.5gph at slow speed and 0.8gph at a fast cruise, so this would easily be enough to motor the whole way if necessary.

And it basically was necessary.  As we passed through the Northwest Channel at dawn on Saturday we turned west which put us on a good angle to the wind so we had the engine off for about four hours, but that was it.  The wind became westerly so we motored into it towards Bimini.  We heard from another boat on the radio that thunderstorms were forecast in the Gulf Stream between 3:00pm and 9:00pm so planned to anchor off of the NE tip of Bimini until those passed.  On our way there a rain shower blew north ahead of us and then built into a nice looking storm.  And then it reversed course and came back at us!  It wasn't too bad, 30mph winds and moderate rain, not much lightning.  We arrived at Bimini at about 6:30 and anchored.  We siphoned our 10 gallons of diesel from on deck into the fuel tank, had some supper, had a nap, and then took off in the pitch dark at 9:00pm.  As we got around Bimini we were welcomed by the crazy glow of lights from Florida only 45 miles distant.  Again the winds were pretty calm so we were motoring, but having basically no waves is very nice too.

We arrived at the Fort Pierce inlet at about 3:30pm on Sunday.  Just outside the inlet I filled out our info for US Customs on their app and received notification that they approved our arrival a few minutes later.  Inside the inlet it was a culture shock as the sand bars were lined with boats and people partying, maybe 80% of them observing any sort of 6 foot separation rule.  We quickly got fuel at the nearby marina and then took off to make it through a bridge that only opens every half-hour.  Keelin It didn't make it through so we turned off the engine and sailed downwind with just the jib at a leisurely pace.  Big center-console boats with three or four 400 horsepower engines were screaming past us up and down the channel (is there anything more American?!) and it felt really good to see such normal activity after 3-4 weeks of sitting there in the Bahamas on crazy lockdown.

Eventually Keelin It caught up to us and we anchored just south of the Vero Beach City Marina.  Anna and I took Louise to land for the first time in maybe three weeks and we picked up some pasta and pizza to go.  It was amazing, not only in taste but also most importantly in having the freedom to get it in the first place.

By aaron.axvig, 20 March, 2020

For entertainment tonight we played trivia via the VHF radio. There were about 15 teams playing.

The host read four questions for each round on the radio and we submitted our responses for each of the five rounds in a Google Docs form. At 5 points per question and a bonus point for signing up early we were in the middle of the pack with 31 points going into the final question. We wagered two points!

The final question asked who performed the song that was played at the beginning of the cruisers net this morning.  The cruisers net is also a VHF affair which consists of announcements, comings and goings, buy/sell/trade, and requests for help.  The host typically plays snippet of a song at the beginning of the program.  Of course no one knew that it would be a question in trivia that night, and based on the scores we heard I don't think anyone got it right.  It was '39 by Queen.  Pretty interesting that Queen wrote a folk song like that.  Betting only two points paid off and we tied with one group for third place!

In other business, everything except essential services was shut down yesterday in the Bahamas. It turns out most things that we care about ARE essential services...groceries, gas, water, laundry, and shipping parts (our steering needs some maintenance). And restaurants are doing take-out if we really want some fried food. No big social events is one of the few significant changes for us. And our friend Daniel is not coming to visit for a week as planned (it is interesting that he technically could, but it would be unwise).

We still plan to be in Georgetown until well into April, but that could easily change. Ideally tourism would be encouraged again by then and we would see a few more places on the way back to the US sometime in May. If we want to go back to the US anytime, we are able to, and stopping at Bahamas islands along the way for essential services is OK too.

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By aaron.axvig, 9 March, 2020

In this post I will document the Seawater Pro watermaker that we installed one year ago.  It currently makes 15 gallons per hour here in the Bahamas at about 850 PSI membrane pressure while consuming about 850 watts.

I ordered and installed the system in March 2019, probably total installed cost was about $3,100 and a solid week+ of learning, working and running to hardware stores.

  • $2,575 to Seawater Pro.  It looks like this $2395 item currently in their store is basically what I got.  I would really recommend getting the "remote control" version which is basically a pretty panel to put the controls and gauges in, but it is $400 more and you have to draw the line somewhere.
    • Base system price was $1,595
    • $699 for the DC motor and brass pump upgrade
    • $39 for the SW30-2540 membrane (an upgrade? I see they retail for more like $200 online?)
    • $80 shipping and some tax were the remainder
  • Additional costs rough estimates (one year ago by memory!)
    • $250 for plumbing odds and ends not included "in the box"
      • Boost pump is far from high pressure pump
      • Had to split air conditioner sea water intake (do not run AC and watermaker at the same time)
      • New dump overboard through the hull for salt water output
      • New input into top of water tank
      • Valves to direct product water overboard or into water tank
      • Misc. to get house water to the system for flushing
    • $250 for wiring
      • About 30 feet of 2AWG marine wire
      • Circuit breakers
      • Compression lugs, heat shrink, looming, etc.

What the operating process looks like, plus notes about a few steps that we skip:

  1. Ensure needle valve is open (unrestricted).
  2. Ensure product water valves are set to flow overboard and put that dump hose out the v-berth hatch. (usually skip this and just dump straight into water tank...20 seconds of 2,000 TDS water is quickly diluted by the following hour or two of usually 100 TDS water)
  3. Turn on salt water boost pump.
  4. Verify that the pressure gauge before the salt water high pressure pump shows higher than 0 PSI (usually skip this, depends on cleanliness of sea water in the area).
  5. Turn on salt water high pressure pump.
  6. Tighten needle valve over about 20 seconds to bring pressure to 750-850 PSI, observing GPH meter rise to 15 GPH (or more, or less).
  7. Turn on the TDS monitor and observe it drop from around 2,000 to under 200.
  8. Open product water valve to water tank, and then close the one that dumps overboard. (usually skip this)
  9. Put away overboard dump hose. (usually we don't dump any water so skip this)
  10. Run for a long time, typically one to two hours.  Monitor both low pressure and high pressure gauges every 20-30 minutes, and also listen to the sounds of the system for interesting changes.
  11. Loosen the needle valve slowly over 20 seconds to bring high pressure to 0 PSI.
  12. Turn off high pressure pump.
  13. Turn off boost pump.
  14. Flush system with fresh water. This ideally would mean doing something with the garden sprinkler timer but I haven't gotten that to work so I flip open a valve under the settee. (usually we skip this)

So basically we are doing two "naughty" things.  We don't dump the initial product water overboard, but the math on dilution is quite convincing to me that it doesn't really matter, the water tastes fine, and we are generally healthy.  And we don't flush with fresh water after running, but the system performance does not seem significantly degraded.  Perhaps we will need to replace the $200(?) membrane earlier than the 5-10 years that people normally get out of them.

Our system has a 12V high pressure motor.  At operating pressure this alone seems to draw about 800 watts (65A at 12V), with the boost pump drawing the other 50 watts.  For our 4x 100Ah 12V lithium iron phosphate (BattleBorn) battery bank this is no problem.  It may not work so well on smallish lead-acid battery banks, in which case using a generator and 120V AC pump would be wiser.  If we run the generator our battery charger can put out about 90A so it can charge the battery a little in addition to keeping up with the watermaker draw.  But mostly we get enough solar from our 1100 watts of panels to keep up with the fairly liberal demands of the two of us.

Boat water systems diagram
The complete water system diagram on our boat.  The watermaker is half of it!
New input into water tank
The new fixture that I added on top of the water tank for product water to drop in.
Boost pump breaker
The breaker for the salt water boost pump.  Turn this on first!
Seawater plumbing under the floorboards
Under the floorboards with dog hair!  The seacock has the yellow handle on it, which flows to the strainer on the left.  Above that, a Y-valve goes to both the 120V AC pump for the air conditioner (top) and the 12V pump which boosts seawater to the watermaker's high pressure pump.  The "Watermaker Supply" breaker on the boat's breaker panel turns this 12V pump on.  Someday when I need to pickle the system I will have to modify this plumbing to provide a way to suck the pickling solution into the system.
Breaker under nav station
This breaker is under the nav station, like exactly where it could be bumped by a knee.  I think the labels explain enough for this picture!
Pump nameplate
Here is the nameplate on the high pressure pump motor.
Main watermaker parts overview
This is an overview of all the main watermaker parts on a shelf that I built in the v-berth closet.  If the photo was oriented correctly, from left to right: TDS and GPH gauges, coiled up hose for dumping product water out the v-berth hatch, high pressure pump, needle valve (silver handle), high pressure gauge peeking out under the shelf, fresh water flush timer and one-way valves, and sea water filtration.  The glowing thing in the back is daylight coming in through the through hull.
Seawater filtration
Seawater filtration!  Seawater leaves the boost pump and travels under the couch around the table, under the v-berth sink, through the space where the water tank is, and finally comes in through the left one-way valve.  Fresh water for flushing leaves the house pressure pump (I installed the carbon filter that came with the system so that it filters all house water...to remove any chlorine which would damage the membrane) and travels under the v-berth sink, through the space where the water tank is, and finally comes in through the timer and right one-way valve.  Then ideally a 20 micron filter and 5 micron filter.  I believe Seawater Pro says that the actual sizes don't matter much.  I just run 20 micron filters in both.  In dirty water they plug up pretty fast (3-5 hours?) so I have been known to just run one out of frustration...lasts longer then.  Not optimal for system life I guess.  In the Bahamas we have run with both for maybe 30 hours now and they are still quite clean.  I guess I didn't need the 20 filters that I stashed under the bed!  When the pressure on this gauge drops to zero it means the boost pump isn't able to pump enough water through the filters because they are dirty, so soon your high pressure pump will start making upset noises as it draws in air or a vacuum.  Not good for that, should be avoided.
High pressure pump close-up
A closeup of the high pressure components.  The high pressure pump has to be oriented with the yellow fill cap/dipstick facing up.  The pump can be rotated to any 90-degree position on the motor so if you need to bolt the motor to the wall that is fine.  Mine is bolted to the shelf, which is built out of PVC boards from Lowe's/Home Depot.  The big high pressure line coming out of the pump runs to the far end of the membrane housing which is under the v-berth bed.  And then you can see the "near" end of the membrane enclosure in this photo.  It has two connections.  The first is high pressure to the gauge you see here, this is what we run at 750-850 PSI.  Then the needle valve which lets some water past but still holds the pressure high.  Then that pipe (which mysteriously became dirty after a few hours of running) goes overboard through the hull in the back of the cabinet.  My positioning of these things is not ideal and I can't quite tighten one of the connections enough and still have them fit it the "custom" hole I made in the shelf, so I get a very flow drip in this part of the high pressure system.  The second connection is the product water output.
Plumbing for directing product water
This is the plumbing for handling the product water.  First it hits the sensor for the TDS monitor and then goes to the GPH meter.  From there I can choose to direct the water to a hose that I can put overboard out the v-berth hatch, or send it to the water tank.  A Y-valve would be ideal for this but I couldn't find the appropriate one in-stock at the time.

That's it!

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By aaron.axvig, 1 February, 2020

We spent a week and a day on South Bimini until the weather was right to sail east.  On the first day I did customs and immigration at the airport in the afternoon.  Then we started meeting all of our new neighbors; about 12 boats had arrived to the marina with us that day, and it was almost empty previously.

We spent some time marveling at the comically clear water.  It was about 10 feet deep around the docks and we could see perfectly to the bottom.  There were lots of minnows, plenty of 6" fish, and even some 12-18" ones.

The first or second day we went to North Bimini to see what it had to offer.  Louise came with to help.  The dinghy parking situation was not that good, just an aluminum swim ladder on a beat up concrete wall, with the east winds making some weird little waves to push our dinghy into the wall.  We walked around for about an hour.  Very interesting.  There was what appeared to be the power plant of the island, which I think was just a large diesel generator.  It makes sense that the marina charges $30/day for power, and we have seen some that have meters and charge $0.80/kWh (4-8 times what you might pay at a house in the US).  There were some grocery/convenience stores, some just small rooms absolutely packed full of packaged/canned food and some with a little more organization and potatoes, onions, etc.  Most prices are double that of an average US grocery store.

The no-see-ums were really bad the first two nights, but then it was pretty windy so they weren't a problem.  House flies were not deterred though!  We had to keep screens in most of the time--they block some airflow and make it tedious to go in and out.  We made a habit out of taking Louise to the beach by the marina in the late afternoon.  She would chase the tennis ball and I would look for beach glass.  The first time we went to the beach Anna couldn't find her phone when we got back to the boat.  So we went to the beach to look, and eventually I found it about 18" below the surf.  It still worked...for about two days.

I read six books in six days.  We did lots of crossword puzzles.  We watched the Vikings play (and lose) at the Thirsty Turtle, a bar a five minute walk away.  They had a pizza oven but were not able to get supplies to make pizzas before we left, still in the process of opening after renovations.  The marina had a new owner too.

One of the other boats in the marina was SV Twin (that we had crossed paths with as we approached Bimini) and they have the same model of boat as us.  This was the first time we had seen another one (excepting the one we looked at in Port Charlotte, FL when we were boat shopping, and one that we saw in passing at the marina where our boat's previous owners kept our boat) so we had a lot of fun touring theirs and showing them ours.  There are so many interesting differences!

For internet connectivity we could use the Wi-Fi at the marina office or at the Thirsty Turtle.  And probably half of the days I would take my phone out of airplane mode, resulting in an automatic $10 charge for 24 hours of great roaming connectivity (set up with Verizon ahead of time, some people were doing the same with AT&T too).  We had a Wi-Fi hotspot device with unlimited data waiting for us at Great Harbor Cay so we were looking forward to getting that.

The marina gave us a prorated price of $150/7 for our eighth night there and the next morning we departed at sunrise for Great Harbor Cay.  It was 80 miles to travel and we were going straight into a 10-15 knot wind and two foot waves.  Sometimes the bow would slam on a wave and Louise would get really scared.  Into waves and wind is not great for speed and it was a long ways so we ended up anchoring in the dark at 10:30pm.  It was an easy approach and a wide open area to anchor so not too bad.

By aaron.axvig, 1 February, 2020

On January 7th we left No Name Harbor just as the sky began to lighten.  As the sun rose above the horizon we were clearing the last channel markers off of Cape Florida.  A few boats were ahead of us and as we went a few more appeared behind us.  There were about 10 boats visible in total.

We held a course maybe 20 degrees south of straight towards Bimini in order to make a little headway south before reaching the Gulf Stream which would swiftly carry us north.  I don't remember the exact characteristics of the Stream that day but let's just say that about 5 miles out it became strong, so I altered course to maybe only 5 degrees south of straight east (yes, that would be 95 degrees).  I altered the settings of the chart plotter so that lines indicating both heading (direction the boat is pointed) and track (direction of boat movement over ground) angles emanated from our location marker.  It was interesting to see them differ by 15 degrees or so due to the combined current and boat movement through water.

The chief risk of crossing the Stream is that you end up heading so far south to keep from drifting north that you don't make much speed in the east/west direction, making the trip much different than planned.  This was almost not a concern for us since we started somewhat south of where we needed to be.  But still, I figured it was most efficient to get out of the Stream as quickly as possible, hence the almost straight east heading.  And after we got out of the Stream I could make up a couple of miles to the south without needing to motor against the current.  I didn't dream this strategy up on my own; it is described in the Explorer Chart books.

All the other boats seemed to be steering whatever heading would keep them on a line drawn straight between No Name Harbor and Bimini (again, not a big deal for a destination that is a little north of your start anyways).  With our almost straight east heading we drifted a few miles north of the main group of boats, crossed paths with SV Make Way and SV Twin, and drifted a mile or so north of them.  At that point we were within about five miles (I think?) of Bimini and I was surprised that the current still had not really abated.  The current ended up holding pretty strong until just one or two miles out so my plan of making up southerly distance out of the current yield any real advantage.  But we arrived in Bimini at about the same time (2:00pm?) as the other boats anyways.  (When I took the screenshot of the currents in the Windy app for this article I realized that it probably typical, I just didn't remember to look at the currents forecast that day.)

For the crossing we had a great breeze that would probably have let us sail at 5.5-6 knots but we motored at about 50% throttle too to put us at a solid 7 knots (IIRC).  When we started out in the morning there were some 2-3 foot waves coming from the north so it was a little bouncy but we did fine.  Those died down later in the morning so overall we had really nice conditions.

On the final approach to the island of South Bimini we followed another sailboat; they bumped a sandbar and backed off.  So we followed their new route and made it through the very narrow approach through the small jetties into the Bimini Sands Marina.  It was pretty shallow at one point in that channel, just shy of six feet maybe half an hour after low tide.  But we made it and docked successfully.  They had a rate of $150 for a week so we planned to stay there for that long as the wind was forecast to blow strongly out of the east for several days...and we wanted to go east!

I took a shuttle bus to the airport a couple miles away and went through customs and immigration for myself, Anna, Louise, and the boat.  Once I got back about two hours later Anna and Louise were able to finally step on shore.

Sailboats on the horizon
Sailboats visible on the horizon as we depart Florida
What we see on the chartplotter
Here is what our chartplotter looked like at one point. We have drifted north of the purple route line. The black line shows which way the bow is pointed, and the blue line shows the direction that the boat is moving over ground. With no current the blue and black lines would be very close to each other.

 

By aaron.axvig, 22 January, 2020

My dad arrived around midnight, having driven from the Orlando airport to meet us at the marina in Stuart.  The next morning we used his rental car to buy some groceries, soda (10 12-packs), and beer (maybe 150 cans or so?).  At the time it felt like we were making a significant dent in our provisioning for the Bahamas but in retrospect it was just a small start.  It was enough to fill up half the rear seating area of the rental pickup.  Then we rode the marina bicycles about 20 minutes to Total Wine to stock up on some liquor.

After a day or two of rain, the weather was OK for sailing outside so we departed early in the morning to head south.  The bridge right by the marina was just opening for some other boats so we skipped our planned stop at the fuel dock for diesel and water and just kept going.  Sailing conditions were brisk with a sustained 20 knots coming from shore.  By staying within a mile or two of shore we kept the waves below a foot or two but they were still splashing off the hull and then the wind would blow the spray sideways into the cockpit.  We might have enjoyed being even closer to shore.  As we approached Port Everglades we determined that we would be stuck there for 3-4 nights due to weather so we decided to push on to Miami.  We fired up the engine to make maximum speed (there was plenty of wind but it is only desirable to heel so much) and were able to anchor in marine stadium just before dark.

The next day (Christmas Day!) we set off towards No Name Harbor for a cruisers potluck that afternoon.  We got the anchor up but then noticed that the engine exhaust sounded suspicious and quickly determined that it was not getting water for cooling.  So we dropped the anchor and Randy and I jumped in with snorkel gear to find out why the seacock was jammed (I hadn't been able to close the valve even).  I found a plastic bag that had been sucked in, pulled it out, and we were back in business.  We had a bit of a tailwind so had a nice leisurely sail for the few miles south to the harbor.  It looked pretty full based on our count of masts visible before even going in the harbor so we anchored outside.  The potluck was great fun and many of the other cruisers were also waiting for decent weather to cross over to the Bahamas.

More rain and winds were predicted so the next day we went over to the Dinner Key area and found a mooring ball available at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.  Their mooring balls are protected from the waves of Biscayne Bay so we had a very comfortable few nights there.  We spent some time exploring the area and some time preparing for the Bahamas.  Anna decided that a major reorganization was in order so everything came out of the back bedroom storage shelves.  Almost everything got repackaged into plastic bags and stowed away in a much more compact manor.  Lots of work! With many items no longer in their boxes we needed some structure so that things would sit nicely in the shelves, so we ended up with a bunch of small plastic totes and a few milk crates.  The totes stack pretty well and so far have stayed in place during some moderate heeling.

There was a possible weather window right at the end of my dad's stay but we had a prescription that needed to be picked up still and didn't quite feel ready.  So he didn't get to see the Bahamas with us and had extraordinarily rainy and windy weather...sorry we couldn't deliver an excellent vacation!

In the few days after Randy left we did so much more provisioning that it seems comical that we thought we were ready before (I'm sure we would have survived just fine, but still...).  We overflowed two shopping carts at Wal-Mart and right before crossing filled a cart at Publix.  AND we still did a couple last minute grocery runs after that.  Time after time Aaron would declare that there was no more room, then we would agree that we needed some stuff, and then we would rearrange yet another compartment and create just a little more room.

And then finally we went over to No Name Harbor with intentions to leave early the next morning to the Bahamas. (And did a quick trip to the grocery store and liquor store there for MORE stuff!)

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