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.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Preparing to Cook on the Boat

I enjoy cooking, but I don't claim to be very good at it, but I am working to get better.

We're planning on a 3+ week trip to the Abacos in March/April 2019 and I'll be doing most of the cooking on the boat, that includes baking - I really enjoy baking on the boat.

So, in preparation, I bake at home with an eye to doing the same thing on the boat where there's not as much space, nor as many resources as in our home kitchen - eg. I have a nice KitchenAid Stand mixer at home, on the boat I have a bowl and spatula! And there's not much room for additional cooking/baking equipment.

Here's an example of something I could easily cook on the boat.

The loaf is No Knead - 3 ingredient bread.

The Quiche are prepared using one bowl - I'll have to work on making the dough for the pie base.

The bread cooked at 450ºF and the Quiche at 350ºF both could be cooked in our tiny oven on the boat.

Here's my recipe, developed after baking dozens of loaves and at least a dozen quiche - at home.

The Bread

  • 1.75 Cups of warm water (Graduated Cup measure, Instant kitchen Thermometer. 
  • 2.25 tsps of Yeast ( I keep it in a Jar in the fridge, at home and on the boat)
  • 3 Cups of KAF All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt.
  • Store the water and yeast in my bread mixing bowl (It's a big red plastic bowl with snap on lid)
  • Let them proof for 10 minutes, bubbles will form on the surface.
  • Add the 3 Cups of Flour
  • Stir it all up with the handle of a spatula (because it's easier to clean the handle), doesn't take much stiring, perhaps a minute, just enough to make sure there's no dry flour in the mix. The result will be really sticky and soggy!
  • Cover the bowl and let it rise for about an hour - check it often, if it's in a warm area, it may double in size, cooler and it may take longer, but 90mins is the most I have let this dough rise.
  • Meanwhile spray a bread pan (9.5" x 4.5") with oil (pam)
  • Once it has doubled in size (or after 90mins) prepare a clean surface.
  • On the boat, this is on one of my Starboard sink covers. I have it clean and ready to go, then spray a mist of oil (pam) on the surface and on my Dough shovel (that's what I call it)
  • Pour the risen dough onto the surface and use the shovel to turn the dough onto itself 2 or 3 times, basically I'm trying to make a really soggy log about the length of the bread pan.
  • Now use the shovel to scoop the dough into the prepared bread pan.
  • Preheat the oven! It takes about 20 minutes for my oven on the boat to come up to 450ºF 
  • By the time the oven is up to temperature, the dough should have risen to the top of the bread pan. (some times, the dough rises quicker in the pan, I can normally tell if that's going to happen because the 1st rise was less than an hour! In that case, I'll heat up the oven before I transfer the dough to the bread pan)
  • With the Dough risen the 2nd time and the Oven up to 450ºF it's time to put the pan in the oven. 
  • I set my timer (my phone's alarm clock) for 30 minutes, after which I use the Thermometer to test the bread temp, I'm looking for 200ºF in the middle of the loaf.
  • As soon as it gets up to temperature, typically 30 to 40 minutes, turn the loaf out to cool.
  • On the boat I turn it out onto the cleaned surface then onto a small wire rack.
  • Let the bread cool completely, then I keep it in a 1/3 food container, but it has to be cool first, or the container will get condensation on the inside, that reduces the life of the loaf.
The entire loaf prep takes about 15 minutes to collect and mix everything, 60 mins to let it rise and 20 mins for the oven to heat up and finally 30 minutes to bake. Just over 2 hours with only about 15 minutes of actually doing something other that watching the bake plus the time to let it cool

The Quiche
  • 2 Pie Frozen Pie Crusts (I've yet to try making them)
  • 6 Extra Large Eggs (or 7 Large Eggs)
  • 2/3 Cup of Egg whites (out of a box)
  • 1/2 Cup of Half n Half (or Cream, your choice)
  • 8 oz of grated cheese
  • 1/4tsps ground black pepper
  • 1/8tsps sea salt
  • 1 Pack of Prosciutto thin sliced
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (I try to make the quiche before I put the bread in the oven, saves propane, and the oven is quick to get up to 450ºF after the quiche is cooked, ready for the bread to bake)
  • Lay the thin slices of Prosciutto to cover the still frozen pie crust (takes about 3 slices)
  • Mix the Eggs, Egg Whites, Cream in a bowl.
  • Sprinkle 4oz of the cheese into each pie crust to just about cover the Prosciutto.
  • Pour half of the egg mixture over the cheese in each pie, it should come to within about 1/4" from the top of the pie crust edge.
  • Salt and Pepper each pie to taste (well, I guess you won't figure that out until the 2nd time you make these.)
  • With the oven up to temperature, slide the pies into the oven they barely fit into my oven at the same time.
  • Bake for 35mins
  • Test for 190ºF and then pull them out.
  • Ready to serve hot or let them cool for later with a salad. 
Time to make the quiche is about 5 minutes of prep, 30mins of baking and a few minutes to keep the hungry crew away from them until they are cool enough to eat.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

See you on the water.

At home, doubling the Ingredients for 2 loaves. (boat oven too small)