Around the 26th of December, all our weather sources started to suggest that maybe Dec 30, 31 or Jan 1 could work for crossing from Florida to the Bahamas in good weather conditions. So we started to plan and make the boat ready to cross.
There was one small hiccup. Our dinghy engine, aka The Mighty Jack (MJ), died. It had been giving us trouble since we were in Annapolis and we had tried many times to fix it ourselves and finally decided it was time for some professional help. While we were in St. Augustine we found a mechanic to fix it, we described the issues and diagnosed the problem, parts were ordered and the night before we were to leave St Augustine, the engine was returned to us and seemed to be in great working order! Less than three days later it started to give us problems again. Sigh. By the time we got to Stuart it was really going down hill. Craig & Allan helped Tim replace the head gasket and for a few days again, it seemed to be running well. It truly gave up on us as we returned from doing laundry in town – we were out on the St. Lucie river and a good distance from shore when it dramatically reduced in power but we managed to limp back to the boat. Tim could not get it started again and once again Stray Cat & Mighty Fine were on the case.
After at least two hours working on it in the rain they all decided MJ was dead and gone – RIP. We needed a new engine. It was two days after Christmas and we were planning on crossing the gulf stream in 4 days. What now?
Tim started calling everyone in the yellow pages who dealt outboard motors. Most places were closed for the holidays and would not reopen until Jan 4. Tim found a flyer on the marina bulletin board for “Dirks’s Outboards”. He called the number and Dirk answered – it was Sunday morning and Dirk was on his way to church, he’d call us back after the service. We took this as a very good sign, the man went to church AND he was willing to work on a Sunday two days after Christmas!
There were many calls between Dirk and Tim over the next few days as Dirk searched Florida to find a suitable used 2 stroke engine for us. He found one and then dismissed it as not being good enough. Then he found another and drove several hours inland to check it out. He liked it, bought it and confirmed it was in good shape. It all checked out great! It was now New Year’s Eve and Dirk said he could be at our boat in West Palm Beach mid afternoon and we could test the engine ourselves and decide if we wanted to buy it. It was now a crush to get the engine and move Grace five miles north to stage ourselves for a crossing of the Gulf Stream the next day. Yep, a weather window for crossing was confirmed for New Years Day.
The engine tested out great. Right from the get go it had more power than the old one ever did. We decided to buy it.
By this time it was almost 5pm and the tide had turned, pinning Grace V to the town dock and making it impossible for us to move the boat to our planned anchorage. UGH! After a few lengthy discussions we decided to give up, sit back and enjoy the planned fireworks for New Year’s Eve. We would not take this weather window, we’d wait for another day. Scheherazade pulled up their anchor and headed north to the inlet, they would be making their crossing on New Years Day. Regrettably, we said goodbye.
As it was New Years Eve, it was also my birthday! It looked like I had got a new dinghy engine for my birthday and while it was not exactly what I wished for, I was very very happy we now seemed to have a working, reliable engine.
As it turned out though, I also got a pair of super cute water shoes! Thanks Honey! We celebrated with a rare take-out pizza and started to enjoy the activity around us as everyone was celebrating New Years.
The fireworks in West Palm Beach are apparently not put on by the city, but are paid for by a local private resident who lives alongside the waterway (real estate is rumoured to be in the $30 million dollar range for this section of the waterway!). The show began just after midnight and it was by far the BEST fireworks I have ever seen. We had a prime spot on the town docks as all the anchored boats between the dock and the fireworks barge had been cleared out during the afternoon for safety. We had a front row seat!
We stayed on the town dock over night and then moved to the anchorage to spend the next few days. Next time we’re in Florida, we’ll make a point of staying here in West Palm again. Easy access to shopping, restaurants and the beautiful ocean side beach. Loads of places to ride your bike safely and beautiful neighbours to walk through.