By the first week of May we had finally made enough progress on Ghost Rider’s punch list to declare the boat ready for a much-anticipated trip down to the Florida Keys. The final two items that we wanted to address were to fix the no-sound issue with the Fusion stereo system, and to get the Sirius/XM weather antenna working.
|The XM Weather Feature is a Handy Complement to|
Real Time Radar
The stereo issue was self-induced and related to the XM antenna issue; Rick had previously pulled out the Fusion’s master head unit in an earlier search for the XM antenna wire, and in the process disconnected every speaker wire – all 18 of them (2 for each of the 8 speakers, plus 2 more for the subwoofer.) As it turned out, there wasn’t near enough slack provided in the speaker wiring, so the eventual fix was to buy some connection extenders from Radio Shack and patch them all back together. And after a system software update, we finally got the XM antenna and weather package working.
|Our inReach Track Down to the Florida Keys|
We departed at 0935 and arrived at our rental property in Key Colony Beach (KCB) shortly after 1400, averaging 26 knots (30 MPH). Before docking there, we topped off the gas & diesel fuel tanks at the nearby marina, then cleaned up the boat and ourselves. Doug and Cat Cox arrived by car later in the afternoon and we had a fun and relaxing evening together.
The next morning, Sunday, 16-May, the four of us departed our KCB dock around 1000 and headed south into the roiling seas of the Florida Straits. The forecast wasn’t great, calling for easterly winds at 15 to 20 knots and seas in the five-to-seven-foot range, albeit with mostly sunny skies. And that was all pretty much spot on, although temperatures were pleasant (mid-80’s) and humidity levels remained fairly low by south Florida standards.
After trolling close-in (150-to-250-foot depths just a few miles past the reef) with no strikes we ventured further out, and finally found fish in the 400 through 650-foot depths. Within the first two hours we had four mahi in the fish box and were looking for more when we encountered a fault code for the starboard engine on the Yamaha CL7 (Command Link) electronic engine data screen. The only anomaly we noticed was that engine would no longer respond when in single throttle mode, but otherwise continued to operate normally. Nonetheless we opted to abort for the day and troubleshoot the issue in calm dockside conditions rather than 12 miles offshore in very lumpy water.
|Chelle, Doug & Cat During Trolling Operations|
Eventually we were advised by our local Grady rep, Fred Granger, that the particular fault code (“164-135-12 Steering Wheel”) was nothing more than a software glitch in the Helm Master system, triggered by a voltage variation; as Fred suggested, a sequenced power-down and restart cleared the error and we never saw it again.
|Doug & Chelle with Six Decent Dorados (Mahi)|
Back at the Dock
By Wednesday, 19-May the wind and sea conditions had gone from bad to worse, with gusts up to 25 knots and waves reaching 11 feet. We decided it was a good time to take a down day and just tinker with the boat a bit – that consisted mainly of putting some things back in place that had relocated themselves during the previous three days of bouncing around in the Florida Straits. A three-by-six ceiling panel in the forward cabin was the main focus, as the factory’s “snap-in” design couldn’t withstand the pounding, which we remediated by drilling holes for ten stainless steel screws. The new Rupp outriggers also had to be torqued down a lot tighter to keep them from rotating out of the deployed fishing position in the rough and windy conditions.
|Ghost Rider Dockside at Our Marathon Digs|
When we saw the updated forecasts for Thursday and Friday, we decided we were done fishing for the week….8-to-12-foot seas were simply more than we cared to mess with. So, on Thursday, 20-May, we piled into Doug’s pickup truck, drove to Key West, enjoyed an excellent lunch at Fogarty’s on Duval Street (LINK), and generally just messed around the eclectic waterfront attractions amidst other touristas and the local conchs. We used Friday, 21-May to prepare for the next day’s scheduled departure back to our respective homes – repacking suitcases, clearing out the food stores in the kitchen, divvying up all the fish filets, and stowing all the fishing gear.
|The Rental House at Key Colony Beach in Marathon...Plenty of Room for Four|
|A Cumulative Track Record of Where We Fished Off the Keys|
Back to Fort Myers
On the morning of Saturday, 22-May we finished loading the boat and were underway by 0900, heading back home. It was sunny and warm again, but still breezy with brisk winds out of the east. While the ride wasn’t as rough as we experienced in the Florida Straits during the week, we encountered fairly sloppy conditions in Florida Bay until we got north of the Cape Romano Shoals near Marco Island. From there we hugged the coastline all the way to Fort Myers for a much smoother second-half ride, arriving back at Sanibel Harbor by 1415.
The boat was a salty mess but otherwise in pretty good shape considering the pounding to which we had subjected it over the past week. The only real punch list item added was the Sirius/XM weather functionality, which had disappeared completely from the electronics display. We suspect some cabling got dislodged in all the banging around, but we’ll deal with that later.
In late May we launched the land yacht and started a long road trip. Finally feeling some freedom from Covid (but not near enough to fly commercially) we made stops in Atlanta, Ga; St. Louis, Mo; Quincy, Il; and Yukon, Ok. It was nearly 4,000 miles of driving, but it was fabulous to see and hug our (vaccinated) friends and family. It had been too long.
|We Stayed with Friends Cal & Kara at Their Place East of Atlanta. No, They Don't Run |
a Resort, but It Sure Looked & Felt Like One.
|In St. Louis We Enjoyed Some Long Overdue Time with the Grandkids. Rick Discovered|
that Grandson Danny Can Now Kick His Butt at Golf.
Back to Fort Myers…and a Move
By the time July rolled around we had sold the condo, bought a house and made the move from the former to the latter. Both the sale and the purchase included furniture, so overall it wasn’t too painful, especially since the move was just two miles downriver. While the condo had served us well during the years of extended traveling on our Nordhavn, it was time for a bit more privacy and quiet, as well as our own pool and a boat lift for the Grady….at our very own dock.
While it’s an older home (circa ’75) it has been cared for meticulously and updated over time, and will be more amenable to visits from family and friends. But Rick says it’s our last move.
|Ghost Rider Parked Comfortably at the Dock at Our New Digs|
We’re coming up on the heart of hurricane season (and another Covid surge here, courtesy of the chronically clueless), so for the near term we’ll be sticking close to home and taking a blog break. We need to arrange for a new, beefier boat lift to handle the heft of the big Grady, and hopefully get a whole-house generator installed, assuming we can find space for it and the large propane fuel tank it would require (TBD).
we’re also in the process of planning for some interesting boat sorties next
year, including the Southern Loop in May, back to the Bahamas in June, and
another week of Keys fishing in July. And
hopefully more. So eventually we’ll have
more maritime merriment on which to report, so stay tuned.
|It's a Modest 3-3-2, and Yeah, We Paid WAY Too Much|
|Back to Waterfront Living with Our Own Private Spaces|
|Chelle Calls This Room Rick's 'Man Cave'|