Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 2017: Back to Fort Myers


While we were waiting out yet another tropical system (Phillipe) at Old Port Cove in North Palm Beach, we used that time to solve the remaining major maintenance concerns.
Another Damned Tropical Storm (Phillipe)

The LinkPro battery monitor issue turned out to be related mostly to an automatic charging relay (ACR) that was installed by a previous owner when the backup battery charger was also added.  There are actually two ACRs – one for the wing & generator start battery, and a second for the two main engine start batts; it appears the former is wired in a fashion that confuses the LinkPro gauge calculus….so Rick disconnected that.  We still have the old fashioned manual parallel switches (which we prefer anyway) so no real functionality is lost.  Rick also suspects the original charger’s temperature compensation probe is a bit off, so that, too, is disconnected while we test further.  But at least we appear to have a solid battery gauge now.

We also managed to solve the overheating stuffing box for the main engine’ shaft; it required another sea trial sortie with Rick playing with packing adjustments for about another hour, but it’s running a lot cooler now, staying within 20 degrees of the ambient water temp and with a reasonable drip rate.

Our InReach Track Around South Florida
Lastly the annoying coolant overflow on the main engine has finally gone away – we are fairly sure whoever last serviced the cooling system overfilled it and the engine just had to puke out the excess.  We’re keeping a catch bottle at the end of the overflow tube and monitoring just in case.

So it was time to toss off the lines and start a serious shakedown cruise.  By the time Phillipe trucked past by us and the winds died to tolerable levels it was Monday, 30-October….we sortied Ghost Rider out of Old Port Cove Marina (after a big thank you to James Knight and his Yacht Tech gang) at 0800 that morning.  The usual diary of each day’s events follows, and our InReach track for the journey is HERE.

Our first leg was south, down the east coast of Florida to the Hollywood area just south of Fort Lauderdale.  It was a cool but pleasant day, with light following seas running on the outside and Ghost Rider ran well.  Typically we like to RON at the Pier 66 Marina when in the Lauderdale area but they were full up with the upcoming FLIBS, so we opted for Suntex Marina a few miles south down the ICW, where I think we took their last available slip.
Chelle at the Pilot House Helm on Day One

We managed to time our arrival at each of the three bridges we had to traverse such that we had minimal wait times on final approach (pure luck) and arrived Suntex at 1630.  Our assigned slip was a tight fit but we managed to stern in without hitting anything….although the owner / captain of the lengthy sailboat on our port side sure was attentive and looking worried as we reversed in.
A Tight Fit at Suntex Marina in Hollywood, Florida

It was an uneventful leg and a peaceful night.

We departed a bit earlier the next morning as we had a long run to Tavernier Key where we planned to drop the hook, and we wanted to get that accomplished in daylight.  Se we were underway at 0800 and fortunately we didn’t have to wait on either of the two low bridges….we were able to squeeze under them by lowering the two taller VHF antennae.  (Observation about east coast bridge tenders:  irascibility must be a job requirement.)  Then we negotiated a third (fixed) bridge at Bakers Haulover Inlet -- where the current absolutely rips -- also with antennae down and without any drama.

After that the run down the coast on the outside was again very pleasant and uneventful, and we managed to set the anchor on the first shot without bumping bottom in Tavernier’s shallow bay.  We had just a little current along with a consistently fresh breeze out of the northeast, and the boat barely moved a few feet throughout the night.
Ghost Rider Entering the Inlet at Stock Island....Photo Courtesy of Dan Clark

We had another lengthy run to the next day as we wanted to make it all the way to Key West – all the facilities at Marathon that could normally accommodate our draft were still rebuilding from Hurricane Irma’s aftermath, and we didn’t (yet) want to anchor out on consecutive nights.  The wind and seas picked up a bit (15-20K and 3-4 feet) but it was still quite comfy out there since both were on the stern and the autopilot handled it well.

When we pulled into the Stock Island Marina channel Dan & Cher Clark were there to greet us.  They had driven down from Punta Gorda so they could join us for the final few days of cruising back to Fort Myers.  Dan even got a good photo as Ghost Rider entered the marina basin.  The brisk north wind required corrective attention as we backed into our slip, but the fairway and slip were wide enough that we avoided any excitement and stuck the landing.

We got Ghost Rider all tucked away for the evening, and we then enjoyed cocktails and dinner aboard the boat with Dan and Cher.
Chelle, Cher & Dan for Cher's Birthday Brunch

After hosing down the boat and topping off our water tanks, we took the rest of the day off on Thursday to celebrate Cher’s birthday.  We had an excellent brunch at Sarabeth’s restaurant, and then headed over to Sloppy Joe’s bar for a round of celebratory Bloody Mary’s.  That evening we dined at The Hogfish Grill and then retired to Ghost Rider’s fly bridge for dessert and drinks, continuing the birthday party for Cher.

While the general Key West area looked to be in pretty good shape after the pounding they took from Irma, the crowds were noticeably smaller than what we are used to seeing there, particularly on the normally vibrant Duval Street.  Everyone we spoke with commented on how slow business had been since the storm.  Hopefully it will pick up soon.

We were also fortunate to get a close up look at the sailing vessel When and If -- which belonged to General George S. Patton; and we also had a long chat with its crew, who are in the process of lovingly restoring her.  See pic sat the bottom of this blog entry and this WEB SITE.
Fun at Sloppy Joe's in Key West

We got an early start on Friday and just before 0800 sortied out of Stock Island, around Key West and up the Northwest Channel to Florida Bay, then headed northeast towards the Little Shark River.  Winds were brisk out of the northeast near 20 mph and the bay was stirred up, presenting us with square 3 foot waves at short intervals on the nose.  The bulbous bow on Ghost Rider would occasionally pound on the rebound, and we took plenty of spray, but still the ride was generally comfortable in the pilot house.  The main challenge was dodging the crab pots, which were numerous – stone crab season is from October to May in south Florida.  But Dan helped us out by taking several of the helm shifts.

Other than that the weather was very nice – low 80’s and reasonable humidity once again, making for a pleasant day cruise.  Despite the choppy water we made good speed, averaging close to 9 knots, and we arrived at the mouth of the Little Shark River around 1700.  However, at that point it looked like we were joining a parade....there were several other vessels entering the mouth of the river, making our intended anchorage a tad too crowded for our tastes.  So we dropped the hook about a mile offshore just south of the river where depths seemed acceptable and at least one Active Captain review indicated good holding.  Just to be safe, though, we let out nearly 200 feet of chain.   It was humid, and while the bugs were not horrible, there were enough in the area that we decided to run the genset and A/C all night and kept the boat closed up.  Our 100 pound Manson Supreme anchor held just fine in the 15K NNE wind, and other than some occasional small rollers throughout the night, it was another peaceful night.
Dan & Cher at the Helm Dodging Florida Bay Crab Pots....Lots of Them

We weren’t in a big rush the next morning since the planned route from Little Shark River to Marco Island (Factory Bay) was fairly short – about 7 hours if the current didn’t kick up too much.  We had the anchor up and stowed by 0845 (right at low tide, giving us an indicated 1 foot of depth under the keel.  We would have liked more, but we didn’t touch bottom.

After Chelle got us established on our route to the northwest she turned the helm over to Cher, who capably weaved us through several more mine fields of crab pots.  After a few miles we finally saw more than 3 feet under the keel, although we did not see more than 20 feet until we got near Cape Romano Shoals – typical southwest Florida water.  Air temperature initially hovered in the 70’s while the wind stayed steady at 15 knots from the northeast giving us some chop to muddle through the first half of the day; by early afternoon it was in the low 80’s with ample sunshine and the wind died off, making for a very smooth ride.  That enabled some quality fly bridge time for everyone.
Cher at the Helm & Chelle Giving Guidance

We steered Ghost Rider into Marco Island’s Capri Pass around 1630 and arrived at the Factory Bay Marina about 15 minutes later.  Chelle took the helm for docking alongside on a t-head this time and did a fine job as usual.  After that we spent some time giving Ghost Rider a much needed bath – she was as salty as a pretzel after two days away from dockside water.  After we and the boat got cleaned up we took Dan and Cher to one of our favorite restaurants, Old Marco Pub, just a short walk from the marina – the food was as good as we remembered from our last visit.

With just a short leg to Fort Myers (7 hours) and the change from DST we decided not to set an alarm, and as it turned out all four of us awoke way too early anyway.  We didn’t rush the departure, waiting until 0830 to get underway.  It was a perfect day with clear blue skies, pleasant temps (low 80’s by afternoon), and nearly flat seas. 
Cher & Chelle Playing Rummicube with Dan at the FB Helm

The calm sea conditions were a really good thing as Ghost Rider’s Naiad stabilizer system crapped out early in the sortie.  No matter what we tried we couldn’t get either actuator to work; after reading the manual and trying several different fixes we just gave up after a couple of hours, pinned the fins and turned the system off.  We’ll add it to our new punch list.

As we did the previous two days we rotated helm duties among Chelle, Cher, Dan and Rick, with the entire leg being comfortably piloted from the fly bridge.  We made our way up the coast past Naples and Fort Myers Beach, and finally into the Caloosahatchee River and into Fort Myers and Legacy Harbour Marina by 1530.  Our new home port slip is in a tight corner way the hell out on “D” dock, practically a different zip code from the marina office, but it’s quiet and comfy and good to be back home for a while.
Ghost Rider Back at Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Myers

We bid adieu to Dan and Cher as they were anxious to get back to their Punta Gorda home, then gave Ghost Rider another bath, and then called it a day.

It was great to get Ghost Rider out into big water and cruise her for a full week. Even better, we got the opportunity to enjoy Dan & Cher’s company for the last four days, while (finally) cruising our little ship to her home port in Fort Myers.

Now we’ll be taking a break from the boat, packing up and heading to the St. Louis area to visit with family for a week.  We’ll then return to Fort Myers to tend to boat business as well as more family fun over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.   The Bahamas are on the radar some time after that.

In spite of the stabilizer issue generally the boat and its systems performed well during our week-long shakedown cruise. But as usual we added a few things to the punch list:

·        On the final part of the leg into Key West we noticed a shaft vibration on the main engine….it was mild at normal cruise (1450-1500 RPM) but definitely got worse as the engine revved up to WOT.  We checked motor mounts, shaft coupling bolts and stuffing box, but could find nothing out of whack there.  We’ll have a diver inspect the bottom and running gear while at Legacy Harbour to what that may reveal.

·        The hydraulic pump for the stabilizer system developed what appears to be a melted grease leak that we’re monitoring.

·        The main engine has been dripping motor oil from or near the front of the oil pan gasket; some drips from a continuous duty diesel are to be expected, but we’ll be monitoring for any trend.

·        We noticed some discolored fuel in the bottom of the wing engine’s Racor bowl that Rick drained – it looked suspiciously like algae (and that filter assembly had earlier been removed, disassembled and cleaned for that reason.)  None of the other Racors had any such evidence.  Requires investigation.

·        On our last leg from Marco Island to Fort Myers the Naiad stabilizer system crapped out; we’ll need to engage some pros to figure out that one.
General Patton's When and If Sailing Yacht at Stock Island Marina in Key West

The Gorgeous When and If Sailing Yacht


  1. Thanks Jerry! Looking forward to getting together again…will drop by soon.

  2. What a wonderful voyage! We are very grateful to Rick & Michelle for the invite to join them! Thank you for great times with great friends! Love, Cher & Dan

  3. We should do a birthday cruise every year.

  4. Hello Rick and Michelle, GRII sure has the most beautiful line. She is a really good looking boat. Congratulations!

  5. She's a bit faster than your N60, but she is a whole lot smaller :-)

  6. Hi Rick and Michelle. We are very thankful for your emails and blogs. Thanks for keeping us in touch. It is interesting to watch the two of you figure out what the pros had difficulty tracing down and then making the corrections. You are obviously well suited to your new career and life style following a commendable working career. We look forward to visiting with you guys again.
    Billy and Becky

    1. Billy/Becky….thanks for the compliment but I think we just sometimes get lucky with the troubleshooting; and not so much at other times.  Let us know when you get to FLA again….or the Bahamas. How is The Edge performing this year?

  7. Welcome back home. Hope to get down to see you'll and GR during 2017. Let us know when you are going to be around at dock for a few days. Have you had a chance to determine which GR performs the best under sea conditions? Miss you guys. Keep us updated on your adventures.

  8. Hey Guys,

    Definitely come on down & see us, would love to get together.

    As to which Ghost Rider performs best….good question. We have not yet had this one in anything worse than 4’ following and 3’ head seas (the latter being those square waves in the GOM at 3 second intervals… boating on a waffle iron.) Right now our impression is this N50 does better than the N47 in following seas (smaller butt, sleeker hull overall.) They seem about the same in a head sea, although this N50’s bulbous bow can make a pounding noise that the N47 didn’t. And the N50 is definitely a faster by an average of at least a knot at the same fuel flow. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes a big diff on those long (and overnight) cruises.