November 25th - Happy Gazpacho Soup Day!

Happy Gazpacho Soup Day!

Remember, it's served cold. (it's a "Red Dwarf" thing, if you haven't read the books or seen the TV series, you should)

Since arriving in Salt Run (St. Augustine) last week we have been treated to a daily show from a pod of dolphins. These gorgeous creatures keep coming around every day to feed, play, and mate. We've watched them catching fish and throw them in the air. They've also had a great time playing with our anchor ball. They will come right next to the boat, and when taking Cedar to shore in the dinghy they have come within 10 feet of us.

The top of our mast has become a hangout for some of the local raptors. During the day 6 eagles hunt in the area, often using our mast as a lookout point. Overnight, there is a humungeous owl that lands atop the mast and sits there hooting.

Last Friday we moved the boat closer to the beach and when the tide went out we sat high and dry on the beach. Kyle and I scrubbed the bottom of the boat cleaning off all the barnacles. They were particularly bad on the propellers. When the tide came back in we simply floated up and drifted back out, shortening our anchor chain to bring us back to where we had anchored. It is so awesome having a catamaran where we can just beach it like that.

Night Sailing

It is starting to get cold in the north end of Florida, with night time temperatures dipping into the low teens, and day times only getting into the low twenties. Having moved from Northern Ontario you would think we'd find that comfortable, with some Ontario summer days having those temperatures. But alas, our bodies have acclimatized themselves to the warmer weather, and we were getting uncomfortable. So it is time to head south (actually, it's long past time to head south, but we've been busy with all the upgrades).
After sitting at Sister's Creek Marina for several days, we were anxious to get out and sail down the Florida coast towards warmer weather.
Sister's Creek has a fair amount of current during tide changes, but that is nothing compared to the St. Johns River's current at mid tides. Any traveling on the St. Johns must account for the tidal current. Get it wrong and you will be crawling along at only a knot or two. Get it right though, and you are flying.
So after carefully studying tide charts we figured a 9:30 am departure would put us into the St. Johns shortly before the tide began reversing. We dropped lines at 9:28 and pulled off the dock. Ten minutes later we were into the St. Johns with only a slow current against us. That quickly diminished and an hour and a half later we had being swept downstream and out into the Atlantic ocean. With a light wind of 8 knows from the north, we silenced the engines and put out the beautiful multi-coloured spinnaker.
It was to be a slow day, but a beautiful one. A multitude of jelly fish were in the area and we enjoyed being treated to yet another new sea creature. As always, plenty of dolphins to be seen, some coming very close to the boat.
With the afternoon winds dying out we had to restart our engines as we cruised south towards St. Augustine. 
There are currently some very large forest fires burning in Georgia and the Carolinas, and the smoke from those fires is covering the southern states will a blanket of haze. As the sun set this haze turned a brilliant orange glow, nearly setting the sky itself on fire.
Darkness descended around six o'clock and the wake of our boat through the water triggered a bioluminescent glow that left two eerie trails behind us. Overhead, the jet black sky was alive with twinkling stars. 
Super Moon
Super Moon (sorry for the poor picture, it's hard to photograph the moon from a moving boat)
That was, until around seven o'clock, when the largest super-moon in 64 years rose blood red out of the ocean. This massive full moon set the ocean aglow in what has got to be one of the most astounding things witnessed on this amazing planet of ours. Over the next hour the moon rose higher and the colour shifted from red through orange, then yellow and finally to white, lighting up the ocean around us.
Ten miles out from St. Augustine the lighthouse came into view, slowly flashing it's welcoming beacon, guiding us in. On board Sail Quest we have all the latest electronic navigation equipment, with not less than six GPS trackers, and navigation charts updated on November 17th, 2016. Along the coast now are homes with lights, but we could certainly see how a lighthouse, in days gone by before electric lights, would have been the most desired sight on the horizon.
Around ten thirty, we quietly motored in to Salt Run, a large lagoon at St. Augustine. Coming in close to the beach we dropped anchor in about 2.5 meters of water. We shut down the boat, and made her fast for the night. After a quick late snack of fresh made pancakes, it was off to bed for a quiet night.
Around 3:30 in the morning, I was awoken, not by the movement of the boat, but by it's lack of movement. I got up and made my way outside to confirm what I suspected, the tide had gone out and we were sitting on the sand. It was interesting to see that the lack of motion was enough to wake me from a deep sleep. I knew that 3:45 was the lowest tide so we would be back up and floating in a half hour or so. Despite being tired and relaxed, I could not fall back to sleep until shortly after 4 am when the boat was back up and gently floating again. It feels so natural to have the bed gently rocked each night that laying in a solid bed is disturbing.
We spent today relaxing, and waiting for low tide. When the boat sat back down this afternoon as the tide went out, Kyle and I got into the dinghy and kayak and went around cleaning the hull below waterline. Unfortunately we were still in nearly a meter of water so we were only able to get the top 30 centimeters or so. We are going to try again tomorrow but position us closer to the beach so that we will be further out of the water.
This evening after dinner we were sitting quietly when a loud "hoot" was heard. We went out side to find a huge owl sitting atop our mast. After a few minutes he flew off into the night.

Chasing Gremlins and Avoiding Snow

We spent the weekend chasing a nasty gremlin on the boat. 
On a calm, windless morning, with our port engine completely rebuilt and ready to go it was time for a test run.  Getting the air out of the fuel lines took a bit of time but when it was gone the engine turned over and caught right away, purring quietly. Kyle untied us from the dock and hopped aboard as we backed out. We motored out for 15 minutes, checking the engine every few minutes. An oil leak turned from a drip into a dribble and I shut down the port engine. We came back in on the starboard engine and tied to the dock.
It took a day and some talking with our Perkins dealer to find the problem. I made a new gasket and found some shorter bolts to cover the accessory drive.
The next day we were ready to try again, but it seems the gremlin was still on board. The engine fired up easily without a drop of oil in sight. But with the tachometer sitting at zero RPMs, and both the alternator and low oil pressure light showing, we shut down the engine again. So began a two day hunt for finding the gremlin. 
Eventually switching the wiring harnesses between the two engine panels tracked the issue to the electrical wiring.  Another two hours and the problem was tracked to a single wire, the house battery sense wire. Since the alternator can charge the house batteries, it needs to know what the voltage in those batteries is. That wire had developed a short, and that was the whole problem. Once disconnected the gremlin was gone.
We just got back from another very successful test run with everything working perfectly, including our new depth sounder. For the first time we could see how deep the water was that we were in.
Jerry, on Excelsis Deo, sailed out with us and a mile out we dropped anchor and he rafted up to us. That's where another boat comes along side and ties to the side of our boat. While there we checked our internet and still had a good signal using our booster. Kyle dove to clean the bottoms but the water was way too murky (the St. Johns river is really gross).
Meanwhile, back in Ontario, the kids tell us they got 10 centimeters of snow last night. Not happening here...
Our plan now is to depart from Reynolds Park Yacht Center either over the weekend, or on Monday at the latest. Our adventure is about to (re-)begin!

Perkins ROCKS!

I always say that the reliability of a product is not as important as the reliability of the company behind it.  Let's face it, every single thing that has ever been made, someday, somewhere, will break. Everything. The real test therefore, is what happens when an item breaks.

As you may know, we had a failure of our Perkins engine on August 26th. Once disassembled we found that the connecting rod bearing on piston 3 had disintegrated, with parts of the bearing spinning to the top side of the crankshaft (thereby raising the piston higher than it should be in the cylinder). It is amazingly lucky that the entire engine didn't blow apart, and I take full credit for saving the engine from a massive destruction.  I have always been very in-tune with the sound and feel of the vehicles that I am controlling, whether that be a car, bus, truck, tractor, boat, plane, atv, snowmobile, race kart... whatever. In this incident I detected an odd noise and different feel from the engine, which is why I throttled back to idle to check out what was going on. Doing that stalled the engine and saved it from an imminent catastrophic event.

Well the engine is not under warranty, but because of the low number of hours, and as an act of good faith, Perkins Power Corporation will be covering the repair. How is THAT for great customer service!

We are getting a new crankshaft, one connecting rod, and an upgraded high pressure oil pump.  We have to wait a few days while they rush ship the needed parts from the head office in England. They should be here this week though which means we'll soon be casting off the lines and heading to sea. 

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