Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Back under way!

We are anchored in the New River Sound in Fort Lauderdale, just north of the Las Olas Marina (map). This is the same place we stopped on our way into town, and if there is room, it is a convenient staging spot to time arrival or departure in Fort Lauderdale.

This morning was something of a scramble to get ready. I ended up chipping a bunch of rust in the tiller flat bilge yesterday (more on that in a moment) and this morning, after the phosphoric acid dried overnight, I had to paint the area that I treated. After buttoning up the tiller flat, we moved the scooters across the river to the fueling dock, and then got the boat ready for departure.

I kept having to chase this guy off the dinghy when we had it in the water.

The scooter move was necessitated by the fact that there was no way to load them in our slip; we had offloaded them in a different slip when we arrived. We had to stop at the fueling dock to pump out, anyway, so that made it easy. By 10:30 we had the boat ready to go and we cruised downriver to the fueling dock to load and pump out.

Around 11:30 we dropped lines downtown for the last time on this visit and cruised here. We could have made another dozen or so miles north up the ICW if we wanted to, but we wanted one last dinner at Coconuts (which was perfect), and we still had a number of cleanup items we needed to take care of before getting too far down the road.

This ketch got wedged under the rail bridge during our stay, snapping its mizzen mast and sending a crewman aloft into the water (and the hospital).

Among those was the work in the tiller flat. One of the projects that has been languishing on my list has been to repack the rudder stuffing box, which has leaked more or less since day one, when we repacked it at Deltaville Boatyard over five years ago. It was leaking, in fact, when we bought the boat.

With a good delivery address in Fort Lauderdale I ordered new packing. Tired of the leakage, I ordered the fancy graphite-impregnated, PTFE packing that can be tightened down until there are no drips. And last week I started the messy task of re-packing, which involves removing all the old packing and thus letting a whole bunch of water into the boat.

We went out in the tender to check it out. They finally got it unstuck by partially lowering the bridge, breaking more of the (already totaled) mast.

The old packing was done. It was hard and dirty and not sealing, and the grease around the lantern ring was also hard. I pre-cut four rings of the new packing and got to work. Of course, before I even got as far as the lantern ring, the packing extractor, which resembles a miniature corkscrew on the end of a stiff wire, fell apart. I needed to use needle-nose pliers to get the broken corkscrew out of the stuffing box, and then spend an hour on a Worst Marine run to get a replacement tool.

After I got the lantern ring out and what I thought were the last two rings of packing removed, I knew I was in trouble, because I didn't think there were any more rings. The drawing I had been looking at suggested there were four rings, but, in fact, there were six. I only had enough new material for five. Drat. And here I was, down to the last ring, with water coming in at a steady pace.

This charter sailboat, Daffy, also clipped the RR bridge on its way downriver. Since they had passengers on board, they had to stop to make a report; FLPD sent a boat. This is right across from us.

I ordered enough for one more ring on Amazon Prime, with a Monday delivery, and I finished as much of the job as I could, putting one of the old rings back in on the top to get it all tightened down. My plan had been to clean the water and rust out of the bilge when I finished, but without being able to fully grease and tighten the new packing, I put that off to Monday as well.

Thus it happened that it was late in the day Monday when I finally got the packing completed and the bilge rinsed out. And that's when I found it: a very large, very thick blister in the epoxy paint in the bilge. That can mean only one thing: water under the coating. By this time it was dark and too late to start on the repair.

A serious bit of rust. This is after scraping and before sanding. You are looking down at the bottom of the hull; upper right is the rudder log. Pipe at bottom center is part of a bilge pump system.

Yesterday morning I scraped and chipped all the old paint and rust out. At one point the rust was so deep I was worried I might go right through the hull. When I was done chipping I sounded the area and it's not dire, but at next haul-out we will have to audio-gauge that part of the hull. The great thing about steel is that if there is a problem revealed by the audio-gauge, it's a simple matter of cutting out the bad spot and welding some new plating in.

While I was out doing some final provisioning, by which I mean buying a case of brown ale that's hard to find elsewhere, I picked up an abrasive brush for my drill, and by dinner time I had four separate areas cleaned, abraded, and coated with phosphoric acid. That's how I ended up applying paint first thing this morning.

I fueled my scooter at this gas dispenser, which I could barely read because there is a Windows error box on the screen. I once worked for a company that was developing this technology, and this was one of our (and our customers, the gas stations) biggest fears.

Today was our final day of our three-month contract, so even with the last-minute repairs we made it out without having to pay for any additional nights. Tonight is our last in Fort Lauderdale; tomorrow we will continue north toward Palm Beach. The seas outside are not great, so we will do the slog through the bridges and go up the inside.

It's been a productive and comfortable three months in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the replacement of the damper plate, which I described in my last post, and the rudder packing described above, I also completed a number of boat projects, starting with updating (and upgrading) our offshore liferaft.

While Louise was out of town I took her sewing machine in for a tune-up. This was the "line." I texted her this photo and the technician's initial thoughts and she told me not to bother.

The raft has been out of date for a year, and one of the checklist items for Fort Lauderdale was to have it serviced. But shortly before arriving I saw an ad on Facebook for a brand new 8-person raft (ours was a six-person model) that someone was selling. It came pre-installed on a new boat, and they wanted a different brand. Given that our raft was a decade old and the last service set us back over a boat unit, the swap was a no-brainer. A few months had already passed on the new raft's certificate, but I got it at a good price, and was able to sell our old raft for a good price as well. When all was said and done, it cost us perhaps an extra $300 over the cost of a service to get a much newer raft with a higher capacity.

I also installed the VHF radio into the new tender, and got it hooked up to the GPS. This project necessitated buying a fuse block for the tender and installing it in the battery box, so now we have separate connections and fuses for the bilge pump, the lights and GPS, the VHF, the 12v outlet, and the solar panel. The last thing I have left to do on the tender is to get the solar panel more securely mounted.

Charter boat Anticipation 4, with a huge party under way on deck, after she lost propulsion and smacked into several boats across the river from us. If you look closely you can see a sailboat mast behind her. She had to be towed out.

I replaced a good deal of the sound insulation in the generator enclosure, which warrants a post all its own that is forthcoming.  And I knocked off numerous little repair items that have been accumulating, like replacing the soap dispensers in the galley that had become badly corroded, and re-securing loose trim in a number of places.

One of the larger fix-it items was replacing the helm chair. The very nice Todd chair that came with the boat had a good size crack in the base when we got it, and daily use made it worse. The crack was in a structural part of the base and so the chair was "loose" and rocked a bit fore-and-aft. I reinforced it a number of times, first with luan and later with HDPE, but it's time had come. A direct replacement from Todd was right around $1,000 (there's a reason that's known as a boat unit) through marine discounters. Used take-outs at marine salvage yards are not much less.

New helm seat. I have since removed the seat belt buckle.

I ended up buying an automotive seat, a second-row take-out from a Chrysler mini-van. The seat was new, taken out of a brand new vehicle by a van converter, and cost me $180, including shipping. I was able to modify it to bolt up to the old Todd seat base. It's 90% as comfortable, more adjustable, takes up less room, and folds up when not in use to make the pilothouse a bit more open. I gave the old Todd away to another boater who wanted to repair it.

I finished upgrading the exterior lights on my scooter, a project that has languished for a full year. And, of course, I also had to do a bunch of work on the Genuine Buddy that we got to replace Louise's stolen scoot, including replacing the trunk and adding some front running lights. Both bikes got new LED tail light flashers for safety.

On one of my stag evenings I visited the very nice county library. I thought this was a Calder, but it's a local artist inspired by him.

We had quite a few visits with friends during our stay. Steve and Harriett were in town twice, wrapping up the sale of their home here. Steve and Barb aboard Maerin docked next to us for a week. Louise's college chum Harris and his wife Linda came down from Boca for a visit. We met Nina and Don aboard s/v Enjoy at our first slip, and I had dinner with Karl and Natalie who sold me the life raft. We met up with Bruce and Dorsey of m/v Esmeralde for dinner at Coconuts as they stopped at Bahia Mar on their way north.  Curtis and Gill joined me for a beer after helping me move the boat to the pumpout, and Gill spent another afternoon with Louise shopping for eyeglasses online. And I caught up with fellow Stanford alum Jeff Merrill at the Miami Boat Show.

Speaking of the boat show, I ran down there on the Bright Line, making my second round trip on that train. It was smaller than last year and a number of vendors I wanted to see were missing, such as Naiad. But I did make a number of important contacts and it was a pleasant day out. I was amused to see that half the tour boats from Fort Lauderdale were down in Miami serving as water taxis for the show; the river was quiet here for a few days.

The library had an actual moon rock on display.

On the medical front there were routine visits to the dentist and the eye doctor, an annual physical, and a trip to the audiologist. We're both in excellent physical health and are good for another year now on routine visits.

When Steve and Barb were in town, Steve came over to help me diagnose a breaker-tripping problem with one of our air conditioners. (It turned out to be a bad capacitor, which I have since replaced). I was envious of his nice, soft-side tool case and how it could be carried around without fear of damaging the boat, and so I ended up ordering myself a nice tool "backpack" and replacing the Bell Telephone Lineman's Tool Case that I have been using for 35 years. I was very attached to my Western Electric case, but it was a bad fit for the boat, with lots of hard metal edges, and I am happy with my new case.

My old tool case, of which I was quite fond. It's for sale now, a collector's item.

That prompted a review of all tools and cases aboard, and I also ended up buying rolls for my wrenches and soft cases for the wrenches and sockets, as well as the oversized tools in the engine room. The tools all take up a bit more space now but they are better organized, more protected, and easier to move around the boat.

We got a huge number of things off the boat, and I sold lots of stuff on eBay, including a pair of gold cufflinks, my old lineman's "butt set," a wristwatch, and old chartplotter, two GPS antennas, two computers, three cell phones, a cordless drill, and the remainder of my collection of railroad keys. And, inexplicably, two 5/32 Allen keys that came with IBM mainframes and had the IBM logo on them, as well as three DEC PDP keys. I have no excuse for why I still had that junk. A lot of stuff, including the old hardsided tool boxes and some hand tools, went right to Goodwill.

The sightseeing boat Carrie-B is docked just a few slips down from us, and every week she gets a load of cruise ship passengers who arrive by bus. This one reminded us of the many tours we've taken on Princess cruises.

We each got smart watches while we were here; a FitBit Versa (me) and an Amazfit Bip (Louise). I tried them both; honestly the Bip is a better value and I like the always-visible display, but I went with the Versa because the screens were easier to see. I'm missing fewer messages now.

Louise went to California twice during our stay. Frankly, one of the key reasons Fort Lauderdale won out over Key West for our three-month stop was that flying anywhere when you are in KW is a colossal pain, or expensive, or both. Fort Lauderdale has a convenient airport (it's a $2, 20-minute bus ride from downtown) with several non-stops to the west coast.

When Louise was out of town I generally availed myself of happy hour fare at the numerous restaurants along Las Olas Boulevard, sitting at the bar. One of the best happy hours was also one of the closest, at the Riverside Hotel just a few blocks from the boat. We went back for that one a few times together, since it was available at the sidewalk tables as well as the bar itself.

Man spa.

I also signed up for a three-month "spa" membership at the nearby barber-shop-cum-massage-joint. The place was called Mankind, but we always called it Mansplainin, and the membership deal made the massage price competitive. I never had my hair cut there; too expensive. The only way to describe this place is as a man-cave for hire. It had a bar (complimentary with service), a billiards table, a humidor, and a Harley hanging from the ceiling, in addition to barber chairs. They did nails, too, but all services were for men only.

I/we took in a number of festivals and events, including Mardis Gras (pretty understated), Pride, St. Patricks Day, and a number of charity events in the park. The river supplied its own entertainment, with a ketch getting itself wedged under the railroad bridge, a giant tour boat having an engine failure and hitting five boats across the river from us, and a person escaping sheriff's custody jumping in the river and trying to swim away. This on top of the daily comings, goings, bridge drama, and sometimes near misses of the endless parade of tour boats, megayachts under tow, water taxis, and credit-card captains in rental boats and center consoles. And the floating tiki bar.

Escaped prisoner trying to swim away. Deputies ashore kept eyes on him until the marine patrol arrived.

The list of restaurants we visited is nearly endless, but the highlights are that we could easily walk to almost any cuisine right along Las Olas. Mostly we sat outside at sidewalk tables, with nearly perfect al fresco weather every evening. Cafe Europa, an Italian place, quickly became our favorite, but we also enjoyed the aforementioned hotel, the Red Door asian and hibachi, American Social, Luigi's Tuscan Grill, and the bar at Morton's steakhouse, among many others.

BofA lit for Pride. It was usually a solid color, but different every night.

In the morning we will weigh anchor and head north. I'm sure I have a bit more to update on our stay in Fort Lauderdale, which I will work in as we go along.


  1. It sounds like six months crammed into three! I love reading your blog; it reminds me that we aren't the only couple out there that have "projects"! I will be interested to read where the water is going to take you next.

  2. Sean, I've been toying around with getting a Fitbit Versa! You mentioning you purchased one sealed the deal. I ordered one today! Thanks!


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