Sunday, October 4, 2015

Shake down cruise

What's a Shake Down Cruise?

Several buddies (not the sailing type) asked me what I meant when told that we were taking Eximius on a Shake Down Cruise.

It's pretty simple really. Over the past few months we have been fixing things on the boat: Some new instrumentation, a couple of engine issues, new Radio, new wind instrument (on top of the mast) it seemed like a lot of work, but the list is pretty small. But all of it was with the purpose of getting the boat ready for us to take her over to the Bahamas early next year.

We needed to know how things worked out for us when we were on the boat for more than just a night on the lake. By planning a shake down cruise, we would get to use every system on the boat, water, electronics, sails, lines, anchors, instruments, charts, bedding, cooking, relaxing, the many things that we would do if we were sailing to the Bahamas or elsewhere.

So the plan was to sail Eximius down to Biscayne Bay, spend a couple of days down there and sail back, roughly 40 miles each way.

The Friday before we left, a circuit breaker at home in the interior sub distribution box, blew, I picked up a new breaker at the local hardware store, pulled out the old and inserted the new. All looked good until Peggy flashed up the laundry dryer - the hot terminal in the sub distribution box was glowing yellow hot! Time to call an electrician. My go to guy is at EWI, Ben is a professional and is fair. He had a guy out to our house by mid afternoon. They had to re-route the interior electrics so that most of the house had power, but it needed a new distribution box, that would take time. They knew we were headed on vacation and I trusted them enough to grant them access to the house while we were away, if they could fit us in their schedule - good professionals get busy all the time.

We headed down the to the boat, after the electricians left, to load up - trip 1. Then off to the store to get the perishables before an early night at home. Crack of dawn and we were loading the truck ready to go. We stopped at McDonalds for a drive through breakfast en-route to Eximius.

Shawn, owner of the home where we keep the boat, met us in the driveway and we parked the truck where it would stay for the week. Quickly loaded the boat, ran the engine for 5 minutes while we unlocked all of the topside lockers and stowed everything. Not long and we were ready to cast off.

Normally we leave a few lines at the dock but this trip we wanted them all with us - turns out that was a good idea.

We motored down the New River, easily passed through the bridges and into the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) it was a really nice day. Our destination was Bahia Mar. We had figured out the tides at the various points on the trip and we needed to leave Fort Lauderdale pretty early to get the tide right as we crossed from the Ocean into Biscayne Bay the next day.


Our arrival at Bahia Mar was awesome, we're getting much better at docking. Our latest technique is to get the boat kinda lined up with the slip and moving really slow to pass lines to the crew ashore. That was an easy docking.

It was hot at Bahia Mar, really hot, humid and very sweaty! Did not sleep well.




Up early for a quick breakfast and that oh so important coffee, we cast off and headed out from Bahia Mar and back into the ICW for the motor out of Port Everglades.




As we motored out, I took this short video. The deck is cluttered as it's not yet made ready for our trip outside (in the Ocean) and the ICW is not too busy.

The Universal Diesel engine can be heard in the background and the new wind instrument is working great.











I put the sails up while we were still sheltered inside Port Everglades, so we actually was able to motor sail out of the port. The sea state was pretty calm and there was enough wind that we could sail out towards the transit line we had selected for the trip South.

That didn't last long, we were doing well, sailing at about 5 knots but the wind was veering towards the South and even though we could still sail without the engine, tacking for the next 33 miles would take too long if we wanted to get into Biscayne Bay during daylight. So we motor sailed down the coast.
After passing Key Biscayne and turning west to follow the channel markers into the Bay, it was getting late in the day, but we had this beautiful view of the Miami Skyline. Time to get busy so that we could get into Dinner Key where we had reserved a slip for the night.

Getting into the slip at Dinner key was a bit of a challenge, our first where there were pylons on each side of the narrow slip. But following our plan, we were able to get the boat turned stern in and tied up with the grateful help of a couple of guys on the dock.

Dinner key is a City Marina and is getting a lot of upgrades. The new marina building is a modern 3 story design that looks like it was built to withstand hurricanes. The middle floor has the main office, bathrooms, showers, and laundry. There are quite a few live-a-boards at the marina.

For some reason, they opted to not have a dinghy dock at the marina, instead they rely upon the dinghy dock that is adjacent to the boat ramp between the marina and Coconut Grove sailing club. Even the marina staff take a golf cart ride to get to the dinghy dock.

At least were at the dock for the SuperMoon. The sky was clear enough that we could easily see the Moon moving into a full Lunar Eclipse.

We dined out on the Patio (the cockpit table). Our first Seal-a-Meal dinner this trip. They work great. Beef Stew, one of my favorite hot dinners on the boat. A glass of wine for Peggy and a Jack and Ginger for me.


The cockpit table works out great, the light is from the dock, so if we were at anchor, it would probably be dark. Add to my list - need cockpit lighting - this list is going to grow, but that's the whole point of the shake down cruise.


Dinner key was HOT, HUMID, and SWEATY - that's two nights of not a lot of sleep. The downside of being in a slip is that the boats heading is fixed but the wind is not. So, unlike being at anchor, the boat doesn't swing into wind. It was really hot and humid!


Then, just before midnight, a squall hit! Lesson learned! in the future I'll double up on all the lines at a dock before turning in.




While at the Marina, I asked about mooring ball availability for later in the week as we had planned on returning to Dinner Key before leaving Biscayne Bay.

I took this picture of the marina's mooring field, the same pic is online, but having it handy in my phone might be handy - it was!

Still pretty tired from a lack of sleep for two nights, we opted to stay at the marina for a 2nd night. We slept a bit better, but it was still very hot, very humid and very sweaty.

Add Air Conditioning to the list.





Leaving Dinner key on Tuesday morning, we first visited the fuel dock. Their fuel nozzle was too big to fit into our tank fill. So we had to use a funnel to slooowly fill the tank to 3/4 full. We've used a little less than a quarter tank of diesel for the trip so far.

We headed south along the route of the ICW, keeping the red markers to starboard - Red Right Returning - and the ICW goes to Texas!





The North and South parts of Biscayne Bay are separated by the Feather Banks, no wind, we're motoring down to the Feather Banks Channel (the yellow line on the deck is my safety Jack Line, I clip my harness to it with a tether and can securely move from the cockpit to the bow knowing I'll not fall over board, it works really well, although I've not actually had too rely on it to keep me on board the boat.

As we approached Elliott Key we had a little excitement! The US Customs & Immigration Service boat approached us and we put the engine in neutral as they came along side. They stayed a few feet away from the boat, and they were very well armed! After a few questions, to which we obviously gave the right answers, they declined to come aboard and they motored off to visit the only other boat we had seen that afternoon.

We anchored off Elliott key for the night. Not so Hot, Not so Humid and Not so sweaty!

I was able to take a swim with a 100' line tied to a float, just as well as there was quite a current. Sure felt good to get in the water!

The next morning, we Sailed back towards the Feather Banks and motored through the channel, our destination was a small deeper area just west of Boca Chita Cay, we planned to stay there over night before heading back to dinner key Thursday morning.

Overnight a storm passed through, but our anchor held firm and the anchor alarm didn't go off at all - Not so Hot, Not so Humid and not so Sweaty! it's nice being at anchor.

 A quick look outside prompted us to prepare for a squall 
 It was approaching quickly
 Excess canvas stowed
 It's rolling through - going to be a train ride!
 Last pic before hunkering down below
 Handheld GPS shows a very quick move when the wind hit.
 All the ports are closed, it's pretty loud, and water is streaming down the glass.
 The horizon is much closer, sea is not so bad, but the wind is whipping up
Looking up at the cabin top hatch, it's wet out there!

My shake down cruise 'list' is growing, but nothing major.

Thursday morning we motored out of the anchorage, and just as we passed the channel markers that are the outer most for the channel to Boca Chita Cay, the engine temperature gauge started to read higher.

Oh, oh! I have been trying to get that gauge working for several weeks, checked the electrics, installed new temperature senders, and finally figured, with the help of buddies on the C34 forum, that the problem was the engine thermostat. So the engine runs cool. Now seeing that gauge read higher was not good. Checking over the stern of the boat, I could see white steam coming out of the exhaust and very little water with it.

We shut off the engine and I dropped the anchor so I could check out what was causing the overheating. The engine got up to 175 degrees (with the faulty thermostat, it normally runs at around 110 degrees)

1st check - look at the engine raw water inlet filter - it's full of grass, that could be the issue. Clean it out and restart the engine. Still no water pumping out the exhaust.

2nd check - look at the engine raw water pump impeller - it's new, but was it damaged when the water was blocked by the filter? It only took a few minutes to check out the impeller, it looked fine. Put it back together.

3rd check - is the raw water inlet blocked? I removed the hose from the through hull shut off valve and ah ha! I was pretty sure the top of the shut off valve was below the water line, and so water should rush out pretty quick, it barely dribbled out! I pushed a long plastic tie wrap down the open shut off valve and it would barely pass through! It's blocked!

I closed the shower sump pump-out valve and removed the host from that, opened the valve and water poured in! Ok, I have a source for engine raw water. Within ten minutes I was able to rework the hoses and connect the engine raw water to the other through hull. I replaced the water filter with a new one that had arrived in the mail just before we left home. Started the engine, good strong pumping water out the exhaust, no white steam and the engine was running at it's normal 110 degrees. Phew!

With the wind on the nose, we motored back North to Dinner key, now checking the heartbeat every few minutes, the engine was running fine.


It's a long channel into Dinner Key, and as we were taking to a mooring ball, we called in to the Marina for directions. As the photo of their mooring chart shows, the dark blue areas are the deeper points, so knowing where we were heading was a plus.

The Marina has a shuttle service that runs each hour if called on Channel 68, so I was able to catch the 4pm shuttle (to the dinghy dock) take a brisk walk up to the office, pay our mooring fee, then a fast walk out to the main road and head north to the Fresh Market store to grab dinner (spinach & blue cheese salad), some coffee creamer (I used the last we had on board that morning) and some bread (the bagels we had onboard had gone moldy) then I high tailed it back to the Marina building for a shower and dash back to the dinghy dock for the 5pm shuttle.

Except for the noise of a bad generator in a vessel not far from our mooring, we slept better that night and climbed out of the bunk before dawn for a coffee & cereal breakfast before the long trip back to Fort Lauderdale.

We had decided to head up the inside on the ICW. Peggy had researched the route and the bridges using a chart and the waterway guide, so we felt confident we could stay inside rather than outside on the ocean. Hurricane Joaquin was building the sea conditions off shore and we felt the inside was the more comfortable route.

The trip out to the ICW from Dinner Key was really peaceful, and as we passed outside of the mooring field I took this pic, it really was that good.

Then, after clearing the outside marker of the Marina channel, we headed up towards the Rickenbaker Causeway bridge, not a boat in sight!

We were treated to this view of Miami, city in the clouds. It would take a while for the sun to burn off the haze and low cloud that morning.










Plenty of clearance under that bridge, and the route is well marked. As we approached the Dodge Island railway bridge, it started to close! So time for a few cicles. It gave us time to check out the landscape around Bayfront Marina. When the train did show, about 10 minutes later, it was crawling! Not a surprise, the bridge is not far from the railhead on Dodge Island.

Once the bridge opened, we cruised through.

The trip up the ICW was not so bad. We tried to time our arrival at bridges that had preset opening times, Hollywood Beach Blvd Bridge was one. We were there at high tide, water was on both sides of the sea wall on the East side of the ICW. A tall trawler was having issued because of the strong current on the north side of the bridge, so we called them on VHF and agreed we would wait till they passed.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, but I have to mention the bridge tenders. It seems that the men and women manning the bridges come from all over, but the guy on the Dania Beach Blvd Bridge has a radio voice that is the best. His rolling banter as he welcomes each arrival at the bridge and his wishes for the passing boat captains to have a great day, just made it worth passing his bridge to hear his down home chatter. He would get my vote for Bridge Tender of the Year!

Once we were at the turn to the West opposite the Port Everglades entrance by the Nova SouthEastern Oceanographic Institute, we headed up to the 17th Street Causeway bridge. It was close to high tide, and we reach up around 53 feet to the top of the VHF antenna at the mast head. The bridge had clearance of 55 feet according to the fender boards on the starboard side of the bridge. So we passed under easily.

Passing the 15th street marina and leaving Sand Bar Park on our port side, we turned as if headed to Bahia Mar, but instead we turned into Lake Sylvia, hoping to meet up with Diversion, an Out Island 33 owned by Bob & Joy Tigar. They were anchored in the lake and we had our first raft up, fittingly with Bob & Joy as they were the ones that told us about the lake in the first place during a regular HISC club meeting a few months ago.

A few drinks and dinner on board, some late chatting with Bob & Joy where I started to build my mental picture of our first trip to the Bahamas next year.

We slept really well that night. Nice breeze, we even had to break out the blanket to keep us cozy in the V-berth.

Saturday morning, after breakfast and coffee, I passed our frozen ice cube trays, and we said farewell to Diversion, looking forward to the club meeting next week.

After stopping at a pump out on sailboat bend, we headed back to our slip.

Great week, my shake down cruise list is pretty long, but getting that stuff done will make us more prepared for our longer trips in the spring.

See you on the Water.