Saturday, November 30, 2013

Velcro Fuzz

We had the pleasure of spending American Thanksgiving in Vero Beach. Vero beach is so comfortable for cruisers that it nicknamed Velcro beach because so many cruisers get stuck there much longer than planned. WE did indeed meet alot of cruisers who had been there for a while. Many from Quebec, some we had already crossed paths and some we had heard about but was our first time meeting (Maxime, Karine and their very young children (2 & 4 years old) on Angelique their 30ft red hulled sailboat). The mooring field is large and very protected. The spot is so popular that up to three boats sharing a ball is the norm. The facilities are clean and there is a comfortable cruisers lounge. Similar to Titusville a free bus runs a route to town for shopping and to the beach (actually Titusville's shuttle is modelled on Vero's). While all these features make Vero a prime stop it is really the cruising community there that makes Vero stand out. The potluck Thanksgiving dinner organized by the cruisers was well attended (about 100) and a lot of fun. Everyone even brings their own plates & cups (note cruising etiquette). The food was delish. There was music. We met very interesting and experienced couples at our table. We learned a lot and made some great friends. Cassandra even won a raffle prize: one free night at a ritzy marina (normally $5) about 10 miles further south at Fort Pierce.

After the dinner we visited our new friends Jeff & Debbie on their beautiful new 42ft catamaran Sea Sparrow. From Halifax, this is their first boat (took ownership in Florida three weeks earlier) and first time headed south. We had a great time onboard and enjoyed all the space!

Our ghetto blue plates... we have better but had no idea it would be such a fancy shindig.

Table 10 forever!

Sweet new bilge compartment racks I built. Look at all that wasted space no made useful!

Ever have to use a screw extractor? I hadn't until now.

Strange ball fellows. Do you agree with hull mixing? What's happened to the south?!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Windy Mooring Filed - Another Gale Day

Titusville mooring field can also get pretty rough on windy days. The video is not the greatest and not edited at all. As usual video doesn't do reality justice.
Imagine your home riding a mechanical bull all day. Good times ;-)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Titusville Loves Cruisers

Titusville, located on Florida's Space Coast, has been on my list of stops since departure. Not for reasons of beauty, historical significance or visiting someone here but because Titusville makes sense. It is warm, it is reasonably priced, it is simple, and Titusville caters to cruisers. The Municipal marina has a wonderful free shuttle for cruisers that will basically take you anywhere in town. Thus far we've used it four times and gotten a ton of stuff done. The mini bus hold fifteen people but three times it was just us (incl dog) and once there was just one other couple. You basically sign up with your destinations and they shuttle you around to them. Know what you want and just running in quick? They'll wait for you. Need more time? They'll come back to pick you up while they shuttle others around. Some local businesses sponsor the shuttle so we try and support them first.

Titusville is also home to Westland Marina a full service yard but also a full do it yourself yard. Coincidentally Westland Marina was the only yard that provided me with a haul out “agreement” required by my one of the hurricane insurance companies I was considering (ultimately went with another insurance company without this silly requirement).

Titusville is where we are stopping for several days before continuing on to the hype of southern Florida. Here, we'll do a lot of of the maintenance & repairs needed before our big crossing to the Bahamas. I'd prefer to do them here because then we still have time in southern Florida to deal with any unforeseen problems from these maintenance & repair activities (hey whenever you change something there's always a risk, I don't want to make a change without an adequate shakedown test period and then have an issue in the middle of the Gulf Stream)

Heck we even saw a NASA space launch to Mars while enjoying margaritas at a local tiki bar. Over in a flash (pun intended) but still how cool is that?!

Titusville is also the best place to access Universal Studios and Disney World, a must for Cassandra.

I tried to convince the two boats were were traveling with, Lilly Pong and Gatito to also stay for a few days but they decided to continue on to Vero Beach. So it goes on this mass migration south, constantly meeting and parting ways. We'll definitely meet up with them again further south in Florida and maybe even cross with Lilly Pong, taking some their seven crew onboard with us.

Also in Titusville we finally caught up with Oséo! We've been chasing them the whole way down! This is a young couple with two children. They set off from Montreal (well Lake Champlain) a month before us on a two year voyage. They are homeschooling (boat schooling?) the kids. They were in newspapers and on TV just before leaving. They've always been just a few steps ahead of us but we finally caught up with them here! Looking forward to actually meeting them in person! They've actually just retiunred form Disney and we're just going so we'll likely have to catch up to them again.

Lilly Pong - 4 21 y/o cool dudes. Note hammock at front

Doing nothing...

Americans love bumper stickers... or bumper billboards!

There be a rocket in the distance

A better photo of a another launch day from the marina

Little friends

Engine maintenance - I'm actually not very happy with the way things are going here.

Dog maintenance

Manatees love drinking fresh water and getting their belly's rubbed

A face only a mother could love

High guys



Friday, November 15, 2013

Power to the People

Managing resources is the key to live (well) cruising on a sailboat (i.e. away from the
dock and land). There are many different kinds of resources on our boat; diesel, gas,
food, water, drinking water, clean clothes, space and even the holding tank. In future
posts I'd like to discuss ways of efficiently managing each of these resources but today
I'd like to focus specifically on electrical power. As we take a day off traveling today
("gale day") and just swing on the hook managing our very limited electricity resources
is paramount.
Managing resources can be split into three topics: (1)storage, (2)output, (3)input

Storage (i.e. for immediate use) of electricity is obviously in the form of batteries. We
have two boat batteries:
Motomaster Nautilus 900amp Reserve Capacity/Amp Hour, 205min/115Ah
Motomaster Nautilus 730amp Reserve Capacity/Amp Hour, 160min/100Ah
One battery we use as the house battery when we are at anchor (i.e. for cabin lights,
water pressure, radio, VHF radio, masthead light, charging other devices, etc.)
One battery we strictly reserve for starting the diesel engine.
In addition to the boat batteries there a many other device batteries, rechargeable and
single use. Laptops, phones, radios, flashlights, cameras, tools. One of our frustrations
is the wide variety of chargers that we have to keep on hand to recharge each of these
devices. We have mess of wires plugs, taking up space (another limited resource).

The use of our various devices drains their particular batteries. I would say that devicewise our biggest energy expenditure are probably laptop, US cell phone (mostlytethering for Internet), our iPhones and VHF radios.
The biggest drain on our battery bank is by far our refrigerator, so much so that if the
batteries are not actually being recharged we can't run the refrigerator just off the battery. This makes keeping food a challenge, a topic for another post.
The second biggest consumer is lighting, specifically our incandescent light bulbs. While these bulbs produce a nice warm light they are wildly inefficient and most energy is lost to heat. Comparatively new LED bulbs consume a only fraction of the power. LED's produce a slightly less appealing light colour (although they now come in “warm white”) but the power savings are significant. We have a few installed as test. We have a bunch more on order and soon the entire cabin will be LED. One incandescent bulb that is harder to change is the masthead light that is left on all night when we're at anchor. Experience has shown that this bulb alone being left on all night can drain the entire battery by morning. This bulb is a different size than those in the cabin and replacing it with an LED requires going up the mast with tools, etc. so unfortunately we'll have to wait.

Other boat battery power drains include:
Water Pressure Pump
Devices (laptops, phones, handheld VHF radios, etc.)
Radio & Speakers
VHF Radio

Currently on Topanga we only have two electrical generation sources.
Our primary diesel engine that runs a 35amp alternator. When we're underway using the engine we produce plenty of energy. Not only do the boat batteries get fully charged but we have a prioritized list of devices to recharge through a 12V DC cigarette lighter outlet. Because some of our devices can only be charged with AC we also have an inverter that accepts regular two-pronged house plugs. Recently we've just upgraded to another inverter that, in addition to the regular two-prong wall plug, also has a USB port. So now we can charge two things at the same time. This is big news for us!

Running diesel engine for short periods at low loads is actually unhealthy for it. Diesel engines like to be run long & hard. When we're at anchor and the batteries are depleted we run our portable gas generator. Some bigger / newer boats have generators integrated. We do not. Started like a pull lawnmower, the generator can produce a whopping 2000Watts. It sits up on deck and we run an extension cord to the boat's shore power plug (just as if we were plugging into dock power). When the generator is running everything gets charged; the batteries and all devices which are plugged into the many AC house outlets in every room. We make sure everything is plugged in (we have a checklist so we don't forget anything). Cassandra even takes advantage to straighten her hair. Many people who are at anchor for extended periods run their generator for one hour in the morning and one in the evening. It is the fastest way to recharge everything. That being said, frankly, I'm not such a huge fan of portable gas generators. Due to its size and contents (gas) we have to keep it up on deck. This takes up valuable deck space, risks falling over in rough seas (although we have it securely strapped to the mast it did fall over once, in that same rogue wave that took our dinghy). Bright red and up on deck it is also a highly visible target for thieves so we have to lock it to the mast as well. It's noisy. It makes exhaust. Like any internal combustion engine it requires maintenance (oil changes, filters, etc.). Its vibrations can be felt throughout the boat which I fear will cause cracks in the gelcoat (I've taken to sliding a cockpit cushion under it to dampen the vibrations).

If I had my dithers we'd have additional sources of electricity like solar panels and a wind generator. These are free and limitless, well as long as there's sun and wind, which there often is. These two energy sources further build on the sailing philosophy of directly harnessing natures power. Unfortunately these both have significant purchase costs and take complex installation & wiring Choices had to be made for departure and the gas generator was the obvious one.

One little device onboard that is energy independent is our Eton Crank / Solar Radio (AM/FM/Weather, Flashlight and USB Charger. My sister got it for us after her experience without power during Super Storm Sandy last year. Under license from the Red Cross and meant for disaster situations this little device can be charged by a little solar panel on the top or can be hand cranked to produce energy. Two minutes of cranking gets about twenty minutes of radio play, thirty minutes of LED flashlight. USB charging however takes significantly more cranking. Just for fun I tested it out and it took about five minutes of cranking to increase my iPhone's battery charge by only 1%. Not stellar but, useful if you're in a pinch. If we're at anchor for extended periods we use the crank radio instead of the boat radio for music and news. It's kind of a fun thing to crank it yourself when it dies (and also a bit of exercise...)

As you can see electrical power is of prime concern to us on a constant basis and we are very conscious of our energy usage. Remarkable to be living "off the grid". Stark contrast to how we used to live on land with hardly a care for electrical energy, especially in Quebec where electrical energy is plentiful and cheap. Next time you flip a light switch or turn on the TV think of us.

Mission Control Panel. We look at this a lot!

LED vs. Incandescent... uncomfortable bedfellows

Plus one iPhone that took this photo

Lil' Red

Perpetual motion machine?? Almost!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gale Day

On Sunday forecasts called for gale force winds & waves starting Tuesday evening through Wednesday. We decided to take advantage of the intervening weather window and head out again into the ocean on Monday. At sunrise we hoisted the outboard onto the stern rail mount (home made), the dinghy up on deck and the anchor up (that's a lot of hoisting for so early but the previous evening I was outvoted to use the last hours of sunlight to go ashore and shower instead...). We headed down the Wilmington river and out into the great blue. With a full genoa we ran almost dead downwind in 18knots and following seas of 5feet. While these wind & wave directions have caused us difficulty in the past, this time is worked because the wind was strong enough to hold the sail on tack even against wave rocking. We made great speed, averaging about 7.5knots and topping out at 10.2knots riding a wave. We were really satisfied to be back out into the ocean versus the monotony of motoring the ICW day-after-day. I think it was also a confidence boost to prove that we have not lost our hard-won ocean mettle.

We arrived at our intended inlet earlier than expected and decided to bypass our planned anchorage and take advantage of the incoming tidal current to make significant bonus progress. Total mileage for the day... 55 nautical miles (typically we average about 40)!

While the weather was only supposed to turn Tuesday evening we resisted bumping out again and instead erred on the side of caution, motor sailing inland, making it almost to the Florida border. Ultimately the weather was great all day (even easier than Monday) and we totally could have gone out again but no regrets. We dropped anchor in a marsh creek at sunset, positioning ourselves for the impending north winds and letting out extra chain for the expected 40knots gusts.

Exactly as predicted around 19:00 the wind kicked up. While the marsh provided excellent wave and current protection it provided almost no wind protection. We rocked and rolled all night with the wind howling outside. This made our poor dog Dexter very nervous and he was up almost all night pacing around and breathing heavily. We kind of half slept and I got up & out a couple of times to make sure everything was OK. Stepping out into it was a blast of cold air to the face (they did say it was a Canadian cold front).The wind indicator showed 32knots. The chain was pulling hard but we were secure. I felt really bad for anybody actually out on the ocean in this.

By Wednesday morning the worst was over (or maybe it just seemed that way in the light of day) but winds remained very strong so we declared it a "gale day", like a snow day where you get to stay home from school or work. We slept in, Cassandra made pumpkin & spice scones in the oven (even while the boat rocked). The delicious aroma was great to wake up to (yes I had kept sleeping). We read, scrap booked, relaxed, listened to the radio. All in all a good day, even if we didn't make any progress south.

Nice neighbourhood! The sailboat in the distance is on the ICW.

Mmmm... warm pumpkin scones... drool....

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Go Amateur

Finally, broke out the GoPro Camera today. I rigged a mount on the end of boat hook so the perspective would be from off the boat. This is as we were coming across a sound in South Georgia. Too bad we didn't have it yesterday in the ocean when we reached 10.2 knots going down following seas.

Then I struggled exporting the video with our new iMovie software and adding a bit of music. The original is high definition and very clear but is also huge (250MB) and would be very long to stream online.

Here is the very rough finished product of pictures and video. We'll try to make and post more videos.

Tonight we're anchored here if anyone's in the area (check it out in satellite view). I guess we spend a lot of nights in marshes.


At the tip of our vessel

And now from the back

Thursday, November 7, 2013

11 : 1

Beaufort South Carolina (pronounced bew-fort) not to be confused with Beaufort North Carolina (pronounced bo-fort) is a exceptional place. Definitely one of our favourites so far. Great anchorages, free dinghy docks. Immediately after coming ashore we hopped on a horse drawn carriage tour. The inspiring natural beauty of old tress draped in spanish moss combined with the unique architecture and remarkable history made this visit a highlight.

While Charleston had the country's biggest slave market most customers must have come from Beaufort; here the black slave to white citizen ratio was a record 11:1 ! The white population of Charleston stood at only one thousand versus eleven thousand slaves! The going rate of the day for a slave was the equivalent of about $43,000 in today's dollars which made slave ownership, as an asset, the second driver of wealth after cotton. Beaufort cotton is apparently very special, a specific strain called Sea Island Cotton whose feel is very silky. Sea Island Cotton was worth about five times as much as normal cotton.

During the War of Northern Aggression Beaufort fell, without a shot, to Union troops as the whites fled. General Sherman made Beaufort a military hospital where injured Union soldiers from the front came, likely to meet the surgeon's blade. Tombstones were expropriated for use as operating tables. It subsequently took a group of women 12 years to replace them on the correct graves.

I love trees. Believe that trees, especially old trees, possess a magical power to make people healthier, happier and wiser. Maybe this is why I had such a sense of well being in Beaufort. Old old trees everywhere, dripping in haunting spanish moss. I've admired spanish moss in films and was particularly looking forwarded to seeing it in the south but this surpassed all of my expectations. Pervasive. Slow. Serene. During the carriage tour we learned from Todd, our guide, that spanish moss derives its nutrients from the air, is transplanted by birds from tree-to-tree, from branch-to-branch by gravity and is part of the pineapple family. Who knew?



Great Fuel Efficiency

Robert Small - Slave to Ship Captain to Congressman but, much to his mother's dismay not a jewish doctor


Burritos! Going into our Top 10