Monday, November 21, 2011

Gemini Catamaran Dual Delivery

Ahoy Sailors - Capt Jim headed down to Pensacola Fla. Veteran's day to help move a 2005 Gemini Cat to St. Petersburg Fla. and retrieve the new 2012 Gemini replacement. With just the owner and I aboard we departed Saturday am with favorable east winds on a closehauled point for St. Pete, 286 miles across the gulf. Favorable conditions lasted 2 hours, then the wind shifted to the SE, right on the nose at 10-15kts. We flogged the engine, pounding into increasing waves, using more fule then planned. Switching tanks, the engine stalled. "I haven't been using the port tank", said the owner, so water and crud partially clogged the fuel filter and pickup, leaving us limping into Apalachicola for fuel and repairs, and a delicious oyster lunch at Caroline's restaurant. Two more days of pounding upwind put us into St. Pete, where we made the switch and headed back ASAP, due to unfavorable weather forecasts. 
The new boat was great, with a generator and dual A/Cheat units. These boat are now built by Hunter Marine at their factory in Alachua, Fla. We had one more day of pleasant SE winds while heading north, but when the wind switched to the NW at 20-25 kts we again bailed out at Apalachicola, arriving in a rainstorm, and anchoring behind a barrier island about 11pm. We stayed inside on the GICW (Gulf inland coastal waterway) for a very pleasant 125 miles back to Pennsacola over the next 3 days, while the Coast Guard weather reported 6-8' seas and small craft advisories out in the Gulf. It's amazing how quickly you recover from the effects of upwind pounding after a couple days of pleasant lake and canal cruising, some of it quite scenic.
I had been joking with the owner about finding a 'Hooters" restaurant "just around the next bend" during the long canal portions through undeveloped areas to goad us into making a few more miles each day before dark, and was happy to find one in Pensacola Beach for our farewell dinner last Saturday evening.
Back home I'm hoping to catch a rockfish or 2 before thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a pleasant Holiday.
Cheers! and happy sailing from Capt. Jim

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Philadelphia - Bermuda - Puerto Rico

Ahoy Sailors - Hope everyone has found some time to go sailing, in between torrential rains and beastly heat, and now "early winter". I just returned from a delivery to Puerto Rico on an "old fashioned" 40' monohull, a Tashiba 40 double ender. The owner, his brother, and brother's 22 yr old girlfriend and myself made up the crew. The boat was well made, strong, lots of attention to interior finish and other details. Major shortcoming is small cockpit ( suppossedly safer at sea) and cruelty of cruelties, no cockpit cushions! That teak seat got really hard after a few days!.
A recently installed fleming windvane worked ok in windy conditions, but wandered badly in lighter air. We mostly used the electric autopilot, although it managed to unscrew itself from the quadrant at one point, and had to be reinstalled. We departed in a great rush 10/14 @ 8:30 pm, first time ever for a night departure for me, but we were trying to beat bad weather coming north along the coast. We had 2 days of 15-30 kt winds close to beam reach, almost perfect sailing but choppy and uncomfortable - we survived well thanks to "Mom" for pre cooked dinners and cookies, also thwarting my plan to lose a few pounds on the trip.  Capt Jim got a taste of "Mal de mer" but recovered in a day. Everybody heaved at some point (such fun!) last 2 days to Bermuda were motorsailing in light winds.
The crew partied hard in Bermuda for 3 days, then set off for Puerto Rico in 10-12 kt headwinds, sailing close hauled 30 degrees off course. After a day the winds lightened and switched to exactly on the nose, requiring motorsailing for several days. Then an abrupt 180 degree switch, but only 7-8ts of wind, so still motorsailing. Finally had the best day, day 6 and 7, reaching in 15-20 kts, warm enough to stand night watches in shorts and Tee shirt, but sweaty sleeping below. The younger crew periodically threw themselves overboard (once at 5kts!) and hung onto a line, then pulled hand over hand back to the boat and scrambling up over the rail, not easy. I insisted we slow down after that display of (bravery?).
We hustled the last bit motorsailing at 8 kts to make it to an anchorage at Palomino Island at dusk, a few miles from the reef in Fahardo Bay, and stopped at Puerto del Rey Marina next morning, 7 days, for a total of 11 1/2 days at sea. The young folk are still there, but old Cap't Jim had other things to do besides sit next to a sweet thing on a beach and drink rum (what things???) so came back a few days early ( at great additional expense, damn the airlines!) in time for yesterdays weather to cancel the flight from Miami ( oh well). When the bar tab equalled the room bill, I figured I had drowned my sorrows enough.
There might still be a delivery or two left, and maybe a little rock fishing before thie winter sets in in earnest.. Cheers, Happy Sailing and Happy Halloween from Capt Jim and first mate Joyce ( who hung out and kept the home fires burning this time)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Great Loop Completion

Ahoy Sailors - Joyce and I just returned from 2 weeks on Lakes Michigan and Huron, thereby completing the 6700 mile "Great Loop" around the eastern and middle states. We trailered the 24' Bayliner, sporting a new engine and rebuilt outdrive, about 600 miles up to a convenient launch ramp in Portage, Indiana, about 24 miles SE of Chicago. Turned out to be one of the few bargains on the trip, $10. to launch the boat and store the truck and trailer for 2 weeks.
    The bright lights of Chicago beckoned, and our first taste of Lake Michican awaited. Calm enough at first, the early afternoon breeze built to about 15kts, giving us a rough, slow ride with spray into Chicago. Stopping again at Burnside Harbor, (where we began last fall's trip down the rivers to Tampa, Fla.) we got a slip and set off by bike to explore. The Navy Pier shops and eats, art galleries, botannical garden, landscaped pathways and competing evening free band concerts are what makes big cities special.
    Back at the boat we were amazed by the parade of yachts leaving the harbor after dark, then learned they were all anchoring in front of the concert venue just a mile away. The late evening breeze nearly caused a problem when a cabin cruiser returned on one engine, then turned sideways and stalled out, drifting towards us while a crewmember was frantically pouring fuel into the tank.
Restarting just in the nick, they managed, with difficulty, to maneuver back to their slip.
    Departing early am, which was to become our modis operandi, as the calmest hours were at dawn, we motored next 29 miles to Waukegan, Ill. Having been a Johnson outboard motor dealer for 19 years, it was interesting to finally see the factory, now owned by the Sea-Doo jetski folks, and maker of Evinrude e-tec engines. Then 24 miles to Racine, Wisconsin for lunch, and 22 miles to Milwaukee. We learned of the 'German Fest" beginning that evening, so hung around for German music , beer, and ethnic foods. Most of these small towns are useful mainly as a break from the lake, but all were unique and worth visiting. In calm conditions about an hour seperated them, 24 miles to port Washington, 25 to Sheboygan, 30 miles to Twin Rivers, and 34 to Algoma. The salmon fishing tournament in Algoma attracted dozens of boats and space was tight at the marina. The launch ramp opened at 4am and continued to 11pm. Up at 4 Saturday 7/30, we had plans to cross the 75 miles to Leland on the Michigan side of the lake, and had just popped up on a plane in perfect, calm conditions when a sudden screeching noise and nasty grinding sound locked up the outdrive, just 20 hours after the rebuild!! Lucky it happened then and not an hour later in the middle of the Lake. 
    We anchored to await rescue, which came in the form of a Dad and son team on a small aluminum boat, who were kind enough to tow us back to Algoma. So now we had to get back to the truck so we could retrieve the boat and find a mechanic in the nearby town of Kewaunee. This involved a cab ride 40 miles to Green Bay, one way rental car back to Indiana, and 200 miles back to Algoma. 6 days later all is well ($2300) and we are again heading across Lake Michican to the other side. But this time it proves too rough, so we go further up the coast to Sturgeon Bay instead, which has a canal connecting lake Michigan with Green Bay itself. This is a very busy boating area. We stayed at a luxury resort type marina, beautifully landscaped, and tried again next day, this time sucessfully, to South Manitou Island, now a park, then the tiny fishing village of Leland, then to the amazing port of Charlevoiux, with its entry canal into a small natural lake, which opens to a much larger inland lake (over 10 miles long) with its own cruising and fishing areas and destinations. Then off to Beaver Island, another 15 miles out into the lake.
    Beaver Island, the largest Island in Lake Michigan, was once claimed as an independant kingdom in the 1850's by "King" Stang, and his band of Morman followers. The Kingdom lasted 5 years, when a US gunboat was sent to arrest him, but he was shot by disgruntled islanders, who preferred to take the law into their own hands.
    Blessed with continued calm conditions, we buzzed the 35 or so miles to Mackinaw straits, and Michigan City, where we purchased charts for Lake Huron, the north Channel, and Georgian Bay.
The continued calm allowed us to zoom past Mackinaw island and enter Canadian waters at the little port of Meldrum, on Manitobin Island (largest in lake Huron, over 100 miles long). Next day the wind was up so we slogged at 6 kts many hours to the next few parts, ending at Killarny on the north shore. There are numerous islands, many with "cottages", and an entire industry supporting the hermit-like lifestyle of these"cottagers".
    Next day we entered the unique Collins inlet, a very narrow slit about 25 miles long, and only a hundred feet wide at its most narrow. Then back out on the lake another 25 miles to Byng harbor ( named after a British revolutionary war general- these were loyalists, after all) and finally to aptly named "Snug Harbor", with well known and packed fish restaurant. It certainly looked like all the inhabitants were there, we just squeezed in and there was a line out the door when we left!
    We followed the "small boat channel" the remainder of the way through Georgian Bay. They call it the thirty thousand Island area ( to differentiate it from the thousand Island area of Lake Ontario) but who's counting. At times the well marked channel was only yards wide, twisting and turning among the rocks, with deep water right next to granite. You can anchor anyplace, but we worried about uncharted rocks. We were probably in a trickier place than I had prepared for. I would not go back without a backup engine, or twin engine boat.
    But in due course we made it to Midland, on a rainy day, just a few miles from where we ended the prevoius trip through the Trent-Severn waterway, and where it was reported we could get a rental car to go back for the truck and trailer, now in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. Alas, no rentals available, nearest airport was Toronto, 2 hours by car. I thought of buying a motorcycle, which could be put into the truck bed after the 600 mile trip back, but purchased a small, 10 year old Mazda instead, for $1000., which we used with no problems to retrieve the truck. We planned to sell it in Kewaunee, but found out there were some details to importing a car legally into the US, the most inconvenient was an inspection during which the customs people kept the car for up to 72 hours (looking for drugs, no doubt) So we had to return it to Canada, which Joyce did by following me back. We sold it to a used car dealer in Sault St. Marie for $500. This guy and his son (two Randys) could have been on TV like the 'Pawn Stars" crew. They were really funny.
    Back in midland we retrieved the boat and set out for Toronto, traveled along the north shore of Lake Ontario, then back down interstate 81 through New York and Pennsylvania. Very nice drive, arrived back home before dark, with two trailer tires almost down to the cords, just worn out since bought new in January of '09. Truck milage was about 2750, boat about 375 on Lake Michican and 300-400 on Lake Huron. We burned up a frightfull amount of fuel, enough to make me reconsider those Macgregor powersailors we used to sell. Maybe one 4th the expense, with a little sailing thrown in. There are charter boat available at several locations along this route and I greatly recommend a summer sailing trip among the many and varied islands and cities of our wondrous Great Lakes.- Cheers and Happy Sailing from Capt Jim and First Mate Joyce

Sunday, May 8, 2011

2011 Lagoon 400 Cat delivery

Ahoy Sailors - Capt Jim and First Mate Joyce set out for sunny, hot Ft. Lauderdale last Friday, picked up a new Lagoon 400 ( I think the 400 stands for the price, in thousands) 39 ft long and an astounding 23.5' wide, that had recently completed the transatlantic trip from france, and headed north amid the rain bursts on Saturday, 4/30. I didn't find out until we got there that the mast height was 69.5 ft, too tall for the ICW. We had expected to do some time offshore, but not the whole way!
The trip started well, beam reaching in 15kts, hitting speeds over 10 kts in the gulfstream just west of West Palm Beach, Fla., but the choppy motion when the wind shifted more to the north east made sleep difficult and we each got only about an hour the first night. Joyce had a can of cold soup for dinner, really deluxe!Feel rugged the next day, I abandoned the gulfstream and headed for the St. Johns River. Once out of the stream, you run into a counter current, so we went from 10 kts to 6-7kts with an 8 kt boatspeed. Conditions improved, we got more sleep, so skipped St. Johns and aimed for Charleston. Still more sleep and we skipped past Charleston and around Cape Fear and made for Beaufort. With fuel down to 1/4 tank it was time to fill up, and dinner at Clawsons in Beaufort(since 1905) was a hit.
Filled up next am, and with a tip from a local marina owner that Ocracoke inlet was ok , we set out against 20-25 NW, around Cape Lookout and into rediculous seas, bang crash, motoring the 10 miles back into 20' close to shore, where it was some calmer. Attempting ocracoke inlet, and lined up with the entrance bouys, I watched with growing concern the depth dropping. We were amidst breaking waves from the surge when, at 7', I bailed out and returned to deeper water. Calling the coast guard for some info, we were discouraged from both Ocracoke and Hatteras inlets, due to low tide and rough conditions. So I just said to hell with it and pulled close to shore in 20' and anchored. The 3-4' swell from astern gave us a gentle motion, and the 20kts west wind held us stern to, so we were comfortable enough. We gave our position to the coast guard and asked not to be disturbed bu "rescue' efforts.
Next day we soldiered on, bashing around Cape Hatteras,with gradually improving conditions untill about 6pm I had to drop the sails and motor along the coast. Jouce woke me at 2:45 am to announce " we are surrounded by ships!". We were indeed at the mouth of the Bay, 11 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel. As the wind was picking up I hoisted the main, and we blasted up the bay with 20 kts from the southwest, making Solomons Island about 4:30 pm Friday evening, intime for dinner with friends at "Le Bistro" At Calvert Marina. They were having a wedding rehersal dinner for 70 guests, but managed to squeeze the 6 of us in.
Up at 4:30 am and packing, I noticed boats heading out about 5, so we got underway at 5:30 with the first streaks of dawn appearing. By then the outflux of fishing boarts was in full swing, with over 20 passing by with rolling wakes ( fortunately the big Cat was not fazed). We motored about halfway back to Annapolis before enough wind picked up to sail, shutting off the engines at one point for a pleasant 2 hours, then pulled into my daughters dock on lake Ogleton to unloasd our gear and clean the boat. Good thing we did. Arriving back at Performance Cruising on back creek, we had barely tied up when the sales staff boarded with prospect eager to look at the newest addition to their lineup. The trip was about 1150 miles and took 7 days, pretty good for a couple of oldies. I'm sure the young french crew could have shaved 2 days off by staying in the gulfstream and running non-stop to Annapolis. Anyway, thats the most recent adventure. Cheers and happy sailing to you all. - Jim and Joyce