Saturday, January 23, 2010

Up at 02:30

When living on a boat, especially when one is on the anchor, the smallest abnormal noise or motion of the boat has a tendency to immediately jerk one out of a sound sleep. I'm not sure if it is because one is much more aware of what the boat is doing on a subconscious level, or if it is just plain self preservation - the boat is home, a safe haven, and is the best life raft you have - and is so vulnerable to so many things. There is always the slight probability that something bad can happen - she can drag anchor at the worst moment and you can end up in a place you do not want to be, whether it be aground, adrift, against a seawall (close call in Elizabeth City) or on the rocks - a line can part and leave you in the same scenarios as above, a seep can turn into a drip that turns into a leak, that ends up filling the boat - these are all things that can and do happen on boats at time, so it is best to be vigilant and responsive, and there we are back to being wide awake at 0230 in the AM. This morning it was none of the above, but rather the dinghy hitting the side of the boat, and one of the metal rings tie down rings on the side of the dinghy going tap tap tap against the hull. Upon waking up I had no idea what the noise was, other than it was loud, aggravating and screamed that something was amiss out on deck. So I was dressed in a hurry and out on deck, only to find that the wind and current had shifted, and the dinghy was slapping hard against the hull. No worries, easy fix.

So now I am wide awake, its now 0330, and what better time to blog. So here are a few random thoughts.

To date there have been 418 visits to the blog from 10 different countries. This is over a 3 month period, but the vast majority of these have come in the last month or so. The visits have come from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa, Bahrain, India, Turkey, New Zealand and the Philippines. There have been over 715 page views, and the most visits per day have been 20. The ads that Google puts on the page have generated $7.24, enough to buy 2 gallons of diesel fuel. (not one to be totally commercial about this, but look at the ads people, I need to refuel soon!)

I am going to try yet one more new thing in the galley, I have baked bread, made cookies, fixed some great potato soup and Ginger Root Tea, but tomorrow I am going to try my hand at homemade, from scratch, pancakes. Now anyone that knows me well knows I love pancakes. It is the breakfast of choice, and I have used Bisquick mix for years with great success. On board the boat I have gone to Hungry Jack, as it requires no milk, but that was exhausted a few days ago, so now I am going to mix up a recipe I downloaded for pancake mix. I have over 20 lbs of flour aboard, so I might as well get some use out of it, other than boat bread. If it works out ok I'll publish the recipe and tell you how it went. If it doesn't go so well, this may be the last you hear of it. I have also down loaded a recipe for biscuits, having never made biscuits from scratch I am going to give that a try as well, I am so used to the cans from Pillsbury - just pop it open (doesn't that moment when the tube pops open always catch you by surprise?) put them in the oven and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes...well not anymore, those were the days of living onshore with a refrigerator. Now it is make things from scratch, substituting canned, condensed or powdered milk for the real thing. Again, if you don't hear about it again, the biscuits didn't make the cut either.

I welcome notes and comments on the postings here, if you have insight, hints, ideas, or observations - write me. I have gotten great feed back so far from Facebook (John Freeman is the name to search for, maybe I can put a link to my page there) and I am going to open a special email for this blog so that I can correspond with those that care to correspond with me. The new boat email is : So drop me a line for all things boat. Please don't send the cute email your Aunt Emmy forwarded to you, or those pyramid scheme "send this to everyone you know" emails, I get enough of those on my personal email, and they all end up in the trash bin. I will respond to all emails directed to the boat.

So here we are in the wee hours of the morning, its Saturday, again, and another day is about to begin.

Friday, January 22, 2010

St Augustine, and Making Friends

I spent a fairly full day today in St. Augustine, starting with an early morning walk with Spook, and ending aboard S/V Peter Rabbit with some new friends I had met while up in Fernandina Beach. Here is how the day unfolded, and some of the places I went, and things I saw.

This morning started with a dinghy trip over to the sea wall at the St Augustine waterfront, at the foot of Castillo de San Marcos, a 16th century Spanish fort that dominates the water front. There is a little sand beach there that is revealed at low tide, so Spook and I made the trip over, and then set out walking the town. Lots of very cool places to see, lots of old buildings from the original Spanish settlement, that dates all the way back to 1565. That was when St Augustine was founded, and even though the territory changed hands several times over the next few hundred years, the town remained and flourished. There is alot of distinctive architecture here, much of it is either restored original or reproductions of the original buildings. Many of the buildings are made from coquina - a type of rock that is made up of seashell and found here in the local area. I spent the day wandering about the old downtown area, that was part of the original settlement.

There is a really nice shopping section in downtown along St George's Ave, it is now just a pedestrian lane, but there are shops of every description, most of them catering to tourists (hey, I am one of those) but there were some really nice places mixed in with the t-shirt shops and the old time photo joints, one that caught my eye in particular was a place that specialized in all things Irish. One thing that is different about this shopping area is the fact that most of the businesses are in buildings that have quite a bit of history, or are located on a significant piece of historic property. Very much a blending of the old and new world. After browsing for a bit and taking lots of pictures, I headed over to the Cathedral-Basilica of St Augustine. I don't know, or can't recall if I have ever been in a real cathedral before, but it was very moving going in there, it is a very impressive place.

Later in the day, after returning Spook to the boat I decided to head down and check out the St Augustine Municipal Marina. I had just tied up the dinghy when I was greeted by Roger Wells, who I had met up in Fernandina Beach. He and his wife, Earldean, are out of Kittery, Maine, and are sailing south aboard the S/V Peter Rabbit, a really nice Irwin 42. (I believe it is a 42, I may be mistaken) We were soon joined by David Schaake, who is aboard the S/V Journey with his wife Peg - they are out of Annapolis and left there the same day I left Solomons. I had met Peg in the laundry in Fernandina, and all of us had talked at length Tuesday morning before setting out from Fernandina Beach, Peter Rabbit and Journey taking the ICW, and me aboard Arden going outside. David has been following the blog, and he knew I was here in St Augustine from the post I had made just after arriving, so they had been on the look out for me.

So after catching up a bit, and giving me what knowledge they knew of the town, we agreed to hook up a bit later and trek out to the local boating consignment shop, The Sailors Exchange. The Sailors Exchange is alot like Bacon's in Annapolis, but a bit less organized with a lot more clutter. But man if they don't have a lot of stuff, and I was hard pressed not to buy a bunch of things for Arden. I need to replace the bilge pump, and seeing as they did not have one I liked, I managed to make it out of there empty handed, but gosh that was tough. A bit earlier in the afternoon the air cooled down considerably, and a very dense fog rolled in, and as we were walking back I think I was a chilled as I have been since I arrived in Florida. And to think I had contemplated wearing shorts today. (yes, it was that warm)

We made the walk back, about a mile or so, and then went aboard Roger's boat, had a few beers and swapped stories and ideas. Was quite a good afternoon, and it just proved to show what a small community this cruising bunch can be. Dave, Roger and I shared info on what cruising sites we use on the net, and what weather sites we go to as well. Roger also showed me his internet set up, that he says pulls in wifi signal for about 8 miles, and is more affordable than what I have looked at before.

Speaking of the cruising community, I heard from Clay and Mary yesterday, they are down in Vero Beach, and were telling me all about the trip down, where to go, what to watch for, and the fact that it is down right WARM down there. It seems that the tropics start in Vero Beach. It is nice to have a set of eyes and ears ahead of me, and it is great that Mary and Clay give me updates and info on the places I will be passing through. I will probably meet up with them again before this journey is over, and I can't thank them enough for the things they did and helped me with in our 2 weeks together on this trip.

So tomorrow I set out for the local West Marine, and a new bilge pump. I need to replace my old one before setting out again, and the West here is not all that far from the boat, maybe a mile and a half or so. While I was out and about today I checked on diesel prices at the local gas stations, and the fuel at the marina is cheaper than the fuel out in town, so I am going to top off at the dock tomorrow afternoon sometime. I'm not sure how long I will stay here in St Augustine, but I suppose I had better start looking at the weather and seeing when I am going to have a good sailing window.

Viewing the progress! Amazing!

Yo bro.  I just zoomed in on the last photo in Picasa web albums geo locations and it appears you are wayyyyyy outside.  as in distance from terra firma.  These cool technologies have their pluses and minuses.  hope you and spook can swim from that far out!  And further, I KNOW there are no t-shirt shops where that photo is for you to keep Callie in awesome travel log apparel.  Just sayin!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Lonely Endeavor

I will break from the typical blog post here for a change, and delve into something that affects all sailors that single handedly sail anywhere, and that is how quite lonely it can get out on the water when you are by yourself. If you read any books by any sailors that have done this, especially those that have gone extreme distances, there is at least one chapter that touches on just how alone one can feel. Bernard Moitissier, Sir Francis Chichester, even Joshua Slocum, they all had made mention somewhere in their manuscripts about just how lonely an endeavor this can be. Yes, I have Spook, but she is not much of a conversationalist, and cannot spell me at the tiller, or cook when I am just too tired to think about fixing anything. She is extremely loyal and faithful, one of the smartest dogs I think I have ever had, but she does not make up for the need for human companionship. Out here alone it is easy to get trapped in your own thoughts, with no one to turn to but yourself, not only when the going gets tough, but also when the going gets monotonous, tedious and just plain boring.

I do the best I can, immersing myself in books, boat work, and trying to be a tourist, but I am not all that out going a person, so when I do hit port, I pretty much stay within whatever comfort zone I can find, be it a coffee shop, marina lounge or just on the boat, because that is just how I am and how I am wired. I try to do the tourist thing, but am only partially successful at it, I am more about taking pictures that actually sightseeing, and of course on my budget it is hard to stray too far from the waterfront.

So today, which started windy, cooler and overcast, and has progressed into extremely windy, stormy and wet (think gully washer, 30+ mph winds, zero visibility) I have remained aboard and cleaned. Not all that therapeutic, but necessary, as the soot on the walls from the stove and heater was really starting to get to me and was extremely unsightly. I got about 1/3 of the boat fully cleaned, when it began to come down in buckets and I had to make sure all was secure above, and then I just kind of hung on and tried to dry off. I have yet to be blown about at anchor like I was just a bit ago, the wind blew so hard that the boat heeled over to over 10 degrees, and stayed there until that storm cell moved on. I was a bit concerned, because I had moved to a new spot on the anchorage (needed better internet connection) and the anchor was just down for a few minutes before the storm. Luckily there was good holding here, and I didn't move an inch. The rain continues, and hopefully it will blow out sometime tonight, as I am getting a touch of cabin fever and realize that I just really need to get off the boat.

Track Our Progress

Its time for another visual update on where we are, where we have been, and how we got here. Click on the picture, then look for the "view in Google Maps" link on the right. We've come a long way baby!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1044 Miles and Counting

St. Augustine! I just dropped the hook minutes ago, and am now anchored somewhere in the harbor in St. Augustine FL, where exactly I have no idea, but I know I am in anchorage, and out of the channel, and as tired as I am that is good enough for me. There are several other boats right around me, so I know that this is at least a reasonable spot to stop in.

I came into the channel tonight just as the sun was setting, was a gorgeous sunset, but I really had to concentrate on getting in, as it is a fairly narrow channel that is constantly changing, and I wanted to be through the breakers before the daylight disappeared. I barely accomplished that. I made the inner channel just as darkness fell, not something I recommend, but the option was to anchor out in the ocean, and with weather coming in tomorrow, that really didn't seem like an option. So in I went, sort of a "damn the torpedoes" situation, and here I am, safely at anchor.

I guess the last post was from Fernandina Beach. When I left there my goal was St. Augustine, and I thought that I would be here yesterday, but, going on the outside (the ocean) I sail, and the wind just was not cooperating. At all. Almost no wind, and what wind there was to be had was coming right from where I wanted to be. So here we go again, tacking, tacking, tacking - zig zagging all over the place just trying to get somewhere, anywhere. Had I been headed to Bermuda the winds probably would have been great, but....I was trying to get to St. Augustine.

No matter, I made it to Jacksonville yesterday afternoon, and as I turned into the channel, here comes a submarine, complete with Coast Guard escort and a tug. They passed by me fairly close, and a USCG patrol boat pulled up alongside and advised I hug the channel markers tight...and I was thinking to myself, "well no S#!! buddy, not gonna get in his way" but I kept my mouth shut, and stayed right where I was, hugging the channel markers until the sub and escorts had passed. The dolphins were out in force, surfing the bow wave of the sub, and every now and again they would become completely airborne as they played in the wave ahead of the sub. As usual my camera was not fast enough to catch the dolphins, and then the patrol boat told me to put the camera away. Not wanting to get hassled to0 much, I complied, but I did get a few pictures of the sub before that happened.

Had a great night on the anchor in the St John's river, and then got underway again this morning. When I got up this morning I made a quick breakfast and coffee, and then got to watch the dolphins around the boat as the sun came up. What a way to greet the day, hot coffee, pancakes, and dolphins right around the boat. I did the dishes really fast and then got underway, I knew I was probably in for another long day sailing. On the way out bound I passed an inbound USCG cutter, a sister ship to the one my son Mike is on. Ironically, Mike called soon after, and turns out that the cutter I saw is the one that is slated to relieve Mike's boat, which is now assuming station off of Haiti, providing support for the relief effort there. Due to OpSec reasons he didn't divulge much on what they were doing, and I will let out even less, but the Pacific patrol they were on was cancelled and his ship was rerouted through the Panama Canal and over to Haiti.

I did notice one thing while at anchor last night, you can hear the propeller noise of other ships through the hull as they pass, much like the movies of the WWII submariners depict, it is a very distinct noise that takes a bit of getting used to, I know this because the St John's river is a major shipping lane up to Jacksonville, and huge ships passed by my anchorage all night long.

Today was pretty uneventful, just lots of sailing, a good bit of sunshine, and 42.8 miles under the keel, for a 28 mile trip. So far the tally is 1044 miles since I left Solomons, and about another 800 to go, if I am to get to Key West.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cleaning, Maintenance, a Few Helpful Hints

Ok, considering I am a diesel mechanic by trade, and it is what I do, I figured maybe I would take a minute to add a bit of technical knowledge and info to the blog. Maybe a few helpful hints to go along with the never ending monologue.

A post or 2 ago I commented on how Arden had a diesel leak on the injection pump. I may have even mentioned it more than once. Not only does a leak of this type waste precious fuel, it also creates a potential environmental mess. Under normal conditions, unlike gasoline, diesel fuel is not all that flammable, so there is not a huge risk of fire or explosion, that is why diesel is the fuel of choice. So how do you deal with with this problem once you find you are leaking fuel?

First and foremost, turn off your bilge pump, and if it has an automatic float switch, disconnect it. Then comes finding the leak. Sometimes they will be totally obvious, and jump right out at you, such as the one I had on Arden. Most of the time though, they are small seeps that defy discovery. A fuel leak sometimes may introduce air into the injection system, and that will cause long starts, rough running, or an engine that will not run at all. If the engine runs, here is a pretty sure fire way to find the leak.

Clean off the engine, all the fuel lines and the area under the engine. Make sure the fuel lines are clean all the way from the engine back to the tank. Next do a manual check of every fitting and hose clamp in the system. Sometimes when you put a screw driver to the clamps, or a wrench on the banjo fittings, the source of the leak will become obvious because this clamp or that fitting was obviously loose. Don't stop there though, because the vibration that caused that particular component to loosen also worked on all the others. Check them all. Once that has been done, check all the fuel hoses, the soft lines, for chaffing and wear spots. If you find a chaffed area, and it has not worn through the outer cover, isolate the hose and hold it in position with zip ties or clamps to eliminate future chaffing and rubbing. If it the chaffing has gotten too deep, replace that entire run of hose. I strongly recommend replacing the entire hose, as a union or fitting used to patch a bad spot in the hose is just one more place for a future problem to occur.

While you are checking the lines from the tank, check all fuel filter housings. Check the filter for tightness, and if the housing has a drain, check that for seeps as well. The o-rings that seal the drain cock will swell with age and leak, as will the o-ring on a filter that has been over tightened. While you are at it, go ahead and drain off any water or sediment that may have accumulated in the filter bowl, you are there, why not knock out one more maintenance issue while you are in maintenance mode.

Lastly, check all the fittings on the hard lines, the lift pump, the injection pump, and the injectors. Put a wrench on them. Try to tighten them, but don't go crazy with the torque, if they feel tight, they are, no need on stripping them or cracking a line nut by being King Kong with the wrench.

Once you are sure that all hoses, lines, fittings, and seals are good, take a clean, white, paper towel and squeeze it around every fitting and connection. Paper towels are extremely absorbent, and the fuel will stand out against the white. If you have a very slow seep, sometimes this is the only way to find it. If you can't find the leak with the engine off, start the engine and let it run, being careful to stay clear of exposed moving parts, such as water pump and alternator belts. Fuel on the engine side of the system, ie. past the lift pump, is under pressure, so not all leaks in the system will leak with the engine off. Determine what is causing the leak. Since we now know that all the fittings are tight, one of them is causing the leak, it is time to find out why. Banjo fittings have one or two sealing washers that are sometimes referred to as crush washers. If these are leaking, replace them. If no washers are available, put a piece of crocus cloth on a flat surface, and lightly run both sides of the washer across it. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't, but, as always, the best fix is to replace the bad part. If it is a hose fitting that is leaking, more than likely the hose is old, and has either softened or gotten brittle with age, and will no longer seal around the fitting. Cut the hose back, or, better yet, replace it. You can't go wrong with new hose. Ever. Pipe fittings are tapered, and up to a point, the tighter they are, the better they seal. Remove a leaking fitting, put a sealing compound such as Rector Seal or pipe dope on the threads. Do not use teflon tape, as diesel fuel can break it down. When installing a pipe fitting, make it tight, a bit more than snug, but again, don't crank down on it. Usually the fitting is brass or bronze, and the fitting is softer than the hole it goes in, and you can strip the threads off the fitting. At times a stainless steel fitting is used, and that may strip out threads of the hole if over tightened. A bit of common sense will prevail here, if the fitting still leaks after installing it, tighten it a bit more. After all this is said and done, you have probably found and fixed your leak.

Now what to do with the contaminated bilge water, old fuel, and cleaning solution that is in the bilge. One sure fire method is to use a shop vac to suck it all out, provided there is not too much of it. Put it into appropriate containers, and dispose of it properly. Most marinas or boat supply houses can direct you to where or how to get rid of this bad brew. Do not ever pump it over board, you are just asking for a fine or legal troubles, and what the heck, most of us are on the water because we love the water, so why dump that stuff into it.

If there is too much to suck up with the vac, disconnect the bilge pump hose from the through hull, if it is above the waterline. It should be, but check and make sure first. Once the hose is off the fitting, get suitably sized containers, and use the bilge pump to pump the bilge water into them. Again, dispose of this stuff correctly. When you have finished cleanup, do not forget to put the bilge hose back on the through hull, and to hook the bilge pump wiring back up correctly. No sense sinking a good clean boat.

I hope that these tips may help someone that finds themselves in the situation I was in a few days ago, with a bit of common sense, the right tools and a bit of know how, a very expensive repair can be avoided, because a slow seep will take a trained mechanic just as long to find as it would take you to find, and you don't have to pay yourself $80 an hour or more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fixing Things and Five Miles An Hour

It seems that as this trip goes on, I have spent alot of time repairing things. It took me forever to actually complete repairs on the windvane, which was the first thing to sustain damage on the trip. I suppose in all reality that repair took a total of 40 days, but it finally got finished, and in the end the unit sustained even more damage on the way down, so needed more work that I had originally anticipated.

Then there was the heater, which I have cleaned, babied, cursed, and cleaned again, rebuilt the pressure pump, added a secondary pressure pump, all to no avail - it still burns roughly, flaming up smoking up the cabin and covering it with soot. I think the burner is just old and needs a new jet or even just a new burner.

Then comes the stove. The cleaning jet and needle assembly stripped out a week or so ago, and even though I have gotten the bad burner working, and can cook on both burners again, it is not working as well as it could. I have found a supplier for replacement parts, but am putting off that purchase for a while.

Of course I next discovered that the injection pump on the engine - the part that feeds fuel to the cylinders and makes the engine run (on a diesel the injection pump takes the place of the carburetor, and the totally explain would require a long post on internal combustion engines, but this was not good) - was leaking precious diesel, dumping it into the bilge, not only making a mess but also wasting money. Fortunately I was able to fix this by removing the lines, cleaning the fittings and re seating them.

Next came the raw water pump on Thursday night. I knew it had been leaking, but that stopped, and then resumed - with a vengeance. If I was not a boat mechanic, and figured out what it was, I just might have panicked and assumed that I was really really taking on water. I was, but not through a hull fitting or sea cock which could have been very bad. That problem was compounded by a bilge pump that was not working at all, and is now working at a much reduced capacity. I had parts on hand for the raw water pump, but I am definitely going to have to replace the bilge pump.

What is next? Who knows. I know whatever it may be, I have the skills to fix it, hopefully I will have the parts I need, or at least can afford them and find them nearby. So far, over all I think I have been fortunate, so many of Arden's systems are original and thus 32 years old, and have been performing pretty well.
Last night I began the Great Florida Boat Cleanup. As I am now a bit warmer, and don't think I will need the heater much more, it is time to attack all the soot that has accumulated in the boat, mainly on the overhead surfaces, but there is a bit of it on everything. In addition to that there was the diesel in the bilge, which had sloshed onto the deck boards. So last night I pumped out the bilge, it is now totally dry and clean again, and I washed down the floors so I will not be skidding around and slipping every time I go into the cabin. Later today I will begin to wash the over head (ceiling) and the bulkheads (walls). I will do a section at a time, and I figure in a few days the boat will be presentable again.

As for the Five Miles an Hour. If you went to Yahoo Maps, or to Mapquest, for directions from Solomons, MD to Fernandina Beach, FL you would be told that your journey would be 702.12 miles, and that it would take about 11 hours and 20 minutes. That is at some average highway speed, probably taking into account town, speed zones, etc and is fairly accurate. With the 2 side trips I have made, I have traveled about 927 miles in 45 days, with a few layovers, a couple of stops, and a visit or two. But the reality of it is, I am traveling at an average of 5mph, and there are times when it seems that at the end of the day, I have gone 40 or 50 miles in total, but only making 20 or 25 miles of progress south. That is the nature of sailing, and the problem with traveling in the ICW. Imagine driving to town, or the mall, or taking a trip, at 5 miles an hour. Would it drive you completely bonkers? No such thing as road rage out on the water, but, there are times when you just wish you were already there.
On Tuesday I will leave Fernandina Beach for St. Augustine, a hop of about 55 nautical miles. It should take a bit more than 10 hours, and I will leave at day break and hopefully be in before dusk. I am putting off leaving until Tuesday because I want a good wind, not too much wind, and seas that are subsiding. We had one heck of a front come through last night, it was not bad at anchor, but the winds were over 25 mph, and the ocean was running at 4-5 feet. It will calm a bit tomorrow, and then is supposed to be great on Tuesday. I'm on no set schedule, so Tuesday sounds good to me.

I have found a great coffee house here in Fernandina, The Amelia Island Coffee House, you buy a mug for $1.50, you get refills all day, and they have great internet. So here I am, drinking coffee, blogging, and having a great day chatting with the staff. There are also quite a few historic homes here, nothing nearly as old as some of the houses in SC or NC, but old none the less, and quite interesting. Maybe I should do a photo gallery of the various houses and buildings I have photographed so far. I'll post more when I have more....