Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Making Oktoberfest work for us.

Oktoberfest 2016

Our local sailing club, HISC, celebrates Oktoberfest every year if the weather permits and traditionally it has been held on Lake Boca and that was the plan this year.

Early in the year, club members volunteer to host the various events so that they have plenty of time to get organized, promote the event as well as giving time to the members that will participate to get their part ready. That normally involves preparing an Appetizer, Main course, or costume for the event.

This year, the original volunteer had a last minute urgent event that conflicted with the Oktoberfest, she was moving homes! Pam & Dave of Sjofn stepped in to host the event and asked us if we would co-host the event.

We were not too sure how the event would work out with 2 monohulls and so only agreed to co-host if we could find a 3rd boat to co-host. Joyce & Mike of Spruce Goose stepped up. So we had our 3 boats.

During the week prior to the event, we published the schedule and a flyer out to the entire club membership via the Google Group system we use just for that purpose. Pam, Joyce and I agreed on provisioning, which really meant that Pam & Dave would locate German Beer, and come up with a dinner plan for the host boats on Saturday.

By the end of the week, we had sorted out the most of the little things and were ready to head up to the lake. Peggy & I prefer not to do one day events as they tend to be further up North and take about 4 hours to reach compared to most of the club members that are located nearer to the Hillsboro Inlet and Lake Boca. Both Sjofn and Eximius were planning on getting there on the Friday, Joyce & Mike altered their schedule so that they could also meet with us Friday.

We had finished putting the boat sails and canvas back on after taking it down in preparation for a visit by Hurricane Mathew that didn't happen. So the boat was clean and ready to go.

Friday morning we headed down to the boat, a bit later than planned after a late night (at the HISC) and we loaded up the boat. It was Full Moon weekend, actually Harvest Moon and King Tides, so we expected high tides and fast currents on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW).

Motoring out of the slip canal and down into the North Fork of the New River was very smooth and without incident. The engine was running beautifully, purring along at 2,000 RPM and very little vibration due to the work done on her over the past few months. Over half a tank (10 Gallons) of fuel with another 5 gals on board. At ~3/4gal per hour we had plenty for the trip, enough to motor for 20 hours with an expected max time under power of 9 hours.

Traffic on the New River was surprisingly heavy, we were boat #2 of six as we all passed under the 4 bridges on the New River, even with the ebbing tide we had no issues getting out of the New River, that's always a good thing.

Checking SailFlow, NOAA, and the local Radar services, we could see that it was most likely pretty lumpy outside of Port Everglades, so we made the decision to head up the ditch (ICW) to Lake Boca instead of sailing out of the Port and in via Hillsboro Inlet. Motring up on the inside route is nowhere near as nice sailing up on the outside (Ocean) but it was the prudent thing to do. 

We could hear both Sjofn and Spruce Goose calling for the Camino Real bridge opening at 2pm while we were near to the Atlantic Blvd bridge, so we figured they would arrive about 1 1/2 hours ahead of us. No need to push it, so we just made the bridges almost leisurely, barely having to wait for any of them. 

As soon as we passed Camino Real bridge and were inside Lake Boca, we could see Sjofn & Spruce Goose rafted up together in the North East corner of the lake. So Peggy took the helm as we motored up the West side of the lake and then swung Eastward. I prepped the fenders and dock lines, and Peggy did a great job of turning us 180º and putting us alongside Sjofn within easy dockline distance so that Dave & Pam & Mike could secure us alongside. 

We needed to get a few things done on board before we accepted guests, sorting out the canvas covers to shield us from pending rain and high winds, moving the gas & diesel cans from the Stbd side of the boat onto the Cabin top so that guests could walk around the boat if needby. Setting up the GPS Anchor Alarm and setting up our Bar (joke!)

As always, there were a few minor tasks that I wanted to complete, such as re-securing the Solar Power Cable from the Solar Panels to the Bimini rails with tie wraps in place of the disintegrating electrical tape that had been in place when we purchased the boat - seems hard to believe that was nearly 18 months ago.  Installing our new Flag Pole for the US Flag, hoisting our Cruising Flags, and setting up the Cockpit table which it turns out was a good idea. Last job of the day was to lower the dinghy from the foredeck and setup the engine. Peggy & I got that done pretty quickly - Pam assisted by managing the dink engine lowering while I attached it to the dinghy. A few quick pulls on the start cord and it sprang into life. It needed topping up with fuel and then I let it run for about 10 minutes. 

Soon it was time to take a break - boat ready for guests, and both of us ready for the break. We had a lite dinner of Chicken Salad and a few glasses of wine (Papi). After the usual sailors banter we turned in early, both of us beat up by the trip up the ditch after a short nights sleep.

Saturday we woke and started breakfast: Eggs, Turkey, Tomatoes, Toast and French Cheese and of course the ever important Coffee. Just as I sat down at the Cabin table, Dave called out that there was a slight change of plan - the Communal Breakfast was moved from Sunday to Saturday - Awwww! So we finished our breakfast then joined the others with coffee in hand. 

Mid morning I started up the dink and visited Eileen and Larry on Kokomo, we shared a few sailor stories and I learned a bit more about the Bahamas from their experiences.

After lunch the phone started to ring as guests let me know when they would be arriving at the Palmetto Park Bridge parking lot for taxi ride out to the raft up. We were ready.

I was almost done putting our German Appetizer together when the 1st call for a pickup came in. So Peggy finished them off by planting a German Flag in each while I took the dink over to the bridge to pick up Alexandria, the wind was picking up, but no issues getting back to the boats by which time other club members had started to arrive in their dinks from their boats. At this point there were 11 boats in the fleet and we quikly had a full parking lot off the back of our boat which was the easiest to board from a dinghy. Shortly, Bob & Pat called in for pickup, so I headed back to the bridge.

We ended up with nearly 30 people spread between our 3 boats. As with every HISC cruising event, there was plenty of food, good food. Dave had setup the Beer kegs and was quickly emptying them. Food was passed between the boats but not all of it arrived at the 3rd boat (Spruce Goose) as the trays were being attacked en-route! But it looked like everyone was having a great time.

We were ready to start the Toast contest, but not many folks had worked on that part of the invite, so we only had 4 toast plus my intro toast.


Wir sind Sailors
We are Sailors


King Tides & Strong Winds

One of the highlights of the weekend was the King Tide, making the high tides much higher and the subsequent current flows much stronger. The winds were mostly from the North East and were in the high teens most of the weekend. This meant that our journey back to the slip had to be coordinated with the tides just so that we had safe transit at our slip and through the bridges.

During the cruise festivities (eating, drinking and sharing sea stories) the wind popped up quite a bit and matched some of the howling winds of Friday Night. But around 6pm Saturday, the wind popped up higher to at least 42 knots. I had turned on the Nav instruments on Eximius and flipped the instrument display to show the 10 minute wind history graph, it showed 35 to 42 knots several times. It made for some exciting rides to and from the bridge parking lot in the dinghy.

Before dark, our guests started to head back to their boats or request dingy rides back to the parking lot, probably as we had run out of Beer, most all of the food was gone, and perhaps the rising winds signaled the end of the Party. 

Most guests departed by climbing down the backside of Eximius into the dinks that were all tied up to our stern. Larry from Kokomo was running a regular taxi service for those guests that did not have their dink that day. I learned the advantage of having a decent (15HP) motor and rigid hull on his dink, something others had told me were almost a necessity when we go to the Bahamas where the current could be faster than our 2.3HP outboard could manage.

With the event guests all back ashore or to their own boats, the three host boat crews sat and reflected upon the event - An All Round Success! After evening cocktails we all returned to our own boats.

Overnight a couple of other boats (not HISC) anchored near to the three rafted host boats, a little on the close side, not a problem if they have set their anchors properly.

Shortly after midnight, the wind piped up again, but this time it coincided with the change in tide and the rafted boats swung 180º and our Anchor Alarm went off. Quickly getting into the cockpit and checking for anchor drag by taking a transit line on the shore buildings, it looked as though we might be dragging anchor. I took a couple of minutes to average out the swing and transit lines and thought I had better get the other skippers up on deck for a 2nd opinion. Dave was first out of his cabin and we concluded we were probably ok, but I said I'd stay up on anchor watch for a while. Mike joined us and we all agreed. I remained in the cockpit checking on the swing.

About 12:30 during another swing in the weird Lake Boca currents, I noted that the 3 rafted boats were pointing North, the power catamaran was pointed at our stern and the 3rd boat, the one that had arrived earlier that night, was pointed away from our bow. That is, we were all pointing along the circumference of the same semi circle - as I said, the Weird Lake Boca Currents!

The clouds were scudding along in the stiff breeze and I started to get glimpses of the Harvest Full Moon directly overhead. So I took this video;

Then I waited a few minutes for a break in the clouds and took this picture

The Trip Home

Sunday Morning we were up around 6am planing on joining Mike & Joyce, Dave & Pam for breakfast aboard Spruce Goose. Before breakfast I was able to get the dink outboard off the dink and onto it's mount on Eximius, then I moved the dink around the starboard side of the boat and secured it for lifting onto the foredeck. Peggy was ready to go at that time and helped me raise the dink and tie it down on the deck. We put the coffee on, but no sign of the other crews yet, so we had some toast - didn't realize how little of the food we had eaten last night.

Joyce called us all over for breakfast, Peggy & I took our coffee pot to share, but only Dave & Pam drink coffee and already had their own too. Peggy was having a bit of tummy upset and returned to our boat to be near the head :( Meanwhile the rest of us enjoyed some of Joyce's Oats Nuts &  Cranberries and some of Pam's Strudel. 

Our return trip plan had us leaving for the 0840 bridge opening. So around 8:30 we cast off from Sjofn & Spruce Goose, motored around the back of the power catamaran, up the East side of the Lake, turned westward then south down to the bridge. We got there a little early and had to turn into the pretty strong Easterly wind to hold station while we waited for the bridge to open at 8:40am.

From there on it was plain motoring all the way back down the ditch, we nailed the openings despite the strong current reducing our GPS speed. The bridge tenders were kind to us and held the bridges open till we passed.

As we passed where the A1A roadway is close to the ICW, we could several docks that were underwater at the King High Tide and in some places the A1A was flooded, police cars were blocking traffic from heading towards the floods.

After passing under Los Olas Blvd Bridge, we could see how the canal is dramatically reduced in width due to the expansion work on the upgrades to the Los Olas Marina, the canal is probably half it's previous width! We wondered how much of the new marina will be open for public use when it's finished.

Once we were past Bahia Mar we turned west to pass north of Sand Bar Park, which was empty, only the dredge barge was nearby where they are deepening the canal all the way down to the 17th Street Bridge. We now started to feel the resistance of the current flow from the New River and had to push the throttle up as we passed by the New River Bridges, we could see the current flow at the bridge fenders clearly, but we were on schedule and didn't need to keep pushing once past a bridge. Cooleys landing was flooded and had it's usual crowd of visiting boats tied up in the slips.

I was below when Peggy turned Eximius into the canal where we keep her (the boat) docked. There was a newbie tied up on the North side of the canal, pretty big motor vessel, so that narrowed our passage quite a bit, but Peggy nailed it again. We came along side and turned Eximius around to face east for our next adventure. 

It didn't take us long to unload the food, drinks, bedding, linens, tools that I needed at home onto the dock. Then it was a quick rinse down of the topsides, lockup the boat and head home.

Great Trip, Event, Guests, Food, Drinks, Stories equals A Great Weekend!  

See you on the water.

Paul