Onward to Boston!
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Well folks,

I’m knocking on my door as I write this, but looks like we just might make it back before school starts. Our biggest obstacle because of the side effects of Cristobal was offshore at Cape May; traveling the Jersey Shore, and we did that today.

We landed at the Annapolis Public Piers the night before last (really hated leaving Annapolis) and last night at South Jersey Marina.

I woke up this morning not really knowing what would be, but it all worked out.  As we approached the exit to the inlet we were snatched up by the current as dolphins frolicked about. I could see swells on the horizon rolling into the beach, but no white water.  The swells at times were fairly large at 5-7′ giving a smooth rocking motion and plenty of sea spray on the deck, but very little slamming.

Capt. Al solved the sliding fridge problem with a couple of screws. When I do the galley refit, I’m going to have to be sure that all of the new appliances are well fastened.

I also discovered 2 leaking windows today with all the spray.  They are both fairly bad leaks that are wetting the mattress as water runs on the inside of the frame, behind the teak paneling and along the hull onto the bed. I will have to have them both re-sealed soon as I get home.

I’m very relieved that  we have arrive in New York without any delay, but still cautiously optimistic as we are not home yet.  Today, things are looking good.

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Stuck in Virginia
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This is what my last two ship log entries have looked like:

8-24-14  

  • 7am Departed Hampton Public Piers
  •  8am Returned to Hampton Public Piers – Too rough (swells 3-4′)

8-25-14 

  • 7am Departed Hampton Public Piers
  • 8am Returned to Hampton Public Piers – Too rough (swells 3-4′)

 

You know it’s rough when the fridge, which is secured at the top with wood brackets, slides out from the wall.  Lots of slamming and stuff flying all over the place.  I was soaked taking photos from the bridge; had to hold the camera with one hand and and brace myself with the other.  Who needs an amusement park?  Ride em cowboy!

Yesterday, when we made our first attempt at heading out, Christian’s chair tipped back and he fell into the entertainment center.  He wasn’t hurt, but a bit surprised.  I had to have everyone sit on the coach while I scurried around securing loose items and continuously pushing the fridge back in place.  I’m sure that we could have kept on, crew would have gotten through the intense movement, jerking up and down and back and forth, but I really didn’t want to, as Capt. Al says, “beat up the boat”.  Doable, but not worth the risk.

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We departed St. Augustine on the 17th.  So far, it has been a great run.  Seas have been relatively calm, all in all, a nice ride.  We mostly ran outside (offshore) and came into the ICW when we hit Cape Fear.  We run from 7am until as long as we can go, depending on the location of the next marina.  The goal is 100 nautical miles a day, but has been as few as 70 and as much as 120.  We try to avoid running after dark as much as possible.  My favorite time of day is early in the am.  The waters are quiet and calm and watching the sun come up is pretty.  It’s also nice and cool in the morning, and I love being on the bridge, so I usually sit up there running the boat until 9 or 10 when the sun starts heating me up, then it’s time to come back down.

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Passing through Norfolk was the most interesting.  Seeing the military ships was a lot of fun.

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So for now, I’m stuck in Virginia, and quickly running out of time.  Feeling stressed that my kids are starting school the first week in September.  Might have to figure something out to get them home.  They say that Cristobal won’t directly impact the Eastern coast, but may effect the wave action, swells and current.  The wind out there this morning is at 20 knots.  Not looking like good travel days ahead for a small pleasure craft, like me.

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Relaxing In St. Augustine
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Well, most of the time I was relaxing.  But, first order of business, an oil change.  The oil in the engines is supposed to be changed every 100 hours.  We were getting pretty close to that.

I  have never changed motor oil in my life and certainly not on these big babies, so I called in a company called “First Mate Yacht Services”.  Boe arrived to the boat with Mike.  I had them change the oil on both engines, the generator oil, and all of my fuel and oil filters.  The oil change system makes this task much easier.

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I watched these guys closely and took notes and pictures of what they did. They were very helpful and explained every step of the process in detail. It’s actually fairly easy.  The only step that I could potentially have difficulty with is removing the oil filters from the side of the engines.  Seems that you may need a bit of strength to turn the canister. Other than that,  I’m sure that I will be able to do it myself next time, which shouldn’t be until we arrive in Boston.

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Captain Al, who got us across the Gulf from Carabelle and down to Miami was scheduled to meet us in St. Augustine to help us get up the coast to Boston. We had a few days of fun and relaxation before we would head out.

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We had a lot of fun in the Nation’s oldest city and I wish I could have stayed longer.  Unfortunately, I have to rush up the coast to get back to Boston by the start of school.

 

Next…Up the Coast to Boston

 

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“Leaving Miami” or Reprovisioning/feeding 8 souls
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The one thing that amazed me about provisioning to feed 8 people, (which we thought would

be a nightmare on a boat) is the amount of space for stores on this 63″ Hatteras.

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Three compartments like this under dinette bench provides ample storage. We thought we would be busting at the seams, but as it turned out, we have plenty of space in the galley with lots of extra space below should we need it. Because we were having problems with our fridge upon arriving, which we did resolve, we had opted to buy a 3.5 cu.ft. small freezer for the aft deck, just in case.

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As it turned out that freezer was a necessity we didn’t know we needed, but it has been the lifesaver and has made all the difference at the end of the day between shopping once a week and having enough to go 2 weeks without shopping for meat, frozen foods, etc…

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A big boost for space saving is removing all boxes, and packaging, thereby also eliminating much excess trash while underway. Another challenge was where to put grease from cooking. That problem was solved with an empty paint can, purchased from Home Depot, which is strong, with a good lid, and has lots of room, should last a few months 🙂

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The only thing I have to admit, that I really miss is not recycling, it is just too difficult to try and find another ‘spot’ for recycles. All food scraps go directly into the sink garbage disposal, and the old, original trash compactor still works like a charm.

When traveling daily, unless we dock early, cooking is a challenge, I have been making a homemade red sauce, with pasta and sausages and that feeds for a few days. As well, we have what is called a “free-for-all”; frozen foods such as chicken nuggets, fries, and pizza that the kids cook on their own, thereby, taking the burden of preparing while underway away from the cook, freeing up time (and energy) for handling lines, hooking up to the dock, and just enjoying the whole experience.

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So far, all the old, mostly original appliances, have held up beautifully, which is just another testament to  the quality of these old Hatts! Well, at least they’ll do until our galley refit. Course, not sure we’ll ever get used to having a dishwasher under a cooktop, but for now it works!

Purchasing new pots & pans, tailor fit to our needs, has made a great difference in storage as we only have what we absolutely need, then add here and there as the need arises.

Dry goods such as pasta, cake, brownie and muffin mixes have found a nice home in the dry bar in the salon, just steps from the galley, having those items rounds out the homey feel our our new home.

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Of course, I have to mention our beautiful new corelle wear dishes, besides fitting a set of twelve in one cabinet, they are just a pretty pattern, a gift to myself that I am thoroughly enjoying 🙂

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Now to our hands down favorite purchase and a welcome addition to preparing meals, this got everyone’s vote! Our new Coleman Grill, it is portable, so it goes down to the dock in a cinch, has tons of real estate for cooking all our meat in one round, (and that’s alot). The grills are a heavy cast iron and cook evenly, all in all, we couldn’t be happier with this addition! Almost forgot, stores very conveniently by our boarding ladder for convenience! Highly recommend this grill for anyone who has a bigger family than most of the marine grills cater too!

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Know any other clever boat storage/provisioning tips?  Love your feedback!!!  Leave a comment and your 2 cents.

 

Our Time in Miami
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Initially, Miami wasn’t on the schedule.  After all, we need to head North to Boston, not South.  When I had my survey done, before I bought the boat, my surveyor highly recommended that I get new exhaust risers.  He and Sonny explained that the old risers could potentially back-flow water into the engine at some point and cause a lot of damage.  That was a risk that I did not want to take as a new owner, so I factored in the installation of new risers. This was a fairly large job and I really wanted to get it done before heading to Boston.  I figured that I would get a better price in Florida.  I also didn’t want to run the boat over 1500 miles with the risk of engine destruction.  After pricing new exhaust risers, the decision to head South to Miami upon exiting the St. Lucie Inlet on the East coast was made.

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I decided to purchase new turbos as the old ones had some corrosion when my riser guy, Marvin, removed the old risers.  Marvin, gave me an unbelievable price to do the work.  He was also very pleasant to deal with; brought us Cuban treats and gave me a tour of his shop.

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While we waited for the risers and turbos in Miami I began working on the To-Do List.  First task, washing the boat.  We had to wait until about 7 pm to begin washing because the Miami heat is very oppressive.  I couldn’t do anything outdoors( besides the beach) while I was in Miami, during the day, except when it rained.  It’s a good thing that I have so many helpers.  It really makes light work of things.  The kids had fun washing the boat.  Half way through cleaning the bridge I realized that I probably should have believed the kid at West Marine who said that you only need a cap full of soap to a 5 gallon bucket of water.  The kids were slipping and sliding all over the place.  I had to make them all put on shoes, and that helped with traction; a lot.  They had fun with this job, and finished quickly. We washed until about 8pm, when we could no longer see.  It was a good thing we had come from the beach and they were still in bathing suits.

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My sea strainers and bilge were both ready for a good cleaning.  They looked like a science project.  The bilge water was black with sludge and floaty things and they smelled like a sour swamp.  I don’t know when was the last time that they had a thorough cleaning, but it took me about 6 hours of scrubbing and continuous flushing and pumping with the hose to get them to the point were the water was clean enough that I could see the bottom of the bilge.

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As I sliced up my thumb scraping barnacles from the plastic viewing housing of the sea strainer with a spoon, I didn’t realize that the entire strainer housing can be dismantled.  After breaking the stem and rod of the housing on a leaky strainer, I not only learned that the strainers should have rubber gaskets to prevent leakage, and that you should not ever over tighten the bolts or wing nuts, but that it is monumentally easier to clean the plastic if you remove it first.  It took me 5 hours to repair the damaged sea strainer, because the access was near impossible.  I met Jeremy at Sam’s marine in Fort Lauderdale  as I had to make a few trips for parts.  He was very knowledgeable and had the replacements parts that I needed to fix the sea strainer.  It was very challenging because the access to the lower pin was killing me, but I managed to complete the repair.

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I had to replace the upper right rod and lower wing nut pin that I had broken.

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After 2 days of cleaning, breaking and fixing, I finally had a very clean bilge and crystal clear sea strainers.  Next time that I do these jobs it should be much easier now that I have a good clean base and have gotten rid of years of build up.  And, the sour smell is gone.

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I also used my time to get some little things done like changing all of the blown bulbs on the boat, installing new windshield wipers and replacing the starter on one of my a/c condensers.  The crew on the boat next door helped me with the last one, but showed me how to do it, so next time I can do it myself.

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My sister-in-law brought my niece down to join us for a few weeks.  It was fun having them both aboard.

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The kids had fun at South Beach in the evening playing volleyball on the beach.  They also enjoyed what they called “pool jumping”, which meant: sneaking into the condo pool next door when the marina office closed.

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My exhaust job was completed about a week later than expected due to the new turbos. That puts a bit of strain on my time-frame for heading North;  kids start school at the beginning of September.  But, I was very pleased with the end result.

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Cruising the Okeechobee Waterway
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We really enjoyed our trip through the Okeechobee Waterway.  We decided to take this route, as opposed to going around the keys because we figured that it would be more interesting and fun for the kids.  We did not regret our decision.  I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone with children.   This post is mostly photos and lots of them.

I’m not going to bore you guys with a bunch of Okeechobee Waterway history.  I pulled this brief description from Wikipedia as a short explanation for those who may be unfamiliar.

The Okeechobee Waterway is a man-made waterway stretching from Fort Myers on the west coast to Stuart on the east coast of Florida. It was built/finished in 1937 to provide a water route across Florida, allowing boats to pass east–west across the state rather than traveling the long route around the southern end of the state.

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Our biggest concern when we decided to take the Okeechobee Waterway was the locks.  We weren’t sure how difficult it would be, especially since we are still working on our line handling skills.  Our Captain, Al, explained the entire process so we would know what to expect.  He said that it wasn’t difficult and he was right.  We went through 5 locks in total.  3 on the west side of the lake and 2 on the east.  It was really very easy.  The most important thing is to make sure that your fenders are positioned properly.  When the lock master opens the gate to allow the water to flow inside the chamber, the boat will rock back and forth.  It is important to be sure that the fenders are in a good position so that they stay in place and protect the boat from the concrete wall.  I handled the aft line and my Mom and Capt. Al handled the bow line.  The first lock that we went through we placed the fender slightly to far aft, so when the boat rocked I had to push it back in place so it wouldn’t get stuck completely aft.  But, after that first lock I moved it forward a bit and it stayed in place nicely with the movement.  It is also important to only wrap the line around the cleat once because you will need the ability to either pull or release slack as the boat moves up or down.  If the boat is moving down and your line doesn’t have slack or is tied off, you could rip your cleat off the boat and that would not be good.  During the first lock I had my line wrapped around the cleat once and then under the center, but I learned that it is easier to pull slack when I wrap once half around.  The lock masters were all very pleasant and told you in advance how many feet you would go up or down and they let the water in and out slowly, so it was easy to handle.

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It was fun passing riverfront boatyards.  Love those steel trawlers!!!

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There really is alot to see on the Waterway; plenty of wildlife, various bird species and and alligators!!!  Aiden sat on the foredeck most of our trip patiently watching for gators.  We probably spotted about 7 or 8 collectively.  It was very exciting for the kids to see the alligators in their natural habitat, definitely the highlight of the trip.

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A rainbow

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Next, on to Miami…

 

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Our New Captain and Journey to Clearwater
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In the last post I explained that were docked in Carabelle and captain-less.

 

Minutes after our captain’s depature, I jumped on the phone to Sonny at Dog River.  He really is a great guy and he can be trusted.  We were sad to leave Dog River and I knew when we left there that Sonny was sincere when he told me to call him if I needed anything at all and they would come.  And that they did.  I told Sonny what had transpired, and I kid you not, less than an hour later he called me back to say that arrangements were made, and my new captain was on his way.

Unbeknownst to us, the marina, “The Moorings”, that we stopped at in Carabelle to dump our old captain was affiliated with Dog River marina.  When I walked into the marina office to register, I was delighted and surprised when, Melvin, a very kind gentleman asked me if I knew Sonny Middleton.  I said that I did and he told me that he was picking up my new captain from the airport in the morning.  I was relieved that we had sailed right into a marina were we instantly had Sonny’s network behind us again.  Melvin was a great guy.  He took me to the store and sent a guy to fix some things that needed attention and watched out for us until our new captain arrived.

Early the next day, Alvin, our new captain, was on our boat.  Alvin has been running boats for Sonny for years.  He runs “Southern Comfort”, a 72′ Hatteras that was docked near my boat at Dog River and he even ran my boat for Sonny a few times.  He is a very professional captain and also a real southern gentleman, as are all of the men that we have met at Dog River.  He described to me my options, so that I could make an informed decision about our next move.  He then spent the remainder of the day checking systems.

The next morning, bright and early, we were on our way to Clearwater.  Our departure was at about 5am.  The kids did well on our crossing, but at about 4 hours into the trip, Gaege, my 5 year old puked all over me.  After that he was fine.  Two of my other kids at just about the same time, also began to feel queasy.  I gave the older kids Dramamine.  I also whipped out a box of popsicles from the aft deck freezer.  The popsicles were amazing.  Every time Gaege mentioned that he felt sick I gave him one and he immediately seemed better.  I didn’t take any Dramamine myself and didn’t get sick, but I did feel a bit light headed at times early on, and the popsicles seemed to take that feeling away.  I will definitely remember the popsicle trick and will always be sure to keep a freezer full for any journey.  At about 5 hours into the trip, everyone was good.  We had all adjusted to the motion.

The journey across was boring and uneventful (which is really what I want on an at-sea crossing).  There wasn’t much to sea, at-sea, except a few flying fish, dolphins and plenty of big blue water.  The highlight of our day was talking on the VHS radio to friends on the boat “Crystal Blue Persuasion”.  We met these guys in Carabelle and decided to sorta cross together.  Although they had to leave at 1am, and we left at 5am because we ran our boat at 10 knots and they ran at about 7.5 on the crossing.

The kids slept for quite a bit of the trip.  Gaege rode his new scooter through the galley and salon and we sat back and enjoyed the ride.

About 16 hours later we arrived in Clearwater.  It was dark and there were 2 channels to get into the City Marina.  Not realizing that one of them was an ICW route and the other was not, we did hit sandy bottom in really shallow water.  But quickly realized our mistake and took the long way around the bay into the City Marina.

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Note to anyone going to City Marina in Clearwater:  Our friends on “Crystal Blue Persuasion” reported that there was traffic under the bridge upon entry.  Charter and fishing boats get backed up like a parade and boaters might have to use their hands to push off from one another,  I have been told.  Also, be sure to take the ICW channel going to the right after clearing the bridge heading in.  The channel to the left is shorter, but it is too shallow for deep drafts.  It is better to get in during daylight if possible.  The city lights are bright and it is very difficult to see markings, even with spotlights.

 

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The rescue.
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Well folks, we officially have our first crazy boat story. I promised that I would share the good, bad and ugly, so here we go.

Our captain turned out to be a bit of a flake.  He was a smart guy in some respects, clearly knew mechanics and was very good at handling the boat, but problem was, his judgement was severely lacking.  Obviously, I am not going to say who the captain was, but I know that he reads this blog occasionally.  So captain, if you read this, and I hope that you do, there are things here that I wanted to say to you, but didn’t get the chance as I did not want to fume the situation the day of your departure, as my kids were aboard.

In hindsight, and it’s always in hindsight, as hindsight is 20/20, there were a few red flags that I missed or ignored.  I had poor judgement in choosing a captain and I have learned a lesson.  I will never again hire a captain that is not by way of someone that I know and trust.  I don’t care how stellar the references or how highly they come recommended.  Now, on to the incident.

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We anchored at Dog Island for the night.  Dog Island is across the Bay from Carrabelle.  It was our last stop before heading across the Gulf.  As we shut down the engines and settled in to our beautiful surroundings our captain immediately wanted to pull the dingy down and head to the island.  Problem was, we were too tired.  After all, I had been running the boat for 8-10 hours a day for three days straight. Even when my 13 old, Aiden, was at the helm, I wasn’t really resting as I had to keep an eye on what he was doing.  My Mom and I decided that it was best not to pull the dingy down that evening, but rather we could blow up the tubes, tie them to the swim platform and the kids could swim right at the boat.  Which they did and had a great time.  However, our captain, decided that he was going to swim to the island and suggested that my kids do the same.  They begged and pleaded, but there was no way in hell I was about to let them swim to shore.  Not only was I concerned about the current, but I was worried that they could potentially get half way across, realize that it was farther than expected and freak out, despite having a life jacket on.  So, off went our captain to shore, alone; life jacket strapped, and cell phone double bagged waiving above his head as he swam with one arm.

A couple of hours passed and I glanced over the bow to see that our captain had begun his return to the boat.  10 minutes passed and he was still out there.  I kept my eye on him.  20 minutes later and I began to wonder what the heck was taking so long.  By this time, my Mom was sitting on the foredeck closely monitoring his progress, or there lack of, while I was closely monitoring my kids. Moments later, she informed me that our captain was unable to make it back to the boat, just as he called out for us to go get him.  I looked over and noticed that he was much, much farther away from the boat.  He was drifting into the bay, quickly.  His plastic bag cell phone still waiving in the air.  Still attempting to swim with one arm.  We all wondered why he wouldn’t forgo the phone and use both arms, but at this point he was caught in the current, and was drifting fast.  At this moment we realized the seriousness of the situation and everyone went into a mild panic.  I had to make a decision whether to fetch him with the dinghy, or the boat.  The problem with the dingy was that we had only taken it down with the davit twice, both times our captain assisted.  The davit arm is very stiff from years of sitting and lack of use.  We were planning to add ropes and possibly grease it up at some point. I wasn’t sure if I would have the strength to swing it out and get the boat in the water.  The problem with taking the big boat was that I would have to get the anchor in, which, again, I hadn’t done alone yet and pulling up anchor can take a few minutes when its buried in sand.  We didn’t have a lot of time.  Also, I had heard that there is a proper procedure to rescuing someone during a man overboard situation to lesson the risk of running them over with the boat.  I knew that my adrenaline was pumping as I watched our captain being quickly swept away.  The risk of the anchor taking to long to pull in coupled with not knowing the correct procedure when attempting to move the boat to him, was too great.  I decided to take my chances with the dingy.  I immediately rounded up my kids to help me pull it down.  Ronan came up on the bridge to help me swing the arm out and the others stayed below guiding the boat into the water.  It was a success.  Ronan and I jumped in and I turned the key to start the engine.  It started briefly, then died.  I tried again, and it died again.  Meanwhile, our captain was drifting farther and farther away.  I was panicking.  Thoughts of a Coast Guard rescue began to dance in my head.  I tried starting the engine one last time.  It started, but was just barely running.  As we headed toward the drifting man, who had given up on fighting the current, I was preparing Ronan for the moment when the motor dies.  By the way it sounded and was behaving, I was completely convinced that it would die at any moment.  We were barely moving.  A few minutes later, we finally made it to our captain, as we were pushed by the current.  He was unable to pull himself into the dingy, maybe because of the exhaustion from swimming, not sure.  He was too big and heavy for Ronan and I to pull in.  He hung off the back as we attempted to tow him back to the boat.  Now we were moving against the current.  The dinghy, with its failing motor was not making progress at all.  Ronan picked up a paddle that was at the bottom of the boat and began paddling back.  Between the putt, putt of the engine and Ronan’s paddling we began moving, but very very slowly.  I was unable to help paddle because when I let go of the wheel we began to drift in the wrong direction.  It took a while, but thankfully, Ronan was able to get us back to the boat.

We were never in any real danger, but the possibility of drifting farther into the bay and more importantly into a channel as sundown approached was a scary thought, and let’s face it I really wasn’t keen on having to call the Coast Guard at day 5 of my journey and only having owned my boat for a few weeks.  That would have been as my kids say a real “FAIL”.  Needless to say, I was completely pissed at our captain.  His poor judgement, not only caused this incident, but could have caused worse.

That night was a real eye opener.  We also discovered that same night that our Gulf Crossing, that was scheduled to begin at 5am the next morning was a 32 hour journey at sea to Fort Meyers, when we had been told it was 8-10 hours.  Clearwater could be closer at 14 hours, but our captain never mentioned that until all came to a head.  That was okay.  My Mom and I had a plan.  We explained to our captain that we had to stop in Carrabelle the next morning to grab medication before our crossing.  We made nice, as if all would go as planned after the pit-stop.  I did not want to dump him at anchor that night as my kids had had enough drama for one day with having to rescue his sorry as$.

The next morning, we headed to Carrabelle.  As we filled our fuel tanks the guys at the dock tried to convince our captain that his plan to depart at 1am that night was a poor plan because a storm was coming.  He was too pig headed to listen and insisted that our boat could handle it.  We didn’t argue with him, we went ahead and let him dock the boat.  As soon as we were safe at the dock in Carrabelle, we asked him to step outside. We told him that he was no longer needed.  I had a bunch of stuff on my chest, but restrained as I did not want to start an argument and upset my kids.  But, I got a bit nervous when he began to waive his finger at my Mom and she stepped up and headed toward him.  He’s lucky that Southie girl didn’t push him over the side-rail.  He agreed to pack his stuff and I let it go.

So, “captain”, here are the things that I didn’t get to say to you.

You can’t pull kids in a raft off the back of a 60′ motoryacht.  Exhaust comes out the rear of the boat, and, it’s just plain unsafe.  Glad I didn’t listen to you on that one.  When you swim to land, check your current.  You shouldn’t have to rely on a newbie boater and a bunch of kids to rescue you.  When you plan to make a Gulf Crossing you should be honest about the time involved.  Who did you think would run the boat, including overnight for 32 hours?  My 13 year old? Reckless! When you have a kid at the helm, who is still learning on his first day of driving a big as$ boat, and he looses his steering when under a bridge in a no wake zone, and is heading to crash into that bridge, it is time to take control of the boat.  Don’t wait until his Mom has to run up to the bridge and throw the boat into reverse. Sorry, you were dead wrong on that one.  It’s his first day learning, he might not “figure it out” and repeating a command, “astearn on the port” won’t help when he hasn’t mastered the words port or astearn yet.  Reckless!   Before you do a long crossing, such as the Gulf, make sure that all of your navigation lights are in working order.  You are quick to recite that “It is illegal to operate at night in the United States without working navigation lights”.  Why the hell were you going to take us across without that white light?  Plain stupid!!!  And…It’s a good idea to top up your fuel and water.  And…don’t lie to your crew.  I’m glad that you left when you did.  Your judgement is pathetic and dangerously stupid.  Reckless!

Had to get that off my chest.  On a positive note.  I am extremely proud of my kids for stepping up to the plate.  I couldn’t have gotten him back to the boat without all of their help.  Especially Ronan who paddled us back to the boat.  They are a strong resilient bunch.  They always come through and help when the time is needed.  Also, Aiden and I had a lot of practice running the boat.  I’m sure that had I been with someone else I would not have gotten the practice that I did.  Still need to learn docking, but have a very good handle on steering in a short amount of time.

 

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Just as a side note, it was nice to be able to say to Aiden, who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let them swim to land, and who routinely questions my parenting and decisions as most teens do at some point.  “You see why I say what I say?  You see now why I told you guys, “NO?”  You would have all been floating around out there.”  The look on his face as he nodded in agreement and finally understand me, for that brief moment.  And I could tell that this was the one time that he was grateful for me being protective.  That moment was priceless.

 

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Journey to Carabelle
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This will be a quick update, as we have lots to do in preparation for crossing the Gulf to Clearwater.  Our internet has been either non-existent or very sporadic.  But, we have mostly been doing very well.  Our captain gave instruction, but was almost completely hands off.  My 13 year old, Aiden, my Mom and I have run the boat the entire way from Dog River to here.  The instruction has been fairly good and I feel confident in my ability to steer and follow a route.  My Moms steering ability is also good.  Aiden shows great potential. He does very well on rivers and channels where the course is clearly defined but needs more practice on open water, when following the gps chartplotter to stay on course.  I definitely need more practice docking, but I knew when I purchased the boat that docking would be the biggest challenge.  I have had one opportunity to leave the dock and back away, and did it well.  I was proud of myself, but need lots more practice. Docking a fairly large vessel can be nerve-wracking.

We have figured out how to change the head-to-holding tank valves, change the navigation light bulbs, how to clean sea strainers, check the oil levels and have a fairly good grasp of the electrical panel and switching from shore power to generator power.  Although this came with much hair loss over the a/c power alarm.

The kids have done great.  They enjoy the dolphins and swimming off the aft deck.  We had one minor sea sickness episode with one of the kids when we first got underway, but nothing since.

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Next, we head across the Gulf to Clearwater.

 

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Provisioning and Ironing Out Kinks
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My kids were on the docks fishing from 9am to 11pm last night.  They surely would have stayed out all night, had I let them.  You can tell when they catch something from the shreeks and squeals.  They have quickly made friends with the most adorable and polite little girls from the boat next door.  Before we left Boston, I had promised them that they would meet kids and make new friends in their travels, and this lifestyle, thus far, has not disappointed.  The boat has quickly given back to us, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see my kids out catching minnows, alligator gar, snakes, lizards, baby crabs and even a catfish. And that was just yesterday!  Aiden seems to be the best with scooping up alligator gar with the net, but they sure are hard to chop up.  The scales are very tough.  I see now why they are called alligator gar.  I had to run to Home Depot and buy a hatchet.  But, they enjoy catching and fishing with the bait that they have caught themselves.

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My Mom and I haven’t stopped for a minute.  We have been busy finishing up the cleaning, washing bedding and running from store to store.  We have stocked up on our most used items, so that when we arrive in Miami, all we will need to get is dairy products and fresh fruit and veggies.  We eat a lot of fresh produce.

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I managed to get the salon windows open.  The track that they sit in was crusty and caked with years and years of dirt build up, that hardened.  I had to take a butter knife and loosen it up, vacuum it out and then lubricate with WD40.  The metal pull rail came off a couple of the windows, I was pulling so hard to get them open.  I will have to epoxy that back on, but I did manage to get all of the salon and galley windows open.  They probably haven’t been opened in 30 years.  Folks in these parts love their a/c, and for good reason.  The heat and humidity here doesn’t let up.  But I love fresh air.

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A repair guy came to fix the fridge, changed a part, but 2 days later, it broke again.  He’s coming back today.  We have been using the freezer as a fridge as it gets cold like a fridge, but won’t freeze anything.   I am going to pick up a freezer for the aft deck, just in case.  Then we will have extra freezer space.  I just have to figure out a way to protect it from the rain.

I also discovered that 2 of our shower pumps aren’t working.  I suspect that it is just the float switch, as the pump runs manually.  Dog River is sending someone this morning.  Hopefully, I can learn how to change that myself.

The port sliding door to the pilothouse wouldn’t lock, but a bit of chiseling and a minor striker plate adjustment and it works perfect now.  We don’t really need to lock that door here at Dog River, but certainly will when we arrive in Miami.

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The original appliances are working… good enough.  We can only use 2 burners on the cook top, but that’s ok, for now.  I am looking forward to a galley refit.  My Mom had a scare last night when she messed with the timer on the oven, and as a result couldn’t figure out how to get it to turn on at all.  Eventually, she did get it going, although we didn’t end up having dinner until 9.  I think she learned her lesson on that one.

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There are still many things that we have yet to figure out, like how to get the dinghy in the water 🙂  But, we are getting there slowly.  Like folks down here say, “Now, don’t go gettin’ in a hurry”.  We will learn it all in due time.

We will be leaving Dog River, Mobile Alabama on Thursday.  After a quick shake-down, we will have our first cruise!  My kids are excited to head to Miami.

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