Tuesday, May 18, 2021

No Ship

A ship arrived yesterday, as scheduled, but it will not be stopping in La Paz. So, from my perspective there is no ship.

I am told that another ship is scheduled to arrive on May 30.

I now have to make a decision. Do I continue waiting here and being taunted by incomplete, incorrect and last minute information regarding ships? Or do I give up and make a new plan?

I have to factor in that hurricane season is drawing near, officially beginning on June 1. My insurance excludes coverage for named tropical storms beginning July 1. One of my personal rules of sailing is, "Don't be in the wrong place at the wrong time." Being afloat in Florida or the Sea of Cortez in June would violate this rule.

My initial reaction is to give up on shipping the boat. I'm reminded of a quote (mistakenly?) attributed to Albert Einstein, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." A pattern has been established: I'm told a ship will arrive on a certain date. A few days or less prior to that date, I'm told there is no ship or the date is pushed back. I wait. And the process repeats itself.

I cannot understand why the shipping company does not either have better information to share or won't simply tell me, "Steve, we hope one day to transport your boat to La Paz, but we have no idea when and can only provide three days notice when we do know." I believe that the latter case to be the truth. If I'm right, then I would choose not to go on indefinitely. I would need to figure out how to get Intermezzo to La Paz on its own bottom. Or sell the boat.

I have considered selling the boat, but I'm not ready to do that right now, so I'm tabling that option.

So, what's involved with sailing Intermezzo to La Paz?

Here's a summary:

  1. Re-commission, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  2. Sail north out of the insurance company's Tropical Storm Zone to a good hurricane hole.
  3. De-commission the boat, haul out and lay-up on the hard for hurricane season.
  4. Re-commission and launch the boat after hurricane season (November).
  5. Muster crew, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  6. Sail to Panama.
  7. Leave the boat in Panama to wait for the Pacific's prevailing northerlies and Tehuantapeckers to subside (March).
  8. Muster crew, fuel and provision the boat for ocean sailing.
  9. Wait and pay for a Panama Canal transit.
  10. Sail to La Paz.
  11. De-commission, haul out and lay-up on the hard for hurricane season.

So, basically a year's worth of logistics and sailing, plus inevitable gear failure, repairs and wear-and-tear.

The decision I need to make now is to wait another two to four weeks for a ship to possibly materialize or to cut and run, committing to a year's "work" getting Intermezzo to La Paz.

I did a back of the napkin economic analysis of the two options, taking into account all the costs I could identify, travel costs to and from the boat, the cost of a month's dockage while waiting for the ship or the costs of wear-and-tear from sailing to La Paz. I also included a 20% contingency factor for difficulties and uncertainties associated with the sailing option.

It turns out that the total estimated cost for each alternative is roughly the same. However, since sailing back to La Paz is not how I would choose to spend a year of my time, I need to include the opportunity cost of that option. Even a low-ball estimate of that opportunity cost easily makes waiting longer for the ship (that may never materialize) the better choice.

So that's what I have decided to do. I will wait up to another 30 days, docking Intermezzo so that I can take a break from the boat. If the ship materializes, great. If it doesn't, I head north to find a hurricane hole and prepare myself to set sail for La Paz in November.

I hope I am avoiding the definition of insanity.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Ship Transport Update

I received somewhat encouraging news today. A ship is scheduled to arrive on May 17 and, if it will be calling at La Paz, we may be able to load Intermezzo sometime between May 20 and 23. That ship is scheduled to depart Port Everglades on May 25 with an estimated arrival date in La Paz of June 8.

Less uncertainty, but still uncertain.

If we can't load on this ship, I am told another ship is scheduled to arrive on May 25 and depart around June 2.

So, worst case is we load onto the second ship.

I really, really hope we get on the first one.

Resetting the countdown clock to May 20. Nine days and counting.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

May 8th? Nope.

Well, my May 8th date for loading Intermezzo onto a ship to La Paz isn't happening. Seems it never was.

The local sales manager for the shipping agent seems to be doing her best, but couldn't provide me with any meaningful information, so I contacted Peters & May's CEO, explained my circumstances and asked him to look into the situation here. This is the email I got back:

Hi Stephen,

I have spoken to the relevant parties involved. I don’t know where the date of 8th May came from but I can say with some certainty that shipment will not be prior 15th May. At the moment there are two possible vessel candidates out there with May dates (1 due w/c 17th May, the other towards the end May) and it may be that actually both these vessels are of interest. I see no reason why you would not be on first sailing. There are plenty of other yachts booked for La Paz hence this is simply a matter of holding out for a little while longer. I would expect that situation will become clearer within the week.

Thanks

Simon Judson​
Chief Executive Officer

I am, of course, bummed. Feeling downtrodden and tired. But I'll deal with it.

I will hold out for a little while longer, restarting the countdown to May 17th.

Twelve days and counting.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Eleven More Days?

Some modest developments here in Fort Lauderdale as I wait for a ship to arrive to carry Intermezzo back to La Paz.

The loading window of May 1 to 10 has now progressed to a tentative loading date, May 8. Unfortunately, towards the later end of the range and I'm really not sure how certain the date is. Still, I'm using it as the basis for counting down the days left; 11 as of today.

I managed to get my first Pfizer covid vaccination. It was relatively easy to schedule an appointment with CVS and they didn't care that I wasn't a state resident, although I used my Merchant Mariner Credential (captain's license) as ID rather than my California driver's license so as to not press the issue. I used public transport to get to and from my appointment and the whole process went smoothly and quickly. My only side effect from the vaccine was a slightly sore arm for a day and a half.

I've been cleaning and waxing the boat every morning. Some sort of mold/algae had bloomed and was spreading over the nonskid deck. It was difficult to remove. I tried a variety of cleaning products and mixtures of them, finally discovering that a 20 percent bleach solution worked best. I don't like using bleach on the boat because it is corrosive, but I was careful to just apply it sparingly to the fiberglass deck and not let it run where I didn't want it. I also continued to spot treat the WD40/rust stains from the riggers with oxalic acid. They are much reduced in number but stubborn ones keep reappearing; it's like playing whack-a-mole.

I'm using cleaner/wax product from 3M to clean and wax the fiberglass topsides. It's not a hard job, but it is tedious to do it by hand. I'm breaking the boat into sections that I can do in a morning or two and just settling in to getting each day's work done. I follow up the cleaner/wax with a second coat of liquid wax. My objective is to seal the gelcoat as best I can to prevent it from getting stained by soot, rust and other stuff during the journey on the ship and make the post-transport cleanup easier.

I finished my old 3M Cleaner Wax and am now using the company's new Perfect-It Light Cutting Polish and Wax. I'm really impressed, it's a significant improvement, easier to work with and better results. If it performs well over time, I'm going to use the Perfect-It medium polish/wax, followed by a final coat of wax when I put the boat away to try and restore the gelcoat's luster and hopefully get it so that I can maintain the finish by just waxing in the future.

Nothing else to report. Eleven more days...

Tight quarters in the Las Olas anchorage

Great stuff (if it holds up)!


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Waiting in Fort Lauderdale, Sweltering

Intermezzo is lying in the Las Olas anchorage in the middle of Fort Lauderdale, one of only a few places where boats are allowed to anchor here, waiting for a ship to transport back to La Paz, Mexico. I'm on my own now, Robin having returned home to North Carolina on Monday.

I received somewhat encouraging news from the shipping agent. A ship has been "nominated" and the current loading window is from May 1 to May 10. That means I have between 10 and 20 days to sit and wait. I can deal with that. But what if transport on this ship falls through, like my original one in March and the last one this month? That would be really, really inconvenient, with the hurricane season approaching and nowhere to put the boat. I'd be nearing my wits end, I think. So I'm not going to worry about it, figure the ship will materialize on schedule and if it doesn't, deal with it then.

We're riding at anchor about 200 feet from a sea wall at the end of Sebastian Street and the elegant boutique Pillars Hotel. There are another 10 boats anchored around us, a wide range of size, age and condition. A few are unattended and somewhat neglected looking. Sloop du Jour is a modest older 35-foot Beneteau that is home to Forrest, a nice guy who "used to work in the movie industry, Hollywood and all that", but left it for a simpler life afloat during Covid. There is another catamaran and two large monohulls, well-kept boats, transients like me, who want to avoid the high cost of dockage. 

It's a relatively peaceful anchorage, well-sheltered and in a No Wake Zone off the Intracoastal Waterway. It gets noisy on the weekends with music-blaring boats on the water and noisy sports cars and motorcycles on the seafront road. The near shore is lined with high- and mid-rise condominiums, illuminated at night. On the far shore, across the channel, are multi-million dollar waterfront homes.

It's only a few blocks from the end of Sebastian Street to the ocean beach. Securing the dinghy to the seawall and getting onto land is a bit tricky. The seawall is rough concrete, covered with sharp oysters below the high tide line, not friendly to inflatable dinghies. There's also a jagged corrugated metal storm drain pipe outlet to be avoided. The urban location makes it prudent to lock the dinghy up. I tie a long bow line to the base of a street sign in the middle of the wall and then run a short stern line to a piling to hold the dinghy off the wall. Once properly tied off, I loop a steel cable around a wooden dock beam and lock it to the stern of the dinghy.

At high tide, getting out of the dinghy requires just a big step up from the bow and onto the top of the seawall. At low tide, I have to grab the top of the wall and hoist myself up about four feet. No matter the tide, the face of the wall is crawling with dozens of what I call sea-cockroaches, creepy little buggers that I don't want getting onto me as I make my landing.

From the end of Sebastian Street, I can walk to the beach, a bakery, bars, restaurants and liquor stores. I've been running along sidewalk along the seafront and back along the beach for exercise. On weekdays, there aren't many people. On weekends, it's mobbed.

My other dinghy landing is about a mile up the Middle River at George English Park where there is a nice floating dock with no sea-cockroaches. A Publix supermarket, a mall, Home Depot, CVS, a laundromat, and a good Italian restaurant are all within a short walk from this dock. 

The weather has turned hot and humid. I'm sweltering again, like I did in Costa Rica, Chiapas, and when I was "Stuck In Lodi Again" in El Salvador, like I am here.  I tried to avoid sweltering this time by scheduling ship transport for March, but was foiled again. Since I'm anchored out, I can't use the little air conditioner I purchased in Charleston which has offered welcome relief from sweltering when we can plug into shore power. Fortunately, afternoon thunderstorms have accompanied the hot humid weather, which cool things down for a couple hours.

I'm trying getting into a routine of getting up early, working on the boat in the morning when it's cooler out, having quiet time during the afternoon and going to shore to exercise in the evening. So far so good.

My main boat work is to get a good coat of wax on the topsides to protect the finish from whatever airborne substances- soot, salt, rust- to which they will be exposed on the ship. I haven't waxed the boat in over a year so the gelcoat is pretty porous and easily stained, as I discovered when the rigging was replaced. The riggers, Nance & Underwood, arranged to have the spots removed from Intermezzo's at the Leopard docks in Dania Beach last Thursday, a job that required application of concentragted muriatic acid. Quite a few faded spots remain that will require subsequent treatments. I want to try and avoid difficult cleaning problems after I unload the boat from the ship in La Paz.

Finally, a bit of good news: I'm getting my first Covid vaccination tomorrow! I managed to schedule an appointment at a CVS in Pompano Beach, about five miles north of the dinghy landing at the park. Officially, there is a state residency requirement but I think I can skirt around it by showing up, using my USCG Captain's license as identification and stating that I'm a captain of a yacht anchored in Florida and don't have a land address. I'm pretty sure that, even if they care about proof of residency, they won't know what to do in my situation and it will be easier just to give me the jab and get rid of me than hassle me. 

We'll see how it works out tomorrow.

Intermezzo anchored off the end of Sebastian Street, Las Olas anchorage, Fort Lauderdale

 

The dinghy tied off to the nasty concrete seawall



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Storm, Rescue, Fast Sail and Disappointment

Quite a bit has happened since my last post on April 11 from Linderman Key.

At the end of that post I mentioned that the thunderstorms that were forecast had not yet materialized. Well, they did. Suddenly and with gusto!

We watched dark thunderclouds move across the horizon and tracked the storms north of us all afternoon. In the evening the dark clouds came closer and we started seeing lightning bolts five or ten miles away. Then, while I was cooking dinner, all of a sudden a vicious wind started blowing from the west. It rapidly built from 20, to 30, to a steady 40 knots with gusts up to 47, and with the wind, heavy rain, some hail, thunder and lighting.

Our anchor started dragging, so I started both engines to keep the boat pointed into the wind and take some load off the ground tackle, while preparing to cut and run if needed. Fortunately our trusty Rocna anchor bit hard into the grassy sand after dragging only about a 100 feet and held is firmly in place for the rest of the storm. 

I captured the following image of our track before, during and after the storm.  The bar showing 98 feet of distance at the lower right hand corner provides a sense of scale. Not the seven foot depth sounding near the center; we were in pretty shallow water. The water stippled with red dots to the right is only two to four feet deep (the lines are one foot depth contours). The arrow head at the lower left corner points north.

Position 1 is about where we originally dropped the anchor and let out 100 feet of chain. Position 2 is where we were swinging with southerly winds before the storm. Position 3 is where we swung during the blasting northerly winds during the storm. Position 4 is where we ended up after the storm passed and the winds resumed blowing from the south. Our anchor had dragged about 100 feet from Position 1 to midway between Positions 3 and 4. 

While the storm was blowing, VHF Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, was going crazy. Boats running aground, boats taking on water, capsized boats...it was small boat mayhem out there. Boats from the Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Fire Department, National Park Service and the private rescue service, TowBoat U.S. were scrambling all over the place.

The TowBoat U.S. skipper alerted all the emergency services of the boat he considered to be in the most danger, a 19-foot Mako open center-console boat. It had been blown into the shallows and run aground with eight people on board, including two children and an infant. That type of boat provides virtually not protection from the wind, rain and hail, the air chilly from the cold front causing the bad weather. 

The boat in distress was only about a quarter mile from where we were swinging at anchor. The fire department scrambled a helicopter and we watched as it lowered a medic to provide assistance.  Neither the /Coast Guard, the fire boat, nor the TowBoat could find a way through the shallows to help. But the National Park Service ranger, who probably knows the shallow waters better than anybody, managed to thread his way to the Mako, transfer the two women, two children and infant to his boat and bring them to the larger fire boat which had a warm cabin for them. The two men on the Mako, which was now drifting with the rising tide, stayed on board with the Coast Guard standing by until storm calmed and the TowBoat was available to tow them home.

It was quite an amazing rescue to watch and listen to. We sat by wondering if we could use somehow use the dinghy to help but quickly decided it was too dangerous and we could end up becoming part of the problem rather than the solution. We were happy it all turned out well in the end. Kudos to the ranger who persevered to make the rescue and essentially coordinated all the other services by radio.

After all that excitement, we spend the next day in the same spot in nice, but breezy weather.

On Tuesday (April 13) we moved to anchor off Elliott key and walk more of the "Spite Highway" a nice trail which runs the length of the island down its center. The trail got its name as a result of a real estate developer bulldozing a 125 foot wide swath through the island's forest in 1968 just before the island became part of the newly created Biscayne Bay National Park. The key was previously destined to become the City of Islandia, but preservationists saved it from such a fate, obviously pissing off the developer.

Wednesday we had a fast sail from Biscayne Bay to Fort Lauderdale, the wind blowing a steady 15-plus knots from the east, putting us on a close reach the whole 40 miles. We caught the north-flowing Gulf Stream, which boosted our speed to over eight knots, sometimes nine, making for a fast trip.  We anchored in Lake Sylvia, a crowded little anchorage ringed by very expensive homes. Some of the boats anchored with us were pretty nice and in good shape, many others not-so-much. Multi-millionaires looking across their waterfront backyards at a motley band of marine nomads.

During our sail to Fort Lauderdale, I received a call with bad news. The ship onto which I was scheduled to load Intermezzo on April 19 has been delayed. There is a ship leaving on April 25, but there will be no boats on it going to La Paz, so it won't be stopping there. The agent doesn't know when there will be space on a ship going to La Paz, maybe late April, maybe early May. Maybe.

So I am stuck in Fort Lauderdale for an undetermined period. Docks are scarce and very expensive here so I can't leave the boat. I have to sit at anchor in a place I don't like very much for at least 10 days, probably two weeks, maybe longer.

I am feeling very disappointed. It feels like a bit like a short prison sentence, mostly in solitary confinement.

It's not really that big a deal and I absolutely acknowledge that my plight pales laughably compared to the too many who are truly suffering. But, I'll express the reasons for my disappointment, just to get them off my chest: I miss my family and was looking forward to seeing them. I was looking forward to getting off the boat for a little while, after living on board, on the water, for 98 days straight. And I would like to get vaccinated against Covid and I can't while in Florida as I'm not a resident.

There. Done complaining. Now I'll just make the most of however many days I need to wait until my ship comes in. Chalking each one off, like a prisoner in a cell. A nice, comfortable cell.




Sunday, April 11, 2021

Linderman Key, Card Sound FL

Yesterday we moved the boat about 12 miles southwest from where we were anchored off Sands Key in Biscayne Bay to anchor off Linderman Key in Card Sound, passing through the narrow channel across Cutter Bank.

We spent five days on the hook at Sands Key, getting boat chores done and exploring nearby waters and small keys.

Cell reception there was not good, either weak or no signal even though the Miami skyline was in view, less than 20 miles away! Sometimes I would get a signal inside the boat, other times we had to walk around the decks holding our phones out like Mr. Spock held his tricorder out in Star Trek, trying to pick up service. The limited connectivity had the benefit of being less distracted from the beauty around us.

Our steaming light, halfway up the mast, didn't work during our night passage from Lake Worth, so I rigged up my ATN Mastclimber bosun's chair and inch-wormed my way up the mast. The bulb was blown and shattered as I tried to remove it, leaving small shards of glass on the deck, a small one making its way into Robin's foot. Sorry. I managed to extract the root of the bulb from its fixture, installed a new bulb and had Robin switch it on so that I could make sure it worked before I descended. It did, so I made my way down the mast and packed up all the gear, satisfied with another job completed. 

Until I switched on the light myself to admire my work and the bulb didn't light. Ugh!! It was up the mast again the next morning to clean the fixture to get the new bulb seated properly. Now it's fixed.

I also did some research and troubleshooting on the Wakespeed WS500 charge regulators (see my final boat project update), which did not seem to be playing nicely with each other. It turns out that when you connect the two regulators together, the master regulator LED flashes green status codes and the slave regulator LED repeats these codes in orange. I had mistook the orange flashes for red error flashes and thought something was amiss when in fact everything was working fine. It would have been nice if the documentation for the regulators mentioned this, in my humble opinion.

The irony of completing the engine charging upgrade now is that, with winter behind us, the days are now long enough and the weather has been clear enough for the solar panels to keep the batteries fully charged! I have to purposely run down the batteries to test the engine charging system!

After completing boat work in the morning and eating lunch, we've been enjoying our afternoon excursions.

We kayaked up a narrow channel into a circular pond among the mangroves in the interior of Sands Key, encountering a large manatee along the way which swam under Robin's kayak and lingered there for a bit. The gentle, slow-moving creature was over five feet long and I'd estimate weighed over two hundred pounds. Robin was glad it was gentle and slow-moving.

We snorkeled along the mangrove roots at Sands Cut, which leads out of Biscayne Bay into the ocean. We lots of fish enjoying the shade and protection of the mangroves, but what was most amazing were the number of lobsters hanging out there. Dozens and dozens of them, peeking out of holes in the sandy coral or from between roots. The bottom was literally crawling with them. I've never seen so many lobsters in one place. I checked and discovered that lobster season in the Florida Keys closed on March 31 and doesn't open again until August, so I was out of luck, dinner-wise.

We took the dinghy to a beach on nearby Elliott Key and discovered a trail that led to the "Spite Highway", a narrow unimproved road that runs the length of the key. The "highway" is about eight feet wide, covered with leaves and goes through what I would describe as dense tropical hardwood forest, though that is probably not the proper ecological term. In any case, it was nice walking along the trail, shaded by the trees, no sounds except for birds and our leaf-muffled footsteps, smelling the organic, musty smell of the forest, a cool breeze filtering through the foilage. And, believe it or not, not a single mosquito! Everything I had read about hiking on these keys mentions them, often in tales of hikes abandoned due to dense clouds of the beasties. We have been very fortunate, none on our hikes, none while kayaking among the mangroves, none in or around the boat. I think there hasn't been much rainfall here.

Our new anchorage is off the shores of a large key, Palo Alto Key, that is chopped up into pieces by narrow channels than run through its mangroves. It is great for kayaking as most of the small channels are within the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and are off limits to watercraft with internal combustion engines. Robin was a bit worried about exploring a place called Crocodile Lake in an inflatable kayak, but we didn't see any crocodiles or alligators. (It reminds me of an Australian joke: What to salt water crocodiles call inflatable dinghies? Answer: Teething rings.)

Today the weather forecast threatened thunderstorms with high winds and lightning, so we decided to stay put on the boat. The haven't materialized yet, although it has been pretty windy. It looks like they won't arrive until tonight and might miss us completely.

Only a few more days before we need to turn around and head to Fort Lauderdale and begin getting the boat ready for loading onto the ship. That is, if the August 19 loading date still holds.

Mostly-lazy days in the Keys


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Sands Key, Biscayne Bay

Intermezzo is anchored off Sands Key in Biscayne Bay National Park in an expanse of shallow water, the skyline of Miami off in the distance to the north. It's very peaceful, a great place to relax after working on the boat for a month straight.

We arrived here yesterday after an overnight sail from Lake Worth. It was an interesting passage, the wind blowing at 10-15 knots from the northeast most of the night, a nice beam reach for sailing. What made the trip interesting was the Gulf Stream.

Information provided in the NOAA text weather forecast reported the west wall of the Gulf Stream about 10 miles offshore. Not accurate. I had plotted a route one mile offshore, the closest I like to get to an unfamiliar coast at night. Shortly after turning southward a mile offshore, we encountered a patch of confused seas and then started bashing into head seas. The boat was also going really slowly, only 3.5 knots on a beam reach with 10 knots true wind speed.

The waves weren't supposed to be coming from that direction and we should have been going faster. I was as confused as the water surface for a little while. Then it occurred to me that I'd only ever experienced head seas while sailing downwind when there as an opposing current. The light bulb turned on and I figured out that the head seas were from the Gulf Stream flowing north was getting stacked up by the wind blowing from that direction and our slow speed was because we were fighting a two knot current.

The urban Florida coastline is well lit and easy to navigate, so I decided it was safe to sail closer to shore. I plotted a new route only a half mile off the coast and turned the boat towards land. As we drew close to our new rhumbline, the seas calmed and started coming from where they should, off our port stern quarter, and boat speed increased to what it should be, almost six knots.

Even though we were only a half mile off shore, we occasionally encountered patches of foul current that caused confused seas and the boat to slow down. I understand that if I had sailed even closer to shore I would eventually encounter a southerly counter current that would boost our speed, but I was not comfortable sailing any closer to the shoreline at night. Once we got to Fort Lauderdale, the Gulf Stream effects disappeared completely and it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. The wind dropped just before sunrise, so we ended up motor sailing the last few hours before Biscayne Bay channel entrance, about seven miles south of Miami ship channel.

Intermezzo had passed through the Biscayne Bay inlet on our passage from Key West to Miami in June 2019. As we passed through this time, I remembered "Stiltsville" a small group of houses built on stilts along the inlet channel. This time, instead of turning north towards Miami, we turned south to follow a route on the inside of the Florida Keys.

We motored a couple hours south until we reached what is considered the first island of the Florida Keys, Boca Chita. We continue along a bit further, threading the boat between shoals to drop anchor off of Sands Key, about a quarter mile south of Boca Chita.

Yesterday we mostly rested from our overnight passage, enjoying a swim in the cool shallow water, reading, cocktails and a nice dinner of blackened mahi-mahi and sauteed vegetables.

This morning we set about doing some easy boat chores, Robin cleaning the stainless steel, me troubleshooting the charging system and tweaking the solar charge controllers. After lunch, we took the dinghy to take a look at Boca Chita. It is a pretty little island, originally owned by Mark Honeywell (founder of the heating control company) in the 1930's, now part of the national park. The island has a small stone wall-lined boat basin, a few elegant stone buildings and lighthouse,  a short nature trail through the mangroves and a small beach. A nice place to spend a couple of hours.

We returned to the boat for cold beers, swimming, more reading and another nice dinner. Nice.

Sands Key


 

Shallows off Sands Key with Miami skyline in distance

 

Boca Chita

 

 

Sands Key from Boca Chita, Intermezzo anchored just right of center of photo

Boca Chita lighthouse


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Back to Sea Tomorrow Evening!

With the major boat projects (almost) done, my month's slip lease ending at the marina, crew back on board and 16 days until Intermezzo is loaded onto a ship, Robin and I are leaving Lake Worth tomorrow evening and sailing down to the Florida Keys for a couple of weeks.

We'll sail overnight hugging the coast to stay out of the opposing Gulf Stream current and then enter Biscayne Bay to spend some time exploring the waters and keys of Biscayne Bay National Park.

It's been blowing hard and nasty out of the northeast for the past few days, but the weather is supposed to change tomorrow and we should enjoy a nice reach in 15 knot winds with gentle following seas.

It will be good to get out to sea again. I've grown too comfortable being stationery in the marina and Intermezzo needs some exercise.

Elliott Key, Biscayne Bay National Park (image from National Park Service webpage)


Boat Projects, Completed (Almost)

Well, my three major boat projects are completed, save for tying up a few loose ends. Robin has returned to the boat on Tuesday afternoon and I've appreciated her help in wrapping up the work.

Project 1, Engine Charging Upgrade

The new charging systems are installed and tested on both engines. They seem to be working more-or-less correctly when running individually. However, the both systems seem to go into an idle condition, delivering no amps, rather than float charging stage (like a trickle charge) after satisfying the exit criteria for the acceptance charge stage. Also, when I connect the two WS500 charge regulator so that they can talk to each other, an error code is displayed on the regulator for the engine started last. I have a call into Wakespeed to find out what to do about these issues.

Project 2, Standing Rigging Replacement/New Jib Furler

All the work is complete, but the riggers made a mess of the decks. At first, I was just annoyed at all the black marks, but figured I'd just clean them up. When I tried to do that, I found that the marks wouldn't come clean by just scrubbing with soapy water. All of them have to be spot cleaned by hand scrubbing with SoftScrub (with bleach).

But much worse than the black marks are the stains from the WD40 oil used to free up the turnbuckles up on the mast. There are hundreds of orange spots all over the decks. I tried all sorts of cleaning products including detergent, ammonia, backing soda, bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, acetone, degreaser, mineral spirits, rubbing compound. Nothing would remove the spots. I called the owner of the rigging company to complain and he has offered to pay to have the spots professionally removed when I get the boat to Fort Lauderdale. We are working on the logistics for that.

Project 3, Replace Starboard Diesel Tank

Jeff Kingree dropped off the new tank on Tuesday morning and Robin and I installed the tank on Wednesday. Everything went smoothly, except for Robin dropping a wrench which ended up under the tank. We had to yank it out to recover the tool and put it back in, again, for a total of three roundtrips! Fortunately, we were just getting started bolting down the tank and the fumble only took us an hour to recover. The tank is holding fuel, no hoses are leaking, no fuel in the bilge, no odor of diesel. Problem solved! Jeff fabricated the tank out of 1/8-inch thick aluminum, 25 percent thicker than the 2.5 mm thick original tank. The new one should last longer as it will take longer for corrosion to make it through the thicker tank. 

I'm cleaning up and putting everything away now. It feels good to be (almost) done after nearly a month's  effort on these projects. 

The riggers' so far indelible WD40 oil stains on the deck

 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Boat Projects, Progress Report 2

Well, work on the boat projects is progressing pretty well, although with challenges.

Project 1, Engine Charging Upgrade

The new port engine charging system is installed and tested. It went smoothly, looks good and is working well. I started on the starboard system today, several days behind schedule due to my fuel tank struggles, read onI think I'll be able to knock out the starboard work quite a bit quicker; it's nearly a duplicate of the port side and have a few less wires to pull.

Project 2, Standing Rigging Replacement/New Jib Furler

The riggers from Nance & Underwood arrived yesterday, installed the new Harken ESP jib furler and started loosening turnbuckles for the cap shrouds and diamond stays. The new furler is a major improvement over the poorly-designed and failing Z-Spar unit they removed. It turns so easily, I'm sure I will be able to furl the jib easily even in high winds. The old unit was so stiff, I had to use the electric winch to bring the sail in.

Today they replaced the cap shrouds, removed the diamond stays and spreader tips.  The mast looks naked, held up by just the cap shrouds and halyards. Hopefully, they will finish the job tomorrow. They are doing very good work.

Project 3,  Replace Starboard Diesel Tank

Oh boy. What a struggle this has been.

Last Wednesday, I removed the tank from its compartment below my berth. I pumped out all the fuel, about 28 gallons worth, removed all the hoses connected to the top of tank, disconnected the hot water heater hoses that interfere with removal and unbolted the tank. I straddled across the compartment and tried lifting the tank out, only to discover that the battery switch also interferes. So, I had to disconnect and remove it. Finally I was able to lift the tank out of its compartment and carefully carry it up and out of the cabin into the cockpit. Not an easy job for one person.

The sump below the tank was a mess- diesel fuel, crud and debris from the original build of the boat. I cleaned out the sump, a smelly, oily job.

I inspected the tank to see if I could figure out if it was leaking. I wiped down the tank and it was dry, no fuel residue. I saw a few white spots on the bottom of the tank, but nothing that looked like a hole. The tank looked good to me. Perhaps the fuel in the sump had just accumulated over the years when the tank leaked from the top when overfilled?

I had Jeff Kingree from Master Marine Welding come out last Friday to take a look at the tank. He poked around a bit with a sharp screwdriver and agreed that the tank looked good and probably wasn't leaking. I was happy to hear that, as time is tight for fabricating a new tank, not to mention the avoiding spending more money.

On Monday, I dropped the tank back into its compartment, bolted it down, connected all its hoses, re-connected the water heater hoses, re-installed the battery switch and filled it back up with diesel. It was a full day's work. I took a shower. As I was getting dressed, I thought I caught a whiff of diesel. Oh no!

I pulled mattress off my berth, opened up the compartment and, to my utter dismay, smelled diesel. Before replacing the tank, I  installed a hose into the sump below the tank so I could check for leakage. Sure enough, diesel was leaking into the sump. And not that slowly. If I listened carefully, I could hear it leaking. It never leaked that fast before. I couldn't let the tank leak at that rate all night, so I pumped the diesel back into the jugs again. It had been a long, discouraging day.

The next morning, I called Jeff to ask that he come by to pick up the tank the next day and start fabricating a new one. Then I set about removing all the hoses, disconnecting the hot water hoses, unbolting the tank, removing the battery switch, lifting the tank out of the compartment and carrying it out of the cabin...again.

There was quite a bit of fuel in the sump, over a quart had leaked in just four hours. I cleaned it out...again.

I looked at the bottom of the tank very closely this time. I didn't see any holes, but noticed a wet area around one of the white spots. I took an awl and pushed it into the white spot. Sure enough, the awl poked through, revealing a pinhole about 1.5 mm in diameter. I checked the other white spots with the awl. None had holes, but a few were kind of soft...leaks waiting to happen. The tank corrodes from the inside out, the white spots on the outside indicators of the corrosion's progress.

I felt disappointed and discouraged from the extra work of pulling and replacing the tank twice, but glad that I discovered the problem when I did. I figure the leak got worse from draining the tank, moving it and refilling it. It would have been a really big problem if it had waited until Intermezzo was in transit on a ship and leaked for two weeks; it would have put over 20 gallons of diesel into the bilge!

Jeff picked up the tank on Wednesday morning and promises to have a new one delivered to me by March 31, a rush order. I'm very grateful to him for giving my new tank priority in his shop, as he is very busy with customers whose livelihoods depend on his work.

When I get the tank back, I'll drop the tank back into its compartment, bolt it down re-connect all the hoses...I've got it down to a three hour job now.

The tank in its compartment...a tight fit.
 

 

 

 

The smelly, messy, oily sump below the leaking tank.


The removed tank. Looks pretty good, eh?

The source of the leak, a tiny hole in a spot of corrosion



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Boat Projects, Progress Report 1

Here's how my three big boat projects are coming along so far:

Project 1, Engine Charging Upgrade

I removed the existing alternator from the starboard engine. I carefully mapped all the existing wiring so that I can put everything back the way it was, if needed. One of the objectives of this project is to keep the old alternators as spares if a problem ever comes up with the new system.

I took the opportunity to remove the heat exchanger cap to extract the pieces of the raw water pump impeller that broke off on our way back from The Bahamas. Four blades broke. I found two in the pump. There were four blades in the heat exchanger inlet. That means two blades must have come from an earlier impeller failure. Hmmmm.....The broken blades really clog up the works. It's amazing to me that the engine doesn't overheat with all that crap at the head of the heat exchanger.

I installed the new alternator for the starboard engine and verified it is aligned with the engine crankshaft pulley. (Compass Marine (aka MarineHowTo) provides complete and helpful guidance for installing alternators.) Everything fit really well. All that was needed was a washer to shim the upper saddle forward a bit and to tweak the adjuster arm slightly.

The wire size for the positive and negative terminals on the new alternators is limited to 6 AWG. A service disconnect from the main battery bank is also highly recommended for the positive cable.  I shortened the existing 2 AWG positive cable, crimped a new lug terminal on the end and wired it to a new battery switch. (MarineHowTo also has a great article on making your own battery cables. I bought the recommended FTZ 94284 crimping tool and it makes amazingly good crimps, really easily.) I started making up the new 6 AWG cable to run from the switch to the new alternator. I wish I could have done more, but the new cables and appurtenances didn't arrive until after noon.

Next up will be finishing the main alternator cables and then mounting the WS500 regulator and connecting its three wiring harnesses. However, I have to switch over to Project 3 tomorrow; see below.

Project 2, Standing Rigging Replacement/New Jib Furler

I paid a 50 percent deposit for the work which is scheduled to begin on March 24. Siting tight '

Project 3, Replace Starboard Diesel Tank

I had hoped to get a new plastic fuel tank fabricated to replace the failed aluminum one. Unfortunately the plastic tank fabricator is six to eight weeks out for delivering a tank.  That's too late for me.

So, I'm going to get a new aluminum tank fabricated locally. I found a welder that specializes in boat tanks that comes highly recommended and says he can get the new tank done in two weeks. That's tight, but workable. I'm bummed to replace a tank that failed with the same material. However, the existing tank lasted almost 9 years; hopefully I'll get the same out of the new one. Then I can replace with a plastic tank that will theoretically last forever.

I have to get the old tank out of the boat ASAP and to the welder so he can copy it. Tomorrow morning, I'm up early to pump the fuel out of the tank and then wrestle it out of the boat.

 

The new and the old alternators. Not much difference on the outside. Big difference inside.

 

Broken raw water pump impeller blades in the heat exchanger inlet

Lots of impeller pieces


 


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Day Off at Peanut Island, Lots of Work Ahead

Today was my day off from working on the boat. I try to work a solid 9 to 5, six days a week, but enjoy taking Sunday's off to rest and do whatever I want.

This morning, I got up a little later than usual and spent a leisurely morning drinking coffee and reading The Economist, the weekly newspaper that I am always two to three weeks behind on reading. After over a week of strong, gusty northerly winds, today was calm, sunny and warm. I decided I would take the dinghy to Peanut Island, just across from the marina, less than a quarter mile away. There is a snorkeling lagoon on the east side of the island, so I pulled out all the dive gear to give it a rinse and put just my own stuff into the dive bag for carrying around the island.

Well, so much for a day off. The dive gear is stored in the life raft locker, which has never been cleaned out. I emptied it, culled its contents, and washed the interior and the life raft case. A fire extinguisher bracket had completed corroded away, leaving a big pile of rust. I mounted a new plastic bracket in its place. It didn't take long, I worked at a relaxed pace and I can check another item off my boat work list. So worth the little interruption to my day of leisure.

Lake Worth was swarming with boats, a Florida scene of powerboats, loud music, alcohol and tanned people of all shapes and sizes in bathing suits. I puttered over the short distance to the Peanut Island to tie up at the day use docks in the tiny Mangrove Lagoon.

Peanut Island was created from the spoils from dredging the Lake Worth Inlet that connects the port of Palm Beach to the ocean and which used to get to and from The Bahamas. The sandy dredge spoils are fenced off in the center of the island, the circumferential ring around the spoils is a park with beaches, lagoons, picnic areas and a campground. There is an old coast guard station (now closed) and, strangely, a bunker from the Kennedy era, a relic from the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis days. There weren't many people on the paved trail that circles the island through palm trees and other tropical vegetation. It was a nice peaceful walk to the snorkeling lagoon, diametrically across from where I left the dinghy.

The beaches were busy with mostly families enjoying the beautiful day and the water. The trail and all the facilities are really well maintained. It's a really nice park. There were lots of small tropical fish in the snorkeling lagoon, some large parrot fish and a couple of stingrays. I was hoping to see a manatee, but no luck. I swam out the inlet to the lagoon and came across a school of many dozen large snooks, ranging from 18 inches to three feet long. They were just lounging near the bottom, seemed to be enjoying the cool water "breeze" of the incoming tide. I've seen them swimming around the marina. They are good to eat, plentiful and not colorful, so maybe I'll try to catch one. The only trick is that you can only keep fish between 24 and 32 inches long. Smaller are considered juveniles and, interestingly, male snooks turn into female snooks when the get large, so big ones are left to reproduce.

I lay out on in the sun on the white sand beach to dry off and then finished my circumnavigation of the island, returning to the dinghy and making my way back to Intermezzo and a rum cocktail. It was a nice day off. I'm thinking of returning to Peanut Island during the week to go running there in the evening. The ring trail is 1.5 miles long, so a few laps would be a perfect distance and much more pleasant than running on roads with traffic on the mainland. 

I have a lot of work ahead of me in the coming weeks. In addition to getting Intermezzo ready for transport, I was planning to tackle two big projects. As it turns out, I now have three big projects to complete.

Project #1 is to upgrade the engine charging system. On sunny days, from the spring until fall equinox, the solar panels provide all the electrical power that Intermezzo needs with two people living aboard. If the weather is cloudy, when the winter sun is low in the sky, or if more than two are on board, they often don't keep up. When we are motoring, the diesels are capable of making up the shortfall, but their charging systems are limited in capacity and don't treat the batteries very well. The current system is just an internally regulated alternator like the one on a car that puts out a constant voltage to the batteries.

The upgrade is to install a new externally regulated alternator connected to a sophisticated charging regulator for each engine. The new alternators are high quality AMP-IT 80-ER 80 amp units built by Compass Marine. They are externally regulated and fit the existing saddle mountings on my Yanmar engines without modification. External regulation allows the alternators to be closely monitored and controlled to maximize output and efficiency.

The new regulators are Wakespeed WS500, probably the most sophisticated voltage and current regulator available.  Instead of just putting out a constant voltage, like the current system, these regulators deliver the three phase charging regimen (bulk, acceptance and float) that is much better for the batteries. What makes the WS500 special is that, unlike other voltage-only regulators, it can monitor the charging current. Batteries are fully charged when they can only accept a low current, for the Lifeline AGM batteries on Intermezzo, 0.5% of the battery bank capacity. The WS500 will continue charging at the 14.3 volt absorption voltage until this limit is reached before switching to the 13.3 volt float stage. Other regulators will just apply the absorption voltage for a set amount of time, often not long enough to fully charge the batteries. The other great feature of the WS500 is that they can be connected via a CANbus communications network so that they can "talk" to each other.  What this means is that the regulators can synchronize the charging when both engines are running, achieving the full capacity of both alternators, 160 amps total, for faster charging. The existing "dumb" charging system lets the alternators fight it out so that only one is actually charging the batteries at any instant. 

I think this charging upgrade will be a great improvement towards keeping the batteries in a healthy state of charge and reducing how often and how long we run the portable gas generator to supplement the solar panels. It's a big job, though.

Project #2 is replacement of the standing rigging, the wires that hold up the mast. The service life of stainless steel wire rigging in salt water environment is about 10 years, based on generally accepted practice, coast guard guidance and insurance company requirements. Intermezzo's standing rigging will be nine years old at the end of October and it has a lot of hard sailing miles on it. There aren't many skilled, experienced riggers in Mexico and there are some very good ones in Florida, so I'm getting the work done a bit early. I've selected Nance & Underwood out of Fort Lauderdale to do the work, based on their experience with rigging Leopard catamarans and recommendations. In addition to replacing the rigging, they will be installing a new Harken jib furler to replace the Z-Spar furler and its crappy bearings which is getting stiff to turn again. This is a job that I will watch get done, versus do myself. And pay handsomely for the privilege.

The unexpected Project #3 is to repair or replace the starboard diesel fuel tank. The tank has been leaking a tiny amount of fuel into the bilge. I had hoped the leak was from overfilling the tank. Unfortunately, that's not the case; it's leaking from the bottom. And, alas, the rate of leakage is increasing. Still just a nuisance leak, but it's not going to get any better.

The aluminum fuel tanks on Leopards are prone to pinhole leaks from corrosion of the tank. I had hoped to dodge this bullet, but not so lucky. My first choice is to replace the aluminum tank with a plastic one, like most Leopard owners have done. However, if I can't get a plastic one shipped to me in time, I'll get a new bottom welded onto the tank, which should give a few more years of service. Either way, I have the unpleasant job of pumping all the fuel out of the existing tank and pulling it out from under my berth in the starboard hull. I'm hoping that I can some help from the Rybovich superyacht boatyard next door. Intermezzo is a puny toy compared to the megayachts they work on, but I figure I might play the "how 'bout the little guy" card and get some sympathetic assistance. For a price, of course.

Well, writing about all the work ahead of me has put my lovely day at Peanut Island squarely into the past and I better get to bed soon so  that I can get cracking tomorrow morning.

A Florida Sunday afternoon on Lake Worth

The circumferential trail around Peanut Island

The old Coast Guard building on Peanut Island (Kennedy bunker nearby)

The AMP-IT alternator and Wakespeed WS500 regulator charging upgrade




Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Back to La Paz, Ship Transport Update

Next month, if all goes as planned, Intermezzo will be loaded onto the deck of a ship and transported back to the Sea of Cortez, which will be our home waters for a while.

The current "loading window" is between April 5th and 20th in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). The window will be narrowed down as a specific ship is "nominated" for the transport. Between now and then, I will be completing a bunch of boat projects, preparing Intermezzo for loading and transport and moving the boat from here in Lake Worth to Fort Lauderale. I figure on departing here at least a week before the earliest possible loading date.

Preparing the boat for transport is similar to preparing it for a layup on land. The sails need to be taken off, the dinghy covered and secured, water maker pickled, the fridge/freezer defrosted and cleaned, food removed, cabins and lockers secured, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems shutdown. Nothing difficult, but in order to continue living aboard the boat, many tasks have to wait to be done until the day before loading. It can be pretty intense.

My list of boat projects to tackle over the next month is pretty long and includes two major ones: replacing the standing rigging (the wires holding up the mast) and upgrading the engine charging system. I'll hire a rigger for the former, do the latter myself.

It's going to be a busy month.

Yachts being transported by ship. (Image courtesy of Peters & May)

 


Clearing Into the USA, So Easy

 

In my post covering our arrival at Lake Worth to end our Bahamas cruise, I forgot to mention how easy it was to clear into the United States using the Customs and Border Patrol ROAM (Reporting Offsite Arrival - Mobile) iPhone app.

I used this application previously upon our arrival in Key West from Mexico in June 2019. I entered data for the boat and crew, uploaded photos of our passports and was invited to a video conference during which the CBP agent interviewed each of is, including Lisa in her bikini. It took less than half an hour, including 20 mintues wait time for the video conference.

This time, I went through the same steps for Amy Robin and me and reported our arrival. Just a few minutes afterwards, I simply received a notice, "Your arrival into the US has been approved" along with a confirming email. That's it. No verification, no interview, nothing.

It probably helped that the three of us are US citizens, two of us are "trusted travelers" (Global Entry) and we had only visited The Bahamas. We could have been transporting all sorts of cargo or people but I imagine the data entered into the app allows a risk assessment to be conducted, probably a combination of algorithm and human review, and a decision made accordingly. If the risk is low, as in our case, little time is spent on our arrival, allowing resources to be focused on higher risk circumstances. It illustrates how misdirected it is to spend many billions building a wall, a limited and blunt instrument in terms of controlling immigration and illegal drugs.

If we had arrived by air, we would have had COVID tests and then make our way through immigration and customs at the airport. I'm sure it would have taken at least an hour total. Arriving by boat is made so much easier by well-designed processes and technology and responsive human support. A great example of effective, efficient government.



 



Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bahamas Wrap-Up

I'll begin my wrap-up of Intermezzo's Bahamas cruise by filling in a few gaps between my prior posts.

Between leaving Glass Bridge and sailing to our too-brief visit to the Berry Islands, we ventured further south along the coast of Eleuthera and anchored in Hatchet Bay Harbor on February 26.  The harbor was created by blasting a hole in the side of a large inland limestone pond to connect it to the sea. The steep limestone shore and very narrow entrance make this one of the most protected harbors in The Bahamas.

I didn't expect this man-made harbor to be very attractive, but it is. Despite the limestone geology of the harbor perimeter, there is enough soil cover to support relatively lush green, low-lying vegetation of mangroves, small palms and other shrubs. The shore is dotted with a few small colorful houses. Even the small shipyard, where a large steel barge is nearing completion, is neat and unobtrusive.

We took the dinghy to a public dock jutting out from the brightly painted blue Boater Haven Bar and Grill. The grill was not grilling, as the kitchen was a few days from opening after a renovation.  The bar is popular in the evenings. The owner, Emmett, is welcoming and friendly.

Amy and Robin walked around town and checked out dining possibilities for a dinner out. I went for a run through town, across the island along a dirt track through the bush, to a beach on the ocean side of the island.

Hatchet Bay's Alice Town was the most Bahamian settlement we had encountered so far, mostly local residents living in small old homes, closely spaced along narrow lanes. The homes and neighborhoods show their age and limited income, but they are kept neat and clean. There isn't much tourist infrastructure and, what there is, is low-keyed, quaint and rustic- a few restaurants, a small inn, not much else.

After an afternoon exploring, we returned to the boat, showered, enjoyed sundowners and then dressed for dinner.

We dined at the tiny The Front Porch restaurant in town. It was expensive, it took a long time to get served, but the food was superb and the owner and staff are super-friendly. Martin, the chef, prepared us fresh wahoo filets, slightly blackened and topped with a dollop of rich stone crab sauce, served with nicely seasoned roast potatoes and steamed vegetables. A rare case of food being better off the boat than on.

Martin and I compared notes for making shellfish stock for sauces. My focus is on extracting flavor and velvety texture from simmering empty cracked crab and lobster shells. Martin's is on removing the sauce from the stove immediately upon smelling the crab begin to caramelize in the hot butter, not cooking it a second longer. Martin invited me to cook for him. I felt flattered, but out of my league, an enthusiastic amateur up against a seasoned professional, "the best chef on the island" according to one of the richest men in the Bahamas who was dining next to us. (The face of the man's father appears on the Bahamian $50 bill!) I declined Martin's invitation on the basis of not enough time, feeling some relief.

We left Hatchet Bay the next day (February 27), sailing back to Current Cut. It was a beautiful downwind sail in ideal conditions of sky, wind, waves. I put Amy and Robin through some sailing lessons, helming Intermezzo and trimming on all points of sails and practicing coming about. 

We went through the cut with ease at slack current and anchored off the west shore of the "hook" at the northwest end of north Eleuthera Island.

We beached the dinghy to explore the tiny Current settlement and see if there was anything fresh worth buying at the little market. The settlement felt similar to Alice Town,  but smaller, poorer, a bit more weathered, still very neat and pleasant.

The settlement's name makes the signs on buildings sound funny when you read them. The Current Library. The Current Methodist Church. It makes you want to ask where the Past Library was and the Future Methodist Church will be. Or wonder if you might find the library and church in different locations if you came back the next day.

We raised anchor early the next morning, February 28, and made our passage to the Berry Islands. Again, beautiful downwind sailing conditions, easy going and relaxing.

I put fishing lines out and caught an big, 18-pound dorado (mahi-mahi) along the way. While I enjoy eating freshly caught fish and acknowledge the "eat or be eaten" reality of the mostly carnivorous ocean, I don't like killing fish, especially dorado. When you pull in a dorado, its skin is a rainbow of bright blue, green and yellow hues. A truly gorgeous and glorious palette of living color.  When the fish dies, all the brightness and luster disappears, the colors become muted, the sparkle gone.  My hand being responsible for this loss of living beauty causes very poignant feelings to arise in me. Sadness, guilt, a moral heaviness. And then comes the skinning and filleting of the fish, where I transform it to the food form we are familiar seeing in markets and restaurants, leaving behind a stripped carcass of head, bones and guts.  It is not a process that I enjoy, but one which I do with great care, to extract as much food as I can, of the best qualities of cut and freshness.

Fishing is not a sport or a pastime for me. It is a decision to be a predator, honor the life that I take, and to make the most of the food provided. I don't fish often because it is such a big deal for me. I also recognize my ignorance and hypocrisy as I regularly consume fish I don't catch with little consideration of how it got onto my plate. Like Martin's delicious wahoo. Catching this beautiful dorado is a reminder for me to be more mindful about eating fish, perhaps eat them less frequently.

So, the chronicle above fills in the gaps between blog posts. Now for my reflection on The Bahamas and our cruise as a whole.

The Bahamas are now on my Top 3 list of sailing venues, the other two being the Sea of Cortez and Maine. The waters are strikingly beautiful in color and clarity. Wind and sea conditions make for great sailing, the variable and sometimes boisterous weather making things interesting and tests of good seamanship.  Anchoring in mostly sandy bottoms is easy, with good holding. The swimming, snorkeling and kayaking in warm shallow waters is excellent. I love the remoteness of the place, the expanse of cays and islands to explore. It is a place that requires your boat to be well-provisioned and self-sufficient.

In the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of Maine, the land forms are visually dominating, the striated desert mountains and long-extinct steep volcanic islands in the Sea of Cortez, the timbered fjords, jagged rocky shorelines and islands of Maine. In The Bahamas, the land is clearly just ancient reef or sea bottom that has been exposed to become dots and strips of tenuous terrain in a vast blue seascape, regularly assaulted by wind and wave working to make the land disappear.

The people of The Bahamas are friendly and hard working, in a relaxed, island-style way. Their friendliness seems authentic and polite, often reserved. I prefer the sometimes falsely exuberant expression of welcome found in tourist destinations.

Intermezzo performed well and behaved itself with only a couple of minor repairs needed along the way. It is a good boat for The Bahamas, shallow draft, stable and comfortable at anchor, sailing well in the often favorable tradewinds, motoring dependably and economically when otherwise. 

My crew was great. Not one word of anger expressed after a month of close-quarter living (even by me, which is probably a personal record!) Amy and Robin took good care of the boat, did their chores cheerfully, flattered me with their enjoyment and photography of my cooking, appreciated all the natural beauty around us, always friendly, polite and respectful to those we met along the way, always graceful and grateful. Amy learned a lot about sailing, discovered her natural talent for steering a boat under power and sail, and endured seasickness stoically and without making a mess. Robin added to her crewing experience and skills, helped with Amy's learning the boat and its ropes, was a supportive companion to both of us, keeping an eye out for our well being and happiness, a seemingly constant practitioner of metta bhavana, towards all beings...including fish.

As for me, I think I did a decent job as a sailing instructor, though my teaching style could do with some polishing. It was a very relaxing cruise for me. No worrying. No distraction. No regrets. No wishing I was anywhere else. That's a pretty good definition of being happy, isn't it?

The Bahamas will be remembered as being among Intermezzo's very best days.

 

The narrow entrance to Hatchet Bay Harbor, a hole blasted through the side of a limestone pond





Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Arrived in Lake Worth, Fast Ride!

Intermezzo is anchored safely in Lake Worth (Palm Beach, FL), literally just feet away from where we anchored before departing for The Bahamas on February 4th. Same boats moored around us, too.

Once we passed tiny Great Isaac Island, about halfway through our passage from Great Harbor Cay, the wind started building from the south, we switched off the engines and were soon sailing along at a good clip, over seven knots over the ground.  As we entered the Gulf Stream, the wind was blowing steadily around 18 knots and, together with a boost from the northerly current, we were humming along at over nine knots for the rest of the trip. Robin captured a peak speed of 10.3 knots during her watch!

Needless to say, we arrived at Lake Worth Inlet early. Like, at dawn. Six hours ahead of our passage plan.

NOAA data provided for the Gulf Stream had it's western edge 11 miles east of Lake Worth. Wrong. It was still flowing strong less than two miles from the shore. That caused me to overshoot my arrival waypoint by a couple miles north. We had to bash our way south against the current for about an hour to get to the mouth of the inlet, both engines running hard.

Once in the inlet, we were greeted by big FloridaMan sportfishing boats leaving the inlet, flooring their throttles just before passing by us, throwing up gigantic wakes. The roughest part of our passage. So many power boaters in Florida are either clueless or just plain obnoxious. Some know what they are doing and are courteous, but they are a small minority.

I haven't found a marina here that has space and doesn't cost a fortune, so we'll anchor out until I do.

I'll post a Bahamas wrap-up soon and then outline my plans for the next month, getting Intermezzo ready to be transported back to La Paz, Mexico by ship.

If you look closely, you can see the "tricolors of Bahama", the blue-green, light blue and deep blue colors of the water extending to the horizon.

 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Departed The Bahamas, On Our Way to Florida

March 2 2021
Northwest Providence Channel
24nm west of Great Harbor Cay

We weighed anchor late this morning and have left The Bahamas, now underway to Lake Worth Inlet, about 100 nm ahead. The sky is pale blue, streaked with wispy clouds, the sea a deep blue, very calm. Winds are very light so we're motoring along pleasantly on one engine.

As we were preparing to weigh anchor, I looked down into the shallow, crystal clear water and acknowledged that I will miss this place. As we headed out to sea, the tricolor water flag of The Bahamas presented itself ahead; the green-blue shallows, the bright light blue of the bank, the deep deep blue of the undersea canyons. I felt a bit melancholy as I lowered our Bahamian courtesy flag, folded it up and put it away.

Yesterday, we officially cleared out of The Bahamas at Great Harbor Cay Marina. We anchored outside the harbor and took the dinghy to the marina, only to learn that the vessel has to be present to clear out. That's funny, as we didn't need to bring Intermezzo in when we cleared into Green Turtle Cay, when we might have had all sorts of contraband, weapons and suspicious persons aboard.

We rode back to Intermezzo, raised the anchor, motored into the marina and docked. The marina staff was nice to not charge us their normal $100 fee for tying up to clear Customs. The Customs officer arrived from the airport within 30 minutes , asked a few questions, stamped our paperwork and we were back at anchor again inside of an hour.

I prepared grilled blackened mahi-mahi for dinner, filets cut from the large fish we caught on the passage to the Berry Islands (more about that in my upcoming wrap-up post), rice and peas (a Bahamian standard on which I improved upon) and artichoke hearts. We polished off two bottles of wine (mostly through my efforts). We watched the sun set and stargazed until the moon rose, whereupon I went for a short dip in the inky black water. It was a nice end to our cruise.

The only event of note on our passage to Florida so far was my noticing that the port engine was running hot. I pulled the cover off the raw water pump and four of the six rubber blades had broken off. I recovered two of them, the other two will need to be extracted from the heat exchanger later. I'm a bit puzzled by this failure, as the pump was recently rebuilt and doesn't have many hours at all on it. I put in a new impeller, buttoned everything up and the engine is now running at normal temperature.

It will take us about 24 hours to get to Lake Worth Inlet. The winds are forecast to pick up around midnight from the south, which will be perfect for us to cross the Gulf Stream.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Heading Back, Earlier Than I Wanted

I'll catch up on the places we visited over the past few days in a wrap-up post.  I'm feeling a little disappointed because, just when we arrived at some of the most remote and beautiful islands of The Bahamas, weather is forcing us to return to Florida earlier than planned.

We arrived at the Berry Islands yesterday afternoon after a lovely downwind sail from Eleuthera's Current Cut. The Berrys are off the beaten track, mostly unpopulated, surrounded by shallow waters and reefs, teeming with sea life. I was really looking forward to spending the rest of the week enjoying these remote cays, not moving the boat much, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, laying on the beach, reading. A perfect ending to our Bahamas cruise.

However, the weather is becoming unstable, with a series of fronts developing, confusing the computer wind models for later this week. The forecast for tomorrow is pretty solid and conditions will be good for crossing the Gulf Stream. Amy needs to head home on March 7 and if we don't take advantage of tomorrow's weather window, it is likely we won't get her back in time.

So, today we're heading to Great Harbor Marina at the north end of the Berry Islands to clear out of The Bahamas. Tomorrow we'll depart around noon on a 24 hour passage back to Lake Worth.

I'm sorry to be leaving early, but it's just a minor hiccup in my current privileged existence. As my friend Bill would say, "No whining from the yacht."

The Berry Islands, to be explored another time


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Spanish Wells, Devil's Backbone, Current Cut and Glass Bridge (Part 2)

Late yesterday morning we weighed anchor outside Spanish Wells and headed south to make our way to the inside of the Eleuthera bight. We timed our departure to arrive at Current Cut close to slack current.

Current Cut is a very narrow gap between North Eleuthera Island and Current Island that leads into the a crescent of calm shallow water formed by North and South Eleuthera Islands. The current through Current Cut can flow as fast as 10 knots and when it is flowing fast, creates eddies that can make staying in the channel and navigating between reefs difficult. We arrived only about an hour earlier than the time reported for slack (zero) current and the water was still flowing against us at around two knots. It was an uneventful passage through the cut and along shallows displaying a palette of beautiful colors- aquamarine, turquoise,waters, yellow-creamy sand.

After clearing the cut, we motored against light headwinds directly to Glass Bridge and anchored off Twin Sisters Beach. We landed the dinghy on the beach and walked up the Queen's Highway to the bridge.

Glass Bridge (made of concrete, not glass) connects North Eleuthera to South Eluethera across a dramatic gap in tall limestone cliffs that connects the deep Atlantic Ocean to the shallow Eluethera bight. On one side of the bridge, deep blue, powerful, surging seas. On the other, flat, calm, light green shall water. Even though the Atlantic was pretty calm, the swells rushed into the gap, crashed against the limestone and threw up spumes of white water. When the ocean is rough, I'm sure the action would be even more violent, all while the water on the other side rests peacefully.

We walked back to the dinghy, had a swim and then returned to Intermezzo for dinner and listening to music under a nearly full moon that lit up the sandy bottom below the boat to a soft opalescent white glow.

This morning, Amy and Robin went kayaking while I wrote Part 1 of this blog post and then went to the beach to read. After lunch we all crossed the highway to visit the Queen's Baths, a series of pools, channels and open caves in the limestone formed by the sea. Very interesting and scenic.

It rained this afternoon, though we could barely tell from what cloud, the sun shining so brightly and forming a double rainbow for a short spell. We waded and snorkeled in the crystal clear water along the shoreline, seeing lots of starfish, schools of minnows, sea cucumbers and some tiny coral formations.

I made a first-time original dinner today- grilled swordfish marinated in ponzu/ginger/garlic/sesame oil, quinoa cooked in lobster broth and a wasabi/fish sauce cole slaw. A winner. We eat well on Intermezzo.

Tomorrow we venture further south along the west shore of Eleuthera.

Expanse of Eleuthera's crystal clear water on the way to Current Cut


Intermezzo anchored off Twin Sisters Beach

Glass Bridge, looking from the surging Atlantic to the calm Eleuthera bight

View of the Atlantic from the limestone cliffs at Glass Bridge

Bench pressing rock at the Queen's Baths

 
The Queen's Baths