Friday, June 4, 2021

Memorial Day Weekend Cruise to West Palm Beach Pt. 4

West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale

Returning from West Palm Beach.

We had pulled the dink onto the deck on Sunday night after having dinner ashore with a dozen other club members. I had also planned our departure and release from the raftup with Jeff & Hector. Alarm was set for 06:00 and we had a good night's sleep excepting for a 20 minute rain shower. Once that was past we reopened the V-berth hatch and slept well.

Monday morning while we had Cereal and Toast for breakfast, I explained the Peggy the process for parting from the raftup: Because of the tide at that time and because Jeff had a Stern Anchor out, we could reduce the lines between the two boats and pretty much stay in position. I would then start to haul in the 275feet of anchor rode. The first 175' was triple stranded 1" rope which was then shackled to 100' of 5/16" chain. 

When hauling in Chain, it just falls down into the anchor locker, but when hauling in triple stranded rope, it's quite stiff and so does not just fall into the locker, but has to be pushed down. So, I anticipated it would take a little longer to haul in the rope so we would have to be ready to put the boat in reverse in order to prevent us over-riding the anchor rode and risk having line in the area of the prop.

07:00 we started releasing the lines by the time Jeff was up and ready to let go of the stern line. Once the lines were free, I started hauling in the anchor line, had to work pretty quick as I was worried that our stern would catch the bow of Affection, that would not be a happy event. Once clear of the rafted boats, I worked at pulling the rest of the 3 strand line and treading it down into the anchor locker. Once the line was in, it was then easy to haul in the Chain and to snug the anchor up to the anchor roller.

As soon as the anchor was clear of the water, I gave the signal to Peggy that we could head out to the channel that crossed from the East side of the ICW to the West side. The bridges in WPB are on the West side of the ICW.

Once we were through the short channel we turned North towards the Flagler Memorial Bridge. We made much better time that expected and had 15 minutes to spare for the bridge's 7:45 opening. Mike & Brenda on Imagine were also heading North to the Lake Worth Inlet and was also in a holding pattern just South of us. As soon as the bridge spans were open, I pushed ahead at 2,000 rpm making over 7 knots over the water, but the tide was already turning and we were only doing just over 6 knots GPS speed. Anticipating that the tide would get stronger the longer we were in the ICW, so we motored on. Imagine likes to get their sails up when chance occurs. The wind was light and we communicated that we would probably be under motor for the first couple of hours when we turned South from the Lake Worth Inlet.

We could not make it to our dock before the falling tide later that day, so we planned to anchor overnight in Sunrise Bay, we motored most of the morning and hoisted the main around 10am. Life was good until about 12am when it got cloudy, we saw a storm cloud in the North East on our Radar, at first it didn't seem a threat, we also saw Imaging closing up on our stern rapidly under sail.

Shortly after Imagine passed us on our Stbd Side, we put in a reef just in case the weather worsened. 

Within minutes, Mike called on VHF suggesting the storm was approaching, it was. So we put in a 2nd reef then decided to pull the sail down. Just in time, winds picked up and the seas got very lumpy, nothing we haven't dealt with before, but safety first. we were only about 2/3 of a mile from the shore, didn't want to be under canvas on a lee shore just then. Imagine turned to windward and doused their sails too.

Now we're motoring all sails stowed, it's lumpy, frequent rolls dipping the rails. Then, all of a sudden, the fuel gauge read nearly empty! What !! We're about an half hour or more from our entry into Hillsboro Inlet, on a Lee shore, sails down and the engine fuel gauge is touching zero. 

This is not a good place to be ! If the engine stops, there's barely time to drop anchor and stop the boat getting into shallow water - not a pleasant scenario.

We carry 10 gallons of Diesel in 2 tanks on deck - secured to the Port side just forwards of midships. Now, I was pretty sure that we had not used all of the fuel in the 23 gallon tank, but we had been pushing the engine since 7:45 this morning. Typically we use about 1/2 to 3/4 gallons an hour. I should have somewhere between 5 and 10 gallons in the tank calculated by usage, so the gauge should have been reading at least 1/4 full, so it was probably a gauge error.

The Gauge is powered by the resistance in the fuel gauge sending unit, there's a float with a magnet that can move up and down a central tube which makes/breaks reed switches, those reed switches change the resistance of the circuit to the gauge and thus the gauge is basically a volt meter but just displays the tank level in 1/8 segments as there are 8 reed switches in the sender.

So, pretty confident that we had plenty of fuel, now was not the time to gamble. I asked Peggy to take the helm in order that I could go outside of the cockpit to get the tank of diesel and add it to the fuel tank. Peggy was not certain that she could handle the boat in the rough conditions, the Auto Pilot certainly could not, but the risk of running out of fuel and heading to the shore in the storm was just not an option. 

Peggy took the wheel - I was pretty confident she could handle it, and I was right. I hooked my tether onto the Port Side Jack line (a nylon webbing strap that runs from the stern to the bow acting as a safety line when needed) an climbed out of the cockpit. The three principles of a good knot is that it has to do it's job, has to be easy to undo and look pretty. I had tied the fuel tanks to the stanchions with a couple of clove hitches, so easy to undo with one hand while I used the other to keep hold of the boat. 

Once back in the cockpit with the diesel can, I secured it to the rail on the Port quarter just aft of the Diesel Fuel Filler point. Then I pulled our 'Fuel Kit' out of the cockpit locker. That kit contains a fuel filler syphon, fuel filler cap key and fuel additives. I didn't worry about the additives and just used the syphon to empty the can into the fuel tank. Once complete I took over at the helm and congratulated Peggy on doing a great job of keeping us on course while worked on the fuel issue. 

Knowing there were now at least 4 gallons of fuel in the tank the tension eased and we focused on dealing with the rough water. As always, the storm began to pass and shortly Mike and Brenda on Imagine were back on our tail under sail.

We continued together in tandem as we turned into the Hillsboro Inlet channel. Called the bridge for their next opening (13:45) and we held station waiting the 10 minutes before it rose.  Both of us turned South once inside the inlet bridge and eased back on the throttle as we would arrive at 14th street bridge too early, neither of us wanted to deal with the bundle of boats that would be waiting just North of the bridge.

Tom Garvey on Ohana was already waiting with the crowd at the bridge, so all three of us passed under the bridge, once open, we headed South. Imagine didn't have far to go and Ohana not much more, while we headed down to Sunrise Bay which meant passing Atlantic Blvd Bridge, Commercial Blvd Bridge and Oakland Park Blvd Bridge.

Expecting a large, Memorial Day Weekend, crowd at the Bay, we were surprised to see less than twenty boats at anchor or rafted. We anchored easily but a bit too close to a nearby boat, so we (I) pulled it up and we repositioned a hundred feat further back from the ICW. 

Both tired, we had dinner, a glass of wine and a tot of Rum, and prepared for our early night. Breakfast on Tuesday Morning was Salmon and Guacamole, mini tomatoes and some fried bread (skillet toast) and, of course, some Hot Coffee.

We motored easily back to the dock. There was a train crossing at the FEC Bridge but we slowed down so we would not get to 3rd Avenue bridge before the FEC Bridge opened. 

Back at the dock, we unloaded, washed the boat down, checked everything was set for us to leave the boat and head home.

This was a great weekend, not only did we enjoy the sail up to Lake Boca and then the sail up to Lake Worth, but a great time spent in the West Palm Beach Anchorage. The trip home was just another lesson on how to handle the boat in slightly adverse conditions. Every time we experience a bit of difficulty we learn a lot and this weekend was no exception. 

I would give this weekend a full 5 Stars.

See you on the water.

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