Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Navigating the New River in Fort Lauderdale Florida

Navigating the New River
We’ve been navigating the New River for 4 years, I’m sharing our experience in the hope that others will avoid some of the pitfalls we have enjoyed in that time.

The New River:

As far as Sail boats with fixed masts are concerned: The New River extends from Sand Bar Park up to the New River Fork and then either the South Fork or the North Fork. The South Fork leads to the Fort Lauderdale Marine Center beyond Davie Blvd Bridge, the North Fork leads up to Broward Bvld. My discussion is in regard to transiting the North Fork of the New River From Sand Bar Park - Upstream (Inbound) to 5th Steet Canal just before Broward Blvd.


There are 5 Bridges on the North Fork of the New River, all are normally closed to sailboat traffic but will open on request.  I say upon ‘request’ because the tenders, understandably, get a bit grumpy when someone ‘demands’ an opening. Hailing the bridge tender on VHF Channel #9 normally gets a quick response. The procedure we use that seems to get an appreciative response is:

  • [Bridgename, Bridgename] Sailing Vessel Eximius [Inbound/Outbound] [location] Requesting an Opening, Over.
  • -Tender’s Response-
  • [Bridgename] Eximius – Roger, Standing by on 9

Because our boat has an unusual name, we have it spelled out phonetically at the helm, just in case the tender asks how to spell the boat name.

Echo - eXray - India - Mike - India - Uniform - Sierra

Upon clearing the bridge, we always thank the tender with a quick 
[Bridgename] Eximius - We’re clear, thanks for the opening.

The 5 Bridges are:
  • 3rd Avenue Bridge
  • Andrews Avenue Bridge
  • FEC Railroad Bridge
  • 7th Avenue Bridge
  • 11th Avenue Swing Bridge

3rd Avenue Bridge:
3rd Avenue Bridge is a double span bridge and when transiting up the New River, it does not come into view until within about 300 yards of the bridge, so, we don’t wait until we can see the bridge before requesting an opening. We call the bridge as we cross over the ‘Tunnel’ and add our ‘location’ to our call. eg. 'Just passing The Tunnel'
Once the opening starts, it gets to fully open pretty quickly. 

Andrews Avenue Bridge: Andrews Avenue Bridge can be seen before passing 3rd Avenue, so we request the opening of Andrews Avenue bridge before we clear 3rd Ave. It’s a short run and Andrews Ave bridge is slow to open. It’s a single span bridge, the hinge is on the Southern, left side as going up river. We hug the North side fender, we’ve seen sailboats nearer to the hinge side, but it’s not so obvious if the mast will clear as the fully open bridge overhangs the river.
Caution: There is a Pumpout Outflow on the North side of the river just downstream of Andrews Avenue Bridge. That Outflow will push us across the river unless we have sufficient speed through the water. 
Caution: The FEC railroad bridge is about 200-300 yards from Andrews Avenue Bridge - If the FEC bridge is closed, Andrews will most likely not open, which means we will have to hold station between 3rd Avenue bridge and Andrews Avenue Bridge - that could be for just a few minutes to over half an hour if it's a Freight Train passing! Most  likely we will not be the only boat between the two bridges, and it gets to feel crowded really quickly - we do not have a bow thruster - holding station can be tricky, especially if there’s a current flowing - there normally is for us. (see dock note below) We have tied up alongside an empty dock several times, because our boat has prop walk to Port, we will ideally dock port side too between the two bridges. 

Florida East Coast Railway Bridge (FEC Bridge)
The FEC Bridge is a single span bridge and is not controlled at the bridge - it’s a remote control bridge, however, when Brightline (Now Virgin) trains started using the bridge, they were required to have a tender at the bridge. They respond on VHF #9 to ‘FEC Bridge’
Caution: There is a 2nd Pumpout Outflow on the North side of the river when approaching the FEC Bridge from Andrews Avenue Bridge.
The width of the channel at the FEC bridge is narrower than it seems due to the overhang of the bridge, ther have been several boats that have struck the bridge structure because they strayed too close to the hinge side of the bridge.
There is a Website that shows the status of the bridge at
It is also available as an App for Iphone and Android (Search for New River Bridge Info)

3rd Avenue Bridge
3rd Ave bridge is a double span bridge seen quickly after passing the FEC Bridge, and rounding Sailboat Bend, the bridge generally opens very quickly, so be prepared to rev up to pass the bridge. There are floating docks at Sailboat Bend, but beware their docksides are not nice! Have fenders out and do not scrape the dock, those are not plastic dock bumpers, they are metal! We have tied up at the floating docks several times. If you plan on picking crew up, then they can park in the big lot opposite the Museum and take the 2 minute walk to the floating docks.

Just beyond the 3rd Avenue Bridge, on the North side of the river is ‘cooley's landing marina’. There are quite a few long term liveaboards in the slips at the landing, the current can be quite strong at that point in the river, and the tops of the ramps are frequently underwater during high tides. There’s a parking lot for boat trailers.

11th Avenue Swing Bridge
The Swing bridge is the least used bridge on the North fork of the New River, but the tender normally responds right away, traffic can delay the bridge opening for several minutes.
Caution: Stay clear of the shallow area on the North side of the river as approaching either side the bridge.
Caution: Do not try to pass on the North side of the swing bridge - it’s impassible to a sailboat.

Pumpout Options 

There are several pumpout options on the New River, we have only experience at those on the South Side of the river. The first is at Smokers Park. When approaching 3rd Avenue Bridge inbound, going up river, and passing The Tunnel, Smokders Park is on the left as passing the corner. (see map) The pumpout is a Free City Service, but it can be reserved, so either take the chance that it’s not reserved and risk being asked by a city employee to leave, - or - Call the New River Dockmaster and ask to use it.
The Pumpout is controlled by a time switch on an electrical box just past the exercise area to the North of Smokers Park, Have everything ready for pump out at the boat before walking the 150 yards to the timer and set it for about 30 minutes, then head back to the boat and connect the pump out hose. It’s polite to suck a few gallons of river water into the hose before stowing it at the pump out station upon completion.
The Dockmaster can be reached on VHF #16 but backup with a phone call if no response on VHF Call them at: 954-828-5423

Notes:We keep our boat well up the North Fork of the New River, the canal is subject to shoaling and we can only get out of the canal within 2 hours of high tide, this means that we are probably going to have current flowing in or out as we transit the New River. Ideally we would time our departure and arrival at the dock so that the current is on our bow, it’s easier to transit the New River against the current - holding station for a delayed opening bridge is a lot easier when against the current.

The New River is used by a lot of commercial traffic. There are probably a dozen or so of River Taxis, Tour boats (Jungle Queen, Go to Sea on the Carrie Be, etc.) and then there are the Tow Boats: Large vessels heading to and from the Fort Lauderdale Marine center are often towed as the turns on the South Fork of the New River are especially tricky for a 55’ to 150’ vessel! The good news is that if you are behind a tow boat, the bridges will open quickly for them. The bad news is that if they are delayed due to the bridges, they take up a lot of river.

All of the bridges on the New River close to river traffic during rush hours between 06:30 and 09:00 and again at 16:30 to 18:00 on weekdays - National Holidays excepted.
During the year there are several events which may close a bridge for the duration, such as Fun Runs etc.

The New River - Fort Lauderdale - Florida

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Replacing Steaming Light - Part II

Part II - cleaning up the mess

It was up the mast again on July 5th.
The boat was at the Bahia Mar Marina for the HISC Independence Day Cruise 2019 - and there was a break in festivities on the Friday, so I climbed the mast again to clean up the area where the old lights were fitted in prep for the new lighting fixture.

It took over an hour of carefully scraping away the oodles of silicone sealant that was slathers all around the old fittings.

I countersunk the outside of the holes to give the JB Weld something to grip to. Polished the area with a plastic scrub pad and then finally de-greased the whole area before applying JB Weld to the holes. (that part is not shown in the pic)

Viewed from the deck - telephoto is great - this was after applying the JB Weld and descending the mast.

Since the last climb, we purchased a West Marine Bosuns Chair - it's far more comfortable and allows for a longer time spent aloft getting the job done. But it has a weakness - it really feels as though one could fall out of the chair backwards and there's a constant need to move my butt back onto the seat rather than in the bucket that is formed between the seat and the back of the chair.

I'm thinking of adding a couple of webbing straps to keep my thighs in contact with the seat and prevent sliding backwards.

Meanwhile the area cleaned an the holes filled.

Next trip up the mast will get the JB Weld bumps smoothed down and the holes redrilled for the new light fitting. I should be able to complete the install in just one more climb - at least that's the hope. If it takes two, then OK, but probably just one more trip up the stick.

See you on the Water.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Replacing the Mast Steaming Light and Deck Light

Replacing the Mast Steaming Light & Deck Light

After a 10 hour trip arriving at midnight, I noticed that the steaming light was really dim, and from previous trips up the mast, I knew it was a bodged job - The Deck light part of the combo lamp must have failed and someone choose to replace the deck light lamp with a new fitting - ie. now there is a Steaming light and a pair of wires going to a separate deck light (Halogen Lamp). So, time to replace both as it's impossible to fix either lamp.

Step 1 was to remove the old lamps
If you zoom in on this pic, you'll see the amount of silicone sealant that had been used to try and waterproof the fitting.

The wires from the deck light (lower) and the combo fitting (upper) are nicely joined and heat shrink tubed, but again, a huge glob of silicone was used to try and water proof the connection.

The lens of the steaming light is cracked from years of UV exposure - these lamps don't last forever!

The two wires coming out of the bottom of the combo unit are actually soldered inside the fitting and then gooped with more silicone. Click on the pic and zoom in.

Yes, that's my Sailrite machine in the background.

Special Thanks to Steffi Shiffer & Peder Sahlin for coming down to the boat dock to act as Safety while I went up the mast.

I spent about an hour up the mast sat in my bosuns sling (not really a chair) and that's not comfortable, the straps grab right where a guy doesn't want to be grabbed. 
During that hour I was able to drill out the rivets that held both fittings in place and scrape away about 90% of the silicone (another tube) off of the mast. 
There are a total of 12 holes in the mast from these fittings and previous fittings, they will need to be filled and the remainder of the silicone scrapped off and cleaned up - I'm going to get a new Bosun's Chair that doesn't try to cut of important blood supply.

This is the new combo fitting.

It has 9 LEDs in the steaming lamp and 12 in the deck lamp.

The mounting only has 2 screw holes and they look to be the same dimension and location as the removed fitting.

I'll mount the fitting with Stainless Screws using anti corrosion protectant between the surfaces.

I'll also use a SS washer to spread the load over the tab of the plastic wings of the fitting.

A trick I figured out a long time ago, is to grind down the sharp point of the screws so that they cannot catch the running rigging lines inside the mast - I'll use my cordless Dremel to cut off the screws and then grind down the edges of the cut so that they are nice and smooth.

West Marine has a July 4th sale on their Bosun's chairs - so we'll visit there before the weekend. 
Then it's back up the mast to tidy up the mounting area, cleaning off the silicone and filling the holes (JB Weld) I'll also apply a bead of silicone in an inverted U above the grommet where the electrical wires come out of the mast. I'll also apply a bead of silicone inside the edges of the new fitting wings just to encourage water to stay away from behind the fitting. Plan is to not be able to see any silicone when the new fitting is installed.

More later - meanwhile, we'll see you on the water.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Upgrading the Cabin Lighting

Upgrading Eximius' Cabin Lighting

We have a variety of lights in the Cabin, the result of units being replaced by a smorgasbord of fittings. During our New Year's Eve Cruise, the Galley Lamp failed and has to be replaced.
I prefer that they are common fittings so that replacement is easy.

  • Galley: 12" LED Strip  - 1 white, 1 red (Both New - replacing broken florescent) 
  • Table Reading light: LED lamp White - Blue night lite option. (New - replacing weak LED)
  • Nav Table: Red LED lamp (original)
  • Port Settee: 12" LED Strip - 1 white, 1 red (Both New - replacing original)
  • Stbd Settee: 12" LED Strip - 1 white, 1 red (Both New - replacing original)
  • Port Side: 8' LED Strip White - Installed over a year ago.
  • Deck nite lites: Low Power LED lamps (Installed about a year ago, white - to be painted with thin, Red, Nail Polish)
Later, when upgrading the V-Berth & Aft Cabins, we'll use the same types of fittings.

Here's what the new fittings look like.

The 12" LED Strips are Self Adhesive (3M VHB tape) from Amazon. they come in packs of 4 all the same color.

In each lighting set, will be 1 strip of white, 1 strip of red and 1 dual switch. I went with the simplicity of dual switches rather than On-Off-On switches.

The 'Sets' will be used at the Galley, V-Berth and Aft Berth and the Bathroom

These switches are small enough to fit on the Wooden battens in the Cabin, Aft Cabin and V-Berth.

One switch will operate the White LED Strips, the other will operate the Red LED Strips.

See the wiring diagram below.

These Reading lights do not require switches, they have a built in Touch Sensitive feature.

This does mean that they consume power when turned off, not much, but any 'always on' lamps will eventually drain an uncharged battery.

Our normal practice is to turn off all systems at the Electrical Control Panel, including the Cabin Lighting circuit, so this will not be a problem.

The 'Touch Sensor' is the thin ring near the top of the lamp (where the finger is pointing)
1st touch turns the Blue rings on, 
2nd touch turns the Reading lamp on Blue rings off
3rd touch turns Reading lamp off.

The Reading Lights will be used in the main cabin(2) and the Aft Cabin, the V-Berth is not really a reading area.

All of the new lamps will utilize the existing wiring, but the switches to lamp wiring will be new.

Amazon Links

Wiring Diagrams

Pics of Completed Installations

Red Light On
White Light On

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Stormy Regatta

Bad weather story

On Saturday, we took part in the Hillsboro Inlet to West Palm Beach Sailing Club regatta (Lake Worth Florida). We left our dock Friday Morning and headed up the Intra Coastal Waterway to stay the night along side our friend, Peder, Catalina 36, 'Dalecarlia' in Pompano Beach. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at Peder's place while he was in the process of cleaning his boat's bottom in prep for the regatta. There were 22 boats registered to participate. We were in the Gunk Hole class as we really don't race, but the event was a great excuse to sail up to Lake Worth.

Saturday Morning, Peder appeared with an offer for morning coffee, but I had just poured my 2nd cup of coffee and was going through the process of getting the boat ready to sail. His dock is only 3 miles from the Ocean and just 3 bridges. I put my coffee mug down by the Port side dorade while I released the Main sail Halyard - promptly forgot about the coffee.

By 08:15 we were ready to head out, Peder & his crew were ready too. So we headed out, slow, it was near low tide and he had warned me about an obstruction on the South side of the canal entrance from the ICW. Peder should have warned me to stay near the middle of the entrance, as there was some shoaling on the Northern corner of the entrance. Yep, we went aground - soft sand - we know how that feels after previous soft groundings. We were able to slowly move off the shoal and catch up to Peder who had passed us on our Stbd side. At the Hillsboro Inlet bridge, there were at least half a dozen club boats waiting for the bridge to open, then we all passed out of the inlet, some boats peeling off to raise their sails before going out of the inlet.

We totally screwed up the start! Our class was 2nd to sequence through the start gate, each class being 5 minutes later. We crossed the start line just before the last class started - 20 minutes after our start - as I said before, we're not racers and don't normally stick to a schedule. We're Cruisers!

There was very little wind, 'The Rabbit' had his Spinnaker up, but it barely filled as he headed off shore to catch the Gulf stream. We opted to stay inshore where we had 2 knots of current carrying us to the North. Almost all of the other boats headed out to the stream where the current would be somewhere higher, but at the cost of having to head both a couple of miles East to get to the stream and then a couple of miles back to get to the finish line. As we would move a lot slower, the extra speed of being in the Gulf Stream didn't seem to valuable to us.

So we quietly, slowly, almost monotonously, crawled up the coast and our ETA at the finish line was about 16:30 according to our GPS Navigator. Of course, it started to rain, that fine drizzle that soaks everything but was barely reason for donning our Foul Weather gear. As always, we had our life jackets on and the Jack Lines were set just in case we needed to go forwards to adjust anything.

The 'Catalina Motor Yacht', one of those dinner cruise types boats, crept up on our stern, we could see them on our AIS before we could see the boat. I called the skipper to ask if they could see us on their AIS, this would be our first confirmation that our new AIS Transceiver was transmitting. They called us back and confirmed they could see us, they even replied pronouncing our boat name correctly, it's displayed on AIS receivers, along with our Speed, Course over ground and some other info about our boat.

'Catalina' motored off towards Lake Worth and by that time we could see Dalecarlia and 'Gratitude' a Hunter 27' both of which had gone out to the Gulf Stream but were now heading back inshore.

The wind had picked up from an earlier 5 knots at 140º off our Stbd Bow to 12 knots. As per our sailing plans, we started to reef. Two reefs in our Jib and One in the Main. We were now doing 7 knots GPS, not shabby!

I was thinking through the race results: Our rating was 186 seconds per mile, Peder's was 196 spm, and Gratitude's was 228 spm.  With a race distance of about 30 miles, Gratitude could finish 21 minutes after us and still beat us. Peder could  finish 5 minutes after us and still beat us. Both were closer than that, Peder not so sure, but pretty close.

All of a sudden, the wind instrument went crazy, showing the wind changed direction by nearly 90 degrees and ratched up to 20 knots. I looked over to Dalecarlia and saw him heeling hard and spinning around to starboard and thought 'What the heck is Peder doing?' when WHOOSH! we did the same, the wind spiked to above 39 knots, at least that's the biggest number I saw when I had a chance to look at the Instrument! The boat heeled hard over to Port and dipped the rail well below the water line, wave constantly bursting over the side and occasionally over the cockpit combing.

Peggy was hanging on for dear life! Both arms wrapped around the cabin top winches and feet firmly reaching for the port side seat, trying to jamb herself into position. All the while I was trying to see the instruments through fogged up glasses and holding the wheel to stop us bearing off the wind which would have put us beam to the wind, that would have been even worse.

We've been in squalls before, they typically have lasted maybe 10 minutes max, so I told Peggy to hang on, it's going to calm down in 5 minutes or so. It didn't! More than 20 minutes later, we agreed that we should try to pull in the remaining Jib and put the 2nd reef in the Main sail. I didn't think we could lower the main because it was under such stress with the high winds.

I helped Peggy bring in the jib, step by step, we worked together, Peggy jacking the furling line and me taking the line slack up on a cleat. Then Peggy easing the jib a bit more and then more struggles with the furling line. Peggy was pretty worn out by that time, so we took a breather till we tackled putting the 2nd reef in the Main. All the while, the Port side is dipping in and out of the water, still getting occasional floods into the cockpit, but the drains emptied it pretty quick. We were both soaked through even wearing our rain jackets. The wind dropped to below 25 knots, and we tackled the Main sail. Peggy dropped the main halyard about 5' and secure it. Then she passed the 2nd reef down haul line to me and I pulled the sail down to the 2nd reef position. Peggy secure that line in it's line clutch and we did the same for the 2nd reef out-haul line. It was not a perfect reef, but there was a lot less sail up than with just a single reef.

After about 30 minutes, the wind started to ease below 20 knots. I raised the head of the mainsail in order to clean up the reefing, it only needed to be raised by about 8 inches. That made the sail look a lot more orderly, and then the wind died, I mean it dropped so much we were only doing 1 - 1 1/2 knots downwind towards the finish line. Our ETA went from 16:30 to 17:45, time to drop out of the race, so we started the engine and called the race committee to announce we were dropping out.

With the engine running, we dropped the mainsail and headed to the finish line which was now about 7 miles away. I tided up the running rigging lines and we did our best to relax and ease back down from the high stress of the squall.  We heard other boats call in to drop out or announce they were ok. We called Dalecarlia and they were ok, minor damage - bimini split and mainsail jambed half way down. Gratitude was ok too.

We motored in over the finish line. The Palm Beach Sailing Club boat 'Paparazzi' stayed at the finish line until we passed it, we were the last boat in.

None of the Gunk Hole boats officially finished due to the storm, but we all got safely to the anchorage opposite the PBSC marina.  Dalecarlia was offered an overnight mooring ball and we agreed to tie up along side them. We kept clear until they had completed their mooring connection and then I prepped for going along side, getting fenders deployed and lines set.

After healing, probably as much as 50º to port, having water wash all along the side deck, in winds that, according to others, was over 50 knots, anything loose in the cabin was all over the floor including the seat cushions. So it was with amazement that, as I was setting the fenders on the Port side, I found my Coffee Mug, laying within inches of where I had left it before leaving Peder's dock 10 hours earlier!  Go Figure!

Once we were all secure and ready to go ashore for the After Race Party at the sailing club, we hailed the tender for a ride to the club. Ken, one of their sailing instructors, quickly arrived and took us to the club, I think we were the last to arrive.

We sat with a few of our club members and enjoyed the club's excellent dinner and the much needed Cold Beer!

When it came to the awards, the master of ceremonies announced that as none of the Gunk Hole class had finished, and that the club had made 3 really nice Trophies, they would have the 3 skippers tell the story of their experience of the storm and award the trophy according to the applause rating of the audience!

Enough Said!
Our First Racing Trophy
Even if we didn't finish!

See you on the water!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Broken Window Latch

Look what fell off the window?

 This is the Forward Beckson Portlight in the Aft Cabin.
The lower right latch fell off! The insert that attaches the latch to the screw (seen hanging down) broke in two.

Good news is that Beckson is still in business.

The broken latch.

Buddies on the C34 forum pointed out that they were still available from Beckson

Just $15 on line. purchased two of them, if one has broken, probability of other following after 30 years is pretty high.

Found them by searching for: Beckson PRK-W Latch Only

Easy fix.

See you on the water.

Monday, May 27, 2019

AIS Upgrade

Upgrading our AIS from Receiver to Transceiver

We installed our Garmin AIS 300 two years ago and it's been a great asset during our local cruising trips. It alerted us to potential collision situations with some fast moving fishing boats, lux yachts, in all kinds of conditions. Well worth the investment and the effort. The installation simply required a new NMEA 2000 Drop cable to connect to the NMEA 2000 Backbone, a power connection from a spare Circuit Breaker and rerouting the VHF Antenna Cable from the Radio to the AIS and adding a new VHF cable from the AIS to the Radio as the Garmin AIS had a built in VHF Splitter. It really was a quick install.

We're planning on extending our cruising venues and decided that it's worth the extra boat buck to add an AIS transceiver, all we needed to do was determine which manufacture to use and spend the bucks.

Garmin was our first choice, their AIS 800 Class B Transceiver was a drop in! It cost $999.99 and was not available, basically it was on back order for the USA according to Garmin support. 

We looked at Vector and a couple of others, all similar price and all required an external VHF splitter, which was basically the deciding factor. 

Our choice was the ET-413-0086 em-trak B350 Class B SOTDMA AIS Transponder and the ET-413-0060 em-trak S300 AIS/VHF Antenna Splitter.

Installation was a breeze, all done in less than 30 minutes - most of that time taken up on deciding where to install it and drilling the holes for the Transceiver and Splitter. 

The final result is aesthetically pleasing

But the system improvement is amazing. The reception is much better, not sure why, but the ASI display on our Garmin 741SX GPSMap is impressive.

Removing the Garmin AIS was easy, 4 screws, and cables. The replacement did require changing the VHF antenna connection as it previously went to the AIS, now it goes to the new Splitter. And the Splitter requires power, but I simply connected it's power cable to the power cable for the Transceiver. So now when the AIS circuit breaker is on, power is available to both the Transceiver and the Splitter.

I'm wondering if the improved reception is due to the routing of the VHF antenna. Previously it was routed from the Antenna - to a VHF / FM/AM take off and then to the Garmin AIS receive and then to the VHF Radio.
The new routing is Antenna - Splitter - AIS and Splitter - VHF / FM/AM take off then to the radio.

The new unit has a USB connection to the AIS transceiver, but we have not checked that out yet. It requires the Software that came with the Transciever to be installed on a Windows PC (laptop) Shame they don't make it available for Android!

Now we'll see you on the water, and, if you receive AIS, you'll see us on your Chart Plotter.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Going Eastward - Crossing the Gulf to the Bahamas

Crossing the Gulf Stream from Port Everglades to West End

After all of the preparation, we actually left the dock around 18:30 on March 31st  2019 for our crossing the Gulf Stream from Port Everglades to West End Bahamas.

We expected the trip to take about 12-13 hours, and considered stopping for a few hours at Lake Sylvia, but re-considered with the prospect of a potential work out anchoring and hoisting the anchor within a few hours and then having to manage the boat for the 12+ hours transit to the Bahamas.

West End Customs and Immigration open at 9am, as does the Old Bahama Bay Marina. We expected to arrive early and anchor just to the North of West end or tie up at the Fuel Dock until the Marina Opened. Well, that didn't quite workout! The trip took 15 hours! (dock to West End). Our route planning was ok, but we strayed off the planned course by 6 miles as you can see in the dip in the track just over half way across. Lesson learnt there! Keep an eye on the Distance Off Course. 

Also of note is the pretty large drift North (as expected) where we hit the Gulf Stream. Most of the drift was in the 1st 1/3rd of the transit. We pretty much kept on our Course of 89ºm until around 03:40 when we realized we were off track by 6nm yet probably out of the major influence of the Gulf Stream's Northward flow. At that point we changed course to 65ºm. Looking at the track shows that we still did have some Northward drift as our track is more like 45ºm.

We put the sails up when clear of the Port and comfortable about the sea state which was 1'-2' - nice!
By 23:00 the wind died down to about 5knots so we motor sailed from that point on. Despite my urging for Peggy to take a break, she was awake most of the trip even when off watch. Not me! I slept but awoke at the slightest call from Peggy at the helm.

The trip was pretty uneventful, not a lot of AIS traffic, slight cloud cover, an easy passage.

Moonrise April 1st 2019
Around 05:00 we could see a few boats in the distance, their lights showing under the broken cloud cover to the East. Then we saw MoonRise! Our first ever Moonrise on the ocean. It looked like an Alien ship coming down through the clouds. Sorry for the meager image, the Camera was just not up to catching the moment, but it was a image we will always remember. Just Beautiful!

With our Quarantine flag flying on the Stbd Speader, we arrived at the entrance to West End around 08:50, and found the channel easily in the daylight. We hailed the Marina on #16 and switched down to #12, confirmed our slip. There's a small lagoon between the inlet channel and the Marina, so we slowed while they dispatched  guy to help us tie up. Peggy did great at the helm and we easily tied up without incident. As we were tying up, another Catalina 34 was at the Fuel dock and tied up in the next slip as I was getting ready to head over to the Customs & Immigration office to check in to the Bahamas.

Checking in was easy, the efficient and cheery team quickly helped me complete the forms. I had done most of them on the boat, but was a little uncertain about some of the entries. I paid the $150 fee and they gave me the Receipt, Fishing Permit and Temporary Cruising permit. 

They very specifically asked about which items we had on the boat, ie. Bicycles, Kayaks, Paddle Boards, Dinghies, Out Board motors, etc. I was a bit surprised when they asked, and we had none of the items they mentioned. I wondered about it afterwards. Was it because those items are potential targets for theft - or - would they check to see what we checked in with if the Bahamian Defense Force ever stopped us on the water to see if we had more than we checked in with? Just a thought.

Customs asked about which stores we had brought in with us. I had a spreadsheet listing everything, but all they wanted to know was the types, eg. Wine, Beer, Food, Water, Drinks. So I expanded my list on the Form from 'Ships Stores' to Wine, Beer, Food, Water, Drinks.

At the end of the jetty where the Customs and Immigration office is located, is the Old Bahama Bay Marina Office. Caviar was bright and cheerful and quickly completed our registration. We were booked in for just one night, but the weather over the next couple of days was forecast to be rugly, so we bit the bullet and for two days with the option to stay an extra day if weather prediction was correct. The two nights cost $304 including a 5% discount, probably because the Marina only reopened on Saturday (3/30) The daily fee included a $15 Mandatory Water service fee - it's not metered - and the Electric fee, I think it was $23.80. 

Once cleared through Customs and Immigration as well as the OBBM registration, I returned to the boat and pulled down the Quarantine Flag and hoisted the Bahamian Courtesy Flag which stayed up until we were close to Lake Worth on our return.

We were tired from the trip, but our neighbors, the C34, were up and about and so I did the right thing and requested to come aboard with a bottle of Rum in my hand. I wish I had gotten a Boat Card from 'Bob' the skipper, Ricky & Phil were crew and they were doing some extensive cruising from their home port near Pensacola. Bob has made some very nice mods to his C34 Mk. 1.5 including a really nice Bimini & Dodger. They were headed out to dinner and I had hoped to take some pics in the morning, Sadly, they left the dock before dawn strayed into my eyes after a really good nights sleep.

I hope to be able to get in contact with 'Bob'. He also had a significant upgrade in his electrical system. Most obvious from the outside, besides the Dodger & Bimini, he had installed some really good Tank Rails on the lifeline stanchions on both sides of the boat. He also only used the tall slim tanks rather than the short and stubby cans easily available in Auto Stores for the Diesel. So they (the tanks and the tank rails) are both on my 'To Do' list.

Before getting turned in for the night, I started my written blog notes. There's no way I could recall most of what we experienced, so those notes are important, to me at least!

Next - Old Bahama Bay - And what did we forget?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Bahamas 2019 - My Navy

Heading to the Bahamas

The Beach at Old Bahama Bay Resort - Bahamas 2019
We had been planning our trip to the Abacos Bahamas ever since we purchased 'Eximius' from the Previous owner that hat cruised that area many times. I saw it as an opportunity to put all of the work over the past 3 years to good use, as well as some enjoyable sailing.

As this is our first 'big' boat - although we had pushed the limits with our previous Catalina 250 Water Ballast 'Joint Decision' or 'JD', we have had to, and enjoyed the learning of new systems and different sailing techniques. The past three years has included our retirement which gave us the opportunity for longer sailing trips. Our 2019 Bahamas Cruise set out with a Twenty One Day time frame, simply because Peggy did not want to be in my 'Navy'.

The planning began with reading as much as we could about the options for cruising the Bahamas and whittling them down to a realistic 21 day out and back cruise.

Step One: Where?

We selected the Abacos - there's lots of places to stop, Marinas, Moorings, Anchorages and each has it's own Bahamian Charm. Realistically, we could make it to Hope Town, and either turn back towards Florida or from Hope Town continue South across the Tongue of the Ocean and head Westward to the Berry's, Bimini and then back to Florida.

With only 21 days, the trip to the Berry's would demand no delays and pushing on in order to make a deadline - not a good option when trying to enjoy the trip. So we ditched that idea. Then we added a simple idiom to reduce any stress about making it to some distant location: If we like some place, then we might stay a day or two, and if that means we don't go as far towards Hope Town, that's just fine. Someone in our sailing club, of whom I have the greatest respect when it comes to sailing, has told me on more than one occasion: "When we are cruising, we don't have any plans, we're Cruising!"

Step Two: When?

Deciding when to go is not that easy. Asking any experienced cruiser is not particularly helpful. Someone that has done the same trip multiple times will have stories of how great it was one year and how awful it was another even during the same season. Rolling the dice, we picked Late March and Early - Late April. It really does seem to be down to luck.

Step Three: Preparation

What did we need to do to prep the boat for a three week trip, how about taking care of the house while we're away, what would the trip cost and a multitude of other things. We decided to just do it!

Anyone that knows me, knows that I'm far from OCD, but during my 25 year Navy Career, I did learn the value of a good List, if you make them and use them!

I started by making a spreadsheet on Google Sheets in the cloud listing everything I thought of for the trip: Provisions, Equipment, Supplies, Spares, House Prep, Communication Information.

Peggy took on the House Prep: She setup auto payments for all of our anticipated bills during our trip and figured how we would finance the cruise. Despite me being the one that does the cooking, Peggy also took on the Provisioning part of the list. In the weeks leading up to our departure, we cooked extra meals and used our Freeze-a-Meal kit to vacuum pack them and freeze them. We even shaped them so that they would fit efficiently in our boat's freezer.

We included things in the House Prep list such as having someone check on the house regularly, that was easy, our Son In Law is a Police Officer and drives past our house on his way to work, plus our neighbors are a very close bunch and we watch out for each other all the time. 

For years I've known about the value of a Ships Log but never had one. Also, in the past we have always given a float plan to our family so that they know where and when we're going and when we should check in. Wouldn't it be great of the two things - Ships Log and Float plan were combined. Among other things, it would reduce the need to keep re-entering the same info.

I asked my FB friends what they used for their log book and received an Excel spreadsheet, suggestions for various Brand log books. I also spent hours following Goggle clues. In the end I decided to design my own. I've posted about that design here.

As a result of this trip, I'll be making several changes to the log book design.

Once we had a date and a list (ok, many lists) of things to do in prep for the trip, we worked  a bit each day to get our act together. The plan was to be ready by March 22nd and to leave on the first good weather window on or after that date.

A group of other club members left for the Abacos on the 25th but we held out for better weather. We finally loaded the perishable foods and our clothing on March 30th for a 6pm departure from the dock in Fort Lauderdale.

Next: Crossing the Gulf

See you on the Water.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Update to Ships Log

Improving our Log Book 

After printing out the log and putting it in a 3 ring binder, and after reading several posts online about the value of a ships log, even for a small sailboat (our's is 34') I realized that the Boat Info sheet could be more valuable.

So, I added to several new fields to the spreadsheet.

Log Book - Boat Info Sheet

I have updated the shared version. It's still available for download and editing.
Here's the URL to the Google Drive Sheet

The reason for adding the additional fields was to make sure I had that data when I take the Log ashore, like to the Customs & Immigration office, Boat Yard, etc. For example, if we took the dinghy ashore and someone stole the engine or the dink, I would have that info with me. (In my log, I include the Outboard model and serial number!

Hope this helps.

See you on the water.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Ships Log

SV Eximius - Ships Log

We've wanted a ships log for quite a while, now, planning our first decent sized cruise, it's time to get it done.

After looking over the options online, I asked my FB buddies for input and this is what I put together.

Basically it's a Google WorkSheet that has 4 Sheets
  1. Usage - explains how we use it, and how others can download it to edit / use themselves.
  2. Boat Info - Basic Boat info that identifies the Boat, and Important info such as Engine, Fuel, Water, Communications etc. I'll probably modify this from time to time.
  3. Trip Info - My concept is that each time we take a trip, we'll start a new Trip Info page. It includes typical info about a trip, where we're going from, where too, who's going and when. Short trips will only use this page, longer trips will use addtional 'Watch Info' pages.
  4. Watch Log - Longer trips will use one or more of these pages in addition to the Trip Info Page.
Our planned use is to keep the Log Book on the Nav Station in the Cabin, and keep the current Trip Info page or Watch Log page at the helm.

The helm will make entries on either the Trip Info page or the ongoing latest Watch Log page.

On change of helm, the off-going helm will update the chart with the info from the Info Page or Watch Log page. Ideally, the on-going helm will make their first annotation in the log so that they are cognizant of position, sea state, wind conditions etc. Ideally they would get to review the off-going log entries too. As long as the Position Log info is transcribed to the Chart.

Boat Info Sheet

Trip Info Sheet

Watch Log

The worksheet is downloadable from my google drive.

To edit
  • Download it as and ods file
  • Open it with Open office or upload it to your google drive
  • or Download it as an .xlsx file and open it with Excel
I would appreciate any comments about the content or use. 


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Step up Mate

Refinishing the Cabin Steps - at last!

I'm not a lover of Varnish in any form, but I detest ruggly varnish finish - would much rather have bare wood.

So far, I have sanded and varnished the bathroom cabinet door below the sink, and the cabinet behind the shower seat, they get wet when we shower, no real choice there.

After completing an Engine Oil Change this weekend, I finally accepted that the cabin steps are in the 'Ruggly' category, dark, nasty looking varnish. Time to refinish them - they do get wet when we trapse wet footed into the cabin or if it rains when the dodger screen is not in place. So varnish it is.

Step 1. Sand down the old grotty varnish. I spent nearly 2 hours sanding with 60, 80 and 220 grit, that got the upper step set looking pretty good. Another couple of hours and the lower step was sanded.

Step 2. The old Documentation plaque, it does not meet Coast Guard Documentation standards as it's just, a poorly, engraved piece of plywood screwed to the lower step unit.

Solution: Remove the old plaque and carve the Documentation number directly into the wood of the lower stair unit.

I used my cardboard stencil set to mark out the numbers and then a Dremel  routing bit to carve out the numbers (prefixed with 'NO.' ). Once routed out, I used a Permanent Marker pen to color in the carved characters.

Step 3. Re-varnish the steps.

Result: Not to shabby
The top steps look so much better.
None Skid patches are from Lowes' Hardware, one patch does two steps.

I cleaned the hardware before refitting, even the screws and nuts came out pretty good.

The finish is Satin, water based varnish which is supposed to be unaffected by water of common household chemicals.

The lower steps, including the CG doc number look so much better!

I'll take another pic when they are on the boat, she should be happy. Might not happen today as it's pouring outside, and it's a half hour drive to the boat. But they are in the passenger back of the truck and I have a plastic sheet to cover them just in case it's still raining.

This whole job took about 5 hours, most of it spent engraving the numbers. It only took a few minutes to apply a coat of varnish and follow that, when dry, with a light sanding before the next coat. Four coats in all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Making better use of our Fridge

The Fridge/Freezer on Eximius works well, but it's a pain having to dive down into the top loader in order to get anything out that's not on the top shelf, especially if it's a nice cold drink!

Solution: Bottle Bags!
Simple tube bags that will stand up on the bottom of the fridge and be easily accessible and hold 3 or 4 bottles of water, G2 and possibly beer and wine!

Finished Product - it has 2 bottle of G2 inside.


11" by 24" Phifertex®  panels
4 1/4" Circle of Phifertex®

8" strip of Webbing

 Step 1: Turn a seam the full width of one end of the panels and stitch the seam.

Step 2: Fold the Webbing in half and the panel in half along it's length - the Panel is folded so that the seam is on the outside (it will be turned inside out later)
Sew about 1" of the webbing on each side of the panel and complete the sewing of the panel the full length from top to bottom.

Step 3: Starting at the bottom of the tube, turn it inside out. That will result in the 'handle' being on the inside of the tube. This takes a bit of fiddling to get the tube folded on itself, but only takes a few minutes.

Step 4: Cut tabs into the edges of the tube base circle from the outside to just inside the blue line (1/2" on mine)

Make a cut about every 3/4" around the circumference. These slits will allow for easy sewing of the base into the end of the tube.

Step 6: Position the base on the inside of the tube and sew each 'tab' around the rim of the tube until all tabs are sewn.

That's it! I made three of them in less than an hour

These turned out really well. I'll take some pics of them on the boat to show how they work.

See you on the water.