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16 February 2011 @ 05:26 pm
now moved to new home port  
It has been a busy and important time since Grounhog Day when I last made a journal entry.

The weather was "unsettled" from Wednesday, February 2nd until Friday, February 11th, keeping me pinned in safe places in case the cold from the north decided to push into Florida one more time. It finally did, on Monday, February 7th. Even though no watches were issued, a frightening squall line formed along the cold front, and when it was directly over me, the National Weather Service issued another tornado warning for the cell I was in the middle of, AFTER it was already clobbering me. If I had not been following my own instincts, I would not have tucked the boat deep in among the trees at the State Park over two hours before the squall line formed. NONE of the forecasts predicted anything like what happened, and then suddenly tornado warnings were issued after it was already happening. I was told the TV stations in Orlando and Daytona Beach interrupted programming until the cell had moved into the Atlantic, showing it on radar and warning people in its path to take shelter. My boat would have been severely damaged if I was not in those trees, because I could see it blowing across the water.

Then, for the next few days, until Friday the 11th, the temperatures, the clouds, and the winds kept fluctuating as the cold air mixed with the warm air that was already here.

But all the forecasts said Saturday, February 12th would be the beginning of a long, calm, fairly sunny and fairly warm period that would extend into the end of February at least. FINALLY! If true, this would be the first such period since before Thanksgiving.

I knew for sure by Saturday that I needed to move to North Shell, and I knew for sure I needed to use this nice weather to get it done, the sooner the better.

On Saturday morning, I did one final experiment that I needed to before making the 11.5-mile trip. This was a test of the 2HP gas motor on the little green tender sticking out the back of the main boat. I swiveled the motor 180 degrees, sat with feet in the tender and pointing backwards. I started the motor and tested it as my alternate way to drive my main boat with green tender still strapped under. Even though everything was moving backwards, this process was safe and the boats moved fast and smooth, and control was not a problem. So, I had finally fully tested my backup propulsion system in case the main method (electric) was completely broken.

That accomplished, I began the journey at 7:35 AM.

It went well for the first leg, the 3.16 miles down Spring Garden Run, which was sunny and calm, and I took my time to save electricity.

Then at 10:45 AM, I took a deep breath and began the 2.5-mile crossing of Lake Woodruff southward along the eastern shore. Immediately, everything I've come to hate about lakes manifested with a vengeance. -The wind started being from the west instead of the north for some reason, and it tripled in speed from that in the run I had just left. And the eastern shore was shallower than the Coast Guard charts implied, so I had to drive farther out, where the chop and small waves were.
After having to let the boat spin helplessly for a few seconds twice (because of 17-mile-per-hour gusts), I somehow made it all the way to the southern shore, and the next river, by 12:05. This next river is the Norris Dead River, which I'd be on almost until my destination.

It was nice on that river. My only complaint was that cirrus clouds began dimming the sun somewhat from about 2:30 on, so I had less solar energy keeping the batteries charged.

I reached the Ziegler Dead River, which is where North Shell is, just about 4 PM, and then went the last 0.9 miles on Ziegler, arriving at North Shell at 4:35 PM, exactly nine hours after I had left Tedders. There were two ten minute breaks, so the 11.5-mile trip took 8 hours and 40 minutes.

I did it the way I wanted, taking all day because slower speeds are so much more energy efficient. In fact, I calculated that I consumed only about 1300 watt-hours of electricity! Of course, the primary direction although it curved a lot was north to south, and the wind, except on Lake Woodruff was from the north. But even so, 1300 watt-hours to move a house boat 11.5 miles is still very impressive.

So, I've been here almost four days now. What has happened since Saturday afternoon?

Well, I've explored all the little inlets and canals here at North Shell. On Sunday, Bob Costa came to check out North Shell as a possible home port for his paddlewheeler he is finishing, and he took me to Tedders to get my car. Yesterday I learned how to park my boat in the long boat shed and was quite pleased.

I've met a handful of people here already, but I sure do miss those at Tedders already. On Sunday, when I tied up and covered my Porta-Bote, which will stay at Tedders at least for a few months, I felt really sad when I said goodby to Jack and LH.

Finally, there is one thing that did not go well. That is the health of one of my two main batteries. Before the trip, I was a little bit worried about the voltage levels, but not that much. But after the trip, that battery had expended itself much more than the other one, and was down to 10.8 volts. Yesterday, I bought a 15-amp fast charger, which would restore it if it was still a good battery. But this morning, after over ten hours, the voltage still refused to go over 11.3, so I just bought a new battery, exchanging the old one as a core.

I have a theory about why the battery died prematurely, and I am going to change my charging and usage procedures from now on hoping both batteries will stay healthy now for a long time.

Here is a new gallery, showing Google Earth pictures of the route I took Saturday at different zoom levels, and showing a few pictures I've already taken here at North Shell:

February 12th-16th, 2011