We have been busy putting the boat back together, stowing gear, and getting ready to head south. We know it is time to leave because we have been running the heat most nights, sleeping under a down comforter, and the local pizza delivery guy knows which boat to come to with our order! It has been an interesting time here, meeting friends both old and new.
We have wrapped up a large number of projects on the boat. Some that had been on our long range plan (like an isolation transformer for our shore power connection), and some that were unexpected (like a new windlass). An upgraded sonar was added so we can find and catch more fish. We also did a number of things to keep our girl Harmonie in first class “yachty” shape. Looking back at the things finished, it’s a long list, and at least to us, an impressive one.
Most recently, a local graphics company redid our Amel logos on the sides of the boat, and Karen spent days on her knees with a toothbrush in her hand (yes, really!) detailing the decks. The boat looks AWESOME. We completed some other tasks this season, like updating our first aid kit, and completing everything needed for Bill to re-instate his official Coast Guard Captain’s license. (Boat Delivery, anyone?)
For the Coast Guard license, and for the first aid kit we worked with a medical local clinic, “West Street Medical.” A clinic with an interesting business model. The entire staff is Lee Goodman, MD and Jeff Fine, PA. No office staff at all. They don’t take insurance, it’s a cash business. As far as we could tell, they have three parts to the business: A walk-in urgent care clinic; A subscription for a limited number of regular general practice patients, and some other bits and pieces, including travel medicine consulting. Jeff was great in going through our First Aid kit and adding things we needed, and writing prescriptions and getting our vaccinations updated considering that we might be away from reach of the normal medical safety net for extended periods. If you live in Annapolis, and need a primary care doctor, you should check out their subscription service. If you are passing through and need urgent care, or just vaccines and other such care, check them out. They are good guys.
One of the interesting things we dealt with here was a battery problem. As I was working in the battery box I put my hand on one of our eight batteries, and it was warm. Not scary hot, but definitely out of the ordinary, and hotter than all the others. Checking things found one battery that appeared to have a short circuit in one of its cells. An email conversation with the distributer, and after running some tests he suggested, we all agreed a shorted cell was the problem. Since these were all under warranty, they immediately shipped us a new one. That might have been the end of it, but… these are what are know as VRLA (Valve regulated lead acid) batteries. They are not supposed to vent gas when charging. But this new battery WAS venting–a lot. Another conversation, and the manufacturer shipped us a new set of valves. After installing those, it looks like all is now more better!
It is now early Friday morning (or late Thursday, depending on your perspective!) This weekend is supposed to be stormy here in the northeast. If the forecasts hold, it looks like we will be headed out of here on Monday morning, for a straight shot down to Fort Lauderdale, a five to six day sail. We’ll be there long enough for Harmonie to get her bottom painted, and one or two other things finished and then we’ll be off to the islands.
We are not yet sure of our plans for the coming season. One possibility is to go about as far south in the Caribbean as we can, and spend some time in the San Blas Islands of south eastern Panama. They have a reputation as a fantastic place to spend some time, and they have the advantage that they are well south of the area of significant hurricane risk. It would mean being remote from all the normal support infrastructure that we have gotten used to, so the boat has to be pretty much 100% self-sufficent for months. We can do that.