Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day of rest...zzzzz

Kristen here - Today is Sunday 6/28/09. Today we are heading off to the Charleston Tall Ships Festival!! I'm extremely excited to have a day off. Yesterday it looked like this day off might not happen.

We went to the boat yesterday to finish up the rub rail. We had to polish three more strips of metal and enlarge and fill all the screw holes with epoxy. If we didn't get this done we would have to do it today. The epoxy takes a day to cure, and that cure time is holding up this project. So, after I finished up the metal, Chris informed me that the owner of the yard was leaving and we had to go too. NOooooooo!!! I need to do the epoxy! Resolved to the fact that we would return today, I put everything away, up the ladder, back on the boat. Upon returning to the main office, Chris asked if we could stay a bit longer and the owner said no problem. Ugh! Back to the boat, up the ladder and unpack all the tools. I wasn't too upset though because this meant we didn't have to go back today.

We drilled out all the old holes, and made a family event out of epoxying them. The epoxy hardens in 45 minutes, so we all had to move fast. Chris handled the epoxy, Kaitlin held the syringes, Casey handled the tape, and I did the filling. Chris would fill a syringe with epoxy and hand it to me. I would fill the holes and then Casey would hand me tape to cover them. When one syringe was empty, Chris and Kaitlin would have another at the ready. Working as a team, we were done in about 1/2 an hour. The kids were complaining about the heat, but still seemed excited to be able to help. As we finished the last hole, the sky opened up and poured once again. This seems to keep happening to us! Hopefully the tape holds up to the rain.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good news!

Kristen here - Today is Thursday 6/29/09. Good news! My arm did NOT fall off last night or today. When I woke up this morning I couldn't move my right arm. I was seriously worried that I wouldn't be able to work today because of that. After popping a couple of advil I felt much better, and after working a bit I almost felt normal!

The even better news is that when we arrived at the boat yard this morning, the rest of the prop was sitting on the ground under the boat. One of the guys in the yard pulled it off for us. He said it took him 1/2 an hour with the torch and breaker bar. Now I wish I had given up a bit earlier yesterday!

The plan was to do the hull buffing today. Before that we wanted to try wet sanding the metal on our rub rail. This had to be done first because the water from wet sanding would run down the hull and get it dirty. Chris started out the day by re-wiring the solar panels. That project was a huge success. After getting the kids set up with school, I started sanding the rub rails. After a few minutes I realized that the metal would end up looking streaky and awful. But now part of it was done, so the whole thing had to be finished. We decided to unscrew all of the metal strips and heavily sand them while they were off the boat. I couldn't sand them too well while they were on the boat because they were attached to wood that couldn't be touched by the sandpaper. After getting most of the screws out and striping about 5 screws, Chris started sanding the strips that came off. I drilled out the stripped screws, and Chris got to work sanding the rest of the strips. The difference between the tarnished metal and the sanded metal is night and day. I can't wait to finish them up and put them back on the boat!

By the time we finished getting the metal off, we noticed a storm brewing in the distance. It was 5:00 and we didn't feel like getting drenched, so we decided to quit for the day. Right after we cleaned up and got in the car it started to pour out. That was good timing!

On the way home we finally stopped to get Kaitlin's hair cut. The moment had finally come. I'm not sure who was more nervous, Chris or Kaitlin. Chris took a bunch of pictures of Kaitlin with long hair and then he went to WalMart so he didn't have to watch the process. The hairdresser washed and combed Kaitlin's hair and then we put rubber bands below where it would be chopped off. Snip, snip, snip and off came about 8 inches of hair! Casey was snapping pictures the whole time. Kaitlin held a mirror in her hands and watched every move the hairdresser made. We brought a plastic ziplock bag for the hair so we could send it off to Locks for Love. At first I think she was suprised at how different she looked. Now I think she's excited about feeling lighter and cooler and not having big tangles. I know I'm excited about not so many tangles!

Well, hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to start compounding the hull. The workers said they would start the bootstripe tomorrow and once they did that we couldn't compound for 48 hours. I said that would work out great, because then we would be forced to kill that time by going to the tall ship show this weekend! We'll see how everything works out.

Charleston Rox!

Kristen here - Today is Thursday 6/25/09. We've been quite busy in Charleston, and I'll try to cover what we've been doing. At this point I think we've hit most of our favorite restaurants and had our favorite foods. There's been fried flounder at Fleet Landing, lots of ice cream, hamburgers, hush puppies, grits, collard greens and french fries. Casey has been drooling over cob salad and fresh vegetables. We're having a hard time getting used to American proportions and our waistbands are expanding. Last night we cut our dinner order down to two appetizers, a kids meal, a soup, a salad and one entree and all four of us were still stuffed.

The first thing we did when we arrived at Charleston was call our friends the Wingloskys up. Unfortunately we caught them at a bad time because they were leaving in a few days to spend a month in New York. We made plans to have dinner with them this past Friday because they were leaving on Saturday. I cooked up some mega fresh Mahi Mahi, and we had a blast! Since our last visit with them, I felt mega bad that we never took them out for a sail, so we pulled away from the dock on Friday. We had an awesome 2 hour motor around the bay and pulled back in as the sun was setting beautifully behind the clouds. We couldn't have planned it better. I think they had a lot of fun because they decided to postpone their trip 1/2 a day and come back on Saturday! We were honored that they had such a great time.

On Saturday we had a 4 hour motor around the bay and we even got a chance to put up sails for a bit. It was nice sailing for a change even if we couldn't turn off the motor. We didn't want to risk not being able to start it again. We did a ton of tacking back and forth which all the kids just loved. They were sitting on the foredeck on top of the dinghy. Every time we tacked, they would have to lay flat while the sail swept and flapped over them to the other side of the boat. They were all screaming and yelling and having a blast. By the end of the sail, my hands were tired and blistered from the rope handling. I guess it has been a long time since we've done some heavy sailing! Oh, and I forgot to mention that they brought their dog Putzie along with them. Kaitlin was super excited. All she's been talking about since we got here was seeing Putzie. It's hard to believe that this was a girl who used to be afraid of dogs. Putzie did great on the boat and even leaned into it when we heeled. I have to admit that it was neat having a dog on board for a bit.

On Sunday we celebrated Fathers Day. The kids were bursting with excitement to give Chris the cards they had made and the presents they bought. Chris had gone to bed early the night before, so he was actually up a bit early for Fathers Day. He opened presents right away in the morning. We got him fancy potato chips, peanut butter double stuff oreos (our favorite!), and around the head holders for his glasses. I made reservations for brunch at a downtown hotel. We arrived there at 11:15 for our 12:00 reservation. And here I was worried about 12:00 being too early! We couldn't remember the last time we had brunch. The doors didn't even open until 11:30. We couldn't believe all the delicious food they had. We enjoyed lamb chops, shrimp, oysters, omelets, berries the size of your fist, salad and hot fudge Sundays to top it off!

On Monday we got up early and headed over to the yard where Pelican was to be hauled. The bay seemed so familiar now that we've been through it so often. I was excited and a little bit concerned about the upcoming week. There is a lot of hard work to be done and I know the associated muscle pain that goes along with it. But the rewards are huge and Pelican will be beautiful when it's all said and done.

As we were motoring, I saw what looked like a container ship coming into the channel from the ocean. Then we heard a boat calling on the radio. They said they were just finishing the race from Bermuda. When we looked through the binoculars we saw that the container ship was actually a tall ship! We knew there was a tall ship festival the upcoming weekend, and this must be part of it. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, we turned the boat towards the ocean and went out to meet the ship. Chris pulled next to it and welcomed them back to the US. The tall ship had all but two of its sails out and was just an amazing sight. Even in 7-8 knots of wind they were going at quite a clip!

When we arrived (a bit late) at the yard, they were waiting at the travel lift for us. We pulled right in and they tightened up the straps around Pelicans belly. Apparently the stickers that indicate where the straps go were covered in slime so we had a bit of trouble figuring out where to safely put the straps without damaging the prop. If you lift the boat by the prop shaft, you could damage it. We ended up having to turn Pelican around and back her into the travel lift. This was interesting because about 50 feet behind the travel lift was an old rusty barge. The guys on the barge were standing around watching us. I yelled to them that we would try not to dent the barge. Once we got back in and got the straps in the right place, they raised us right out of the water. We hopped off the boat and out she came.

We had packed our stuff on the trip over thinking we would dock the boat and unload everything first. Now we were faced with unloading everything via a ladder. Casey suggested using the engine hoist to lower all our bags to the ground. This worked out great! We had to empty the fridge and freezer because the power was off, and it needed defrosting anyway. So most of the bags were filled with food. I brought our stuff to the office and put it in their fridge.

Chris then went to get the rental car, the kids started school and I decided to get right to work. The hull was a mess, and we were planning on washing and waxing it. The first step was to get the scum and stains off. I opted to use some interlux stain remover which worked like a charm. A wobbly sawhorse proved to be handy for reaching the hull while I scrubbed away with the acid based cleaner. This process took from noon till about 4PM. By the end there were still a few black stains, but the boatyard guys said they would come out when we did the compounding. Chris got back with the car and started ordering all the supplies for our upcoming work. The kids finished school and Casey helped me with the tail end of cleaning the hull.

On the way home we stopped at West Marine and got a ton more supplies. We got scrubbers, new zincs, sunbrella fabric coating, wire, connectors for the solar panels, a new cushion for Chris to stand on and tons of other stuff. It's hard to believe how much work has accumulated!

Yesterday we planned on getting tons of stuff done. All the supplies were due to get in, so we would be ready to go. The first project was to pull off the propeller. The spanner wrench and prop puller arrived and we got right to work. Everything went fairly well considering this thing has been submerged and untouched for 6 years. The instructions were easy to follow and the first set of bolts came right out without any persuasion. The next step was to unthread two sections of the prop. The instructions said that you may need to gently hammer for this step. After about an hour of whacking one wrench with all my might while holding another against my elbow while hunched over under the boat, the sections separated. The propeller blades pulled right off, and only one more step was left. This involved another special tool we had ordered. It was called a prop puller. I had other special names for it by the end of the day! It consisted of two threaded pieces. The whole contraption threaded into the prop. Then you screwed a center piece in that pushed against the prop shaft while pulling out the prop. I started cranking and the thing just wouldn't budge. Next I got out the not so gentle persuader (hammer). After hammering for another hour with my already blistered and sore hands, the thing still wouldn't budge. Now it was time to get out the torch. The next hour was spent alternately heating and hammering. I'd like to think that the bolt was moving, but honestly I don't think it moved even a fraction of an inch. I tried pulling the prop puller off and seeing if it was cross threaded or something, but it worked fine when off the prop. We had to get this thing off in order to mail it out and get it back in time before the boat had to go back in the water. By the end of the day I think the workers in the yard took pity on us and came over to investigate. One guy said that it was going to take and acetylene torch and breaker bar to get it off and he would try for us this morning. I could barely lift a hammer anymore, and took him up on the offer.

Today should be interesting as I woke up barely able to move my right arm. Hopefully Advil will do the trick! I'm not sure if we'll be able to start buffing today. It depends on what they guys at the boatyard are doing. They finished the bottom paint yesterday, but they still need to do the boot stripe. That's a little stripe of colored paint above the bottom paint. If I can't buff, I will work on removing the bimini and dodger to coat that with fabric protectant. When we started this trip our bimini and dodger were waterproof and now they're about as waterproof as a colander!

On a better note, we have been having a blast staying at the Winglosky's house! They are a godsend for letting us stay here! The kids go from playing on the wii to jumping on the trampoline to riding the electric scooter and bikes. Oh and there is even a community pool down the street that we visited yesterday morning. All of us feel like we're staying at a resort. I just can't say how much their hospitality is appreciated.

Well, that's about it for now. The Advil must be doing its thing because I'm starting to get some movement back in my neck and shoulder. Kaitlin is up and already setting up rock band. Time to get to work!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hauled Out

Chris here... I'll let Kristen tell you about what we've been up to (eating tons, visiting with friends, tall ship sightings, etc.), but I'll update you on the work on Pelican so far. If you don't care about boat "mechanics", this post is definitely not for you!

We thought our engine was doing better after we regrounded it and put the new elbow on, but when we started her up on Saturday she was up to the same tricks - slow start, almost sounding like a hydraulic lock, and not starting until the 4th or 5th try. What to do, what to do. So we know we have two separate problems: 1) The starting issue, and 2) The RPM issue. I'll put some notes below on what we've done thus far, but continue on here with what's going on.

We left the Charleston Megadock at 7:30am this morning to head over to Pierside Boatworks (formerly Charleston Boatworks). Because of a tall ship sighting and the need to go look at it closely, we were a little late to arriving at Pierside so we pulled right into the travel lift well. They pulled us out with only minimal issues (mostly centered around finding the right spots to put the slings for the travel lift) and hung Pelican in the air for a powerwash.

I have to say - our bottom paint was in MUCH better shape than I expected. There was very little growth and it was mostly on the forward surfaces which get the most water movement wearing away at the paint. A powerwash took off almost all of the growth. Our through hulls, speed paddlewheel, propeller, strut and other vulnerable parts had a decent amount of barnacles, but the painted parts were good. I'm not disappointed that we hauled though - our waterline needs to be raised about 4 inches, and the hull above the current bottom paint was nasty. The other good news is that the keel looks in pretty decent shape. We definitely took ALL layers of paint off the bottom, but it's still pretty smooth and there are no chunks missing that would allow water intrusion. We may fair it a little, but it won't take much work. Kristen spent the afternoon with Interlux Heavy Duty Stain Remover cleaning Pelican's hull.

While Pelican is out of the water and getting painted we plan to do a complete compounding, polish and wax. In addition, we're going to put new WoodPro Plus (similar to varnish) on some of the trim pieces, remove the prop for servicing, install new zincs, possibly replace the cutlass bearing and do some more engine work. I spent most of the afternoon ordering products for cleaning Pelican and doing more research on our engine and RPM issues.

So I spoke with several critical people today with regards to our engine "issues". The first people I spoke with are the distributors of Gori propellers in the US. They still had the information from the original order in 2003 for the propeller and said that the engine, gear ratio and propeller pitch match up, and are what they would still recommend today. The person I spoke with did concur with my idea as to what the problem is - the propeller isn't coming out of "overdrive" mode. Our propeller is a feathering prop. In other words, the blades shift their pitch based on whether you are going in forward or reverse. The Gori props go one step further - in the "overdrive" mode, the blades are set in the reverse position but rotating forward. This setup radically increases the propeller thrust while reducing the RPMs necessary to reach that thrust level. In other words, if your boat normally moves at 6kts at 2800 RPM, going into overdrive mode would allow you to reach that speed at 2,000-2,200RPM instead. Sound familiar? There are also warnings that trying to reach higher revs while in overdrive mode may overstress the engine and cause overheating issues. Does that also sound familiar?

I then spoke with the owner of the company (Old Port Marine in CT) that repowered Pelican back in 2003. He was INCREDIBLY helpful with ideas. I have to say that I really appreciate getting customer service 6 years after a sale and when the sale was to a different person! He said that Pelican definitely was capable of reaching 3,000RPM+ under load when they first did the repower. In addition, he was adamant that our starting problem is due to a partial hydraulic lock and that the most likely culprit is the siphon break/vented loop on the exhaust. The reason for the intermittent aspect - sometimes we can start, sometimes we can't - is due to the fact that sometimes the loop is working, and sometimes it's not. Anyway, we're going to take his advice and replace the entire vented loop and see if that solves the problem. In addition, he recommended doing a complete flush of the coolant system and also cleaning the heat exchanger, so we're going to follow his suggestions.

With regards to the propeller, the distributor said that we can send it back to them and that they would inspect it, so we're going to do that. Tomorrow or Wednesday we're going to pull it off and overnight it up there to see if we can figure out what's going on. We'd love to leave Charleston with a working prop and a functioning engine.

Thanks to everyone for the very helpful suggestions we've received thus far! Your ideas are great and very appreciated. By the way - Cidnie asked if we have a Perkins engine, and we do not - it's a Yanmar 4JH3E.

For those interested, here's our current summary of what we've done with the engine thus far:

Here are a bunch of notes from various diagnostics we've done and some done by a very good diesel mechanic here in Charleston:
  • Blew out the first starter by overcranking, so the starter was replaced 2 weeks ago with a brand new one.
  • We get a little white smoke from the exhaust
  • We get a small amount of unburnt diesel from the exhaust
  • Both of the prior two items can be explained away due to the possible issue with the propeller
  • No black smoke
  • No blue smoke
  • Slight moisture on oil fill cap. Still have to do oil change, but took some oil from dipstick, put it in foil, heated it and no crackle. Checked cap again today, no moisture.
  • May be a SLIGHT sheen on coolant, but difficult to tell
  • Did load test on battery and it was fine. Showed a weak ground on the engine, so regrounded directly to starter. Does not appear to be a problem with the switch - same issue occurs when bypassing the panel
All of this led us to check the mixing elbow:
  • Thought there may be a carbon buildup in engine due to prop issue, so we pulled off exhaust elbow
  • Good news - no carbon buildup
  • Bad news - water came out, some sludge in there - obviously not a good thing
  • Replaced the mixing elbow with a new one
  • Unscrewed each injector nut and engine reacted properly
  • Did compression test of cooling system and showed no pressure loss
  • Have not done cylinder compression test - yet
  • First time we started the engine after replacement it started right up - no delay, perfect start
  • Turned on engine the next day, problem returned
  • Ran the engine for 4 hours yesterday, checked mixing elbow today (12 hours later) and NO moisture.
A few more comments:
  • When engine is running, very smooth - no misfires, no weird sounds - mechanic said it purred.
  • Can restart engine easily if it's been running for a while, you turn it off, and then turn it back on
  • Seems that any time you change something (i.e. starter, filter, reground, etc.) engine starts right up, then is back to its old tricks the next day.
Things we're going to do:
  • New pressure test of the cooling system, but for 4-6 hours this time
  • Check the injectors at start for water spray
  • Remove and clean the heat exchanger
  • Flush the cooling system and replace with Texaco Long Life Antifreeze
  • Send the prop back to distributor for examination
Engine/Prop Information:
  • Yanmar 4JH3E engine
  • 2.62 Gear Ratio
  • 1.25" Shaft
  • Gori 18 x 14 x 3RH propeller

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our cruising equipment list/reviews/ideas

We've had a number of people ask us what they should buy for their cruise. Well, we're a bit unique in the cruising world with regards to the fact that we like our toys and amenities, but we'll share our thoughts with you. The list is definitely a work in progress, but I've posted what we've done thus far. As I update it, I'll let you know. You can find it by clicking here or by clicking the link on the left under blogs and other links.

Daily Update

Chris here... There's good news and bad news. The good news is that we pulled off the mixer elbow and there wasn't a carbon buildup. The bad news is that water and oil poured out of it when we pulled it off. There's not supposed to be any water or oil in it, and the elbow itself APPEARED OK, but you can never be 100% sure. We pressure tested the cooling system and it was fine, so the only place we can figure out that it MAY be, however unlikely it is, is something called the "Water Lock" which is supposed to prevent the water from doing exactly what it is doing. Unfortunately, we can't easily check it since it's literally encased in our keel. The exhaust hose runs into the keel, a second hose runs out, and both of them are glassed into the keel itself. Our mechanic's guess is that there MAY be a crack in the box which is causing a pressure loss and allowing water to back into the exhaust system. In addition we found condensation on the cap for the oil fill which usually means there's some water in your crankcase. We'll find out when we do our next oil change which will be in about 8 hours of engine running time. So... his recommendation was to check the elbow for water after the boat has sat for a day. If there is, we need to look at the keel for damage or softness to see if the water lock may be the issue.

The starting issue appears to be OK at this point. We ran the new cable and the engine starts up. However, possibly associated with the above issue, it still has to crank for a little bit before it starts. Our mechanic THINKS this may be due to a slight amount of moisture in the cylinders - not enough to create a hydraulic lock, but enough to cause a slow start. It's fairly apparent that he knows his stuff, and he differentiates between what HE thinks vs. what the manufacturer thinks. I love honesty, and I'd highly recommend Chuck from Charleston City Boatyard.

So when are we going to move on? Well, there's a weather window tomorrow and Saturday, and Shiver and Sea Gypsy are both taking advantage of it to head to Beaufort. As we speak, Miakoda and Aly Cat are in the Gulf Stream heading to Carolina City. When the fact that it was best to leave tonight came up my gut wrenched in two. It wasn't because it was a bad thing - I just had two different and equally strong feelings about what we should do, so the only way I can describe it is by saying my gut wrenched in two. Feeling number one - we should go and take advantage of the window since it will be at least a week before we'll be able to head north again if we don't. Feeling number two - we haven't spent much time exploring the great city of Charleston, and we'd like to check things out, so why rush it?

Then I remembered the yard in Charleston where we had our liferaft installed. Their specialty is paint. We saw the work they do and it was beautiful. Awlgrip, one of the leading manufacturers of boat paint and the de facto standard on the most luxurious yachts, uses paint jobs by this place on the covers of their brochures. If they're that good with Awlgrip, they've got to be pretty good with bottom paint, right? So I called them up and found that while they aren't the least expensive around, they aren't outrageously priced and they can paint our bottom right away. The reason I am really interested in having them do it is that we'd like to raise our waterline and there's a bootstripe currently butting into our bottom paint. The redo the bootstripe requires some precision and skill, and these guys have it. In addition, they'll let us work with them on the prep which may save us a few dollars.

So... it looks like we're going to explore Charleston. It will take them a week or so to do the work, and hopefully we'll have a weather window at the end. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our time here and take advantage of the region's amenities.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Engine saga continued...

Chris here... as we've mentioned before, we continue to be plagued by the engine start issue. We have replaced the starter, cleaned all of the connectors and voltage tested the battery at start. Everything seemed to point to the battery, except for the fact that our generator starts on the battery with no issue, and when we cross-connect to the house batteries the problem remains. In addition, we had an issue on the way into Florida where we increased the engine RPMs to coax some more speed out of Pelican to try to outrun the storm, but the engine temperature sky rocketed and our over temp alarm went off. When we backed down the RPMs the engine cooled down and we were good to go. Lastly, we've noticed a tiny amount of fuel and white smoke coming out of the water exhaust, and once the starter actually cranks you have to hold it for a few extra seconds to get the engine to turn over.

Today I called a mechanic in Charleston to come down and look at the engine. We're having too many issues and figured we should get them checked out. It turns out that there's a lot wrong.

First off - we seem to have found the starting issue. We put a load tester on the engine side and showed low amps to the engine. We put it on the battery side and found that the battery was fine. We put it on the positive side of the circuit and it showed good. We put it on the ground side and we found that we have a weak ground. The engine is currently grounded on one of its mounts and Yanmar recommends that it be grounded directly to the starter, so we ran a temporary cable to the starter from the current ground and she cranked correctly. So... tomorrow, we're going to run a new cable from the current ground spot to the starter (the existing cable is not long enough, so we'll jump off the engine mount) and hopefully that will solve the starting issue. The bad starter was just a side effect of overcranking, and what we thought was oil leaking out the side turns out to be varnish from the wrap on the coil (it melted it got so hot).

So now we get into the bigger issues - white smoke, fuel in the exhaust and the overheating. What I haven't said yet is that, in addition to these issues, we can't push the RPM's on the engine past 2,700 or so and the engine is rated at 3,700. Apparently, when Pelican was repowered the company didn't match the propeller pitch to the engine size to the boat requirements -or- there's something wrong with our propeller. The engine has to work too hard to push the prop to push the boat and can't actually turn the shaft fast enough to reach the appropriate RPMs. Think of it like trying to unstick a really stubborn nut. You can push with a ton of power, but the nut just doesn't turn. Our engine is pushing the prop with a ton of power, but the prop will only turn to a certain RPM.

The mechanic, Chuck, feels that we can get a new prop that will allow us to push the engine to the right point, but it will require us to run the engine at higher RPMs. Our engine is right in the middle of our living space and higher RPMs means significantly higher noise levels. He feels that the white smoke and fuel in the exhaust is due to this issue - the injectors push the right amount of fuel into the cylinders but the engine doesn't burn it because it's not turning fast enough. I might have that slightly wrong but I'm fairly certain it's close. The result is that we probably have, and will continue to have, fuel in our oil, soot buildup in our exhaust system, and ultimately soot in our injectors and our cylinder heads. From there, it will continue to build up in other parts of our system. This is what he thinks caused our overheating too - our exhaust mixing elbow is probably pretty built up with carbon and we can't run as much water through the system as we need to in order to keep the engine cool.

Soooo... we've ordered a new mixing elbow and Chuck will be back here tomorrow to replace the old one. Once we have the old one off we'll know if this is the actual problem. Regardless, it looks like we're going to have to get a new propeller and hire a soundproofing company to reduce the engine noise level. If we don't fix the root of the issue it's possible that we're aiming for a complete upper end (head) rebuild next year, and possibly a completely new engine or a complete rebuild within 3-5 years. This wasn't even on our "List" of repair items and new things we want to do, and will probably bump things like a watermaker and davits off of the list. We can only afford so much. A bit depressing, but it is what it is, and I'd rather know about it than continue to ignore the symptoms.

On another note, Aly Cat and Miakoda left the Abacos today for Carolina Beach, NC. If we can get these problems wrapped up, we're going to try to get out of here on Sunday so we can meet them there and then work our way up to Rock Hall for the end of June. I'm not overly confident that we'll be successful in this schedule with some of the weather headed this way, but we'll give it a shot. If the weather doesn't cooperate we'll be sitting in port until it gets better.

Anyway, we'll have the mechanic back tomorrow to do the elbow install and we'll see what it looks like when he takes the old one off. That will tell us a lot about the state of our engine. I'll talk to y'all then!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Passage - 2 more posts under this one!

Kristen here – Today is Monday 6/15/09. It is currently 4:40 in the morning. I came on watch about 50 minutes ago. Chris is amazing. He stayed up until 4:30 this morning. Tonight has been just like two nights ago, big following waves. This time though, they’re a tad bit bigger. I was hoping we wouldn’t have a repeat of that sail, but I guess not. My teeth are chattering together. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m nervous or cold. Maybe a little bit of both. I hate big waves at night. On a positive note, this time we have our mainsail up. So, now when the boat tries to rock back and forth, the sail pushes against the wind and slows that motion. It makes these seas bearable, and you don’t roll off the bed as much!

A lot has happened since we decided to head into shore yesterday. When I last wrote, we were wrestling with the decision of staying in the Gulf Stream or heading into shore. We took what we thought was the safe route and high tailed it to land. As we traversed the 60 miles we remained glued to our Sirius satellite weather. It tracks and updates the storms about every 10-15 minutes. It shows us the storms direction, rain intensity, speed and lightning strikes. All the good stuff!

This storm was moving fast. Every time it updated it was 3 miles closer. It was a race between us and the storm and the finish line was Ponce De Leon inlet. In one hour it closed half the distance. This was when we were still two hours from the Ponce De Leon inlet. Oh yea, that was the other thing. The guidebook described the inlet as having shifting sandbars, 5-7 knot currents, and it was not to be attempted without local knowledge. It still seemed like a better idea than staying out in the storm. So now we’re about 1 ½ hours out and sport fishers are racing into shore all around us. We tried hailing a couple of them, but they never responded. We thought they might have more knowledge about how storms generally run around there, and how tricky the inlet was.

The funny thing was that during this time, the sky looked fine. It was a beautiful sunny day with not even a hint of bad weather in sight. If we didn’t have the satellite weather, we never would have guessed a storm was coming.

Now we’re about an hour out and thank goodness, the storm has ever so slightly slowed its movement south towards us. I had previously given up most hope of making it in, but now it looked like we had an ever so slight chance. At this time we’re still over 5 miles out, and there are a couple of 20 ft. skiffs out fishing. I thought to myself, “I sure hope they know what’s coming!

By now we were in sight of land, and that fact alone was quite relieving. Chris and I kept running the numbers in our heads. The storm is moving 3 miles every 5 minutes. It’s 27 miles away. That means it will be here in 50 minutes. Then we check our chart plotter which says when we will get to the inlet, 30 -45 minutes it says. It’s going to be really, really close. This is where I turn to God. I’m saying my Hail Marys, singing hymns, and reminding him that I’m a good person. Just a couple more minutes God!

There was nothing to do but wait and see. We prepped the kids for the storm. We were certain at this point that it was going to hit. They were instructed to stay below and not bother us unless it was an emergency. We needed to focus and concentrate. I was not overly nervous, now that we’ve been thought one of these already. The wind was currently calm, so whatever hit us was building upon no wind. This storm however was twice the size of the one that hit us outside of Spanish Wells. We would handle it, we had no choice.

On the way in I started focusing on memorizing the chart of the inlet. I can still remember the configuration. Red buoy on the right, green on left, another red and green and then there’s a red/white on the breakwall. Follow the breakwall till you hit green bouy #7 on the left. Turn to green #9 and anchor behind green #9. Now I didn’t have to worry about losing the chart.

Also on the way in we called the coast guard and SeaTow. The coast guard told us to watch out for funnel clouds and small hail…great! We were hoping they would have info about the storms wind speed. The satellite weather showed the storm moving at 30-50 knots, but with land based wind speed at 10 knots. That just didn’t make sense. Once again we chalked it up to we’ll deal with whatever hits. SeaTow was a much bigger help. They told us that as long as we stayed in the channel, we would be fine with a 6’ draft. They were also the ones who said we could anchor and ride out the storm behind buoy #9. After that bit of relief I almost cried. At least now we knew the inlet was safe. Our destination was now a haven instead of a possible second disaster. Back to focusing on the storm.

The cockpit is cleared, everything is tied down and the kids are below. I can see the buoys leading us to the inlet. It’s our first US buoys in about four months! Then I look to my right and see clouds that are absolutely nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Starting over the inlet and traveling away and to the right is a massive wall of the darkest grey clouds I have ever seen. In front of this was a rolling white cloud. As if the sheer force of the storm was pushing the air so fast that the pressure created this rolling cloud. Power boats are screaming past us at top speed.

Here it comes. You can see the line of wind and rain approaching as we pass the first red buoy on our right. 10…20…35 knots of wind speed register as we pass the second red on the right. Heavy pelting rain starts, and in seconds we are drenched through.

Chris is steering and I stand outside the dodger to spot buoys and tell him where to go. He is driving blind. When the wind and rain are so heavy, you can’t see through our windshield/dodger. I will stay outside with the binoculars until the lightening starts getting close.

Now we’re at the breakwall and the storm is at full force. The lightning and thunder are all around, the rain is pouring. I can see cars lined up on the breakwall, and people standing next to them watching all the boats rushing in. Thankfully I can spot all the charted buoys and even a few extra small buoys that get moved according to shifts in the channel. The lightening starts hitting and I duck under the dodger only occasionally sticking my head out to sight a buoy.

At the end of the breakwass we round buoy #7 and have #9 in sight. I had prepared the anchor earlier, before the lightening started in order to minimize my time exposed on the bow. Chris turned in behind buoy #9 and immediately got pushed by the current. He had to do a quick turn to avoid betting swept into shore. There was only about 2-3 boat lengths between the buoy and the beach. Once he came around again, I heard the words, “Drop anchor!” I dropped, and we didn’t move. We were grounded. The wind was still howling, rain was pelting, and I could see the current waters rushing like a river against our hull. We were heeled at that odd angle that happens when you ground. Oh well, the chart says it’s a weedy bottom and the tide is rising. We’ve made it in and for the most part we’re now safe. I headed straight back under the dodger. I tried several times to go check the anchor line and see if we were lying on it, but every time I poked my head out, the lightening pushed me back in.

We listened to the VHF as we waited and heard all the calls for help. One of them was from a 20 foot skiff caught 8 miles out. There was only one out there that we saw. We passed right by him. Next time I’m going to stop and warn people. We saw multiple coast guard boats leave the harbor. I just hoped everyone was alright.

As we rode out the storm, I watch the bow to make sure the anchor holds. The SeaTow boat drives by and asks if we need help. We tell him we’re grounded and that we’re going to wait for high tide. He is between us and shore and says his depth meter shows 10 feet. I go forward to look at our chain and am surprised to see that it is now fully extended and we are floating. So I’m not sure if the funny tilt was grounding or just opposing wind and current. Either way, the storm was over and we were afloat! YAY!

At this time we decided to re-anchor a bit further away from the beach. We never set our anchor before, so we wanted to make sure we got a good hold. Then, as we were maneuvering to a new spot, Chris proposed going to the marina. We had called and reserved a spot earlier, but gave up on getting there. There was a bridge between us and the marina that closed at 7:00 PM. The SeaTow guy said it was open 24 hours though. There was about ½ hour of light left and I desperately wanted to be tied up to a dock. So I said we should go for it. There was reported shoaling on the way, and the SeaTow guy mentioned a…bump.

We followed the buoys, went under a bascule bridge and took the path that SeaTow suggested. As we approached the marina, there were no signs and it was now dark. I saw an open slip and told Chris to take it. We weren’t even sure if we were at the right marina. “We’ll sort it out in the morning”, I told him. The slip was right there! There was a large trawler and a sailboat next to it, so chances were the depth was OK. We looked around desperately for anyone on their boats or on the dock. Then…people! Three of them appeared on the dock. At 7:30, we were not expecting that at all! “Are you Pelican?” They asked.

Amazingly enough, in our desperation, we choose the exact slip at the exact marina we had called and reserved earlier. They said, “We were wondering if you would show up.” They helped us tie up, introduced themselves, told us to quickly settle in because there was food available but quickly disappearing at the beginning of the dock. WOW! What a welcome! Apparently they were having a little marina pot luck dinner. They welcomed us in as if we were old friends. The rest of the night was spent eating, drinking, telling stories about the Bahamas to eager ears, and making new friends.

That night I dropped into bed fully clothed with shorts, shirt and fleece jacket, and didn’t move until 8:00 the next morning. That morning Chris and Casey took a ride to WalMart that was offered to us the night before. Kaitlin and I took the opportunity to go out to breakfast. We found a place within walking distance that had…WAFFLES! Kaitlin has been wanting real Belgian waffles for months. She was quite excited. When the waffle cam out she ate every last bi8te and begged me to order another for later! We had a wonderful time, just the two of us hanging out. Kaitlin tends to stay below and watch movies when we are on passage. Therefore, we don’t see much of her. Believe it or not, we miss her. This breakfast was a nice opportunity to reuinite.

When we got back to the dock, Chris and Casey were just returning with a cartload of goodies. Chris greeted me with, “Guess what I paid for a case of water?!?” We had been paying $20-$25 in the Bahamas so I guessed $10. “Three dollars!” he excitedly said. Somebody in the Bahamas is making a LOT of money on water. He also got a bag of chips that weren’t all broken from shipping, actual cardboard sleeves of soda (instead of flat open cases), and pop-tarts. Casey got some new shorts that don’t fall down all the time. He said they opened a “whole new world” for him. Now he could run without fear of loosing his shorts! Oh and Chris got me some diet Mountain Dew! I took one sip and was in heaven!

As soon as everything was on board, we started the engine. Or should I say attempted to start the engine. It seems as if our starter issue isn’t quite resolved yet. I then changed the oil and fuel filters, and Chris switched the fuel tanks. We think that the vent on our starboard tank is clogged. When we filled that tank in Old Bahama Bay it kept gysering out of the fill hole, indicating the pressure had nowhere to escape. So with a vented tank and new filters, the engine started right up. Add checking the vent to our to do list!

With our engine started we headed out to the ocean once more. The seas were calm, the sun was shining and there were no storms in sight. During the day yesterday, Casey and I made eggplant parmesan. Before doing that though, we were up top while Chris slept below and Kaitlin watched a movie. We spent several hours of time just hanging out and chatting. N I commented that we would never have that kind of time at home. And, even if we did, we wouldn’t use it to sit around and chat. Being on a boat provides some wonderful, unique opportunities.

Now it is 8:14 AM. The sun has risen and the waves have calmed down just a little bit. Chris talked with Chris Parker who said the wind will die down a bit today. Things are looking good. We’re due to arrive in Charleston around 1 or 2 AM tonight. There are some thunderstorms forecasted for Charleston, but only a 30% chance. Casey is awake and we just spotted a huge sea turtle off the port bow.

There is a clunking noise coming from under my feet every time a large wave hits us from behind. It has been going on for a month or so, but it’s hard to research because it only happens in high seas. I think I’ll use this time to check it out. Keep your fingers crossed!

Now it’s 10:05 AM. I finished checking the noise and found its source. Our autopilot is bolted under the cockpit, through a plate of some sort, then the fiberglass deck, the wood deck and then a metal plate on top of the wood deck in the cockpit. From what I can tell, the plates are rubbing together. I can’t see the movement, but that is where the sound and vibrations are coming from.

As I look out onto the horizon I see nothing but a straight line. This morning there were spikes on the horizon, indicating big waves. I am a bit worried about Casey though. Currently he is singing to the dead flying fish on the deck. He is singing, “Hello there Mr. Dead Fish. How are you doing today?!” I asked if we needed to call the crazy chopper, but he said he was OK for now. The crazy chopper is what we call the coast guard. We watched a show about a single handed around the world sailing race where one of the contestants went crazy. Apparently being out at sea for weeks at a time can drive you mad. HA! They should try just a couple of days with us!

Now it’s 11:04 and I just saw a Mahi Mahi jump out of the water about 20 feet off the side of the boat. That reminds me that I forgot to tell you about our tragic loss. While underway yesterday we caught a huge mackerel. I pulled it in and called for the pliers, my filet knife and…HAY! Where is my cooler top fish cutting table? It was sitting loose on the deck before the storm. Oh…darn! It must’ve blown away in the wind. I never tied it down. So while we were debating how to clean the mackerel without getting blood and guts all over, it jumped off the hook. Decision made! We haven’t put lines out since because we don’t want to stink up the decks. That Mahi Mahi is just taunting me. Either that or it’s looking for its cousins in my freezer!

Now it’s 2:05 PM. Did I mention that passages can get boring? The seas are just about completely flat again. I remember saying to Casey this morning, “Why can’t the seas be high during the day and flat at night?” That would be much easier! We were getting frustrated earlier because we were only going at 4.4 knots. That’s very slow. Usually we go at least 5 knots. When Chris made his scheduled call to Shiver, they said they hit a counter current in this area. This means the water is moving against us and slowing us down. Our speed has slowly been picking up, and now we are back up to 5.5 knots. Oh! And If it wasn’t obvious, Shiver caught up and passed us while we stopped for the storm. They are now only about 8 miles ahead of us. After all this time, we’re practically in the same place!

Right now it’s 2:30 on Tuesday 6/16. We have arrived at Charleston! YAY! I’d be more enthusiastic, but I’m exhausted.


Kristen here – Today is Saturday 6/13/09. It is 5:25 in the morning. It is still dark, and I have been on watch since about 3AM or so. We started out from Old Bahama Bay yesterday afternoon around 2:30. It was still perfectly calm and the ocean was still glassy. I heard many people at the marina talking about how flat the gulf stream was. I was excited to hear that and was looking forward to a smooth ride.

Well, right now we have following seas of about 3-5 feet just off our aft quarter (rear corner of the boat). This is making the boat rock from side to side like mad! It is quite uncomfortable and just about impossible to sleep in. I was in the forward berth earlier and no matter what position I tried, I was still sliding all over the place. So much for a flat gulf stream!

The good news is that we are traveling at an amazing 9.6 knots! The gulf stream adds about 3.5 knots to whatever speed your boat is moving at.

OK, enough complaining about the seas. Let me catch you up on what happened on Thursday. During our passage from Nassau we lost our our generator, running lights and Shiver. Shiver had engine problems, and stopped at a marina just south of our planned fuel stop. Chris was on the satellite phone, SSB (long distance radio communication), and VHF radio much of early Thursday morning trying to help Shiver find engine parts. We pulled into our planned stop, Old Bahama Bay to get fuel, fix our problems and move on.

As usual, it’s just never that easy. The generator problem turned out to be a blocke3d water intake line. This has happened to us before and is easily fixed. We simply open the water intake filter, duct tape the high pressure dinghy foot pump to it, and then blow out the obstruction. It worked like a charm, and water flow returned. The generator started right back up with no problems.

Next was the running lights. There are two of them. One is a red/green light at the bow and the second is a white light at the stern. These lights are absolutely necessary if you travel at night. Now I’m not an electrician so I’ll explain this the best I can. When we turned on the circuit breaker it would just flip back off, indicating a short somewhere. Or so Chris told me. He traced every wire and went nuts with the volt meter. We wouldn’t find the short and decided to call a professional. But we didn’t have much faith after our previous luck with calling an *expert*.

Oh!! I almost forgot! Amidst everything breaking on Thursday, we did manage to catch two Mahi Mahi! The first one was big, and the second one was absolutely enormous! He gave quite a fight on the way in, swimming back and forth and jumping right out of the water. In fact the reason I knew he was on the line was because I saw him jump behind the boat. I filleted them both and put them straight into the freezer. I think they were just saying their goodbye from the Bahamas. Unfortunately while catching the Mahi, also two barracuda which were released, I lost a pair of pliers and our only bucket overboard.

So on Friday Solomon showed up to our boat. He was simply the best. He knew his stuff and worked hard. He traced lines as well, and after an hour or so found our short. It was in a wire running through the metal station that supports our lifelines. The wire goes through the station and then out to the bow light. We tried running a new wire, but the old one was stuck and it crumbled. As a temporary fix we ran the new line through our anchor locker and along the deck. I will have to try to run a new wire when we hit a port. Something new to add to the project list!

Solomon was quite a funny guy. Every time he went to work on a wire I would say *bzzzzt*, making a shock sound. He said, “Why you be wishin’ that on me?” Then when I kept doing that, he said, “I think she wants to see me shocked”. I explained that I had been shocked with both AC and DC, and had every right to tease an electrician. He thought it was all hilarious, and we worked very well together. When we were done working, and waiting for Chris to make some copies we chatted for a while. I told him where we had been, and how beautiful the Bahamas were. He said that he felt bad that he had never seen many of the islands and wished he could visit them. It’s funny, no matter where you live most people never take the time to see their own area!
After Solomon left, so did we. That brings me back around to where I started this blog entry. Now it is 10:10AM and even more has happened. We listened to Chris Parker, who said there would be storms off of Northern Florida tonight and tomorrow. With 20-40 knot winds forecasted, I suggested we find a port to duck into. Chris was reluctant to give up heading to Charleston, but after listening to Chris Parker at 8:00 the wind speed was now forecasted to maybe hit 50 knots. That’s sealed the deal and we started heading West to a port. Then on the way in we radioed Shiver who told us that Chris Parker's final forecast indicated only a single line of squalls without the same power of the storms over land. But, Shiver is coming from the Bahamas and We’re off the coast of Florida, so we’re still choosing to err on the side of caution and head into the nearest inlet. The squalls are supposed to be gone by tomorrow, so we can head back out then.

Passage to Charleston Day1

Kristen here – today is Wednesday 6/10/09. The plan was to leave this morning at 8AM to head to Charleston. We got up at 6:30 to check the weather one last time with Chris Parker. He said we were good to go, so we started the preparations. The final thing to do was start the engine. Harumph…harrumph…harrumph…no turning over for us. Lately our starter has been giving us trouble, so this was not unexpected. We waited for the starter motor to cool down and tried again. After going through this cycle several times, we decided to swap in a new starter motor.

Our friends on Miakoda were having engine trouble as well and had to order a bunch of parts from the states. We piggybacked their order with a new starter motor for us. Thank goodness we did! Suprisingly enough, it only took about 45 minutes to take out the old and install the new. Chris walked over to let Shiver know we were having issues, and I started unscrewing the bolts on the motor. When I got a big spark, I realized that it might be a good idea to cut the power to the motor! The next hurdle was the bolts holding the starter to the engine. I tried with all my might and they wouldn’t budge. I let Chris have a whack at it with no success. Then I brought out not so gentle persuader…the hammer! The gentle persuader is my name for the rubber mallet. The hammer did the trick.

The new starter fit perfectly. Then it was back in with 3 bolts and five wires and we were in business. Chris went up to start the engine and we all held our breath. If the new starter didn’t work, we would have to check every wire running from the battery to the starter. I must admit, I stood back away from the engine opening. With fingers crossed and a large prayer, Chris turned over the engine and it immediately sprang to life! Yipeeeeeeee!!!! Us one, engine zero!

It’s always a huge feeling of accomplishment when we can fix something ourselves. It’s funny, we had a yanmar guy come out to the boat when we were in atlantis, and he swore it was the battery. We knew it wasn’t because the generator starts off the same battery with no problem. It just goes to show that if we can do it, anyone can. It’s a lot of work, but with the right books and common sense you can do it. I’m not saying we can rebuild the engine, but some simple troubleshooting can solve a lot of problems.

Once we finished reveling in our mechanical abilities, we pulled away from the dock and headed off. Shiver was right behind us. It’s very comforting knowing that they will be out there with us for this trip. As I sit here, I can look behind and see them, and I can see the pink blip on our radar that represents them. I know I will be happy to see that blip for the next three nights.

The seas are completely flat except for some long and low rollers. The wind is going from 0 to 4 knots, so we are motoring for now. At about noon today we were ushered along by a pod of dolphins, many of them babies. The last time that happened we were working our way down the east coast. They didn’t stay with us very long this time, but it’s still a beautiful sight. We all rushed up to the bow to watch them dart back and forth just under the bow of our boat.

We find it very fitting that we’re traveling with Shiver back to Charleston, because Charleston is where we first met them. We saw them again in Vero Beach, and after that they headed down to Cuba with Evolution. We were dying to go with them, but as of yet Cuba is still off limits. We have no regrets though, because the Bahamas were just beautiful!

I have mixed feelings about leaving the Bahamas. The islands we saw were all so different, each one with something even more special than the next. This place is truly amazing and beautiful. We only scratched the surface on what there is to see here. We missed a lot of the southern islands, and a good part of my favorite islands, the Exhumas. For those reasons, I’m quite reluctant to leave. We were being pressured by MiaKoda to come with them to Abacos, and I must admit it was hard to say no. But we’re all missing the states as well. I miss my family and friends. Chris would like to be a bit closer to work. And, quite frankly, I need a new pair of running shoes! Just kidding, I do need sneakers, but it’s no reason to leave paradise. I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason I just want to be home for a while. Maybe it’s because everything here is new and unfamiliar and difficult. It has its rewards, but it is tiring. Maybe I just need a good mall where you can actually get things you need. It’s a lot like camping. It’s fun for a while, but you wouldn’t want to live like that.

So for now, we have a good weather window and the timing just felt right. I’m excited to head north and hit some familiar and some new places.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Update from the Gulf Stream, sort of

Chris here... if you're watching the SPOT, you've probably seen our path turn at a right angle to head towards Florida.  There's a series of heavy squalls pushing 40kt-50kt (50mph+) winds heading towards northern Florida, and Chris said that we'd have the highest probability of colliding with them overnight tonight and tomorrow morning, with the greatest chance happening in the Gulf Stream.  So... again... we've decided to play it safe and we're heading towards "Ponce De Leon Inlet" and New Myrna Beach in Florida and hope to continue to Charleston tomorrow.

A few other odds and ends... last night was very rolly (the boat was rolling heavily side to side which is uncomfortable but safe).  We've been averaging about 9.5kts over ground in the Gulf Stream which is pretty amazing.  We caught TWO Mahi-Mahi yesterday, both within 4 hours of leaving.  The second one was ginormous - about 4 feet.  I have a picture of Kristen holding it that I'll post.  Shiver got their waterpump and are heading out early afternoon to Charleston.  My guess is they'll probably pass by where we are tomorrow afternoon so we should be able to catch up to them.  We also heard from Sea Gypsy right after Chris Parker's broadcast this morning.  Sea Gypsy is a boat that we met in Vero Beach that has two younger kids on board - a very nice family.  Apparently they finally made it to the Abacos for a month but are now also heading north to Charleston - and they are traveling only about 15nm to our southeast!

So... our first entry back into the US won't be quite where we planned, but this time of year it's better to play it safe.  The squalls up north look really nasty on our Sirius weather so we'll be happy to avoid them.  We'll still have a 3 day/2 night trip.  We'll talk to you when we're all docked up.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And we're off!

Chris here... Well, we found the short in the nav lights. It turns out that it was in the hardest spot to reach possible - the run from inside our anchor locker through our bow pulpit. We can't pull the old wire out now, so we jury rigged a new set of wires for the moment to at least give us a bow light. If you're ever in West End and need electrical work, I highly recommend Solomon from Bradford in Freeport. He's a really nice guy, but more importantly - he's a hard worker and knows his stuff. I hear good things in general about Bradford. Anyway, about 400nm to go and we hope to arrive in Charleston by Sunday evening. The SPOT is on and tracking, so talk to you on the way!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can't find the short

Well, we spent several hours tracing wires and were just unable to find the short. We can't even figure out if it's on the stern light or the bow light Soooo... we're going to hire an electrician AGAIN. This time, the problem is easily reproducible, so hopefully the electrician will be helpful. We're going to stay overnight here ($3.05/foot plus $25 for electric + $18 for water) and the electrician gets here at around 8am. We're looking to get out of here by 11am or so and continue on our way to Charleston!

Brief update - Nassau to Charleston

Chris here... The overnight from Nassau towards Grand Bahamas was tiring but fairly uneventful, except for boat stuff. As I mentioned before, our generator stopped functioning, and then later Shiver called to let us know they could no longer see our stern light. We thought they were too far away, until I noticed that our stern light was actually not on. I tried changing the bulb, but that didn't make a difference. I then checked the circuit breaker and it was off. I turned it on, all the fans slowed down and then it popped. Great - short circuit someplace. We rigged up some temporary lights and kept going. We kept a regular radio check-in schedule with Shiver, and at our 7:00am call we found out that they were having engine issues. We kept an hourly call schedule going and at 8:00 he determined that it was the bearing in his fresh water pump for his engine cooling system. I reached out to a local boatyard via my satellite phone to see if they had a spare waterpump, and also to ask if they could tow him in if he needed to shut down his engine. Negative on the pump, positive on the tow, at $289/hour. We decided to duck in at West End on Grand Bahama to take on some more fuel and to troubleshoot our generator issue (so we can run the Air Conditioning - with no wind out here and the engine going 24 hours it got over 90 degrees in the cabin) and our navigation light issues. We figured out that our raw water intake for the generator was clogged, so we got out the dinghy pump, blew air through the fitting and unclogged it. Voila! The generator now works. Hopefully we didn't damage the impeller. We're still working on the navigation light short circuit, and it's not cooperating with regards to letting us find it. So, back to work...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's always something

It's been a nice day today... one fish on, but it was a barracuda.  Oh well.  We're keeping slow so we don't get too far ahead of Shiver so our engine isn't screaming.  However - and there's always a however - we turned our generator on so we could use the air conditioning below.  It was getting VERY warm down there.  It ran fine for an hour and then just stopped.  I tried starting it again, and it starts, but then immediately stops.  We're going to let it sit overnight and then check the oil and the impeller and other maintenance items to see if we can figure out what's going on.  There's always something...

It's our anniversary!

Chris here.  I can't remember if I wrote down that today is our 14th wedding anniversary!  How cool is that?  I've been married to the most wonderful woman alive for 14 years!  It seems like it was just yesterday that we met (October 24th, 1990), and here we are on a sailboat, just off of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas, happily content and with two wonderful children and an amazing life.  I'm the luckiest guy in the world.


Chris here with a big "WooHooooooo!". Did you hear it from up there? Other than having a hard time cracking the bolts holding the old starter on, replacing it with the new one was very simple. We reconnected the battery, turned the key, pushed the button and one second later our engine was started! So.... after all of the conjecture, the starter was indeed bad! I'll post some pictures of it when we get to Charleston, but the wire connecting the solenoid and starter motor was rather melted and there was oil leaking out of a couple of holes on the side we couldn't see. Anyway, ten more minutes and we're off!

Hopefully leaving this morning...

Chris here... tried to start the engine, and, par for the course, it won't turn over. We've tried about 10 times so far. We turned on the generator, and it seems to want to start with the generator going, so we're going to let it sit for 10 more minutes and then try it again. If it doesn't work, we have a spare brand new starter that we're going to swap in. We have some leeway on time - right now, with conservative speed, we're supposed to arrive in Charleston at 1:30pm or so on Saturday, so we can afford a few hours of waiting for the moment. Let's hope that it's not tooooo long.

Update: Replacing the starter... let's keep our fingers crossed that solves the issue. It's highly unlikely it's the battery - our generator starts fine off the same battery. Soooooo... an update when we have one.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Leaving for Charleston on Wednesday (tomorrow)

Well, we made our decision. This afternoon we'll do an oil change, haul the dinghy onto the foredeck, clean the inside of the boat, haul out the ditch bag, etc. and get ready to head north in the morning. As long as our starter works, we plan to leave sometime between 7am and 8am and head north from Nassau, around the northern end of the Berry Islands, turn west through the Northwest Providence Channel and then stop at West End on Grand Bahama Island. We'll be "buddy boating" with Shiver, and they need to pick up fuel before heading farther north (they have a 35gal tank vs. our 110gal tanks). Then we'll head northwest and catch the Gulf Stream, and then follow the path of the stream until we're about 75-100 miles from Charleston. If the weather is still good, we may continue north to Beaufort, NC. Otherwise we'll stop in Charleston for a few days. The Gulf Stream will give us a 2.5kt-4kt push in the direction we're going, so we can save many hours, if not a full day, of sailing/motoring. The total trip is about 540nm (620 miles) to Charleston, and I believe it's an additional 100nm to go to Beaufort (if we do that). If I'm estimating correctly, we should conservatively arrive in Charleston by no later than noon on Saturday. I haven't done the math to Beaufort, but I believe we'd have to slow down some so we could arrive there the next morning at first light.

I should be able to post some updates from our satellite phone along the way. Also, as always, follow along with our SPOT track. I've put an "artists rendering" of our approximate path below. Click on it for a larger version. The red is our standard path and the green shows the portion where we will be in the Gulf Stream.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I hate coming up with titles!

Kristen here - today is Monday 6/8/09. I hate making decisions too, but given the choice between going, or staying put another day, I would stay put. We just finished having dinner with Shiver and Miakoda. I am quite set on getting out of the Bahamas, as is Shiver. It was nice to have someone on our side, since Miakoda is trying to convince us to come to the Abacos with them. I'm just tired of all this rain. Shiver is currently planning on going to Beaufort on Wednesday, and the current plan is to go with them. Well, the current plan exactly is to listen to Chris Parker tomorrow at 6:30AM, and see when he says to go. Either way we should be heading to the states sometime soon.

On a side note, dinner was fish tacos. It was my first attempt at them, and suprisingly enough they turned out to be quite yummy! I used the grouper we bought from a Spanish Wells boat that was docked at Potters Cay in Nassau. I grilled the grouper after it had marinated in lime juice. Jenny from Miakoda and I fried up some tortillas from scratch (our first time for that as well), and we served everything with canned beans, corn, tomatoes and fresh lettuce. The whole mess was delicious! It also got rid of this mess of corn flour that I had no idea what to use for. Don't ask me why I had so much.

When we left for this trip, I tried to save as much food as possible from our house. I'm not sure what I was thinking, or if I was still sane when I made the food decisions. The corn grits and corn flour are still around, as well as pudding and jello mix (never enough room in the fridge to chill them), lava cake mix, creme brule mix (no ramekins to cook them in), and lots of other various items. I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually.

Today Jenny from Miakoda and I went to a fabric place in Nassau. Someone from the dock told her about it, so we went to check it out. It was quite amazing. We walked in the place and I immediately noticed that all of the clothing was hand made and quite expensive. They sold the fabric by the yard for $30. That's a little pricy for me. Then Jenny asked if they had any remnants, and the owner showed us to the back room. There was the jackpot! They had these tube shaped heavy duty plastic bags with zippers and handles filled with remnants for $15! The best part was you got to keep the bag too! We sat in front of the shelf and sorted through each bag to find our favorite fabrics. The back room was also where they made the prints. There were long tables with material laid out on them just waiting to be printed upon. There was also a room where one of the workers was drawing pictures to be made into new fabrics. It was very interesting to see how it all worked. While we were there it started pouring out, so we stayed and chatted with the owner for a bit.

Once the rain let up, we ducked into a restaurant to have a beer and sort through our fabrics. Jenny wanted blues and I liked the pinks and greens, so we did some trading. Who knows what we'll make!

Well, its off to bed for me. I believe I have to get up early tomorrow to listen to the weather. Shiver is going to try to listen at 6:30, and then they'll report to us. I must do my best not to still be sleeping when they "pop over".

I hate decisions

Chris here... the tropical low to the south of us may or may not be forming, but we'll make the assumption that it's going to happen. Miakoda is working on getting their engine problems fixed and will be heading for the Abacos tomorrow or Wednesday, and then north to Beaufort, NC.

Shiver, a boat we first met in Charleston, who went to Cuba, Jamaica and other places with our friends from Evolution (who we met in Beaufort, NC), pulled up to the docks here at the Nassau Harbor Club this morning. It was real neat seeing them since we had really just started this adventure when we first met them. Anyway, they are leaving tomorrow or Wednesday to go to Beaufort or Charleston.

Our plans may be morphing a bit. Originally, we were looking at leaving tomorrow and going direct to Ft. Lauderdale, where it's easy to use the bus system to get around and the number of marine related companies is huge. The problem is that we really want to be in the Annapolis area by the end of June, and if we go to Lauderdale that's going to be really tough. We'd be in Lauderdale on the 10th of June. Then we'd spend a week to a week and a half working on the boat, so we wouldn't leave until around the 22nd of June. It's a 3 day trip or so north to Charleston, and then another 2 day trip to Beaufort, all assuming good weather. Then it will be 4-7 days up to the Annapolis area, so by then we're way past the date we want to arrive. The alternative is to head direct to Charleston or Beaufort from here. We'd be out for 3-4 days, but we'd be almost to the Chesapeake, so we're giving it serious contemplation.

I'm not 100% sure if we're leaving tomorrow or Wednesday, but probably tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What to do, what to do...

Chris here... we're trying to figure out what the best plan of attack is to head back to the US. What we'd LIKE to do is take a day to get to Chub Cay, just east of The Banks. Then take two days to head across the banks to Bimini. THEN take a day to go across the Gulf Stream and get to FL. Now, Chris Parker, weather forecaster extraordinaire, has said that there is a possible new tropical low forming south of us, and that he would recommend completing any crossing by Wednesday. There are supposed to be some squalls tomorrow with a lessening of frequency on Sunday and Monday, but then picking back up again on Monday afternoon. It's about 170nm to get to Fort Lauderdale from here - at 5kts average, which we'd be lucky to keep with how covered with growth Pelican's bottom is now, we're looking at about 34 hours. That means that if we left at around 8am, we'd arrive at Ft. Lauderdale at about 6pm the next day. In other words, we can get back quickly and hopefully miss the squalls, but it won't be fun and we'll miss the chance for a last conching run across The Banks. So - to hurry and to push, or to accept that we may have to wait another couple of weeks to get back to the US. When Tropical Lows push through, the weather can take a week or more to settle down again. Add to all of this the requirement to be north of the hurricane belt by the end of June for insurance purposes. What to do, what to do.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Atlantis Rocks!

Kristen here – Today is Friday 6/5/09. I just noticed that Chris has been writing a lot. I must be getting lazy! Atlantis was quite an experience. When we first came to Nassau, we tried to get a slip at Atlantis and were unsuccessful. I had run through the property a couple of times, and didn’t see any great loss in missing a visit. Boy was I wrong! As it turned out, I had only hit the tip of the iceberg when I briefly went through the property.

I’ll start with the water slides. There were two separate towers and a “lazy” river. I really wouldn’t call the lazy river lazy though. It had a bunch of white water sections, which proved treacherous if you fell off your tube. This I found out when Chris lost his glasses and I jumped off to find them. My knees and arms met up with concrete outcroppings formed to look like stones. They felt like stones too! The lazy river also had a narrower winding section with a wave machine at the start. The waves would travel and bank around the turns, pushing and tumbling the tubes with it. There were many points where the river would go through a pool, and you could either get out, or continue. It also stopped at one of the towers. You could get out with your tube, walk up to one of 4 slides and go down. The same tower also had 2 slides you go down without tubes.

A second tower had four more slides. One was a 60 foot vertical drop that ended up in a pool of sharks. Well, ok, there was a Plexiglas wall separating you from the sharks, but it was still amazingly cool! The amount of slides and pools and Jacuzzis and caves and rides in the park were just amazing. It took us two days to do every ride once!

Then, even more amazing than the slides were the aquariums. They were simply the most amazing collections and displays of marine life I have ever seen. The aquariums were set up to look like a lost city, with broken city pieces and staircases all over. They had every type of fish imaginable. There were hammerheads, sawtooth, nurse and lemon sharks. They also had manta, eagle and brown stingrays. The manta rays were at least 10-15 feet long! There were all of the ocean fish such as tuna, mackerel, wahoo, barracuda, and the colorful reef fish. You could observe the pools of fish from walkways above, or from tubes that winded through them below. For me, it was this that made the visit worthwhile. There may be collections like this elsewhere, but I haven’t seen them yet! If you get the chance, come see Atlantis!

Oh, and as a side note, our friends from Miacota joined us for the last day we were at Atlantis. Usually if you want to go there for the day without staying at a hotel it’s about $80 a person. They got a room at the Comfort Inn on Paradise Island for under $200 that gave all 4 of them access to the park for 2 days! That’s a savings of $440! So if you go there, do your research. It doesn’t have to be too expensive.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Over to the Harbor Club

Chris here... Well, we're back where we started before we left to hit the out islands of the Bahamas - the Nassau Harbor Club. Yesterday was a tough day. I'm still waiting to hear how my grandpa is doing. Apparently they found some other problems while running the tests for the memory and personality issues. The guy is amazing - 96 years old and he just started using a walker a year or two ago. Before that, at the spry age of 93 or 94 he was still picking kids up to sit them on his knee. So - for all of those who sent me "I'm sorry about your grandfather" - from my perspective he's still doing great until I'm told differently, but is having some problems accelerated due to his age. We'll see how it goes, and thank you to everyone for your kind words.

Anyway, between spending $191 on the starter issue and not finding the problem, and the issues with my grandpa, I was pretty down yesterday. Kristen had gone to the water park in the morning and come back with the kids, and I was not a happy guy. This led into a little breakdown of sorts on her part since she thought I was upset about the starter and couldn't understand why I was having such a tough time. Then I told her about my grandpa and she understood.

A little while later I wrote the blog entry about enjoying life, and realized that I was sitting at one of the coolest waterparks around, so I put a smile on my face and headed over with the family. The first "ride" I went on was the "Winding River", which is exactly what it sounds like. We got on individual tubes and floated in the current for about 200 feet. Then we got to the "rapids", a faster section of water with bumps. My glasses, which I need if don't want to be blind, starting slipping off of my face. I went to grab them, lost my balance in the rapids, hit a wall, flipped off the tube into the rushing water and lost my glasses. I could feel them dragging along my feet as I accelerated through the tunnel, and then they were gone. I tried to stop to look for them, but the guard on duty kept yelling at me since it was kind of unsafe to stay there with everyone heading my way through the choke point. The "river" widened ahead, so I stepped to the side with Kristen (who had jumped off her tube to look for my glasses) and the kids and proceeded to have a complete mental breakdown. It was the last straw. A few people had gotten off of their tubes to help me look, and a few minutes later a very knd person found them and handed them over. The frames were a bit scratched up, but the lenses were fine so I was pretty thankful.

At this point, I was done with the water rides so we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring all of the aquariums they have. The place is amazing and has one of the largest and most diverse aquarium complexes I've seen. I would highly recommend checking it out. We capped off the afternoon with a ridiculously expensive dinner (which I got frustrated about) at Johnny Rockets (a US hamburger chain) where we got $14 cheeseburgers, and then hung out on Pelican. Kristen and I were pretty drained at this point, so we watched some episodes of "The Office" and then she headed off to bed. I couldn't sleep so I stayed up until about 3am before passing out.

We awoke today with a much happier spirit. When you stay at the marina at Atlantis, checkout time is not until 11am and the water park opens at 10am. This enables you to get your wristband before you leave. So we got our wristbands, paid for our slip ($4/foot/night + electric, and those are the cheap seats!) and headed over to the Nassau Harbor Club. I had received an e-mail from our friends on Miakoda this morning saying that they were staying at the Harbor Club but I didn't respond to them. Instead we tied up there and knocked on their boat and got to enjoy their surprised looks! They have two girls Kaitlin's age, so they were immediately off their boats and in the pool at the marina. We told them that we were going to Atlantis this afternoon, so Jenny from Miakoda found a deal on a hotel room (which gives you complimentary access to Atlantis) and Kristen, Casey and Kaitlin, and Jenny and her two daughters all headed over there for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, Miakoda is having major engine issues - a bent connecting rod and a bad piston on one of their engines (they are a catamaran), so they may be here for a while with a very expensive repair bill.

We're all going to hang out for dinner tonight, and then we'll probably hang here in Nassau for another couple of days with them before heading to The Banks and across to Bimini.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life is Precious

Chris here.

Life is precious. Enjoying your life is even more precious. I don't know how many times one needs to be reminded of that before it really sinks in. For me, I'm not sure if it was the passing of my father 9 years ago, or one of my really good friends almost 7 years ago, or my Grandma passing a few years back, or the passing of our pets, all of whom we had for over 15 years. Perhaps I realized how precious the time you have to enjoy life is while watching my family and friends get divorced, fall into depressions or have other bad things happen. Today I received an e-mail from my mother that my grandpa, who will be 97 this month, had a sudden change in his personality over the past few days. He's been one of the people in my life who I really look up to, and to get a reminder of his age has really thrown me for a loop.

I can actually point to the time in my life that was my pivot point - the point at which I realized I needed to do something more than spend my time behind a desk. It was about 5 days after I had to call my friend's wife and tell her that her husband had passed away. I'll never get the screams and cries out of my head. While we're no longer close, I ask those around her how she's doing, and am glad to hear that she's been able to move on. For me, my way of moving on was to do the tough thing and change my life and the way I approach every day. And so I sit, on our boat, over a thousand miles from our friends and family, but surrounded by those who mean everything to me, telling you - enjoy your life. Don't let it pass you by. We only have a limited time to take advantage of being here, and you should use the time to its fullest.

In Nassau and Engine Troubleshooting

Well, we made it to Nassau without further incident. When you arrive at Nassau Harbor you need to call the Harbor Control to ask for permission to enter the harbor, providing them with your vessel information, last port of call and your destination within the harbor. Not wanting the kids to know we were going to Atlantis until the last possible moment (have you been able to tell that we like to surprise people?), I turned off the radio by the helm, asked Kristen to keep the kids up top, and went below to call Harbor Control. We had to let the cat out of the bag once we arrived at the channel leading to the Atlantis Marina though, so we called the kids to the cockpit as I made the call - "Atlantis Marina, Atlantis Marina, Pelican requesting slip information." We got a bunch of hoots and hollers of happiness from Casey and Kaitlin as they realized we would be going to a place they've talked about for months now. We pulled into the slip at around 3pm, and Kristen and the kids immediately jumped off the boat to run and play in the waterpark. We stayed here last night and we'll be staying tonight again, so everyone should have plenty of time to have a ton of fun!

Today, while the rest of the family went to play, I stayed behind to deal with our engine issues. I contacted a local engine company that was recommended to me by Asolare and they sent an electrician right over. The first thing he asked me to do was turn on the engine, and of course, as always happens, it started right up. There was no slow cranking, no burning smell, no heat on the starter - just the purr of the engine. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but our guess now is that we might have a bad cell in our starting battery, and while it shows good voltage after being charged, it doesn't shoot out enough juice during the start. I'm not 100% convinced though since the battery still shows good voltage AFTER the engine starts, and if it had a bad cell it should show a lot less voltage after it has been used. BUT - when we have a strong source of power, such as shore power, it starts right up, so the voltage isn't dropping. When we have the generator running, it doesn't start up quite as quickly, but it does start. When no external power source is connected to the start battery, it doesn't start. $191 to find this out (2 hour minimum charge) - always fun to use a marine company. I'm not feeling real comfortable with this, and we had to have done some damage to the starter since we filled the boat with smoke trying to start it the other day. It has to be related to a voltage drop though, so at least that's a little bit of diagnosis.

Anyway, we're here at Atlantis for a couple of days, and then we're going to move to the Nassau Harbor Club until we can cross over to Chub Cay (hehe - Chubby) and then on to Bimini and the US. Hurricane season "officially" started yesterday, so I'd like to get north when we can.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let's try this again

Chris here.. Alright... the forecast for today is for little wind and few squalls.  The Sirius system didn't show any squall activity.  We went to turn on the engine, and had the same problem as yesterday, so this time we started using the advice many people gave us.  We hooked the multimeter up and found that we had a big voltage drop on the positive side when cranking the engine.  We traced back the wires and found that they were all good and clean, but the wire between the two parts of the starter motor is somewhat melted.  I'm still not convinced the starter is the root of our issues, but it's definitely an issue now.  We got the name of a good Yanmar mechanic in Nassau, so we'll give him a shout tomorrow to get some assistance.

Speaking of Nassau, this blog entry comes to you via our satellite phone.  We're approximately 30nm from arrival.  There is definitely rain out there - we've even seen two waterspouts, but they were pretty far off.  I got some pictures so I'll post them if they came out. Hopefully we'll arrive at Nassau by 3pm or so.  There's a suprise waiting for the kids - I made reservations at Atlantis.  That's one of the reasons I've been pushing so hard to get there.  We were hoping to arrive in Nassau last night so we'd have all day today at Atlantis, but that didn't happen, so we'll get this afternoon and tomorrow there.  So... waterslides, aquariums and lazy trips down chlorine filled rivers await us in a few hours.  We'll talk to you soon!