Guest Blog from the First Mate

Hello to all of Captain Jim’s blog readers.  I am Jim’s wife, Janet, as well as First Mate aboard our boat, Magic Carpet.  I thought it would be fun to do a little writing and share some of our boating life with you.

Our boat’s address is the T-head of G dock at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach.  It has called that space home since late 2010.  Originally, I used the boat as a floating condo when I took a job just south of Daytona, prior to us moving to the coast.  I loved getting up early and eating my breakfast out on the aft deck, watching the birds and the dolphin before heading in to the office. Although the boat hardly moved that first year, we had fun spending time at the dock, getting to know our dock neighbors while working on countless projects aboard Magic Carpet.

Once most of the big fixes were complete, we started with short day trips that allowed us to get comfortable handling the boat.  Jim became adept at the wheel pretty quickly.  We practiced docking under different winds (blowing us off the dock, onto the dock, etc.) and I improved on my methods for getting lines around the cleats on the dock and other first mate duties.

We installed a new windlass and anchor rode a while back and put in several days of practicing our anchoring techniques as well.  We found it works best if I take the wheel and Jim goes down to the bow to man the windlass operation.  We really do make a good team!

More recently we have ventured out on overnighters and weekends aboard.  We’ve stayed at marinas in Palm Coast, St. Augustine and Titusville as well as at anchor at Rock House Creek (Ponce Inlet).  It has all been lots of fun, relaxing and satisfying.  With my recent retirement (wow, that still seems strange to say), we now have more free time to venture out.  We decided last month to head south on the Intracoastal Waterway  (ICW) and put some hours on the engines.

Our first day took us from our home port in Daytona Beach south to Titusville.  It is a really beautiful stretch of water and it was just picture perfect weather that day.  The scenery includes the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, beautiful homes along the river in New Smyrna and Edgewater, and then lots of natural areas heading into and including the Mosquito Lagoon, an acclaimed destination for inshore fishing and bird watching.

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On the waterway approaching New Smyrna with Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in the background.

There is a long No Wake Zone in one section of this trip where I spotted several manatee off our bow.  And we had dolphin jumping our wake on several occasions which is just so much fun to watch!

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Haulover Canal connects the Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River, and from there, you can go further south along the ICW.  The canal is man-made and about a mile long.

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In the center of this aerial photo, the word ‘Allenhurst’ shows the location of Haulover Canal.  The body of water to the right of that is the Mosquito Lagoon and the water on the far right is the Atlantic Ocean.  The water to the left of the canal is the Indian River.

Haulover Canal has important historical significance in the Shira family.  Jim’s great uncle George Shira owned Allenhurst Fishing Camp on the canal back in the 1950s and 60s, until NASA came along.  The fishing camp was popular with locals and tourists; however, all the people in the area had to be relocated in order for NASA to have the land necessary for the space program.  I like to think of it as George and Jib Shira doing their part in getting man to the moon by quietly taking what the federal government decided was fair value for their property and their business.  Back then to open the small bridge that crossed the canal, George had to manually turn a large crank in the center of the bridge.

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The old Haulover Canal bridge with Allenhurst Fishing Camp in the background.

A new bridge was built in the 1960’s and today there is a bridge tender there to open the bridge upon request, although we can make it under without an opening. Haulover Canal is known for some pretty good fishing and as a great place to spot manatee. Jim and I have spent many days in our kayaks in and around the canal.  As we traversed the canal on this trip, we saw lots of people fishing from the shorelines and several herons and osprey.

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Haulover canal and the current bridge.

Once through Haulover Canal, the Indian River is wide and the shoreline is mostly undeveloped.  If you look east, you will see Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is only about a half hour from our house.  We love the fact that so much of it is open to the public.  It includes a beautiful and serene beach as well as a 7 mile wildlife drive where you may see alligators, bald eagles, herons and my favorite, roseate spoonbills.

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Roseate Spoonbill

There have even been panther spotted on the refuge!  When my sister Maureen was visiting last month, she and Jim decided to bike the area.  On their way in, they saw a bobcat and wild boar as well as lots of birds.

After a few more nautical miles, we are approaching the City of Titusville.  The industry here is primarily space-related.  The end to the shuttle era was awful here, but there are signs that things are picking up again.  There always seems to be a rocket launch lately, whether it be government or privately funded.  Jim has always been fascinated by space exploration.  He tells the story of being 19 years old and looking out his bedroom window up at the moon the night Apollo 11 landed and thinking “There are PEOPLE up there!”

We were on one of our boats in Titusville the day John Glenn returned to space aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1998.  Even though we were about 7 miles from the launch pad, as the shuttle lifted, you could see ripples on the water, and our boat shook.  There were at least a couple hundred boats crowded in the water that day to witness Mr. Glenn making history.  We all sounded our boat horns at lift-off.  An awesome memory I think of often when we’re on the water in Titusville.

It is about 4:30 p.m. as we approach the Titusville Municipal Marina where we will end day one after about 5 hours on the water.  I’ll catch up with you tomorrow for the next leg of the trip which took us south to Vero Beach.

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View from our slip at Titusville Municipal Marina.

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The Final Leg

After a couple days of R&R back at Casa Shira, I jumped back into the rental car, Janet took her car, and we headed for Titusville. We dropped her car at the Titusville Municipal Marina,  and headed south toward Ft. Pierce. When we arrived at Ft. Pierce in the boat a few days earlier, the wind was blowing like stink out of the north, and this made it very difficult for me to get Magic Carpet snugged up against the south side of the dock, in between two other boats, neither of which had a paint color that matched mine. In fact, on my first attempt, I had the bow pretty close to the dock, but I could tell that the wind was going to push my stern into the side of the eighty-footer that was laying behind my assigned space, so I had to go to full astern emergency, and get back out into the fairway. I got clear, and took a moment to look the situation over, then made another, this-time-successful, approach to the dock.

As we drove back toward Ft. Pierce,  I remember commenting to Janet that the wind was now blowing pretty hard out of the south, which would push us ONTO the dock, making departure a bit interesting. Boats don’t turn like cars do. You can’t just turn the wheel and go. In a car that’s up against a curb, you turn the wheel away from the curb and just drive off. Going forward, a boat pivots around a point that’s about a third of the way back from the bow. So, in a boat that’s sitting tight against the dock on the starboard side, (right side for any landlubbers who might be reading this) when you turn the wheel hard to port (left) and give it some throttle, the bow will start to go where you want it to, but simultaneously, the stern will start to swing AGAINST the dock. This can be exceedingly irritating to both the owner of the dock, and the owner of the boat.

All night, I listened to the wind and planned a variety of maneuvers to use to get us away from the dock in the morning. After we had our morning coffee, I assembled the crew on the dock and explained my intended departure scenario. My plan was to release all the dock lines except the one on the starboard bow, and use that one to “spring” the stern away from the dock, after which I would back out into the fairway, and off we’d go. The planned setup looks sort of like this:

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Janet would be in charge of the spring line. It ran from the cleat on the boat, back and around the base of a cleat on the dock, and back to the boat. She held it tight while I powered slightly forward with rudders hard to starboard, and when the stern swung out, she’d release the free end of the line, and pull it all off the dock cleat and back to the boat.

It worked like a champ. Even with the wind pinning us to the dock, we got the stern swung out clear of the eighty footer behind us, and I was able to back into the fairway and turn 180 degrees to head out of the marina.

We were underway by 7:15, and our destination was the Titusville Municipal Marina, about 75 miles to the north. We’d leave the boat there, drive a half hour home, then come back the next day and finish the trip by taking the boat from Titusville back to Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach.ftp-tvill

As with the previous several days, we had good weather, and light traffic. We arrived in Titusville about 3:15, got tied up and tidied up the interior, then climbed in the car for the half hour trip home.

The next day, we drove both cars to Halifax Marina in Daytona, dropped her car there, drove the truck an hour south to Titusville, and climbed back aboard and prepared to leave for Daytona. We left Titusville at 11:30 and arrived at Halifax at 4:30. After getting things squared away, we got into her car and drove an hour to Titusville. I got into my truck, we both drove home, and practically fell into bed. Well, we each had a beer, THEN we fell into bed.

In all, we put a little over 58 hours on the engines, and almost 63 hours on the generator. We haven’t refilled the fuel tank yet, but I’m anticipating about 200 gallons, for a total fuel consumption of about 400 gallons. After allowing for the fuel used by the generator, which is around 2 gallons per hour, our average fuel burn was a little under 2.5 gallons per hour per engine.

We had a great time, and we’re already planning our next trip. I’m going to be looking into a new dinghy, so we can anchor out and explore, and an inverter so we can run light electrical loads (such as the refrigerator, the TV and some fans) at night without having the generator on all the time.

Janet will be providing her perspective on the trip in the next few days, so please stay tuned.

 

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South, Then North

After a couple days at home assuring the kids that we hadn’t fallen off the face of the earth, we climbed back into the Smurf-blue Nissan that Hertz had rented to us, and took off for Delray Harbor Club Marina in Delray Beach.

We arrived in mid-afternoon, and after a quick stop at Publix for some groceries, we dropped off all our stuff at the boat and then drove the rental car less than a mile to the rental office. A quick walk back, and we were back aboard Magic Carpet.

We spent a couple hours talking to the couple on the 70 foot yacht next to us. They were a really nice couple, and he and I hit it off right away. He’s an architect, so he and I sort of had a common language, and we spent quite a bit of time looking at all the makes-it-go parts of his boat while the ladies wandered the boat discussing whatever it is that ladies discuss.

Turns out they had held a wedding on board the previous night. Janet and I are both Coast Guard licensed captains, as was the owner of the 70 footer. It wasn’t under the auspices of his Coast Guard license that he performed the wedding however, because he said that his understanding was that such a marriage must be performed in international waters to be valid, and that even then, some states in the US might not recognize it. He and his wife did some research, since this particular couple really wanted him to perform the service, and they concluded that he could take an online course, and become a fully, legally recognized ordained minister. So he did. Said it took him about an hour, and a few bucks, and presto change-o, he’s a Man of (insert diety of choice).  I’m really thinking of doing this myself, so as to legitimize my long-dreamed-of church to be called the First South Church of the Plain Brown Wrapper and Discount Worship World. (An alternate moniker for my personal money-maker… oops, I mean my non-profit theological organization would be Our Lady of Perpetual Collections).  Anywho, the wedding was held, the required forms were signed, and the happy newlyweds are off on their new life together.

After we put a significant dent in their wine supply,  Janet and I said our good nights and wobbled across the deck back onto Magic Carpet. We wanted to get a fairly early start the next morning, so we put our stuff away, turned off the lights and called it a night.

The next morning, we awoke with only the slightest of hangovers, and set about getting ready to leave the marina.  Leaving was much easier than arriving had been, because there was no wind, and I was going out pointy end first, so I could see where I was going. We got underway at 9:00, and our trip this day, the 2nd of March, was to take us to Loggerhead Marina – Hollywood, a distance of only about 27 nautical miles. This section was rather bridge-intensive however, so we wanted to leave plenty of time in case we missed a scheduled opening and had to wait 30 minutes to an hour for the next one. Along the way, we passed by some pretty swanky areas including Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach and of course, the self-proclaimed “Yachting Capital of the World”, Fort Lauderdale.

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The port at Fort Lauderdale, (actually located in the north end of Hollywood) is known as Port Everglades, and is one of the busiest cargo ports in the United States, and one of the busiest cruise terminals in the world. We passed by cargo ships being loaded and unloaded,

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and cruise ships being readied for the next herd of passengers.

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At one point, after we had passed the mouth of the port, I was concentrating on what was ahead when I just happened to glance astern and saw this guy coming up fast.

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The picture doesn’t do it justice, because I swear that Magic Carpet could have ridden on this guy’s bulbous bow. I know the nautical “Rules of the Road” say I was the “stand-on vessel”, and I should hold my course and speed, but I also am a firm believer in the “Rule of Gross Tonnage” so as soon as I saw him, I got the hell over as far as I could, slowed WAY down, and waited for him to pass. If he’d hit us, we would have been reduced to fiberglass mush, and I doubt we’d have even scratched his paint.

We arrived at Loggerhead Marina-Hollywood a little after 2:00, and found that once again, I was going to need to dock stern-to. This one was met with a bit less trepidation than the first, and again we pulled it off without trading paint with anyone. Our location in the marina however, was exposed to the wakes from boats passing by in the ICW, and for several hours, we were rockin’ and rollin’ in our slip. We took a short walk just to stretch our legs, and then came back to the boat to shower and eat dinner. As usual, we turned in fairly early and with the ICW traffic gone for the night, we slept soundly.

The next morning, we got underway at 7:15 because we had 45 miles to cover, with LOTS of bridges to contend with. Now that we were heading back north, we planned to stop the first night at Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, then the next night at Harbortown Marina-Ft. Pierce where we would leave the boat, rent a car again, and go back home for a couple days to reassure the kids that mommy and daddy still loved them.

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We stopped just a few minutes north at the Hollywood Municipal Marina and took on 207 gallons of diesel, then continued north.

Back through Port Everglades,

back through the condo canyons,

back past the palatial homes of the uber-rich,

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back, ever closer, to our version of reality.

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Of course, as a prudent mariner, I am ever watchful for hazards to navigation, and am careful when one is observed, to closely examine it, using binoculars when necessary of course, and photographically document it for future further study.

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See, if that paddle were to fall in the water, I might run over it. That’s a hazard to navigation, right?

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Geez, there’s another one…I’m telling you, a diligent captain has to really keep his eyes open out here!

We arrived at Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach at 3:30, and quickly realized that we were not yet back to our own reality. There were some boats there that we could have fit on as a tender, and as we sat in our shorts and flip-flops sucking down a couple brewskis, we saw Buffy and Chad strolling down the dock pulling their matching Louis Vuiton rolling bags on their way to the nearly-200 footer at the end of the pier. I’m guessing that once aboard, they weren’t going to change out of their chiffon and tweed into shorts and flip-flops.

We walked a few blocks into the downtown area for dinner, and decided on a place called Tin Fish Clematis.  I had about three years worth of fried fish, fried shrimp, fried clams and fried crab cakes. Oh, and beer…there was beer. There was a once-a-week street party called Clematis By Night going on (maybe you’re noticing a theme here…Clematis Street is sort of the place-to-be street it seems), with craft and food vendors of every type, a waterjet splash park for the kids and inebriated adults, and live music played at volumes intended, I guess, to disguise the quality. We stayed a few minutes and watched and listened, then made our way back to the boat. The next day was going to be a long one, so we wanted to get some sleep. When I was still rolling around restlessly at 1:30 in the morning, it occurred to me that cramming several too many helpings of fried food down my gullet might not have been the smartest thing to do.

We awoke at 6:15 and immediately started getting ready to move, because the bridge just north of us would open at 7:15, and then not again, due to rush hour traffic, until 9:15. This one did need to open for us, and if we missed the 7:15 opening, we might be much later than we wanted to be in arriving at Ft. Pierce, our destination. We got all buttoned up and out of the slip, and spent about 30 minutes patiently waiting for the bridge to open.

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This marina is in a pretty tony part of town…note the name at the top of the tall building on the right.

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These are some of the little runabouts we spent the night with.

As promised, after several orbits in the channel, the bridge opened, we and a few other boats passed through, and we were on our way.

The trip from West Palm Beach to Ft. Pierce was uneventful, although passing through “the crossroads” near Stuart at the intersection of the ICW, the St. Lucie River and the St. Lucie inlet is always interesting. The area is subject to constantly shifting shoals, there is lots of traffic going every which way, and it can resemble the inside of a washing machine from all the wakes.

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We arrived at the marina at Ft. Pierce at 2:00 and thought we were in great shape until we called Enterprise to ask them to come get us with the car we had reserved, and the pinhead on the other end said he “might” get to us around 5:00. We quickly decided that this “might” be our last rental from Enterprise, and a call to Hertz netted us a rental car. A two hour ride took us back to home sweet home, and we spent the next couple days petting the cats and counting our blessings for being able to do what we’re doing.

Coming up: The Final Leg.

 

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It Actually Moves!

I must first apologize for the unplanned extended writing sabbatical. There have been many projects accomplished over the last year, both on the boat and at home, and it just seemed there was never any time to devote to writing. I hope to be more reliable in the future though, and for those of you who are still reading, I am grateful.

Janet and I decided to take Magic Carpet on a multi-day trip south, just to get away from the dock for a change. Our original idea was to travel from our home port of Daytona Beach south to the Florida Keys, spend a few days there and then return.

The distance along the Intracoastal Waterway between Daytona Beach and Key Largo is about 270 nautical miles. We travel at a maximum speed of around 10 knots, and our average speed, once you factor in the delays associated with bridge openings, slow speed zones and slowing down to carefully observe bikinis, is more like 7 to 8 knots. That means that the time required to travel from Daytona to Key Largo is about 34 to 40 hours. We like to try to keep our travel days to 6 hours or less underway, so by using some of the complex analytical skills honed in various college mathematics courses, and allowing for some delays due to weather, I deduced that we would need a minimum of  12 to 14  days to make the round trip. A complicating factor for us is that we have four four- legged children at home. (Some people refer to them as cats, but we know better.) We get the shakes if we’re away from the kids for more than a few days, so we decided to make the trip in three or four day chunks, returning home at the completion of each leg for a couple days of rest and cuddling with the furballs.

For a variety of reasons, we decided to go as far south as Hollywood this time, then plan a longer trip for next time.

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To get a jump on things, on February 19th we moved the boat from our home port of Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona to Titusville, a distance of about 42 nautical miles. While the boat was there, I finished installing the new fresh water pump, which replaced the one that developed a serious leak a few weeks prior. Without that pump, we’d have had no water for washing or flushing while away from the dock, which could have been decidedly unpleasant.

On the 25th, with the water pump fixed, we were good to go, and at 8:30 Wednesday morning we headed out of Titusville bound for Vero Beach. Seven hours later, we arrived at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina. Many cruisers call this Velcro Beach because they say it is so hard to leave. We were less than impressed with the marina facilities and the assistance provided by the dock hand (essentially none) but the area around the marina is very quiet and pretty, and shopping, eateries and the beach are all fairly close by. After checking in at the marina office, we asked where we might be able to buy a new coffee maker since ours gave up the ghost that morning, forcing us to leave Titusville sans coffee. (the horror!) A walk of about a mile took us to a local hardware store where we found one of Mr. Coffee’s finest products. On the walk back, we guessed that passing traffic saw us as a homeless couple strolling along with their worldly possessions all neatly stowed in the box under my arm.

The next morning, we got underway at 9:05 headed for Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens, about 50 nautical miles south. (For those of you unfamiliar with nautical vs. statute mileage, one nautical mile equals 1.15 statute miles) This leg of the trip would take us under fourteen bridges, and based on information we found in several sources, it appeared that we would definitely need five of them to open, and may need two others to open in order to allow us to pass. Our “air draft”, or the maximum height of the boat above the water, is 20′-7″. This is measured from the water to the top of the radar antenna, which is the tallest part of the boat. (This doesn’t include the tall VHF radio antennas, but I can lower them as needed, so they aren’t the limiting factor as far as height goes) Each of the bridges along the way has published in various sources, its clearance at Mean High Water. This means that at high tide, when the distance from the water to the underside of the bridge is a minimum, the published information tells me I should have XX feet of clearance. You’ll notice in the photo that the underside of the bridge forms an arch. The published clearance height is usually given to the “low steel”, or the lowest part of the arch.

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You can usually find information on how much additional height is available at the center of the arch, usually three or four feet. Add the published height and the additional height, and the result is a number that is going to be less than, equal to, or more than our required air draft of approximately 21 feet. If there is less clearance than we need, I call the bridge tender on VHF channel 9 and ask him to open the bridge for us. Although some bridges will open on request, many bridges open only on the hour and half hour, so it becomes important to monitor your progress between bridges so as not to arrive at one just as it closes, and then have to do donuts in the water for 30 minutes waiting for the next scheduled opening. On the other hand, if the bridge has more clearance than we need, I’ll call the bridge tender on the VHF and tell him of our intention to pass under his bridge without the need for an opening. (Although I’ve referred to bridge tenders so far in the masculine gender, there are probably just as many female bridge tenders. No misogyny was intended) Bridge tenders appreciate this bit of courtesy, because from their perch on top the bridge, they can see us coming, but can’t accurately judge our height. Unless I contact him and let him know that I’ve thought this through, he doesn’t know that I’m not some clueless idiot who’s busy Googling Bikini Babes of South Florida completely unaware of an impending meeting of bridge and boat.

We arrived at Loggerhead Marina at 3:00, and were greeted at the dock by a uniformed dockhand compete with epaulets and shoulder boards. As I was whisked away by golf cart to the office to sign in, I casually mentioned that our holding tank needed to be pumped out. When I returned to the boat, there were three, count ’em…three dockhands on the boat, all in their sock feet, pumping the holding tank. Talk about service!

On the Loggerhead website home page, you see four rows of boats. At the land end of those rows, you see two parcels of green space on either side of the entrance road. Those are no longer green. They are being developed as multi-story condominiums, and we were told the condos would go for upwards of a million dollars each. The dockmaster said that’s not the real story though…the real story is the people who are buying two adjacent condos and combining them into a single unit. I guess folks need some wall space to hang their art pieces.

On the third morning, we headed out from Loggerhead Marina at 8:35 bound for Delray Beach, a little less than 30 miles south. We wanted this to be a short travel day because we had to rent a car and drive back home, and we didn’t want to get home at dark-thirty. Delray Harbor Club Marina is a small marina associated with an adjacent condominium complex. We arrived at the marina  at 1:00 in the afternoon and when I called them on the VHF to ask for my assigned slip, I found out that I was going to be forced to perform my first ever stern-to docking. Usually, I pull into a slip pointy end first because I can see what’s going on. On this boat, I am completely blind as to what is going on at the stern. I can’t see a bit of it.

So here we are, needing to slide Magic Carpet backwards into a slip, with a 70 foot yacht on one side and another 50 something footer on the other side, with the wind pushing me sideways, and me not able to see where the ass of the boat is with respect to any of the aforesaid. However…Janet and I have a set of wireless radios and headsets that we use while docking, and on this day, they truly entered my personal Electronic Hall of Fame. With Janet stationed in the aft cockpit and our headsets on, even though I couldn’t see where I was going, she was able to coach me through the backing-in process with helpful maneuvering hints such as “Come to starboard two feet”, “Straighten it up a bit”, “You’re six feet off the piling”, “Oh shit”, and other useful guidance information.

I got it into the slip, we tossed lines to the dockhand, we got the boat secured, and I started working on getting my heart rate down out of jackhammer range. Oh, and I didn’t even nudge either boat beside me.

We found our rental car waiting for us in the parking lot, just as the fellow at Hertz had promised, so we loaded up the car, said a temporary goodbye to Magic Carpet, and hit the road for home.

Next up: Delray Beach to Hollywood and back to Daytona Beach

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Let’s Catch Up

Wow…where do I start?

Back in early November, I was clicking right along on a few of the many remaining  projects, when I had to put all my tools away and clean up the boat for the grand opening of our new boat-related business. We will be offering half and full-day cruises in the Daytona Beach area, and we invited our friends, family and potential guests to come aboard and take a look at the boat, enjoy some yummy hors d’oeuvres, and learn more about the trip itineraries.

The grand opening went well, and we were happy with our website Real Florida Adventures, and our Facebook page (Real Florida Adventures) and had actually booked our first reservation for a pre-Christmas cruise.

I was looking forward to Thanksgiving at our house. Two of my sons live elsewhere in Florida and they were planning to come to our place to celebrate the holiday with us and I was feeling like things were chugging right along.

And then it happened.

On the evening of November 24 I started feeling poorly, and by 1:00 in the morning on the 25th, Janet was taking me to the local emergency room with severe abdominal pain. Tests revealed a serious abdominal infection, and I spent the next two weeks in two different hospitals where I underwent major surgery. The doctor said my insides were “a mess”. I think that’s some sort of medical lingo.

Needless to say, upon my release, I was in no condition to go boating. I will say though, that during that dark time, my wife, my sons, and my friends provided comfort beyond measure. I owe them all so much.

Just a few days after I got out of the hospital, my youngest son and his wife had a son of their own. Logan Wesley William Shira came into this world on December 19, and he is the cutest little guy I think I’ve ever seen.

We’ve already had him on the boat with us, and although Grandpa’s hat was a trifle large on him, he seemed to enjoy himself.

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We’ve had two groups of guests on board, on two different charters, and everyone had a blast. The weather was great, the food was great, and the guests were great. What more could we ask for!

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So…although my unplanned medical issues rearranged our boating plans for a while, I’m back to the point where I can comfortably run the boat again, and we are looking forward to entertaining more guests and family during the summer. I’ll need some follow-up surgery in a month or so, but I’m told the recuperation period should be quicker this time, without the underlying infection issues.

We’ve outfitted Logan with a hat and some shades that fit him a bit better, and he’s ready for another boat ride.
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I still have (and probably always will have) a list of projects to do on the boat, and I’ll post some of the details as I get to them. For those of you who are really interested in boat projects, I invite you to check out this fellow’s blog: Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit

He’s rebuilding an aluminum-hull Chris Craft, and his attention to detail is mind-boggling.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading our blog, and I hope you’ll continue to follow us as our story unfolds.

 

 

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All Work and No Play

Well, it really hasn’t been quite that bad, but it sure has seemed like it.

My plan, as you may have deduced by my previous reference to a windlass installation trilogy, was to enthrall you with the details of the final installation of our new Maxwell windlass.

As it turned out, the past month or so has been consumed with several different projects, and the windlass installation, although almost complete, cannot yet be considered “done”.

The issue that caused the derailment was a long-standing problem with leaking windows in the forward cabin. I thought I could remove the windows, re-bed them in an adhesive mastic and reinstall them, solving the problem.

With that cheery and totally unrealistic thought in mind, I started work one day to remove the two dozen or so screws that held the frame to the side of the boat. Now you’d expect that the frame, being made of aluminum, would have fairly regular dimensions, and fairly straight lines, and you’d be right. You’d also expect that when the hole was cut into the side of the boat for the frame to be fitted, the hole-cutting person would take care to try to match with some degree of precision, the regular dimensions and straight lines of the frame, so as to make a nice, close fit.

WRONG.

Once I got the first frame out, I could see that the hole in the side of the boat must have been cut by a meth addict with a Chinese chain saw. I could see right away that there was no way in the world that the bits and pieces could be reassembled to create a leak-free result.

So, after an appropriate period of pondering and musing, I decided that the only thing that would result in the desired leak-free condition, was to completely close up the holes, fiberglass over everything, and then install two small portholes to let light and air into the forward stateroom.

I’ve done my share of fiberglass work, and having done so, have determined that I’d rather go to the dentist than do more fiberglass work, so I decided that I’d hire out the work.

I got a couple quotes, and went with a guy who came across as knowledgeable and competent. I’ve since changed my opinion of him.

I won’t bore you with the sordid details, but today Janet and I moved the boat to another boatyard where I’ll have the paint work done that Mr. Knowledgeable and Competent assured me he could do, until last week when he suddenly proclaimed the painting to be outside his comfort zone. So now I have another person doing that part, and this time, I did LOTS of research and this guy comes highly recommended by many of my marina friends, so I have a feeling the painting will go well.

When he’s done, I’ll cut two large holes in the freshly painted cabin sides, and install the portholes. Yeah, it does seem sort of bass-ackwards, but there are reasons for doing it that way. It’s a boat…it doesn’t have to make sense.

Anyway, after that’s all done, I can install the final through-hull to drain the anchor locker, and the windlass project will then also be done, and we can finally start accepting reservations for day trips. We’re really looking forward to this new venture, and as soon as our new website is up and running, I’ll post the address here so you can all check it out.

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Step Two: Preparation

With the old windlass out of the way, it was time to get the deck ready for the new windlass. As I mentioned, all of the holes in the deck from the old windlass were strategically located so that not a single one was of any use whatsoever in mounting the new windlass.

First order of business then, was to mix up a batch of thickened epoxy and pack it into the holes. Of course it would just dribble out the bottom, so first I covered the bottom of each hole with man’s best friend…duct tape.

After the holes were packed with epoxy, I covered everything with tape to keep it all dry, because during the time I was working on this, we were getting a rainstorm approximately every 23 minutes.

You can see in the photo below, the area where the windlass was, the old deck pipe location to the left, and the old foot switch to the right. The thing at the far left is the pump-out port for the wastewater holding tank. My wife refers to it as “The-Thing-That-Shall-Not-Be-Touched”.

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You can see a large circle on the deck. That’s where the old deck plate was, and of course, the new windlass’ footprint is smaller, so the ring would show, so I had to come up with a way to cover it. More on that in a bit.

First thing I wanted to do was reinforce the deck to spread the loads imposed by the windlass as it does its job. I cut a piece of 3/4 inch pressure treated plywood, coated it with epoxy, then fiberglass-encased it. I  then cut a piece of 1/4″ aluminum plate to the same size.

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I epoxied the wood under the deck, then epoxied the plate under that. Next, drawing on my extensive knowledge of mathematics, surveying technology and plane geometry, I transferred the location of the plates under the deck to the topside, marking the results with tape.

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(Actually, I just measured from a single hole through the deck and both plates that’s taped over in the picture, and transferred the measurement to the top. Sounds better the first way though)

I removed the footswitch and enlarged the hole so the new footswitch would fit, and drilled a new hole for the other new footswitch.

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A 1/4″ fiberglass plate was cut to cover the old deck plate ring, and was drilled to accept the new windlass. This will be painted to match the deck. The edge of the tape marks the centerline of the anchor rode.

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I made and test-fit three different templates to get the hole spacing just right, then used the best of the three to transfer the hole locations to the deck. With Janet assisting, I drilled five 1/2″ diameter holes for the mounting bolts, a 4″ hole for the anchor rode pipe, and a 5 1/4″ hole for the motor shaft. Janet’s job was to feed me Prozac, stat, if I messed up.

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I’m proud to say that when I test-fit the windlass, it slid in like it was greased.

A lot of installers would have cut the large holes with a jigsaw or a reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”) instead of a hole saw. That would do the job, but the hole would be ragged. Once the windlass is in, I doubt I’ll ever see these holes again, but I can go to my reward knowing they are neat and round. I painted the edges of the holes with epoxy and sealed any voids with thickened epoxy. When cured, it will be sanded smooth and then it’s ready for the decorative plate and the windlass.

Next, I turned my attention to the wiring.

The old solenoid had been converted to a lump of rust, so it came out and was replaced with a new solenoid box provided with the windlass.

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I’m not finished with this yet, and the wires will all get neatly bundled and fastened down so they aren’t flopping around loose.

The boat was wired at the upper and lower helm with switches to raise and lower the anchor, but the wires had never been connected to the windlass. The only way to operate the old one was with the single “up” footswitch on the foredeck.

I spent a few hours with a multimeter and a tone generator tracing the wires to make sure I had the right ones, then crimped waterproof terminals on the ends and readied them for connection to the new solenoid box. When I’m done, I’ll be able to control the windlass from the foredeck, the upper helm, or the lower helm.

While I was at it, I removed the two skanky brown hoses you see behind the ladder in the first photo above. They drained the gutter around the main deck hatch, but they drained into the bilge. I installed a new through-hull fitting and rerouted new, larger hoses so the gutter now drains overboard. The hoses still need to be fastened into place too, but I’m waiting until all of the new bits and pieces are installed so I know for sure where everything wants to be.

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This is the new stainless steel through-hull inside the anchor locker, with the new, larger hose attached.

 

 

If you close one eye and squint the other, you can see the new through-hull where it comes,   …wait for it,  …   through the hull.

 

Now, the only remaining step is to install the new windlass, hook up the wires, reload the anchor rode and the anchor onto the boat and try it out.

Then, it’s time for the captain and first mate to spend a couple nights at anchor!

Do NOT call me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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