Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Time Out, Alligators, Skeeters and Bilge Pump Light

The crew of Viridian slipped her lines away from the mooring ball in Ft. Myers, FL as a grey, early morning fog covered the entire area.  The radar was switched on but by the time we got back out to the channel we had at least one mile visibility and the fog was burning off pretty quick.  Most of the Okeechobee Waterway leaving Ft. Myers is designated "Manatee Zone" so we eased along in the still, cool morning seeing no other boats on the water glad to have a cloud cover since we were cruising directly into the rising sun.

Our passage took us 42 river miles east of Ft. Myers, FL to the River Forest Yacht Center near Moore Haven, FL.  We will leave Viridian on the hard there with a short list of repairs while we fly back home to visit for the month of March.  We passed through two locks and seven lift bridges to get to our destination.  The first lock was the W. P. Franklin Lock that had a 2 ft lift.  We shared the lock with another looper boat and had no problems maneuvering Viridian without the bow thrusters.  The lock master was very helpful and talked with us during our short time in the chamber.  We only had to request one bridge, the Alva/Broadway Bridge, for an opening.  Viridian's air draft is 22 feet.  We gained some confidence passing under all the low bridges on the east coast of Florida so we cruised on under these bridges today with a few feet of clearance, but still felt like a submarine crew waiting for the next depth charge to go off.  At the end of the day we still have our mast and rigging and we have more confidence in our number, and theirs, when it comes to clearance.

We had the good fortune to meet the Looper Boat "Slow Hand" as he was headed west to Ft. Myers.  If you recall, Slow Hand is the man who organized the 16 Looper boats so we could lock through the Wilson Lock in Florence, AL following the Looper Conference at Joe Wheeler.  After clearing Wilson Lock, we never saw or heard from Slow Hand until now.  We Chatted a while on the radio and updated each other on our plans as we parted ways once again.

Soon afterward, the bilge pump light in the upper helm came on.  The first mate came up to inform me that the fresh water plumbing had sprung a leak and drained all our water into the bilge and pumped it overboard.  (We have been making incremental repairs to the fresh water system since Key West so it looks like we have more work to do).  It turned out to be an easy fix by simply reconnecting the loose hose back to the pipe and snuging it down good.  This has happened before so we knew where to look for the leak.

On the way to the last lock of the day, Ortona Lock, there is a long straightaway in the canal where we wanted to run Viridian at wide open throttle, (WOT).  It is good to do this from time to time with the CAT diesel so when we get to a good place then its wide open for about 10 minutes.  While doing this all vitals with respect to the engine parameters are monitored closely for signs of excessive heating.  Everything performed as it should so after about 8 minutes we pulled her back to cruising RPM and then that red bilge light came on again.  I knew it was not the fresh water system because it was empty.  I turned the helm over to the first mate and went below to open the hatch to see what was going on.  Opening the hatch I immediately saw that the problem was a blown water hose on the output side of the heat exchanger.  It was spewing seawater through a 1 inch slit just behind the clamp where it attaches to the heat exchanger output fixture.  Viridian was pulled down to an idle as we monitored the temp gauge and prepared to drop the anchor.  Once we set the anchor we killed the engine and went below to the assess the problem.  I keep a roll of silicon tape in a drawer by the engine compartment and in 10 minutes we had a patch on the hose that stopped the leak.  Viridian was fired up and the patch held while we locked through Ortona and eased into the marina and tied off to the sea wall.  Now we have another item to add to our list of things to get fixed.  All of the water hoses on the engine will be replaced before we begin our journey next month.  The other items are: fix thruster, leaky generator water pump, and battery replacement.

We  have cruised over 1000 miles of the Florida coast, including a trip deep into the Everglades, and have yet to get a glimpse of an alligator, until now.  There are at least two alligators living here in the marina.  They are only about 6 feet long and cruise around peeping with their eyes just above the water.  Maybe it was just too cool, after all we were here during winter months and I'm sure that had something to do with us not seeing any.  But now we have seen a couple and are glad we are not leaving Florida without at least laying eyes on a Florida alligator.  And another thing we haven't been seeing, and glad of it, is the mosquito.  Not sure what all Florida is doing to keep them away but whatever it is, it's working.  We surely don't miss the mosquito but you see, we bought this electronic mosquito repeller and were anxious to test it out and it just sits in a drawer so far.  Oh well!  That's the news and here are some views.

SLC Railway Bridge on the Caloosahatchee River, FL

Feels good to be back on a river again

Cruising Up the River

A working Boatyard

Weird albino lizards around here

Frogs too!

Large cruiser being hauled out

Viridian tied to the wall for a few days while we wait for our departure day

A new piece of boat furniture

Finally see a Florida alligator!  And he sees us

 Viridian will be put on the hard once we take time out leave for a month

Back Up the Caloosahatchee River

Today we set sail from Ft Myers mooring field to a boat yard in Labelle, Fl to have Viridian hauled out for the month of March.  While Viridian is having some work done the first mate and I will fly home to visit family and friends and return at the end of the month and begin our voyage north to Canada.

This day marks the end of what we are seeing as the third phase of the loop journey for us.  The first phase was the Tenn-Tom/Florida panhandle route to Tarpon Springs, Fl.  The second phase was South to Key West from Ft. Myers then back around to Ft. Myers via the Gulf side.  There is still some Florida coast line left to explore North of Stuart, FL and we are looking forward to cruising that area, but for us, Florida is now in the rear-view mirror as we set our sights for the east coast New England states to the Canadian border.  What a fabulous time we have had cruising the many miles of Florida's coast!  In truth it would really take another voyage to visit other great places we simply didn't have time see.  Perhaps another time?

Viridian stayed put on her mooring ball and the kluged up bridle worked fine but before we attempt another mooring we will have a proper attachment hardware.

We are looking forward to seeing all our Family and Friends in a few days.  We will pick up the blog again in April.

That's the news and here are a few views:

We are here

Today's Route

Views From the Mooring Field towards Ft. Myers, FL

One of the several dinghy trips we made across the Caloosahatchee River to the marina
We're headed to the First Presbyterian church which was a short walk from the marina.  This Presbyterian church service was very traditional with an organ, piano and choir.  The pianist played Just As I Am in tribute to Billy Graham.  The pastor had a great message about sharing the gospel (Good News) and talked about reasons we hesitate to do so sometimes.   

 That's close enough Gilligan!
This happened yesterday at Stock Island in Key West

Visiting the Presbyterian Church in Ft. Myers on Sunday

Our duck friends.  They come by at the same time every day for a treat 
I'm amazed that these same two ducks remembered they were fed at our boat!  They showed up on the starboard side at the same time each day!

Last day on the mooring ball

First mate in her stern hammock

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Having a Ball - For a Few Days

There are a few ways to secure a boat while staying at a location for a while and one of them is attaching to a mooring ball.  A mooring ball is just a big inflatable rubber ball attached to the seafloor via a chain and some kind of substantial anchor.  It may have a ring on top to tie onto or a tether with a smaller float you can grab with a hook, pull onboard and tie up that way (much easier).  So why stay on a mooring ball when you could just drop the anchor and stay for free you ask?  Well that's a valid question and most boaters would most likely opt for that rather than hassle with snagging a ball.  I say hassle because some balls are harder to snag than others.  We wanted to get some experience securing Viridian using a mooring ball, since we haven't done this before, and see if we needed something other that a boat hook to accomplish this task.  So when a ball became available we jumped at the opportunity to hook one and stay a few more days that way.  

The ball we rented (much cheaper that staying at the marina and we are able to use the marina facilities), just had a 4 inch diameter steel ring laying flat on the topside.  You had to lean over the side with a boat hook to snag the ring, then somehow get a bow line run through it and back up to the boat to tie off to be secured.  Ok, sounds simple enough, right?  It is 6 feet from the bow of Viridian to the water and the boat hook, fully extended, is 8 feet long.  Just send the first mate forward with the hook in one hand and the bow line in the other and get the boat close enough and wait for the thumbs up indicating we are secured, easy-peezy.  Let's discuss some "factors" that have to be considered in order to accomplish this simple task.  First there is the wind factor.  The wind has been a factor since the beginning of our trip and not a day goes by that we have to compensate for it in some way.  As a matter of fact, we no longer have our White Looper Burgee to fly on our bow because the wind whipped it off its mast, blew it over the top of Viridian and into the river where it was was run over by a large cruiser never to be seen again.  This happened this past Friday as we approached Ft. Myers.  So the wind must be dealt with constantly.   As you may recall from previous posts, we no longer have the luxury of a bow thruster, the thing that helps mitigate the effects of wind when maneuvering in close quarters or at slow speeds (a discussion for another day).  Wind on the bow affects all boats differently, most of the time you don't even notice it except when it really matters, like hooking a mooring ball or docking in close quarters.  Viridian wants to yaw left or right if the "angle-of-attack" to the wind is not zero, and if never is.  Also, when the prop in enguaged, Viridian's stern wants to "walk" either to the right or left depending on being shifted into forward or reverse.  (Couple this with the wind affect and you are doing a 180 away from the ball before you know it).  Assuming the captain can approach the ball in white capping wind conditions slow enough and close enough to just touch it with the hook, gives a window of opportunity of only a few seconds for the first mate to hook the ball and get a line through it 4 feet below the deck.  Since the wind is blowing, the ball is straining downwind on its rode and there is no slack to bring the ball up within reach if you do manage to hook it.  If you miss with the hook then it's another "go-around" for another approach.  After 3 or 4 go-arounds the first mate managed to hook the loop on the ball!  Now what?  The wind took over and Viridian began to move away from the ball and the fist mate held on with all her strength until the hook popped off the end of the stick.  (Note to self, we need a better way of capturing a ball).  Our handy dandy snubber line was laying across the forward trunk and it had a shiny steel hook braided into the end of a 10 foot long,  3/4 inch diameter line.  If this hook could catch the ring on top of the ball then at least we could secure Viridian and noodle out a way to get a more permanent solution that we could easily detach from when we were ready to leave.

After a few more "go-arounds" we were able to snag the ring on the ball with the snubber hook, tie it off to a bow cleat and rest for a moment while we figured out what to do next.  Time to launch the Tender!  I motored the dingy along side Viridian until I could reach the snubber line with my hand and hold on while the first mate handed me the end of a 35 foot bow line.  Walking the free end down to the ball I passed it through the ring and back up to the other side of Viridian's bow where it was secured to a cleat inside.  Now all we had to do was unhook the snubber and let the bowline hold us on the ball.  Well, that's a lot of work just to accomplish the same thing as simply dropping the anchor and making a sandwich.  There is that "perceived" sense of added security knowing the mooring ball won't drag during the night in high winds.  However, we are only as secure as the weakest link from the boat to the seafloor and that is most likely our dock line that runs through the smooth steel ring on top of the ball.  All of our dock lines are new but still we monitor them for signs of wear.  Just for extra insurance, I will run a 3/4 inch diameter kevlar line to back up the bowline.  To get away from this arrangement, we simply untie the bow lines from inside the boat, let the wind pull us away from the ball as the line slips out of the ring and away we go.

This exercise was just another lesson in boating 101.  We now have succeeded in snagging a mooring ball and securing the boat in less that optimal conditions.  All this adds up to confidence in our ability to manage our floating house and letting us enjoy the destination.  After all, this is called "pleasure cruising".  Conversations with other boaters along the way will likely yield better solutions to securing to a ball.  Until then, we are having a ball!

That's the news and here are some views:

Our path from City of Ft. Myers Yacht Basin to the mooring field

On the "Ball" in high winds

Where our AGLCA burgee used to be. (got another one ordered)

View from V-berth looking aft

Home sweet Home Swinging on a Ball

A stop on Lofton's Island via dinghy

A view from Viridian between the bridges in the mooring field of Ft. Myers, FL

Friday, February 23, 2018

Leaving Sanibel island, FL

Sanibel Island, FL has taken first place in our most favorite place to visit so far.  There are so many things that we liked about this location.  What did we like about it so much?  For starters, everyone we met or saw on the island were people we would want to have as neighbors.  Can't say that about other places we  have been.  Sanibel is a place that is quiet and off the beaten path.  It has a great beach with easy access, beautiful water and seashells by the truck load scattered along the shoreline.  We stayed in the only marina on the island and it was very different from others we have stayed in.  It is primarily a broker yard for Back Cove yachts and only allows a few transient boats at a time in.  Given this, there are only a few people actually staying there at any given time.  Because of this it is extremely quiet and peaceful and the staff caters to us like we were house guests.  Each morning fresh, hot blueberry muffins were brought to our boat by one of the kitchen staff members that works at Gramma Dot's restaurant located on the grounds, and placed on our deck at 0730.  That happens to be when the coffee onboard Viridian is ready.  Along with the muffins is a news paper placed inside a white paper sack.  The entire island is layed out with paved bike paths that go around the island and cut across at various places.  There are several grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, churches, and all kinds of shoppes.  Then there are the residential areas with houses and manicured lawns that you can ride around in with practically no traffic.  We rented some bicycles and rode everywhere we could find a path.  We felt independent with our mobility and ease of access to all the places we needed to go.  The marina is connected to a series of canals that went inland and gave us a huge area to explore in the dinghy on cool afternoons.  Just a great place that we kinda got attached to and were sad to leave.

Today we departed Sanibel Island, FL and cruised back up the Caloosahatchee River to the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin, just past Legacy Harbor Marina where we stayed on our last trip through this area.  We will stay here until it's time to head on up river to River Forest Boat Yard to haul out Viridian, have some repairs made, head home to Huntsville, AL to visit family and friends for the month of March.

That's the news and here are some views:

We are here

Today's Passage from Santibel Island, FL to City of Ft. Myers Yacht Basin

Marina View from off the Stern

Neat Bike Path

Hi y'all!

One of the many paths to the beach

Reading on the Flybridge

Things that float and things that fly at the marina

Viewing the sunset while George grills

A frame we decorated with "Kitten Paw" Shells we found on the beach

Aren't they cute?

Chillin' and grillin'

I liked the way the curly tree limbs looked against the night sky but the photo just didn't capture it

A frequent visitor

A bird in the hand is better than 5 in the bush or something like that!

George, you go first!

Typical bike path on the Sanibel island

Monday, February 19, 2018

Photos from Sanibel Island, FL

Starting another morning on Sanibel Island, FL

Why haven't we been here before???  Sanibel has pretty beaches to walk, gazillions of shells and lovely spots to soak up some sun while reading a good book.  The landscape behind the beach has been left natural with nice sandy trails lined with tall sea grape trees and palms that give relief from the midday sun.  Gopher tortoise make their homes here in sandy tunnels under the ground.  We spotted a big one but didn't have our camera :-(  It's also good for birdwatching.

Early Ride Out

Lunch at Gramma Dot's (Grilled Grouper Sandwich and Fried Clams)

Different Kind of Workout

Where to next?

Egret at the marina

Back to the Beach

Must Stop for Ice Cream

Morning at the Sanibel Arts and Crafts Show

The Book Store

I love a good bookstore and Gene's Bookstore is a doozy!  There are books tucked in every
available space including the bathroom.  It consists of 3 buildings, one behind the other. You make your way through the first building, go out a back door that opens up to a shady reading area, and find tables stacked with books, rolling book shelves with more books and a pig trail to the 3rd building which houses the American and British history section.  

This wonderful bookstore is Fox and Sons bookstore packed into The Shop Around the Corner (if you're a fan of the movie You've Got Mail, you'll get the picture)

George hiding from me

They even have to put books in the bathroom!!!!

Love All Creatures Great and Small

 Love Mitford and Father Tim

Only room for 1 person in this section in the 3rd building.  This is the American and British history section.

Meg hiding from George

To the Beach!

Birds and Palm Trees

Nature Tour at Bowman's Beach 
We  were pleasantly surprised to be reunited with Unruly, one of our boat neighbors at the AGLCA conference last fall.  They stayed a week at the Sanibel marina to visit one of their hometown friends who visits Sanibel every winter.  The ladies invited me to join them on a nature walk at Bowman's Beach while George and Gary looked at navigation charts on the boat.  We had a wonderful time learning about the flora and fauna of the region.  I also discovered the kitten paw shell.  

Bridge over an estuary.  The estuaries are called the nurseries of the sea. They provide a protected area for fish and shellfish to reproduce and feed.


Bowman's Beach

Studying plant life from the sea

Worm casing :-/

Plicatulidae shells (AKA Kitten Paw)

Back to the Marina

Day's End