Author Archives: Shane Dennis

Nassau

N 25 04.50
W 77 18.77

Left Bimini yesterday just before lunch in light conditions. Nice beam reach to Triangle Rocks then east across the bank. Wind died early in the afternoon and we motored in calm conditions across the bank to the Northwest channel. Went passed the Northwest Channel light just before midnight and continued motored at about 5kts into light headwinds to Nassau. Beautiful clear starry night in good company (Alice Mae, Cay Pariaso and Solas.). Arrived about 0930 and staying one night at Nassau Harbor Club Marina before heading to the Exumas tomorrow.

Bimini

N 25 43.39′
W 79 17.86′

Got into Bimini after a beautiful overnight sail from Marathon at midday today. Winds were on the beam most of the trip, up to 20kts from the northwest, dying down from midnight to dawn then piping up again at dawn to about 15kts from the west. Apparently you can comfortably cross the gulf stream in breeze with a northerly component we were not expecting it but made the most of it. I think our angle from Marathon made it possible. We the current gave a 1-3 knot boost most of the passage. It was a good trip in the good company of Alice Mae, Solas and Cay Paraiso. Will wait out the next front here before moving onto Nassau.

Cay Paraiso and Solas as we leave Marathon.

Cay Paraiso and Solas as we leave Marathon.

 

Sun setting over the Atlantic.

Sun setting over the Atlantic.

It was a nice moonlit passage.

It was a nice moonlit passage.

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Shane retires the US courtesy flag as we leave USA territorial waters.

Shane retires the US courtesy flag as we leave USA territorial waters.

A yellow "quarantine" flag is flown until we've cleared customs.

A yellow “quarantine” flag is flown until we’ve cleared customs.

All cleared in and flying the Bahamian flag.

All cleared in and flying the Bahamian flag.

Marathon

N 24 42.332′
W 81 5.727′

Left Rodriguez Key at dawn as the winds built from the ENE. Nice  run to Marathon, initially under full sail and then ending the sail under a single reefed main. We chased down an English boat at the beginning of the day and then it pulled ahead of us and we reduced sail and were unable to maintain good sail shape dead down wind. The English boat poled out their genoa and was able to maintain good sail shape in the rolly conditions. The English boat is moored next to us in the Marathon mooring field and I hope to go and beg a look at their set up today. Arrived in Marathon around four and are now settled on ball T8.

 

Rodriguez Key

N 25 2.456′
W 80 27.387′

Left No Name Harbor to the Hawk Channel via the Biscayne Channel. There were a few heavy rain showers as we left so we waited until they cleared before transiting the Biscayne Channel. As we sailed down the Hawk Channel the rain cleared and we enjoyed a beautiful broad reach down to Rodriguez Key, arriving around sunset. We anchored on the south of the island. There was little protection from the ENE  breeze, but the anchorage is protected by an outer reef so it was not too rough.

Skinny Water

N 25 40.591′

W 80 09.753′

Note to self: avoid Coconut Grove Sailing Club during “bird season”. Within a few days of arriving in Miami our boat was covered in purple dyed bird poop and seeds. Apparently at this time of the year migrating birds eat a local fruit and then digest while sitting in the safety of the sailboat rigging at Coconut Groove Sailing club.  The purple color poop stains decks and is difficult to remove with water. Local boaters try everything to keep the birds off (Mark assured me CDs are the most effective method). We saw the writing on the wall and rather than spending two weeks battling with the birds we moved to a mooring ball in the Dinner Key mooring field.

Mooring ball #147 is way out there.  No birds but it is almost a mile from the dinghy dock and unprotected from the chop that builds during predominantly easterly breezes of December.  There are many better places to anchor in Miami but since Mary was to be gone to Australia for most off our stay we favored the security of a well maintained mooring ball. During the ten days we stayed on the mooring ball Frankie and I primarily took a shuttle bat that runs every hour between the mooring field and the land form 8am to 5pm. If the weather was relatively calm we took a wet dinghy ride.

Mary arrived back from Australia late on Friday night. A 15-20kt north easterly breeze was blowing through the mooring field so we slept over night at a picnic table before taking the shuttle back out to our mooring ball. Mary slept all day Saturday and until mid-morning on Sunday.

We were so eager to leave the remote mooring ball by Sunday morning that I decided to take a shortcut through Biscayne Bay to Cesear Creek where the chart showed a channel with enough water to carry us through to the Hawk Channel. The Hawk Channel is a stretch of relatively protected water along the east side Florida Keys protected by a barrier reef.

As we traveled south through the skinny water of Biscayne Bay I started to doubt the decision.  We were the only deep draft vessel travelling along the route and the only other sailboats we saw were shallow draft catamarans. We arrived at Cesear Creak at the perfect time,  high tide, and felt like we were in good shape to cross from Biscayne Bay into the deep channel of Cesar Creek. We circled a little and talked about the best way to approach the creek (umm… rocky entrance or mud-sand entrance… mud-sand…) and then promptly ran aground twice. Not willing to risk a third attempt we headed back to Miami and anchored on the west side of Key Biscayne.

This morning we moved to the No Name Harbor, a perfectly protected harbor in Key Biscayne just northwest of Cape Florida. We plan to stay here until Ruby and Darla join us on Saturday before heading down the Hawk Channel to Key Largo.

Two Brave Fins

Two Brave Fins, Jukka and Paul, joined us for the wet and miserable sail from Lake Worth to Miami.

Jukka is a constant traveller, born in Finland, citizen of Finland and Canada and US permanent resident. Jukka had been dreaming about cruising on a sailboat for 30 years.

Paul is a third generation, 100% Finnish, Yooper (from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). He most recently worked as a electrical troubleshooter for Australian mining giant BHP.

Jukka seem to love every minute of our miserable sail from Lake Worth to Miami, while Paul, I am sure was thinking “Oh lordy, next time Jukka says let’s go sailing with a crazy Australian-Minnesota family I’m gonna make myself invisible quick. Ja, you betcha.”

It was not until after we arrived in Miami Paul confessed in the olden days Fins were not allowed on sailing ships because it was thought they brought bad luck. Now we know who to blame for the miserable conditions! :)

What the old sailors must not have know is that Fins are brave and good company. We loved having them along!

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Miami, FL

N25 43.556 W80 14.279

Left Lake Worth at sunset and proceeded about two miles offshore.

We found ourselves in a 2.5 kt north setting current in with a 10kt northerly creatin steep seas. Moved back to within 0.5 miles off shore and plotted a new route, 0.5 to 1 miles offshore staying in 30-80 feet of water. Seas moderated significantly, but rain pesisted for the remainder of the trip.

Motored till midnight as north east seas overwhelmed light northerly winds then sailed on a pleasant beam reach until the wind died. Were well ahead of schedule and nearing the Port of Miami when the wind picked up again so sailed under double reefed main with engine idle until we reached the ship anchorage a around 05:30.  Waited for sunrise  and the last of the flood untio 07:30 when we passed through Governer’s cut in perfectly calm conditions.

Now on a mooring ball at Coconut Grove Sailing Club.

New Anchor

On a cruising sailboat, a good anchor set can make the difference between a sleepless, stressful night and a good nights sleep. Lately we have been having some sleepless nights. If the anchor drags or the worse – fails – the boat could easily drift into another boat, or worse end up on the shore. Needless to say, anchors are one of the most important pieces of equipment on a cruising sailboat.

Up until the 1990′s the available anchors tended to work better on one surface or another. If a sailor planned to travel outside their home range, they usually needed to carry two or three anchors to suit the conditions they expected to encounter. Sea Change II came with a  Bruce and CQR on the dual bow rollers and the Delta hung off the stern.

We used the Delta the first time we used the boat when the engine quit and we found ourselves without power in a narrow channel heading straight towards a luxury motor yacht. We dropped it off the stern and it stopped the boat in it’s tracks. The Delta is a good, light weight easy to store anchor but it has the reputation of being more prone to mechanical failure than some of the other anchors.

The CQR was a good anchor on sandy, hard and weedy bottoms of Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  However, we have found the CQR hard to set (sometimes it takes two or three tries before it sets). We also have found it less than reliable in situations where the wind or tide reverses during the night. In these cases, the anchor needs to pivot up to  180 degrees and then reset itself. For this reason we have only used it occasionally on the US east coast where we are commonly anchored in tidal areas.

Our Bruce anchor excels on the muddy bottoms on which we found ourselves anchored most of the time along the US east coast. We love it. It has held us in 40 knot sustained winds, and through tidal changes in swift currents. It seldom dragged and was always there for us. However, since arriving in South Florida we have found it harder to set and hold. The reason for this is that has a tendency to skip along the harder surfaces on which we now find ourselves anchored.

Both the CQR and Bruce anchors were premium anchors when Sea Change II took her her voyages in the 1990′s. Since then some new all round anchors have been released. These anchors are especially good at setting and resetting themselves. Some include roll bars to prevent the anchor lying on it’s side.

Today we purchased a state-of-the-art Manson Supreme anchor. Our new Manson Supreme has a self righting roll bar and a reputation for fast setting/resetting. We are going to retire our CQR and… if we can get them both to fit snugly… keep both the Manson and the Bruce on the bow. The Bruce works better on soft bottoms than the Manson.

We are hoping for more restful nights!

Palm Beach, FL

N26 50.296 W80 3.323

Last day on the ICW. Left the anchorage around 9am and rode the tide to the St Lucie inlet. Our luck seemed to stay with us most of the day, catching all bridges on time for opening. Enjoyed the company of Canadian boat “Kind of Magic”.

Towards the end of the day the engine ran irregularly and we stalled right before the last bridge. Managed to nurse the boat into the anchorage where we replaced the primary fuel filter on arrival. Also took the opportunity to clean the raw water filter and tighten the packing nut.

Now anchored in North Lake Worth in Palm Beach, FL. We hope to meet our friend Jukka in Saturday then sail to Fort Lauterdale on Sunday.