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Old 27-12-2007, 03:23   #1
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December 25th - Christmas at Sea

December 25th - Christmas at Sea

Well, NOAA delivered his usual lump of coal.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself. All day the day before we
left, we tried to get up a mooring that St. Steven had offered to
us. Because we had arrived at high tide, over 5 weeks ago, it had
been invisible. Instead we wound up putting St. Mike's boat on
another we'd thought was the one!

So, nearly high tide, but with the tide falling, we left the dock
for our anchorage. Maneuvering to get the boat positioned with
its bow over the *correct* mooring, we set about getting it up
with a 2-1 purchase, having led a line from a cleat through the
eye of the mooring and back to the windlass.

After about 5 hours of working on it, fighting the wind and tide
to get connected to something stronger than just the fender line
I'd initially snagged, I surrendered, because if it is to come
up, it will require a commercial crane. It was what looked to be
a multi-hundred, or perhaps over a thousand pound lead weight,
with his anchor wrapped around it (the original objective in the
recovery). I was only able to see it briefly, as it was at one
point around our anchor chain, and when we backed down, the long
leverage of our chain raised it out of the water. It fell off the
chain before I could get a shorter line on it, though. However,
at low tide, with a diver (it's not very deep), recovering the
anchor will be a simple task, and while the diver's down, the
mooring can be upgraded with proper sized chain (instead of a
rope mooring line as now) and a float, yielding a very nice
mooring, indeed, for the effort.

Hurrying over to St. Mike's boat, we started it up, and
maneuvered it off the slight grounding which it had suffered in
the lowering tide, and used the incoming tide to advantage to
take it back to his slip, so kindly offered us so long ago. A
last trip for a few supplies, then to the laundry and showers,
and we returned to our floating home for sleep.

We got under way, after a hurried dash to the Ace Hardware to
fill the cooking propane cylinder which had died on our second
pot of coffee, about noon yesterday, in what looked like the
forecast 10-15knots from the NE.

Early in the morning, it had been essentially calm, and as the
tide began to turn, the boat stayed pointed directly into the
current, nearly directly from the north. However, by the time I
got back, the wind had picked up a bit - from the East! - and our
bow was shoved over a bit.

That made getting in all the chain we'd let out yesterday, in our
efforts to put the bow directly over the mooring, a little more
challenging, but not difficult. My modus is to use the windlass
to take up slack, which moves the boat forward as the weight of
the chain pulls us gently. However, this time, because of the
wind pushing it off, the chain wasn't led fair, and it rattled
against the roller frame.

All went well until the chain was straight down. Then, there was
no movement whatsoever. Oops? Did we get involved in that umpteen
hundred pound weight holding down Saint Steven's mooring?

No, just an amazingly thorough set, through a couple of direction
changes due to tides and winds. In the end, we broke it out by
powering forward, back, sideways and so on. When it came up,
there was very fine mud all the way up the shank of the big 55#
Delta anchor. Once I knew it was free, I had Lydia power off
gently in the direction we needed to go, and let the current wash
the chain.

Once I got the chain out of the water, the next challenge was to
clean the anchor, as it brought up about a foot of mud, clinging
in the shape of the point and flukes, and about an inch on each
of the bottom and sides of the shank. However, it was very fine
and soft, so repeated dunkings and raisings, along with my
deckwash hose pressure lifting the edges of the pack, eventually
cleaned it enough to dock it in the roller.

Other than installation, we'd not yet raised the main, so this
was to be the first raising and use of our new sail. Oops. The
reefs in this sail are considerably deeper than our old sail. So,
our reefing lines, which we'd shortened to manageable length by
chain-linking the excess, had the first link of that chainlink
bound up against the first stops.

So, we lowered the sail to relieve the pressure, and took out all
the chainlinks to get to the stopper point, and raised the sail
again. Shore is purty! Once in place, I again chainlinked the
excess on the reefing lines, and set about determining if we'd be
able to use the MackPack cover system as it was.

Our current sail is longer in the foot than our old one, so the
cover, which has a zipper end at the clew (the place you pull to
make the sail tight at the back), had to be pulled back quite a
bit in order to clear the sail.

The lazy jacks - the lines which keep the sail in place over the
boom as it's lowered - will have to be readjusted. As they go
through the cover, we'll have to readdress or start over on
those, as well. However, due to the lesser number of slides (the
things that hold the sail to the mast as it is raised) in this
design, the sail now stacks in a shorter height. Therefore, while
I was concerned that we'd have to redo the cover entirely, the
top of the cover still easily hooks on the mast at the same point
as before. The bottom, however, is pulled back, and we'll have to
add a panel to allow it to fit. We'll also have to figure out a
way to keep the tail end up and back, but those are small chores.
The good news to me is that this higher placement in relation to
the sail material will mean less difficulty in zipping it up when
the sail's lowered, as the sail will no longer stick up into the
area of the zipper.

And, one other concern, which will require a careful takedown
(which I'd have done, anyway, as we want to make sure the sail
flakes as well as possible in the new configuration, the better
in the future to be able to simply drop it and have it land
correctly each time), is that it appears our reefing hooks are on
straps which are much too short to reach the hooks on the boom.
If that's the case, I'll have to remove the sail and we'll redo
them with our sailmaking sewing machine, the Sail Rite we bought
at a Seven Seas Cruising Association convention. However...

So, off we went, for the first time in over 5 weeks. We kept
hoping, as we went out the channel, that the wind would build,
but we were disappointed, again, in NOAA's forecasting skills.
I'd checked, just before we left, and the report was the same
(though updated to current time) as the prior night - NE 15 - a
perfect wind direction and speed for our travels.

It was not to be, though (surprise!). Instead we had weak winds,
from the east. As there was still a lot of sea state from prior
strong northerlies, it was a rock-and-roll ride. Our main was
crashing about in the flopping, doing the rigging no good, and we
were getting little if any drive from the genoa, which kept
collapsing as we rolled. We were motorsailing at 1750RPM and
making over 5Knots through the water, but it was still a nasty
ride. Plus, I'd declared that, with no deadlines arlier than
January 7th for being in Miami, there was no way I was going to
drive this boat to anywhere I didn't absolutely have to. Given
that, I said, "Let's see what happens when this is a sailboat,"
and took it out of gear. A grand 1.9 knots, flailing and rolling
and crashing the rigging as the sails flopped.

So, at about 6PM, barely 20 miles into our journey, we hove to
(put the boat in a position of stability where it drifts slightly
forward and downwind), made dinner, and relaxed. We were making a
grand total of 0.1Knots, essentially in the direction we wanted
to go, under about 4-5 knots of east wind.

As it didn't change in several hours, we kept our navigation
lights on (technically we were still under way, even though
effectively anchored), trusted in the full moon and absolute
absence of traffic for our not being run over.

Not only was there nobody out on the water, there was nobody on
the radio, either. Attempts to check in with the Maritime Mobile
Net on the ham radio yielded only another station just ashore
from where we were. Occasionally we could hear someone talking to
net control, saying they'd heard no requests for relay (despite
his and my trying for more than 2 hours each), so we both gave
up, and turned in after he'd agreed to relay our position and
circumstances to one of my Ham friends.

Given our early retirement, when I woke at 3:30, and got up to
check the current reality, we'd increased our way, while still
hove to, to over a knot, and the wind was now over 10, this time
from the NE. So, I got dressed, threw the wheel over, let out the
genny (we'd had to reef it to just a handkerchief to keep it from
trying to fall off when it was backed), and trimmed the sails for
a very broad reach. It wasn't the speed forecast, but it at least
gave us forward motion.

There we stayed until about noon, when we had our Christmas
dinner, again hove to, because by 10, the wind had died again. We
took advantage of the calm to cook our turkey, sweet potatoes,
peas, dressing and gravy in peace, both at sea and in our
persons. We're so incredibly blessed...

After a relaxed couple of hours, the wind came up a bit, and I
again set sail, but this time, it was East winds at 7-10. The
current weather report showed not only the buoy but the shore
report as 12E in our location, instead of the continued
forecasting of 15NE becoming 15NW by night.

However, that's good news, as that amounts to a beam reach, what
with the forward motion driving the apparent wind forward on the
boat, and our waypoint direction of 170. We're averaging about
6.5 in 8-11 knots, usually 10, for a bit (more below).

Meanwhile, all systems are working famously. We intentionally
left a fair amount of water in the bilge, accompanied by
biodegradable soap, to clean it as much as possible. An
inspection this afternoon reveals it's doing what we'd liked.
After we've nearly made our destination, I'll turn on our
standard bilge pump. That's an electronic one I have at the
bottom of the bilge. It comes on every 2.5 minutes for a second.
If there's no load (no water to push) it shuts off. It can also
be set to run manually, until you turn it off. However, as we use
it, the electronic pump keeps the bilge as dry as practical.

In the meantime, however, among the rebuilds I did the day before
we left, there was the automatic switch for the forward bilge
pump. For whatever reason, despite it being new, it would stick,
and the pump would run continuously. Therefore, we wound up using
that strictly manually. However, in our rolly sea state, the blue
light on our bilge alarm came on occasionally, for just a second
or two, and then went off, and the accompanying red light for the
forward pump did the same in time with the alarm. So, the float
switch is working properly, hooray. It was such a nuisance to get
to that I'd not bothered until we'd had one of the fan belt
explosions break the housing. When I repaired it, I made sure it
moved freely, and also made sure the pump itself was cleaned and
securely remounted. So, I'm very pleased with the gift that the
problem of the fan belt delivered - a better working forward
bilge pair (the small electronic and the much larger major) of

In the meantime, the reason the alarm comes on (well, actually
only the light - the horn sounds only after 2 minutes of running)
only intermittently is all the water we left in the bilge, the
better to slosh and clean. The two major pumps are set to come on
at about 4" on their floats, but the pumps themselves are on the
bottom. Thus, the electronic pump does all the everyday work but
the big ones will handle the heavy lifting in the event of major
water intrusion, running until the water level goes back below
about 3". Now, however as the boat rocks, occasionally the water
gets high enough to raise the float switch long enough to make
the alarm light illuminate.

And, all this rocking and pitching is sure to slosh our fuel
around nicely, as the fuel polishing system continues its steady
pumping and filtering. Actually, we'd not had to change the
filters after I did it on our return from Marathon. I'd run the
pump pretty much continuously during our first several days on
the water, which included the crashing 36 hours on the rock. That
dislodged great gobs of junk, which were disposed of in Marathon.
Then, as we came home, as reported during that time, we did major
rolling and pitching, further throwing everything around, and I
changed them again in St. Pete. The vacuum guage has stayed
steady since that time, however, so I think we may have cleaned
all that's likely to come off the walls and floor of the tank.
Certainly, despite my having made the investment to duplicate our
engine filters (two Racor 500 marine units, switchable in the
event one should clog, allowing changing at a more convenient
time than one nearly certainly uncomfortable), I have yet to
change the first engine filter.

So, with NOAA again having done us in, here we are at 4:30,
without even enough wind to heave to. What little there is
(1-2Knots) is all over the place, and not only can't we heave to,
the riggings doing its crashing and banging thing, again. I gave
up and started the engine. We're once again making 5.5 knots, at
1750 RPM. With any luck, at least some part of the NOAA
forecast, repeated just an hour ago, will produce some wind so we
can sail!

A final Christmas gift arrived shortly after we started up
again - a small bird, perhaps an adolescent wren? - flew aboard,
pecked at the enclosed cockpit to be let in, and settled into
roost in my sweatshirt after hopping on both of us to say hello.
Portia was restrained in her harness, but very interested.
However, we've let our guest sleep in peace. We expect we'll
pass relatively close to Cape Canaveral about dawn, and perhaps
our visitor will have awakened by that time and leave us. In the
meantime, we're enjoying our guest, pleased that it felt
comfortable enough to join us for Christmas.

And, as I write this final section at about 8, the wind (what
little there is) has clocked through east to west, and appears to
be on its way to Northwest. Now, if there were only a bit more
of it. Currently, there's all of 5 knots, and we're doing the
rock and roll and smash the rigging bits again...

A belated (since we're at sea I can't send this until we've made
shore again) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, if it takes that
long to get there!



Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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"You are never given a wish without also being given the power
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"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in The Reluctant Messiah)
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Old 27-12-2007, 03:43   #2
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Originally Posted by skipgundlach View Post
We're so incredibly blessed...
Yes, you are blessed. We had dinner with my Mum and sister and her family. Nicolle and I just looked at each other with our secret look: "Next Christmas we'll be at Sea!"

Have fun!!!

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