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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

If your looking for updates on our sailing adventures...

Future updates on our projects and travels can be found at M382pilgrim.blogspot.com

We will continue to maintain this blog, but do not expect to add posts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

SV Pilgrim - the next chapter in our adventures at sea

It is official we have purchased a 1979 Morgan 382 – SV Pilgrim.

After spending time aboard all three of our top choices – Tartan 37, Bristol 35.5, & Morgan 382, we choose to purchase the Morgan.  Why the 382? 

We were swayed by the recommendations we found by current and past owners on line.  Consistently the design received praise as a sturdy, comfortable vessel capable of bluewater sailing.  Along with chronicles of full time cruisers living aboard M382s, I found many accounts of Morgan 38’s completing ocean transits and circumnavigations.

First hand observations…

On deck the M382’s 6” bulwarks and cabin top mainsheet set her apart from the Tartan 37s or the Bristol 35.5.   

Her cockpit is spacious and appears comfortable.  We will need to get used to wheel steering.

The interior layout is fairly standard. 

One standout feature is a separated shower stall in the head.  We were wowed by the amazing amount of storage below decks – dramatically more than other vessels we viewed.   System’s wise the 382 has more fresh water and fuel tankage than either the Tartan or the Bristol.

There are some down sides to the M382…
·         With a fin keel & skeg hung rudder She draws 5 feet - a foot more than either the Tartan or the Bristol centerboard designs. 
·         Due to fine entry lines her vee berth is on the narrow side – smaller even than the vee berth in C’est la Vie, a Morgan 34.
·         She is powered with 30HP Yanmar.  By modern standards 30HP is not much for a vessel displacing 18,000 pounds.  C’est la Vie, our M34, displaces 12,500 and has a 34HP engine.

A bit of timing and chance also fit into the purchase.  For the price we were unable to find a Tartan or a Bristol that matched the condition and systems present on SV Pilgrim.

We have very little information on her history. 
We believe she is hull #115. In the 90’s she was named Pupa and based in the Miami, FL area.  Circa 1998 she was purchased by the most recent owners and moved to Lake Erie.  They did a wonderful job maintaining her.  Both inside and out her paint and brighwork are in good condition.  They replaced the rig and ran all the control lines aft in 2002.  The engine was rebuilt in 2010.  Recently they have replaced all the ports with new stainless steel NFM ports.  The dodger appears to be brand new. 

There is work to be done… 
1.       Replace main sail
2.       Replace all Running Rigging
3.       Update Electrical System – control panel, lighting, battery bank, etc. – much of this will be pulled from C’est la Vie
4.       Install PV System & Solar Panels – pulled from C’est la Vie
5.       Install Wind Generator – pulled from C’est la Vie
6.       Update instruments – VHF, wind, depth, plotter, etc.  – much of this will be pulled from C’est la Vie
7.       Replace current LP stove with stove from C’est la Vie
8.       Improve storage & handling on foredeck. –  add a second anchor roller, and  the  windlass from C’est la Vie
9.       New antifouling paint.

I’m certain the list will evolve and grow once we spend some time aboard.  But first we need to get her down to Beaufort, NC.  We have contracted a trucking company to haul her south.  They promise to have her in Beaufort by December 15.

We have started a new website devoted to SV-Pilgrim - M382Pilgrim@blogspot.com  We hope you all will continue to follow our adventures as we continue towards the horizon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Time to break the silence...

Dealing with the emotional wounds from the dis-masting is a much longer endeavor than either of us imagined.   Our healing process has lead us to question what’s next.  Do we want to continue sailing?  What about sailing offshore?  Do we want to continue to pursue or goal of spending a couple years aboard in the Caribbean?

With a refreshed sense of purpose we can now confidently state that we are committed to pursuing our goal of cruising the Caribbean.   I’m certain that when we next hoist our sails and set a course offshore both of us will feel a flush of anxiety as we dwell on C’est la Vie’s dis-masting.

We have decided to search for a new boat on which to continue our journey.  This has not been an easy decision for us.  I am not going to attempt capture or share the process by which we reached this conclusion.  We are not seeking outside input or for others to question the path we have chosen.    We do want to continue to share with you all our progress forward

What are we seeking in a new vessel?  We cherished the Morgan 34’s classic lines, her shallow draft, her fine sailing ability on all points of sail, her wide side decks, and her solid construction.  We want to retain as many of these features as possible yet gain...
  • Increase in offshore sailing capability/comfort by seeking greater displacement, additional free board, a bridge deck between cockpit and cabin.
  • Increase in tankage – specifically larger water and holding tanks

After many hours of research and discussions with experienced sailors we narrowed our search to three models.  

Bristol 35.5 – Ted Hood designed centerboard sloop with a reputation for excellent sailing characteristics.  She is 35.5’ LOA,  11’ Beam, and 15,000 Lbs displacement.

Tartan 37 – Sparkman & Stevens design centerboard sloop.  She is 37.4’ LOA, 11.75’ Beam, and 15,500 Lbs displacement.

Morgan 382 – Ted Brewer design with an reputation as a solid blue water boat.  She is LOA 38.3’, Beam 12’, 17,000 Lbs displacement.

I have now been aboard all three vessels.  We were able to sail aboard our friend’s Tartan 37, Carribean Soul.  Thanks to Penny & John for the fine evening sail.

We have had an offer accepted on one of these boats and are moving through the process of purchasing… survey, USCG abstract, etc.  We are reluctant to share more details until we close the deal.  Stay tuned!

What about C’est la Vie’s dis-masting?   We believe the mechanical failure of a critical rigging component installed in fall 2011 lead to the dis-masting.  We are under advisement not to discuss the matter publicly at this time.  We hope to share the details at a later date.  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Racing and Cruising SV Seraphim in the Great Lakes

Thanks to the captain and crew of SV Seraphim for inviting Anne and I to participate in the 2013 Port Huron to Mackinac Island Race.

Mackinac Island Marina - the finish line for the 204NM Race
We did not place well in our PERF Class due to some strategic errors based on predicted winds and a jammed halyard that forced us to send a crew member to the masthead during the race.

Pete aloft attempting to free the jammed stay sail halyard
The crew looking on as Pete works at the mast head.

We did learn a great deal... racing is very different mentality than our typical cruising lifestyle. We also enjoyed getting to know the Seraphim Crew.
After the race Anne, Bill (Anne's father), and I were responsible for sailing the boat back to Cleveland, OH. Our return trip included travels through the North Passage; Georgian Bay; Tobermory, OT; Detroit, MI; and Put-In-Bay, OH.

Bill at the helm as we depart Gore Bay, OT

Our two weeks on Seraphim, a Pretorian 35, gave us time to distance ourselves from C'est la Vie's current woes and experience traveling aboard a different sailing vessel. Thanks to Karim for trusting us with his boat and allowing us to experience a new sailing venue.

Anne at the helm as we enter Put-In-Bay, OH
more images from our travels are available in our photo album... Racing and Cruising SV Seraphim in the Great Lakes

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dis-masted - Afterward

There are three entries that proceed this post. Here are the links
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Losing the rig is undoubtedly unfortunate, but Anne and I whole heartedly agree that we were fortunate in the timing and location of the event.   We can think of many, many worse scenarios.  We are thankful for the support of our friends and fellow cruisers. 

Why did the dismasting occur?  
The system of windward lower stays suffered a mechanical failure.  Once the windward lowers were no longer in place the force exerted by the windward cap shroud on the spreader caused the mast to fold to leeward.  Fortunately for us the pressure on the sails carried the mast clear of the deck and hull before causing structural damage.  From our findings in the days after the incident we believe the mast struck the port side cowling then my paddleboard, lashed to the leeward lifeline, and then entered the water. We are not going to provide additional, detailed information until we correspond with the company that manufactured the part whose failure we believe caused the dis-masting. 

How do we know the windward lowers failed? 
We observed the mast fold to leeward in the area of the spreaders.  The system of failed windward (starboard) lowers were no longer attached to the mast when it entered the water. Thus, the starboard side lower stays, including a portion of the part we believe caused the failure, remained on deck once the rig was gone.

Lessons we are taking away from this experience…
1.  Include a stout set of cable cutters in your on board tools.   These enabled us to efficiently cut the downed rig away before it was able to compromise the integrity of our hull.  I was pleased to discover our cable cutters were able to sever dyneema dux when it is under load.
2.  Have an efficient system for rigging an alternate VHF antenna or a secondary VHF unit.  We were unable to reach anyone via our hand held VHF. Most sailing vessels have their primary VHF antenna mounted atop the mast.   In a dismasting this antenna will be lost.   The ability to rewire the VHF to a secondary antenna mounted on the stern of C’est la Vie allowed us to contact the USCG.
3. We believe C’est la Vie’s rigid bobstay saved the bowsprit.   With only a wire for a bobstay the loss the forestay would place all the weight of the anchors and other forces on two horizontal attachment points.  I have little doubt the bowsprit would have failed when I went forward to cut away the forestay or during our lumpy trip back to the mainland if it lacked the support of the solid bobstay.  With some extra care we were also able to use the anchors and windlass in the days following the incident.
4.  Never, never, never make light of a mast-less sailing vessel underway.  We were amazed at the callousness of the first motor vessel that asked us, “aren’t you missing something?”  We though the person must just be a bit socially awkward.  Later in the day a second passing motor vessel attempted to make another humorous comment about our lack of a mast. Hurt, we discussed together how motor vessel operators are simply clueless.  Despite damage to our lifelines, bent stanchions, and the stump of roller furling unit at our bow, on day two in the ICW we passed a southbound sailboat that shouted over, “did you forget something?”  WTF!  These comments were simply pouring salt into our wounds.

It took us two days of motoring northward along the ICW to reach Beaufort, NC.  During the trip we took some time to lick our wounds and discuss what to do next.

Anne relaxing with a cucumber "mask"
Our wonderful Beaufort friends welcomed us back and were generous in their assistance… finding us free dockage, providing place sleep on land, and plenty of good food and drink.

C'est la Vie docked in Taylors Creek
 We are uncertain of our long term plans or C’est la Vie’s future. We agreed to continue forward with our short term plans…
  1. Haul C’est la Vie in Beaufort, NC
  2. Crew aboard SV-Seraphim, a Pretorian 35,  in the upcoming Port Huron to Mackinac Island Race
  3. Deliver SV-Seraphim back to Cleveland, OH after the race
  4. Work in the Beaufort, NC area in the late summer.

prior to making any decisions about the next steps.  We hope through time we will gain perspective.  We also hope that time will present options or opportunities that are currently hidden from view by our proximity to the dis-masting.   

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dis-masted- Part 3

Dis-masted - Part 1
Dis-masted - Part 2

Years ago when installing a new AM/FM radio I wired a male/female coupling in the co-axial antenna wire.  Located in the electrical panel the joint could, in the event of a lost or damaged masthead antenna, allow us to connect the VHF to the AM/FM antenna without the need of additional tools or soldering. 

Unfortunately, I never installed a similar joint on the VHF antenna in the electrical panel.  The closest fitting on the VHF end was forward in the boat where the wire entered the mast compression post.  And so it was, I found myself removing floor boards and pulling wire while Anne piloted C’est la Vie towards the Cape Fear River.  Rerouting the VHF cable back to the electrical panel consumed vastly more time than the actual rewiring. 

Running the improvised VHF Antenna through the open electrical panel
Unfortunately, the hot engine and spinning belts prevented me from routing the wire in a manner that would allow the electrical panel to close.   Floor boards asunder and the electrical panel exposed, I connected the VHF to the AM/FM antenna.  We now had a VHF that would allow us to communicate with other vessels.

The USCG Charleston Sector replied immediately to my hail.  I stated that we were a dismasted 34 foot sailing vessel in the process of assessing damage.  Succinctly we progressed through her questions…  Location?  Injuries? Number of people aboard? PFDs for everyone?  Description of vessel?  Are you requesting assistance?

I looked around C’est la Vie.  The roller furling drum struck the bowsprit railings like metronome in time with the rolling seas.  Severed remnants of standing rigging littered the deck.  Piles of mingled running rigging sat idle in the cockpit.

Running rigging splayed about the cockpit after cutting away the rig
I scanned the horizon – only sea and sky for 360⁰.  I glanced back to Anne at the helm.  Before tears could again overtake me, I replied, “We do not require assistance at this time.” 

C’est la Vie’s engine, electrical, and steering systems were functioning properly.  Other than the single run cycle during the cut away process our bilge pumps remained silent.  C’est la Vie’s motion on the heaving seas was uncomfortable, but we steamed towards the Cape Fear River at over 5 knots.
Surprised that the Coast Guard did not request we check back in upon making landfall, we concluded our conversation with the radio operator taking my name and cell phone number. 

Still amped up from the surge of adrenalin, I asked Anne if I could take the helm to busy myself.  Anne then recorded the following log entry…

7/5/13 @ 14:53 – 29.1NM to Cape Fear River Inlet G”9” – ETE 5H52m – Course 53⁰ - Speed 5.4kts – “dismasted, motoring in, contacted Coast Guard.”

The trek into the Cape Fear River stretched into the night.  Emotions ebbed and flowed though each of us often surfacing in tears…  sadness at the damage to our home and our dream; thankfulness that we were uninjured, gratitude that C’est la Vie was still afloat and transporting back to shore, uncertainty of the future, and on and on emotions and questions.  We agreed to carry on with our plans for the next month and not make any hasty decisions.

As my mind mulled on our current state, I realized why the depth sounder was non-functional.  NMEA 2000 networks rely on data to complete a full circuit of the instruments and sensors.  If a wire or connection fails then the data “splatters” and the system fails.  The weather station at the mast head was gone.  The broken wire was causing our data to splatter.  Once we cleared Bald Head Island and the seas diminished, I crawled into the quarter berth and removed the wiring for the weather station from our NMEA backbone.  Success.  Other than the weather data our instruments were back online.

Another realization struck me as we began to mull over locations for anchoring.   Without a forestay to support the bowsprit the weight of the anchors and forces of raising / lowering the anchor were supported solely by three points of contact between the bowsprit and the hull. 

A summer 2011 picture of C'est la Vie's naked bowsprit.
We are thankful for C’est la Vie’s solid bobstay.  With only a wire for a bobstay the loss the forestay would place all the weight of the anchors and other forces on the two horizontal attachment points.  I have little doubt the bowsprit would have failed when I went forward to cut away the forestay or during our lumpy trip back to the mainland if it lacked the support of the solid bobstay.

Fatigued and concerned about the stress anchoring may place on our now stay-less bowsprit, we entered Deep Creek Marina long after closing hours.  We selected the first vacant slip and landed without incident at 23:07.  


Part 1
Part 2
Afterward & Lessons

Dis-masted - Part 2

Click Here for Part 1

Fortunately, Anne and I were both in the cockpit and clear of all the rigging and sails. My initial scene survey lead me to the port side of C’est la Vie. The rig and sails were visible at the water’s surface. Unsure of the extent of the damage, I told Anne to disengage the auto pilot, put the boat in neutral and attempt to hail Tow Boat US or other vessels in the area. Despite the now sickening motion of the boat rolling in the seas, my initial instinct was to salvage the rig and sails. My effort began with the mainsail sheet shackle at the bail on the boom. By the time I was able to remove the split ring and unscrew the pin, the rest of the rig and sails sank below the boat. A couple thumps resonated through boat as the rig struck the hull underwater. Our broken mast could strike the hull and sink C’est la Vie. This thought convinced me that quickly cutting away everything hanging below the water was our only option. Passing Anne hailing all vessels on the cockpit VHF, I dashed below and excavated the cable cutters from below the vee berth. I vividly recall standing below decks with the cable cutters in both hands saying aloud, “I never thought I would need to use these.”

Returning to the cockpit, Anne informed me that she did not think the VHF would work with the mast head antenna under the boat. Damn, why didn’t I think of that? She went below to retrieve the handheld VHF and continued her efforts. Fearful the backstay could foul the rudder or prop, I began cutting at the stern. I wanted the backstay gone. Hell, I wanted the whole rig gone. Moving along the port side towards the bow of the boat, I began clearing standing and running rigging… the roller furling control line – snip; the genny sheet still on the winch – snip; the starboard side cap shroud puling tight across the cabin trunk – snip; the port side dyneema dux lower stays – snip, snip; the inner forestay - snip. At the bow, I realized the roller furling foil shielded the forestay from the cable cutters. Clearing the forestay required exposing the wire. I shouted back to Anne to get the hacksaw. Moving along the starboard side of the boat to retrieve the saw from Anne, I cut the starboard headsail sheet on the foredeck, and then found no other taut rigging to clear in my trip back to the cockpit.

Anne took the cable cutters and I started back to the bow with the hack saw in hand. Before I cleared the cockpit, Anne requested that I clip in. Typically, while offshore on C’est la Vie anyone going beyond the cockpit on deck must clip into the jacklines that run along either side deck from the cockpit to the bow. Focused on the task at hand I had jumped into action without donning my PFD or clipping into the jacklines. I donned my PFD, but starboard jacklines were covered with rigging and the portside lines were buried under my paddleboard. I returned to the bow to clear the forestay. Keeping the saw moving in the growing kerf required two hands. While frantically working to clear the foil my torso bounced between the bowsprit rails. Later in the day I would discover the bruising, in the moment I was thankful the rails were keeping me on the rolling deck. Once the cut extended through one wall of the foil, the forces bearing on the thin tube of aluminum quickly tore through the remaining material. I returned to the cockpit, traded the saw for the cutters, and then made my way back to the bow. Again, working in space between the bowsprit rails required some two handed finagling, but the forestay eventually succumbed. I watched the roll of crisp genoa sail cloth sink out of sight.

Thinking the rig is now free of the boat, I turned back to the cockpit. Stanchions on both sides of the hull bent inward. The portside dorade vent was gone. Electrical wires sprouted from the tube in the center of the now naked mast step. My paddle board, originally tied off to the starboard life lines, now lay on the side deck with a couple rips visible in the cover. Snaking my way back to the cockpit I felt an odd jerk in C’est la Vie’s side to side motion. It felt like being restrained by a seat belt in a car making a sudden stop. Realizing the rig was still hanging below the boat, I started back up the port side and discovered the intact cap shroud stretched taunt between the chain plate and the dark surface of the ocean. The wire cut easily. Our mast, two year old standing rigging, two year old genoa, one year old whisker pole, and 8 month old mainsail were now drifting to the bottom, 75.1’ below.

At some point in the following 24 hours I realized the blind luck of missing the port side cap shroud on my initial pass. If I had cut the shroud on my way to the bow, then the entire rig would have hung from the forestay while I struggled to cut through the foil. I have no doubt the forces involved would have destroyed our bowsprit. 

Reunited in the cockpit, we melted into an embrace as tears overtook both of us. We were numb, sacred, sad, uncertain, weary... listing the mix of emotions washing over us is an impossible task. Standing together in the cockpit we shared feelings of relief that neither of us were seriously injured. 

What next? To our alarm the bilge pump ran once while I was cutting the rig free, but it now remained silent. Fortunately, at this time the engine and rudder appeared unaffected. Lacking an antenna, our primary VHF was out of service. Anne’s efforts to communicate with the handheld VHF proved fruitless. Our cockpit mounted GPS has an internal antenna and was continuing to function properly. Oddly, the depth sounder simply flashed the depth of the site of the dismasting. Lacking sails to reduce the effect of the seas, C’est la Vie rolled uncomfortably. Necessity required we set our emotions and discomfort aside. Anne began to steer a course for the Cape Fear River Inlet. I went below to rewire the VHF to the am/fm antenna mounted astern on the wind generator pole.

motoring towards Cape Fear River Inlet with the rig gone.
Part 1
Part 3
Afterward & Lessons

Dis-masted - Part 1

In an attempt to wait out the weather and make one final offshore push up to Beaufort, NC we spent July 2 & 3 in Charleston.  On the 4th of July we sailed close hauled across a busy Charleston Harbor and re-entered the ICW at Sullivan’s Island. 

4th of July traffic off our stern in Charleston Harbor
The south east winds allowed us to sail the majority of the skinny, marsh grass lined waterway along Bulls Bay and into the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge.  I recall the day seemed to stretch on a bit long as we fought against a flooding tide for the final couple hours.  We had no idea that it may be our last full day of sailing aboard C’est la Vie.

Initially the 5th went according to plan.  In an effort to take full advantage of the ebbing tide through Winyah Bay, we awoke at dark thirty and were underway as the hazy sun crept above the marsh grass.  A fresh southeast wind greeted us as we entered Winyah Bay.  Once in the bay we raised the main sail.  Motor sailing close hauled on the ebbing tide C’est la Vie bounded towards the ocean at 7.5 knots.  On two bells, we overtook a couple outbound tugs straining to keep their barge in the channel.  Fortunately the depths allowed us plenty of room to slip the commercial traffic before the channel narrowed as the mainland fell away.  Once clear of land the well-marked channel is hemmed on both sides by long rock jetties that occasionally rise above the water’s the surface.  Our 09:10 log book entry notes we put R”4” astern and set a course of 75⁰.  Close hauled under a full main & genny we were making 5 knots. According to our GPS, 13H39m of sailing would place us off the east end of Frying Pan Shoals. 

Offshore, we quickly realized that passing rain showers were confusing the local winds and seas.  Our hopes of sailing the entire final 160NM back to Beaufort faded as the winds increased and backed to the east.  According to the log book at 09:30, only 20 minutes out of the Winyah Bay inlet we restarted the motor.  With the engine now assisting with propulsion, we were able to sail our rhumb line.  Shortly after engaging the engine we put one reef in the main and reduced the genoa to approximately 60%.

Within an hour, the squall passed off our stern.  The winds clocked back south a few degrees.  Local windborne whitecaps rode atop a 3 to 5 foot easterly swell making sea state confused.  C’est la Vie handled the conditions well.  Under the reefed main, reduced head sail, and 1800 rpm on the engine she was making over 6 knots with her leeward rub rail skimming the water.  We set up the electric auto pilot and let it take over the well balanced helm.

Our morning watches were irregular, but by noon we agreed on a cycle of two hour watches.  Anne took the 12:00 to 14:00 watch and I settled into the leeward side of the cockpit for a nap.  I awoke nearly two hours later.  Rousing from my nap, I made a scan of the boat and surroundings.  Another squall was building to the east and the winds were again pushing 20 knots.  Realizing we were now well ahead of schedule and would likely arrive at Beaufort Inlet on ebbing tide, we further reduced the head sail to approximately 40%.  Prior to beginning my watch, I made a log book entry...

33⁰23.947’N  78⁰35.717’W – 7/5/13 @ 14:01 – 38.8NM to Frying Pan Shoals – ETE 6H44m on a course of 76⁰ - Speed 6.2 kts – winds approx 18 knots SE – “Couple of showers to east over Gulf Stream. Motor sailing close hauled on lumpy seas.”

We were both in the cockpit, Anne facing forward and I facing aft when the rigging failed.  Alarmed by a sharp snap and Anne screams, I spun around in time to see the folded mast and white sails entering the water on our leeward (port) side.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Passing on Two Bells!

We encountered the early morning Defuskee Ferry just after departing the anchorage.  In a southern draw distorted by the VHF the ferry captain requested we pass on “two bells”.  Uncertain of the Captain’s intentions we slowed and let the ferry initiate the pass.   The ferry made an obvious turn to the east and placed us on it’s starboard side.  Like a couple on the dance floor we followed the lead and shifted slightly to the west.  And thus we passed starboard to starboard or on two bells.  Despite being tested on these rules for my captain’s license, when, Anne, asked me to explain sound signals for passing vessels, I was unable confidently provide an answer. Guess it is time for a refresher…

I pulled our copy of One Minute Guide To Nautical Rules of the Road off the bookshelf and read aloud the chapter on sound signals while Anne steered.
For meeting on in-shore waters –One bell signals an intention to pass port side to port side.  Two bells signal an intention to pass starboard to starboard.
When one vessel overtakes another vessel on in-shore waters – One bell signals that the overtaking vessels intends to pass the stand on (slower) vessel on the port side and two bells signals a starboard pass.

In international waters the wording of the rules is a bit different.  At this point Anne gave up simply listening to me read aloud.  I took over the helm as she set about creating paper boat models and figuring out this whole one bell, two bell system. 

 When confused on the sound signals, I’ll now refer to Anne as my resource. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Taste the Water!

“Taste the water!” My immediate reply to Anne’s excited cries of, “the bilge pump is running, the cabin sole is wet, the bilge is full of water!”

While focused on setting anchor in Cooper River before the next thunderstorm washed over us, Anne and I both heard the sound.  Anne described it as the splat from a bag of pasta falling to the floor.  I thought it was a paperback book striking flat on the cabin sole.  I went below to search out the origin of the sound, but my hasty scan yielded no culprit.  We both returned our attention to the dark bruise of a thunderstorm blotting out an ever growing portion of the southern sky.

Agreeing on a spot mid channel in 11 feet of dark brown tannic water, we fell into our well-rehearsed roles for anchoring C’est la Vie.  Anne took the helm and I went forward.  Everything seemed normal… anchor slipped off the deck, under my hands the windlass fed out chain, Anne reversed the boat to set the hook,  Anne silences the engine and begins recording the data on our days travels, I rig the anchor bridle.  The routine derailed when Anne informed me the bilge pump cycled on.  Typically C’est la Vie is a very dry boat and the bilge pump rarely runs.  After a nearly a week of on and off rains, I figured some water had found its way inside and wandered on down to the bilge.  I do not recall my exact words, but I’m sure the sentiment was, “Thanks for the update on the bilge pump it is nothing to worry about.”

Anne slipped below and began to discover other oddities.  The bilge pump continued to run.  The cabin sole was wet.  She lifted a floor board and found standing water.  “Taste the water!” was my urgent reply to her alarmed cry for assistance.

For those unfamiliar with life aboard a boat… when living in/on a floating object there are two distinctly different types of flooding.   One: the gut wrenching, find the source or the boat will sink type of flooding where the hull is breached below the water line.  In this scenario salt water will continue to fill the boat until the hole is found and patched or the boat sinks.  Second:  Much less traumatic is the bummer we just lost our drinking, cooking, bathing fresh water due to a plumbing failure.   The fastest method of discerning the type of leak is… to taste the water.

My hand darted into the bilge and back to my mouth.  Fresh.  Whew, I tasted fresh water.  I rushed forward into a locker under the vee berth and closed the valve just downstream of the freshwater tank.  Unless the tank itself had failed this would stop additional water from leaking into the bilge.

Anne cleaning the bilges after the flood.
Anne followed the water up until she discovered warm water in the locker under the port side settee seats.  Warm water, port side my detective, plumber brain sifted the facts.  Donning a head lamp I scurried over the counter top to inspect the hot water heater.  Here I discovered the proverbial smoking gun.  The source of the leak and the unidentified noise heard on approach to the anchorage – the outlet hose on the hot water heater failed.  Anne focused on the cleanup, while I repaired the plumbing.   Within an hour the cabin returned to normal and our pressure water system was back on line.  Based on our estimates we lost 10 to 12 gallons of water.  Fortunately we carry an additional 10 gallons in jerry cans.  This isolated reserve water proven it value on multiple occasions.

This episode reinforced two best practices on board:  First, don’t’ put all your eggs in one basket.  Always carry additional potable water separate from the primary tank.  Second, turn off the vessel’s pressure water system if everyone departs the boat.  If we had not been on the boat to turn off the breaker for the fresh water pump, then the system would have pumped the entire contents of fresh water tank into the bilge.

Oh, and that thunderstorm looming to the south? It dissipated over Savannah providing us with only a brief shower. 

All is well that ends well.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

ICW Northbound Through Georgia

A low pressure trough building over the southeast is forecast to pull moisture up from the tropics over the next week resulting in heavy rains and thunderstorms.  The NOAA is predicting the need to post Small Craft Warnings for coastal waters from Georgia to the North Carolina Outerbanks.   We depart Fernandina Beach mid morning on June 27th resign to the reality that we will be hemmed into the Intracoastal Waterway  (ICW)for the next leg of our Journey.
The Georgia and Southern South Carolina portion of the ICW is infamous for its meandering path, its shoaling, and it’s 8 foot tides that oscillate on 6 hour cycles generating currents that frequently exceed 2 knots .  C’est la Vie’s 3’8” draft is a real benefit when traveling these waters.   At low tide we frequently pass over areas that would result a grounding if we drew 5+ feet. 

Meeting a shrimping trawler in the Georgia ICW
 Masts or outriggers from other vessels dance to and fro across the grassy horizon.  The serpentine channel obfuscates the distance of oncoming or overtaking vessels until their hulls are in sight across the water.  Meeting other vessels in the narrow curves can be intimidating.  

Showers across the Georgia low country
This stretch of the ICW bears a subtle beauty.   Vast, uninterrupted vistas where water, grass, and sky interact and entertain slip past.

Grey morning on the Vernon River, Georgia
Narrow creeks lined with verdant grasses link vast sounds with shoals that stretch on for miles into the ocean. 

Thunderstorm passing off our bow
Four days of motor sailing between and through storm cells and we put Georgia astern.

Anne at the helm with her morning coffee.
The forecast continues to call for torrential rains and frequent thunderstorms with Small Craft Advisories from Hatteras to St Augustine.   Still we push slowly northward and tomorrow we begin the South Carolina section of the ICW.

Bacon veggie burger. That's OK right?

Last night after picking up some tofu from the local Piggly Wiggly I was struck that it is nearly July fourth. I needed to be grilling something!

The Pig inspired me to get the veggie burgers out of the freezer and onto the grill. I had cooked up some turkey bacon a few days ago and thought yum. Also at the pig I picked up some pimento cheese. Being in Savannah Georgia I was tempted to try the locally made pimento cheese. I couldn't do it. It was too crazy with sun dried tomatoes and diced green chilies. I chose my favorite palmetto cheese made in South Carolina. Jeff chose pepper jack for his cheese burger. (Yes more pimento for me!)

Of course we didn't have buns so English muffins would be the sub. I toasted them on the grill along with the burgers remembering this time to spray the burgers with Pam so they wouldn't stick.

At the last moment  I got a wild hair and decided to grill the bacon. You know to warm it up give it a good sizzle? Ha! It flamed up within seconds and was on fire. I just closed the lid turned off the grill and watched the flames licking out of the top vents. Note to self don't grill turkey bacon for more than 3 seconds! It might have worked out OK if I had turned off the grill and then placed the bacon on the hot grill.  That stuff could be used as wonderful kindling.

I made a broccoli slaw. Using a bag of shredded veggies some Newman's own Caesar dressing some mustard mayo and white wine vinegar and some cracked pepper and salt as the dressing. I would add cabbage next time to round out the flavor of the broccoli. It was a very filling summer dinner.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Salmon on the grill

Wow, I have found a great way to cook the salmon I have on our grill. I purchased, I think at the grocery store Harris Teeter in Mooresville, NC, some cedar planks (Fire & Flavor). There are four to a package and if I were at home I can see how these could be reused. We don't have that much fresh water to be scrubbing and I don't know if I could stand the smokey smell in the cabin of the sailboat. I might forget and think the engine is running hot! 

At any rate the directions say to soak them for an hour prior to putting them on a grill that is 375°-400°. Bud Lovett gave us an infrared red thermometer so we used that to tell what the temp was on the grill. Then you heat the planks for 3 minutes and add the fish skin side down to the hot plank. Oh the smell is wonderful and it imparts such a great flavor to the fish. The back of the package had a recipe for salmon so I tried it. Perfect!

For each piece of fish smear on some mustard about 1/2 tsp each. Your choice I had brown grain but the recipe called for dijon. On top of this sprinkle brown sugar about 1/2 Tbsp each. Then sprinkle on some dried rosemary. Not a lot just a few leaves. Crack some pepper and dash of salt. You are done no mixing and just the measuring spoons to clean up! After the planks preheat on the grill I suggest turning the grill to low and cooking for 8 minutes with the lid on. Dress the fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon. If you don't have lemon its OK use lime or none at all. You are done. I did not turn down the grill and the planks caught fire and the fish was slightly crispy on the edges. Not bad but could have been better. I did have to throw the burning planks overboard. I did not soak them long enough if I had followed the directions I might have been able to reuse them. The directions also said I should have put both fillets on one plank. Learning all the time! 

So if you see cedar planks in your grocery store or online pick some up. They are great and a natural way to add flavor to grilled veggies fish chicken...whatever you might try! If you have used these things before let me know how you used them. I like it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Passage Back To The States

Our plan… From Great Sale Cay travel across the Little Bahamas Bank.  At its northwestern edge the banks end abruptly along an underwater cliff where the depths plunge from 15 feet to over 1000 feet.  At this point we will enter the North Atlantic Ocean.  Continuing northwest we will cross through the eastern wall of the Gulf Stream.  Due to converging currents and rapid changes in depths we anticipate our time spent between the banks and the Gulf Stream will be the most turbulent waters encountered on this passage.  Seasonally the Gulf Stream meanders and spins massive eddies of confused currents off its eastern side.  How will we know when we enter the Gulf Stream?  Its warm waters flow northward at 2+ knots along the east coast of Florida.  By monitoring the water temperature and our speed over ground we should note an increase in temperature and speed once in the Stream.   Personal energy levels, sea state, and weather conditions will then dictate where we plot our landfall.  We estimate Cape Canaveral to be a 24 to 36 hour passage and Charleston to be a 60 to 72 hour passage.

07:15 June 24th: We depart Great Sale Cay with the rising sun.  As forecasted the 14 to 16 knot southeast breeze place us on a broad reach. 

Midday June 24th:  Dodging sand bores off Grand Cay force us into a series of gibes and made Anne frustrated with steering.  Sea state growing choppy as winds increase to near 18 knots.  

Approximately 16:00 June 24th: Banks now astern.  The seas grew confused as the 3 foot chop from local winds on the banks met the 5 to 6 foot easterly swell in the ocean.  Displeased with motion and our present forward speed,  we set a course for St. Mary’s River– 223NM at 336⁰ ETE 39H47m.

Approximately 02:00 June 25th :  On a bouncy broad reach still shy of reaching the Gulf Stream.  Our current stats to St. Mary’s River– 183NM at 335⁰ ETE 36H11m.   Reality Check: Between 17:00 on the 24th and 02:00 on the 25th Our progress slowed as the winds diminished and clocked around to a more south southeasterly direction the sea state grew confused.  In 7 hours of sailing our ETE diminished  3.5 hours – frustrating.
Sometime just after our 02:00 log entry we encounter our third large commercial vessel.  The earlier two passed easily off our stern.  The vessel now closing appears to be holding a constant bearing off our bow.  With no way to know the name of the vessel for hailing purposes and unsure if they are aware of our presence we fall 90⁰ off our rhum line and sail northeast to ensure we do not cross off the bow of the  closing ship.  On a parallel, reciprocal course we pass within 1/2NM.  Wondering if they were ever aware of our tiny boat and pleased to put the encounter astern we return to our original heading.
04:00 June 25th:  Found the Gulf Stream and making 7.5 knots.  The sea state is a mellow 3 foot easterly ocean swell and winds were favorable for altering course for Charleston, SC.  New stats for landfall at Charleston – 246NM at 004⁰ ETE 33H34m.

10:30 June 25th:   Becalmed.  Growing weary from alternating 2 hour watches that really only provide for hour long cat naps.  We give up on a Charleston landfall and opt for a worst case scenario of 19 hours of motoring to St. Mary’s River.  10:37 we started the engine and altered course.  Our stats  – 133NM at 325⁰ ETE for St. Mary’s River 19H26m.

Midday June 25th:  Our spirits buoy as the day continues.  Thanks to the Gulf Stream our speed over ground is averaging around 8.5 knots .  We are now north of Cape Canaveral.  Otto, the electric autopilot, is managing the helm.   We each win one game of backgammon over lunch.  Occasionally spotting large sea turtles sunning on the surface. 

23:49 June 25th:  Finally picking up some breeze from the NE we roll out the genoa.  Beginning to lose Gulf Stream Current as we approach Florida Coast.  Depth now 425’ and speed reduced to 6 knots over ground.  Stats – 34.3NM to St Mary’s River at 325⁰ ETE 5H38M

Sunrise June 26th: Now weaving through commercial shrimp trawlers working area around St. Mary’s River Inlet.  Have visual on channel markers and paper mills in Fernandina Beach.  Motorsailed with Otto at the helm through the night. Winds continue to build and are now SW at 14 knots.  Thunderstorms are visible in the distance to the east. 

07:10 June 26th:  Tied up to dock at Fernandina Harbor Marina.  Plan to call in and clear customs when they open later this morning.  Stats for passage – 303NM in 47H55m. Average speed 6.3 knots with a max speed of 9.9 knots.  Ran engine for 21H25m.

Approx 9:10 June 26th:  Using Local Boater Option (LBO) we cleared customs & immigration via a simple phone call.  Thanks LBO it is now time to rest.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Great Sale Cay

Approximately 30NM west of Allens-Pensacola across the Little Bahamas Banks lies the uninhabited Great Sale Cay.   Great Sales protected “West Harbor” and position relative to West End, the Lower Abacos, and the Gulf Stream make it a popular spot for traveling vessels seeking an evening’s rest.

The day’s 12 to 18 knot east southeast winds kept us on a lumpy broad reach until we turned into the lee of Little Sale Cay.  The conditions provided a great opportunity to become more familiar with our whisker pole system.

View from the cockpit of C'est la Vie's Whisker Pole
 The Forespar Pole was a gift from Anne’s father.  Paul from Omar Sails installed the mast mounted track and deployment system last summer. Today is the first time we were able to utilize the system over a long period of time.  It certainly made life on the tiller easier as the sail retained its shape on a deep broad run despite 2 foot chop and our wandering about on the helm.

The mast view of C'est la Vie's deployed whisker pole
We still need to work out the finer points of deployment and trim, but hopefully the future will hold plenty of time for practice.

We arrived at Sale Cay’s “Western Harbor” around 16:00.  Knowing that early tomorrow we would lift our anchor from Bahamian waters for the final time on this trip we took some time to play in the 90 degree, pale blue waters.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Preparing for the Return Trip to the States

We spent a single night, June 21, at the Bluff House Marina, Green Turtle Cay.  Dockage at a marina allowed us to complete preparations for our passage back to the States – filling the water tanks, using the internet to check weather forecasts, laundry, showers, etc.  We last visited the Bluff House Marina in fall of 2010 and were impressed by the facilities and the low prices.  The facilities remain clean and in good repair, but the cost has gone up… dockage has gone from $1/foot to $2/foot and they no longer have a “dining for dockage” program.  In the past all the money spent in the restaurants & bars was deducted from the dockage fees.  We took full advantage of this deal on our last visit.

The weather is looking good for us to sail back to the States early next week.  To position ourselves for a jump across the Gulf Stream, we need to head northwest along the Abaco Islands.  Black Sound’s shallow bar necessitated transit  prior to the late morning low tide.   We departed the Bluff House mid-morning with threating squalls to the south and east.
The squalls caught us just off Manjack Cay.

On the helm in the rain.

Limited visibility and lightening were the greatest threats from these cells.  I was on the helm when the first wave of grey, rain swallowed us.  Once wet I remained on the helm while Anne stayed below assisting with navigation and counting off the time between the flash and bang in an effort to gauge the proximity of the lightening.

 We danced in and around squalls through the middle of the day.   By the time we sighted our destination – Allens Pensacola Cay the skies were clearing.  Likely due to the foul weather many vessels occupied the anchorage.  In busy anchorages C’est la Vie’s shallow draft often allows us to sneak inside the outer lines of deep draft vessels.  This played to our advantage today and we were able to find a spot less than 100 meters off the beach.

 The day’s squalls now west of our position provided for a colorful sunset.