10 May 2017

Final Preparations pre TransAtlantic

Spring in Brooklyn. Haven't seen those pale greens and pinks for three years and didn't realize until I saw them how truly lovely they are.  Even though it was cold! for our tropical blood, I was happy to arrive in spring.
Our host, Emily, in front of another Milly.  Not as sophisticated as my darling daughter but still....

We ate our way around Brookly and NYC.  This is schlag (SP?), a huge bowl of whipped cream to put in our post lunch coffee at Peter Luger's famous steakhouse.  This was after an enormous steak and burgers around the table.  

Dear friends, Anne and Rob, came to spend the weekend after missing us in Mexico/Florida.  Em and Gid hosted and showed us the best of Brooklyn.  Had a great time!
And then to Toronto, where we spent time with family hosted generously by Lisa and David, as always.  So lovely to see everyone.  And thanks Em and Gid for giving your wayward parents a comfy bed.
After returning from a fun filled ten days in Brooklyn and Toronto visiting friends and family,
Got to be a good omen when we return to Milly and an end to end rainbow so big that I couldn't get it in the picture frame.
Peter has been working nonstop on the boat. Final list items and then some that always turn up at the last moment.  We found a strange new leak and our second head, important for our crew, gave up flushing.  We ordered parts and paid the bigger bucks for quick transit.  Peter fixed both items and continued with the list - which never seems to end.

Installed 12V water maker.  This will mean we can make water from solar...and quietly we hope.  

A last minute breakdown - the head flusher switch.  There will be four of us on the first leg to Bermuda.  We weren't leaving until both heads were flushing.  Luckily, Two Fish had a spare AND our order came through.  We now have two spares for future use.

And I have begun to provision in earnest.  Provisioning for the TransAtlantic, although not quite as complicated as crossing the Pacific, is still a cause for lists, lists and more lists.  Our freezer which, so far, miraculously recovered on it’s own, was empty.  Our stocks of canned goods was seriously depleted.  And then there are nonfood but equally important items: toilet paper - you really don't want to run out of that half way across the Atlantic, paper towel, boat cleansers, personal cleansers etc. etc. all which are reportedly cheaper in the US.  Bermuda is especially expensive so I am trying to ensure that we will only restock with fresh food there.

During the first few days of passage and on rough days when being in the galley for any length of time is uncomfortable at best, I do not want to cook.  I precook and freeze numerous meals in double portion size for lunch and dinner.  Our crew, Randy and Michele, have pitched in in a big way - Michele has vacuum packed and frozen numerous packs of meat, and taken me on excursions to big box stores for grocery carts full of stuff.

I've stocked up on lots of canned goods - beans, meat and fish - as well as grains that can be made into stews, pasta, spreads, dips.  I prefer frozen fruit and veg although they take up  precious freezer space.  We want to keep room for any fish caught.

Snacks are super important on passage.  M&Ms don’t melt.  Cookies are a favourite as are nuts.  Chips work but take a lot of room.  Crackers replace bread, for me at least.  We are well stocked for four.
Sweet dishes of sprouts from the market lady - red cabbage, broccoli, and mustard.  Should keep us in greens.

Fresh stuff is difficult.  Greens don’t keep well.  I've purchased some sprouted greens at the Stuart market and some seeds to sprout on the way.  We have hammocks to hang our fruit and root veggies in.  And will put our potatoes and onions in different cupboards.  I’m hoping to find some eggs that haven’t been refrigerated so I can keep them in a cupboard but I wonder if that is possible in Florida.  

As you can see, provisioning is no easy task.  When faced with the plethora of goods in the grocery store, I am tempted to get 12 of each.  Storing it is the next logistical nightmare.
Under the settee we have an enormous storage area with 7 bins for cans etc, piles of cookies and crackers beside, bottles and a sack of tea and coffee.

A bin of cans, labelled for easy identification when the boat is rocking. Each bin is then labelled with inventory - what goes in and out.
All cardboard is removed and many items are repackaged in ziplock with directions written on how to cook if required.  Each can is washed and labelled on the top so it's easily read inside a bin.  Boxed wine is deboxed and put inside a cooler.  Beer and canned drinks are put under the mattress of our third bed.   UHT milk and juice along with lots of miscellaneous stuff gets a solid bottomed bin to avoid mess in case of leakage.  I have inventoried all items and labelled each bin with contents.

Tomorrow is our last day here.  Peter's list is full.  Michele and I are going to get the fresh produce.

Our water line will definitely be lower by the end of the day.....we should be ready to leave within 36 hours or so if the weather window holds.  It should take us 4-5 days.  Bermuda here we come!!  So happy to be on our way.  We feel rusty after 2 months in Stuart and anxious to get going - back to hiking, swimming, exploring.  People ask if I am nervous to cross the Atlantic.  Yes, a little.  I think it would be a bit naive not to be.  But I have great faith in the boat and in Peter so I'm more excited than anxious to get to Bermuda and the Azores.  Can't wait!

7 May 2017

Milly's Makeover

Milly is floating pretty after two months of work.  Any new boat has aches and pains over the first few years of sailing and Milly has been sailing full time.  She was overdue for some TLC.
We were the smallest boat at Hinckley.  Our neighbours were over twice the length.  We were the only owners working and certainly owners who biked to do chores were a novelty in the yard - gained us a certain amount of respect and a lot of friendliness from the staff.

When we decided to hop across the Atlantic to the Med, we thought we'd stop off in Florida to attend to a few ills.  There were a few items on our list:
  • Get the bottom painted - any boat gets growth - seaweed and barnacles - on it’s bottom living in the ocean.  Owners, us included, often scrape the bottom and props on their daily swims.  Sitting in a marina in particularly fertile water or in anchorages with little current is especially hard on boats.  The marina in Santa Marta was particularly stressful on Milly’s props.  We had not had her bottom repainted with antifouling since Trinidad and knew she was due for a little spit and polish.
  • Replace the radar under warranty - Her radar was spotty during our passage to Bonaire and since then gave out entirely.  Simrad, the dealer, promised that repair/replacement would be covered under warranty.  Our attempts at connecting with dealers in the A,B,C’s didn’t work.  Even in the Keys we were thwarted.
  • Freezer repair - In Belize, during our kids’ visit, our freezer stopped freezing.  After lots of eating and cooking, we turned the freezer off for four months and saved a lot of power but shopped more often.
  • Installation of a 12V water maker so we can make water off solar power.  Currently, our 110V water maker, although great, can only be used when we run the engines or the generator.
  • Shaft seal replacement with extras installed - Milly has two shafts.  They go from the engine through a through hull in the bottom of the boat to the props.  The shaft seal, the contraption that does exactly what it’s name implies, is called and should be “dripless”.  Milly’s port side began to drip.  I didn’t like this - I envisioned a drip becoming a major gush.  Peter was less bothered but I did notice that he didn’t use the port engine as much.
  • Trampoline border resew.  Over the last couple of months, anchoring meant standing on the trampoline which had gaping holes on two of four sides where stitching had degraded in the sun - a bit off putting.
    The trampoline pre fix.  You can just see the gap on the starboard side.  It ran along the entire length and width at the aft edge.  Gaps big enough for Sally.
  • Increasing our solar power source through installation of bigger and more efficient solar panels.  Milly likes power and we like solar. We can always use our generator but when there are renewable sources, using a diesel generator seems irresponsible (and noisy).  We decided against wind energy which doesn’t get good reviews from other cruisers.  And a hydrogenerator, although making logical sense, is a bit ungainly on a catamaran.  We’re waiting for better methods of installation.
    Mission accomplished.  We replaced four 55W small panels with two huge 315W panels.  We more than doubled our power.  
  • Adding 220V wiring to allow us to connect to shore power in Europe and almost everywhere else in the world.  Although we choose anchoring over docking, it is good to have the ability to grab shore power if need be.
  • Two year service on our three diesel engines.  
  • Most of all, we were scheduled for a boat inspection by the Antares guru, James, a wiz who had worked at the PDQ boat yard in Ontario for years and now spends six months of the year in Stuart doing boat work.

Milly was hauled out at the only boatyard in Stuart that had a boat lift wide enough to take a catamaran.  Of course, it happened to be the “Rolls Royce” of boatyards - expensive but great service.  A swarm of service people were working on the boat each day - Fridays ended a bit early and weekends we were on our own.  Part of the exclusive, rolls royce approach was that, unlike do-it-yourself boatyards where cruisers live on their grounded boats, we were not allowed to.  We could work on the boat during the day - small tasks that didn’t take away from the employed - but we couldn’t stay the night.  For the first few nights we stayed in a local hotel and then our fairy-god friends kicked in with a beautiful guest suite, dinners and breakfasts, drives to chandleries, a dog companion, cocktail boat and lots of laughs.  We stayed eight nights and Michele and Randy will soon join us on passage to Bermuda.
For a lark, we contacted Rocna Anchors for advice about our rusting anchor.

They took it upon themselves to replace it, shipping included.  Great service!

Our eight point list soon blossomed into four pages of points and two months of work.  Some as small as replacing screws or replacing dryer hose to more major (read costly) items like polishing the freeboard ,(This was not just vanity, although Milly does look shiny and clean.  It protects her from the salt and sun.) rewiring of the windlass and bilge pumps, and rejigging the propane lines.
Windshield wipers - yes, we have windshield wipers and are grateful for them every time we get a big salty splash - were corroded.  Peter did the work.

A leak found in our guest cabin under the bed, running onto the single side band ground.  After some scratching of head, James traced the leak to the escape hatch, took it out and remounted it.  Meanwhile, the ground was dealt with by Hinckley.

Scary wiring remainders attached to the bilge pump.  Rewired and bilge pumps replaced by the finest.  

New piece for the reef lines supplied by Antares.  Our reef lines had chafed through on our way up the Brazilian coast.  Peter had jury rigged a system that worked but this is a little more substantial.

Our windlass electrics were under the mast where salt water could and did get in.  Plenty of corrosion.  James rewired completely and we replaced some of the parts.

Milly stayed on the hard for about ten days and we stayed another week at dock so that James could finish most of his list.  Then we had a week off to luxuriate in the tranquillity of anchorage in a conservation area on the intercoastal waterway.  So wonderful.  Kayaking, walking, exploring.
Milly headed back to the water


Then to dock at a marina where the electrician and James finished off their various tasks.  Peter worked constantly.  He had enjoyed working with the professionals and learned a ton. His biggest accomplishment was the new water maker. Peter always seems able to figure out a problem.  I have great faith.

Now for the fine points of preparation for our TransAtlantic.  Milly is ready...almost.

1 May 2017

You know you're in Florida when...

The wind died on the way to Key West from Mexico which meant we could go for a deep sea drag.  

  • There is an embarrassment of high end recreational boats - mainly motor, trawlers, cocktail boats, sport boats.  We have arrived in the land of plenty.
  • We arrived at the Key West channel after dark.  Instead of entering, we hung out between the shipping highways.  The little black boat is Milly.  The other triangles are ships to-ing and fro-ing.  At one point there were more than 250 ship signals.  And these are just little guys like us.  They are huge tankers and cargo ships.  Watch that night was all about staying well out of their way.
    We know we have arrived at popular Key West when the dinghies are in a parking lot.  And this is only half of it.  Not only crowded but we had to pay a daily fee to park!  First time.
  • Sport boats far outnumber sailboats.  This is a fishing mecca.  Stuart is the sailfish capital of the world.
    In Key West, there were several beautifully kept old schooners taking tourists on sunset cruises.  Quite different  from the fake pirate ships so popular in Brazil and Trinidad.
  • No European flagged boats.  Europeans need a visa to enter the states.  Often European boats - French, German, Belgian, British, Swiss, Swedish, Italian - dominated the Caribbean anchorages.  In Florida, they are missing entirely.
    Polydactyl cats at Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West.  Numerous cats with six digits are the descendants of "Snowball", Hemingway's favourite who he got from a sailor in town.  Six pawed cats are good luck on a boat.  Better get one!

Snowball's descendants still curl up on Ernest's chair making the place look perfect to write a few classics.
  • Pineapples, mangos, bananas and papayas are imported - they don’t grow in every backyard.  Instead, this is the land of citrus.
  • You can flush toilet paper in public washrooms.  Unlike South American and the Caribbean, where signs politely ask you to deposit toilet paper in the bin provided. 
  • Like Ontario, skies at dusk in Florida are clear blue, no clouds.  I had missed this in the tropics where there are always cumulus clouds.
    The intercoastal waterway near Jupiter where Celine Dion and Tiger Woods have their mansions.  The water and sky competed for our attention with the glam houses.  No one in view at these enormous places.
  • Very little litter/pollution.  It demonstrates that education can embed the notion of garbage can use and that cash can enable a recycling program. 
  • Wealth abounds visible in magnificent homes, huge well kept pleasure boats and innumerable stores to spend those dollars.
    Our overnight anchorage in the intercoastal in Lake Worth had lovely homes on our bow view...

    and an industrial port off our stern.  The multi million dollar homes had the same view out their front windows.  Look at that sky!
  • Huge spending opportunity with overt consumerism.  We were gobsmacked by the number of strip malls and big box stores.  In the Keys, Key West is the only town with a main street and neighbourhoods.  The others were store lined strips along the highway.  Shopping is the local sport.  
    To be fair, there are also great parks and nature.  This guy was slumbering only a few feet from our feet.
  • Life jackets required - rules and regs enforced.  This is, I guess, a good thing.  In Latin America, a person, from construction worker to boater, seems to be responsible for his/her own safety - we saw construction workers wearing sandals.  So it was a bit of a shock to be pulled over in TomTom by the Marine Police.  Our charges: TomTom was not registered - we had no idea that it was imperative - for not having a whistle and for not having life jackets.  Whistle and life jackets were on Milly but that wasn't good enough.  $100 fine.  Peter immediately made up some numbers and put them on TomTom with magic marker.  
  • Incredibly hospitable and friendly locals.  We were offered a home in which to do our laundry, a private car to use while at dock, and, the very best, a suite in a lovely waterfront home with dinners made while Milly was on the hard.  Each of these offers was made by strangers, people we had just met.  And each is an example of the cruiser community and Floridian generosity.
    Michele and Randy were incredibly generous, offering us their guest suite in their lovely waterfront home before they even met us.  Dinners, breakfasts, rides to chandleries, connections with service people etc. etc.  

    Their dog, Nemo, also played loveable host.

    Randy was the captain of their "cocktail boat". On our day off from boat work, we cruised into Stuart to the outdoor market and then along the intercoastal.  
  • Super flat topography - similar to western caribbean - Not a hill in sight.  We miss hills and hiking.  We are looking forward to the Azores.
  • Such giant portions that Peter and I can share one and still have leftovers. It is showing.
    One of the well attended restaurants in the Keys had thousands of dollars worth of signed bills plastered over every surface.  I don't think it met sanitary standards - kinda gross, actually - but nobody seemed to care.
  • Marked absence of pedestrians.  In Latin America, many people walk - there may not always be sidewalks but there are still people walking.  Here there are sidewalks but nobody uses them.  Cars rule.  And there are lots of them.  

  • Stuart, Florida is in Martin County where a bylaw does not allow building over three storeys.   From the water it was easy to see exactly where the boundary was by the sudden end of huge condos.  This conservation area, only accessible by boat, had a huge deserted beach facing the wild Atlantic where we walked and walked for several miles in both directions, only meeting a few others.

    A reminder of the dangers of a lee shore.
  • In Stuart, flea markets and second hand stores are remarkably prolific.  Perhaps this is a reflection of elderly, retired folk (who are dying??)  
  • There are phenomenal number of golf courses concentrated in a few square miles.  Even though the windward islands cater to tourists, they don't seem to manage golf courses which may indicate lack of funds to desalinate water??  Perhaps a good thing.
    There was also a great deal of nature in the huge conservation area.  These were pelicans flying in formation.

    A heron nesting.

    An osprey nesting on the intercoastal traffic sign requiring slow speeds for manatees.  We saw a manatee in Key Largo chewing on a seaweed encrusted line.  Dolphins were regular visitors at our anchorage on the intercoastal and even at our marina dock.

    This osprey couple were determined to build their home on the arch of the boat, one good reason not to leave your boat unattended for too long.  The birds may inflict just as much damage as any marauding human.

  • Strict adherence to holding brown discharge in Milly’s tanks - we must go 3 NM offshore to empty tanks or have them pumped out, usually free of charge, paid for by concerned townships.  Although this is an extra step in our lives, it is appreciated. Latin America does not have the infrastructure or the cultural wherewithal to see the importance of this.
    New to us, were the challenges of the intercoastal waterway.  The captain radios the bridge operator on approach to request an opening....  

    ....or we just squeak under, which is rather intimidating.  Our mast height is 61 feet.  This bridge was 64 feet.  Three feet does not seem like a lot when watching from below.
  • Temperature at night was blanket worthy when we arrived.  After months of sweating through the night without any covering at all, it is a delight to be cozy under the weight of a blanket.
  • Sunset at 7:30 p.m. and getting later every day.  This is lovely although it has thrown off our routine.  When daylight only lasted 12 hours and, depending on the nation and time difference from GMT, gets dark as early as 5:30, we now eat and go to bed at more sophisticated hours.

  • And, the main reason for being in Florida, boat work is easy, services are reliable, contractors are plentiful and talented.  We have refitted Milly from top of the mast to bottom of the keel.  A whopping bill but she's happy and ready to cross the great big ocean. Coming soon...our refit.