Friday, April 1, 2016

Escape from Fort Lauderdale

We are anchored in one of our old standbys, the South Hollywood Lake in Hollywood, Florida (map). This notwithstanding my last post, wherein I reported we would be at Lauderdale Marine Center this week getting work done. I would that this were just an April Fool's prank, but, in fact, shortly after that post the yard allowed that they could not actually start work this week, and we'd have to wait till next week to even get started.

We talked it over for all of five minutes before deciding that the yards in Fort Lauderdale were simply not interested in our tiny little vessel, and paying some of the highest yard rates in the country to get the dregs of their attention made little sense. I canceled our reservations at Lauderdale Marine, and we decided to defer all the work to a later stop, perhaps somewhere on the gulf coast.

Even though some of the paint touchup is getting to the critical stage, I think we both felt a huge burden being lifted once we made that decision, a week ago today. Trying to line up all the ducks had become a huge chore and we felt like we were swimming upstream. Thus relieved, for the time being, of such worries, we had a nice dinner out and turned our attention to moving along.

In addition to getting the scooters back on the ground to run errands, which will now wait to some later stop, there were two other things we had wanted to do in Fort Lauderdale while we were in the yard, and with the yard visit canceled we had to make other arrangements. One of those was getting the watermaker membrane replaced -- we happen to like the Spectra dealer in Fort Lauderdale. The other was taking on fuel, which is cheaper here than almost anywhere else in the state.

JT-the-Spectra-guy was available to see us Wednesday morning, and the fuel truck was available to meet us Tuesday or Wednesday. Absent the yard stay, we'd have to arrange a dock where the truck could meet us, the two easiest options being Billy's Stone Crab right here in Hollywood, as we did last time, or back at the New River city docks. The surcharge at Billy's would be $50, but for another twenty bucks we could just spend the night at the city docks, so that's what we did.

Sunset over the city docks and the 3rd Avenue lift bridge.

Tuesday morning we weighed anchor and steamed back up the New River, stopping at the fueling berth. The truck arrived a half hour later and we took on 500 gallons at $1.66 per gallon, which I think is the least we've ever paid for diesel on either the boat or the bus. I would have taken twice that much, but even the 3,500 pounds shifts our trim as far aft as is comfortable. We now have our "full" complement of about 1,300 gallons aboard.

Normally I run the fueling nozzle; our fill is a bit tricky, with a right-angle turn just below deck level that can have fuel backing up and running onto the deck if you're not careful. This time the fuel driver insisted on doing it, and he did not heed my instructions when we got close to the top of the belly tank. I watched in horror as a geyser of fuel shot back up from the fill and ran all over our deck.

All three of us scrambled to get sorbents onto the mess quickly. We carry an enormous roll of fuel sorbent, and we probably used $20 worth, along with a few squares from the truck. This stuff is nothing short of magic -- it absorbs petroleum products but not a drop of water -- and after a few minutes of wiping sorbents around we had most of the fuel off the deck. Getting diesel residue out of non-skid is a challenge, and I later spent a half hour on deck in a rain storm with a scrub brush and a bottle of Dawn. New rule: no one but me is allowed to fuel the boat.

We spent an extra half hour at the fueling berth dealing with the aftermath of Dr. Diesel before moving upriver to our assigned slip, more or less directly across the river from where we were a week earlier (map). From the south bank it's a shorter walk to the Publix grocery store and also the Brooklyn Water Bagel joint, where we had breakfast the next morning.

Vector at the city docks.

Our friend Steve met us on the dock shortly after we tied up, and took us to a Fort Lauderdale institution, Ernie's BBQ, for lunch, followed by a stop at a local marine supply where he has a discount account. I used my last spare generator impeller last week when the genny quit running one night (and why, why does the impeller always crap out at the 10pm run, rather than the 8am run?) and I picked up five new ones, which at the rate our generator eats impellers, should last us about a year.

I like to say that all of my problems are what we here call "first world yacht problems," this one included, but anyone watching us sip cocktails on the aft deck with the sun setting over the ten million dollar homes needs to factor in the hidden cost of the lifestyle. That comes in the form of sitting in your skivvies at 11pm in a hot engine room, draining coolant and pulling little bits of shredded impeller out of the heat exchanger. Going to bed and dealing with it in the morning is not an option, unless you want to wake up to ruined batteries and a fridge full of spoiled food.

Wednesday morning after our excursion to the bagel joint and the grocery store, JT met us at the dock with a new watermaker membrane and a sack of tools. He spent two hours aboard, and as always, we learned a great deal about this particularly complex piece of equipment. For one, we learned that our Clark pump is in better shape than we thought -- I had figured a rebuild was nigh. We also learned that our existing membrane was probably not as bad as we had thought, either, and that, instead, the helm readout of GPH was under-reporting. Given it was several years old, we opted to change the membrane out anyway, and we should be good now for another several years. JT also adjusted the helm readout.

The old membrane. Not cheap at $280, but water in the islands is 50 cents a gallon, making this look like a bargain.

With the extra four free days in Fort Lauderdale, between our decision Friday and our fuel appointment Tuesday, we enjoyed the beachfront promenade, an easy dinghy ride from our anchorage, and sampled several of the restaurants there, including the eclectic Casablanca and the new rum-themed place, Burlock Coast, in the very tony Ritz-Carlton hotel. I also got several projects done around the boat, including the unscheduled impeller replacement.

One of those projects was to resolve our sewage discharge issue; I'll spare you the gory details other than to say that it involved disassembling the discharge line at a couple of places and blasting 120psi compressed air through the system to clear any possible obstructions. I think it's working now, but we won't know for sure until we test it, outside the 3-mile limit. The other big project was to start rebuilding the leaking main engine raw water pump, replaced by a spare a year ago. I got most of it apart, but am now stymied by a pair of bearings that need to be pressed out -- I tried drifting them out to no avail. I'll need to find a shop with a press.

47mm bearings (and shaft) I am having trouble removing from another water pump.

After wrapping up the watermaker maintenance and topping up our fresh water tanks, we dropped lines at the city docks Wednesday afternoon and came here. We could easily have continued on another several miles, but this anchorage offers dinghy access to a Walmart -- one of the errands we missed when we canceled our yard visit -- and a nice beach Broadwalk that is more casual and less frenetic than Fort Lauderdale's just a few miles north.

We made our Walmart run yesterday morning, uncharacteristically filling a shopping cart, which made for a crowded dinghy on the return trip. And after two evenings out on Hollywood Beach we'd have been ready to weigh anchor this morning and continue south, except for the fact that my computer went haywire yesterday and I lost a whole day to sorting it out.

I'm still not sure what's wrong, but the battery is intermittently losing charge (while plugged in), sometimes to the point where everything shuts down. I spent yesterday opening it up and poking at things and even slicing and dicing the power cord to little avail; I'm pretty sure it's the power circuit on the motherboard. Now I'm trying to nail down a location in Miami where I can have a replacement sent before it quits on me completely; at the moment it seems to be working.

This anchorage can be brutal on the weekends, as it's a big watersports area. So tomorrow morning we'll weigh anchor and continue south, probably just a few miles to the Sunny Isles neighborhood of Miami Beach. I have fond memories from my childhood there, and after passing it several times now I'd like to stop and visit. In a couple of days we'll be in Miami Beach proper, where the Anchoring Wars are just heating up. We'll see how it goes.


  1. YMMV but I have an absolute rule that we must be the largest boat in the yard. If they're accustomed to writing invoices for mega yachts (as Platypus was on our first haulout) then I can be certain we won't agree. If they're used to 30 or 40 foot sport fishers then we're probably going to get along just fine.

    1. I hear you Bob, and I would agree, *but*...

      If we are the biggest boat in the yard, then odds are that every other boat there is fiberglass. And likely the yard has either never seen or else has rarely seen a steel hull, aluminum house yacht. (By contrast, almost all large luxury yachts are steel hull, aluminum house). So when it comes to paint, which is what we've been looking for, I don't want a yard that has only (or almost-only) fiberglass boat experience -- I want a yard that knows steel inside and out. BTDT, and we were not happy with the results. In fact, absolutely the best paint work we've ever had was in a yard where we were literally the smallest boat, by a large margin.

      It's an unfortunate conundrum and one of the prices we pay for having a steel boat. If I need systems or engine work, I can go to any yard, but for paint I need either a megayacht yard or a workboat yard.

  2. There's lots of work boats with really good paint. The fireboat in fro t of us right now for example. The whole pleasure yacht support industry is one massive scam.

  3. Sean,
    I know you are aware of them but Depco pump in Clearwater could easily solve both your pump problems. Something is wrong with that generator pump if it is eating impellers at the rate you describe. Probably wear on the pump cam or excessive delta pressure. After watching Depco rebuild my pump I wouldn't consider any other option. I'm a Mechanical PE but these guys are real experts an very good to deal with. You get what you pay for with them. I too tried the DIY route on my pump but ended up at Depco after realizing that possibly destroying the pump shaft with a bush fix was counter productive. Just my $.02
    Good luck with both if you choose a different path, unless you enjoy spending time in your underwear in a hot engine room.
    Cruise to St. Pete and visit Depco while you're here enjoying our beautiful city.
    Capt Kirk

    1. Thanks. Depco is my backup option if I can't fix it myself. The generator impellers may well be simply due to age... we literally just used the last of many impellers that were sitting on the boat when we bought it. No telling how old they were; possibly as much as ten years.

      We're in St. Pete now and I will be dropping by Harbor Freight for a bearing puller to get the last of the parts off the old one. I'm going to try to have it all together before we hit Clearwater in case I need Depco's help.


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