Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rebedding the Chain Plates #2

#2 - Starboard Side Aft Chain Plate

We had some really heavy rains over the past few days, pretty normal here in South Florida, so today I went down to the boat to check for leaks after completing the Port Side Aft Chain Plate last week. ALL DRY Phew!

Now that I have the process down, I quickly set to on the 2nd chain plate.

The peeling Silicone is pretty bad on this one. The pic is shown after I loosened the Shroud Turnbuckle by 4 turns and removed the Cotter Pin (we call them Split Pins in England) and then pulling out the Clevis Pin to releas the shroud from the Chain Plate Tab.

That all went smoothly.

Here's the Underside showing the Chain Plate from below (ie. Looking up towards the deck from the Cabin seat.)

The Tie Rod, which screws into the Chain Plate was much tighter than the 1st one that I did last week, so I had no choice but to grab the rod with a pipe wrench. After a couple of awkward rotations, it freed and I was able to unscrew it by hand. The Acorn Nuts were easily removed before I took this picture.

Here's the Plate that goes over the Chain Plate Tab, Pretty Crudded! I was able to pry up the plate after pushing the chain plate through the deck by standing on it, ok, just pushing it down with my foot!

The Clevis pin has surface corrosion that I don't expect to need anything more cleaning.

The Screws look ok although, on top, covered with Silicone and below (where they pass through the wood core of the deck) they are shrouded in what looks to be old 3M 5200) 

Looking at the state of this chain plate, compared to the 1st, I'm pretty sure we were just a few rain days away from obvious leaking. 

After removing the Chain Plate from the underside of the deck, there is clear indication of seepage. That brown is actually discolored caulk (probably 3m 5200).

The deck holes are, thankfully, sealed, so there's no damp wood around the Chain Plate where it passes through the deck.

First success, cleaned up the underside. 
I was able to scrape off the old caulking using a Stanley Knife Blade and some chemical de-greaser/cleaner. That stuff is nasty! So I had a fan running to blow the fumes away as I scrapped, washed, and scrapped again, it took about 30 minutes to get it all off.

After cleaning the two Tab Securing Screw Holes with a Drill Bit, I applied Duct Tape under the Tab Holes and then filled the holes with Captain Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure.

Then on the outside I applied Butyl tape over all the holes to keep them water tight until I can reinstall the Chain Plate assembly.

The Plate is really cruddy, I'll have to spend at least an hour working on this one in the Garage. The Deck Screws are just inserted in order to keep everything together for the trip home. I hope to have it cleaned up and inspected by early Monday so that I can reinstall it and start the next one.

FYI, the Starboard side Chain Plates are not so easy to access in the Cabin due to the position of the Cabin Table. On Eximius, it's further complicated because our Cabin Seating around the Table has been raised, that means I have to lay down beneath the Table and Seat, on my back and reach up into the cubbies below the Tie Rods in order to ease the Nut on the end of the Tie Rod - Effectively blind and doing it just by feel alone.

But that just adds a bit of Fun - which is what working on Boats is all about!

Break Time - Need to wait till the Garage is cool enough to work in! Summers can be brutal here in South Florida.

Here's a sped up video of cleaning a chain plate

That's 2 of them cleaned and re-installed. Will work on the others Friday

See you on the Water.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rebedding the Chain Plates

We found a Leak - that's never good on a Sail Boat!
Water was running down the Chain Plate rod between the Deck and the Holding point on the Lower Aft Shroud Chain Plate.
No Surprise! That's Silicone Caulk around the Chain Plate and Securing Bolts on the Deck Port Side.

The Silicone has Shrunk over the past few years and finally gave way on the Port Aft Chain Plate during recent heavy rains.

Time to remove, Clean and Re-bed the Chain plates.

Step 1 was to disconnect the chain plate from the Lower Aft Port side Shroud. After seeing the failure of the Lifeline turnbuckle just a couple of months ago, I was anticipating problems with being able to release the strain on the Turnbuckle. So I gave it a prolonged treatment of PB Blaster. Basically I sprayed PB Blaster onto the threads of the Turnbuckle and then wrapped them in Paper Towel, then applied more PBB to the wet paper towel hoping that keeping the area damp with PBB would do the trick (make it easy to unscrew the turnbuckle) - That worked a treat! After leaving them soaking for several days, it was easy to unscrew them and release the Shroud cable supporting the lower section of the Mast.

Once the turnbuckle was easy rotated, I noted the thread count on each end and then completely disconnected the turnbuckle from the chain plate by removing the cotter pin as seen above.

It took about 20 minutes to clean the silicone from the deck. The good news was that a previous owner had taken the trouble to protect the edges of the 3 holes (plate and securing bolts) with Fiberglass Resin. So once cleaned it would be easy to reinstall the plates.

Here's what the chain plate looked like before cleaning.
That brown crud is just surface corrosion and the white crud on the plate is the residue of an earlier attempt to water proof the plate to deck connection.

There's more crud around the bolts and washers.

After clean up and treating the surface corrosion with Spotless Stainless.

Careful inspection of the cleaned plate with a magnifying glass confirmed there was no apparent crevice corrosion where the Plate Tab is welded to the Plate, nor on the underside where the Rod Connector plates are welded to the Plate.

So I get to reuse them, just as well, they cost about $150 each!

Here's the 1st of the plates, cleaned, sealed with Butyl Tape and, with the help of Peggy in the Cabin, secured to the deck.

Looks so much better and you can barely see the Butyl tape that is under the fender washers and the Tab Plate.

The turnbuckle is re-tensioned and I'm very confident that this will cure the leak and last a long while - at least a couple of years.

With #1 out of 6 done, I started on the other 5 today. PB Blaster soaking the turnbuckles.

Plan is to complete the re-bedding of the remaining 5 chain plates over the next week, then it's time to re-tension the rig - will need a Loos Gauge for that. Hopefully a I'll find a club member that has one and can help out.

See you on the Water.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 4th. 2017

July 4th. 2017 - HISC Cruise 

After working at cleaning the hull for over a week and not feeling ashamed at how grotty our boat looked, we loaded her up for the short trip down to Bahia Mar for the 2017 HISC Independence Day Cruise.

Saturday we left the slip around 3pm and arrived without incident at Bahia Mar by 4pm as planned. From our previous arrivals there and recent arrival at the Big Game Marina in Bimini, we were a lot more prepared to make a Pro arrival. We prepped the boat with lines ready at the Bow and Stern and Amidships on both sides of the boat, fenders ready to deploy and a note pad to write down the Slip position during the radio call to the Bahia Mar. 

We were designated to Slip H828 which is in the North Basin, Eastern most dock facing A1A port side to when tied up aft end in.

When we arrived, we could see Esprit Du Vent, Bob & Pat's boat already tied upon the next dock. Plan was to dine out with Pat, Bob, Pierre and Åsa of Charity. Dinner was at the B just over the street on the East side of A1A.

Pat led me to the Mermaid Show while Bob & Peggy confirmed the reservation. Once Pierre & Åsa arrived, we sat down for a delicious dinner. I'll add 'Two Beet Salad' to my list of favorite dinners.

Pierre & Åsa returned home after the dinner as they live just about 10 minutes away from the Bahia Mar and they planned to bring their boat to the dock on Sunday.

Sunday we went out for a day sail on Eximius with Pat & Bob, just cruising around outside of the Port Everglades channel. Not a lot of wind, but hey, we had nowhere to go in a hurry and it was a beautiful day on the water.  And sometimes it's really worthwhile just to sit back and enjoy, relax and let the Autohelm do it's thing.

Back at the Dock, Peggy took a bunch of pics as club boats started to fill in the empty slips. We ended up with about a dozen club boats, another dozen boats from the Seabird power boat club, and probably over 100 boats around the marina. 

The Bahia Mar was having a problem with the marina bathrooms and showers and they were all closed off for repairs. The hotel provided a room that we could use for showers, but it was not very well managed. Peggy & I waited 45 minutes for the room to become vacant and were then told that the current occupants would be at least another hour! We didn't make a fuss, why spoil our mood, and so we returned to our boat to have a shower on board. Several other club members commented on the poor state of the room when they were able to use it. Good idea but bad implementation.

Bahia Mar was not the only one having a problem! Our AC quit and in the Florida Sun in July that's no fun! After our experience in Bimini last month, I figured the problem was a blocked raw water supply line and that was it. So, using a a hose spout, I back flowed water through the Raw Water system and was able to clear the blockage. We need to do something about that. Joe - Rhapsody, told me about Barnacle Buster and I was able to order some online for pickup at the local West Marine Store. So I have job 1 for when we get back to the slip. The AC required back washing several times over the weekend, but at least it kept us cool over night which was really important in this heat.

We dined on board Sunday & Monday, just being a bit frugal as dining out tends to hit $100 most nights. But that meant we had the chance to chat with many of the other Club members which is always a treat. We learnt about things to do in places that we plan on visiting later this year. In particular, we sat aboard Diversion and had the chance to grill Bob & Joyce about their cruise up to St. Augustine. We're going there in a couple of weeks to celebrate Peggy's birthday and later this year we plan on sailing up there. Getting that kind of personal experience is a huge plus and stories of their adventures are always worth while.

Tuesday, July 4th arrived. I got up and made coffee & breakfast then dressed ship! Ironically, Eximius was the only boat in the marina that was dressed up for the 4th. Come on guys! It reminded me of the time we were in France aboard a Destroyer alongside an American ship and one of our Petty Officers took a tray of Tea over to the US Skipper - great sense of humor on both sides of the dock and both sides of The Pond.

Later that day we helped with the setup of the Celebration at the Skippers room at Bahia Mar, most of the work was done by the Host boat crews - Bob & Pat, Pierre & Åsa. They must have been exhausted with the number of balloons they had to inflate.
Food & Drinks started to arrive around 4:45pm (remember the HISC Cruising rule - Get there early - Get there Hungry & get there sober!). Bob & Pat had set up their Jeopardy game, the Jenga blocks were ready to grab the attention of the first players and the Billiards table was just crying out for someone to setup the balls and prove how skillful they thought they really were!

The Seabird club guys started to arrive, kids, adults, everyone just joined in the fun. Food - Fantastic! everything from Salads to Hams, Beans to Pulled Pork, Coffee to Vodka, and, oh! those deserts by Pat Schuldenfrei! 

Peggy took a bundle of pics and I have posted them on the HISC smug mug site (visit to find the link) and I also put them in a video clip.

Tuesday night the Fireworks were just off Fort Lauderdale Beach. Several of the club members went down to the beach - not our thing - We just walked to the end of H dock and the end of the T pier where we had a great view of the 30 minute awesome Fireworks Display in company with Bob & Joyce Tiger - Diversion.

Wednesday morning it was time to take the flags down, assist some of the club members with departure from the Bahia Mar and then, finally, for us to cast off. We're getting better at doing this and managed to leave the dock without so much as a puff of smoke from our Diesel.

We headed out behind Jeff & Janice - Cheshire, Joe & Barbara - Rhapsody, Bob & Joyce - Diversion as everyone else was leaving early. We were the last ones to leave the dock. Motoring under 17th Street bridge into the turning basin, we raised our sails and headed out of the Port Everglades Channel. The wind was from the East, so we furled the Jib and motored out to the outer marker, then letting the jib fly, we turned to the South East leaving the Port behind us.

We set our sails for a SE course and headed out for a relaxed sail. The weather decided to go dark to the South of us, so we turned back towards the North, with the Gulf Stream and flew up past the Everglades entrance. On the radio, we heard Cheshire  &  Pegasus call each other as they approached the Hillsboro Inlet to the North of us. By that time, I'm sure that Pierre & Åsa  were already tied up at their dock just North of Bahia Mar.

We missed the dark weather as it turned and passed over Hollywood to the South West of us. So we did a lazy run back into Port Everglades with the wind behind us and barely making 4 knots, which was fine as we need to time our arrival at the slip to be at least 2 hours after low tide.

Ambling back under the bridges was easy, we only had to turn a couple of doughnuts before 7th Avenue Bridge to await the opening, simply because we were not in a hurry and didn't need to rush after the boat ahead of us to get through the bridges.

We called 11th Avenue Bridge - Mary was on duty - and it opened. We motored through but then had nearly an hour to kill before getting back to the dock. So we dropped anchor just West of the bridge and had a late lunch of Snackables. Come 16:30 we pulled anchor and slowly approached our slip without incident.

It took us about an hour thirty to pack up our bags, move the food to the coolers and cart if all to the truck. We also moved a couple of Palm Tree fronds that had dropped into the yard / canal rather than leave them to rot. Then we took the drive home.

A relaxed weekend but we were still exhausted! Go figure! Now we're already looking forward to next year - not sure if it will be at the Bahia Mar, but things can change a lot in a year.

Now, well, we're planning our trip to St Augustine in a few weeks to celebrate Peggy's Birthday, that should be a great trip and we hope to check out the city marina with the intent of sailing up there later this year.

Time to fix a few more things on the boat - It's just fun to sail, to motor and to fix!

See you on the Water.

Paul & Peggy

Friday, June 23, 2017

New Lifelines

Overdue upgrade

If someone told me that the lifelines on our boat were the 30 year old originals, I would agree. They were the Stainless Steel Wire type that is covered in White Vinyl and tensioned with Stainless Steel Turnbuckles and very old style pelican hooks. About a month ago, I fell onto the lifeline near the bow of the boat from the dock while congratulating Peggy on a great docking maneuver, that caused the stanchion damage which required they be replaced. The turnbuckles had seized and had to be cut off. and that meant new lifelines.

Lifeline Options

After reading a gazillion topics about lifelines, choices, vinyl covered, steel, dyneema, turnbuckles, and more, I decided to replace our Vinyl Covered Steel Lifelines with 1/4" Amsteel, there was a lot to consider including:
  • Would it be ok to hang fenders from the Dyneema line? Well, I no have not secured a fender to the top life line in ages because I'm worried about bending the stanchions. I now secure the fenders to the base of the stanchions.
  • There are reports about Chaffing Dynmeea. This is an issue with the Dyneema, but it's so strong, that it will have to chafe a lot before I would be concerned - And as one of the guys on the C34 forum often says, the lifeline is just to show where the edge of the boat is located. It's not to provide a grab rail.
  • Is it difficult to work with? Turns out it's a whole lot easier than splicing double braid line and simple tools that don't require heavy duty stainless steel crimping.
  • Lifelines are exposed to UV, is that a problem? The Dyneema that I purchased has a UV coating - and it's so much easier to replace that the low cost and ease of replacement eliminates that concern.
  • How does the line connect to a Pelican hook to ease opening and closing the lifelines on either side of the cockpit. - I came up with a solution for that which works for me.

Ordering the Material

I found the Amsteel on Amazon, it was being sold at a really good price, but the 1/4" 100' is no longer available at that price, I looked today and only found 600' for close to $600 - so search around.
To secure the lines to the Bow & Stern Pulpit tubes, I needed lashing line, that came from Amazon also as did the thimbles for the ends of the line. The Pelican hooks came from

Getting down to work

I Used a 4.5" Angle grinder to cut off the old seized lifelines & turnbuckles. That's 8 lines! Port & Stbd aft upper & lower lines & pelican hooks, Port & Stbd Main lifelines, upper and lower.

Following many You-Tube videos, I spliced a thimble onto one end of each line and temporarily secured that to the pulpit (upper lower port & stbd main lines) and to the aft pulpit (upper lower port & stbd main lines) with a long length of lashing line.

For the main lines I ran them through the stanchions all the way aft and through the aft most stanchion and marked the line where it came out of the stanchion.
Then releasing the lashings at the front of the line connecting it to the pulpit, I spliced a thimble onto aft end of each line and redid the lashing to pull the splice into the holes of the aft-most stanchion.
Now the aft most thimble is tight up against the stanchion.

Next I threaded each of the forward end of the aft lines through a new pelican hook. I used the lashing line to whip the end of the Dyneema to create a binding that would not pass through the threaded tube of the Pelican hook, but small enough that it would allow the pelican hook to close. That worked well, but when a friend leaned heavily on the lifeline, that binding came out of the pelican hook.
So I then replaced the lashing line with Stainless Steel Locking wire and that will not slip through the Pelican hook.

10 Thimbles (only needed 6) $12.95
98' of 2mm Lashing line $33.20
200' of Amsteel 8600lb. average tensile strength (1/4" x 100 ft. Hank, Black) $172.00
4 Pelican hooks (marinepart depot) $48.00

Total Cost $180 plus shipping (but most of it was from Amazon prime)

I'm really pleased with the results. I did change the design slightly, moving the Pelican hooks to the forward end of the aft lines, now the lines drape nicely over the Bimini and pulpit frame when they are open and it's easy to close them. The Pelican hooks attach to the Thimbles on the aft end of the main lifelines. It works very well.

I am left with quite a bit of the Amsteel line, so I'm making several things using that. A spliced loop to attach my new Anchor Snubber to the Chain, Lanyard to secure our Winchrite cordless winch handle to eliminate the risk of it falling overboard if it jerks to a stop, and as many Soft Shackles as I could ever need.

Followup. It looks like I was really lucky to get the 200' of Amsteel 1/4" line for $86! At the much higher price now online it would make it a tougher call to choose between Synthetic line and Stainless Steel. However, the ease of doing this project using the synthetic line would still push me to using it over the Steel option.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

No Smoking Pt. 2

Getting the Injection Pump Serviced.

The guys at South Eastern Power Product recommended that I get the Injection Pump serviced, that meant that I have to pull it out and take it to a local pump servicing company. Because we keep our boat in Fort Lauderdale Florida, there are lots of Marine companies around here. I selected RPM Diesel on State Road 84, that's about 15 minutes away from our boat.

Removing the Pump

Here's a pic of the pump with the Fuel Tubes removed. To get the pump out I had to disconnect a few things. There's the Bleed Valve (on the left side of the pump in the pic), The Lifting ring to the right of the pump and the Air Intake Manifold which is at the top of the pic. Getting all of those bits off only took about 20 minutes which included little things like loosening the Glow plug connections and removing the #1 & #3 glow plugs.

Next I just had to remove the 2 nuts and 2 bolts that secure the pump in place. 
To get the pump out, I just had to move the Stop lever fully aft and that allowed the pump to lift out of its housing in the engine block, that trick is important, the pump will not come out until the Stop lever is moved aft.

Installing the new Pump

RPM completely rebuilt the inside of the Injection Pump and had it ready for pickup within 24 hours, and about $400 and, of course, other things happen, so I had to delay picking it up until my truck was out of the service shop. Installing the pump was pretty straight forward and went quickly, a little too quickly! While re-installing the Air Intake Manifold, one bolt sheared before I even got to use the torque wrench. Another trip to South Easten Power Products, I called them asking if they had that bolt in stock, they did, so I drove over there the next morning. Tommy was quick to give me the bolt ready and waiting. They never cease to amaze me about the level of knowledge, service and just plan 'be nice to the customer'. I'm so glad they are nearby - there may be more trips to their store in the future. I can certainly recommend them to any of my buddies that have Kubota engines.

With the new bolt in hand, Peggy & I went down to the boat after lunch today, it took about 20 minutes to complete the manifold install, connect all of the glow plugs and the fuel tubes & hoses, then we were ready to see if it all worked.

Bleeding the Fuel System.

Over the past week I have read dozens of articles and watched as many YouTubes about how to bleed a diesel engine. Turned out to not be much of a deal. Peggy sat at the helm by the Engine Control Panel. We ran the fuel pump for 10 minutes with the bleed valve on the pump open and then a couple more with the bleed valve almost closed. Engine bay vent motor for a minute, then start #1. The engine turned over just fine but did not fire up, as expected. Check drained the muffler so that we don't get back flow into the engine during a long crank period. This time Glow Plugs on for 20 seconds then start #2 - Engine turned over and coughed then died. Start #3 - Glow Plugs 10 seconds, Start - Engine ran a bit rough. I cracked open the 3 injector tube connections on top of the Injectors. and let a small amount of fuel escape from each tube. Engine kept running. Increased RPM to 2000 and let it run for 4 minutes, sounding sweet. Cranked the engine up to 2800 RPM, WooooHoo! Back down to 800 RPM, minimum and it ran just fine (not it's best idle speed, we typically idle at about 900RPM.)

Last test. Shut down the engine and try a restart. Peggy pulled the Stop level, engine shut down. Ignition off for 3 minutes. Ignition on, Press Start - WoooHooo! started without hesitation.

So, what started out as a simple Injector replacement ended up costing about $800, but at least we know that the Injectors are New, pump is as good as New, New Fuel tubes & Intake Gaskets.  Last job is to clean and spray paint the parts of the engine that don't have a protective coat with some look good gold colored paint.

I have to tell you, it was a huge relief when the engine started up. Sometimes things happen, but we're learning, just work your way through them.

So now we can .... See you on the Water!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

No Smoking

No Smoking - that's the goal

The latest saga in the maintenance of Eximius is to Stop the Engine Smoking - Kinda.

When we were over in Bimini, some sailing buddies noticed that we belched a lot of black goop out of our exhaust when we made a rapid change/ increase in engine RPM during the botched maneuver of getting the boat alongside the dock at Bimini Big Game Marina.

After speaking with several people that I have a lot of respect about their diesel engine knowledge and reading for hours on the C34 forum, I came to the conclusion that it was most likely the Injectors that needed servicing. So, plan was to remove - inspect - service/replace and install the Injectors.

Fortunately, there is a Kubota dealer just 10 minutes away from our house, I have had reason to go there in the past (there's a link to their website in my Links Page) and they are really helpful folks with half a century of expertise in the Kubota engines between just 3 of their employees.

A quick trip to the dealer and I had the new Injectors @ $67 each which was great as I had found them on the internet at $150 each. While there, I asked if they could give me a tutorial on changing out the injectors. Just so that you know what I'm talking about, here's a pic 
#3, & #2 Fuel Injectors (#1 is off the screen)

The engine is a Universal M25-XP 3 pot diesel, probably the original from 1987 and I'm guessing so are the Injectors.

The tutorial gave really clear instructions on how to do the change out and what to move as well as what to not move.
The 'Do not move' things are known as Delivery Valve Holders that are on top of the Injector Pump assembly. The fuel delivery tubes (you can see 3 in the pic) are connected to those Delivery Valve Holders (DVH) and to the top of the Injectors.

Armed with the new Injectors we went down to the boat to take care of business. Easy Peezy - really - just a couple of 'gotchas'

The instructions from the dealership was to disconnect the fuel delivery tubes from the Injectors and the DVH's without moving (rotating) the DVH's. Not so easy! The fuel deliver tubes have been in place for 30 years and have siezed to their securing nuts, so turning the nuts to release them also rotated the DVH's every so slightly, that shouldn't matter much! Oh Oh! 

Old Fuel Delivery Tubes with New Injectors
Worried that the tubes would fail if I tried to re-tighten them, it was back to the dealership and purchase 3 new tubes. Each are different. They are labeled for Cylinder #1, #2 & #3. #1 is the forward (nearest the bottom of the pic) tube.

Despite wedging the DVH's they turned. It didn't matter that some of the knowledgeable folks on the C34 forum pointed out that I should have just bent the tube rather than try to disconnect them from the DVH's - another Oh Oh!

Anyway, I tightened down on the DVH's and had no problems attaching the new Fuel Delivery Tubes to the DVH's and the new Injectors. Ten minutes and all of the fuel return tubes were back in place, the fuel stop valve opened and the Air filter all put back together. Time to start the engine. 
That didn't go well - the engine would not start, not even a hint of trying. It was rotating when the starter button was depressed, but despite turning over, it would not fire up. Time to re-inspect everything.

Found a leak. When the fuel pump was running, a visible leak appeared at the #3 DVH where it screwed into the Injector Pump housing. That's not good, that DVH is the thing the dealer said should not be moved. Too Late!

Checking the manual and talking (again) with the dealership, the problem is that movement in the DVH.s - Injection pump timing is almost certainly out of sync - and this is not something that Jon Doe can fix, requires special equipment. Options are to replace the Injector pump - $580 or get the old one rebuilt and re-timed $350ish. And, as one of the C34 forum guys pointed out, we know that the old unit fits, and a new unit may not fit - things have changed in the 30 years since the engine was first made. So we're going for the rebuild.

Back to reading the forum and the detailed tech notes from the past 30 years of C34 users that have this type of engine. At this point I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to remove the Fuel Injection Pump for service. There's a qualified service company just 20 minutes away from where we keep the boat and it's a name that I'm familiar with. To back up using them, I spoke with a Marine engine guy that has dealt with many of these types of diesel engines and confirms that they do a great job and are recommended by the Kubota dealership. That's good enough for me.

Plan is to take the Injection Pump out on Monday, photograph everything in the area near the pump (apparently there is a block number that has data about the injection timing for that particular engine) and will visit the Service company Monday before noon.

Stay tuned. 

See you on the water (once we get the engine running again)


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Our First Bimini Cruise in Eximius

Two Years

That's how long it took for us to get the boat ready and ourselves ready, and looking back at what we have done to the boat and the knowledge we have gained, it could have been cut shorter but worth every bit of the effort.

Not our first trip to Bimini

In 2007, just 2 years after we purchased our first sailboat, we took 'JD' over to Bimini for a short weekend. We only stayed there for 2 whole days, arriving late, next day doing the customs thing, walkabout, and then back starting at 5am on the 4th day. Exhausted. But what we didn't know was how ignorant we were about our boat, our sailing skill, navigation, and preparedness.

Bimini 2017

Short Version: Motored / Sailed from the US to Cat Cay and the Bimini Islands and back to the US during out 10 day trip.

Great Start

We took care of a few final issues (like installing a new Alternator and Starter Solenoid) and loaded the boat during the week before our trip. On departure day, we only had to load the cold stuff and our electronics & meds, must have items 😊 

On Sunday May 21st, we motored out of our slip as soon as the tide had risen enough for us to get out of the canal, then the usual trip down the New River into Lake Sylvia ready for an early start Monday Morning.

Everything working fine. Our new InReach tracker was automatically recording our position via Satellite, and as we motored beyond the 17th Street Bridge we raised the Main & unfurled the Jib, but continued to motor until we were out of the Port Everglades Channel.

As we headed South, we could see another sailboat astern. Sjofn with Dave & Pam were motor sailing headed to Nixons in Biscayne Bay - We would meet up there.

The wind was OK, but I really didn't want to arrive at the entrance to Biscayne Bay at night, we have never navigated that channel in the dark yet, so we got the motor running and motor sailed easily down past Miami and Key Biscayne to the Stiltsville channel. Tide was in our favor and we were up to 7 knots under motor sail but the engine barely running at just above idle.

Chatting with Sjofn, we advised them that our plan was for a 1am start for the Bimini Crossing. Their plan was to leave a bit later.

Departing Florida

Navigating to the channel at night takes a bit of getting used to, lights look nearer than they are and there's a tendency to give turns a wider berth just to make sure.

We followed the track on our GPS, but quickly found a marker that we didn't notice on the chart. Note to self: Zoooooom In when setting the route. Peggy stood on the Stbd combing holding onto the Dodge grab rail and panning our powerful flashlight across our path. It got a bit hairy but we came through just fine.
Then, once out of the channel, we turned towards Fowey Rocks, which was the point that I had used to calculate our course for the crossing to Gun Cay Cut.

Time to wake up the Auto Pilot and head along our Course steered which, allowing for the flow of the Gulf stream, would keep us pretty close to the Rhumb line. Although we planned on taking a break it was still a new experience for us both, and we both ended up staying awake the entire crossing.

As we neared Gun Cay, I was concerned that we were too far south of the Cut, so I made a few corrections to the course steered, thinking that we were out of the Gulf stream at that point. Wrong! I should have left it alone, we ended up having to steer further South in order to make the Cut as the Northward flow on the West side of Gun Cay was significant.

Our first ever passage through Gun Cay Cut, so we stayed extremely focused. The Cut appears to be about a 1/4 mile wide, but on the North side there is a Rocky face and not far South from that is a mostly submerged rocky outcrop that it waiting to bite the unwary sailor.  Then, just inside that cut is a moving shoal that we could see because of the clear color change in the water.

We motored along the suggested shallow draft route and easily made it down towards Cat Cay.

Cat Cay

I had read a little about Cat Cay, but didn't hoist in enough. We knew that they charged a fee to tie up a dink in order to check in at Customs & Immigration, but didn't know it was $107 !!! Just to tie up the dink (although we could have tied up Eximius, same price). So we decided to take a slip for the night and that worked out to $199 including electricity, Vat etc. The Custom & Immigration fee was $150 which included our cruising permit which I believe lasts for 6 months.

In the morning we went for a stroll around the Island. To the East is the Airfield, (cannot really call it an Air Port) and the Cat Cay Light

From the Light, we took this pic showing the crowded the marina (sic), at least it shows Eximius alongside in front of Mimms Magic.

 There's a Restaurant and Admin building, it's all very nice, very private, but very nice.

The Bay to the East of the Airfield looks really nice, but wouldn't want to be there during bad weather.

Customs & Immigration offices

Looking out from in front of the Customs building.

After paying for the slip & electricity in the morning, we cast off. Peggy did a great job of turning us around in the narrow area adjacent to the alongside slip and staying well clear of Mimms Magic (From the Lauderdale Yacht Club) and we headed out of the Marina.

Looking at the conditions reported in the weather printout from the Cat Cay Admin office, it seemed wise to just anchor rather than head out of the Cut. The Cruising guilds advised not to anchor in the glide path of the Airfield, so we dropped our hook closer to the shore, east of the glide path.

We were only the 2nd boat in the anchorage, both of us on the Shore side of the glide path. During the morning, several other boats came across the Banks from the direction (East) of the Berry Islands. They headed towards the Gun Cay Cut, slowed when they saw the conditions, hesitated for a while and then, sensibly, chickened out and decided not to try going out of the cut.
If you maximize that video, you can see the Cut just in front of the Catamaran off our Stbd Quarter. The winds had picked up substantially and the waves coming in through the cut would making transiting a really risky ride. So we didn't and neither did any of the other boats, many larger than us.
By the evening there were 7 sailboats nearby. One and a power trawler, were too close to the Glide path, so the dockmaster came out on a PWC and told the owners that they had to move. One got a bit shirty, and had to be told again a little later on.

Overnight it was blustery and noisy, so we didn't sleep too well. At least the breeze kept us from sweating all night.

The next day was the same, so we just piddled about in the boat fixing / upgrading things. Seems that I always have something to work on.

Here's a link to our InReach Map Site

Friday was expected to improve and it did. We pulled anchor after a light breakfast and headed up to the Cut entrance, the conditions were much better this morning and we had no problem exiting the Cut then turning Northwards towards North Bimini. Wind was barely enough to sail, so, again, we motored. The trip up to North Bimini was without incident, we did see a couple of other sailboats, both heading North and we were able to see the Sapona to the East in Barnett Harbor, but our destination was Bimini Big Game Marina.

We had read about the entry to North Bimini and it didn't read well. But turns out it's not so bad. The GPS shows the way and the Buoys, although not quite 'Official' were a big help in getting into the channel past the shoaling near the entrance. A fueling ship was at anchor outside of the Bimini Sands Marina on South Bimini, but easily avoided. We knew about the marker in the middle of the channel, but didn't expect it to be what looks like a Concrete post with a light on top.

Calling into the BBG marina seemed a waste of time as it was obvious that other boats were not getting replies to their calls on VHF. We eventually just idled up and down the channel opposite the BG marina and were able to get a response. I'm glad we didn't have a Video cam working as we tried to pull into the dock. Next time I'll prepare lines on both sides of the boat, long lines, rather than wait to find out which side of the docks we would tie up. It turned out that there was about a 3 to 4 knot current into the dock on North side of the marina, and luckily no other boat in the slip next to the one designated for us. As we backed into the slip, the current took charge and dragged Eximius broadside to the dock with all hands ashore helping to prevent the boat getting damaged. In retrospect, I should have put the bow into the current and just held station. That way I would have been able to simply go astern by reducing the power while maintaining steerage. But friends and the dock team all helped out and we quickly got the boat facing the right way and tied along side. Thanks Astrid, Lee, and everyone else that helped out.

Once alongside and securely tied up, I headed up to the Admin office to register. We had requested the slip over a month ago and paid a deposit about a week ago, so it was an easy registration. Back to the boat and time to cool down. Hooking up the 110v shore power allowed us to get the boat's AC running. Then it was time for brunch on the Host Boat - Commotion. A bunch of us in their huge cockpit and typical banter of sailors on their boats, but everyone being in the same sailing club makes a difference. The start of a great visit to North Bimini.

Peggy & I went for a stroll down the main highway, Peggy thought it was just a lane, but Nooooo! That's the main roadway. There's enough room for 2 golf carts to pass each other, if they are careful. If one of the very few cars or fewer trucks come along then get to the side of the road. We passed the Library

On the way back we stopped at one of the house stores, I can't think of a more descriptive name, it looks like a house on the outside with a door into a front room that's a store. The owner makes her own Ice Cream - and that's worth tasting! Really good, especially in the dry heat of the day.

We had a lunch at the BBGM restaurant which was pretty good, but Dinner was on Commotion. Astrid & Ross, Tina & Lee, Guiseppi, Peggy & I shared a great Salmon & Chicken dinner which included Astrid's famous Kale Salad and more. We were trying to solve the important matters of the world, then Astrid produced her bottle of KillerPitch which I had never heard about before, but, trust me, I've been researching it since we returned, it's absolutely delicious.

After dinner, as Peggy & I stepped onto the dock from Commotion, the underside of the boat was lit up with their own lights and those of neighboring yachts, it was surreal. The boat appeared to be floating on air because the water was so clear.
Here's a pic of Eximius in the same waters.
This really is a magical picture, but the view down as we step from the dock to the boat is out of this world.

Here's what it looks like during the daytime, and yes! I know we need to clean the hull, it's on my list.

It's obvious that there's a significant tide range at the Bimini Big Game Marina, Peggy could only just manage to get on and off the boat during low tide, I'll have to look for a suitable temporary dock ladder. And in case you're wondering, they are not depth charge holders, those two white cylinders are the holders for our Propane tanks and the smaller tube is home for the Regulator and Solenoid.

The high street does have a bit of sidewalk. If you pass a building where the door is closed, then it's probably got AC inside or big fans. And it's not always obvious which are homes or Stores. Apparently, the Southern end of North Bimini has suffered by the Development to the North, it has significantly reduced the demand for the many small B&Bs that helped support the local community. There are signs that investment is happening, but there are as many signs that areas are heading in the wrong direction.

During our stay, the power went down multiple times, some for just a few minutes, at others it seemed down for over an hour. Consensus has it that the problem is poorly maintained electrical distribution and that the current fix is to reset the breakers at the power station rather than fix the problem which would benefit everyone.

I'm a die hard liberal, and it's sad to see the disparity between the wealthy yacht owners staying at the Marinas and the Locals that seem to be barely keeping things together. I'm not in favor of hand outs, but can see that with proper planning the town could benefit all around, but proper planning can only be achieved without the specter of corruption which is something that many of the locals blame for the disparity.

It's rare on a 30 year old boat to go out for a week or more and not have something break down. But when the AC shutdown while at the dock on shore power and power was available, that was something that had to be fixed right away. No surprise, the Raw Water Filter to the AC coolant pump was clogged with flotsam from the every changing water current at the dock. This was the first time I had to clean out that filter, so I didn't realize that I had screwed up when installing it. The tangs on the hose clamps were very close to the base of the filter cover and prevented it from rotating. I thought it was just stiff from never being opened during the nearly 2 years since it was installed. So when I tried to delicately unscrew the cover with a wrench, I heard a pip sqeak of a crack. Yep, the cover now had a crack in the side of it. I re-positioned the hose clamps to eliminate the problem but realized that the pump would suck air through the crack. Rescue tape to the rescue (sorry no pun intended). Now I'll have to replace that filter when we get back to Florida. I'll buy the replacement which matches the other Raw Water Filter (for the Engine) so that I have one set of spares rather than spares for different designs.

Sunday Morning we had breakfast at the Sharkies 'pavilion' on the South end of the Big Game Marina. Astrid seems to be able to pull a great cooked dish out from nowhere at any time. Tina made a delicious Bread pudding. Add to that a couple of Mimosas and good friends banter, it was a great close out of the HISC Memorial Day Cruise. Several of the participants were going back to Florida after that, others, like us, were going to stay around Bimini and the Cays a few more days.
An especial thanks to Ross & Astrid for making it a great weekend at Bimini Big Game Marina.

As the other boats departed, we stayed one more day at BBGM, then on Monday we checked out of the Marina and headed down to Barnett Harbor. We had seen the Sapona Wreck during our passage up from Cat Cay and several folks had mentioned it was worth a snorkel trip down there. So we headed out of the channel at North Bimini and turned South towards the Barnett Harbor cut.
When we got to the wreck there were several other boats anchored and by the time we had our snorkel gear ready, several more Yahoo boats turned up and some were anchored literally within docking distance of the wreck. I'm getting old, hearing the drunken shouts and taunts to the kids climbing on the wreck to jump off of the remnants of the wreck's Bow, was enough to stay clear. And of course, some power boaters had to let everyone know that they could blast towards and away from the wreck at great speed which didn't enhance the visit. So we didn't get to see much around the wreck. We'll plan to go back again but not on Memorial day.

After pulling the anchor, we turned towards the East and headed the mile or so towards the deeper water that would give us a clear path down to Honeymoon Harbor. The water was crystal clear, the view to the bottom and the grasses and fish was amazing. We arrived in pretty light winds and anchored off the East side of the Cay in sight of several other sailboats and a couple of multi story power yachts. Quite a few of the boat crews had taken a dinghy ride ashore, the beach looked really nice, we just relaxed with a glass, or two, of wine. Then we ran our Generator and got the AC running to make it bearable below decks.
Over night the wind picked up and I was concerned that we may get stuck inside the Cays again like the previous week, and at 0200 the Anchor Drag alarm went off, fortunately I had not had too much of the wine and was able to make sense of what was happening. We basically had swung 120° but had not dragged. Still, I remained in the cockpit for an hour just to make sure while Peggy went back down below to the V-Berth.
By morning the wind had subsided slightly, but was still high enough that I had a concern about transiting the Gun Cay Cut from the inside again. The Cut lay to the South, so, before we pulled anchor, I raised the Main with one reef set. Then we pulled the anchor, turned South.
We were headed directly into wind as we kept away from the Shoreline just West of us and avoided going too far East to waste time getting to the Cut. We turned Westward in deep water and now the wind was on our Port side, engine running well but the sail should help us sail through the cut if the engine had decided to take a break. It didn't! Once through the Cut, we turned to deeper water and then onto our heading to bring us back to Fort Lauderdale, and I unfurled the Jib to one reef also.

We were doing 6 knots on course and the Gulf Stream working in our favor by dragging us Northwards while we steered a course aimed to the South of Fort Lauderdale, finally! some sailing. The wind was on our Port Quarter, so were the waves and that's not the best situation for the Auto Pilot, so I manually steered and enjoyed the feel of the boat as she sailed smartly to our destination - Florida.

The wind only lasted for about 2 hours, then it backed and dropped so that we only had 3 knots of apparent wind almost on our stern. Time to get the engine back on line. With the engine running at about 1900 rpm, we kept up our speed around the 5 - 6 knots, and with the change in wind conditions, the Auto Pilot was able to handle the task so we let Otto take the helm while we kept lookout.

It's a long ride back home. But having a good friend (Peggy) on board helps pass the time, we talked about just about everything we had done on the trip and even some plans for future trips, what we would do and what we would not do.

My navigation planning for the route home was spot on, and we were destined to reach the entrance to Port Everglades without changing course. It takes a bit of getting used to ignoring that direction that bow is pointing towards and focusing on the direction that the boat is moving. In our case, we appeared to be headed a bit South of Hollywood, but our track on the GPS showed us heading directly towards the Outer marker of Port Everglades.

Over the VHF we heard a call from the Navy that they were performing and unmanned vessel exercise in the area South of Port Everglades, right in our path, and, of course, they asked all vessels to stay out of the area. I called the Navy Range boat Kate to confirm the extent of the navigation box that was affected, and that confirmed that we would pass right through the middle of the box, pretty much from the South East Corner up to the North West Corner. Oh well! Change course. So we turned North so that we could get directly east of the Port entrance, time for a sleigh ride! We were doing 5 knots through the water and at one moment I saw 10 knots GPS speed (Our tracker reported that our max speed was 9.42knots) WooHooo!

Of course, there was a downside to that high speed Northwards. We were now ready to turn West but had to turn almost South West to make up for the Roaring Gulf Stream Flow to the North. So we probably added about an hour to our trip, we felt the consequence of the Stream right up to where we were inside of the Outer Marker for Port Everglades. If we get caught like that again, I'll opt to take the inside track nearer to the shoreline even though there is normally a bit of a Southerly current along there.

Finally we arrived at the Port and turned up onto the Intracoastal Waterway, then down into Lake Sylvia.

Lake Sylvia is a popular anchorage for boats just arriving from the Bahamas or from Miami or even from the Palm Beaches and North, but it's also becoming crowded with Liveaboards. Now, some of those boats give the rest of us a bad name. Eximius is not the smartest boat in the South, but we maintain her and we use her, with her permission of course. And there are many folks that live on their boats full time that do likewise, keeping their boats safe and sound. The problem is that there are several boats that are lived aboard but are in almost derelict condition. I'm guessing that the problem is insufficient earnings by those that live on those boats. And there's a good chance that if they did not live on their boats then they would be homeless. The liveaboard lifestyle is not sustainable if the crew are not earning enough to take care of their boats. Eventually those boats become wrecks and that empowers local residents to take action to eradicate them. And, of course, that results in the Baby being tossed out with the Bath water. If regulations are imposed to prevent anchoring in order to eliminate the derelict boats, it also eliminates the anchoring for every boat. I'll vote for improved wages.

As it happens, we could not find a location with enough space to anchor where our anchor would hold. I pulled the anchor four times, and puling 80' of 5/15" anchor chain is a work out! Peggy finally suggested (thank you honey!) that we head up to Sunrise Bay which is normally pretty clear and has some good holding. We did, it did and we had a quite night at anchor after cooling the boat for an hour using the generator.

While in Sunrise Bay we had great cellphone coverage and we had the chance to catch up on our emails and messages, the regular world was coming into view.

Wednesday morning we prepped the boat for unloading while still at anchor, tides were a factor and departing the lake too early would result in us being unable to get to our dock. The Fridge/Freezer was turned off, food transferred to coolers, clothes and bedding packed and lines on the boat rigged for being alongside our dock.

After pulling the anchor and heading down to the Sunrise Blvd Bridge we arrived in time for their 1100 opening. We motored easily down the ICW towards Los Olas Blvd Bridge. enroute we saw Silver Cloud waiting for the bridge opening. I hailed them on 09 and switched to 68. We had not seen them in the area before, yet their registration port was Deerfield Beach. A quick chat and found that they were preparing for a trip over to Spain. Young couple and gutsy, I would have guessed the boat to be about 38feet. Back to 09 and we passed Los Olas and Bahia Mar, then turned Westward and towards the New River. The bridges were very obliging and opened in time for us without hardly any delay. We turned into the Canal where we keep Eximius and headed towards our dock. Then, just as we got to the dock, we went aground. Dang! Too Early! With a bit of nudging using the engine we were able to turn Eximius so that she faced East, Port side too.

We're back.

It took about an hour for us to unload the boat and load the car before heading home. Exhausted! Felt like Jet Lag.

We went down to the boat the next morning to wash down the boat and unload the additional Fuel.

Time to get the laundry done.

Great Trip. Looking forward to the next one.

To Do list has grown a bit.

Here's a screen shot of our Trip's Map using InReach. If you go to this link each dot has a date and time stamp.

See you on the Water!