Whole lotta shakin' goin' on, revisited - Part 2...
When we left you, a little more than 2 months ago, after spending two weeks
at anchor resolving a bunch of problems all at once, we were about to
finally leave Ft. Pierce.
Our purpose and general activity, to bring those who have wondered where
we've been for the last two years up to speed, was to do a shakedown cruise
of our home which we had worked on for most of the time since our last
cruising report. As much as we'd done to the boat, and as relatively green
as we are as mariners, compounded by our not having sailed in a couple of
years likely depreciating whatever proficiency we might have had before, we
felt that exercising all the sytems - and the captains! - within easy reach
of TowBoatUS (ya never know) and the various chandleries which abound in the
US would be a good idea before we started crossing oceans again.
It was thus we set out on our first leg of that shakedown, from Ft. Pierce
to Lake Worth, the body of water between the Palm Beaches, on February 9th.
Recall that we were in the anchorage south of Causeway Island; we'd have to
clear that, go north under the bridge, and then turn out the Ft. Pierce
The anchor came up with little discussion at 8:15 (recall that this was new
to us and the first time in the water; it's REALLY big, and a scoop rather
than plow, so we didn't know what we'd face). Unfortunately for us, both
the wind and the current, which was stiff at the time (we'd normally wait
for favorable tides, but we wanted to be on the hook again before dark) was
directly against us, so we motored, which is against our religion.
However, once again, we were stunned to see how fast we were going. Our
backbreaking (and, seemingly never-ending) work on the bottom and engine
alignments, and whatever else we did to make it work better, paid off
handsomely, as our through-the-water speed was gratifyingly 6 knots - faster
than our 3.2knot speed over ground, most likely further diminished by the
An hour later, we turned south, having cleared the onshore obstructions, on
a very broad reach - with the rock and roll due to the swells, we were
between 120-150° to our port quarter. We headed 156°T with an apparent
10-12 knots wind, but we were doing 7.2-7.8knots SOG (speed over ground), so
the real winds were more in the range of 15-20. I concluded that all the
freeing up, alignment, and lubrication we did on our speedometer
paddlewheels (they send a magnetic impulse as they rotate past the head of
the sensor) must have made them extremely more effective than before, as we
just refused to believe our eyes in the speeds we were seeing. Each of our
three - one in the fishfinder, centered forward, and one each Datamarine and
Raymarine amidships - were reading in the high 8s. We'd have to do some
calm-water/no-current calibrations, it looks like. Ah, well, that (along
with the stuff which actually BREAKS) is the point of the shakedown, right?
By this time, it was getting a bit rolly, so we bore up (headed a bit
upwind) in order to stiffen the boat. With the wind a bit more sideways to
the sails, it made it more difficult to bounce into the wind every time the
wave went under us. Unfortunately for our comfort (it was never really
"uncomfortable" - we've been in some truly uncomfortable seas, but this was
just a nuisance), the wind died a bit, to an apparent 6 knots, and we
wallowed through 100-120-150° and back again. None the less, we continued
to make 6.4-7.2knots SOG on our course of 153°M.
It was a beautiful day for our first sail in more than 2 years, and we
enjoyed every minute of it. Dead reckoning had us inside Lake Worth well
before sunset, and about all there was to do was to look out and give thanks
for the privilege of being here and doing this.
By 2PM, the wind clocked a bit, allowing us to turn downwind, bringing us
back on a line to intersect the entry to Lake Worth, 170°T - but the wind
was dying, too, with only a few "horses" on the horizon at the apparent 4
knots we were seeing. As the wind continued to clock, we turned a little
further downwind into a counter current. We still made 5knots velocity made
By 4:30, we had our anchor down in an anchorage much changed since our last
visit. Last time, we'd had a good enough connection that our VoIP (voice
over internet protocol) phone worked perfectly, but this time found only
marginal signals. Over the next couple of days, we'd move a couple of
times, either shopping for WiFi or for water. We ended up on the edge of
the channel coming into the turning basin, which avoided the "things that go
bump in the night" - a couple of instances of touching bottom at extreme low
tide. This was securely deep enough, and had a passable WiFi throughput for
our various email and surfing, but still not good enough for telephone. As
we were short-timers there, we grin-and-bear'd it.
However, in one of those moves, I noted that our engine's alternator, which
had been putting out a reliable 70Amps, suddenly dropped to the low teens.
As there was also wind and sunshine creating incoming amperate, I couldn't
even be sure of that. Ah, well, another of our shakedown breakdowns, the
reason for doing this. An inspection showed that the regulator, mounted to
a plug-point on the rear of the alternator, had a broken wire. That would
Fortunately, I had a couple of spare alternators in stock, and swapping it
out wasn't much of a deal. However, it wasn't yet the LAST rotating part on
the engine to go bad in this shakedown. Anyway, I got the new one
installed, and changed the belt while I was at it, as the one which was on
there was at the end of its travel. Those with us for a REAL long time will
recall the time when we were getting about 10 hours per belt, but moving to
the right size pulley, along with the right type of belt has allowed us
about 200 hours per change. In order to try to stretch (pardon the
expression) that a bit, as the belt I removed still looked to be in great
shape, I've gone to a belt which requires me to manually turn the engine in
order to mount it. Fortunately, my 38" sleeve arms, and a large screwdriver
engaged in the crankshaft pulley bolts allows me to reach and easily do that
2/3 rotation. Once actually ON the alternator, I can tighten it the tiny
amount of available adjustment - but I'd bet I'll get 20 or 30 extra hours
out of a change due to that extra length of adjustment :**))
As we sat, waiting for our next weather window, we met some dear cruising
friends on Gusto, currently in dock south of there, for lunch, and, on
another day, toured Peanut Island. Unfortunately for us, the park was
closed, being a weekday not in the summer, so we didn't get to tour either
the Coast Guard museum or the bunker (Kennedy's evacuation bunker was in
this spoil island in the 60s).
I also repaired the inoperative depth sounder at the nav station, one of our
squawk-list items which had turned up on this voyage. As it was a bit messy
in terms of access, I'd waited until we got here to tackle it. I'd thought
it was an electrical issue, something I've encountered before, but it turned
out to be that the housing for it had come loose from where it had been
glued to the hull. As that housing has to contain water, all of it had
leaked out, and there wasn't a reading.
Some sanding, cleaning, and aggressive caulk later, I remounted and filled
the housing and reinserted the depth sender. Voila, there's now an accurate
depth showing at the nav station. If this is shakedown-breakdowns, while
it's a nuisance, and cropping up one after the other, I'm sure glad it's
happening when we're at anchor, instead of under way where something
critical would be a great deal more difficult to deal with. Like all of our
shakedown repairs and experiences, pix of this event can be seen by clicking
our gallery below and navigating to the 2011-2012 refit.
A week after we arrived, we (again, without excitement) raised the anchor
and set off for Ft. Lauderdale on February 16th. We were moving at 8:30,
and out the inlet by 9AM. Again we had a very broad reach, this time ~120°
to starboard. Our new (well, my replacement) alternator was chugging along
at 60Amps over what we were using as we motorsailed a bit in really sloppy
seas and only 4-8 knots apparent wind (not enough to stabilize us!)
Of course, everything changes in cruising; by a little after 11AM the wind
picked up a bit, and backed as well, allowing us to get a lot better angle.
As the winds were still pretty light, we felt it would be a good time to
break out the new staysail, as yet not flown. Up she went, and we tightened
the leeward running backstay, supporting the mast where there was now a
great deal of pressure due to what would be a full-sized jib on a fractional
(the forestay doesn't attach to the very top of the mast) rig, and turned
off the engine.
With 8-10 knots at an apparent 75-90°, we kicked butt at 7.1knots SOG and
7.8knots through the water (Hm. Maybe they DON'T need calibration?) in
flat water (we were heeled only 7-10°), due to the wind coming from the
west, and our staying close to shore, of necessity to avoid the Gulf Stream,
roaring by in the opposite direction, only a couple of miles offshore. By
noon, the wind clocked, necessitating a slight turn to the right, which was
OK, as that was how the coast ran, anyway. At 188°T, and the wind picking
up to 12-18, we picked up a bit of speed to 7.5SOG, but with the flat water
and nearly no heel (10° or less), it was a fantastic sail.
This would prove to be a pattern - changing winds - as, by 1PM we came back
to 180°T to keep the wind at 80-100° apparent as it built, and our speed
came up to 7.4-8.2knots. By 2 PM, it was getting a bit messy with gusts
over 20, which allowed us brief periods over 8.5knots SOG, which was now
FASTER than our through the water speeds. Hm. This may need more study...
The wind continued to build so at 2:30 we rolled in the genoa, just to see
how we'd sail on staysail and main. We lost speed, of course, with the
removal of that big sail out front, but still managed 6.5knots. By 3PM, we'd
turned the corner and dropped the sails. Because we'd consulted our guide
book, we knew that there was a bridge which would open at 4PM - and not
again before 4:30 - so we pushed our sturdy craft forward with the engine,
arriving what should have been barely timely. Somehow, we wound up having
to wait for what seemed a very long time, but by 4:30 we were again on the
We knew, from talking with other cruisers, that there was an anchorage which
could be accessed from the Intra-Coastal Waterway, Lake Sylvia. Our charts
suggested it would be very marginal for us, and, indeed, though we followed
the instructions about how to enter, we touched a couple of times on the way
in. Anxious, we spoke with a boat we were passing, who assured us that
there was 8' all around there, so we turned up into the strong wind, and
once again threw out the hook.
I did my usual routine of allowing the anchor to bite, and then letting out
successive chunks of chain all at once, allowing it to jerk harder each
successive length. Because of our close positions, I kept the rode (the
length of chain between the boat and the anchor) to what I consider a
minimum ratio of about 5-1 (I like to sleep at night). As usual, Lydia
backed down hard on the last section, the snubber line stretched mightily,
and we came forward again after she got off the throttle.
After we'd tended to getting shipshape again, I was below and saw a boat out
a port. It was moving swiftly, forward. As the only boat was anchored
there, I concluded that we must be moving backward! YIKES! This is close
quarters, and, regardless, one NEVER wants to drag. In particular, our new
anchor shouldn't - but, there we were.
"WE'RE MOVING!" I shouted to Lydia and sprang to turn on the engine. Key
turns, and there is NOTHING - not a R-R-R-r-r-r, not a clunk, not a click.
Panic time. No engine, and we're dragging.
But wait. We're not. We're merely swinging at anchor in opposing
directions. Phew! Out come the tools and I determine that the only
possible answer is a broken starter (I'll save you the diagnostic
descriptions, other than to say that the hammer/screwdriver-tap and
shortings had no effect).
Well, here we are in the marine capitol of the US. Surely there's someplace
I can get this fixed. On line in usable, but not ideal, WiFi, I look around
and see many places which should be able to rebuild this starter (last
rebuilt in 2007, in Charleston - actually, a rebuilt off the shelf, with
mine turned in). Then I called another fellow cruiser, this one a retired
Rolls-Royce master mechanic, who lived in Ft. Lauderdale. He recommended a
shop about a mile away. Coincidentally, we were visited the same day by a
cruiser anchored in Lake Sylvia; he knew the shop well and recommended them
as well. Well, that settles that.
A phone call determines that they can, indeed, rebuild both our starter and
our alternator. As I'd had, way down on my to-do list, getting a spare
starter, it seemed appropriate to ask; yes, indeed, they had new ones in
stock, at a price lower than I'd recalled from my Charleston inquiry (which
is why I didn't get one then). Righty, then! We'll go there, drop the two
bad ones off, and wait for instructions.
That turned out to be a bit exciting, as a full-sized Delco starter for our
engine weighs a LOT, and the alternator isn't all that light, either. Before
we destroyed our pull-behind cart, we called a cab company. We'd stopped in
front of a bank, which had a cab in front of it; we were at the shop in
minutes. The tech spun off the backs of the starter and alternator's bolts,
and it was apparent that it was time for that rebuild. No problem, we'll do
Afoot, now, we set off to what was until recently, the largest West Marine
store in the world, carrying two foul-weather gear jackets which had had
failures. West will honor nearly anything with their label for life, and
this was no exception; we got new jackets, and, to boot, after the discounts
from the current sale, had $100 to play with later. We spent some of it on
another wheeled cart, being fearful for the life of our current one, and are
expecting that we'll be able to use up the balance sometime during this
Out the door we go, to SailorMan, a huge facility of used, consigned and
surplus gear, just down the street (literally). I love these sorts of
places but you can't go, really, expecting anything. Instead, it's just
opportunities which present themselves. Fortunately for us, Lydia found a
new pair of flippers (her foot portion had died), I found some VERY obscure
fender inflation parts (better yet, they were free) and some strapping with
big stainless steel hooks. As we secure our dinghy in the davits with just
this sort of stuff, but mild steel encased in plastic, and which tends to
rust, at $3 total for 4 large SS hooks, two stainless steel rachets and a
lot of webbing, we were happy campers as we walked back to our dinghy.
Our rebuilds were scheduled for only a couple of days out, so we just
chilled out a bit on the boat, relaxing. Once we retrieved them (on a taxi
ride altogether, this time, as we'd not only be hauling the two heavy items
we'd taken there, we'd also have a new starter), and came back to the boat,
both starters and the alternator had no protective paint on them, let alone
the famous Perkins blue - so I painted them before mounting.
As the new starter was a new generation, and APPEARED to be much smaller in
capacity, I wanted to mount that one first, keeping our now-rebuilt original
for a spare. As it's made differently, it presented some challenges,
chiefly that it's actually longer than the other, and necessitated taking
out the oil low-pressure sender, a bit of a scary enterprise which turned
out of no event, as there was no runout when I took it out.
However, once mounted, I noted that the solenoid on this unit is quite
different, and the "hot" line - the one with the honking-big red cable
attached to it - came within about 1/10" of one of the fuel pressure lines.
YIKES! Also, the other connection on the solenoid, the one the low power
connection is made to, is now nearly out of reach underneath the two
aforementioned items. As I, from time to time, need to get to that with a
clip on a mechanic's starter button, that was an annoyance at best.
However, a trial engagement with the battery in the "off" position showed me
that it was a contortionistic move but COULD be done so I relaxed. As there
was sufficient room to attach the red cable (it didn't get hung up in the
small gap between the post and the pressure line), that, too, became a
non-issue, as the only time that would be revisited would be if we had to
remove the starter for whatever reason. However, while I have a spare
solenoid for the original starter, as I'd expected, from the vehemence of
the tech when I asked him about having the specific starter in stock, that
I'd be getting another identical to mine. When it wasn't, I'd not been
prepared for asking if they were the same; I'll have to research and buy a
spare for this new starter, too, dangit!
Oh, ya, the starter works fine, relying on gearing for the horses/RPMs
needed to crank Perky. This installation completed the replacement and/or
rebuild of every external rotating part on our diesel...
Once again, we've been watched over and protected. All of our failures have
happened at anchor, rather than when it might be a great deal more difficult
to deal with. We rejoiced in that by taking the next few days to explore
some of the waterways around our anchorage, going up the New River, for
miles and miles. Unfortunately, timing was such that we were bucking
current the entire way, coming and going, on our trips, but the exploring
and visiting the museums was entertaining while we were there.
Eventually, of course, we need to get back to Ft. Pierce, and up to Vero
Beach, in order to go off to visit children, grandchildren, and a wedding,
so, reluctantly, we looked for our next weather window. We'd fully expected
to get to the Keys, or even to the Dry Tortugas on this shakedown, but the
weather in the coming days was just exactly opposite of what we'd need to
avoid having to "drive" back. So, we abandoned anywhere south and made
With that I'll leave you in Part 2 of our shakedown - a couple of
exhilarating and gratifying sails, lots more broken parts (by now, every
external rotating part on the engine has been removed and rebuilt or
replaced or both, e.g.) successfully and relatively inconsequentially
resolved, and the new feeling of being guests in our own country. We've
been exploring just as we would if we were cruising internationally, much to
our benefit and enjoyment.
So, until next time, Stay Tuned!
Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not fit to live on land.
- Dr. Samuel Johnson