The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 40: Shoes-, me?
Friday, 7 July 2000
We met Mark and Mariam from “Delphys” at Waterways Marina. They had finished the bottom work on Delphys and were heading south to Marathon for the summer to do more upgrades in preparation for their next cruise. We rented a car and all made the pilgrimage to Sailorman's, Boat Owners World, Blue Water Books, and a few other marine type places. It was a fine reunion and we discussed many things during the two day layover.
On June 25th Francesca headed north, going on the outside from Port Everglades to Lake Worth inlet. It was a little lumpy, but avoiding the crazies and bridges of the Ft. Lauderdale area was a high priority. On the outside we picked up a couple of knots with the Gulf Stream.
July fourth was spent near Wild Dunes, SC where, on the horizon, we simultaneously saw the fireworks of Charleston and a dozen other communities. The rest of the trip up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) was very pleasant and uneventful and July 6th we found ourselves back at home port, Dock Holidays Marina of North Myrtle Beach. Not including the many little side trips, Francesca had traveled over 4500 statute miles since leaving home in October, 1999. In a nutshell it has been a marvelous voyage without any significant equipment failures. New friends and experiences were our daily bread and we are so pleased that you were able to join us via satellite email on our many adventures.
Since this may be published in the Marine Trader Owners Association Newsletter I will slant the rest of this particular writing to be helpful to future planners of long distant trips.
We have finally learned how to avoid the bad anchorages on the ICW and only spent a part of one night on anchor watch when wind and current combined to cause some concern. The Department of Defense suspension of the GPS Selective Availability Program was very welcome. At long last, GPS achieves its accuracy potential and allowed us to set the anchor alarm down to around 200 feet. At that low setting, if we swung through 180 degrees on a 100 foot scope, the alarm would go off. But that was alright since, if we were going to drag, that would be the time of highest probability. I didn't mind at all losing a few minutes sleep to reset the alarm.
From Marathon to home, we averaged about 80 miles per day. In previous “Part 39” I remarked that we were running at low rpm. I should have mentioned that the starboard engine has one or more injectors that are not atomizing efficiently and at high throttle settings we accumulate a small amount of fuel in the oil sump. At 1500 rpm or less it was not much of a problem, but I did have to change oil in that engine about every 100 hours because of dilution. The engines ran just fine and didn't smoke and the last day or so coming up the waterway we pushed the power back up to 1800 rpm. Refurbishing the injectors is on the list of things to do before the next trip.
Our total fuel consumption from Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a distance of 1310 statute miles, was almost exactly one full load of fuel or about 485 gallons. Because we were mostly charging house batteries with the engines, there was only about 40 hours of generator run time since Isla Mujeres. These numbers will be very helpful when we begin musing about future, perhaps more distant, horizons.
You may remember that before this trip Francesca's mast was shortened from 23 feet to just below 20 feet overall height above the water. That was done to cut down the frustration and delays at the plethora of waterway bridges that would be required to open for us. I can report to you that this was an excellent modification. Here are the stats.
From the North / South Carolina border there are 102 bridges. Thirty six are fixed high bridges, and only 23 are less than 20 feet. If you go on the outside from Lake Worth Inlet to Port Everglades you not only eliminate a great deal of craziness, but also avoid 12 of the 23 bridges that have less than 20 foot clearance. If your mast is greater than 20 feet, you will have to have openings at 17 additional bridges not including those in the Ft. Lauderdale area.
I don't believe that the mast height reduction had any undesirable affects. We have the radar and sat-phone radoms mounted above the bimini and the anchor light can still be seen all-round. Try it, you'll like it. Bridge vehicle traffic will thank you too.
Joan did a terrific job estimating our stores needs for the trip. She put everything on Excel spread sheets including the quantity and storage locations. After nine months we have just begun running low on the must have items. Our stock of soft drinks is finally exhausted. But I must report that diet drinks, which are dated, begin to degrade seriously after six months. If we hadn't had something to mix them with they would have been trashed. Otherwise, I think only one package of crackers had to be disposed of because of spoilage. We found that we had overstocked some canned foods; fresh fruits and veggies were so cheap and plentiful. There is still enough meat in the freezer to last another month or so. Our stores of Permalat milk worked out very well with no spoilage. The last carton was just finally used. We have returned with lots of paper towels and T-paper, but we did not stock sufficient paper plates. Paper products are very expensive outside of the US.
Although we carried a reasonably good stock of spirits, in retrospect the wine supply would have been better with box wine. Bottles take up too much room, are a disposal problem, and after a few weeks of cruising, the quality difference between box and bottle becomes pretty moot.
Another thing that we have rigorously kept up was an extensive check list. The list included all preventive maintenance items, the consumables and the spare parts inventory. I think that this is critical in keeping things running. In that regard we had planned for equipment failures with various redundancy schemes.
Anyone that might be planning a trip to Central America should get a copy of the “Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast” by Capt. Freya Rausher. At one point during the trip we had heard from a cruiser that the book was seriously flawed. As it turned out I think instead that the critic may have been seriously flawed. Sure there are some errors and you must always rely on your eyes first when navigating hazardous waters, but with such a voluminous quantity of information I don't see how anyone could expect a better exposition.
Last fall, we installed a watermaker. I guess that there must be a lot of folks that have had good experiences with them. We, on the other hand, have never been happy with it. There is far too much upkeep and far too little payback. In the end, the watermaker failed and has become dead weight. I think that it will remain so. Last year the availability and cost of water in the Exumas was the impetus for us to install one on Francesca. Since then I don't think that we have enjoyed more than a few hundred gallons of acceptable water. Three thousand dollars can buy much more useful toys.
So what do you do for good water in Central America? At Isla Mujeres, the water is chlorinated city water and we didn't hear of anyone having a problem with it. We kept our drinking and cooking water in plastic jugs. And the water that we put in the tanks was always laced with about ¼ cup of Clorox to 100 gallons of water. In the humid southern latitudes the Clorox was of great benefit in keeping towels from souring while they dried. At the dock in the Rio, the tap water was filtered, UV irradiated lake water. Many cruisers drink it like that, but we chose to boil it or buy bottled water for drinking. I guess our precautions worked alright as we were never sick from either the water or from eating out. On the other hand, we really didn't hear of anyone that had more than an uncomfortable night (probably from too much fire water).
If you want satellite TV in Central America, you must have a one meter dish. Even with that, we were unable to receive all of the Direct TV channels. It was great to keep up with the market and news though. The Direct TV people will say that they don't have coverage in Central America. Don't believe it, just keep your present subscription and all is well. Or if you prefer, there is a Latin American Direct TV service that can be subscribed to. The programming is a mix of English and Spanish.
The TracPhone satellite telephone worked nearly flawlessly for email. Can't say we really liked the satellite delay when using it for voice, but that's part of the deal. If it hasn't already happened, I expect that satellite email equipment will be a lot less expensive and more convenient soon. Don't leave home without it.
In Isla Mujeres and in the Rio, there are VHF cruisers NETs in the morning. They generally provide good weather information. But, if you aren't within VHF range, you really need an SSB unit. With SSB you can get weather from other cruisers and weather fax information. The comfort factor of being in touch with other cruisers, even at some distance, should not to be discounted.
This trip was very productive with regard to optimizing our refrigeration and minimizing the genset run time. We use 110 vac home type appliances that run on an inverter. Before we started the trip I installed a 100 amp alternator on the port engine. The genset was then used only when cooking or if we stayed at anchor more than about 20 hours. Both the refrigerator and freezer were controlled by battery powered programmable timers (Home Depot, Intermatic model SS7C). Refrigeration is more efficient when run in unbroken periods as opposed to thermostat cycling.
We really do need an automatic anchor light switch. Countless days I forgot to turn it off. It's bad when cruiser neighbors call on VHF to remind you of your senior moments.
Every marina we visited in Central America had an extensive book exchange. They were so overstocked the “exchange” part was superfluous. A few marinas had free use or exchange “off the air” recorded movie video tapes. Cruisers were always trading tapes. With our unrealized expectations of receiving all of the Direct TV channels, we were unprepared. One should record movies off the air and have a good tape library for the trip. Everyone will appreciate it.
After several years and over 10,000 miles of cruising, the Lehmans have been great. One curious finding, however, is that the raw water pump impellers last only 300 hours, almost to the hour. I suspect their useful life would be a lot less if engines aren't run frequently. I say this is curious because the genset water pump impeller will go 1000 hours or more. It is likely that the bend radius of the Lehman impeller blades is so short that the material is excessively stressed. Any ideas?
Joan just negotiated with the telephone company to get our old phone number back. It is (843) 280-9402. For the MTOA readers who don't have our email address it is email@example.com. We'll be interested to hear from you.
One quick disclaimer. Joan has left for the day to visit family. She usually proofs these things before I send them. If there are grammar or spelling preblems they must, therefore, be her fault.
Until our next adventure, we wish you all Happy Trails.
Joan, Ben & the little black eyed beauty, Maggie