Sunday, 11 February 2018

Skinny, Deep, Then Skinny Again - Passage To Eleuthera

Rosinante Enjoying The Conditions
Six days ago we worked our way through the skinny water of the southern Abaco Islands in Bahama, heading to sea and southward, destination Eleuthera. While only 50 nautical miles distant, this was an Atlantic Ocean passage and required the right weather window - so we grabbed the first available opportunity and headed out across the bar in the early morning, with a gaggle of yachts all homing on the same destination. After a somewhat tense exit (we crossed the bar at low tide) it was a joy to have several hundred meters of water under the keel.

Pelican Express, A Sundeer 60, Doing What She Does Best

The winds and currents gave us a boisterous crossing, with 18 to 20 knots of wind for most of the day, sloppy seas and plenty of movement on board. A true romp of a sail with the apparent wind exactly on the beam. We were the last to cross the bar at Little Harbor heading out, but our waterline length let us haul in those that crossed ahead of us, and we were second into Eleuthera behind our friends on Pelican Express.

Through the Egg Island cut we marched, anchoring at Meek's Patch near Spanish Wells, in just 3 meters of water again, for a spectacular sunset. That really was a fine Bahamas cruising day.


Monday, 5 February 2018

Low Flying In Skinny Water

Crystal Blues At Tilloo Cay Anchorage - Unusually Deep At 3.5 Meters
Welcome to the beauty of the Bahamas, where we are (finally) enjoying some warm weather and quiet days.  For blue water sailors, relaxing here requires some serious attitude adjustment - everywhere is just so damn shallow!

Skimming across the flats in 3 to 4 meters of water is exciting, feeling just like low flying. However it is stressful to someone who for years has had the shallow depth alarm set at 5 meters - heck the alarm would be sounding continuously here! Many harbors we simply cannot approach, our 2.1 meter depth being way over the available water depth.

At Grand Cay, where we cleared customs and immigration, we eased our way through the entrance channel with 10cm under the keel, to find an anchorage that was just over 3 meters deep. So we often anchor outside the harbors and the dinghy gets a real workout - we traveled 5 miles each way in the dink to visit beautiful Hope Town on Elbow Cay, which is surrounded by 1.0 to 1.5 meter sand banks.

Hope Town Harbor, Elbow Cay, Bahamas














Hope Town Light House

In Hope Town we toured the magnificent lighthouse, the last in the world still operating with an oil burning lamp and a clockwork rotational mechanism. With strong community support it is maintained in working condition, and is open to tourists six days a week.

One great positive - turtles are making a come back here, now protected by government legislation. We see them every day, and two days back saw nine in one small lagoon.

Over the past two weeks we've used the periods of nice weather (very few) to catch up on maintenance - cleaning the hull being the big job. Whilst the images may look sunny, it really isn't warm here in winter, most days between 20 and 25 degrees C. And the sea is cold - wet suits are essential.

Cold fronts regularly move off the US east coast, wind directions clock 360 degrees in as little as 36 hours. Frequent moves are called for to stay sheltered as the winds change direction.

Hope Town was our last "town" visit in the Abaco Islands - tomorrow we're heading south 50 nautical miles to the northern end of Eleuthera Island. A growing group of boats is swinging at anchor here at Lydyard Cay, ready to make the ocean jump to Eleuthera tomorrow.

Hull Cleaning At Tilloo Cay



























20 Knots For 20 Hours, With 20 Tons






















Crystal Blues displaces just under 20 metric tons, and I always wondered how our new Rocna 33kg anchor behaved - in soft mud I know it buries deep, but in hard sand with grass just how deep does it bury? The shallow waters here in the Bahamas let me see the answer a few days ago - after 20 hours with 20 knots of wind blowing here at Tilloo Cay.

The answer it seems is not very deep, but we've never dragged, even in sustained winds over 30 knots, gusting to 40 knots. The bottom here is really tough, and once you get the point buried it seems to hold well. In this image the load on the flukes is asymmetric, evidence (I think) of the anchor rotating in the sand as the wind veered through 45 degrees, though I'd welcome comments from others on this.

Monday, 29 January 2018

A Garden At Sea Again

So Much Growth, We Brought Out The Big Guns For Harvesting

Admiral Ley has a well trained green thumb. As I described here last year, at every opportunity she grows a range of herbs and salad greens that add flavour and zest to our diet onboard.

A couple of months back she re-started our garden, again using the Greensmart self-watering pot that has been so productive for us. Once again, it's taken off, growing like crazy. We're often able to give away fresh herbs to cruising friends.

Right now she's growing Basil, Cilantro (Corriander), Italian Parsley, mixed Lettuce, Arugula and Rosemary. All this in a tub that measures just 570x400mm.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Great Guana Key, Bahamas

Community Fish Cleaning Action At Great Guana Cay
Sunshine, clear waters, fresh fish, friendly people - it doesn't get much better. Unless of course you also like messing around in boats, in which case all your dreams can come true here at Great Guana Cay in the Bahamas. I guess it must be a little frantic at peak tourist season, but right now its extra laid back and friendly. We arrived here yesterday after a quick 3 hour passage from Green Turtle Cay, and have settled into the anchorage to sit out the front that is expected later today.  We're in 3 meters of water with 27 meters of chain out, so we're not planning on going anywhere soon.

This morning we took the (fast) ferry 16nm to Marsh Harbor, where the Admiral found a hair dresser and we both searched the hardware and marine stores for parts we needed. That search turned up nothing of value, so we headed back to Great Guana in the early afternoon. This afternoon, before the weather deteriorated, we spent a few minutes testing our new aerial camera system, with great results. Click the play button below to view.



Thursday, 25 January 2018

So, Which Ball Valves Are You Using ?

Philmac Ball Valves On Our Seawater Manifold
My story on ball valve replacement at sea (read it here) lead predictably to the question of ball valve construction. Are you a traditional bronze kind of sailor? Or maybe you like stainless steel? Or just maybe you've converted to the newer industrial plastics, made with glass reinforced PVC or Nylon?

On Crystal Blues we love the industrial plastic valves, and have used Philmac ball valves for almost 20 years. These are built for the industrial process and agriculture industries, are tough as nails and (the best part) are cheaper than all those products that have the word marine included in the product description.... still, I understand the Philmac valves are approved for use on commercial vessels in commercial survey in Australia and New Zealand.

Engineered plastic valves are light, strong, do not corrode and won't conduct electricity, all properties that I love. Nowadays there is a new and I believe even higher quality product available - made from glass reinforced PVC. New Zealand company TruDesign make a superb range of tough, precision plastic skin fittings, valves and plumbing components specifically for the marine market. These are sold all over the world, and have certifications from Bureaux Veritas, ABYC, CE and ISO. These are the valves and fittings that will be used on Crystal Blues in the future.

Or Are You Using "Marelon" ?

Glass reinforced plastic valves and fittings are also made using Marelon, principally marketed in the USA by Forespar. Unfortunately these valves have experienced well publicized failures over many years. Marelon is a version of Dupont Zytel, a glass reinforced form of Nylon, a fine structural material, but perhaps not best suited to making marine ball valves, as the base material is weakened by immersion over long periods.  Read The Discussions Here and buyer beware.
TruDesign Diverter Valve

We won't use the Forespar Marelon valves. I should also say that the Forespar Marelon toilet waste diverter valves we purchased never worked properly - the closed outlet always leaked slightly, meaning the holding tank had to be emptied periodically even when not being used.

They were not fit for purpose in my experience. That was an expensive mistake, rectified by refitting with TruDesign diverter valves.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

At Last, Bahamas Sunshine ...

New Plymouth Town, Green Turtle Cay
Crystal Blues finally escaped the freezing conditions and weather bombs of the US East Coast, clearing from Palm Beach and heading east across the Gulf Stream to the shallow banks that make up most of the Bahamas Island group. In 8 hours we were across the stream and moved on to the banks, and 8 hours later we were at Great Sale Cay, anchored in 3 meters of water for a peaceful evening.

The Admiral In The Loyalist Sculpture Garden
We cleared customs and immigration at Grand Cay, and sheltered there for a few days, before heading East and South around the top of the Abacos island chain.

Three days ago we anchored at Green Turtle Cay and settled for a while, enjoying the (finally) calm weather and the friendly village atmosphere in New Plymouth town.

This is a community that dates back to the 1780's, when British loyalists departed the United States after the war of independence and resettled here. The English language is different here, and the folks are proud of their heritage.

The waters are clear, and there is a decent tourism industry based around visiting boats and resorts. The famous Green Turtle Club provides marina, restaurant and bar services, competing with the nearby Bluff House to woo visiting boats and crews.

Perfectly positioned on the sea of Abaco, between the outer reef and Great Abaco Island, this is one of a string of barrier islands that really make you think about staying forever.

Of course this is winter, the low season, and the marinas are generally fairly empty, though there are plenty of cruising boats around, principally from the USA with a few from Canada. Winter weather brings a series of northerly and north easterly blows to this region, each of which seems to last four or five days. This morning, with another 35 knot blow on the way, we departed Green Turtle and moved further south to Great Guana Cay, where we will shelter for the next five days.

Yes, You Can Lock The Dinghy To The Canon On The Public Wharf




Monday, 8 January 2018

Changing A Thru Hull / Ball Valve At Sea

New Valve Going On, No Water Enters the Boat

We've done this a couple of times now, and it's a really simple and fast maintenance job. Finding a dripping leak in a ball valve on the engine sea water inlet, we investigated and found it was seeping through the seal to the handle. It had given us 15 years of service, so I was happy to replace it. We located the spares we carry and selected the right size - 1.25" in this case.

Next we needed a diver, and in chilly St. Augustine that was not going to be the Admiral. No way said she! A call to the local cruiser's net identified a willing local, so we scheduled the job for the next day at slack tide. Note that Crystal Blues has skin fittings (thru hulls) with stand pipes that are threaded, to allow the ball valves to be screwed on and off, without actually effecting the skin fitting.

Diver Ryan arrived right on time, and as he prepared his gear and suited up I started on my own work sequence :

- Close the faulty valve and loosen the hose clamps on the hose connected to it

Trusty Toilet Plunger
- With the hose clamps out of the way the hose tail (hose barb) is unscrewed from the valve. It rotates easily inside the hose, meaning you don't ever have to fight to actually get the hose off the hose tail. This is made easier if you always apply a little silicone sealant to the hose tail during assembly, before sliding the hose over it.

- Once the hose tail is disconnected the action begins - Ryan the diver enters the water with our trusty toilet plunger and holds it over the water entry point. He taps three times on the hull to signal he's ready, and I open the ball valve - voila, just a tiny amount of water enters the boat, before the pressure differential forces the plunger tightly against the hull and seals the entry.

- Unscrew the old ball valve, clean up the threads on the stand pipe, apply new PTFE tape and then screw on the new valve. Close the valve, tap three times on the hull and the diver removes the plunger. Simple!

- Some time later I re-attached the hose tail and re-fastened the hose clamps. Job done.

While many older boats still have skin fittings that incorporate the valve, many newer vessels are built with separate components which allows this process to work just fine. From my perspective, $80 for a diver for 30 minutes is a lot better than $800 for a haul out, just to change a ball valve.

Diver Ryan Was Faster & Cheaper Than A Haul Out


Saturday, 6 January 2018

A New Year Begins, New Destinations Await

You know you're getting older when your favorite local radio station is called The Real Oldies. Whatever happened to K-Rock, Planet Rock, or KIISS and the like?  They all drifted into pop sameness, or repetitive rapping, is what happened..... and I stopped listening.

Here in Florida we had a great Christmas, listening to The Real Oldies on the rental car radio, pulling together the supplies and parts we needed and then celebrating with friends at Hobe Sound, north of Palm Beach.

George & Nancy Marvin, OCC Port Officers for the region, kindly invited us to share Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Luncheon with them - a fine group of cruisers were there, so spirits were high and endless dreams and lies circulated the table.

George & Nancy also kindly acted as a delivery point for our many parcels in the weeks before and after Christmas. Once those goodies were in hand we settled down to a sequence of repairs and service jobs onboard Crystal Blues.

The toughest project was replacing the heater hoses that snake their way through the boat from the engine to the hot water service. The old hose had been installed 12 years ago and was starting to crack - we'd found and repaired two leaks in the past 6 months.

So out it came, which took a day, and then the new silicone rubber hose went in, which took a couple of days - there is about 70 feet of hose in the circuit.  For good measure we flushed and cleaned the cooling circuit in the engine, and replaced the coolant in the system.

Both the Northern Lights genset and the Cummins main engine were due for injector servicing, so we gave both engines a treat and installed new (actually re-built) injectors. Both machines are running silky smooth now, aided by the recent valve lash adjustment - you really can tell the difference.

The Cummins was also rewarded with a new Walker AirSep Filter system, the original item having passed it's use-by date - 12 years was a good run. All in all the boat did real well in the Christmas gift department.

As to those radio stations, we also spent a day installing a new FM radio antenna connection - then scrolled right past the local spanish and rock / pop channels to settle on Legends Radio, a local jazz oriented station. Bliss.

Hopefully we'll be well ahead on the service and maintenance items when we leave here, and can spend time relaxing in the Bahamas soon. The cold weather that is impacting us should pass in a couple of days, and we're hoping for a clear weather window early next week for passage to the Bahamas.

New Walker AirSep Filter System Installed



 







Friday, 5 January 2018

Freezing In Florida

Welcome to Florida, where it's so cold that it's raining Iguanas - see the story here.

We stopped our voyage south at Palm Beach in central Florida, entering the harbor at Lake Worth inlet and anchoring off the friendly Palm Beach Sailing Club. Over Christmas and New Year the weather was mild, warm and sunny, so we set about completing a series of maintenance and service jobs, preparing for our crossing to the Bahamas. Immediately after New Year the scene changed, with north Florida receiving (almost unheard of) snowfalls and freezing temperatures.

Last night we had a minimum of 3degC. here, and tonight it will be 4degC. Florida temperatures in the winter normally average between 18 and 21 degC. Our friends all the way up the East coast are experiencing sub-zero temperatures and snow falls, while Chesapeake Bay is closed to shipping and harbors are freezing over even in the Carolinas. The weather guru's are calling it a "bomb cyclone", and it appears to be strengthening at it runs north up the coast. In reality we only caught the southern edge of this astounding weather event.

Of course we had just finished packing and stowing all our warm clothing, winter duvets and blankets - who needs those in Florida, right? Right. Yesterday we broke out the winter clothing and bedding again. With luck we'll escape to warmer weather in the Bahamas within a few days.

Jack Bullock Sent This - His Boat In Charleston, South Carolina, Early Today. I Don't Feel So Bad Now ....

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A Quiet Achiever, Sailing Alone Around The World

Alexandra At Anchor In The BVI's

Every now and again you meet someone who manages to alter your perceptions, re-align your values and generally give your heart a good shake-up.

Back in 2015 we sailed South West from Chagos, to Rodrigues in the southern Indian Ocean, a strenuous 6 day passage that tested our capabilities. After a thorough bashing we finally raced in to the tiny harbor on the island of Rodrigues, on a day when even the local schools had been closed due to high wind strengths. Frankly, I've never been so happy to arrive anywhere.

Alexandra In Rodrigues
Next day, a small sailboat came in off that same angry ocean, with just one young man on board. It had no roller furling sails, not even an engine. There was no generator, no refrigeration, no fancy autopilot systems, no electric toilets and certainly few comforts below decks. The boat was simple, minimalist, in fact so basic I was shocked. It was not in great condition, but it got him there.

Sean D'Epagnier had just crossed the southern Indian Ocean in that boat, on his own, through some dreadful weather. Having no engine, he sculled his way into harbor with a single large sculling oar, settled in and lit a wood fire in a pot on deck, heating a meal of seafood he'd caught. Squid lay on the deck, drying in the sun - his means of preserving fish he caught by line or by diving.

There in Rodrigues we helped Shaun with some fasteners and glue, and a chunk of timber to make a new sculling oar. Then, over the next two years, we bumped into Sean a couple of times, first in the BVI's after crossing the Atlantic and then again in Charleston, South Carolina. Each time I looked at the approaching sailboat and instantly said to myself - that just has to be Sean.

He's an intriguing character, doing it his own way. By his own words he's interested in the weather, climate, mathematical algorithms and graphics. Very importantly, most cruising sailors already benefit from Sean's work - he's a member of the development team that produce Open CPN, the superb freeware chart plotting program (check it out here). So there is a lot more to Sean than initial appearances might suggest.  Behind this crusty and unusually tough adventurer are a million stories.

He purchased his boat, a Bristol 27 built in 1973, for $1,000. She's named Alexandra. Departing California in 2011, he crossed the Pacific and arrived in New Zealand in 2012. There he became the subject of a search by local authorities, as his family in the USA hadn't heard from him for some months - it turns out Sean was fine, busily working his way around the New Zealand coast. Of course he didn't understand the fuss.

Sean & Alexandra Arrive In Charleston SC
He had further trouble in New Zealand when the authorities would not let him depart without making certain repairs to Alexandra. However by 2014 he was in the Phillippines, then moved on through Indonesia and set out across the Indian Ocean in 2015.

Early that year he commented online about the cruising equipment that he considers essential - his list included spare sails, a sculling oar, a sailing kayak, a wood stove and squid lures. It's fair to say that most of these items are not on my list ...

I spoke with Dave Register, Senior Developer for the Open CPN platform, who commented on Sean's enthusiasm and breadth of ideas - Sean has contributed to many add-on modules for Open CPN.  I believe that Dave see's Sean as a committed ocean traveler, kind of hard to track down - in fact I think Dave was never quite sure where he was in the world. I think Sean's family probably feel the same way.

During that first connection in Rodrigues I realised that Sean was obviously very talented on the IT and software engineering side.  However when we met again in the BVI's I learned he was developing a prototype low-power electric autopilot, so he's clearly into hardware solutions as well.

My most enduring memory of Sean is watching him sail into the estuary in Charleston one morning, short tacking patiently up river against the outgoing tide. As he slowly slid past the dock I yelled out and made contact, and he asked if I knew where and how he could clear in to the country - his country - this was just so Sean. I was able to call the Customs and Immigration team for him, and I have little doubt that they are still wondering quite what they encountered that day. Should you see Alexandra coming into your anchorage, I suggest you reset your values and offer Sean the hand of cruising friendship - he's surely earned it.

I've recently heard that Sean has re-connected with his family here in the USA, however right now I'm not sure where exactly Sean is in this world. Then again I suspect that, just maybe, that's how he likes it. He's a special person - more power to him.

Sean, Cruising The World His Own Way


Sunday, 17 December 2017

Cruising The Space Coast

Falcon 9, 1st Stage Burn
Titusville Florida, and nearby Cocoa Beach, are known for their proximity to Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We anchored there with a specific mission - to see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch at this famous site. There are several designated anchorages that provide great viewing of the launches, however we opted to leave the boat and visit the nearby KSC Visitor Center with friends.

Space Cadet Neil
I was there in 2003, however even that wasn't my first visit. Back in 1972, only 45 years ago, I was there as a student representative for Australia - hosted by NASA, as a guest of the US Government. Back then I was truly fortunate to see the final spectacular Saturn V moon launch, for the Apollo 17 mission. That was an incredibly significant experience, and had all sorts of impacts on my life from that day forward. Yes I built a lot of rockets, had been doing so for many years, we even launched one from Crystal Blues on our wedding day!

So this really was a pilgrimage for me ... and I wasn't disappointed. With the boat safely anchored we arrived at KSC early, and joined the line of excited visitors. NASA provided buses to take us across Merritt Island to the Apollo Center, where viewing stands were available for the launch.

With Admiral Ley I watched the SpaceX launch and the (amazing) powered descent and soft landing of the 1st stage booster section around 8 minutes later. Also amazing is that both the booster and the Dragon spacecraft on top had been flown before (re-usable space craft are here). This launch was a re-supply mission to the International Space Station, flown by SpaceX for NASA.

If you're cruising the Florida coast, don't miss Kennedy Space Center.  It's a fantastic place and NASA do a great job entertaining and educating visitors of any age. If you really want to see a launch, check the launch schedule on the KSC web site. Thanks to Andrew & Carolyn Bellamy for sharing a fantastic day, full of great memories for this slightly older space cadet!

SpaceX Falcon 9 & Dragon Lift Off


UPDATE January 8, 2018 / Watch the SpaceX launch video for Mission CRS13 !




Yes, We had A Fun Day!






It's Florida, It Must Be Warm ....

The Intra-Coastal Waterway At Titusville

Bascule Bridges Open At Port Canaveral
Chasing the sun, chasing the sun, still chasing the sun...

Rather than face the shallow depths and low bridges of the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW), we went to sea again at St. Augustine and struck south for Port Canaveral, seeking warmer weather again. This time we succeeded.

 After an easy overnight passage we entered though an opening (bascule) bridge and the Port Canaveral Lock, to find ourselves back on the ICW. Great, now we have never more than 1.5 meters under the keel, usually less than 1 meter, for hours on end. We eased through the Canaveral Barge Canal heading due west, with a 1/2 meter under us crossing the Banana River, then turned north on the true ICW.  We waited at the NASA causeway bridge for over an hour to respect the peak hour traffic and then moved the final 5 nautical miles north to Titusville, home to various odd sun worshipers, retirees, cruising sailors and astronauts.

Admiral Ley Enjoyed The Birdlife In The Waterways

Just off Titusville we anchored with half a meter under the keel, just off the ICW channel. Really not a lot of water to play with here, for a boat with a 2.1 meter draft, though the tidal rise and fall is only 10cm on each cycle. Finally it was warmer - we no longer needed four layers of clothing, just two would suffice.  We enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit, for the first time in months.  The birdlife was fantastic. Life was returning to normal.

This afternoon, just two nights later, we came out to sea again by the same route, and we're headed further south for West Palm Beach (Lake Worth Inlet), about 100 nautical miles south.

Beautiful Weather, Beautiful Birds



Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Cruising Conundrum - How To Find A Great Haircut

Joe Rocco Does The Cutting In St. Augustine


Travel the world for an extended period and sooner or later you'll find yourself in need of a hairdresser. Yeah, I know, it's hardly a deeply technical cruising discussion. 

Steven Heath With Admiral Ley
However if you've ever had a really bad haircut in, say, the back streets of Mumbai, then finding the right cutter takes on new meaning.

Every new country, each new port, provides the same challenges to the ocean traveler - and among them is finding the right cutter! So we ask around, seeking opinion and advice from locals and other cruisers, then we take a chance. In Cape Town I ended up at a men's only barber shop that serves Jack Daniel whisky with the cut, at any hour of the day. It was super cool, though every customer who left the shop seemed to have a similar cut. Too trendy.

Back in Australia our hair is expertly tended by our good friend Steven Heath - who not only is magic with a pair of scissors but also a great singer, guitarist and an impressive artistic painter. I played in a blues band with Steven for five years, so I can vouch for almost all of his talents. Almost all I said. Steven's salon contains his art and his musical instruments, with the latter often ready to play.

Desperately needing a clip, here in St Augustine, Florida, we played the research game on the local cruisers radio net, and were recommended to see Joe Rocco, "The Family Barber". Little did we know what was in store for us. 

Joe's Salon Guitars
It was just like Ground Hog day - freaky de ja vu - I walk into a salon with casually placed musical instruments and guitars, with original art on the walls (yes, by Joe Rocco).

He invites me to sit, turns and lifts the arm on a turntable, drops the stylus onto a wondrous Joe Pass jazz album (yeah, real vinyl) and I settled in for a great hair cut. Joe Rocco even looks a little like Steven Heath.

This was freaky - these two guys could actually swap premises, take a holiday in each others homes and salons, and all the customers would be happy.

Cruising the US East Coast ?  Don't miss Joe Rocco - he does both men's and women's hair, and you'll never forget the experience. Check out his diaries on the web link here.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

South To St Augustine, Florida

Atlantic Sunrise, Off The Carolina Coast
Too Small & Too Bloody - Mackerel Tuna
With winter rapidly setting in, we escaped southward last week, sailing offshore down the Atlantic coast in warm weather bound for St. Augustine, Florida. Light winds from astern were not helpful, so the Cummins engine worked hard once again, as we pushed south and west, staying close to the coast to avoid the north-setting Gulf Stream current.

I wasn't surprised to find the Admiral on deck early one morning, with a fish hanging off a lure ... but really, did she have to start fishing before breakfast? Unfortunately the first three fish that came in were low-value Mackerel Tuna, and they were all released. With this state of affairs the Admiral gave up in disgust - she wanted Mahi Mahi or Wahoo, or Spanish Mackerel. Dream on.

So the fishing tackle was stowed once again and relaxed cruising resumed. We arrived at the St. Augustine bar right on time, in the middle of a rising tide with a following wind. The entrance was therefore drama free and Crystal Blues found herself safely moored on a City Marina mooring ball well before it was time for drinks. Perfect!

Christmas Lights In St. Augustine

This town, reported as the oldest city in America, was once a Spanish outpost. Now, with Christmas approaching, it kinda feels like a Disney outpost. Trolley / tram rides clog the streets, carrying droves of serious tourists from sight to sight, from Ghost Tour to Spanish Fort, restaurant to restaurant. This is not at all what we expected. But the decorative lights are really nice, and the spirit of the place does eventually get to you. Music is everywhere! St. Augustine has an incredibly vibrant live music scene - we've enjoyed great bars and restaurants with excellent live entertainment and usually no cover charge.

Checking The Injection Elbow
However it hasn't been all glittering lights and music. Our beloved Cummins 4BT engine was due for a major 4,000 hour service, so this past week we've tackled everything that can be checked and refreshed on the unit. The standard lube oil and filters, fuel filters etc were ticked off early, before we moved on to the gearbox lube oil and filter, then flushing and cleaning the gear oil cooler and the engine heat exchanger. Then we inspected and checked the turbo, serviced the Walker AirSep filter system, serviced the syphon break, checked the exhaust injection elbow, replaced the drive belt and replaced the belt tensioner.

The Salt water pump was checked (all blades Ok after 500 hours) and the coolant was tested with a Fleetguard coolant test kit, then adjusted to the correct chemical mix using a measured concentrate. For good measure we finished off with valve lash adjustment today.

OK, I'm slow, but it has taken almost six days to work through the job, in between shopping trips and the essential cruising social activities. The weather here has now turned to winter again, with a series of small cold fronts moving in. Predicted 2 degrees Centigrade overnight tomorrow evening. So we'll probably move aft and turn our attention to the Northern Lights generator - its now ready for service.

Valve Lash (Tappet) Adjustment On The Cummins 4BT