Jan 16 -Jan 20, 2015
Finally splashing the boat was a relief. No major issues arose. Well, except, the new props were specified to operate in the opposite direction as the previous. This means forward is reverse and vice versa at the helm. Mark anticipated that this could be the case with keeping the old helm engine controls. We had the replacements on board, but didn’t have time to complete that project prior to splashing. The initial docking was a challenge, but we made it (thankful for our new rub rail). Uno Mas has a new tatoo on the port bow now as well. The controls and cables were replaced subsequently, at dockside. We also tested the windlass (hauls the anchor up and down.) It would haul up but not down. This is ok to deal with, but since we had the new one in the Spare Parts Storage (anywhere there is room on the boat), Mark replaced it before we departed as well. We had to have the cats get health certificates within 48 hours of departing in order to clear in to the Bahamas. They also ended up having to be chipped. These old kitties (17 & 18 years old) used up quite a bit of their “vet units” to become international travelers.
We provisioned the boat anticipating 6 months out (which probably really equates to a year for most people). THAT could be part of the boat weight issue as well. We shall see as the goods start depleting. We parked the RV and car trailer in a long term storage lot, and we headed off.
We motored down the Intercoastal Waterway from St Augustine, Florida to Lake Worth, stopping each night, anchoring in different areas off the main channel. Of course, we ran aground twice on the first day. This was not suppose to happen since we installed a fishfinder sensor in the starboard hull for a depth reading, the one that we always seemed to ground on before. More about that in Boat Projects.
It was good to get the feel of being on a boat again, introducing the CREW (now two cats—Black Kitty died May 26, 2014) to boat life, and relearn how to do just about everything. The new Spade anchor works flawlessly. It was a huge difference between being up all night worrying if we were going to drag or not.
The chartplotter,radar,AIS and other Garmin systems worked as advertised. Dolphins greeted us most days, which is suppose to be a sign of good luck, and we saw some cool birds and Cannonball jellyfish. The weather finally warmed up (above 40 at night when we got to Mosquito Lagoon on the ICW in Florida. The local radio channels played Latino music. It started to feel like how living on the boat was suppose to feel. Warm, sunny, and listening to music you cannot understand the words to. It was a good day!
The trip down “The Ditch” took 4 days. We got to Lake Worth, saw a 30 ft twin jet powered cigarette boat being chased by a sea cop with four 350 hp outboards on their inflatable, which was pretty cool, but that didn’t make up for the rest of the area. We anchored for an hour and prepped the boat for our SECOND night crossing of the Gulf Stream. While anchored in Lake Worth just off the main channel, we swung around 360 degrees five times in that one hour, while prepping the boat. This was a bit discerning with all of the other boats hanging out, BUT, no one ran into us and we didn’t run into them, so it worked out. This is the second time we have anchored in this area and find it to be unsightly and unnerving with the permanently abandoned boats sporadically placed out of the cargo ships paths. One hour was too long.
We pulled anchor around 5 pm and headed out the inlet hoping this time crossing the Gulf Stream we would not run into a Tropical Storm like last time (Beryl in May, 2012). We did not, but it was not a smooth ride. I had forgotten about multihulls’ hull slap where the center salon bottom is slammed with water (Where everything gets thrown up in the air a few inches, and the floor flexes…a lot.) This happens when big waves are coming at us from the bow or beam, which was most of the night. The weather predicted 5 ft seas to start and calmer 2-3 ft once in the stream. We found 5 ft confused seas for about half of the trip, then significantly reduced after that. Our escape hatches leaked A LOT, while being slammed with waves in the Gulf Stream. But, we made it. We did a couple of helm shifts, motored the whole way, avoided a 4 boat collision(thanks to radar and AIS), 2 of the boats being cargo ships, and ran from a couple of mysterious vessels that followed our every move and were acting weird, at 3 AM. We have radar and an AIS system that allowed us to track vessels within a 50 miles radius. I have to say, the clear night provided us with some AMAZING star gazing. We got across to the Bahama Bank (shallow area) waayyy early (like, 3 hours too early) so we motored around, killing time until the sun rose so we could see what we were entering into on the bank. Except , we were heading East and the sun comes up in the East, so you really could not see anything. We decided to trust our Garmin chartplotter to find the cut we needed to go through. Once on the Bank, we remembered how shallow(15 ft) it can be, but Garmin showed the typical routes to follow (from the Chartplotter) so we followed its suggested route and avoided sand bars and coral heads, and we did not sink. Also, we found out the cats did not get seasick, which is a very good thing.
Once on the Bahama Bank , the sea flattened out to a backyard swimming pool with no wind. Like a scarey movie, we wondered, what was going to come at us next? Nothing happened once we were on the bank. We saw one or two boats and that was about it.