Sunday, June 29, 2014

North again ... sort of

Quetzal as we found her November 2010 at Cooley's Landing
Back in late November of 2010 Deb and I joined John Kretschmer on his good ship Quetzal for a week trip to the Bahamas and back. Before we left we were still debating if going cruising was something we were really going to do. We sat on a bench in the marina where Quetzal was berthed and began debating just how quickly we could make going cruising a reality if, in fact, this trip made it clear that's what we wanted to do. And I'm sure we talked about what a cool thing it would be to, someday, sail our own boat back to that very same place.

Leaving through the 7th Avenue bridge on that first trip nearly 4 years ago

Friday evening I was completely surprised to find myself standing in that very same place as Daughter Eldest and I looked over the slip that was to be The Floating Bear's home for part of the summer. Neither Deb nor I remembered that Cooley's Landing, the place we had picked for getting some boat work done this summer, was the same place we boarded Quetzal for that memorable Bahamas Bash.  The 7th Avenue Bridge looked vaguely familiar when Daughter and I walked under it, but I couldn't imagine why.  Then I saw the bench where Deb and I had sat and talked and I remembered.  The one thought that never crossed either Deb's or my mind back in 2010, was that we would be stopping by the very same place in our boat, with Daughter Eldest, Son-in-Law, and two of soon-to-be-eight grand kids living in a nearby slip in their own boat.

I'm still a little astonished that things are working out that way.

The reason Daughter Eldest and I were standing looking at the slip was that The Floating Bear was still tied to the public floating dock on the other side of the bridge.  We were waiting for slack tide to avoid trying to slip between the pilings at Cooley's with a nasty cross current. Deciding that the water was tame enough to make the attempt, we headed back down the River Walk, got everyone on board, and hit the starter button. The Floating Bear chuffed to life, chocked, shut-down, and absolutely refused to start again.

Rats. So, so close. Yet so far away.

We had been underway all day, motoring up the ICW. It had been a fun trip and mostly new to me since that bit of the ICW is off limits to Kintala. (She doesn't fit under the Julia Tuttle bridge.) It is actually a beautiful stretch of water running through the heart of the metropolis area. As we motored passed South Lake a manatee took up position in our wake and nosed along behind us, snuffling up air every couple of minutes so close that the two grand sons could almost touch its snout; something that thrilled them to no end. Then we worked our way through Port Everglades, crossing the end of the channel headed toward the 17th Street bridge just ahead of an inbound, fully loaded, container ship. This thrilled the grand kids to no end as well, though it didn't thrill Grampy T near as much. The tiny Volvo was pushing as hard as it could and I wasn't sure what we would have done had the timing been just the slightest bit different. Oh well, better to be lucky than good.

After working our way though the tight and boat-busy New River then tying up to the floating dock to wait on the tide, we thought we had it made. Case Closed. Trip from Dinner Key to Cooley's landing for a couple of weeks of intensive boat work accomplished. So, so close.

Dead at the public dock much deliberation ensued, including a call to Tow Boat US.  That's when I learned my Tow Boat US Unlimited Gold policy does not, in fact, cover the boat I am driving if the owners of that boat are on board. (I wish they had pointed that out when we sent them a check.) Estimated cost for moving  The Floating Bear approximately 300 yards came to somewhere in the vicinity of $700. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen.  For $700 I'd take a rope in my teeth and try to drag the thing through the 7th avenue bridge swimming against the tide.  What do they think I am, a rich boat owner or something?

In the end Friend Bill drove up from Dinner Key and picked up Daughter Eldest and grand sons 2, taking them back to Kintala and Deb. Son-in-Law and yours truly were left to figure out a better way to end the trip than with me going swimming. By that time it was nearly midnight and after 12 hours of motoring in the bright FL sunshine and the aborted attempt from the day before, we just didn't have the energy to try and make something happen before morning. Brian and I set up a "drunk watch". It was Friday night on the Ft. Lauderdale River Walk. We saw various smiling and glassy-eyed people swerve down the walkway, bounce off the curb and come precariously close to stumbling into the New River. We wanted to make sure none decided The Floating Bear was their destination for the evening. (I might have been tempted to rent the V-berth to the cute couple that settled in on the dock just off our bow. They looked like they needed a room.) We watched people stumble their way onto other boats tied at the floating dock, fire up and motor away.  Boats with on board parties clearly in full swing moved past, some more-or-less in line with the "no wake" limit, others ... not so much. More than one power boat Captain toasted me with beer in fist while passing by.  It was quite a scene but not conducive to getting much sleep.

Saturday morning Brian headed off to find coffee while I tried to conjure up a good idea for getting The Floating Bear underway. The best I could come up with was that, after a full day of pushing up the ICW, the little Volvo had worked up a major sweat. Shutting down for a couple of hours on the floating dock left all that heat with no where to go. The engine had fired on the cool fuel left in the injector lines, but the fuel in the injector pump, located way too near the exhaust manifold to my way of thinking, had been boiled into mist. Blaming the night's delay to a vapor lock seemed like a reach, but the fact was turning the engine over did not result in fuel squirting out of the injector line. Clearly there was an air lock in there somewhere.

When in doubt, do the simple things first. Backing down the fuel system one fitting at a time showed no fuel at the injector pump bleed ports, but fuel at the injector pump inlet. (Which was good news as it suggested the lift pump was still lifting.) We bled the system (Brian having long since returned with a much needed cup of caffeine), got fuel flowing to the forward injector port and, with the last dying amps left in the Bear's questionable batteries turning the starter, our efforts were rewarded. The Floating Bear was ready to finish her inaugural trip.

Forty-nine hours and thirty-seven minutes after the trip was started for the first time, 25 hours and seventeen minutes after the trip was started for the second time, and 20 minutes after the engine shuddered its way to life at the floating dock, The Floating Bear was snug at her new pier. Deb and the rest of the crew joined Brian and I in the afternoon and we all spent the rest of the day relaxing while grand kids (2) explored their new digs and the adults talked of tasks to come.  The long days soon caught up to us all though, and early enough everyone found their way into a berth for some much needed sleep, with Deb and I settling for a cool night in the cockpit.

This morning we went for a walk, searching for coffee and just enjoying being together again. We marveled some more about being back where our cruising plans became a true goal, a goal that is now an accomplishment for us and an unexpected new adventure for part of our family. Then, after a few more hours spent with the kids, we hopped the public transit back to Dinner Key.

The plan is for Kintala to drop her mooring ball tomorrow and head for No Name Harbor. There we will enjoy being on the hook for the first time in what feels like months while waiting out some expected storms in a less exposed place. Later in the week we hope to catch a weather window for our own trip north to join The Floating Bear and crew.

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