Saturday, March 24, 2012


The McGyver in me failed with the depth finder. As I suspected, the keel, rudder, propeller turbulance messed with the depth finder. No joy. I could have mounted it off the side of the boat and that would have worked...if I had a pole long enough to rig to the side stanchions and reach down to the water. The painters pole would have snapped under the strain if I extended it that far.

So on to plan B. We re-anchored outside the harbor & called the local West Marine. They have a type of depth finder that can drop in replace the existing display. But, I have heard contrary opinions if the old transducer will work with the new display. The only transducer available for the new display requires drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat. I can't work that fast! So I took a chance that the new display would work with the old transducer.

Launch the dink, run to a marina, pay $8 to tie up for an hour (everybody has their hand out around here), walk a mile to the West Marine, discuss options with the manager for a half hour, buy the depth finder, walk back to the dink, run back to the boat, temporarily hook up everything in a manner that would allow return, EUREKA, rewire everything permanently, tie up the dink, go motor around for a while to test, re-anchor, clean up, relax and wait for tomorrow to get underway. Hope we get another great sunset tonite I can actually enjoy. And pray this solution works long term.

Now if I could only figure out what is causing the tach to act up...

Posted by Ed aboard S/V Freedom

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Great Escape

3 long weeks stuck in Marathon is enough. A nice place, but when you expect to spend 1 week and are boxed in for 3, it gets frustrating.  The wind is finally going to switch direction after 3 weeks of continuously blowing out of the east, the only bad wind direction. So it's time to git!

But, earlier this week a boat with an extra tall mast caught a telephone wire that drapes across the entrance to Boot Key Harbor, which pulled the wire about 5' lower. It was set to 65' at high tide. We need about 62' plus another foot for the whip antenna. The wire is now 60' at high tide and 62' at low tide. Now what?

A few guys went to the bridge next to the wire for an elevated view to spot for us. We waited for dead low tide at 1630 (4:30pm) to make our escape. The lowest droop is right at the channel so if you go around the droop, you gain elevation...but the channel shoals to about 5' very quickly and we draw about 5' 6" and this is at dead low tide! Truly ZERO room to spare.

So we cut through the bridge, forced a small power boat out of our way and listened for the guy on the bridge with a radio to tell us how we looked. Looking up from our boat doesn't tell anything. We've gone through 90' bridges and it looks like you're going to hit it. I turned left after the bridge toward the shallow water and then turned back as soon as I heard from the spotter. I didn't know it at the time but he reported that I hit the wire with the top 1" of my whip antenna! Another boat after us caught the wire with their mast and were lucky to be able to maneuver back off the wire while not running aground. Oh, the wind was blowing 15 at our back pushing us toward the wire. Oh, another minor issue; the depth finder decided to crap out! So when I was heading to the shallow water, I was blind to the depth. That's why I turned very quickly as soon as I got the word. But we made it and we're now anchored in the open ocean behind Boot Key ready to sail east in the morning.

AT&T is wrangling the only barge in the keys big enough to fix the wire. They'll be there in another week. And, BTW, the wire is no longer in use and this is the third time in 2 years for this sort of issue. Lots of unhappy people stuck there another week. We felt like Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. We made it under the wire!

As for the depth finder, we still need one. During a most fantastic sunset over 7 Mile bridge, I scrambled to McGuyver a backup. I have a little fishfinder in the dingy. I removed the finder & the transducer from the dink. I have a fiberglass painters pole for extended reach scrubbing. So I cut off the end of the pole and mounted a stainless 1" bracket I have in the parts bin. Bolted the transducer to the end of the pole and tied the pole to the swim ladder. Spliced on a cigarette lighter plug to the power wire and instant depth readings! I just hope the turbulance from the boat, engine and exhaust don't interfere with the readings. Stay tuned!

Posted by Ed aboard S/V Freedom

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dirty dink

This is what the bottom of our dink looks like half cleaned...after 3 weeks in the water at Boot Key Harbor. Most of that is crusty barnacles that have to be scraped with a putty knife.

Posted by Ed aboard S/V Freedom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hey, it's not all cocktails & sunsets

We've reached Marathon in the Florida Keys. This will be our farthest point south. Time to head east & north. But the wind has been strong out of the east every day now for 3 weeks. We need 2 days to sail to Miami and there is no place for a deep draft boat to hide from an east wind. So here we sit. We did take a side trip to Key West but mostly we hang around here and work on the boat.

Some of the projects we've been working on...

The varnish on the teak needs regular refreshing. I recoated the trim around the cockpit and about 1/3 of the toe rail. Sand, wipe, varnish, resand, wipe and apply a second coat of varnish.

One of the burners on our 3 burner stove top has never worked right. Now, a second one stopped working. One burner just isn't enough. I called the factory, they haven't made stoves in 10+ years. No parts at all for the back burner but maybe something left for the front one...called back with the last thermocouple for that stove in existence! $50 & an hour of work and we avoid having to spend another BOAT unit. BOAT unit? What? Everything for a boat seems to run in multiples of $1000. BOAT = Break Out Another Thousand. The pilot light in the oven also quit so I pulled it out and cleaned the orifice with a needle. The stove is propane and that means tank refilling. Strap the 20 lb tank to the bike rack and run it up to the fill station. 

The 12 volt refrigeration I installed in '08 is working great. But we also have a parallel system that is engine driven. I upgraded that in 2010. But engine drive systems are notorious for leaks and this one is no different. The leaks are very hard to find. I spent several hours here to no avail.

Chris regularly spends time waxing parts of the exterior. We use a cleaner/wax first and then a hard paste wax. Tedious labor but the boat looks good for it. She's also done several touch ups to her excellent canvas work. We bought a second bike and that means a second zippered bike bag was needed. Nicely done.

We're tied to a mooring ball for $125/week instead of at a marina for $125/day. But we have to shlep jugs of water almost every day. We don't like using the communal bath house so showering aboard plus dishes & drinking water is about 10 gallons per day. So we go to the marina office and fill 2 or 3 5 gallon jugs, bring them back & poor them into the water tank.

Our 10' dingy is our mini van. We run it to the dingy dock at the marina to gain shore access. We keep our bikes there to extend our range.

Publix & Winn-Dixie groceries are about a mile away. We bought new backpacks at K-Mart to carry dry goods and we use soft sided coolers for cold stuff. Chris needed a new USB to 12 volt cigarette plug to charge her I Pad. That was a 4 mile bike ride to Radio Shack. Good excercise!

Our wind generator had an obnoxious rattle. I climbed up and removed the nose cone and put some putty inside it. Snapped it back on and it runs much quieter. I just wish it provided more power. I'll estimate it provides no more than half of our electricity. The rest we get from a little Honda generator that powers 2 40 amp battery chargers. And of course the honda needs refueling and oil changes.

The honda also powers my hookah. Not that kind! A snorkel for shallow diving. This harbor is very warm water with very high growth. So I had to dive under the boat to clean it. No bottom paint works well enough in these conditions. This was my first time using the hookah, I'm not comfortable breathing under water. Very stressful. I'll get used to it, I have to. But I didn't do a very good job first time out, I need to get back down. The water is VERY murky and I couldn't see squat. We need to take muriatic acid to the dink bottom, stuff has grown FAST on it also. A project for tomorrow.

The engine tachometer started bouncing and battery charging from the engine was erratic. Removed the alternator and took it to a shop for testing. Works fine. But it had the wrong size pulley! Changed that and reinstalled. The bouncing tach problem went away...for a while! It's back and I need to dig further to fix it. We need to have full charging capability when underway.

Now you know why I post pix of cocktails! The definition of cruising "fixing boats in exotic places".

We're off to the Wednesday evening meet n greet where I can make some more enemies!


Posted by Ed aboard S/V Freedom