Hooray! New Transmissions!

February 13, 2007
Oceanside Marina
Key West, Florida

Hooray! The new transmissions are in, the engines are perfectly aligned, and we’re ready for the weather to cooperate so we can be on our way! All that’s left to do in the engine room is to paint some of the bolts and connections, de-grease the diamond plate, and put stuff away. Ole worked like a stevedore to get it all done.

Mark DeJong of Marine Diesel of the Florida Keys was fabulous. His staff are knowledgeable, fast, and courteous. And besides, he looks like somebody from ZZTop. We would highly recommend him for any work in the keys – he works on about 20 boats a month, and he’s a straight-up guy.

By the way – the “used” engine oil coolers were not exactly. Apparently the Twin Disc transmissions require high oil pressure through the coolers, and American Diesel pressure tests them (with water) before they release them to the customer.

We’ll move back over to Safe Harbor Marina today, fuel up, and twiddle our thumbs until we have a good forecast for the Straits of Florida and the Yucatan Channel – we’re looking at a Friday departure. The cats are overjoyed at the prospect of 60 hours at sea.

Here are some pictures of Safe Harbor Marina — it’s probably the last place of its kind in Key West, given the exorbitant price of real estate. One of the highlights of the place is the Hogfish Bar, located at the head of the dock, on Front Street.

The slip we’re in is privately owned (called a dock-o-minium) and rented out by the day or month when the owner is away. Don’t know what prices are like to own the slip here, but over at Oceanside we heard of a 40-ft slip going for about half a million dollars.

Another highlight is the Bama Sea Products dock just across from us. At all hours of the day or night, fishing boats pull up to offload whatever it is they have caught. We’ve sampled some fine yellowtail and incredible Key West pink shrimp at slightly less than grocery store prices but way fresher

The saga of the deceased transmission…

February 10, 2007
Oceanside Marina
Key West, Florida

After moving heaven and earth to wire money to American Diesel for “next day shipping,” the transmissions were to have been sent Thursday, February 1. Ole called to verify they had been shipped, and was told that “the freight forwarder did not feel like driving 80 miles to pick up just two transmissions, and besides, they were short on drivers.” We were assured they would indeed be shipped on Friday. A call Friday afternoon verified that the freight forwarder had, indeed, picked them up on Friday, but wouldn’t be actually shipping them until Monday.

There was much swearing in Norwegian.

A call to the freight forwarder on Monday indicated they would be in Key West on Wednesday. A call Wednesday morning revealed they had missed the Wednesday truck from Miami to Key West, and would arrive here Friday, February 8.

There was much swearing in both Norwegian and English, and very little romance.
During the wait for the transmissions, Ole worked up drawings to construct steel blocks to lift the engines the required 2-3/8” and had said blocks manufactured.

They're Here!

They’re Here!

Wednesday, February 6, we moved back over to Oceanside so Ole could work with a mechanic to disassemble both transmissions and begin the process of raising both engines. All of the prep work was done by Friday morning, and, blessed be, the transmissions actually arrived about 1:00 pm. Ole and Mike the Mechanic worked like champs and by 5:00 pm Friday, both transmissions were “hung.”

As of noon today, February 10, with work by James and Mark and Ole, it actually looked like we could get to sea trials by Monday morning, move back over to Safe Harbor, and prepare to leave Key West as early as Wednesday!!!

Then, it all went horribly wrong. As he was ready to install the oil coolers after lunch, Ole found they were not brand spanking new like the cute little Twin Discs they belonged to – they were used! Not only that, when he pulled out the plugs, water came out, there was green stuff and rust around the screw threads, and much swearing in Norwegian, English, and some other unrecognizable language.

Now, to my way of thinking, when you drop 9 or 10 boat units on a vendor for new transmissions, one assumes that all of the bits, pieces, and parts are also new. And, of course, nobody at the vendor side works on Saturday. We’ll see how it goes when we call American Diesel on Monday.
Psychologically speaking, I wonder if I take on the multilingual swearing, Ole can get freed up to remain optimistic about leaving next week? He tells me that he can put the used oil coolers on to test the transmissions, get the alignment perfect, call the vendor on Monday to have them UPS new oil coolers overnight to us, turn a few screws on Tuesday, and take off Thursday or Friday. Hmmm. We’ll see.

jan-al-furtadoOn the social front, we’ve had a few visitors while we’ve been “stuck” in Key West. Al and Jan Furtado, friends from the Pompano Beach Power Squadron, felt we needed cheering up, so they drove down on Sunday the 4th, sat on the back deck with us in the rain, and helped us demolish a plate of hors d’ouvres and a gin & tonic. They were kind enough to take us out to dinner, and on a run to the grocery store.



Our buddy Spiff arrived in his beautiful 46’ Fisher “Ruthy L” on Thursday, with Brendan, Kim, and Trevor from Riverview Marina as delivery crew.

We had some Sopranos Family Cookbook “Sunday gravy,” a couple of rounds of Mojitos and a couple of bottles of wine, then it was off to play for the evening, to Kelly’s Irish Pub on Duval Street and Captain Tony’s, the oldest bar in Key West. Man, it’s too bad we’re not 30 anymore. One o’clock in the morning is about our limit. It’s hell to get old!

Why aren’t we in Mexico Yet?

January 26, 2007
Safe Harbor Marina
Key West, Florida

It all started at noon on Sunday, January 21. With a fresh 15-20 knot wind from the east northeast, we set out from Bayside, with all crew aboard, excitement and anticipation driving us up to the flybridge to celebrate Miami in the rear view mirror. The cats, less excited and anticipatory, were driven to their usual cruising location.

It was beautiful — sunny, about 80 degrees, plenty of boats out and about. We left via Biscayne Bay and Stiltsville escorted for a short while by a dolphin, heading for Hawk Channel and our first stop, Key West. Exiting Biscayne Bay was rather exciting, with seas at 4-6 ft and the wind freshening as we entered open ocean, making for interesting hand steering. Once we got the autopilot sorted out and put ourselves on our plotted course, we took the seas on our port beam for several hours. Word to the wise — seasick prevention starts at the dock — not when you are already feeling woozy. God bless Lise for stocking the abundance of ginger remedies, from home-made biscotti, to tea, to non-drowsy Dramamine.

On auto, the boat handled well. For the first time since we have owned her, Emma Jo had full fuel tanks (800 gallons) and water tanks (200 gallons), so the rolling was slower and less snappy. With a short slacking of the wind in the late afternoon, those of us off watch tried to nap, but as our course turned more westerly, the rolling increased. We figure by about 3 a.m. we were surfing the 6- to 8-footers coming in from our stern quarter and taking rolls of up to 25 degrees. Out in the deeper water south of Hawk Channel, we saw at least four cruise ships lined up, making for Key West and Cozumel. Last time we were through Hawk Channel, in August of 2005, we played “minesweeper” with hundreds of crab pots, and hoped that this time there would be fewer. There wasn’t much we could do about it anyway, as it was pitch dark and hand steering was a struggle.

At about 5:30 a.m., we pulled into an anchorage in the channel between Key West and Wisteria Island, on the advice of the pilot boat that was on its way to pick up Jewell of the Seas. Once we picked our spot, things started to go off kilter. First, the starboard engine died any time Ole tried to put it into gear, and the wind and current kept trying to sweep us into one of the several sailboats in the anchorage. Then, the anchor chain wouldn’t pay out. I guess rolling back and forth 20 to 25 degrees for 16 hours might have had some impact on the chain in the locker. After several attempts and quite a bit of swearing in Norwegian, we finally dropped anchor, cut the engines, and decided to sleep a bit before trying to figure out what was up with the engine.

After a 2-hour nap for everyone, over coffee, we thought it best to send Svein down with a mask and snorkel to check on the status of the starboard propeller, thinking that maybe the problems with maneuvering had to do with one of the aforementioned crab pots. Sure enough, Svein came up with a wad of 1/2 inch polypropylene line that had wound its way around the starboard shaft. Aha, we thought. That must have put a strain on the transmission. (Good that both Ole and Svein are marine engineers…) So they went down into the engine room, tried to manhandle the starboard transmission, and found that it was frozen, stuck, dead. After more Norwegian swearing, and several telephone calls, Ole located an authorized repair shop for American Diesel, who confirmed the news was worse than we thought: not only is the starboard transmission frozen, stuck, dead — it has been out of production for 10 years and parts are scarce and expensive.

A business meeting over mojitos (thanks again, Lise) concluded with the decision to replace both 20-year-old transmissions with new ones, for peace of mind. When the marina assigned us a slip for the night, it was fitting that the name of the boat usually moored there was “Only Money.”

We had filet mignon and champagne, scheduled originally for our arrival in Mexico, at the dock at Oceanside Marina. What the heck — we’re cruising. And it’s only money.

The next morning, while Svein was helpfully rigging the fishing gear, we met our next-door neighbor, Chuck — a charter boat fisherman who couldn’t resist offering advice.

On Tuesday evening, January 23, Svein and Lise went back to Miami. We moved Emma Jo to the Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island, until the new transmissions comes in — probably a week or two. Philosophically, it’s not so bad. We now have the time to fine-tune our stowage, refresh our memory about how the autopilot and chart plotter work, figure out how to send email via ssb radio, and get the hang of “work a little — play a little” that is the cruising life.

Last Night in Miami!

January 20, 2007
Miami, Florida

Sanely awake this morning, sans hangover, although when we rolled back to the boat from Monty’s at about 10:30 last night, we sat down, thought 2 or 3 thoughts, then went to bed.  We were asleep before our heads hit the pillow!

There was nice turnout at Monty’s last night to wish us well.

There was a contingent from Riverview Marina — aboard Chris’ “South Forty” were Kim, Brendan, Debbie, and Chris; and Frank and Leslie (Maggie’s kids) drove down from Ft. Lauderdale.

Lots of folks from Royal Caribbean came as well — and as far as we know, many stayed well beyond our bedtime!

Almost the entire complement of Lera Consulting showed up — Martha and Abel; Michael and Magda.

Here are some miscellaneous shots of folks enjoying themselves:

We have been working so hard these last two weeks that an early night was called for.  But we loved that so many friends came to wish us well!

This morning we had planned to fuel — contacted the fuel barge early last week and made an appointment for this morning just off Bayside — but got a call saying their driver had “called in sick.”  Let’s see … the barge would have charged us $2.14 for diesel…Miami Beach Marina wanted $2.97 for the same diesel… at 800 gallons, that was Svein Taklo to the rescue!  Found a marina a couple of hours back up the ICW and diesel at a reasonable $2.34 (!).  Since I had some Barnes & Nobel gift cards burning a hole in my wallet, and hadn’t had a minute to stock up the library before we left, I begged off the fueling trip, borrowed a Mercedes, and went bargain book shopping in Coral Gables.  What a guilty pleasure!

Because we had agreed to be available for visitors this afternoon, we tied up at Bayside for a couple of hours, and entertained Susan and Terje for a couple of hours.  Their visit was interrupted by the world’s fastest business meeting — Martha leaping onto the boat with a ream and a half of paper, then leaping off again.  Seemed like a total waste of Margaritas to me, but I guess she had plans.

After visiting hours, we decided to save ourselves a few cruising dollars and anchor off Star Island for the night.  Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!

Ready to Go…

January 19, 2007
2:00 a.m.
Riverview Marina
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Two weeks, 58 to-dos, and several boat units later, we are almost ready to go. It’s 1:35 a.m. on Friday, January 19, 2007, and I have just finished a thorough housecleaning while Ole is in the engine room changing the oil in the generator and the Lehmans. We have been at it since 7:30 a.m.

While the doing has been fairly straightforward, the getting ready to leave has been a bit complicated, mostly by the emotions of transforming relationships from “present” to “absent.”

Both Ole and I are rather linear, in that if we have a task to do, we put our nose on the line and follow it, often to the detriment of anyone or anything that gets in the way. And this week, what has “gotten in the way” have been our friends and neighbors phoning or stopping by just to chat, usually right in the middle of some straight-line project or other.

At first, I found it mildly irritating – after all, aren’t these people aware of all the stuff we have to do? But after the third visit in the same day from one of our dock buddies, it finally dawned on me – we are loved and we will be missed. In the past couple of days in particular, I found myself stopping on purpose — to chat, share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, or to just “be” for a few minutes, savoring the feeling of community, and knowing that the tasks would still be there when the conversation ended.

The world is moving on. Maggie is going in for back surgery tomorrow morning. Trevor left today to deliver a work boat back to the Caymans, his former home. Gin is leaving the area for Key West on Sunday, looking at a change of career. Frank has gone back to school. Terry has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and will be going home to Arkansas this weekend to allow his mother to care for him. Amy and Ryan are selling the sailboat – Amy is pregnant and looking forward to the cottage with the white picket fence. Ed has quit drinking. Kim and Brendan are looking forward to the last child finishing high school when they can cast off the lines. Chris is still searching for “the one.”

But even more profound is that the relationships will still be there, once the task list is complete and we have moved on.


January 5, 2007
Sovereign of the Seas

Let’s see…what have we forgotten? We made a list a year ago, of projects and purchases that seemed important in preparation for our departure on January 18 of this year. Buy and install the new autopilot. Check. Buy and install the water maker. Check. Find and test a mail forwarder. Check. Get SCUBA certified. Check. Take all of the classes we could at the Power Squadron – Boating, Seamanship, Engine Maintenance, Piloting, Advanced Piloting. Check.

Even though we’ve made steady progress on the big things, with only two weeks left before the first leg of our long journey home to Seattle, the list just seems to get longer. Get vaccinated against all sorts of nasty mosquito-borne illnesses. Take the HAM license exam. Get health certificates for the cats. Put together a ditch kit. Create a stowage plan and provision. Clean out the lazarette. Buy enough Velcro to stick everything down in case of rough seas. Oh, yeah — buy seasick medication. I’m about to have an ulcer just worrying about what hasn’t made the list yet.

So how did we end up here?

It started with a crazy idea on New Year’s Day 2004. As part of our New Year’s resolution process, we pondered how to make the best of life for the limited time we were in South Florida. We started by asking, “What would be the most outrageous way we could think of to get home to Seattle?” By boat, of course–our own boat! We brainstormed the type of boat that would make the journey safely, comfortably and economically and settled on a trawler. We arrived at a dollar figure that was a stretch, but within reach.

The next question became: “What do we need to know, to do, and to have to make that crazy idea happen?” We spent that New Year’s Day like little kids, creating a plan with poster board, magic markers, post-it notes and magazine pictures. We put together three years’ worth of posters, with lists and target dates for each achievement, including the drop-dead date to buy the boat, and ending with a target departure date. We hung those childlike posters on our bedroom wall, so we could seem them first thing each morning and last thing each night.

Then we went to work. Ole was on yachts.com every night. I browsed bookstores. We attended boat shows from Palm Beach to Miami. And before we knew it, six months earlier than we planned, we got Emma Jo, our 1988 DeFever 49 raised pilothouse trawler. Then the list got serious. Fiberglass and teak repair; new carpets, drapes and furniture; all new electronics; canvas; Awlgrip; and lots and lots of sweat equity.

At times it seemed that we’d never get everything done – each purchase and repair revealing yet another unexpected project or expense. BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand!

A shakedown cruise over to Bimini added even more items to the list, including procedures we hadn’t thought of and didn’t know we needed, as well as equipment it was just plain stupid not to have.

One piece of advice we found helpful was to separate the items on our list into three categories: Safety (training and equipment), Administrative (communication, banking, etc.) and Convenience (want to do, nice to have). Using this system we prioritized and began hammering away at our list, adding, subtracting, and reprioritizing as necessary. Gradually, the dream began to materialize.

A salty English sailor from our marina gave us the best advice of all – the last item on the list should be: “Destroy this list and cast off.”

By the time you are reading this, we will have taken Trevor’s advice, thrown away the list, and made it from Fort Lauderdale to Miami to Key West to Isla Mujeres and Belize, and learned a lot along the way—about our boat, about each other, and about lists.

We’ll keep you posted about our progress periodically, as wi-fi allows. If you want to e-mail us, and are willing to wait a few days for an answer, please use “pedersens at emmajo dot net.”