Saturday, May 27, 2017

First and almost last trip to the Bahamas

Our first trip to the Bahamas. Not just that but our first big trip ever.  Sure we had done over nighters, even gone a couple of nights out.  Never though a long journey.  And not just that, but ocean sailing, Navigating, weather watching, coral dodging……. There were going to be a lot of firsts.  We were nervous to say the least.  I planned and planned as much as one can.  Read all I could, but my ocean sailing was very limited and we had never pushed our boat to any limits.  I felt as prepared as I could be and Ashley had full faith in me, so off we went.

I had done lots of reading about sailing offshore, watching weather and what to expect for the Gulf Stream.  I decided that for our first leg from Canaveral to Ft. Pierce, we were heading offshore.  Well…… that didn’t go as planned.  The seas ended up being more out of the South than expected and over the day, the wind and seas built.  The first hour or so offshore things were a bit rough. I told Ashley that we could turn around and head for the ICW, but it would mean a day delay due to the closing of the Lock in Canaveral.  She said No and that she would be fine so we pressed on.   That day ended up being a hellish day. We sailed as much as we could but we were not making the speed we wanted and we needed to get into port before nightfall.  We motored most of the way and the bow slammed the seas the whole way.  Ashley stayed tough and kept an eye on the pets and we pressed on hard.  Come evening, we warily approached the entrance to Ft. Pierce Channel.  Tired from the trip, we were excited to get into safe harbor.  I had called ahead to Ft. Pierce Municipal marina and reserved a slip.  They said to call upon approach and we would be directed.  We tried their phone, their working channel, everything, no answer. Being so tired, we just went straight in and picked a slip.  Well much to our surprise, the current in that marina is 3+ knots. Something I did not discover until we were making a slip and found ourselves being quickly pushed into a million dollar yacht. We both pushed with all of our might to keep from hitting this boat and almost comically, as I’m about to sacrifice a leg as a fender, a woman steps out from a door up above my head and calmly states “ Oh goodness, do you need some help?” With that, she and three other people rushed to the dock to help grab lines.  We got the bow over but the stern was a struggle. I pulled and pulled and pulled and then POW!!! I was down. Pain washed over me like a wave.  I took a few short breaths. Somehow we got the boat alongside. Not sure how, but we couldn’t have done it without the kind help from those on the big Yacht.  We thanked them profusely, and we truly meant it.  Come to find out there is exactly  a 30 minute period when there is nobody on shift at the marina. GREAT!! And that Pop, well that was a rib separating from my sternum.  It was a hellish ending to a hellish day, but in the end, we had a safe dock, cold drinks and we laughed it off before a good night’s sleep.   It was about that time It dawned on me, why didn’t I use the Jib sheet winch to bring the stern over??  Next time.

The next morning after being well rested, we decided it best to go find an anchorage and fix all the things that went wrong while offshore.   We quickly ran into town to a hardware store and headed south to find an anchorage.  With a 6 foot keel, finding a safe place to anchor outside the channel can be quite a challenge.  After running aground trying to head up the St. Lucie river, we turned around and anchored just North of the inlet outside the channel.  We ran the dinghy around and found a nice island for the dog to frolic. Back on the boat, we checked the weather and saw that we most likely would not be heading anywhere for quite a while. It was anchored here, in the alternating current of an inlet along with the High gusting winds of passing storms that I learned just how poorly a CQR anchor will rest itself. We spent two sleepless nights there waiting on weather and constantly resetting our anchor. A 45# CQR with 100 feet of chain just wasn’t cutting it. I put new anchor at the top of my list.

The rest of the Journey South down the ICW was mostly uneventful. It was a beautiful and scenic trip. I highly don’t recommend going through Jupiter on a Saturday. I find it hard to believe there aren’t daily boating deaths in that crazy area. We finally made it down to Palm Beach and anchored up in the Northern most end.  We spent two days there shopping final groceries and waiting on weather. We met an extremely nice Preacher and his wife who live aboard their Trimaran while there. We were struggling with our Honda 2000 and he came over and helped me repair it.  They were a truly interesting couple and it was nice to find such friendly help along the way.

On the day prior to our departure, we shifted down and anchored in the busy area South of the entrance channel.  I took the dinghy over to a few other boats and spoke with fellow sailors about the crossing. They all saw what I saw and all agreed that an early morning start was the best time to leave. I felt good knowing that seasoned sailors saw what I saw with the Weather.  The problem with this anchorage is there is no easy place to take a dog ashore. The best bet is peanut island which is almost a one mile dingy ride.  We planned to leave at 2am but we couldn’t store the dingy or outboard on deck until we took the dog ashore one last time.  This made for quite an early morning.  We were a bit nervous leaving a busy anchorage at night. On top of it all, they were dredging the harbor and there was dredge pipeline all around. It all went well and before we knew it, we were out to sea again watching a beautiful sunrise and bound for the Bahamas.

The crossing was smooth. The wind did not favor us and we found ourselves motoring once again.  It took a bit longer than we anticipated so therefore we arrived just after High Tide to Grand Bahama Island.  I had made a reservation at Sunrise Marina and I had carefully checked all charts and watched the tide tables. I called when we were outside the channel and the lady said we should wait for the next tide. Well it was late, the dog needed to go ashore and I naively felt confident that there was enough water given the tide height and the charts.   Ashley was on the bow and we slowly made our approach in the channel. It was apparent there was some shoaling, but we took it slow and felt our way along.  Inside the jettys we bumped the bottom. We backed up some and went to Stbd to go around the shoaling. Again we bumped. At this point I decided the charts were wrong and we would go back out and wait on the tide.  So we were backing and all was going fine.  I had to go back about 20 more feet and we would be clear to swing the bow around and head out. I gave the engine one more thrust astern to give plenty of room and that’s when it happened…. Well actually no, that’s when nothing happened.  I tried forward, nothing, I tried astern, nothing…….. Shit.  Panic started to set it.  There was a 2 foot following sea pushing on us and we were not yet in the clear. I yelled something incohearant to Ashley and ran down below.  My first thought was the shifting cable  had come off the transmission. I ripped the stairs off and flung myself over the hot engine. To my dismay, the cable was still connected.  So I manually shifted the transmission…. The shaft spun but nothing… Shit shit shit.  Where is my propeller???? How can this be?? It was all BRAND New!! New Shaft, new coupling, New everything!  I ran up to a panicked scene.  The Rock jetty was coming up fast and we had no way to stop it.  What do you do? We had no propulsion! I yelled for Ashley to put the pets in life jackets and I ran up to the Bow. I grabbed our 45# anchor, but it was Jammed!! The seas had jammed it in place. I then grabbed our 35# day anchor and threw it as far as I could.  I made the line fast and hoped for the best. I ran back to the cock pit and Ashley asked if she should call Mayday? YES!!! Great idea!!!  She called for Mayday and I grabbed the airhorn. There were fishing boats just a couple hundred yards off. I Blew and blew that horn.  Ashley got an answer on the radio, somebody was coming! But they were 5-10 minutes out! The anchor had slowed the bow from drifting but now our stern was on the rocks. With every passing wave we slammed higher and harder on the rocks.  We were panicked. Our house was on the rocks! I told Ashley we had to cut the dinghy loose. We keep emergency diving knives by the hatch for that exact reason She cut it loose while I pulled out anchor rode.  (Might I note here that later I learned Ashley thought we were abandoning ship which caused her more panic. In reality, I was going to go grab our anchor and row it out further in hopes of using the winch to pull us off the rocks) Just as we were about to shove our dingy overboard a 50 ft fishing boat pulled up.  More like a fishing yacht.  The only problem was we were so far into the rocks they couldn’t get very close without them hitting rocks.  They had to come back around for a better angle.  I knew we only had one chance at this. I grabbed two 40 ft lines and tied them together.  Here my professional life paid off. I know and have practiced the perfect way to throw a line and to throw it accurately.  I took my time in spite of the events around me and coiled the most perfect two coils.   I had to throw the line about 50ft to the guy on the bow.  When I threw that line, it was all in slow motion.  The first coil in my right hand paid out then the second coil in my left hand. The line flew and landed directly in the hands of the man on the bow!!! He made the line fast and so did I. That boat pulled us to safety and off the rocks.  Then we met Gary, the local salvage man. He took our lines and towed us to safe harbor in Lucuaya.  Shaken, scared, and confused we tied up to the dock and finally sat down to take it all in.  The boat was a disaster, we were a disaster. What just happened? I checked the bilges and we were not taking on water.  The steering cable was broke, but we were safe. Finally, 19 hours after leaving FL, our dog got to Pee.

The next morning we assessed the situation.  Much to my surprise, the propeller was still there, but apparently not spinning. I fixed the Steering cable and we put the boat back together as much as possible. We explored the area, paid customs and tried to figure out what the hell was next.  The marina said we had to leave since we couldn’t pay their going rate. They gave us a friendly rate for two nights since we were towed in, but we had to go. Ashley, somehow found us a Marina just around the way. I called and they said they had a slip available and we could come over any time. Gary showed up and towed us over to Flamingo Bay.  He promised to return and help us with the boat.  This place turned out to be amazing. It was part of Taino Resort and by staying at the marina, we had full access to the resort! It was fantastic! Upon Further discovery, we learned that the Prop shop had used a Nylon Bore Reducer so that the new shaft would work with our old propeller.  The nylon bore reducer had compressed which caused the propeller to hammer on the prop key. Finally The prop key sheared and it all came disconnected. Apparently that one last thrust astern to get away from the jetty was the final straw. What great timing, what luck. Geeeesh.  And even more maddening, they do sell brass bore reducers. As to why the prop shop didn’t use one I don’t know, but I now will never use the prop shop in Canaveral again.  We ordered a new reducer and had it shipped overnight to my parents in SC.  My father then fedexed it to us. We did not know you are supposed to attach your cruising permit to your package. So one Customs broker and two and a half weeks later, we finally got our parts in the Bahamas.

During those two and half weeks though we were stranded at a Resort on Grand Bahama Island and we had enough beer, gin and food to last us through!! It was a grand time. We spent our days at the beach and the pool. We explored the island. Went snorkeling and met lots of great people.  It started out poorly but our time there was amazing. We planned for our wedding and learned the place we were going to have it was a waste and ended up doing it all at Taino. We would never have found it if we hadn’t got shipwrecked. With the help of Gary we repaired the boat.  Some people told us of an anchorage on the West End we could use and soon we were on our way.  The trip home was nice and uneventful.  We caught the stream up to Ft Pierce and once again stayed at the Marina, only this time we planned for a slack water arrival!

We were glad to be home and glad that things worked out.  It was a scary start and truly a very trying first big trip.  A seasoned sailor told me later that I am lucky to have gotten that out of the way so early in my cruising story.  He said it happens to us all, and now that we had gone through it, we should be safe. I sure hope he is right. I don’t need that in my life again for sure and I know Ashley doesn’t either.  We learned a lot along the way and it made us better sailors. It hasn’t deterred us but it has made me a bit more nervous for some things.   Our next trip was much better but not without its own issues, but that’s for another time.

Heading down the ICW

Sunrise on our crossing to the Bahamas

Ashley enjoying a drink by the Beach

Well Deserved drinks 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hey Look! A Post!

As blogs often go, they start out well intended and slowly fade as life gets in the way.  I have to say I truly admire those that can keep their blog going at a regular rate and keep things interesting.  It’s been a good while since we have made any entries and hopefully from time to time, we will actually take the time to make an entry. I read once, on a blog actually, that you should write a blog for yourself. Don’t write it with thoughts of the people that may or may not read it, but write it as a sort of journal for yourself to look back upon down the road so that you can remember the things you have done.  That’s what I hope to do, but obviously, it hasn’t been working.  I have to say that a big deterrent from actually keeping things posted is the fact that neither of us really use a computer on any regular basis.  Ashley’s laptop bit the dust over a year ago and it was replaced with a Tablet.  We didn’t even have a keyboard for that until just a few months ago. I have a laptop that I lug all over the country with me, but I rarely fire it up. In the days of touch screens and specialized apps and lack of internet anywhere I ever seem to be make my phone my go to device. I can wifi hotspot with it, but that drains the battery in no time and it then of course requires me to actually fire up the ol’ laptop. 

Well here it is now, May of 2017. Goodness time flies and so much has happened. It has been a solid 14 months since our last entry. I know this isn’t really a huge deal since I fully know that nobody really reads this except maybe family on rare occasions. But as I said before, this is for us and if anyone else finds entertainment in it, then even better.   I don’t plan to write all that has happened in the past year here in one blog entry, but plan to make several that will cover the major items.
In the past year we have cut our teeth to be sure.  I tested the extent of Ashley's love for me and pushed it further than I dared and yet she still agreed to Marry me. Not only that but she hasn’t sunk the boat or threatened to leave me because of it! So I say all in all, it was a hell of a good year! Woo! 

We made  two trips to the Bahamas which each held their own adventures and tested our resolve as a couple.  We have also made Florida and the Space Coast feel more like home.  Our life plans have gone up and down and back and forth so many times, I can hardly remember what they all were.  We still have no definite plans but we know what makes us happy and what we want to be doing for the near future.  I know my ultimate goal is to quit working as soon as possible and find myself on a beach next to my wife with a cold drink in my hand somewhere where the sand never gets cold and the sea breezes never stop.  We still want to buy a condo somewhere in Florida and rent it out to Snow Birds in the Winter.  We really love Cocoa Beach and the people, but after two years of shopping, we still can’t find a condo that meets our wants.  We recently shopped for Condos in Punta Gorda, FL and we absolutely loved it. We found so many  that we loved. We still want to scope out the area some more, but we may very possibly find ourselves there one day.

Ashely has been working on finding some leads for herself.  She has gotten involved with the HUBBS Institute doing work in the Lagoon which she really enjoys.  She also has been getting certified as a Florida Master Naturalist.  She is loving every minute if it all and meeting all sorts of great people.  I have taken up working for Tow Boat US on the side. It is a great gig and have met some great people.  It is getting paid to run a boat around in Florida and help out fellow boaters.  I enjoy it and look forward to what it brings.  We have a trip planned with some good friends of ours to head to the Bahamas for two weeks on their boat, a Powerboat! I’m not sure I'll know how to do it! I mean we will get places so fast! We are looking forward to a return trip and to spend it with such great friends.  We are also planning a trip in a year that I have wanted to do for so long! Us and three other couples are going to rent a Catamaran in the BVI! Ashley and I did a two week rental on a mono hull by ourselves and loved every minute. I have always wanted to do a catamaran with friends but could never find the right friends. I am so stoked for the trip.  For now that is what is going on in our lives.  No big trips planned on our boat. Just projects. I’ll write about some of them here as I find the time, or don’t.   

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Long Awaited Journey

This month marks the four year mark since we bought Wild Swan.  I was full of yearning and excitement for the images that filled my head of sailing upon crystal clear blue waters, anchoring among the sugar white beaches of paradise and the rustling of palms trees in the tropical breeze.  I was full of vigor and nothing was going to slow me down, I had waited eight long years to fulfill this dream and there I stood with my new boat and Ashley by my side trusting me to make it all work. She, a newcomer to the world of sailing whose childhood was spent in the great Western Plains was putting her faith in where I was taking us. I had a purpose and a plan and she had become part of it.  I expected a bumpy road ahead, but the dead ends and sudden turns were daunting,  I remained resolute to see this plan through;  knowing that one day it would pay off, one day I would see Wild Swan float upon that invisible sea.

Less than two weeks from this moment, we should be sailing across the Gulf Stream for the first time.  The first real voyage ever to be taken by us on our beloved home. I have planned and prepared to the most minute detail. We have rebuilt the boat from inside to out. We know the hull is sound and our equipment ready, but I have to admit, my nerves are a bit frayed.  If you know me, you know I plan everything in every detail I can. I have backup plans on hand and have memorized every detail.  I also strive to do the best work possible on every project on the boat so that when the dark clouds of a storm roll in, I know that the boat is ready and will weather the storm. Still, I get a little nervous.  This whole situation becomes even more ironic given the fact that I am a professional Mariner. I spent four years learning about the sea and the stars and have spent twelve years of my life living it and working it.  I think this is what makes me nervous.  I know the ravages of the sea, the helplessness that can be felt and how quickly things can turn. I have met so many people, many of them smart and well meaning that just buy a boat and go sail off onto distant lands, and they succeed.  Many of these people never even having sailed a boat before in their life and yet they still succeed.  I have come to realize that ignorance truly must be bliss and that through the cloud of naivete, anything can be done and no harm will ever come upon you.  I sometimes wish I could see the world through such distorted eyes, but when it comes to the sea, it is long lost.  Though, I do admit that I continue to tell myself  "so and so did it, I sure as hell can do it then!"  But even with this thought in my mind, I continue to plan until I go crazy.  I know that Ashley is counting on me and she has put all of her faith in me that we will be kept safe and I refuse to let her down.

Two short weeks and we will be drifting through the crystal waters of the Bahamas.  I am excited beyond belief and cannot wait to see my dream come to fruition.  There were so many times I was worried the boat would never be ready. Of course the project list is still never ending, but the one I made out of all we needed to do to set sail have been done and it is freaking amazing.  With my work schedule being a month on and month off, we plan to spend the next three months off sailing the Abacos and Berry Islands. On our third trip, we will call Freeport home and will welcome our family and friends for what I expect will be the best day of this amazing life of mine thus far, our wedding.  Somehow, through all of this craziness, Ashley has stuck by me and still wants to marry me! So I plan to seal this deal before she changes her mind!!  We have a small ceremony planned but we anticipate that many of our cruising friends might just show up and I"m certainly not going to tell them no!  I certainly hope that the next few Blog posts will be filled with photos of our trip and stories of fun and adventure. Fingers crossed for good weather and no break downs!  If you see us out there, please come and say hello!!   Morgan our ferocious (only in show) guard dog will certainly greet you and watch out for the cat out sunning himself on deck.

Wild Swan Ready to go!

Boat Cat is ready too! Isn't that a cute cat??

Morgan, the official dog of Wild Swan.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Yard Period......Yikes

Planning is something I do well, something I do often and usually to the point where I can slightly annoy or at least amuse Ashley.  Mainly I feel if I plan enough, I shouldn’t worry, though it never turns out that way.  The weeks leading up to the haul out for our yard period I planned and read and doubted like crazy in hopes that we would be as well prepared as we could be. Problems at work caused me to be a week late getting home, a week that was supposed to give me time to get things ready. With a few shifts in our haul out date and fortunately a flexible schedule with the yard we were able to get the boat out of the water, Finally…
The day before I had gone back to work I ran the engine for a while and explained to Ashely that I thought we were getting some growth on the prop and that she would need to run the engine in gear at least once a week.  I had the boat running and at full throttle would only turn 1800 RPM, a full 500 less than it should.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was a great way to get the carbon out of the engine, but not good for getting the boat to the travel lift.  As this was all going down, Ashley was washing dishes and yelled to me in the cockpit that something smelled hot……. Then she quickly upgraded that to “something smells really hot!” Upon removing the small access plate to the engine compartment, I was overwhelmed with the alluring odor of antifreeze steam…. Greaaaaaaat.  I shut down the engine and pulled the steps away to get full access. Sure enough, a hose clamp had given up the ghost. How does that happen? Hoses? Sure! Hose Clamps?? Havn’t had that happen before.  Apparently a few years back when I replaced all of the hoses on the engine, there were three I missed. I “Missed” them because it requires taking apart half the dang engine to get to them. So I told Ashely to not worry about the engine and off to work I went.
Due to us having the greatest dog this side of the Mississippi and an old but frisky cat, we decided to stay in a condo while the boat was hauled out. A good friend owned one on the beach and gave us a good rate.  Also the fact that it was still in the 90s in florida was a good reason too.  Plus in the chaos and stress of the yard, it was nice to actually  come home to a real house! So much room!! Not sure why people need that much room.
The motor over to the yard was slow, 4 knots at full speed, the prop must be quite the garden of sea life.  I was anxious to get the boat out of the water and look at the bottom. When we had shipped the boat months earlier, there were a few blisters on the bottom and I wanted to further investigate. It was shocking to say the least when a few turned into several hundred. What the heck?!  Was it the change from fresh to salt??  HC’s aren’t known to get blisters. The PO had a new bottom job done on the boat before I bought it and the yard that did it was sketchy, I’m thinking the barrier coat was not quite done right.  Well crap…..   We looked into the possibility of getting it peeled, but we don’t have the time or the money.  We ultimately just took care of all the big ones and squinted hard enough to not see the others.  Maybe down the line we will take care of them.  At least most were dime sized or smaller.  Oh, and yes, we had quite the barnacle city on our propeller.
A major reason for hauling out was the awful crunching sound that was coming from our cutlass bearing.  When we bought the boat we discovered that the cutlass was shot, like really shot.  I was out of town  during the survey and I found out later the surveyor was a friend of the seller.  Yay.   As mentioned before in this blog the cutlass was shot because the engine mounts were broken in half. Also missed in the survey.  Every time I put our boat in gear, it was just a horrible sound of grinding and banging. It was so bad that I rarely ever took out our boat because I hated to make it any worse.  So new cutlass bearing in hand, we started to work.
If you have a HC, you know this already but unfortunately you have to drop the whole rudder to pull the shaft.  Trust me, you do. Poor design.  The rudder is six feet high and has a three foot rudder post for a total of 9 feet.  I have done a lot of reading and talked to other HC owners to prepare as best I could but it was a learning experience.  We  had the boat blocked a little higher than normal and planned to dig a whole under the rudder. We had been told to expect the rudder to weigh approximately 150 pounds so after rigging a block and tackle system, Ash and I dropped her down…. Whoa.  Well apparently you can’t dig the whole directly back from the rudder because of the design of the rudder. It actually needed to be off to one side. So our 2.5 foot deep hole was wrong. Now we learned this as Ashely was holding it up with all of her weight (I was knocking the gudgeons off) so I quickly altered the hole best I could.  Finally the post came out of the stern and she was free!! But now to move it. I had set up saw horses to set it on. 150 pounds? Sure! No problem…. Ha! We guess it was more about 225 pounds and most of that weight at the bottom.  Good lord I almost wrecked myself when we moved it!!  But success!! Rudder off!! Now just pull the prop, unbolt the coupling and we are in the money! Wohoo!
Riight, so that celebration was quickly over.  We rented a prop puller from the prop shop down the street and thought if we do it right it will be easy.  Ash held the tool as I turned the screw and all was going well until my eye caught sight of something…. Awry.  SH!T!!!!  The prop puller had bent our thread bolt down 90 degrees!!! AH!!! Seriously!!!?!?!  Well this is no good…… Ok, well lets get that coupling off. I had been spraying the coupling with PB blaster for several months now.  I was concerned it was a permanent fixture, mainly because it was all one solid piece of rust.  Well after a run to the hardware store for a new tool, I got to work removing the six hex bolts holding it on. Four out of six. Not bad usually for averages. Four bolts came out and two sheared off.  So close yet so far away.  So out came the angle grinder with cutting wheel and soon we had two halves of shaft coupling.  At this point I grabed the shaft and prop as a whole and went to the prop shop.
I feel it’s never a good sign when people who professionally work on propellers all come and say they have never seen anything like that before.  Phrases like that usually add dollar signs. I left them the whole shebang, explained my pity story of not having a place to live in a week and went home for the day.   A few days later I swung by the shop to see the progress. Kurt at Canaveral Propellers chuckled and said well…… and faded off.  Oh geeez, what now.  Apparently we have an SAE shaft 1.25in but with a metric taper for a metric propeller and apparently someone machined the end to fit a smaller coupling on and our keyway was a bizarre size.  Again he said.. “I’ve never seen that before” Cha-ching! The Shaft straightening failed because the thread got too stretched out.  In the world of good news though, he said that the propeller could be bored out to fit a new shaft, but it would be another week until they would have it all ready to go.

At this point I began the removal of the Cutlass bearing. From what I have read, this is straight forward.  Undo the set screws and with some work, comes right out.  Well two days later, lots of swear words and lots of advice, I finally got it out.  A friend who has spent his whole life in boat building and repair helped and even he was amazed. Apparently the cutlass was actually fiber glassed into the boat. The one Set screw was really more for show. We eventually got down to using a sawzaw, a big freaking hammer and a lot of bent screw drivers to get the cutlass out.  We cut it to collapse it but being the sides were glassed in, it did not really want to let go.  I was concerned about the shaft tube and getting the new bearing centered. My friend Mike suggested I put the shaft in and use it to align the new bearing which I most likely will need to glass in as well to replace the epoxy that came out with the old cutlass. It appears the old bearing was floated on the epoxy in the shaft tube, and I would need to do the same.  Fantastic.
In the meantime, Ashley and I went gangbusters on projects. With the extra time we would be out, we worked on projects that had been on the to-do list for a while.  The bottom was ground and repaired.  I worked on the ongoing project of putting in our new electronics. The transducer was eventually installed with only minor hold up.  When the hole was drilled, one side of the hole was an inch thick and the other an inch and a half. No idea why the hull was laid up that way, but we had a wedge made and got it to work.  We finished running all new wires in the mast with the installation of a new anemometer, radar, TV antenna, VHF antenna and new Ethernet wire for the Wifi antenna.  We decided to go ahead and step the mast so that we could finish connecting all the wires and get it out of the way.  With the Mast on, I could connect the radar as well as connecting the transducer wires.  I hope to never again have to install an entire electronics package. Holy moly what a pain in the arse.   We even had time to put in to counter tops in the Galley.  The old ones were white and badly stained.  Once we got everything cleared out and the sink and faucets removed, it really wasn’t that bad. We bought some posterboard and Ashley made patterns up in the boat while I cut the formica down on the ground. There was some tweaking that was needed but overall, it went really well.  Spots there weren’t cut just right were hidden with black paint and I used black caulk to seal up all the edges. We were quite surprised at how well it came out and the difference it makes in the overall appearance of the interior.  We also finally got back our new Kranze iron. The old one and damaged the Bow Sprit when somebody apparently ran into a dock so I went off to work modifying the bow sprit. After some time, the new Kranze Iron fit like a charm.
As the days went by waiting for our shaft to be returned, we decided to go ahead and attempt to put the rudder back on. There were several reasons for this crazy idea. One, I wanted to make sure we knew how to do it when it came to crunch time and two, I wanted to be able to start installing the auto pilot and a new steering cable.  The first part proved to be a great idea. A friend came to help us lift the behemoth of a rudder. I had the blocks rigged to help, but we quickly learned that they lifted the rudder at an angle and not straight up. The weight of the rudder is centered at the rudder post and not where the lifting point was.  It took a lot of grunt work, but we got it in and we learned a lot about how to do it next time.  I painted the lazarette and rudder quandrant which really cleaned up below. New steering cable was installed as well as the autopilot computer and compass. The new rudder bearing fit like a glove and the new packing glands fit nicely as well.  I took what we learned and rigged another set of blocks. A 3:1 purchase that lifted center weight and a 2:1 purchase on the lifting point.  We used this to lower the rudder back down while we wait on the return of our shaft.
Finally! We get our shaft back! Everything is well machined and looks great. Now we begin the mad rush to finish.  We were In a holding pattern until we got the shaft.  We ended up having to move to another condo in the area and I had to arrange to head back to work a week late.  With the shaft back, we had two days to get it all together and back in the water before we were homeless again and I was heading to the West coast.  With the shaft in, we were able to put in the new cutlass. After that, we had to re-align the engine to the new set up. We had some friends come help put the rudder back on. With the new block set up and the extra people, we had the rudder up and bolted on in just a matter of minutes, it was a beautiful thing and I had to brag a little about my ingenious block set up.  Quadrant on, bearings bolted on, steering cable run and packing glands in place, she was ready to go back in the water two days after getting the shaft. 

On a Beautiful November day in Florida under clear blue skies and 85 degrees, we launched Wild Swan back in the water. We took a few hour tour of Port Canaveral and even stuck her nose out into the ocean.  We docked back in our slip just at sunset and had a small party with our friends on the dock. Overall, the yard time went well and a huge load was off our shoulders. We repaired a LOT of things on the boat, many of which we didn’t know were wrong to begin with. I feel better about her seaworthiness and I’m excited for us to start taking trips.  Hopefully we will start our jaunts to the Bahamas with the coming of the new year and I couldn’t be more excited.

Hauling out. Let it all Begin

New Kranze Iron

Completed work in Lazarette

Blister Repair

The dang Cutlass bearing after I finally got it out
Starting new counter top Project

Finished with Counter Tops

All ready to launch!!
Waiting on the Travel lift
Back in the water and ready for action

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gone the way of the DoDo Blog

I imagine that if you as reading this then most likely you are either friend or family. The hope is that eventually we will get more people through here that are fellow sailors or those who dream to be. If you are one of the later, HI! Thanks for swinging by! If you are friends or family, of course we appreciate your following of us even if it is merely to know what we are doing since we, (mainly me, Adam) have probably not called in a bit. I know, I'm slacking.  Hey, we are busy people! You know with keeping the boat afloat and all, it's a daunting task and Gin and Tonics on the beach is where I figure out how to fix all the stuff that just broke.

Anywho, onward and forward or something like that. I always mess up those catchy phrases. Ashley thinks mine are way better since they are usually ridiculous. But I digress....... if you are like me ( God help you) you spend a large amount of your time reading sailing / cruising blogs such as this one; probably ones much better than this one!  ( Do you see that? I used a semicolon! Probably used it wrong though,  but I never seem to use those! Bonus G&T for me)  We all have our list of blogs. Some we follow like religion ( or in lieu of) and many we check in occasionally and follow up on their adventures.  When I find a new blog that I enjoy I always go to the very beginning and read all the way to present day. This can prove to be a pretty daunting task if their blog is several years old. I find as I read these blogs that a strange thing happens. I start feeling like I know these people, that we are old friends that have not seen each other in ages. I think if I ever met any of these people in our travels I'd run up and hug them like an old friend only to get a really weird look and maybe some hostility.  Seeing as I have yet to meet any of them I do not know this for sure so I'll have to report back when it finally happens. I'm sure once I explain to them that I'm a total blog creeper and think I know everything about them , they would understand. ...... I hope.  I apologize ahead of time to any of you I do this to. I'm really a nice guy, ask my dog! She thinks I'm pretty cool, oh and Ashley too. She's probably nicer than me. People probably don't freak out as much when a pretty girl hugs them so she would totally get away with it but she isn't as big of a hugger as me.  Random side story..... I went to a military academy and my senior year, I was given the officer position of "Hugs Officer". I don't actually remember the real name, but I was the guy you were supposed to come to if you had problems and I could refer you or assist you in getting the help you need, but mainly people came to get hugs. I was certainly not one to complain and I'm happy to give hugs! I mean are there people who don't? Weirdos. Ok..... back on track... crap, where was I? Reading blogs, right. I hope one day we will meet some of these people and I hope we do become good friends and can occasionally  share drinks and laughs when we run into each other (Figuratively, I can’t afford that boat repair).

As for the title of this blog. I have learned that most all blogs on sailing / cruising follow the same path and ours is no different. Blogs are hard! There is the pressure to be witty and funny. To keep people glued to their screens sharing in your adventure. Unfortunately, I'm not a gifted writer. I'm a logistics major who drives oil tankers for a living. Do what you're good at they say, and writing wasn't one. I hope people find this entertaining and maybe this blog will improve over time. We all seem to start our blogs around the time the adventure begins.  We buy the boat, pack up the house, move aboard and get slapped with reality but struggle through. Eventually, somewhere down the line we finally cast off the lines and start the real adventure that we have worked so hard for. It's at this point that  blogs start to waver, and why shouldn't they? As soon as it gets good, when we who are still tied to the dock want to live vicariously through you and your silence.  Crap. I mean I  totallyy get it, you’re sailing and exploring islands, why would you want to write in a stupid blog on a computer when the world is just beyond your porthole? Plus there is the whole "lack of internet" thing. Most people seem to do pretty well and update when they can. We all check their blog regularly staring at the same old post over and over wondering what great adventures they are up to while we take a break between projects and saving for the cruising kitty.  Then one day, BAM! There is a post! We feel like a kid on Christmas. You straighten up and get closer to your screen so as to not miss a single detail. It's like a long lost friend has returned home. By this point, people have stopped apologizing for the lapse in their updates. They know we all understand and we forgive them immediately. We read of their latest breakdown, how they fixed it, the islands they explored and the people they have met. We look at the few pictures they have posted that you just know they spent forever picking out from the hundreds or even thousands they have taken and the sting of jealousy but also the warmth of happiness runs through you. You yearn to be where they are but are so happy for them. At least someone broke away from the comfort of shore power and marina toilets and set out on their adventure. This is what keeps us going. When your own head clogs,  the power system craps out and the list of broken things keeps growing, it's these stories and pictures that drive us on and not give up hope. We laugh at their good times and hurt when they hurt. Sometimes they get personal and use the blog as a means of release. Couples argue and have nowhere else to vent and you hope for things to be ok. As I said, they become friends even if you've never met. People, though strangers, you care for and want nothing but happiness. 

Then there is that dreaded post. The post that sends you stomach plummeting. THE BOAT IS FOR SALE.  WHAT?! No! This can't be! We all want this life style to go on forever. For many people it does but for most, reality comes back to you. You feel devastated, lost. We all know that when the crusing ends, so does the blog. A dream has been fulfilled and then ended. What will happen to these people, where will they go? Most importantly, Why sell the boat???  Usually it’s people who want to move back on land and get back to “Normal” for whatever reason that is. Rush Hour traffic, Cubicles, noise and crappy views out your window? Doesn’t sound like much to return to.   This has been a dream of mine for at least 15 years. It took a while to get here, but here I am. I found the love of my life to join me. It’s not her dream, but she makes the most of it. I’m extremely lucky, trust me,  I know.  I know she doesn’t love all aspects of it, but we are still new. We are still dockside, getting the boat ready and paying off debts. In a few years though we will cast off the lines, sail where the wind takes us and it’s there I hope she finds the pure passion and love of sailing and cruising  that I have. I hope that before we know it years have gone by and we both cannot think of a better way of life. I know this may not happen, heck it could even be me that has a change of heart, but it’s always nice to dream.

 I find I follow two types of blogs the most and when the two meet as one, I get excited. I follow:  1) blogs of people who have the same boat as us and 2) blogs of couples cruising who are our age (early 30s). There are other random blogs I follow that are informative and usually entertaining, but those two are the ones I search for.  Blogs about the same boat as us is obvious. I can share and learn from those who have had the same issues, made the same repairs and coped with the same boat as us.  I am very fortunate that there is a Hans Christian Owners Forum that is a wealth of knowledge that is priceless.  Blogs of people our age, well it’s rare.  It seems that the dream to cruise isn’t achieved until retirement. People have careers, families, responsibilities and of course there is the cost.  At our age it is a sacrifice. We have decided to probably not have kids, to get rid of the house and leave our careers.  These are all risks. We are putting everything we have, Heart, soul and money into this plan.  If it goes wrong, it could prove difficult. Reading blogs of those our age shows us we are not alone. Others are sacrificing too and if they can do it, we can.   Most of you reading this blog probably understand this.   Then there are the blogs of people our age with our same boat. Whoa. This has only happened 2.5 times. Why the .5 you ask? Well one couple is our age but has a different model Hans Christian. A 41 I might add and I am envious.  Frank and Yu have an amazing blog and they keep me inspired.   Jon and Shannon have been beyond helpful. They are about a year or so ahead of us so have done all the projects I have yet to do and Jon is a wealth of information.   The saddest was SV BellaStar.  I loved that blog. It made me dreamy eyed. But it was one where the boat was sold and the Blog came to a close. They had a heck of a run though and I hope to still meet them one day.  It’s a cycle and blogs and their people come and go.  I hope one day, this blog helps people and that we are able to keep it going. As for now, we are striving to fill the sails and head South as soon as we can. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Accepting the Costs

Having made the big move to Florida means that we have now entered the next stage of getting ready for cruising.  With the house rented out for the next few years we can now really focus on finishing the last of the big projects on the boat. As any boat owner well knows, especially one preparing for cruising, the costs can be quite great.  We love our boat, but when we bought it, it needed a lot of help.  I have made it a point to only buy the best I can for the boat which means I am quickly parted with my money (Does that make me a fool??). With the unexpected, but necessary purchase of the new air conditioner for the boat, the expenses are adding up.  I jokingly told Ashley that after adding up how much I thought we had left to spend on the boat that I was having a mild panic attack. It may not have been an all out attack, but it was sure eye opening! Goodness.....  The last of the big expenses is a new dinghy with outboard and an all new electronics package.

The Dinghy.  Any man that has ever owned a dinghy and any woman that has a man who has a dinghy (did you follow that?) knows just how freakin fun dinghies are! Maybe its the speed, maybe its the closeness to the water, maybe its the ability to explore small, tucked away areas or maybe all three, but there is just something about going out for a dinghy ride.  I have spent many days with just our dog and a cooler out exploring away in our dinghy. Not only are they fun, but absolutely essential to a cruiser.  We currently have an old (But stout) Seaworthy 8 foot dinghy with slat floors and a 3.5 outboard. For the past few years, this set up has served us well. Now that we are on the coast, with real weather, real seas and where reliability is essential, it just won't cut it. Having looked at the cost of new Dinghies, I have greatly considered buying used.  After much thought and reading many blogs, I feel used is too risky given the importance of reliability.  I knew we wanted Hypalon,  RIB hull, big enough for Ash, Me and the dog with groceries but small enough to be stored on deck, Light weight, stable in rough seas, dry and a big enough engine to get around quickly and against current. (I know, it's a lot)  After much research, I have settled on a Highfield CL290.  It's Aluminum hull, light weight, 9.5 feet long with large tubes and it only weighs 100 pounds. For an engine, a 9.8 Tohatsu or 9.9 Nissan (Same engine).  From what I have read and been told, these dinghies blow AB and Caribe out of the water and they are cheaper. They come out of Australia and are somewhat new to the US market. Now knowing this is what we need..... Accepting the 6K dollar price tag....Gulp.......  I have discovered a distributor in Cape Canaveral and I plan to pay them a visit in a week when I return home. Anyone need a Used Dingy??

Electronics..... A topic debated by all sailors. The hardcore say they are not needed, the nerdy like to have it all and somewhere there is a middle ground.  I feel that as a Professional Mariner I "Know too much".  For instance, I know how dangerous ships can be, that Asian Container ships will not alter course for any reason, that sailboats don't show up on ship's radars, Mates on ships are overwhelmed with paperwork and look at a computer more than out a window and that ships are fast and quiet and you won't see them or hear them until its too late.  I've also picked the brains of very experienced cruisers, learned the absolute importance of a high quality auto pilot and the dangers of losing it. I've seen the outcome of buying cheap or outdated chart plotters as well as the dangers of relying solely on one. Given all of this, I know we must have a Powerful and reliable autopilot, a modern and update-able chartplotter that can use multiple chart platforms,  Radar as well as Radar reflectors, depth sounder and at minimum a Class B AIS receiver but preferably transponder. Now that I have accepted this, I somehow need to find a way to afford it! I hear kidneys sell quite well these days.... At this moment, our boat has a mid '90s chartplotter, early 80's (and non functioning) autopilot and a broken depth sounder. .....I have a long ways to go...... I have done a great amount of research and all systems seem to have the good and the Bad. There is always those few that have had nothing but trouble as well as those that swear by the same system.  There is always the Factor of human error in either operation or installation and there are just some stupid people.... Ok, maybe lots of stupid people but I give anyone on a sailboat the benefit of a doubt.  Because Sailors are the best there are right?? At this moment I am looking at the Raymarine system with the Type 2 ram and their midline chart plotter. It's an expensive system, but overall gets good marks. I guess there is only one way to really find out.

The good news is that these "Should" be the last of the major purchases.  Down the road there will be a water maker, maybe a wind generator or more solar panels and the typical repairs that pop up. We have to upgrade our battery bank but all of these are minimal when compared to the last two.  I still have to remove our teak decks, but this is really more labor than costs and we plan to do it ourselves.   We plan to Haul out in October to do a lot of bottom work. We are planning our wedding in the Bahamas for July of 2016 so our goal is to have all of these projects (YES ALL) done by around January of 2016. It's a daunting task, but our boat will be ready for cruising at last and we will be able to cast our lines anywhere we please.  In the meantime, I plan to take a lot of dinghy rides with the dog....


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another...

As per usual, just before Adam is supposed to go back to work the A/C decides to barely work. We noticed as soon as we got plugged in at the new dock that it was only keeping the boat about 10 degrees cooler than the outside air. In Florida this means it was about 80 degrees in the boat. After much debate about having the unit serviced before Adam went back to work, we decided to put it off and hope I could make it a month before we can just replace the whole darn thing. We knew it would need replacing eventually, we were just hoping for a few more months! Now I have keeping the boat cool down to an art. I set up a ‘tent’ on top of the coach roof to add some extra shade, keep all the curtains closed, keep the door to the head closed (it vents directly to the outside via the anchor locker), let it get as cold as possible overnight and started putting the canvas back over the hatch to help insulate it. This seems to be working pretty well, keeps it about 75 degrees during the hottest part of the day. It’s not an issue for the human, but the two pets (especially the dog) don’t do great in the heat for a long time. This also means that any sort of cooking with propane during the day is out! Handy dandy tiny slow cooker to the rescue! It lets off so little heat that I can actually cook, which now my other option is to wait till 8 pm to cook anything. Ready, set, Go made up recipes for the slow cooker!
There is always something to spend more money on. We were hoping once we got to Florida we would have a few months to recuperate from the move (cash wise), but apparently the boat has other plans. In addition to A/C’s (the one at the house was ALSO vandalized, but that’s another story!), my two best friends are both getting married a week apart from each other in June. I have already purchased airline tickets for myself to attend the first one in Vermont. After finding out about the cash we are about to have to drop on an A/C and that airfare just sky rocketed I’m going to have to skip the second wedding. In addition we have no pet sitters in the new city so we could not go together. I’m just hoping that I won’t offend anybody by missing out on her wedding.  The kicker is that the wedding I’m missing is my childhood best friend, who is having the wedding at her parents’ house, which is just down the street from my parents. So my parents were also hoping to see me then. Either way we pretty much figured Adam would not be able to come with me, so there was the added downer of being away from Adam for two weekends in a row, if I was able to go.
I am not a planner, I leave that to Adam. Thinking beyond the next week and possibly even the next month gives me a headache. BUT we have finally started to plan our wedding! I want a VERY small wedding with minimal pomp and circumstance. This means I have to go dress shopping (arggg!). I will definitely need help in this endeavor, so in lieu of going home for my best friend’s wedding I am trying to find another weekend to head north so I can recruit my step mom to go dress shopping with me. I do not like to spend money, especially on arbitrary things (like clothes) so I am very hesitant about this whole process. Let the planning begin! (grumble grumble grumble).
I still have no job, which I really don’t mind, except for the lack of funds. I had one interview so far, but the job sounded so dismal that Adam and I decided it was not worth it. So, I have been spending my days running with the dog, reorganizing the interior of the boat, and visiting the local beach. I have to say it has been pretty darn amazing! Cocoa Beach is beautiful. It is far less crowded than I expected. It is also the largest nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles in this hemisphere (and possibly the world)! I like to go down and walk along the beach for miles. I often see a lot of people surfing, which looks pretty darn fun, thinking I’d like to try that eventually. There is something very restorative about a mostly empty beach.