Onward’s Cruise Journal 2021
Marco Island to the Bahamas

Updated: 29 May 2021

Onward returning to the cruising life…

April 2021

12 April 21 Monday; The Chalet to Esplanade Marina, Marco Island: Back to Da Boat!
  • Peggy kicked me out of the condo!
  • Part of Peggy's scheme to get me out of my pandemic-lethargy was to invite daughter Valerie and family to use the condo during their Spring break. Sooo first I was told Valerie was arriving on Friday 23 April and I had to have Onward ready for us to live on it and start back to our cruising life.
  • Then, I was told that actually, Frank and Vivian and Frankie would arrive on Wednesday 21 April and we would be living back on out floating home.
  • Then, I was told we had to be out of the condo so it could be cleaned ahead of Frank's arrival.
  • Then, I was told Monday was moving day!
  • I was just a bit in the fog about the whole process: too many things to get done.

13 April 21 Tuesday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island
  • Today Peggy hauled me off to NCH-Baker hospital to have an angiogram to check up on my plumbing since 2011. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to learn that all looked good and I got to go home.

14April 21 Wednesday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

15 April 21 Thursday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

16 April 21 Friday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

17 April 21 Saturday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

18 April 21 Sunday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

19 April 21 Monday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

20 April 21 Tuesday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island
  • I had ignored our SPOT data tracker for the year in limbo. I got it out and changed batteries. It came on but showed a red LED that I don't remember seeing in the past. In any caae, I called SPOT and reestablished my account and reactivated the device.

21 April 21 Wednesday; Esplanade Marina, Marco Island
  • Well, it took us all day but we finally got all the stuff on and stuff off that needed to be moved and Onward ready to go back to sea. We said our farewell to Joe our Dockmaster and then moved Onward out of the slip to anchor in the basin for the night. This gave us a bit of time to assure ourselves all was working after out 14-month hiatus. Also I wanted the morning high tide to get through the long channel out and have good water for refueling at Rose Marina.
  • We had a very pleasant evening. It took almost no adjustment to start to get back in the groove.
  • I tried to send a SPOT message. Again more red led lights which I found meant there was an internal electronics issue. So a new unit was necessary.

22 April 21 Thursday; Marco Island to Cape Sable
  • We were fortunate to have an early high tide so we got underway from the basin at ~0800. The passage out to Marco River was uneventful in spite of a couple of <8' spots along the way. We approached Rose Marina and talked to the Dockmaster who asked us to wait outside for 30 min so he could clear a space for us to refuel. While waiting a large motor yacht came buy and headed to the fuel dock. We heard the dockmaster tell him that he would have to come back later. I made a comment on Ch 9 that it would have been nice if he waited behind us. Later, once we were refueling, the motor yacht returned and was able to come in to the other side of the fuel dock. The captain came over and apologized for seeming to apparently cutting in line. His VHF had been set to Canadian channels so he was able to hear on Ch9 but not be heard. I thanked him for his courtesy in coming over and we had friendly exchange with him and his crew. Nice.
  • Refueling done, we headed out to sea. As we followed the channel on the way out, the Axiom still showed my path from when we entered in November 2019 along with the bathymetry plots for the path. Peggy had just gone below when I saw a green buoy in the WRONG place. I immediately shifted to neutral. First I had a flashback about the 90' motor yacht that destroyed itself on a shifted sandbar on it way in a couple of months ago. Then we touched bottom. I immediately wet to full astern and was able to back off the bar with just a touch. A review of the path on the chartplotter clearly showed how the path I'd followed 14 mos ago was now a sandbar! The bar had moved > 100 yds S. This is another example of how badly a year in the marina had damaged the transparency of the dodger windows!!
  • Once at sea, we set course for Key West only to find that the wind on the nose so I bore off for Cape Sable to be able to sail with our new mainsail for the first time. The plan was to sail slowly and arrive at Key West at daylight tomorrow. However the beautiful sailing wind we had been promised died and the motoring trip into the swells to Key West lost a lot of attraction.
  • John Miller and I had talked about him taking the in-shore route S from Marathon to Key West. I called him and he said he had no issues with shallows and he sent me his route. So we decided to head directly to Marathon as there was nothing we really needed at Key West. We motorsailed in the light wind until sunset and then anchored in ~ 20' a couple of nm of Cape Sable for the night. Our first night at sea in a long while was peaceful.
  • Peggy told me she had found a small amount of sea water on the port sole in the aft stateroom. It was a mystery but a minor one that I said I'd looking tomorrow.

23 April 21 Friday; Cape Sable to Marathon
  • I had us underway by 0730 motorsailing to the back door to Marathon. Following Dulcinea's general route, we had no problems. The wind had picked up from the ENE.
  • En route, we picked up internet and I ordered a new SPOT tracker from Amazon to be delivered to the Marathon City Marina on Tuesday.
  • We called the Marathon City Marina and learned there were no moorings for boats our size. Apparently they only have 15! I began to look for a spot to anchor at the SW corner of the Key. Peggy reminded me that she had anchored Reality just E of the entrance channel to the harbor on the E side of the high-rise bridge. Local knowledge was better than a blind pick. So I took Peggy's advice and we proceeded through the high-rise bridge which reported a clearance of ~65.5'. There were 3 other boats in the anchorage but there was plenty of room. I found an open spot as far W as possible and as close in as possible without interfering with the entrance channel.
  • Peggy again discovered water on the port forward corner of the aft stateroom sole. It is clear that there is a small water leak from somewhere. A problem to solve tomorrow.

24 April 21 Saturday: Marathon
  • A quiet night with 15+ kt winds from the NE but fairly quiet seas at our anchorage.
  • Checking with Chris Parker, it looks like Thursday was the day to move from Marathon to Rodriguez Key to take advantage of a crossing window on Friday
  • I began searching for the mysterious leak on the aft stateroom floor. With great trepidation, I opened the access port to examine the PSI rotating shaft seal. There had been a bit of traffic on the C470 owners net about leaking seals. God bless, as Onward's had always functioned without issues. My methodology has been to leave it alone and don't mess with it. Onward has enough hours under power to keep it wet and polished. I was relieved to see no evidence that would explain the puddle of water we had found in the port forward corner of the sole. It had concentrated there when Onward was heeled to port under sail.
  • I next opened the aft access port for the engine. There I saw telltale evidence — salt crystals and dampness from one of the raw water hoses that goes up to the vacuum break. When I checked the vacuum break area, there was clear evidence of a slight raw water leak. I first attributed to a too-loose hose clamp — but then found the band clamps to be well torqued. I had Peggy start the engine while I watched the vacuum break. Sure enough drops of water slowly evolved from the base of the vacuum valve, dripped down the hose, followed it to where it touched the muffler. There, when the boat was healed, it would flow down the edge of the access panel and out onto the sole. Otherwise it would fall into the bilge and go unnoticed. It turned our that the plastic vacuum valve unit had developed a crack at its base where it screwed on to the SS U-tube that apparently had slowly grown until it began to leak. As I had no spare, I resorted to 5200 to seal the crack and the threads. I also put a small hose clamp around the threaded base to hold it together firmly.
  • This solved another mystery. When I had the extensive maintenance done on the engine in Baltimore. I spent a lot of time cleaning away rust spots on the engine mount, priming and painting. I had noticed some rust on the port aft mount and I was puzzled why it would occur. Well the small vacuum brake valve leak explained that.
  • We spent a quite day continuing to put gear away and reduce "Joe's Clutter".

25 April 21 Sunday; Marathon
  • Another a quite day continuing to put gear away and reduce "Joe's Clutter". A couple of years ago I had come up with a brilliant idea for dealing with all the extra stuff Onward hauls around due to the fact that it has no fixed base. So there is no dock box to store all that important, needed, miscellaneous mixture of tools, components, backups, spare, just-in-case's. Early on we decided to turn the forward shower into a storage locker. My brilliant idea was to buy many canvas 14 to 20" gym-type duffle bags from Walmart and segregate all the "boat stuff" into logical categories in different duffel bags; all carefully inventoried, of course. Then whenever I needed something like a special tool, a little-used boat device, material for a specific project, etc. I could just look up what duffle bag it was in, quickly shuffle the duffle bags to get the one I needed, and retrieve the item. That would eliminate all the random clutter on the forward berth that has plagued me from day one.
  • A brilliant idea. Put into execution. The storage duffle bag collection grew to some 10 bags and stuff inventoried into a spreadsheet. Great so far.
  • Then the plague of Joe's life set it: something happens and the grand project is not quite taken to 100% completion and random sh*&^ happens. Clausius said it best: die entropy die Welt strebt eine maximum zu!
  • So I have been focused on fixing the Storage Duffle Bag Problem. I re-inventoried all of them. Added a couple of new ones (Stuff tends to grow to a maximum, too). Finally spent the time to organize the forward shower storage area so now any duffle bag can quickly be accessed without a pile of Joe's Sh*(& falling out on him.
  • There is still another 5% random clutter to be dealt with and that is the next focus.
  • Oh, then there is the MacGyver Bags. These are tote bags I sewed out of polypropylene tarp material to hold all the miscellaneous components I accumulated that I can't bring myself to toss off the boat because they will be needed to MacGyver a solution to a boat problem that crops up while Onward is at sea. These stores prove to be invaluable every week as I use them to fix some minor or even major problem that crops up. The MacGyver Bags are all stowed behind the port settee back in the space between the hull and the hull liner. This is a huge storage area. I re-inventories the contents while at Marathon and even did some triage! I actually threw stuff out!
  • Thus the saga of Stuff & Entropy & Joe getting sidetracked goes on. A never ending battle!

26 April 21 Monday; Marathon
  • A ran a test on the repaired vacuum break valve and there was no evidence of a leak.
  • I got a message from Amazon that the SPOT was being delivered a day early! So we Ventured into the City Marina and paid our dinghy landing fee for the week. The Amazon delivery hadn't come yet so we took a cab to West Marine for this and that's the help the economy. Then it was a cab to Home Depot where I was able to exchange a Ryobi-One battery that failed after its first use! By the time we got back to the City Marina, the package had arrived and our shore tasks were done!
  • On the way back we stopped at Burdine's for linner. The tide was low which made climbing out of the dingy at the old cement bullhead a real challenge. A pontoon boat had come in ahead of us and the folks insisted that we tie off to them and use them as a ladder to shore. Very nice. We had a much needed Linner and then headed back to Onward for a quiet night.

27 April 21 Tuesday; Marathon
  • Another a quite day continuing to put gear away and reduce "Joe's Clutter".

28 April 21 Wednesday Marathon
  • We decided to make one more foray into Marathon. Peggy needed to mail an item. Also we wanted Linner ashore. We walked to the seafood bar-restaurant on the bay side where we had eaten last year. It was chock-a-block with maskless people and I did not want to stay. We ended up going to the Lobster House which is right across the street from the marina. I wasn't happy that it had only in-door dining but when we were shown to a table I was pleased to see they were well spread out and they had increased air circulation. More importantly, people were being sensible and wearing masks. We ended up with a wonderful waitress and I had one of the best meals I've had in a long time. I even splurged and allowed myself to eat a piece of their freshly baked bread. I liked that so much the waitress gave us a sliced baguette to take home!

29 April 21 Thursday; Marathon to Rodriguez Cay
  • I had Onward underway by 0730. It was an easy passage up the Hawk Channel. Peggy and I remembered how to use all those ropes and sails: we sailed all day on the SE wind. Very peaceful.
  • There were several boats anchored in the NW lee of Rodriguez Key so I gave up on that idea. We anchored in the same more exposed spot in 9-10' as November 2019 NW of the Key but the conditions were benign and we had a quiet night. For some reason I did not have the apprehension that usually comes on the eve of a Gulf Stream passage so I slept soundly.

30 April 21 Friday; Rodriguez Cay to Bimini & Grand Banks
  • We were underway ~0700 and followed the route we used in 2019 out into Florida Straight. We set course for Bimini and sailed on a peaceful crossing in seas 3' or less. Nicely uneventful! We approached Bimini just at sunset. We had decided not to stop but to press on to Chub Cay. We followed our previous route N along the coast of Bimini and turned the corner onto the Banks. If I had not marked and followed this route in 2019 so now had a proven route to follow, I would not have done it in the dark. However between the good chart data and radar, we had no problem seeing and avoiding the shoal that marks the turn onto the Grand Bank.
  • We continued toward Chub Cay until about midnight when I anchored for the night off of the rhumb line. Another quiet night anchored in 15' in the middle of nowhere. We slept well.