Living on SV Island Time

Adventures of Life on a Boat

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What We Learned on the Shake Down Cruise

Last May, we took a shake down cruise for 10 days. See the previous post for the itinerary. The goals were to play, identify what worked and what needed more attention. Here are five things we learned/verified:

1) Be careful who you invite.

Four people on the bow.

Phil and Jackie with us on the bow at Dog Island. Photo by Phil Werndli.

Phil and Jackie were perfect companions for 10 days. We’ve traveled with them for long trips before so we knew we’d get along great. Jackie and I alternated meal preparation so we were not in the galley together. Phil and Scott worked together on anchoring, engine issues and trouble shooting other systems. We ate, drank cocktails, played dominoes and window shopped in two towns. Both were able to assist and offer valuable suggestions. It was great and we appreciate their company, their expertise and their friendship.

2) Our solar panels kept us off the grid — mostly.

Two solar panels.

Two solar panels on the radar arch of Island Time.

In recent months, Scott installed two 150-watt solar panels on the boat. He also replaced the refrigerator/freezer combo on the boat. The test? Would the solar panels keep up with all the demands of four people and two dogs? It performed well, despite some cloudy days. Between running the diesel engines and the solar panels, our batteries stayed charged and covered all the electrical needs, including powering the refrigerator. The 12-cubic-foot space was filled to the brim when the journey began. As each meal was prepared, the contents slowly diminished. On the days when we knew we would be motoring, we let the crock pot do all the work — pork roast and pot roast. That’s good eating on a boat.

3) Four people need a lot of mixers for 10 days on a boat. Boat drinks are important. Soda Stream to the rescue. We kept cold water in the refrigerator, added the appropriate flavoring and whirled up tonic, lemon/lime and ginger ale on demand. No hauling cans and bottles to the boat and no hauling away the garbage. It worked great and kept us singing along with Jimmy Buffett the whole trip.

4) Ground tackle matters. On the first night, we anchored in Tyson’s Cove at Dog Island. We know from experience that the bottom there is sandy and that most anchors simply don’t hold without the weight of chain to hold it in place. Our new Mantus anchor with all chain rode did a fabulous job. The anchor held great and we all got a good night’s sleep. Of course, Scott was still up every couple of hours checking on the position of the boat.

Because of the sandy/silty/muddy bottom, Phil had the job of rinsing the chain as Scott used the windlass to lift the anchor. Phil had a cloth bucket on a rope that he lowered to the water, filled and lifted to pour over the chain to remove the black mess. Phil filled, lifted, and rinsed while Scott raised the anchor. This was hard work for Phil for more than 30 minutes. Lesson learned: install a fresh/salt water pump on the bow. Scott’s still working on that one.

5) You never know who’ll you’ll meet or meet again. After we docked at the marina in Port St. Joe, another boat came in a little bit later. We assisted with tying their lines. The woman on board and I started chatting and both kept saying, “We know each other. How?” After we chatted for a few minutes, we figured it out. We had met at the St. Petersburg GAM reception for the Seven Seas Cruising Association the previous November. Gary and Shirley are now full time cruisers and we are excited to join them on the water.

Bonus lesson: Keep both engines running. Motoring into the wind with one engine means little progress. Early in the trip, we noticed that the starboard engine was spitting black gunk. Scott turned it off and we decided to proceed with one engine. On the way to Apalachicola, we were going about one knot into the wind. Unacceptable. We started the engine and motored along, taking it easy for the rest of the trip. When we got back to home port, Scott replaced both exhaust elbows (one for each engine). As it turns out, this is a routine maintenance item and it was due.

Scott and I are working to move from the house to the boat so we can begin our adventure on the water. Next post: transitioning from house to boat. What to keep? What to donate? What to store?

Where We Went on the Shake Down Cruise

In May 2016, Scott and I took the boat for 10 days on a shake down cruise to learn more about the boat and some of newly installed equipment. We invited our good friends, Phil and Jackie, to join us on the trip.

We motorsailed west from Shell Point to Dog Island, where we spent the first night. On the second day, we motorsailed to Apalachicola. We anchored in the river one night and tied up to the city wharf the second night. We spent the day sight seeing, shopping and enjoying the town. At cocktail time, we headed over to the Gibson Inn. None of us had ever been there before so it was treat. The historic inn has been wonderfully restored and Phil (a retired historic preservationist) told us all about it. We had dinner at a local restaurant.

Boat at anchor

SV Island Time at anchor on the Apalachicola River.

Appoaching the bridge to St. George Island

Approaching the bridge to St. George Island.

Sunset over the Apalachicola River.

Sunset over the Apalachicola River.

The next day, we traveled up the Apalachicola River to Lake Wimico on the Intracoastal Waterway on our way to Port St. Joe. Our original plan was to anchor for the night, but the winds made it choppy so we headed for the marina, where we spent two nights. We re-provisioned at the Piggly Wiggly, shopped at the adorable stores just one block north of US 98 and enjoyed pizza for dinner at Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza (there are two, the other one is in Tallahassee).

When we left the marina, we sailed around St. Joe Bay, went for a swim and anchored by the lighthouse for the night.

Lighthouse and museum

Lighthouse at the town of Port St. Joe.

The next day, we reversed course and headed through the lake, back to Apalachicola where we anchored for the night before heading to Dog Island to meet the cruising fleet for Memorial Day weekend at Dog Island. There were at least 12 boats there from the Apalache Bay Yacht Club. Scott caught a Spanish mackerel on the way and we were happy to grill it and offer as a appetizer to share with our friends joining us there.

Next: What worked? What needed more attention?

boats at anchor

Several boats from Apalache Bay Yacht Club at anchor at Dog Island.




The Plan

“Go small, go simple, go now,” is a saying credited to Lin and Larry Pardey, sailors and writers, known for their small boat sailing. They have sailed over 200,000 miles together.

So … Scott and I are taking their advice. We are going now. Our plan is to cruise until we don’t like it anymore or we are ready to do something else.

Depending upon the weather, we’ll leave Shell Point at the beginning of November, taking the boat to the Tampa area for bottom paint and other maintenance. We’ll spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with family.

In January, we will head to the Florida Keys to enjoy the mild winter and prepare for a trip to the Bahamas in the spring. We plan to spend the summer in the Chesapeake and head to the Carribean in the fall.

In this blog, I’ll write about our travels, life on board, our challenges and successes.

Follow along by subscribing to this blog or by liking us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Occasionally, we’ll post videos on YouTube.

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