Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Underway At Last!!

At long last, Equinox is underway once again! Monday, the 17th, was a day full of snags; while we’d wanted to leave early, we couldn’t, as we needed to retrieve our new sun-shade from the canvas shop, then found it prudent to double-check the new hydraulic pumps to ensure both were running well. By the time that was done, the weather had deteriorated and we sat miserably, watching the wind and rains churning up the seas. Not the best morning! Nevertheless, the remainder of our day was a delight, for the evening found us with dear friends, Kim and Al, sharing dinner and a late night of laughter; we had a fabulous time together. Made the wait for a departure window much, much sweeter!

Tuesday morning brought improving weather: by late afternoon, the winds had dropped and seas were forecast to improve. We used the weather delay to run a few last-minute errands, before we finally cast off the mooring lines and got ourselves the hell out of Dodge! Finally!! We took advantage of the afternoon high tide, easing out the St. Lucie Inlet (with a good 2.5’ of water under the hull at the tricky shoaling spot by the jetty breakers -- whew!) And from there….easy cruising down the coast. We thought we’d stay near shore in the lee of the westerly winds and see how things progressed as we went south. If conditions were snotty, we could always duck back inside near Miami and wait for better crossing weather. 

But…we needn’t have worried! The southeasterly swells didn’t provide a particularly smooth ride, but it wasn’t unbearable, either. We’d never taken this southern route before; we’d discussed various possibilities from going directly east via the Abacos and then south through the Exumas (like we did last year) so as to stay in shallower, more protected waters, but this time, we just went with what made sense in light of the winds and weather. It just felt SOOO good to be underway again!

Ron and I decided to lengthen our watches, stretching them from 4 hours to 6, so that the off-watch person would get a longer, more solid stretch of sleep. (Yay!) I took the first night watch, 6pm-midnight; happily, as we came down the coast, the seas got smoother and the ride more comfortable. Just north of the Hillsboro inlet, I started our crossing of the Gulf Stream, angling southeast towards the north side of Bimini, Bahamas. The westerly winds then provided us with a great following sea across the Gulf Stream – Equinox loves a following sea -- and we made good time. Ron took over until dawn; by then we were coming onto the Great Bahamas Bank and more protected waters. Wednesday progressed with soft following seas of 1’-3’, and the clocking W-NW winds continued to push us along nicely! By 5 pm, we were already off the east side of Andros and making our way south through the Tongue of the Ocean.

Any concerns? Well…yes. Even though the engines were just tuned, flushed, checked and tweaked in dutiful maintenance, our port engine is now running a tad warmer than previously, by about 5 degrees. The John Deere technicians had noted this during our sea trial, but they thought the coolant just might be a bit low, so burped the tank and added some more. Still, the 5 degree difference persists. We aren’t sure of any cause: the thru-hulls are freshly cleaned and scoured with good water-flow, the impeller looks fine (with only 50 hours on it), the coolant level looks good, and the engine is purring along nicely. Since it’s well within normal operating parameters, we’re probably being a bit over-protective, but we are keeping an eye on it anyway!

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