May 15, 2015

After a couple of months enjoying the sights and sounds of Ft Lauderdale, Cindy and I are underway again, now heading back north to Savannah, Georgia. It’s time to haul Just One Dance out of the water and get our bi-annual maintenance done on her, plus get some items fixed that have reared their heads during this shakedown cruise and get some upgrades done. Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah is one of the premier boatyards on the east coast and can handle a vessel of JOD’s size.

The bottom paint, which is designed to keep barnacles from attaching themselves to the bottom of your boat and robbing it of speed, needs to be redone every couple of years. Zincs, which act as sacrificial corrosion devices to keep other important underwater metals parts of your boat, like through-hulls and sail-drives from corroding in the salt water likewise need periodic replacement.

We also have some slow leaks in a couple of our through-hull fittings. It’s nothing that the bilge pumps can’t handle but we don’t like the idea of any of our fittings leaking. We have the valves on these through-hulls closed, though this means no air conditioning. That’s fine since the breezes keep us plenty cool but the presence of these leaks convinced us to skip going to Biscayne Bay and get our haul-out done sooner rather than later. There are also some upgrades we want to have made to the boat – a watermaker, solar panels and a wind generator – that will enable us to go to remote islands where we can’t get water or power.

So early this morning we fire our engines up, back out of our slip and head back out onto the Intercoastal Waterway. It’s a beautiful blue sky day, the sun is shining, a brisk 10 knot wind is blowing in from the east and Cindy and I quickly fall back into the rhythm of sailing. As soon as we enter the waterway, we encounter the Las Olas drawbridge. We’ve timed our departure to make the 9:15 opening and hail the bridge keeper on our VHF radio as soon as we exit the marina, now taking care to identify ourselves as a northbound sailing vessel, to request passage. He responds to our hail and a few minutes later the bridge opens and we pass through, radioing back to thank him for his assistance. Like riding a bicycle.

The rest of the day plays out like a repeat of our passage south. We encounter drawbridges every couple of miles, most of which open only a couple of times per hour (one opens every 20 minutes). We’ve plotted out the average speed that JOD needs to hold between every bridge so that we don’t have to tread water for thirty minutes waiting for the next opening. However, these calculations are complicated by unknowns like the speed and direction of the currents, which are in turn influenced by the presence of inlets leading to the open ocean, and by the speed and direction of the wind. The potential margin of error is great. Our efforts bear fruit however and we make all of our openings.

It’s a Thursday so the boat traffic on the Intercoastal is low. We’re still in the highly developed part of Florida so all we see are estate-quality houses lining the narrow waterway. People along the shore wave and coo at Missy and she wags her tail back at them. At one point we spot a trio of dolphins coming directly at us like a salvo of torpedoes launched from a U-boat. I dash up front to get a better view and cringe as it looks like we’ll run over them, but they effortlessly flip over and swim alongside for a few moments. They roll sideways and smile up at me and then with a few powerful tail strokes disappear off into the murky waters.

We pass through our eighth and last bridge of the day and reach Lake Boca Raton. Calling this body of water a lake is a bit of a stretch; it’s more like a cove about half a mile deep and a mile wide. The center of Lake Boca is dominated by a shallow sand bar that’s popular with small pleasure boaters. The water is only about three feet deep so small motor boats can just drop anchor and people can easily stand in the water. Larger boats like ours anchor in the deeper water around the edge of Lake Boca.

Lake Boca Bay

Lake Boca Raton

This is another first for us; we will be anchoring tonight rather than staying at a dock. Dock life is fun but on an ongoing basis it gets expensive. Normal rates in Florida for a boat our size run from $75-$120 per night depending on how ritzy the marina is, or at least thinks it is. This will give us a chance to try out the 35 kg Rocna anchor we bought last year. These new generation anchors reputedly set easier on difficult bottoms conditions and hold better in shifting winds than the traditional plough and spade anchors.

We enter Lake Boca just north of Mile Marker 65, giving wide berth to the sand bar and head toward the northeast corner of the “lake” as advised in the cruising guides. It’s just past 12:30 in the afternoon and the anchorage is fairly empty. We motor over close to another catamaran, head into the wind and prepare to drop anchor. Cindy and I don our headphones, which are nicknamed “marriage savors”, so we can communicate while I’m up front dropping the anchor and she’s steering the boat.

We’ve seen numerous couples during our time sailing attempt to anchor or hook on to a mooring ball while relying on vaguely pre-coordinated hand signals and good old-fashioned yelling and were certain the next leg of their trip would take them straight to a divorce attorney. Believe me, no amount of yelling will enable two people to communicate clearly between the front of the boat and the helm with the wind roaring in your ears. These headphones are a godsend, though an often bulky and static-filled one.

We motor up to our spot of choice and I drop our anchor in about 5 feet of water, running the electric anchor windlass to let about 20 ft of chain pay out and then pause let the wind push us back. Soon I see the chain go taut, indicating that the anchor has set in the sandy mud bottom of Lake Boca. Then as Cindy slowly backs down on the engines I pay out about 40 more feet of chain to give us proper scope given the depth of the water and the height of our bow roller above the water.

I then hook our snubber, which is a rope bridle that attaches to our catamaran’s two hull bows, to the anchor chain and pay out a few more feet of chain. This leaves the chain above the snubber attachment slack so that the snubber takes the load when the rest of the chain pulls taut. Otherwise, the taut chain would transfer the load to the windlass, which isn’t designed to take high loads, and the boat would jerk to a stop since the chain has no give to it. Cindy then puts JOD into reverse and backs down hard on the anchor to verify that it doesn’t drag. Even at a couple of thousand rpm, the boat doesn’t budge.

With our anchor securely set, we proceed to have one of the nicest afternoons of our entire trip so far. We put on bathing suits and jump into the cool Florida waters. Cindy sits in our tethered inflatable papasan chair enjoying a drink I make for her while I don my mask, snorkel and fins and dive on our anchor to confirm it’s properly set (and out of curiosity). Following the chain out, I find it buried in the sand bottom, just as designed.

We’ve long wondered how well Missy can swim, so we take advantage of the clean water and lack of traffic to let her try it out. We put on her life jacket and I hand her off to Cindy in the papasan, who kick paddles the float out to the length of its tether. Well I can safely say that Missy takes to water like a duck takes to weightlifting.  Which is to say not very much at all. She immediately clampers up on Cindy’s shoulder to get as far out of the water as possible. She is not a natural water dog.

Lake Boca Missy

Missy First Water Experience

Still, we need to see if she can swim since she lives on a boat so Cindy gently lays her in the water and then swims protectively behind her as she dog paddles the twenty or so feet back to the boat. Upon reaching the sugar scoop, Missy scrambles onboard, bounds up the stairs and gets as far from the water as she can. I scoop her up in my arms, rinse her off with the freshwater hose and wrap her up in a dry towel. I briefly consider pouring her a stiff drink. We decide we need to find a shallow swimming pool for any future swim lessons.

Lake Boca Missy Swimming

Missy’s First Swim

In the evening I fix linguini with red clam sauce for dinner. We’re both ravenous since we just grabbed some fruit for breakfast and made sandwiches for a quick lunch underway. I forgot to take anything out of the freezer this morning so I have to make dinner out of items in the pantry. Washed down with a glass of red wine, the linguini is simple and delicious.

Lake Boca Sunset and Old Glory

Sunset and Old Glory

After the sun sets we go out on deck, lay back and look at the stars overhead, feel the breeze wash over us and the boat bobbing up and down on the waves. This is the best part of boating; being away from the land in a quiet bay, listening to the sounds of the waves slapping against the boat and enjoying the cool of the evening. It’s the only thing that’s been missing from our journey so far and we resolve to do it much more often.

Besides, it’s free.