Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Big Cruise

 I unwrapped the new Bosun's Chair, attached the jib halyard, and instructed my friends Alex and Arty on how to use a winch. They hoisted as I climbed up my mast steps. It was slow going, but I reached the top. During the entire process, I had trust issues with both the steps and chair.

As you can see, the view from the top was incredible. Every time the guys shifted on deck, my perch leaned over several degrees.

A bunch of my best friends joined me in the Keys for a birthday weekend before Alex and I departed for a 6 day cruise to Titusville aboard Miss Marisol.
 All weekend I worked aboard Miss Marisol. The most capable guy I know, Arthur Freeman, was there to help me troubleshoot electrical issues. We replaced old wire and tightened connections. Here you see my Autohelm, which Arty managed to fix using a can of Dr. Pepper, hose clamp, gorilla glue, and good old fashioned American Ingenuity.

I spent hours before our trip pouring over my charts and online tools, planning anchorages, and guessing how much progress could be made each day.
 Alex and I departed MM74 in Islamorada on my birthday, July 29th at 10:00 a.m. We spent the bulk of day 1, and the entire trip, motor sailing. Winds were not in our favor. We dodged several large storms and made great time overall reaching Card Sound by 7:00 p.m.

The sunset was incredible, and I enjoyed some hammock time (Get one yourself from my friend Brendan) before we cranked on the generator and a/c.

We had issues with the alcohol stove, and my fabulous birthday dinner consisted of room temperature Spaghetti O's and Peanut Butter Crackers.

Ah, the good life.

Alex brought his GoPro HD camera, and will be releasing a series of videos about our trip. Check out the preview HERE

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Preparation & Anticipation

Next weekend I will enjoy birthday festivities with some great pals in the Keys. There will be swimming, sailing, adventures, drinking, and Key Lime Pie.

On Monday or Tuesday, I will begin the big cruise from Islamorada to Titusville with Alex as crew. I've been pouring over charts, anchorages, marinas, and beaches. I've charted routes both inside and outside (protected waters near shore vs. offshore where big seas can happen). There are benefits for both.

The greatest benefit for sailing outside is the fact that I would actually get to sail. Inside it's motoring all day long. Another benefit outside is that we wouldn't have to wait for all of the draw bridges to open as we cruise north. This could mean a lot of time saved.

Of course, if you're in Florida you know we've been having BIG thunderstorms nearly every afternoon over the entire state. I don't relish weathering some of those heavy winded storms offshore in big seas in my old boat.

Mapping my route has been fun. I've marked anchorages, marinas, and parks along our possible routes and want to be prepared to resupply and have fun as we journey north.

Look for updates, pictures, and videos in the coming weeks.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wing On Wing

After several days of sweat and grime in the control deck / engine room, we sailed.

Moments after the bottom was cleaned, including a propeller coated in barnacles, Tonya and I motored out of the canal.

The difference in performance was staggering. At a very low engine rpm, she glided at 4 kts. Without any smoke from the engine. Once clear of the island, I hoisted the main and cut the diesel. Next I unfurled the headsail and we shot out into the turquoise bay.

Tonya loves sailing, and is especially fond of going fast with a rail on the water, which means the boat is tilting sideways as is speeds along.

The sky was overcast but wind was excellent. We turned to sail with the wind, and I moved the jib into the Wing on Wing position. Very fun.

We briefly saw a few Atlantic bottle nose dolphins just as we came clear of the channel 5 bridge and hit a new top speed of 7.7 knots per hour.

All the hard work paid off. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

On Fear

I decided to take a few days off work during this holiday week to prepare Ms. Marisol for the impending journey north to Titusville.

I brought Fiona with me to Islamorada so she could get some time with grandparents, and sequestered myself to the humid and sweltering engine room and controls deck. This was not a pleasure cruise. I've been here for a day and not left the dock.

Everywhere wires crisscross below the cockpit hatch. I very barely squeeze into the space, which is on the starboard side of the boat, and perch on the slanting walls just beyond the transmission and diesel fuel tank. I stare at the rats nest of wires for nearly an hour and cannot make sense of them. That's when I decide to ask the Internet for help at SailNet, and reach for the 12 Volt Bible.

The electrical system is daunting. I am daunted. I need to hit the books and find a level of comfort.

Eventually I walk away and concentrate on jobs I can complete. With T Maw's help in the engine room, we replaced a broken drain in the cockpit. She was a hero for her efforts and will be mentioned by name in the ships log.

Tomorrow I plan to scrape the barnacle riddled propeller at White Marlin Beach. I may even go to the top of the mast using a new Bosun's Chair. If I do, I will take a point of view photo to share.

I received a lot of encouragement on SailNet today. It represented the best of forums and the Internet. Strangers wrote lengthy instructions and helped keep me on task. Thank you!

I lack experience but I believe I am capable and can overcome my fears to learn everything this boat will teach me. I don't really know how to overcome my inability to take things apart without knowing the outcome. I am not that person, the one who breaks and fixes devices for fun. I want things to work, the way they were designed to work.

It's a leaning process, I hope.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marina Shopping

It's been nearly a month since I last sailed. My gills are dry. I need to feel a salty breeze while coated in sunblock. Twice in the past month my plans to visit Miss Marisol were cancelled.

I'm actively looking for a marina closer to home. I've visited marinas in New Smyrna Beach, Cocoa Beach, Titusville, and Melbourne. These visits are funny. I have no idea how other sailors choose a home port. My instincts are to go to the marina and ask a lot of questions.

I strike up conversations with boat owners and marina staff. The boaters are usually very chatty. They tell me all about their watery homes. The staff can be odd. At more than one marina, the marina staff seemed suspicious. Like I was trying to hoodwink them by paying for a dock space.

I'm not sure how others approach a Dock Master. Am I missing something?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Business Trip

 My sister Desiree arrived back in Orlando last week. She attends college in New York and has been missing out on all of the sailing fun. Her vacation coincided with my business trip to Key West. I dropped her and my daughter off at the family house in Islamorada and then continued along the Overseas Highway to Mile Marker 0.

I was only in the Keys for about 24 hours, but was able to give Miss Marisol some attention and even get some wind in her sails. Or as my daughter says: "Let her hair down."

We've been getting to know Miss Marisol since March. I've enjoyed watching passengers react to sailing for the first time. Some people love it, others don't. A few could take it or leave it. Tonya (seen above at the helm) has really seemed to enjoy sailing. She wants to go fast, and make the boat "tippy" with our toe rail on the waterline. Our best speed was around 5.4 knots in beautifully calm conditions with winds around 10 knots.The brief cruise ended with a swim at White Marlin Beach. I dove under to check the bottom for barnacle growth. It was interesting. The bottom was fairly clean, but the propeller has some big barnacles. I'll need to pull it off and have it cleaned to get better performance while motoring. This could explain some of the difficulties we experienced while cruising from Port Charlotte to the Keys.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sailing with Gusto

New Top Speed

Saturday morning I coordinated with family to meet up at White Marlin Beach after a cruise in the bay. The kids wanted to ride on Papa Dave's Boat (my dad), and I found myself plowing through light green chop with my wife Mistie.

Miss Marisol was heeling, or leaning, quite a bit due to the steady winds around 20 kts, and the helm was not responding well to the winds. I decided to reef the mainsail, which is to lower it a bit and give the sail less total area. This gave us more control and made for a more efficient sail. We actually increased speed.

Just before we passed under the famous Channel 5 bridge from Florida Bay to the Atlantic Miss Marisol hit 7.4 nautical miles per hour. Amazing! We were flying.

Mistie and I sailed back and forth on the bay side of Lower Matecumbe Key for a couple of hours. She is excited about sailing, and was happy to take control and let me get some sun. 

Later in the afternoon I took more family sailing, including a bunch of kids. Their eyes got so big when I raised the sail and Miss Marisol healed to the side. I don't think they believed me when I told them it was going to get tippy. I let each of the kids take a turn at the wheel and believe their first experiences sailing were positive.

I didnt' get to introduce Alligator Lighthouse to Ms. Marisol. That will have to wait a few weeks.

Finally, at the end of the day while cleaning a boat, my brother saw a manatee in the canal. The heavy winds pushed tons of sea grass into our canal and the manatee was feasting. I jumped into the water and swam nearby, admiring the big old lug. I'm happy to report zero propeller scars on this one's back. Here's hoping it stays that way.