The strangest things…

We do see the strangest things in our travels. This time it is at the boat yard. We are at Lauderdale Marine Center and we just finished our maintenance haul out. Everything from the painting to the work on the drive train to the bow thruster went pretty much as scheduled, and was completed on time.

Usually it is the huge superyachts here that attract our attention, but we have become a bit jaded to that, and they just seem part of the routine scenery here. But this… this was different. Parked in the small boat part of the yard, usually reserved for the tenders to the superyachts was an oddball creature..

We all live in a….

If it’s not immediately obvious… that is a submarine. For roughly $3 million you can have one too! The standard version is rated to 1000 feet, and you can upgrade that to 3300 feet for a significant up charge!

Complete with multiple lights, grabber arm, cameras, and room for a captain and two passengers.

It is hard to see in a photograph, but that clear plastic bubble is several inches thick. Pretty amazing. They are built by a Dutch company; U-Boat Worx. If you have a couple million dollars in your toy budget, here is your chance!

What it is doing here isn’t completely clear. From what we can tell, it is not associated with one of the yachts here for service. I have to say, if it was MY 3 million dollar machine it would NOT be sitting on the bare pavement, and uncovered in the weather… but that’s just me.

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Fishing Report

Our trip out to the weather buoy was uneventful, and with mostly very light winds, we motored most of the way arriving midmorning. The weather was perfect for the kind of sighing we wanted to do, calm winds and nearly flat seas.

The buoy itself is not a dramatic sight, about 10 feet across and about the same high, it is nothing more than a framework to hold the various weather instruments and communication gear needed to report on the current weather conditions at this distant offshore location. But there were fish in evidence right away and schools of small tuna broke the surface feeding.

We started by trolling our lures in a circle around the buoy and were rewarded with a small yellowfin tuna, about 8 pounds. We quickly scoped out where most of the fish were holding (about 100 to 200 feet deep, and on the upcurrent side of the buoy).

We set up a drift and dropped one of the long, thin speed jigs down to the depth the fish were holding. It wasn’t long before we had another tuna in the boat, this time a black fin. It was about the same size as the first, but was not “small”, instead rather typical for this species of tuna off the Florida coast.

By now the sun is high in the sky, and the fish have gone deeper, and are less interested in food. It’s a couple of hours before we can tempt the next bite, but this one is a significantly larger fish, another yellowfin, but this time over 20 lbs. Still small for a species that can grow to over 10 times this size, but a lot of fresh ahi for our freezer!

When dark came we hove-to and drifted slowly. The fish scattered, no longer easily found on the sonar. We took turns on watch listening to the pod of pilot whales blowing, sometimes in the distance, sometimes disconcertingly close by in the dark. The wind picked up in the small hours of the morning, making fishing difficult, but sailing fast. We unfurled our sails and pointed the boat south.

At mid morning, we are sailing fast, in winds better for us than the forecast. Ten to fifteen knot, and although we are close hauled, we are going in the direction we want to go, and the seas are calm, and the boat is sailing fast and happy. We should be making Fort Lauderdale in 36 to 48 hours.

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Ready to go again!

We have been working here in Brunswick GA helping other people get their Amel sailboats ready to help them with their cruising dreams, and now it is time once again to make OUR dreams a reality.

Our plan is to be moving south again, with a destination of Fort Lauderdale. We have our regular maintenance haul out of the boat arranged, and will be likely staying in and around South Florida until the middle of January when we plan to head off to the Bahamas. Plans past that point are a bit “fuzzy” and will depend a great deal on world events over which we have little control.

We are taking a bit of a detour on our route, not sailing straight down the coast, but heading far offshore, on the eastern side of the Gulf Stream. Our intermediate destination is the area surrounding a weather buoy that is anchored in water almost 1/2 mile deep, 120 miles due east of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Why such a spot? Anything floating in the open ocean quickly becomes the focus of a local eco-system. Fish accumulate, sometimes by the thousands. What might start out as a school of baitfish that use the shadow of the buoy to hide from bigger fish rapidly grows to include more kinds of fish, and bigger fish. Very much a case of, “If you build it they will come.” Not only do they come, but they stay! We are hoping to add some wahoo and tuna to the freezer.

We are watching the weather forecasts now with care, and it looks like we will be leaving Brunswick tomorrow afternoon. We will be traveling a total of about 400 miles over the course of three days. Maybe longer–if the fishing is fun enough to cause us to linger.

Our last minute preparations are well underway. About the only major thing left is to top off the fuel tanks.

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Product Review: Fujinon TechnoStabi TSX1440 Binoculars

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite sailor, or just to gift to give to your boat: Fujinon TSX1440 binoculars are awesome. They are good for ALMOST everything. Need to scan the horizon for flocks of birds to lead you to feeding tuna? Pick out that buoy against a busy background when entering a harbor? See what kind of fish they are catching on that other boat? How about what lure they caught it on? They make great birdwatching binoculars, and are even great for stargazing—even from the deck of the boat at sea. They are a great navigation and safety tool, and provide hours of entertainment as well.

Fujinon TSX1440 Stabilized Binoculars.

Normally, the highest magnification considered useful on a small boat is 7X. Higher power binoculars are not usually much benefit on a boat–especially a small boat. The problem is that high magnification amplifies the movements of the boat–and your hands–and the image jumps around so much it is completely useless. Technology has come to the rescue with stabilized lenses. These systems use electronics to measure the movements of the binoculars, and then moves the lenses and prisms to compensate. A good pair works like magic.

NOT “simulated” this is an actual through the binocular comparison of the scene with and without the Fujinons to give you an idea of the kind of maginification and field of view you will actually see.

If you are looking for a pair of stabilized binoculars to use on a boat, the key specification to look for is the “vibration correction range.” Many stabilized binoculars have correction ranges less than 1.5 degrees. These are really only useful for correcting hand-shake while standing on land. Great for a birdwatcher looking to use a more powerful pair of binoculars without a tripod, but not close to good enough for use on a wave-tossed boat. Three degrees is the minimum useful on the deck of a boat, and more is better. The Fujinon TSX1440 has the widest range that I know of on the recreational market of +/- 6 degrees. There is also the Fujinon TS1440 at a slightly lower price that offers +/- 5 degrees of stabilization. There are other, cheaper, stabilized Fujinons available, but the requirement they use disposable CR2 mercury batteries that are difficult to find overseas took them off our list.

Like most optical equipment, the manufactures have pretty tight control over the distribution chain, and finding a discount below the “standard” price is rare.

It is hard to describe how well this stabilization system works. When you push the button turning on the stabilization, the binoculars buzz for a second, and then suddenly the image snaps into place. It feels perfectly natural. Even in the lumpiest Gulf Stream chop you can hold these spot on the target and have a crystal clear view. Panning is smooth and natural. The optical engineers at Fuji did an AWESOME job.

The Fujinon TSX1440 takes four AA batteries. We use rechargeable Eneloop batteries from Panasonic, and they work great. It simplifies life a lot to be able to use batteries that we share with all the other things on the boat. We haven’t timed it for ourselves, but the official specification on rechargeable batteries is 22 hours of operation. That’s exceptional.

Did I mention the TSX1440 binoculars float? And are waterproof? The case and strap they come with are good. Not spectacular, but totally serviceable. If I expected to use these as birding binoculars, or for horizon scans for feeding birds I’d get a chest harness like this:

A simple chest harness to keep binoculars close at hand without the weight from a neck strap.

The ergonomics are a bit different than other binoculars, so they do take a bit of getting used to. For the first couple of days we had them, we kept holding them upside-down. The focus knob is also in a different place than other binoculars. Nothing with either of these is wrong, they are just different than you might be used to and will take some adjustment.

The eyepieces adjust for the distance between your eyes easily. My eyes are rather far apart, and these are quite comfortable.

If you wear glasses (as I do), you twist the eye cups and they collapse to bring your eyes closer to the lenses. Simple, and easy. You get good, full image, visibility with glasses. If you do not wear glasses, the eye cups are excellent at limiting stray light, and setting you up at the right distance from the lens for the optimum view.

There are a couple of things that are intrinsic to the higher power binocular that take some getting used to. The field of view is quite narrow (210 feet at 1000 yards) so sometimes getting the image centered on the object of interest takes a bit of searching. Depth of field at the higher magnification is a lot narrower, so you do spend a bit of time focusing the image to bring it as sharp as possible. At night, the image is not nearly as bright as we see through our Steiner Commander 7x50s. This is the most important thing that makes them our “second” pair of binoculars, and not our first.

One odd thing: There are two separate buttons. One for “power on” and a separate button to engage the stabilization mechanism. Why this should be is a mystery to me. The binoculars only do ONE thing! Why would you need two buttons?

Another minor annoyance is the lens cover. On the eye side, the design is great. The cover is attached to the strap, and is usable no matter what the distance between the eyepieces, an excellent design. On the objective side, the lens cover looks like an afterthought. It works, but… it’s not attached in any way, and will be easy to lose. Just not a design that matches the overall quality of the unit.

These do not replace a good pair of traditional 7×50 marine binoculars, but they do compliment them nicely. The wider field of view, and the much better night time performance of the 7x50s make them the choice for a boat that only has a single pair. In the time we have had them, the Fujinons have become a favorite on Harmonie. Although they are expensive, this is definitely a category of products you DO get what you pay for.

This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links we get a small commission, but it never adds to the price you pay. We have never accepted payment upfront for a favorable review, and never will. All the products we recommend are products we use and like. Our reviews are all as honest as we can make them. We rarely post negative reviews, because we just don’t think they add a lot of value.

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This was Fun…

We do not regularly follow a lot of YouTube channels, but there are a few we touch base with once in a while.

“Super Yacht Captain” has frequently provided an entertaining education about a part of the marine world we don’t directly participate in, but do see the periphery of. This episode was fun for us because it was the first time he was in what we consider OUR part of the world. Very interesting for us to see it from a very different perspective.

The boat yard they are headed to is exactly where we have Harmonie serviced every fall. We have made this exact trip over a dozen times now.

It was especially fascinating to see these guys who usually haunt the French Riviera wax on about how amazing the Fort Lauderdale waterfront was. It took a couple layers of waxy indifference off our eyes, and we will look at it with a new perspective when we are down there again in a few weeks.

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Gulf Stream Phobia

The Gulf Stream is the elephant in the room for everybody sailing the East Coast of the United States. If you are head from south toward the north, it can be your best friend, taking days off your passage time if can stay in the fastest moving water. Of course, for those heading south, the key is to avoid the current as much as possible.

The Gulf Stream roars between Florida and the Bahamas on its way north.

In addition to being a source of “free” extra boat speed, the Gulf Stream is the source of a HUGE amount of what we consider to be unnecessary angst among sailors. Especially sailors looking to cross from Florida to the Bahamas who have been indoctrinated with what seems to be an almost irrational fear of this patch of water.

Certainly, conditions in the Gulf Steam can be very uncomfortable, and certainly dangerous for small boats, when the wind blows hard from the north. And the longer the wind blows the nastier it gets. Certainly in a strong Northeast gale NOBODY wants to be in the Gulf Steam. But…

Here’s the thing: if you are on the Florida coast between Port St Lucie and the Keys you don’t need a crystal ball or a professional meteorologist to tell what conditions in the Gulf Stream are like, you go down to the beach and you LOOK! It’s right there! If you see a horizon line that is rough and lumpy and looks like there is a herd of elephants marching along, wait another day. If you are not sure, do not dither and fuss, waiting for “perfect,” but pull up your anchor and start sailing. If it gets too rough for you TURN BACK! The water behind you (that you have already sailed through!) is just as calm as it was before.

This past spring we had done our weather analysis, and saw a good window to head north. We left the harbor in West End, Bahamas and jumped into the Gulf Stream and were having a great time cranking out the miles. On the radio there was endless chatter about the Gulf Stream forecast from the best known and most respected meteorologist and sailing guru in the area. (All you sailors in the Bahamas and Caribbean KNOW who I am talking about.) His recommendation was, “Absolutely do not cross the Gulf Stream today! The next good window will be next week.”

We are sitting in the middle of the Stream having a great sail, looking around us, and thinking, “What the…???? I am glad I am not paying for that forecast!”

We totally understand that comfort and safety are not just important, they are vital. However, new sailors hear so much about the terrors of the Gulf Stream and they have no real background with which to sort out the reality from the hype. So many people seem to not understand that you can poke your bow out there, have a look, and come back if you do not like what you find, without endangering your crew or your boat. It is really the only way you can learn for yourself what conditions YOU and your boat are comfortable sailing in.

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Continuing south

After a stop of a couple days in Hilton Head visiting family we are making a short hop (about 60 miles) south to Brunswick Landing Marina where we will be based for a few weeks. Part of the time is just waiting for the 15th of the month when our insurance allows us to move further south, and partly we will be working with a couple of clients on their boat projects. There is also the probability for a delivery job in November as well.

Sailing south today is delightful. Sunny, although cool, and a light but steady breeze from the north. We are not setting any speed records, but any day sailing is a good day.

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A Day’s Difference

This morning finds us on a completely different ocean than we had been sailing on for the previous two days. Instead of flat, sunny, and blue, it is now lumpy, gray and overcast. We are just coming around Frying Pan Shoal, off Cape Fear, NC.

The weather briefing I gave Karen at the start of her watch last night was to expect winds to be steady in direction and slowly and steadily increasing from 8 knots to about 20. Almost all of that was “rather accurate”.

What actually happened was the wind went from a mild mannered 8 knots from the northeast pushing us at 5 knots through the water to 27 knots howling from the northeast moving us at almost 9 knots—in about 90 seconds.

We have been doing this long enough now that it takes us about 3 minutes to reset sails suitable for the new conditions and we are off and running. At least to start with, it is a fast and exhilarating ride on flat seas. Over the next few hours, the waves do build and toss us around a bit, but nothing very uncomfortable. Over the course of the next couple hours it settled down to a steady 18 to 20 knots and our large headsail is now pulling us along on a deep reach at better than 7 knots.

Since we left the Chesapeake we have been moving with a fleet of well over a dozen boats that has moved in a tight cluster down the coast. In the lighter winds the slower boats have been motoring, and the faster ones sailing. The sudden change in conditions have quickly scattered the fleet. The catamarans have all shut off their motors, and finally get to use their speed advantage, and the monohulls spread out with the bigger, faster boats quickly leaving the smaller ones behind. The few boats left nearby are all of a size similar to us.

We had planned to spend our time in Hilton Head at anchor, but the weather for Friday and Saturday is supposed to be quite gnarly, so we just used the satellite phone to make a marina reservation. Taking advantage of the miracle of modern technology!

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A Special Light Show

We are sailing south about 15 miles off Cape Hatteras . It’s three o’clock in the morning, and very dark. The ocean is phosphorescent, glowing bright green everywhere it is disturbed. The wind is light, but enough to keep us moving.

We have a lot of company, more so than we are used to on an ocean sail. Within 10 miles there are at least a dozen other sailboats moving in the same general direction as we are, all migrating south to various destinations. But the real entertainment for this early morning watch is much closer to the boat.

A few minutes ago, an odd sounding splash got my attention, quickly followed by several more, and then the sharp “Puff!” of a dolphin’s breathing. We see enough of these amazing animals they have almost become routine, but having them around the boat in the pitch dark is still something special. You can’t see the fast moving animals themselves, but the bright glowing green they leave behind as they play around the boat is mesmerizing. Brilliant green comets twist and turn around the boat in a complex high speed dance. It is other worldly to watch.

Up to now, our progress has been faster than expected, with very favorable winds. The wind has clocked around, and we are now sailing nearly downwind. It is comfortable, but not especially fast. The forecast has the direction unchanged, but strengthening during the day tomorrow, so hopefully we can pick up the pace a bit.

We expect to be arriving off our destination of Hilton Head Island in the afternoon of November 4.

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Migration underway!

As we were weighing anchor this morning at sunrise large flocks of Canada geese and cormorants took wing headed south. I guess they noticed and figured if we were leaving, so should they! Other than a bit chilly, the conditions are perfect. A west wind at 6 to 9 knots has us moving at 5 to 6 knots. As expected, the bay is crowded with boats who also are moving south.

There are several organized rallies that are leaving this area who provide professional weather briefings for those sailors who haven’t the background to do that for themselves, a very valuable service. But it seems that a lot of these boats missed the point of the reason to leave today instead of yesterday.

Yesterday’s weather was light winds from the south, which would have meant a slow and tedious sail down the bay, or a day of motoring. So what are most of the boats out here today doing? MOTORING! Anybody planning to motor the length of the bay should have left yesterday! Very much an example of following the herd instead of thinking. But, it’s safe, and I hope they are all having fun!

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