We had been anchored at Marine Stadium, just east of downtown Miami. A gorgeous site, with a clay bottom, so very good holding for the anchor. We had been here two days, so I was getting hot to trot.
The National Weather Service had been forecasting a frontal passage for that day, Thursday, so I decided it was better to be underway during a storm, then anchored. With land and other boats so close by, being blown about by changing winds is far more stressful for me, then to be buttoned up in the pilot house, with wind and rain lashing the windows.
We stopped at Crandon Park Marina to fill up one of two water tanks. A nice place, with reasonable priced fuel (for southern Florida) and a really helpful, friendly staff. I could see the storm clouds building to our west as we started on the three hour, 15 nm trip south to Boca Chita.
And then it got strange.
My autopilot (ComNav) compass, a fluxgate compass (for those who care), is usually 10 degrees off of magnetic, but at least it is consistent. Consistent that is until you flush a toilet. It took me 6 months to figure out why when on autopilot the boat would make a sudden turn, as the compass heading jumped 30°. Turns out the fluxgate is located within 6 feet of the Lectsan Sanitation Processing unit, so the current thru the processing unit, is producing a magnetic field. Umm, maybe with the new generation of marine mechanics, their video games expertise has superseded the need for electro-magnetic theory. Maxwell’s & Ampere’s Laws? We don’t need no stinkin laws.
Yes, I’m looking forward to the next 30 years with unanticipated glee. Please Mister Old Person, show me how to get my thing (any electro-mechanical
device) working again. Sure, sonny, just grab this and yank here.
Sorry, I digress.
Back to the Present
But, now with the storm bearing down on us, my autopilot compass was 90 to 180 degrees off and not steady wither. Totally worthless, and then the strangeness happened. My Raymarine GPS compass was also off by at least 40 to 80 degrees. Now that never happened before.
My Polar Navy gps was working fine, as was the Raymarine course over ground (cog), but to steer a heading, I, or actually, my crewmate for this leg of the adventure, Richard, no not me, another Richard, was steering, using the good old magnetic compass to steer by.
First, I decided to try to recalibrate the Raymarine compass, as it has always been good till now. It consists of making a number of circles. While we were circling, I figured I may as well recalibrate the ComNav also, as it also needed to do circles. After about 10 minutes and five circles, they each said they were calibrated. We continued south, into strong winds, but only 2 foot waves.
Within, a minute or two, the ComNav settled to it normal state of being, about 10° off magnetic, but it was consistent. In the meantime, the Raymarine went all wacky again. So, it’s Tango Uniform.
I was a bit disappointed to get to Boca Chita before the storm. I actually like storms at sea. There is nothing to bang into and nobody to bang into you. It’s freedom.
In this case, the winds had built to ferocious westerlies, 25 knots gusting to the low 40s. Boca Chita is a small harbor, in the shape of an square with rounded corners, about 300 feet on a side. The narrow entrance faces west, so as I entered, the wind was right behind me and I made a wide circle to the right, intending to anchor in the southwest corner. As I straightened up the boat, near the south wall, the winds were up to 45 knots (50 mph, 80 kph).
The plan was to tie a midships port line and use that as a spring, to bring the boat to a halt as it pivots against the wall as I give it full right rudder.
A great plan; the problem was the “helpers” on the dock. They are incapable of having the slightest clue about boat handling, vectors or anything remotely associated with physics (the whole universe. Now, you can mitigate this incompetence, if you are lucky enough to get someone, who will at least follow directions.
We got the braniac, who decided he could halt the 40,000 lb. boat by holding the line, pulling and putting his whole 150 lbs into the effort. As the boat pulled him down the dock, he almost trips over the first cleat and is almost running as he passes the second cleat, while Dauntless is closing to within 10 feet of the corner wall, I yelled for the second time, this time even more forcibly and maybe even some expletive language, “put the fucking line on a cleat.” Somehow it sinks in, he does, and as I crank over the wheel we come to prefect stop.
Later, I see the helper and thank him. He does not invite me for a drink.
We would spend the next three days amazed that the number one maneuver to tie up was to come straight in, hit the dock with your bow with varying degrees of force, throw someone on shore a line and then have them pull the boat to the dock. If I saw it once or twice, I wouldn’t have believed it. But we saw it almost hourly.
I got to put my electric fuel pump to use one again. This time, while running the generator I was also polishing my fuel and transferring it to one tank to get an accurate measurement of quantity. All off a sudden, I hear the generator lowering rpms, as its output voltage drops from 120 to about 60. I quickly, take it off line and jump into the engine room. I realize almost immediately the problem is that it is sucking air from the empty tank. I close that tank’s feed and reach for the little wireless relay remote that runs the electric fuel pump I installed with Richard’s help in Providence, RI. I switch it on, but no change on the gen, but then recognize that I must close the gravity feed, otherwise the fuel pump just pumps the fuel back to the tank, since that is easier than thru the fuel filters. As soon as I close that valve and open the valves putting the fuel pump in line, the generator goes back to its normal song. I run the electric pump for another 30 seconds, then turn it off, it’s duty well done and the three days it took to find the right fitting and install, well paid back, yet again.
Did I mention the first time I had to use it, I had just pulled away from the slip and in my pre start checklist, and I had turned off the fuel tank we were using?
Starving the main engine like that, as I ran the electric pump; I was happily bleeding air form the engine fuel filters, with a big grin on my face, as soon as the air was gone, I could switch the pump off immediately and the engine fired right up with nary a hiccup.
We are here in Boca Chita Key, part of the Biscayne National Park to get some work done on the boat on the cap and hand rails. I like the dock, it makes easy work and the scenery can’t be beat.
Monday, we will be heading to the Miami River, where with the help of Parks, of Hopkins Carter Marine, he put me in touch with someone who should have an affordable slip for me. Our paravanes are being fabricated as I write this and hopefully their installation will start Tuesday.
I’ll do a posting about the whole paravanes thing after the fact, so I do not have to eat any words.
Here are some pictures of Boca Chita, boats and the wild life. Enjoy
All the pictures (well, most of them) can be found at:
One thought on “Surviving Boca Chita – It’s Harder than You Think”
Hi Richard. We were just reminiscing our adventure at Boca Chita. I am glad we got the oppourtunity to meet you. I regret not being able to meet you for dinner on the river. Our exploration of the south florida waters continue…I see you are experienceing all the sea has to offer as well. Good Luck…maybe we will run into you again.