To The Keys

Slack tide at Ft. Pierce City Marina is at 11 AM so that is our departure time. We’ve very much enjoyed our month here. New docks, great facilities, all kinds of activities in the park adjacent to the marina (farmers market, music festival, seafood fest, oyster fest, on and on), several decent restaurants within walking distance…it’s been fun. We are ready….we think. We’ve spent several months now working on Tivoli rather than cruising. Not that she needed much. But, she hasn’t done a long ocean voyage and needed some attention relative to the task. Things like spare parts, fire extinguisher replacement, testing of various systems, etc. For example, we discovered the fire suppression system appropriately shut down both main and genset engines but did not shut down the engine room blower system. Not good! I spent a couple days diagnosing (mis-wired) and fixing the problem and all is well. Now it is time for a decent sea-trial. We opt to stay in the US and run down to Marathon in the Keys. Roughly 200 nm and an overnight run; should be sufficient to test everything and highlight any remaining bugs

We motor out of our slip and Clark Haley (N47 Roam) flies his drone overhead to capture a bit of video. Thankfully we didn’t embarrass ourselves by hitting anything or running aground. We soon reach Ft. Pierce inlet and venture into the Atlantic once again. Seas are a bit rough but the forecast is decent with ESE winds at 10-15 and seas 3-4 feet with 6 second periods. How wrong that turned out to be. We are west of the Gulf Stream here and are soon making 7.5 knots. Now familiar coastal communities pass as we motor south; Stuart, Jupiter, Juno Beach, etc. We reach Lake Worth inlet near sunset; The Gulf Stream northward flow is kicking us hard (boat speed down to 6.0 kts) and the seas and winds have pickup up. We consider bailing out and running into Old Port Cove but decided to carry on. The boat’s motion is a bit rough in spite of our stabilizers, but we are still reasonably comfortable. In a couple hours winds reach 25 knots and seas are now 6-8 footers at 6 second periods. We are slammed broadside periodically, the boat shudders a bit and carries on. Inside we are comfy; A/C is running, its quiet, the dim glow of our navigation instruments illuminate the pilothouse. We spend time containing things we didn’t anticipate needing a more secure place. This is a good lesson learned; never go to sea without anticipating the worst, forecasts can be flat wrong. I spent a day or more at Ft. Pierce installing stainless tie-downs for 1” webbing to secure items in the aft lazarette and the engine room. They worked great but I’ll need to add more. Once all was put away we were fine.

Naturally we reach the busy ports of Ft. Lauderdale then Miami in the wee hours of the morning with lots of ship traffic to keep us busy. We consider bailing out at both locations but we’ve not been into either port and didn’t want the first time to be at night. We soldier on. We also are thinking conditions will improve considerably once south of Miami and we enter Hawk Channel. Protected somewhat by offshore reefs this channel should offer a better ride. I hail a northbound sailboat at 3 AM and inquire about conditions further south and he confirmed it should calm down considerably. So, we pass another bailout point, the entrance into Biscayne Bay, and motor on. We had anchored behind Key Biscayne 6 years ago after we first purchased Tivoli. We knew the route in but had not done it at night. With the promise of better conditions down the road we pressed on and soon the seas were relatively calm.

Sleep under these conditions is fitful at best. Neither Deanna nor I got much so by daybreak we were a bit bleary-eyed. Again we considered anchoring and getting some rest but there are surprisingly few decent anchorages for deeper draft boats in the Keys prior to Marathon. Rodriquez Key and Channel Five are about it and neither offer shelter from the easterly winds we were experiencing. So we continued on.

To make our night even more fun we experience some frustrating electronics issues. We run Time Zero software on a PC as backup to the multiple multifunction displays aboard. TZ was behaving erratically, the software was losing position data frequently and AIS data was no longer being displayed. Always something. You have to be flexible in these circumstances and redundancy is always your friend. I stopped navigating using the software and switched to one of our Simrad chart plotters and things were soon back to normal. It is not uncommon to have electronic glitches while underway and I’m thankful to have a nodding acquaintance with the stuff; enough to diagnose and address most issues.

I’m monitoring oil consumption closely and also comparing fuel consumption data from our Maretron sensors to the rough estimates one gets from the sight gauges mounted on the primary fuel tanks. Our longest offshore passage of approximately 600 miles didn’t really compel us to acquire this information till now. It will be essential to have for our run to Bermuda, then Newfoundland.

We continue down Hawk and admire the turquoise water. Sadly we don’t see much wildlife along the way. We also don’t see many crab pots for which we are thankful. We turn west toward Seven-Mile Bridge and soon arrive at Marathon around 5:30 PM. We opted to drop the hook and were pleased to find a vacant spot (it is late in the season). We crashed.

Today, I calculated an oil burn rate at 1.6 quarts/100 gal of fuel burned. This seems reasonable for our Komatsu-based Lugger engine. The smaller block John Deere units burn less at 1 qt/100 gal fuel burned. Looks like we should burn approximately 1 gallon of oil enroute to Bermuda. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that our fuel burn rate as measured by Maretron fuel flow sensors matched up perfectly with our sight gauge estimate. These sight gauges are often not accurately calibrated; ours appear to be correct.

I also had a good day with electronics. The TimeZero issue was a COM port conflict problem. I figured out how to reset the software port assignments and manually configure both NMEA2000 and NMEA0183 Actisense interface devices. AIS is back and we will test the software’s ability to drive our autopilot on the return trip north.

All in all, a very productive, if somewhat uncomfortable, run down to the Keys.

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