Saturday, September 5, 2015

Final Leg

     We planned on staying in Carrabelle for a few days to clean up the boat but when Beth pointed out the impending thunderstorms for the weekend and that Friday was the best weather we would have for several days, the decision to get to Doc's Holidays new home port was made.  We filled up the forward tanks with fuel and took off for the 6 hour ride across Appalachicola Bay into the Intercoastal Waterway, and around the end of the canal into Port St. Joe Marina.

                                                          Leaving Carrabelle

     Stopping when we saw a fellow in a small boat waving his arms in distress we quickly determined that he had a problem that we couldn't fix and called Sea Tow for him.  We made sure he and the two girls aboard were safe and had water then continued towards our destination.


                           Oyster beds our starboard prop met when we were here in 2012

     The wind came up and thunderclouds threatened as we entered and navigated  through Apalachicola and the ICW but we only had to go to the lower helm  for a brief period of rain. The cruise was easy and relaxing, allowing us to talk about the good times, good anchorages, nice towns and museums, our favorite islands and ....the difficult times. It seemed like such a long time ago that we left Eastport . Both of us were relieved the traveling was coming to an end and we could have a rest from our vacation. Indeed, we had experienced a lot, and no doubt learned a lot about cruising on our boat... The bottom line was,"Our experience continues to grow."
     However, our experience was not over! As we entered St. Joseph's Bay I could see  the wind had increased producing white caps and some rollers coming into the canal.  Beth quickly went forward and closed the forward hatch just in time to prevent a huge wave from filling up the front state room.  We had to turn side to the waves to get to the marina and the boat began to roll.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Beth squat down and hang on.  When the boat righted itself she went into the main lounge, sat on the floor and hugged her knees.
      "Oh! This is the motion I hate." she moaned
      " Are you going to be able to get by the rocks at the entrance to the marina?  I guess the weather gods are giving us a reminder that they are the ones truly in control!" she said in a low nervous voice.
       "Please just relax. I have to concentrate on getting through the entrance. I am going to have to power in through the turbulence." I responded.
        We flushed in with a swell and as I maintained control of the boat Beth said with a glee, "Oh my Ralph. Look! The have a Doc's Holiday Welcome home banner strung up!" When I looked up boat horns were blaring, people were waving and I could see the smiling faces of our friends and club members. It was heartwarming.


                                                      Click on picture to enlarge.

     We managed to turn the boat around the very narrow fairway and glide into Doc's Holidays new slip.  We were greeted by more smiling faces; Vicki and Danny-Dale Hellemn; our club commodore Dave and his wife Margo; and holding a bottle of wine and the biggest smile of them all, Huin.
     Thank you all for being so kind and making us feel so much at home. 





Bittersweet!!!......until the next adventure.

 We celebrated by opening the bottle of champagne Beth had on chill for when we reached our final destination.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Crossing

     As discussed in a previous blog, there are many suggestions of how to safely cross from the panhandle of Florida to the west coast of Florida. At trawler speed most people will make a night crossing, leaving in the afternoon to travel the 150 miles so that they can arrive at daylight on the other side,  enabling them to see and avoid the numerous crab pots. I hate traveling at night. My imagination contrives all kinds of things that could be just under the water that we might hit and sink the boat. On top of that, with no definite horizon to focus on,  mal de mer sets in quickly and I am pretty much bedridden trying to hold my cookies down.
     Running at top speed didn't appear to be an option for two reasons.  One, I didn't want to travel a further 90 miles north to Steinhatchee, since it would add another 2 days to the trip and I would miss this weather window. Two,  I really didn't want to push the motors that hard for that long. I have babied this boat since the day I got her and I just don't like traveling that fast.
     I came up with a plan. If we left before daylight, we would have only a few hours of darkness and would be able to see not only what is in the water but when and where any storms were threatening. Pushing the boat a little to a 10 knot cruise, we would be across in about 15 hours.
     We were up and off the dock by 4:30 a.m. and passing by the Clearwater entrance marker by 5:00.  The waves were less than 2 feet and  only a moderate ocean swell which did increase when the 10 to 15 knot wind was on our nose but we passed by Dog Island just as it was getting dark. Beth met us at our assigned dock and we were securely tied up by 8:30p.m.
      We watched on our weather XM as storms passed behind and ahead of us, and laughed as we saw the one waiting over Apalachicola Bay move on out towards Tallahassee about an hour before we got to Dog Island.  The ride over was no doubt tolerable for most, but I remained supine in the lazy-boy chair or on the bed for most of the trip, relieving Mike at the helm when he needed a break. Hiring him was a good move.  He is used to being out in heavy weather and high seas and sea-sickness is just not a problem for him.
     My apologies to all who were following this part of the journey... I did not know that SPOT, the signal that shows our boat position at all times, automatically shuts down after 24 hours.  Since I did not shut it off the night before we left it looks as though Doc's Holiday went out into the Gulf Of Mexico and just disappears @ 1005AM! Beth was especially upset since she was following a storm that looked like it passed over us when spot stopped working! It wasn't until we were almost all the way across that I discovered the problem and got SPOT working again.  I guess that explains the 140 hits on the blog for that crossing.....sorry...but .....I'm BACK!!
     p.s. Beth and the dogs were still grinning when we arrived!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fort Myers to Venice to Clearwater

     Waking up on Aug. 31, I  poured a cup of coffee for Beth and handing it to her said, "Happy Birthday, sweetheart.  What do you want for a birthday present?"  Laughing she replied, "I want off this boat!"
     She added, "Seriously, we have been working on this boat since June and have been traveling daily since we left Eastport, Maine in July. Except for the days when we couldn't, because of the weather we have been moving.  I absolutely do not want to make the crossing across the gulf and besides the dogs want off the boat!"
    " Well, the dogs didn't tell me that", I quipped.
     I understood. It really has been a hectic trip, more like a delivery than a vacation and the most stressful part would be ahead of us.  We have been agonizing about crossing the gulf since we left the east coast. Several times a day we would watch the thunderstorms across the northern gulf, trying to see a pattern so we could time our crossing. On the east coast the storms had been fairly predictable. We could travel in the morning and be anchored or in a marina by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and safely watch the thunderstorms pass. The pattern on the west coast was different. The storms were occurring not only in the mornings but also overnight.  We discussed several scenarios such as going 90 miles further north to Steinhatchee to easily cross the 60 miles to Carrabelle, or running at top speed to make it across as quickly as possible or leaving the boat on the west coast of Florida until winter brought more settled weather, etc. etc.

              Our pass time during storms. Of course the Admiral had the large glass.
                                                      Storm brewing in Fort Myers

     "OK, You got it. I will hire a captain and you can meet us in Carrabelle." A look of relief crossed Beth's face and I swear, both dogs grinned!
     I made the arrangements. Mike Chapman is married to Jaimie Chapman, our circulating nurse in the operating room at the hospital. He also has his captain's license.  He captained crew boats to the gulf oil rigs and now works for Sea Tow in Port St. Joe.  He agreed, drove down to Ft. Myers and gave Beth his truck so she and the grinning dogs could wait for us in Carrabelle.
    Tom  Delouche, the diver recommended by Coastal Props in Fort Myers, put the props back on and the next morning we headed on the outside to Venice.  As I throttled up the Detroit's to see if the motors were going to handle running on the top end we heard and felt a vibration. I immediately pulled the throttles back. The vibration was not so bad at cruising speed but the vibration was still there.
     " Damn! Did they do the props wrong? Did something come loose? Did we pick up a crab line? Are we doing any damage to the running gear?" rapidly shot through my mind.
     We eased into our dock in Venice and as soon as we were secure Mike donned a bathing suit and jumped into the water to take a look at the running gear. I expected him to come up with a handful of line. He came up with a surprised look on his face.
     "Your prop nuts are loose!" he exclaimed. "I can turn the locking nuts and the main nuts by hand!"
Immediately, I called Coastal Prop and they had the diver call me.  I explained the situation to him and asked him to come to Venice and correct the problem. He gave me some bullshit story about how the vibration was probably from a line that must have come off when we reversed gears to dock the boat and the props wouldn't come off because the were constantly pushing the boat forward and there was a cotter key preventing the nuts from coming off, blah! blah! blah!
"We see loose prop nuts all the time." he said.
"You need to come up here and fix this." I replied.
"I'm not coming to Venice. Get a diver to go down and tighten them up." he replied.
     That ended the conversation. There was no way I would have another diver go down and replace a prop again. They just can't put them on securely underwater.  To do so is a temporary fix, at best.
     We eased out off the dock in the morning and headed for Clearwater and I started working the phone to find a marina that could do a quick haul on the boat to check the running gear and tighten the props.
     Francisco Costa, (Yacht Solutions) at Cortez Cove Marina could handle us as soon as we could get there.  It was a tight squeeze to get in but they had 4 men helping and within an hour had the boat pulled, the running gear checked, and the prop nuts securely tightened down.  I took pictures of the nuts as soon as the boat came out and they weren't even touching the props.  I immediately called Coastal Props and the Fort Myers Marina to inform them of this divers shoddy work and lack of professional customer service.


      It turns out that the loose nuts were probably not responsible for the vibration. There is a computer relay that controls the stabilizers that had come loose. We had no further problem once I pushed the relay back in.
     We headed back out and enjoyed a smooth ride all the way up the coast to Clearwater.  No waves, just a slow undulating swell and the deep throbbing hum of the big Detroits.  Mike pointed out a number of sea turtles and flying fish.   It was interesting how these fish seemed to tail walk across the surface of the water. Since my photographer had jumped ship, I had no way to capture the images.
     Pulling into the fuel dock at Clearwater Municipal Marina was straight forward. I  filled the aft tanks to make sure we had enough fuel to get across the gulf.  Jumping in to fire up the port go!  Depleting every curse word in my vocabulary, I used the starboard motor to coax the boat to our assigned slip.
     "Where was Beth and her magic finger"?  I thought silently. She was always able to get this motor going when I couldn't. This is a problem that has plagued us intermittently for the trip to and from Maine. Mike and I wiggled pushed and poked everything we could  thinking a wire or something must be luck. I tried to call a luck. All I could think of was the weather window we were about to lose if we couldn't get away in the morning.  Once we maneuvered on one engine and got all the power and water hooked up I passed by the lower helm and out of frustration jabbed at the start button one more time.....VROOM!  I still don't know what is wrong but it appears that given time to cool what ever is wrong is made right. We would be leaving in the morning.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sitting in the Cross Hairs

     Agonizing! Simply agonizing! Tropical storm Erika has altered paths and the prediction is now for it to head up the west coast possibly centering on Fort Myers. Crap! So much for my prediction.  Here we sit side tied to a fixed dock with no props!  We can't run back in land for protection. We can't even move the boat other than by hand. This doesn't leave a lot of options.
    The wind may not be as big a problem as the storm surge. Currently they predict Erika will not reach hurricane status (winds over 75 m.p.h) but if there is a storm surge someone (meaning me!) will have to be here to adjust the dock lines to accommodate the storm surge since it is not a floating dock.
     Doc's Holiday has been through 4 hurricanes and sustained only minor damage such as scratches, rub marks and ( in Hurricane Ike) damage to the props and teak rail when the 20 foot storm surge lifted her off the stands and she settled back down on the keel and stabilizers up against another boat. During one of the unpredicted storms Beth and I worked all night to adjust lines to keep the boat out from under the slip roof so she wouldn't get crushed like many of the other boats did because there was no one to help adjust lines.
     Well, I guess I will slow down now!
     Beth is able to get some reading, cleaning and most importantly cooking done.  Hmm! I see brownies in my future and her roast beef is delicious. I am able to get a few more maintenance issues addressed.
     Getting a good recommendation from the Hatteras Owners Forum about a straight forward, honest air conditioning tech named Bruce Weld located in Fort Myers, I contacted him to come have a look. The $3,000 estimate I got to replace the air conditioner was fixed for $150.00 and he replaced my holding tank filter while he was here.
      No, I don't think the people in St. Augustine intentionally tried to sell me a new install. Here is what I think happened.  Remember Danny Kennedy and I found two burnt wires on the air conditioner condenser. We rewired them with screw on caps.  One of the wires came off but couldn't be seen without removing the cap. The cover on the relay for this air conditioner had at some time in the past been mixed up with the state room air conditioner which was a 6000 BTU . The failed air conditioner is a 12,000 BTU so the readings on the coil were much higher and the tech interpreted that to mean the unit was failing. Being an old unit it was reasonable to suggest an entire new unit.  Bottom line a very experienced and honest tech solved the problem and the boat is very comfortably cool.....even for a Canadian! Great we will be comfortable when we get blown away!!
     In the mean time we will explore Fort Myers. The Edison mansion and enclave is nearby and there are lots of pubs within walking distance. They even have an entire store called "Naples Soaps" filled with wonderfully fragrant smells.  You know the kind that arouses your senses when your wife gets out of the bath and crawls in bed beside you.  I wanted to buy a bushel basket full but Beth declined. Ha...I will sneak back and get some!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fort Myers

                                 Spencer and Sophie loved all the grass at River Forest.                                                                                   

                                                   Waiting to lift Doc's Holiday.

  John, the manager at River Forest Yachting Center in LaBelle is prompt. As promised he pulled Doc's Holiday at 08:30 and within 45 minutes the crew had the bottom of Doc's Holiday pressure washed. It wasn't really dirty and our loss of 1 knot at cruising rpm was most likely due to the damaged props. Not only was their a piece curled over (Beth can claim it!) but it was obvious that we had touched bottom a couple of times with the tips of the props shining from the abrasive sand shoals.



 Our prop damage is minor compared to this boat. He happened to be beside a boat that caught fire that spread to his.

     Floating the boat, we waved good by and headed for Fort Myers wanting to get their before the afternoon thundershowers.  We thought the delay at the Ortono lock was no longer in effect.....wrong! We took 2 hours of idling the motors and holding position in the middle of the river, waiting for the lock to open.
     Lightning with rolling thunder started just as we entered the Fort Myers basin so we throttled up and made it into the marina, just as the lightning storm passed behind us. As we tied up and finished filling the forward fuel tanks the rain started as another storm passed near. The Internet radar showed MUCH more headed our way, but we were secure.
     Beth contacted our daughter Jennifer in Naples.  She and our grandson Cameron drove up to see us and join us for dinner.  They arrived just as the heavens let loose. For the next 2 hours we couldn't leave the boat as the 40 mile an hour wind swept the rain sideways into a torrent of water pounding the windows. Finally, we were hungry enough to brave the downpour and the boat bouncing off the dock. We jumped off and got soaked running for the car.
     Stopping at Mel's Diner, chilled from the drenching and the air conditioning, we were still able to laugh and joke at our predicament and enjoy a filling meal. Still, I was surprised when Cameron and Nami ordered ice cream for dessert! Now they were really cold!
      With unsettled weather predicted for the next few days, we elected to stay in Fort Myers to get the props repaired. Hurricane Erica is predicted to be near by Monday morning so we may have to stay put until things settle down next week. Maybe the atmospheric turmoil from Erica will settle down the thunderstorms long enough for us to get the boat  across to Port St. Joe.

                                                 Tom the diver removing props.



     With the props off we can't move the boat which presented us with an opportune time to work on the boat. I started on getting the motors in optimal condition for the crossing. This meant addressing the issue of the port motor heating up at full throttle. It is strongly advised that the temperatures do not exceed 200 degrees  They should run between 185 and 195 degrees.  I struggled to get the intake and output hoses off the heat exchanger and finally hooked up a 12 volt bilge pump to push phosphoric acid through to clean up any rust or debris that might be impeding flow and heat transfer through the coils.  I guess I underestimated the capacity of the chambers because the 5 gallon pail kept emptying....Not sure of just where the acid  was all going, I let the acid sit in the system for 45 minutes than flushed it all out.  It is supposed to circulate via the pump for 2 hours, but time will tell if  my technique worked.  First chance I get. we will throttle up and see where the temps stabilize.
 The prop repair shop initially indicated that they might be able to have the props back on in 2 days. Just got word that they won't be ready until Monday....oops!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vero Beach to the Ocheechobee

                                                Leaving Vero Beach City Marina

Our last East Coast Sunrise on Doc's Holiday ( not clear pics, lens fogging from humidity!)


   So far our plan of leaving early in the morning (daylight when possible) and being in a marina or anchored by 2 or 3 in the afternoon has worked admirably for being secure when the thunderstorms roll through. We had an easy cruise down the ICW from Vero Beach turning inland at Stuart, Fl and heading across the Okeechobee waterway.
                                                       Boat that caught fire recently.

     For those not familiar with the geography this waterway is a cut through the middle of Florida, thus avoiding having to go all the way down to Key West on the east coast and back up the west coast to Fort Myers. Well marked with little current and few obstructions, it is a joy to travel. One can leisurely watch the boat's coarse and take time to admire the beautiful architecture and landscaping of the homes lining the banks.

     Dotted with marinas and no significant tide, it is easier to estimate where we will be in the early afternoon and thus easier to pick out a marina. Since our next challenge was to get across Lake Ocheechobee before any significant winds or thunderstorms came up, we stopped at Indian Town Marina located about 10 miles east of the Port Mayaca Lock. This would be our entry to the lake which is described as "Can get very rough. Think of a puddle of water with wind blowing over it!" The lake level is controlled to a depth of 12.5 feet via the locks at each side. If the water goes below this level than they drop the opening of the locks from "on demand" to a schedule of 4 times daily. The boats just have to wait. In fact they are apparently working on the Ortona lock and we were informed it is only open from 7:00 to 7:30/ 12:00 to 12:30 and 4:00 to 5:00. This could slow us down but at least we are in relatively protected waters.

                                                          Port Mayaka Lock

     Our start into Lake Ocheechobee was significant. Just as Beth took over the helm, the starboard propeller tinged off of an obstruction. It was listed as possibly no longer being there on Active Captain but it was and we touched it.  There didn't appear to be any vibration when I increased the boat speed but before doing our crossing to Carrabelle, this would need to be checked.
     We got across the lake before the wind came up, locked through at Moore Haven, watched numerous alligators move out of the way and landed at River Forest Yachting Center at La Belle.
It was a tight entry but when I saw boats larger than mine at the docks I knew we could get in and there was enough room once in, that I could spin the boat around and easily drift into the the cement dock. Once tied up we quickly got the power on and the air conditioners going but the lounge area just doesn't cool off without the help of the rear air conditioner. This will be the first thing I fix when we get to Port St. Joe.

                                                           Trying to cool off!

                                             Morning visitor at Indian Town Marina.

                                                                 More cooling!

     The owners immediately informed us that there was another Hurricane (Erica) headed our way with increased winds possibly by Monday. They would be making a decision about starting to haul out 13 boats and yes they had 4 more spots if we decided to stay. After looking at the projected path on the Boat US Hurricane tracking website, it is just not clear if the storm will go out to sea toward Bermuda, go up the east coast, or get into the gulf and go up the west coast.
     After some intense discussion Beth and I came up with a plan. First, we will have the boat hauled out here in the morning to have the bottom pressure washed and the props checked. Next, we have plotted our course from here to Clearwater with stops at Fort Myers, Venice, and Desoto Park near Tampa Bay.  The municipal marina in Clearwater has indicated that they have slips that can accommodate us and although they can't pull the boat out of the water they can secure it in the slip should "Erica" come our way.
     There is a High Pressure predicted to settle in the area this weekend and the jet stream is south, so I predict (Ha! Ha!) that the storm will get pushed off the east coast. Nevertheless, we can leave the boat in Clearwater, rent a car to go to Port St. Joe and get our second set of props or get out of the way of the storm, if need be. This will at least put us in position for our crossing to Carrabelle.
     Already we are agonizing about "The Crossing".  Neither of us really want to do a night crossing, not only because we can't see what is in the water but also because of the thunderstorms which start in the afternoon and sometimes persist into the night. It would be safer, I think to do this crossing as quickly as possible during daylight hours. This would mean hopscotching up the coast to Steinhatchee which is only 60 miles from the entry to Carrabelle, running the boat on the top end(13 to 15 knots),  and leaving at daybreak to make the crossing in about 4 hours which would put us into port before the winds and thunderstorms start up. The problem is that this area is very shallow with lots of obstructions (ie. it is recommended to only go up the Steinhatchee river at high tide and a south west wind if you draw over 4 ft of water. Of course, we draw 4.5 feet and we had our starboard motor heat up when we made the run from Boston to Cape Cod at full throttle! (which had much colder water!)  The alternative is to do the night crossing at trawler speed.  This is going to take some planning and a good weather window.
     As the venerable Bob Bitchin so aptly put it, "The difference between an ordeal and an adventure, is attitude!"
      What would you do?


Sunday, August 23, 2015

St Augustine, New Smyrna Beach, Fl and Titusville and on to Vero Beach.

     This was the longest time we have waited to get enough tide to pass the shoaling water of the ICW.  Even though we didn't pull away from the dock until 9:30, which gave us an hour of incoming tide and almost 2 hours of tide before we hit the shallow areas, we still passed one section which showed only 3 feet of water under the boat.  Our props will hit at 2.9 feet!  Nevertheless, we got through without hitting bottom.

     We were now seeing an increase in big boat traffic, passing a number of cruisers going in the opposite direction.  Several passed, but only one had the courtesy to ease back on the throttles and give us a slow pass....hmmm....seems like things have changed  a little here....but I guess I will continue to slow down for the passing cruisers (except of course for the Sea Rays and Sports fishermen who continue to show complete disregard for anyone on the water!)

                                              Two boats that had some bad luck!

     Leaving late of course, put us at risk for the afternoon thunderstorms but I reasoned that with the violent deluge we sustained in St. Augustine there couldn't be that much turbulence left in the atmosphere. This appeared to be true. Other than a constant wind on our nose that slowed us down we had clear cruising all the way to New Smyrna Beach Municipal Marina.


                                                  Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse


     The former days deluge, however was strong enough that our upper helm depth finder leaked and showed droplets inside the screen.  After we settled in, I pulled the monitor off, disassembled and cleaned out the water, dried it, and siliconed every place a heavy rain might penetrate. This Datamarine monitor is original equipment and of course the transducer for measuring the depth will apparently not match up with any of the new monitors on the market, so I will treat this one tenderly.

                                    This fellow does not seem to be frightened of the owl!

                                                    Not sure what this was about.

     Not having the aft saloon air conditioner working we have to put up with a very hot seating area that takes a long time to cool down.  Sophie and Spencer relish the fans we set up for them.  They could go down into the bedrooms where the AC keeps everything comfortable but like humans they are "pack animals" and would rather put up with the heat rather than be separated from us.


     The highlight of New Smyrna Beach was the Saturday morning Farmer's Market.  We were able to  stock up on fresh veggies and Indian River fruit.  We didn't mind the 10 o'clock departure time because we were only going 35 miles to Titusville. It was Saturday and we knew all the fishermen, pontoon boaters and marine police would be on the water necessitating a slow ride.


                                                    Many dolphins riding our wake    
                                              and lots of Manatees to slow down for.

     The Titusville Municipal Marina was an easy in/out and only one block away from a very large and clean dog park.  Spencer ran around with the other dogs while Sophie stuck close to us only cautiously venturing a few feet away when another dog approached her.  She has not seen this many dogs in one spot since she was a litter mate.
     Sophie and Spencer were in awe of these large critters. Affectionately known as "Sea Cows", the Manatees were in abundance around the boats in the marina and we had to come to a full stop a couple of times to avoid hitting some in the ICW itself. Apparently they are vegetarians and just float around munching on any floating sea grass. It just wouldn't be a pleasant experience for the Manatee or the propellers if one hit one of these weird creatures.
          Manatees at Titusville Marina getting a drink from the water pump on the boat!


                                   Manatees in the Marina Harbor feeding on grass on top of the water            

     A follow up on the depth glory.  It will have to be sent to Datamarine for a fix.



                             Beautiful sunrise this morning as we were leaving Titusville.

     The rest of the ride to Vero Beach was plagued with Sunday boaters, who were out enjoying a nice sunny day on the water.  I felt sorry for those who had beached their boats as the sports fishers and Sea Rays continued to wake them.  

                                              Cape Canaveral Nasa launch site

      Dolphins..dolphins and more dolphins.....everywhere....even pink bellied dolphins!

    Vero Beach has remained the same. Tim, the manager was very helpful and offered to drive me to the nearest West Marine and K Mart so we could replace our worn flag and get batteries for our spot locator.  Seems this is their slow time of year and he chocks up the 40% increase in transient traffic during the busy time of the year to the lower fuel prices.