Refitting the boat

After a few days at the house Chris, RJ and I Sailed the boat to Safe Cove Boatyard. The bottom looked pretty good considering it’s age. However, there were a few small blisters and the bottom needed to be stripped to the gel coat. I tapped the hull from stem to stern, it was solid . There was a tiny bit of weeping at the bottom of the rudder that concerned me but it was dry after a couple of days. After a great deal of surfing, and quizzing the locals, I opted to let it sit on the hard for a couple of weeks and seal it with the best barrier coat available. It was fairly expensive but not nearly as much as sanding and resurfacing. The general consensus was that it was a damn good bottom for a 30 year old boat and I would be better served spending my budget elsewhere.

The strut had been serviced in 2016

In the “blast pit”.

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Applying the barrier coat.

First coat of bottom paint.

28.5 Delivery”

The two happiest days in a sailors life ….

the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it.

It took almost three years to accept my mistake. I had purchased the wrong yacht. It was a beautiful boat. A 1987 Hunter 40, with two staterooms, two heads and a massive grand salon. It was capable of cruising at 7 knots and could easily circumnavigate the globe. It was the perfect boat… but not for me. The delivery had been a disaster with two rescue boats towing us in after dark. I raced it for two years without a win and every time I turned around it needed another expensive repair. In the morning while I had my first cup it would mockme from its berth in the back yard.

Eventually I swallowed my pride and called Tony the broker. Hoping for a white knight we listed it for $49,000 but there were no lookers. We dropped it to $37,000 and started getting a little interest. Finally after 4 months, a retired Toyota Executive looking for a project boat, sailed her away. I lost a pile of money on the trade but was… a very good day.

The dock was empty but I didn’t have any problems getting my fix. Tim Harris needed crew to help him bring his Gemini down from Tampa Bay and very Wednesday I went out with a group from The Isles Yacht Club. In July I started looking and after two months of visiting marinas from Tampa Bay to Key West, I found one that seemed too good to be true. She had been sold by the original owner two weeks earlier to a fellow who was going to use it as a cheap apartment when he was working at his Tampa office. He changed his mind about the “live aboard” lifestyle when Huricane Irma rolled over South West Florida. His loss was my gain! His asking price was 22% of my budget, plenty of money to get her in She was 25% smaller and 100% better! A Hunter 28.5 (1987), 2 feet longer than my inland boat, 11.5 shorter than my last boat and just right for Dawn and I.

On Monday, I surveyed the boat and met with the original owner. On Wednesday morning I drove to Snead Island and visited the local boatyard where I got copies of the last five years of service invoices. Dennis, the original owner had taken good care of her. The bottom had been done in March and looking back, she had been hauled and serviced on a regular schedule. The Yanmar 2GM was clean and well maintained. I was sold. That afternoon I met with the seller in Tampa and closed the deal.

The next day Chris Heelis and I were shuttled up to Palmetto by his lovely and so accommodating wife, Marchelle. We spent a little time familiarizing ourself with the boat and hiked to the Public for some last minute supplies. After a fine meal at the Marina we crashed.

I was having a lalapalooza of a nightmare when I felt a bump. What was that? Where am I? It too a minute to realize that I was aboard a boat and another second to remember that it was our new boat and that today was the first day of the delivery to her new home. I was so happy to be there instead of the damned netherworld I’d just left.

We made short work of having a Cuppa Joe and pastries. Chris threw off the lines and we motored over to the fuel dock where I filled the tanks with Diesel and water. We chatted with the Dock Master who recommended I put a bottle of finness or Downey fabric softener into the black waste tank to break up the sludge. I waved to Barbara on the top deck of the Marina, thanked her for her kindness and promised to return with my wife for a visit.

We left Riverpoint Marina at 8:30 and headed down river toward Tampa Bay. The winds were 10 out of the NE and we had no trouble sailing around Anna Marie Island and down the coast to Venice Yacht Club by 4:30. There didn’t seem to be much Hurricane damage except for a sunken yacht at the entrance to VYC.

After tying up we took the bikes left for us by the dock master and rode into town for a good Italian meal and some live steel drum jazz in the park. Life is good.

The next morning we got up early and we’re away by 7:30. The sail down to Boca Grande was a fine broad reach. We viewed off shore to be well away from the coast to catch the Boca channel from the beginning. It was confused seas for a long way into the Harbor and we motor sailed until we were alongside Burnt Store.

The big excitement was a squall that caught up with us a mile below Ponce Inlet. We had been keeping an eye on it and lowered sails well before it got to us but when it hit I was surprised by the strength of the storm. I couldn’t see 10 feet past the bow and only the chart plotter kept me from going aground at the on the shallows around Punta Gorda. After 20 minutes of tooth grinding sailing it started to slack off and we were able to see well enough to point toward the channel entrance. The rest was easy.

Irma

‌We dodged the bullet! Today was spent nervously sitting in the Lange’s living room as the wind and rain increased. Their TV wasn’t working so everybody was surfing the web for live casts. Storm predictions were 10 feet “above the ground”, which confused the hell out of me because the ground is not a fixed spot. I wanted to know how high above Mean Sea Level. If it was 10 feet above MSL then we might take a foot of water but above the “ground” would put 6 feet of water in our living room!

The path of the storm was wavering 10 miles on either side of us. Either way it went, we would be under the eye when it passed. I ventured out in full foul weather gear when it was sustained wind of 40 to 50. Everything seemed to be well anchored. About an hour before we would be in the eye, the storm turned east a little and started going inland.

The weatherman got our attention with…. THIS IS IMPORTANT! He explained that the turn was big news which would reduce storm surge dramatically. I’ll never forget the look on Dawns face when she absorbed what he was saying. That tiny change of 2 or 3 degrees was the game changer that saved our home. Below is an explanation.

Excerpt from NEW York Times

Across coastal Florida, the dreaded storm surge from Hurricane Irma — caused when ferocious winds pile up ocean water and push it onshore — was not as bad as forecast. While some areas were hard hit, notably the Florida Keys and Marco Island, residents of neighborhoods north to Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tampa Bay were expressing relief.

That bit of good fortune was the product of some meteorological luck.

Because a hurricane’s winds blow counterclockwise, the precise path of the storm matters greatly for determining storm surge. Had Irma lingered far enough off Florida’s Gulf Coast, its eastern wall, where the strongest winds occur, could have shoved six to nine feet of water into parts of Fort Myers and Naples, while swamping Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg as well.

At the last minute, Irma unexpectedly veered inland right before it got to Naples, taking its eastern wall safely away from the ocean. That meant that as the storm tracked north over Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa Bay, the winds at the head of the storm were moving west and actually pulling water away from the shoreline. In Tampa, water levels dropped five feet below normal, and bewildered spectators walked out to see beaches sucked dry. In Sarasota, a manatee became stranded.

Then, once the eye of the hurricane had passed through those areas, the back side of the storm hit, pulling water east toward the coast. But by this point, the storm’s winds were weakening, and the resulting surge was not nearly as strong as feared.

That weakening was readily apparent in Fort Myers. When it passed over the city at about 7:15 p.m., the center of the storm, rather than being a well-formed eye, was a jumbled mass of thinner clouds. This suggested that the hurricane’s cyclonic structure was beginning to come apart.

“That initial draining of water acted as a crucial buffer,” said Rick Luettich, director of the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Marine Sciences and an expert on storm surge. “By the time the back side of Irma hit, the storm was further inland and not quite as strong.”

Yet because Irma was so unusually large, its fierce winds also extended all the way to the east coast of Florida, pushing water inland there. Dr. Needham estimated that salt water levels rose four feet above normal in Miami — the 10th highest level seen since 1880.

That produced a river of water pouring into downtown Miami and Brickell, the city’s financial district. Water rose several feet up the stairs of buildings and storefronts, and at one point, whitecaps dotted the makeshift river.

It was strangely anticlimactic, there was no monster wall of wind blowing out the windows. We were prepared to huddle in the bathroom while tornado force winds were battering the house but instead it was more of the same, strong wind and rain. By 11:00pm it was apparent that the worst was over. Everybody was exhausted, drained by tension and adrenaline. I fell asleep on the couch and didn’t wake until dawn.

The next morning it was still blowing 25 mph but the clouds were higher and the rain had stopped except when one of the outer bands would pass overhead. Occasionally we would catch a glimpse of blue sky. We got back home about 10 am. I turned the power back on and walked around to assess the damage. Our beautiful poinciana tree in the front yard had been blown over and several palm fronds had snapped. Our back yard was covered with rubber tree leaves from Tims house and the cover to the hose box had blown away. Nothing of significance. I had been preparing for the worse and it was as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. The water was still unusually high but it didn’t look like it had gone over the sea wall.

Tim wasn’t as lucky. His seawall had bowed out and there was a serious gap thirty or forty feet long. The Gemini looked fine with no damage. Their beautiful big avocado tree was badly beaten and all the immature fruit was on the ground. The Club suffered several fallen trees but all the boats in the Marina were fine. The only damage was the Harbor 20s had all pulled their cleats when the water was sucked out of the Marina. I had allowed for several feet of drop but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Overall we were very lucky.

Saturday

We have evacuated to Mike Lange’s house. This morning the forecast was discouraging. Irma is pointed right at us. The east coast is is going to be spared. It looks very possible that it will run just off the barrier islands driving a huge storm surge up Charlotte Harbor. When we saw that the surge was going to be three to 6 feet above our front step the decision was made for us.

I called Robert to tell him that we were going to have evacuate to his place and learned that they had decided to bug out to Georgia. I asked Mike what their situation was and he invited us to his home. Tom Flynn was also caught by the sea change and is with us.

Mike, Jenn and Xavier are our heroes!

We finished putting the house in order and headed over to Mike’s house. The six of us didn’t feel like partying but we did sit around until about 10pm getting to know each other.

Zombie Apocalypse decor

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If the Eye doesn’t pass overhead it won’t miss us by much. I’d prefer a dead on hit, better to blast through the eye wall twice than be on the edge getting ground down for the entire time it takes the eye to pass through.

Friday Night

Irma has continued its west north west course for longer than predicted. Landfall is now expected west of Miami with Irma running straight up the spine of the peninsula. Dawn and I struggled with evacuating to Robert and Penny’s house. The storm surge is concerning, if it exceeds 7 feet we are going to flood the garage and 10 feet will wreak the house.

I finished up some loose ends.

Our Beautiful Poinciana Tree is going to have a hard time with all that windage

Tim’s boat is now tied to the shore, fore and aft, with good anchor chains behind the sea wall. I’m sure Eric W put them in for Dave’s Morgan 33 back before Charlie. Or maybe it was after, Charlie kicked their asses. Either way, Tim suggested it and I was more than happy to put another wrap on the boat. The main is looking a lot better after stowing the lazy jacks and lashing the main. The wind gusts are expected to exceed 150 mph. That cat has enough windage as it is.

Bob L called me from the club, 20 minutes later we dismounted his outboard and met Terry. Who, it turns out, owns the big green, Island Packet. I went onboard and got a peak but that’s a topic for another page. We hauled Terry’s big genny over to his car and then I was off to the next thing. Little Force got tied down to a nice strong hedge. The garage got shuffled and the Dock Box went into the back of my truck. Got the comms charged and sorted some first aid gear and electronics that I liberated from WaterWorks. Thanks Tim!

The news from the Islands is all bad. Here is a Huricane hole on Saint Thomas.

Meanwhile back at the Taj MacQ, Dawn was picking stuff off the floor and getting it to higher ground. The Weather channel reported that the storm was not going to track up the center of the state and was now favoring the south west coast, inside the gulf. It’s looking to pass just East, if it doesn’t run right over the top of us. Now we’re sure we’re going to bug out. However, later in the day we saw a details projection of the expected storm surge and according to that algorithm, Punta Gorda Isles should have a terrible storm surge. As of right now, we are staying but our bags are packed just in case. God does have a funny sense of humor.

Waiting for Irma

Started the morning at the club. Finished up with the Harbor 20s and chatted with Dave MacBride. The storm models are now predicting that Irma is going to follow the East Coast but it’s absolutely possible that it goes the other way. The local knowledge is predicting powerful northerly winds and the Harbor going dry.

After the club I worked on my next door neighbor’s boat because he is up North. I got the deck cleared, cross wrapped the Furler and tightened the lines. I’m concerned that his main sail is going to cause a problem. It’s in a stack pack and that increases its windage dramatically. If I had a helper or three I’d take it off, but there is no way I could manhandle it alone. I’m going to ask him if he would like me to wrap it.

Eric G and I drove to Port Charlotte this afternoon to drop off some Huricane shutters at his girl friend’s house. We stopped at Chris and Marchelle’s house on the way home. They are so ready. I was impressed by the selection of emergency gear arranged on the dining room table. They are concerned but excited by the force of nature we are all about to experience. Chris and I are looking forward to putting this behind us and get back to work looking for a new boat.

Talked with Eric Woods and he got Edith’s place taken care of so that’s good. About all I have left to do is tie down the “Little Force” and get the electronics together.

Hurricane Irma

Nothing gets your shit together like Class 5 Water.

Hurricane Prep, Day 2.

Today we moved the Dock boxes from the sea wall to the ramp and cleared the patio/bar area. Yesterday Michael M and I stripped Harbor 20s. I still have to go back tomorrow and pull the batteries and Burgees. The P16s are pulled up on floating docks and lashed down. Dawn and I got all the big stuff done at home. Everything that we could move went into the garage.

It’s a veritable museum of transportation.

Two cars and a truck… 4 bicycles, 2 kayaks, a small aircraft and a tiny little one man Americas Cup 12 meter keelboat.

Depending on when, Irma starts turning North it will either go up the East coast chewing up cities from Miami, all the way up the eastern seaboard or it could start the turn a bit later and ravage the Gulf.