Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Crewmember down

We are anchored in a familiar and comfortable spot, on Maule Lake, about halfway to Miami (map). I wrote extensively about this hidden gem anchorage the last time we stayed here, so I won't repeat myself. A couple of the places in the nearby Intracoastal Mall have changed hands, but otherwise it is as we remembered it.

We've been here since Thursday evening, even though I had hoped to be south of Miami by now, and therein lies a tale. We're one crewmember short, with Second Mate and Chief of Security Angel in the hospital, where she has been since Saturday. When we dropped her off, we feared she was at the end, but yesterday's report from the vet has given us some hope, and we are awaiting this morning's call.


Angel in her "most interesting cat in the world" pose, in better times.

She's 17, the last pet standing of the three stalwarts that departed San Jose with us 14 years ago. She's been showing her age, reluctant to go up and down the stairs and a little unsteady on her pins. And lately, she's been eating a little less and showing less interest in the pureed pumpkin we put out for her each morning to help her digestion (hey, she's in her 80s in people years).

We had a lot of drama on the boat Thursday. We weighed anchor around 8:15 to retrace our steps back to Dania Beach, and cleared past the series of three drawbridges. We had just cleared the Dania Beach Boulevard Bridge and were not yet at the cutoff canal when the yard called to say we should come right in to the lift slip; we were in the slings and out of the water by 9:30.

Paul the surveyor was already at the yard waiting for us, and so as soon as we could get a ladder alongside, there were a gaggle of us back aboard, including both of us, Paul, and three yard guys who came to replace the valve. We pointed out the cat to each who came aboard, and, honestly, she seemed to be fine and her usual self at the time, keeping mostly out of everyone's way.

I immediately became too busy to notice what she was doing after that. I divided my time between trailing the surveyor and answering his questions, and keeping an eye on the crusty old yard guy who was honchoing the valve replacement. As it stood, I barely caught him before he would have used the wrong bedding compound to install the valve, a non-removable type prohibited by the manufacturer. "Why would you ever need to remove this?" Hmm, well, let's see -- maybe because it broke JUST LIKE THE ONE YOU JUST TOOK OUT. Also, his decades of experience make him more qualified than the engineers at the manufacturer. SMH.


Failed seacock, disassembled for analysis. Piece at lower left broke off the piece just above it. No obvious reason noted.

The valve replacement was done in less than an hour, and the yard needed us out so we booted the surveyor off the boat, splashed, and drove around the corner to a dock at the community center (map), where he met us to finish the survey. After we tied up I remember paying a bit more attention to Angel, making sure she did not go out on deck during the remainder of the survey. Again we noticed nothing unusual.

The surveyor finished by lunch time, and we had our lunch there at the dock before shoving off. I am very happy to report that we had an excellent survey, with no major items noted and a valuation set considerably higher than what it's been since the day we purchased the boat, reflective of the enormous amount of work we've done to upgrade it. After a quick bite I spent a half hour in the bilge reconnecting the plumbing, and we were back under way before 1pm.

I had figured to end up right back at the Hollywood Lakes on Thursday, but with such an early start, and wanting to feel like we were finally making more progress south, we opted to come here instead, just another five miles (and three drawbridges) along the ICW. We figured to spend maybe two nights, taking Friday to relax, before joining the fray hunting for anchorage in Miami the week before the big boat show.


Sunset reflected off Sunny Isles Beach skyscrapers, from our anchorage in Maule Lake.

I don't really remember whether Angel was showing any signs of stress that afternoon. I went about my business, which included drilling a three inch hole in the floor of the guest stateroom right above the new valve, so we can get an arm in there to exercise it regularly. Previously, a ton of quilting stuff had to come out so we could move the mattress, and then I needed to don work clothes to enter the graphite-dust-covered bilge just to reach the valve handle.

Somewhere during the afternoon we noticed that she had become a little lethargic, and that she had not really been eating or drinking. We were pretty beat from a full day of work on the heels of a couple of stressful days, so notwithstanding our proximity to a number of good restaurants here, we opted to just grill a steak aboard that evening. And that's when we really noticed she was in trouble. We often offer her a single nibble of fat or meat when we have it, and she refused to even touch it, which is very out of character for her.

Thursday night she began a rapid decline. Having been through it before, we recognized it as the sign of renal failure. Angel has but one good kidney, and she's been through a renal crisis in the past. It seemed to us like her system had finally had enough after 17 good years. We tried to keep her comfortable all night and do whatever we could to get fluids into her, which is not much without IV bags and sets. And we ruminated about what we were willing to do beyond end-of-life palliative care.

Friday she was still up and about and generally being herself, other than a bit weak and still not eating or drinking. But she seemed OK for us to leave the boat, which we needed to do. Thursday afternoon I got word from Lauderdale Propeller that the custom plate for our PropSmith tool had arrived and was available for pickup. Just in time, too, since I'm not sure what we would have done, other than ask them to hold it, had it arrived after we left the US.


New PropSmith plate, right, replaces the one on the left with incorrect threads.

Getting that tool was just going to become more and more difficult the further we got from Fort Lauderdale, and so I booked a cheap rental car for noon on Friday so we could go get it. The car was less than it would cost to ship the tool to another stop, and there is an Enterprise right across the ICW.  We left the tender at the dock at the mall, where they picked us up. They were having a problem that day getting any cars, and so my booking for an econobox landed us a full-size, four-door F150 pickup truck, and they even gave us a quarter tank grace on fuel when I mentioned the fuel mileage difference.

We headed directly to Fort Lauderdale to get the tool. As long as we had the truck, we ran some other errands as well, stopping at West Marine to return the extra parts I did not use for the valve project, the auto parts store for dinghy spark plugs, and Home Depot to return a few items there as well. We also dropped by Progressive to trade the title to the stolen scooter for a check for the balance of the claim.

In the course of the day we learned that semi-local friends and fellow Neoplan bus owners Steve and Harriet had just arrived in town, and we agreed to meet them for an early dinner along with Ken and Pam, their in-laws. They were kind enough to meet us down in Hollywood so we could get back to the cat a bit sooner in the evening. We had a nice dinner at Sal's and it was great catching up with old friends.

We left the rental car at the mall overnight, which is a very busy place on Friday night; every restaurant and lounge is doing a booming business there when the weather is nice, and a good deal of the parking lot is given over to valet use. We parked in an out of the way corner and made our way back to Vector, crashing over the wakes of a dozen luxury yachts on the ICW Friday evening rush hour. "No wake zone" has a different meaning to some of those skippers.

We arrived before 8pm to a very lethargic cat. She'd stopped eating altogether and, worse, was not drinking either. We tried to get some water in her with a syringe, but that's like trying to put out a fire with a soda straw. If we had an IV set and a bag of Ringers we would give her subcutaneous fluids, something we did on a regular basis towards the end of George's life as her kidney disease progressed.

Friday was a rough night. As lethargic as she was, she still managed to make it down the stairs to come up and sleep between us on the bed, which is very unusual behavior for this cat unless it is very cold. It's been in the 80s here. When we awoke Saturday morning we thought we might lose her.

The morning discussion was what you can imagine surrounding the end-of-life issues with an elderly pet. Our chief concerns were her quality of life and unnecessary suffering. As it was becoming clear she was not going to just slip away without a protracted period of discomfort -- she was by this time wandering around the house crying -- we made the decision to take her to the vet.

We still had the car available until 1:30 or so, and I scratched my plans to do some final shopping in the morning and, instead, we stuffed her paperwork in a backpack, assembled the carrier, and took the whole kit and caboodle of us back to the mall in the dinghy. The cat is very blase about the big boat, but she was not happy about the tender ride.

We picked a pet hospital that was fairly close to the lake, where we could get back on the town shuttle later if they needed to keep her for treatment. She complained mightily in the car, which actually gave us a great deal of hope: it seemed like she still had some fight left in her, and perhaps the discomfort was something more acute than end-of-life renal failure.

The hospital in Aventura looked at her and determined, unsurprisingly, that blood tests were required, but then they informed us that they could not keep her overnight for treatment. So we ended up declining the blood work, loading her back in the car, and going north to Hollywood, where the veterinary hospital is 24-hour. They got us right in and ran some blood tests.


She loves bags. Looking at me as if to say "were you planning on going somewhere without me?"

Her numbers were horrible. But between ourselves, the vet in Aventura, and the vet in Hollywood, we determined that it was worthwhile to try IV hydration before making a determination, and they presented us a treatment plan for 3-5 days of hospitalization and fluids. The estimate was well north of what it cost to replace my scooter; there is nothing quite so expensive as a free pet.

After leaving Angel in Hollywood we raced back to Sunny Isles Beach to return the car, which was overdue. The office was swamped, with a lone employee, and she graciously waived the fee for being a half hour late, and also credited us for a Lyft home since they had no one to drive us.

It's been lonely here the last couple of days without her. All we can keep thinking is that we hope she makes it back home. The last two calls from the vet have suggested a great deal of improvement, so perhaps it was something acute. She's been through this once before, when we surmised she got into something toxic outside the bus.

She loves to go out on deck and drink the rainwater that has pooled in various places on deck, and with all the yard work we can't rule out some chemical residue on one of the decks, in spite of vigorous washing. And the vet suggested that something on the x-ray might be a small kidney stone; when George had one of these a decade ago she went completely into crisis.

We've been here in Maule Lake now for five nights, and we'll be here at least one and maybe two more. Things were incredibly busy and stressful up until we returned from dropping the car off, and in the last two days of "down" time, I've been catching up on another project that must be complete before we head offshore, switching my Google Voice number away from Sprint and moving my cell service to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile works much better than Sprint internationally, with service in many countries including the Bahamas and much of the Caribbean included in the plan. It also works better domestically, and now that I qualify for the 55-and-over unlimited plan it's also a better deal than my grandfathered unlimited Sprint plan.

My Google Voice and Sprint phone numbers are one and the same. When we last went to the Bahamas, even though Sprint does not work there, I missed no calls or text messages because I got them through Google Voice. I can't do the same trick with my T-Mobile number so instead I am "porting" my number, which Sprint actually owns, to Google Voice, and my calls will be forwarded to T-Mobile.

Of course, you can't just move a phone between carriers, either, and so while in Fort Lauderdale I bought a spiffy new pre-owned T-Mobile phone and signed it up for service at a T-Mobile office. I've spent the past couple of days rooting it, loading apps, configuring them, and transferring data. A tedious process to be sure. It's all ready to go and last night I divorced Google Voice from Sprint and fired off an order to port the number. That should happen sometime in the next day or two. If you have my number, nothing should change, I'll just be making and receiving all my calls and texts through Google Voice.

Update: Angel is back home!

I was still typing here this morning when we made the decision to head ashore, even before the vet called, to get a bagel and be ready to pick up the rental car I had booked for this morning in a fit of optimism. We enjoyed our bagels and did some shopping while we waited for the vet to call. Our 10am car reservation came and went.

Finally around 11:30 we heard the good news that Angel was eating and drinking on her own and that it was our option to pick her up today or have them hold her one more night. We chose the former, and called a Lyft over to Enterprise where the same clerk was again alone, swamped, and without a driver for pickups. She took the Lyft fee off our rental price.

It was something of a slog back up to Hollywood. After dropping her off there, we had seriously considered moving the boat back up to the Hollywood Lakes anchorage, but it turns out that getting ashore and renting a car there is not really any easier, and we'd make a ten-mile round trip in the boat, a three-hour process, to save ourselves twenty minutes in a rental car.

We had a long wait at the vet's, but eventually we got Angel out of her personal hell. We left the office with a box full of supplies, including five liters of lactated Ringers, injectable anti-nausea meds with a dozen hypodermics, and appetite stimulants to be administered orally. She looked a bit shaky, still, but much better than when we dropped her off.

On the way home we stopped at Walmart, the stop I had to forego with the last rental car, to pick up some needed items including a pair of mask-and-snorkel sets to replace the ancient ones that are disintegrating, and some additional items for the scooter to replace the ones that were stolen. We arrived back at the tender at an extremely low tide, and it was quite the challenge loading everything for the ride home.

Angel spent the first half hour sniffing everything in the saloon to make sure she was really home, then spent an hour or so next to Louise absorbing love through osmosis (she has never been a lap cat) before finally retiring to her "cube" where she is currently cashed out. It's exhausting being in the hospital.

Tonight we have to give her her first bolus of sub-cu fluids, and we're hoping that in a week or so she will be back to drinking well on her own. She is by no means out of the woods yet, and recovery is not a slam-dunk, but we are hopeful and holding positive thoughts.

Tomorrow we will return the car we had to rent for today's excursion, then deck the tender and head back out of the lake for Miami. I'm hoping to catch the "tech day" at the Miami Boat Show on Thursday, if we can get anywhere near the place, to talk to PC chartplotting software vendors. Our current system simply can not get good charts for most of the Caribbean or even, really, the Bahamas, and it's time to switch to something with more chart options.


Our final sunset over Maule Lake, from the aft deck.

Reluctant to leave her alone for a while, tonight we're eating aboard. We had a nice sunset on the aft deck, accompanied by the clamor of a drum fish. The drum fish have been serenading us off and on since we arrived, and it took us a few minutes to rule out something mechanical going haywire on the boat when we first started hearing it. We've heard them before, but it's been a while, and everything making noise underwater gets amplified on a steel boat.

With any luck we'll be in Miami or Miami Beach when next you hear from me.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

We didn't get far ...

We are at a familiar and comfortable spot, anchored in South Lake, Hollywood, Florida (map). We've been here since shortly after leaving the boatyard Monday afternoon. Our plan was to anchor here for a night or two while we recuperated from the yard work, and maybe make some progress on the communication and insurance fronts. Alas, that was not to be.



Monday morning was a whirlwind of activity. I ran around the yard settling up bills, collecting the last of our mail, and signing out of the marina. Louise rode over to the vet to get the cat's paperwork signed, and then picked up some last minute groceries. We loaded the scoots, offloaded the last of our trash, and cast off our lines right at the noon checkout time.

The trip back down the New River, fortuitously at slack, was mostly uneventful, although we did have to pull over and wait for three giant yachts, each with a pair of towboats, making their way upriver. We made it back to the ICW and turned south, through Port Everglades and three drawbridges, to this spot, the first usable anchorage southbound from the New River.


We passed an old friend along the ICW, Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. We had a lovely holiday cruise with her when we still lived aboard Odyssey.

We like this anchorage because it's protected and quiet, yet quite easy to get ashore right at the beach boardwalk, with a couple dozen restaurants, a small market, and access to public transportation. It has become a favorite stop of ours, and more so now that anchoring in Fort Lauderdale proper is difficult.

Soon after setting the hook, I tackled the first of two projects on the plate for this anchorage, which was opening the seacock for the washdown pump on the foredeck, necessary before using the anchor washdown, which we'd need to do as we weigh anchor to leave. This was the last seacock on the boat still unopened after the sandblasting, which required us to close them all.

All the other seacocks are in the engine room or tiller flat. They are not exactly easy to access, as most are under sole plates which first must be lifted out of the way, and they tend to be hard to reach and difficult to turn. I have to use my pry bar to move some of them (and, BTW, my good Gorilla pry bar was also stolen at Lauderdale Marine, right off our aft deck, so I had to buy a replacement). Almost all the other seacocks are also stainless steel, with the exception of two in the tiller flat that are above the resting waterline.

I had opened all of those seacocks before we splashed, with the exception of the macerator discharge, which had to wait until we were in the water. Among other things, the engine can't be started without three of the seacocks open, and as long as I had the soles up I opened them all.

The seacock for the washdown pump, however, is in the forward stateroom, AKA the quilt studio, underneath the berth, near the bow thruster. Access requires moving most of the quilting supplies, sewing machine, table, and several other items out of the room, lifting the mattress off the bed, then climbing four feet down into the thruster bay, which is perennially filthy from graphite "brush dust." We did this to close it in the first place, but then put everything back, and we opted not to move it again until we needed to.

Big mistake, and, in hindsight, I should have opened that valve while we were still on the hard. The valve had been stuck open to begin with, which often happens due to marine growth, and I had to clean it out with a screwdriver and squirt some lube into it from the outside to get it to close.

I'm not sure why it then stuck in the closed position, but when I went to open it Monday afternoon, the valve handle snapped off in my hand. Fortunately, the valve was still closed and nothing started leaking, so I was not jumping overboard with a dive mask and a wooden plug. But here we are, with a seacock stuck closed and no way to use the anchor washdown.


Oops.

This is not, of course, a crisis. Nothing is leaking and all the critical systems on the boat are working. But we did not want to face the prospect of six months of anchoring in the Caribbean with no washdown, and so I immediately set to work on how to get the valve replaced.

Seacocks can often be changed while still in the water. You push a plug into the through-hull from outside the boat, unscrew the valve from inside, screw a new one on, and then pull the plug and hope it does not leak. And if this seacock was metal that's what I would do. But we added this through-hull to the boat in the yard in 2013, and we could not weld easily in this section of the hull. Neither could we use the traditional bronze through-hull and seacock because it would cause galvanic corrosion of the steel hull. So we opted to use one made of a fiber-reinforced plastic material called Marelon.

If the valve was installed correctly, this should not be a problem. Marelon is exceedingly strong. But if the installer slipped up and got any super-adhesive sealant (3M 5200) on the threads when he installed it, there is a good chance it won't come off without breaking something. And if that happens with the boat in the water, we have a big problem. Reluctantly, we decided to bite the bullet and haul out for the replacement.

I spent all day Tuesday calling yards from here to Miami to see if anyone could do a "short haul" -- a haulout for an hour or two while the valve is replaced without leaving the lift slings. With the Miami show right around the corner, many yards were too booked to fit us in. Three yards told us they would not haul steel boats -- a new one on us. And two yards said they do not permit work of any kind while in the slings.

Lauderdale Marine Center would do it, but we really did not want to go all the way back up the New River. Plus our nasty thief is still there, and we'd likely have to take a night of dockage on one side or the other (or both) of the haulout. Ultimately, we found a yard just a few miles away, on the Dania Cutoff Canal, that could haul us out for a couple of hours this morning, so long as we supplied the part but paid their mechanic to do the work. Fine.

Our story, however, does not end there. You may recall one of the items of unfinished business is to secure insurance coverage in the Caribbean. We started this process in early January, before our Geico policy renewal was due. Our agent took all the details and promised to follow-up with Geico underwriting about extending our limits of navigation.

The policy renewal date came and went (we are on auto-renewal) with no answer. Finally, after three full weeks, our agent told us Geico would not cover us. We use an agency that sells multiple lines and prides itself on covering yachts worldwide, so we simply asked them to source a policy from a different underwriter. They agreed and again we waited.

So Tuesday, after I was done making seemingly 400 phone calls about the busted seacock and I was comfortable we had that problem well in hand, I poked the agent again about getting insurance. And only then does she inform me that, sorry, we can't talk to any other underwriters because you don't have a current survey.

I just about lost it, for the second time in as many weeks. A full survey requires the boat to be out of the water so the surveyor can inspect the hull. The time to tell me we needed this was two weeks ago, when we were still on the hard. It would have been a cake walk then. We could even have had a surveyor out while the bottom was bare steel. Suffice it to say, we will not be giving this agency any further business.

Switching our business to another agency will also require a full survey. Since a survey will be necessary no matter what we do unless we want to go no further than the Bahamas, we again will bite the bullet and get it done, post haste.

Reluctantly I called the yard back to postpone the haulout. Mind you, I had already given them the song and dance about wanting to keep moving, leaving Fort Lauderdale, etc. in order to line it up for this morning in the first place, and now I was waving it off. I explained the insurance issue and they were very understanding.

With what little was left of yesterday, and most of today, I made another 400 phone calls to try to find a surveyor on short notice. This involved lots of back and forth with the yard and the mechanic, because in order to do it all in a single short haul, everyone needs to be available in the same two-hour window.

The end result is that we have both a surveyor and a mechanic lined up tomorrow morning, and the lift operator will try to work us in sometime around 10ish. If all goes well, we'll be done with both by the end of the day, and we'll come right back here and stay through the weekend. We still need that break.

The second project on my plate here went off without a hitch, to wit, testing the watermaker after the recent repairs. I did not want to test it while still at the marina, because there are often hydrocarbons in the water from spilled fuel, solvents, and whatnot, and hydrocarbons are deadly to osmotic membranes. The water here in the lake is clean enough for testing purposes, and I am happy to report the unit is now producing more water than we've ever seen from it before. That's likely a combination of our pump having been marginal for some time, and the fact that the replacement pump is actually rated at a slightly higher capacity. We're very happy with the result.

Monday evening we consoled ourselves with comfort food at Sapore de Mare, an Italian joint we like right on the boardwalk. And last night we opted to dine at one of the nice places on the ICW, GiGi's, which has its own dock. Tonight's activity was a round trip on Lyft to the West Marine back in Fort Lauderdale, the closest place to get a replacement valve. We ate on the boardwalk when we returned, at Sugar Reef, which proved to be weird but tasty.

We decked the tender when we got home, and we're all set to weigh anchor in the morning for the 8am bridge opening. And I really hope the next time you hear from me, I'll be reporting on what a relaxing stay we're having someplace.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

First World Yacht Problems

We are at Lauderdale Marine Center, on the New River in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (map). Tomorrow will mark four weeks since we arrived here, and it's been longer than that since I last posted to the blog. It's been an eventful few weeks, and I am going to try to catch all the way up in this post, so grab an adult beverage and settle in.


Vector on the hard at Lauderdale Marine Center, having her bottom done.

Today's title is an expression we use often aboard Vector. It seems at times like we are forever solving problems, or spending money on infrastructure and minutiae rather than the enjoyable things in life. And I know some of you are here just for the schadenfreude. So we say this to remind ourselves that we are retired and live on a boat, a life circumstance that perhaps 98% of the world population would trade for their own in a heartbeat.

Another expression we use around here is "it's only stuff." Life is made of experiences, not stuff. and when stuff breaks, or falls overboard. or even goes down with the ship, we try to remind ourselves of what is truly important, which is not "stuff." That reminder can be exceedingly difficult at times.

Last week was such a time. A little over a week ago, my scooter was stolen. Again. The one I just bought in Charleston in October to replace the one stolen there, after a decade of service. The new scoot did not even make it three months. To add insult to injury, I literally installed the personalized license plate ("VECTOR 3"), which finally arrived while we were here, the day before the theft. When we discovered it missing, I lost it completely. I flew into a rage, screaming obscenities and banging things around. Had the thief been in front of me, I think I would have killed him with my bare hands.


"Midnight" in happier times. Yes, the bear and of course the windscreen are gone, too.

Making matters much, much worse was the fact that the thief not only had my scooter, but also the keys to Louise's scooter, the door to the boat, and the cable locks we use to lock the bikes. We spent the rest of last Saturday dealing with the fallout, including a trip to the locksmith with the cylinder from the boat door to have it re-keyed.

By way of explanation, we had rented a car last Friday in order to take the cat to the vet. She needed an international chip (the chip she has is not valid outside the US), an update of her vaccines, and a USDA health certificate in order to travel to the islands. As long as we needed a car for the cat, we planned to make a large provisioning run to Costco, Walmart, and Publix to lay in the rest of the provisions for up to six months offshore.

While Enterprise normally picks us up when we rent a car, launching the boat that morning interfered with the timing of the pickup, and we opted to ride over to Enterprise, just ten minutes away, two-up on my scooter. Louise had parked her scooter in an out-of-the-way spot due to moving the boat, and she walked over to it to get her helmet before climbing aboard with me for the ride over.

When we pulled up to Enterprise I took my keys out of the ignition as usual, so I could stow my helmet in the trunk, and Louise went to take out her keys for the ride back. Except she did not have them. Knowing she had just used them to get her helmet, she took my keys and immediately rode back to the yard to look for her keys, which she figured fell out of her backpack-style purse either in the yard or en route. They were not near her scooter, and we both traversed the route we had taken twice apiece looking for them. We even asked a worker in the yard, who had been near her scooter the entire time, if he had seen her drop her keys, and I checked with the office and both security gates to see if they had been turned in.


Not long after we splashed, we got a greeting committee consisting of this manatee cow and her calf. A welcome site, after having seen a dead manatee (from a propeller strike) floating upriver shortly after we were hauled.

What we know now, but did not know at the time, is that someone who works here, possibly the same person with whom we spoke, saw her either drop her keys or maybe even leave them in her trunk lock. And that person picked them up and pocketed them with the intention of returning in the wee hours to steal her scooter. When they came back, after first getting on her scooter (her helmet, which had been on the bike overnight, was moved to the ground), they realized they also had the key to my much newer, nicer, and more expensive scooter, and they took that one instead. We were asleep in our berth not even 30' away.

We spent the day talking to the police, the security department at the yard, the skipper of every yacht that might have camera footage, and anyone we could think of who might have seen something. All for naught, just as it had been in Charleston. And we extended the rental car while we dealt with everything.

It took me a week to work up the courage to report it to the insurance company. Twice in three months is a bit over the top and I will not be surprised if they drop us next year. Sadly, I got all of about $300 for the last one, which is not even one year's premium on the insurance, and I don't expect to get much more than that for this one, even though we spent around $2,500 to purchase it and replace everything else that was stolen along with it.

This time around I didn't have to shop much for all that replacement gear; I just called up my Amazon orders from November and kept clicking "Buy Again." This time I also needed to replace my helmet (which escaped last time), and the fancy BlueTooth headset that lets me get directions from my phone and also serves as an intercom. I dropped over $500 in one day just on replacement gear, and that does not include the stuff I had put in the bike that I either had lying around or I bought at Walmart. I still don't have all the replacement gear.

I also did not have to do too much shopping for a replacement scoot. That model turned out to be perfectly fine for my use, and I just hunted around for another one just like it. I got lucky and found one just a few minutes away in Pompano Beach, sold by a private party with less than 200 miles on the ticker. It even has ten months left on the warranty. It's matte black, which is growing on me, though I preferred the midnight blue of its predecessor. I had even named the bike "Midnight," although I am now questioning the wisdom of bonding with a vehicle enough to name it.


My new new scoot, as yet unnamed. The bear has also been replaced, but I won't be buying a windscreen.

Having now spent a dozen paragraphs venting at you about grieving my stolen ride, it's time to move along to happier topics.  When last I posted here, we were just about to leave Palm Beach, and in fact we weighed anchor, thankfully without any fouling issues, the next morning for the day-long cruise down the ICW to Fort Lauderdale.


This festive gingerbread house and holiday theme stood out along the ICW.

Fortunately HRH The Grand Vizier was not in residence and we cruised past Mar-a-Lago without having to do any two-stepping with the Coasties. We also lucked out on drawbridge timing, and while we were prepared to anchor in one of the very few anchorages along the ICW, by mid-day we figured to make Fort Lauderdale in plenty of daylight. With our old favorite anchorage here now off-limits, and needing to do laundry and pump out our tanks, we opted to dock for the night at the municipal Las Olas Marina, another old standby.


On Fort Lauderdale Beach, the snowman is tanned, and wearing a life jacket, hat, and sunglasses while SUPing.

We had an excellent dinner at long-time favorite Coconuts, and breakfast at one of the numerous beachfront joints before finishing up our errands in the morning. Ruminating about where we'd spend the night before our 7:30 am Monday haulout, I called Cooley's Landing, another municipal marina well upriver, to see if they'd make an exception for us to the 50' length limit. Much to my surprise they did, and we dropped lines at slack tide for the trip upriver.

The New River is always an exciting trip, and the first couple of times we did it you could even say "butt clenching." But I'm comfortable with it now, especially at slack, and I expected no issues. Still, we had a dicey do-si-do with a megayacht who apparently ignored my sécurité call at the Girls School, and then yelled at me about it in that sort of entitled-skipper manner we sometimes encounter. Before we even made it to the river, a sailing cat trying hard to make a scheduled bridge opening decided to pass us in the ICW, and very nearly ran over a bunch of Optis from a sailing school. I had to go full astern to avoid a collision or, worse, any possible contribution to her hitting a bunch of kids.


Under the bridge near Cooley's Landing. No crabs, no gas nozzles. We don't know what the other prohibition had been.

Squeezing into the slip at Cooley's Landing (map) was also a bit of a challenge but we made it without incident, although I would not even try it at anything other than slack current. As it was we were compressed against the pilings on either side at max ebb and max flood, and we nearly wore through the "new" fender we acquired back at Marina Jack's. Backing out of the slip in the morning mid-ebb was not for the faint of heart, but on a schedule I had no choice.


A duck and her ducklings at Cooley's Landing. At one point we saw them all swim across the river.

When we arrived at the landing, the weekly jazz fest was under way at the park next door, in front of the Performing Arts center. The jazz ended just as I got off the boat, but I enjoyed walking around the festival. The city has free day docks here, and they were jam-packed for the event on this picture-perfect day. In the evening we enjoyed walking to the Hamarshee district for dinner. Cooley's Landing is well-situated for walking downtown, and has more amenities than the other city marinas, but the tight squeeze and the battering from the current mean we'll likely not stop there again.


Vector, making ready to depart Cooley's Landing.

The advantage to Cooley's Landing was that we had but a single bridge to transit before arriving here at the yard, Davie Boulevard. The bridges are restricted for the morning rush hour, although we had to be through before then anyway due to the early haulout. But there was comfort in not having to transit the downtown bridges as well as the sometimes-troublesome railroad bridges under time pressure.


Another view. Because, ducklings.

The yard had neglected to tell us which of the several basins and lifts would be used for our haulout, and we went right past the correct basin, which was formerly part of a different yard and literally just reopened a week or so before our arrival. No one answered either the radio or the phone, and so we hung out near the 485-ton lift, blocking its access, until one of the yard workers noticed and gave us some direction. When we finally made it to the lift, they had not prepared for our weight, and we had to station-keep for a half hour while they added two additional belts.


"The Beast" 485-ton marine lift. They haul some big boats here.

Still, they had us out of the water and blocked on the hard (map) before 9am, just in time for the crew from Stabilized Marine to arrive to service our Naiad stabilizers. The lead tech was the same one who serviced our system two years ago, across the state in Bradenton.

I did not write about it here because it seemed really minor to us, but when we crossed over to the west coast in December on the Okeechobee Waterway, we ran over a sand/gravel bar that had built up near a drainage creek. One second we were in 18' of water and the next we heard scraping on the hull. By the time I could even react, we were across it and back in 18'. I knew we took some paint off, and as a matter of course we checked the starboard actuator to make sure it was not leaking or binding.

As we discovered when the boat first rose out of the water, we did, in fact, strike the starboard fin, scraping off some paint, but also pushing it up into the hull. We'd been through this before, on the port side, and it cost us a $500 positioning potentiometer and a bunch of work (by an inexperienced yard) to stop the fin from interfering with the hull. After that incident I repaired the potentiometer for a spare; even though Naiad claims it as the smallest replaceable subassembly, what actually breaks is a $20 articulated coupling that can be ordered from industrial suppliers on-line.


Vector in the slings. No matter how many times you watch this, the nervous feeling never goes away.

The Stabilized crew swapped my spare in for the damaged one and re-adjusted the fin, on top of the rest of the service. That included the routine biennial replacement of the outside seals, replacement of the hydraulic fluid now ten years old, and cleaning of the heat exchanger connectors. While the hydraulic oil was out, we also replaced the return hose with a spare I bought five years ago when we discovered the original had chafed in a section (we installed chafe guard at the time). To their credit, the guys finished it all in one day, but they were here until 8pm.

The stabilizer work was the nominal reason for the haulout in the first place, although we also knew we would need to have the bottom paint touched up, even though it is only eight months old. We spent part of the day talking with the yard about the bottom paint, and I also called several on-site contractors about touching up our topside paint, adjusting our anchor roller, and a number of other issues. We were pre-scheduled to re-splash just three days later, on Thursday, which would have been plenty of time to do the stabilizers as well as touch up the bottom.

Almost nothing is ever that easy in a boatyard, and this time was no exception. In addition to the damage we did running over the gravel, there were numerous spots were our nearly brand new bottom paint was already flaking off. After scraping at it with various tools in several places, we all concluded there were over seven different paint jobs on the bottom, and speculated that it was unlikely the bottom had ever been taken back down to bare steel since the boat was new back in 2003.

Sanding, priming, touchup, and a single re-coat was going to cost as much as our last bottom job, thanks in part to the fact that all such work needs to be tented here in Fort Lauderdale. And the consensus was that we'd get another year on it, but w delaying the inevitable need to take it all the way down. After quotes for two different coating systems on top of sandblasting, we ultimately decided to blast all the way down to bare steel and start fresh, at about twice the cost of the touchup and re-coat job.


Vector wearing her skirt for sandblasting.

That immediately stretched our time on the hard from three days to two weeks. The yard wasted no time; we made the decision Tuesday and by Wednesday morning we were already tented for blasting. Sandblasting all the old paint off took a full two days, and we sealed the boat up tight to avoid getting dust everywhere.


Bare steel. The discolored area behind the bow thruster is the outline of our (full) water tank, which caused a "sweat" area on the hull.

Settling in for a couple of weeks on the hard brought its own challenges. A requirement of this yard, as well as a requirement of the sandblasting operation, is to close off all the through-hulls. No discharge of any kind, including gray water and bilge water, is permitted. So shortly after being hauled out Monday morning, we turned off the water to all the upstairs sinks and dishwasher, which drain directly overboard, and I jury-rigged a hose from the gray water sump belowdecks into our black tank system.


International 262 epoxy primer. We had three coats -- white, gray, white.

This allowed us to at least be able to wash up in the downstairs sinks, brush our teeth, and wash a few items from the galley as needed. In order to avoid filling up the (now combined) tank system too quickly, we showered ashore in the marina facilities, and we tried to use their rest rooms as much as possible as well. We soon tired of washing our coffee mugs in the bathroom sink, and bought some disposable coffee cups to get us through our time on the hard. We also made the decision to go out for dinner every night to minimize the dirty dishes.


First coat of bottom paint is "red" as often seen on ships. Second coat is black. We're using the same paint the ships use, International 640.

With no ability to use the seawater-cooled air conditioners, we made good use of Meriwether, our mini-split in the pilothouse, but even this required modification. The condensate from the evaporator is normally plumbed overboard through the same condensate drain for the main air conditioners, and I needed to jury-rig a collection system using a plastic coffee can while the through-hulls were closed. At one point the can was filling every two hours, a testament to how humid it is in south Florida. We had to carry it off the boat to empty it.


Temporary condensate catchment. I had to drill through the cabinet above to run the hose out.

Unlike other yards we've patronized, Lauderdale Marine Center (LMC) is more of a landlord than a boatyard. They operate the lifts and set the stands, and they have a bottom painting department, but they don't offer any other repairs. Instead you are free to do them yourself, bring in outside contractors from an approved list, or hire one (or more) of the many on-site contractors who lease shop space from LMC.

LMC charges for "lay days" -- days your boat is in the yard on stands -- by the foot. There is an additional fee for utilities, and the yard is happy to rent you any number of other things you may need, including golf carts, fork lifts, scaffolding, and the like; even a ladder. I looked up the rental schedule ahead of time, and realized we'd have to pay the yard $150 a week just to have a ladder to get on and off the boat. Before the lift hauled us out, we got off the boat with our own collapsible ladder instead.

The golf cart rental may seem silly until you realize that it's nearly a mile from one end of the yard to the other. We're in the newest section of the yard, with fresh new rest rooms, but no showers, which are literally a half mile away. We put the scooters on the ground just as soon as we were blocked on the stands -- I deliberately installed enough cable in the davit to reach the ground when the boat is on stands.

We used the scooters constantly -- even using the bathroom was a haul, as was checking the mail or visiting the offices or shops of the many contractors. And there are no restaurants in walking distance, so we took them to dinner nightly. Most days I was also out to the hardware store, West Marine, or the dollar store down the street for one thing or another.


LMC bottom crew working on the primer coat.

As long as we were committed to be in the yard for two weeks, we sought quotes on three other projects from some of the vendors here. In large part, this yard caters to megayachts in the 120'-200' range, where money is no object, and the quotes we were getting were not in keeping with our budget.

By a coincidence of timing, our good friend Steve was in town that first week to attend the Refit show at the convention center, and we managed to get together for lunch. Steve is well connected in the industry, and he suggested we talk to a friend of his who owns a running gear business at the yard to get some other referrals. Within ten minutes of introducing myself, Chris had me in a golf cart driving around to a couple of other vendors, and we were able to get much more reasonable quotes.

I'm sad to say that one of those vendors was a painter, to touch up perhaps two dozen of the worst areas of rust that have already appeared on our topside paint job that was only eight months old. That touch-up cost us another ten percent of what the paint job cost in the first place, and we only elected to deal with the worst of it. The yard in New Orleans that did the original work has stopped returning my phone calls, despite promises to "make it right." But all of that could be the subject of a tome in itself.

The second project was to take some metal off the new anchor roller assembly so the anchor can self-deploy. When we had the assembly fabricated in New Orleans by an independent welder, doubling the thickness of the plating, we did not realize the opening would be just a hair too small for the connecting hardware, and the anchor jams in the guide on its way out. Louise has to skew it using a boat pole to get it to drop. I took the assembly off shortly after the sandblasters were finished (we did not want the anchor and chain to be in their way) and Engineered Yacht Solutions cut it open, machined it down, and welded it back together, which cost nearly as much as we paid the guy in NOLA to make it in the first place. The anchor drops smoothly now on its own.

The third project was something of a last-minute addition and thus became the long pole in the tent. We've been wanting for some time to re-do the shower in the master bath. It was a poor design from the outset, with a flat aluminum pan for a base, covered with a teak grate, and Formica walls with myriad seams covered by cherry trim. With the drain dead center, the aluminum pan never completely drained no matter which way the boat was tilted, and the wood-covered seams eventually leaked and we had water rotting away the wood behind the Formica.


New fiberglass shower pan, sloped to a corner drain. Corian threshold and baseboard replace some rotted wood pieces.

The constant standing water, the rot, and the resulting mold was getting unbearable, and various stopgaps were no longer effective. We replaced the whole thing with a custom fiberglass pan, sloped in two directions to a drain in the corner, and one-piece fiberglass walls all the way around. A useless sloped "step" at the port side, which covered the chine of the hull but was usable for nothing, was replaced with a built-in fiberglass "bench" for use in heavy seas, and which also serves as a place to set the shampoo and soap. Lack of such a bench, a common feature in long-range cruisers, meant we were using a stand-alone "assist" stool in heavy seas, sold principally to the elderly and disabled for use in their home shower.


Bench seat, 18" tall. Impossible to shower in 5' seas without it.

I ripped the pan out myself, along with the old shower fixtures and drain, and did all the plumbing. OP Yacht Services did the rest of the work, including cutting out all the rotted wood with a Fein saw and replacing it with fresh. It came out very nice, and it's much cleaner and brighter in there now. They fitted a tempered glass door as well, which replaces the shower curtain we've been using for five years. The curtain replaced a bi-fold wooden door that was difficult to use and not at all water-resistant.


Looking in through the glass door. I replaced the fixtures and ran PEX for all the in-wall plumbing.

Being in the yard for at least two weeks, and in the boating capital of the US with every conceivable marine service nearby, I also tore into a number of projects myself, starting with the watermaker. Our water production has dropped to less than half nominal, in spite of replacing the membrane the last time we were in town. We suspected the high pressure pump, so I removed it and brought it down to the local Spectra dealer for inspection.

The high pressure pump turned out to be fine, although a slight leak in the pump body prompted a replacement of the check valve O-rings. So next I removed the low-pressure pump, and that turned out to be the culprit. The motor was fine, so we just replaced the pump head, and I put the whole system back together. I'm waiting to get in some cleaner water than this marina to test it all out.

A slew of other projects included replacing the check valve on the stuffing box sump, touching up the black paint on the lower rub rails, installing a new snubber that I had made up at the local rigger, replacing the gas lift struts on the davit, and replacing the TV/monitor on the chart plotter. I took our PropSmith tool over to Lauderdale Propeller to finally have a proper threaded plate made up, three years after the guy in Deltaville failed the assignment. I also added the two stainless eye bolts, found at the nearby well-stocked hardware store, to my scooter for lifting it with the crane, a task I will now need to repeat.


New hand-priming pump on the main engine.

The hand priming pump on the main engine recently started leaking diesel into the bilge, and I replaced that with a newer model from Bosch that supposedly will not leak, and is more compact and effective to boot. And as long as the anchor was on the ground, I spooled out some more chain and re-painted the red 50' mark.


Freshly painted chain marking. The anchor connector got a coat of zinc spray, too.

The new monitor for the chart plotter was necessitated by a dead spot in the lower left corner of the screen, caused by an accidental spill. It was mostly still usable, but it made it hard to see a couple of icons in the Windows task bar when I needed to. The plotter app itself was fine. But with a rental car and easy access to a Best Buy we dropped all of $70 on a new 19" LED TV for the purpose. The old TV, which had cost me a C-note at HH Gregg, was still fine for TV watching, and I mounted it down in the guest stateroom, over the door, in case any future guests might want to watch TV in there. When it's not being the quilt studio, of course.

The theft of the scooter threw a monkey wrench into the works just as things were starting to come together. I spent the better part of a full week dealing with the fallout. In addition to finding a replacement scooter, I had to deal with replacing all the other things lost, and a mountain of paperwork. With the thief still out there with keys, we've also had to be extra diligent about chaining up Louise's bike. Since he also has the lone key to her cable lock, we had to repurpose the lock and cable from the dinghy for the duration.


One of my numerous projects was giving the prop and cutters three coats of zinc spray after the bottom was done but before we splashed.

In a twist of fate, right after the theft of my scooter, the rear tire on the other scooter stopped holding air, and I spent a full day last weekend getting the wheel off and replacing the tire. Somewhere in that project I lost my 10mm socket, probably at the bottom of the marina, and I needed to hunt one down this week.

We ended up extending the rental car, mostly one day at a time, for a full week, Fortunately I was able to get it on a $19 daily rate. That let us make several additional provisioning trips, and there are now 418 cans of beer stored in the bilge, and we have 40 pounds of rice on board, in addition to two full freezers.

Having the car meant that I was also able to seize a deal at West Marine when I stumbled upon a clearance table while trying to source aluminum anodes for our line cutter. The local flagship store has been clearing out their backlog of orphaned special orders, and I scored a bow rail for our dinghy at 90% off, along with a handful of smaller items, also at 90% off. I've been wanting a bow rail ever since we got this dinghy, but not at the ~$500 list price.


My new prize on the floor at West Marine, while I frantically tried to suss out whether it was the right one for our model dinghy (it was).

The bow rail is now installed, along with an LED nav light and a nice cleat from Amazon to finish off the installation. One of the benefits of the bow rail, in addition to safer and easier boarding, is a permanently mounted nav light in lieu of a removable pole mount unit that really needs to come off when not in use. The cheap LED model I bought had poor side visibility and I ended up spending an hour or two modifying it to correct the issue.

The tender also needed its motor shroud latch replaced, and I found the parts at the local Merc dealer, so that's ticked off the list. I also replaced the old and beat-up propeller that I've been nursing along since it first struck underwater debris from Sandy back in Atlantic City a few years ago.

Speaking of propellers, we also need a new one for Vector. The one we have now is manganese bronze, and has been slowly dezincifying. After sandblasting, the damage was quite apparent. We had one of the shops here fit a sorely needed anode to our prop shaft (they had to machine one down to fit) since our shaft brush is clearly not keeping up, but it's too late to save this prop. The new one, whenever we order it, will be NiBrAl and should have fewer galvanic issues. There is a six week lead time so we could not order it here unless we wanted to stick around.


Anode squeezed in between prop hub and line cutter.

I've been more or less working ten hour days, seven days a week since we arrived in the yard, and I am just now coming up for air. But we did make time to get in a few visits with friends who happened to be in the area.

Nina and Paul from Wheeling It stopped by on their way to the Keys; they are preparing to sell their rig and move to Europe to resume their mobile lifestyle there. Chris and Cherie of Technomadia also stopped by, in between securing their boat for a while and resuming their travels in their vintage GMC bus conversion. And mostly-local friends Chad and Amanda met us for dinner one evening in Plantation. We were hoping to intersect with formerly local friends Steve and Harriet as they returned to close out some business here, but we missed by a hair.


Another gratuitous gingerbread shot.

A couple of days ago I took our scuba tanks in for an inspection and refill, and I'm part way through the process of moving my phone to T-Mobile's unlimited international plan and pointing my Google Voice number at it before we head offshore. All we need now is a new Iridium plan and proper insurance, which seems to be taking our agent longer than it should. Yesterday we pressure-washed the tender inside and out, and did our best to wash the boat.

We're done in the yard now, and honestly we could have left here Friday, except I was too exhausted to move the boat, and we still had projects spread all over the boat. If I can get my act together we should be able to shove off tomorrow and head south to Hollywood, where we can anchor. That will give us a chance to regroup, and test the watermaker while we are still in striking distance of the Spectra guy.

The general plan is to head south at least to Miami and maybe all the way to the Keys before crossing the gulf stream to the Bahamas. We still have to provision the fresh food, something best done at the last possible instant, and we need to have the insurance and phones squared away before leaving the country. We also need to get back to the vet (without the cat) to have him sign our pre-departure paperwork.

Now that I am not working every waking minute, I hope to be more timely with blog posts. I still have a lot to do, but things tend to be a bit more relaxed at anchor. With every day in the yard costing money, there is a lot of pressure to finish and get out. When next you hear from me, we should be on our way to Miami.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Hunkered down in Palm Beach

We are anchored in a familiar spot, just north of the Royal Park Bridge in Palm Beach, across the channel from the West Palm Beach city docks (map). I've been looking forward to a stopover here in West Palm Beach, but the temperature has been in the forties since we arrived, and we only ventured ashore once, for dinner last night.


"Clematis by Night" and holiday lights in downtown West Palm Beach. C-c-c-cold.

Friday night found us anchored just upstream of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam (map), across from the very familiar Corps of Engineers campground and docks. The docks are inexpensive and include power, but Vector exceeds the length limit. It was a quiet night.


CoE campground, where we stayed more than once in Odyssey, and docks, as seen from our anchorage.

Saturday we awoke to fog and the tugs and barges of a dredging operation locking through and passing us close aboard. With only a short couple of hours to Stuart, we might have had a lazy morning, except that there is a shallow section just downriver of the Palm City Bridge that we can not pass at low tide, and so we needed to weigh anchor at 9am.

That made for a high-tide start, and by the time we finished locking down, we had the river current and a bit of tide behind us for a fair run. We hit the shallow section at just about a foot above low water, and we had mostly a full foot under the keel the whole way. We dropped the hook just south of  Arbeau Point, in anticipation of north winds, across from the Stuart city mooring field (map).


Locking down at St. Lucie lock. The mirrored windows gave me a view of our mast and anemometer.

We splashed the tender shortly after arriving, and I tendered ashore to walk around town, scope out parking options for the rental car, and see what had changed in the two years since our last visit. The free dinghy dock in Shepard Park is unchanged, although a short section of wall is now reserved for a historic vessel to pick up tours. The park has new restrooms, a welcome change, as well as an impressive play structure.

A few restaurants in the downtown district have changed hands, and I saw first-hand the hurricane damage that has the nearby city docks closed for repairs. I easily found parking just across the highway from Shepard Park. And I enjoyed strolling the downtown and some of the Riverwalk, where I ran into a wedding party taking photos under the highway bridge over the river. We returned ashore for dinner at one of our old favorites, Casa Bella, just a short walk from the park.

Sunday morning we went to get the car, which involved having Enterprise pick us up at the park. We arrived to an Enterprise office nearly entirely devoid of cars, and we were the only patrons. I was pleasantly surprised when the rate turned out to be lower than I had booked. And from the Enterprise office we proceeded directly to ... shopping.


Tender full of provisions. 15 gallons of motor oil are below the other items.

We've been ruminating for some time about where to head after our haulout and stabilizer work in Fort Lauderdale. The cruising season is ticking away; hurricane season ended a month ago and we have just five months left before hurricane season 2018 is upon us. With the boat not really ready for either a transatlantic crossing or a South America circumnavigation, but itching to get a little further afield than the eastern US, we've been contemplating a return to the Bahamas and quite possibly further into the Eastern Caribbean.

Feeding this particular urge is my recent experience in St. Thomas. That part of the Antilles, from Puerto Rico around through the BVIs and beyond, was very hard hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The islands are recovering and rebuilding, albeit slowly. Now, more than ever, they need the revenue that tourism, including visiting yachts, brings. At the same time, the spectacularly beautiful beaches, and anchorages, that are normally crowded beyond measure are relatively empty and inviting.

The decision to go in that direction is not final. There is much work to be done on the boat before it can make the voyage. But one thing is clear: if we are not ready for it, it won't happen. And so it is that we are provisioning for a six-month cruise, which will take us all the way through to hurricane season, wherever we may be at the time. If we don't have the provisions, we can't leave the US, whereas if we have the provisions but wave off the voyage, well, we'll just not be shopping for a while.

We hit, in rapid succession, Target, Aldi, a beverage store, and Walmart, all open on New Years Eve. And we returned to Shepard Park with the trunk full to the gills and goods spilling over into the back seat. I managed to fit almost all of it in the tender in one trip, including 16 gallons of motor oil.

To be clear, this is the tip of the iceberg. We did more shopping before we returned the car, and we'll do still more in Fort Lauderdale, to include the inevitable Costco run. We have a spreadsheet, which includes, for example, 720 twelve ounce cans of beer. (Last time, we ran out of beer before we left the Bahamas, and paid dearly for Bahamian beer to make up the shortfall.)

After the giant shopping run, we were both too pooped to take the half-hour drive to our tentatively planned NYE event, a park celebration culminating in 9pm fireworks in Port St. Lucie. Instead we had a casual stroll through downtown Stuart and stumbled into the bar at The Gafford for dinner. As befits the old farts that we've become, we were back aboard by 9pm, and Louise was sound asleep well before the ball drop. I toasted alone with a glass of wine, and enjoyed what I could see of various private fireworks in several directions from inside the cabin, as it had become too cold and windy to want to be on deck.


13 gallons of oil stored in the bilge under the engine room sole.

The weather got progressively worse, and we bundled up to go ashore on New Years Day. We had more shopping to do, and I also needed to get the seven gallons of used oil from the recent change off the boat. We made another pilgrimage to Walmart for the purpose, en route to the New Years Day party at the home of long-time friends Alyse and Chris in Vero Beach. They always put out a huge spread, so we came hungry but left full. We made another quick grocery stop on the way home for some refrigerated items we could not pick up earlier, and I filled two Jerry jugs with gasoline for the tender.

Tuesday the car was due back, and I had figured to return it a bit early so we could weigh anchor and get under way. But Monday evening we learned that Boston denizens and cruising friends Erin and Chris were coming to town to pick up their boat from storage at River Forest, which we had passed on Friday. We tentatively planned to meet up Tuesday evening, providing their travel went well, the boat was not a wreck, and the weather cooperated to let us ashore.

That gave me a more leisurely morning, to steel myself for getting ashore in rain and 20-knot winds whipping the St. Lucie up into a froth. After coffee I donned my motorcycle rain pants, rain coat, and waterproof riding boots, grabbed an empty backpack for some last minute grocery shopping, and loaded up the trash and recycling to go ashore. Knowing it would be like this, we had taken the sewing table that Louise is donating to charity ashore and loaded it into the car the day before.

It was a bit of a rough ride but I did not ship any water nor even really get splashed; the boots were overkill. I managed to get the table dropped off and other errands done in time to make a stop at a different Walmart en route to the car rental. I had figured a small handful of items, but this store turned out to have some items the other one did not, and I ended up with eight giant bags of trail mix, four bags of chocolate squares, a bottle of wine, plus the veggies I had been sent to get. The backpack alone was insufficient. The car rental was a zoo after the holiday, with cars everywhere, in stark contrast to our pickup.

My experience getting ashore and back in the worst of the winds suggested we'd be OK returning for dinner (the morning grocery items were in the event we needed to remain aboard). Chris and Erin met us at Shepard park in their rental car, and we headed across the bridge to one of our old stand-bys, Uncle Giuseppes Lil Bit a Brooklyn. We had a great time, polishing off two bottles of Sangiovese and closing the place down. It was great reconnecting, and we hope to see them in the Keys before our crossing.


Good times at Giuseppes.

Seas were calmer on our ride back to the boat, and we decked the tender for a quick departure in the morning. It was a great visit in Stuart, and we could easily have spent another week or more there, but we needed to keep moving.

Wednesday we weighed anchor and proceeded downriver to the ICW. Seas were too rough outside and so we made the right turn onto the ICW and retraced a familiar route to Jupiter and on to North Palm Beach, where we had figured to anchor in Little Lake Worth, across from Old Port Cove, another familiar stop.


Look closely to see the amount of mud we brought up from the bottom in Stuart.

Unexpectedly, we made very good time, with favorable current, high tailwinds, little traffic, and some serendipitous bridge timing. It was just 3pm when we hit the last bridge at North Palm Beach, and we decided to just keep on going all the way down to West Palm Beach instead. We dropped the hook here Wednesday just before cocktail hour. Conditions here were too snotty to want to ride the tender, so we left it on deck and had a nice dinner aboard.

Yesterday was something of a catch-up day. I had numerous phone calls to make regarding work during our upcoming haulout. I also needed to get a bunch of things ordered on-line while we have a good, but ephemeral, delivery address, at the boatyard. I also spent hours working on the latest problem, a diesel leak at the main engine lift pump. The part to resolve that is now on its way to the boatyard.

While things were still quite rough in the morning, by mid-afternoon the wind had laid down considerably, and we splashed the tender and went ashore for dinner, preceded by a short stroll down Celmatis street downtown. We wore our winter coats for the dinghy ride, and music from shore got louder as we approached.


The oft-photographed Jupiter Lighthouse, wearing bows for the holidays.

It turned out to be the weekly Clematis By Night concert in the park. But with temperatures in the low forties, the venue was nearly empty. Seats and tables were easily had, and the food trucks had no lines. The band was quite good and playing a number of my favorites, but it was too cold even bundled up to linger very long. We settled on burgers at Grease for dinner; the band was still playing when we returned to the tender.

Our entertainment yesterday and today, if perhaps a bit of schadenfreud, has been listening to a Nordhavn 60 a couple of miles up the lake, working with TowBoat to get their anchor off the bottom. They tried for hours yesterday, including using a diver, and today they came back with a bigger towboat, more divers, and more equipment. You may recall we watched a similar episode play out on our final day in Charleston.

In this case, the skipper had dropped anchor square in the middle of a marked obstruction on the chart, Rybovich Reef, which is a "fish haven" of artificial construction. One description of the reef says that it "consists of a variety of materials deployed between 1991 and 2004, including concrete pyramids and reef balls, ledges with lime rock boulders, a 60ft  barge, limerock boulder piles, and a row of trommel screens." In other words, exactly the sort of things that would mercilessly snag an anchor.


An underwater view of Rybovich Reef, showing a trommel screen.

The skipper in this case is a professional delivery and training captain who works often with Nordhavns, and so I am surprised he missed the hazard on the chart. To be fair, I don't know what chart system is installed on that vessel and how easy it is to see such hazards; they are crystal clear on my NOAA raster and vector charts. He did tell TowBoat that he has anchored in that area many times without incident, which dumbfounded me.

We are scrupulous about avoiding charted underwater anchoring hazards. Immediately north of us is a marked cable area ("anchoring restricted") and yet I count no fewer than 19 boats anchored there right now. You might be able to anchor in such an area a hundred times without incident, but the law of probability will eventually have your anchor hooked on a high-voltage power or telephone cable. If you're lucky, your windlass is powerful enough to bring it to the surface where you can get a line under it and release the anchor. If not, someone is going diving.

Today we are still in the clutches of this winter weather and are once again staying warm in the cabin. We've run the generator two or three times as much as usual keeping the boat comfortable. We'll go ashore for one final dinner this evening and continue south tomorrow.

This has been a particularly difficult day, and posting here has been something of a diversion for me. Late last night I learned that a good friend of many years, from my years in San Jose, passed away yesterday from pneumonia. She complained she had gotten the crud just before New Years, and the next thing I heard was that she was in the hospital fighting for her life. Rest in peace, dear Carolyn. We miss you.



Tomorrow I will have driving the boat to keep my mind occupied, and then we need to focus on our haulout Monday morning. The realities of being in a boat yard will keep us from the funeral, but our thoughts will be in San Jose and with her parents, who are very good friends of ours.

When next you hear from me we will be in Fort Lauderdale. We may or may not still be on the hard; it will be a while before I can come up for air.