We returned to Marathon from our little six-day shakedown/snorkel cruise to make repairs. We had a glorious time in spite of the little hiccups with equipment failure. The snorkeling was amazing, the sunsets spectacular, and we had plenty of good food & drink. We had good anchorages – although none of them had access to shore, so we were six days without setting foot on land. The sailing was at times horrifically slow as often we had little or no wind. Most of the time we coasted along at 2 or 3 knots– which wasn’t an issue since we were in no hurry. We were never actually becalmed, but almost so. We enjoyed reading, listening to the satellite radio, and just relaxing. I made a rule that if our speed were less than one knot for over an hour we’d run the engine. How I hated to turn it on, especially since it wasn’t even charging the batteries. Also, even under power, I could barely make 3 knots. Something was definitely awry.
We’ve been busy the past week working on a long project list in anticipation of setting out on another voyage – this time we’re headed west toward the Dry Tortugas and would like to be away for a two to three weeks. We’ll need to keep a tight watch on weather, as we don’t want to venture too far from hurricane holes this time of year.
Oh, the projects we’ve done this week. I’m so tired tonight I’m actually lying in my bunk at 8 p.m.! But it’s all good and much was accomplished and everything is looking ship shiny (except me). We’re sporting a new 44 pound Ronca as our primary anchor. It’s a little rough for me to pull up even with the windlass, but I can do it. I also replaced all the old nylon rode as it was so stiff, it was barely useable and took up too much space. I carry 50 feet at the end of my 150 ft of chain on the primary anchor. The secondary anchor has 40 ft of chain and 125 ft of nylon rode. The kedge anchor has 150 ft of new rode. I ended up buying a whole spool of the stuff, and now have several long pieces stowed should I need them for tying up to mangroves in prep for a hurricane. I learned how to splice lines from a book, and after about 3 attempts did a very respectable job splicing the new line to the anchor chain. Then I whipped all the new line I’d cut before stowing it.
The alternator was replaced, but the darn tachometer is still not working. I also added a new roller furling line – as the old one was too big to work properly and required a Herculean effort to roll it in. All the blocks in the reefing system were worn out and had to be replaced – and now it works as it should – quickly and easily. Of course it was not possible to find the exact replacement parts so some extra sanding & cutting was required – and of course a couple of bolts were frozen too and had to be drilled out. A quick boat project never turns out to be quick!
DJ helped me replace the lazy jack lines as they were worn threadbare. I had everything rigged and ready, and even tried to climb up the mast steps, but chickened out about ½ way to the spreaders – and that with a glass of wine for courage. Coleen climbed up lickety split (she also was strapped in the bosin chair) but she couldn’t get the knots freed up. Finally DJ climbed up and had it done in about 2 minutes. That man is a climber! I once saw him climb up his mast to the spreaders in just a few seconds – with just his bare hands and feet – no mast steps either! Anyway, I’m determined to muster the courage to climb the mast. I’ve got a goal to go up just one more step each week… until I finally get comfortable. (Nah – it will never happen!)
During our shakedown cruise the autopilot had a terrible time holding a course. It would just all of a sudden decide on a new direction, make a lot of noise and then head off as though it had a mind of its own. It seemed to want to head to Cuba. This usually happened when I was down below trying to get a meal together. Not too surprising though as the autopilot compass was 1) facing aft rather than toward the bow and 2) was right over the engine and the pots/pans locker. I moved it to a more suitable location well, away from anything metal, and it seems to be working better. I took her out yesterday for a little sea trial and to swing the compass – and all was good. While all the lockers were torn apart, I added a connection between the GPS and the autopilot too. I still need to install the rudder sensor – but have run out of energy and am anxious to leave. Plus it is darn hot in that cockpit locker this time of year – it’s like working in a sauna. I swear I spent about three days in there this week and I don’t want to see it again for a while!
I added another layer of insulation to the fridge using foam board. It doesn’t look that great, and may not last long – but it seems to be helping a bit as the compressor is running less. That was a bear of a job that took most of an afternoon – but on the plus side it was cool working with my head in the fridge.
Despite all our best efforts we can’t get the Lowrance Chartplotter to work. Very frustrating it was all hooked up and working just fine. I then disconnected the antenna and mounted it on the on the coaming & reconnected it --- now it doesn’t work – getting an error message which implies it’s not getting power! We even pulled out all the wires and rechecked the connections. I even bought another antenna – and that didn’t work either. Anyway, I’ve decided to let it go for now and have hooked up the spare GPS which is just a plain Jane GPS. I probably need the navigation practice anyway.
Speaking of navigation – I’ve been collecting tons of charts! A few weeks ago, a fellow was having an “I quit or the wife is leaving me” sale. He’d been headed to the Philippines with his wife, they made it as far as somewhere in Mexico… ended up on a reef sustaining only minimal damage, but it was enough to make his wife opt for an airline ticket. He brought the boat back to Marathon to sell along with all it’s goodies. Anyway, I made out with a lot of charts from approaches to Panama and the South Pacific through Fiji. (I also got his old beach umbrella – because hey – that’s an important spare part!). Also, this week someone in the harbor loaded up the book swap with about 50 charts. I’ve got charts for the Med, Australia, some of the Caribbean, Costa Rica & Cuba. It’s fun to look through them, but charts take up a lot of stowage. Not sure if I can keep all of them.
We also went to a estate sale for a fellow who had a boat in the harbor who liked whiskey more than living. It was sad, but there were a lot of great deals and they just needed to get rid of the stuff. I got a very nice wind vane for $250, lots of cruising guides, a new ice chest, a teak binocular rack ($5) and one of those little tools you use to measure voltage ($5).
Today, I cleaned the boat inside and out, installed a fan in the head, put new hinges on Coleen’s hanging locker, mounted a bracket for the GPS, made new labels for the electrical panel, and re-stowed everything in the dreaded cockpit locker. All this, in between squalls and opening closing the hatches & ports a dozen times.
Tomorrow, I need to do a grocery run, laundry, get the propane tank filled and re-anchor the old Glass Slipper. If I manage all that we should be ready to head out on Sunday!