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