February 20, 2022
It is time to get back to documenting life aboard Home Free!! Unfortunately, I don’t have many good pictures yet, and I presume I will lose half of my readers from here. I get it, more pictures. I’m on it. The featured image is a dolphin playing in the bow wake. They always make my day, hopefully this will suffice until I can get the ‘good stuff’.
Last Saturday I was joined by my friend Bob who agreed to help me bring Home Free from Hilton Head Island to North Palm Beach. Bob is a master trader of Natural Gas (that’s how we met, trading gas together), not to mention a superior mind in risk management, an Ironman and a Ph.D. in biblical history (sorry if I am messing that up Bob). Let’s just say we had great conversation about a wide variety of topics.
Due to inclement weather threatening the itinerary, we transited from the plane to the open ocean within four hours. It was an ambitious plan, but I succeeded in finalizing all of my obligations at Hilton Head and we got off the dock very close to slack tide. Heading south between Hilton Head Island and the mainland we were able to get to open ocean before the sun set, and then it was away to the races.
Our timing couldn’t have been better. The water was almost perfectly flat until about two hours before we arrived in Saint Augustine on Sunday afternoon. The biggest waves were probably no more than one foot high. Wonderful.
After a good night’s sleep, we moved south on the ICW. Over the next three days (Monday – Wednesday) Home Free moved through the ICW to North Palm Beach, giving Bob a chance to experience some of the ICW for the first time. The weather outside was blowing to 20+ knots and there was a small craft advisory, so there weren’t a lot of vessels moving on the ICW (the fishermen stay home). It is worth noting however that my experience on the ICW is all during COVID, and this time, everything was much, much busier than I have seen it before. It appears that the world is truly waking up after COVID.
After arriving in North Palm Beach, the presence of crew allowed me/us to tackle a couple of projects. The most important one was cutting 100′ off of my anchor chain. The rust/flaking of the chain was getting unbearable, with the constant fight against rust stains. Now the chain will be somewhat newer and there will hopefully be less flaking (and therefore less cleaning). Next year we will likely replace the chain completely. For the rest of this year, we will primarily be navigating the Bahamas and the Chesapeake where typical water depths in anchorages are between 10-20 feet. With a 7:1 scope, 300′ of chain should be ample. I also pulled in to the dock bow first to drop the entire chain, clean the locker, check the bitter end and paint some very visible markers on the chain to 150′ making it easier to see.
Today, for the first time in a very long time, I rode my bike for no other reason than to simply ride the bike. It was only 50km, but I was sore anyway, and more importantly I was starting to get a sunburn, so a short ride was a good thing. It felt good to ride in the sun, no need for extra clothes, carrying or removing a jacket, and simply enjoying the ride. I have had a couple of other rides for errands, but this afternoon was pretty relaxing and hopefully will be the first of many increasingly longer rides over the next couple of weeks while I am in Florida.
Jinhee will arrive in Fort Lauderdale for a week of work on Wednesday, but after that we hope to head across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas for a couple of weeks of vacation.
There will be more pictures over the next few weeks. Between boat work and travels to the Bahamas we will share some of what we see. For now I will keep reading and cycling and do my best to update this space with the really good stuff.
Despite the lack of pictures, I would like to share one little tidbit. During the trip down the ICW, there were plenty of eagles, and one of the best images that I couldn’t have caught even if I wanted to, was an eagle diving right beside the boat, pulling a 6″ fish out of the water and flying away with it squirming wildly in its claws. It’s a picture that I wish I could share.
Thanks to having crew on board, I have had plenty of time to read lately, and if you want to enjoy some CanLit, I just finished the five books that were finalists in the ScotiaBank Giller prize. you can catch my 1-2 sentence reviews in the reading list post which I try to keep updated. As well, if anyone wants to read my constant, if infrequent, bleating about overvalued markets and risks to the market, you can catch the latest update here.
For the next 10 days or so, Home Free will be getting a lot of work done. As we endeavour to keep the boat in great shape for any eventuality. We are doing a couple of necessary maintenance items and some precautionary items. The list below is more for my use, but if any readers want to know what goes into running one of these boats, it may be instructive.
Because my laziness continues to increase with my age, I will be getting help from the team at YachtTech for most of this work. They are sure to do a great job and ensure the boat is in top shape for the Bahamas and the rest of the summer.
- Check the dry stack/exhaust and blanket – The blanket on the stack was almost brand new (3 years old) but there was already a hole in it and some rust dropping from the stack, so it was pulled off and will be replaced. The good news is that the exhaust stack appears to be in great shape, so the new blanket will cost a small fortune, but there doesn’t look like any engine work to be done.
- Our batteries are starting to fail. The house batteries are not too bad, but the stern thruster and wing/gen engine start batteries are failing (at the worst time too) and so replacing things seems the correct course. The current batteries are not LifeLine and a good set of LifeLine batteries should be good for seven years or so. We will get ahead of potential failures and ensure we have great batteries before going to the Bahamas. Notably here, batteries are super hard to get, so the most critical batteries, (for the wing/gen start) are not available. For reference, Home Free has 15 batteries plus one on the dinghy. I will be buying a LOT of batteries this week!
- Haul the boat, repaint the bottom, replace anodes, check the prop, shaft coupling and repack the stuffing box. Pull off the keel cooler, service and replace, replace coolant in engine.
- Add second (more powerful) water pump as primary water pump. Leave current pump as backup and add valves/electrical switches to switch between the two.
- Fashion new bracket for the stack blower. Stack blower is failing and new model has a different layout requiring a modified bracket.
- Replace gasket on oil drain plug.
- Replace oil in engines and main transmission.
- Detail (clean, wax and buff) the entire boat
Stay warm back in Canada!!