To The Bahamas, Part 6: Miami (still)

2012-04-09, 22:00 — Miami, Miamarina, slip #C-1

Time slips away, doesn’t it? I meant to blog on Saturday night, then again on Sunday night, but failed miserably. At least it’s only Monday night, right?

Lemme see if I can recall what we did over the last three days.

Saturday morning, we got up early and Frank drove us over to find the Enterprise rent-a-car place. We got hung up in traffic (we figured out that a drawbridge was opened ahead), so I got out and walked a couple of blocks. Turns out that Enterprise was in a big hotel (Hilton? something). When I got there, I heard the person behind the counter saying that there were no cars available! But, their web site said that there were, so I waited my turn and said just that. The response was “without a reservation, we don’t know when we can get a car for you; it might be a few hours”.

I wandered off to sit down in a dark corner with my (relatively new) Samsung/Android smartphone and connected to Enterprise’s website. Sure enough, cars were said to be available at this location, so I made a reservation. As soon as it was confirmed, I went back to the window and said “I have a reservation”, to which they said “OK, sir, your car will be ready in about 10 minutes!” Barbara and Frank arrived about that time, so we just waited. When the car arrived, it was a really cute little Fiat 500, even smaller than Frank’s Mini!

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 026 -Fiat 500 that we rented April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 027 -Dashboard of our rented Fiat 500

We drove directly up to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, dropped off Frank’s car, and headed over to the new West Marine store. Because it was Saturday, Pam wasn’t working, but we spend a couple of hundred dollars anyway. You know, just so they wouldn’t be disappointed. Or something.

Actually, Barbara talked me into some new boat shoes — not the loafer-style boat shoe I’ve been wearing, but softer, open, faster-drying shoes made by Keen. Very comfortable. And better than my badly-worn sandals, too.

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 017 -Place setting of dishes that I purchased for DReam SeQueLFrank very generously purchased a set of dishes for the boat — attractive anchor design, melamine with rubber nonskid rings on the bottom — four place settings, each including a dinner plate, salad plate, bowl, and mug. Very nice of him! In return, we purchased a whistling teakettle (Frank loves his tea!) and a device that allows one to toast bread over a gas stovetop (Frank likes toast with his tea when possible). Actually, we would have gotten these anyway at some point, but it seemed opportune to do it while Frank was on this trip with us.

Once that was done, it was back to the boat to install the Ample Power alternator and celebrate.

Oh, ye of much faith. How disappointed ye shall be when ye shall learn of the folly we encountered. Sure, we have two spare alternators. On the boat. Sitting right there in the spares locker. Acting like they belong.

Of course, it was immediately obvious that the pulley on the (defunct) Powerline alternator was different from the pulley on the (tested good) Ample Power alternator, but that’s no problem, right? All we have to do is hold the fan plate tightly and use a socket wrench to remove the nut holding the pulley onto the alternator. Right?

Wrong. We first discovered that I didn’t have a socket large enough, so Frank and I grabbed the keys to the Fiat and headed off to a nearby Ace Hardware store to purchase one. When we returned, we discovered that there was no way we could budge the nut! Now what? (I actually broke part of a cooling fin off of the fan plate trying to use a large screwdriver to hold the bloody plate still while using the socket wrench to loosen the nut!)

Well, we phoned around some more and found a friendly Midas Muffler shop (all the way back up to about three blocks away from the shop where we had the alternators tested!) who would happily use their impact wrench to swap the pulleys between the two alternators. Did I say “friendly”? I meant “FRIENDLY” Not only did they do the job, they declined to charge us for it! Talk about nice. And the guy even said that, if it didn’t work out, bring it back and he’d swap them back…without charge! You don’t see that kind of service very often these days! Back to the boat for a quick installation and a victory celebration!

But, after literally a couple of hours of trying (using increasingly bigger hammers, not-entirely-metaphorically speaking) we still didn’t have an installed alternator. First, it turned out that the hole on the alternator casing through which the mounting bolt had to pass was too small! So Frank grabbed the Fiat keys and headed back to Ace to get the required 9/16″ drill bit, which I didn’t have. Once he returned, we drilled out the casing hole, which allowed the bolt to go through the alternator casing bolt holes — it also went through the engine mounting bracket, of course — but we couldn’t get the bolt to go through both the alternator and the engine mounting bracket at the same time! After wrestling with this for more than an hour, I finally realized that, even if we did manage to get it on the bracket, the fan plate was going to rub against something — the alternator couldn’t possibly be mounted on this bracket! Damn! Spare alternator, my aunt fanny. Or words to that effect, only more purple.

Now what?

Well, we headed back to Midas to have the pulleys restored to their original alternators. Without charge. Nice. Then to a nearby West Marine to purchase a set of paper charts for the Bahamas (don’t want to depend solely on electronic charts, now do we).

And finally to a wonderful little Cuban restaurant (recommended by the West Marine store manager), where we had a fabulous meal and some great Cuban beer. The restaurant, named Little Havana, is a family-owned and -operated place. There weren’t any gringos in there when we entered (although another party of gringos showed up a half-hour later), but plenty of Cubanos. That was a good sign. Plus, the place smelled wonderful. Out waiter was very helpful and recommended a sampler platter of appetizers/starters, all of which were wonderful. I’m a big fan of carne asada, so that’s what I ordered, and I loved it. I don’t recall what Frank and Barbara got, but I do recall that they really loves their dishes, too. And we had dessert (which we rarely do), which was also great. While we were there, the owner stopped by our table to welcome us — clearly, he made the rounds to all tables every now and then during the day — and told us a little about the history of the restaurant. He founded it 20 years ago, and the same cook he had back then was still the head cook now!

And then back to the boat.

On Sunday morning, it was obvious that little was going to be accomplished with regard to the alternator situation, so we decided to tackle more chores in preparation for departure to the Bahamas. Before actually starting any boat work, we yielded to the temptation to access the Internet and check our email. Frank and Barbara headed over to a nearby Starbucks to use their free WiFi (and to have some coffee and breakfast). I worked on a couple of minor chores and then joined them. (It’s downright scary how much email I can accumulate when I don’t download for a few days!)

Once back to the boat, we selected the inflatable dinghy as our next project, which Babara and I’d moved out of Frank’s berth (the quarter berth, a/k/a the storage room) and up onto deck before departing SIBW. It was time to get the dinghy re-inflated (it had sort of collapsed during the sail around to Miami) and secured up on the foredeck where we keep it when not in use (or belowdecks for storage). So, up on deck we went with the (too-) low pressure 12 volt inflator pump, the hand inflator pump (for topping off the pressure), and assorted hoses and adaptors. It was a bit hot and sweaty as we inflated it. Lookin’ good!

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 029 -We thought we had fixed the dinghy

Well, for a while anyway. An hour or so later, while working on other chores, we happened to glance to the foredeck and saw a sad sight…

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 028 -The dinghy that we are trying to patch

(The picture was taken after moving the dinghy over to the wharf alongside of which we were docked — see, I said I’d explain why slip #1 was an asett.) The bloody thing was losing air at a rather rapid rate! I quickly assumed (and we all know what “assume” means, now don’t we?) that the problem was a plethora of pinholes caused by our hasty job of rolling up the dinghy and putting it away after our last cruise in early 2011, maybe because of overly enthusiastic rolling. The obvious solution? Why, a quick trip to West Marine (isn’t that the first step in solving every problem?) to purchase an expensive ($60!) bottle of “juice” to be poured into each inflation chamber (this dinghy has three large chambers — bow, port, and starboard — plus the “keel” chamber and the detachable floor). All we had to do is pour the juice into each chamber and “tumble” the dinghy end-over-end and side-to-side until the interior was completely coated, then wait a few hours for it to “cure”.

While we were out going to West Marine, we decided to purchase a new (rebuilt) alternator if we could find one. We started at an auto parts shop, which suggested a different one, which suggested a different branch of the same one, which thought they could identify which of their stock numbers corresponded to our alternator. (To be honest, I was surfing the web, Googling for the part number, feeding whatever information I gleaned to the auto parts guy.) We found a part number that seemed like it might identify the right alternator, so we paid for it at the store where we were, then drove a few miles to yet another branch to pick it up…and it wasn’t even vaguely similar to our bad alternator. It wouldn’t have been useful at all, so we had to undo the financial transaction and go home disappointed. Oh, well, at least the dinghy would have “cured” and Voilá! That problem solved, at least.

Except that it wasn’t. As we tumbled the dinghy some more, we began to realize that it was raining “juice” on us from at least two large leaks…in the seams! The boat was literally coming apart at the seams. (This is how I learned that our Baltik dinghy was glued together instead of welded. Lesson learned!) Thus ensued a tragi-comic afternoon of gluing patches (from a dinghy patch kit) onto an ever-increasing number of observed seam failures. And then waiting hours for everything to cure. But, hours later, instead of finding everything cured, we found that three of the four patches we’d glued to the seams had not adhered because the “juice” leaking through them interfered with the patch adhesive!!! We spent more hours cleaning up the gunk, attempting to keep the holes in the seams free of the “juice” while we applied more patches, and generally amusing everybody who walked past. Did I mention that the marina was adjacent to a large mall…with lots and lots of patrons wandering all over the place?

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 014 -Part of the Bayside shopping area adjacent to the MiaMarina

We continued to apply patches and hope for the best. Sadly, by Monday morning, we were forced to conclude that we were not going to be able to fix the dinghy, but at least we’d reached a stage where it didn’t deflate too rapidly. We developed this mental image of us in the dinghy, in the water, with one of us at the back steering the outboard motor, and another of us in the bow frantically operating the hand pump to keep us afloat!

Our next project was to ensure that the head pump was working properly. I gritted my teeth for this often-nasty job, removed it from the locker behind the head, and took it apart. Much to my surprise, the pump seemed to be in great condition, and the joker valve was quite flexible. There’s no good reason why it shouldn’t be working properly, so I cleaned it up as good as I could and reinstalled it. Next time we’re several miles offshore, we’ll try it out. Until then…

That night, we used the new dishes Frank had purchased for the boat and had a great meal with steak, mashed potatoes, fresh biscuits, and spinach.

Early on Monday morning, we headed back north to the alternator shop with our Powerline alternator to get them to rebuild it. The tech there had said that, if we could get it in early on Monday, he could have it back that evening. (The guy behind the counter disagreed, saying that we’d be lucky if he could get it back by Tuesday evening.) We were there before they opened. After the shop had opened, while we were waiting for the tech to arrive, I happened to notice a sign on one wall saying…wait for it…”Hehr Powerline”! I got the attention of the guy behind the counter and asked “Do you actually carry Powerline stuff?” He replied that they used to and probably had some stuff left over from a period several years earlier when they were the support shop for a large fishing fleet. I asked if there was any chance that they might have an alternator like the known-bad one that we have, and he said that he was doubtful but that he’d check.

Unbelievably, a few minutes later, he came back to the front counter with a brand new, still in the original sealed box, alternator identical to our bad one! Well, not identical — this one worked! “How much?” “Well, I’ll sell it to you for what we paid for it…in 2004.” Wow! I was prepared (although hardly enthusiastic) to pay up to $750, but the price we were charged was a mere $325!! Wheeeeeeee… Back to the boat with our brand new alternator to install!!!

April 2012 Dream SeQueL Trip 020 -The old and the new alternators

The installation went perfectly, and the batteries immediately started charging as soon as we started the engine. Unbelievable. If we’d only noticed the sign on Friday afternoon, we could have saved ourselves a ton of tsuris, aggravation, and running around all weekend. But we’d have still had to wait for that weather window, regardless, so it really didn’t cost us any cruising time.

While Frank and I were out buying the alternator, Barbara got into a conversation with a guy from a sailboat berthed over on pier A. It turned out that they were from New Zealand! When Frank and I returned, he and I went over to their boat to chat for a bit and they mentioned that they were going to sail up to Ft. Lauderdale to go to a chart-and-nautical-book store they’d heard about. We told them that we wanted to go up there on Monday anyway and they were welcome to come with us. Nice people. The boat is called Pacific Pacer and is a little longer than Dream SeQueL (also beamier and newer). They have mast steps, which we inspected. They’re a fold-out kind, but they looked more secure (for wet feet) than the ones we’ve seen in the West Marine catalog.

And so, a bit later, we headed back to the West Marine superstore again. Barbara went over to Pacific Pacer to get the two guys (Robert, the owner, and Dan, his daughter’s boyfriend) who were going to go with us while I got the car out of the lot. We drove up to Ft. Lauderdale again, stopping at the chart store where they picked up an electronic chart they’d ordered custom-made, before we went to West Marine. While at West Marine, Barbara and I picked up a selection of consumables (e.g., fuel diapers, bilge socks), considered (future) alternatives for more interior (LED) lighting, and stopped by to say “Hi” to Pam Wall. Then it was back to the boat, where we found ourselves invited to Pacific Pacer for coffee and cake.

Pacific Pacer took off for the Bahamas this afternoon. Before they left, we set up vague plans to monitor VHF channel 16 for their call (and they for ours) at 10:00, 14:00, and 18:00 each day.

We spent the rest of today preparing to set sail tomorrow, fixing and eating dinner, and then resting. And now it’s really, really time to go to sleep!!

<<All photographs Copyright © Frank Pellow, 2012. Used with permission.>>

1 comment to To The Bahamas, Part 6: Miami (still)

  • Dallis Radamaker


    You have my admiration. I always said I didn’t want a boat. Instead, I wanted a friend who had a boat. Now I now why. You guys are working way too hard. I hope you are enjoying it and finding it worth the effort.


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