Wednesday, February 7, 2018

We didn't get far ...

We are at a familiar and comfortable spot, anchored in South Lake, Hollywood, Florida (map). We've been here since shortly after leaving the boatyard Monday afternoon. Our plan was to anchor here for a night or two while we recuperated from the yard work, and maybe make some progress on the communication and insurance fronts. Alas, that was not to be.

Monday morning was a whirlwind of activity. I ran around the yard settling up bills, collecting the last of our mail, and signing out of the marina. Louise rode over to the vet to get the cat's paperwork signed, and then picked up some last minute groceries. We loaded the scoots, offloaded the last of our trash, and cast off our lines right at the noon checkout time.

The trip back down the New River, fortuitously at slack, was mostly uneventful, although we did have to pull over and wait for three giant yachts, each with a pair of towboats, making their way upriver. We made it back to the ICW and turned south, through Port Everglades and three drawbridges, to this spot, the first usable anchorage southbound from the New River.

We passed an old friend along the ICW, Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. We had a lovely holiday cruise with her when we still lived aboard Odyssey.

We like this anchorage because it's protected and quiet, yet quite easy to get ashore right at the beach boardwalk, with a couple dozen restaurants, a small market, and access to public transportation. It has become a favorite stop of ours, and more so now that anchoring in Fort Lauderdale proper is difficult.

Soon after setting the hook, I tackled the first of two projects on the plate for this anchorage, which was opening the seacock for the washdown pump on the foredeck, necessary before using the anchor washdown, which we'd need to do as we weigh anchor to leave. This was the last seacock on the boat still unopened after the sandblasting, which required us to close them all.

All the other seacocks are in the engine room or tiller flat. They are not exactly easy to access, as most are under sole plates which first must be lifted out of the way, and they tend to be hard to reach and difficult to turn. I have to use my pry bar to move some of them (and, BTW, my good Gorilla pry bar was also stolen at Lauderdale Marine, right off our aft deck, so I had to buy a replacement). Almost all the other seacocks are also stainless steel, with the exception of two in the tiller flat that are above the resting waterline.

I had opened all of those seacocks before we splashed, with the exception of the macerator discharge, which had to wait until we were in the water. Among other things, the engine can't be started without three of the seacocks open, and as long as I had the soles up I opened them all.

The seacock for the washdown pump, however, is in the forward stateroom, AKA the quilt studio, underneath the berth, near the bow thruster. Access requires moving most of the quilting supplies, sewing machine, table, and several other items out of the room, lifting the mattress off the bed, then climbing four feet down into the thruster bay, which is perennially filthy from graphite "brush dust." We did this to close it in the first place, but then put everything back, and we opted not to move it again until we needed to.

Big mistake, and, in hindsight, I should have opened that valve while we were still on the hard. The valve had been stuck open to begin with, which often happens due to marine growth, and I had to clean it out with a screwdriver and squirt some lube into it from the outside to get it to close.

I'm not sure why it then stuck in the closed position, but when I went to open it Monday afternoon, the valve handle snapped off in my hand. Fortunately, the valve was still closed and nothing started leaking, so I was not jumping overboard with a dive mask and a wooden plug. But here we are, with a seacock stuck closed and no way to use the anchor washdown.


This is not, of course, a crisis. Nothing is leaking and all the critical systems on the boat are working. But we did not want to face the prospect of six months of anchoring in the Caribbean with no washdown, and so I immediately set to work on how to get the valve replaced.

Seacocks can often be changed while still in the water. You push a plug into the through-hull from outside the boat, unscrew the valve from inside, screw a new one on, and then pull the plug and hope it does not leak. And if this seacock was metal that's what I would do. But we added this through-hull to the boat in the yard in 2013, and we could not weld easily in this section of the hull. Neither could we use the traditional bronze through-hull and seacock because it would cause galvanic corrosion of the steel hull. So we opted to use one made of a fiber-reinforced plastic material called Marelon.

If the valve was installed correctly, this should not be a problem. Marelon is exceedingly strong. But if the installer slipped up and got any super-adhesive sealant (3M 5200) on the threads when he installed it, there is a good chance it won't come off without breaking something. And if that happens with the boat in the water, we have a big problem. Reluctantly, we decided to bite the bullet and haul out for the replacement.

I spent all day Tuesday calling yards from here to Miami to see if anyone could do a "short haul" -- a haulout for an hour or two while the valve is replaced without leaving the lift slings. With the Miami show right around the corner, many yards were too booked to fit us in. Three yards told us they would not haul steel boats -- a new one on us. And two yards said they do not permit work of any kind while in the slings.

Lauderdale Marine Center would do it, but we really did not want to go all the way back up the New River. Plus our nasty thief is still there, and we'd likely have to take a night of dockage on one side or the other (or both) of the haulout. Ultimately, we found a yard just a few miles away, on the Dania Cutoff Canal, that could haul us out for a couple of hours this morning, so long as we supplied the part but paid their mechanic to do the work. Fine.

Our story, however, does not end there. You may recall one of the items of unfinished business is to secure insurance coverage in the Caribbean. We started this process in early January, before our Geico policy renewal was due. Our agent took all the details and promised to follow-up with Geico underwriting about extending our limits of navigation.

The policy renewal date came and went (we are on auto-renewal) with no answer. Finally, after three full weeks, our agent told us Geico would not cover us. We use an agency that sells multiple lines and prides itself on covering yachts worldwide, so we simply asked them to source a policy from a different underwriter. They agreed and again we waited.

So Tuesday, after I was done making seemingly 400 phone calls about the busted seacock and I was comfortable we had that problem well in hand, I poked the agent again about getting insurance. And only then does she inform me that, sorry, we can't talk to any other underwriters because you don't have a current survey.

I just about lost it, for the second time in as many weeks. A full survey requires the boat to be out of the water so the surveyor can inspect the hull. The time to tell me we needed this was two weeks ago, when we were still on the hard. It would have been a cake walk then. We could even have had a surveyor out while the bottom was bare steel. Suffice it to say, we will not be giving this agency any further business.

Switching our business to another agency will also require a full survey. Since a survey will be necessary no matter what we do unless we want to go no further than the Bahamas, we again will bite the bullet and get it done, post haste.

Reluctantly I called the yard back to postpone the haulout. Mind you, I had already given them the song and dance about wanting to keep moving, leaving Fort Lauderdale, etc. in order to line it up for this morning in the first place, and now I was waving it off. I explained the insurance issue and they were very understanding.

With what little was left of yesterday, and most of today, I made another 400 phone calls to try to find a surveyor on short notice. This involved lots of back and forth with the yard and the mechanic, because in order to do it all in a single short haul, everyone needs to be available in the same two-hour window.

The end result is that we have both a surveyor and a mechanic lined up tomorrow morning, and the lift operator will try to work us in sometime around 10ish. If all goes well, we'll be done with both by the end of the day, and we'll come right back here and stay through the weekend. We still need that break.

The second project on my plate here went off without a hitch, to wit, testing the watermaker after the recent repairs. I did not want to test it while still at the marina, because there are often hydrocarbons in the water from spilled fuel, solvents, and whatnot, and hydrocarbons are deadly to osmotic membranes. The water here in the lake is clean enough for testing purposes, and I am happy to report the unit is now producing more water than we've ever seen from it before. That's likely a combination of our pump having been marginal for some time, and the fact that the replacement pump is actually rated at a slightly higher capacity. We're very happy with the result.

Monday evening we consoled ourselves with comfort food at Sapore de Mare, an Italian joint we like right on the boardwalk. And last night we opted to dine at one of the nice places on the ICW, GiGi's, which has its own dock. Tonight's activity was a round trip on Lyft to the West Marine back in Fort Lauderdale, the closest place to get a replacement valve. We ate on the boardwalk when we returned, at Sugar Reef, which proved to be weird but tasty.

We decked the tender when we got home, and we're all set to weigh anchor in the morning for the 8am bridge opening. And I really hope the next time you hear from me, I'll be reporting on what a relaxing stay we're having someplace.


  1. Yes, these are First World Yacht problems but they still take an emotional toll on both of you. We wish you smooth motoring from here on out.

  2. Reading your blog for awhile, our relucant decision to travel for the last 12 years in an RV instead of our saiboat is feeling better. I had minimized the many additional issues that come from living on the water. Never the less, I am enjoying your travels vicariously:)


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