Saturday, November 27, 2010

Back on the New River

Gregg can go more into specifics about the "engine" problem. I will nutshell it by saying there was air in the fuel line and the fuel pump was not the problem. He got it working well enough to transit the New River last Tuesday. So, we are finally off the fuel dock and safely tucked away on the New River at Sailboat Bend. It's a nice spot directly across the river from the Museum of Science and Discovery, which Quinn points out to me every day asking when I'm going to take him there.

Our next stop may or may not be Miami, enroute to Bimini. We're in no hurry to leave Ft. Lauderdale as we have friends in town and plenty of tasks to accomplish. Since we've moved to the river, I've mostly been catching up on provisioning, cleaning, and today, laundry. School for Quinn has temporarily been put on hold while we take care of some things, but hopefully we'll get back to it soon.

Thanksgiving on the boat was nice - we roasted a whole (6.5 lb) turkey on our little rail-mounted marine grill. It turned out beautifully. Kathy and John (Oceana) had intended to stop by for some Mexican Train after dinner, but we all needed naps.

Last night we went (with Kathy and John) to the "Get Lit" festival on the Riverwalk where the mayor officially flips the switch on the Christmas lights. The Riverwalk is particularly lovely this time of year. It was a fun night and Quinn even got to put in a couple requests with Santa. There are photos posted on the website.

I have been slowly working on the website as wifi here is terrible. I have added a couple more photos to our St. Augustine page and updated our position, in addition to the Ft. Lauderdale photos.

Well, off to the laundry.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ft Lauderdale... at the Fuel Dock

The passage from St Augustine to Ft Lauderdale went without any drama... almost.

Wednesday afternoon and Thursday were very nice. We had decent wind, if a little light, so we did some motor sailing and also had a chance to use our light air gennaker sail.

Late Wednesday night we passed Cape Canaveral about 3 miles offshore and I was able to make out Space Shuttle Discovery on it's launch pad. Discovery is scheduled to launch early Saturday morning so we slipped through before they closed off the area to marine traffic. It wouldn't do to be sailing along as booster rockets dropped into the sea around us. But what a great view it would have been!

Thursday evening the wind piped up giving us 20-25 knot winds and 5-7 foot seas. This was a bit more than forecast, but it wasn't on the nose so I had no complaints!

By early Friday AM the seas built to about 6-8 ft and became confused. This was due to the Gulf stream being WAY inshore and piling up against the strong North wind. Now I did have something to complain about! From Lake Worth all the way south to Ft Lauderdale we were fighting 3 to 4 knots of current from the Gulf Stream. We tucked in as close as 1 mile from shore, but it didn't help.

With the wind directly on the stern and Mirasol slewing about in confused seas, it took only a few unplanned violent gybes to convince us to drop the main sail. So, with both engines running and a little jib flying we were doing 8.5 knots but only making 4.5 knots headway.

We arrived outside Port Everglades' (Ft Lauderdale) channel entrance just after dawn on Friday and slowed down to wait for a cargo ship to transit the channel. As soon as the engines were idled, the starboard engine died. A few attempts to re-start failed. The engine would start and then die again after a couple seconds. I figured we had clogged fuel filters from gunk in our tanks being stirred up from rough weather. This was disappointing as I am very careful with the fuel we select and take a lot of care to avoid any water in the tank which would lead to algae growth.

We motored through the channel and into the ship turning basin which is just inside the entrance channel. While Jen turned circles in the ship turning basin keeping well clear of any ships, I changed both fuel filters on the starboard engine. The port authority kept coming by to tell us we couldn't be there and Jen kept begging engine problems. In the 15 minutes I took to change both fuel filters, the Port Authority had threatened us with a $50,000 fine and jail time if we didn't move. Nice.

(In the light hearted spirit of this blog, a rant concerning the harassment of my family while we were on a sailboat experiencing engine trouble... has been deleted. However, the words Police State came to mind.)

The filter change didn't solve the problem. Not desiring to be incarcerated, we left the area on one engine, transited the 17th St Causeway Bridge and carefully navigated up the busy ICW to the Bahia Mar marina.

Now a catamaran runs just fine on one engine when your going in a straight line at speed, but at slow speeds you tend to go in a circle. That's not much help with docking or maneuvering in congested areas with lots of current. As there were no available anchorages or viable slips, we talked the marina into letting us camp at their fuel dock. Very nice of them as we are crowding their business a little. Thank you Bahia Mar!
Once on the dock I continued my trouble-shooting with no success. My best guess was a bad fuel pump or some type of blockage so I called in the pros. Multi-Tech Marine, a firm with which I've had good experience in the past, arrived within an hour and a half of my call and determined the problem was with the low pressure fuel pump. They were surprised, and said that "those never fail". An unfortunate result of the "never fail" status was that in all of Ft Lauderdale, there was no replacement part available. Really? In Ft Lauderdale??? So, we're stuck here at the fuel dock until Monday when the part will arrive.

The mechanic said I might be able to bypass the low pressure fuel pump so that we could leave the fuel dock and get into a slip, but the results would be unreliable. Hmmm... "unreliable" is a bad thing for an engine to be when negotiating the New River in Ft Lauderdale where the river is narrow, busy, has a fast current, and throngs with very, VERY expensive yachts. So we're camping on the fuel dock for the weekend. But hey, it's Ft Lauderdale and it's 80 degrees and sunny. We'll manage just fine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

St. Augustine, FL

Our unexpected stop in St Augustine, Florida turned out to be a great visit. We spent 6 nights here and had a lot of fun. Our only difficulty was deciding where to eat dinner. Many, many tasty options.

We spent the first two nights on Anastasia Island and toured the light house and an alligator farm. The light house was built in 1874 and is still in operation as an official aid to navigation. Jen took Quinn to the Alligator Farm while I took care of some maintenance chores.

After the two days on Anastasia Island we moved over to the St Augustine City Docks. St Augustine has a wonderful waterfront district with a lot of things to see and do. Quinn and my favorite is the Castillo De San Marcos fort. This fort was built by the Spanish to protect St Augustine from the British and French as well as pirates in the late 1600's. It is still in excellent condition and is maintained by the US National Park Service. The best part was watching as one of the original cannons was fired over the bay.

We were lucky to discover it was Pirates Weekend this weekend in St Augustine and we enjoyed that festival quite a lot. Magic shows, pirate skits, a climbing wall and lots of bouncy things to climb on kept Quinn very entertained.

Yesterday I spent the day waxing the starboard hull. I had waxed the port hull in Norfolk. This is NOT my favorite way to spend a day, but since this is the last floating dock we'll be on for a long time, it needed to be taken care of.

Kathy and John of Oceana arrived yesterday afternoon and we joined them for dinner at The Tasting Room. Fantastic tapas and the service was very good. If you like tapas, don't miss this place if you come to St Augustine.

Tomorrow we leave for Ft Lauderdale. The huge system that was creating all the big seas is gone and today's cold front should give us favorable winds.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

St. Augustine, FL - A Convenient Detour

After posting the previous whereabouts blog I downloaded the latest weather via our satellite phone. What popped out at me right away was the updated forecast including 10-12 ft waves for Florida south of Sebastian Inlet... which would have been more or less on the beam until we rounded Jupiter Inlet just north of Ft Lauderdale. Since we will be hugging the coast to avoid the Gulf Stream we'd be in shallow water which means the waves will be steep and stacked up close together. Yuck.

We were just off of St Augustine Florida when I read this. Suddenly we remembered that St Augustine was supposed to be a wonderful port to visit and wasn't it a shame that we would miss it if we went straight to Ft Lauderdale! Back out comes the satellite phone and two minutes later we had reservations at Conch Inn Marina. Jen put the helm over and I hoisted all sail and gunned the engines. Only two and a half hours until sunset and St. Augustine's inlet is a little tricky for a first visit with shifting shoals and breakers on both sides. We needed to make time.

We made the inlet with a little time to spare, are now tied up at the marina are enjoying snacks and beverages. Tomorrow we'll explore St Augustine and start watching for the next weather window that will take us to Ft Lauderdale.

Charleston SC - Ft Lauderdale FL 2010: Day 1

The first day of our passage from Charleston, SC to Ft Lauderdale, FL went very smoothly.  Quite literally smooth sailing (well, motor-sailing anyway).   The light North winds that were predicted were overwhelmed by land and sea breezes generated by the heating and cooling of the east coast landmass so we generally had light wind on the beam mixed with 2-3 foot rollers from the north.  

Today we are a little further out to sea and aren’t affected by the land and sea breezes so we’re getting the 5-10 knot North winds now.  That’s not much to sail with so we’re motor sailing once again.  Tomorrow the winds are supposed to pick up and by tomorrow night we’ll probably be in 20 knot North winds with 7-9 foot following seas building to 8-10 footers as we reach Ft Lauderdale. 

All three of us are doing well and are looking forward to packing away the cold weather clothing.

We were visited several times by dolphin pods.  On the first visit, the pod was especially playful.  Several would jump clear out of the water beside our boat while others were swimming and playing off the bows.  Then we saw something new to us.  One of the dolphins would swim upside down beneath another dolphin and they would “tickle” each other’s belly with their fins.  We’re not sure if they were playing or flirting, but it was fun to watch!

This morning Jen was greeted by a very large pod of dolphins.  She estimates there were at least 30 swimming all around Mirasol.   She grabbed the camera and took a nice video of some of them playing off the port bow.  We’ll post that on the web site when we get in.  Jen also saw a large sea turtle this morning.

One other remarkable bit of sea life we saw were thousands of globular brown and tan jellyfish.  They were floating near the surface just outside of Charleston.   For the first several hours of the voyage, you could look anywhere around the boat and see dozens at any one instant.  I think it is a seasonal thing as I recall seeing something like this the last time we sailed south from Charleston in November.

That’s all for now.