More Exploration Of The Middle Keys

After a couple of fun days anchored at Little Crawl Key, it was time to return to Boot Key Harbor. We had made a commitment to give a presentation to cruisers at the Tiki Hut located at the City Marina so we pulled up the anchor and headed back early on Tuesday morning. We really like the opportunity to share our experiences with other boaters and they always go away satisfied that they had just a little more knowledge than they came with. What a difference from our trip east to Little Crawl Key. Hawks Channel was flat calm and we had a pleasant motor back to the Harbor. It was one of those warm sunny days that remind us why we are here this time of year. In about an hour and a half, we were back at a friend's dock and tied up. So far we had tied to our friend's dock, anchored in the harbor and sat on a mooring for a few days. It's nice to try and experience it all. You can view our vessel tracklines for our last 2 cruises at, http://argus.survice.com/vessel_tracking/images/trackline-MarinaLife.html

Safety First

I know that phrase has been seriously over used. But it's the first thing that comes to mind when we're planning a project or preparing for a cruise. Sure there are the usual safety equipment requirements for your boat, but there are many other pieces of safety equipment that for us are cruise specific, depending on when and where we plan to travel. We have an entire category for safety on this blog. That's how serious we are about the issue. In preparing Beach House for our upcoming cruise to the Bahamas and the Great Loop, we had different safety considerations than our recent trips along the Atlantic ICW. Being in close contact to land and having had good VHF and cell phone coverage, our communications equipment was satisfactory at the time. Crossing the Gulf Stream, traveling alone across the Bahamas Banks, anchoring in remote areas or crossing the Gulf of Mexico will mean we need to be able to provide for ourselves without outside help for a period of time. It also means we will need to be able to communicate long range in an emergency.

Curry Hammock State Park

If you plan to use the Little Crawl Key anchorage and visit Curry Hammock State Park, there are a few things you need to know. When landing in the dinghy, please don't tie off to the mangroves. It damages the plants which are protected. If the dinghy has no motor and can be pulled up on the small access beach off the anchorage basin, it's not a problem. If the dinghy has the motor on, the Park requires that you drop an anchor to keep it just off the beach and wade to shore. There are fees to use the facilities that amount to $2.50 per person per day (payable at the park entrance a short walk from where you land your dinghy). The Park entry fee is free for life for disabled veterans. This gives you access to the beach, restrooms, picnic pavilions with charcoal BBQs and several faucets where water jugs can be filled. You can also walk around the park and rent a kayak if you're so inclined. But there's more.

Gunkholing The Florida Keys, Little Crawl Key

The forecast winds and seas had not subsided as we exited Boot Key Harbor via Sisters Creek. Once we were out in Hawks Channel, it was obvious we would have a somewhat boisterous ride for the 10 miles or so to our destination for the day, a snug anchorage at Little Crawl Key (see page 89 of The Great Book Of Anchorages, Norfolk to Key West). With easterly winds and southerly swells, we had a bit of a rolly ride for the next hour and a half once we left the channel markers for Sisters Creek. The multitude of floats from the fish traps also made the short transit a challenge, but it wasn't too uncomfortable. We just needed to keep a sharp eye out and weave through the mine field. The channel entrance into Little Crawl Key requires going past the entrance between the two Keys and picking up the private markers 1 and 2 (Lat 24.44.2813N 080.58.2811W) that lead into the doglegged channel. It's apparent that the markers lead around and behind some very shallow water. The sand bar did knock down the seas quite a bit as we moved towards the entrance. Just past the last set of markers, a shoal extends out from each side of the entrance.

Let The Cruise Begin

It's been four years, tens of thousands of dollars, cuts, bruises and a few curse words that have never been heard by human ears, but we're finally off the dock and underway. Words can not express the feeling as we headed out the channel from Goodland, Florida and watched the marina fade from view. The only thing that kept playing in our minds was "it's finally happening." We had been at Walker's Coon Key Marina for about a month while we finished the generator installation, the Argus system and a few other minor projects. Walker's hauled the boat, painted the bottom and replaced all of the zincs while we were in Maryland for Thanksgiving. When we returned, everything was ready and all we needed to do was to restock our provisions and turn in the rental car. We had dropped off both of our cars at a relative's until our cruise was finished. As we headed toward Gullivan Bay, we encountered a raccoon swimming across the channel and when we had barely reached open water, pods of dolphins began to cavort in our bow and stern wakes. We saw them off and on all the way to Marathon.

Do-It-Yourself Generator Install

For many, many, many years, our trusty Honda 2000 portable generator supplied us with 120-volt electricity when we needed it at anchor. On our sailboat, we used an inverter most of the time and our solar panels and wind generator kept the battery banks topped off. We made the decision early on to install a permanent generator on Beach House for our upcoming cruise to the Bahamas and the Great Loop. We likely won't have the wind conditions needed for a wind generator like we had in the Caribbean, and solar panels are not practical for us right now. We want to be able to run the air conditioner in the Bahamas and the heat in the Great Lakes when we need it, and an inverter would just not do. Generator options for boats are plentiful, and deciding which one would best suit our needs took a lot of research.

Installing Our Garmin GHP 10 Autopilot

Chuck at the helmAfter 17 years of sailing on our Mariner 40 Ketch, Sea Trek, we were really used to having an autopilot do most of the steering for us. With Beach House, we did all of the steering ourselves, until now. Both the trip from South Carolina to the Chesapeake and the return to Florida required us to steer every foot of the way. We often mentioned on those trips how much we would like to have had some electronic help. An autopilot has always been on our to-do list, but we decided to wait and install the latest model just before departure time on our upcoming cruise. The time is now.

AGLCA Fall Rendezvous

The reason we have been a little negligent in posting lately isn't because we haven't had much to post. To the contrary, the reason is that sooooo many things are going on that we have been hard pressed to sit down at the computer and get caught up. Some big projects have been completed, and preparations are coming down to the wire for the beginning of our next big adventure. Anyone that has prepared for a two-year cruise understands how hectic and stressful that can be. So, you ask, what does that have to do with an AGLCA Rendezvous? Good question...


Ice Cream Stops Along the ICW

By Susan Landry, Published in September 2012 Issue Cruising World Magazine.


How many of you will admit to planning your overnight stops along the ICW to coincide with your favorite ice cream shop? I know there are more than just the two of us who think about that creamy, delicious cone waiting at our next favorite stop. After cruising up and down the ICW for almost 20 years, we have definitely found some yummy temptations.

But first, some interesting ice cream tidbits. Although the Chinese have been making flavored ices well before the birth of Christ, the Italians and French claim to have made the first containing milk or cream in the 1600s. Ice cream’s first mentions in U.S. history were around 1700.

Also, have you ever wondered why the ice cream you get in parlors is so much tastier than anything you ever find at the supermarket? That is because many of those creamy concoctions never see the inside of a grocery store. Ice cream manufacturers, such as Greenwood in Georgia and Working Cow in Florida, produce their ice creams only for restaurants and parlors. But now, down to the business of identifying those special places to feed your cravings.

PROBLEM WITH MUSTANG INFLATABLE PFDS

Distributed by the Office of Investigations and Analysis: Http://marineinvestigations.us

October 4, 2012 Alert 3-12
Washington, DC
PROBLEM WITH MUSTANG INFLATABLE PFDS

The Coast Guard has become aware of certain Mustang Survival Inflatable PFDs with Hammar MA1 hydrostatic (HIT) inflation systems which may not inflate and require a new re-arm kit to properly  inflate by manual or automatic activation. This safety alert identifies which products are affected. Certain inflatable PDFs may be subject to delayed or non-inflations. To determine if you are impacted please follow the instructions below.

USCG Approval Mustang Product
N/A MA7214 HIT inflatable re-arm kit
N/A MA7218 HIT inflatable re-arm kit for LIFT
160.076/8611/0 MD0450 Inflatable Vest PFD with LIFT
160.076/5204/0 MD0451 Inflatable Vest PFD with LIFT (no harness)
160.076/5201/0 MD3183 Deluxe Inflatable PFD with HIT
160.076/8608/0 MD3184 Deluxe Inflatable PFD with HIT (with harness)
160.076/5300/0 MD3188 Inflatable Work Vest/PFD with HIT
160.053/116/0 MD3188 Inflatable Work Vest/PFD with HIT

If you have a re-arm kit MA7214 or MA7218 you need only to check the lot number on the CO2 cylinder label. If your CO2 cylinder is marked with lot numbers 404121 or 404122 please contact Mustang Survival’s customer service group at the number below.

If you have a PFD listed above refer to the sewn-in approval label to determine if it was “Made in Canada” and the “MFG DATE” is April or May 2012. If so, you will need to check the lot numbers of the CO2 cylinder. The CO2 cylinder lot number is visible through the yellow bladder fabric. Manually unpack your PFD by opening the zippers and unfolding your PFD. Find the CO2 cylinder that is attached to the round inflator within the yellow bladder. Press the yellow bladder fabric against the cylinder to read the label to view the lot number through the fabric. If your CO2 cylinder is marked with lot numbers 404121 or 404122, please contact Mustang Survival’s customer service group for instructions and to arrange for a replacement inflator assembly.

All other CO2 cylinder lot numbers are satisfactory. Repack your PFD so it is ready for use per the instruction manual. Mustang Survival Customer Service Group: 1-800-526-0532

Additional information is available at www.mustangsurvival.com/HIT. Please note the following photographs.

Distributed by the Office of Investigations and Analysis: Http://marineinvestigations.us To subscribe: Kenneth.W.Olsen@uscg.mil

Photograph showing view of lot number through fabric. Lot number on cylinder label.

This Safety Alert is provided for informational purposes and does not relieve any foreign or domestic requirement. Developed by the Lifesaving and Fire Safety Division, United States Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC. For additional information contact Mr. Martin Jackson at Martin.L.Jackson@uscg.mil.

Relocating The House Batteries

The next big project will be the installation of an inboard generator. The engine compartment of a Marine Trader 34 is not known to be the roomiest, so a few modifications are needed to make space available. The most logical placement choice is a shelf on the port side forward where we installed the house battery bank when we first bought the boat. Even then, we knew they would eventually have to be moved to accommodate the generator. There was still some work to be done to clean up the wiring, so it was time to move the house bank and tidy things up.


Can You Sink a Boat for Lack of a One Dollar Bolt??

I suppose theoretically it's possible. But can you really repair a 30-year-old radar unit for $30.00? I am here to tell you that you absolutely can, if the problem is the same as ours. Not long ago, I fired up our Raytheon SL70 radar unit and it all started fine. Once it was going, however, the beam was doing the sweeps, but there were no targets on the display. An internal self diagnostic showed everything was working okay, but obviously it wasn't. This unit is long past its manufacturing date and it's highly doubtful if Raymarine will even fix these any more or if it's worth it. So trying a few things couldn't hurt.

The Great Book Of Anchorages Website

As we promised, the new website for The Great Book Of Anchorages, http://www.tgboa.com/, is ready for visitors. Susan and I are about as excited as two kids on Christmas morning. You can order your copies now and they're ready for immediate shipment. This whole process has been such a fantastic experience that it's hard to put into words. From our decision well over a year ago to publish an anchorage book that will provide all of the information boaters like ourselves have looked for, until the launch of the website today, we have been like a couple of giddy school kids. Every step of the way has been a real thrill for us. But the website is a lot more than just a place to order the book.

The Great Book Of Anchorages

Susan and I are very, very, very excited to announce the start up of Beach House Publications. Our first book for The Great Book Of Anchorages series covers the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from Norfolk/Hampton Roads to the Florida Keys and includes the St. Johns River. The research for the book has spanned a period of 20 years. For the last year we have been working on an easy-to-use format that we felt comfortable using as active boaters. Once we decided on a format, Susan began putting all of the information together in a logical order. Many times we went to our boating friends for their input and suggestions. The result has been a publication written for boaters by boaters. We have developed an anchorage book, not a cruising guide or combination cruising guide and anchorage book.

Update After Tropical Storm Isaac

Unlike what the folks in the northern Gulf around Louisiana and Mississippi are experiencing from hurricane Issac, tropical storm Isaac was pretty much a non-event for Beach House and her crew. This did bring our total named storms we have had to deal with to 17. By previous standards, this one was no worse than many afternoon thunderstorms we have encountered in south Florida and elsewhere. The difference being, it lasted for a few days rather than a few hours. But don't get me wrong, we are always extremely happy when conditions are less than anticipated, and nothing pleases us more than having to do all of the preparations and then not need them. As a matter of fact, we prefer that scenario to most any other. We did, however, have some wind and rain for a couple of days.

Riding The Storm Out, Waiting For Isaac

We knew it would be too good to be true. Spending a hurricane season in Florida without dealing with a tropical system. And along comes tropical storm, soon to be hurricane, Isaac. This will make for 17 named storms we have had to deal with living on our two most recent boats - 16 on Sea Trek and now our first on Beach House. To say we're practiced at preparation is an understatement. Much of what we did to prepare Sea Trek (read about it here.), we have also done to prepare Beach House for Issac as it approaches us. You can see the projected path of Issac and all other storms in our storm tracking widget in the left column of the blog. As of 11 A.M. this morning, the outermost bands are hitting us and the rain and winds are picking up.

Care And Feeding Of The Ford Lehman Diesel

The time is finally growing short for our departure on our next great adventure. Since we sold our dear friend Sea Trek, our Mariner 40 ketch, we have been preparing Beach House for our Bahamas/Great Loop adventure. The first thing we did was join the AGLCA, America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association, to glean as much knowledge and information as we can from others that have done the Loop in the past or are in the process now. The number one thing we learned was that the engine and transmission would be our top priority and the most important equipment on the boat. With that in mind, we've spent many hours and dollars preparing our Ford Lehman 120 and the Paragon transmission for the 6,000 to 8,000 mile journey. If you have followed us here, you are probably well aware of the upgrades and repairs we have made. We found some minor problems when we bought the boat, added some important safety equipment we wanted, and corrected some deficiencies inherent to the engine.

Midseason Maintenance Can Increase the Life of Your Boat

You have been told over and over that pre-season maintenance and service will ensure a trouble-free boating season. But will it really? A safe and happy boating season is a combination of preparation and prevention. It's so easy to hit the water as often as possible during the boating season and not want to spend time in the bilges or engine compartment. That's what spring commissioning is for. But a regular maintenance and service program during the season will go a long way to make the time we spend on the water truly enjoyable and safe. A little time on a regular basis will keep the breakdowns, failed equipment and need for towing to a minimum rather than a spoiled weekend while fishing or spending time with family and friends.

From A Fabric Bimini To A Hardtop In One Day

As many of our followers know, we built our own bimini back in June of 2009. The yellow Sunbrella has kind of been a trademark for Beach House wherever we go. But the Florida sunshine and the cold damp weather in the Chesapeake has taken a toll in just a few short years. We usually get at least five years out of a bimini, but not this time. Weighing the pros and cons of building another fabric bimini or finding an alternative has suddenly come to the top of the to-do list. This is another of those unexpected repairs that we thought we would deal with in another couple of years. But it is a boat after all.

A Bit Overwhelmed

I really haven't had to interview for many jobs. Most of the time I either knew the company and owner well or they knew me and approached me for a position. But the few times I have had an interview, one of the questions almost always asked was "what did I consider one of my major weaknesses." Right now that weakness has reared it's ugly head big time and I am feeling the effects. I never have to hesitate to answer the question because I know the answer all too well. I have always had a tendency to try and do too much at one time and start another project before I finished the previous one. After this weekend, that weakness has taken on a whole new meaning.



WiFi on the Boat - Part 3

It has been a while since we have posted any additional information on our highly successful WiFi set up on the boat. To really see how we have arrived at this point, you need to go back and read our previous posts starting with Part 1 and then  Part 2. Our original WiFi set up worked great right up until the day we took it down and switched over to this new system. We have been using this for some time now, but I am just getting around to posting the how to and our results to date. The reason for the change was nothing more than seeing what was new and trying out this system because we have had a lot of positive feedback from other boaters. Our experience has been very positive although not quite the "wow" we expected.

Road Trip And A Short Cruise

We're often asked to give presentations to boaters during their organization's meetings and rendezvous. While we lived in Maryland for two years, I had to travel to Florida often to give these presentations, and now that we have moved back to Florida, of course I was asked to be a speaker at the AGLCA Rendezvous in Norfolk, Virginia. Susan and I recently joined the AGLCA (America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association) in preparation for our Great Loop adventure, which by the way will begin in just six or seven short months, if all goes as planned. My presentation for the Rendezvous was to be cruising the Delaware Bay, New Jersey Coast and the Hudson River. Everyone seem enthused and very interested, and we received lots of positive comments afterward.

Boat Renaming Ceremony

Doing it the right way staves off the possibility of bad luck  (I don't remember where I found this, so sorry if I don't give the original Author Credit)

Superstition still plays a significant role in boaters’ lives. The sea, hardly changed in all the eons since its creation, is still a source of mystery and wonderment. Half of the Earth’s surface is covered by abyssal seas where light never penetrates, but where life nevertheless exists—sometimes in outlandish forms—in conditions of unimaginable pressure and Stygian darkness. Little wonder, then, that frail human beings plying the interface between the unruly atmosphere and the fearsome oceans should seek help by performing certain rituals known to their ancestors, and turning to their ancient gods for protection.One superstition still widely held concerns the renaming of a boat, which, in the United States at least, is held to be unlucky. The answer is to hold a denaming ceremony before you rename your boat. You can make up your own ceremony, or you are welcome to use this one, which has been used with every appearance of success. It is now widely distributed on the Internet, but it is repeated here for your convenience.

Raising A Few Brows

The teak brows were probably the least attractive pieces of wood on the boat and a pain to keep up. All of the screws that secured them to the sides of the cabin have been a source of leaks that we knew we needed to deal with soon. We did some caulking early on to stop the water intrusion, but caulking is just the proverbial band-aid, and more drastic action was necessary to resolve it once and for all. Just as with the flybridge, removal has been my choice since day one and the time has come to tackle the project and check it off the list.


The Flybridge Makeover That Never Ends

I know that after this post I will get some feedback, but not all positive. I have committed a major sin in the trawler society, but I am not sorry and offer no apologies. The interior of the flybridge is finished, the uppermost of the outside now has a fresh coat of paint and it all looks great. Now it's time to finish up and get the last two steps of this ongoing project finished so I can move on to other more pressing parts of the to-do list. The inside of the flybridge is now fiberglassed to the deck and there will be no removal possible, so it's only logical that the outside gets the same treatment.

30-Year-Old Boat Plumbing Replacement

Replacing the 30-year-old copper plumbing in our fresh water system was on my Things-to-do-when-there-is nothing-else-and-I-have-lots-of-time list and I expected to get to it some time in the years to come. But as with all things boats, that was not to be. Our hot water began flowing ever so slowly out of all of the taps for no apparent reason. I disconnected some of the lines and attached a hose from the dock in an attempt to blow it out. I also took all of the faucets apart in case the blockage was there, but ALL of them? None of this helped so now the project shoots right to the top of my Need-to-do-it-now list.

The Gentlemans Guide to Passages South, By Bruce Van Sant

Now available.

We received an email from Bruce a week ago to let us know that he has the 10th Edition of his book out and that it would be available soon. Older copies have been offered on Ebay for as much as $800.00, which we find totally ridiculous. If anyone is looking to purchase the new 10th Edition, you can get it here for $29.95. This will be his absolutely last update. Bruce's website can be found here.




The 10th and last Edition of the popular directions for sailing south
to the Bahamas and the Caribbean


For more than twenty years Van Sant repeatedly surveyed nearly 200 anchorages between Florida and South America. He racked up well over 80,000 sea miles doing it, mostly single-handed. Why? You’ll find some interesting answers in his book of stories, Margarita Cat, but essentially, he did it because he liked doing it.

Sailing up and down the chain of islands so much and so often, he got to looking for shorter and easier ways to navigate between each link in the chain, and he kept refining detailed nav plans for every leg.
He has systematically taken the thorns out of the route they used to call the Thorny Path. For example, he exploits the calming effects on wind and sea which result from land cooling on each side of an inter-island passage. Applying his many methods, both sail and power can make safe, comfortable and pleasant progress even against normally impenetrable trade winds and seas.
Passages South offers an illustrated manual of instruction for specific passages and harbors down islands as well as a cruising guide for the Greater Antilles islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. It has sailed aboard tens of thousands of boats passaging between the Americas. It should sail with you too.
About the Author During his 40 years of cruising the world, Van Sant worked as a consultant systems engineer as well as weriting and speaking in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, picking up six languages along the way. He settled into cruising the myriad islands between Florida and South America. Read more about his adventures in his book MARGARITA CAT.

Available at www.ThornlessPath.com and nautical outlets

Moving The Starting Battery

Our starting battery sits in a nice fiberglass box that is mounted in the front of the engine. The distance to our house bank is about a foot and makes for short cables and easy access to use jumper cables in case the starting battery goes dead. But this is the space we plan to use to move the house bank so that the genset can be installed. It also makes for a long cable run to the starter, requiring large wires. So it is time to make a change in preparation for moving the house bank. The plan is to move it right next to the engine starter and eliminate those long and large cables to the starter.


Let’s take a trip to the island of Eleuthera

This fantastic video is compliments of bahamaspress.com and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did... And please read our previous posts on the Bahamas,
What Cruisers Want To Know About The Bahamas
What Do You Do Once Your In The Bahamas?

Eleuthea Bahamas — http://www.myoutislands.com. It’s better in the Bahamas! Welcome to the Out Islands of the Bahamas, or as we like to call it the REAL Bahamas. This video is about the island of Eleuthera and Harbour Island. It is our intent to show a glimpse of our two hosts (Kevin Oestenstad and Jennifer Fox) discovering the Out Islands of the REAL Bahamas for the first time. Join them on their journey to discover truly authentic Bahamian destination experiences in Eleuthera.

Anchoring Along the Intracoastal – Norfolk to the Georgia/Florida Border

By Susan Landry

(Chartlets by Susan Landry, not to be used for navigation.)

Our cruising posts in the past have always included our favorite anchoring spots. As the snowbirds head south this fall, some for a repeat performance, some for the first time, they’ll be looking for secure anchorages for the night in the ICW. We try to average about 50 miles per day and what follows are our suggestions without marina stops.




What Do You Do Once You're In The Bahamas?

Is It Really Better In The Bahamas??
This is a follow to our post, What Cruisers Want To Know About The Bahamas.

You've done all of your homework. You've picked the perfect weather window. You were in awe as the dark blue of the Gulf Stream gave way to the crystal clear, but shallow waters of the Bahamas Banks. The feel of accomplishment just can't be describe. You have arrived, so now what? The answer is almost as endless as the Island chain itself.

Flybridge Makeover Part Two

With the "interior" makeover of the flybridge complete, the "exterior" was next on our list. Since the exterior of the boat has been painted in the past and we knew it was done in AwlGrip, the maintenance coat was a lot less labor intensive. First, all of the hardware and fittings were removed, including the vinyl lettering for her name. All edges had a double row of delicate tape to keep paint off of where it does not belong. Several screw holes that had mounted hardware that was no longer in use had to be filled and repaired. A good sanding and a single coat of 545 white primer and everything was ready for paint.

An Exhausting Project

The Christmas and New Years holiday season doesn't mean the work on the boat will slow down or stop. If we are to stay on schedule, we need to push forward with all of our projects, even the smaller ones. Those smaller ones keep getting pushed down the list as more important tasks present themselves and some get moved to the top for a variety of reasons. But the list doesn't look any shorter even with all of the done items scratched off. One small project I have been promising to Susan for a long time is finally done.