Onward's Cruise Journal

Cruise from Maryland to Bahamas via ICW & Return 2008-2009
December 2008

28 Nov – 1 Dec 08 St. Augustine

  • Onward left St. Marys at 0700 with Merlin in order to get to St. Augustine before dark. Unfortunately this coincided with high tide that made Onward's passage through several fixed bridges a bit tight but I made it with no more interference than I encountered at the infamous Pongo Ferry and Wilkerson bridges at the beginning of the ICW. In early afternoon the tidal current was finally in our favor and we made it to St. Augustine by 1630 – Merlin to a marina and Onward to the anchorage N of the Bridge of Lions. My chartplotter showed a bight with 20' of water just W of marker 6. I explored and found there was good room between the E and W shoals. I was startled while anchoring in front of the Castillo de San Marcos national monument when they shot off two cannons. After all I came in peace!
  • I spent Saturday lazing around without getting much accomplished – sometimes I just need to hang out and recharge my personal batteries. I did manage to put the genset compartment back together and begin to figure out why the LectraSan won't turn on.
  • Sunday was spent working on the LectraSan. That is an easy job made very difficult by the great engineering job I did by installing it in an otherwise unused space. Unfortunately this great engineering feat results in me having to hang half in the forward bed compartment to work on it. But lesser men... In any case I finally tracked it down to a bad pushbutton switch and engineered in a temporary replacement. The rest of the day was spent preparing for and watching a major storm front move through the anchorage. At one point a small shrimp trawler began to drag its anchor down on me until I alerted them by radio and the horn.
  • Monday was a sunny if a bit windy day and I continued my boat project work by fixing the digital gage on the forward port water tank and installing the new chain stripper on the Maxwell anchor windlass.
2 Dec 08 Daytona Beach
  • We left St. Augustine in time to make the early opening of the Bridge of Lions. It was an easy and uneventful day and we anchored on the E side of the river just below the swing bridge – the same anchorage I used last year.
3 Dec 08 Cocoa
  • A beautiful sunny day and we pushed S beyond Titusville to anchor just S of the bridge at Cocoa at ~ 1500. I put down the dinghy and went over to give Ed and Tina a lift to shore to meet Skip and Harriet. About 2/3 of the way ashore the engine quit and would not restart. BAAH! Skip came out and gave us a tow into shore. But all was well as we found a British pub and enjoyed a couple of pints. We got towed back home too.
4-14 Dec 08 Vero Beach
  • We decided we needed to go into town to experience the unique old-time hardware store, SF Travis Co.. So after a good breakfast at a local bakery / coffee shop, we went through the hardware store where all types of arcane items are to be found – quite an experience.
  • Around 1030, we were off to Very Beach. I'm still amazed by the size of some of the homes still being built just N of Vero Beach. I wonder if I'll see much change in the Spring on my return. We picked up moorings at Vero Beach City Marina at about 1630. For the second time in a row, Onward was assigned to a mooring where the boat that was already there was unoccupied and had no visible deck cleats! To top it off, this boat, Long White Cloud, a classic Herreshof design, had a note saying all of its brightwork had wet varnish on it! Finally Ed and Tina completed mooring Merlin and then jumped in their dinghy and came over and boarded Onward. While I positioned Onward they climbed aboard Long White Cloud, avoiding the fresh varnish, and found some cleats to tie off to. Later that evening I met the owners who built the boat themselves and sailed it around the world from New Zealand. They were just about to begin the homeward leg and had been ashore giving a talk about their exploits.
  • Friday 5 Dec, I got up early and began work on the outboard's carburetor. After cleaning it thoroughly, it would run but only when fully choked and then not very long. I was now faced with the possibility of being at Vero without a working outboard and by myself as Merlin and Moondance were planning to move on to Stuart on Saturday morning. I checked around the internet and made phone calls to attempt to locate a mechanic who could work on the engine today – without much success. I then found a Yamaha outboard dealer near Stuart who would give me a great deal on the new 15hp Yamaha 2-stroke outboard I had been looking for all summer – and he would take my existing engine in trade. So I rented a car and with Ed's help got the outboard to Stuart and purchased the new motor. – What a day.
  • The rest of my stay in Vero was spent completing the solar panel installation and provisioning Onward for the coming winter cruise to the Bahamas.
15-16 Dec 08 Stuart
  • Onward departed VBCM early in the morning to move down to Stuart FL to meet up with Moondance and to visit with C470 owners Ingrid and Ron Lipinski. The move was uneventful until it was time to turn off the ICW and up the St. Lucie R. Onward bounced off the bottom about 100 m S & W of R2. Mike of Lady of Lorien, had warned me earlier by radio that he had tried to turn in just before low tide yesterday and grounded hard. Before I could move to the starboard helm station to attempt to back off, Onward bounced over the spot into 8' deep water. I was able to proceed without further problem to the Harborage marina where I took a slip for the night.
  • After getting my dock lines set, I received a call on the VHF from Moondance. Ron Lapinski was aboard! He had seen me drive by as I went under the bridge while he was running an errand in town. He came by the marina and walked out on the dock where Moondance was berthed – which turns out to be a long way by land from the pier where Onward was. He came over and we arranged a time for him to come back to pick me up.
  • After Ron left me I was working in the cockpit when I was hailed by someone from the pier. It turned out to be someone I had met each time I stayed at the Anchorage Marina in Baltimore where he keeps his boat. He had just moved it down to spend the winter in Stuart. I then showered and prepared to go over to Ron and Ingrid's home for dinner. As I was walking to the office on the pier to register, I noticed a group of people on the dock having a cocktail party. One of the women looked familiar and when I got close it turned out to be Pam Loving with John nearby! They were going to keep Compass Rose there for a couple of months. This is the 3rd time we encountered each other on the trip down! What a great surprise and a good example of the small world we cruise in.
  • Ron fetched me and we drove to his beautiful home on Sewells Point where Ingrid had prepared a great dinner. We had a pleasant evening talking about cruising and our C470s. On the drive back to the marina, Ron told me that the first sailboat I had seen to the NE of the bridge was another C470 – Annie Laurie, owned by John MacDougall. Ron and Ingrid had not been able to contact John and I said I would try.
  • The next morning, I emailed John. I then worked on boat projects like filling my jerry cans with diesel and continuing to work on the structure that supports the solar panels. In late afternoon, I moved Onward out of the marina and anchored just off shore. A short time later, I received a call on the VHF – it was John who dropped by the marina while he was running errands. I took the dinghy in to meet him. It was another case of putting the physical person together with the email person I had gotten to know well over the last few years. He was on one of his regular visits to his mother who has a home on the St. Lucie just N of the bridge where Annie Laurie is kept. We agreed that I would check to see if he was around when I came back up he ICW in the Spring so we could spend some time together. John also told me that the St. Lucie Inlet was plagued by silt moguls that moved around and the only way to enter was at high tide and to be prepared to bump over them.
  • Wow! What a case of encountering fellow cruisers my visit to Stuart has been!
  • Later that evening Skip and Harriet took me out to the mall where I was able to get a haircut – great to have short hair again!
17-18 Dec 08 N Lake Worth
  • I sailed by Annie Laurie and waved to John as I went down the river. Well the exit from the St. Lucie R was a real challenge this time! When I got to the shoal area at R2 I found a tug struggling to back its barge off the shoal in the middle of the channel! I came up close and then ducked around his port side – on S side of the channel. Onward bounced off a couple of silt bumps and plowed through some others before finally breaking into deep water. Maybe they will do some dredging here now that a commercial vessel has reported grounding on the shoal. I caught up to Moondance who danced over the shoal area without incident and we continued down the ICW and anchored in N. Lake Worth. Here we found Lady of Lorien and we jointly made plans to move down to the inlet anchorage Friday afternoon to be ready for an early crossing on Saturday the 19th.
19 Dec 08 Lake Worth Inlet Anchorage
  • I moved S to the anchorage at Lake Worth Inlet in the afternoon in time to do a final check of Onward in preparation for the crossing. I found that I had a lot less apprehension this year than last when I was a "newbie".
20-27 Dec 08 Lake Worth Inlet – West End, Grand Bahama Island
  • I managed to get a sound sleep in before getting up at 0230 to get ready for our 0330 departure. The departure from the anchorage was uneventful in the dark except for the fact that I did not realize I has turned off my radar overlay on the chart plotter until I was half way out the inlet. I had the lights of Lady of Lorien and Moondance to follow so the exit was easy. I also discovered that my running lights and tricolor were not operating so I had only my steaming light and an LED lantern hanging from the davits. Radar and AIS took the stress out of the light problem. Once out of the inlet we set a course of 109 M based on a Gulf Stream crossing model I had built last year when I crossed from Key Biscane to Bimini. However after following this course for a bit it became evident that the web site I had gotten the Gulf Stream limit and velocity profile from had the dimensions wrong as we were experiencing twice the set as the site showed – consistent with the data being m/s vs the kts as cited. A new course of ~ 120 M gave us a landfall on the mark. The winds were light to non extant with no appreciable swell so it was a benign crossing.
  • We pulled into slips at Old Bahama Bay marina and resort. Business is slow so the slips were $1/ft /night which gave us access to all the resort amenities: pool, restaurants, bars, bikes, etc.! The facility is beautifully landscaped and is now part of the Gin sur Mer resort that us underconstruction. This is to be a multi-billion $ resort patterned after Versailles and Venice. They have been moving dirt and digging canals for 2 years. A golf course is under construction to be ready for a 2009 PGA event. Time will tell how the current economic downturn affects this and other developments in the region.
  • Sunday we went for a bike ride toward town and were disappointed to find that the bakery that used to make great pies was no longer operating.
  • Christmas day was beautiful and sunny. I spent a pleasant afternoon at the pool. We had a great holiday buffet dinner at the resort restaurant. We then walked down to enjoy eggnog around a bonfire on the beach and were entertained as a group of 4 drummers and 2 dancers put on a Junkanoo celebration for us. Neat.
  • Friday, "Boxing Day", was spent troubleshooting my running lights with a bit of good-natured prodding by Mike Williams. Mike came over to join me in playing with the new A70D stand-alone chart plotter/GPS and digital fish finder. I wanted to experiment to see if I Could point the depth sounder transducer forward and use it to scan the path ahead of Onward for shoals or coral heads. We concluded it might work if I could find some way to mount it to withstand the huge forces on it from moving through the water. We then got on to finding out why the running lights and masthead tricolor lights did not work when I left Lake Worth Inlet. We found that power was getting to the lights. The two bow lights were found to be terribly corroded and one of the bulbs was 1/3 full of water!
  • I finally took care of one of my Albatrosses – the boat projects that have been hanging around for some time because I could not come up with a solution for some small problem or because they just keep getting bumped aside by other projects. Today the success was with the mounting of my Lighthouse the Christmas gift given me by Betsey several years ago. It is a beautiful polished pewter cocktail shaker in the form of a lighthouse. I always felt it was too beautiful to use as a cocktail shaker so I decided to use it as a piece of art as it reflects the lighthouse motif of Onward's logo. First I had to figure out a place to put it and I settled for the bulkhead over the back of the seat at the nav station. Then I needed to figure out a way to mount it on the wall and I eventually designed a teak base for it. Then I had to figure out how to secure it to the base in a way that was not very visible and did not require any modification to the lighthouse itself. Next the problem was how to attach the base to the bulkhead that I solved by deciding to do by screws from through the bulkhead starting from the other (shower) side. Then the problem became the limits of only 1 pair of hands aboard – I couldn't hold the mount and work in the shower at the same time. Well, today Skip Hardy came through and did the mount holding while I did the drilling and screwing. The result: the lighthouse looks great with its bright silver against the dark teak of the bulkhead. There is an overhead spotlight that I now use to shine on the lighthouse. It provides nice mood lighting for the salon.


  • Saturday was spent trying to get the bow lights to work by disassembling and cleaning them. I then found that both old bulbs were dead and the two new 10 W bulbs I had as spares were also both dead! Luckily I had 2 backup 25 W bulbs I could substitute so I now have working bow lights. It was then time to wash down the boat, fill water tanks, and take a great shower. The night was capped off by a great "ginger wine chicken" dinner aboard Moondance.
  • Our plan is to leave the marina at 0630 Sunday morning for Great Sale Cay, the first stop on our way through the Abacos.
28 Dec 08 West End – Great Sale Cay
  • We departed Old Bahama Bay Marina at 0630 and proceeded N to cross onto the Banks through Indian Cay Channel. This is a shallow water route that boats of Onward's draft can only cross on a high tide. The timing was right and we began the crossing about an hour before high tide, ~+2', and followed the waypoints in Steve Dodge's Guide to the Abacos. The channel markers are still missing. Moondance led the parade followed by Lady of Lorien and then Onward. We were joined by at least 3 other boats from the marina in taking this passage. It was an uneventful crossing where we encountered 2 spots with ~7.5' near the beginning and the end of the shoal area. It was a beautiful sunny clear day with light winds on the nose so it was the iron genny all the way.
  • We anchored in the SW bight of Great Sale Cay and were able to move fairly far up between the arms of the island to get ~270 deg protection. It is always amazing to me how much larger in reality these cays are compared to ones impression from seeing them on the charts. Great Sale is a fairly large Cay but is apparently uninhabited. There were no beaches apparent in the anchorage area as there are 3-4' limestone buffs at the water edge. A quiet night as all needed the rest.
  • It appears that Onward and Lady of Lorien were visited by mice while at West End. The slips were located right next to land and this gave them the opportunity to get aboard at night via the dock lines. This is the first time I've experienced this problem since Onward was commissioned. I will now put pest collars on my mooring lines especially when the slip is close to land. It appears they did not stay but just visited. I hope this is the case but I plan to set traps just in case.
29 Dec 08 Great Sale Cay – Manjack Cay
  • A leisurely 0700 departure up around the SW arm of the Cay thence N around Little Sale Cay and then E into the W entrance to the Sea of Abaco. Another beautiful sunny day with light winds. It was another motor trip following the Explorer Charts and Dodge's waypoints. Along the way, Moondance found a leaking water hose on the engine cooling water intake circuit. I was able to get Ed Burke on the phone and ask him to call Bay Shore Marine in Annapolis to check on available spare parts.
  • One thing evident in the Abacos is that there is almost continuous cell phone coverage from Batelco towers on either side of the Sea. On this leg, the greater settlement of the Abacos vice the Exumas also became apparent as homes and marinas became more dense on the Cays as we progressed E. Onward's AIS system has become a super yacht locator as they represent the majority of the AIS traffic. The overall geography of the Abacos is essentially the same as the Exumas.
  • We anchored about 1500 at Manjack Cay. Lady of Lorien had a good deal of trouble getting their CQR to set in the sandy bottom that was heavy with short grass clumps. Again the Manson showed its mettle biting immediately. Between the time I set the anchor and then finished putting on the bridle, a mild front came through clocking the winds from the E to he NNW. Moondance dropped their dinghy and came over to get me so I could take a look at the leak. This is a typical sale boat problem: a simple issue of a mechanic not being able to get a hose up tight enough on the metal nipple because there is no way to get a good grip with one hand – never mind 2. I suggested putting a 2nd hose clamp on to reduce the already small drip further – and leave well enough alone until a new special hose could be brought from the US.
  • I baked a batch of pepper biscotti before going to sleep. I think I've no perfected the fabrication and baking so that it is much easier, quicker, and cleaner. I also adapted the baking time & temperature to make them golden brown. Delish! I've noticed that I am a bit addicted to these as I become a bit apprehensive when my biscotti jar starts getting low. They are such a great healthy snack and go great with almost any meal – a way to have bread without eating too much.
30 Dec 08 Manjack Cay – Lynyard Cay
  • It was another 0630 departure as we wanted to stop for fuel at Orchid Bay Marina in Settlement Harbor on ?Cay. We got there about 0930. The marina is quite nice although its small breakwater does not offer much protection from the Sea on the W. The fuel dock had a long face pier that accommodated Lady of Lorien and Onward. Mike went first as he had local knowledge. We hadn't coordinated so I was surprised that he took the approach end of the pier leaving Onward to maneuver around him to the far end with only a boat length of space to the breakwater. It turns out his Pacific Seacraft 40 does not move well in reverse so he needed to be closer to the exit. I was able to fit in ahead in spite of a 10 kt wind on the stern that kicked up as I began the approach. Thankfully Onward seems to be as maneuverable as a dinghy when it has any way on so I docked uneventfully. I took on 51 gal of diesel @ $4.40 / gal. Not bad for the trip from Vero Beach to here.
  • After departing the marina where Angie and Harriet were able to make a quick trip to the grocery store for fresh foods, we decided to make use of the wind and sail. On the way S, I took a more in shore route while the other 2 boats went more toward the W. They may have caught more wind there as they quickly moved ahead. Of course Onward, now fully loaded with water, fuel, and provisions, does not move swiftly in winds < 15 kts but I sailed on until my boat speed dropped to < 3.8 kts. By this time the other boats were well ahead and I decided to motor sale at max sustainable rpm to clean any carbon build up from all low rpm motoring out of the engine. I passed the other 2 boats and continued on to the tricky cut a Pelican Harbor / Pelican Cays where I decided to sail from then on as it was a bit of a challenge. After negotiating the tricky bits, the wind died and the other boats caught up. We then sailed closely together into the anchorage of the W coast of Lynyard Cay. Another quite night as we plan an early start tomorrow morning.
31 Dec 08 Lynyard Cay – Marsh Harbor
  • It was anchor aweigh at 0630 and Onward, Moondance, and Lady of Lorien began the passage to Royal Island. However, Mike announced that their anchor windlass had just failed and he was concerned. Then Skip related that he had been working on his engine water leak until after 2300 last night and it was worse than before. The course became obvious – not to head out for the ocean crossing to Royal I but head back to Marsh Harbor where there was the best opportunities in the Bahamas to get the problems fixed. So, we were all in slips at Conch Inn Marina by 1100. They were offering a special of 4 days for the price of 3 at $1.30/ft – a good deal that we took. After a beer & hamburger ashore to use the wifi, I walked into town with Skip to visit hardware stores where I found some mouse traps. On the return I gave Mike a hand in removing his windlass motor and drive box. It appears internal gears have been stripped. The sunny day gave way to overcast as a front moved through and cooled things off.
  • Onward hosted a New Years Eve party with lots of appetizers and Angie provide some delicious soup and garlic bread. The new year was welcomed in by fireworks over the harbor.