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Cruising with Sharon & Wallace on the Benford Fantail 38, DIRT FREE

As our latest cruise gets underway Sharon will post new blog updates. The latest is here .......

1 August 21, 2019 Mississauga to Phoenix NY
2 August 24, 2019 Phoenix to Little Falls NY
3 August 29, 2019 Little Falls to Waterford NY

Flash ! September 16, 2019. We got down to the Hudson River and heard that our destination Grand Bahama and the Abacos had been wiped out by Hurricane Dorian. It was a tough decision but we turned around and are now back in Port Credit. We are hauling the boat for the winter and have bought an RV. We are going to land cruise the Grand Canyon and beyond after CHristmas. Until then we will do a few surveys and learn all about our new motorhome. You can follow us on Sharon's Facebook page under .... Sharon Snow Gouk

Older blogs and random photos from previous cruises are below.
Previous years BLOG pages and scroll down to a random photo album of previous cruises.

Old issues of Marine Surveyors Newsletter


Part 11 - Great Dismal Swamp
Part 10 - From Elizabeth City NC
Part 9 - From Beaufort NC
Part 8 - From Charleston SC
Part 7 - Great Loop begins in West Palm

Part 6 - Florida to The Abacos
Part 5 - St.Augustine to Verobeach FL
Part 4 - Charleston SC to St.Augustine FL
Part 3 - Norfolk to Charleston SC
Part 2 - Chesapeake City to Norfolk
Part 1 - Toronto to Chesapeake City

DIRT FREE with hurricane straps at Indiantown, Florida
June 9thth, 2018, from Port Credit Yacht Club
After 18 months of cruising we are now back home at PCYC and looking for work.
April 4th, 2018, Verobeach
We still don't have our money back from Riviera Beach Marina but are happily ensconced at Verobeach (cruisers call it Velcrobeach (you'll figure it out when you get here). We'll soon head a little bit north where we look forward to a tour of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral
March 16th, 2018, Bahamas - West Palm Beach
A lovely last day swimming and a quiet anchorage for our last day in the bahamas topped off with being the only boat in the anchorage before a perfect gulfstream crossing and then ..... Well ship happens. We were dangerously waked by a typical 60' sports fisher in the Lake Worth inlet. We took such a hit that we took on salt water, the accumulator tank burst and we dumped 200 gallons of fresh water in the bilge. A box of rice and a package of noodles also got dumped in the bilge and when these expand and cooked oin the hot water they clogged the bilge pumps ... Hwnce ... Bilge Soup ! The engine started hesitating and we limped in to the anchorage and began to clean up the mess.

We then discovered the starter had been immersed and was toast. We called RIVIERA BEACH MARINA to get a slip as it would be much easier to get things fixed in a marina than at anchor. What ever you do, DO NOT go to Riviera Beach Marina in West Palm Beach. They didn't have space for us for another four days but took our credit card number with a reservation. They immediately ran almost $4,000 through on our credit card. We spent five nights there and weeks later we are still trying to get a few thousand dollars back from them. DO NOT GIVE THESE PEOPLE A CREDIT CARD NUMBER ! They are avaricious thieves and their response to complaints is "That's the way it is".
January 23, 2018, Lucaya
Finally a warm sunny day .... Sharon learns how to ride a scooter. We rented scooters and off we went to visit botanical Garden of the Groves. Had a lovely day wandering the gardens and Sharon acquired a new friend.
January 21, 2018, Lucaya
We should have been gone by now. We had planned to be in the Abacos by this time but the weather has been windy,cold and rainy. Sitting in a boat at anchor in this weather would not have been enjoyable so we elected to book another month here at Ocean Reef. We continue to eat well.
Our two favourite places to eat on the Island are the "$2 Bar" which is a roadside shack down the road from ORYC run by terrific people with low priced good food and "Rudolph's" is a canvas tent with a homemade wood grill made out of an old propane tank in a vacant lot in downtown Freeport. We met Rudy last year and love his ribs. He's coming to the boat one day soon to give us aBahamian/Rasta cooking lesson. As a Rastafarian, Rudy does no eat meat but he sure knows how to cook it.
January 7, 2018, Lucaya
Craig, my world wandering son came for a visit. I don't get to see him very often as he does not stay in any one country more than a couple of years. Too cold to do the usual Bahamian tourist stuff together but we did have the pool and the hot tub. Craig flew from Utrecht to Toronto to Freeport (then from Freeport to London, to Toronto, to Ottawa and back to Utrecht) however on this leg of the journey his luggage stayed in Toronto courtesy of Air Canada. We spent 20hrs on the phone before AC even answered, that's right, no recorded message, no music, they simply don't pick up the phone. We finally got his luggage the day before he was leaving and it had been opened, items smashed and some stolen. Fly anyone but Air Canada.
January 2, 2018, Lucaya
Happy New Year ! We went to Junkanoo In Freeport and had a great time, the food, the costumes, music ..... and the noise were amazing.
December 16, 2017, Lucaya
Pulled in to Ocean Reef Yacht Club around 1200hrs. It feels like coming home. You'll find more Canadian cruisers here than at Toronto Island on a summer weekend. We'll stay here for a month (cheaper than a week ???) as we wait for my son to come for a visit from Holland where he teaches at the International Baccalaureate School. First stop, the hot tub with a couple of cold beers (one each). Next my birthday dinner ... a few jack fillets and a yellow fin tuna steak mmmh ! Sharon had mac'n'cheese ..... What can I say she has strange tastes. If we are really lucky I'll soon be able to post some shots of Sharon at Karaoke night.
Birthday dinner Our home for the next month
December 15, 2017 Palm Beach to West End.
Weighed anchor at 0300 and set off for Grand Bahama .... again. The crossing was the best I've experienced. The gulfstream current was non-existent, no leeway, no loss of speed and waves less than 1'. A beautiful quiet crossing. Pulled into West end at around 1500hrs and immediately were greeted by a kid selling fresh caught lobsters, we bought four. Dealing with the smiling customs ladies is a pleasure especially compared to the US customs people who are the very stereotypes of that nasty breed ..... "bureaucrats". Once cleared we headed down the south side of the island to a cosy quiet anchorage and had a lovely lobster dinner. We slept with all the hatches and doors open. We have a large hatch over our bed and went to sleep watchiing the stars. Tomorrow a short hop down the coast to Ocean Reef Yach Club.
View from our bed Fresh lobster and stuffed potatoes
Midway between Florida and Grand Bahama. The perfect gulf stream crossing. It simply does not get better than this
December 11, 2017 from North Palm Beach, Florida.
As we wait for a weather window to cross to Bahamas we watched a couple of large barges in the anchorage lifting boats sunk in disaster that was Irma.
December 9, 2017 from North Palm Beach, Florida.
It's been a long wait for the transmission rebuild and not an easy task getting it back in but everything is fresh and clean. I had some red paint left over , hence the spiffy red muffler. Now that everything is back together we have nothing to do but wait for a window to cross the gulf stream.

Rebuilt Transmission arrives

Transmission installed
December 2, 2017 from North Palm Beach, Florida.
Transmission out and we sit at the dock waiting for it at an upscale marina in Palm Beach. They pick up your garbage, come and operate the in-slip pump out, will drive you to the store, take your mail and arrange postage. This was the only available slip within 20 miles (too far to paddle). Below we have included a few shots of out dock neighbours, we are the smallest boat in the place. We have not asked how much this stay will cost ..... we're afraid to.

We got our solar system up and running again with a new contoller. It turned out the cheap junk circuit breaker provided as part of the package from Arizona Northern Wind & Sun was arcing and destroyed the control panel. They actually acknowledged their breakers "were not the best" but offered no compensation so I got a new controller and circuit breaker from another vendor, they are not a supplier I would recommend.

Tonight we watched the Palm Beach Christmas boat parade. Having the transmission out gave me a chance to clean and paint the area of the bilge that was inaccessible due to the gear box. Looking forward to a nice fresh, clean installation.

Palm Beach Christmas parade

Lots of fun
November 30, 2017 from North Palm Beach, Florida.
After six weeks of back breaking work in Indiantown (scroll down to see that) we finally moved down to West Palm to wait for a weather window to cross the gulf stream. After about nine days a pretty good window opened up and off we went. Half way to Grand Bahama the transmission blew out. We called TowBoatUS and got towed back to West Palm. The ride back was vicious, being dragged head on to 6' waves at greater than hull speed. We took some serious slamming. Somewhere along the line our new solar controller also crapped out.
Being the Friday of a long weekend in an area that is still recovering from Hurricane damage no slips were available so we anchored til' Monday when we were towed to the only available slip within 20 miles, Old Port Cove Marina where we are the smallest boat in the place. Now begins the torture of dealing with US Customs again (Nine phone calls and 11 visits in two weeks). I fully intend to write a separate article (after I cool down) about the circus known as US Customs & Border Patrol.

So now we start dismantling everything around the engine and gear box so we can jack up the engine to pull the transmission out. Our next task to to find someone who has the parts and can rebuild it for us. This can be a very frustrating part of cruising .... a complete lack of knowledge of where to get parts or help in an unfamiliar area.

We got the transmission out and found the damper plate in about thirty pieces inside the bell housing. New damper plate on order and having the transmission rebuilt and replacing the oil cooler even though they seem fine. It is just not worth this effort and not replace everything while we have the access.

The culprit damper plate
Transmission out
November 16, 2017 from West Palm Beach, Florida.
At Anchor waiting for a weather window to cross to Bahamas. There were several good windows last week but they seem to be thinning out now. We are anchored just across from Abramovich' yacht. His three tenders are each bigger than our boat and he has a swimming pool but does not have a Sharon .... poor guy !. Sharon claimed she was making a repair to the bottom of the cockpit table. I suspect there was alcohol involved.

Alcohol involvement ?

Anchored across from Abramovich' yacht
October 11, 2017 from Indian Harbour, Florida.

After spending the summer (boatless) in Ontario we wandered back to Florida for the winter cruising season and we do mean "wandered". NY, OH, PA, WV. KY, (fantastic caves), MS, TN (had to see Graceland), AK, AL, GA and finally Florida and home to DIRT FREE.

We had almost 2 weeks in the storage field (no power or water), hurricane strapped to the ground before we could get her moved to the work yard for two weeks where we had some significant projects planned (Man plans, God Laughs), then two weeks on the dock grateful for the a/c. We were not expecting to take more than a week just to clean the boat inside and out due to sugar cane ash, extreme heat and humidity damage (could not open most lockers) along with frogs, ants and crawly bugs inside the boat. We took all the recommended precautions, putting scrubbies in the throughulls, pans of charcoal, tubs of DampRid, wipe everything down with vinegar etc. but we will never leave the boat in a Florida summer again.

Our first project was to replace our failed dripless seal unit which meant also removing the shaft flange. This alone took two weeks of working doubled over like a pretzel for very long days. The failed seal had sprayed salt water over the flange, fuel tanks and gear unit. The flange had virtually rust welded to the shaft.
Indiantown Marina
After working very long days in 105°F with devasting humidity I gave up, bought a reciprocating saw and a 7.5" disc grinder and cut it off. It came off in 11 pieces and even that took two days due to heat and limited access.

Other projects included cutting out a corroded aluminum (idiot builder) waste tank and building a new integral epoxy tank, new toilet (didn't feel like rebuilding), new Bullet Wifi antenna system, new GPS antenna for the Standard Horizon plotter (dead internal battery, who knew ?) , new solar system with Kyocera 170Watt panel with Blue Sky MPPT controller, new cork sole in the v-berth to match the rest of the boat, new bottom paint, re-painting non-skid, new custom made freezer door, expand size of freezer and install new dinghy hoisting cables ..... Lots of photos below.

We Leave Indiantown in a few minutes with a few smaller projects on the wish list but it's time to get out of here. Real life is on the water so we'll complete and detail other projects as we complete them over the winter in the Sea of Abaco.

to cut up the aluminum (stooopid builder) waste tank to get it out

Waste tank out and bilge cleaned and ready for epoxy

Four layers of biax cloth and two gallons of epoxy, same for the top plate

New tank completed and all put back together

Old flange, two weeks of back breaking work and 11 $%#@&% pieces !

New dripless seal, shaft flange and compartment cleaned of rust

Sharon pulled up the old carpet (not good on a cruising boat), always full of sand.

Then laid new cork tiles. Note the compound curve cuts, not an easy task

Entire solar installation done in one day and we are thrilled.

Most of the day was spent just running cables
Others tell of nightmare complexity programming the Bullet but thumbs up to Sailors Solutions for their plug'n'play, pre-programmed Bullet Wifi system. One half day install
On our trip south last year we built a freezer while underway. The door was a rather crude plywood unit with foam board glued to it. It worked but we knew we could do better.

Soo .... back in Ontario for the summer we built this gasketed, 5" thick aluminum frame unit and installed it while in Indiantown. It works much better but as always I have another idea on how to gasket it even better. Unfortunately we can't do that til' we eat the 30lbs. of meat in there.

Old temporary door
New freezer door
It hasn't all been hard work, we also took a couple of date days. One at the Indiantown Rodeo a first for both of us.
Date day number two - Finally convinced Sharon to try sushi .... she liked it ! Spent the day doddling around Port Salerno visiting marine consignment shops and walking the docks
Look closely, this rusty old boat was built using the roof and glass work from an old Studebaker.
Entrance to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky Mammoth and fascinating
Entrance to Mammoth Caves, Kentucky
Mammoth and fascinating


Elvis had same taste in decor as his clothes
2016 - Random photos of our cruise from Toronto to the Sea of Abaco

Sharon Paints and sketches for the entire trip

Swimming pigs on No Name Cay

I Win - Wallace

Little Harbour, Sea of Abaco

Beer flavoured ice cream ...... works for Sharon :)

Marsh Habour sunset

stingrays at Manjack Cay

Lunch - oysters and blue crab

Wallace slaves over a hot stove

Never gets old !

Dirt Free at Little Harbour

It ain't all lobster and rum

Queen of my world

Wallace and the Bean

6' nurse shark

DIRT FREE from the Elbow Reef Lighhouse

Sharon likes to do sunsets

Another Sharon sunset

Tahiti Beach

Sharon and Wallace on Tahiti Beach

Sharon's sketch of Sharon and Wallace :)

Manjack Cay

A Wallace Arrangement

I hold Sharon's beers while she takes my photo

Oh Sharon, what have you done ?

My lucky pants ..... very lucky !

Sharon at Manjack Cay

Spinning rod, trolling rod & Hawaiian sling - Lets go out for lunch today Sharon

Eagle ray off our stern

Lunch :)

Wallace doesn't always slave over a hot stove

No swimming !

Lunch and dinner

Simply the best

The Bean and Wallace

This beauty got stepped on :(

Lobster & chicken

Elbow Reef lighthouse from DIRT FREE :)

A Sharon sunset with Lobster. short ribs, coleslaw & basmati rice- This never gets old either :)

Sharon and Wallace

Sharon and Wallace

A Sharon arrangement

Bikes at the beach

Oh Sharon, what have you done ?

Albany, NY

Troy, NY

Phoenix, NY

Cape May, NJ

Atlantic City

Atlantic City

NJ Ferry terminal on the Hudson

An entire cheesecake for dessert

Sharon's first loaf made onboard

Whooo Hoooo ! Sharon let me drive for a while

Music in every park on the NY State canal System

We have no idea !

Sluice lock on the Erie

Sharon loves locks :) .... a very unusual woman.

Phoenix, NY

Sandy Hook, NJ

Jamaica Bay, NY City

Elliott Cut, SC

Upper Hudson River

Cleaning debris from NY State canal after heavy rain
Phoenix, NY
Blue Rose Inn, Cape May, NJ. Return to our honeymoon inn

10 more and I have a meal

Waterford, NY

Lyon, NY

Phoenix, NY

Erie Canal lock

Lake Oneida anchorage

Phoenix, NY

Seneca Canal Lock

Erie canal lock

Oswego, NY

Croton on the Hudson at anchor

Yonkers, NY

Canajoharie, NY

Canajoharie, NY

Canajoharie, Ny

Canajoharie, NY

Oswego, NY

Sylvan Beach, NY

Sharon lets me drive sometimes

Sharon and a glass of wine on the beach ....... go figure :)

Yonkers, NY

Yonkers, NY, free dock

Bike Night, Syvan Beach, NY. Our Trek bikes have belt drive just like the Harley's

No idea where this is :)

We fit right in with the Harley's

Canajoharie, NY

Canal weeds in the strainer every day

Like the sign says

Fulton, New York

Erie Canal

Dredges on the Erie Canal
My Sharon at Fulton NY Dirt Free giant next to Ranger tug

Tugs on the Erie Canal

Flight locks into Waterford NY at the Hudson
What did you expect :)

oops ! saw this too late

Little Falls NY

Best burgers, Copper Moose, Little Falls. marinated in porter beer & served with melted porter cheese

Liberty Park, Liberty Island NY

Little Falls NY

Manhattan background

Ribs marinated in whiskey and molasses mmmmmmmmmmmmmm :)

We do eat well :)

Manhattan from our slip at Liberty Landing

Ellis Island

Ferry from Liberty Island to Ellis Island

The original flame

Model of Liberty's framework
Inside the Statue of Liberty
At anchor, cape May NJ

Many of the photos above are from the NY State Canal System, one of the best and cheapest cruising grounds around. If you'd like to know more about this system take a look at our Cruising the NY State Canal System article for many more photos of this beautiful system.