Hey there HaveWind followers! As you may have seen on Patreon on Facebook, Phillip and I recently hosted a Skype Q&A session with Patrons who had watched the movie from our Atlantic-crossing and had some questions about the boat, maintenance, provisioning, things that frightened us, things we learned, etc. While it is not a perfect recording (this was my first time hosting a group Skype) there are some great segments in here, primarily from Phillip, where we share our thoughts, lessons learned and experience from our first ocean-crossing aboard a catamaran. I thought you all might get a kick out of it. Yes, a kick. Enjoy!
I guess we should talk about the really important stuff before we get to the panties.
While there were many, many critical provisions we needed to stock on the boat, fuel was one of the first items to come up during our initial crew briefings at Yannick’s house. If your goal is to get the boat across the pond without stopping, there are only two ways that can happen: wind or fuel.
Andanza carries 90 gallons of fuel, which sounds like a lot but considering the distance we needed to cover (4,600 nautical miles), it would not really get us that far. Yannick had calculated an approximate consumption rate of 0.5 gallons an hour per engine, running at about 1,800 RPMs, which he had determined was the optimal, most efficient range for the engines. He also found running both engines at the same time only added 0.5 knots in speed for double the fuel consumption, so he had decided we should only run one engine at a time as needed. (Know there is some debate out there as to whether this puts unnecessary strain on the propulsion system. What? Boat owners with differing opinions? No way! Yannick researched it and made an executive decision that the decrease in fuel consumption was justified over the potential strain on the sail drives.) Running only one engine at a time translated to roughly 180 hours of tank burning time which would carry us about 1,000 nautical miles purely motoring. The plan was to bring aboard additional Jerry jugs of fuel, each jug giving us an approximate additional 10 hours of motoring, with the amount of jugs TBD considering the additional weight they would bring aboard.
We eventually decided on 11 jugs, stored in the foreward starboard bow. That locker is massive. I can stand up in it!
The funny thing is, as Yannick and Phillip both pointed out, you cannot possibly bring enough fuel to motor across the entire ocean. The boat could not carry it all (and likely could not move with that much added weight). So, once you decide to go anyway, the risk is really the same whether you have 50 gallons, or 90 or 150. We simply brought an amount we thought would help “fill the gaps” when we would have to motor sail or just motor because the wind was not behaving. The plan was to sail as often as we could.
The catamaran has a 100 gallon water tank on the boat. While that sounds like a lot, it also is not much when you consider the washing, cooking, cleaning, and bathing you have to do with that same water, in addition to just drinking it. The boat also had a water maker but we weren’t really sure how well it would work, how much water it would produce and whether that water would even be drinkable. Brandon and Yannick worked on the water maker while Andanza was in the yard and it was reportedly working well, although we all were a little leery about testing it. (To be blunt about it, no one wanted to get the sh%ts!)
Yannick reported to us during the weeks before shove-off that the water maker was working and producing about 3/4 gallon per minute. Quite a bit. He bought a water tester to see how many parts per million (meaning dissolved solids … could be salt, could be fish poop or oil, who knows) and we tested the second batch he made during our first sail on the boat in Pensacola Bay. Yannick told us the first batch registered at 290 ppm and this second batch was now at 66, which is very low. However, we still made him do the actual drinking first.
Phillip couldn’t make it out with us the first time we went out on the catamaran (remember all of that pesky work stuff we were doing to get ready to leave the country) and I told him about the water testing when I got home. His first question: “Where was the first batch made?” Knowing zip about water makers at the time and thinking nothing of it, I told him: “Bayou Chico.” Ruh-roh. Phillip was definitely worried that the filthy water from the bayou had been run through the water maker and we learned later the maker should only be used when you’re in the cleanest water possible. (The Atlantic Ocean would be a great place to start!) But, it seemed to be working fine at the time (Yannick had not yet reported any sh%ts) and it was likely whatever water it made could at least be used for cleaning, bathing, etc. (Another small worry was the fact that the water maker fed straight into the main water tank. Meaning, if the water it made was contaminated, it could spoil our entire supply. For this reason, Yannick always diverted the initial production into a separate gallon for testing before he let it run into the main tank.)
There was also the possibility that the main 100-gallon tank could be contaminated somehow, or that it could crack and leak out. After fuel, water was our most important provision on the boat. We wanted to stock as much water as possible (considering space and weight) to carry us across the ocean. Yannick bought 15 cases (36 water bottles each) of water for the trip and Phillip and I packed the bilges of the boat with a total of 540 water bottles.
Each crew member was responsible for packing his or her own ditch bag with the usual supplies (life jackets, GPS, flares, emergency food and water, etc.) We would also each be bringing our own hydrostatic life jackets with tethers to clip into the jack lines.
Yannick’s boat was equipped with an EPIRB for the vessel (located near the nav station below) and he also had a beacon on his life jacket that would sound an MOB alarm if Yannick fell overboard. Phillip and I brought our own personal EPIRB to keep with us when we were on night watch in case one of us fell over. Yannick also had a green laser light on his jacket that could be seen from (I can’t really remember) like twenty miles or something. For intentional overboard, Phillip and I brought an old wet suit that would be donated to the boat in case anyone had to go overboard (to un-foul the prop for example) and Yannick had a dry suit as well.
We also had many haling devices.
Yannick testing the Delorme’s capabilities in flight. It tracked him the entire way!
Counting everyone’s individual cell phones, hand-held GPSs, iPads and such as well as the two chart plotters on the boat and other electronics (Delorme, sat phone, etc.), Yannick predicted we would have approximately 15 GPS devices on the boat. Needless to say, PLENTY. While a ditch of the boat was not something anyone really thought would happen, we had to plan for the possibility. I can assure you there were many, many discussions about ditch gear. And, with the life raft having arrived (just days before we were set to leave), if in fact the moment did come, we would now be ditching the boat in much better shape.
There she is!
To be honest, our primary concern was significant injury to a crew member (think illness, broken bone or infection) or a man overboard. There were also many discussions about everyone’s respective first aid experience, known procedures, and the proper response and duty of all crew members if a man fell overboard. Yannick explained many times (likely because he had to, the electronics on his boat are dizzying) how to set off the MOB alarm on the chart plotter and what each crew member should do to safely retrieve the fallen crew member and get him (okay, or her!) back on board. Our primary defense to injury and emergencies was what Yannick continually referred to as “discipline.” This included:
Moving around the boat slowly and with caution;
Clipping in at night or in rough seas;
Never leaving the cockpit alone during a night shift;
Monitoring and timely responding to health problems (fevers, infections, malaise, etc.).
We also discussed the known possibility that catamarans, because they do not heel, can get unknowingly overpowered with too much wind on the beam. This was discussed and it was decided we would always put a first reef in at 20 knots of wind, a second reef at 25, and a third reef at 30. The crew agreed we would also always reef at sunset. Sailing cautiously and conservatively was another huge part of our safety plan.
Let’s just say we had way, waaaay too much medical crap on the boat. Yannick had a fantastic supply of antibiotics, which was one of our top concerns. Johnny, having been a paramedic in a previous life, also had great wound care and suture kits to supply. Phillip and I cleaned out all of our band-aids, bandages, Neosporin, Ibuprofen, etc. from Plaintiff’s Rest and contributed that. And, we brought many varieties of seasickness prevention.
While neither Johnny, Phillip Yannick nor myself were prone to seasickness (thank goodness because once we shoved off for France, we were looking at 30+ days at sea), many folks had told Phillip and I that the motion of the catamaran is just “different” and that it’s possible for people who do not get seasick on a monohull to get seasick on a catamaran. So, we were prepared.
I hope as you’re reading through this, you’re starting to get a sense of how much planning really goes into making a passage like this. Yannick was good at delegating items like this (i.e., rounding up everyone’s first aid gear and making a combined, non-duplicative kit for the boat) to each of us so no efforts were wasted. Phillip and I were responsible for preparing the boat’s first aid kit as well as food-planning for the passage. Phillip specifically requested this task as it had already been decided among the crew that he would serve as Andanza‘s head chef for the passage. (You recall Yannick’s “gut it and put soy sauce on it” approach.) I worked on the watch schedule, the window sealing and inventorying the boat while Yannick and Johnny completed the work on the starboard sail drive once the parts arrived from Italy. Hooray!
We all had many, many jobs to do during those tumultuous two weeks before departure.
Clothing and Gear:
Phillip and I found it a little difficult to pack for this trip for two reasons: 1) we needed clothes for extremely hot conditions (think bikinis in the Gulf of Mexico), potentially very cold conditions (spitting rain in the North Atlantic) as well as a few somewhat stylish pieces for France and 2) we needed to be able to fly home with only two checked bags. Our goal was to bring many things with us on the trip that could be shed (meaning thrown away, used as rags, or donated to good will) once we got to France so our packing for the flight home would be minimal. This proved even more difficult as most of our carry-home luggage was already going to be filled with items we needed to bring back–i.e., our foul-weather gear, life jackets, tethers, electronics (sat phone), etc.
For me, the clothing items that proved to be the most comfortable and useful were wool socks, long johns and anything synthetic or quick-dry. I will never set off on a long off-shore passage again with as much cotton as we brought for this crossing. It never (ever!) dried completely. Our plan to bring clothing that could be discarded once we got to shore was good, in theory, but it put us at a disadvantage in that most of the clothes we already had that we were willing to part with once we got to France were cotton and many of the items we purchased were cotton (because they’re cheaper). I now know why high-performance gear is more expensive … because it performs. Phillip and I did have a great time, however, watching the Wal-Martians for a bit and picking up a lot of cheap, throw-away goodies and toiletries for the trip.
Seriously, they had little Eiffel Towers and other Paris icons on them. Some even said “Bon Voyage.” How friggin’ perfect?!
Another really cool item we had was a complete set of Third Reef foul weather gear (jackets, bibs and boots) for the entire crew donated by West Marine. You can tell I was a little too excited when I made the pick-up at the store. It was a very generous offering and the gear proved to be perfect for our cold, wet days and nights in the north Atlantic!
Now for the really important stuff. FOOD. As you’ve seen from our initial briefing with Yannick, we quickly learned he is decidedly not a “foodie,” so Phillip was quick to step in to fill the role of head chef for the passage and handle the planning for food. While the boat did have a rather large fridge (with a small icebox) as well as a separate, almost as large, freezer, Phillip continually warned me: “You have to expect they might go out.” Brandon had actually told us a fun story of a trip he made from Bermuda to New York where the freezer went out in the first few days and he and the crew had to eat meat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, before it spoiled. “It was SPAM after that,” he said. *gulp*
I wasn’t nearly as concerned about the canned goods conundrum as Phillip was. I’m a bit like Yannick in that, if it was me, I’d be fine opening a can every day, eating out of it and drinking the veggie juice after! Proof:
Phillip, however, is a bit more gourmet. And for good darn reason. The man is an exceptional cook. I am grateful and honored every evening he cooks us up a feast better than I have had at any fine-dining restaurant. These are, seriously, just a few of his at-home creations:
Arugula, pear & blue cheese salad:
Stuffed bell pepper:
Braised short ribs:
For this, reason, Phillip was definitely gunning to be in charge of the food. He spent a lot of time planning the meals and preparing the grocery list for the passage. His plan was to get about a week’s worth of good, fresh stuff we could eat in the beginning before it spoiled. The second week, we would be defrosting things we froze (pork, ground beef, shrimp, etc.) as well as cooking up the last of the hearty vegetables – cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, etc. Once the perishable goods were gone, it was on to the canned goods as well as non-refrigerated eggs, UHT milk, sardines and the infamous Spam (which actually is quite gourmet these days as part of a pineapple slider!). This was Phillip’s list of planned meals.
I have included a link for Phillip’s complete shopping list for the passage in this week’s Patreon post, “Phillip’s Provision List,” which includes food, safety gear and other equipment needed for the trip.
Then it was time to go grocery shopping … Holy crap did we go shopping!
Yannick met us at the Commissary on the Navy Base in Pensacola so we could get boat-loads (no pun intended) of large quantities of food at a good price. Phillip divvied the list up among us. I had three pages of canned goods, pasta, crackers and snacks to get. Yannick was sent to produce, while Phillip dove into dairy and meat. Shoppers eyed me strangely as I filled my cart with multiple 12-can packs of canned peas, corn, potatoes, pineapples, tomatoes, carrots, tuna and more. I ran into Yannick somewhere near the Velveeta and it looked like he was pushing a bush around the Commissary. His cart was brimming with leafy greens, carrots, cabbage and bags of apples and oranges. He called it his “barge” and then he ran it straight into a 5-Hour Energy display and sent those little cocaine-filled energy bullets rolling everywhere. We had accumulated four “barges” by then and were definitely turning heads all over the store.
Things only got more comical after that. As we pushed our four carts (‘scuse me, barges) toward the check-out lane, people started to stack up behind us, pointing, whispering, then finally asking us what the heck we needed all those groceries for. It was fun to tell them: “Because we’re sailing across the Atlantic!” We were all so proud! Thankfully our checkout girl was phenomenal and she started zipping us right through. “No bags,” said Yannick.
After the 5-Hour Energy incident, several floor managers had come out to help “escort” us through the check-out process, which was probably a good call. As our goods were ooching along the conveyor belt toward the cash register a shoe-boxed size carton of grape tomatoes got the bump, crashed to the floor and sent little red balls rolling everywhere. While Yannick and I scrambled to pick them up, a manager worked to finish unloading my cart and he dropped a half-gallon size bottle of Dawn on my foot where it ended it’s life after in a goopy puddle on the floor.
I swear I can’t make this stuff up. There he is with a handful of Dawn-soaked paper towels cleaning it up! Better put out a “Wet Floor” sign, sir. We’re lawyers you know.
It’s a good thing Yannick was moving back to France, because I don’t think they’d want to see him in there again. That was wild. I’m surprised we were able to cram all of the Commissary crap into Yannick’s Explorer but somehow we did. Yannick called his technique “pyramiding.”
I thought the tailpipe was going to drag. Buying all of the food and getting it in and out of the Explorer proved to be the easy part, however. Once we got it all onto the boat, trying to figure out where in the world it should all go turned out to be the real puzzle.
We stocked every cubby!
Inside the fridge:
We wanted to try, as best we could, to stock items according to frequency of use while being sensitive to location on the boat (i.e., moisture or potential for breakage or spilling), while also trying, as best we could, to inventory the items so we could somehow find them later. This had to occur within about about an hour and a half’s time before the boat needed to be cleaned up so we could finish other projects, actually move aboard and have the boat presentable enough to host a little farewell party at the dock. At the time the boat looked like this:
This was just days before we shoved off. With the time constraints, I will say we did not stock that boat as well as we should have and we paid for it during the passage with the loss of some produce and the occasional discovery of a molded unidentifiable object in a dark corner of the boat. Friends, don’t let moldy unidentified objects happen to YOU. In hopes of helping prevent that, I have included below some offshore provisioning tips (some earned from our very own lessons learned aboard ANDANZA) in case any of you are planning for an offshore passage soon. (I hope so!)
1. Discard all boxes and any unnecessary packaging. Put as many things as you can in Ziplock bags (often double-bagged). I found it useful to tear off the instructions and put them in the bag with the food for identification as well as instructions for cooking.
2. Do not stow “breakables” in hidden or sloshing lockers. If there is a chance the container could roll, puncture or spill, try to stow it somewhere visible or packed in such a way as to prevent collision and rupture.
3. You do not have to refrigerate as many items as you think. We bought several containers of UHT milk (Annie loves her Grape Nuts in the morning) and refrigerated only as needed. We also had cartons of never-before-refrigerated eggs that will keep for weeks if turned over once every week. Also, many vegetables (tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, etc.) and condiments (mayo can stay out as long as the utensil used is always clean as well as butter) do not have to be refrigerated. Many people simply throw them in the fridge out of habit. And, little tip on the un-refrigerated eggs: If you’re worried they may have turned, put them through the “float test.” Submerge the questionable egg in water. If it sinks to the bottom, you’re good to go. If it floats, toss it out.
4. Stow onions and bananas separately. They tend to accelerate the ripening of any fruits and vegetables near them.
5. Watch out for the “frozen tundra” around the portion of the fridge that is a freezer. We had many produce items (carrots, zucchini, etc.) get pushed too close to the small box freezer in the fridge and we lost them to freezing. We found packaged cheeses and meats survived the freeze just fine. Beer also worked as a great freezer buffer.
6. High calorie/protein snacks serve you better than candies and sugar. If you’re heading up on deck for your night watch or to handle something that may require energy for hours, peanuts, peanut butter and protein or energy bars were a good idea to grab on the way out. We stocked a lot of Nature Vally granola bars, peanut butter crackers, nuts as well as peanut butter and Nutella for this reason.
7. Mesh bags or hammocks are best for fruits and vegetables. It keeps them dry and visible (great to both remind you to eat them and make sure they’re not “turning”). We lost a bag of oranges because I stowed them in a dark locker and we all forgot about them. You don’t want to know what they looked (and felt like) upon discovery …
8. If you have time, write the name of the canned good in Sharpie on its top. This makes it much easier to see when searching a large locker for a single type of canned good.
9. Freeze as much meat as you can. Yannick’s wife made us a huge batch of frozen pulled pork which was fantastic to pull out every 4-5 days and make for lunch or dinner. All we had to do was thaw, heat and add BBQ sauce. We also had a good bit of shrimp in the freezer as well as two pork loins as well as ground turkey and beef. Oh, and bread. Bread was one of the most quickly-consumed items, but it was still hard to keep up with the growing mold on a damp boat. Freeze as much bread as you can for longevity.
10. Stow away some treats for special occasions. We had some frozen peanut butter M&Ms (my favorite!) that Yannick’s wife tucked away for my birthday, home-made pepper jelly that was poured over cream cheese for Johnny’s birthday, as well some nice cheeses and a bottle or two of wine that we saved for certain milestones or celebratory-worthy events (like making it to the Azores!). “Pop!” went the champagne after we docked. Little culinary boosts like this are great for crew morale.
I also welcome any additional tips you all may have for best packing and preserving food for long offshore passages. Please share them in a comment below.
One of the best things I believe we were able to accomplish while stowing away all of those goods, was creation of a complete inventory list, documenting how many cans or boxes of what went where. It is a lot of work in the beginning to tediously document all of those items, but well worth it while you are voyaging and looking for that one stupid can of sardines! I typed it up that night (I believe it was around midnight May 26th), Phillip printed at the office the next day before we officially moved onto the boat (May 27th) and it served as our official, incredibly helpful “Inventory List” for the entire passage. I have included a link for that as well in this week’s Patreon post. Here is a sample from one of our largest (and only one of what ended up being 14 total) food lockers on the boat:
So, provisioning …. whew. Done.
Are you tired yet? We were! But, we were running on French fumes and Atlantic-crossing adrenaline. Who’s ready to sail to France? Next week, we shove off!!
Thank Patron, Carl (aka “Chief Corrao”) for the shove here. My Patrons make all of this fun adventure sharing possible. Get Inspired & Get on Board!
“Tanglefoot,” she said over the loud speaker. Phillip and I kind of eyed each other curiously. “Tangle-FOOT!” she said again, this time with more emphasis on the “foot.” That’s when we really found out how serendipitous this whole boat-shopping venture had been for Mitch.
It was June 19, 2015 and Mitch, Phillip and I were heading down in a Beverly-Hillbilly style packed-out rental to Ft. Myers to help Mitch sail his recently-acquired 1985 Nonsuch back home to Pensacola.
Didn’t bode too well that I suffered my first “boat bite” (or I guess this would be a “rental car bite”) the very minute I stepped into the car.
Don’t ask me how. There were flip flops and a floor mat involved. That’s all I remember. But it was a bit of a bloody mess we had to deal not our very first mile into the trip. Leave it to me … But the boys got me doctored up and we continued our trek south.
We stopped in for some lunch at Panera in Tallahassee and that’s when we first heard the name: Tanglefoot. The third time the little Panera chick said it over the intercom Phillip and I started to look around to see who was going to respond to that calling. Then we saw him─Mitch─bouncing up to the table with our food trays in hand. “What do you think?” he asked, looking at us as if his question made sense. Phillip and I kind of sat there dumbly: What do we think about what?
“Tanglefoot,” Mitch said again. “That’s the name of the boat.”
You see what I mean? 6’4” Mitch Roberts finds a damn-near perfect boat, in great condition for a great price and it’s named the only single thing in the world I could imagine to be more fitting for his vessel name than “While You’re Down There.”
“Tanglefoot,” Phillip and I repeated him chuckling. It was almost too perfect. Plus, Mitch has no poker face. He holds nothing back. If he’s thinking it, you’re going to hear it. He kind of tumbles over his words sometimes they come out so fast, so Tanglefoot-in-Mouth works just as well. And it wouldn’t be long before we would actually be setting foot on the infamous s/v Tanglefoot ourselves. It was a long haul (approximately nine hours) to make in one day but we got to the docks in Ft. Myers around 10:00 p.m.─just in time for our first Tanglefoot adventure!
Stopped at the Barrel in Ft. Myers for dinner. Annie loves “Country Fresh Flavor.”
The boat was docked in a gated community with water access and slips. Mitch said the owner’s broker was supposed to have called the security gate to let them know he would be coming that day to the boat. Of course that didn’t happen and here it was─10:00 p.m.─and we find ourselves being held hostage by the little gated-booth police because we don’t have clearance for admission. Mitch tried calling the broker several times while the gate guards watched us. Mitch’s impatience was visible. “I can’t believe these knuckleheads are serious,” he told Phillip and I, thankfully behind a rolled-up window so the guards didn’t hear. After three failed attempts to reach the broker, he then tried the owner, which I thought was a long shot because it was so late and─I mean─the man is, according to Mitch, “older than molasses,” which we took for mid-eighties. But, I guess I have to admit I’m ignorant to the night life of eighty-year-olds because the owner picked right up, sounding cheery as a nun on Sunday and was able to get us clearance through the booth. For whatever reason, though─even after the phone call─there was still some very important paperwork shuffling and “processing” to be done in the almighty gate booth. You should have seen these three rent-a-goobers, wheeling around on their whirly chairs, shuffling papers back and forth, writing things down like they were solving the mystery of global warming. Mitch kept trying to roll down the window to say something to them─something Phillip and I were sure would get us banned from the place forever─and Phillip kept rolling his window back up to contain him.
Then─in an apparent effort to entertain us while the all-important “gated booth processing” procedure was completed─one of the uniformed security blokes comes out to chat with us. He pulled his pants up a few times, Barney Fife style, and leaned into the driver side window.
“Evening all,” he said tipping his hat to us.
“Evening,” we all mumbled back kind of awkwardly, keeping our thoughts to ourselves: What in the bloody name of gated booths was taking so long?
“You come here to stay on the boat tonight, huh?”
“Yes, sir,” Mitch said back, trying to be patient. I was proud he’d changed the “knucklehead” to “sir.”
“What slip are you in?” Fife asked. It seemed like he was trying to be cordial.
“I don’t know,” Mitch said, a little embarrassed, but more irritated than anything. Who gives a crap? Let us in!
“Well, what dock?” Fife followed up, now a little suspect.
“I don’t know,” Mitch barked back, now noticeably irritated. “I just know how to get to the boat. I don’t know which dock it is.”
“Well, there are only five docks,” Fife snapped, giving us a stupid, how-can-you-not-know frown.
“I told you … ” Mitch started to fire back and reach for the door handle. I thought he was about to step out of the vehicle and blow our chances of ever getting to the boat that night but, thankfully, he was cut off. Fife No. 2 stuck his head out of the booth, waved some papers in the air and said, “You all have a safe night, now,” as the gate buzzed and the arm finally started to lift, allowing us through. Fife No. 1 hiked his pants up again, because I’m sure there had been some slippage in the “which dock?” exchange and gave us a scowl as we drove by. The three of us were laughing about it─now that we had gotten in─but those rent-a-Fifes were unbelievable. How important is the maintenance of the gate log and documentation of thru traffic in a quiet gated community in Ft. Myers, Florida? I mean really?
Mitch held true to his word too. He had no idea what dock the boat was on but he knew exactly how to guide us to it. Here it was─our first time to see Tanglefoot.
Man, did Mitch get lucky. She was a sound, solid, well-built boat. Dirty as all get out but with just a few swipes of a Clorox wipe I could tell she was going to clean up incredibly well.
And, it was shocking how big the boat felt. At thirty feet, Mitch’s boat is a good five feet shorter than ours but it feels five feet bigger in every direction down below. It looked like you could line up three ballerinas in the saloon and have them each do pirrouettes and they wouldn’t hit each other. It was like a floating condo.
And, the companionway blew my mind. The entry-way is like four feet fall, with two measly steps down to the cabin floor and Mitch could stand tall and straight most everywhere in the cabin below.
No wonder Mitch said he felt comfortable on this boat. It’s like it was built for him. The cockpit is massive too. I think the fact that beam of the boat is carried so far forward and so far aft is what makes it feel so much bigger than ours. The Nonsuch is probably a little squattier in that regard (I like to call those “fat bottom girls”) which can make them a little less comfortable to sail in heavy weather, but it certainly makes them super comfortable to cruise around coastal waters and spend the weekends in. Phillip and I were both really impressed with the layout, look, feel, build and quality of Mitch’s boat. You done good, Buddy. You done good. We started poking around and tidying things up a bit and discovered some interesting eighty-year-old man finds. There was a complete drawer of canned Buds in the vberth. Think like eighteen cans in one drawer and a mounted can crusher by the companionway stairs.
It was gross─all grungy and moldy with years of dirt caked on. That was going to be one of the first things to go. But, modifications and thorough clean-up would come later. For now it was time to settle in─get all of our provisions on-board and stowed away and the boat put in a somewhat functioning condition for sleeping that evening so we could rise early and make sure she was ready to head out tomorrow morning for the passage.
Mitch was so excited showing us around the boat he kept dropping things and losing his flashlight. I can’t tell you how many times he had to ask Phillip to borrow his. We decided we were soon going to have to put a head lamp on him permanently. Or maybe a chest-mounted push light that you could just click on whenever he came near. That would have been helpful.
But, you couldn’t blame him. He was just excited. This was his boat! His very first sailboat! Tanglefoot! And this was his first time to have friends aboard and get to show her off. And (and!)─even better─we would soon be shoving her out of the slip and sailing her out into blue waters. That’s some pretty good stuff. Definitely worth a couple dropped nuts and bolts and forever-missing flashlight. I’ve never seen Mitch so giddy. Since he was all smiles and giggles we decided to give him his little Captain’s gift then─a log book and a waterproof accordion folder for all of his manuals. Pulling from experience, we know how important it is to keep those handy and organized.
After a couple of hours unpacking, cleaning and stowing, though, this crew was beat. It was well after midnight by then and we were planning to make one more provision run in the morning for perishables and then toss the lines around noon and start making our way north, toward either Venice or Clearwater. Venice was going to be a shorter trip, more paralleled to the shore. We were keeping it open as an option in case we suffered some equipment or engine failure or other likely catastrophe on the first leg of the trip. If things were going well, though, we were hoping to make it all the way to Clearwater right out of the gate. Talk didn’t last long, though, as the crew’s lids started to droop. It had been a long day. Phillip and I folded down the table in the saloon to set up the double bed on the starboard side for us, while Mitch prepared the vberth for him. The amount of room in the cabin of the Nonsuch is astounding. Phillip and I felt like we were sprawled out in a five-star suite!
Then Mitch cranked up the AC. Yes, a boat with AC. This would be a new luxury for Phillip and me. Whether it was the chill or the new sleeping digs or just the excitement of spending our first night on Mitch’s boat knowing we were going to sail it out into the Gulf tomorrow, none of us got much sleep that night.
Personally, I blame Mitch and the AC. He has got to cool it─no pun intended─with the AC because that about the coldest I’ve ever been in my damn life. I was tugging and grunting and trying to get every body part covered with Phillip and I’s shared sheet but it still wasn’t enough. I was barely groggy and froze-toed when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. the next morning. The first thing I did was step out into the cockpit to the much-welcomed muggy warmth. My feet prickled back to life as I walked the dewy deck with a smile. We were sailing today!
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
So, no surprise here I’m sure: Mitch got the boat. At 6’4″, if you’re in the market for a boat and you find one you’re, in his words─”comfortable on”─you get it. Not to mention this boat was well-made, by a dependable builder, in fantastic condition, had passed the survey/sea trial with flying colors needing only minimal repairs and was going for half the asking price. Half?! Pssshhh … There’s really no way Mitch could say no. He let the time lapse on rescinding the offer and on June 14, 2015 Mitch became the proud new owner of a 1985 Nonsuch. All he needed to do was sail it home from Ft. Myers, FL.
All that required was willing crew.
It’s probably no surprise here, either: he asked Phillip and me.
I don’t know, though. Would you trust these two?
Seems Mitch was keen on cashing in the favor chips he had racked up when he helped us sail our Niagara 35 from Punta Gorda, FL to its new home port in Pensacola back in 2013. But, the irony of it was almost comical. Not only were the three of us about to make just about the same trek again on a sailboat, but (BUT!) we were going to do it again on another 1985 model boat and (AND!) another Hinterhoeller. Shut up. I’m serious. The symmetry of it was kind of wild. Can you say: Salt of a Sailor the sequel! We hoped this time, though, we wouldn’t have to hack off any critical parts of the boat, string a puke bucket around one of the crew member’s necks, suffer a man down to (allegedly) non-drowsy Dramamine or endure any other significant equipment failures like last time. (If you haven’t read Salt yet, I hope you’re intrigued now.)
We all hoped for a safe and prosperous delivery of Mitch’s new boat from Ft. Myers to its new home port in Pensacola, FL. But─maybe it was just Phillip and I although something tells me Mitch maybe a little too─we were also hoping for a bit of an adventure. You don’t ever want anything to go wrong during a passage across blue waters, but you know it can always happen. No matter how hard you prepare, plan or tread cautiously, a lot of it’s just luck. Sometimes it’s just your time for shit to go wrong. We didn’t want that to happen to Mitch, but if it was going to, we wanted to be there to help─and experience and learn from it.
Now this time thankfully I was a bit more sail savvy than last time. I didn’t ask at least─with big, blinking doe eyes: “When are they going to deliver your boat, Mitch?” I knew we were going to have to sail her home, and Phillip and I were excited to head out on another blue water passage. We’re always up for a blue water passage─Phillip especially. That man loves nothing more than to stand behind a helm and look out on a blue horizon.
Okay, lay. He likes to lay behind the helm too.
Mitch really didn’t even have to ask. It all seemed a given from the moment he started looking for a boat in south Florida. He had been there for us and he knew we would do the same for him. Hell, we were happy to. We set a date that worked around everyone’s schedule─June 19, 2015─and started planning and provisioning. If everything went well, we were expecting the entire trip to take seven days but we cleared ten just in case. My only concern was the Bahamas. I was set to fly out of Pensacola to Ft. Lauderdale on July 2nd. Honor of a lifetime: I had been asked by a friend’s parents to crew with them on their boat in the Abacos Regatta. After reading Salt, seems they thought I would be helpful to have on board─or entertaining at least. The Bahamas saga will be coming up next on the blog. Be excited!
So, June 19th to July 1st was the time slot. The Mitch trip was going to be a tight fit, but it did fit. And we figured if something happened and we had to leave the Nonsuch somewhere─like, say, I don’t know … Carrabelle─we could leave her and drive the rest of the way home. We hoped that wouldn’t happen (again this time). We wanted to sail her right into the Pensacola Pass our first time out but there was always the possibility the wind, weather and whatever sailing karma is out there would see otherwise. Whatever the case, we were up for it.
What cracked me up, though, was Mitch. He always does. I love that guy. It’s fun to watch a new friend sort of walk up to the boating ledge, look over, kick a little pebble off then just fall, head-over-heels and tumble all the way down. No matter how many times you tell said friend it’s going to cost a lot, things are going to break often, and then it will cost a lot to repair them, it’s like they just can’t hear you. You continually try to warn them: You’re going to have to buy a lot of boat crap. Then you’ll start using all of that crap and discover what other boat crap you really want and then you’ll have to buy all of that too. It’s just a process. But when you finally get your boat dialed in─just the way you like it─it’s totally worth it. And, after having endured that entire process, you’ll really have fun watching friends go through it after you. I have to admit. I was having a hell of a time watching Mitch.
The naan was the least of his worries. After going through the list Mitch made when he was on the boat for the survey/sea trial of equipment already on board, we made another list of items he would need to purchase for the three of us to safely make the passage on the boat. The amount of stuff baffled him.
“Towels? What kind of towels?” Mitch asked, bewildered.
All kinds dude. Dish towels, bath towels, work towels. The three of us are essentially about to move onto your floating home and live there for a week, while we’re sailing and working on it. We might need to─I don’t know─bathe on occasion. Wash our dishes. Wipe our hands. I mean, maybe. If you don’t think so, though, nix the towels. He was funny. And some of the costs really put a thorn in his side, like the EPIRB.
“Do we really need that?” I remember him asking Phillip.
“Only if you want the Coast Guard to come if we’re sinking,” Phillip said.
But, I get it. I mean, those things are like $400. It’s not an easy pill to swallow. I had to laugh, though, when we started talking about a hurricane haul-out plan for his boat. And, again I agree. If $400 for the EPIRB gives you heartburn, you’re really going to take it on the chin with the $1,500 price tag on the haul-out. Mitch was understandably trying to stop the bleed:
“So, it’s $1,500 to haul out, if need be, for a hurricane?” he was trying to get Phillip to confirm.
“Well, it’s $1,500 for the year,” Phillip replied.
“Oh, okay, so if they don’t haul out, then that carries over next time, right?”
“No, it’s $1,500 a year.”
“Even if they don’t haul you out?!”
Sorry buddy. Boats are just expensive. But, like I said, Mitch had got the Nonsuch for an exceptional price so he, thankfully, had a little wiggle room left in his budget. Still doesn’t make it any easier to write those checks. He was a good sport about it, though. Better than I ever expected. Mitch really stepped up. Phillip and I gave him a pretty extensive list of things we would need for the trip─stuff for him to buy, stuff for us to bring and stuff for him to bring. It was good practice for Phillip and I to go back through that thought process of readying a boat for passage, except this time we kind of felt like yacht delivery people, like very amateur Kretschmers. But, some of the tips and tricks Kretschmer had mentioned when we attended his seminar at the Miami Boat Show back in February did seem to trickle through.
The whole idea of sitting down to make a list of items and equipment we would need to bring a boat across blue waters just gave Phillip and I a little tingle. It was exciting to think we would soon be back out there, in the Gulf of Mexico, looking out on a vast body of water with nothing on the horizon but a sun sinking into blue denim.
Thankfully, we had kept a digital copy of the list we had made when we were preparing to bring our Niagara 35 back home across the Gulf. We dusted that off and modified it a bit to suit Mitch’s boat and needs. In case any of you find it helpful in preparing for a passage, or a Kretschmer like yacht-delivery (yeah!), here ‘tis: our Provisions List.
We went through it with Mitch, item by item, making sure he had each one. And he did. He had bought it all, even some extra goodies for the two of us─little treats for us for agreeing to make the passage with him. Like I said, he was big on the snacks.
We were set to leave the following week and the only thing Mitch got stuck on was the naan.
“It’s not a snack. It’s bread, like a soft fluffy pita. We’ll eat it with the tiki masala.”
“Masala. Tiki masala.”
Yeah that. We’ll get that one buddy. See you in a few days.
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
While they were certainly barreling into the slip, it turned out the “Coming in Hot!” boys didn’t really need our help. About half-way into the slip, the skipper threw it in reverse full throttle and nudged right up to a piling on the starboard side with just the slightest ‘squeak’ and they were in. It was incredibly impressive. He handled that 30′ sailboat like it was a Sea Doo. They offered their thanks and waved us off, and Phillip and I set back to our main mission – DINNER. It was our second night in Venice, and after hob-knobbing and indulging ourselves the night before in the fine-dining atmosphere on the second floor of the Crow’s Nest Marina restaurant …
we decided to get back to our roots this time and slum it with the rest of the salty sailors on the bottom floor of the restaurant – the Tavern. And, what an experience …
They had this guy there playing live music. He appeared to have a little Middle-Eastern influence and just the slightest hint of a lisp. Strange combination, I know, but it gave his vocals this raspy, soulful quality. And, the guitar he was playing had like six strings on each side – a total of 12 – and he seemed to use every single finger on both hands to pluck each one of them. He was captivating. Here – see for yourself:
Good stuff, right? He was awesome. And, in between sets, he liked to play trivia with the audience – real old school music history stuff. Like, who wrote the first version of that song? What band did he originally play with? Way beyond my time, but several folks would call out answers and he would rip them a new one if they were wrong – all in good fun. He was quite entertaining. But, he didn’t turn out to be the actual entertainment. I hope you noticed in the video, the guy that was sitting with his back right next to us. The one the nice waitress had to ask “Sir, could you please scoot your chair forward so we can get by with the food?” If not – watch it again. Because, THIS guy was truly entertaining.
You’ll notice his clapping off-beat at the beginning of the video (when it’s not really a “clapping” kind of song if you know what I mean). We’d been watching him since we sat down. A real, attention-seeking fellow, that man, on the verge of belligerence. First, he tried to hit on a gal sitting next to him (who was with a male companion might I add) and that didn’t pan out. He then tried to guess one of the trivia questions, which also didn’t pan out. And, just when he had finally quieted for a moment, the waitress came by and kindly asked him to scoot his chair forward, stirring the nest all over again. He was offended … to the core. After she walked by, he threw his hands up in disgust and loudly protested. “What am I supposed to do, Gary? Sit like this??” he practically shouted to the guy sitting two feet from him as he scooched his beanpole chest all the way up to the table and hunkered over his food in a dramatic over-exaggeration. “I mean, what does she expect?” Wow. He repeated his scooch and hunker-down show every time the waitress came by and loudly pushed his chair back out in rebellion after she’d passed back by, his arms folded over his chest in a snooty pout. It was the adult equivalent of a tantrum, and … to our pleasant surprise – wildly entertaining. Don’t you just love people??
In any event, we thoroughly enjoyed the soulful music, rustic atmosphere and “live entertainment” at the Crow’s Nest Tavern that night. We ordered up a raw dozen, some rich escargot, a delicious bahn mi sandwich and an insanely-huge piece of Oreo cheesecake.
De-lish! Needless to say, we didn’t last long after that meal …
May 3, 2014:
We woke the next morning to another Lion Kingquality sunrise. NaaaaaaaasuhWHENya … Okay, I won’t go through it again. But, it was gorgeous coming up over Bird Island.
This time it was Phillip’s turn to take the sunrise session and get his African chant on while he paddled the coves and inlets around the marina.
We had been watching the storm in the Gulf, and it appeared the sea state was going to lay down enough to let us head out tomorrow for Clearwater. So, with a passage on the horizon, we set our sights on provisioning the boat. We had a good bit of hearty root vegetables on the boat (sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.) that needed eating, so we decided to make a big pot of sweet potato chili. (It also rained most of the morning, so what better way to pass the time than cook up a big pot of soup!) We tried this recipe initially before we even got our boat, when we were just cooking out of galley cookbooks for fun – only dreaming of what we would actually make when we were on an actual passage, in our actual BOAT! And, we first made it on passage when we were sailing the boat back from Punta Gorda, FL where we purchased it in April, 2013. There we go!
While the chili was a hit amongst the crew initially, we did receive some complaints later from one disgruntled crew member — the infamous Mitch. (Let me just say I spared you some of the more disgusting details about our initial crossing) and suffice it to say that the man thoroughly enjoyed the chili going in — not so much coming out. And, when I was faced with the remnants he had left for me in the head, he boldly blamed the “Broccoli Crappola” we had fed him for dinner …
It was sweet potato chili.
Not a single stalk, leaf or floret of broccoli in it.
But, to this day, the Captain and I still lovingly call our sweet potato chili “Broccoli Crappola” in memoriam. Ahhh … Mitch. You gotta love that man. Since we had all the necessary ingredients already,
we went ahead and made a big batch of it for easy re-heat during passage.
This chili is great because the ingredients for it (basically carrots, sweet potato, onions, black beans, chopped tomatoes) are incredibly hearty and will hold until you’re ready to make it. It’s easy, cheap, delicious and filling. What more do you need on a boat? Recipe here. And, since we’d made a huge batch, there was plenty for us to have a bowl that day for lunch.
Did I mention the cheap part? Venice was certainly burning a hole in our budget …
In the afternoon, we headed over to the marina to do some laundry and clean up and – of all the people – guess who we ran into? Yep! The “Coming in Hot!” boys. As you recall, they were occupying the slip right next to us, so we, of course, as a result of natural marina curiosity, had watched them emerge from their boat around 10:30 that morning, stretch and moan and scratch some things, and head to shore. We recognized them when we came into the laundry area and struck up a conversation. And – it’s always fascinating the kind of people you meet when you travel. So the Captain was in his mid to late thirties, a tech guy, who was on a two-year sabbatical, traveling the world. He had been to the UK, India, Thailand, you name it. He met his soon-to-become First Mate, Will, while riding a train in India. They became fast friends and decided to travel the world together. Their first plan was to buy a bus and convert it into a hostel but they claimed they “got drunk one night and bought a sailboat instead.” And, here they were. In Venice, FL. Not an ounce of sailing knowledge between them and they were just figuring it out as they went. Sure explains the “Coming in Hot!” bit and the dilapidated boat. But, they had an infectious sense of adventure and infinite charisma. Great, great guys. We chatted with them for a while and decided to have a drink or three at the tavern while our clothes were spinning. A quick clean-up and an inspection of the arm confirmed what I already knew – it was still attached and still looked … awesome. It had graduated from elephantitis to jaundice with a nice yellow hue and still maintained a distinct “squishy” feel throughout. … Nice.
They were airing the Kentucky Derby at the Tavern and offering themed drinks (mint juleps and Pim’s cups), Derby swag giveaway and a big prize for the lucky customer who guessed the winning horse.
It was a fun atmosphere and we had no problem plopping down for some cocktails, calamari, a sensational burger and quesadillas. Yum!
With the laundry taken care of, and a big pot of chili ready for passage the next day, we curled up for a quiet movie night on the boat and made a list of the non-perishables (milk, OJ, eggs, creamer and the like) that we would need to pick up in the morning before heading out to Clearwater. We figured it would be about an 15-18-hour passage (approximately 70 nautical miles assuming an average 4-or-so knot speed), so we planned to leave early in the afternoon in hopes of making it to Clearwater the following morning. Like I said, we always try to plan to come into pass in the daylight – even if we’ve been through that pass before. Even familiar passages are more treacherous at night.
May 4, 2014:
Another beautiful sunrise in Venice. No surprise there. (No Lion King chants this time – lucky you).
A brisk morning walk around the docks revealed plenty more of those weird snail-like evolutionary creatures that we had come across in Ft. Myers.
I captured some more fascinating footage for you of their signature flap-swim stroke:
You’re welcome. And, you’ll be glad to know I spared you the Australian-accented nature documentary commentary that Phillip had to endure during the first three filmings: “The snail flaps furiously through the treacherous waters as the sun rises over head … ”
We decided to get another advantageous use out of the free bike rentals at the marina to make our run to the store. Venice was a very clean, friendly, accommodating marina, but a little on the pricey side, so we were trying to limit our last Venice adventures to free bike rides and chili bowls. Another picturesque cruise through downtown Venice, though. The tree-lined streets are perfect for biking of a leisurely stroll.
And, there was a Publix right in the heart of downtown – just a quick bike ride from the boat.
Good thing we had baskets on the front for the groceries!
And, I didn’t crash!! (this time). Funny thing was, when we came back to the boat, it seemed we had somehow missed the invite for the party!
There were boats, dinghies, floaties, redneck yachts and coolers all around our boat!
Apparently, Saturdays at Snake Island can get pretty wild! While we would have loved to have hung around with the redneck crew, we had a Gulf passage calling us. It was around 1:00 pm, and we were hoping to get underway before 2:00pm to ensure a morning entry into Clearwater.
We packed the boat, checked the weather one more time, and headed out!
We were expecting 10-15 mph winds out of the NNE, and a 2-4 ft sea state, which would have been a little rough but bearable. When we made our way out of the inlet, however,
we were faced with NW winds (the exact direction we were going) of 17-20 mph and swells of 4-5 ft. It was a very rough sea state.
Some swells appeared to be about six feet. The boat would heel back and climb over them and the wave would swallow the horizon behind the boat as we barreled down it.
We were averaging 0.5 to 1.7 kts – the epitome of beating to windward. After about three hours of this we had collectively decided we were miserable. We were barely making way beating into the wind in a sea state that was working against us too. The forecast was off. It could improve, but it was anybody’s guess as to when. If we continued to ride it out, we could end up stuck in miserable conditions for 24 more hours just to make it to Clearwater tomorrow. We had learned that patience in timing passages makes all the difference. There was no need for us to rush to Clearwater, particularly not in this horrendous fashion. We decided to wait 30 minutes or so and if nothing changed to turn back and wait for better conditions. And, as you can likely guess … nothing changed. Just thirty more minutes of making 0.7 knots into the wind. Having covered approximately 6 miles of our estimated 70-mile trip over the course of four hours, we decided to call it. We hadn’t even made it far enough away from shore to lose sight of it, so turning back wasn’t too much of a stretch. And, the minute we turned around, it seemed the entire weather system changed. It’s amazing how forceful and threatening the wind can feel when it’s coming on your nose only to have it turn into a light breeze when it’s coming on your stern. We now had big, beautiful following seas and were averaging 5.5 knots easy back to shore. While the six miles out took us four hours to cover, coming back only took an hour and a half. But, the seas were still kicked up, 4-5 foot swells had the boat rocking and rolling toward the inlet. And, you remember what I said about the inlet at Venice — very narrow:
And, very rocky:
The bow of the boat was swaying and rolling in an elegant motion, but only briefing passing at times the mark for the entry of the inlet. Imagine finding a sight for your target in the scope of your rifle, then trying to hit it while making a figure 8 with the barrel of your gun. Phillip and I both tensed when we realized how tricky it was going to be to steer the boat in between those two severely rocky shoals. The only good news was the closer we got, the wider the inlet seemed, but that also meant we were closer. Closer to the rocks and the jetty and the waves crashing on shore. And, just as we were nearing the entry, we saw another sailboat pitching and bouncing on the rocky shore. We weren’t sure at first if it was on the rocky shoal or just extremely close, but as we neared the inlet, we could tell. The boat had run hard aground on the rocks, the hull smashing into them again with every incoming wave.
“As if I need a visual reminder of what could happen if we don’t get this right,” Phillip said in solace, shaking his head and staring ahead, trying to keep the “figure 8” motion of our bow within the realms of the rocky inlet.
Tomorrow was it. We were going to head out around daybreak to make our final passage south to the Keys. We were beyond excited. We spent the morning cleaning and readying the boat for the next day’s passage – re-tying the fuel cans we had filled the day before, re-checking the fluids we had topped off, taking out the trash. You know, real exciting boat stuff. We were planning to meet our buddy Johnny and his wife Cindy around mid-morning to make a mega run to the store for provisions. Cindy had driven down to spend the weekend with Johnny and had been nice enough to offer us boating bums a ride to the store before she left. Don’t mind if we do! Knowing we weren’t going to have to haul our supplies back pack-mule style, we made quite the luxurious list and even planned our attack from produce to paper products. We were going to get all Supermarket Sweep on them – matching sweatshirts and all.
But, sadly … as ready as WE were to do some serious grocery shopping, it seems the rest of the world wasn’t ready for us. We found Ft. Myers tends to take their Easter pretty seriously. Every place was closed. Every … single … place. We drove by Publix. No. Target. Closed. Winn Dixie? Shut-down. I hate to say it, but we finally ended up at the all-American icon of convenience shopping. Mmmm-hmmmm. Wal-Mart. You can always count on old Wally World to be open. We each made our rounds and packed Cindy’s little car to the brim. And, of course – what do you always want to do after grocery shopping? EAT! After planning for and picking up everything we would need to cook and eat for the passage and the following week, all we could think about was food. We stopped at this little McGregor Cafe in Ft. Myers and scored pretty good.
A juicy Rueben sandwich and a lobster cake salad.
Yum! But, the best part was our waitress. Bonnie … the Bunny.
You see? As much as I love to write fiction – I really don’t have to make this stuff up.
Bonnie (“the Bunny”) pranced around the entire time sporting fuzzy purple bunny ears and offering up what she called her “Special Bunny Peeps Cake” to any poor customer who couldn’t turn her away. She even suffered it on the entire wait staff like office birthday cake.
When I walked through the dining area to go to the restroom, there were ten of them in there, at least, all picking with plastic forks at pieces of neon peep fluff on their styrofoam plates. They would stuff mouthfuls in their cheeks and give Bonnie an exaggerated “Mmmmm” smile-and-nod when she would walk by, telling them “It’s my special recipe! I make it every year!”
It was … hilarious.
After our big venture to all of the closed stores, we headed back to the boat and packed her up for the next day’s passage to the Keys. We still had some beautiful afternoon hours left, so I decided to bust out the old inflatable SUP and get to it.
See Annie pump.
Pump Annie pump!
Whew! I tell you. I love that my SUP is inflatable (so we can break it down and stow it down below) but she is a chore-and-a-half to blow up. By the time you’re done, the thought of paddling is exhausting. But, somehow I managed!
I tossed her in the water and set to it.
Go Annie go!
Ft. Myers had lots of residential inlets where the houses are all waterfront along the seawall and you can paddle around in each of them, checking out peoples’ boats, backyards, pools, houses, etc. I love paddling around nice waterfront homes. I like to imagine all the costly upkeep and maintenance they must require and bask in the contentment of living on a boat!
And, I was feeling pretty content … that is, until I returned to the boat and Phillip told me the engine wouldn’t crank. Say what? We’re leaving for the Keys tomorrow. Could you repeat that?
But, sadly, it was true. The engine wouldn’t fire – at least not on its own battery. Luckily, we have two different battery systems on our boat. One battery system is dedicated to starting the engine while the second bank (the house batteries) is much larger and equipped to run all the other systems on the boat. We also have a nifty device that allows us to combine the battery systems together if necessary by the simple flip of a switch. When we combined the circuit and pulled from the house batteries, the engine would crank, but she would not fire from the starting battery alone. Errgghh … What did I say about those big waterfront mansions being more trouble than they’re worth? Well, forget that. We had boat problems!
We traced the connections and wires from the alternator to the battery combiner (which regulates which set of batteries get charged) and found the inline fuses for the starting battery had blown.
This meant the starting battery was not getting a charge when the engine was running. This was good news because it was an easy fix. Replace the small fuses and we figured we would be in business. Then, all we needed to do was run the engine for a bit to be certain the starting battery was in fact charging.
We replaced the fuses, combined the batteries and cranked her up. Everything was running great. We had water coming out of the back and plenty of gas to give the boat a charge, so we let her purr. It was just about dusk, so we poured a couple of glasses of wine and headed topside to watch the sun set.
Ahhh … Isn’t she beautiful? We sipped from our glasses and drank in the pink horizon. Life was tranquil and serene. Everything was perfect … until the alarm went off. Yes, the ALARM. A high-pitched, shrill tea-kettle whistle rang out from the cockpit. Phillip and I jumped up, knocking over our deck chairs and glasses as we scrambled back to the helm as she shrieked angrily at us. It was the high-temp alarm. Picture a car steaming on the side of the road.
It meant our engine had overheated. What next?
We immediately shut her down so she could cool. But, we were stunned. What in the heck had happened? Our temp had been holding fine. Water had been spouting out the back. Then all of a sudden it overheated?? We didn’t know what to think. After she cooled a bit, we got back down in the engine room and started checking out the heat exchanger, making sure the seacock (that allows raw water to pull in to heat the engine) was open and working fine, basically just troubleshooting … again …
But, while we didn’t find any obvious issue with the cooling system on the engine, I did notice something on the battery combiner that we had missed before. There was a little green clip that plugged into the combiner that had apparently wiggled its way out of its slot. This little guy:
Who the heck knows when that happened – likely when we were beating our way into Charlotte Harbor during our last horrendous night in the Gulf – if I had to wager a guess. But, the good news is, we spotted it. An easy fix. Just push her back in. *Click* And THEN our engine battery would get a charge. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know your own boat. Tinker around on it, try to troubleshoot things yourself, try to fix things yourself (to the extent possible) and, basically, just piddle around with the systems. I, personally, like to sing this while I do and recommend you do too:
Phillip won’t admit it, but he secretly digs that tune!
It’s amazing what you’ll learn. Most of the systems on the boat are really simple if you just take the time to figure them out, and the confidence you’ll gain in handling everything on the boat yourself is easily worth it. So – take some advice from Julia Andrews and get to know her!
And, while I say that, as much “knowing” as were doing on our boat that evening, we were still totally stumped by the engine overheating. Phillip jumped in and checked the seacock through-hole on the hull of the boat to make sure there wasn’t some trash bag or something caught up in it.
Nothing. We let her cool completely down, checked the coolant levels and the seacock (again) and decided to re-crank and see what happened. We both sat in the cockpit watching the heat gage like a hawk.
Still sipping our wine, of course. I mean, we’re boat people, but we’re still cruisers …
Thankfully, though, she held at her standard operating temp of 180 degrees.
To this day, we really can’t tell you what happened. The most likely explanation is that something got temporarily sucked up against the through-hole under the boat and the engine could not pull water in to cool itself. Then when we shut off the engine, the suction stopped and whatever it was floated away. We suppose … That’s all we could do. Was suppose. But, it was getting late and, either because of, or despite, all our efforts, the boat was currently running great and was ready to get under way the next morning. So, we supposed ourselves right to bed to get some rest for the passage tomorrow. We were just a 24-hour run away from the Keys!