Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Here We Go Again!

April 28 - 29, 2012
On a mooring at Sunset Bay Marina, Stuart Florida

Welcome aboard to those of you who have vicariously cruised along with us on our other adventures and to those who may be trying out the lifestyle for the first time.  My writing style will be the same as always: telling it like it is, good or bad.  Of course some of the information is “slanted” from my viewpoint and if you ask the guys for their version it may be a little different since they don't always want the “truth” to be told.  I take no shame in admitting, that despite all the thousands of miles we have under our keel, we still manage to do some really stupid things and get ourselves in trouble or a state of misery.  We are lucky that our lovely vessel, FLUKE, is mostly very forgiving.

Sunset Bay Marina mooring field
Sunset Bay Marina mooring field

I am writing this from up in the pilothouse, with the fumes from the forward bilge area (a.k.a. The Sewer) wafting up the stairs, kind of burning my eyes.  The guys are down there working on one of our newest problems.  If you remember from past adventures, I always feign needing to do other projects when it comes to having to do anything in The Sewer.  In this case, I mentioned that I thought it would be a good day to do some dessert baking after I work on the blog for a while.  Any kind of food production is usually a good ticket to get me out of Sewer work.

I'm also hoping for a rain shower to get the boat wet so I can go out and wipe off some of the salt deposits left over from our ill-fated attempt to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas yesterday.  The fact that we are in a marina should give you an idea that all may not be well with the Flukesters.  In fact, I just heard Wayne asking Eddie what all the green stuff was on the floor of the machinery space (the compartment aft of The Sewer), so it sounds like there may be another issue added to the Work List. Now I'll back up and tell our newest story from the beginning.

We were working steadily to leave the Vero Beach Municipal Marina dock in time to catch a nice 4-day weather window for crossing that would end yesterday (Saturday). 

The first thing that happened was discovering that our home air conditioner with a 19-year-old compressor wouldn't cool (should we be surprised?!).  Of course waiting until a week before we wanted to leave to turn it on for the first time since last October wasn't the most brilliant of moves.  Finding out the problem on a Friday didn't help get it taken care of any sooner either.  We were lucky to have a new compressor and air handler installed by Wednesday afternoon.  At least we would have a few days to see if the new installation was hooked up well enough not to burn down the house.

While the guys had done some extensive patch work on the dinghy after the first of the year, they had never bothered to actually launch it off the trailer and give it a wide open test run out in the river.  They had started it up and ran it in a bucket and felt that was “good enough”.  I will remind you that last year we had not taken this big dinghy to Canada with us, meaning that the dinghy had not been used since August 2010.  Duh, is that REALLY important?

So, when the dinghy got launched into the river on Thursday to be run over to FLUKE to get loaded up, it had a dead battery.  Fortunately, a nearby helpful boater towed the guys from the launch ramp over to FLUKE's dock.  After getting a new battery installed, Eddie took it out for its “final” test run.  He came sputtering back to the dock on only 2 cylinders.  Preliminary inspections indicated that a Honda mechanic was needed to fully solve the problem.

While Wayne was dealing with the mechanic, Eddie and I were supposed to take FLUKE over to the fuel dock to get diesel fuel.  The engine hesitated to start upon turning the ignition key.  It has never done that before; the Caterpillar engine is born to run.  So, we figured we must have a small leak in the fuel line that was letting in air.  We did get to the fuel dock and back though with the idea of discovering the problem later.

The Honda mechanic discovered two problems with the dinghy engine:  some bad spark plugs and fouled carburetors.  When he went to adjust one of the new carburetors, he broke one of the needles and had to spend several hours acquiring another one. 

On late Friday afternoon, the guys took out the dinghy again for its new “final” test run.  The engine seemed to run fine, but there was an intermittent beeping sound and warning lights came on that indicated low oil pressure or overheating, but we knew they weren't really an issue.  While the beeping did stop, the warning lights wouldn't go off.  Another call to the mechanic and some telephone diagnostic advice seemed to indicate a sensor issue, rather than mechanical problems. 

So, the FLUKESTERS loaded the dinghy up and set out at 5:40 p.m. (our cut-off time had been 5:30 p.m.) to head to the Ft. Pierce inlet with the intention of anchoring for the night and getting up at 4:00 a.m. to head out to sea.  We knew if we couldn't leave the next morning we would not be able to try to cross for a minimum of 5 more days because of a new weather system moving in.

The Ft Pierce port anchorage
The Ft Pierce port anchorage

By 8:00 p.m. we had safely anchored in the “scenic” area of the commercial port's turning basin near a couple of rusty scow barges.  There were a lot of lights and noise coming from a small island freighter being loaded.  I put in my earplugs so I could try to get some sleep.

We awoke as scheduled on Saturday morning and headed toward sea.  Since there was some wind out of the east and the tide was going out, the water in the area at the mouth of the inlet was pretty bumpy and FLUKE was hobby horsing into the waves.  Visitor managed to throw up before we even cleared the inlet.

While the waves were only running 2-3' high for the most part,  we were going straight into them, bouncing quite a bit, and it looked like it would be that way for the whole day.  The bilge pump light in the forward bilge (The Sewer) kept coming on and wouldn't go off.  So, Wayne had to go done there regularly to make sure it would go off and not burn itself out.  Plus, he discovered that the check valve that is supposed to work one-way only, to let the bilge pump pump the water out and keep the sea water out, was failing.  When the FLUKE's bow plunged into the sea below the level of the through hull for the bilge pump, sea water would flow back through the hose and into the bilge.  Going down below like that can make you pretty green, so Wayne wasn't feeling very well after about the 6th trip below.

When we were about 15 miles offshore (2 hours out), Eddie threw up too.  I would love to post a pic, but not only would Eddie not speak to me the rest of the voyage, I would regret what payback might lay in store for me at some future date.  Since I was at the helm and could guess that the guys would pretty much be down for the count the rest of the day, and I didn't feel like getting slammed for the whole day, I turned FLUKE around and headed back toward the inlet.

The relief was immediate as we were taking the seas on the stern, and FLUKE rides very well getting her BIG bottom pushed from the stern.  All our spirits were uplifted, and we all wanted something to eat (funny how that works).  Plus, we didn't need to feel any shame in our aborted crossing attempt because the hoards of weekend day boaters and people fishing on the jetties would just assume that we had crossed over from the Bahamas during the night.   They wouldn't know that we were just a bunch of sea weenies high tailing it back to calmer waters.

Then, we all felt good enough to get into an argument about where we should go until conditions were right for us to make another crossing attempt.  Wayne wanted to go back to Vero Beach because we would have a vehicle available to get around.  I remarked that we didn't need a vehicle because we already had everything we needed to make the trip and it would involve traveling 4 hours in the wrong direction.  Eddie and I outvoted Wayne to go to Stuart since we hadn't been there in a number of years, and we wanted to see what Sunset Bay Marina looked like since it had undergone extensive renovations.  Plus, even though it is about an hour from the ICW, we could use it as an intermediate stop before moving down to Lake Worth inlet when the weather improves and stage ourselves for a more favorable crossing angle than what we would have had going out of Ft. Pierce.

So, now while you don't know the whole story, you know why I'm writing this from Stuart.  Next post I'll tell you about how the Sewer project ended up, the mysterious green stuff, and how Eddie put out the fire.  My life is NEVER boring!


  1. Happy travels guys. Be safe. Enjoy!

  2. Anonymous7:48 AM

    Wow, sounds like a rough start. Hopefully there will be smoother sailing ahead. What's the itinerary?


  3. "BABE"8:40 AM

    Hi Guys-So excited to wake up & find a "FLUKE" blog. Sorry to hear about the rough start, good luck & may better days be in store. Safe travels!! Nancy&Mike

  4. Glenn & Vickie9:09 AM

    I always enjoy reading about your "adventures." Can't wait for part two! In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful weather. Happy travels.

  5. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Sooo glad that you're back!

    Lov'in it.

    Thanks for sharing,