Wednesday, May 31, 2023

2023 Memorial Day Weekend

2023 Memorial Day Weekend Leaving the Dock

Original plan was to 'sail' down to Miami on the Ocean.  Weather forecasts this week were expecting afternoon storms. That put a bit of anxiety into the options. We finally agreed that we would go down the ditch, but there was a hiccup - The 79th Street Bridge, just North of Miami on the AICW, is undergoing maintenance,  and is basically closed from 09:300 to 15:30, opening only upon a 4 hour advance request. So basically if we go down the ditch, then we'll have to leave Port Everglades after calling the bridge to schedule an opening 4 hours later.  It's crazy! There has to be other boats that are going to request openings and it's unlikely they'll all request the same time!  Try and figure that out!

So basically it means that we have to leave PE about 3 hours before 3:30pm when the opening restriction is removed.

We left the dock around 11:45. not sure of the exact time. I would normally look back on our InReach data record online and grab the time there, however, we didn't turn the InReach on to Track until we were on the Ocean.  But I was able to find the time data on my Google account's Map Timeline.  Gotta love the technology.

We motored down to the PumpOut station on 15th Street to empty the poop tank rather than head out 3 miles off shore as that would basically take us North in the Gulfstream.  The PumpOut Station didn't work too well, it needs a new nozzle end as it leaks suction. So it's clean but the suction loss means it will take ages to empty the tank. It took over 20mins to empty a 25gallon tank.  When we approached the floating dock at the PumpOut station, there was a boat tied up but not using the PumpOut. That's a big No-No, the accepted rule is that once you're done pumping then get off the dock. But when we called to the crew, they quickly moved the boat, they were waiting use the Boat Ramp to haul out.

We finally got to leave that PO dock around 2:30 and then headed down under 17th Street Bridge, very little boat traffic. As we got to the point where we could see the Port Everglades entrance. We could see that the Ocean was like a millpond. I asked Peggy how she felt about going outside rather than down the ditch, her response:- If you helm, then we can go outside. HWHL. We headed out of the entrance and turned South on the Ocean towards Miami.  I'm really not fond of the 5 hour ride down the ditch having to either slow down or rush at max RPM to time the opening of the next bridge.  

It was an easy motor down to Miami, a few minutes of rain, didn't get wet. Unlike the ride down the ditch, sailing or motoring about 3/4 of a mile off shore is pretty boring, so we make a point of checking the weather, the clouds, if any, and what we can see on the shoreline. It's always fun to look directly into Haulover where the fixed bridge only allows power boats to risk the bumpy ride in and out of the entrance. There's even a YouTube channel that shows the seemingly endless stream of vessels that try to make it in or out of the channel during days when the Tide is ebbing and the Wind is from the East, fun.

We were passed by Affection before we arrived at the entrance to Miami - Government Cut. Jeff, on Affection, called to advise that there was at least 2 knots of current in the Cut and that he would proceed to the planned anchorage at Miami Stadium Marina. He was right! We hit 2.4 knots against our progress into the Cut.

Following the markers and keeping clear of the overhanging crane gantries of the cargo ships tied up to the docks as we passed them on our Stbd Side. Several high speed boats virtually flew past us with total disregard to ourselves and any other small craft in the local area. I guess it's a Miami thing.

It was well before dark, but as we approached the turn to port that would put us back on the ICW, there was a craft in the water that we could not distinguish, the late in the afternoon sunlight between the tall buildings seemed to make the waterline in that area appear to be much darker, one tow boat was only visible due to it's flashing lights.
Once we turned South on the ICW it seemed to lighten up, I guess that was the effect of not having the Sun low on the horizon dead ahead, it was now off to Stbd and it was magically daylight again.

The channel down to Rickenbacker causeway is well marked but very narrow, maybe just 50' in some places.  We kept in the channel almost until we were at the fenders of the underpass of the bridge, then turned to Port and followed the GPS depth markings to head East. As we approached the Rusti Pelican Restaurant, we needed to navigate around the boats that were either anchored or Sunk, yes 'Sunk' and of course the very shallow areas that are clearly marked on the chartplotter.

Image Capture from Jeff's Instant 360 Video

Once North of the Rusti Pelican, we could see Affection anchored further to the East, towards the actual Stadium. Peggy took the helm while I prepared the fenders and our new dock lines ready to pass to Affection when we got alongside.  Peggy did a great job of slowing the boat and bringing us along side and to a stop. Jeff took the Midships line and the Bow line. It's all quite hectic when coming alongside another boat, concentrating on not 'hitting' the other boat and just as important, bringing the boat to a complete stop when we are alongside. Peggy managed it perfectly. 

We all took a break to bring our stress levels down to zero. I went below and heated up my favorite dish - Sailors Pie - it's not a pie! I'll make a separate post about it.

Peggy was exhausted, it had been a pretty long day. We were up early and had been pushing the boat for about 9 hours. As the weather had promised to be pretty gnarly, that added to the stress of the day. The fact that the weather was really quite nice helped calm the crew.

We were tied up to the Stbd Side of Affection and due to the winds, facing to the North. So we could not see the view of Miami that was visible from Affection. Peggy turned in for the night and missed it. It really was a kodak moment, the sight of all of the sky scrapers lit up like christmas trees, reflecting on the water was really spectacular. Now I know why Jeff & Judy like that anchorage so much. Thanks for suggesting it Jeff!

Friday morning, we had an simple Cereal and Toast Breakfast, with Coffee, obviously. Then we discussed with Jeff & Judy about the options to move ahead down to Billy's Point. The weather today was much more certainly going to get nasty, Storms were forecast to start up over the West side of the Bay and head eastwards later in the day. We knew we were very likely to get wet but not sure how bad they would be. My conclusion was that it would be Rain storms with not much wind. Peggy anticipated the end of the world. Luckily my guess was the right one.  Of course, that didn't' stop peggy from putting our portable electronics in the oven as a Faraday Cage and ensuring we were wearing our Tethers. 

We kept an eye  out for Affection, not knowing what time they would be hauling anchor from the Stadium Marina, but knowing they could easily double our speed. Affection did not have AIS so I was unaware of their location. I shared a pic of our GPS when we were right in the middle of the rain storm. I did see a similar boat to theirs but it had something on the foredeck that I was certain was not on Affection. Turned out it was them and the thing on the foredeck was actually their fenders on the Stbd side of the foredeck. 

About an hour before we arrived at the Featherbeds, the Channel at the mid point of Biscayne Bay, I saw Summer wind - Chris & Kelli Whitlock - appear on our AIS. We couldn't see them astern of us due to the amount of water in the air, it was just a pale grey mist back there. I called Chris on VHF and we shared our weather situation.

It was a short while later when I noticed that our speed had dropped by over a knot and that we had what looked like Steam coming out of the exhaust! That's not good! We check the 'heartbeat' of the engine at least every 10 mins - that's checking the RPM, Temperature, Fuel Status and Voltage, then we check the GPS speed and compare it to the Speed through the water. That's when  I noticed the issue with the engine, every thing was good except the speed and the steamy exhaust. 

Going for the simplest things first, I checked the Engine Intake Water Strainer - a small amount of crud but definitely not blocked.  I checked the Engine Coolant, that was fine, a little low but barely. Checked the Oil which was really a waste of time as the engine had been running and so the Oil would be dispersed all over the inside and would take a while to drain down to the sump.

Peggy wondered if we had something on the Propellor! Duh! I dropped the RPM to idel ( about 400 rpm ) shifted into Neutral and then Reverse, pushed the throttle forward and watched as a bunch of seaweed spued out from under the stern. Back into forward and back to 1800 rpm, and magically our speed climbed back up to 6+ knots. Phew! Oh, and no more steamy exhaust! 

As the weather improved we could see Summer Wind astern of us watching as we navigated through the Featherbeds Channel. Of course, we hardly saw any power boats near us between Miami and the Featherbeds, but it felt like very power boat on the Bay decided to pass us at high speed during our transit of the channel. As I said, it must be a Miami Thing.

Chris in his Catalina 36 followed us to the place I had set as our anchorage just West of Billy's point. I could see two boat in the distance but thought they could not be Affection and, our 3rd cruise host boat, Deli Marvi, they were not expected to be there yet, Deli Marvi was not expected until Saturday.

With Peggy at the helm, we dropped anchor but Summer Wind motored past us heading to those other two boats, Chris reported that Affection and Deli Marvi were already there and anchored. They were about 800 yds further to the SE from us. Chris advised that there was plenty of depth, about 9.6',  for our 5'7" keel. I figured we were over 18" above low tide and so could anchor much closer to the three of them. We agreed that the weather was too lumpy to raft up that evening and planned to review that on Saturday morning.

Summer Wind and Eximius at Sunset off of Billy's Point

The Crew from Affection and Summer Wind came over to Eximus for cocktails, but no sign of the crew from Deli Marvi - Christ took his dinghy over to wake them up. Turned out it was not Deli Marvi! Did I mention they were not due to arrive until Saturday! Duh - we all got a laugh out of that.

Saturday morning we were suffering from a lack of sleep, it had been a bumpy night and I was really glad that we hadn't rafted up with anyone overnight. It was still too lumpy to raft up and it was too lumpy to have the planned Dinghy race, so we all just hung out on our boats. I'm not sure if the others did the same but we made up for the rough night with a few Naps.

The major event for Saturday was the Host boat gathering at 6:30pm, The plan was for everyone to meet up at the Host boat ( Eximus ) and bring something to share. Eximius is 34' and Summer Wind is 36 and they have a BBQ ! Chris had planned to BBQ Burgers and Hot Dogs. We had prepared a big pan of Mac-n-Cheese ( far too much! but that's normal for HISC BSTS events ) So we agreed to move the party to Summer Wind. There was plenty of food and a bit more room than on Eximius.  By the middle of the afternoon, Lady Gray and Deli Marvi had joined us at the anchorage. So by 6:30 we had five boats and 12 members ready to party. Ok, so some of them started to party a little earlier - but what happens in Biscayne Bay stays in Biscayne Bay.

At the party, Chris had put together a quiz based on Memorial Day, I only guessed one answer - why is Memorial Day held in May? Because that's when the Spring flowers blossom at the Gravesites of those we remember.

Our part of the Party was a 'What's in the Bag' game. I had made up 12 bags with hidden contents from my garage and players had to try and guess what was in the bags just by feeling them. Everyone won a glow in the dark necklace and each boat won an LED bottle cork light kit. 

The food was great, the company was great and the weather was great - that's what it's all about!

We slept a little better Saturday night, not much, and had a light breakfast of Fruit & Yogurt before the Bagels and Cheese break Sunday aboard Deli Marvi around 10am. There's a lot more Room on Deli Marvy and all 12 members found somewhere to sit and join in the chit chat. Oz & Rita did an awesome job of laying the table. Jeff brought his Expresso Maker aboard and made custom coffee for all. Oh, and  Oz & Rita's Dog, Leeloo, seemed to want to be friends with everyone, especially anyone that had something to eat! I say Oz and Rita's Dog, but really she is just a woolly rug on legs. Totally Cute.

We didn't have anything else planned for Sunday, just as well as Eximius was getting hot and we had issues with the Air Conditioning. Our Batteries can provide power for AC for about an hour, so we have a Honda 2000 onboard. However, the Victron system was not happy and kept switching off the Inverter. It took us a few hours but finally got it working. ((  When I got home on Monday, I looked up the issue on the Victron Website and discovered that I should disconnect the USB Mk3 adapter from the Victron Cerbo GX when the USB is not in use! ))

Lady Gray departed the anchorage sometime Sunday afternoon. We were having breakfast Monday Morning ( Memorial Day ) when Affection pulled their Anchor to head North. We pulled ours and headed North at 0705. Summer Wind must have left before us and Deli Marvi were still at anchor after we left.

It was an uneventful motor into the wind up to the Featherbeds, we reversed the prop a few times to expel a build up of Sargassum. We lost sight of Affection before we exited the Featherbeds Channel.

Our plan was to head out  through the Stiltsville channel and determine if the Ocean conditions were suitable for heading up to Port Everglades or nip back in through the Miami cut and go up the ICW. 

Jeff called us on the VHF and advised that the ocean was calm, so we elected to go 4 miles offshore to gain advantage of the Gulf Streams flow northwards.

When 4 miles off shore ( we check by putting the cursor of the Chartplotter on the location of the shoreline and the Chartplotter gives us the distance from Shore ) we planned to Pump-n-Dump the holding tank. Well, we tried! but the Macerator pump failed, probably it over heated as it failed to prime. We carry a spare onboard, that was left by the previous owner 8 years ago! I'll arrange for a PumpOut at the dock in the next few days as I don't want to be playing with the Macerator Pump when the tank is full - that's a really crappy job.

Oddly, the Gulfstream was much further offshore and there was an Southerly flowing eddy of nearly 2knots. Despite that, we made it up to Port Everglades and the 17th Street bridge by 15:06 and back to our dock by 16:04, not too shabby for a lazy Motor Sail in the Ocean.

After passing 17th Street Causeway bridge, we followed the ICW to the New River Turn off at Sand Bar park, packed! No surprise it is Memorial Day.  Turning to Port to join the New River and heading up river, we joined 3 other boats inline to navigate all of the New River bridges. This was one of better days to go up the river! The first boat, a sailboat 'Rendezvous' was the first boat inline and we each called the first bridge ( 3rd Avenue Bridge ) to request an opening, before we passed under 3rd avenue, I called Andrews Avenue for an opening, we heard the FEC Bridge was going to be open and all four boats passed nicely under all three bridges, then, all lined up, we all called and passed under 7th Avenue Bridge. We didn't have to do a single doughnut in order to slow down for any of the bridges - SWEET

11th Avenue bridge opened for us and we were on the home run. No traffic on the rest of the New River, we turned into our canal and Peggy brought us alongside like a Pro! The boat was stopped and just 2" from the dock when I stepped off. 

We turned the boat and set to unloading it. That took another hour. Locked all hatches, closed all thru-hulls and swapped the Depth transducer for the blank, checked all of the electrical switches, had a bite to eat and set off home.

We slept really well Monday Night!

Any day is better when it's on a Boat, a whole weekend is better still.

See you on the Water.

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