Bahamas Bound

The last couple of weeks that we spent in Boot Key were busy ones!  First of all, we attended a couple of presentations, given by Pru of Exuberant, aimed at helping out first time Bahamas cruisers.  The talks were great and provided a wealth of information that we have been using for the last month or so!

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Feeling like a student again 🙂

Although food is readily available in the Bahamas (the people who are lucky enough to live there do have to eat after all!), the prices can be high and the choice limited.  So we filled the freezer full of meat and frozen vegetables, and the cabinets full of canned goods that we know we want to have for the kind of meals we like.  Also, on Exuberant’s advice, we bought a soda stream and the syrups to make coke and ginger ale.  Although they aren’t as good as the cans, they are fine to use in mixed drinks and save a lot of trash.  As we have to pay to dump our trash in most places in the Bahamas, that is a very good thing.  The other thing we stocked up on was Jack Daniels and beer, both of which can be very expensive in the Bahamas.  Rum and vodka, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive so those we chose to buy on our arrival.

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Our second water tank put to better use! 6 cases of beer

The next major task was picking up and stowing the hurricane relief supplies.  Thank you so much to everyone who donated to the GoFundMe appeal.  Thanks to you, we were able to buy roofing supplies and VHF radios to help the relief effort.  In addition, we went to the local church in Marathon, and picked out three large bags of clothing, along with medical supplies.  A couple of boaters donated two more VHF radios.  Skip and Lynn very kindly helped us pack and stow everything on board, by which time our waterline had lowered by about 4 inches!

On Thursday, January 19th, 2017, along with Al, Sue and Tara on Stout Wench, we pulled up anchor and headed out from Marathon, bound for Morgan’s Bluff at the north end of Andros.  We had a lovely day, although the wind meant we weren’t able to sail.  We saw lots of other vessels also taking advantage of the good weather to make the crossing, among them Exuberant, who had been so helpful with their presentation.  The crossing was going to be overnight one, but there were absolutely no problems.  We passed South Riding Rock at 11:18pm and were officially in the Bahamas along with Prudence and Burt on Exuberant.

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arrival in the Bahamas

At about 6am, I woke Moray to let him see his first sight of the beautiful Bahamian waters.

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We had made great headway, despite our extra weight and we arrived at Morgan’s Bluff exactly 30 hours after we had set off, at noon.  We pulled into the anchorage, along with a couple of other boats, and were immediately greeted by Bill and Loree of Sea Wolf, who had been coordinating the relief effort between Andros and Boot Key Harbor.  They took us into shore, where we were met by Customs and Immigration officials.  After 30 minutes, clutching our 180 day cruising permit and fishing permit, we were taken back to our boat, to bring her into the harbour to unload the relief supplies.  This was to be our first experience of med-mooring and I was not at all comfortable!  However, with Bill helping keep Sol Purpose from wandering too far off course while I reversed, by using his dinghy, we got safely moored and tied off.  The Customs official came on board, looked at the relief supplies and then watched as they were unloaded.  There were a couple of trucks waiting to take delivery and by 2pm, Sol Purpose was back at her normal water level, and we had room to sit down in the salon!

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relief supplies loaded and ready for distribution around Andros

Bill and Loree very kindly cooked us dinner and hosted us on their beautiful catamaran, before we went back to Sol Purpose and crashed for the night!

The next morning we awoke to the sound of a freighter coming into the harbour.  The captains of those boats are incredibly skilled to manoeuvre in such a small space and they make it look easy.

We took the dinghy out to a coral head and snorkeled for a while.  It was our first time snorkeling from the dinghy, and once again, Exuberant’s advice was very welcome.  They had suggested getting a small amount of chain for our dinghy anchor.  The combination of the weight of the chain and our Mantus dinghy anchor meant we went nowhere!  There wasn’t much healthy coral, following hurricane Matthew, but we did see plenty of fish of several varieties, so we hope it will recover soon.

After lunch, Chris and Rasta, who split their time between Chris’ home in Michigan, and Rasta’s home in Andros, picked us up and took us on a tour of the island to see the devastation caused by the hurricane, but also the local efforts to get things back to normal.  Lots of buildings had been totally destroyed, and pretty much every one that was still standing had no windows and tarps for roofs.  Everywhere we stopped, people were friendly and smiling, despite the hardship they are currently going through.  I’m afraid I couldn’t help but cry when we visited the last place – Diane Knoll’s bonefishing lodge.  When the tsunami came in, it picked up the boat dock and hurled it through her guest house, and the wave itself followed.  The water also went right through her home and office, destroying pretty much everything.  Diane is 77 years old, and the day after the hurricane had to swim back to her home, as the road was completely blocked.  She has been gradually trying to get things back together, so that she can re-open her business.  When we were there, it was the first week she had had electricity and water – nearly 4 months after the hurricane hit.

Sunday morning we took the dinghy and went with Bill and Loree to Money Point, to do a little beachcombing.  Then we went over to Diane’s to do a beach treasure hunt, as it was a particularly low tide.  In knee deep water, we found her toilet, fax machine, type writer, satellite receiver box, the business sign and her perfume bottle – intact!  Then we headed back towards the harbour, snorkeled for a while and then headed home to prepare the boat for the predicted 40knot winds that were headed our way.  Fortunately, we had been given permission to stay in the harbour as long as we wanted to stay in Andros.

Monday morning, the winds and rain arrived, just as predicted.  We were fine in the harbour but the boats in the anchorage were not doing so well.  Kadra said that she would prefer all the boats out there to come in to the harbour where she would find space for them all.  Some took a little more persuading than others, but eventually everyone was safely inside and rafted up.

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four catamarans rafted up and several monohulls rafted up on the left side of the harbour

I think they spent a much more pleasant night!  That night was our first experience of freshly caught and cooked cracked conch, with Loree, Bill, Rasta and Chris.  I am already in love with the Bahamas, the people, the beauty and oh – the food!

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from left to right, Chris, Rasta, Bill and Loree

Tuesday was interesting!  One of the tasks that is so much harder to do on an anchored boat than anywhere else, is laundry!  First of all, as the motor hadn’t been running for a few days, and there was no shore-based power supply, we had run out of hot water.  We are getting used to cold showers, but that won’t work for laundry!  So the first task was to boil up a couple of pots of hot water.  Then the water, detergent and dirty clothes go in a bucket where Moray stomped on them, pretending to be a washing machine!  Then there was a rinse sink, and a second rinse sink, to be sure.  Finally, one luxury we do have is a spin dryer.  It gets out an amazing amount of water so that the clothes are easier to dry when pegged out on the lifelines in the sun.

This was going to be our last day in Andros, and we were hosting dinner for the people who had been so kind to us.  It was a lovely way to round off our stay, but I am sure we will be back later this year!

Wednesday morning saw us get up early so that we could prepare to leave Andros for New Providence.  We had to wait for the first of the catamarans to leave as they were sitting over our anchor, but again, with Bill’s help in the dinghy, we managed to manoeuvre round the other catamarans and bring the anchor up cleanly without incident.  The lovely thing about the Bahamas is that everywhere is close – there is hardly ever a need to do an overnight trip.  It didn’t take long for us to reach West Bay, and drop anchor in absolutely stunning water.  Moray donned his scuba gear and got in to clean the bottom of the boat, which was desperately needed after our stay in Marathon!  Unfortunately, when he cleaned off the rudder, he noticed a big crack in the skeg.  Oh well – another boat repair in exotic places will be required.

Shortly after our arrival, Al, Sue and Tara from Stout Wench came over for sundowners.  Instead of going to Andros, they had gone to Great Harbor, Berrys but now were down in New Providence so that Tara could fly home from Nassau.

Moray, Al and Tara went into Nassau on the local bus the next day in search of the two part epoxy people suggested would be needed to fix the cracked skeg.  I had planned to have a quiet day on the boat, but shortly after the others left, Sue called me on the radio and said that their boat was dragging the anchor.  I swam over to try to get the anchor to set by diving down, but that didn’t work.  It took us a while as neither of us had ever done this without Al or Moray, but we managed to get the anchor up, move the boat and re-anchor safely.  Sounds silly, I know, but it’s a great feeling when we get to achieve something like that without help.  I’d like to think our guys are pleased that we are learning too!

Our plan had been to wait until Saturday or Sunday to leave West Bay and then head to Highbourne with Stout Wench.  However, the weather forecast looked like it was going to change and we wanted to get out of West Bay, so we left on Friday morning and headed to Highbourne.  We needed to run the watermaker, so we motorsailed all the way.  We didn’t like the look of the first anchorage so we came a little further south.  The Mantus held immediately in the sand, but Moray dove down to check on it.  He came back saying the anchor was fine but that someone had hitched a ride on Sol Purpose – there was a remora clinging to the hull!  Moray swam around for a while and came back with some lovely conch, which he cleaned and I prepared as Loree had showed me.  Delicious!

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Once again, our plans were changed by the weather forecast.  We were going to spend a couple of days in Highbourne but the winds were about to change to northerly which would make for a very uncomfortable stay in that particular anchorage.  So we went into the marina, refueled, watched the resident nurse sharks for a little while and then headed for Saddleback Cay.  The information on it had made it sound perfect for the conditions that we were going to be getting, but we didn’t get a good feeling about it, so we headed back out and continued on down to Norman’s Cay.  There were a few other boats there already, with plenty of space to spare so we dropped anchor.  Norman’s Cay has a checkered history, as it was the base for a drug smuggler.  The wreck of his crashed plane (there are conflicting stories of how it came to end up in the water!) is still there, and is a great snorkeling spot.  We swam over and snorkeled for a while, enjoying the varied fish life.

The next morning, we took the dinghy ashore.  There is a large construction site at the end of the island and on speaking to a couple of the construction workers, we discovered that they are building a new harbour.  It looks lovely, and should be finished in the next few months.  We spent a couple of hours walking around the island, down to Norman’s Pond, and then back to MacDuff’s residence and resort.  There is a really nice bar and grille there, with colonial influence in the décor.  We had a couple of beers there, while chatting with the bartender.  He told us a little of the history of the resort and the owners’ plans to expand, starting with the new harbour.  (A lot of the islands are privately owned, though those with resorts tend to welcome the cruisers to their bars and restaurants!)

The next day, along with several other boats that had arrived during the previous day, we rode out the front.  The upside of strong winds is that our wind generator kicks in and we get to watch movies/TV series!  A Sopranos binge ensued.

The weather forecast was now great, so we pulled up the anchor on January 31st and headed out to Shroud Cay.  There are a couple of anchorages and a mooring field there, but we decided to try out the northern anchorage.  It looked very well protected and gave easy access to a dinghy excursion we had been told about.  It seems that Oopsea, another boat anchored in Norman’s Cay, had the same idea. So we followed them all the way in to the Shroud Cay anchorage.  We both immediately got the dinghies in the water and headed out on the dinghy excursion through the mangroves, up to a stunningly beautiful beach, called Camp Driftwood.  We climbed up the hill to see the amazing views and then back down to the beach, where we swam in the Washing Machine – a cut between two rocks where the current can pull you along very fast.  It’s a bit scary until you remember that the water is about two feet deep and all you need to do is stand up!

We then sat on the beach and chatted with Tom and Cindy, from Oopsea.  It turns out that we have several mutual acquaintances, including Charlie Gaines (Migration), Bob Shoen (Helios) and Mike and Joy (MiJoy)!  They have been to the Exumas before and gave us a lot of good information, including the fact that there was going to be a sailing festival in Little Farmers Cay in a couple of days.

The trip back through the mangroves was interesting, as the tide was much lower and we touched the bottom a couple times.  Luckily, it wasn’t so bad that I had to get out and pull the dinghy!

We decided that we would like to go the festival in Little Farmers Cay, although this would mean bypassing the Exuma Land & Sea Park.  We planned to come back North after the festival and pick up where we left off at Shroud Cay.  We left early on Wednesday morning and by 1:30pm, we were safely anchored in Staniel Cay, close to the Thunderball Grotto.  For the James Bond fans among you, this is the island and grotto used in the movie “Thunderball”, though truth be told, it looks a little different in the movie!  Anyway, as it was about low tide, we decided to dinghy over and snorkel the grotto.  It’s a great experience – there are a couple of holes in the top so the light on the water is really pretty.  Then there are all the fish, including lots of Sergeant Majors, which are accustomed now to being fed, so have absolutely no fear.

Staniel Cay is one of the few places in the Exumas where we are able to dispose of trash, so we walked up to the trash dump, before taking care of one of the more onerous tasks I had to do in the Exumas.  I was lucky enough, back in 2008-2010, to spend time on the Aquacat, a luxurious liveaboard dive boat that operates in the Exumas.  I have kept in touch with several of the people I met on those trips, one being Chris Snell.  When I told him I was going to be in the Exumas, he asked me to have a “Captain & Coke” for him in Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  Now what kind of friend would I be to refuse that request?!

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Here’s looking at you Chris!

I should have stuck with the rum & cokes though – I had a craving for a chilled wine in a real glass – at $16, I think that may be the last one I ever have!

The next morning saw a mass exodus of boats from Staniel Cay, all heading for Little Farmers Cay.  The festival is called the 5 Fs – First Friday in February, Little Farmers’ Festival (I think that’s right).  Bahamian sailors bring their C-Class Sloops in from as far afield as Nassau, on the mailboat.  About 20 of them arrived to compete in the two days of racing.  This is about the biggest event on Little Farmers Cay every year, and they go all out to make it a blast.  On Thursday, the Little Farmers Cay Yacht Club hosted a welcome party for the cruisers who had come to watch the event.  They also said if anyone wanted to help or even race, they would be welcome.  The first day of racing saw absolutely no wind.  That was not only disappointing for the racers, but also for Moray.  He had arranged to race on one of the boats, but with the lack of wind, he was a little too heavy to be of use.  The second day of racing was much better, with great winds, although there was a little rain in the morning, which dampened the enthusiasm of the spectators just a little.  As most people watch the racing from Ty’s Sunset Bar & Grille, though, it didn’t take long for the enthusiasm to return!

Moray took the opportunity to make repairs to the skeg in the morning before the races started on Sunday.  Hopefully the underwater epoxy will hold till we get back to the US.

This is a great event and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering spending their winter cruising the Exumas.

Apart from the racing, Little Farmers Cay is a nice place to visit for a few days.  The anchorage is huge (but just be aware that the airplanes fly very low over the anchorage on their approach, so choose your spot carefully!), and there are several beaches where you can safely land your dinghy.  The island is privately owned by the descendants of just one family, so everywhere you go there is a business owned by someone called Nixon!  I have already mentioned Ty’s, which is a fabulous beach bar and grill.  They have fantastic views of the sunset, great prices on drinks, reasonably priced, plentiful and very tasty food (including conch pulled right out of the water and prepared on demand), and satellite TV, where we gathered to watch the Superbowl.  If you can’t be at the game itself, there are a lot worse things than watching the game on the beach in the Bahamas!

Crossing over the island brings you to the Little Harbour, where you can watch the local fishermen clean their catches, prepare conch salad etc.  There is a great bar at the end of the harbour, where you can dance the night away, a couple of places to eat and some places to purchase local crafts.  A little farther on you will find the Ocean Cabin restaurant, and a grocery store, which had very reasonable prices.

Little Farmers Cay is outside the Exumas Land & Sea Park, so fishing is permitted.  Moray took the opportunity to try his hand at fishing with the pole spear, and came back with dinner!  It took him 40 minutes to catch it as it pulled off the spear first time he shot it and then he had to track it from under one coral to another before he finally got the shot that held. I still need a lot of practice at cleaning fish but we had a very tasty dinner of fish steamed on the grill, with potatoes and peas!

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A 2lb mutton snapper that didn’t get away.

After a great few days in Little Farmers Cay, we started our trip back north to get to the Park.  The winds were favorable and we were able to fly the code 0 for the first time.

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flying the Scottish colors

Our first stop was Blackpoint, not because it is in the Park, but because it has a laundromat!  We hand wash most things quite successfully, but it was nice to be able to get towels and sheets into a washing machine and dryer!

After a successful laundry trip and a night at Blackpoint, we set off for Warderick Wells, where the headquarters of the Land & Sea Park are based.  We anchored outside the Emerald Rock mooring field, and took the dinghy in to the office to pick up maps of the trails and good snorkeling spots.  Then, we headed off to snorkel – there were lots of fish, of several varieties, but the highlight has to have been the two spotted eagle rays, which just cruised past us without a care in the world!

On Wednesday morning, we headed back ashore and hiked part of the south side of the island.  The beaches and the views were absolutely stunning, and we managed to find a piece of driftwood – more of that later.  Unfortunately, it was the end of the line for my 25+ year old hiking boots.

After a quick trip to pick up snorkeling gear, we headed out to the Malabar Cays to snorkel.  Again, there was abundant fish life, including an enormous barracuda, just hanging out around the coral heads.  After snorkeling there for a while we went back to Emerald Rock, to look at the coral heads there.  One was absolutely wonderful. It was a cleaning station, where a grouper was being groomed when we arrived.  He swam off shortly after our arrival, to be immediately replaced by a southern stingray.  Floating on the surface, watching this all go on less than an arm’s length away was amazing.

Now back to that driftwood – the Land & Sea Park is a nature preserve.  You cannot fish here, nor can you take away anything – even shells or dead sponges etc.  Most of all, you can’t leave anything here.  The one exception to this rule is Boo Boo Hill.  The legend goes that a ship was wrecked here and all souls aboard were lost.  You can still hear the wailing of the ghosts (Boo Boo) from the hill.  The tradition has evolved that sailors make an offering to the sea gods at Boo Boo Hill, which means leaving a sign, made using driftwood, showing your boat’s name, crew members, date etc.  We brought our piece of driftwood back to the boat, and Moray, the engineer, revealed an artistic side I never knew existed!  On Thursday morning, we headed back to shore, driftwood in hand, to hike up to Boo Boo Hill and make our offering.

Thursday afternoon, we decided to move a little closer to shore, as yet another weather front was moving in, and then spent a rare afternoon of reading.

Today is Friday, and as the wind is strong, we are hanging out on the boat.  As I mentioned before, having strong winds and being unable to go ashore is not a bad thing.  We have sufficient power to run the watermaker, without using diesel to run the motor, so that’s a plus.  We have sufficient power for me to use the computer to write the blog (though we don’t have an internet connection, so it may be a few days before it gets posted!).

After nine months of cruising, all of which has been interesting, and mostly enjoyable, we are finally sitting on our boat, looking at paradise and realizing that we wouldn’t change a thing – we are the luckiest people in the world!

Boot Key – highs and lows

Our time here in Boot Key Harbor has brought both high points and low points.  In the week following Christmas, we visited Key West twice.  There is a great bus service that charges $4 for the two hour ride from Marathon to Key West.  The first time we took the bus, there were several people from the Marina headed down there, along with lots of locals heading to work.  One woman seemed thoroughly enamored with Moray, much to the amusement of several of the bus riders!  We visited the Wreckers’ Museum, which was really interesting, and then the most southernmost point of the continental USA (although a quick study of the map of the area shows there is a slightly more Southerly point, just not accessible to the public :))

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View of Key West from the lookout tower above the Wreckers’ Museum

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most Southernmost point of the continental USA (almost!)

We then started out on a Duval Street pub crawl.  If you ever decide to do this, beware – there are a LOT of bars on Duval Street!!!  So much so, we went back on New Year’s Eve to do Pub Crawl, Part Deux!

We finished that evening on the balcony opposite the Bourbon Street Bar, watching some great entertainment culminating with Sushi, the drag queen, dropping from the balcony down to the street, in a huge ruby slipper!  Awesome!!!

Unfortunately, as with most things in life, you have to pay the piper.  For us, this took the form of the 2 hour bus back to the marina with a host of other revelers.  It was actually quite entertaining 🙂

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The boating community here in Marathon is amazing.  Every morning, we start our day listening to the boaters’ net, where the community welcomes new arrivals, says bon voyage to departing boats, people can ask for help, trade stuff, find out what is happening around the area etc.  We have been to a talk on sailing to the Bahamas, which was very helpful, met lots of people while sitting up in the boaters’ lounge, got involved in taking hurricane relief supplies over to Andros – all very interesting.

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Bahamas briefing

There have been some low points, however.  One task that has been on Moray’s list for a while is to convert a water tank to a diesel tank.  Our Caliber is one of the older ones, and had two large water tanks, but only one small diesel tank.  60 gallons of diesel has been fine so far, but when we want to venture further afield, we wanted to have more.  Now that we have a watermaker, the plan was to convert the second water tank to a diesel tank, bring our fuel capacity up to 140 gallons.  The plan was all going great, and all the parts were ordered.  Then, after transferring some diesel to the new tank, we discovered that there is a pinhole leak in the tank, which basically put paid to that plan.  We had to quickly transfer the diesel back to the old tank from the “new” one before the small amount that made it into the bilge was enough to get it pumped overboard.  Within 2 hours we were back to our original situation and all diesel cleaned up and taken to the fuel dump station a the marina.  We will have to revisit the situation and see if there is an affordable alternative solution at a later date.

The other REALLY frustrating issue has been the ongoing saga of the non-working iPhone.  Moray has spent countless hours on-line with Apple, visiting two different AT&T stores, and still we can’t get the phone to work.  If we come to shore, we can make calls using Skype, but we can’t receive calls, and once we get back to the boat, we are off-line completely.  Still working on this issue, luckily some friends back in Texas have been good enough to offer to send us old phones and we are waiting on one of those to arrive before e head across to the Bahamas.

Although both of these issues have been incredibly frustrating, the fact that we are pursuing our dreams is not lost on us and quick slap upside the head usually brings that back into focus.

Last Sunday we went down to Key West, probably for the last time, to have brunch at the Hot Tin Roof.  This is a very nice restaurant which Moray’s family bought us a gift voucher to dine at for our Christmas.  All I can say is WOW!  The food was fantastic and kept coming till we said enough.  There were also bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s which you could make up yourself from a Bloody Mary bar.

When we go over to the Bahamas we will first check in at Morgan’s Bluff on Andros.  Andros was the most heavily hit island in the Bahamas when Matthew came through.  It is still struggling with the rebuild and so we will be taking disaster relief building supplies and other items with us from Marathon.  We would like to raise $1,000 to buy supplies.  We will personally contribute $200 and so we are looking for another $800 to reach our goal.  We have started a GoFundMe page so people can donate to the cause.  If you or anyone you know is willing and able to contribute, it would be greatly appreciated.  We have so far managed to raise $410 and will close down the page at the start of next week to give us time to purchase all the supplies.  The link is below…

https://www.gofundme.com/andros-hurricane-relief-fund

Over the next week we will finish off a couple more projects on the boat, buy the supplies for Andros and the boat and wait for the first good weather window.  It looks like that might not be till Thursday of next week but we will have to see how that pans out.  Hopefully our next post will be from somewhere in the Exumas!

Christmas in the Keys

It seems like a long time since I wrote last, and so much has happened!

First of all, there was Moray’s birthday.  We started the celebrations with a trip on a little ferry boat along the parts of the river we can’t reach because the bridges are too low for our mast.  It was a lovely trip and we enjoyed the scenery, the commentary and the beautiful sunset.  Once back, we headed out to meet up with Clare, Bob, Jeanne and Dale, for a birthday dinner at Morgan’s Tavern and Grill, followed by drinks at Prohibition.  Moray thoroughly enjoyed his birthday, so thanks to everyone who helped make it so great.  I must also add that he is one spoiled man, because he had birthday dinner round 2 a couple of days later, when Joy and Tom (who had been out of town on the big day itself) took us for dinner and drinks!

Next came Thanksgiving.  Beth and Dave who were our neighbors on B dock, arranged and hosted a wonderful dock Thanksgiving lunch.  About 10 people came to the pot luck dinner, and the fun and discussions went on late into the night!

Now we started watching the weather so that we could plan our journey southwards.  We wanted to leave in the first week in December so we spent the days after Thanksgiving finishing up the last few “must-do” tasks, such as cleaning, compound and waxing the boat, getting the bottom of the boat cleaned, restocking the fridge and freezer etc.

We had a pre-Christmas/see-you-soon dinner on board Sol Purpose with Bob, Clare, Tom and Joy, with Christmas stockings, food and wine!  These four people were so great to us in New Bern, lending us their cars, showing us around, and basically being around when we needed them.  Good friends, indeed, and we are very lucky to know them.

New Bern had been a very good choice of place to stay to carry out the list of projects that we had to do before heading South.  There was much to do and the complete list of tasks that were completed were…

  1. Compounded and waxed boat – topsides and cabin top
  2. Cleaned all stainless
  3. Stripped, cleaned and oiled all teak
  4. Overhauled galley sink (new faucet, new spouts for foot pump and water maker, new drains and plumbing)
  5. Made new fridge shelf to accommodate new drop in storage containers
  6. Fitted new Davis windex and GWS10 wind vane
  7. Sewed on new leather patches on dodger to stop chafing on cabin top hand rails
  8. Made a mast boot cover from Sunbrella to protect from UV damage
  9. Moved stern light above bimini to allow visibility when dinghy is lifted in davits
  10. Replaced panel labels to suit new equipment installations
  11. Replaced all bow sprit attachment bolts due to crevice corrosion
  12. Had new stronger bobstay attachment fabricated due to metal fatigue of old one
  13. Replaced undersized holding tank vent with larger vent
  14. Replaced all snaprite fasteners on all hatches for new covers
  15. Serviced and repaired all friction levers for hatch hinges
  16. Replaced acetal gear and bearing in DuoGen3 wind generator
  17. Replaced 3 cigarette lighter outlets with PowerWerkz dual USB outlets
  18. Replaced prop zincs and cleaned the bottom of boat
  19. Deep clean all cupboards and storage spaces
  20. Added snaprite tabs to seal rear enclosure properly at base

Wednesday, December 7th was the day of departure.  The plan was to go to Morehead City to refuel, and then to make the decision whether to anchor that night and head on out, or to just keep going, pulling in as and when the weather dictated.  We made really good time getting down to Morehead City, so decided that we would carry on and make an offshore run down to Jacksonville after we refueled.  We motored as far as Cape Fear, and then turned closer to shore.  That way we were more protected and could take advantage of the winds when we turned to head southward.  The original plan was to stop at Big Bay and Jacksonville, to rest for the night and refuel, but the weather was so good, we were able to sail all the way.  We decided to carry on to the Fort Pierce Inlet, but when we were approaching Cape Canaveral, the winds were picking up (high 20 knots) and the seas were getting a little rough on the beam with the waves getting up to 7ft.  Rather than fight our way on down to Fort Pierce, we decided to come in at Cape Canaveral and take the ICW on down to Stuart.  We came in through the Cape Canaveral Inlet at dawn, along with two cruise ships, and made our way through the first opening of the bascule bridge and lock.  Then it was a steady journey down the ICW to Vero Beach, where we anchored and settled down for the first full night’s sleep in five days!

On Monday, we set out for the 30 mile or so run down to Stuart.  We called Sunset Marina where we had stayed on our northbound journey, but they were full.  So we called and found a slip in Mariners Cay Marina, just off the ICW in Port Salerno.  The entrance is a little shallow, but we took it steadily and got in and tied off safely.   Once docked, we called Mack Sails to let them know we had arrived.  The reason for coming to this town was to pick up the sails we had ordered back in June, and Moray was so excited to be getting this early Christmas present for the boat!  John and Richard from Mack Sails arrived shortly afterwards, bringing with them the new genoa, staysail and mainsail.  They also went up the mast to make a template for the masthead as it will now need to support a code zero.  That would take a couple of days to fabricate, so we arranged with the Marina to stay a few extra days, and then headed off to the Manatee Island Bar & Grill, to sample the Happy Hour menu.  It was their Trivia Night, so we stayed for that, which was a lot of fun!

In the morning, I took advantage of the marina’s laundry facilities, while Moray worked on a couple of tasks on the boat.  Richard and John came back to install the first three sails and take another look at the masthead, as it looked as though a Plan B would be needed.  We also ordered a couple of things, to be sent to the Port Salerno Post Office.  This would be the first time we had used the General Delivery Service offered by the Post Office, and I was a little concerned but it all worked out perfectly.  We will definitely use that again, whenever we are in the US.

Wednesday was a lazy day, but on Thursday, Mack Sails came by to fit the new masthead plate and Code 0.

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The new mast head plate in the background with anemometer, wind vane and masthead light already attached.  Note the block for the Code 0 halyard.  The old mast head plate is the small dark piece in the foreground.

 

Now all we needed was to set off, with good winds to test everything!  I picked up the mail at the Post Office, got a few groceries and we were all set.

Friday, December 16 we set out early, hoping to get as far as DelRay to meet up with Charlie Gaines on Migration.  There would be a lot of bridges to time so we set out as soon as we were able to refuel.  Much to Moray’s dismay, we weren’t able to test out the new sails, but it was a pleasant trip.  During the day, Charlie contacted us to let us know that he would be staying one more day in West Palm Beach, so we arrived early afternoon.  We anchored right in the heart of West Palm Beach, and immediately Charlie came over to say hello.  After a quick chat, we arranged to meet later for beer and pizza.  We had a great night out in WPB, especially looking at the Christmas decorations all made of sand.

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West Palm Beach sand castle Christmas Tree

 

When Charlie took us back to Sol Purpose, we realized that we were not moving the same way as a neighboring boat based on current and wind, so we had to move due to our proximity to them.  It took a couple of tries to reset the anchor, but eventually we did it.  We were still not confident about the current/wind situation so it was a long night!  Luckily, we had decided with Charlie and Bob, on Helios, to set out early in the morning to catch the 7:30 bridge opening and start heading toward Fort Lauderdale.

Next day, as planned, we started out in time for the 7:30 bridge opening.  As Charlie and Bob were both single handed, we took the lead and set the pace for the bridge openings.  However, after a couple of hours, Bob let us know that his engine was overheating.  We were close to DelRay, so we decided to stop there for the night to give him a chance to investigate the issue.  Sol Purpose went ahead at the last bridge to scope out the possible anchorage.  We were the only boat, so there would be plenty of room for all three of us.  (By the end of the day there would be another two boats join us!).  I settled in the cockpit with a book while Bob and Charlie started investigating the engine issue.  After ruling out a couple of possibilities such as impeller, Bob changed out the thermostat.  Once again, we made our plan to leave early the next day and make our run down to Lake Sylvia, Fort Lauderdale, where Helios and Migration would rendezvous with 2 Outrageous, some Canadian friends, and would leave us and head for the Bahamas.

On Sunday, we left in time to make the 8:30am bridge opening, once again with Sol Purpose setting the pace.  Bob’s engine problem seemed to be fixed so we motored on, arriving at Lake Sylvia anchorage at about 1:45pm.  On the way we saw the most extravagant Christmas light installation we have seen to date on a residential home.

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there was a Santa and reindeers on the roof and veranda as well as 5 or 6 other festive scenes!

 

Both Helios and Sol Purpose anchored and then decided to move, but eventually we were all settled in.  We had a nice evening, calling relatives in the UK, watching the sunset and then the cruise ships headed out to the Bahamas.

The next day, we said our goodbyes to Helios and Migration, and headed out of the ICW, through the Port Everglades Inlet and started south for Miami.  It was a beautiful day and finally we got to use the new sails!

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Mmmmhhmmm, new sails 🙂

 

We made good time and by 1pm we were pulling in to the anchorage outside No Name Harbor.  At that time there were only two other boats there so we were able to pick and choose our spot.  Once anchored safely, we both went for a swim – in December – that’s what we were looking for!

The next morning, we got an early start and headed down through the Keys, arriving at Rodriguez Key at around 2:30pm.  We had the best day of sailing, with all three new sails fully deployed.  Awesome!  Once again, we went for an afternoon swim before relaxing with sundowners in the cockpit.

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stogies and sundowners

 

One last early start for a few weeks!  We set out at about 7:30am from Rodriguez for Boot Key Harbor in Marathon Key.  Once again we were motorsailing, but suddenly we heard a nasty vibration from the engine.  We immediately switched off the motor, and under sail headed in to Tavernier Key and dropped anchor.  Moray jumped in to take a look and pulled about 5lbs of seaweed off the prop!  Thank goodness that was all!  We set off again, and had a great day of sailing down to Boot Key.  As expected, on arrival we found that there was already a waiting list for the mooring balls, but we found a pretty good spot to anchor, dinghied in, and signed up for the waiting list.  Our initial impression is that Marathon Key is going to be a great place to hang out for the next few weeks!

The next day was mostly taken up with walking around to find out where everything is, and signing up for the Boot Key Harbor Pot Luck Christmas lunch!

Unfortunately, on Friday, most of Moray’s day was spent on the computer with Apple, trying to get our phone to work – it stopped working when we ran the iOS update 😦  I kept him company in the boater’s lounge, and occupied my time doing a jigsaw puzzle.  Not only was it a lot of fun, I got to meet lots of people who stopped by to help me.

On Saturday it was more of the same for Moray, I’m afraid, to no avail.  I finished up the jigsaw in the morning.

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750 pieces, called Mountains of Fire.  Next up, 1000 piece called Florida Keys.

 

For me, as for most people, this was the final Christmas shopping day, followed by wrapping gifts.  While we sat in the cockpit, enjoying our Christmas Eve sundowners, a couple of highly decorated boats made the rounds of the marinas and anchorages, which really put us all in the festive spirit.

Sunday. SANTA CAME TO SOL PURPOSE!!!!!!  In case you were worried, neither the local dive store nor West Marine will be going out of business any time soon!  After a relaxing morning of coffee, bacon sandwiches and present opening, we headed over to the boaters’ lounge to share a pot luck Christmas lunch.  About 130 people attended and the variety of dishes was amazing!  We met several boaters, most of whom are heading to the Bahamas soon, so we are looking forward to meeting up with them over there.

We expect to be here for another 10-14 days and will take in New Year’s in Key West.  There are 3 ball drop equivalents that take place in Key West…

  1. The Shoe Drop at the Bourbon Street Pub which is, well, exactly what it sounds like, featuring a 6 foot tall high heel, carrying a drag queen by the name of Sushi descending from the roof of the pub.
  2. Another unusual “drop” takes place at the famous Sloppy Joe’s bar on Duval Street, where their emblem of choice is a conch shell.
  3. The final act is the not really politically correct Wench Drop, which sees a pirate’s wench lowered from the mast of a schooner moored in the Key’s Historic Seaport.

At this time, we have not decided which one to attend but we are leaning towards Sushi in Heels 🙂

End to End Issues

One of the projects we had set aside for New Bern was to  move the stern light.  The original position was on the pushpit just to port of the stern walk through.

new-bern2-012

This was fine until you lifted the dinghy up in the davits.  The dinghy ended up at the exact height of the light and this caused 2 problems; the light could not be seen by other ships at night and the reflected light ruined night vision in the cockpit.

After some consideration, I decided to move the light above the bimini, where the flag pole was mounted.  It came out of the solar panel supporting framework.  I would cut the flag pole and attach some angled stainless plate to act as a light shield so that the light would not hit any equipment that hung off the back of the boat.  After cutting the flag pole, I cut out some cardboard, folded it and attached it to the pole.  With the light temporarily affixed I was able to shape the cardboard to ensure that no light hit the boat and it could still be seen by other boats even when we were heeled over.  I found a guy called the GrillMan who custom makes grills so I got out the bike and make the 17 mile round trip to see him.  I provided the flag pole stub and the cardboard and he told me it would take a week to make.

While the piece was being fabricated I pulled the old wiring out of the pushpit tubing and ran new cable from the breaker panel, through the pushpit tubing and up the outside of the solar panel framework to the lights new position.  For the return trip to pick up the new mount I borrowed a friends car, luckily we have good friends where this is sometimes an option 🙂

The pictures below show the final installation.

Now for the other end of the boat 😦

While Debbie was polishing the stainless she noticed that one of the bolts that held the bowsprit on was missing its head.  After inspection it was obvious that crevice corrosion had caused it to fail and fall off.  I decided to replace all six bolts that held on the bowsprit just to be safe.  I had to replace the bolts one at a time as the standing rigging was still fully tensioned.  Debbie’s keen eyesight had possibly saved the day as 4 of the 6 bolts had crevice corrosion that was so bad that the bold heads snapped off with almost no effort while trying to loosen them.

new-bern3-001

crevice corrosion on 4 of the 6 bolts

Now I became concerned about the bobstay attachment fitting on the bow just above the waterline as the same bolts were used there. The bobstay is a part of the rigging which counteracts the upward tension on the bowsprit from the jib and forestay.

new-bern2-023

bobstay attachment fitting with bobstay rod going up to the bowsprit

I slackened off the backstays and forestay so that there was no tension on the bobstay and then removed fitting.  Three of the four bolts that held it on were in good condition and the fourth had a small amount of crevice corrosion but not enough to be of any real concern.

new-bern2-001

I bought all new bolts and washers just to be safe.  I then cleaned up the bow to remove all old sealant and check the fiberglass was all OK.

While polishing the bobstay attachment fitting prior to refitting, I noticed that there was stress cracking around the tang which the bobstay attached to.

As I could not tell how long it would be till this sort of issue caused a failure I decided to replace the fitting.  It is not an of the shelf item and therefore I cycled back to see Chris at GrillMan to get a new one fabricated.  To ensure it would not happen again, I decided to beef up the specifications.  I went from a 1/8″ thickness backing plate to a 1/4″ plate.  I also up-sized the tang from 3/8″ to 1/2″ thickness.  The end of the bobstay rod had space to allow the thicker tang.

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old fitting showing available space

Chris had the new fitting made in three days so bike ride number three was undertaken.  The old and new fitting can be seen side by side as a comparison.

It was then time to reinstall the new fitting.  It was through bolted to the hull.  Just to make the task that much more enjoyable, the space behind the hull is the holding tank for the forward head… yaay!!!  I had to reach down through a 4″ inspection hatch to get to the nuts at the back of the fitting at the bottom of the tank.  This involved getting my arm in the tank up to my armpit.  I volunteered to hold the wrench on the bolt heads on the outside but Debbie suggested that if I wanted her help I might want to let her take on that role.

After liberally applying sealant to all the bolts the job went relatively smoothly.  Now we have all new fasteners supporting the rigging at the front of the boat and a little more peace of mind.

The First 6 Months

Wow – I can’t believe it, but it’s been 6 months to the day since we left Waterford Harbor Marina to start our cruising life.  We have been having a blast and have not regretted the decision to quit our jobs and start cruising.  However, it has not all been as we expected, and although we are working on being relaxed retirees, we are still an engineer and an accountant, so we can’t escape our desire for facts and spreadsheets completely!  I thought I would put together a few facts, figures and observations about our first 6 months, which you may find interesting and potentially useful if you are thinking of taking off cruising in the not-too-distant future.

Where we have been

When we set out, we planned to anchor out as much as possible.  At the beginning of our trip, this didn’t work out quite as planned because the outboard for the dinghy wasn’t working, so we had to stay in marinas.  The outboard was eventually fixed while we were in Stuart, FL, and after that we were able to start anchoring much more.  This was great from a financial standpoint, of course, but more important, it gave us the freedom to stop where we wanted and enjoy the scenery and solitude.  When we have stayed in marinas since Stuart, it has been for specific reasons, such as my stay in Halifax, where I didn’t want to be at anchor alone, or Baltimore, to hide from Matthew, or New Bern, to carry out projects on Sol Purpose.  One thing we have learned is to study Active Captain, Cruising Guides, local websites etc. for free places to stay.  It’s amazing how many places there are, and whenever we have used them we have commented in our blog.

Here is the breakdown of how we spent the first 184 nights:

Overnight travel 26
At anchor 62
Free marina/moorings 14
Moorings 11
Marinas 71
184

When I sat down and read back through the logbook of the first 6 months, I could not believe how far and how many places we have been in such a short time – 5,161 miles, 2 countries, 14 states, 45 different anchorages/marinas.  Each state has something different to offer, and we have enjoyed the changing scenery as we traveled up and down the coast.  However, one thing has been the same wherever we have been and that is the welcome we have received, both from the boating community and the people in the  towns we have visited.   The link below shows the route of Sol Purpose since we left Kemah, TX.

Route so far

The Bottom Line

We really had no idea what we would be spending when we left, but we set up a tentative budget of $3,000 per month.  So far that has proved to be a gross underestimate!

First of all, we have had to make a lot more repairs to the boat than we had anticipated, but we are not too disheartened.  This is the first time that Sol Purpose has really been put through her paces, and it was inevitable that repairs would be needed.  We fully expect that moving forward, we should for the most part be looking at routine maintenance, rather than the major repairs we have had to make so far.  (Fingers crossed, anyway !).

Second, we really need to work on the eating out category!  Unfortunately, we both like to eat well and to hang out in the local bars – it’s a great way to meet people!  As you can see below, we need to curb that spending, but we are working on it.  As time goes on, I am getting better used to cooking in a small galley, and I’m now even baking bread etc!  I’m working on the numbers being much better when I prepare a report in 6 months’ time – who knows, maybe we could even lose a little weight if we eat out less!

The third expense which has been horrendous is the medical insurance.  We’re not sure what that will cost us next year – still checking out the options (see below).

I don’t really like to share details of my expenses, but in the hope that it will help others, here goes:

Category 5/12/16- 6/1/16- 7/1/16- 8/1/16- 9/1/16- 10/1/16- 11/1/16-
5/31/16 6/30/16 7/31/16 8/31/16 9/30/16 10/31/16 11/12/16
Fuel 527.96 317.19 154.65 193.81 381.50 48.91
Insure Boat 2,564.80
Registration 26.00
Other Boat 111.73 1,981.97 1.95 115.26 220.60 929.74 163.32
Dining 171.36 646.18 890.38 787.98 328.21 370.63 148.01
Ent. & leisure 270.51 930.64 812.30 395.57 249.09 650.64
Groceries 533.00 417.52 801.87 806.71 819.51 599.73 422.22
Household 101.78 83.31 256.87 90.12 97.36 560.47 92.00
Medical 1,057.18 701.33 713.51 721.33 691.77
Misc. 137.12 59.00 10.85
Travel to UK 288.09 74.52
Slip fees 709.30 448.90 310.00 746.24 510.00 607.95
Telephone 149.28 69.14 69.21 69.25 76.71 80.24 8.50
TOTAL 2,574.92 6,089.15 6,910.45 4,003.82 3,404.31 4,566.08 834.05

Useful information (I hope)

Healthcare:  we both worked  for the first quarter of the year, and so weren’t eligible for premium tax credits against the cost of health insurance.  That’s the way it is, so I wasn’t too bothered.  But when I discovered that I could not use my insurance anywhere outside Texas, I wasn’t best pleased.  My fault, as I should have studied the policy better before signing up.  However, I thought that things would improve in 2017, when we could buy a multi-state policy, and would be eligible for premium tax credits.  Now we run into one of the disadvantages of leaving when still of “working age” and being Texas residents – as we are living off savings, we have very little actual income, so fall below the income threshold to get credits.  Texas doesn’t give Medicaid to people of working age who have no children, so basically, we have to pay the full premium.  Added to that, the so-called Multi-state policies rarely cover you in more than one state (yes, please explain that to me!)  Ah well, at least we are exempt from the tax penalty if we don’t have coverage!  Now, no political discussion is being invited here – I’m just setting out the facts in case anyone is thinking of taking off and hasn’t thought about the healthcare implications.

Fuel:  we had romantic dreams of lazy days, with the sails set and just speeding along.  Yep – not so much!  Most days there has been not enough wind, too much wind, or just the right amount but blowing in the wrong direction!  On talking with other cruisers, we find that we were not alone in this discovery.  It’s not too bad, as we are rarely in a huge hurry to get anywhere, but please be aware, future cruisers, that you will need to factor in a larger budget for fuel than you probably were thinking.

Relationships:  I don’t care how close you think your relationship is, be aware that a sailboat is a very small space to live in!  The smallest, most trivial matter can get blown up out of all proportion when there is no way of walking away.  Take every opportunity to have some alone time or, even better, some “with someone other than each other” time!  I am not a big shopper, but I have been very fortunate to have cruising friends to have a “girls’ day out” with from time to time!  Remember why you chose to live this life, with this particular person, and you’ll realize just how lucky you are.

Well, on that note, I’ll sign off.  More baking to be done…..

Boat Projects in New Bern

Monday, October 10th – Tuesday, October 11th, 2016:  after several days of watching the weather and checking to see whether the ICW had been re-opened, we decided to start the trip towards New Bern.  After refueling, we sailed out, past the Zumwalt, which was in Baltimore for Fleet Week, past Fort McHenry and into the Chesapeake.  Given that the Annapolis Boat Show was just finishing, the weather was finally good, and the ICW had re-opened, we thought that there would be a lot of boats, but there were surprisingly few.  We made steady progress towards Portsmouth, with only one minor detour when we passed two army vessels at around 1am, who were concerned that we were too close to them.  So we changed course to pass 1 mile away from them, rather than the 0.9 mile distance we would have previously been!  Other than that, it was a pleasant, easy trip down to Portsmouth.  The approach was interesting, as there were several naval vessels heading out for a training exercise, and there was lots of radio communication between them and the various pleasure craft that were in the area.  We saw two submarines (well, just a little bit of the submarines!), and several other naval vessels as we came into the Portsmouth/Norfolk area.  Our plan was to go down as far as the free docks, where we hoped to stay, but thought we would be unlikely to find a space, so we carefully checked out the anchorages on the way.  Seeing that they were mostly empty, we continued on to the free dock where we were very happy to find one free space.  The people from two of the other boats came out to help us in, and while I started on dinner, Moray chatted with them.  The two boats were from Canada, and were travelling down to Florida.  One, Jimmy’s Junk, had started out with two sailors, but for various reasons was now being single-handed.  The other was Wonona, being crewed by Beatrice and Luc.  They were planning on leaving the next morning, and although we had originally planned to stay a couple of nights, we decided to go with them.

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016:  At 7:30am, our little convoy set off to start the journey down the ICW.  Our progress wasn’t too good, but we kept up with the other two boats, and made it to the Great Bridge Lock for the 9:30am opening.  This was the first time we had seen a lot of other boats, and the lock was absolutely full to capacity.  We were sent to the north side of the lock, which generally isn’t quite so good, as it is concrete, and requires a lot of fenders, but on this occasion, it turned out that this was the best side to be.  Once everyone was tied off and the gates were closed, the lockkeeper came along the north side, handing out Halloween candy!  The people on the south side may have got the safe bumpers, but they had to watch us eating the candy!!!!

As we departed from the lock, Moray realized there was something very wrong so after clearing the swing bridge, we stopped and tied off to the dock.  Moray got in the cold, disgusting, brown water and went under the boat to look at the prop.  He came back up with a piece of rope that had been wrapped tightly round it.

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That taken care of, we set off again.  By now, our two travelling companions were nowhere to be seen, so we just kept on going towards Broad Creek, where we planned to anchor for the night.  We kept an eye open for debris, but there was relatively little, so we were able to enjoy the lovely day, and the beautiful scenery.  As we approached Coinjock, we could see that this was where all the powerboats that had been with us in the lock, or passed us afterwards, were planning to spend the night.  We kept on going, and saw two sailboats pulling out from the fuel dock – it was Jimmy’s Junk and Wonona!  Reunited with our convoy, we travelled the last few miles down to Broad Creek, where we found a couple of other boats already anchored, one being Stephanie Dawn, who we had last seen in Cape May!

Thursday, October 13th, 2016:  the plan for the day was to travel to Belhaven.  This was a long passage for one day, so we set out at 6:30am, along with Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk.  There was a steady stream of traffic, but nothing too bad, but the amount of debris was noticeably higher than the previous couple of days.  We also saw a boat come very close to hitting the Wilkerson Bridge, because the water was higher, reducing the 65ft clearance to about 63ft!  He made it through, but I’m not sure if his antenna was undamaged, judging from the scraping sounds!  After a long day, we got to Belhaven anchorage at around 5:40pm.  Once everyone was anchored safely, we dropped the dinghy into the water and picked up the others to go ashore for a couple of drinks.  Jimmy, who was single-handing his boat, really needed a break – he has no autopilot, so had been unable to leave the cockpit for more than a few seconds at a time.  Not the most comfortable day for him L .  We headed to the Tavern at Jack’s Neck, where the manager greeted us eagerly, stating that he had thought Richard Branson was with us J  until that point we hadn’t realized how much Jimmy looked like Richard Branson, but he was right!  While we were sitting with our drinks, and chatting, a lady from the Chamber of Commerce came over to our table with goodie bags for each boat, and welcomed us to Belhaven!  And although we didn’t order any food, the manager came by with a pizza for us – on the house.  What a great town!

Friday, October 14th, 2016:  Wonona and Jimmy’s Junk left bright and early the next morning, as they wanted to continue their journey to Florida as fast as possible.  We slept in a little and headed out at around 8:30am towards New Bern.  On the way we passed several wrecks, where people had tried to pass through but had not paid attention to chart depths.  This was not a result of Matthew.

 

We were planning on spending the night in an anchorage about 20 miles before New Bern, called Hancock Creek, but we made good time and found another anchorage which looked more protected and was only 8 miles from New Bern.  There was a possibility that there would be some flooding issues, and we wanted to be somewhere we could have more room, with better holding, and Broad Creek definitely fit the bill.  It was an inlet off the side of the River Neuse, very wide and relatively deep, and surrounded by tree lined banks.  We anchored and spent a very comfortable night at anchor.

Saturday, October 15th, 2016:  as we only had 8 miles to go, we got a later start, and set off around 9:30am.  It was a pretty day, and we travelled slowly up the Neuse River, enjoying the sights.  Once under the Alfred Cunningham Bridge, we called the bridge keeper to request an opening for the bascule bridge, and came into New Bern Grand Marina at around 11am.  We settled into a slip and went to register with the marina that will be home for about the next month.  I took a quick look at the Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday morning, while Moray checked out the marina.  Tom and Joy on Belle Ile, which had been travelling about a day behind us, arrived today, much to Joy’s relief.  She had hurt her knee back in Maine, and had a doctor’s appointment in New Bern on Monday, October 17th.  With the weather and ICW closures, she had been worried that she wouldn’t make it, but Tom did a great job and they made it!

Sunday, October 16th – Tuesday, November 2nd, 2016:  our slip was great but only had a 30 amp power supply.  This meant we had shore power but no air conditioning.  Moray checked with the dock master who found another slip, opposite ours, with 50 amp power, so we moved the boat.  As we are planning to be here for a while, the additional power, and ability to run the air conditioning or heating, will be a blessing.

One of the reasons for spending a month here is to work on various repairs or improvements that we have discovered we need to make.  The first was to get the windex and anemometer replaced.  We had ordered the parts online and they were waiting for us when we arrived at the marina, so I winched Moray up the mast where he removed the mast cap complete with the broken parts.  On our journey here, the mainsail had been furled badly and was now stuck in the mast, so he worked on getting that released on his way down the mast.  He managed to release part of it, but by this time had spent a long time in the Bosun’s Chair, so it was my turn.  I brought him down to the deck and we swapped roles.  A combination of furling and unfurling the sail, while I pulled on it from the mast, finally released the whole sail and we were able to furl it in tidily and tightly.  The next day, after the new parts had all been fitted to the mast cap, Moray went back to the top of the mast, installed the new wind instruments and we are back in business!

My main tasks while we are here involve cleaning the boat.  I finished off the removal of the varnish from the teak, so that I can clean the teak and treat it rather than re-varnish.  The companionway will be re-varnished, but that is a small amount to have to work on in the future!  I am partway through cleaning all the stainless steel, which despite its name, starts to show rust patches after almost 6 months!  I am also making slow by steady progress on cleaning the cabins and galley, which get moldy and damp after time without air conditioning.  It’s a good opportunity also, to empty out the cabinets and reorganize/get rid of/repair items that have been stuffed into any available space for the last few months.  I also took the opportunity to do a little baking

new-bern-2-001Moray’s tasks include replacing a fridge shelf (the original broke during a storm when the contents got thrown around and cracked it), replacing the galley faucet, fixing the drive gear on the wind generator, moving the stern light, replacing the hatch covers and compounding and waxing the boat.  I think I got the easy tasks!

It’s not all work though!  New Bern is a great little town, very friendly and welcoming.  Bob and Clare, on Sofira, and Tom and Joy, on Belle Ile have been here many times, and have shown us around.  (They both have cars here, so they have been wonderful in taking us shopping etc. – thank you, thank you!).

Another thing about New Bern – it loves Halloween!   I went with Joy to a “lunch & learn” at the Tryon Palace Museum, to learn about the witch trials of North Carolina.  Then, Bob & Clare took us to a Halloween party at a friend’s house.  The four of us had about 30 minutes’ notice to get costumes together, but we didn’t do too badly!  Bob went as a lobster fisherman, Moray as a Scot (any excuse to wear his kilt!), I went as a pirate wench – but the prize for originality goes to Clare who was a red marker buoy number 2!  Bob, Clare, Moray and I also took part in the annual Ghostwalk.  Each year, the town selects 18 sites of historical significance (there are a lot to choose from), and the historic society learns something about the people who were connected with that site.  Many are private homes, but the owners allow the historic society to provide hosts and a ghost to guide us through the property and tell us about the people who lived there.  The Cemetery is one of the most popular attractions, as it is open once it gets dark, and you never know who will come out of their grave to tell you a bit about themselves!  On the second night we went to the catacombs of the Methodist Church to have dinner served by dim candlelight.  The same night, I enjoyed the Headless Horseman riding down the street in front of the Tryon Palace, but I think the highlight for all of us was on the final night, with the hooded monk playing music from the Phantom of the Opera on the Church Organ upstairs in the Methodist Church.  The Ghostwalk takes place over three nights and each and every one was a blast.

Well, it’s back to the cleaning for me!  We will be here for a few more weeks, finishing up tasks and enjoying this lovely town.  Then we will be heading to Stuart, FL to pick up our new sails.  So exciting!  In case I don’t write anything before then, Happy Thanksgiving!

Galley Sink Overhaul

After 22 years the galley sink was starting to look a little long in the tooth.  The fixtures were out of date and looking ragged.  Beyond that were the following issues…

  • the hole that was used for a pull out spray head for the faucet was now being used for the water maker sampling spout. This meant that the pull out spout, which we never used, now lay on the shelf under the sink
  • the tubing that connected the Qest water supply pipes to the faucet consisted of several pieces of tubing a lots of pipe clamps which was unsightly and invited the possibility of leaks
  • there was a small leak around the sink’s seal to the galley surface which allowed water into the cupboard below if the counter around the sink got too wet
  • the sanitation drain hose from the 2 sink bowls had a low spot which allowed gray water to partially block the line from time to time
  • the “plumbing” fittings from the sink drains to the sanitation hose were over complicated and took up valuable space in the cupboard below the sinks

For these reasons I decided to over haul the sink area.  I would alleviate all the issues listed above as follows…

  • a new faucet would bring the look up-to-date and remove the pull out spray head
  • proper Qest fittings would clean up the connections to the new faucet supply lines
  • remove the sinks and reseal with 4200
  • remove 4 inches of sanitation hose and move the cupboard penetrations to remove the low spot
  • change out the drains for Scandvik low profile drains with right angled drains

The work took about a day with the time required to wait for the fast cure 4200 to setup.  The before and after pictures can be seen below.

The only outstanding work to do is to epoxy the plugs that were drilled out of the cupboard penetrations into the old holes.  I will do this once the surfaces have fully dried out.