Shake and Break, part 3
My apologies for the double posting of part 2. Internet here offshore at
Green Turtle Cay, our first connection of any quality, is so slow that it
lost my completion signal, thus thinking that it hadn't been sent. The
second posting went before I was aware that the first had made it...
We left you as we were headed for the fuel dock to top up our water and
gasoline, and pay the remainder of the time we'd stayed after our original,
We'd been on the ball for a couple of weeks following insertion of our speed
impellers. Those are small paddlewheels which tell our instruments how fast
we're moving through the water. If you leave them in without moving
significantly, which would make them turn, at least in Vero Beach, they're
quickly fouled with marine growth, and won't turn. It's good practice to
remove them when you're going to be immobile for any significant amount of
time, replacing them with plugs and, if needed doing some cleanup to assure
free movement when they're replaced again.
Apparently that window of opportunity for growth in Vero Beach's Indian
River mooring field is under 2 weeks, as two of the three don't work as we
head south. However, all the rest of the instruments, some of them subjects
of previous "Whole lot of shakin' goin' on" log postings, work just fine.
I even have my new computer installed with our navigation programs, and the
"puck" GPS faithfully tells us where we're going. We use this as a check on
our chartplotter, as they don't always agree entirely. As well, I have some
charts which are unique and not available from the supplier to our
chartplotter. So, on Friday April 10, we headed out again.
As is good practice, we have our VHF radio on, tuned to the emergency
channel. As we motor down the ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway) toward Ft.
Pierce, we hear the usual chatter traffic, moving off to working channels.
Chillingly, however, we also hear an announcement from the USCG relating to
extraction of a sunken barge in the Ft. Pierce Inlet.
We'd known about that in the past, but at the last check I made, salvage
operations had been halted on that project, as it was 23' down. While they'd
been attempting to extract it immediately after the sinking, traffic was
limited to a very small channel on the north side of the inlet, and of a
depth not to exceed 5 feet. As Flying Pig draws 7 feet, that meant, had we
WANTED to leave during those operations, that we could not.
Quickly we switched to the information channel, and learned that salvage
operations were resuming. Following the phone number given in the
announcement, and following several other numbers through the variety of
contacts I'd had when we were first expecting this to be an issue, we
learned nearly nothing, other than that the same restrictions would be in
place for at least two weeks once operations started.
Persistence yielded an expectation of a 2PM start to dredging - and our
imprisonment. However, no amount of calling, hailing on the VHF, or any
other means we could think of, got a definitive time for start of
operations. We are members of TowBoatUS, and so, as we got near the point
of refusal, should operations have actually started, we consulted the local
operation. Their report was that there was nobody on site, and no nearby
activity. So, MAYBE...
Sure enough, as we motored into the headwinds and waves (remember that
leaving on Friday isn't good luck in the sailing world, and it would be much
better to leave on Saturday morning, according to our weather guru), we saw
that salvage operations had not commenced, and there were NO "authority"
boats in sight. So, we headed out. To follow our original plan of
anchoring overnight risked being locked in by the salvage operation.
An axiom in cruising is that wherever and whenever you're going, the wind is
on your nose and it held true this time as well. The north-flowing Gulf
Stream, at points carrying us north at 4 knots (a respectable speed in
sailboats), is best crossed in the shortest amount of time, if you're not
interested in taking advantage of that, as we'd do if we were heading north.
The way to achieve that is to make your best point of sail, if it's
sail-able, such that the boat is pointed due east.
As the wind was very close to our nose, we not only had to beat - sailing at
a point where the apparent wind was closer than 60° - but the waves were
nearly directly on our nose. When you're bashing into the waves, forward
motion is very much slower due to the way the boat stops as it plows into
the next wave. So, despite our abhorrence of the noise, the heat in the
engine room (it makes our refrigeration, one wall of which is shared by the
engine room, very unhappy) and the associated need to repleni$h fuel, we
motorsailed with the apparent wind at about 30° on our starboard side, after
having motored all the way to the end of the inlet.
On which subject, our engine was doing marvelously. At wide-open throttle,
the temperature remained steadily in the appropriate place. In the past,
we'd have overheated, but one of my boat projects in the recent past
included removing all the little rubber bits of broken impeller (the thing
on the pump which moves water through the cooling system sheds bits and
pieces as it deteriorates) blocking the cooling tube, and flushing the
system with Barnacle Buster, which removed any marine growth slowing the
passage of cooling water.
In addition, the rebuild of our pressure pump (the thing which gets the fuel
to the injectors), the subject of yet another gamestopper in a previous log
(the fresh water pump failed during our return from Stuart, where we got the
pressure pump rebuilt; we got towed back to Vero Beach after the
reinstallation of the rebuilt pump) seemed to very positively affect the
running of our engine.
The re-do of the crankcase ventilation hose lead from the valve cover
allowed sufficient suction (similar to the the PCV in your car) to remove
any little bits of blow-by. In the past, that had come out of the oil
dipstick tube, soiling the interior of the engine room. Now it smells
sweet, and aside from the usual diesel clatter, was smooth and quiet.
By 2:15, we'd raised our mainsail and deployed the genoa - the large jib.
The wind wasn't exactly on our nose, but it was blowing 16-18 knots, a very
respectable wind, and one which would be difficult to beat into at the 45°
apparent wind. Indeed, we found the waves to be so "square" (short period
relative to height) that we had frequent green water over the bow. Some of
them were of enough volume to wash down the deck and spray up against the
cockpit rail. That would prove to be significant...
To achieve our due-east heading meant that we'd be carried north by the Gulf
Stream, which started only a couple of miles offshore. So, despite our
heading of 90°E, by 3:30 we were making progress at 73°ENE course over
ground (COG) immediately, our speed over ground (SOG) being 6.2 knots
compared to our speed through the water (STW) of only 5.2 knots, still
motorsailing, although now at 2200RPM rather than the hurry-up speed of
3300RPM we'd used to get out before salvage operations commenced.
By 5PM, we were at 27-32/80-00 (27 degrees, 32 minutes north, 80 degrees
west), with wind, having backed slightly, even tighter at 30° apparent wind.
Our COG had deteriorated (from the perspective that we would rather come out
at the same latitude as Ft. Pierce) to 46°NE, while our heading remained 90°
E. Additionally, our SOG had increased to 7.6 knots, while our STW remained
at 5.2. Dead reckoning had us exiting the stream at about midnight, and 10
PM found us heading, still, at 90°E but our COG had become 53°NE, with SOG
rising to 7.5-8.3 knots.
Seas at this point were 2-4 feet, with a gentle rise and fall, and the stars
were out in all their brilliance. Any reduction of extraneous light when
you're under way at night is a good thing. So, since we, at anchor, have a
variety of inexpensive solar lights stuck into winch sockets (where you put
the handle to turn them), I'd removed the ones in the area of the cockpit.
As conditions were pretty smooth, I went forward and removed the one in the
windlass, having forgotten it when we set out, but not daring to go forward
in the earlier bumpy water we were going through. Carrying it back to put
it below, I inspected the genoa by the light of that lantern. The motion of
the boat, unfortunately, caused me to bump the sail with the lamp, and the
part with the LED in it popped off. Another victim of Davey Jones, we'll
miss it, as that one has served us well for many years.
At midnight, I turned us a bit south, making our heading now 111°T (true, vs
magnetic). That caused our COG to improve to 73°ENE, but slightly slowed our
SOG to about 6 knots. I went down for a nap, giving the helm to Lydia.
Of course, as happens at sea, and, particularly, since she'd not yet gotten
her sea legs, and, worse, hadn't used the various instruments in a very long
time, let alone at night, Lydia was feeling seasick and frustrated. Our
COG, as well as our location, told us that by 1AM, we'd left the Gulf Stream
long behind us. An inspection of our track would show a gradually curving
further east as we moved north, and we were 15-20 miles past the known
eastern edge of the Gulf Stream.
When weather is really snotty, and things are uncomfortable, the easy
solution is to heave to. Essentially, you're stalling the boat when you do
that, sailing forward very slowly with the seas and wind at your side.
Unfortunately, "forward" means, due to the direction of the wind, that we'd
be going north again. Indeed, initially, our track as seen on the
chartplotter, was directly over where we'd just been. Over the 6 hours we
slept in the hove-to position, we traveled 10.3 miles to the NW - just the
opposite of where we wanted to go. But we were rested...
Saturday - April 11th - morning, the time we'd have otherwise left Ft.
Pierce, we set sail again in 2-4' seas, but winds now down to 7-10 knots
from the SE - of course, just exactly where we wanted to go. Consultation
with our weather guru in Lakeland, FL, over our SSB (single sideband) radio
assured us that this would be the pattern for some time to come. By now we
were at 28-16.6/79-16.8, the Gulf Stream eastern edge at 79-22 having
receded long ago - but were were almost 30 miles north of Ft. Pierce in
Our target was the Little Bahamas Banks, and we chose an entry point at a
heading of 158°T. Once again, our wind was on the nose, making our apparent
wind of 12-15 knots (of which we made about 5, by our forward motion, slowed
considerably by bashing into the waves) show as at 30° - another serious
beat. The swells slowed us down, and continued to run green (actual "hard"
water, compared to "white" water, which is spray) water over our bow and
down our decks. I went below to see how we were doing in general, and
discovered that our previously perfect gasketing on the forward hatch was
now leaking notably. Mopping out the salt water which had dripped onto the
bunk, I laid out a towel and continued to sail.
One of the very good things I did in our original refit of Flying Pig, now
10 years ago, was to install a fuel polisher. That's a fancy word for a
recirculating filter system. In diesel fuels, if you're not running large
amounts through the tank continuously, various means of clogging stuff up
occur despite your best efforts to avoid that. Over-the-road truckers have
no issues with that, but a sailboat, if it's sailing, uses none at all. If
it's moored on a ball, as we've been for the last 26 months, in -
sometimes - blistering heat and oppressive humidity, the opportunities for
fouling are rampant. A fuel polisher, particularly if there's lots of
motion and sloshing around to loosen any stuff from the bottom and sides of
the tank, will remove any junk suspended in the fuel and return clean fuel
to the tank. It takes a long time, but, with the engine running constantly,
not only were our batteries fully charged, we had amps to spare. So, I ran
the fuel polisher!
Lydia was napping, so missed it, but at 10:20, we were briefly joined by a
pod of dolphins right off the cockpit. Not only for balance but with lots
of green water to drench me, the water was far too rough for me to want to
go forward, where they usually play, but, they seemed to know that, and did
their leaps and turns right next to me. What a treat!
I went down for a nap at 11; our SOG had deteriorated to only 5.3 knots, but
the motion had become more tolerable. I got up at 12 and we had lunch in
the brilliant sunshine; Lydia went down for a nap at 3. We haven't quite
gotten into our usual passage-making routine of much longer periods of
watches and sleeps, but we'd be on the banks tonight, where we could anchor
in relatively protected waters, so it didn't much matter.
As is sometimes the case, we were joined by a companion - a very small bird.
We don't know where he was from, nor where he was going, but he seemed in
good health, rather than the normal of a completely depleted and exhausted
bird. As is common, we somehow represented no threat to him, and so he
frequently landed on us, and completely made himself at home aboard,
exploring all the nooks and crannies.
He also experimented with potential destinations, leaving us (oddly, in the
direction from which we'd come) frequently, but returning, eventually. We
have some pictures of him, but have not been able to identify him from our
bird book. He may be an immature redstart - but it was pretty cool to have
him land on my watchband, next to my cheek, where I was thinking during one
of the times at my nav station (what passes for a desk aboard), and on my
shoulders and head. Eventually, as we got closer to the banks, he left us
for good, most likely for one of the small islands on either side of our
eventual entry point.
With all that bashing, we knew we would not make it onto the banks before
dark. However, our charts, both paper and two sorts of electronic versions,
assured us that there was a wide spot to get through the potential reefs,
and we muscled our way southeast. We entered the banks a little after dark
at 7:40, and had the anchor down in 23' of water by 8PM.
An inspection of the engine room revealed that we had a leaking raw water
pump - the thing which moves sea water through the cooling system on our
engine. That would explain why the bilge pumps kept coming on - and it had
poured a significant amount of seawater into the pan under the engine (above
the bilge, designed to catch oil and contaminants). As that had been the
FIRST gamestopper on our original shakedown, that was pretty annoying, since
I'd rebuilt that pump then, not very many running hours ago. However, as is
my habit, I have several spares aboard. No problem, I'll change it out in
the morning, and pump out the engine pan. As we have oil-absorbing pads in
there, and they don't absorb water, we'll be able to suck out the seawater,
leaving the oil (that's another story) in the pads. Just another day of
cruising - which is defined as "Fixing Your Boat In Exotic Locations."
If you'd like a visual look at our travel, you can go to
tinyurl.com/flyingpigspotwalla - a service which gets our SPOT satellite
transmittter position reports. To extend beyond the current day, click the
drop-down arrow at the top center, and adjust the dates shown. Currently, a
couple of weeks will show our current passage.
As is usual, this is getting long, and, since we're on the hook in settled
water, we'll leave you here. Next stop: Great Sale Cay, a staging point
for those leaving the Bahamas, and good shelter from the waves driven by the
predominant wind. The island is VERY flat, though, so our wind generator
will still be able to take advantage of breezes. But, that trip will have
Until next time, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail
away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore.
Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain