Monday, April 30, 2012

Who pissed off the weatherman?

This is the rain as seen from the weather radar on the internet...

This is what the rain looks like from Moonshadow's radar...
This is what the rain looks like from Moonshadow's cockpit...
Based upon the evidence, we're pretty convinced it's raining.  And we think this has been going on for three days.  We've also gotten wind that blows a quite docile 7 or 8 knots then suddenly gusts to 24, healing Moonshadow at her berth here at the boatyard, making you feel drunk down below. But we're not complaining.  After all, we could be in a sketchy sleepless anchorage or making a nasty passage out in the Atlantic.  Not us, we're at the boat yard.  Woo Hoo.

Yesterday, we dodged the weather long enough to go to the movies to watch "Hunger Games" then have drinks along the river where Moonshadow had days before navigated upstream through downtown Ft. Lauderdale.  We were sipping cocktails and meeting a really mellow Golden-Doodle service dog named "Hey Jude" who made us long for Casey, when along came a Mega Yacht getting towed downstream through the Andrews Avenue Bascule Bridge.  Wow.

Ok, it's not exotic, but this is the cruising life for us for the next week or two, while we bet on the "now" side of the "pay-me-now or pay-me-later" boat maintenance proposition.  Nice that we're getting all this crappy weather out of the way while we're at it!  Those of you who come to visit Moonshadow and enjoy great weather can thank us later!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Doing chores on a rainy day at the boat yard

(click photos to enlarge)

The pier at River Bend Marine Center has no floating slips like we're used to in Southern California, and this isn't likely to be the last place we're confronted with lying against wooden pilings, so we made some "fender boards".  Without fender boards, you must hang your fenders horizontally to span the pilings.  

The Mega Yachts have monster fenders for this, but while Moonshadow's fenders are large, even these big fenders are only about 3 feet end to end, so that doesn't permit much protection if the boat should surge fore and aft on a wake from a passing yacht.   Also, when you're tied to a fixed pier, the tide can slacken your docklines a wee bit so you could wake up to find the hull pressed against one of those nasty pilings.  The solution is to make fender boards.  

Ours are made from five foot long 2x6 pine boards with big holes bored at each end, filed and sanded smooth then protected with bullet proof water sealer.  They hang from lanyards between the piling and a pair of fenders taking the brunt of the wear on the pilings and giving ample  room for the boat to wander forward and aft with the tide, wind or wake.

In an earlier post John was bragging about the new tool chests he bought.  They really are beautiful, but until today, empty.

With Moonshadow safely protected from those nasty pilings, John's next chore was to inventory all of Moonshadow's tools, eliminate the redundant or rusted tools, and squirrel them all away into the new chests.

George was a tool lover and left his complete set aboard Moonshadow.  John also loves his tools and brought everything from San Diego. With the best of both sets of tools to choose from, all nicely organized and within arm's reach, we just can't wait for something to break...

Our prop arrived at the shop in Seattle on Thursday, so we hope to see it back in Florida soon, then we can be on our way north.  

In the meantime, we're shopping for new electronics and instruments, renewing some of the running rigging, checking out all the sails (we haven't had anything up but the main and jib so far),  and looking for a wallpaper hanger.  If the weather improves, we may head over to the Everglades for an air boat ride, then check out the trendy downtown area we passed through aboard Moonshadow on our trip up river to the boatyard.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Meanwhile back in the real world

Tuesday, Moonshadow's expected 1/2 hour haulout to remove the propeller for rebuilding turned into almost 4 hours as one after another episode was punctuated with comments like "in all my years this is a first".  

Saving all the afternoon's gory details for cocktails in a beautiful cove sometime in the future, suffice to say that in the end Moonshadow was back in the water, crippled without her propeller, getting pushed and pulled to her berth alongside the long concrete pier (where she will be for the next two weeks while we wait for the prop's return from Seattle).  

Moonshadow's 22" Max Prop weighs 45 lbs.  The blades rotate one way when in forward and the other way in reverse, making for efficient propulsion either direction. When sailing, the blades feather into the slipstream for minimal drag.

After finally getting all the docklines tied and fenders secured horizontally to protect Moonshadow from the nasty wooden pilings, John settled down on the pier with a box of propeller parts, a bucket of diesel fuel and some wire brushes to clean and reassemble the prop for shipment to Seattle, and Deb delivered a welcome rum drink.  In a perfect end to a rather trying afternoon, suddenly torrents of water began cascading down onto John and Moonshadow from high above where workers commenced hosing down an eighty foot motoryacht, sitting in her blocks up on the pier.  With a little help from John the workers (also suddenly) came to realize this was a bad time for water works and left!

Wednesday was a much better day.  For one thing, we were able to observe Moonshadow's inagural harvest of the first batch of ice cubes from her new icemaker.  For anyone who's spent any time aboard Legacy, you know we never run out of ice cubes, and now aboard Moonshadow, that tradition will live on! High Fives all around!

When we arrived in Florida with all of John's tools, we discovered that Moonshadow had a complete set of tools already aboard so we were faced with a dilemma.   Voila, another new addition: two craftsman tool boxes that will adorne the best sailboat engine room ever, and accommodate the very best collection of tools afloat.

Here's a Post Script to the earlier post (April 21) about the chap that hailed Moonshadow saying he'd sailed with her "half way around the world":  Turns out this very nice gentleman is named Will La Fleur and sailed on his own boat "Como No" all the way around the world, completing his circumnavigation in Texas not long ago.  He met George and Merima aboard Moonshadow somewhere down under and the two boats and crews saw each other various ports all the way to the Med.  Will is now land locked as he sold Como No, but helps friends  prepare for cruising, does deliveries and is a licensed Captain.  Deb and I are certain Will La Fleur will not be the last person to recognize Moonshadow and come asking about George, as we look forward to seeing Moonshadow's past acquaintances in ports around the world.

Monday, April 23, 2012

 Time for some changes...

We've spent five days in a "No Name Harbor" and loved the solitude and downtime to just do whatever seemed to feel right.  Yesterday what seemed to feel right was a nap in the cockpit.   Ahhh!

Another idea was taking a walk ashore to see the restored Cape Florida Lighthouse, which has stood since 1825 on the sight that once served as a launching place for runaway slaves escaping to the Bahamas aboard rickety old sloops and dugouts.  These brave souls became known as Seminoles and populated several Bahamian and Caribbean  islands including Cuba.

The lighthouse offers a view from the top if you don't mind climbing the circular staircase which is supported only by the center spine upon which are bolted Iron steps.  About half way up you feel like you're aloft on an old square rigger as the entire staircase sways from the weight of several tourists climbing and descending.  

The view from the top was great but the wind was howling

The Park also offers a look at several restored buildings that served the lighthouse caretakers over the years.  

Moonshadow's crew came around the corner to find another structure of the moon variety.

Meanwhile aboard Moonshadow, we weathered another front passing over Southern Florida last night.  We had gotten pretty used to seeing 20+ knots of wind on the sailing instruments in the anchorages and marinas we've been. The wind in Florida so far seems to be quite happy blowing 20, which is a bit of an adjustment to the 8-12 knots we've grown accustomed to in San Diego.

When the front passed, it was pretty dramatic with a 120 degree wind shift from SE to West in the span of about 90 seconds and a new wind in the mid 30s.  We were glad to be aboard at the time as this is what can uproot a well set anchor.  It's really comforting to know that Steve Dashew, Moonshadow's designer, didn't mess around when specifying massive ground tackle for all the boats he designed.  Good ole Moonshadow and her huge anchor just shrugged it all off as we spun around to our new westerly anchorage heading.  

This morning, it was finally time to put the lazy cruising lifestyle aside and head back to Ft. Lauderdale, where Moonshadow will get some refitting.  We'll get the propeller removed and sent to Seattle for an overhaul, which takes a couple of weeks.  While we're waiting, we'll attend to several items that need doing now or later, on the theory that the sooner we address them, the more enjoyment we'll get out of the investments.  

But first, we'd need to negotiate the channel from our cozy little cove back into the Atlantic.  The channel is well marked but within the safety (safe if you have a boat that draws less than 5 feet) of the channel are a few shallow spots where the bottom at low tide is 5 feet (we draw 6 feet).  I never appreciated how yachting can be such a game of inches (see mast clearances in an earlier post).  John kept below at the chart table giving Deb headings to steer and Deb was at the wheel watching the compass like a hawk.

As you can see, Deb did a great job steering around the shoals.  Those charted soundings are in meters.

(click on photos to enlarge)

What a great crew Moonshadow has! 

We finally got to look up for a last look at the Cape Florida Lighthouse.

The sail north to Ft. Lauderdale was fine in a fresh Northwesterly on the back side the the front that passed through the previous night.  Funny though, but for one day, we sailed close hauled on Port Tack all the way South, and today found ourselves close hauled on Port Tack again heading in the opposite direction.  This time, we had the Gulf Stream pushing us along and saw GPS speeds in the elevens, so before we knew it, it was time to douse the sails and work our way up the New River to the River Bend Marine Center where Moonshadow will be until all the work is done.  Along the twisty curvy way, we were awestruck by the ostentatious homes and beautiful yachts.

The next two weeks or so will feature fewer palm trees and blue water and more rental cars and credit cards.  We'll be really ready to head for Georgia and the Carolinas when it's all over!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

We like this place...
No Name Harbor is a very snug little buttonhole harbor with land and protection on all sides.  We've been here three nights, and used the time to launch the dinghy, replace Moonshadow's hailing port from "Reno" to "San Diego", attend to some minor chores, lunch at the little restaurant ashore, read, swim, etc.  Finally we started planning our next stop before returning to Ft. Lauderdale for Moonshadow's refitting.  But last night's pretty sunset turned into thunderstorms that lasted all night, and today, the forecast is for more of the same till late tomorrow.  

While the winds are 18 knots with gusts to 25 and the raindrops are beading up on the hatches, we feel very cozy down below like we're in a mountain cabin.  Plan A for today is to just putz around in our jammies all day!  Plan B (if the rain lets up) will be to bail the 5" of rainwater out of the  dinghy, and meet the chap on the Morgan 41 anchored nearby.  

He came into the cove last night, circled Moonshadow, and when his crew confirmed the name of our boat, the skipper called out "Are you George?". We said no, but just bought Moonshadow from him.  He says he's sailed "half way around the world" with George aboard Moonshadow, so we'll have to meet this guy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

As great as it gets
After days and days of 20 knot winds, we finally had a gorgeous day. From Fort Lauderdale we motorsailed about 20 some miles south to  Miami.  Then we used the ICW for another 10 miles to find a snug little cove named "No Name Harbor" at Key Biscayne (25 40.621 N 80 09.810W -- click the "Where's Moonshadow" link), where we anchored, cleaned up, had cocktails and tossed the thermometer in the water...  79 degrees!!!  what to do... what to do...? 

Perfect form!



Tonight, we'll eat some Dolphin (aka Mahi-Mahi) caught by our neighbor in Fort Lauderdale, and have a toast to our dear son Dusty who's short life ended two years ago today.  We miss him so much,  but he has been with us aboard Moonshadow all the way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

 Part II
 The choice, upon leaving Lake Worth (aka Palm Beach) was to sail to Ft. Lauderdale outside in the Atlantic, or motor south via the ICW.  Inside, the prospect was more bridges.  Outside, the wind was still blowing 15-20, right on the nose and a 2.5 knot gulf stream current would have made it a long day.

We went with the inside route, and found the day to be quite fun. 

First there's the power you get to exercise over meer motorists, stopping them dead in their tracks to let you pass through a drawbridge.

Then there's the freedom from worry that you didn't measure the mast or figure the tide correctly...

The sky is the limit.

And finally there's all the great stuff to look at, like mansions with million dollar yachts tied out front.  Really amazing and the further south you go, the more ostentatious they get.
As we were almost down to Ft. Lauderdale, Deb looked over to see our yacht broker Jeff Erdmann and his family smiling back from the boat in this picture.   

I think Jeff's was the only boat out there missing a bunch of girls in bikinis on the bow.  All in all, a bloody great day out on the boat!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Snug Harbors

After that beautiful sail from Cape Canaveral, we dropped the anchor just a few feet from Moonshadow's last time here at Ft. Pierce Inlet when George and Merima brought her from Ft. Lauderdale to Jacksonville.  With 60 feet of chain out in ten feet of water, we held all night but the strange thing was Moonshadow rode with the strong ebb current, not the 17 knots of wind, so the breeze came down the companionway while anchored.

The next morning we left on another ebb tide, which proved to be less than ideal.  The stong ebb current clashed with the seas left over from all night winds in the high teens and the morning breeze of about 15 knots.  This made navigating the channel at the inlet like running rapids with several standing waves of 5-6 feet.  Moonshadow handled things just fine, but we learned a big lesson as Deb dashed below to close the hatch in the stateroom and forward head: always close all the hatches when getting underway.  Of course we already knew this, but Southern California sailing can make you a little complacent.  

I watched wave after wave board Moonshadow's foredeck, washing back to the mast before pouring over the gunwales wondering how Deb was fairing below.  Poor Deb finally emerged from below drenched from head to toe and practically in tears!  She secured the hatch over the stateroom before the first wave, but couldn't reach the hatch in the forward head and was tossed all around trying to push up on the hatch with one hand and remove the plastic bottle, used to prop the hatch open, with the other hand, all while standing on the toilet in the pitching forward end of the boat.  Definitely in need of some serious hugs!  What a great crew I have.  

The rest of the day seemed to be a payback for the glorious sail we'd had the previous day.  We had a good breeze, but it had clocked too far south to really sail, so again we motorsailed, this time rail down, the whole way to LakeWorth Inlet.

The day had a bit of everything, from beautiful "sun dogs"...

... to a drenching rain squall with raindrops the size of grapes, then 25 knots of wind, gusting higher.

Fortunately, we learn quick and got everything put below, threw a reef in the main and rolled up the jib before the weather hit.  Soon after the squall passed, we made the sea buoy to Lake Worth Inlet, and found a nice spot to drop the hook and review the day.

But first, Friday the 13th still had some games in store for Moonshadow's hearty crew: it took us four attempts to get the anchor to hold.  I think the bottom here is a hard, sandy clay, from what we saw on the anchor as it came up each time.  The trick that seemed to finally work was to just drop the anchor on the bottom, let out the chain and wait 5 minutes before backing down.  This seemed to let the anchor slowly bury itself.  After waiting, we backed down and held firm.  Anyway we woke up this morning right where we were last night despite 20 knots whistling in the rig all night.  Not long after dawn, a pretty Swan 51 named Concerto pulled in with crew in full foulies, dropped their anchor, dragged, pulled, dropped, dragged, etc. four times.  I feel better.

The wind isn't letting up today so we've decided to have a day on the hook and do as little as possible.  Ft. Lauderdale can wait!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Size Matters
The Kennedy Space Center is a very cool place and the best thing they have is a full size Saturn Moon Rocket.  This thing is gyyyyyynormous!  I mean you stand there and look at it and you think... No way. Nothing this big could ever lift itself off the ground. And when you see the launch film you realize what looks like slow motion is actually shown in real time.  That thing just inches off the launch pad hanging there as it slowly picks up speed.  It's nothing like the space shuttle.  Anyway it was really cool to stand there beneath this beast and realize these were in use before I even met Deb... and that was a looonnnng time ago.  

Speaking of moon rockets....

We finally got some wind today and a chance to really sail Moonshadow. Sailing from Cape Canaveral down about 65 miles to a place called Ft. Pierce, the wind piped up and Moonshadow took off like a moon rocket, steaming along at 9-10 knots for hours!

It was a BLAST!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Enough with bridges, get me to the ocean!

(click photos to enlarge)

After a harrowing day of dueling with bridge clearances, we opted to get into the Atlantic and sail, which was much more relaxing.  This meant exiting the Inter Coastal Waterway through the St. Augustine Inlet.  The cruising guide cautions that the inlet has shifting sand bars with breakers on both sides of a serpentine pass.  We went anyway, and the conditions were quite mild.  The seas were flat and we had following wind, but not enough to sail so we motorsailed 55 miles south to Ponce de Leon.  Ponce de Leon Inlet is described in the cruising guide as one that is "best left to those with local knowledge" and "subject to continual shoaling, swift currents and strong winds".  We went in anyway.  The conditions were just fine for us and we entered on a rising tide so we'd (hopefully) float off the bottom if we found it.  We found our way to a cozy place to anchor and slept like babies.

The really like their lighthouses here!
 The next day, it was a bit longer (68 nautical miles) down to a berth at the Cape Marina in Port Canaveral where we plan to visit the Kennedy Space Center.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Red Sky at Morning, Sailor Take Warning

Since our last post, we got to see first hand that whole “red sky at morning, sailor take warning” thing in action.  After a beautiful sunrise, the wind built from the Northeast until we had whistling in the rigging and a wicked chop slapping the stern.  “Slapping” may be a bit kind, as some of the impacts sounded like  car wrecks.  The weather built all day, and bounced Moonshadow a bit at the dock, but that was nothing compared to the ginormous wake set up by an eighty foot USCG cutter that came screaming into Jacksonville past Moonshadow.  The wake hit our marina like a title wave, heaving boats against the piers and breaking some docklines.  Across the river at another marina, there was damage also.  Moonshadow rolled 30 degrees and lunged around but seemed to shrug the whole thing off.  What a boat!

It blew all that day, into the night and the next morning.  That next day, we finished all of our errands ashore with the truck, returned to Moonshadow to stow away all the provisions and then drove to Carmax and sold the good ole F-150.  Now we’re really vagabonds, with no car.  I think we’re already pretty good at bumming rides though… we made the Carmax salesman drive us back to Moonshadow.

But here’s the best part of this blog….  

Moonshadow’s grand voyage has begun!

At 1330 (that’s 1:30 PM), we cast off from the Ft. George Island Marina in Jacksonville, motored up the St. John River and turned south along the inter-coastal waterway (ICW), officially beginning our cruise.  The ICW is a set of bays and water passages that allow one to navigate from Florida to Virginia without ever entering the Atlantic Ocean.  If, that is, your boat doesn’t draw too much water and your boat’s mast will clear under the bridges with 65’ clearance at Mean High Water.  We bought a 100’ measuring tape and hoisted it up the mast taped to a boat hook so the end of the tape was above the masthead, even with the antennas, lights and instruments.  We figured we’d be OK with 67 feet of clearance, and at 66 feet, only the whip antenna for the VHF radio would touch the bridges, but at 65.5 feet, we might hit the anchor light and wind instruments.  The tide after 1300 was forecast to be low enough to give us some extra clearance, so we took off.  The first bridge showed a tad over 67’ on the waterline scale so we inched closer.  

(click photos to enlarge)
What if our measurements were screwed up somehow?  I don’t think I’ve been so nervous on a boat since I don’t know when.  

As we held our breath and passed under the first bridge, there were no loud sounds one might imagine being associated with a dismasting, so we continued on and finally exhaled on the other side.    

Hi Fives all around.

The next bridge was different.  When we pulled up to this bridge the 67 foot mark was under water and 66 was just above the water.  On top of that, the current under the bridge was 4-5 knots against our direction of travel.  As we were almost under the bridge, Deb said GO!, but I chickened out, circled for 15 minutes to let the tide drop some more, and tried again.  

This time, we had a solid 66.5 feet on the gauge and went for it, but as we proceeded, the VHF antenna hit each steel girder with louder and louder contact.  Passing the gauge on the upstream side there was a foot less clearance at 65.5 feet, just inches above the anchor light and wind instruments.  We had been climbing a 1 foot waterfall as we passed under this bridge.  Two bridges down and three to go.  The rest of the bridges all brought on the same anxiety, but we had 67 to 69 feet for all the rest so we could relax. 

At 1915, we tied up at the Conch House Marina in St. Augustine to find a gallery of 6 or 7 marina tenants who’d never seen anything like Moonshadow and had lots of questions about her.  After visiting with them, we finally poured an anchor-down Rum drink and sagged.  

We’ve covered 35 miles!  25000 to go!