Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Okeechobee Plan

...the Okeechobee planning begins...
We plan to cross the state of Florida using the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart, FL, to Fort Meyers, FL, taking us directly across the 2nd largest body of water completely enclosed by US territory, Lake Okeechobee! This waterway leads from the AICW to OWW to the GICW. That is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the Okeechobee Waterway to the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway. These waterways are really fun to transit and a way to explore  the interesting towns and locations along the way. Our goal is to sail over to the west coast of Florida and up into the Sarasota / Bradenton area to see good friends and to learn about a place we have yet to visit, Palmetto, Florida.

We are learning about the Okeechobee Waterway and here are some facts:

  • 28 Bridges, 8 which will need to open for us
  • 5 Locks, lifting us up 15 feet to the level of Lake Okeechobee and then down to sea level
  • 154 statute miles long
  • Interesting towns of: Indiantown, Clewiston, and La Belle
  • The Army Corp of Engineers manages the waterway, locks, bridges and the lake level

Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge, 49 feet+
Our biggest challenge is the Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge. This bridge lifts to a height of 49 feet off the water. Our sailboat mast height is reported at 48 feet by the Island Packet Factory. On top of the mast we have a B&G Wind anemometer ($750.00,) a 1.5 foot VHF antenna, a digital TV antenna, and a  12" lightning strike dissipator. The limiting height would be the VHF antenna adding 1.5 foot to our 48 foot mast, making our height 49.5 feet. That would mean that our VHF antenna would tap the bridge and bend back as we pass under the bridge. This would be OK, but not good!

Lucky for us, the Army Corp of Engineers, Jacksonville District manages the level of the lake and they like to keep it a bit lower at 12.5 feet which they call optimum level. This level of the Okeechobee Lake then impacts the clearance of the Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge. As the lake rises, the RR bridge has less clearance. As the lake drops, the RR bridge clearance get higher. Really interesting, isn't it? Check out this LIVE link to the lake level 

Today's report looks like this:

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
Lake Okeechobee and Navigation Depth Report
Data Ending 2400 hours 29 APR 2013    
Today's Lake Okeechobee Stage =  13.41 (Feet-NGVD29)
Today's Route 1 Navigational Depth ≈  7.35 Feet
Today's Route 2 Navigational Depth ≈   5.55 Feet
Bridge Clearance = 50.65 Feet
S-308 Tailwater Elevation = 12.85   (Feet-NGVD29)   
Report Generated 30APR2013 @ 11:15  ** Preliminary Data - Subject to Revision **

Our draft (depth is 4.5 feet) We will take Route #1 which goes directly across the middle of the lake. Route #2 is longer and follows the perimeter of the lake to the south side.

Radar, Tuesday as we wait out the storms

So, we are waiting here at Stuart, Florida, on a mooring ball, until the thunderstorms die down. We do not want to get into the Okeechobee Waterway OR the Lake and have to deal with a severe Florida thunderstorm which usually has HAIL and very high winds. We may be able to go Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

We still wait....radar WED....the big ones are coming...

Thursday AM....we are ready to depart! WAIT....severe thunderstorm on our route...
errrrrr.....so we wait. Maybe we can run that gap. We will see

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cooling Challenges and Good Friends

...what a blown impeller looks like...
As we sailed into the Fort Pierce Inlet after a lovely full moon motor sail from Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, the cooling impeller pump failed or 90% failed. This can be identified by the hollow sound in the engine exhaust and the low flow of exhaust cooling water. YUP, we either plugged the water intake or the impeller just died! Great job, ISLAND SPIRIT, you held on until we got back to the USA, then you sent us a warning shot that something was not right. What a great boat, with a great spirit. She got us home!

So, with a jib flying and running at 1500 rpms we made it into the Fort Pierce inlet against a 3 knot out flowing current. We proceeded south to the anchorage and dropped the hook. Job #1 was to call the USA customs officer and clear into the United States via a phone call. That is right, since Radeen and I have LOCAL BOATER OPTION cards, LBOs, we can clear back into the USA via a phone interview. This is great as it saves you from going to the customs office to check in. It does work. Of course this was after we re-activated our Verizon cell phones which had been suspended for 90 days. With cells up and running, we phoned in and checked back into the USA.

We enjoyed a visit with our buddy boat, TEOTWAWKI, rowing over to share snacks and a bottle of wine. After that, we rowed back into the 3 knot current and enjoyed the sunset and a feeling of accomplishment!

The impeller job can wait until the AM....

as we have been up for 36 hours with about 4 hours sleep for each of us. Night time crossing can be tough!

In the AM, we checked the sea strainer and discovered it was clear. So, next we dropped the starter off the engine, gained access to the impeller plate and found the broken impeller. What a mess. Obviously, this impeller had been breaking down over time. It finally gave up as we re-entered the USA.

Here is the starter dropped so it is out of the way

Luckily, I have an impeller puller tool, otherwise it is tough to get off the gear shaft

 There it is. FIVE fins out of nine are broken off. The bad news is, we could only recover 3 fins.
So, there are two fins loose in the cooling system and I will have to find them later!

 That is what a NEW impeller looks like installed....AHHH...how nice

SO....with a running boat, it was TIME TO MOVE ON. Let's head SOUTH to STUART!

Here we are getting a lift on the New Roosevelt Lift Bridge at Stuart.

After washing the salt off the boat, we hit the town and met up with great friends Bob of IP 380 JUDITH III and Lamar and Sherri of IP 420 WINTERSET. Bob drove down from Satellite Beach to visit and Lamar and Sherri were already here, putting their 420 away till the fall. What a great visit!
Hayden, Bob and Lamar at the Art Festival

Hayden, Bob and Radeen, heading for at lunch at Duffy's

Sherri and Radeen, so happy to see each other

                      Stuart is supposed to be  the SAIL FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

The really wonderful aspect to cruising, as many have said, is the people you meet along the way. Here we are in Stuart, Florida, just passing through, and two sets of good friends take the time to connect with us and have lunch together! Thank you , Sherri, Lamar and Bob for a fun day! What a great life.....

Next adventure....crossing the OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY....you know, the big lake in the center of Florida? Yes, we will sail across it this week!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bahamas Reflection Year 2

Last year we spent nearly two months discovering the Abacos, and we thought that was incredible. This year, we spent nearly two months exploring the Exumas, and NOW, we see what cruisers are talking about when they say..."You have not seen the Bahamas until you see the Exumas!" This is so true! It seems the farther south you go into the 700 plus islands of the Bahamas, the nicer it gets. One aspect that is consistent would be the people.

The Bahamian people are so kind, helpful, polite, peaceful, well spoken, educated, and simply great people! We have never been to a county where the people are so consistently nice. We have spent several sailing vacations in the Caribbean, exploring from the US Virgin Islands to the Tobago Cays, and we think the Bahamian people are far nicer than those who exploit you on St. Vincent and St. Lucia and some other Caribbean Islands. Imagine....NO BOAT BOYS in ANY Bahamian harbor...NONE. You take your dinghy to shore, and if there are locals there fishing, they stop, offer to HELP you tie up, and then help you find your way into town or the local services. Everyone greets you pleasantly as you walk with "Good morning, ma'm" or sir, making us feel so welcome!

Then you have the "GIN CLEAR" waters of the Bahamas. Sailing across the banks in 10-20 foot deep water you easily see the bottom littered with starfish and conch. Many times you are sure you will hit the bottom, but then you check the depth gauge and it is 12 feet deep. WHAT? Amazing. You sail along and your shadow on the sandy bottom follows along. This a constant joy to watch. How can this be reality? It is just so beautiful, so clear, so easy. Sailing the Bahamas is a real joy and the wonderful people make it even more so. We can imagine many years exploring this beautiful country. 
Thank you BAHAMAS...

Here are a few reflection photos: CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGES

The Bahamas are a dream location and a must sail location for any and all cruising sailors!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alternate Reality

The alternator and the alternate reality story

Rule #1 

Well, so now we have learned that rule of cruising. We had an alternator failure on our arrival in the Abacos from Eleuthera a few weeks ago when the positive wire corroded off and was sparking as it grounded out. So, we pulled that wire, crimped on a new end fitting and we thought it was fixed....WRONG....The next week, lucky for us, we sailed Wendy and Craig around the Abacos for 8 days with no alternator or fire issues. The day after they left, we nearly had a FIRE on the boat as the positive post, on the alternator, was now loose and grounding out and sparking all over the engine room. We quickly removed the wiring to the alternator and sailed safely back to Marsh Harbor.

Let the Repairs Begin #1

We pulled the alternator and had Brian Symonett fix it with his spare parts taken from other alternators.  We re-installed this jury rig repair, and guess what? IT WORKED GREAT! So, we ran that repair for about a week with ZERO problems. It was all OK.

Let's make it BETTER!

Well, that was NOT good enough, so we got the bright idea to ship in the PROPER parts from Ample Power in Washington State, for a full rebuild. This costs an extra 45% duty tax plus about $50 for the imported services. Now with the proper parts in hand, we decide to pull the alternator once again, and take it into Brian for a "PROPER" rebuild. After all, we don't want this to break at sea when we are running for the Florida Coast next week. This seemed like a good idea.

Most of the NEW Parts are Installed
Brian rebuilds the alternator now with the new parts...EXCEPT....he can't press the new diode into the case because he does not have the proper tool or press, so he decided to keep the original ones. OK, that is fine, "whatever you think is best." Now with the new parts installed, we install the alternator back on Island Spirit...

POP goes the DIODE
POOF....it blows up within the first 10 minutes of running. She starts to output power at about 50 amps, all is fine, voltage is proper at 14+ volts, and then after about 10 minutes of heating up the alternator, I increased to 2,000 RPMS. That is when it blew the diode. Now she would only put out about 7-10 amps and no voltage! WHAT?

Maybe MY wiring is bad!
OK, it must be my field wire, right? Unfortunately  you can not work the field wire unless you pull the alternator, so off it comes again. I double check the field wire, it is all OK, the connections are OK, it is all fine on my side. I reinstall the alternator and run it again. NOPE, no power...

Off it comes AGAIN
So, off it comes again, now back into Brian. He takes it apart, and YUP...."you blew up a diode!" You mean the brand new diode plate I flew in for lots of money is blown? YUP! OMG....OK, then will you please rebuild it again with the car parts that you used last time? OK, I need to run home and get these parts, and I will be back to finish it by 2pm.

Brian Rebuilds it a THIRD TIME
Brian takes the alternator apart for a third time and rebuilds it BACK to the way he fixed it the first time with standard car parts. Back we run to the boat, re-install the unit and sure enough, IT WORKS JUST FINE. It works just like it worked the FIRST TIME it was fixed. So, we now have brand new parts that are blown, and worthless, and we have an alternator with a jury rig fix. Good enough, because we are taking off for FLORIDA!

The Cost to re-Learn Rule #1

1. First Rebuild: $95.00
( it worked just fine after this)
2. Buy Proper parts: $150.00 (AmplePower.com)
3. 2nd day Air: $45.00
4. Bahamas 45% Duty $87.00
(you pay duty on the shipping as well!)
5. Rebuild #2 $90
(this was with the new parts, most of them!)
6. Rebuilt it BACK to the first rebuild FREE, yahoo!

Total Spent = $467.00.
A brand new alternator is $500

OK, that was FUN....

Now it is TIME to begin the run for FLORIDA. We will be departing HOPE TOWN for points north, then around the WHALE, then into Green Turtle, Spanish Cay to Great Sale Cay, to West End to Florida. This could be a 3-4 day run....

The Hope Town Lighthouse at Daybreak....peaceful