C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, December 17, 2010

5 months and 19 days later

C’est la Vie returned to her home port, Everglades City, FL. today after a 5 month 19 day round trip to Beaufort, NC.  The northward trip included a detour through the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys.  C’est la Vie spent about a month alone on the hard in Wilmington, NC before we began the southbound  journey that included a jog out the Abacos. 

We awoke in Russell Pass to the familiar and none to subtle bouquet of low tide in the Ten Thousand Islands.  Fortunately the tide was rising and Anne enjoyed breaking 8 knots motor sailing under the main on our short trip up Indian Key Pass to the mouth of the Barron River and home sweet home on Sunset Island.  The image above is Anne at the helm homeward bound in Chokoloskee Bay.  The image below is Anne outward bound last June in Chokoloskee Bay.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Motor Vessel C'est la Vie?

Our goal for the day… Lignumvitae Key to Indian Key Pass.  Approximately 80 nautical miles of shallow water sailing and crab buoy dodging along the waters of Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park.  With a building northeast wind forecast, we planned to motor sail the morning passing through a couple of the narrow passages along the Ships Channel.   We anticipated sailing close hauled on the building NE breezes in the afternoon.  Most likely due to a developing sea breeze throughout the day and our near shore route, the winds actually died as we passed off Cape Sable. 

Already a day overdue we dropped the sails, handed the helm over to Otto, and resigned ourselves to a long day of motoring.  We established a three hour watch schedule based on our ETE to Indian Key Pass.  Our watches consisted of reading interrupted with frequent scans of the waters ahead for buoys that mark crab traps.  Typically, due to C’est la Vie’s full keel design, we don’t worry too much about catching the prop or rudder, but we still try to avoid direct encounters with the small styrofoam buoys.  Below the buoys lines a 3/8 inch nylon braided line that extends down to a trap located on the sea bed.  The lines are notorious for fouling props, rudders, or other appendages extending from the hull of passing vessels.

Anne took the first watch and spotted a tight group of 5 large orange mooring buoys with 2 inch polypro tethers just north of Sand Key.  We are unsure who placed these buoys or why.  They are in exposed waters near the marked Ship’s Channel.  Vessels traveling the area after dark or with lackadaisical watches could easily run afoul of the large lines.  Unfortunately I was not thinking ahead and did not mark their position for future reference or to post on Active Captain.  

Moving northward past Cape Sable the buoys thinned out.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunset while passing off shore of Pavilion Key.  Around 20:00 we cleared Indian Key on our way toward the anchorage in Russell Pass.  Despite having to motor the entire day it felt good to be in our own backyard.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The north winds finally down to 15 knots we cast off our mooring ball in the 30 degree predawn light.  The Miami skyline off our stern is just beginning to glow pink with the start of a new day.

Making over 6 knots motorsailing under our genny on a broad reach, we placed Biscayne Bay in our wake by noon.

Our goal is the mooring balls on the north side of Lignumvitae Key by this evening and Russell Pass, our own backyard, by Thursday evening.  In the summer time with 14+ hours of daylight these 60 to 80 mile days would be long but conceivable.  With less than 12 hours of daylight we are pushing hard.  I am comfortable navigating Indian Key Pass in the dark, but refuse to operate C’est la Vie in the dark along the backside of the Keys or through the Ship’s Channel along Florida Bay.

With luck and great effort from our beta marine engine we do arrive to find one available moor ball at Lignumvitae Key just as the sun fades over the Gulf Waters. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

project time at Dinner Key Marina

While awaiting out the frontal passage we tackled projects… laundry, cleaning the bilge, servicing the lower bilge pump switch, and replacing a section of exhaust hose.   

Issues with lower bilge pump switch first appeared during our Wilmington to Abacos crossing.  Due to a build up of bilge sludge the switch would not turn off once it was activated.  This resulted in some long run times for the pump.   Our shallow draft, full keel hull design makes it very difficult to access the lowest section of the bilge.  Wisely the last owner installed an excellent pump switch -the ultimate bilge switch - and located the filter and pump remotely.  This set up is ideal for servicing the pump and the filter, both located in the starboard cockpit locker.  During the six years we have owned C’est la Vie this is the second time I have pulled the lower bilge switch for cleaning.  The previous cleaning was done in conjunction with replacing the shaft so there were fewer obstacles in the way (i.e. the exhaust system, water lift muffler, and shaft were all out of the way.)  

I went into the project with some idea of the difficulties of reaching the switch.   Accessing the switch required removing a number of cooling hoses, the air filter, and the diesel fuel return line.  With these obstacles gone and after much squirming, cursing, pleading, and bruising of my upper torso; I was finally able to remove the switch.    Expecting to find a hearty coating of oily muck, even I was astounded at the degree of gunk built up on the switch. 

Based on the contents of the switch I became determined to dredge out the lowest reaches of our bilge.  Anne assisted me in creating a scoop out of a measuring cup and bamboo skewers.   The very same bamboo skewers that worked so well to clean out the tubes of our heat exchanger in summer 2008.  A hour of effort resulted in the collection of one handle of a screw driver the metal portion long ago succumb to rust, one wooden scoop, one zip tie, numerous washers, the stainless screen off our scrum box, and nearly a quart of oily muck.

Did we mention it is cold here in Miami?  Low temps in the 30’s with wind chill readings in the 20’s…  in Miami?  Cannot imagine what the rest of the country must be experiencing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dinner Key Marina -update

Dinner Key Marina located in the Coconut Grove potion of the Miami Metro area is one of our frequent stops when transiting the area.  The marina has added a mooring field since our last visit.  The area in which we once anchored off Dinner Key now hosts approximately 200 mooring balls.  At $20/night irreguardless of vessel size some may feel this is an expensive change while others will disagree.  Personally I welcome the change as paying for the ball has the added benefits of access to the marina’s amenities: bathrooms, showers, laundry, pump out, recycling, dinghy dock, fresh water, and even used oil & filter receptacles.  There is still space to anchor south and north of the new mooring field for those unwilling to pay for a ball.  We found the marina staff to be friendly and helpful.  The marina even runs a free, hourly boat shuttle to and from the mooring field.  Our only complaint would be power boats, including the Dinner Key Marina shuttle boat, running at speed and producing wakes in the mooring field.

Another pleasant surprise was to discover Rainbow Connection and our friend Kim in a slip at the marina.  Another trip to the Fresh Market provided our dinner we all shared aboard Kim’s 41 Morgan Out Island.  Great to catch up.

And then there were two...

NOAA predicting the passage of a strong cold front so we anticipate remaining on our mooring at Dinner Key Marina until  Wednesday, December 15th.   Due to family plans associated with the holiday season, Trish jumped ship today.  Anne and I appreciate the tenacity, sense of discovery, and good humor she brought to the voyage.  We look forward to future travels and adventures with Trish.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Westward across the Stream

Our weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream was not ideal… north to northeast winds 8 to 12 knots diminishing to 5 knots by evening.  I’ve always read to avoid any north winds when crossing the stream, but with another arctic air mass forecast to deliver gale force winds by early next week we elected go, go, go. 

We encountered lighter than expected winds for the majority of our crossing.  The image of Trish lowering our Bahamian customs flag illustrates the sea state we encountered for the first half of our crossing. Yes, that image was taken while in the Gulf Stream.  We motored under bare poles with Otto at the helm.

As we crossed the axis of the Gulf Stream approximately 25NM off Cape Florida, the seas perked up.  With no wind to fill the sails the final hours of our crossing brought on a new round of sea sickness among some of the crew.

We finally found some northerly breeze as we exited the stream and were able to transit the Biscayne Channel under a main and genny. 

With 45 minutes of daylight to spare we found a mooring ball off Dinner Key (more on the new mooring field in a later post).   Anne and Trish converted C’est la Vie’s systems from offshore passage to anchor mode and assembled Origamy, the dinghy, while I contacted customs and immigration to clear back into the states.  My interaction with customs was uneventful.  I continue to be impressed with the Local Boater Option (LBO) and the ease with which it allows Anne and I to clear customs.  I encourage anyone unfamiliar with the program to check it out.  By the time Orgami was assembled we were cleared.  Next stop the Dinner Key Fresh Market. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Looking for a weather window...

Last week of exceptional cold fronts extended all the way down into the Bahamas.  We have spent most of our time hiding from winds in protected anchorages and attempting to keep warm.  We have now worked our way south to Bimini and are currently looking for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream and re-enter the US.  

We will be here at the Bimini Big Game Club tomorrow so hopefully I can catch up on posts to the blog.  Please check out our photo album via the links on the right side of our web page.

On the move again

After three days of hiding from strong north winds, 25+ knots, associated with an arctic air mass we resumed our travels.  Rather than attempt to navigate the shoals around Settlement Point in the late afternoon, we planned a more westerly route through for a break in the reefs known as Memory Rock then south  across the Northwest Providence Channel during the night.  The course commits us to our first overnight passage since our arrival in the Bahamas.  Our checkpoints were to exit the Little Bahamas bank at Memory Rock around sunset and arrive in Bimini tomorrow morning. 

The day began early as we hoisted our two anchors and motored out of the narrow passage that provides egress to the protected southeast anchorage at Double Breasted Cays.  Our next stop was at Rosie’s Place Marina on Grand Cay for fuel and water.  Water was a greater concern as we were on our 9th day out from our last refill at Green Turtle.  We have a 30G tank and travel with an additional 10G in jerry cans.  40G divided by 3 crew over 9 days… seemed prudent to fill up before headed out for an overnight offshore passage. 

The staff at Rosie’s provided excellent service, but unfortunately the water system was down so we were forced to purchase gallon jugs of water at $3/gallon.  Ouch… we limited our purchase to 6 gallons.  The diesel was plentiful and we did manage to fill the fuel tank.

Provisioning complete we set a course to clear Triangle Rocks to our southwest.  In an effort to stay on our timetable and clear Memory Rock before sunset we motorsailed downwind across the bank under a genny.  We cleared Triangle Rocks by noon, and turned to starboard on a westerly course for Memory Rock.  Soon after establishing our new heading we lost all wind. 

The image above is the view from the bow as the sunsets across a calm Sea of Abaco.  No we did not make Memory Rock by sunset.   With frazzled nerves due to the shallow waters and close proximity reefs, we cleared Memory Rock approximately one hour after sunset. Using the waypoint provided by the Explorer Chartbook we never observed less the 6 feet of water at a low tide.  This is a couple feet more than was indicated on the chart plotter.

The north winds forecasted by NOAA failed to materialize.  My hunch is a land breeze formed by the warm air over the 80 degree Gulf Stream waters rose and colder air off the 65 degree waters on the Sea of Abaco moved westward (and to think I scoffed at the need for our new depth sounder to give water temps).  To complicate the conditions the temperature differential also resulted in some lingering light squalls along the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream  which we were skirting along.  What we thought would be a downwind run to Bimini became a lumpy motorsail under our a mainsail.  The main provided little propulsion, but did serve to retard the rolling motion of the confused seas. 

Despite a late night shower and an amazing amount of commercial ship traffic the passage went relatively smoothly.  By dawn on the December 9th we were within sight of Bimini and by 09:00 we were tied up at the Bimini Big Game Club.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Trish's perspective on our crossing from Wilmington, NC to the Abacos

To assist with our transit of C'est la Vie from NC to FL we invited Trish aboard as crew.  Below is her recollection and musing on our 5 day crossing from Wilmington, NC to the Abacos.

         I find myself sitting in the corner berth of C’est la Vie, our dock lines firmly tied to a little spit of land in the Atlantic Ocean.  Getting to this place was no sail on Caribbean blue sea.   Our journey began November 19th shortly after I finished the Florida phase of the International Semester course.  Anne, Jeff and I packed the Vibe full of our needed gear and tools and headed north from Sunset Island.  After a quick overnight at Joe and Lisa Waas’ we arrived in Wilmington, NC on the 20th of November.  Bud Lovett, Jeff’s father, beat us to the boat yard and was busy sanding and gathering supplies for us to finish the prep for the upcoming launch.  The 21st was spent painting the bottom of the boat, checking weather reports, working on evaluations and budgets.  On the 22nd, Jeff worked with guys at the boat yard to launch while Anne and I spent the day doing laundry, hunting down various provisions and of catching movie (Harry Potter of course).  On the 23rd we cast our lines off the dock, waved good-bye Muriel, and followed Sunshine down the Cape Fear River.  Looking back, that was the easiest part of our voyage.

         Upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the winds were S-SW and the seas were rolling.  Having never been in these type of conditions for a sustained amount of time, I was not emotionally prepared to be sea sick.  By the following night I had started to violently vomit for the next 24 hours.  Any movement outside of taking the helm or laying in my corner berth had me immediately hanging my head over the toe rail.  Leaving traces of my DNA all over the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean.  Left with no other option, I took two Dramamine and slept for 12 hours. 

         In the mean time, C’est la Vie was still crashing through the sea that regularly slammed her hull and brought green water pouring over her bow.  With each crash of the sea, something small seemed to go wrong and on a couple of occasions a few large things as well.  The list included the bilge pump failing (Jeff was able to fix this underway & hanging upside down in starboard locker), the head pump failed (a trash bag sealed the bowl to prevent the contents from joining us in the cabin), running out of diesel, the main sail head board separated from the track (which could have “un-zipped” the main from the mast), and a bag of chips slipped in the chain locker to cover a drainage point (this allowed each wave crashing over the bow to come into the anchor locker then into the v-berth and then on the soul of the cabin). 

         As a crew we worked sponge water, take bits apart and put them back together, talk through different tacks, and quietly sit with one another while the other held a white knuckle grip on the tiller.  We were all digging deep to find the optimism and courage.  Wanting desperately to push pause and catch our breath, just a small break in the chaos, but that was as far away as land at that point (about 200nm).  I found myself talking to father, looking for signs that he was listening, begging him to help lay down the seas.  I don’t think he had anything to do with us making it to Green Turtle Cay, but it was good to talk to him.

         On the morning of the fifth day (we were planning on four when we left Wilmington) we finally spotted land.  Thankful for this sighting, we still could not take a deep breath.  We had to navigate through the “Whale.”  A break in the reef where waves can break your boat in half and us with 4 gallons of emergency fuel in the tank.  Finally we get a break.  Light winds out of the North, tide coming in, and the sea state was calm.  We slip in the Whale wing-on-wing and ready ourselves to come into the safe harbor. 

         Looking back on those five days, I do not want to repeat them.  I do not regret any part of it, just do not want to repeat a five day passage across or down the Atlantic Ocean.  With that perspective, I am thankful and humbled by my discoveries.

         These lessons I have learned are many and will be put to good use.  I feel like I am a sophomore sailor after this passage.  I know what I know and don’t know, as well as confident that the knowledge can be obtained.  It has also become clear that I do not want to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat.  Yup, long passage making; I can check that box off my list.  I am still invested in living on board my own boat and exploring the world via the cock-pit and tiller.

         The most wonderful discovery is the wilderness.  The ocean is the last great wilderness on the this planet.  when we were in the thick of it, there was no one else to help us out or anyway to stop action.  If one of us got badly injured, we did not have the option of call ing 911.  Unlike the land where you can stop and make a dynamic situation immediately a static on, the wilderness of the ocean is always dynamic.  I am truly humbled by that.  Thankful we never had any major injuries, but there were a few times when I wish we could have made our very dynamic world static.  Along with the discovery of the dynamic state of the marine environment, is the Ocean itself.  The vastness and diversity of the live within and above.  And the simple fact that we did not see any other people for four days.  Truly out with no signs of civilization.  I loved it.

         Sitting here safely tucked in behind a cay in the Abaco Sea, I am again thankful for the adventure.  Now I just have to keep the lessons alive.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arrived tired, wet, and safe in the Abacos...

Our 5 day passage between the Cape Fear river and the Abacos concluded as we passed through Whale Cay Cut on Sunday morning, November 28th.   We arrived exhausted, wet, and proud of our accomplishment.  I will endeavor to tell the tale, but wanted to post a quick update at this time to let everyone know we are safe.  We are attempting to update our photos when internet access allows so check out our fall 2010 album for images of our travels (there are links to all our web albums on the right side of this page).

be well

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happiest thanksgivings to all!

Happy Thanksgiving all around.  I am thankful for C’est La Vie’s hull, her mast and boom. I am thankful for the tiller and rudder and most of all her engine.  I am thankful for the fridge and the compressor that runs it, the batteries and the regulator and alternator. I am thankful for the propane and the stove. I am thankful for the fresh water pump and the filters. Most of all I am thankful for the amazing crew with whom I sail.  I am grateful and thankful for all the goodness that surrounds me. Now, let me tell you a few of the things for which I am not thankful….
The turkey day started out on lumpy seas which is not nice when you are sea sick. The winds continued to increase and then the water became confused and rough.  Again, not nice when you are sea sick.  As Thursday gave way to black Friday all the little things built up to really BIG things….

We sheared the top track slide off the head of the main sail, which could have been disastrous. One of the wires on the shroud began to unravel, again could have been disastrous.  The bilge pump would automatically come on but not turn itself off, we thought that was disastrous as the high water alarm sounded. The Fridge was no longer regulating and cycling on and off constantly. The fresh drinking water was inundated with salt via the tank vent in the bow, potentially disastrous.  The boat ran out of fuel, consuming twice as much diesel as it ever had before due to struggling windward in rough seas- 1 gallon an hour. And the worst offense- the head stopped working.  The learning?  When in such conditions as we were in it is better to double reef the mainsail  and put up the storm jib.
On my Friday evening watch that I took over from Jeff The winds began to build. We had double reefed the mainsail and were flying the working jib.  Right before Jeff went to rest he asked I wanted to shake the second reef. No way Jose!  I was just find, neutral helm and with the sundown and the moon not up for another 3 hours I’d rather be slower in the darkness.  So much for may wants.  The wind was changing direction and building as we glided along.  C'est la Vie's heal was also increasing.  I’d ease the mainsheet or head up to stall but nothing was really working I had to deal with the toe rail in the water, pounding through the waves.  I started to see 2 gps’s and my vision was blurry. I was really getting a bit scared, tears streamed down my salt scrubbed face.
Trish called up from her berth asking if I was ok.  I asked for help tacking and with that simple gesture, C’est la Vie stopped bucking and rode the waves and we were so much closer to the rhumb line. A bit of anxiety relieved. That act lead to a discovery as Jeff who was in the V-berth did not know that we had tacked thus he rolled to the low side which was pretty darn wet. 
To back track if I may, right before I took the helm I too had discovered standing water. Not something that is appreciated inside the boat.  I was sleeping in the Saloon on the settee cushion and Jeff and Trish called to me to let me know they were tacking.  So, I put my foot down to steady the roll and my foot was submerged in water.  WTF?  I began to sop up the mess with a dish towel and decided to use my Trader Joe Shamwow. At this point Trish woke up and came over to help me.  We mopped up most of the water and it looked as if it were coming out of the compartments below the cushion.  Darn, I thought, must be the chain plates. I was worried that my fruits and veggies stored directly above that would be ruined.  We took off the cushion and opened the cabinet and to our dismay it was full of water. We bailed out the cabinet and soaked up as much water as we could and waited for more to drain down the walls. No water was seen. Our attention was then directed to the floor and seeing that the water was actually coming in from under the wall.  Hmmm, that’s curious. Behind the wall is the head.
Earlier in the day we all had used the head and the last one to go got a not so nice surprise. Instead of pumping into the tank the suction was no longer there so we just pumped in more and more seawater which elevated the contents of the bowl.  On land, an overflowing toilet is gross but on a shifting rocking heeling boat it is devastating.  Enough said.
Back to Jeff’s discovery in the V-berth…He opened the anchor locker at the foot of the berth and got a snoot full of sea water from the wave that the bow just broke. He realized that the chips that we had stowed in the locker had shifted and blocked the water from going down to the bilge and funneled it into the boat. That was the most simple fix of all the problems we had that day.  We all had a laugh at lunch the next day chomping on those dang chips that tried to sink C’est la Vie!
Many other things happened that day and I would love to tell you them all over a nice cup of tea in a cozy warm chair but for now I think I have painted a pretty good picture as to why we were so overjoyed on Sunday early in the morning to yell, “Land, HO!”  Looking forward to Green Turtle Cay and a HOT shower!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

days in the stream anne's pov

So with the sea sickness abound we just limped along. The winds picked up and it was chilly on the water. We were at a constant heal with our main double reefed and a jib up.  Wednesday rolled along and we as a crew just tried to keep it together. I was trying to sleep as much as I could while not on watch to stave off the nausea. I had figured out how to sleep. Take the cushion off the settee put it on the floor wedge the geneoa next to me and then I would be fine. My first attempt at rest I climbed into the v-berth and not only could I physically feel the pounding of the waves the noises made me cringe. I tried to sleep across the berth essentially standing up.  That did not last very long, I decided I needed to be in the middle of the boat so as to not feel the full height of each wave. To the salon I crept.  I had been sleeping on the bench of the settee and then oops, I didn't hear the call for the tack and off the bench I rolled.  The problem of sleeping on the floor was it was wet. The main hatch above the salon was leaking. I don't know that we had ever tested it in these conditions. So with each wave breaking over the side water streamed in through the frame.  I was beginning to become sad about this beating C'est La Vie was taking.
Trish joked around saying that this was Anne's spa weekend getaway.  Lose 20 pounds while at sea and come back with a healthy salt rubbed glow.

 As far as the provisions were concerned we did not open the fridge today and some of us ate crackers and apples( really just me).  Then towards the beginning of my night shift I tried an organic toaster pastry.  That was my saving grace. I ate them and was able to keep going. I shared this knowledge with my crew. They were into it. They ate small bites not so sure how it would settle but slowly but surely we were getting better.  Trish also asked why filtered water tended to taste like it was softened.  Hmmmmm, that's not how the water usually tastes.  We would have to explore that question later.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wilmington, NC to Green Turtle Anne's POV

We left on Tuesday. For me it was a bit of a rush since I had forgotten a few essentials like knives and frozen spinach. Who can start a voyage with out spinach? I mean Popeye would not have been happy.  Thank goodness that Muriel left in the wee hours to direct me to the Leland Harris Teeter because I think Trish and I had exhausted every Harris Teeter in Wilmington.
With the essentials in hand plus the extra 5 gallons of diesel, we shoved off.  Muriel on the dock waving us good bye taking photos and Bud, Shelly and Carlie aboard Sunshine Piloting us out the Cape Fear River.  It was fun to motor/sail down the waterway.  Once we cleared the outer marker we plotted our course for Marsh Harbor. 440 nautical miles or so.  Great 4 days from now we would be crying, "Land Ho!"  I was so excited. I was secretly planning all the meals I would create along the way while I was not on watch. Thanksgiving dinner would be amazing in the middle of the ocean I fantasied.  It would be like we were the Pilgrims on the first voyage it was so symbolic I smiled at the mere thought of it.  This was going to be awesome. As the sun went down, I posted my last facebook update before my phone lost signal and we were one the way.
The first watch was great the schedule was set  Trish 4-8, Anne 8-12 and Jeff 12-4. We approached the gulf stream with each hour ticking away.  Then the western wall of the Gulf Stream was broached. The wave set was confused Jeff made dinner of simple soup.  We all ate it. Trish was on the helm and I was next.  I was up with anticipation and was unable to make myself sleep. Plus, it was a bit bouncy and not sure where I wanted to actually sleep.  As soon as we finished dinner we all started to feel the seas. With that one by one we each chummed.  So much for the menu!

Downbound on the Cape Fear River

It is early morning here on the Cape Fear River.  The image above is looking down river off C’est la Vie’s stern.  Hopefully by mid morning we will be downbound on the river riding the ebbing tide towards the Atlantic Ocean.  The provisions are all aboard and C’est la Vie’s water line is riding low.  Just a bit more packing and topping off the tanks before we depart.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back on the water...

After a hectic morning of last minute painting, zincs, engine maintence, etc., launching C’est la Vie went smoothly.  By noon C’est la Vie and MV Sunshine were rafted alongside one another in the Cape Fear River.   Thanks to the staff at the Cape Fear Boat Works for their excellent service and hospitality.  For both price and service we highly recommend this yard.

Once in the water, Bud and I focus on additional boat projects… tuning the rigging, hanking on the repaired mainsail, setting up the new depth sounder, etc.

Anne and Trish headed to town to provision and purchase some items we forgot to bring north.

Everything is coming together and our planned 11/23 departure is growing ever closer to a reality.

Back on the boat...

Anne and I are back on the boat with an additional crew, Trish Haitz.  Yesterday, with the help of Bud, we all chipped in to complete two coats of bottom paint, waxing the hull, and waxing the cabin trunk.

 She is looking good and despite numerous small items on the to do list we plan to launch her this morning.

Our plan, weather permitting, is to cross directly from the Cape Fear River to the Abacos.  This 430NM crossing will likely take 4+ days.  By crossing directly we hope to have some time to play in the Bahamas prior to our December 15 start date for work.

We will post again prior to shoving off and post as internet connections allow while traveling.

It is great to be back on the boat and we are looking forward to being on the water.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Projects

My time for projects while on the hard was reduced due to torrential rains in the Wilmington area.  The Raleigh News And Observer stated,  "Wilmington got more than 21 inches, topping the 19 inches that fell during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. That's the highest rainfall total seen in the city during the 140 years that records have been kept, according to the National Weather Service"   The rains finally began to taper off on the first of October.  Bud and I focused most of our attention on installing the new depth transducer and display.  By the afternoon of the 2nd the new system was installed.

I added photos chronicling the transducer installation to the Photo Albums Projects & Repairs links on the right.  Somehow I neglected to capture some images of the display installation, but I'll remedy that when we return to C'est la Vie later this fall.

In addition to the transducer/display installation Bud & I also knocked out a few more items on the C'est la Vie project list... trouble shoot & repair short in wind generator wiring, reseal chainplate and autopilot through hulls, reseal large salon windows, and apply anti fouling paint to prop.

We plan to return to C'est la Vie later this fall and complete our return trip to Everglades City.  For now there is work to be done. It is unlikely that we will post here until we restart our voyage.  If anyone would like to follow along with our next adventure, fall work with Outward Bound in the Everglades, then here is a link to The Sunset Island Times

Fair winds and pleasant anchorages,

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the terminus of our summer travels.

This will be the final posting labeled "Summer 2010".  The rains continue to fall here in Wilmington, NC.  I’ve timed my haul out with record setting rainfalls for the area, 22.5” in four days.  The rain delay has provided plenty of time to ruminate on our summers travels.   At times I am buoyed by the memories, other times I am saddened that the earth below C’est la Vie marks the terminus of our summer travels.   I’m eager to get started on projects in the hope that the work will spark my wanderlust for future travels and ports of call.

I’ve ordered the GMI10 display and a Airmar transducer that speaks NEMA2000.  GEMECO is the only vendor from which I can procure an appropriate transducer (the B122 can accommodate a 30 degree deadrise and speaks NEMA2000).   Oddly GEMECO does not sell displays , so I went to GPSonSale and was able to purchase a new GMI10 for $100 less that listed on the Garmin website.

On a second project front all the rain has aided me in identifying the location of a starboard side leak that drips into the quarter berth.  The leak that first appeared in late August is in the leading edge of the large lexan salon windows that I installed 3 years ago.

I’m headed back to watching the rain fall.  More updates on fall projects to come.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rain Delay on Haul-Out Day

In the image above, Bud is at the helm as we motor past the USS Battleship North Carolina in the Cape Fear River.  After a 24 hour rain delay due to 9.5 inches of rain yesterday in Wilmington, NC, we traveled up the Cape Fear River this morning to haul out at Cape Fear Boat Works.  The trip up river, 4.7NM from my recent dockage in downtown Wilmington, took under an hour.  The haul-out was uneventful.  C’est la Vie was hauled, power washed, and blocked by 13:00.

The project list is still in the process of firming up, but once finished with lunch we immediately attacked the depth transducer.  Removing the old transducer is step one in installing a new depth sounder.   Chisels, channel locks, and hammers eventually overcame the 15 year old 5200, and C’est la Vie is now one transducer lighter with a 1” hole in her hull.  Ultimately the project will require us to enlarge the hole to 2”, but that is a few steps ahead.  First I need to order the new system.    With the old transducer in hand and a much better understanding of the dimensions and area in which the new system will need to be installed, Bud and I spent some time reviewing options via the internet.  Currently I am leaning towards a Garmin GMI 10 display with a intelliducer sensor.  If anyone out there has had experience with this system I would be eager to hear your comments.

Looks like the weather is going to provide me with lots of time to create the project, shop for supplies, and order a new depth sounder as the area is forecast to receive another 10 inches of rain over the next 48 hours due to the passage of (soon to be named Nicole?) tropical depression.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Solo at sea, part 2

The day passed blissfully.  As promised the winds slowly backed around to the south and began to increase.  My 15:46 log book entry notes a speed over ground as 6.3 knots, 50.1 miles made good, 1 hour and 57 minutes out from the Masonboro Inlet outer buoy, and 280 pages completed in my novel.   The wind, too close on the bow to permit a headsail was beginning to look more favorable.   Perhaps I will get to run out the genny today?  For now I choose to continue on under the main and the motor.  Otto is steadily holding course.    Back to reading and watching the winds.

The stuttering of the diesel motor resonated through the hull and shattered my bliss.  Never has our 34 horse power Beta Marine engine given us a second’s hesitation.  Now it was convulsing like a neophyte swimmer after inhaling a slug of water.   A quick “why now” flashed across my brain, and then onto problem solving mode.  I snapped the throttle back to idle, and the motor calmed.  Fuel and air, fuel and air all a diesel needs to run fuel and air.  I leaped up on deck and grabbed the 5G can of spare fuel.  Opening the fill cap, I peer into the dark void of the tank.  I’ve never seen it so empty.  No time to wait on the funnel.  I thumb the spout to prevent spilling and aim for the tank opening… direct hit.   The can disgorges its combustible contents.  Once the can is emptied I sit in rapt silence listening to the purring engine.  That is better, but I still wonder why? 

Hull speed is down below 3 knots, but that can wait.  I scan the horizon for hazards.  Finding none, I head below to investigate further.  Accessing the engine compartment consumes a few moments.  In this time the engine continues to purr.  I run down a list of probable issues…
Fuel valves – all open
Fuel filter – bowl has some sediment, but things look good
Fuel line vacuum gauge – high, but in the green
Air – I cup my hand over the intake and feel a healthy suction

What else? 

Well if I did run out of fuel how did this happen?  C’est la Vie does not have a fuel gauge so we meticulously long the run time.  Based on the log book I had 16 hours and 58 minutes of run time when I started this morning.  I’ve run a bit over 10 hours today.  Thus I should have at least 13 more hours of run time, or approximately 7 gallons of fuel.   I’m confident that there was little fuel left in the tank, certainly not 7 gallons.

Fuel leak!?  I return to the engine compartment and literally sniff around.   I peer into the bilge.  I wipe my hands over the tank and fuel lines.  No signs of leaking.

Math error?  I scan through the log book.  No obvious errors.

A new hypothesis leaps into my conscious… someone siphoned fuel from our tank while we were anchored in Beaufort? 

As I ponder this possibility I head back above decks, scan the horizon, and then throttle back up.  As C’est la Vie again hits her stride at 6 knots, I listen intently to the engine’s hum. 

I complete my book, by my assessment Bob Morris’ best work to date.   C’est la Vie carries me into Wrightsville Beach motoring under the main. 

 At 18:26 I silenced the motor.  The Beta Marine had completed the day without another hic-up.  I am confident that we ran low on fuel.  I’m leaning towards theft, but plan to fill the tank tomorrow and continue to monitor for leaks.

By all accounts my first solo, offshore day was a success with a daily run of 69NM in 12 hours.  Now it is time for a swim, dinner, and a new book. 

Solo at sea, part 1

My day started long before dawn.  Wearing a headlamp for light, I worked down my mental checklist:
 turn on the VHF for weather reports and start the water for coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor chain…
pour the water and press the coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
ahh coffee and NOAA weather my morning ritual at sea…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
uncover the main, tiller, and dodger…
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
 rig the jacklines, set the PFD/tether, and prep the auto pilot
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode…
turn on the instruments, start the engine, hoist the main, start the days log book entry
ahh coffee…
crank in ten feet of anchor rode.

Down to 40 feet of rode it is go time.  I have taken to raising the rode in ten foot increments over time because it allows the chain above the water to drip dry before finding its way into the locker and I find that I haul up less mud with this system.  This morning I’m in about 20 feet of water so the final 40 feet will come up in on final push.

As I rest the anchor in chocks on the bow sprit, the eastern sky begins to glow.  Drifting now on a flooding tide in a narrow channel, I hustle to secure the anchor and stow away the bucket, bush, and windlass lever.   I take the helm relieved that the light winds and racing current have only pushed C’est la Vie down the center of the channel.   Sheet the main, shove the throttle forward, and C’est la Vie responds by moving confidently towards Beaufort Inlet with a full moon nearing the horizon off our bow.

Nearing the Beaufort Channel I’m surprised by the volume of outbound traffic.  I’m certainly not alone out here.  The conditions are forecast to be pleasant so I guess many of the local anglers are starting the weekend fishing a day early.  The ocean swell is moderate and the winds are light out of the northwest.  We slip out into the ocean with the sun rising on our stern.  I can see the silhouette of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse rising from the Cape.  Rounding green 11, we depart the channel and set a course for Masonboro Inlet.  Once the irregular seas associated with the inlet subside, I turn the steering over to Otto, our autopilot, and pause, my first moment of reflection of the day. 

Satisfaction mixed with a bit of pride.  Things are going smoothly.  I make breakfast and crack open the next Bob Morris novel, A Deadly Silver Sea, pause for a moment… I hope there is no irony in my choice of novels.  The horizon is clear, the weather is delightful, and Otto is silently working the helm.  All is well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Departure from Beaufort, NC

After a over a week of using The Beaufort Coffee Shop as an office;  reuniting with friends and businesses down east; meeting some new faces; afternoon laps in the creek; and quite time at anchor it is time to depart Beaufort. 

Sounds like a simple, “hoist up the John B sails, see how the main sail sets, call for the captain ashore” –STOP – the reality is… take the dinghy ashore to scrub the growth off the hull; dive under C’est la Vie to scrape barnacles off the prop; untwist the anchor rodes;  fold and store the dinghy on deck; scrub the two anchor rodes inch by inch to remove nearly a month’s worth of growth; and then start up the C’est la Vie’s engine an motor out of town in the waning daylight. 

I started my departure prep just after lunch and set the hook off a Shackleford Banks under a rising full moon.    No laps today… none needed I’m wiped out and plan to rise early tomorrow for my first offshore, solo passage – Beaufort to Wrightsville beach – 65NM in the Atlantic.  I’m too spent from my afternoon’s efforts to expend much nervous energy on tomorrow plus the weather looks fine and C’est la Vie is ready for some sea time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Settling into time alone on C'est la Vie

Along with the variety and quality of my meals (double boca burger anyone?) life is certainly different now that I am solo and working.  The past couple days I’ve spent working on the computer preparing for the upcoming Florida Outward Bound season and laying the foundation for the school’s return to the OBX in summer 2011.  Since I cannot simply plug the computer into the outlet here on the boat, I’ve become a regular fixture at the local coffee shop.   I am looking forward to a couple of days of traveling down east in both the car and kayak as part of my recon of the OBX course area. 

We are still anchored in the same spot at the western end of Taylor’s Creek.  I have now met all of our immediate “neighbors” in the anchorage.  Of the five closest vessels, three are seasonal live aboards that have jobs in town.

I’ve continued my afternoon laps, approximately ¾ mile each afternoon, and have begun to notice some improvement.  I have grown fond of swimming as an afternoon workout and will miss when my time on C’est la Vie winds down.  I’m not up for swimming laps in the Barron River, at least not until cooler weather arrives and runs the alligators back up into the marshes.    Well that’s all in the future… for now I’m going to focus in my double boca burger in paradise – yum!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Here we go round the anchor rode

I drew upon my latent climbing knowledge to free up the rode.  

The most vexing part of untwisting the rodes was my inability to pull up enough rope rode to tie off the line.  Typically I would simply let out some more chain on the other rode and this slack would permit me to haul in on the rope rode.  Unfortunately the twists in the two rodes prohibited this solution.

Using an 8 foot loop of 4mm cord I tied a prussic knot to the rode, ran the cord through the bowsprit, and back to a two to one on deck.  The prussic knot will slide freely along the rode until force is applied to the cord. When force is applied the prussic knot cinches down on the larger diameter line and will not slip.

This system allowed me to secure the rope rode and  take pressure off the twists .  With this system in place the only thing remaining was the grunt work of coiling up the remaining ¾” rode; passing it through the bowsprit; and then  while standing in the dinghy pass the coil around and around the chain rode.

This entire process took about one hour and provided a necessary distraction from a day of working on the computer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Twisted Rodes

During our absence C’est la Vie seems to have done some spin moves. 

Due to limited swing room and strong daily tidal currents, we set a Bahamian Moor at our present anchorage in Taylor’s Creek.  The anchor set up is effective, but an undesirable by product is twists in the anchor rodes.

Does anyone out there have a good system for avoiding the twists when riding on two anchors? 

My plan is to pull up enough of the rope rode to tie off the anchor side to a bow cleat.  I will then coil up the bitter end of the rope rode and pass the coil down through the bowsprit. With the coil below the bowsprit, I will jump in the dinghy and begin to unwind the rodes.  Once the rodes are free of one another, I can then pass the coil back through the bowsprit and reattach the bitter end to a cleat.

Does anyone out there know of a better way to unwrap the rodes?

My plan is to wait for tomorrow's flooding tide where there will be less pressure on the rope rode.  So if anyone has suggestions please let me know soon.

Life in the fast lane?

Since our trip to FL in late August and our return to Beaufort with our car, life seems to be moving at a much faster pace.   Does the presence of a personal automobile speed up our lives or has fate simply stepped in to speed things up?  Here is a brief recap of the last 10 days…

We drove up the mountains.  Anne caught up with friends in WNC while I spent a few days working at NCOBS Table Rock Basecamp.   We then returned to Mooresville to visit with my family for a couple days.  Anne flew out of Charlotte, NC to join her mom in New Hampshire.  Due to some health issues, her mom has returned to the States from her Peace Corps post in Swaziland.  Anne will remain in New Hampshire until October 1. 

I arrived back in Beaufort today, Monday, and have been scrambling about in an effort to open up the boat & restock the galley.   I also dropped our mainsail off at Omar Sails for some minor repair work.

I’ll be solo on C’est la Vie until the last week of September when I plan to haul out in Wilmington, NC.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sea Kayaking with Trish

Trish and I launched our kayaks at the Harker’s Island Bridge this morning.  Our hope was to get a bit of exercise, do some recon of the NCOBS OBX course area, and take in some Americana as the masses converge on Shackleford Banks for Labor Day Weekend.  We were successful on all accounts.  

Our first stop, Whale Creek, required crossing back sound between Harker’s Island and Shackleford Banks.  NCOBS uses the Whale Creek area as a course start campsite. We wanted to check out the area to ensure that the water depth and shoaling would still allow egress for skiffs hauling gear and students.   The recon was fruitful. 

After a brief walkabout at Whale Creek, we reentered the kayaks and paddled our way westward along the banks.  The further west we traveled, towards Beaufort Inlet, the more rich the Americana became…

Upon reaching the western end of the banks, we made landfall to check out the inlet and stretch our legs.  The residual swell from Earl’s recent passage dissuaded us from crossing the inlet.  Instead we rode the flooding tide and swells northward and used the high tide to slip across the flooded tidal flats of Carrot Island.   The final push of day trip came as we fought the rising tide westward up Taylor’s Creek to C’est la Vie’s anchorage.  

We arrived to find an empty vessel.    Anne had already made her way into town for some porch time with friends at Handscapes Gallery.  Trish and I hastily packed up gear, showered, and joined the gang on the porch.  A fine end to a day on the water in sea kayaks. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The morning after Earl

All is well in on C’est la Vie in the South River. Earl moved further offshore, to the east, during the night.  I managed to sleep most of the night.  With the anchor drag alarm set to ring if we moved more that 150’, I awoke at midnight and four a.m. to monitor the boat and conditions.  During my time awake I never observed wind gusts above approximately 50 knots and we did not drag out anchors at all. 

Currently the winds are WNW at about 20 knots with clearing skys off our bow (see image above). 

With Earl departing our area we now plan to return to Beaufort, NC.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Waiting on Earl

The winds continue to build and the skies grow darker.  Save for removing the blades from our wind generator we have made all our preparations for Earl’s arrival (see image above.)  We have found a secure anchorage in Southwest Creek, off South River, off the Neuse River (34°55’N 76°33’W) that provides good protection from Earl’s forecasted N to NW winds. 

Ironically I explored this area via sea kayak about a decade ago as part of a recon for the NCOBS’ OBX Sea Kayak Program.  A friend and individual influential in the creation of NCOBS, Doc Borden, once lived along the banks of the South River.  Myself and other Outward Bound staff used his home as a base of operations during one summer season of kayaking programs along the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Back to Earl, currently the winds are forecasted to be 40 to 50mph with gusts to 70mph.  Our greatest concern is dragging our anchor and ending up pushed aground by the winds.  Fortunately the shoreline in this area is lined with salt marsh.  If we do drag and ground out we will come to rest in soft mud.  To avoid dragging we have set two anchors in a vee to our NNE.  We chose the NNE because this is the direction of our greatest fetch.   The image below is of our dual anchor set up.  The hose over the secondary anchor rode is serving as a chafe guard.

The community of South River is under a mandatory evacuation due to potential flooding from storm surge and heavy rains.   Since we are on a boat neither of these factors are a threat to us.

We were please to see another sailboat, Sandpiper, a 40+ foot sloop arrive in South River to ride out the storm.  Misery loves company.  They anchored in the main fork of the river just out of sight from us, but we are in radio communications.

Fo0rtunately the anchorage has spotty, but sufficient cell service to both monitor the storm via the internet and to talk with family and friends on the phone.

Now we wait and hope Earl’s passing is uneventful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

time to splice (a.k.a: the splice of life)

We raised the anchor and began motoring up Core Creek along with the morning flooding tide.  On our last trip up Core Creek, August 14, we departed Beaufort midway through a flooding tide and were able to ride the rising tide all the way up to the Neuse River.  Today we departed at the onset of the flood tide.  Somewhere around Bock Marine we outran the flooding tide and spent the remainder of the transit  fighting current.  Lesson:  Leave Beaufort 3 hours into a flooding tide when traveling north up Core Creek / ICW.

On our trip inland Anne took the helm so that I could focus my energies on creating a new anchor rode.  On our secondary anchor, a 35# Bruce, we have used a 20’ section of chain with a 130’ section of 1/2” three strand line.  We plan to set both anchors to ride out Earl, but feel that the ½” rode minimal for the task.   Our primary anchor has 100’ of chain and 320’ of ¾” three strand line.   Our solution is to cut 200’ off the end of the ¾”, three strand primary rode and create a new 200’ section of ¾” to use as a rode for our secondary anchor.   Confused yet?

To join the new rode to our secondary anchor, must splice the rope around a shackle via a chain splice.   Since my splicing skills are a bit rusty I started by creating a simple eye splice in the bitter end of the new rode (see image above.)  This proved helpful, but frustrating since this section of rope was well used and very stiff. 
Eye splice complete, I was all too happy to move onto a chain splice in the opposite, less used, and more supple section of rope.  The final product is pictured in the image below.   This will be joined to 20’ of ¼” stainless steel chain to create our new rode.