Christmas in Lake Worth??

On Saturday, we picked up our repaired generator and departed our friends’ dock the next day, headed for West Palm and a possible weather window to cross to the islands. The weather guru, Chris Parker on Bel Ami, had said that it might be the last opening before the end of the year.

Murray made preparations on deck while I baked some muffins, hard-boiled some eggs and made our dinner in advance. Due to the limited length of the window, we decided to head straight to Great Harbour Cay, in the Berry Islands. This would entail a departure around 10 or 11 am out of West Palm Beach.

At 11 am we hauled anchor and I started to head for the inlet. But, my way was blocked by “The Bounty”, a very large replica of the original square-rigger. It was making a turn in the channel and took up all of the space! I made about three circles before finding space to pass him on ” two whistles” or his starboard side. Then, with the way clear, we headed for the inlet and set sail for the Bahamas.

It was very warm with a wind blowing from the north east. That was funny, as it was forecast to be SOUTH east! But, off we headed, flying full sail but with the motor chugging along as well. Down belowdecks, Murray got the watermaker fired up. The last thing that we hadn’t tried out before our departure.

After a half hour, Murray brought me a measuring cup and asked me to take a taste. It was salty! Maybe it hadn’t run long enough yet. We tasted the water every 5 minutes for another hour, still finding the salt taste. It seemed to be diminishing but we couldn’t be sure.

Eventually at ten miles out, we turned around to head back. If we needed a new membrane, it would cost 50% more with the duties in the Bahamas. And 50% of a thousand dollars could be quite a sum. We continued to run the watermaker and taste the product water. By now, I couldn’t be if I was tasting salt or if it was just my imagination. We do have a TDS meter ( total dissolved solids ) but it didn’t seem to want to work.

Not wanting to give up yet, we sailed south of the inlet, continuing to taste the water. Finally we had to concede that it was not improving. It was time to give up.

As we headed back to the anchorage, I got out my “Dollar Store” phone and made calls, first to the manufacturer. Their response was that membranes usually last 5 to 8 years and we had had these for 12 years. If we could get internet access, we could order from them for $340 each, and, oh by the way, remember that the PUR 80 needs two of those membranes. Yes, we did know that. Our marina was next on the list of calls, to see if Ports Supply could get us a better price.

Today we moved the boat to North Lake Worth anchorage, in the rain, got on-line and order two membranes for Katadyn, to be delivered to a local marina that agreed to receive them for us. The parcel should arrive in 3 to 5 business days and then we will commence watching for another of those elusive weather windows.

The on-going saga of our continuing problems aboard Windswept IV. Oh well, the sun will shine and we have still more friends nearby to visit. Life is good.

Hugs to all,
Heather & Murray

The Case of the Disappearing Transmission Fluid

Almost every mystery story starts with ” it was a dark and foggy night”. But this was a bright but foggy day, as we headed on south of Ft Pierce in the ICW. Suddenly both of us again heard the ” squealing ” that signified problems in the transmission. Veering off to the side of the waterway, we stopped and dropped anchor. Murray pulled everything out of the cockpit locker and checked the transmission. The drain plug was lying below the transmission! And, of course, there again was no fluid in the transmission.

Upon investigation, Murray discovered a crimp in the soft, copper washer that prevented the plug from being fully seated into place. Thus the fluid very slowly dripped out. He had NOT forgotten to replace the fluid in the spring. By switching the washer with one from the fill plug on the top of the transmission, he was able to fully tighten the plug and then re-fill the transmission. Then we cautiously started the engine once again and put the transmission into gear. No grinding and no squealing. Now we have concerns about the reliability of the transmission as it has twice been run dry.

Luckily, friends had offered us the use of their dock while we had our Honda generator repaired at a local shop. They have a house on a canal near Stuart, Florida with a very long dock, which will accommodate their boat, Trumpeter, as well as room for a guest. The Honda has defeated Murray this year. It starts and runs well, but doesn’t put out any power for charging our batteries. Thus, we will not be able to leave until this unit is repaired.

So, we are doing a few jobs from the list, picking up final items at the stores and waiting for a call from the repair shop.

Our visit to Vero Beach was quick. Sunday afternoon we picked up a mooring and, on Monday, we caught the bus, did Christmas and grocery shopping. Tuesday, we mailed Christmas presents and I did laundry while Murray checked the engine( added transmission fluid ) and worked on the generator. Wednesday morning, we met some old friends for breakfast, dropped the mooring, motored to Ft Pierce and joined some more friends for dinner. A busy few days!

Now we are forced to sit and wait. The dock is available to us for approximately two weeks and we will try to make ourselves useful around here.

That is life aboard. Hope all is well with you and yours. Write when you can.

Hugs from,
Heather & Murray

Replacing Wire Lifelines with Low Stretch Line

It was long past the time to replace our old lifelines as the vinyl coating was cracked and rusty in many places. All of the stainless fittings would also need replacing as the swaged ends showed the effects of corrosion. A professional rigger is needed to install the swaged ends and it would be expensive.

gate to gate connection, openedBut, this summer, Murray had started to investigate replacing the wire with line. The line needed to be a low stretch type with a high breaking strength. By far the biggest advantage of the line option was the ability to do the job yourself. The racers appreciate the reduction in weight of the line lifelines but, on a cruising boat, this wasn’t our priority.

Johnson Marine makes the fittings necessary to use a spliced line, as a lifeline, and these fittings are carried by West Marine. It still isn’t a cheap process as we had three gates needing Gate Hooks and Gate Eye-to-Eye fittings.

For the line, we chose Sta-Set X both for breaking strength and cost. The upper line is 5/16 and has a breaking strength of 4,400 lbs while the lowers are 1/4 with a breaking strength of 2,700.

the lashings that tighten upper and lower lifelinesDue to the difficulty splicing this line, Murray used his ClampTite tool ( available at ) to clamp the loops around the stainless thimbles. Each thimble is double clamped with stainless wire. Alternately, the loop could be whipped and sewn. All screw-together connections were assembled with blue Loctite.

The line is tightened with lashings of sufficient number and strength to equal the strength of the low stretch line. Further, the lashings allow the lifelines to be tightened if they stretch over time.

Approximate cost of this job – under $300. But, now the lifelines can easily be replaced for just the cost of the line ( less than $100 ) as the fittings should for last many years. At this time, manufacturers recommendations suggest replacing the line every four years due to uv damage.

For more photos of this project, see our photo gallery.


The weird sound was getting louder and now was almost a screech. Just 2 miles behind us was the dock at Reynolds where we had worked so hard on the boat for 2 weeks. Would we need to return? Could we return?

All of these thoughts ran through my head as Murray eliminated the possible culprits. It sounded like a bearing. Maybe the fan belt housing or the transmission or the new cutlass bearing we had installed while on the hard. He removed the fan belt but the sound persisted. Not that bearing. OK, he then checked the transmission…. it was cool to the touch. Next he rotated the shaft by hand, but it seemed to spin freely. Not the cutlass bearing then. Back he went to the transmission again, to check the fluid level. There was NO FLUID! Yikes, where did it go? He quickly filled the reservoir and felt beneath the transmission, looking for leaks. After a few minutes he checked the fluid level again and found that it was holding. Now, time for the test. We put the transmission in gear and it went easily, without any trace of the screech. Slowly the revs were increased and the boat chugged on down the river towards Jacksonville.

What had happened? There are two possible explanations. The first is that after draining the transmission fluid in the spring, Murray neglected to refill the reservoir. The other possibility is that in re-filling the reservoir, he missed the small funnel and poured the fluid into the bilge. Neither option is great but mistakes happen and we were lucky this time.

But, it was a sunny Sunday and we were headed down the St John River with other adventures ahead of us. The weather was still cool with very light winds. That night we anchored near Blount Island, just a few miles from the junction with the ICW. Shortly after dawn on Monday we motored into the ICW and headed south. In St Augustine, radio contact was made with friends anchored there ( Dave & Kathy on Dyad ). The Bridge of Lions was still under construction but opened on it’s usual schedule. As the Matanzas Inlet area came closer, radio calls from boats aground were heard. “TowBoatUS, TowBoatUS”. It was almost a full moon tonight and the low tide was extremely low. But, our plan was to stop early, anchor at Fort Matanzas and catch the high tide at first light. As we approached, three boats were aground. Murray remembered an alternate route into the anchorage and we slowly made our way into the deep water and dropped the hook. I had roasted a turkey breast as we motored along, so we had turkey, squash, potatoes, stuffing and gravy for our dinner. What a feast!

With the dawn, the tide was high and there was no difficulty piloting through the buoys. It was another quiet day with few boats out and about. Our planned anchorage was reached much too early to stop, so on we pressed. I took the helm as Murray worked to finish installing the new lifelines ( photos and report to be posted later on the website ). The dolphins swam along beside us and the pelicans and osprey fished from the air. A lovely quiet afternoon. By 4:30 we found a small spot just off of the ICW in Mosquito Lagoon, just in time to enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand.

Today, we were up at first light again. Strong winds are forecast and we wanted to be securely anchored. By 0930, we were anchor down at Titusville where we will spend a few days, visit with friends ashore ( Don Wilson on Next Exit ) and pick up some odds and ends from the ongoing shopping list. Mostly we will be waiting for the wind to switch around and blow from the north to let us more easily sail on further south.

Future plans? Vero Beach is a day and a half south and some generator parts are supposed to be waiting at the marina for our arrival. There we will re-stock, repair whatever has broken and start to watch the weather for an opening to cross to the islands. When that might happen is anybody’s guess. Until then, we will just be glad to be back on the water and in the warm.

Hugs to all,
Heather & Murray