sailing

By aaron.axvig, 22 January, 2020

We arrived in Stuart on December 13th.  All the mooring balls were full so we anchored between the mooring field and shore for two nights.  We went to the marina office to get a couple packages that we had shipped in.  We could not find one package, and the next day someone had returned it after they realized they had mistakenly taken ours.  Then in the morning I was out and about in the dinghy and saw that a mooring ball out in the far field was open.  So I tied a fender to it and then we prepared to move over there.  On the way we stopped at the fuel dock and a guy was there on his dinghy.  Somehow we found out that he was hoping to get on that mooring ball which we had just claimed, and he was currently on one closer in.  But he had a bigger boat than was supposed to be on his current ball.  So we agreed to trade and got the closer mooring ball (after some debate with the office about technicalities of whether even our boat was too big for that closer mooring ball).  We enjoyed the marina's Christmas party that night with Steve and Susie.

Then construction of the new cockpit canopy (combination spray dodger and bimini) started.  I installed the new stainless steel bow and then rigged all the tubing in place with strapping tape.  Then I put up pieces of patterning material, basically building a temporary complete canopy in place.  We removed those pieces and traced them onto fabric in the marina lounge late one evening when it wouldn't bother too many people.  They were big pieces--most of them 12-14' long and 3 feet wide.

My dad was going to be arriving in a few days to spend the holidays with us and hopefully cross to the Bahamas with us, weather dependent of course.  So we needed to get south towards Miami to work towards that goal, but we decided to stay in Stuart to finish the canopy.  So for the next three days I spent 8-10 hours each day sewing on the boat.  The first day was hot so it was a sweaty process slinging around all of that heavy fabric.  The next couple days were cooler so then it was just normal exhaustion by the end of the day.  It was fascinating to see how slowly and poorly I would sew on the last stitches of the day but then the next morning the very same thing would seem easy and turn out so well!  You have to know when to call it a day.

Eventually all the pieces were assembled so it was time for a test fit.  Amazingly it went up and stayed up!  It was slightly loose but to go from patterns to a fitting assembly of 5 pieces summing to about 12 feet by 20 feet felt so good.  Then we took it back down for another day of sewing--lots of finishing touches.  But we got those done and had it up by the time my dad arrived.

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By aaron.axvig, 27 December, 2019

From Cocoa Beach we (Aaron plus two other boats) left at first light.  At some point in the morning the wind went around enough for a close hauled sail so all three boats put some sails in the air.  The wind became pretty brisk so I reefed both sails heavily but both Fruit Bat and Walkabout in their heavy Pearson 424s were able to keep full sails flying, even Walkabout's 150% genoa.  After a few hours the ICW became more winding so everyone put in their sails, but they both had roller furler jams so had to spend a few minutes figuring those situations out.

They carried on for about ten more miles as I pulled off to stop at the Vero Beach City Marina.  I waited for about 15 minutes for the fuel dock to open up and then fueled and arranged for a mooring ball.  They assigned me to raft up on ball five with another boat so I prepared the lines and fenders, motored over to my new neighbor, approached nice and slow, and had a successful "docking".  I took Louise for a walk to the very nice dog park (and every evening after that!).

I believe the next day was the Monday gathering at Mr. Manatee's for the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  I went and mostly talked boats with some people and had a very good burger.  I had snacked that afternoon so didn't go for the Colossal Woodrow Burger which is one pound of hamburger plus lots of other things.  If you eat it you get a T-shirt, which makes the $19 price a little more worth it.  I was still in Vero Beach a week later so went again and did earn the shirt.  I should not have also had two one liter beers, as I was in quite some misery for an hour afterwards.

I spent the week there doing some boat projects (clean the brown stains off the hull with lemon juice, coat the hull with wax, put away the remainder of all our goodies from Costco, sew some rips in the mainsail cover, replaced the microwave) and going to a few social events.  Also I ordered some miscellaneous things and the supplies for a big project: a replacement bimini + spray dodger + full enclosure.  In order to know what to order I had to understand what I was going to be doing so I spent about four hours watching Sailrite how to videos on YouTube.  After several more hours of thinking, measuring, and double-checking I placed the order, getting a nice Cyber Monday discount.  Just that small part of the project felt like a huge accomplishment!

I also looked around for a used paddleboard.  A shop nearby had some used models but they seemed a bit fancy.  We ended up buying one from a guy on Facebook Marketplace and he delivered it to the marina.

Anna returned from Minnesota.  She flew to Orlando where her aunt and uncle were at a dog show, and her uncle was nice enough to drive her a couple hours down to Vero Beach.  I think it was two nights later that we left to go to Stuart.

Dirty swim ladder
The swim ladder was really dirty after being in the water there for a week.  Most places it does not grow stuff this fast.

 

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By aaron.axvig, 10 December, 2019

Our presumably stock microwave bit the dust a while back.  I delayed replacing it for a week or two as I was intimidated by the task of doing the job without irreversibly damaging the cabinetry.  I removed a screw that went up into the bottom of the microwave and was able to move the unit around a fair amount, but it looked like the microwave was just a little to big to slide out without more disassembly.  I would later find out that the microwave was screwed to a big board anyways...no way was it coming out!

Eventually I got out the tools and drilled out a few of the screw-hiding plugs on the face plate.  Some hid screws and some didn't.  It turned out that only three screws needed to be removed to pull the face plate off--the one in the middle on the left and two on the right.  I was then just barely able to wedge the face plate out.  It would come out significantly easier if the swing-down cabinet door next to the microwave was removed, but I did not do that.

Then the microwave and the base plate that it was attached to came out easily (I had already removed the screw going through the bottom of the cabinet with its point in the base plate).  I made some measurements and chose to order the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 from Amazon.  Many measurement pictures can be found below.

A few days later the new microwave arrived.  I played around with different things for spacers to put it at the correct level so that the door would open through the existing cutout in the face plate.  With the microwave and spaces attached to the base plate (see image captions below for some more details on positioning) I put it in the cabinet.  Then I finagled the face plate back into place...again this would be significantly easier if the nearby cabinet door was removed.  I tried to remove it but did not do it carefully and stripped a screw so did it with the door in place.  They are PH1 screw heads BTW, which yes I was using but still stripped one.  Anyways, a couple pounds with the cordless drill battery and the face plate popped into place.  I screwed it in with the same three screws and attached the bottom reinforcing piece better than before (described in a photo caption below).

I still need to read up on how to put the teak plugs in, otherwise it is complete and working well!

Width
Width of the microwave: 18 1/16"
Depth
Depth of the main body of the microwave: 11 1/2"

 

Cabinet depth at top left
Microwave depth including cord stopper: 13 1/4"
Height
Height of the microwave including the board it was screwed to; 11 1/16"
Height 2
Height of the microwave itself: 10 1/2"
Cabinet depth
Cabinet depth on right-hand side
Cabinet depth
Fabine depth on left side
Cabinet depth on top
Cabinet depth on top right
Board dimension
Board depth on left side
Board dimensions
Board depth on right side
Board width
Board width
Base board
The base board with holes drilled for the old microwave feet to sit in
Spaces undernearth the new microwave
One piece of Starboard and two small washers used as a spacer.  Also visible are the pieces of tape I put on the base board to mark where the Starboard sits when the microwave is aligned correctly.  So then I could take the microwave and base board out and screw them together in the correct position.
New microwave in place
Microwave in place with no faceplate.  I positioned it to be lightly pressed up against the cord plugged into the outlet on the right hand side, thinking that we might be able to store things like cutting boards in the gap on the left side.  Blue tape strips mark the position of the Starboard spacer on the base plate.
New microwave in place with faceplate installed
New microwave in place with faceplate installed.  The door takes up most of the gap on the left side when it is opened so it is important to position the microwave towards the right side of the opening.
Reinforcement piece for bottom strip of face plate
Reinforcement piece for bottom strip of face plate (I rotated it after taking this picture so that the countersink-drilled holes were facing up).  I put the face plate in first and wasn't going to bother with this piece, but then I realized that it could be put in with the microwave and faceplate already screwed into position.  This little strip had been screwed into the back of the face plate but the screws did not hold well.  So I drilled out the teak plugs that were in the faceplate and screwed this piece in from the front, which I guess is how they originally intended it to be done since all of the holes lined up perfectly.  And then I put screws through the piece into the bottom of the cabinet.

 

By aaron.axvig, 8 December, 2019

On our boat we have a Color Control GX that is mounted at the nav station.  And we have a MultiPlus inverter/charger that is under the couch.  We used to reach under the couch to turn the inverter on and off.  This is a minor hassle, and the switch feels sort of flimsy.  So it was exciting when I discovered one day that we could turn the inverter on and off using the CCGX.  So now we leave the physical switch On and control it using the CCGX.

That works great, except about once a month it does nothing when we choose On on the CCGX.  Troubleshooting the first few times this happened involved rebooting things, updating firmware, unplugging and replugging communications cables, and then finally just letting it sit.  And after a while it would eventually turn on.

Now I have discovered an easy workaround.  On the CCGX I choose Charger Only (which is a third setting in addition to On and Off) and that immediately takes effect.  Then I choose On and that immediately takes effect.

My best guess is that some part of the system thinks it is already on so does not accept the command to actually turn on.  But also I think it happens more often if I have a large AC load switched on, such as the electric kettle in the morning.

By aaron.axvig, 30 November, 2019

Overall the overnight trip was not an enjoyable experience.  As the sunset of that day faded and I slowly motored on, I experienced a profound sadness and strong desire to not be there (some tears even!).  I was too tired from not sleeping well the previous night, which I'm sure amplified those emotions.

I had probably 15-20 naps of 15-20 minutes each through the night.  My alarm would go off, I would throw on insulated pants, a jacket, and a lifejacket, go upstairs, attach the tether, and then spend a minute or two examining the surroundings and the chartplotter display.  Then back below for another 20 minutes of rest.  At the 5.5 knot pace I would progress almost 2 miles between each of these appearances.  Louise stayed below the whole night.  There were basically no waves which was nice.

There were many inlets along the way that had buoys marking them and I intentionally planned my route to pass a mile or so out to sea from these buoys.  They were maybe every 10-15 miles so I could usually see one in front and one behind me.  Every few times that I checked on things I would be able to celebrate the small progress of passing another inlet.  For the bigger inlets that could possibly have ship traffic I would stay awake and watching while I crossed the channel.  There were five cargo ships that went in/out of the Savannah inlet while I was within 5 miles but that was during daylight so not too bad.  It was a little embarrassing that one of the cargo ship captains felt it necessary to ask me to wait to cross the channel until they passed.  I would have passed at least a mile ahead of them (I was getting very good data on the electronics) but in hindsight they made the right call there.  At the ship's 15 knot speed that would only be 4 minutes to get out of the way in case of trouble.

I reached the St. Mary's inlet at first light as planned and the trip ended successfully at about 7:30am as I dropped anchor near Cumberland Island.  Then I slept for 3 hours and took Louise for a walk on the island.  We went to the beach and she chased the ball for a while.  Then we walked south on the beach and went inland to the Dungeness ruins, and then back to Sea Dock and back to the boat.

The next day was Thanksgiving.  I had sort of planned to check out the "Cruisers Thanksgiving" in St. Mary's where the town hosts a big potluck for boaters but decided not to.  So I motored 60 miles to St. Augustine.  The weather was beautiful with the powerful Florida sun doing its best to try to sunburn me.  St. Augustine was pretty busy with boats so I had to look for fifteen minutes before deciding on a sort of crappy spot close to a couple boats and some docks.  But I was able to drop the anchor right where I planned to so it was good enough for the night.  30 minutes later a dinghy came by with our friends from SV Walkabout who we met in the Great Dismal Swamp.  They were on the second closest boat to where I anchored.  They have their boat name prominently lettered on their transom but I just hadn't remembered that I know them.  That evening I did laundry and picked up a couple great books at the book exchange: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (been wanting to read it for a while) and a collection of limericks (the sauciest little poems).

The next morning I went through the 8:30 bridge opening (in St. Augustine right next to the anchorage) with Walkabout.  Then a mile or two down the way I was starting to pull away from them at my normal cruising speed, but also eavesdropped on their conversation (a great VHF radio tradition) with another boat named Fruit Bat.  They were slowing down to hoist their dinghy up instead of towing it.  I decided I would hang back with them and really enjoyed traveling with them that day.  We anchored together Daytona Beach and I went over to meet Fruit Bat after taking Louise for a little walk.  Louise really liked when they invited her onto their boat so she could walk all over.

Today we left at 7:45am and made it 55 miles, almost to Cocoa.  We anchored about 20 minutes after sunset.  A little after dark Nate from Walkabout texted to say that there was some pretty good bioluminescence.  So I splashed a stick around in the water and yes, it was very cool!  The next obvious move was to take the dinghy out--also very cool!  The propeller shoots an illuminated plume about 6 feet back under water at low speeds, and luminescence streams off of the tubes.  At higher speeds the entire wake about 8 feet wide and 30+ feet back lights up brightly.  Back on the boat a school of minnows was darting around leaving little strokes of light.  I probably should go swimming in it but it is a little cold (water temp has gotten up into the mid-70s now though!) and better to do not alone.

Tomorrow Walkabout and Fruit Bat plan to leave at 6:30am as they have 60+ miles to go to make it to Fort Pierce.  I'm planning to go about 50 miles to Vero Beach but will probably leave with them since the wind tomorrow may be good for sailing and it could be fun to sail with a couple other boats.  Also a little exciting to sail in the ICW channel but should be fine.  In Vero Beach on Monday they have a weekly Seven Seas Cruising Association meetup that I have often thought would be fun so I will check that out.

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By aaron.axvig, 26 November, 2019

On Sunday Anna flew back to Minnesota to visit family and do wedding planning things. On the way back to the boat I stopped by to say hi to the catamaran Sobad which had left Wrightsville Beach at the same time as us. The wife actually graduated from Bismarck High School about 30 years before me! Small world.

That afternoon I motored about 20 miles down the ICW. I had planned to go about five miles farther but the current was against me and would be favorable in the morning. About 20 minutes after I anchored a power catamaran anchored nearby and I recognized it as someone we had met in Maine. So I took the dinghy and chatted with him for about 5 minutes.

The next day I went 42 miles to Beaufort, SC. There were a couple really shallow spots but I squeaked through. I anchored south of town about a mile and then took Louise for a walk. Then I dropped Louise off at the boat and went back for a couple beers and wings on special.

Today I tightened the steering cables before leaving. They were getting pretty loose and the autopilot would go back and forth, back and forth...very annoying. Then I rode the current for about 20 miles out through the inlet to the ocean. My destination is St. Mary's inlet on the FL/GA border, a trip of 120 miles. I plan to arrive at the inlet buoys just as the sky starts to brighten at 6:00am. That only requires an average speed of 5 knots and the water is calm with no wind or waves, so it is pretty relaxing out here. I have 80 miles to go as I write this.

I had planned to maybe just stay up as long as possible but I slept terribly last night so have already taken a couple 15 minute naps. I set a timer each time so that I can get up and check things out and then set the timer again.

By doing this long night I will travel 120 miles instead of winding 180 miles in the waterway. That would normally take four days of 45 miles each, 3 days if I pushed hard from sunrise to sunset. The Georgia ICW has big 8 foot tides, some shallow spots, lots of current, and right now low tides are in the middle of the afternoon. So I would be spending most of each day traveling near low tide, and that requires a lot of attention even with autopilot.

Hopefully this night will go well and that will all be past!

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By aaron.axvig, 18 November, 2019

The wind blew hard for over two days but our anchor held well and we stayed in place.  It was a stressful weekend with howling winds, a rocking and spinning boat, constant worrying, and poor sleep.  Yesterday evening it finally started to get better.  On the plus side, we didn't have it quite as bad as two of our neighbors who kept swinging towards each other at anchor.  I think one of them had a full keel so was more affected by the currents in our anchorage.  At one point the guy from the one boat rowed his dinghy over to the other boat and three of them were up on the bow of that boat messing with the anchor for about an hour.  Not sure what they were doing as the situation was still similar afterwards.  But all of their rowing and standing around was taking place in 30 knot winds and pouring rain--not fun!

We have a few battle scars.  The bimini cloth was thrashing against one of the solar panel supports that is sort of rough aluminum and eventually it split itself on that edge.  The bimini top also lost the flap that covers the window for looking up at the sail; this window is covered by a solar panel now so the flap is no longer necessary anyways.  The port side long window cracked.  I'm not sure exactly what caused this, probably just temperature changes and flexing over the years.  There was evidently a lot of stress on the window as the crack immediately separated about 1/16".  That will be costly and tedious to replace ($550 and 20-30 days to manufacture and ship, plus a full day to remove, prep, and install).  A fender flew over the lifelines but was tied on so we didn't lose it.  Also the sail cover and dodger minorly extended some rips that they already had.

Today we left around 10:00am and went 25 miles to Swansboro, NC.  It was a pretty cold day and we planned the short day because of forecast scattered showers.  They started 5 minutes after we anchored...great timing!  On the way we drove past two ships with big booms sticking out of all four corners, and one of the ships had a net stuck between them.  Anna said maybe they were for catching stuff so it didn't fall on the boat...I basically told her that was ridiculous.  Then I looked up the name of one of them (GO Ms. Tree) and learned that it is for catching the fairings that are parts of rockets that SpaceX launches.  So I was simultaneous ashamed of myself and amazed at the coolness of them.

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By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2019

This is our "anchor watch" situation in an app called Aqua Map Marine. These tracks are since yesterday afternoon when the wind started blowing hard.

I positioned the anchor icon after anchoring so it is kind of a guess, but as we swing in arcs I can move it to the center of the arcs to be more accurate.

It goes off a couple times per night saying "BAD GPS ALERT, BAD GPS ALERT" which just means it has lost GPS signal. Usually it has figured it out by the time I wake up and pick up the phone, so that is annoying.  Out bedroom is under the cockpit so it doesn't have great exposure to the sky.  Fiberglass is pretty transparent to RF but there are some storage lockers with a lot of stuff in them and I bet the solar panels are good at blocking it.

The long straight lines are from when it gets an inaccurate reading, then a line is drawn back to our actual location as correct readings are put into what appears to be an averaging model.  There is a time delay on the out-of-bounds alarm so I think only once has it actually alarmed when it is doing this behavior.

It runs in the background using the GPS continuously which uses up maybe 50% of the phone battery (Pixel 3A) in 8 hours.

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By aaron.axvig, 14 November, 2019

The new impeller worked well when I started up the engine in the morning so we motored a few hundred yards to the nearby fuel dock and filled up with 30 gallons of diesel.  Then we took off motoring down the ICW.  It was an easy day of me watching the autopilot do its thing while Anna and Louise stayed warm below, still trying to get over a cold too.  I put the jib out a couple times to get a small speed boost but most of the time the wind conveniently shifted to always be on the nose.

We arrived in Oriental, NC about an hour before sunset and found a spot at the free dock there.  It was nice to just hop off the boat and go for a little walk.  Anna got ice cream that night and the next morning I tried to get a replacement shower handle at the marine store.  They didn't have one but I got some fuel filters and oil.  We had a late departure around 11:00am as it was only 24 miles to Beaufort, NC.  This was a nice short trip, and even a little exciting when a very young deer swam across the channel just in front of the boat.  We found a nice spot to anchor near the dinghy dock.  There were some big winds coming the next day so it was nice to feel the anchor set really hard--a good yank.  Hopefully it is not actually stuck on an obstruction!

We survived the windy afternoon and night and have been bumming around for a couple days.  It has been cold!  We figured out that the generator alone can run the climate control system (I was getting too fancy trying to run it through the inverter, sometimes you just have to try the simple things) so now we have some relief when the temperatures get extreme.  One gallon of gas probably runs it for 4-5 hours so its pretty reasonable to run occasionally.  One night it got down to 33 degrees, and then it was a high of 45 degrees yesterday.  Now the weather appears to be stabilizing in the 50s which we have found to be pretty reasonable.

Today it really would have been good to sail "outside" (in the ocean versus in the ICW) to Wrightsville Beach as the weather was favorable, but I have a two-day cough and figured a long 12-hour day would not be good for my health.  Plus it was really cold in the morning.  So we stayed here and I went to town to get Louise's medication.  I also found a laundry place so went back to the boat to get all the blankets and towels and got that done.

The next three days will be solid rain so we will be hunkered down.  Good thing I got some good books at the book exchange in Belhaven!  The rain is part of a crazy storm system that is brewing in north Florida and will move up the coast through the weekend.  On Saturday the winds will build to 30 knots sustained and blow like that for about 24 hours where we are so that will be exciting.  There is a lot of chatter on the cruising Facebook groups as the storm is hitting such a long segment of the coast and there are many people working their way south down the ICW like us at this time of year.

Maybe on Monday we will be on the move!

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By aaron.axvig, 8 November, 2019

It was calm when we anchored last night and then the wind built up from the north overnight as expected.  I had the anchor alarm running and the anchor held well.  With only 0.5 miles of fetch the 20 knot winds were kicking up about 1 foot waves--it was pretty fresh!  But the canal to Belhaven runs mostly east-west and has lots of trees along shore so we figured it would be an OK day to travel.  I noticed that the depth sounder was showing about 1.5 feet deeper that when we anchored.  There is maybe a 0.5 foot tide so I think it was a wind-driven tide.  And I believe that caused water to flow with us through the canal as we flew through with a 1.5 knot favorable current.

At the far end we had about 12 miles of bays to cover so we lost the wind protection of trees a close shore.  I put the jib out and was able to back way off on the engine power and still maintain 6+ knots of speed.  It was only about 50 degrees and still 15-20 knot winds so pretty cold!  Anna is still sick so she mostly rested downstairs.  I started reading Godforsaken Sea while the autopilot did its thing.

We arrived at Belhaven and decided to stay at the town dock where it is only $1/foot so $37 for us plus $5 for electricity.  It will get down to 33F tonight so heat is great!  We hooked up the power in a different way that happens to let us see how much power the heating system uses...1500 watts continuous.  Our portable generator could actually sustain that output so possibly we will be able to run it at anchor in the future.  The startup current has overloaded the 3000 watt inverter when I tried to run it off of that in the past, but the inverter has a mode where it can combine generator plus battery power for a short time in excess of 3000 watts so we won't really know until I try it that way.

Docking was exciting as we needed to fit in between two other boats to side-tie on the dock.  I came in too slow and turned in too soon so it looked as though the wind would push us into the other boat's dinghy hanging off the back.  That would be very bad so I backed out of there but was restricted in that movement by the other shore of the small basin so for a few tense moments our dinghy was resting against some poles on land and our anchor was resting on the other boat's lifelines, stanchions, etc.  Fortunately nothing was damaged and the wind soon blew our back end around so I could reverse out of there.  For the second approach we decided to switch to the more favorable (due to prop walk) port side towards the dock.  Turning in the small basin for this added more excitement as we softly ran aground.  But eventually I approached with better speed and less early turn-in and the wind blew us nicely into the dock.

The local CVB caters to cruisers so we got a warm welcome from their staff.  There is a cruisers lounge with a book collection so I traded in a few books.  Also on tonight's list was impeller replacement, which seemingly went well--final test will be tomorrow when we fire up the engine and see if water comes out of the exhaust (it is supposed to).

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