28 November, 2013

Now we're talking

Location: Vero Beach, Florida
Position: N 27 39.709 W 080 22.359
We escaped from the dock last Sunday and the past week has been awesome. We've been moving some and exploring some. Hanging out with some of our favourite cruising buddies and having quiet time alone. Exploring new places and visiting old favourites. All in a week. Now we're talking...this is cruising and why we love it.

We left the dock in Green Cove Springs timing it perfectly to get to the Jacksonville railroad bridge in time for it's 2pm afternoon opening. We were tootling along the St John's River enjoying being back on the water and finally moving again, when we heard a boat call the Coast Guard asking about the bridge opening times. The Coast Guard told them the bridge would be open from 10am to 1 pm. Huh? This was completely different from the info we had. Apparently they had changed the schedule just for that one day because there was a Jaguars football game downtown! Yikes! This made a huge difference in our plans!

We figured out that if we hightailed it at near full throttle we'd make the 15 miles in time to get there BEFORE it closed from 1pm to 4pm. Well, we did make it, thank goodness, by about 8 minutes, and even got to see the beginning of the game from the river! With a 2 jet flyover, cannons, fireworks, and a view of the huge TV screen in the stadium showing opening ceremonies there was lots to see. We caught the outgoing tide down the St John's river making 8 knots at times and luckily had no big boat traffic to worry about. The St John's is a major shipping river with massive freighters bringing cargo to and from Jacksonville, it can get pretty scary, especially with the strong currents.

We spent a lovely, quiet, full moon lit night anchored by the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) just off the St John's and the next day traveled down to St Augustine, one of our favourite stops. Being the oldest city in America, you can imagine there is lots to see and do there and especially when you get to do it with good friends you haven't seen for a while. So we spent 2 days socializing and exploring then we were off again down the ICW. We spent 3 long days motorsailing in cloudy, sometimes rainy, weather which wasn't very fun but hey, we were on the water, moving, and we were happy.

We stopped at a new-to-us anchorage near Melbourne, Florida called Dragon Point. There used to be a huge sculpture of a dragon on a spit of land at the mouth of the Banana River, it is now a crumpled pile of concrete and chicken wire, but the spot still holds the name. We had friends who just spent 10 days there and sang it's praises so, as there were big winds forecast, we decided to hunker down there for a couple of days with our good friends on Barefootin. And we were able to get some cleaning done on the decks as we were enjoying sunny 80 degree weather for a day before the winds picked up.

We explored the area by dinghy and afoot, socialized, and while it was windy and rainy, even got to spend some time reading and relaxing. Aaaah, sweet!

Yesterday we moved down to Vero Beach, another favourite stop. Lots of cruising boats are rafted up on moorings and there'll be a huge pot luck gathering with over 100 cruisers for Thanksgiving on Thursday. We know lots of people here and we're sure we'll know lots more before we leave.

Happy Thanksgiving,

13 November, 2013

One step forward …

 Location: Green Cove Springs, Florida
Position: N 29 59.325 W 081 39.657

Rachel's been back in the water for, let's see, two weeks. Wow – just two weeks? It sure seems a lot longer than that.

After getting launched we moved ½ mile to Reynolds Park Yacht Center. It's a little more expensive but much cleaner and nicer. We still had many jobs to do that we needed to be on a dock to accomplish, so we figured this would be a great place to do them. A good decision, as it turned out, since it seems like we've been taking two steps back for every step forward.

For example, Mark needed to align the new prop shaft, which turned out to be a much bigger job than anticipated. One of the rear engine mounts was rusted and, try as he could, he could not adjust it, so he decided to replace it. This meant raising the back of the engine a couple of inches so he could slip the old one out and the new one in. Good thing he did, as the mount was broken, too. One thing led to another, blocks and tackle tied around the boom and led to a winch, crank crank, only 1/8” left to go, and CRACK. Huh?? The boom gallows shattered (this is a curved piece of wood that the boom sits on when not in use). It was dry rotted. The good part is that he did finally manage to get the engine mount installed and the engine and shaft aligned.

While this was going on Julie established herself in the lovely big lounge with her sewing machine for a few days to work on a new bimini, the shade cover for the cockpit. With two big tables, lots of floor space, and ample lighting the space was much better suited to her needs than down below in Rachel's salon. A lot of cutting and sewing, a couple of test fittings followed by a final fitting, and we now have a nice new bimini. With the bimini on, Mark was then able to reinstall our second solar panel.

The next step was to cut and sew the piece of canvas that goes between the bimini and the dodger called the connector. The dodger serves as the boat's windshield and the front of the connector attaches above it to – you guessed it – the boom gallows. Which was in many small pieces.

Now, what to do about the boom gallows? We went to a local sawmill and, as luck would have it, there was a big chunk of cypress sitting there. The owner cut a 1.5” thick board off the chunk, squared it up, and cut the board into several 1/2” thick strips with his band saw. All for only $10, wood, labor, and all – one of the best deals we've ever lucked into!!

After a stop at a lumber yard, where we bought some clamps and a piece of plywood that we then had cut into three pieces, we headed back to Rachel. We screwed the three pieces of plywood together to make them thick enough, then cut out an arc with the same radius as the old boom gallows. The plan was to use the two plywood pieces as a press to curve and clamp the wood. After a bunch of epoxy and 3 days clamped in the form followed by a couple hours of sanding – voila – we now have a nice new curved boom gallows made of laminated cypress. Sorry we forgot to take a picture of this process.
So now that we have something to attach it to, Julie can finish the connector.

Then yesterday, right after we released the boom gallows from the form, we ran out of water. Okay, time to fill the water tanks. Starboard first, then move on to the port tank. Julie opened the deck plate, put in the hose, and waited. Okay, it's full...OH NO!! That wasn't the WATER deck plate, that was the FUEL deck plate!! We now had a fuel tank that was half full of water and half full of diesel fuel!! What a mess!! Just when we finally felt we were starting to make progress.

After everything else we've had to deal with, all we needed was another major task. Needless to say we were both pretty upset. After learning that it would cost over $300 to have a fuel polishing service handle the problem for us, the folks at the marina said they'd deal with the contaminated fuel for free if we could get it out and put it into containers. So Julie went to Home Depot and bought ten five gallon buckets with lids. Mark hooked up an old oil change pump and we proceeded to fill the buckets. Luckily diesel fuel floats on water, so by pumping the water out of the bottom first, we were able to salvage about 20 gallons of fuel. We'll still have to run it through our homemade water separating filtration system a few times before we can put it back in the tank, but at almost $4 / gallon that will save us a few bucks.

And then, to top it all off, a cold front comes through and we find ourselves sitting down below this morning while it blows in the high 20s gusting into the 30s and the mercury falls so far we're wearing fleeces and slippers!! At least we're able to plug in our little heater to take off the worst of the chill. Can't do many boat jobs in this weather, but at least we're getting some time off and you are receiving this update.

We need to get off the dock and get moving further south so we can return to fair weather, fun, and friends!! Hopefully we'll be on our way in the next few days.