Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pine Island Anchorage

Lonely Pine Island

White Pepper started the first leg of the drive South by leaving the Jacksonville Municipal Dock at slack water at 9:30 am Thanksgiving Friday. Catching the ebbing current made quick work of the 16 n. mi. trip down the St. Johns River to the ICW intersection arriving about 12:30 pm.  The entry into the ICW went smoothly despite a ripping cross current.  For reasons that I can not understand the current was flowing out of the St. Johns River but into the ICW which is also known as the Tolomato River at this part of its existence.  We made good time and were quickly through the narrows at the Pablo Creek Bridge which can be tricky with currents near 4 knots. By the way the Pablo Creek Bridge is in the shadows of the Mayo Clinic at Jacksonville Beach. Jan even got the Genoa out. We were making 7 knots heading South with the current and North wind.

About 1:30 pm we came up to Palm Cove Marina which is the logical stop over as there was no way we could reach St. Augustine, FL. in the short winter daylight.  But the day was pretty, the sun was warm, the current favorable, the wind moderate at our back and predicted to fade. There was still 3 hours of daylight.  We decided to press on to Pine Island Anchorage.  After all, what could go wrong. Quickly the weather deteriorated as an unpredicted coastal trough developed and sent the wind gusting to 35 knots with a steady 25.  Low clouds made the afternoon gloomy and ominous.

 Pine Island is the only anchorage between Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine--a distance of 38 statute miles.  (For non sailors, distances in the ICW are marked in statue miles rather than nautical miles.) It is an old ox bow at statue mile marker 865 and popular with the local sailors.  We got there at 4:30 pm. The wind was howling and the anchorage crowded.  I usually use the Bruce anchor in river mud, but this time I decided to go with the Rocha since I figured we would have only one chance at anchoring.  It wasn't the prettiest set White Pepper ever executed, but after dragging a few yards the trusty Rocna bit and never moved again.

We spent an uncomfortable night rocking and rolling.  Aphrodite was most upset by the strange new noises of creaking, groaning, and halyard banging inside the mast.

We raised anchor at 10 am in a lull in the wind.  The new modification that I made to the bow roller worked to perfection. The new Mantus chain grabber worked very well.  The Rocna took 10 minutes to work itself out of the mud which is why I usually use the Bruce when in the ICW.  Finally were were off to St. Augustine to pick up a mooring ball and wait out the rest of the bad weather.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day at Jacksonville Municipal Dock

Some cruisers leave the boat and fly home for the holidays.  Most join pot luck dinners dockside at what ever marina.  One such Thanksgiving pot luck dinner at St. Mary's, Georgia has become so famous that sailors organize their cruise around the event. For reasons found in the previous post White Pepper found herself alone at the Jacksonville Municipal Marina.  By alone I mean nobody here.  The place is beautiful with expansive well kept grounds and state of the art concrete floating docks with water and electricity.
White Pepper at empty marina

Nobody here, just a few homeless

There is not even a dock master or marina office.  Dockage is free for 72 hours and electricity is purchased from a kiosk with a credit card.  Apparently the marina is used by the city as a watery parking lot for tailgate parties before the Jacksonville Jaguars home football games.  The scene above will be stacked with boats five deep  before games. Here is a pic of the stadium less than a quarter of mile away.
Ever Bank Field

Needless to say there was not any pot luck dinner here, but Jan organized a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It was certainly better than any served on any dock anywhere and hot as well.
The turkey breast was cooked in the pressure cooker in only 45 min. Other dishes were green bean casserole, stuffing, Waldorf salad, and cranberries.
Thanksgiving 2013

After the meal we had a walk around the park and listened to the Dallas Cowboys game on Sirius Radio. All in all it was a very satisfying day.

All of this has me thinking about Thanksgiving traditions.  Why is it that we cruisers so willingly exchange the easy camaraderie of common interests at a pot luck  rather than the more difficult intimacies of the family? I have no idea.  But I do know that  without easy transportation no cruiser can go shopping at the Mall on Thanksgiving evening or Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Struggle for Power

White Pepper left her month long berth on a mooring ball at Green Cove Springs Marina today in the teeth of a Lake Winds Advisory (20-25 knots out of the WNW gusting to 35).  The reason for this madness was a hard freeze warning tonight (28 degrees F.)  Our destination was the Municipal Dock at Jacksonville 28 nautical miles to the North.  Dockage there is free, but  electricity is available for $8.95 per day. White Pepper does not have any internal way to make heat except body heat and candles.  We do have a ceramic heater, but the power consumption is so great that the device needs shore power.

Another issue was the Florida RR Bridge in Jacksonville which currently has a broken bearing, It is only open from 2 pm-4 pm. The next opening is at night which does not help at all.

Dear White Pepper's engine is so under powered with all the added gear that she can not motor well anymore, and any wave action just brings her to a stop.  However, the racing hull is  easily driven and if any amount of sail can be added, she motor sails quite well. Today on those legs of river that were North (about 20 n. miles), we would motor sail at 6 to 7 knots with about 25% of the jib rolled out.  There was an ebb tide helping as well. But on the legs that were Northwest (about 8 n. mi.) we had to roll in the genoa and motor at about 1.5 knots.  The current added a knot at the price of a vicious wind-against-current short chop. Hence the picture above.  These tired pelicans tucked in behind the stern thinking we were stopped!

Finally we cleared the RR Bridge at 2:30 followed by the Main Street lift bridge. We got to the Municipal Dock about 3 pm.  I felt like I had crossed an ocean. Jan was thrilled with her first day of our 6 month cruise. Most importantly Jan, Aphrodite cat, and I will be warm tonight. One pleasant side effect of today is that Aphrodite spent all day struggling with the motion and has been especially mellow this evening.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Local Boater's Option--Customs

Jan and I cleared customs today and we had not even left the United States yet.  What I am talking about is the Local Boater's Option also known as small vessel reporting system (  This is a US Customs program that allows travelers to clear into the USA in advance. The first step is to use the Internet to register and record your documents.  These documents include your passport numbers and the numbers on the federal yacht registration. Second step is to make an appointment for a face to face interview with a Customs officer.  Then we get a long number.  When we return to the USA next year, I will call the Customs office with our numbers and after answering routine questions be cleared into the United States without actually going to the Customs office. I forgot to add that we will have to provide our "decal" number to the customs office.  Every vessel no matter how large or small that enters the US has to have a customs decal.  It is a tax pure and simple, but only costs $25. per year.

It sounds simple but, of course, isn't.  It took several hours on the computer and two trips to the Customs office.  However, in the past we have usually landed at Fort Pierce, FL upon our return from the Bahamas.  We have to take a taxi ride to the Ft. Pierce airport where customs formalities last all of five minutes.  However, we are still out the $50. taxi fare. So hopefully all of this effort will be worthwhile.

Today we were very well treated by officer Juan Terry of the US Customs at the St. Augustine airport. Since we well still using our own car--the trusty Grand Vitara--we went into downtown St. Augustine for lunch at Columbia's.  Tell the truth we have been to Columbia's five times in the three weeks we have been in Florida.  It is one of the best restaurants I have even eaten at, and the prices are quite reasonable. Today's special was shrimp and scallops in a tomato pepper sauce with pasta purses stuffed with truffles and pine nuts--$13.95.

To walk off lunch Jan and I hiked over the Bridge of Lions that spans the ICW/Matanzas River.  Here is a pic from the top of the bridge looking over the St. Augustine Marina about 4 pm.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marine Canvas and LEDs

White Pepper was blessed with a visit from first brother-in-law, Charlie Mitchell, and sister Susan Mitchell.

Charlie is an artisan in marine canvas and brought some of his wizardry to us this week. For sailors in need he can be reached at

 Most impressive were sheet bags that cleaned up the mess on the coach roof.

Also great were the reworked dodger and splash guards.

The mainsail cover had to be modified because the pole has been mounted on the mast.

Here are Charlie and Susan on the St. Augustine Beach which is awesome in its own right.

In the mean time yours truly has been replacing all of the interior lights with LED equivalents.  The results are outstanding.  Now we have much more light with negligible power draw.  Here is a pic of one of the fluorescent lights that I replaced with LED strips.
My experience makes me wonder why incandescent lighting has survived this long.  If we ever go back to Beeville, Texas my first chore will be to replace all of the lights with LED. The case for nostalgia just can not compete with the cost, energy conservation and heat savings. Once again I am reminded that everyone should live for a year on a boat.  Then we could all be green without being silly.

White Pepper is tiring of chores.  Soon we will be departing Green Cove Springs for parts South.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winch Maintenance

When I am too old to sail anymore, I will open and operate a shelter for abused and neglected Barient and Barlow winches.  I will not buy any old winches (please note that all Barient winches are old). Rather I will accept donated winches, refurbish these beauties, display them on long shelves, service them yearly, and let kids turn the handles after their parents make a modest donation. The reason for these foolish musing is that I have been servicing and greasing White Pepper's winches this week.

White Pepper has nine winches in all.  Two absolute state of the art Anderson 40s stainless steel self tailing winches are on the coach roof.  The starboard one is motorized and will raise the main sail and lift the dingy onto the boat.  Also on the starboard coach roof is a small Harken 18 winch that raises and lowers the centerboard.  On the port coach roof with the Anderson is a a small Lewmar  16winch that trims the main sheet . This little guy is actually the most powerful winch on the boat.  It is connected  to the traveller with a 6:1 block and tackle arrangement and could pull the mast down with a theoretical 96:1 purchase.  It also has the trickiest little last step to reassemble.  The whole winch has to be lifted up 1/4 inch to accept the locking retaining rings that complete the reassemble process.  It took me 3 or 4 hours one afternoon to figure this out.  Finally on the port coach roof is an original Barient 21 that we used to tighten up the reef line.  It does not get much use anymore.

The pride of the boat, however, are the four Barients on the comings.  The yacht came with a pair of Barient/Barlow 32s as primaries.  These were great winches for their day.  However, it quickly became obvious that they were not powerful enough to grind in the 150% genoa when racing.  I bought two Barient 736s from the redoubtable Robbie Young.  He had just finished performing as bowman for one of the America's Cup contenders and was starting a rigging business in Houston.  He assured me that they were lightly used and like new. They are monstrously large with about a 65:1 ratio.  With a standard 12 inch winch handle the average crew member will generate about 100 foot pounds of force.  This means the genoa sheet will feel 6500 foot pounds of force. This much force will pull in anything.  The 32s were relegated to spinnaker work and controlling the check stays. I paid $7000.00 for the pair of 736s and some design work.  This was quite a lot of money in 1980. I remember  handing over the check and saying that, "I hope they make me happy."  After my first round of servicing these winches I realized they were over 20 years old but so well made that they were, indeed, like new.  And for the most part I have been very pleased with these beasts.

Barient has an interesting and obscure history.  There is no entry in Wikipedia for Barient.  What is known is that the company was founded in San Francisco by two elite yachtsman in the 1950s with an interest in providing innovative deck gear for the America's Cup boats and other grand prix yachts.  One had a yacht named Baruna  and the other had a primo yacht named Orient.   The names were jammed together to form the company name.  It never tried to make a profit.  The company just made winches for the owners and their friends.  Somehow the Barlow Winch Company out of Australia began to make identical products.  For some reason Barient never complained.  However, the quality of the product was so good that nothing else would do.  In 1985 the Lewmar company bought both entities and soon closed both in order to open the field for their own products.  The Australian Winch Company assumed responsibility for service and repair.  However, this was done desultorily at best.  My point is that these wonderful products were orphaned too soon.  They were built so well that they have long out lived any expected use and remain on many older yachts. I have 5 of these museum pieces. And they are museum pieces.  No individual part will ever break, but if some piece becomes corroded or is lost, it can not be replaced.  Hence, service work has to be approached with great reverence and care.

Most regrettably White Pepper has been in storage for two years and the last service was probably three years ago.  I could have been reported for Barient abuse!!
Barient/Barlow 32 ready for service
Drum removed
This winch is serviced from the underneath. Plate has to be pried off.
Bull gear is in the center. Second gear above. Transfer gear that actually moves the drum is on left.
Transfer gear removed. Pawls of second gear exposed. Note winch has been rotated.
Second gear removed. Bull gear still in place around shaft.
Bull gear pulled and pawls exposed.  Pretty grimy!

My recipe which I have followed for years is to clean all of the parts with mineral spirits. This year I had to use bronze wool to clean up the pawls and their housing.   I use 3-in-1 Oil on the pawls (no grease as it sticks) and then lightly grease the actual gears with a proprietary grease such as Harken or Lewmar Winch 
Grease.  All of the screws also get grease so that they will release in another year or two.

For the reassembly I know of no extant manuals, either on paper or on the Internet.  However, like a Sudoku puzzle there is only one unique way to put all of the parts together so that the gears turn. Patience, a good memory or a logical mind will get it back together. Alternatively you could take hundreds of pictures instead of these few upon the disassemble.  In the end there is the wonderful satisfaction of feeling the winch turning effortlessly and hearing the pawls clicking happily.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

White Pepper Revisits St. Augustine with Friends

Super sailor, super golfer and brother-in-law Charlie Mitchell came to help re-rig White Pepper and  move her to Green Cove Springs Marina. After bending on the sails, it was time to party. (For non-sailors bending on the sails means mounting the sails in their proper place.)  It was off to the World Golf Hall of Fame for the crew.  This is a mildly interesting attraction maintained by the PGA near St. Augustine.

There is much memorabilia from recent inductees to the Hall of Fame and a lot of history about golf in general.  I especially enjoyed the display of trophies including the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup.  After the tour of the museum we tried the challenge hole which is a replica of the famous TPC Sawgrass, 17th hole also known as the island green.

Then we played the 18 hole putting course.  I beat Charlie by one stroke in a thrilling match.  We all had dinner at Columbia's Restaurant in St. Augustine.  A great day all-in-all.

The next day Charlie and I brought the boat up the St. Johns to Great Cove  Springs on a glorious fall afternoon in Florida. Jan drove the car around and took this pic from the dock at Green Cove Springs Marina.

Later in the week we were treated to a visit by Paula Sands, a friend from Beeville.  Paula did not have to work on the boat although she did treat us to a lovely acapella concert before dinner one night.  We all went to the St. Augustine Beach which is lovely--much wider and better maintained than other east Florida beaches.

 After a lunch at the Beachcomber's Bar we did a quick tour of St. Augustine before heading back to Green Cove Springs. The next day we revisited the actual springs from which the town derives its name.  It is remarkable--3000 gallons per minutes of mineral laden water wells up and makes a 100 yard journey to the St. Johns.  No wonder people settled here years ago.

 On Thursday Oct. 30  Paula had to head back to Texas.  We will miss her and wish her well.