Welcome to our new adventure! Bob, Murphy our dog, and I will be traveling from our home in Palmetto, around the state of Florida, passing through the Keys at Marathon, to Lake Worth, FL. Originally we were going to be crossing the state via the Okeechobee Waterway, but due to the current drought there wasn’t enough water to float the boat. Upon reaching the eastern coast of Florida at Lake Worth, we will cross the Gulf Stream making the 55 mile Atlantic crossing to Grand Cay in the Abacos chain of the Bahamas. We will spend about 6 weeks exploring the islands from Grand Cay to as far south as Little Harbor. Most of our time will be spent anchoring out in secluded bays with an occasional night in a marina to replenish our water supply (at $.10-$.50 a gallon) and rest the boat. Our friends, Bernie and Barb from Cape Coral, will accompany us in their 53′ Carver called “Sitting Duck”. Come along for the ride. Glad you could join us!
May 15, 2009-Palmetto, FL to Cayo Costa State Park
The day was bright and sunny, with a few wispy clouds–a mere 75 degrees and humid. We finished up the last of our preparations and pulled away from our dock in Palmetto, with the help of our friend, Denny, at 9:00. Upon leaving the dock, Bob noticed the port shifter lever was not responding. Once we got out of our canal and into open water, I took over at the helm and Bob went below to see if he could diagnose the problem. He determined that the shifter cable had jumped the track, so it was a simple fix. That was easy!The wind was 10 mph out of the SE, so we decided to take the outside track into the Gulf and not down the ICW to the Venice Inlet. The waves were 1-2′ on the bow, but we were able to drive 1-2 miles offshore to cut down on the wave action for a smoother ride. The crabbing season is closed, so we would not have to worry about avoiding the crabpots that would normally be sprinkled throughout the area. We passed through the Venice Inlet about 11:30
and continued through the ICW to Cayo Costa State Park on Lacosta Island in Charlotte Harbor. Here we would spend 2 nights anchored near our friends, Pam and Don, on their 56′ Jefferson Yacht.
Soon we will be getting into the rainy season of afternoon thunderstorms and there is a 30-50% chance of showers every day this week. We noticed the buildup of clouds over the land as the afternoon wore on. We wanted to be anchored up in Cayo Costa before the weather might change. Just near Stump Pass, we came across 2 dolphins who decided to swim alongside of us for a short while we traveled a little slower.
They glided effortlessly, side by side, along the port side of the boat and every now and then, one would roll over on its side to get a good look at us.
We enjoyed their company for about a mile and then when we powered up, they swam off. The ICW was pretty quiet for a Friday, with a few fishermen and boaters moving about, so we made good time. We arrived at Cayo Costa about 1:30 and dropped anchor near our friends. We got set up and took Murphy to shore. There was absolutely NO BREEZE and it was suffocating. The dinghy ride created some air movement, at least. We hurried back to the boat as the sky was darkening to the east. A black tubular cloud started forming and we could hear thunder in the distance.
We closed up all the hatches just as the drops began to fall and a wall of rain headed for us. The rain was a welcome relief to the heat.
Just then, the wind picked up to about 50 mph and created 1-2′ waves in the harbor. Bob noticed that our friends’ anchor had broken free and they were drifting with the strong winds.
As they dealt with their situation, Bob went up on the bridge to start the motors in case our anchor broke free. Visibility was very poor, but we had to keep a lookout for any boats who might be drifting down on us. The storm passed after about 25 minutes of torrential rain, thunder, wind, and lightning. It had dropped 2-3″ of rain in a short amount of time and gave the boat a good rinse from all the salt spray. After the storm, we realized that the generator had turned itself off and wouldn’t restart. As Bob tried to diagnose the problem, he discovered that we had a serious exhaust leak–bad enough that we can’t go on with our trip without getting it fixed. We called Snead Island Yacht Works in Palmetto and they can work on the boat on Monday. They would also have the generator mechanic give us a call to see if he could help. In the meantime, Bob got on the phone and talked to his “mechanically inclined” friends to get some help in diagnosing the generator problem. The BAD NEWS is that without the generator, we have no electricity to power anything. We will have to go to a marina or back home tomorrow and then take the boat into the shop on Monday. Our trip will need to be delayed or, heaven forbid…..canceled. We’ll know more on Monday. Meanwhile, Bob got out the owner’s manual, conferred with Donny (in the Jefferson), and got to work. He spent 2 hours working on the generator, taking breaks to cool off from the intense heat in the engine room. He was soaked with sweat down to his underwear. Finally at 6:00, he found a bad breaker switch and made the repair. Hooray! It’s alive and we have electricity! Now we can stay here until Sunday morning, at least, and then head home for repairs on Monday. We were both fried from the heat and stress of the day, so I made a fast meal on the stove. We ate, watched our Friday shows (yes, we get good TV reception), and went soundly to sleep for the night.
May 16, 2009 – Cayo Costa State Park
Well, it’s a new day and things don’t look so bleak. The generator is running flawlessly to make coffee and it’s a beautiful, sunny morning. After talking with Bernie and Barb (who will be going with us to the Bahamas) about our situation, they decided they would continue on as planned and we would meet up with them on the east coast of Florida in a couple of days – IF the repair can be made and IF it doesn’t take more than a few days. Heck, with all the rain that we’ve been getting lately, Lake Okeechobee could fill back up and we could take the shortcut across the state. Wouldn’t that be nice? Well, first things first. Bob called a friend who is a delivery boat captain and he suggested we look into having the repairs done at Gasparilla Marina instead of going all the way home to do it at Snead Island Boat Works. He had all his work done there and the marina comes very highly recommended. It would save us the cost of fuel to get back and two days travel time. That sounds like a good possibility. We’ll have to make some phone calls to check it out. In the meantime, on with the day. We had a leisurely breakfast and got ready to take a dinghy ride to beach. Pam and Don picked us up in their Boston Whaler and we took the mile ride to a boat landing in the mangroves with access to the beach. The wind had picked up since this morning creating small waves in the anchorage, so we had to take it slow. Once we docked the Whaler in the mangroves, we took a short walk across the island to the beach.
I am always in awe when I see the aquamarine color of the water against the white sand beach and the azure blue sky. Donny, Pam, and I walked along the beach in our Florida “stoop” looking for “treasures” on the beach.
Bob hung back, trying to find some shade as he watched 2 guys fishing along the shore. After our walk, we all hung out near a beautiful fallen tree “sculpture” laying in the water and discussed the issues of the day.
Later, Pam and I went for a swim. The water temperature was perfect.
When it got too hot and some storm clouds started to form on the horizon, we decided it was time to go. The wind had calmed down by now, so the ride back was quicker and shorter. Donny dropped us off at our boat to grab some lunch and for Bob to get his fishing pole so the guys could go fishing for an hour or so. Pam and I would hang back on our separate boats and catch some alone time, reading and relaxing, while the guys were gone. Sitting on top of the bridge in the shade, I could get a 360 degree view of the anchorage and catch the nice breeze that was blowing up above. Aside from an occasional cry from an osprey fishing nearby, all I could hear was the breeze blowing through the boat and feel its coolness. There were about 20 boats in the anchorage now, but I’m sure a few more may be joining us for the night. After all, it’s the weekend. The guys fished for about 2 hours and Donny came back with a 20” trout and a huge sailcat.
A sailcat is a type of catfish with long fins. Don and Pam would be having those for dinner. We went over to their boat for cocktails before dinner and watched Donny fillet the fish.
When the dark storm clouds started moving in, we cut our visit short and headed back to close up the boat before it started to rain.
The first set of clouds blew by, so we made dinner and then sat out on the bow of the boat in the cool breeze. The sky grew increasingly darker and lightning could be seen off in the distance. The wind picked up suddenly and then the rain fell. The storm came with a fury and lasted about 30 minutes. The lightning put on an amazing show, streaking horizontally across the sky. A light rain continued in a steady flow and we watched the heat lightning off in the distance until we went to bed. After the rain stopped, Bob took Murphy to shore and we turned in for a cool night’s sleep.
May 17, 2009 Cayo Costa State Park to Gasparilla Marina
The morning was sunny, with the temperature at 75. We took Murphy to shore, had breakfast, and prepared to leave. While I slept, Bob had made some phone calls and decided we should take the boat to Gasparilla Marina. They have a slip for us and are expecting us to arrive about 10:00. The service department will look at the boat on Monday morning. Going there will save us time and fuel. We pulled up anchor about 9:30 and took the short 5 mile ride up the ICW to the marina. We passed a nest of osprey who had a new fledgling.
As we motored slowly down the channel, I took the helm so Bob could go below in the engine room and find out where the exhaust leak was coming from. He discovered that the leak was coming out of the top of the exhaust hose where the hose goes onto the exhaust. The engine thermostat was also not working, so we slowly motored down the entrance channel to the marina.
We took a slip at 10:30 across from the gas dock and settled in.
We walked over to the office and made arrangements to talk to the service manager tomorrow morning when they open at 7:30. On our walk back, I spotted a cute boat name #1. It was on a Ocean Yacht like ours.
We had lunch on the boat and then spent the afternoon watching the boat traffic and listening to the live music at the Waterside Bar and Grill from our boat.
There was a lot of action taking place because it was Sunday and there was also a tarpon fishing tournament going on. It was quite a busy place. A fisherman came in with an egret catching a ride on his boat.
We relaxed in the air conditioning of the boat, watching a movie, as the temperature climbed to 90. Later in the afternoon, the storm clouds moved in and boats began streaming into the marina to beat the rain. The threat of rain passed after about an hour and people began moving about again. We decided to go up to the marina office and use their showers. As we left the boat, we heard someone yelling to us. There, across the harbor, standing in front of the gas dock, was my mother. She and my father had come down to visit some old neighborhood friends from Wisconsin who live in Rotunda West. They knew we were in the marina for repairs and thought they would come down to have dinner at the Waterside Grill with the hope of seeing us. What timing! We quickly showered and met them up at the restaurant. We enjoyed a nice dinner and conversation. It was fun to see everyone.
After dinner, everyone went their own way and continued to enjoy the rest of the evening. We returned to the boat and relaxed, watching some TV, but turned in early after a long day. Here’s an interesting story: There is a 60′ Viking Sportfish sitting next to us in the marina. Until yesterday it had an osprey nest sitting on the top of its tower.
The osprey built the nest in September and the boat owner was unable to move the boat while the nest was occupied there. So for 8 months, the boat sat in the marina. Under penalty of law, you can not disturb an osprey nest. Osprey are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and also state protected. Active nests require a federal permit for removal. Osprey nests that are removed, require that a replacement structure be built in the immediate vicinity of the old nest since ospreys are strongly attached to their nesting sites. The boat owner could not move the nest until the young birds had fledged (left the nest). Penalties include fines of up to $15,000. During one of the storms last weekend, the nest blew away, so now the boat is free to move again. We can hear the osprey’s unmistakeable cry as it sits perched atop the mast of a sailboat in the marina.
The pair of osprey are still in the vicinity. It’s quite an interesting story!
May 18, 2009 -Gasparilla Marina
It is a gray, rainy day with not much happening in the marina. We got up early in anticipation of getting some questions answered regarding the needed repairs once the office opened at 8:00. The mechanic stopped by and Bob’s suspicions were confirmed. There is a crack in the fiberglass muffler which can be repaired and the thermostat on the starboard engine which is broken, can be replaced. They know we are anxious to get on our way, so they will start the work on Tuesday at 7:30 AM. Bob made some phone calls to locate the parts and get the ball rolling. We hung out on the boat, did some reading, and watched some TV while we waited for Bernie to arrive with a new thermostat. He agreed to pick it up for us in Ft. Myers since he lives nearby and drive it over to us. Bernie arrived about 1:45 and he stayed to visit for awhile. It continued to rain, off and on all day and the forecast is for more rain tomorrow. It’s not such a bad day to be laid up for repairs, I guess. Maybe with all the rain this week, Lake Okeechobee will fill up enough that we will be able to cross it, after all. Stranger things have happened. Then we could go back to Plan A. We’ll have to wait and see what the weather holds. This sign at the marina reminds us how far we have to go.
As the rain continued into the evening, we decided to cook dinner on the stove and not grill tonight. We didn’t want to end up with soggy meat. After dinner we watched TV and made it an early night.
May 19. 2009 – Gasparilla Marina
The first thing I saw out of the hatch this morning, was blue sky…… but it didn’t last long. The clouds moved in and the gray sky took over. We had breakfast and the mechanic arrived about 8:30. He disassembled the exhaust system to discover that the muffler is shattered back to the main body. A 2×2″ piece broke off and there are multiple cracks around the muffler flange.
The fiberglass guy will attempt to repair the muffler as it sits in the boat. It rained for a little bit while we hung out in the boat and watched some daytime TV. I did some wash since we are sitting at the dock. Things were not moving along very quickly and we were getting impatient for the fiberglass guy to begin his work. Well, the fiberglass guy came to access the situation and without getting into all the gory details, our trip has come to a screeching halt. The muffler is shattered and has to be replaced. Unfortunately, the company that made the muffler no longer exists, so a company in Thomasville, GA will recreate a new one for us. It will take about 2-3 weeks to do it, so our trip is canceled for this year. Thank goodness it happened this close to home and not out in the middle of the ocean. We have to take it slow going home up the ICW and should be home sometime tomorrow or Thursday. The boat will come out of the water at the boat yard by our house–Snead Island Boat Works, in the next day or two. They will take the muffler out of the boat after Bob disassembles some of the equipment that is sitting in the way. Once we have the muffler out, we will drive over to Thomasville, GA with the muffler and Vernay (the largest muffler manufacturer in the world) will create a new one just like it. Then we will bring it back and have it installed again at Snead Island. It is a big disappointment, but it has to be done. Our friends will continue on their trip over to the Bahamas. I am jealous that they can go on without us, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Bob worked on making all the arrangements with Snead Island Boat Works and the mechanic returned to the boat to put things back they way they were. We are kind of numb about the whole thing. Stay tuned for any updates.
May 20, 2009- Gasparilla Marina to Palmetto, FL
We got up early, before the sun was up, and prepared to leave. It was a partly cloudy day with the threat of thunderstorms still in the forecast for this afternoon. We wanted to beat the rain and it was going to be a long day at 9 knots for our drive home. We stopped at the gas dock as soon as it opened at 7:00 and got pumped out. We wanted to be waiting at the Boca Grande bridge for its 7:30 opening. Once under the bridge, we started our 66 mile trip home at trawler speed (9 knots/ 10 mph). At that speed, the muffler wouldn’t leak and cause any problems. The ICW was deserted except for a few boats traveling south. It was a warm day once the sun came out, but we could see the storm clouds forming over the Gulf. As we motored slowly north, we noticed a dolphin traveling alongside the boat. It would jump out of the water as it took a breath. He seemed to be quite playful and we enjoyed the show.
He stayed with us for quite awhile, leaping effortlessly, and then was gone as quickly as he had arrived. I guess there’s something to be said for traveling slow, checking out the scenery and the wildlife…..although we prefer to travel a little faster to get where we’re going. It got darker to the northeast, so we were happy to be entering into our home waters of Terra Ceia Bay after 7 long hours of travel. It was a little breezier now and we were a little concerned about the tide, so Bob called our neighbor, Neal, to see if we had enough water in our canal to enter. Neal gave us the “go ahead” and so we motored into our canal and to our dock. Our neighbors, Neal and Denny, were there to lend a hand and we were tied up in no time. Bob and I took a few things off of the boat that we thought we would need for tonight and tomorrow morning……and then it began to rain! The storm came with thunder, lightning, wind, and LOTS of rain. We had gotten home just in time! As we looked on from the porch, we heard hail hitting the roof. Who would have thought we would have hail…in Florida? It continued to rain hard for such a long time that the streets couldn’t handle the amount of rain and we had some flooding in the street. We were exhausted from the long trip and the emotional strain of getting the boat back home without any more trouble. We had dinner and relaxed with some TV before turning in for an early evening. We made it home safely, but the disappointment of having to postpone the trip really took an emotional toil on both of us. Tomorrow we will unload some of the food and our clothes from the boat before it goes in for service. Our friends left for Ballard’s in Ft. Myers Beach today.
May 21, 2009 Palmetto, FL
Bob got up early and unloaded all the refrigerator and freezer items before I got up. After breakfast, I went onto the boat and packed up our clothes and any other items we would need from the boat while it is on “the hard” being repaired. Bob wanted to remove the inverter, water tanks, and take off the dinghy before we take the boat over to Snead for repair. Once it is there, he will have to take out the hydraulic lift pump after they lift the boat out of the water. That will save on a few hours of labor and some dollars. He ordered a new circuit breaker for the generator, too and they will have it there tomorrow. Then that can get fixed correctly. They will also install the new thermostat on the starboard motor and then it will run like new. Tomorrow morning we will take the boat over to the yard and they will begin to remove the muffler. Bob went over there this morning to set everything up and to talk to them about what needs to be done. They said it is possible that they can repair the muffler (maybe even in the boat), but they won’t know for sure until they see it. They have done that kind of repair before. We will have them take out the muffler and see how bad it is. If it is too bad, it will have to be remanufactured by a company in Thomasville, GA. At this point, we don’t want to take any chances with a less-than-stellar repair and we don’t want to have to worry about sinking…..ever! We’ll know more, once they get it out. We are keeping our Bahama options open, but we don’t know yet if our plans to go to the Bahamas will have to wait until next year. Needless to say, we are disappointed beyond words, but are happy to be back home safe and sound. Our friends left Ballard’s heading for Boot Key Harbor in Marathon today. We hope their crossing of Florida Bay goes smoothly.
May 22, 2009 Snead Island Yacht Works, Palmetto, FL
We woke to cloudy skies with the threat of rain. It continues to be humid and warm. Snead Island called to say our generator part had arrived. After checking the radar, we noticed that there are storms moving up from the south along the coast of FL. We are waiting for the storms to pass before we take the boat over to the yard. Finding a weather window of opportunity in the afternoon, we took the 45 minute ride over to Snead Island Boat Works and tied the boat up to the wall there with the help of our neighbor, Denny.
We got there just in time as another bank of storm clouds moved in and the winds picked up. After we got the boat secured to Bob’s satisfaction, we left. Denny was kind enough to give us a ride home from the marina which is only 5 minutes away by car. Bob went back later that afternoon to talk to the service manager and find out the next plan of action would be. The guy told Bob that it is possible that they will be able to repair the muffler without taking it out of the boat. They have done that to other mufflers before, but he would have to take a much closer look at it on Tuesday and make a decision then. The bad part is that it is Memorial Day weekend and they will be closed until Tuesday so we can not move ahead on the repair. From our deck, we sat and looked out at our mini “marina” at the back of our house. It is empty with the fish boat on the trailer in the driveway and the big boat at the yard. We’ll be in limbo for the next couple of days. Our friends were ready to leave for Miami, but discovered that his generator pump had gone out. He had to order one and have it shipped to Marathon, so they will be spending another day there while they wait.
May 23, 2009 Snead Island Boat Works
Bob went back to the boat a couple of times today to check on it because of the storms in the area. The boat was doing fine, but in stepping into the boat on the wooden stair, it cracked. Just ANOTHER thing to fix. Will it ever end? He brought it home and began to repair it. Good thing he is so handy in many areas! I guess it comes with the territory of owning an older boat. Our boating friends are continuing on with their trip and are still in Marathon. Even their boat which is newer has it’s share of problems. Their generator pump went out and they had to wait for one to be shipped to them. He was able to replace it himself and they will be able move on their way tomorrow.
May 24, 2009 Snead Island Boat Works
Bob went down to check on the boat. It is tied to the wall at the entrance to the marina and he is concerned about the waves that will be coming in through the opening. He discovered that some kind soul had placed two HUGE ball fenders, about 3 feet in diameter, on the wall to protect the boat from getting pushed against it. Very thoughtful. He also discovered after checking some of the systems on the boat that the float switch for the forward bilge was not functioning. One more thing to fix. Good thing he discovered it because if there is a leak, the switch allows the water to get pumped overboard. He cleaned it out and came home to get another switch. He’ll go back again and check the boat later today. Meanwhile, we had to clean the dinghy from all the soot that accumulated on it from driving the boat at a slow speed back home. Bob went back later in the afternoon to check the bilge and it was dry. That’s good, but he checked where the leak could be coming from and discovered it was the Y-valve that he had installed for overboard pumpout in the Bahamas. So he fixed that and installed the new switch and everything should work fine. Our friends have moved on to Biscayne Bay near Miami at No Name Harbor and are seeing some of the sights in the area.
May 25, 2009 Snead Island Boat Works
Today is Bob’s birthday so we are going to celebrate by treating ourselves to a movie and dinner at Olive Garden. We’ll stop and check on the boat on our way home. After dinner, we stopped at Snead Island to check on the boat and pick up a few things Bob needed. Everything looked good. We did remove the arms to the lift on the back of the boat in case Bob would have to remove the hydraulic pump for the mechanic to get at the muffler tomorrow. The security guard at the yard knows Bob from all the visits to the yard this weekend. He even calls him by name when he sees him. Our friends moved from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale (New River) and will spend a couple of days there. We feel bad about not being able to be traveling with them, but we get solice from reading Bernie’s blog about the trip. In that way, we can follow their adventures even though we aren’t there with them.
May 26, 2009 Snead Island Boat Works
Bob was up early today to be at the boat yard when they opened at 8:00. In talking with the service manager, they want to remove the muffler while the boat is in the water (saving us a $500 for haulout fee), by heeling the boat over on it’s side so that no water will enter the cavity where the muffler should be. They will also tape off the exhaust pipe in the hull to avoid any water leaking into the boat.
They told Bob they would have the work done today and we should have the boat back tomorrow. Wow! That is unbelievable. Bob has confidence in their ability to do good work and stick to the time schedule. We’ll see. He went down to check on how things were going at noon and saw that the muffler had been removed. They had cut off the end that had been cracked and already done some fiberglass work on the muffler cracks.
They had made a new end and were going to attach it to the body of the muffler.
They are also going to install the new thermostat on the starboard muffler and we will be “good to go”. All that waiting and then the repair went so quickly. Here’s the kicker! IF we would have come straight home instead of going to Gasparilla Marina to try and have the repairs done there, we would have been home on Sunday, the boat would have been in the yard to begin work on Monday, and would have been finished on Tuesday. We could have caught up with our friends on Wednesday and continued on our way. We wasted a whole week waiting for Gasparilla Marina to decide that they couldn’t do the work right away. In hindsight, that was a mistake. That’s water under the bridge now, I guess. In cleaning the dinghy the other day, we discovered a chip out of the fiberglass on the bottom, so another repair is in order.
Denny came over to help Bob with the repair and in just a short time the work was done. Our friends are spending another day in Ft. Lauderdale at New River.
May 27, 2009 Snead Island Boat Works
Bob was up really early and went over to the boat yard to see when the boat would be ready. They were getting ready to reinstall the muffler and tidy up a little in the cockpit. Then we will be ready to bring the boat back home. Bob went back again to witness the starting of the engines and check out the muffler under pressure. He came back and said it would be ready to go at 1:00. We had some lunch and our neighbor gave us a lift over to the yard at 1:00. Bob went inside to pay the bill and I got the boat ready to go. We pulled away from the wall and started the 45 minute ride back to our dock. Once we got into the slow-no wake zone near our house, I took over at the helm so Bob could down below and check out the muffler while we were underway. Everything looked good and the thermostat on the starboard engine was reading “normal” again. We got tied up at the dock without any problems. Now comes the sweaty work. Bob will have to reinstall the inverter and water tank. Then I will help him put the dinghy back on the lift at the back of the boat. Tomorrow we will reload the boat with clothes and some food. If all goes well, by noon tomorrow we will be on our way. Our plan is to cross Lake Okeechobee since the lake levels have come up a lot with all the rain we’ve had. Bob called around today to make arrangements for places to stay and to get fuel. He got some local knowledge from the Army Corps of Engineers about the lock schedule and shallow areas that may cause problems when we cross the lake. We feel confident that everything will be in order for a safe and uneventful trip. Let’s hope! Our friends have moved from Ft. Lauderdale, north to West Palm Beach since the weather wasn’t acceptable for crossing to the Bahamas today.