'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness' - Mark Twain
Logbook: Florida, Engine Woes, and Passage to Virginia, May to August 2007
When we arrived Key West in mid-May, we had grand plans for the Summer - cruising through Florida and then heading up to the Chesapeake for a few months before leaving the boat in mid-August to fly to Canada for a couple weeks. As often happens with cruising plans, things didn't work out quite the way we expected them to. We ended up having engine problems and spent over two months in South Florida, including six weeks on the hard in a boat yard, eventually installing a new engine. Most of our summer was spent working on the boat, but we still managed a couple of visits with family and friends. We finally made it to the Chesapeake in early August, with just enough time to secure Slip Away and catch our flight to Canada. Cruising the Chesapeake will just have to wait another year.
After Susie and Mike left Key West to head home on Sunday afternoon, we went to meet Buddy and Annie, who own and live on Evening Star, which is an Islander Freeport 41, just like ours. We became acquainted with Buddy and Annie by email through a Yahoo Group that was established for IF41 owners. They live in Key West and were incredibly gracious and hospitable to us. Annie works at the Mel Fisher museum, and she invited us to come and visit the museum, which we did. Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter and discovered a couple of treasure-laden sunken Spanish galleons off the coast of the Florida Keys. Visiting the museum was a great way to pass a few hours. Buddy is a captain on a boat taking tourists on day trips out to the Dry Tortugas National Park (islands out past Key West), and he also invited us to spend a day with him. We intended to go out to the Dry Tortugas with Buddy, but that morning the weather was unsettled and we discovered that our engine wouldn't start, so unfortunately, we had to cancel those plans.
Passage to North Palm Beach (5/20-21). After our weekend in Miami, we were eager to continue north. We had plans to meet friends in Palm Beach for Memorial Day weekend and decided we'd try to sort out our engine problems once we got there.
While we were in Miami, the weather was unsettled - very windy and rainy. There was a break in the weather on Monday, but the forecast still called for a small craft advisory in the Gulf Stream, which we had hoped to ride north to Palm Beach. We had the option of going north via the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), but that would be a motor trip, and between Miami and Palm Beach, there were 28 bridges that would require opening for us to pass. This was our first time dealing with bridge openings, and we were a little nervous about it. We decided to check out the Gulf Stream, thinking that some of the passages we did in the Caribbean were probably under "small craft advisory" conditions. Preparing for a rough ride, we each took a half dose of seasickness medication and motored across Biscayne Bay toward the channel to go outside. As we got to the channel, we saw another sailboat (larger than us) coming in. We hailed him on the radio, and asked him what it was like on the outside. He said he was trying to go north but turned around because it was too rough out there for him - he kept burying his bow into the seas and couldn't make any headway. It took us about two minutes to make our decision. We turned around and headed for the ICW.
Old Port Cove Marina, North Palm Beach (5/22-6/16). Our plan was to stop in North Palm Beach for Memorial Day weekend, and when we arrived there, we pulled into Old Port Cove Marina. Gorch & Ingrid were continuing north the next day, but they stopped and anchored for the night in a pretty spot just outside our marina. We had dinner aboard Going that evening and said good-bye to these new friends. What a nice couple - they were aware of our engine problems and accompanied us all the way from Key West to ensure we would make it to Palm Beach safely.
We arrived in North Palm Beach on a Tuesday, and on Friday, our friends John & Camille were flying in from California to meet us here. Camille's parents own a house in Jupiter, Florida (just a few miles north), and Slip Away would stay at the marina while we spent the weekend at their home.
We had a couple of days before the weekend to try and find a mechanic to come out and look at our engine to figure out why we were having problems starting it. We called one of the local boatyards, and they referred us to a company willing to send out a mechanic on Friday morning - at a time-and-a-half hourly rate, since it was an "emergency" call. Mike the mechanic showed up on Friday morning, and after starting and running the engine a bit, he checked the oil and found water in it. (Rich had previously checked the oil, but he checked it after the engine had cooled and the water intrusion was not evident.) Initial diagnosis was that it was probably a blown head gasket. Mike had other work scheduled for Friday afternoon, and we had friends to meet, so we called his company and asked them to schedule Mike to come back when he was available at the "non-emergency" rate.
Shortly thereafter, John & Camille gave us a call and said they were on their way to pick us up. We secured Slip Away for the weekend, and went off to spend some time at Camille's parents' home.
Back at Old Port Cove . . . We spent the next few weeks at Old Port Cove Marina dealing with our engine woes. We waited a week for Mike the mechanic's schedule to free up so that he could come back and spend a day tearing down Slip Away's engine. Then we waited two more weeks for test results from the machine shop on the engine cylinder head. Although we would have preferred hanging out at the beach every day, this was a good opportunity for us to tackle some boat projects, and now that we were back in the States, finding the materials we needed to complete the boat projects would be much easier.
Although being back in the U.S. had it benefits, we were feeling a bit displaced. Old Port Cove Marina was filled with big power boats, so we were the odd one out on a cruising sailboat. It also felt strange that there were very few other people around. Where was the boating community? Most of the fancy power boats sat unused, and since it was the off-season, there was very little activity around the high rise condo/apartment buildings that surrounded the marina.
Despite its lack of people, Old Port Cove's location was good for us. Groceries, a West Marine store, restaurants and ice cream were all within walking distance. It was a nice neighborhood and safe to walk at night. Places out of range by foot could be reached by bus, and there was a bus stop right in front of the marina, although that required some planning as the bus only ran once an hour and quit running at 6 p.m. Billy at the Ice Cream Club (across the street from the marina) became one of our best friends.
Since there weren't other boaters around, we were glad to hear from some friends that they were coming to Florida and would stop by to see us. Mary Beth & Doug Desch and their son Alex (from Cincinnati) came to Palm Beach Shores for a week of vacation, and they visited us at the marina and took us out to dinner one evening. Also, Peter & Laura Taylor (from Australia) were in Florida visiting Laura's family, and they also came by one day, and we went out for lunch. Peter & Laura also helped us get our propane tanks filled, which otherwise would have necessitated that we rent a car or take a taxi (and, taxis cost a lot more in south Florida than they do in Central America).
Rich celebrated a birthday (June 7) while we were at Old Port Cove, and we took the day off from boat chores, took the bus to the Gardens Mall, had lunch, did some shopping (but not much buying), and drank milkshakes and people-watched while sitting on a comfy couch in the air conditioned mall. That evening, we went out for sushi at a Chinese restaurant. Although we normally eat sushi at a Japanese restaurant, we thought we'd give the Chinese restaurant a try because we were in the mood for sushi, and this was the only sushi restaurant within walking distance. It was OK, but next time we want sushi, we'll look for a Japanese restaurant.
One of our concerns about being stuck in Florida for so long was the weather. Hurricane season officially started on June 1, and that weekend, Tropical Storm Barry passed over Florida. Although Barry passed north of us, that evening we saw over 40 knots of wind in the marina (the boat down the dock said he saw 48 on his anemometer). We were eager to move on. And, of course, our plans for spending the summer in the Chesapeake were slowly evaporating.
Engine Woes. After sitting in Old Port Cove for a few weeks and getting discouraging news on our old engine, we finally made the decision to install a new engine. The full story and photos on our new engine installation can be found on our Florida 2007 Refit web page.
Cracker Boy Boat Works, Riviera Beach, Florida (6/16-7/27). Slip Away needed to be hauled out at a boatyard for the re-power, and Cracker Boy Boat Works in Riviera Beach looked to be our best option. We were towed to Cracker Boy boatyard on Saturday (6/16), hauled out, and on the following Tuesday, Marine Pro (the company we hired for the new engine installation) came and pulled out our old engine. Marine Pro had some other jobs to finish up and some prep work to do on our new engine before they could install it, and six weeks passed before they were back to install the new engine.
Waiting for the new engine was not idle time - we had lots of boat chores to do. With the engine out of the way, Rich could more easily reach plumbing lines, and he replaced numerous hoses and fittings, installed a new water heater tank, painted the bilge and did a number of other projects that have been on our "to-do" list for quite a while. Jan also had a long "to-do" list, which included several sewing projects, website updates, lots of cleaning, some painting, touching up some of the interior varnish and writing her first article for publication in a sailing magazine.
Cracker Boy's boatyard was located near the Port of Palm Beach, and this unfortunately was not a very nice area (close proximity to gangland). There wasn't much we could walk to, and we definitely didn't want to venture out on foot at night. During the day, we could walk to a Miami Subs restaurant, and we went there at least once a week for lunch. There was one restaurant that we could walk to safely at night - the Tiki Grill - which is part of the Riviera Beach Marina, right next door to the boatyard. It had a nice atmosphere, and the food was good. We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary (July 3) by having dinner there. Although close by, the Tiki Grill was reserved only for special occasions. The new engine was a big hit to our budget, and sticker shock was a part of the culture shock we were experiencing. We were longing for the cheap dinners and beers that we enjoyed in Mexico and Central America.
Since life in the boatyard wasn't terribly comfortable, we took a few breaks and got away from it. Twice we rented a car for a weekend and went to visit friends and family. One weekend, we drove to Tampa and visited our friends Mike & Jill Hammoor. It had been a few years since we'd seen Mike & Jill, and we wished we could have spent a few more days just catching up with them. Another weekend, we drove up to Jacksonville to visit Rich's brother Ron and his family. They always make us feel welcome in their home, and the weekend passed too quickly.
For a few days while in the yard, we actually had a visitor aboard Slip Away - our friend Steve Nall from San Diego. He showed courage and fortitude, sticking out some hot, muggy and buggy days and nights. Rich & Steve also took a road trip up to Cocoa, FL to visit Marine Pro and see how the work on our new engine was progressing. Also, Gene Tareshawty (Camille's Dad) flew down to spend a few days at their house in Jupiter, and he came to the boatyard to see Slip Away and go out for dinner. It had been a few years since we last saw Gene, and we had a great visit and very enjoyable dinner with him.
Our last weekend in the boatyard, we splurged and spent a night at the Super 8 motel in North Palm Beach. Our friend Linda on Motu drove us to the hotel, and on the way, she pointed out a great little bar where we walked to for lunch and ate excellent burgers washed down with ice cold (and cheap) beers. We spent the next 24 hours in our air-conditioned hotel room. We watched a lot of TV, ate pizza, and tried to reduce some of the stress that had been building. Our engine vendor had initially told us our re-power would take no longer than three to four weeks. We had already been in the boatyard five weeks, and when we talked with him that week, he wasn't making any promises about coming the next week. We had airline reservations to travel to Canada from Baltimore in a few weeks, and we were becoming worried that we would not make our flight.
Marine Pro finally showed up on Thursday and Friday of the following week (7/26-27) and installed our new engine. We both let out a huge sigh of relief when we saw their truck pull in the boatyard on Thursday morning, and another when they showed up again on Friday. By Friday afternoon, the engine installation was complete, and Slip Away went back in the water.
Riviera Beach to Cocoa, FL (7/28-7/29). With our new engine installed, it was time for us to start breaking it in. We left Riviera Beach early on Saturday morning and started motoring north along the ICW. Marine Pro's shop is located in Cocoa (100 miles north of Palm Beach), and the plan was that we would spend the weekend motoring up to Cocoa via the ICW, and on Monday, they would do a final check on our engine.
The trip up the ICW was relatively, but not totally, uneventful. On Saturday, we traveled 61½ nm in 9½ hours, and Rich made sure we varied RPM's to break the engine in properly. We had eight bridges that required opening, but by now bridge openings no longer intimidated us. About the time we were deciding to stop and anchor for the night, an alarm went off below. Our dripless shaft seal had slipped forward and was pouring water into the bilge. We stopped and anchored at Pine Island, and Rich was able to fix the problem for our trip the next day. We slept well that night, rocking gently at anchor and with the keel cooled by the waters of the ICW.
On Sunday, we continued on and traveled 49 more miles in 7½ hours. We had only one bridge opening on Sunday - a nice bonus! We passed under several other bridges, but they were built with 65' clearance, high enough for us to pass under with room to spare. The ICW changed a lot the further north we got. We were no longer driving through the display of opulence we found in South Florida. This area was less developed and more natural. Instead of big powerboats, we saw folks out on the ICW in smaller fishing boats. We pulled into Harbortown Canaveral Marina in Port Canaveral at 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. We liked the Harbortown Marina - lots of sailboats and lots of friendly people around. And, small world that it is, we even saw a sailboat that had been moored next to us in Honduras (but the owners were off the boat at the time).
Jan's favorite part of the journey occurred as we were approaching the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. When she took over the watch at midnight, winds were light, seas were flat, and we were motor-sailing. After about an hour, the wind built enough to turn off the engine and sail, and we reached on flat seas up to the red and white "CB" buoy at the entrance to the Bay. She sat on the edge of the cockpit enjoying the third quarter moon shining down and listening to music through the iPod earbuds. Life was very good!! At 4 a.m., Rich took over the watch, and a couple hours later, he sailed Slip Away past a submarine headed toward Norfolk. We arrived at the York River Yacht Haven in Gloucester Point later that day. The weather was hot, and the humidity was so thick we could see it hanging in the air.
York River Yacht Haven, Gloucester Point, VA. We came to the York River Yacht Haven because our friends Jay & Danica from Alkahest were here. Jay is the new manager of the boatyard here, and we had a couple more boat projects on the to-do list for this Fall. This would be a good place to take care of those items, and Jay & Danica told us they would keep an eye on Slip Away while we traveled to Canada. When we arrived in Virginia, our flight to Canada was just eleven days away. We spent a little over a week getting Slip Away put away for our trip and, in spite of the heat, we even managed to get a couple coats of varnish on some of the outside trim. We arrived Virginia just in time for a heat wave, and we found it incredible that it could be even hotter here than it was in South Florida.
From Virginia, we took a train up to Maryland and visited with Rich's sister Kathleen and her family for a few days before leaving for Canada. We left Virginia with temps in the 100's, but our bags were packed with fleece, long underwear, hats and gloves. We were off to Edmonton, Alberta, for the 50th wedding anniversary party of our cruising friends Bob & Kay (from Kay II) and then we were meeting other cruising friends, Iain & Aly (from Loon III) to tour the Canadian Rockies.