Onward’s Cruise Journal 2009
Cruise S to the Bahamas

December 2009

1-5 Dec 2009; Vero Beach
1 Dec, Tuesday

  • I was exhausted from all the shopping and schlepping involved in provisioning so it took some discipline to work on stowing it all away.
  • After being alone on the mooring for several days, I was joined by Tenacity, a Tyana 437 with Steve and Barbara from the UK.
  • I tuned into Chris Parker for the first time this season and asked about crossing opportunities in the next week or so.
2 Dec, Wednesday
  • Today I finished stowing all the dry goods, wine and beer - and updating my inventories. Now the hard part: going through all my papers, medical, and financial things to get everything set for leaving the country for several months. I find it difficult to do this for extended periods so I have to set work periods followed by time off to read or do more enjoyable things.
3 Dec, Thursday
  • A rainy day, a good time for stowing, inventorying, cleaning, cleaning up paperwork, bringing financial issue up to date.
4 Dec, Friday
  • Another rainy day, ditto yesterday. Ron Libitsky tracked down a welder for me to get the stern rail fixed. I called him and agreed we would work out the details on Saturday.
  • I managed to organize all my project bags - ziploc bags with components for various boat projects I invent to keep me busy. I was a bit astounded by how many I’ve now accumulated to do. I guess I will have to be more on task with this too.
  • I stowed all my boat cleaning materials, polishes, cleaners, etc. in a storage box with lockable lid that I bought specially for this so they are now all in one place. Ingred Libitsky, High Priority, gave me good written guidance on exterior cleaning and maintenance when we were last together. Now if she’d only given me her skill... In any case it looks like I will now have no excuse not to stay on task with this either.
  • It was time for comfort food so I baked an Onward pizza - Delish!
5 Dec, Saturday
  • Another cloudy and rainy day and I again spent it cleaning up and organizing. Steve & Barbara from Tenacity joined me for cocktails so I could say farewell.

6 Dec, Sunday; Vero Beach to Stuart
  • Onward departed Vero Beach at 0810. This gave close to low tide at Vero Beach and high tide at the St. Lucie R. junction. Passage through the Vero Beach and 17th St. bridges was uneventful. At. Ft. Pierce S bridge the current was so strong it began to sweep me through sideways when I throttled back to idle speed - so I had to up rpm to get steerage. At the Jensen Beach Causeway bridge, the VHF got bent in half and I noticed my tricolor light had been knocked over!. The E. Lyons bridge was not a problem. I got to the St. Lucie R junction at high tide, gave R204 a wide clearance, and headed up the centerline between 2, 3 and 2A, 3A buoys where I saw a minimum of 7.4’. The passage under the 2 fixed bridges in the St. Lucie R was tight but safe. Along the way I encountered Glen Lion who I had seen in Georgetown BS last spring. At the Roosevelt bascule bridge, I had to avoid a tug and barge that suddenly appeared around the blind corner without any notice on VHF from the tug or the bridge - interesting.
  • I picked up mooring 47 at the new Sunset Bay Marina - a very nice facility. After cleaning up I went ashore to say hello to Ron & Ingred aboard High Priority that is now berthed there. I treated myself to a good dinner at the new restaurant at the marina: Sailors Return.
7 Dec, Monday
  • The manager of the marina allowed me to bring Onward alongside the floating courtesy dock in front of the restaurant - and to my surprise he was on hand to help me tie up! The welder arrived and repaired the tear in the stern rail weld. I also had him weld a stiffener plate at this position as well as braces for my folding stern ladder. I took the opportunity to top off the water tanks while I was alongside the pier. By the time the welding was done and I’d returned Onward to the mooring, I decided I’d worked hard enough and took the rest of the day off to read.
8 Dec, Tuesday
  • Eureka! I fixed the problem with my LectraSan unit. In October, after I had the circuit board checked out by the factory who found it was fine, I reinstalled it and the new remote control switch. The unit would now turn on but only run for 5 sec before switching off and giving a blown fuse indication. All of the fuses had looked fine so I was mystified. So, today I checked it again. One of the fuses (6.25A, MDL) looked fine - but was open. I replaced it and the unit worked normally.
  • My guilt after seeing how clean Ingred keeps High Priority got to me so I spent the afternoon scrubbing the cockpit and cushions. Ron picked me up and took me home where Ingred had prepared a fantastic meal. Delish!!! Nice way to end the day.
9 Dec, Wednesday
  • A beautiful day that I spent working on organizing, websites, cleaning, and boat tasks. I installed my spare Raymarine R215 VHF in the cockpit by mounting it on the bimini strut above the starboard helm. I will use it to monitor secondary VHF channels while I leave the main station for primary communications. I used my emergency antenna temporarily and it works well but requires the gain to be turned up. I bought a spare SS VHF antenna for the mast because the one on the masthead takes a beating on the ICW bridges. I will mount the spare on the wind generator pole and connect it to the R215 VHF. I also installed a new mount for my backup A70D chartplotter at the starboard helm. This is a vertical 2' x 1" SS pole mounted on a 30º stanchion base screwed into the fiberglass at the starboard helm next to the windlass remote and bow thruster switches. The display can be seen from the starboard helm and my midship nav seat.
10 Dec, Thursday
  • A day from hell. It started well as I joined the C470 "Admiral's" email list to tune in to non-mechanical boat operations. This led me to inventory all the items in my dry storage area next to the sink. I found a number of things I forgot I had and several that are useless and will leave the boat.
  • Then it started, I ran the genset too long on the Stbd fuel tank and ran it dry. Of course this meant I needed to go through the !@#$%^! process of bleeding air from it. Then, as I couldn't put it off any longer, I changed the impeller on the Yanmar's raw water pump. This is perhaps the worst job on the boat: the work area is obscured by water hoses and the alternator; you have to work through an access panel in the back, bottom half of the cabinet next to the frig; you cannot both see and work on the unit at the same time; for some operations you need 2 hands and there is not enough room to get more than one in from top or side - all in all a real joy. When I got access to the impeller and pulled it out I found that only half the rubber vanes were still there, 3 sets of 2 at 120º apart. This led me to consider taking the heat exchanger apart. After talking with Jim Wholleber and thinking it over, I decided just to put in the new impeller and see how the engine ran. Up to this time I had what appeared to be normal water flow in the exhaust and the engine temperature remained normal. Now putting the unit back together was a nightmare - again the need for 2 hands for some operations. I took a break from the horror of impeller changing to bleed and start the genset. When all was done I was exhausted, sore, frustrated, and bruised; cleanup was left for tomorrow.
  • The one good note was the Kurt from the Jensen Beach West was kind enough to deliver some parts and equipment I had ordered. I then declared an early cocktail hour, had dinner, took a hot shower and went to sleep hoping tomorrow would be a better day.
11 Dec, Friday
  • A good night's sleep and some ibuprofen and I was ready to go. I cleaned up from the impeller job, installed a permanent bracket that allows me to use my backup VHF antenna with the R215 VHF, and got my plans together for the "last" shopping trip.
  • I talked to the tech support folks at Mack Boring about how to clear debris from the heat exchanger and I purchased the requisite seals to be able to do it should it prove necessary.
  • With the advice of Mike Williams I talked to my doctor about prescriptions of antibiotics to carry aboard for emergency use - 4 meds to cover the spectrum - hopefully never to be used.
  • Harriet and Skip picked me up at 1600 and we went errand running. They very kindly schlepped me about to do last-minuite shopping at West, Blockbuster, Crown Liquors, CVS, Publix. Then we met with their friends John, Jim, and Binny from their Annapolis sailing club who now live in the area part time. We had another great Thai dinner to round out the day. Much better than yesterday!
12 Dec, Saturday
  • More food inventorying and stowing - I've now just about run out of storage volume. Who eats and drinks all this anyhow?
  • I did some research on the gulf stream location and added these links to www.bahamascruisersguide.com. I spoke with Skip before noon and it looks like Lady of Lorien would be traveling down the ICW to Lake Worth due to poor offshore weather conditions so it is unlikely we would make the Tuesday weather window; now the 19th looks to be the next potential opportunity.
  • John MacDougal, Annie Laurie, met me at Sailors' Return where we had a great lunch together talking about C470's, of course. I then spent the afternoon wandering around the shopping village before returning to Onward.
13 Dec, Sunday
  • I was up early to get a full day in of boat projects. Things got interesting right away: I started the generator to charge the batteries only to find that the charger decided it didn't want to charge! Another mystery to solve.
  • My early morning review of the weather shows that we will miss the weather window on Tues-Wed for crossing; next opportunity will be after Fiday.
  • I installed a new LED stern light on the davit cross brace bar. I put the proper fuse in the LectraSan so it is now working normally.
14 Dec, Monday
  • The charger would not work properly again this morning - it would turn on but not ramp up the charging current - but worked normally in the inverter mode. I checked all the connections and voltages and they were ok as were the LED diagnostic lights. By accident, I wiggled the large DC power cables and the unit started working normally??? I called Xantrex tech support but they had no idea what was going on. Go figure!
  • I took the afternoon off to have lunch at the Pelican Cafe on the water under the fixed bridge. I then got a great haircut at Shears of Joy. I strolled around to the post office, bank, and Publix before heading back to the marina. There I visited High Priority and got to see the amazing job Ingred has done revarnishing the interior. I again departed feeling inadequate and guilty.
15 Dec, Tuesday
  • Ron & Ingred organized a mission of mercy: they picked me up and took me to BJ's in the pursuit of dark chocolate covered Almonds - I did not buy enough when I had the opportunity in RI. To our surprise and chagrin they were out of stock! Sue & Rodney on GlenLyon organized a sundowner at the marina and I had the opportunity to meet other cruisers. I then went to dinner at a local restaurant with Ron & Ingred.
16 Dec, Wednesday
  • I spent the day organizing and doing small boat projects. The most important was making a bracket for the new LED anchor/tricolor/strobe light and making plans for going up the mast to install it. I also tested the new flood lights I plan to install on the spreaders. Ron & Ingred told me they happened upon chocolate-covered almonds - but with milk chocolate vice dark -- no joy.
17 Dec, Thursday
  • I baked one of the best-ever batches of pepper biscotti and I updated the recipe. Then more organization and boat chores.
  • Looks like there may be a 1-day weather window on 22 December. Lady of Lorien called to report they were holed up until the low that is plaguing the area moves on. We will plan to meet up in Lake Worth on Monday.
18 Dec, Friday
  • Ron and Ingred took me to Conchy Joe's for their happy hour with great free bar food. I did my best!
19 Dec, Saturday
  • Another day of cleaning, organizing an boat projects. Ron kindly ran me up to the West Marine to get a backup battery charger and do yet one more visit to Publix.
20 Dec, Sunday
  • Sandy and Jack Noble finally caught up to me at Sunset Bay Marina! I helped them get moored in the wind and chop. Jack returned the favor by helping me bring Onward in to the fuel pier to get diesel and water. He then ran the winch while I went up the mast to replace my tricolor / anchor light. Got it done - not pretty - but it works. I will have to do more work when it is warmer and quieter.

21 Dec, Monday Stuart to Lake Worth and on to Great Sale Cay
  • Onward departed Stuart at 0930 and arrived at the Lake Worth inlet at 1530 - an uneventful day with respect to shoals and fixed bridges! Amen!
  • Due to a shrinking weather window, Onward, Moondance, Lady of Lorien, Wind Rose, and Naiad departed for Great Sale Cay at 1845. Weather forecast was for 10-14 kt winds from the N to NNE and waves <6' with periods of 6-10 sec. Once away from shore, the wind picked up enough to be able to sail and Onward made > 7 kts on a broad reach on a course of ~ 105º magnetic.
  • Now all my reading and planning had centered around a good rules: First, don't to a gulf stream crossing from Florida to the Bahamas when the wind has any N component in it. Second, don't plan for overnight sails. However, there are codicils to these rules, except... Regarding the N component, winds had been blowing out of the N at < 15 kts for > 24 hrs and all the real-time and weather model data indicated that the GS would be in the 2-4. or 4-6' wave states for the duration of the crossing - so this N component was not predicted to provide the nasty chop the GS is infamous for under strong N component wind conditions. Weather models indicated that after this window, another might not show up until 2010! Further, conditions were predicted to be best overnight and become less optimal during the day on the 22nd.
  • I wasn't worried about the performance of Onward - just her captain. So when I got to Lake Worth, I did a quick check to see things were stowed for offshore and then I climbed into bed for a couple of hours of cat-napping. We delayed our departure until Naiad, a boat Lady of Lorien had encountered, could come down from N Lake Worth where they had been provisioning. As they rounded Peanut Island, we headed out of the inlet. I had checked my running lights and replaced the starboard bow light bulb in Stuart. I was really upset to learn that my port (red) bow light was not working. The good news was the new anchor/tricolor/strobe light was working fine so I switched to it.
  • The crossing was uneventful - that's good! The winds picked up a bit more than predicted after getting out of the effect of the FL coast. I sailed with full genoa and main on a port broad reach.. There were some substantial gusts but Onward is so stable that it just surged ahead. Waves were on the port stern quarter but the motion was fairly mild. Of course, if it hadn't been dark I might have felt differently actually seeing the waves. The Gulf Stream current was substantially less than in my previous crossings, I didn't see much more than 2.1 kts set.

22 Dec, Tuesday; Memory Rock to Great Sale Cay

  • As the night wore on, I felt good. I made some tea to perk me up. Then, about 0100, I remembered that I hadn't eaten dinner. I took the breast meat from the roasted chicken I had for dinner on Saturday and cut it into chunks. I then browned them in olive oil with black pepper. When browned, I added some of the linguini with olive oil that I had made a few days ago and sauted the whole mixture for a bit. Delish!
  • During the night, as the wind died and headed us and I had to motorsail for the balance of the passage. I throttled back to stay together with Moondance, Wind Rose and Naiad. At 0430, we came up on Memory Rock. I had not made this crossing before and the paper and electronic charts are off-putting with 6' to 2-m depths shown. I had planned to follow Lady of Lorien through because they had made the passage several times. However, Lady of Lorien sailed on ahead of everyone without telling us and with their low stern light were invisible to us. They arrived there 3 mi ahead of the rest of the group. I was able to track and mark their path with radar and contact Mike on VHF to get water depths.
  • Onward then preceded the other boats through the Memory Rock passage. On a course of 87º to the Memory Rock waypoint and from there 92º toward Great Sale Cay, I encountered a minimum of 11.9' along the transit over the shoal area - not an issue now that I've done it. The interesting thing is that about 0.6 nm E of the waypoint, the bottom shoals up to 9' for about 1 nm where the Navionics charts show it is supposed to be deeper. Go figure!
  • I noticed that the water on the starboard side had a green tinge to it. When I looked up at the masthead, I discovered that my new anchor/tricolor/strobe light was laying on its side! Moondance also reported they were seeing a strange masthead light signal. Apparently my mounting job had failed.
  • After sailing onto the banks, I felt comfortable enough to catch some rest while continuing to motorsail. I took one of the kitchen timers I keep aboard, set it for 5 min, and then sat down on the port seat and closed my eyes. I continued to repeat this until after sunrise at 0700. When the timer beeped, I opened my eyes to check boat and sea conditions then restarted the timer. This actually refreshed me quite a bit and I felt quite good in the morning.
  • The sun was hidden at sunrise behind high-level clouds, It eventually broke through at mid-morning and I could see the beautiful light aqua blue of the water on the banks. Onward arrived at Great Sale Cay at 1145 and set anchor at the NE end of the bight. After organizing things, I had a light lunch and then read for a while - and of course dozed off. At 1430 I woke up, cleaned up the boat, showered, and prepared for guests as I had invited the other boats over for an early cocktail hour. When guests arrived, we had a grand time meeting the crews of Wind Rose (Carl and Sue) and Naiad (Brian and Daniel) for the first time in person. I pulled out the Globalstar satphone and many of us were able to place calls to friends and family.

23 Dec, Wednesday; Great Sale Cay
  • I had a great night's sleep and was up and about at 0500. I spent the morning organizing the boat and working on the BCG. After listening to Chris Parker we had a captain's meeting on VHF and decided to spend the next few days here. After the next front went through conditions would be better for the trip to Green Turtle Cay and for the clearing-in process which will require us to hang offshore at White Sound. Wind Rose decided to push on and departed.
  • I made plans for the others to come over in the afternoon to winch me up the mast so I could fix the new anchor/tricolor/strobe light. When I got to the top of the mast, I found a different problem than I had expected. The self-tapping screws I had managed to get in half way to fasten down the aluminum mounting bracket were still in place. However, all 3 machine screws that attached the light to the bracket were missing! The light had been held in place by its electrical cable! I replaced the Windex unit and then brought the light and bracket down for further work. I was happy to find that the screws were 6x32 NF and I had replacements which just had to be cut down in length. I then returned to the top of the mast and reinstalled the bracket and light. Someday, someone has to come up with a bosun chair that is more friendly to the male anatomy - this is the only part of going up the mast that bothers me.
  • We finished off the evening with cocktail hour aboard Lady of Lorien.
24 Dec, Thursday
  • I spent the day recovering from my trip up the mast and reading. I made a batch of pepper biscotti dough to bake tomorrow. I also decided to experiment and try a fruit and nut version of the biscotti (sans olive oil and spices). I went over to Naiad for a bit as the crews of Lady of Lorien and Moondance gave Brian and Daniel some advice on mainsail reefing. Upon return to Onward, I had great luck with my Globalstar satphone as I was able to call everyone on my speed dial list and still had good satellite connectivity at the end.
  • Moondance had the Fleet over for cocktails and a grill-night potluck. While we were there, two men and a 3-yr old boy from a catamaran that had come in late in the day came over in their dinghy to ask advice on cruising routes. It was a bit scary as they had no Explorer charts aboard and had no idea of the challenges of cruising the Bahamas and the effect weather can have on their sailing plans which involved being in Nassau on 8 Jan for a flight. I gave them some cautions and explained possible cruising routes. I also recommended they consider flying from the Abacos to Nassau instead of trying to push the transit. When they left, all of us felt real concern at their lack of knowledge and preparation - especially with the young child aboard.
25 Dec, Friday
  • I baked pepper biscotti to present as Christmas gifts. I also baked the fruit and nut biscotti which turned out to have a nice flavor. Although I think I will bake them so they are not as hard next time. I made antipasto as I had all the necessary ingredients except marinated artichokes and Moondance was able to supply those. The others in the Fleet came aboard at 1200 for Christmas Dinner. Lady of Lorien brought superb Norwegian smoked salmon; Moondance brought a ham; Naiad brought cooked vegetables and makings for rum & lemonade drinks. I did marinaded turkey breasts on the grill along with the ham. Deish. A grand time was had by all.

26 Dec, Saturday; Great Sale Cay to Manjack Cay
  • We departed the anchorage at 0630 in the dark. It is so nice that we are past winter solstice and it the day is slowly getting longer! Winds were < 10 kts from the NW so it was a motorsail day. We put into Spanish Cay Marina at 1300 to clear customs & immigration and take on diesel and water. The marina was empty; it seems summer is their big season for fishermen. They now charge a $50 landing fee that can be applied to an overnight stay. We departed and moved S to Manjack Cay where we anchored before sunset. A quiet night.
27Dec, Sunday; Manjack Cay to Orchid Bay, Great Guana
  • We weighed anchor at 0700, and headed S to the infamous Whale Cay Passage. Swells from the ocean began to penetrate the Sea of Abaco as we approached. Winds were ~10 kts from the N and there were 4-6' swells with 8'+ swells interspersed. There were breakers on the reefs on each side of the N exit passage - but the cut itself was OK. Onward made the passage without incident - but looking back, the breakers were impressive. The way in through the S passage was uneventful until we had to turn parallel to the seas. I got to inspect a good deal of Moondance's bottom and keel as they were rolled well over to starboard.
  • We made the decision to put into Orchid Bay marina instead of going on to Marsh Harbor. After tying up and checking in, we set off to Grabbers for a blackened grouper sandwich and a frozen Grabber drink - Delish. We then checked in at Nippers where we found Brian and Daniel enjoying themselves. The day was capped off with a fantastic fish dinner cooked by Angie - an amberjack they had managed to catch on the trip down.
28 Dec, Monday; Orchid Bay,
  • Boxing day holiday today. Mike came over and we tackled my problematic inverter/charger. It seems that I had incorrectly stacked up terminals on the negative 12 V connector post and this had resulted in poor connections and overheating problem I encountered in Stuart. I had then cleaned, re-stacked, and tightened the terminals and the unit began to operate normally. However, on getting into the Bahamas, it began to work intermittently again. We decided to completely remove the negative terminal to clean and tighten its connection to the buss bar from the power output semiconductors. This is where Mike's finger dexterity came in handy as he was able to reach in and work on some of the hard to reach connections. After removing the post, I cut off the damaged insulator material and cleaned all the metal parts. We reassembled the parts, replaced one of the 6 AWG wire studs and the result was a normally working inverter/charger!
29 Dec, Tuesday
  • In the morning after a great breakfast at the Art Cafe, I had Angie, Harriet, and Daniel over for pepper biscotti dough making class. We took the ferry to Marsh Harbor for a day of shopping. A great lunch at Mangoe's started the expedition. Next, we visited Batelco where I found my SIM card was "alive" but just needed new $ added to its account to work. The other boats bought new SIM cards and or phones so we are all now connected again. After all the provisioning I did in FL, there was very little I needed. I did find Sands, another Bahamian beer, in cans so I bought a case at $1.50 a can!
30 Dec, Wednesday
  • The day was largely overcast and cool so I spent most of the day reading and baking pepper biscotti. I made pizza dough and we had pizza night. Everyone enjoyed the pizza as attested to by only having 3 small pieces left from the 2 large pizzas left! After pizza we tried out my new Mexican Train domino game.
  • During the day, I was only able to reach the voicemail of my three children and Kurlen so I became a bit worried. Later in the day Laura called to say they had all been out snowboarding together in Utah at their aunt Terri's vacation home. It was great to hear about them having fun together and I really missed them. I was upset to hear that Kurlen had taken a spill and injured his shoulder in poor visibility conditions.
31 Dec, Thursday
  • We had another great breakfast at the Art Cafe where I bough a nice lobster print by a local artist. My carbon drinking water filter got reduced to a useless trickle yesterday so I replaced it with a new cartridge. Harriet then came over to sew flags, etc. on my SailRite machine. I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to use the pool. The water was too frigid for more than a quick dip but I enjoyed reading in the sun. We gathered at the marina gazebo for a New Year's eve cookout. I decided I wasn't up to spending the evening at Nippers (well after my normal bed time) so I tucked in and finished a good Dick Francis book. Happy New Year to all!