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Season's Greetings!  For those of you who partied with us in Nashville the past four years making the traditional gingerbread house, we bought gingerbread mix and candies with the intention of having a party on board the boat and making a house.   I don't know when we might get around to doing it.  We're still in transit and may be for some time since our trip to the Bahamas is dependent upon the weather and repairs.  Those of you who took the house patterns from last year's party should carry on the tradition.  Let us know if you use the patterns, or better yet, take some pictures of your finished house and send them to us.

Christmas in Florida was certainly different.  We were motoring down the ICW through an area where the waterfront homes were decorated for the holidays.  We saw pink flamingo reindeer leading Santa's sleigh.  The critters were fashioned with plastic pink flamingoes and tree branches for antlers.  There was a deck with blue lights outlining the shape of dolphins.  Other docks just had lights on their decks as in the picture below.

Decorated docks along the ICW

St. Augustine's waterfront was well decorated with lights wrapped around trunks of the palm trees and along the waterfront buildings.

The weather has become a bit chillier so the temperature seems more like a traditional Christmas season.  However, it's all relative.  Wednesday morning, it felt very cold, but it was only 51 and reached 70.  Sunday, the temperature is supposed to be in the 80's.

Our last leg into
Palm Beach from Jensen Beach was supposed to be an easy 40 mile trip.  It was about 40 miles but it wasn't easy.  At St. Lucie Inlet, the new alternator started making terrible metal-on-metal sounds.  Bob said we had to stop so he could look at it.  That pronouncement was chilling, given the location.  St. Lucie is a place where a river flows into the Atlantic Ocean and the ICW crosses the river on the perpendicular.  There are many markers for different directions, making it confusing to figure out which way to go.  Because of the ocean inlet, the current is rapid.  This particular inlet is so shallow that it is not navigable by most boats and then only with local knowledge.  The current rips through the shallow waters. 

I looked at the chart and located an anchorage called Hell Gate.  We slowed the boat's speed and motored to Hell.  It seemed to take forever.  Finally, we got anchored in a brisk wind with the boat rockin' on the anchor rode.  Bob went below to attempt repairs.  After much sweat and grease, he came up and started the engine.  Success!  No more metal-on-metal sounds.  We then headed back to the ICW.

There was a barge with a dredger obstructing both the markers and the navigable channel.  We nudged the ground six or seven times trying to get around the barge and dredger.  The area had shoaled, and even in the marked waterway, there was not enough water to proceed.  I called the dredging boat and asked for help.  He said, "Maybe your boat draws too much water."   Duh...  Bob kept trying other approaches, but each time, we ran aground.  Thank goodness for our 85 hp engine that backed us off the sandbars each time. 

I called again on the radio and a Tow Boat US operator told us to head for the dredger and then duck around the barge between it and the marker.  We got by with only inches to spare.  Continuing along the ICW through Jupiter's Inlet, there were two draw bridges to go through in a short distance.  We got through the first one easily enough, but the second one had floating pipes obstructing the approach to the bridge. I called for help and someone told us how to get around to the bridge. 

A little further, we encountered another dredging operation with a barge headed toward it and us.  Since pleasure craft are supposed to keep out of the way of commercial vessels, we turned to give the approaching barge room to get around the dredging boat and us.  We ran aground again...and again and again....  The approaching barge blew his horn.  I called him on the radio and told him we were trying to stay out of his way, but we kept running aground. The vessel answered, "Coast Guard vessel Hammer,...."  Good thing we were following the rules of the road!  Like sunsets, no day is ever the same and no day is ever boring. 

Viking Rose had a couple of problems so we put in at a marina in
West Palm Beach to get repairs done.  The engine exhaust had a leak in an elbow pipe which Bob had tried to stop with patches.  When he took the part off, the leak was not a pin-hole but almost big enough to put your little finger through!  The massive corrosion inside the pipe had limited the leak but it was just a matter of time before it failed.  Another problem was with the alternator.  We bought a new one but wanted to get the old one rebuilt.  Conventional wisdom is to take spare parts to the Bahamas since it's difficult to locate them over there or even to get them shipped to you, despite the natives saying, "No problem, mon!"  Unfortunately, the old alternator is shot and can't be rebuilt.  We have a third alternator which came with the boat when we bought it so Bob is trying to get it installed.  Every day is a challenge and everything is in a state of breaking. 

The exhaust part came in but we needed another part to install it, a 2 1/2 inch "closed nipple in." Of course, they didn't have it in stock so we had to wait another day.  Nothing is ever easy.

As for our plans, we had hoped to be in Marsh Harbor, Abaco for Christmas.  That did not happen.  It was Monday, December 21, when the part for the engine exhaust arrived. Further, we waited for a "weather window."  When one sails or motors to the Bahamas, one must cross the Gulf Stream.  The Gulf Stream flows from the south to the north at 2-3 knots.  Since the Gulf Stream flows from the south, one should cross the Gulf Stream only with a southern wind.  If one crosses the Stream with a northern wind, the result is a very rough ride since the wind and current collide and create high waves.  Usually, this is more of an uncomfortable situation than a life-threatening one, but we wanted our first crossing to be pleasant. 

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