Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pots and Pans

As I made breakfast this morning (brekkie as my Auzzy, Brit and Kiwi friends would say) I took a moment to reflect on something my mom asked me a few months ago, and that was why didn't I use paper plates and utensils on the boat. That in turn reminded me of a conversation that Sven and I had on the same subject, it was recommended to him that he use paper plates, and he rejected the idea for the same reason I did. Disposable dishes pose one main problem when you are sailing - the disposal part. By law, you can't toss a paper anything overboard within 12 miles of shore, and even then, it takes about 3-6 months for paper to breakdown and be gone. Plastics take years - eons - to breakdown, to those styrofoam plates are even worse. It is against the law to toss anything plastic overboard, anywhere. Now that we have established that you can't toss them over board, you have a mountain of trash building aboard a vessel with limited space. So there are quite a few remedies, on Arden I use porcelain coated steel plates - they last forever if not chipped, clean up easily, and to soothe the tight wad that lives inside of me, they are cheap. Lots of yachties use the fancy lexan or heavy plastic plates and cups, but they are expensive, and after a few weeks of use, they get scratched and become just another ugly plate. The same applies to those plastic glasses and tumblers that look so good on the shelves at West Marine. I suppose the one saving grace to them is that they have a neat rubberized ring on the bottom of them that keeps them from sliding across the table, but you can glue vinyl to the bottom of the porcelain plate and have the same result. As for cups, I use the same stainless steel cups on board that I use for reenacting, again, they are cheap, and they last forever. For coffee I use a heavy ceramic mug, same as I would use at home. Yes, if you are not careful they can break, but as long as they are stored well, there are no worries.

For cooking I use stainless steel pots and pans, obviously those range greatly in price, but the key here is to get ones that are heavy and well constructed, not neccesarily those that cost the most. The light weight ones just don't cut it, on boats with propane stoves the heat of the burner will warp them, and will burn everything you try to cook in them. The steel used in the lighter ones usually is not of the same quality as the heavier ones, and yes folks, stainless will rust, just not as fast as regular steel, but those light weight pans will rust pretty damn quick. A quick bit of nautical trivia - the term pot hole comes from how pots and pans used to get stored aboard ship, each pot fit in a hole in a shelf in the galley, that way they don't shift all over and bang around, hence the term pot hole.

I also have 2 cast iron skillets, one is a normal 14 or 16 inch pan, big and heavy and great for all kinds of cooking. Nothing beats cast iron for even heating. I also have a flat skillet that I use for pancakes and french toast, it has almost no lip or rim to it, and there is absolutely no other pan I would use for making pancakes. I know alot of folks might say that the cast iron would rust, but if it is seasoned and oiled regularly, there is no real problem with rust.

The biggest rust problem that I have with the dishes is how I wash them. Because my fresh water supply is limited, most times I wash the dishes with seawater, and then give them a rinse with a limited amount of boiling hot fresh water. This way I know the dishes are clean, lots of soap and hot salt water, and then I am pretty sure they are sterilized with the quick dip in the boiling fresh water. I usually set the dishes out on the cockpit seats to dry, and then give them a quick wipe down to make sure there is no remaining moisture on them before they get stored.

As for trash, any scraps that Spook doesn't like, and all food and vegetable refuse goes over the side. If it doesn't get eaten by some ocean creature, it won't take but so long before it gets composted out there in the deep. All of the plastics and paper stuff goes in the rubish bin, and then carted ashore to the dumpster at the next port of call. As long as all the wrappers and cans are rinsed out, again using seawater, the trash doesn't get smelly, and can be stored aboard for a good while before it gets and odor and presents a storage problem.

One more insight on life aboard, now if I could just convince someone else to do the dishes....

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Plans Are Evolving

Early yesterday I thought I would be enroute to Bimini right now, then that changed this morning due to weather, and I thought I would postpone that trip until tomorrow. As it stands now, things are on hold, because I may finally get the chance to do a bit of work on Frank's boat. I am not sure if I have mentioned Frank by name, but he is a German fellow over at River Bend Marina that has been thoroughly raked over the coals by a few vendors there, and he is running short on time, and on money, and his boat is no where near ready to go. Sven introduced us, and has been helping Frank try to nail the unscrupulous vendors through legal channels, and I was recommended by Sven to Frank. So if all goes well, tomorrow I will start working on the engine installation on Frank's boat. More info to follow.

After a slow start this morning I started back to working on Arden, I figure I would take advantage of this downtime and get a few more things done that were begging for attention.

I changed the transmission oil, not that it was showing alot of wear, actually it was quite clean, (transmission fluid does not get sooty black like engine oil) but by the hourmeter it was time for a change. Luckily, the drain for the transmission is right over the sump for the engine, so my tupperware drain pan fit in there just fine. Not a heck of alot of room to slide it in, but once I got it past the transmission housing it fit perfectly. After I got the tranny drained and filled I set about freeing up the dogs on the manhole cover. Arden has a nice access plate in the deck of the cockpit, just like a manhole in a street. However, due to the fact that the boat is subject to all sorts of weather and other things (mom don't read this next part) such as swamping and knockdowns, the manhole cover had to lock postively into place and be watertight. The dogs on Arden's access cover get frozen from time to time, so today was the day to get them freed up again. It took a bit of work to get them all operating smoothly, I had to take 2 of them apart and lube them well to accomplish that, as there was some salt build up around the shaft from all the salt water wash downs I give the cockpit.

I did a bit of bright work - varnishing - today, the tiller was showing a bit of wear and the blocks (pulleys) for the jib sheet were as well. Lots of sanding and prep work, I had to take both the tiller and the blocks down to bare wood, as there were thin spots on both that just refused to sand out fair. I do an ok job with bright work, it is a job that takes an incredible amount of patience to turn out a great finish, and I am not nearly patient enough or skilled enough to turn out a great job, but I do ok. I'm a mechanic, not a painter. My dad did an incredible job with his boat Sunshine, the foredeck on her is like a mirror, and looks a mile deep. My job today on Arden was not that involved, but I did get 4 coats of finish on the tiller, and 3 on the blocks. As time allows I will sand both down again, surface sanding this time, and add a few more coats and get a deeper finish on them. Nothing looks quite as classy on a boat as a good varnish job.

As the day wore on I tackled the dinghy engine again, this time I tore it down a good way, cleaned out the carb (again), cleaned the contacts for the coil and the flywheel, and cleaned out the cyliner with brake cleaner. I had set the plug gap yesterday, but I checked that again, and after checking the timing, I put it all back together. Amazingly it fired up after a few pulls, and has started everytime I have tried to run it since. Maybe it knew it was destined to become the 4th anchor if it didn't run today, or maybe I actually did fix it. I am not a gas engine specialist, but 2 cycles are pretty damn easy - fuel, air, spark - the damn thing should run. And it does, we will see how long that lasts.

I did some organizing and consolidating of all the crap I have aboard, I ended up tossing one of my treasured milk crates, the stuff I had in it got redistributed to the other 4 (or is it 5) and it really took up too much space under the nav station seat. So out it went. I also went through the vee berth and got is straightened out a bit, and I realized something, I have way too much stuff aboard this boat. Between tools, spare lines, extra wood for repairs, fishing rods, extension cords, more tools, what a ton of stuff I have squeezed onto this boat. Next time I know not to bring as much. It always pays to be prepared, but all this crap makes it hard to organize.

And finally I whipped the ends of some of the lines that were fraying, I will eventually whip them all, but it is a tedious task that takes more time than it should. So I do a bit here, and a bit there as needed. Most of the lines, and they are lines, not ropes, have the ends heat fused, but in time those ends always end up breaking loose and coming undone. So the answer is to whip them. Whipping a line is done by wrapping the end of it with sail thread, and using the sail needle to work a portion of the thread over and through the line to secure it. It takes a bit of time, and you really need to use a sailmakers palm (a leather device that goes over your hand, protecting it from the needle) to get it done correctly. When it is all done, the result looks very good.

I am also including some pictures of the laundry that I was not able to upload this morning, I have much better net tonight than I did this morning. Refer back to this mornings post for a description of the laundry and how it works.

Waiting on Weather

I am still in Ft Lauderdale this morning, the weather pattern that was supposed to come through yesterday early did not come through until yesterday late, and so the winds and waves in the Florida Straights are a bit more than I really want to deal with for this crossing. It is cool and windy here today, after a very warm and stormy afternoon yesterday, but in between rain showers I was able to get in a good bit of work on the boat.

I finished up a few projects that have been hanging for a while, the aft water tank is now fully installed and secured - I epoxied in some plywood blocks to mount the eyes that hold the flexible tank in place, and covered those with strips of fiberglass tape to ensure the blocks are secured well. Considering the space I had to work with, underneath the cockpit floor, I think the job came out first rate. I may have over done the job, but having no real idea of the stresses that the blocks will see, I figured better to over do it and be safe. Once the epoxy dried I screwed in some stainless steel eyes and secured the tank, and I filled the tank with a hose borrrowed from Mike, the guy that let me tie up to his dock. He was kind enough to let me use his water, and as we filled the tank, Arden settled down onto her lines, trimming out like she is supposed to. Because the main, or original, tank is so far forward, the boat has always been down by the bow, but no longer. However, when I haul her out over the summer, I do think I am going to have to raise the bottom paint a few inches as the entire boat sits lower on her lines now.

I also put in a through hull for the laundry drain - I am not sure if I had mentioned that Arden has a laundry on board, well a washing machine of sorts, but using an idea gleaned from books by Lin and Larry Pardee, Gary built in a laundry in the forward compartment. The laundry is really a compartment that Gary had built in below deck, with a bronze portlight on deck for a hatch that you use to put your dirty clothes through. Add water, a bit of detergent, and go sailing. The theory is that the motion of the boat through the waves will agitate the laundry enough to wash the clothes. It does, and the clothes get pretty clean with very little work. One of the many innovations that Gary had worked into Arden over the years. Originally I had plumbed the laundry drain into the drain for the sink in the head, but that did not work so well, so some time ago I decided that it needed a through hull of its own. Now it has one. That job was complicated by the fact that the through hull is above the waterline, and has to fall between the lapstrake lines on the hull. Measure, shift, measure, change, after 4 or 5 tries I was ready to drill a pilot hole - and it was just about perfect. You have no idea how hesitant I have been to drill that hole, but the placement turned out well, and I was drilling the hole for the through hull minutes later with the holesaw. Five minutes later the through hull was coated in 5200 caulk, and the job was finished shortly there after.

The outboard is now really giving me fits, I originally thought that the problem was water in the fuel, but now I am not so sure. I really curse whoever stole my good outboard, I had gotten a nice 4 horsepower outboard not long before I left Maryland, and it was stolen just days before I left while I was visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. I returned from that trip only to find the cable lock cut and the outboard gone, just days before I set off on this voyage. So I have been stuck with my backup outboard, and stuck now is exactly where I am. I have been rowing everywhere for the past few days, granted it is great excersize, but not exactly the fastest way to get from point A to point B. I am going to give another go and repairing the motor today, and if I can't, not sure what I will do. Maybe use it as anchor number 4.

Tonight I will check the weather again, I hope that this front will have blown through, and I will be good to sail on Friday afternoon. Right now it looks that way, but then again, yesterday it looked like I would be leaving today. Who knows, just play it by ear, as I have been so far, and hopefully all will work out the way it should.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Off To The Islands

Either tomorrow or the next day I am going to sail over to Bimini, from the Port Everglades channel it is 47.3 NM southeast, and according to Passageweather, we should have a southerly wind most of the day tomorrow, which would put me on a close reach, and then later it will shift to the northwest, putting me on a broad reach. If I wait until Thursday I will be on a broad reach all day. I hope to be able to hold 5 knots, putting me there in just about 9 hours. Going to play it by ear, hopefully I will post from the Bahamas in 2 days, if I stay put for another day I will update the blog and keep everyone informed.

The Great Manatee Hunt

I will have to add pictures later, as my net connection is slow this morning, I am kind of getting used to this now, even though it is an absolute pain in the posterior.

Alright, we weren't really hunting manatees, but on Sunday morning after a late breakfast with Sven and family, we all (including Spook) piled into both dinghies and went off in search of manatees. My dinghy was basicly a barge - I had the kids, Julia and Carlos, aboard my dinghy, along with Spook, and of course myself - and Sven towed us behind his dinghy, which had himself, Gabi and his dad Claus aboard. We went up the main channel in search of manatees, and about a half mile from the boat yard, we found them. They were swimming up stream, and we started to follow the swirls in the water that their tails make as they swim along. It is hard to get a picture of a manatee from above, the water is tea colored from the swamps upsteam, and the manatees always seem to be just out of camera range, down a few feet and hard to distinguish. It is too bad the camera can't see what the human eye can, because it was amazing to watch them swim along, big groups of them together, all mozying along just below the surface.

After a few miles of cruising and being tourists we turned around and came back, and then we stopped as Gabi saw a plane sky writing. We never did see what it wrote - the letters were blurring and the words were moving away from us in the high winds aloft, but it was cool to see that, not something you see everyday.

We passed lots and lots of very high dollar yachts, one of them was tied up in a yard with the red, white and blue government no trespassing signs on it, seems it was in the custody of the US Marshall Service, probably a drug bust thing or something of the sort. As we got back to where Arden was anchored we finally saw a manatee out of the water, it was grazing on algae on the pilings and the containment booms in the area I had anchored in. Very neat to watch, they have a face alot like a hound, and very short front legs that it was using to hold the boom still while it ate.

The rest of the day was spent on land, I walked up to a boat supply place, the sail maker's, the grocery - you name it I walked there, Sven was amazed at just how far I had walked in the 2 hours I was gone. When I returned we sat out in Sven's cockpit and had pina coladas made from the rum I had stashed on Arden, and coconut juice from coconuts the kids had pulled from the canal. Elias from the mega yacht sail boat next door was there and we talked for hours and hours. Sometime around 8 or 9 I rowed back to Arden, no sense waking up the neighbors with my loud little outboard.

Monday was a maintenance day on Arden - I changed the engine oil and filters, the fuel filters, and cleaned out the engine sump and the bilge. I was in the middle of all this, the engine was draining, when I took Spook out for her walk. After she had run around a bit in the drizzle a cop in a pickup truck pulled up across from where we were. He signaled me over, and told me that I couldn't anchor where I was, the water rights to the basin I was in belonged to the property that was for sale, and that thanks to a barge company that used the basin for a few years illegally, they have to be pretty strict on people mooring there. It you Google Earth the last set of sunrise sunset pictures, you can see a set of barges in the basin where I am now. Needless to say, I had to find a new place to anchor, but before I left the area I really need to get diesel.

I went ashore to find Sven and catch a ride to get fuel, but he was off running errands himself, so I ended up watching the work crew on Elias' boat mount the huge awning for the cockpit, and then ended up helping them get it aligned and set into place. It was a bit warped for some reason, and we spent a good hour or so measuring and pulling angles on it trying to determine what exactly had tweaked the structure and how to fix it. Elias had to go and arrange to have the boat towed to another yard to have the mast stepped (it has to be towed because the boat is 105 feet long, and the engine installation is not complete) the mast, at the other yard, is 145 feet tall, and once it is on, the boat can't use the ICW, or really go anywhere other than marinas that have direct open water access. Really limits where you can cruise. I can't comprehend how high up that must be, and how massive it must look from the deck.

While Elias was getting the tow arranged for Tuesday, Sven grabbed me up and we went to a German restaurant down the road, he wanted to show me what real German food was like, and my God that food is rich. I had Jaeger Schnitzel, I think a fried pork loin smothered in a brown gravy with mushrooms and served with a type of noodle and red cabbage. The pork and noodles were good, I was not a fan of how the cabbage was prepared. We did a few things for his boat while we were out, and when we got back, Claus told us the police had been by to make sure I was going to leave today.

Sven and I dinghied over to Arden to make sure the boat was ok, and then we were off in search of a berth somewhere close in one of the canals. Needless to say I was bit stressed, I had to find a place closeby, as the bridges have times in the evenings that they don't open, so there was no way for me to get back to the ICW by nightfall. We saw a few empty berths up the canal behind where I was moored, but we discovered from talking to a guy on his dock that there is a new city ordinance that says that property owners can't lease out dock space anymore, the only boats that are allowed to tie up are ones that are owned by the homeowner or tenant, and their guests. We were about to leave, somewhat defeated, when a guy waved us over, and suggested that I tie up at a house next to his that was in foreclosure. He called all the neighbors to make sure no one would complain, and Sven and I went back to get Arden. I hauled up the anchors and motored over, and tied up to my new berth. All the neighbors came out, asked if I need help docking, needed power or water, and they all commented on what a nice looking boat Arden is. It was really nice having such a great reception, and I was quite relieved to have a safe place to go, and not have to worry about making the trip down the river in the dark.

After I was tied up and secured I headed back over to the boat yard, Elias wanted to take us all out for Thai food in thanks for helping him out with his cockpit awning, and so we all piled into his car and drove over to the restaurant. I am sure my stomach will be in revolt, German and Thai food all in the same day, not sure what the response will be to that. After dinner we went over to a dive shop for Sven, this place was open to 10pm, and then we went over to Bass Pro Shop, where Sven and Claus were just amazed at all the sporting goods and hunting and fishing stuff they have there. I suppose we take that kind of thing for granted here in the states, and there are not really places like that anywhere overseas.

To wrap up the night I had to row back, once again not wanting to disturb the neighborhood with my loud little outboard, and when I finally got to Arden I was about beat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Land of Canals

Spook went swimming yesterday morning first thing, not by choice but by a mistimed jump from the boat to the bulkhead. Have I ever mentioned Spook does not like to swim? She can, and does so very well, but it is definitely not high on her list of things to do. So there she was, swimming around the boat, trying to get up on the seawall, which was 6 feet of concrete, looking very concerned and panicked. I had to hop into the dinghy, paddle around, and with one hand around her tail and one hand in her collar, haul her into the dinghy. Very wet, very unhappy dog.

After her brief adventure, and a good walk in downtown Ft Lauderdale, I made coffee and waited until 9 for the 3rd Avenue bridge to open. It was a bit tricky getting off the bulkhead with the current running and the location I was moored at - the bridge fender ahead of me and a tree that had branches overhanging the canal behind me - but I got under way and started to wind down and around to where Sven und Gabi were. It took about an hour to get there, they are way up the New River at a boatyard, but it was a very scenic trip. I saw lots of beautiful and interesting boats, and some incredible houses. There are canals cut off the river everywhere, seems like everyone here wants to live on the water, and has a boat of some type.

There was also a lot of interesting wildlife - I saw my first manatee, one of many I would see throughout the day, a bull shark, I heard quite a few parrots, and saw many many feral iguanas. A friend of mine once sent me an email describing how the feral iguanas, adversly affected by the cold snap here, were falling out of trees in a state of suspended animation. It seems that when they are that cold they basicly shut down and start to hibernate, and so here were all these frozen iguanas falling out of trees. Very funny if you are a person observing it, not very funny if you are a frozen iguana.

I got up to the boat yard and moored on a bulkhead across from Sven's boat, and rowed in to see them. I spent the day helping Sven out, and enjoying the warm weather. Yesterday started out very mild, and then got quite warm. I think it topped out around 80 degrees, and it was no time before I was in shorts and a t shirt, and then just shorts. Who knows, maybe I will be able to get a bit of a tan.

Later in the day Sven and his father, Claus, and I went looking to see if we could find a dock for me to tie up at, as alot of the properties around here have empty docks. We had a bit of luck finding availible places, but, everyone of them wanted to charge me 30 or 40 dollars a night to tie up. In the end, I anchored in the basin of an abandoned marina just off of the boatyard, good deep water, out of the channel, and lots and lots of manatees. We must have seen 8 of them as we got Arden anchored. Manatees are huge. The ones we saw were all 8 feet or longer, massive in girth, and every one of them had scars on their backs from boat propellers. You might think that manatees are slow moving creatures, I certainly did, but they are not, they are pretty agile for as large as they are, and they can swim very fast. What gets the manatees into trouble with boats is that they lay right under the surface, and kind of float there lazily. If you come along in a boat slowly they dive away, but I can see where they would get overtaken by a fast moving boat and get run over.

Sven has been marketing me quite actively, there is a fellow here on a boat that Sven almost bought, that needs help getting his boat squared away and ready to go. There are alot of unfinished projects from another technician that need to be completed, and there is plenty of work, a few weeks worth I think, on that one boat alone. There is also the possibility of crewing on a 105 foot mega yacht sloop - we will see how that develops, but if it did, the money would be incredible, and the adventure would be as well. So who knows. Looks like I may be making a bit of money, just in time for the trip back north.