We are anchored at our old favorite spot in the Middle River, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (map). We arrived here after an, umm, "interesting" cruise from Biscayne Bay Sunday, and anchored at the end of a very long day a few hundred yards east of here, a bit further downriver and closer to the ICW (map). There is a "hump" between the ICW and here, and we thought we'd have better luck in a bit shallower water.
That said, on our first attempt to set the hook, we dragged considerably when I powered astern, and we brought the anchor up for another attempt. It quickly became obvious why we did not set, as there was a large rock or maybe even old concrete firmly entrenched in the anchor's flukes (Louise already posted a photo). I had to maneuver the boat to a wide spot in the river and heave to (or maybe that's lie ahull) while we scratched our heads about it. The anchor could neither be brought into the roller nor successfully deployed with the big rock stuck in it.
We thought about hooking a fluke with a spare grab hook, cleating that off on deck, and then paying out chain to essentially invert the anchor and see if we could dump the rock out that way. Ultimately what worked was to loop a U of line under a jagged edge of the rock, each of us working from opposite sides of the foredeck, and then hauling upwards to dislodge and tip the rock out. It landed back in the water with a mighty splash, thankfully missing the paint on the way down. Fortunately, there was not much current or wind to push us around while we were both on the foredeck, and we were able to finish the task without my having to run back to the helm to jockey the boat.
On the second try we got a good set, shut everything down, and enjoyed a well-deserved cold beer before a dinner of leftovers -- the rock episode put the kibosh on plans to splash the tender and run down to Coconuts. Once we were all settled in, though, we were disappointed that the WiFi signal that had worked so well where we are now was unusable at that spot, even though it is closer to the signal's origin. By this time we were done, and certainly not going to move just to get Internet, so we settled for using my cell phone.
Monday morning we splashed the tender and I ran the new-to-us used scuba regulator up to the dive shop to be serviced, with the request that they finish it before tomorrow morning so we can get under way. Getting the reg serviced was one of the reasons to get here Sunday night. In the evening we made a quick run up to the Publix for much-needed provisions, stopping at Serafina Bistro for a nice dinner along the way. It was a lovely and pleasant end to the holiday weekend.
The cruise up from Elliott Key was, for the most part, extremely pleasant, with excellent weather, fairly calm seas, and azure water in the ocean. At one point we were in 500' of water when the depth sounder started squawking that we only had seven feet; I went on the starboard deck to find a pod of dolphins swimming along with us, playing in the bow wave, and, yes, swimming under the depth transducer. They were easy to see in the crystal clear water, even at that depth, and they swim so gracefully. Vector, frankly, is not fast enough to keep them entertained very long, though. Louise managed to capture one of them on a short video.
Getting under way, however, was a bit of a challenge. After bringing in most of the anchor chain and getting the anchor off the bottom and out of the water (a process which we could actually see from start to finish for the very first time), we noticed that one of the bolts on the anchor roller had worked its way out, and there was no way to bring the anchor all the way into the roller without damage. I managed to retrieve the loose bolt from where it had lodged in the roller carriage, and we dropped the anchor back to the bottom to work the problem.
Try as I might, I could not get the bolt back in place from inside the boat -- I needed one arm on either side of the roller, with an Allen key in each hand. We don't have a bosun's chair (or, if you prefer, boatswain's chair) aboard Vector, but we have the next best thing, a "sit harness" designed for mountain climbing. Ultimately I had to hang over the forward bulwarks in the sit harness to do the work, but, once in position, it was an easy fix. We spent an extra 45 minutes in the anchorage, with the engine running the whole time in case maneuvering was required (we could not really set the anchor with the roller in that condition, either).
Once under way we had a lovely cruise north through Biscayne Bay, marveling at the sheer number of boats anchored near the sand bars around Elliott and Sand Keys. We turned east at Stiltsville (also part of Biscayne National park), heading through the Biscayne Channel at slack but very low tide. There were a couple of spots where the depth sounder registered less than eight feet of water, and in rougher conditions the danger of slamming the keel into the bottom in the surf would have us heading north to the Miami ship channel instead. We made it through without incident, however, and really enjoyed passing so close to the historic stilt structures.
Once in the ocean we set a course for a point just outside the three-mile limit about halfway between Miami and Fort Lauderdale to macerate our waste, another reason for the Sunday morning departure. That process went fine, and that should have been the end of it. That said, we'd noticed the aft head had not been flushing properly, which is common when the aft tank is full to the top; we expected the problem to go away once the tanks were empty, but it did not. Rather than immediately set course for Port Everglades inlet, we opted to continue another mile or two parallel to the three-mile line, to work on it.
After running quite a bit of clean water through it with the help of a plunger, to no avail, we got out the "big guns," an inflatable bladder affair with a water jet at the end which is Headhunter's recommended method for clearing any problems with these heads. Not wanting to use any more of our precious fresh water, we connected the hose to the salt water washdown pump, knowing we were just going to empty the tank again anyway.
All well and good, except that rather than clearing the problem, the bladder, which came with the boat and, in hindsight, was probably seven or eight years old, exploded, sending salt water everywhere. And, of course, since it was in contact with the head, it has to be considered contaminated water, too. Louise ended up spending a half hour cleaning the bathroom with antiseptic wipes while I minded the helm. And now, in addition to whatever was causing the problem originally (I am suspecting a sticking check valve), we also have numerous rubber bits from the device stuck in there. I need to extract those before they find their way into the tank, where they can damage the macerator.
At least we still have one working head on the boat, so I can deal with this as time presents itself. I am thinking that, as long as I have to take it all out and apart anyway (yuck), now might be the time to replace the head with a more reliable model. So between the anchor roller bolt, the exploding head-cleaner, and the rock-in-anchor experience, what ought to have been a very relaxing and wonderfully scenic cruise was, shall we say, somewhat more stressful than we'd like. With dolphins, which made up for a lot.
Lest it seem like we have more than our fair share of problems, monitoring the VHF over the holiday weekend puts it all in perspective for us. We heard two sinkings, several groundings, a collision, a fire, and numerous medical emergencies, including one offshore that was so serious the Coast Guard had to establish radio silence on Channel 16 for the duration, leaving hundreds of boaters with no easy way to contact marinas, fuel docks, and other resources until the silence was lifted. We also heard the USCG rebuke a number of boaters for filing false distress reports, and, as usual, we personally heard a number of skippers who clearly don't understand how to properly use their radios.
On another positive note, I was very glad to have some familiarity with the local waters here when we came back through the inlet. Sunday afternoon was a zoo here, as we expected, and, to a great extent, it was amateur hour. If I had been coming in this inlet for the first time I would have been much less relaxed, and I might even have believed that some of the locals were heading certain directions based on local knowledge, rather than bad seamanship. I only ended up giving the five-blast whistle signal once all day (approaching Stiltsville), after having to chop the throttle aggressively to avoid a go-fast on full plane (we were the stand-on vessel). Their response? They gave us a thumbs-up as they blew by. Better than a different finger, I suppose.
Yesterday was a bright spot, with one of the best service experiences I have ever had on the boat or, for that matter, on any other vehicle. That would be the stabilizer repair that Louise captured on camera in an earlier post.
I met Vic, the global manager of service for Naiad, at the Miami Boat Show in February, staffing the Naiad booth along with a couple of his regional managers (and, of course, the sales team). We had a good conversation about our stabilizers, wherein I learned, for example, that we could increase from 7.5 square foot to 9 square foot fins (the manual says 7.5 is the largest allowed for our system), and that consequences of many actions are far less dire than we've been warned, such as moving the boat with the system disengaged.
I described a noise that our starboard actuator was making that was troubling us, and Vic suggested that, since he had a tech traveling to Stuart often anyway, that he'd have them drop by and look at it. I'm sure Vic talked to no fewer than several hundred customers or prospects during the course of that show, so I was not too surprised that no tech ever showed up. Neither did I follow up, as we had our hands full with other projects.
I ran into Vic again in April at the Palm Beach show and reminded him, and he agreed to get someone over, but we left Stuart before that could happen. The noise persisted through our cruise to Miami, and, knowing Naiad HQ is right here in Fort Lauderdale, I called Vic last week to see if he could send someone out on a service call. He asked me to call him when we arrived here.
Yesterday morning I gave him a call and he agreed to meet us at the dock at Las Olas Marina, where I knew we could dock on a "day rate." That rate is 64 cents a foot and is good till 4pm, so for $35 we had a nice dock for the day. I was expecting to have to get under way for a "sea trial" of sorts, as we only hear the noise under way, but Vic fiddled with the position sensor and knew immediately what the issue was. Moving a pair of jumpers in the control box (reducing the gain in the feedback loop) was the ultimate solution, and he showed me how to move the jumpers again if need be. They are on the second of three possible settings, so I have one more notch before some other component needs to be replaced, likely the feedback pot.
All told, Vic was aboard for about an hour, plus travel, and he would not even let me buy him lunch. On a seven-year-old product, purchased by someone else and passed along to me, this was service above and beyond expectations, and I am adding Naiad to my very short list of vendors whom I trust to stand behind their products.
As long as we had the dock till 4pm (we tied up at 11:30), we decided to stay and take advantage of the good WiFi. We also put water in and used the pumpout, in the hopes that the vacuum could do what the pressure device did not (it couldn't), and also to ensure that any rubber bits from the exploded bladder that already made it into the tank were extracted rather than left to go through the macerator. After shoving off right at 4, we came back here, where we once again have at least a usable WiFi signal.
Tonight we'll have dinner with local friends Steve and Harriett, and possibly pick up the scuba regulator if it is ready. In the morning we will weigh anchor and continue north along the ICW, hoping to anchor for the night somewhere near Boynton Beach on the two-day run to West Palm. We've booked a slip for Friday in West Palm Beach, as there is someone local to there interested in buying our old inverter and fridge.