Voyage of Aquarius (Updated)
2011 01 20 Thursday:
Well all of the scheduled jobs are done, so all there is to do is load up with water, fuel and provisions and head south on the AICW. The plan is to get to Marathon via the Miami Boat Show (Feb 17) and return to the Titusville base, Westland Marina, by late March. All this as the “shake-down” NOT “break-down” cruise. This, the test of systems and crew for the longer cruise to the Bahamas next winter. The only technical concern I have is if the modified outboard is going to provide a charging current; I had it modified by adding the charging coils and rectifier. I’ve done static testing as per the manual and that seems to show all components ok, but I’m getting a flukey (no pun intended) voltage reading when it’s running. I’ll just have to monitor the battery status on the go. I hate the idea of plugging into a marina($) just to get the batteries charged up.
On Friday I’m driving down to Ft Pierce to visit Doug & Alma on Vagabond, in the Riverside yard and also to drop in on CBP in Canaveral to see about paying the duty on the boat; supposedly in order to facilitate the renewal of the cruising permit, which for an ‘alien’ boat is not consecutively reissued –at least based on the info that I’ve found on the CBP website. Whether or not the officialista’s at any given port know or not is the BIG question. A common gripe amongst the cruisers is that the CBP administration varies port to port. When I trucked the boat down I was told that the boat would have to leave the country, presumably to re-enter by water before I could get a permit; in a concealed huff I drove down to the next port down (2 hours, thank you!) and they issued me a permit in short order!
Right now the forecast is for yet another cold front tonight and a weak one on the weekend. So the plan is to head out on Monday (01 24). Will keep ya posted at less than regular intervals, depending on power, and wifi availability.
2011 01 25 Tuesday:
There’s an old cruising adage: “never set a date for departure, just go”. Never truer. Aquarius is gassed up, stores-up and is ready to go…………….but I’m still in Titusville, weather and bureaucracy the ties that bind me, still, to the dock.
The easiest to explain is the weather, as a violent storm system was forecast, and came through late this evening with lots of rain and big wind; wind on the nose of course but of more import –and prudence- severe. We’ve been rocking and rolling in the wind gust for 6 hours so far and that’s supposed to last until tomorrow, so I’m hoping to cast-off south on Thursday.
Now to explain the bureaucrapy (as if that’s ever possible!).
For a foreign flagged vessel to enjoy the hospitality of the U.S. government one must obtain a Cruising License, free of charge, but only good for one year. On expiry it is expected that the vessel will be out of the U.S., indeed, it is EXPECTED to be away for at least 14 days, and upon re-entry a new cruising license will be issued. CBP’s information circular even cautions the mariner to schedule carefully.
A judicious search of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) website revealed that if the foreign flagged vessel was built in the U.S., or if the customs duty were paid, a successive license could be issued. Being the law abiding alien that I am, I have paid the duty at Port Canavaral ($0 - remember NAFTA?) and have incurred $160 customs broker fees to that task, which has taken over a week to complete!!
So, I’m hoping to renew the license in West Palm Beach when I get there, and, just to cover my arse, I’ve input the question/situation into the CBP website in hopes of getting both a formal decision and maybe, just maybe, some recognition of the ridiculous nature of the customs regulations. I was careful to not opine on the latter point in my formal submission.
thank-ya very much……….. y’all have a nice day now.
2011 01 27 Thursday
The log of Aquarius reads:
09:00 Depart Westland
09:30 Titusville Bridge
10:30 Arrive Westland
The previous entry on Tuesday mentioned a violent storm. During that storm I heard two “crack” sounds; on a fibreglass boat it is not unusual to hear bulkheads move when the boat is in the wind. They are, after all, like your tupper-ware lunch box, which can twist and deform.
Well…………………just to keep it short and sweet, the winter cruise is over. I DID get off the dock, DID make it to the Titusville swing bridge, DID see it open, and made a U turn, confusing the two power boats following behind. Since I had the mainsail up, I decided to sail back to dock. The U turn was for another reason.
Having had problems with the cooling water on the engine, when the tell-tale flow stopped again just as the bridge opened, I decided to play it safe and go back to dock to diagnose the problem. It was just the tell-tale, no major problem after all.
However as I was tidying up the deck to get ready for Friday’s ‘re-departure’ I noticed an ominous bump in the deck , athwartships i.e. to port and starboard, of the mast. There is an oak beam under the deck that supports the mast. The cracking noises I heard on Tuesday night were that beam delaminating from the fiberglass underneath it. That beam, pushed down in the middle by the mast, is now bowing-up at each end and pushing the deck up across the cabin top; certainly not safe to sail with. In landlubber terms, the roof is trying to lift off!
What’s next? Get the mast down, and haul out. Reinforce under the deck, not unusual for these boats and open the deck to re-bond the beam to the fibreglass below and above it.
Welcome to “this old boat”………….
Belated Update to the Voyage of Aquarius.(2012)
2011 02 to 03
Mast derigged, boat hauled and closer inspection. The deck beam is OK, no delamination and from checking with a pilot hole drilled from below, the beam is dry. What the problem is/was the starboard forward lower chainplate bolts had elongated holes in the forward bulkhead. This I noticed as I was tidying up the deck from lowering the mast. I inadvertently stepped on the chainplate and it popped back down. Soooooo, that explained why I had to keep tensioning that turnbuckle!!!!
Further inspection revealed just the elongated holes. The bulkhead is solid and dry, as are all the others. The balance of the month was spent checking all plates, bulkheads, holes and fasteners. The fix for both forward lower shrouds -although only the starboard one was the problem- was to pull the plates, fill the existing holes with West System thickened with colloidal silica. I also made up small backing plates out of 3/8 plywood, which were epoxied in place on the forward face of each bulkhead ( the aft face is where the chainplates rest) . Then I redrilled the holes for the chainplate bolts. Because of the extra thickness of the additional backing ply, longer bolts replaced the original ones.
I also purchased red oak, made beams and vertical supports that span the door frames on both forward bulkheads to provide additional support for the mast. The advantage being that when the mast is stepped there is no movement of the deck. Before, that 1/8 gap between the lintels and the ceiling would close-up when the mast when on.
When I returned to the boat in the fall of 2011 to install a roller furler and rerig the boat, everything snugs up nicely; no further problem with slack rigging or deck compression!
As for the bump in the deck over the supporting beam. It’s still there, it doesn’t move so it must just be an awfully tight fit.
As an update to the Cruising Permit bureaucrapy, they’re now issued for only 6 months. Also, post importation, I learned only a “resident alien” can get the Permit renewed consecutively!!! Welcome to world of Homeland Security.
As the boat is staying in Florida, I took my importation documents to the Florida DMV and ‘titled’ the boat. It now carries a “FL” number on her bows.
The bonus; as a ‘vintage vehicle” it only cost 30$ for the title and 6$ for the annual sticker. No taxes were paid because, a nice to know Florida rule, I obtained the boat via a material trade, a.k.a. “equal value trade” ie no money changed hands.