Monday, August 22, 2022

August 2022: A Misleading Overheat Warning

Nope, the title isn’t talking about the weather.  It’s referring to the boat, specifically the starboard engine.  When is an engine overheat warning not an actual overheat condition?  Read on.

Instrumentation Consternation

One slight anomaly we had noticed on the return leg from Marathon to Fort Myers back in late July was a suspiciously low water pressure indicator for the starboard engine.  (Actually, it was Dan Eisenberg who noticed and pointed out the aberration when he was spelling Rick at the helm.) Under normal circumstances that gauge reading would essentially max out when moving along at planing speeds and just about any RPM above 3000.  It’s mainly a health indicator for the raw water cooling passages in the big 425 HP four stroke outboard engine. 

The Yamaha Engine Instruments on Ghost Rider: Note the Water Pressure Reading (Green Arrow) for the Port Engine Pegged at the Top....Normal for This Speed & RPM.  Whereas the Pressure Gauge for the Starboard Engine is Quite a Bit Lower....Not Normal.

Theoretically, a low water pressure reading could indicate a restriction or blockage to the raw water pickup, or a failing impeller, perhaps even a faulting thermostat (there are at least two of those on the 425 XTO engine.)  But any of those should also cause a corresponding temperature increase, and we were not seeing that (per the black arrow in the picture above.)

Once back at the dock, as a precaution we did verify that the water intake ports were clear, and then decided just to closely monitor the starboard engine.

On Friday 12-August we splashed the boat and started to motor towards Palm Harbor Marina about 30 miles to our north, with the intent of joining some boat of our club friends the next day for a lunch outing on Palm Island.  The plan was to return home some time on Saturday.  But we didn’t get far.  Shortly after departure and getting Ghost Rider up on plane, we heard the piercing scream of the engine overheat warning and saw the attendant warning message on the instrument display.

Between the On-screen Warning and the Obnoxious Buzzer, the System Leaves No Doubt That You've Got Some Kind of Problem.

It was pretty clear, however, the engine was not actually overheating (nor about to)….the engine temperature gauge was still dead center, and the tell-tale water exhaust port from the power head (“pee hole”) was still flowing strongly.  But the Yamaha computer determined otherwise and put the engine into “Guardian mode” – severely limiting its range of RPM operation.  So we reluctantly limped back to the dock.

This is What the Instrumentation Looked Like Just Before the Overtemp Warning....Port Engine Water Pressure (Green Arrow) is Normal, but the Starboard Engine Pressure Appears Low (Bottomed Out...Yellow Arrow.)  The Temperature Gauge, However, (Orange Arrow) Remained Normal.

Aftermath (Boat Business)

Rick had previously read about a Yamaha technical bulletin regarding faulting water pressure sensors, so he was 99% certain that was our issue.  It took a few days to get the part ordered and delivered, but shortly after Rick had the cowling and required engine panels off the engine, the old sensor removed, and the new one installed.  The engine panels took about 15 minutes to remove and replace; the sensor itself took all of 45 seconds.

Once the Cowling and Engine Panels are Removed the Water Pressure Sensor is Easily Accessible.

Yamaha has also published a software update for the 425 XTO outboard in connection with this particular issue, modifying its code so that the Guardian mode isn’t invoked unless the temperature sensor (not just the water pressure sensor) also reports an actual overheat.  That requires an authorized dealer or tech to apply, so for now it goes on the “to do” list.  Rick also ordered another water pressure sensor for the spare parts inventory.

Pull Off the Wiring Harness, Unscrew the Bad Unit, Install the New One.  Simple.

Chelle was eager for some close quarters stick time, so for the ensuing sea trial she manned Ghost Rider’s helm, backed it off the lift and away from the dock, and then once in open waters put the boat through its paces while Rick monitored the engine’s gauges.  It only took about 10 minutes to fully verify we were back to normal operation on the starboard engine throughout the operating RPM range.

One final note: provided one has the spare part onboard (and the seas aren’t too bouncy), this is a fix that can be done while enroute – all that is needed is the replacement sensor, the tool to remove the engine cover panels, and a crescent wrench.  In retrospect, we should feel fortunate that sensor did not fail on the previous trip, halfway home from the Keys….that would have been a lengthy limp back home.

Still Looking at the Tropics

For this calendar year the prognosticators originally predicted 14 to 21 names storms and 6 to 10 hurricanes, of which 3 to 6 would be “major”.  It wasn’t an unreasonable forecast given the La Nina in the Pacific, and the much warmer than normal air and sea temperatures throughout the Atlantic tropics….not to mention all the other extreme weather events clobbering the planet lately.

But it has now been over 50 days since the last named tropical system, and those three were mostly yawners.  A combination of very dry and dusty air aloft (blowing off the Sahara desert) and unfavorable wind shear and pressure systems have kept things eerily calm apart our normal summer thunderstorm season.  The folks at the Weather Channel seem both flummoxed and disappointed, while we down here in hurricane alley are quite content with the dullness.

That said, we are only halfway through the “season”, with the historical activity peak (mid-September) still several weeks away….so we know some nastiness will eventually develop.  The experts seem undeterred, postulating the late start just means the season will extend longer this year.  Eventually we’ll find out.

The GFS Deterministic Weather Model for Early September Portends a Chain of Low Pressure
Systems Spinning Up, with the First Two Skirting Florida to Our East.  All the Other Models
So Far Don't Agree (Showing None.)  Odds Are They're All Wrong. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

July 2022: A Week Back in the Florida Keys

Our inReach Track Captures to & From the Keys

By mid-July most everything in south Florida was hovering in the low 90’s – including temperature, humidity, average age, and the region’s political EQ.  We did our best to ignore all that, and despite the daily afternoon thunderstorms and “air you can wear” atmosphere, we completed all the provisioning tasks and boat preps for our next run back to the Florida Keys.  That included a slightly-early 100-hour interval service on Ghost Rider’s Yamaha outboard engines, since we would be rolling past the 500-hour mark in the first few days of offshore trolling.  Now it was time to go fishing.

Sat, 16-July, Fort Myers to Marathon

Joined by good friends Dan and Julie Eisenberg as crew, we piled into Ghost Rider and departed at 0815 on Saturday, 16-July.  Before 0900 we had rendezvoused with three other boats from our Grady-White boat club just east of the Sanibel Lighthouse, then pointed the bow south towards Key Colony Beach (KCB) in Marathon.  The air was already feeling like warm soup, but was generally clear with light winds from the southeast, providing mostly flat seas.  Cruising at 30 MPH with Ghost Rider in the lead was quite comfortable.

For Some Reason Our Fleet Companions Wanted to Maintain
a Single File Formation Behind Ghost Rider....Not Recommended. 

Rain and thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon, and shortly after rounding the Cape Romano shoals just south of Marco Island a solid line of storms grew across our planned path in perpendicular fashion.  We did not see any lightning activity, so using real time radar and the XM weather display we picked the least foreboding area and punched through at speed.  Precipitation was generally light and only lasted around 20 minutes, although the water surface on the back side was waffle-iron rough for the following hour, so we slowed our speed to around 25 MPH for a spell.

As we neared the island chain the sea surface flattened again, and after cutting through the narrow Vaca Key pass we arrived at Key Colony Beach just after 1400.  We proceeded to the KCB marina to top off fuel tanks, then docked at our nearby rental property and unloaded our gear.  We were joined there by two more good friends, Doug and Cat Cox.  All of us had rented this particular property several times before; we keep returning to it (when available) due to the roominess, cleanliness and ideal location – a short canal ride to the open Atlantic, ditto for the nearby marina for fuel and bait.

It Wasn't Too Difficult to Find a Hole to Punch Through This Line of Storm Cells

  Sun, 17-July thru Thu, 21-July (Marathon/KCB)

The next five days were all quite similar….we left the dock each day around 0900 in stiff southeast winds that clocked 12-18 knots, and in seas that ran from four to six feet through early afternoon, then calmed a bit to the two to four foot range of boat beaters.  It was warm and humid every day, and while some showers would occasionally transit the area, they were few and far between and not a factor – basically the norm for this time of year in the Florida Keys.

We Really Like This Rental Property in Key Colony Beach, So We Keep Returning There.

Easy & Protected Docking for Ghost Rider, and a Good View, Too

And while the storms and rain were barely noticeable, unfortunately the same was true for the fish.  Finding fish is never an easy or simple challenge, but for this particular week it was particularly frustrating.  Our targeted species was mahi-mahi, also known as dorado or common dolphinfish, a fun fight and excellent eating – when you can find them.  We would also occasionally pick up a blackfin tuna or a wahoo on the troll, but not this week.

The Crew of Ghost Rider in Trolling Action...Doug, Cat, Juli & Dan

Noting that NOAA had pegged the Gulf Stream further out than normal – 27 miles south – we ran out there in some rugged seas, but still weren’t finding much in the way of keepers (minimum of 20 inches to the tail fork in this part of the ocean.)  Even trolling the famed “Marathon Humps” (sea mounts), where the usually tell-tale birds and weeds (sargassum) were plentiful, produced nothing.

Pic of Our GPS Fishing Chart While Trolling the "Hump"....Easy to See the 300' Rise of the
Sea Mount in the Surrounding 780' Depths.

Over the course of the week, we caught and tossed a few mahi shorts and boated only two keepers, usually in 600-to-700-foot depths.  Results from the other boats in our club were similar, and more broadly the fishing reports for the area reflected the same.  For the mahi species in particular, which is normally plentiful in these waters given their rapid reproduction and growth rates, this was not only frustrating, but also worrisome.  All we know is that with Dan and Doug along, it sure wasn't for lack of skills, experience or fishing gear.

Of course, we still enjoyed the boating and spending time with good friends, fully cognizant that just being able to attempt this kind of recreation is a generally rare opportunity.  As for the diagnosis of the poor fishing results, that jury is still out, but that seems to be the trend lately.

We Were Damned Proud of This (Expensive) Mahi...Pictured Left to Right Are
Juli, Dan, Cat, Chelle & Doug

Fri, 22-July, Marathon to Fort Myers

We actually cut short our stay in the Keys by a day – not just because of the fishing and sea conditions, but mainly due to a family matter back in St. Louis that required our attention: our brother-in-law and fellow fishing friend, Wayne, had passed away.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that even the fish were in mourning.

So we packed up and evacuated the rental on the morning of the 22nd just after 0900, cut back through the Vaca Kay pass, and began the sortie back home.  Thunderstorms were already plentiful in Florida Bay, necessitating an indirect route back north, as a big one in particular was already directly in our planned path and looking very ominous.  By taking a jaunt more to the northeast towards Cape Sable we managed to skirt that one on its backside as it built even more and moved slowly northwest, while passing just to the west of yet another that was just coming off the mainland.  Lightning of the air-to-water variety was especially frequent and fierce in the nasty looking cell to our west…when you can smell the air after a big bolt, you know you’ve gotten a bit close.  (Meteorological tidbit: lightning heats the air to as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit…and that can split the air’s N2 and O2 into random, separate bits, occasionally recombining to form O3 – ozone, which has a bit of a chlorine smell.  But over south Florida waters, where Sulfur content can be high, you can also get that sulfuric (rotten egg) odor wafting your way.  Another definition of too close.)

Weather for the Trip Home Required Some Detours

But our path and timing were fortuitous, as we managed to speed ahead and around those two TRW cells; then they merged together just behind us into a wicked-looking dark gray wall.  There were more cells (also quite electrical) building to our north and east over the mainland, but we managed to outpace those as well.  And in spite of the dicey looking atmospherics, we experienced only a brief rain shower and had very smooth water all the way home, arriving at our dock before 1500.

We Managed to Thread the Needle Between Storm Cells Before They Closed in Behind Us

It didn’t take long to offload all our gear from the boat and get Dan & Juli’s car packed up again for their drive back to their Englewood home.  Then the next morning we did the same with our car and made the long, sad drive to St. Louis to grieve for a good man.

Aftermath (Boat Business)

Ghost Rider performed admirably throughout the trip, undeterred and unaffected by the sloppy sea conditions.  Mechanically it ran perfectly.  We had a barrel-bolt latch break on the cabin entry door (corrosion failure, now replaced by a beefier one), and a minor drip leak from a seam in the weatherstripping around the windshield vent opening (corrected by a dab of black RTV caulk.)  That’s pretty damned good.

Looking at the Tropics

As of this posting (early August) we’ve gone over 30 days without a named storm spooling up, an odd situation given the way above-average tropical forecast for the season.  For now, an abundance of Saharan dust streaming across the low latitudes of the south Atlantic is keeping potential development probabilities low….and we certainly welcome that.  Of course, we’re only 1/3 of the way into the season, so there’s a long way to go.

Upcoming

With the brunt of brutally hot and humid summer weather now upon us, we’re going to take a boat break for a spell.  We’ll keep y’all posted when additional plans develop.  In the meantime, more pics are posted below. 

Wayne & Rick's Sister, Linda, and a Good Day's Catch....Taken About 8 Years Ago at the Same Dock.

Afterword:  My brother-in-law, Wayne Watson, passed away at the age of 75 during this interval.  He was a big guy with an equally big heart, but ironically it was his heart that physically failed.  A Huey gunship pilot during the war in Nam, he was a damned good definition of guts, grit & courage. We’d occasionally argue about politics and whether rotary or fixed wing pilots were better, but that never got in our way….he always remained a friend and a fun fishing buddy.  Wayne was aboard some of our best fishing trips to the Keys, a fun-loving good luck charm, one of the Good Guys.  He is missed & fondly remembered. 

(Rick R / Aug-2022) 

Another Fish!  Doug, Rick, Chelle, Cat & Dan

Whenever Rick Would Flush the Engines After a Day of Trolling, This Manatee Would
Position Himself to Enjoy the Fresh Water Draining Out.

Ghost Rider Dockside with Fish Flag Flying

Chelle and Cat Busy in the Kitchen


Dan and Doug Relaxing with the Day's News on the Telly After A Day of Fishing

Track Capture of Our Diversionary Route Home (via Google Earth KML File)


Sunday, June 26, 2022

June 2022: Back to the Bahamas

Our Tracks To & From the Bahamas
The last time we attempted to visit the Bahamas was the spring of 2020.  In March of that year we took our previous boat, a Nordhavn 50 also named Ghost Rider, around the horn of Florida to stage our crossing from Palm Beach – and then Covid intervened.  The islands shut down all entries from foreign ports, the “All Hands and Hearts” charity operation to whom we were about to deliver a load of building materials withdrew their personnel from Marsh Harbor, and we got stuck on the wrong coast of Florida. (Previous blog links start HERE.)

Thus, it had been since the April-May 2018 timeframe since we had the pleasures of cruising Bahamian waters (more past blog links begin HERE), and we were determined to give it another shot.  Rick had the boat all caught up on maintenance, and Chelle had completed her typically thorough job of provisioning, so it seemed to be a good time….the rapidly rising price of fuel and nearly everything else notwithstanding.

Serendipitously, our local Grady-White boat club had a similar plan, so Ghost Rider and three other boats set off together to head towards Chub Cay in the Berry Islands.

Wed, 8-June, Fort Myers to Key Largo

After departing our dock around 0820 we rendezvoused with our three buddy boats – Fin & Tonic, Grady Lady II and OpenView just off the southern tip of Sanibel Island around 0850, and with Ghost Rider taking the lead headed south towards Cape Sable and the Florida Keys.  Weather was typical for a June morning in southwest Florida – already warm at 85F, mostly clear skies, winds from the southwest at around 10-15 knots from the southwest.  Seas were a tolerable two feet at short intervals with a slight wind chop on top.

A Couple of the Other Three Boats Following Us Down to the Keys

Almost immediately the port engine threw a “water-in-the-fuel” warning….not a great start.  The engine was running just fine, so we decided to continue – if it began to stutter then we would stop and diagnose further.  As it turned out the Yamaha 425 XTO continued to operate normally all day (well, other than the very annoying warning beep that persisted at 15 second intervals.)

About three hours later, as we were approaching the west coast of Cape Sable, we picked up a building thunderstorm to our southwest, both on our XM weather display and verified by real time radar.  It was moving slowly towards the east – directly into our path – and it was emitting some serious cloud-to-ground lightning.  We diverted the group to the southwest and scooted around the backside of that cell, and just in front of another one in the early building stages.  Overall it was about a 12 mile diversion, but it beat messing around with Ma Nature’s high voltage, and we still arrived at Key Largo just after 1500. 

We Diverted to the West (Right) to Avoid This TRW Cell on the First leg South

The waterway leading into Marina Del Mar (LINK) is interesting, mainly because it has a 90 degree bend in it – referred to as “Crash Corner” (for good reason) – and is fairly narrow when vessels are moored on both sides, which is the norm.  It’s like boating down a bowling alley.  And it can get busy, with numerous commercial fishing charters transiting daily along with several dive boat services headed to and from the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park just offshore.  It is expected practice for both inbound and outbound vessels to announce an approach to Crash Corner on VHF channel 16, which has cut down considerably on collision incidents there.

Aerial Shot of the Canals Leading into Marina Del Mar in Key Largo....the Green Arrow Marks
the Entrance, the Red Arrow Points to "Crash Corner"

Once docked up and after the usual washdown routine, Rick removed the port engine’s cowling and secondary on-engine fuel filter (where the fuel water sensor is also located), and verified there was a trace amount of H2O in the cup.  So he removed the primary fuel-water sep filter on the bilge bulkhead and dumped that into a pan, where more water was found.  We had spare filters on board, so after a quick swap-out and some dock testing, the water alarm was gone and the system operated normally thereafter.  We suspect some sea water entered the main fuel tank through the vent during rough seas on the previous Loop trip….the starboard engine is fed fuel by the separate aux tank, which experienced no water ingress.

Snapper's Restaurant at Marina Del mar in Key Largo

Thu 9-June, Key Largo

The next day was mostly a down-day to make final preparations for the Gulf Stream crossing to the Bahamas on Friday.  Preps included fueling up the boat, a visit to West Marine for some more spare fuel-water sep filters (just in case), checking the next day’s weather and sea conditions, and getting a Covid-19 test at the local Walgreens; that was required to obtain the “Health Visa” for entry to the Bahamas.  (Note – the following week that requirement was discontinued.)  We concluded the day with a group dinner at Snapper’s, the marina’s onsite restaurant, and completing the “Click-2-Clear” applications for entry to the Bahamas.

The Fuel Dock Just Around the Corner from the Marina

Our Whole Group Getting Ready to Chow Down at Snapper's

Fri 10-June, Key Largo to Bimini

At only 72 nautical miles, the crossing from Key Largo to Bimini is not a long one, but it can be miserable (and sometimes a bad idea) in certain conditions.  The Gulf Stream runs due north in that area, at anywhere from 2.5 to 5 knots, and if it collides with a brisk wind from the north, it can get very rough.  This day, however, we had a good forecast (southeast winds 10K or less) with warm, clear skies, and reality matched.  Our flotilla cast off lines at 0800, and with Ghost Rider in the lead, cruised smoothly across 1-2 foot seas at 30 MPH (about 26 knots on the GPS), arriving at the North Bimini entrance channel at 1100.

Overhead View of the Entrance Channel to North Bimini & Big Game Club Marina

We were also fortunate to arrive at a low tide and slack current (it can rip through there), and before 1130 all boats were securely tied up at the Bimini Big Game Club (LINK).  It took a couple of hours to process through immigration and then customs, but after that we took down the yellow quarantine flag, replaced it with the Bahamas courtesy flag, cleaned up the boat and ourselves, and chilled out with lunch and cold beers.

There was also pool time and another group dinner at the Big Game Club’s outdoor restaurant – fun atmosphere, average food.

Ghost Rider Docked at the Bimini Big Game Club with Courtesy Flag Deployed

The Group Dining at Big Game Overlooking the Marina Basin

Sat, 11-Jun, Bimini to Chub Cay

We had more decent weather the next morning, at least at the start, for the 85 NM run to Chub Cay at the southern end of the Berry Islands.  There were some small storm cells to our east, but moving north, opposite from our initial southerly direction towards the Cat Cays.  So, at 0900 we headed out.  We made a short diversion to check out a relatively new marina at the far south end of that island chain (might be worth a future visit), and then turned towards the east and Chub Cay.

About halfway through the leg a line of storms began building ahead of us, and while they were moving to the north, the line was long and contiguous enough that we had to pick our way through the least threatening portion.  The radar and the XM Weather displays were helpful in determining the best path, and in the end we just got a decent rainwater washdown and no signs of lightning, although the wind chop increased some.

Chart and Realtime Radar on the Left, XM Weather on the Right After
We Had Punched Through the Line of Showers

We poked Ghost Rider’s bow into the Chub Cay entrance channel before 1600, and along with OpenView headed straight to the fuel dock, while Finn & Tonic and Grady Lady proceeded to their assigned slips.  The Chub Cay Marina (LINK) is fairly new, very modern with concrete floating docks, and quite large, with excellent resort facilities on the grounds.  After topping off fuel tanks and giving the boat the usual spa treatment, we had plenty of time to relax, and to tend to one small boat issue. 

Entry Channel to Chub Cay Marina & Resort
Layout of the Marina & Resort Grounds

Earlier in the day, prior to departing Bimini, we had started the generator so we could use the boat’s refrigerated fish box and cooler for some ice and frozen food; but the genset was only putting out 95 volts instead of the normal 120.  Rather than delay the departure we opted to do without, and now it was time to troubleshoot it.  Fred Grainger, a tech with our local Grady-White dealer back home and crewing on Finn & Tonic, knew exactly what the root problem was.  The 5KW Fischer-Panda apparently had a habit of burning out the boost board – basically a PCB that controls throttle and RPM according to the AC loads being applied….all we had to do was disconnect that board and the wires going to the throttle actuator, then zip-tie the throttle lever open to a fixed RPM setting that would maintain 120 volts with the typical loads applied.  A more permanent fix would wait until we returned home.  (See “Aftermath” below.)

Close Up of the Generator Workaround....Yellow Arrow (Far Right) Points to the Terminator
Plug Disconnected from the (Bad) Boost Board, Blue Arrow Points to the Disconnected
Actuator, and the Green Arrow Points to the Black Zip Tie Fixing the Throttle Lever
to a Fixed RPM.

Thinking we were all set for two full days of fishing in the nearby “Pocket” (more on that shortly), the entire group headed for dinner and drinks at the nearby Nauti Rooster, a classically Bahamian dive just down the road.  It was actually an easy walk, but the Rooster was also providing golf cart rides from the docks.  Our group numbered 14 total including guests, so we rode in shifts; on the last shift the cart was a bit overloaded, the driver was a bit careless and somewhat rambunctious with turns, and as it wheeled into the shell-paved parking lot it rolled over on its side.  There were various cuts and bruises among the occupants, but by far the worst was to Candy – wife of Andy, both guests of Ron and Brenda aboard OpenView….she could not stand or walk without assistance and was in considerable pain.

We were fortunate to have a medical doctor among our gang – Julie Langer on Finn & Tonic – and while medical supplies were a bit lacking, expertise and attention were not.  Julie suspected a fracture in either the hip or pelvis, but regardless it was obvious Candy’s boating days were over for a while.  A day later, along with Andy she was flown on a private plane to Nassau, thence back home to the States, where she is recovering from a busted pelvis – and will fully recover.

Sun-Mon, 12-13-Jun, Chub Cay

It was time to go fishing, specifically trolling for mahi, tuna, maybe a Wahoo or Marlin.  Ron, from OpenView, and Tony and Julie from Finn & Tonic jumped aboard Ghost Rider, and on a perfect summer day in the Bahamas (sunny, warm, seas 1-2 feet), we were trolling in the “Pocket” by 0930.  The Pocket is a roughly triangular shaped body of deep water just southwest of Chub Cay where depths drop to thousands of feet in very short order, and is known for being very productive fishing grounds.  We ended up proving that there also can be some occasionally poor conditions that produce few fish.

Chelle at the Helm, Julie & Tony Trying to Be Patient While We Hunted Fish in the Pocket

On both Sunday and Monday we spent hours on troll patrol and ended up boating only two Blue Runners and two barracuda, both of which make decent bait but lousy eating.  The local charter experts were reporting similar results, with blame generally placed on poor water clarity and high flows pushing the bait and pelagic fish much farther to the east than normal.  In any case, Chub Cay was a very nice place to hang out, but the fishing experience was totally unimpressive.

Docked at Chub Cay....OpenView on the Left, Ghost Rider on the Right with Outriggers Up

 Tue, 14-Jun, Chub Cay to Bimini

It was time to start making our way back home, so by 0915 on Tuesday, 14-Jun we were underway, backtracking towards North Bimini so we could clear outbound customs there.  Ghost Rider took the lead again for a very smooth return ride in very pleasant conditions.  A few of the boats stopped off at the old Sapona shipwreck (LINK) on the inside of South Bimini to do some snorkeling, while we poked our nose out into the Gulf Stream to the west of Bimini for one last shot at trolling – but with no luck.

The Sapona Shipwreck Remnants Just East of South Bimini

By 1330 we were back in the North Bimini entrance channel and shortly thereafter we were again docked up at the Big Game Club in Alice Town….after dealing with some hefty current flow on a swiftly moving outgoing tide.  We cleaned up the boat, cleared customs, grabbed another meal at the marina restaurant, and rested up for the next day’s sortie back to the USA.

Tony & Julie on Their Marlin 30, Finn & Tonic, along with Crew Fred & Julia Grainger,
Getting Squared Away at the Bimini Big Game Club

Wed, 15-Jun, Bimini to Key Largo

Conditions were about perfect the next morning’s 0900 departure…warm temps, light winds, flat seas and clear skies.  Even with briefly pausing at a gas dock (very briefly – they were out of fuel) in the Largo canal, we were docked up again at Marina Del Mar by 1230.  The problem was both fuel docks in that immediate area were out of gasoline, and lacking sufficient reserves to make the next day’s run back, we went hunting via the Web.  Eventually we found one just a few canals over, albeit at a premium price:  $7.49 per gallon at the Pilot House (LINK)….where we took on only enough for the leg back to Fort Myers.

The group has its final supper together at nearby Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill (LINK…good food and drinks there) and called it an early night after checking the next day’s weather forecast – which again looked quite good.

 Thu, 16-Jun, Key Largo to Fort Myers

We opted for a slightly earlier start on the final day since the other boats had a longer way to go to RTB than we did (anywhere from 10 to 25 miles further north.)   But once again the flotilla had ideal conditions, mimicking the previous day’s weather.  Ghost Rider led the formation down Hawk Channel to the Channel Five bridge, cutting north there to the bay side, through the dogleg turns at Yacht Channel, and then north paralleling the west coast of southern Florida.  We had nearly flat seas the entire sortie, arriving back at our home dock by 1415.

Our Small Fleet Making Its Way Out of the Largo Canal to Head Home

Finn & Tonic Flying Our Wing on the Last Leg Home

Aftermath (Boat Business)

Generally the boat performed well.  The water-in-the-fuel issue on the initial leg actually caused no performance issues and was easily resolved with filter changes.  On the final leg home we also got one of those transient (and very generic) error codes again on the port engine, also causing no operational issues – we continue to suspect poor error handling by the Yamaha computer software.

The generator was a slightly different story.  While the workaround fix for the low voltage output was simple enough to implement, the permanent repair required ordering both a new boost board and an actuator (they work as a pair).  Rick was able to effect the replacements in short order, and the in-water test verified proper operation.  (The old board looked deep-fried.)

Old Boost Board on the Right...Not Too Difficult to Figure Out Why It Quit Working.  The New Boost Board (Left) Appears to Be a Much Different & Beefier Design.

New Actuator (Far Left) to Replace Old One (Green Arrow.)  The Yellow Arrow Points to the
Boost Board Housing...the PCB Board Just Slides In/Out.

Finally, Rick had grown weary of the poor quality Garmin VHF radio – the microphone had developed transmission issues (the second one in a year), it lacked AIS, and even when working properly produced lousy audio.  So that got replaced with a new Standard Horizon GX2400.  The old Garmin 215 model will make a good doorstop.

New Fixed Mount Standard Horizon GX2400 VHF Radio Installed with the Standard
Horizon HX870 Handheld Unit to Its Right as Backup

Now We Have AIS Tracking on The Chartplotter & Radar Displays via the New VHF

Looking at the Tropics

It appears that we will have at least one new tropical system spool up in the next week or two (currently named Invest 94L), although the long range models so far are taking its track well to our south, so not likely a factor.  The good news in this realm is that we’re past the early season where such storms tend to originate in the Gulf or Caribbean, and into the summer phase where waves coming off of Africa are the threats to watch – meaning there is a lot more warning time.


Upcoming

We plan to head back down to the Florida Keys (Marathon area) in the middle of July for a week, and hopefully (finally) put plenty of keeper mahi in the fish box.  Assuming the tropics continue to cooperate, we’ll post an update on that towards the end of July.

 Additional Pics Follow

Heading South on Day One

Fred Destroying a Yellowtail Snapper for Dinner in Key Largo
Ghost Rider at the Fuel Dock in Key Largo


Big Game Pool Area

The Crew of Grady Lady II...John, Theresa, Ellen & Brian
Brenda Aboard OpenView (Ron Hiding)
The Crew on Finn & Tonic....Tony, Julia, Julie, Fred...Along with Theresa
Chub Cay
Chub Cay Prices @ the Fuel Dock

Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay

Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay
Chub Cay....Emptied Conch Shells
Conch Out of the Shell....Cooked Bahamian Style ("Cracked") in Chub Cay
Group Farewell Pic @ Chub....Minus Andy & Candy