Monday, February 25, 2013


February 25thth 2013

Position N 25° 79.309’.
              W 80° 14.637’.  

Miami, FL

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From our anchorage in Key West
Arriving in Key West was a realization of what we had embarked upon, it was the successful completion of our first leg in what we hope will become a journey of discovery and adventure. There will be good days I’m sure along with, I hope, only the occasional bad day. Our first excursion ashore was not all easy; it was still a good day although with a few deviations from ‘good’! The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and 80°. We, for the first time, lowered the dinghy; only one word describes this event – hard!  I was using the harness that we had custom made for the dinghy on our last boat, it didn’t work! The dinghy was at an angle of 35°, down at the stern and the harness didn’t provide any lateral stability either. The whole operation was a disaster and HT was scared to death. We did manage to lower the dink to the water but what an operation. A few demands were made and I was paying attention if you know what I mean! We still had two more stops on our way along the Keys before arriving at Miami and we would definitely not be lowering the dinghy at these stops, they would simply be overnight anchorages and that is that... When we arrived in Miami we had intended anchoring while waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, now we needed to find a marina so the dinghy debacle could be fixed! More on this later... 

We walked around Key West and went to the turtle museum; Key West has a history of turtle fishing although now, of course, the museum collections are directed toward turtle preservation and care. Right next door is the Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas exhibit, all were interesting. A short stroll from there to Duval Street brought us to the heart of Key West, a bustling hive of activity; Key West is a major tourist destination and almost all efforts are directed to extracting dollars from those tourists. From the pirate character dressed up as Johnny Depp offering to have his picture taken with you, for a small donation of course, to the drummer sitting on the sidewalk hammering out a rhythm on five gallon plastic buckets, he was actually pretty good! Oh yes! Not to be passed up Sloppy Joes of course, we went in! I ate a super blackened grouper sandwich the Admiral a ‘Sloppy Joe’ and we both drank a tasty Blue Moon, in fact I had two! There is always live music on stage there and we were lucky by having a good artist playing; renderings included the usual Jimmy Buffett tunes to requests from the patrons that included Led Zeppelin, quite a range, he was good. Now the this time we were having as much fun as any two people could have. When the bill came we were talking about walking up to Sunset Pier and doing a loop back to the municipal dinghy dock where we had moored the dink, ah! Oh! no wallet! I thought that HT had brought currency and she thought I had! With no options and neither one of us wanting to do a spell in the kitchen washing dishes, I had to leave HT as surety for the bill while I walked the mile or so back to the dinghy, motored back to ‘Partners’ anchored out by Fletcher Island, to get my wallet. All ended well and the bonus was that Lavinia had met a couple while waiting for me and the lady was also a nurse so conversation ensued, being distracted by the conversation she thought that I was quick! Afterwards I laboured that it was a long trip and it was difficult to handle the dinghy alone in a 2-3 knot current; she didn’t hear any of it, time passes quickly when you are having fun and she was. At one point the waitress, who knew what was going on, noticed HT was ‘missing’, the waitress though she had been duped and we had skipped out on her but no, HT returned after a short visit to the ladies room! We were back to having a fun day and everything was okay in the end...we continued looking around the town and had a good walk ending up at Sunset Pier and Mallory Square, fun. We ended with an ice cream to cool us down before the dinghy ride back to ‘Partners’ and before, what I knew would be a major effort, yes, hoisting the dinghy back aboard up to the boat deck. We forgot to take the garbage with us before and had to return to the dock. We went back with it and there was no room at the dinghy dock, must have been at least fifty dinghies tied up there so I edged in to a ‘no parking’ zone part of the dock close enough for Lavinia to get off with the garbage. I then loitered just going round in circles waiting. After HT had safely taken it to the dumpster I nosed back in to the ‘no parking’ zone and as she hastily tried to re-board she accidentally fell into the dinghy, she landed safely but we both learnt something here!

Later I had reason to open the lazarette hatch to stow some of the dinghy gear, anchor, life jackets etc., and noticed that the rudder assembly was loose; the clamp that connects the steering ram to the rudder post has two bolts and one had backed off! This could have been a disaster and from now on a visual inspection will be included during my hourly check while underway. 

Feb. 13th Left for Marathon @ 07:00. After a great cruise of 40 odd nautical miles (NM) we passed under the 7 mile bridge and headed east to our anchorage just north of and in the lea of Boot Harbour. We had an idyllic night, a great al fresco dinner with a little wine, candles and a most beautiful sunset. Our aft deck, or as we Krogen owners call it, our back porch, is a focal point and really is another cabin, so to speak.

From our anchorage, Seven Mile Bridge at Sunset
After a good night’s sleep in flat calm conditions we set of again to our next anchorage at Rodriquez Key where we would spend the next evening and night. After a pleasant days cruise continuing NE along Hawk Channel identifying the various Florida Keys along our way, time passed, an uneventful day. We anchored in 8’ of water in the NE anchorage behind Rodriquez Key and all was calm...until late evening when all hell let loose and a front came through with heavy rain and 30 knot winds! We were on watch, I felt it necessary to stand a watch as if our anchor did drag we would be ashore on Rodriquez! At 01:00 I stood down and retired. The worst was over and our anchor did the job. The good part was the fresh water wash down ‘Partners’ had, it saved us getting the hose out to do the job. All cruisers will know how ‘salty’ the boat gets just being on the water never mind if spray is coming aboard. We did have some spray at the end of our Sarasota – Key West leg and it had ‘caked’ the bow area and pilot house. We did not use the hose in Key West as we wanted to conserve water.  

Feb. 15th. Off again, Miami the
next stop, we continued along Hawk Channel to the Biscayne Channel where we entered Biscayne Bay. Each side of the channel are the well known stilt houses, always a fascination... As we cruised toward The Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge in another downpour, lucky ‘Partners’ all that fresh water, I began calling marinas to make a reservation; the two usual suspects Miami Beach Marina, lots of surge as it is right by Government Cut and the Atlantis Ocean plus is expensive, Sunset Harbour Marina, charging $8 per foot, it was Boat Show time; I passed on both. I referred to Active Captain and saw very good reports about Palm Bay Club and Marina; they had room for us and at $2 per foot which is very reasonable. We were safely tied up in our slip by 16:00. We had a great experience here, Bill and Kelly the two dock masters were fantastic helping us with getting a fuel truck so we could fill up with our last relatively inexpensive diesel fuel before crossing to the Bahamas, finding George who completely reworked our dinghy harness and shortened our stainless steel hoist cable. We stayed through Tuesday so we could get our ‘jobs’ done. At 16:20 we said goodbye to Kelly who saw us safely away from the dock and on our way to the anchorage over by Sunset Harbour and Belle Isles, FOJ and I, when we brought ‘Partner’ home from Oriental, NC, stayed here for a night. This anchorage is great, good holding and convenient for South Beach, Lincoln Mall and about every store you could think of. We were able to take the dink up the Collins canal and stop at various places namely Ace Hardware to have a dinghy security cable made up, Publix for some fresh items to tide us over until Nassau, a super lunch at a cafe along Lincoln Mall and oh yes, a liquor store for some Baileys! There is also a selection of Banks, Gas stations, you name it...

On Thursday the 21st just before sunset we upped anchor and passed through the East Venetian Causeway Bridge so we could anchor in the sight of Government Cut ready for our departure to the Bahamas the next morning at 03:45, we didn’t want to have a bridge to negotiate that early and by staging ourselves beside Government Cut would save us at least an hour.

More to come from the Islands of the Bahamas!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We're on our way!

February 11th 2013

Position N 24° 56.987’.
               W 81° 80.218’.

Key West, FL

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The nightmare continues...finally Jim our electronic guy visited ‘Partners’ on February 4th to do, what we hoped would be, the last sea trial to calibrate the new redundant autopilot fluxgate compass and check everything was functioning as required. HT and I were ready for what we saw as a big day, the last hurdle we needed to overcome before we set off. 08:00 was when we were supposed to cast off, Jim was late! At 08:30 we cast off and began to make our way out into Sarasota Bay. The anticipation after 3 months of problems was consuming me; it took only 15 minutes to be in enough clear water to begin the circles to calibrate the compass. In no time we had a good calibration, simple right? No, as soon as we laid in a waypoint to test the navigation software was sending the right info to the pilot and that ‘Partners’ would follow the course the fuse popped in the autopilot computer! The anticipation was immediately replaced with frustration and depression. Back to the dock for more fuses, yes no one had a 30 amp automotive type fuse including me! Now that I know there are fuses in the AIS and the Autopilot components I will have a stock! What was happening was the autopilots pump which pumps the steering fluid to the rudder ram was surging and drawing up to 36 amps instead of the normal 6-14? Jim and his helper started to blame everything from the navigation software to the wiring of the boat! So after another trip out to the bay and back to the dock, the amp meters came out, it was determined that the wiring was fine so next a call to Simrad. Simrad thought that the Nobeltec software could be the cause sending confusing signals to the autopilot computer which in turn was sending wrong instructions to the autopilot pump, they also said it could be a bad pump (we are already on our second!) and then covered all bases by saying that it could be the computer (we are on the second one of these too!). In other words it could be anything! I intervened with information such as our other Simrad pilot works fine! I then suggested we turn off the navigation computer and conducted tests using just the ‘auto’ feature on the pilot to hold a set course to steer. Out we went again, the same result, more fuses blew! After a conversation with Jim the conclusion was to install a smaller Simrad pump which will draw less current. I made it clear that an exit plan must be addressed as if this does not work I want all the equipment removed and a full refund of the money I have paid to date. We plan to leave, we must, we will have another marine electronics company, recommended by Kadey Krogen, do the job. They are located in Stuart, FL. so we plan to cruise round to the east coast for them to have a go if there is no resolution soon!

When I say ‘we must’ I am referring to our original plan and time frame of being in Trinidad by July 1st (we have to be south of 10° N for hurricane season, a requirement of our insurance company and Trinidad  is around 9° N). Time is running out for us not to be too rushed to make the journey through the Caribbean. The idea of cruising is not to be in a hurry. Cruisers are weather driven and any timetable is dangerous so our alternative plan would be to spend spring in the Bahamas and then cruise north up the east coast of the US and visit the Chesapeake and possibly as far north as Newfoundland, we will see...  

Feb. 6th Tax day for us...this is our last, I hope, complicated tax year as both of us worked part of the year but are now retired and what with taking Social Security benefits, me signing on to Medicare and two other pensions, all sorts of rules apply. This morning at 10:30 we’ll find out the damage! Next year should be simple, I know...famous last words!  

While we were on our way to our accountant Jim called to let us know he had time this afternoon to install the smaller Simrad autopilot pump. I hastily confirmed, okay! The timing was perfect we were able to finish off our taxes and get back to the boat with plenty of time; the 'damage' at the accountant by the way was manageable, just like a seaway...right at the point the stabilizers were going to be needed but just made it without them! To cut this long drawn out saga to a close...everything WORKS...we did a completely successful sea trial; Jim and I gave a sigh of relief, we are ready to go!  

That afternoon we called our friend and auto technician, who is buying our two cars and told him that tomorrow morning would be the day to take Lavinia’s car, he already has mine. Lavinia planned the last few fresh food items we would need and a couple of other items so she could get all that finished while she still had ‘wheels’. We loaded the two bicycles on board – we’re ready.  

Now, a weather window and a last minute spare part that should have arrived on Wednesday? The part didn’t come and the perfect weather window was closing fast. Here is an e-mail I wrote to a friend...  

My youngest son Chris his wife Cintia,
Isabella and Matthew - Goodbye!

Saying goodbye to our friend Jo (our slip owner) 

HT cleaning the bikes before loading

Farewell Longboat Key & Sarasota

I had intended to telephone you before we knew we were going to leave but events overtook us! We were expecting a part to arrive UPS to our USPS PO Box and it didn’t! The parcel should have come on Wednesday and we planned to leave on Thursday afternoon to stage ourselves at LBK pass for an early start to Key West on Friday. We had good intentions to call you Wednesday afternoon to see if you wanted to come over for a farewell drink on Thursday; well, Lavinia had to give up her car on Thursday morning, do some last minute shopping and errands and pick up the package, STILL NO PARTS PACKAGE!, after tracking the part there seemed a possibility that the item would arrive at 11:00 on Friday. Bummed out at this point we felt we would never leave, in fact we have felt like that for three months! While talking with family and friends that did stop by to bid us farewell we felt like frauds having kept saying we would be leaving that evening. Our weather window was closing for a nice smooth passage all the way to Key West. On Friday off we went on our bikes to the PO and yes the parts package was there and as we rode back to the boat, I said “Let’s just cast off and if we have to swing on the hook waiting for another ‘window’ then so be it” Lavinia agreed; so, as soon as we got back to the boat we left, this is the advantage of ‘Partners’ being our home! We spent Friday evening in north SRQ bay checking and rechecking weather gribs and saw that we still had a small window if we left early enough on Saturday. 04:45 Saturday we set sail for Key West and had the most perfect day at sea, one of those days that we will always remember and every cruiser, at least trawler cruiser wishes for, I understand sailors like a little wind! We were sitting on the flying bridge most of the journey in flat calm seas with absolutely zero wind. All this when the weather man said the opposite! At least this start gave me a little confidence in my long underused weather forecasting skills… Lavinia did well on her first overnight standing her two watches without calling me! Although the forecast was for 25 knot winds from the east blowing up late Saturday early Sunday the winds did increase and did strengthen to 30 knots but by the time they did, which I had thought, they came out of the SE not the E and we were close enough to Key West that we had a lee from the Keys. We had wind but only 3-5ft seas which the stabilizers coped with fine. YEA! WE’RE IN KEY WEST, THE JOURNEY BEGINS…”
Key West - check out the helicopter!
Our first sunset - no green flash!

Our anchorage in Key West - wow, the colour of the water!
YT Relaxing on the flying bridge

Capt. Fix it!

The techno for this entry is - watermakers don't work if they are sucking air into the system...we tried to make our first RO water, set everything up, turned on the watermaker primer pump and nothing! Darn! or at least something like that, the Admiral will tell you something else, @#%^%^& thing! Three hours later after a practical rebuild of the plumbing and replacing two hose clamps that had rusted away I had located the leak in the system and now we have water, hurrah! 25 gallons an hour of beautiful drinking water steadily streamed into the tank. We made 100 gals which gave us a total of 225 gals. in the tanks.

"Bring hard work to the table and see what you get" I said that...

Note – The ‘glossary of the terms’ page contains all the writers abbreviations and colloquialisms.