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Fish for Christmas

My life in Bimini is all about fish. On Christmas eve I took my Hawaiian sling and went out to get myself some Christmas fish!

Bimini Crossing and pictures

A friend from Montreal hoped on my boat while I was in Virginia Key. I was anchored in front of the Marine Stadium. If you ever have to anchor near Miami, you should know that the view of the city of Miami from the Virginia Key bay is unbelievable.

In the morning we sailed from Virginia Key to the end of Key Biscayne. We anchored at No Name Harbor. It’s a National Park with an anchorage and a lot of services. It’s also an easy walk to the most expensive grocery store in the US.

I had chosen to move to Key Biscayne since it was 10 miles south. I knew that starting further south helped cross the Gulf Stream.

The Gulf Stream is a strong current that goes north. It’s caused by the warm water escaping the Gulf of Mexico and goes all around the Atlantic. The 2.5 knot current can make you miss your target and make you turn back in what must be a very miserable experience. In a slow sailboat it’s necessary to aim 30 to 40 degrees south of your destination to counteract the current.

We left at 4 in the morning. I navigated the shallow waters that led to the Atlantic with the help of my GPS and Anne Louise who used a flash light to spot unlit buoys.

Once on the Atlantic, the wind was light but it pushed us for a while.

At first, I did not mind the light wind since the last thing you want when you cross to Bimini is a storm. The island is 53 miles away. A lot can happen during a crossing and not much help is available. Eventually though, the west wind diminished and I had to use the engine as well as the sails to fight the Gulf Stream.

I dragged a lure. It was a pink and blue thing with a large hook. I bought it because I was told that trolling in the Gulf Stream was part of the experience. Sure enough, I got a mahi mahi as soon as the color of the water changed, indicating the beginning of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream water is blue, almost mauve. I later caught a larger mahi and a skip jack about 30 miles from Miami.

By the time we passed the midway point the wind was too light to keep the sail open and the seas were confused: waves came from all directions. I eventually took the main-sheet down because it swung dangerously and the boom threatened to wreck my stays. I kept the Genoa out to limit the rocking of the boat. We ended up motoring most of the way.

I got to Bimini at low tide. The entrance looked like rapids and the channel was really shallow. Fortunately my GPS had a magenta line to keep me away from the shoals. A few times I saw the sand pattern but I never hit the bottom.

I pulled in Brown’s Marina. The very one that Ernest Hemingway used. Life was grand.

Motoring to Miami

On the 17th I took my new manifold for a ride to Virginia Key. Since the wind was wrong for a sea passage I motored all the way to Miami. Motoring the intracoastal at 5 mph is as much fun as being stuck in traffic with gastric cramps. To make matters worse, the canal between Fort Lauderdale and Miami has a zillion bridges. Most of the bridges opened without too much fuss except for one. The man in charge at the 79th street bridge simply ignored me. I had heard of bridge attendants sometimes being a bit strange and refusing to open if they were not hailed in time or in a certain fashion, but I had honed my bridge etiquette going through all those previous bridges. I turned and I turned and it’s only when another boat showed up and asked that he finally opened. I worried he would close on my boat as I passed but he waited.

The manifold saga, a story of strange helpful hot tub people and automotive stores

After the manifold blew I was a bit low, but at least I knew what I had to do! I headed directly to Mc Donald’s and ordered cheeseburgers.

I needed to undo the manifold parts. The manifold was merely an assemblage of galvanized pipes much like the ones you would find at an hardware store instead of a molded proprietary piece of hardware I would have had to order. I’m sure that there are pipe and pipes but I knew that high Nickel pipes or copper would cost a fortune. Fortunately the ones I held in my hands were neither, so I decided to repair with the same low quality pipes.

Before I could put new part in, I had to unscrew the rusted pieces of broken pipes. I knew I needed a vice, pipe wrenches and a torch. The sort of heavy handed approach required could not be done on a boat, so I looked for a workshop. The first I came upon was hot tub shop. There were old car parts and whatnot lying around. The place was a something between an oddity museum and a junkyard. The owner had dyed hair that looked a bit orange but when you got to talk to him you really understood how eccentric the man truly was. He was also really intelligent, a quick study, and helpful as hell. In the yard there were two guys getting hammered on light beer while working on tubs who were almost too keen to help. They had the vice, they wanted to help and they even told me where to get the parts. McDonald hardware was straight across the street and he really had everything for my project and boating in general for that matter.

It took a lot of violence to undo the parts and a lot of bleeding was involved, mostly the yard guy’s blood. Once the parts were put together I felt like a maverick mechanical genius. The high lasted until I got to the boat. Once installed, the parts worked perfectly. Maybe I am a mechanic superhero! Perhaps I’ll get a cape.

Pouf!

This morning I sailed out of Lake Sylvia and headed to Virginia Key. Well, I sailed out of Lake Sylvia alright. I merely entered  the chanel when I saw the smoke coming from my floor! I thought: OMG this is it! The boat is on fire or the engine bought it!

I opened the engine hatch and smoke came out. I heard vapor venting out of something. I stopped the engine and anchored outside the channel, at the intersection of the intracostal and New River.  Somehow I managed to anchor out of the way. I called SeaTow and started working on my engine.

I found the problem really fast. The nice thing about old diesel engines is that problems are often obvious. I had to take some insulation off and there it was, a disconnected pipe! The pipe corroded through it’s threads.

I was able to disassemble everything before the tow boat arrived. Somehow the fitting had not welded themselves to the engine. He got me back to Lake Sylvia and gave me a few tips. SeaTow is in my good book now.

burst pipe

burst pipe

Rene Potvin

 

Slowly sinking in Fort Lauderdale.

Drip drip drip, and drip again. That’s the water getting into my bilge at the rate of half a gallon per hour. It’s coming in through the drive shaft. The packing gland, it’s a fancy name for a very crude sealing system, has to be repacked. I’ve never done anything like that, who has? The nice part is that water is going to rush in while I’m going to take the packing out. Well, that’s only if I ever get the locking nut to move. The part I need to disassemble is one green block of oxidized metal. Up to now, all my efforts were vain.

I wanted to get this done since there was a window of OK weather to cross to the Bahamas on Monday. I didn’t know if it’s better to sink here or in the Bahamas but they seemed to have more boat yards in Fort Lauderdale. Since I’m living on the boat the leak is not that much of a concern. The bilge pump takes the water out every few hours and as long as I have battery power and a working pump I should stay afloat.

Anchoring in Boca Raton

If I mention Boca Raton, you may be thinking about trophy wives, prostitutes, assorted gold diggers, and of men in their 50s and 70s spending money in a last attempt to look interesting before they get sick and die. Sure you’ll see men parading in ridiculous cars and superlative boats, but for me Boca Raton is a nice little lake right next to an inlet.

In Boca Raton my schedule was dictated by the tides. I could head to sea at any time but to paddle my kayak back into the inlet, I needed the incoming tide. I learned this through experience. The first time I went Spearfishing, I came back into the inlet just as the current started flowing out. The Ocean swell transformed into rolling waves as it met the outgoing current. The rollers almost sank me, lesson learned.

The Spearfishing was not great but I could get pan fish to share with my fellow cruisers. The unrelenting east winds reduced the visibility, but even if the water had cleared up it still would not have been a spearfishing paradise since the inlet’s dirty water output had destroyed all bottom life in front and north of the entrance. The street drain in Boca Raton have signs confirming that they drain directly into the waterway.

While I was in town, I had the privilege of seeing the Intracoastal Christmas parade!

Cruisers, a bit like the motor home crowd, have strange customs. One of them is the Christmas parade on the Intracoastal.

In the morning, I had a new neighbor anchored close to the waterway. When I came back to my boat he had about 9 friends tied to him. They were so close to my boat that I worried that we may bang into each other.

In the evening, I paddled to them and they invited me onboard to watch the parade. It was only fair since they were blocking my view. I was properly fed and boozed up, merry Xmas!

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