Friday, March 13, 2015

New Vidoe: Episode #4 - Exploring the Bahamas - Stocking Island

On this episode, we set out for a couple of days of exploration. First we take the trail to the windward beach and head south until it ends and the labyrinth of trails begin - where beautiful views can be had atop gorgeous rock cliffs.  But we also spent a day on a hike to the Salt Monument by the northern part of the island.  And in between we accomplish a little work on the boat and watch the 2015 Georgetown Regatta from our own front seats. Video footage taken from February 25 and March 5, 2015.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dean's Blue Hole - Long Island, Bahamas

Road Trip!  We finally decided to break down and spend a little money on a rent-a-car so we could make the short trip up the highway to Dean's Blue Hole.  I figured that since we were within 4 miles of it, and its the deepest salt water hole in the world, maybe it would be worth it.  Also, I heard that there was a cliff that you can jump off if you only had the balls to do so.  Plus, while we had the car, we'll go ahead and head up to the Sea Wind Grocery Store to do a little provisioning.  

All went as planned, and by 10:30 am we were pulling damn near right up on the beach to the Blue Hole - nobody was there and you can see our rent-a-car in the background on some of the pictures.  The free-diving platform was affixed and we heard the influx of participants and spectators will start funneling in closer to the end of this month as competition starts April 1.

But looking off into a 663 foot hole is a little weird.  Not that we haven't been diving before - hell, we've dove a wall in Cozumel that dropped off to over 1000 feet.  But for some reason, a hole is just different.  And after we got a little used to it, the boys started jumping off the cliff, and suckered me into it also - although I did take the one a little down from the top.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We Outdid Ourselves!

I know I just posted the great day of cruising we just had en-route to Calabash Bay at the north end of Long Island...but on the way down to Clarence Town two days ago we outdid ourselves.  Although it was a little rough going at times - waves sometimes up over the 6-7 foot range hitting us from the port bow direction, and we had trouble keeping the wind more than 40 degrees on our nose - we were able to land this (to us) massive Mahi-mahi.  But the big challenge in actually getting her on board was the fact that we were at full sails when she hooked, and we had at least one motor running (can't remember if starboard was on or not.)  

Justin was first to the pole and quickly realized that tightening the drag would result in a snapped line (we used to think 40 lb. test was plenty) was singing! He could feel and hear the line stretching.  So she kept taking it....and taking it until we started to get concerned that she'd take the whole spool.  We also realized that if we had any chance of getting the fish in the cockpit, we had to slow down, so Brandon and I pulled in the jib and I turned into the wind enough that we were able to putter along at about 1.5 knots. 

She went to the opposite side of the boat as a last resort
Brandon trying to sneak the gaff in


As Justin continued to reel her in, she would tease us by jumping out of the water in an attempt to shake loose the lure.  Then when she got close to the boat, she made a last ditch attempt by going to the opposite side and half way up and around the starboard hull - Brandon had to go to the steps and pull the line aft so she wouldn't tangle in the prop and rudder.  

But the last move was to actually gaff her as she was much too heavy for the line and pole to remove her from the ocean - and so far, its something we haven't been successful at doing.  But after a couple of tries, Brandon was able to gently hook the gill and hoist her up onto the boat - a great team effort in all.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bagged 3 Mahi-Mahi en-route to Long Island

Today we decided to head over to the north end of Long Island in preparation for island hopping further south.  The problem is that starting this Tuesday wind from the east will be up over 25 knots for about a week, so wherever we are is where we'll be for awhile.  So its hard making the decision to leave Georgetown when we know wind like this will be hitting us soon.  When you're in Georgetown, you get comfortable - it has everything you need: American television (all four major stations!!), grocery stores, internet, and safety in numbers.  And after waiting for our anemometer (wind instrument) to come back from Raymarine for over a month now, fear begins to creep in because beyond Georgetown, you are kind of on your own.  Do we leave? Or do we stay?  

But today, I made the decision to go ahead and set sail for Calabash Bay on Long Island - the wind was minimal and the waves were non-existant as the waters west of Long Island are still protected from the Atlantic Ocean - seemed like a good idea to peak out and get a little salty.  And sails like this can be very productive - you get to dump your tanks and we make water the whole way replenishing our diminished supply as we're not comfortable making water in Elizabeth Harbor.  We also let out both fishing poles - a couple of Penn's we picked up at a Key West pawn shop.  And when you travel in 2000 feet of water you might just snag a Mahi or two.  

TWO fish ON!!!
We're perfecting the "Swing-to-the-Cockpit" maneuver 
And that's what happened - we hadn't had them out but about an hour when the first monster Mahi hit.  And unfortunately for us, once again, the big one got away - we have not seemed to master the art of getting these bad boys into the safety of the cockpit before they shake that lure right out of their mouth.  Major bummer!  We devise another plan and put both poles back out again.  Lucky for us, there are more Mahi in these waters and within about another hour, we got another hit - a baby, but still a nice one.  We can at least look forward to a nice Mahi dinner - we've been redeemed a little.  


Happy Times!

But the real excitement came after about another hour, the small Penn reel got a hit and Justin ran to it to pull it in and Brandon ran to the other reel to bring it in so Justin wouldn't get tangled in it.  But as soon as Brandon started to reel, his lure was also hit - now we had TWO FISH ON!!!  For some reason, both fish went to port and Brandon found himself making his way around the solar rack with a big Mahi on (he knew what it was because it kept jumping out of the water.)  Lucky for us, we were able to finally get big Mahi inside the cockpit before they both shook their lures and we have finally been redeemed from the two big ones that got away!

The baby that we caught after the big one got away

Monday, February 23, 2015

Behind the Scenes - What we haven't told You

For all the awesome scenes of beautiful water and gorgeous sunsets, its seems that there are an equal, if not more, number of maintenance problems that we haven't put in our videos or posted on this blog.  Most of the time the reason I don't film "tragedy" (like when our generator stopped working, that to us is pretty bad)  is because I don't like filming the destruction of any kind - it kinda reminds me of when our youngest son was born....he had so many things wrong with him, the doctor was actually concerned for his life and kept him in the NICU for the first 48 hours of his life with all these wires hanging off him and what-not.  When they took his baby picture, I wanted all the lines covered up with his blankets and we didn't take any pictures of us or him while he was in the NICU - I told them I didn't want to remember this kind of stuff.   

So it goes when tragedy hits on Catchin' Rays - my first reaction is not to grab the GoPro...its to try and figure out how we are going to fix whatever has just shit the pan and how to keep cruising when we don't have a working generator, or a working water maker, or a starboard engine, and even a port engine (yes, so far we've had to fix each one of these important parts to our boat.)  But being able to fix these problems is absolutely imperative if you yourself are planning on doing something similar to us.  And around here, it starts with my son Justin - from there he and I brainstorm the problem and discuss the best way to fix it - and sometimes we don't agree, but we always work pretty well together.  Brandon is also there to offer whatever assistance is needed and a lot of the time, does a lot of the physical work, but his specialty is really the hunter/gatherer and has proven deadly accurate with a Hawaiian sling.  But as far as the maintenance and catastrophic failures go, its me and Justin.

The first big disaster that hit and that was mentioned in my first sailing video (but never filmed) was the fuel leak on the starboard engine.  Up until we left Key West, we had only ran the engines about 2 hours at a time.  The overnighter to Key Largo was the first time the engines had ran to anywhere close to 14 hours straight.  So we wanted to shut them down, check the oil levels, and for any leaks.  And the starboard engine did have a small fuel leak that Justin promptly began to repair.  It wasn't until afterwards, and during restart, that the replacement "China" starter decided to completely break off at the bell crank.  That's when we pulled into Key Largo and had to wait for about 5 or 6 days on a replacement.  

The next "issue" that reared its ugly head was when we were turning on the generator (to meet our massive energy demands) and it started right up, but after about 10 seconds, decided it didn't want to run anymore.  It had never died on us before and has been a pretty rock-solid performer any time we've called on it for its services.   We tried again with the exact same results...and a little panic begins to creep in.  At this point, Justin starts doing all his troubleshooting techniques that involves volt meters, tools, and deep thoughts.  In the end, he thinks it had something to do with how it was getting its fuel supply and/or trash in the line but we're not really sure - all we know is that its been working like a charm ever since. 

After that (and since we've been here in Georgetown) our wind instrument just stopped working as I mentioned in one of my other posts.  Brand new unit just took a shit.  The problem is that we ran the lines and installed the unit as the mast laid next to the boat on saw horses - not sticking sixty-something feet in the air.  So it was time for Justin to strap on the Bosun's chair and go investigate the very top of the mast....not to be taken lightly.  The only problem with this kind of problem is that if a display or a masthead go to shit, there's not much you can do to fix it.  So off to Raymarine it went for troubleshooting and/or repair.

This all brings me to our latest disaster that nearly halted all cruising for the Rays as we know it (not really, but it could've really screwed things up for the foreseeable future.)  Yesterday, we decided to head out to open ocean since the wind and weather decided to be a little favorable for such a task.  The idea was that we needed to dump our tanks (the pump out boat is broken, no shit! ha ha) and we were full.  We also needed to make water - we don't really like making water in the harbor since the pump out boat is BROKEN!! and not everybody finds it necessary to leave the harbor to dump their tanks.  And finally, we always like to take advantage anytime we can charge our batteries (have I mentioned we use a lot of power?)   So it seemed like a good day of getting stuff done.  And it was....although 6 foot waves coming right at you are...well...6 foot waves...and they were coming quick - big time hobby-horsing.  More so than we've seen so far on our whole trip here. 

And the boat and us handled it well - we made a little water, charged up the batteries...all was good...right up until after we entered the harbor from the open ocean.  I saw the rpm gauge on the port engine starting to fluctuate all over the place - so I ran to the side to make sure it still had water dumping overboard (meaning it was still getting plenty of seawater for cooling purposes)...and then the dreaded BEEEEEEEEEP!!! from the engine dying and the alarm sounding.  The worst sound you can hear when you're motoring.  Well that really sucks.  Justin tried to get it started again without luck.  The third time, it started but ran like shit.  Then he could get it to idle but not rev.  Then it did get a little better....he could put it in gear and it sounded pretty good.  Ok! problem averted....only to have it die about 5 minuets later.  Shit!  Ok....its gotta be fuel - we'll change the fuel filter.  Justin wasn't convinced - he had just changed all the filters about 100 hours ago, besides our engines actually have two filters on them and we can switch between each one just in case one does get clogged - and he had already tried the other filter with the same results.  What are the chances both filters go bad at the exact same time especially since they've both been replaced recently.  

So this morning, we decided  to replace the filter anyway just so we could eliminate that as a possible problem.  It also couldn't be water in the fuel because we haven't gotten any fuel recently and have not had a problem to date.  But we'll change the filter anyway.  Then we pulled anchor and set out for the harbor to run up the engines to see how it does.  But after 10 minuets of running at 3000 rpm, it died again.  Well, now that really sucks.  Where do we look now?  We both agreed that we have to check the fuel has to be a fuel issue - it acted just like it was starving for fuel - but what kind of problem lets the engine run perfectly for 10 minutes and then dies?  So Justin went to the engine room to investigate the fuel lines.  And to our surprise, he couldn't get fuel to free-flow to the filter once the line was removed.  After finding a way to put suction on the line, quite a bit of trash poured out of the line - we found our smoking gun.  After clearing the line and putting everything back together, I'm happy to report that our port engine hasn't run better.  All the huge waves that we went through on the way to dump the tanks (and with the fuel getting a little lower) it must have stirred up some of the trash in the fuel tank and fed it down the line - which all makes sense.  

All part of the ups and downs of cruising - one minute we're trying to figure out where we're going to park the boat to fix it, or who to fly in to troubleshoot the problem, or where we'd have to go to find a replacement engine....and the next minute you're looking at the weather predictions in preparation for heading further south.  

These are the kinds of ups and downs that can wear on the easily frazzled. So if you're going to enter the cruising lifestyle, you'd better be prepared to put on your big-girl panties.  

(Notice there aren't any pictures that accompany this post...that's because they don't exist.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Video: Episode #3 Sailing the Bahamas - Norman's Cay to Georgetown

Check out the next episode in our video series.  On this installment, we hang out at Norman's Cay for a few days before moving on to Staniel Cay where we chill out while waiting out the wind.  We then head down to Lee Stocking where we find a message in a bottle and our first lobster.  We then make the short sail down to Georgetown to hunker down and settle in.  So far, Georgetown also includes a shopping trip to Top-to-bottom and a little excitement when two boats in the harbor drag anchor during a squall.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What's going on in Georgetown, Bahamas?

Well, I guess there's a lot going on here with the 2015 Regatta just a couple of days away and the official boat count in the harbor is a whopping 353 boats.  But with us, not much is happening.  We removed and shipped out the Raymarine anemometer (I know, it's only been really used for only about 2 months) but as of today, it hadn't even been delivered because of the snow storm in, we wait.  And hey, its not a bad place to hunker down for a month or could be worse.  

Can you find Catchin' Rays?
Most days I get up in time for "the Net" - and anybody that's ever been here knows what that is - its the morning VHF traffic having to do with everything in the area....businesses, emergencies, buy/sell/trade, new arrivals, and people leaving.  While that's going on, I'm usually checking my YouTube channel for any comments or questions, I check my email, and my blog.  Then I start editing the next video in our adventure series. 

But most people here go to shore for one activity or another - yoga, volleyball, meet and greets, or just getting a drink at Chat-n-Chill.  But nobody's ever accused us as being too we skip most of those things.  Although I did talk Brandon into going ashore the other day to compete in the "Bocci-Ball" tournament that they were having in preparation of the real tournament that's going on during Regatta.  And although we've never played before, we wiped out the 23 other teams on our way to victory....and the prize was 2 decent bottles of wine from the cellars of some boat here in the harbor.  Even though we don't drink, much less drink wine, I wanted to win and we were very proud to bring those two bottles of wine back to the boat.  But the rest of the day is just time wastes ...sometimes we watch tv for most of the day; other times we hop in the dinghy and make a grocery run; sometimes we go to volleyball beach and just walk around - not a bad way to spend early retirement. 

But there might be a couple of things about Georgetown some of you may want to know, just in case you might be planning your own trip here:

1. There is actually American channels broadcast over the air here that you can receive if you have a decent powered antenna on your mast.  Its pumped in from Miami, Florida and you get all four major channels - ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC plus two local channels.  What's funny is that the whole time we were in Key West, there were exactly ZERO major networks broadcast over the air...and only two shitty local channels - but here in Georgetown, we get all four major channels from the United States....I just don't understand that.

2. There is a pump out boat that comes by and will empty your tanks for a fee - ours runs $20 for our 25 gallon tank.  But beware, he has a screw off his port side and will come in at your boat at an angle - and even though we had plenty of fenders out, he got us right between two of them.  He will also try and get a free beer from you during the waste removal.  He'll also take your trash bags for $2 apiece. 

3. The local Exuma Market grocery store provides free water at the dinghy dock for cruisers, and so far, its the only place we've seen that provides free water.

4.  No matter how close to shore you think you've gotten and that there's no possible way anybody could get between you and the shore, somebody will inevitably squeeze in there.  And then next to you and then on the other side of you.....its crazy to think how close they'll drop anchor around you.  So if you think you're in a good place for the next front that comes through....soon enough you'll have lots of company if you don't already.  

5.  There's multiple internet antennas around in the area - there's at least 6 internet signals to tap into with most being some sort of pay by the use kind.  The free signal comes from the Exuma Yacht Club but you pretty much have to be at the restaurant to pick it up - even when we use our wifi hotspot.  

Well, that's just about it for me for now....Jimmy Kimmel is about to come on.

Just in case you hadn't spotted us.
Photos generously supplied by s/v Bueller
check out their blog at

Monday, February 9, 2015

How Much does it cost to Cruise for 1 month? Here's the answer

The biggest question when it comes to cruising is - how much does it cost?  And now that we've been actually cruising for over a month, we know the answer to that question - at least for the first month anyway.  

So the break-down does include everything that we spent in the month of January that includes a Caribbean cell phone, entry fee into the country, electronic charts for just about the whole half of this world (we aren't sure where we're going yet), and also the maintenance costs associated with the starter and rent-a-car.  It does not include the costs associated with the initial provisioning of the boat - all the groceries and the fuel we bought in Key West before we left and to be honest, we spent well over $1000 in groceries alone, maybe close to $1500.  And we've been eating pretty well by our standards over the past month and a half, and we still have enough food to last another 1 1/2 months.  All we've been doing is buying more cereal, bread, vegetables, etc.   But I estimate that we have probably eaten about $400-600 worth of groceries so far and now that we're in the Bahamas, it will be even more to replace our supplies - but that will probably not show up until March sometime.

So, here is the list and break-down of the cost to cruise:

Janruary 2015

The first list is mostly an itemized list of the separate charges.  The second list is the totals.

Diesel $54.00
Gas $13.00
Groceries $265.00
Diesel $228.00
Gas $23.00
Weech's Dockage (2 days) $100.00
Bimini World Marina (1 day) $55.00
Nassau Habour Club $203.00
Port Starter $200.00
Rent-a-car $112.00
Zincs (4 sets) $150.00
Entertainment/ Dinning $119.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Book (we forgot to buy Bahamas) $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Bahama Sim Card for cell phone $20.00
Cell Phone - Carribean $210.00
Pre-paid minuets $180.00
Internet Access $75.00
Containers $11.00
Medicne $13.00
Exuma Yacht Club (1 day) $93.00
Groceries $48.00
Dinning $21.00
Diesel $91.00
Diesel $378.00
Groceries $313.00
Gas $36.00
Dockage $451.00
Maintenance $462.00
Entertainment/Dinning $140.00
Laundry $18.00
Electronic Charts $235.00
Guide Books $59.00
Scuba Stuff $140.00
Communication $485.00
Containers $11.00
Medicine $13.00
Total $2,741.00

So there you have it - the cost to cruise the month of January 2015 as done by the Ray family aboard Catchin' Rays - your list may differ. 

Check out our latest sailing episode.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Video: Episode #2 - Bimini to Norman's Cay

Holy shit, we got internet good enough to upload our next video thanks to Bahamian Wifi (its a service that we pay for down here either by the week or by the month, and its pretty fast at times.)  On this video, we leave the fast times at Bimini and head to Gun Cay so we could be that much closer to Chub.  

After Chub, we head to Rose Island to chill out for a couple of days - which is where we discovered Bahamian Wifi to begin with.  From there we head down to Allan's Cay to feed the iguanas and ended up getting caught in a horrible current in a tight anchorage with 5 other boats.  It ended up pulling our anchor loose and dragging it as we quickly made the decision to pull it up and re-anchor.  

The thing about knowing when to do this is a little harder than it seems.  You see, we set up the chartplotter the best we can and put a waypoint right on top of where we think the anchor is so we can see if we've moved further from the anchor as the day and nights go on.  We were getting whipped around so much, that it was hard to tell if we were dragging or not, but when the difference became over 40 feet, we had a good indication that we were getting pulled by the current.  It was a long night needless to say and that's why we hauled ass to Norman's the next day - we wanted a little more room to breathe.  As you can see in the video, there isn't a whole lot of space to anchor between the island to begin with and stack on top of it that we were being swallowed be a 5 knot current that had a death grip on my boat....anyway, that night sucked.  

Then we end with arriving at Norman's Cay - where we spent a few days messing around.
As always, stay tuned to the end for fun stuff and a tribute to our family dog Daisy that died in Nassau.

Just out Catchin' Rays

We've just docked here in Georgetown, Exuma after motor-sailing from Lee Stocking Island today.  Before that we were at Big Majors/Stanial Cay for a couple of days waiting out the heavy winds.  We didn't hardly get out of the boat because there was a constant 20 knot wind blowing almost the entire time we were there.  Prior to Big Majors, we were at Norman's Cay where Brandon snagged his first kill with the Hawaiian Sling - a Lion Fish - the most ecologically destructing fish out there right now and he did his part to rid one small piece of coral from this bully.  And it made two nice fish nuggets to boot.
Tami & Me at our Big Majors anchorage - it was a busy place
He was also able to find this beautiful lobster hiding under the only piece of coral within 400 yards of our anchorage at Lee Stocking Island.  There was a nice Nassau Grouper in there too, but left after he pulled the trigger.

Brandon's first Lobster using a Hawaiian Sling @ Lee Stocking
Other than that, we've just been wastin' the days away, hoping to find warmer weather (I know, we're bitchin' about 77 degrees - deal with it) so that jumping into the water would actually be refreshing.  But from here, we don't know where we're going - maybe onto Long Island and beyond...but we don't know yet - maybe we'll just hang out here along with the 500 other sailboats at anchor behind us.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

We Lost a Beloved Crew member today

Last night, as we were anchored quietly off Norman Cay, our dog of 18 years took a turn for the worse.  Her turn actually started a few days ago, but last night she started to seize and was obviously in pain.  We gave her medication to help with the pain, but years of congestive heart failure, and what seemed to be her kidneys beginning to fail was more than we wanted to put her through.  So today we made a run back up to Nassau to get her to a vet's office to make it as peaceful and humane as possible.  She was comfortable for the most part on today's sail as we made really good speed hauling ass and motor-sailing.  We got in a cab as soon as we docked and headed for the nearest vet's office - soon after that, our 18 year relationship was over.  She will be sadly missed by everybody in this family - and that's an understatement.

Daisy having a good time at Gun Cay just 2 weeks ago

Monday, January 12, 2015

Video: Key West to Bimini has been uploaded

See the crew set sail for Bimini, Bahamas with an unexpected stop in Key Largo for repairs.  I've actually been working extremely hard to get this video uploaded as we only arrived into Bimini less than a week ago.  But the free internet is so good here, I've been trying to finish this first leg of our adventure and get it uploaded because I have no idea when the next time I'll get these fast speeds again.  

Also, I first uploaded the wrong version to YouTube that had an audio error in it...and I could've left it, but it would have driven me crazy, so I've uploaded the corrected version - so, sorry if that messed anybody up.

Next stop: Chub Cay, and we actually head back to Gun Cay tomorrow as we prepare to make the haul to Chub on Wednesday.....stay tuned.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Day and Night spent at Gun Cay, Bahamas

The Crew at Gun Cay, Bahamas
Yesterday we set sail for Gun Cay.  Its a small island about 10 miles south of Bimini.  The winds looked good and so did the weather.  We were also tired of getting slammed into the dock at Weech's Boat dock by the waves caused by the passing water taxi service that runs to South Bimini and back.  They have no problem coming within about 20 feet of our boat while at cruising speed on their way to shore to pick up and drop off passengers - and that happens about 100 times per day.  So it was time to settle up with the dockmaster and untie the lines and head south.

The biggest excitement early on was just getting out of the channel and into open ocean.  For some reason there were Hawaii 5-0 type waves crashing right through the marked channel - and I mean these waves were big, about 10 feet or so with a big enough pipe for a small surfer to fit.  It was the weirdest thing.  Justin had the helm and Brandon and I were sitting next to the mast to keep a watch.  And although the boat handled them well, it was the most she'd been sloshed around since we've put her in the water.

The trip down to Gun Cay was pretty uneventful and we decided to keep the motors running to charge up our batteries, but we also put the jib out to help with speed.  We went right by the Sapona - which is the shipwreck that Brandon, Tami, and I snorkeled for a bit while en route to Nassau aboard s/v Stray Cat back in 2011.  

When we got to Gun Cay, there were two other sailboats anchored down the coast, so we picked our spot and set the hook.  The wind was a little higher than I would have like it, and it was coming out of the East - the same side we have to anchor on because the West side is too deep.  We went ashore, did some snorkeling and met our neighbors.  

We also got a chance to feed the sting-rays that prowl the shoreline - at least Justin did anyway.  We're told that they're pretty tame and must be used to people feeding them because they come right up to you and expect food.  This little guy was about 2 foot across.

Mr. Stingray was looking for lunch

A couple of dolphins came over to check us out, but just for a second
Today, with the winds increasing, and the waves pounding, we decided to head back to Bimini and try and find a free anchorage that we had previously done reconnaissance on before we left.  But we decided to sail back against the wind since the breezes were blowing about 15 - 18 knots on our nose.  We'd turn out of the wind until it was about 60 degrees off our stern and we'd actually be making pretty good speed, sometimes as fast as 7 knots.  We tacked a couple of times before we got close to South Bimini.  But now, we sit here at anchor and are getting nice, fast, and free internet off our little wifi hotspot we installed many months ago.  And while the anchorage seems ok for now, it is a little too small of an area to be too relaxed.  But we'll see how it goes - Justin is nervous and doesn't think he'll sleep too much tonight.  But right now, we're trying to figure out when will be a good time to head towards Chub Cay and then on to Nassau.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Key Largo to Bimini

We pulled in the anchor at Key Largo about 1:30pm and set sail for Bimini.  The winds were supposed to be light and the waves were forecasted to be no more than 3 feet all the way there. was right on the money and the boat performed awesome.  Although we didn't get a chance to sail due to the wind being right on the nose, motoring with the current proved to be a fast haul.  We pulled in at 3:30am to the Weech's Bimini Boat Dock after navigating through the channel between North and South Bimini - and having never really done this before, doing it at night at an unfamiliar place was a challenge.  We located the power, plugged in, and cranked up the air conditioning - in only 15 minuets all of our cabins were cold and we were feeling pretty good about what we'd just done.

Pulling in the Monster

Holy shit she's pretty!!

Let the carving begin

Tami doing a great job at filleting our Monster

Tied up at Weech's Bimini Dock

Monday, January 5, 2015

Our Unexpected Stop in Key Largo

We set sail on December 30th from Stock Island Marina Village en route to Bimini as this is the first major sail in this boat other than a few day sails in and around Key West.  We were slightly nervous to say the least, but once we got outside the reef, we hoisted the sails and cut the engines.  Heading east, we were going along at around 5 to 6 knots, but just as the sun was setting, the wind died down and started coming straight on our nose.  With the wind so weak, even if we had tacked we wouldn't have been making much progress.  We started the engines and dropped the sails and were quickly making about 6.5 knots with seas around 3 feet.

Our first sunrise
We all took turns on watch, and I'm not sure anybody got over 2 hours of sleep the whole night - except for Tami who seemed to get the best sleep of her entire life as the constant motion of the boat kept the voices in her head at check.  I'd try and lay down, but you hear every slap of the waves and every rpm engine change - and you worry.  

The boat handled great, and before too long the sun was starting to peak up above the horizon and we had successfully completed our first night sail.  We decided to raise the sails since the wind direction indicated that we'd be able to make a little progress at least until the engines got a break and we could do a morning inspection and oil level check.  The port engine looked great - no oil leaks and the level was exactly the same.  The starboard engine was a different story.  Although the oil level was perfect, there was a small fuel leak - Justin quickly had the part removed and was replacing a small o-ring on a fuel nipple and had it back together.  The boat-crippling problem happened during start-up - the starter began to make a horrible grinding noise.  The puzzling thing was that this was our brand new starter we installed only 2 months ago.  After removal, the bell crank housing was completely broken off.

That's when we decided to head for shore instead of jumping over the Gulf Stream.  Key Largo was now the unexpected destination and we soon found ourselves frantically looking for a marina in which to dock.  We did find one that could accommodate our needs while we found a replacement starter but with our draft about 3.5 feet, we were instructed to anchor on the back of Rodriquez Key until the high tide at 4:00pm.  But with the favorable weather and a boat fully stocked we decided to stay at anchor instead.  

En route to our unexpected visit to Key Largo
But what has kept us hear for 6 days now is the unbelievably difficult time we've had at finding a replacement OEM starter coupled with the New Year's holiday.  What we've discovered the replacement starter that broke is known for it - multiple forum posting revealed numerous people having the exact same problem with their replacement starter made in China.  So we sit.  And for the first 5 days, it was ok.  But now we're ready to move on.  

But a few things we've learned so far:

1. Our anchor holds pretty good
2. We can sail our boat with only 6 inches under her keels - although this one happened accidentally (all around Rodriguez Key has only depths of about 4 to 6 feet
3. We can entertain ourselves well - but we're not sure how long that will last
4. That walking to your destinations can be done, but these short distances we've been walking may not count.

Rodriguez Key in the distance
Today our OEM starter is supposed to arrive - finally, and then we should be out of here tomorrow and on our way to Bimini with a great weather window starting today and lasting until Thursday.  We have another night sail ahead of us and maybe that's why I'm feeling a little sick to my stomach.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marine Air HVAC - an Aqua-logical wonder of the World

During the process of renovating a sailboat, so many things take longer than expected and cost more than the estimates.  I read about it all the time - browse any sailor's blog, and you'll inevitably read about such-and-such taking 3 times longer than they thought and costing double what it should have.  And while getting our A/C's up and running it did cost a bit more than I would have liked, the fact that we even have a system that functions and operates is a blessing. 

The two 16,000 btu Marine Air condensers
During the survey, we couldn't get it to work, so we weren't sure if we had a few extra boat anchors on board or a bad-ass HVAC system...but lucky for us, it was the latter.  Situations like these are the main reason we got a boat for almost half the going rate - we took a chance on a lot of systems that weren't operational during the initial inspection and rolled the dice that we could get them up and running for a reasonable amount of money.  The watermaker and the a/c system are two great examples of high dollar pieces of equipment that were in-op at the purchase, but only required a small investment and a little work to have perfectly functioning, and important, items on the boat that makes living on one a little easier and a lot more enjoyable.

As suspected, this boat has an extremely expensive a/c system on board.  There are two 16,000 btu "chiller" condensers in the forward starboard locker and five air handlers - one in each cabin and one in the saloon.  The "chiller" condensers are supposedly the more expensive and more energy efficient kinds to have - Shawn over at S.A.L.T. told us that each one would cost around $4k to replace.  And to top it off, each air handler has its own digital thermostat to control the temperature having both a "heat" setting and a "cool" setting as it acts very similar to a household heat pump system.

Digital Thermostat in each cabin and saloon
The saloon control and vent
But here is the cool thing about this system - the condensers work together in a series to chill the fresh water that circulates between all five of the air handlers.  They chill the water down to a cool 48 degrees, but when the water gets down to about 54 degrees, the second condenser shuts down while the first continues to run until it reaches that set temp.  Once it does, it will also shut off and if all of the five zones have reached their set temps, the whole system will shut down until its needed.  But if the chilled water that circulates gets above say 54 degrees, the sea-water pump kicks on and the condensers continue to chill and circulate the water.  So what you can do is turn on the circulator pump a little while before you need it, that way, as soon as the air handler is activated, it will have already pre-cooled the water and cold air blows instantly. The other awesome thing about the system is that each air handler has an extremely strong blower that has three levels of blowing strength.  When I first turn on a particular cabin, the handler blows on high until it gets closer to the desired temperature at which time it slowly decreases strength until the unit shuts off completely.  As we sleep throughout the night, we barely even notice when the unit turns on and off because it only comes on in low strength because it can maintain the desired temp with just activating on low intermittently.  

Part of the control boxes that house system circuit boards
There are also two white control boxes in the condenser locker, and one in each of the five zones throughout the boat.  They house circuit boards and control every aspect of the system.  The ones in the cabins are attached to and control the digital thermostats.

The saloon air handler (before installing a new filter) - each cabin has one of these nicely installed
The odd thing about having only a 3.5 kw generator and such a massive air conditioning system makes a little more sense once we understood the a/c system better.  If we had to, we could run just one condenser and it would have to carry the burden of getting the chilled water down to 48 degrees all by itself - it would take a little longer, but it could eventually do it.  But yesterday, we did a little research - we cranked up the genset and began turning on the a/c system.  It carried the load of both condensers and a few of the air handlers that were powered up with no problem.  Seems that maybe such a small genset might be able to power the whole system if it needed to.  We probably won't ever run the generator all night long just to power the a/c system, but its nice to know that it could if we needed it to.  And while I do have about $1,500 in the repair, I'm told that to install a complete system like this in a boat today would cost in excess of $18k - so its worth keeping this system functioning and operational.  

Here's the break-down:
New circuit board and labor:  $1100
Complete recharge of system with 407c:  $400
Sleeping in a cold cabin on a hot and sticky night:  PRICELESS!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Video: s/v Catchin' Rays goes Sailing for the first time!!

Watch the crew raise the sails on Catchin' Rays for the first time. On this video, we take care of a couple small projects and then head out to sea for a perfect day of sailing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We raise the Sails for the first Time!

Today, Ralph from s/v Lasata was nice enough to join us on our maiden shakedown SAIL.  And just as when we launched Catchin' Rays, this was just as important of a day in the life of this boat because we know its been years since this sailing vessel has been powered by nothing more than the wind, so it was a pretty monumental day for us and for her.

The day was perfect - it was warm with winds steady at 8 to 10 knots with gusts up around 14 knots.  Ralph and Cassey arrived at 11:00 am, jumped aboard, and we untied the lines for a nice mid-day sail.  Justin took us from the dock and out the channel; soon we were heading towards the tip of Key West and it was time to finally raise the sails and kill the engines.  I still can't figure out if I was surprised that she did great, or if its exactly what I expected, but even though there were only light winds, she was still making about 6.2 kts.  For those who haven't experienced what its like to have a 16,000 lb. catamaran move along at 6 knots by a light breeze... its truly something that has to be felt and witnessed.  There wasn't any violent and overbearing wind to distract us or big waves that constantly crash the was just the peaceful sound of the water kissing the hulls as it went by. And for us, to see Catchin' Rays glide through the ocean by only the power of the wind was a proud moment for all of us.  

The engines did great too - we replaced both mixing elbows so the engine rooms were nice and dry.  Even when we ran them up to over 3000 rpm, they were barely getting warm - at 2500 rpm, she was cutting through the water at 7 knots.  We also played around in the marina just a bit doing a few 360's before backing her back into her slot at the marina.   Ralph suggested that we have a celebratory beer due to a successful sail - so we bullshitted at the picnic table overlooking our boat and toasted to a bad-ass little day sail.

View through the port ocean hatch
Ralph from s/v Lasata giving a little instruction