Out of the Water, Clean and Happy

We had a relatively uneventful run up the New River this morning, and arrived just in time for our scheduled lift. Harmonie came out of the water totally clean. It was really impressive. There was not a single bit of hard growth anywhere on the painted surface of the boat, and just very light layer of slime. This is pretty amazing since we haven’t cleaned the hull at all in the water. It just hasn’t needed it.

Harmonie’s bottom BEFORE being power washed!

One reason we come out with such a clean bottom is we tend to do this on a shorter cycle than a lot of boats. We do the bottom every 12 months. Most cruisers try to push this to 24 months, and most of the current generation of paints start to struggle after 14 to 18 months, especially in warm tropical waters.

We use Sea Hawk’s Bio Cop TF paint. It has performed well for us for years, and we see no reason to change. This is an ablative paint, that slowly wears off as the boat moves through the water, eliminating long term build up of old paint layers. We selected this paint because it works in both fresh and salt water. A lot of people use Interlux Micron 66, which performs well, but does not adhere after long term immersion in fresh water. Here in the upper reaches of Florida’s rivers, and especially in parts of the Chesapeake, we spend significant amounts of time in water far more fresh than salt,, so we have never felt this paint suitable for the way we use our boat.

Another thing that keeps our hull clean is that we move the boat to many different environments pretty frequently. Warm water, cold water, fresh water, salt water. It is tough for anything to survive across these different environments.

One of the more difficult parts of a boat’s underwater structure to keep clear of biological growth is the propeller and other metal parts. They are not compatable with normal antifouling paints. We have used a product called PropSpeed. It’s a painted on finish that is so slippery that nothing can stick to it. We have found that our one year underwater maintenance cycle is just about how long PropSpeed lasts. We consistantly find the prop still clean, but we also see the first signs that the finish is starting to fail.

Fresh out of the water, before any cleaning, our propeller is pretty darn clean.

Keeping a boat’s bottom clean is really important for the performance of the boat both under sail and while motoring. Smooth water flow across the keel helps the boat go upwind. The amount of fuel used when motoring goes up dramatically even with small amounts of hard growth on the hull–and especially on the propeller. A boat with a clean bottom makes for a happy sailor!

For work on all the underwater parts of the boat, we hire a local contractor to do the hard work, and it is definetly a case of having the best tools, and a lot of practice makes things go faster. As long as we have owned Harmonie P&S Yacht Services here in Fort Lauderdale has done the bottom work. Silvio and his son John run a great shop, and they have a crew working for them who know their stuff and do a first class job. With any painting project 90% of the outcome is in the initial preperation work on the surface, and they have proven they take this step seriously, and do it right every time.

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The Sunshine State!

We dropped anchor in South Lake, Hollywood, Florida shortly after midnight last night. We had a good day sailing with strong winds on a deep broad reach, consistantly hitting speeds of over 9.5 knots with winds gusting to more than 30 knots.

We were visited by a very playful group of bottlenose dolphin on the way down. These are the animal everybody thinks of when they think of “dolphin” but these are the first ones of this species we have had playing around Harmonie. They tend to be a more coastal species of dolphin, where we typically interact with those types that are more open ocean oriented like the Spotted Dolphin, or the Common Dolphin.

Bottlenose Dolphin cavorting in Harmonie’s bow wave.

Our schedules are full as we come to our big annual maintenace time. Tomorrow we are scheduled to haul out of the water right after lunch time. That begins all kinds of busy times. Normally the painting crew gets busy as soon as the boat is set down. I work around them doing the routine maintenance work on things like the bow thruster and prop shaft seals, all those boat parts that are normally underwater and hard to deal with.

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Finally warm!

After 36 cold and windy hours in Charleston, we headed back out on our southward migration. Our sail so far has been mostly fast with favorable winds. With the northerly winds continuing, we are staying in closer to the coastline to avoid the rougher water in the Gulf Stream.

Highlights of the trip so far have been numerous visits by dolphins, and seeing amazingly bright phosphorescent jellyfish lighting up the water at night. It’s been too rough to get any fishing in.

Right now we are south of Jacksonville, Florida and approaching Cape Canaveral. The weather forecast for the rest of the trip is just about perfect, northwest winds of 15 to 25 knots.

We have always found short passages like this of two or three days more difficult than longer ones. We don’t have time to get into the rhythm of watch standing, so we are really looking forward to dropping anchor and catching up on sleep! We don’t have much time to rest, since we are scheduled to be hauled out of the water right after lunch on Monday morning!

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Once again…

While we were sailing last night we tuned in to the local marine weather forecast. When the computerized voice calmly got to the part about winds to 40 knots and seas to 16 feet, we made a quick right turn and this morning ducked into Charleston Harbor.

One of the reasons we have so much fun sailing is that whenever poissible, we are “weather whimps.” Can we sail in 40 knots of wind and 16 foot waves? Sure. We can do it safely, and without breaking either us or the boat. One thing that we would NOT have in conditions like that is FUN. So we chose to skip it!

Charleston Harbor doesn’t have a lot of great sheltered anchorages, so we called around as we arrived first thing in the morning trying to find dock space. In the middle of the great fall seasonal southward migration that wasn’t easy. We did finally find a decidedly second rate spot, (an exposed dock, and no power) but it will do. After a pretty calm morning when we arrived, the wind has picked up and is now blowing quite hard. We’re happy to be tied down!

We do have some famous, and large, dock neighbors. Right at the end of the dock is the local naval museum, featuring the famous World War II aircraft carrier Yorktown.

Depending on exactly how quickly the weather settles down again, we’ll be off from here either tomorrow afternoon, or Thursday morning.

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Still motoring!

50 miles due east of Charleston, South Carolina

While we expect big winds tomorrow as a strong cold front moves on past, today is not tomorrow. Winds right now continue very light (2 to 4 knots) and our trusty Volvo is keeping us moving. We want to get as far south as possible so the frontal winds are milder.

We are taking a different route this trip, staying on the west side of the Gulf Stream. This has left us in a zone of lighter winds than we might have 100 miles east, but it avoids us having to come back across the Gulf Stream near the end of our trip during a period of strong northern winds. The strong current flowing to the north, running into strong winds coming from the north, leave large, steep and very uncomfortable waves we’d just assume not deal with!

We have been visited by several schools of spotted dolphin, but otherwise our wildlife count is low. As we skirt the continental shelf we’ll likely pause and drop a fishing line to see what we can find.

Now that we are in warmer water (and air!) we have stripped off the thermal underwear and wool socks. We expect to arrive at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale about noon, Thursday.

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We left Norfolk this morning as early as we could pay our marina bill and left the Chesapeake Bay with a good following wind.

The southern reaches of the bay and the nearby ocean are always a challenge. In addition to a large number of large commercial cargo vessels there are navy warships of all sizes and shapes who are very particular about approach distances. In addition the navy ships are usually not broadcasting their position beacon, so you have to keep track of them by radio report, visual sighting, and radar. Other harbors are busier, but this one is very high stress with a number of pinch points where everybody—large and small—has to squeeze through the same narrow spots.

Our favorable wind did not last too long, and by noon we were motoring. We expect another 24 to 36 hours of light winds before the next weather system catches up with us.

It’s quite crowded out here with at least another 10 sailboats that headed out of the Chesapeake this morning, the usual shipping and fishing traffic, and a Navy warship are all moving south along the coast.

The warship is constantly on the radio directing traffic away from his 5 mile diameter “security zone”. It makes for quite the dance as he pushes vessels to one side or the other which causes them to jump out in front of other boats with a cascade of course changes and radio chatter. It’s all much more complicated than normal traffic interactions where boats adjust course quietly and as a matter of course to keep safe distances.

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Well, That was a Good Call…

We don’t often hide in a marina from the weather, but in this case we are happy we did. The cold front that came through last night has blown on by, and left strong north winds in its wake. How strong?

The graph here is the last five days of data from the weather buoy off Cape Hatteras. At noon today the winds from the north are blowing 30 knots, gusting to 40. The buoy is also reporting seas of 12 feet every 8 seconds, and those are still growing…

And did I mention it is freezing cold too? So it is really nice to have the dock power available to run the cabin heaters while we are waiting.

By tomorrow morning things will have calmed down a bit, and we can get back sailing south, as planned!

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