Saturday, March 01, 2014

Adding to the fleet ...

Ever since I sold  my Islander Bahama 28 Dog Days, a sale that included Pup, the tiny wood/fiberglass pram that my friend John Tuma built for me, I have missed having a little hard-sided tender.  Well, I've also missed having Dog Days, as well, but one can't be too selfish with boats, and so for the past five years I've had to be satisfied with Alizee and her Walker Bay Genesis RIB Bertha.  But the idea of a sailing dinghy just keeps popping up every time I see an advertisement for some classic small boat: a sharpie, Bug, Beetlecat, Melonseed, Fatty Knees and so forth.  My mind has been working overtime lately, perhaps because I have just finished an article on the history of recreational sailing in which I reviewed the history of several of these small boats and their evolution since the nineteenth century (a bow to the late Howard Chapelle for his pioneering work American Small Sailing Craft, 1951).

So, I was primed and ready when Fred and Eleanor Jacobs from our sailing group "The Dolphins Cruising Club of Tampa Bay" sent out an email saying they were selling their Dyer Midget sailing dinghy.  I immediately asked for first right of refusal, then emailed Penelope, who was in DeLand visiting her sister, to get her opinion.

"This is what Bill buggered up," she replied almost immediately.  "It was sweet before he did that."  So the offer was made for the asking price, and two minutes later Penelope added: "Wonderful!  I hope we get it!"

It turns out that in Penelope's life before me, she and Bill had owned a Dyer dinghy, which they had a great time sailing on Lake Winnemissett in DeLand.  Who would have believed I would be wanting to buy the same type of sailing dinghy.  It seemed like it almost was meant to be, if you believe in that sort of stuff.

But the deal was not quite done yet, because some other Dolphins club member had gotten first right of refusal three minutes before me.  Fred contacted me and after observing that "you both must have been sitting on your computers," he said if the other fellow didn't take her, she'd be mine.  And 24 hours later he called and gave us the good news.  So, say hello to our newest fleet member, Merrily (name soon to be changed), a 1974 Dyer Midget sailing dinghy.


She is the third in a line of sailing dinghies built by Bill Dyer, who founded The Anchorage in Warren, Rhode Island, in 1934 and produced the Philip Rhodes' designed 10-foot Dyer Dink, a hard chined wooden boat.  Around 1940, Rhodes also designed the most famous of the Dyer dinghies, the 9-foot Dyer Dhow.  It was designed and built out of the then revolutionary new material, marine-grade plywood, at the request of the War Department, who approached Dyer and asked him to produce, according to his granddaughter Anna Jones, "a boat that would fit in nine-feet of space and hold nine men." During World War II, they were used on PT boats in the Pacific as well as rescue units when ships were attacked -- according to one report "stacks of Dyer Dhows were dropped into the water over shipwrecks to allow survivors safety until they could be rescued."  In 1949, Anchorage started constructing Dyer Dhows with fiberglass, which makes it the the oldest continuously-built fiberglass boat in production today, and the Dyer Midget was introduced in 1952.

Merrily is hull 6575, laid up in May 1974, and she was sold and shipped by the company in January 1975 to a customer in Sun City Center, Florida, a Del Webb retirement community on the east side of Tampa Bay that was opened in 1962.  As you can see, she's a centerboard dinghy with a Gunter rig, 7' 11" in length (LOA), with a 4-foot beam.  Her draft is 3 feet with the centerboard down and 5 inches with it up, and she displaces 90 lbs. 

As you can probably guess, we're excited to get out in here and will possibly be employing her as a full-time tender on Alizee.  But first, I'll be doing a little polishing and varnishing to make her debut on Charlotte Harbor a good one.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Lynx in Tampa Bay ...

Seems like almost every year, the Lynx, a recreated privateer from the days of yore in America, comes to the Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Saw her their last year, and here's a nice look at her:

Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Sailing Recap IV: short cruise to St. James City ...

About three weeks after Alizee's arrival to Charlotte Harbor, we set off on a short cruise to St. James City at the south end of Pine Island.  We had planned this a bit ahead, so that we could join up with some of the Dolphins Cruising Club, which we'd joined when we were sailing out of St. Petersburg.  The highlight of the trip was a book signing for Robert MacComber's new book, Honors Rendered.  MacComber is a local author who has written quite a good series of naval maritime novels that locate the home of its main character on Patricio Island at the north end of Pine Island Sound, bordering the south edge of Charlotte Harbor.  It is a sister to Useppa Island, right on the ICW and very near Pelican Bay to the west. 

On 20 November, a Wednesday, we arrived at the boat in the late afternoon, stowed all our provisions with plans laid to have dinner at the CHYC that evening.  At a little after 17:00, we walked up to the club and ... oops, the doors were locked.  Nobody home!  So much for the club's calendar, which announced happy hour and dinner.  Oh well, we had cocktails on the boat and my hero, Penelope, prepared salad and our own spaghetti and meatball dinner.  I was pretty peeved about the club being closed, and the next day I called and talked to the GM, noting that, if there was a chance the club would be closed on a Wednesday night, then that should be published in the calendar.  He agreed, and subsequently it was.

The next morning we backed off the dock, using a spring line to pull our stern around the pier's end, went out the channel and by 0830 had raised the Spinnaker in light air.  By 09:30, we'd sailed down even with Burnt Store Marina (which is a mile south of our house on Burnt Store Road), making good speed at 6 to 6.5 knots SOG in 10 knots of wind on the beam.  The Spinnaker makes all the difference in the world on a downwind to beam reach. At the bottom of Charlotte Harbor, however, when we changed our course from south to west, toward Pelican Bay where we would meet up with the Dolphins group, the wind dropped to 8 knots and our speed to 3.3 knots SOG. We dropped the main, which was now blocking the Spinnaker, but by 10:30 there was virtually no wind.  We were ghosting slowly toward our destination, with a Crealock 37 ghosting along behind us.  After two hours, the Crealock's captain fired up his engine and as he caught up and finally passed us (just a couple of meters off our port side), said with a grand smile: "I give up.  You win." 

We actually arrived at Pelican Bay the same time three or four of the Dolphins group arrived, and shortly after we'd dropped anchor, Gene Weatherup dinghied over for a chat.  Then I put the dinghy down and went over to chat the Crealock captain, who was anchored just in front of us.  Nick said said he keeps his boat permanently in Burnt Store Marina and often sails single hand, and we agreed to keep in touch.  I returned to Alizee to make up some crab-avocado-cucumber sushi rolls for the Dolphins' potluck, to be held on Mark and Jill Bridge's catamaran.  It was a great gathering, and my sushi was a real hit.  Mark and Jill squeezed 22 people aboard for the potluck and we had a great time renewing acquaintances with folks like Joe and Kathy Mansir, and I was flattered that Chris McDonnell complimented this very blog -- we hadn't seen him in almost two years.  Alas, it started to rain at 19:00, just as we finished eating, so we made an escape early to close the hatches on Alizee, finishing off the night by watching the original "Flight of the Phoenix" film on our laptop.

22 November found us up by 08:30.  We fixed breakfast, Penelope cleaned the head and repacked our foul weather gear/life vest storage back, and, by 11:30, we'd hoisted the dinghy and were ready to weigh anchor.  Once outside Pelican Bay and turned south down the ICW and Pine Island Sound, we hoisted the Spinnaker, which initially provided a really nice sail.  But, after passing Useppa Island and Cabbage Key, the winds picked up and we decided to douse the Spinnaker.  In doing so, I foolishly let one of the sheets slip through my hand, getting a pretty bad rope burn -- I felt the effects of it for a good week.  Once the sail was down and stowed, we rolled out the Genoa and had a good sail the rest of the way down Pine Island Sound.  At marker #18, we turned eastward, into the wind, and took the sails down, motoring into the anchorage off St. James City.  We dropped anchor between the Mansir's Island Packet 37, Halcyon, and a ketch named Bridgette O'Toole, whose captain climbed out at 17:00 and serenaded the anchorage for a half-hour with the bag pipes -- she was pretty good, too.

Bill Cullen, who had hosted our first cruise with the Dophins back in 2011 (I think), came by in his dinghy and joined us aboard Alizee for a beer and some reminiscing.  Later, after our bag-pipe serenade and as the sun set, our commodore, Mark Bridges, sounded his conch horn.  It had been a long time since I'd blown my own; so, although I got one good blow, I was not very successful overall, which left Penelope in stitches.  Perhaps my sundowner had a greater effect on me than I would have imagined.  Oh well, steak and potatoes for dinner.

On the 23rd, we relaxed in the morning with coffee.  We'd initially planned to anchor over near Sanibel Island and dinghy in to meet some new friends we'd made because of my searching for musicians on Craig's List. Edgar-Joachim Beyn, a trombone player whose advertisement I'd answered and talked to several times on the telephone and who is also a long-time sailor, and his wife Kate have winter home on Sanibel.  The timing wasn't quite right, however, so they said they'd motor over to our St. James City anchorage in their small power boat.  Initially they were coming over around 13:00, but they called ahead and arrived at 11:00.  Once they rafted up to Alizee, we sat and chatted for a half-hour or so, and agreed to get together after Thanksgiving (indeed, we drove down for an afternoon a couple of weeks later, and Edgar and I played dixieland, while Kate and Penelope got to know each other a bit better).

This was the day of the book signing, so at noon, we dinghied in to Woody's Waterside restaurant and bar.  We tied up next to Gene and Jo's ketch, Shenandoah, which has only a 3 foot draft and easily could navigate up the channel.  We were hungry, so we got a round table in the bar and ordered lunch.  Soon we were joined by the Mansirs, they Mark Bridges, Bill and Penny Schlenker and new Dolphin members, Eileen and Pete.  Lots of good conversation, but we had already decided to leave early so we could sail back up to Useppa Island, thereby shortening what would be a very long trip all the way back to the CHYC the next day.  We got back to the dock to find that our dinghy, Bertha (for "Bertha's Mussels", the best place in Baltimore to get mussels), had been pushed by later arriving dinghies under the dock.  The tide had gone up, and she was stuck.  As we puzzled about this problem, Dolphin member Steve Cardiff reminded me that we could deflate her, because her hard bottom would keep her afloat.  So, I crawled under the dock, removed Bertha's seat and deflated the tubes sufficiently to muscle her out.  After re-inflating the tubes, we were off and back to Alizee by 15:00.  I predicted an 18:15 arrival at Useppa, about the tail end of sunset.  Our motor-sail northward went well, until the primary shackle on the traveler came lose.  It was bent and could not be re-attached, but I found a spare and replaced it.  Fortunately, this didn't slow us down, and with our running lights on in the fading twilight, we anchored at 18:10.

The next day, we arose at 08:00, made coffee and got underway quickly. We sailed, with an occasional assist from the motor, up the ICW to Charlotte Harbor, turned east and made it across the southern part of the harbor toward Burnt Store Marina in two tacks.  We turned north and made it to the CHYC channel entrance in two more tacks.  On our way up, we saw an enormous number of dead fish, discovering later that this was the result of a severe "red tide" over the previous week.  We hadn't seen them coming south, so it must have just effected the fish.  Unfortunately, our arrival time at the CHYC was near to low tide, so we elected to anchor out for the night, and go closer to high tide at 07:30 on the 25th.  We made it, but scraped the bottom going down the channel, which is dredged to five-feet mean-low water.  We've had some really major lunar tides here during late fall and winter, and this couple with a NE wind that blows the water out of Charlotte Harbor, means we are always at the mercy of the tides.  Anyway, we got in, washed down the boat, flaked and covered the sail and had breakfast.  I was meeting an electrician to try and solve Alizee's electrical mysteries at 09:00, and he arrived on time (see Alizee's maintenance log for the results, posted under 25 November 2013)

2013 Sailing Recap III: bringing Alizee south ...

At last, moved into our new house and having found a reliable cat sitter, we drove up to St. Petersburg to bring Alizee south to her new berth at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club (CHYC) in Port Charlotte.  We dropped off my car at the yacht club and drove north on 30 October.  We spent an afternoon getting Alizee cleaned inside, retrieving the dinghy from "Hi & Dry" storage and doing the necessary grocery shopping.  We were exhausted by 17:00 and just had enough energy to fix a sundowner and dinner.

In the morning, I made a quick run to the market and to a marine supply store (for water tank treatment), filled the water tanks, changed out the Genoa sheets with new Sampson sheets and turned in the gate keys to the harbor master.  We
cast off at 11:30, and within ten minutes were sailing southward on a close reach in 11 knots of wind.  Between 13:00 and 13:30 we watched coast guard helicopters working with rescue divers.  They would throw a market out, lower the diver to retrieve the marker, sometimes having the divers swim to it for

recovery, sometimes not.  We were easily within a
1,000 meters of the training which was being done with two or three helicopters and several divers.

By 16:00 hours, we had passed under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and on course to the Manatee River channel.  Winds had died out for a while in the mid afternoon, but  now picked again to 10 knots for another hours or so.  We were anchored by 17:30 on the west end of the Manatee River anchorage, a location which for the past two years had been made most unpleasant by a transient sailboat that had a heavy-duty and extremely loud, un-muffled generator which its captain ran twice a day.  As a result, we'd studiously avoided the west end of the this very large anchorage, but we were happy to be the only boat there this day.  So, we settled in to watch a beautiful (and very red) sunset and have a nice egg plant Parmesan dinner.

The night sky plainly told us that the next day would be a "sailor's delight," but we also knew we'd be sailing directly into the wind all day, so we elected to spend the day on the hook, reading, napping, munching, whipping the ends of our new Genoa sheets and, eventually, supping on lamb chops, baked potatoes and Napa cabbage salad.  The next morning brought a red sky sunrise -- "sailor's take warning" -- and a front out of the northeast passed over us somewhere around 0900.  Some boats from our Dolphin Sailing Club had been anchored across the river on the south side, and just before the squall, one of them weighted anchor and came across to our north-side anchorage -- I don't think they saw us, but we recognized Gene and Jo Weatherup's ketch.  After the front passed, we saw two or three of them sail out toward St. Petersburg, while the Weatherups went up river, we think to the Twin Dolphin marina.  We could imagine that the boats headed out had a rough time of it across south Tampa Bay, sailing a close reach in 20 knot winds in waters that certainly were roily as could be.  But, we sat tight, enjoyed being on the hook, reading and relaxing.  And, we had to run the engine for a couple of hours to charge the batteries.  Despite a functioning wind generator, we still had the electrical problem.

At 06:30 on 3 November, we awakened to try and see the lunar eclipse that was predicted, but it was too far east and probably below the horizon, not to mention being right in the path of the rising sun.  Since we were up early and the conditions were great, we sailed out to Egmont Key, thence south along the Gulf coast to Venice.  Crossing south Tampa Bay we got more wind than anticipated, and we had to stop and reef the main and Genoa -- the new electric winches made the task so much easier.  Worth their weight in gold, as far as I'm concerned.  Once we were south of Tampa Bay on the coast, the chop disappeared, the winds moderated and we let the reefs out.  I called ahead to the Venice Yacht Club and reserved a slip, which would be free for the night, thanks to our now being members of the CHYC and to reciprocal privileges between yacht clubs in the Florida Yacht Club Council.  All in all, it was a good sail: 42 nautical miles in 8 hours averaging about 5.3 knots speed over ground, but mostly 6 knots when we were sailing along the Gulf coast.  At 15:30, we slid into slip C-8, headed for the showers and then for drinks and an early dinner at the club's Tiki Bar.

Lately it seems that electrical bugaboos have visited us.  Trying to hook up shore power we discovered that the 30 amp breaker seemed not to be functioning.  Very odd, as the shore power was charging to batteries, but the internal A.C. power was inoperable.  Then we discovered that by flipping on the 50 amp breaker, the outlets worked.  A real head scratcher!  

The next morning, we fixed breakfast and then borrowed a couple of bicycles to fetch more bread.  Alas, the mini-mart had just sold out of bread, so we returned empty handed.  We decided to go down the ICW rather than spend another day along the coast ... the winds were building and we want to relax.  So we finally left at 10:30, went out the yacht club channel to the ICW, turned south and I almost instantly went aground.  Unbelievable!  I'd mixed up the channel markers somehow.  But, because the wind was building (already 17 knots out of the east), I raised the mainsail, heeled us over, and we slipped off the bar and back into the ICW channel.  We had five bridges to go through, the last three opening on-demand, so we waited only about ten minutes at the other two for openings.  A nice motor south and, with our stay sail out, occasionally helped by the 22 knot wind from the east.  After five hours we anchored off the ICW at red marker #24, just north of the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge; a very peaceful spot.

On 5 November, we awakened at low tide, and we had to wait on a rising tide until 1330 before we could leave the anchorage.  So, we spend a quiet morning watching hawks, blue herons, pelicans, osprey and flights of ducks, while occasionally reading and fixing a nice veggie omelet.  Once under way, we just made the 14:00 opening of the causeway bridge, and thence sailed south to Useppa Island, where we anchored again at 16:15.  This was the last night out on the hook, and we enjoyed a steak and potato dinner.  At 08:30 the next morning, we weighed anchor and sailed virtually all the way up Charlotte Harbor to the Peace River, motoring only the last five nautical miles.  We arrived at our new permanent berth at the CHYC at 16:15, where Joe Malat, the dockmaster helped us into our new slip.  After washing down the boat, we sat in the cockpit and had a cocktail while observing the club's monthly "sundowner" ceremony, this one particularly honoring vets.  At 18:15, we packed up and got in my car and drove home.  A day later, the boat transfer complete, we drove back up to St. Pete, picked up Penelope's car and drove home.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Sailing Recap II: a new house, so what sailing?

Let's see now, we got back from our cruise to the Keys in May, and I took Alizee into Sailor's Wharf Yacht Yard to finish up some work that they'd started before we took our cruise south.  Now, here it was the 3rd of July, and I finally got Alizee back to her slip and got her prepared for hurricane season.  Suffice it to say that the delays were a pain in the rear!

I arranged with Lippincott Canvas to make a new bimini and dodger to be made (exactly as the one we had), which was finally completed until 7 September.  While they took their time, it was fine with us, since it's too damned hot to sail in Florida in the summer, and there is generally not sufficient wind. 

Meanwhile, Penelope and I had been looking at the possibility of buying a house on the Gulf Coast.  Using Penelope's daughter Erin's "GetMoreOffers.com" on-line real estate site (nationwide, we cannot recommend any site more highly), we looked hundreds of properties, and we drove over a couple of times to actually see places in Clearwater and Duniden (north of St. Petersburg), as well as in St. Pete.  We'd agreed that we'd only consider a place seriously if it was clearly better than our house in Deland, which, although built in the 1920s, had really nice features (not the least of which were heart-pine floors).  It didn't look promising.

Our search had been going on for over a year, and in May we decided to look at places an hour to two hours south of Tampa Bay around Charlotte Harbor, an area we'd both loved when we first sailed Alizee to the Gulf Coast and which we fell in love with again on our cruise back from the Keys.  We found a house in Rotunda Heights, between Northport and the ICW and Port Charlotte, just above Charlotte Harbor, saw it, loved it (compared to all others), and made an offer on it.  The offer was accepted, and then we discovered through the home inspection that we'd have to demolish the kitchen (which was very small) to get what we wanted, there was no floor plug in the middle of the great room (stupid, stupid), and the pool deck had problems.

Knowing this wasn't what we wanted but that we really did want something, Penelope went back to the seb sites and discovered a house just south of Punta Gorda and north of Burnt Store Marina (on Charlotte Harbor), which was in a small well-wooded development called Woodland Estates.  We got our realtor Keith (Erin's business partner and the company's broker) to arrange a showing.  OMG, it was !@$#*$ wonderful!  So we made an offer, it was rejected, we countered and finally settled on a price.  We signed the contract and cancelled the one on the first place.  Then, the appraisal came in low ... really lower than the price we'd agreed.  So, we went back to our original offer (still above the appraisal), and the sellers agreed to that price.

By the end of July we had closed on our new house on Harborside in Woodland Estates, including getting a nice agreement to purchase some of the furniture.  But, we wouldn't move in until mid-September because our calendar had so filled up with travel and we really needed time to prepare for our move with a garage sale to unload what seemed to be tons of stuff and get the Deland house ready to rent (we decided Penelope should keep it for a while, since values are still pretty far down).

Of course what this all meant?  No sailing until Fall.

2013 Sailing Recap I: passage to the Keys, electrical mysteries, sailing into a gale, homeward bound ...

Where did all the time go?  Anyone following Alizee no doubt thinks we sailed off the edge of the earth.  The weeks and months have simply zipped by us, and while we've kept up with our written log, nothing has been sufficiently distilled for these on-line pages.

Cruising to the Keys

Back on 23 April, after Alizee came out of Sailor's Wharf Yacht Yard and the rat problem appeared solved, Captain and crew (sister Patricia was joining us) provisioned her at Harborage Marina in St. Pete for a trip south to the Keys, supped cocktails as the sun slipped over the yardarm, seared some scallops for dinner and collapsed into our bunks.  The next morning, we did a final dash to the grocery for things forgotten, Penelope talked to Chris Parker about weather on the telephone and we slipped away from the dock at 11:00 hours and sailed (mostly) southward through the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to one of our favorite anchorages on the Manatee River.  The Captain cooked a lamb stir-fry dinner, we consumed a little wine - all in all a lovely first evening out.

On 25 April, we prepared the boat for our off-shore passage the next day, stringing jack lines, getting our preventer lines ready, plotting our route on the chart plotter and doing other small chores.  We calculated 198 nautical miles to Key West, which, at an average of five knots, we would cover in 40 hours (44 hours at 4 1/2 knots; 33 hours at 6 knots).  Departing at 22:00 hours (ten that evening for any land lubbers reading this), would put our estimated arrival times based on average speed at 08:00, 14:00 or 18:00 on the 27th, but we shortened all those possible arrival times by sailing out that afternoon to Egmont Key on the southwest edge of Tampa Bay.


                                               Night passage south to the Keys





 The crossing was fine, despite shifting winds and having to motor for 18.8 hours of our trip, and at 10:45 on the 27th, we anchored amid a plethora of boats behind Wisteria Island in Key West.  Before we were able to get into a marina the next day, the coasties came along side for a safety inspection, which we passed with flying colors!  On the 28th, we got a slip for two nights at the Key West Bight Marina and for two days we explored Key West: oysters at the Raw Bar, a breakfast at Pepe's, the tourist trolley around the key, a Margarita at the most southern spot of the U.S. (90 miles from Cuba) and, for the best treat of all, an hour or more in the bird and butterfly conservatory on Duvall Street (we still have three "butterflies" on our mast, the wings of which open and close with the humidity).
 
 
















From 30 April 2 May, we sailed out toward the Dry Tortugas, and, after catching a couple of nice Blue Runners and a Mutton Snapper, which, alas, we were too tired to turn into sushi, we anchored for a night at the Marquesas Keys.  (Too tired, for sushi???)  The next day we watched the weather: an enormous low pressure area 150 miles west was moving ENE, precluded our sailing to the Dry Tortugas.  It rained and blew form most of the day, and we stowed portable electronics in the oven in the event of a lightning strike.  After the rain passed, we dried out the cockpit, made sushi rice and prepared Blue Runner sushi and sashimi and considered that we might be able to make the 40 miles to the Dry Tortugas the next day.

Electrical mysteries

At about this time in our cruise, I decided to really document what appeared to be a consistent battery problem.  On our crossing south, we'd had to turn on the engine an motor sail because the auto pilot showed a low battery warning.  At the Key West marina we got a full charge on shore power before we headed out for the Marquesas Key.  Although we motored for 2.2 hours and the wind generator operated steadily for 12 hours, after 30 hours the 2 house batteries (bank #1) showed a -5.2 amp hours, but the 1 start battery (bank #2) showed it was down -49.8 amp hours.  Something was clearly amiss.

Over the next few days I logged the batteries, keeping track of how long the engine ran (which charged both batteries) and the wind generator operated (which, I discovered, seemed only to charge the house bank).  On our final two days of sailing north from Egmont Key to Fantasy Island in north Tampa Bay, thence to our home port at St. Pete, we motored an hour and had 14 knot winds turning the wind generator for 5 hours, but the auto pilot was flashing "low battery" and, when we finally arrived at our marina berth, bank #1 (the house batteries) was charging and showing 109.3 amp hours, while bank #2 was showing -91.7 amp hours and not charging.  The boat yard had said the batteries were good (I'd asked them to load test them all), but when we got Alizee back into the yard to finish installing new primary winches and to repair yet some other rat-chewed lines and wires, a new load test showed one of the batteries was completely gone.  So, all three were replaced.

(A footnote to this story is that there still seemed to be a problem, with bank #1 not seeming to work as hard as bank #2 (the start battery).  I couldn't figure it out and kept thinking that the battery connections had been changed when the new batteries were put in.  Finally, in November, when I brought in an electrician to replace a couple failing panel circuits, did I discover that the yard had never recalibrated the Link-20 battery monitor after replacing the batteries; thus, it had been bank #2 reading incorrectly.)

Sailing into a gale

Prepared for foul weather
On 2 May we awakened to find that a low pressure ridge, which Chris Parker had warned us about the day we left St. Pete, was moving across the Gulf from the NW to the SE, expected to arrive by Friday night, 36 hours away.  We calculated that we could make the 112 nautical miles to San Carlos Bay at Ft Myers in about 22 hours, arriving early Friday morning, getting us in ahead of the front.  Thus, Penelope made up some food for the coming hours and straightened up the refrigerator to make reaching nourishment handy, while Patricia and I got life vests, tethers and other gear out and ready for us.  We put a reef in the main, weighed anchor at 0930 and sailed NNE in a 20 knot SE wind at 6 knots.  Meanwhile, the stormy weather to the W of us, which had kept us pinned at the Marquesas instead of proceeding on to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Torgugas, was moving NE much faster than the Captain had anticipated.  By 11:00 the wind began shifting to ESE, speed dropped to 5 knots and by noon it was raining.  Penelope and Patricia wisely went below to stay dry and probably more comfortable.

At 13:00 hours, we were in a squall.  Wind speed built to gale-force, and I hove to and joined the crew below to let the storm pass.  After 45 minutes or so, I decided to get back to the helm to steer away from the storm to smooth our ride, tethering myself into the cockpit as I climbed up the companion-way steps. As soon as I was up, I saw that the dinghy was swinging widely on the stern davits, on which we carry the dinghy with its engine.  The line securing the engine had broken, and now six-foot plus seas were causing the engine to whip left-then-right-then-left-then right from its mount on the dinghy.  This was putting enormous strain on the lines and harness securing the dinghy to the davits.  I had to get a new line on the engine!  Tethered to the back of the cockpit, I got a line from the stern locker and clambered up on to the deck.  The dinghy was swinging wildly as I crawled back to the dinghy and tried to reach the engine.  Waves were sweeping across the deck with such force that one swept me off my knees, throwing me against the port lifelines -- I was never so glad to be tethered.

But, I couldn't get the line to the engine without someone helping to support me, so Penelope came topside.   We struggled together to secure the engine, but the dinghy was still swinging widely on the davits.  We needed to get another line on it to stop the starboard-port-starboard swinging.  As we tried to figure a solution, wouldn't you know, I was almost collapsing from exhaustion, and, so soaked through and through, I slipped below to dry off a bit and put on heavier foul-weather gear.  Probably not the smartest thing to do, for the exhaustion, the heavy seas and the wet all combined to turn my stomach.  When I climbed back into the cockpit, it was just in time to feed the fish over the lee rail.  Meanwhile, between 15:30 and 15:50, Penelope had figured a way to put another line around the dinghy's pontoon (hanging to the port side), which she could secure to the starboard side of the stern pulpit, thus greatly lessening the dinghy's swinging on the davits.  Although still a bit queasy, I helped her secure the line just as the squall passed over us and the sun came out.

Penelope was exemplary during the storm and all through our trip.  Patricia put it very well in an entry to the log later when we were finally at anchor:  "I've been so impressed with Penelope's sailing -- she handles the boat like a seasoned sailor -- definitely could aim for being Captain."  

During the course of the storm, while hove to, Alizee had drifted about four nautical miles off course, and now we put her back on course.  We fired up the engine and continued our passage to San Carlos Bay, aided nicely by the wind's shifting so it came out of the SE.  We celebrated our survival with drinks in the cockpit under a slowly setting sun, Penelope prepared dinner under calm seas and salsa by Patricia was a big hit.  Fifteen hours later, each of us tired from our watches, we anchored in San Carlos Bay, and spent the day reading, napping and going for a swim, the day capped off by a pan-fried steak dinner with Napa Cabbage slaw.

Homeward on the ICW

4 May found us still at anchor in San Carlos Bay.  Still all pretty tired, for the next two days we decided to stay put.  The wind blew a steady fifteen knots all night and day, and our batteries were fully charged, allowing us to recharge our computers, Kindles and cell phones and that night watch a Netflix movie (oh, what the modern world has wrought).  We read, ate fresh fish, turkey burgers, Empress Chili, and a Cuban rice dinner; we drank Bloody Mary's in the afternoon, found out that George Jones had died and celebrated his life by playing most of his music, also toasted the memory of Penelope's Billy, who had passed on seven years before, and planned our next week's itinerary, homeward up the ICW (with maybe a bit of coastal sailing).

Our next anchorage, on 6 May at St. James City on the southern end of Pine Island, was barely a two hour motor.  There we went ashore to the Waterfront Restaurant and Marina for an A+ meal of sake/oyster shooters, clam chowder, Snow crab claws, Calamari, Grouper and Greek salad.  Waddling back to the dinghy, we went up the Monroe Canal to a little bait shop next to Woodie's Restaurant (we would have a visit there later, in November), where we got a bag of ice and raced back to Alizee before it melted away.

We spent three days around Charlotte Harbor, catching some fish, seeing the sights from the water and spending a roily night at anchor near Cayo Costa.  On 9 May, we raised sails and went out the Boca Grande inlet, passing a tarpon fishing tournament on the way out the channel as well as catching the first of  a couple of nice Spanish Mackerels, which Penelope fileted beautifully.  We'd called ahead to the Crows Nest Marina at Venice for a berth, and slipped in at 15:10.  I fixed some sushi rolls with some of the Mackerel, after which we had dinner at the Crow's Nest.  I mention this only because, unlike previous meals there, this was not particularly the best, and, worse, I got food poisoning from the mussel appetizer I had ordered and was miserably ill from 23:00 to 01:00.



Fantasy Island
Despite my previous night's discomfort, we sailed northward to Egmont Key the next day.  Our penultimate day of the cruise was spent with a wonderful sail from Egmont to Fantasy Island in north Tampa Bay (very near the Port of Tampa), where we spent a nice night at anchor feasting on a pork marsala dinner by Penelope.   By noon on our last day, we were home in our slip at the Harborage Marina in St. Pete, where Patricia and Penelope got ready to jump ship early the next day and leave me to clean up Alizee and prepare her to go back into Sailor's Wharf to finish installing the primary electric winches, water line repairs and fix the battery problem.  On 14 May, my friend Jeff Grant helped me get Alizee into the yard, and I drove home.  End of an interesting, challenging and often fun cruise.