Okeechobee Plan

…the Okeechobee planning begins…

We plan to cross the state of Florida using the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart, FL, to Fort Meyers, FL, taking us directly across the 2nd largest body of water completely enclosed by US territory, Lake Okeechobee! This waterway leads from the AICW to OWW to the GICW. That is the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the Okeechobee Waterway to the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway. These waterways are really fun to transit and a way to explore  the interesting towns and locations along the way. Our goal is to sail over to the west coast of Florida and up into the Sarasota / Bradenton area to see good friends and to learn about a place we have yet to visit, Palmetto, Florida.

We are learning about the Okeechobee Waterway and here are some facts:

  • 28 Bridges, 8 which will need to open for us
  • 5 Locks, lifting us up 15 feet to the level of Lake Okeechobee and then down to sea level
  • 154 statute miles long
  • Interesting towns of: Indiantown, Clewiston, and La Belle
  • The Army Corp of Engineers manages the waterway, locks, bridges and the lake level

Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge, 49 feet+
Our biggest challenge is the Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge. This bridge lifts to a height of 49 feet off the water. Our sailboat mast height is reported at 48 feet by the Island Packet Factory. On top of the mast we have a B&G Wind anemometer ($750.00,) a 1.5 foot VHF antenna, a digital TV antenna, and a  12″ lightning strike dissipator. The limiting height would be the VHF antenna adding 1.5 foot to our 48 foot mast, making our height 49.5 feet. That would mean that our VHF antenna would tap the bridge and bend back as we pass under the bridge. This would be OK, but not good!
Lucky for us, the Army Corp of Engineers, Jacksonville District manages the level of the lake and they like to keep it a bit lower at 12.5 feet which they call optimum level. This level of the Okeechobee Lake then impacts the clearance of the Port Mayaca Railroad Lift Bridge. As the lake rises, the RR bridge has less clearance. As the lake drops, the RR bridge clearance get higher. Really interesting, isn’t it? Check out this LIVE link to the lake level 
Today’s report looks like this:
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District
Lake Okeechobee and Navigation Depth Report
Data Ending 2400 hours 29 APR 2013    
Today’s Lake Okeechobee Stage =  13.41 (Feet-NGVD29)
Today’s Route 1 Navigational Depth ≈  7.35 Feet
Today’s Route 2 Navigational Depth ≈   5.55 Feet
Bridge Clearance = 50.65 Feet
S-308 Tailwater Elevation = 12.85   (Feet-NGVD29)   
Report Generated 30APR2013 @ 11:15  ** Preliminary Data – Subject to Revision **

Our draft (depth is 4.5 feet) We will take Route #1 which goes directly across the middle of the lake. Route #2 is longer and follows the perimeter of the lake to the south side.

Radar, Tuesday as we wait out the storms

So, we are waiting here at Stuart, Florida, on a mooring ball, until the thunderstorms die down. We do not want to get into the Okeechobee Waterway OR the Lake and have to deal with a severe Florida thunderstorm which usually has HAIL and very high winds. We may be able to go Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

We still wait….radar WED….the big ones are coming…

Thursday AM….we are ready to depart! WAIT….severe thunderstorm on our route…
errrrrr…..so we wait. Maybe we can run that gap. We will see

Cooling Challenges and Good Friends

…what a blown impeller looks like…

As we sailed into the Fort Pierce Inlet after a lovely full moon motor sail from Green Turtle Cay in the Abacos, the cooling impeller pump failed or 90% failed. This can be identified by the hollow sound in the engine exhaust and the low flow of exhaust cooling water. YUP, we either plugged the water intake or the impeller just died! Great job, ISLAND SPIRIT, you held on until we got back to the USA, then you sent us a warning shot that something was not right. What a great boat, with a great spirit. She got us home!

So, with a jib flying and running at 1500 rpms we made it into the Fort Pierce inlet against a 3 knot out flowing current. We proceeded south to the anchorage and dropped the hook. Job #1 was to call the USA customs officer and clear into the United States via a phone call. That is right, since Radeen and I have LOCAL BOATER OPTION cards, LBOs, we can clear back into the USA via a phone interview. This is great as it saves you from going to the customs office to check in. It does work. Of course this was after we re-activated our Verizon cell phones which had been suspended for 90 days. With cells up and running, we phoned in and checked back into the USA.

We enjoyed a visit with our buddy boat, TEOTWAWKI, rowing over to share snacks and a bottle of wine. After that, we rowed back into the 3 knot current and enjoyed the sunset and a feeling of accomplishment!

The impeller job can wait until the AM….

as we have been up for 36 hours with about 4 hours sleep for each of us. Night time crossing can be tough!

In the AM, we checked the sea strainer and discovered it was clear. So, next we dropped the starter off the engine, gained access to the impeller plate and found the broken impeller. What a mess. Obviously, this impeller had been breaking down over time. It finally gave up as we re-entered the USA.

Here is the starter dropped so it is out of the way

Luckily, I have an impeller puller tool, otherwise it is tough to get off the gear shaft
 There it is. FIVE fins out of nine are broken off. The bad news is, we could only recover 3 fins.
So, there are two fins loose in the cooling system and I will have to find them later!
 That is what a NEW impeller looks like installed….AHHH…how nice

SO….with a running boat, it was TIME TO MOVE ON. Let’s head SOUTH to STUART!

Here we are getting a lift on the New Roosevelt Lift Bridge at Stuart.

After washing the salt off the boat, we hit the town and met up with great friends Bob of IP 380 JUDITH III and Lamar and Sherri of IP 420 WINTERSET. Bob drove down from Satellite Beach to visit and Lamar and Sherri were already here, putting their 420 away till the fall. What a great visit!

Hayden, Bob and Lamar at the Art Festival

Hayden, Bob and Radeen, heading for at lunch at Duffy’s

Sherri and Radeen, so happy to see each other

                      Stuart is supposed to be  the SAIL FISHING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

The really wonderful aspect to cruising, as many have said, is the people you meet along the way. Here we are in Stuart, Florida, just passing through, and two sets of good friends take the time to connect with us and have lunch together! Thank you , Sherri, Lamar and Bob for a fun day! What a great life…..
Next adventure….crossing the OKEECHOBEE WATERWAY….you know, the big lake in the center of Florida? Yes, we will sail across it this week!

Bahamas Reflection Year 2

Last year we spent nearly two months discovering the Abacos, and we thought that was incredible. This year, we spent nearly two months exploring the Exumas, and NOW, we see what cruisers are talking about when they say…”You have not seen the Bahamas until you see the Exumas!” This is so true! It seems the farther south you go into the 700 plus islands of the Bahamas, the nicer it gets. One aspect that is consistent would be the people.

The Bahamian people are so kind, helpful, polite, peaceful, well spoken, educated, and simply great people! We have never been to a county where the people are so consistently nice. We have spent several sailing vacations in the Caribbean, exploring from the US Virgin Islands to the Tobago Cays, and we think the Bahamian people are far nicer than those who exploit you on St. Vincent and St. Lucia and some other Caribbean Islands. Imagine….NO BOAT BOYS in ANY Bahamian harbor…NONE. You take your dinghy to shore, and if there are locals there fishing, they stop, offer to HELP you tie up, and then help you find your way into town or the local services. Everyone greets you pleasantly as you walk with “Good morning, ma’m” or sir, making us feel so welcome!

Then you have the “GIN CLEAR” waters of the Bahamas. Sailing across the banks in 10-20 foot deep water you easily see the bottom littered with starfish and conch. Many times you are sure you will hit the bottom, but then you check the depth gauge and it is 12 feet deep. WHAT? Amazing. You sail along and your shadow on the sandy bottom follows along. This a constant joy to watch. How can this be reality? It is just so beautiful, so clear, so easy. Sailing the Bahamas is a real joy and the wonderful people make it even more so. We can imagine many years exploring this beautiful country. 

Thank you BAHAMAS…
Here are a few reflection photos: CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGES

The Bahamas are a dream location and a must sail location for any and all cruising sailors!

Alternate Reality

The alternator and the alternate reality story

Rule #1 

Well, so now we have learned that rule of cruising. We had an alternator failure on our arrival in the Abacos from Eleuthera a few weeks ago when the positive wire corroded off and was sparking as it grounded out. So, we pulled that wire, crimped on a new end fitting and we thought it was fixed….WRONG….The next week, lucky for us, we sailed Wendy and Craig around the Abacos for 8 days with no alternator or fire issues. The day after they left, we nearly had a FIRE on the boat as the positive post, on the alternator, was now loose and grounding out and sparking all over the engine room. We quickly removed the wiring to the alternator and sailed safely back to Marsh Harbor.

Let the Repairs Begin #1

We pulled the alternator and had Brian Symonett fix it with his spare parts taken from other alternators.  We re-installed this jury rig repair, and guess what? IT WORKED GREAT! So, we ran that repair for about a week with ZERO problems. It was all OK.

Let’s make it BETTER!

Well, that was NOT good enough, so we got the bright idea to ship in the PROPER parts from Ample Power in Washington State, for a full rebuild. This costs an extra 45% duty tax plus about $50 for the imported services. Now with the proper parts in hand, we decide to pull the alternator once again, and take it into Brian for a “PROPER” rebuild. After all, we don’t want this to break at sea when we are running for the Florida Coast next week. This seemed like a good idea.

Most of the NEW Parts are Installed

Brian rebuilds the alternator now with the new parts…EXCEPT….he can’t press the new diode into the case because he does not have the proper tool or press, so he decided to keep the original ones. OK, that is fine, “whatever you think is best.” Now with the new parts installed, we install the alternator back on Island Spirit…

POP goes the DIODE

POOF….it blows up within the first 10 minutes of running. She starts to output power at about 50 amps, all is fine, voltage is proper at 14+ volts, and then after about 10 minutes of heating up the alternator, I increased to 2,000 RPMS. That is when it blew the diode. Now she would only put out about 7-10 amps and no voltage! WHAT?

Maybe MY wiring is bad!

OK, it must be my field wire, right? Unfortunately  you can not work the field wire unless you pull the alternator, so off it comes again. I double check the field wire, it is all OK, the connections are OK, it is all fine on my side. I reinstall the alternator and run it again. NOPE, no power…

Off it comes AGAIN

So, off it comes again, now back into Brian. He takes it apart, and YUP….”you blew up a diode!” You mean the brand new diode plate I flew in for lots of money is blown? YUP! OMG….OK, then will you please rebuild it again with the car parts that you used last time? OK, I need to run home and get these parts, and I will be back to finish it by 2pm.

Brian Rebuilds it a THIRD TIME

Brian takes the alternator apart for a third time and rebuilds it BACK to the way he fixed it the first time with standard car parts. Back we run to the boat, re-install the unit and sure enough, IT WORKS JUST FINE. It works just like it worked the FIRST TIME it was fixed. So, we now have brand new parts that are blown, and worthless, and we have an alternator with a jury rig fix. Good enough, because we are taking off for FLORIDA!

The Cost to re-Learn Rule #1

1. First Rebuild: $95.00
( it worked just fine after this)
2. Buy Proper parts: $150.00 (AmplePower.com)
3. 2nd day Air: $45.00
4. Bahamas 45% Duty $87.00
(you pay duty on the shipping as well!)
5. Rebuild #2 $90
(this was with the new parts, most of them!)
6. Rebuilt it BACK to the first rebuild FREE, yahoo!

Total Spent = $467.00.
A brand new alternator is $500

OK, that was FUN….

Now it is TIME to begin the run for FLORIDA. We will be departing HOPE TOWN for points north, then around the WHALE, then into Green Turtle, Spanish Cay to Great Sale Cay, to West End to Florida. This could be a 3-4 day run….

The Hope Town Lighthouse at Daybreak….peaceful

Marsh Harbor Daze

…The Jib Room Steak Night is to die for….

We are simply living, or should I say, living simply, here in Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas. It is a simple and easy life here on anchor with trips to the massive Maxwell’s Grocery store or Standard Hardware store or simply a walk around town. Then there are dinghy rides around the harbor to visit with boating friends. Of course, the real draw in Marsh Harbor is the JIB ROOM, where Wednesday night is RIB NIGHT and Saturday night is STEAK NIGHT.
These are must attend events! The food is always fantastic, the drinks are reasonably priced, the owners are superb people, and the entertainment is really fun. How can we NOT go to The Jib Room? We go….nearly every time we are here!

Yes, living on the anchor in Marsh Harbor is easy. You can get plenty of work done on the boat because there are many services and supply houses to keep your boat running. If not, then hire an import company to fly in whatever you need, for a 45% duty tax!

Here are a few photos of the Marsh Harbor Daze….

RIB NIGHT at the Jib Room, a must go event

So, you think you can LIMBO with Desmond?….see below!

Desmond warms up with about 30 one-handed push ups!
Try this…I can do ONE

Desmond is the LIMBO KING, no one can go lower!

 Steve, from Iowa, hosted a party on board his IP38,SLOW FLIGHT

IP38 MOON DANCE, Bob and Nina, from Oklahoma, with Hayden and Radeen

Tom and Linda, owners of the famous JIB ROOM in Marsh Harbor

Hayden, Mark and Dennis
IP40 DOWN ISLAND, Mark single hands his 40 from Florida
IP420 TRUE NORTH, Dennis sails with Debi.
Their hailing port is Deadwood City, South Dakota!


Debi, Radeen and Nina enjoying the Jib Room 
Hayden, Mark and Dennis talk serious boat stuff

Rake and Scrape time! Kurt playing a cross cut saw with a long screwdriver.

Debi and Jason breakin out the dance moves….so much fun!

Debi showing Jason how to move. Jason says, “You go, Girl….”

Oh yea, we tore off the alternator once again for another rebuild with  parts flown-in for $$$.
Let’s see if this works better. It was working fine on the last rebuild, but I wanted new, original parts.

So, life is a DAZE and we can see how boaters easily make Marsh Harbor a base. You have everything you need here.

We do plan to move on soon, breaching the WHALE CAY passage and starting our travels north …. anytime …. anytime… soon …. 🙂

Fowl Cay Snorkeling

…off to explore the reef…

Photos show the beauty of Fowl Cay Preserve in the Sea of Abaco, Bahamas…I will let the photos tell the story….enjoy (click photos for full screen images!) I shot 120 photos, these are the best 12!

Abaco, Bahamas, a beautiful place to explore! Add this to your bucket list for sure!

Hope Town Easy Life

…here is a photo of us on a mooring ball in Hope Town…

Life in Hope Town has an interesting ebb and flow. The harbor is a real treasure with the lighting of the lighthouse every night to the pace of the ferry rush hour in the morning to calm walks on the beach in the afternoon. Life is calm here, very calm, with the soothing sounds of ocean waves, roosters and boat motors. There are a few shops, a few restaurants and a beautiful beach. The main mode of transportation is a golf cart or a water taxi or on foot. You can swim the beautiful blue ocean, snorkel the reef, walk the beach, explore the town, climb the 101 steps to the lighthouse lookout, share cocktails with friends, dinghy to Tahiti Beach, read, nap, and simply enjoy this peaceful life. Hope Town, a must-stop visit in Abaco, Bahamas, or better yet, a must-stay location for an entire season. It is pleasant to wonder just how much we could really enjoy that….

Here are a few photos

Rush hour with ferries running everywhere

A crowded day on the Elbow Cay Beach

Our shadows with our sun hats. We are really trying NOT to get tan!

This quaint little waterfront cottage is a rental, along with many others

Curly tail lizards ares fun to watch

Hope Town architecture is so beautiful against the blue skies

Nightly entertainment. That is Jeffery standing in the lens to the right, dropping the sun screens.

There it is, LIT, after a 10+ minute pre-heat. An explosion of light fills the lens.
After climbing out of the lens, the keeper engages the gears and the rotation begins, flashing the
 pattern of lights that identifies this lighthouse…. 5 flashes, each one second long, then 3 seconds of darkness.

Radeen enjoying the busy beach

My favorite model….Radeen in the shade of the umbrella

We will stay in Abaco another week or two…..we are glad to have so much time to discover Paradise!

Wendy and Craig Head Home

…Reflecting on the bow in Hope Town…

Wendy and Craig sadly departed the fun on Island Spirit and headed back to the cold rainy north for some house work, landscaping work, and of course that bad four letter work…W O R K….we had such a great time and it flew by as it always seems to with close friends. We sailed nearly 100 nautical miles and that is a lot in the little Sea of Abaco. We covered from Treasure Cay to Tahiti Beach and all sights in between. We all agree our favorite was Hope Town and the beautiful Lighthouse and quaint town. We shared simple meals of spaghetti with homemade meat sauce and homemade “Dough Boy” bread! We had ham and eggs for breakfast most days, unless the team selected French toast or oatmeal.

Dough Boy homemade bread for sandwiches  

Then there were the great sandwiches and snacks for lunches and let’s not forget the red wine and Island Spirit drinks at five o’clock along with “Music Man’s” beautiful guitar playing and crystal clear singing! We shared fun parties on Island Packet Yachts FLATLANDER, and TRUE NORTH along with SLOW FLIGHT. We enjoyed the SOJER DAY on Man-O-War, and then made sure we returned back to the JIB ROOM for STEAK NIGHT. I do not think we could have fit more into 8 days in Abaco and as they say…..We Did it ALL….and had a blast. Thank you, Wendy and Craig, for taking the time to come down and join Team Island Spirit and share in our adventures. As Wendy would say, “It was big fun!”

Here is a Google Map of our 8 days. Click on the pins to see PHOTOS….

View Wendy and Craig Abaco 2013 in a larger map

The Source URL to this map is….

 Here are a few photos as Wendy and Craig head home….

Wendy and Craig head home via a dinghy ride to the Jib Room
There goes our Music Program 🙁
Our Friendly Cab Driver picks up for a trip to the Airport
Light Packing: Wendy with one bag and a laptop backpack
Craig with one bag, one snorkel bag, and our MUSIC Program with the Back Up Band
If It’s Gonna Happen….It’s Gonna Happen Out There….
Captain Ron

Very lucky for all of us, the alternator decided to short out two days AFTER Wendy and Craig left. Sparks were flying and the positive lead was shorting out INSIDE the alternator, so we shut down the motor and SAILED back to Marsh Harbor from near Hope Town. This problem had to be developing for a long time. The last fix two weeks ago was the positive lead wire, so I should have pulled the alternator then. Lucky for us, we found it during a routine engine check so it did NOT start a FIRE!

Here is how we got back into the harbor. Pull the Alternator.
Make a mock up short belt using cable ties to run the coolant pump.
Sail to the harbor and motor in the last mile.
(Credit: Greg M. IP420 Anywhere for this brilliant quick temporary belt! )

Here is the problem. The positive post on the diode plate was not seated well.
This was a rebuild only 18 months ago by a shop in MD…..a questionable job!

The galley countertop makes a good workbench!
Where is are the guests now? We need HELP 🙂

Fortunately, the alternator did not cause any problem while Wendy and Craig were onboard. Thanks to our training with Tom Tursi at The Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship, www.mdschool.com, we do ENGINE CHECKS while running, otherwise this could have turned into a boat fire. We are glad we could sail back to Marsh Harbor where the unit was repaired in only one afternoon with cannibalized automotive parts. Let’s hope it holds…..if not…..a new rebuild kit will be shipped in…..

Treasure to Hope Town Light

From Nippers on Great Guana, we sailed up to Treasure Cay and enjoyed one of the top ten beaches in the world, according to National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine. While here, we flew the stunt kites and visited with good friends Kathy and Alan of IP420 Flatlander. Look how beautiful this beach is and look how crowded it was….

From Treasure Cay, we ran back to Hope Town so we could walk the town. We tried to buy some coconut bread from Vernon, but he was sold out once again. We will just have to eat our homemade Island Spirit Bread. Here is one more architecture shot from Hope Town.

Our other mission in Hope Town was to walk up the 101 steps to the top of the light house. From the top, you can enjoy the beautiful overlook into the harbor or the opposite side where you can take in  vast views back over the Sea of Abaco. Here are a few photos from the Hope Town lighthouse.

After a wonderful “Sunday Dinner” on Tuesday (this afternoon) at 2-3 pm, we then enjoyed a very happy hour with music and singing and great friends aboard IP420 True North. Steve on IP38 Slow Flight joined us with his guests Wendy, Eric and Susan. Here are some fun shots..

At sunset, our special treat for Wendy and Craig was to meet the lighthouse keeper, Jeffrey. THIS IS A MUST ATTEND EVENT to experience while here in Hope Town. Jeffrey has been one of the two lighthouse keepers for 8 years. His father was the lighthouse keeper at 3 other lighthouses in the Bahamas, which are now automated. He shared with us the history and the process of lighting the kerosene mantle. What an experience to witness Jeffery inside the lens when he first heats the burner with alcohol. When it is hot, he can turn on the pressurized gas, lift a light up to the spewing gas and the flame ignites. AMAZING TO SEE… Here are some great photos of Jeffrey lighting the Elbow Cay Lighthouse

Hope Town, a very special place…and even more special to share with Wendy and Craig!

Nippers Effect

…These GoPro pics are so cool….

Of course we sailed Wendy and Craig to one of the greatest beach bars and burger joints in the Abacos….NIPPER’S on Great Guana Cay. Departing Marsh Harbor around 1130 hrs, we raised the mainsail and killed the engine before even leaving the harbor. With a very nice close reach, we sailed on the wind vane set at 55 degrees on our autopilot. Whenever we approach Great Guana Cay, the winds always seem to go more aft so we can easily reach along the shore up to Fisher’s Bay. We dropped anchor and took our time getting a good solid set. This harbor is full of grass and it takes patience to dig the anchor into the firm bottom.

Craig working the stunt kite on the Nipper’s Beach

Once set, we immediately hit the road for Nipper’s with stunt kites in hand. When we arrived, the party was well underway and that crazy Nipper Juice was kicking in for many in attendance there! From dancing to beach walks, even to gymnastics on the beach, the Nipper Juice was working it’s magic and all were having a blast!

Photos of the day at this great place…
( I shot 151 photos today, here are 15)

Hayden holding the GoPro out on a boat hook

GoPRo camera held up high over the bow

GoPro pic with the camera just inside the jib on a close reach

IP40 NAVIGATOR sailed with us to Nippers, Cliff single hands this 40

The scene at Nipper’s
Nipper Juice kicking in, with head stands on the beach….cool

Craig hits the beach with his stunt kites

Launching the stunt kite over the beach
Craig doing aerobatics with the stunt kites

Radeen and Wendy walking the beach
Back on Island Spirit, we enjoyed a great sunset

Solar Panels really work so well down here, right up to sundown

….Nipper’s….a must-visit place in the SEA of ABACO!