Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Milestone

  Starting with the good stuff about living here in Key West on our boat; the picture is from one of our afternoons on the dinghy at the Boca Chica sandbar. No, we aren't trying to rig up a sail for the dinghy, we just use the umbrella for shade when Holly gets too hot.
  Today marks exactly two years since we moved onto Swing Set full time. If you've been reading our blog this whole time you know that for the most part it's been a very positive experience and we wouldn't trade the last two years for anything. Even though we are staying put here at Stock Island Marina Village for a while, there are still fun things to do, and side trips to make, but we have some outstanding projects going on and we want to clear them up before we take a trip to Fort Jefferson in a few weeks.

  Rats. I think we have beat them. I mentioned in the last post about finding some rat poop in our cockpit. I searched online and found some rat guards made in China, ranging from $60 to $75. Too much for us to spend. We wanted four of them, so I spent one sleepless night thinking about how to make some.
  I tried making some plastic circles cut from some Tupperware containers, but the material was too brittle and cracked when I was trying to cut them. I even considered cutting some circles out of a discarded Tidy Cat container, but the circles would have been too small to be effective. Going through the trash bins around the marina was a humbling experience, but I've had lots of those.
  Rosie and I took a trip to Home Depot on the Zuma. I knew the basic design I was going to use, but I had to find something to use for the disks. We weren't in the store two minutes when I saw these lids to five gallon buckets stacked up next to the buckets. Bingo!
  Then we went to the plumbing department and I found some 3/4" PVC pipe connection fittings and tossed them into our basket, and out the door we went.
  Back at the boat, I drilled a one inch hole into the middle of each lid, and then sandwiched the lid between each fitting. The resulting tube is about four inches long, and this tube prevents the lid from tilting onto our dock line. As you can see in the picture, I tied a knot on either end of where I wanted the guard to sit. The disks spin, so when a rat tries to climb over the guard, the guard spins and spits the rat off into the water. Or so it is supposed to work.
  For the power cords and water line, I put three holes adjacent to the tube on the guard that I installed on our stern. I made a slit from the edge of this guard towards these holes, and then slipped the water hose and power cords into the middle of the guard. This way we can easily slip the water hose and power cords out for when we undo them for a cruise. This disk won't spin as easily as the rest, but we're hoping that any rat using this particular entry point will be lazy and just turn around at the obstruction.
  My buddy James says that our boat is too close to the dock, but the rats that have been spotted aren't St. Louis sized, (think beaver), plus for this picture and my installation the boat was pushed against the dock. We keep Swing Set out from the dock more than this typically.
  We did put a cheapo rat trap in the cockpit, one that Holly can't get into, but we haven't seen anymore rat poop. One of our boat neighbors put some traps out and they did catch one rat that was feasting on their dogs food, inside their boat. I think they keep their salon door closed at night now.

  A few days ago we spied these two manatees in the harbour. I say they were "frolicking", but one has to understand that there is a very fine line between when a manatee is frolicking, and when a manatee is doing absolutely nothing.
  We considered putting Holly on their backs for a photo op, but we're sure the act would have been considered a manatee molestation of some sort.
  Lots of scars and missing hunks on the larger one. We read that the bone structure in the flipper of the manatee is similar to the bone structure in a human. Considering some of the humans we have met over the years, I can see how that is true. If you zoom in on the picture, you can actually discern five fingernails on the ends of their flippers. No lie.
  We've been to a few mooring fields and anchorages over the last two years that have a VHF Cruisers Net. At a specified time each morning, everyone gets on their VHF on a dedicated channel and discusses old business, new business, who just came in, who is planning leaving, things for sale, and help wanted, etc. Some times the three people tuned into a net like this can take a whole five minutes to go through the list.
  Stock Island Marina Village has a website and a Facebook page, but I had inquired about using the SIMV Facebook page for a cruisers network, but it was suggested that we just start a group of our own. So we did.
  We launched a Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network last weekend. We distributed some flyers, sent some requests out to folks we knew, and asked everyone to spread the word. The group is open, so posting is easy. There are 27 members so far, but not too much activity yet. Wait until someone posts the first really controversial subject and then watch out!
We sent invitations for all of the marina staff to join but so far only one has. That's a bit of a disappointment. We view the group as an opportunity for the marina to dispel rumors or bad information. Like everything else, we'll see how it goes.
  Our dinette is on the second go around on the matter of getting recovered. All Keys Canvas has the first section and we hope to get it back before weeks end, then they'll take the second section and perhaps by the end of next week we'll have a nice newly upholstered dinette to sit on. This is our hope.
  Tyler Shealey at Castaway Customs came to the boat a couple of weeks ago and measured for new SeaDek pads for our stairs on Swing Set. It appears that the old pads started curling up on the edges because they are black, and the black was absorbing the heat and making them curl. Tyler is promising new pads that will be brown and cream colored to resembling a teak and holly combo. We'll post pictures when we get them installed. Tyler says the new pads are on him.
  Our new bimini top and Stratoglass enclosure should be shipped to us in a few days. I'll have to install the Lift-the-Dot snaps. Boatswain's Locker will provide the tool so I can install the snaps, and I'll have to return the tool to them when I'm done. I'm a little nervous about not only how everything will fit, but also about my ability to install the snaps. You can be sure there will be pictures of the final product. Either that, or a nice obituary after I kill myself after I mess the whole thing up.
  Our friends, Gary and Judy, who live in the St. Louis area and also have a condo in Cape Coral, are down for a few days. They're staying on a boat over at Oceanside Marina, and we have a mission to show them around Stock Island instead of hitting the regular places downtown. We've already been to Hogfish and the Rusty Anchor, two of our favorites.
  Since my last post, I had a reader send an email, admitting that he had only read a couple of the recent blog posts, but he wanted to learn how we started out boating, and what prompted us to embark on our adventures. Really? I guess I could have re-written everything I've posted for the last two and a half years, but instead I politely suggested that he just go to the blog and start reading it at the beginning. Get back to me if you have any questions. We'll be here.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Having Other People Do Things For You Is A Lot Of Work Sometimes

  Let's start with some fun stuff! In the picture above is James and Marny with us at Turtle Kraals last week. James and Marny are friends we met at Lake of the Ozarks late in the last century. We haven't seen them since we left St. Louis almost two years ago. They came down with their son Alex on the Key West Express, a ferry that operates from Fort Meyers, where they had been visiting Gary and Judy, our mutual friends in Cape Coral.
  The weather was great last week and we were able to spend time at Dante's pool and get Swing Set out of her slip two days in a row. We took a 34 mile route one day out around the western end of Key West to show James and Marny downtown from the water, and then we cruised out to Sand Key Light where we saw the sunken Tug Boat Tilly on the way.
  There really wasn't much to see of Tilly, she's in thirty-five feet of water and only the light mast is sticking above the waterline. There is a danger buoy in place and Active Captain already has the spot marked on our Garmin Bluechart Mobile chart. I think they should just send divers down and cut off the super structure and let it fall, providing a cool diving spot, yet keeping her well below the surface so it's not an obstacle. The DEP will probably "study" the situation for a couple of years.
  We had another day out on Swing Set with James and Marny on the following day, but we mostly hung on the hook and enjoyed the sun, something they haven't been able to do back in St. Louis. We put Swing Set on plane for a bit to see if she was still running good, and she is, however this report most likely will jinx everything. "Never brag about your boat" is an adage I usually adhere to, but I also like to tempt fate.
  Rosie and I also found time last week to run by Geslin Sailmakers where our dinette, or at least half of it, was being re-upholstered, but it was closed and no one was around. This was not a real big surprise as it was the morning after St. Patty's Day, and this is Key West. But we also buzzed by there on Friday and was met again with a dark shop and no one home. Oh oh.
  I called Peter, the owner, on Monday morning to tell him we'd like to come by and see how the work was coming along. When he got back to us he told us he'd like for us to come by "for a chat". Oh oh.
  We entered the shop and there was our dinette section, placed nice and neat on a table, still only half finished, apparently nothing having been done on it since Peter's assistant took off. Three weeks had gone by and only the base of the seat had been upholstered, and upon closer inspection, Rosie and I were both not happy with what had been done so far.
  Peter was very nice and offered to refund our substantial deposit and return what is left of our dinette seat. We discussed the possibility of giving him more time, but in the end we decided to take our money back and go elsewhere to have the work completed.

  We couldn't take the dinette parts back on the scooter, so Peter delivered them the next day and I put them back in place, covering the undone section with three towels and fastening them in place with bungee cords. This is not a look we are going for, but at least we have our seating back while we plot out our next course of action.
  Before we had even gotten our dinette section back, I had contacted Boatswain's Locker, the folks who are making our Bimini top. Karina at Boatswain's Locker promised to make some inquiries at Sea Ray about getting new "skins" for our seats, plus see about what other options we had available to us.
  I also contacted another marine upholsterer in Key West that we saw advertised on a Marine Fabricators Association website, but they apparently are out of business.
  Karina got back with us in short order with some bad news. Sea Ray only keeps the patterns for upholstery for seven years and then destroys them! Who knows any boats less than seven years old that needs new upholstery? One way to sell new boats is to make it hard to restore old boats, I guess.
  The good news that Karina had was that they could recover our seats if we sent them up to their facility in Jacksonville, FL. We're looking into that option, but meanwhile, I again reached out to another shop locally, All Keys Canvas, located here on Stock Island.
  Dave Cutler from All Keys Canvas came by yesterday and is working up a quote. His shop has been in business since the 1950's. I hope we can get a fair quote from him to avoid shipping our dinette seats up to Jacksonville. My worst fear is that we lose the seats altogether and I have to have someone fabricate them from scratch.
  On the bright side, Boatswain's Locker is going to make a new sunscreen for our windshield at one third of the cost of what Geslin was going to charge, not to mention that our early dealings with Geslin is how we wound up contacting Boatswain's Locker in the first place, again saving a lot of money on a new Bimini and enclosure.
  I would still recommend Geslin Sailmakers for most canvas work, particularly sails, because Peter really is a nice guy and I thing he is honest. Sometimes honesty is the best thing to have. He's eating the cost of our materials, saying he'll use the vinyl on a future walk-in job. No hard feelings from us.
  I do want to mention that our friend James (who visited last week) has a fledgling canvas business he has started in the St. Louis area, Marine Canvas Solutions. Google it our look for it on Facebook. Admittedly James is "learning as he is going", but his prices reflect that, and he is somewhat of a perfectionist. Have him do some work for you while his prices are low!
  A dock neighbor has spotted a rat on his boat the other night, and since then, we have found rat poop in our cockpit. Rats are around boats, and have been for thousands of years, but not on our boat.
  We don't suspect that they have gotten inside, just nosing around outside, checking on our trash can, etc., but we're taking an offensive approach.
  First, no more "garbage" gets placed in the trash can outside. We'll only put beer cans and potty pads from Holly in there. (It seems like that is the only thing ever in there anyway.) Secondly, I'm putting out some traps, and we've asked the marina to do the same. We won't use poison on the boat due to Holly being around. I'm also going to make some rat guards for our dock lines, and have been thinking about a good way to make them.
  Rat guards are on the mooring lines of all big ships, but they can be found for small boats, but are expensive. Once I make ours I'll post a picture of the finished product. Rats can sink a ship, large or small, so we'll launch an all out effort to prevent them.
  We had great weather last weekend and explored some new areas in the dinghy. We took a looksee at the Harbour Keys just north of here and found a very nice pristine beach area, it being a beach only at low tide. Rosie and I were walking around on it when a two foot long shark came snooping by. It was funny watching Rosie high stepping it back to the dinghy like she was being chased by Jaws. Propriety prevents me from posting a picture of the episode.
  We also spent the day Sunday at the Boca Chica sandbar where we met a few folks, some down on vacation, and some locals too. The Boca Chica sandbar is close for us and we usually find someone to share a beer with.
  Some fierce winds blew in here on Tuesday night and we are getting rocked around here at the dock. Temperatures even dipped into the mid 60's yesterday and we made a big ol' pot of chicken noodle soup from a recipe I've had from my paternal grandmother for years and years. It was a good day for soup, of which you don't get many of, here in Key West.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Zoomin' On The Zuma!

  Here's Rosie standing next to our new Yamaha 125cc Zuma, the 15th motorcycle I've ever owned, and even though it's technically a scooter, it belongs on the list of motorcycles. You Harley riders will just have to live with that.
  Even though a better deal could have been made on a larger used bike of some kind, once you begin to learn the ins and outs of scooter parking here in Key West, you can quickly see that smaller is better. If you can't find a secure place to lock your ride to a post or rack with a cable, you won't have it long, and the Zuma is the most stolen scooter in the Keys, mainly because it's the most popular.
  Being a popular model, it will make selling it that much easier when or if the time comes to go somewhere else, but in a pinch we can stick this small vehicle in the cockpit for a trip to another marina or area. For the time being, we have the Zuma locked up next to our Yuba Boda Boda. I remember when I only knew about Schwinns and Chevy's.

  Speaking of models, here's one sittin' on our Zuma. Notice how the girl in the background can't keep her eyes off of this stylish creature? Must be the shorts.
  Even though we've been doing a good job of getting around the island on our bicycle, the marina shuttle, and other public transportation (with little success), we still felt limited in where and when we wanted to go. When we were traveling constantly, we just dealt with that, but since we've decided to stay put for a while there is no reason to retrict ourselves so much.
  Other things are happening too. We contracted with a local sailmaker and upholsterer to recover our dinette and to make a new windscreen cover. The dinette had some major surgery some years ago in St. Louis, but we tried to marry a new cloth seating area with the still good looking vinyl around the edges of both seats and we began to see the vinyl start to fail about a year ago. It was time.
  We did have a setback yesterday. Peter Goldsmith, the owner of Geslin Sailmakers, came by yesterday to tell us that the woman he had down here from Maine to help him with some of his upholstery work has left the building, so to speak.
  It turns out that she had come down with a major case of the Keys Disease, a malady that attacks many of the transients that arrive here. The sickness causes people to miss work, or just quit work altogether, especially if the weather is good and the fish are biting. It also affects the liver.
  Peter already has a helper lined up and he has assured us that we'll get our dinette back in one piece in a reasonable amount of time. In Key West, the term "reasonable" has a broad definition. At the core here is that we like Peter, and for that he's going to get a fair amount of latitude from us. This is why I always keep a pleasant demeanor about me. For the latitude.
  We've been also contemplating getting a new Bimini top and enclosure made, and even mentioned it to Peter, but we figured we'd have to wait until next year to address it, given the expense of the new generator, the current upholstery work, and of course the much needed Zuma scooter. But I got curious one day and started looking into a replacement top and enclosure made by the company that made the top in the first place for Sea Ray.
  I was searching the Internet and found outfits that will arrange to have a new top and other "factory made" canvas made, once you give them a hull identification number, but some of these outfits are in varying locations across the U.S., so I figured there had to be a main factory where they had the work done. It was easy to find out.
  Our 18 year old original top still has the tag attached to it with the name "Boatswain's Locker" and a phone number. Yep. Number was still in service and a very nice girl took my call and assured me that they were still in business here in south Florida. I gave her our hull identification number and she told me exactly what came with our Sea Ray from the factory, made right there at their facility.
  Within a day I had a bid back, at less than half of what I thought it would cost us. They quoted us a price that reflected a 30% discount and free shipping if we ordered everything this month. Sunbrella and Seamark (lined material for the top) materials with Gortex thread, lightly smoked Stratoglas for the windows, along with better zippers than original and new Lift the Dot snaps, with shipping, were quoted at less than six grand. We can't possibly have a new top and enclosure made from a local canvas maker. Even Peter agreed.
  We sent Boatswain's Locker a VISA deposit and they sent a sample so we could see the colors of the canvas and the Stratoglas. We should have it by the middle of April.
  I've also surrendered in the war of the barnacles, at least for now. The other day I spent four hours under the boat cleaning the bottom and even if you remove the nagging feeling that you're about to be lunch for any lurking creature that comes near, scraping is scraping, whether it's above water or not, and it's not a good endeavor for anyone with joint issues. And I have joint issues.
  A fella just happened to be scrubbing the bottom of a 57 foot sailboat on our dock and I asked him for a card and a ballpark quote. The price I got was for $2.75 per foot, which is under $120 bucks for our boat. That would be for a once a month job and I don't have to get my toes wet. Sign us up. We spend more than that on a night out, and I don't have to worry about drowning or getting eaten by shark.

  We had some storms come through southern Florida recently, and there was even tornadoes in the forecast. On the night of the storm pictured above, a boat a few slips over sustained some extensive lightening damage and I think I witnessed the strike first hand. At first I thought we had been struck ourselves.
  In addition, some of the dock boxes were blown off the docks and into the briny deep, which prompted me to have a discussion with Mark, our new dockmaster.
  My concern, as I presented it to Mark, was that the boxes were not attached to the docks by any method other than the weight of two bricks per box, and I want to see a more permanent method to attach them by the time hurricane season comes in another couple of months.
  I had mentioned this same thing to one of the staff when we first got here and was told that due to the fact that drilling into the concrete docks was not something the marina management wanted to consider, some new fangled brackets were being made just for this marina, and they were on their way. They must be on a slow truck.
  Mark has been slammed with issues since he started his job recently and prioritizing problems is, well, a problem, but the issue of the dock boxes are on his radar screen for sure.
  He mentioned that the current plan was to remove the boxes in the event of an approaching storm, but I countered with the fact that that solution was not only labor intensive when there would be other things to worry about if a hurricane is breathing down our necks, what about the contents of each box? The owners of boats may need the contents of the box that is assigned to their slip, especially if they want to store items in the box that they'd like to have off of the boat when a storm comes.
  We both agreed that making holes in the concrete is out, as eventually the holes will compromise the concrete in the way of cracking and such, so he mentioned using epoxy to glue the boxes down was another method being considered, but I asked him to also consider that using epoxy was not only expensive, but it would leave a mess if the box was ever to be moved if a boat owner wanted some flexibility in the location of the box. (I, for one, would like the box to be offset to the side of where it is now if we ever needed to park "bow in" at some point.) I think I've convinced him that using an epoxy is not a good idea.
  I've been around a lot of docks, and in areas of the country that are conducive to tornadoes and floods, and even had our own docks on the Meramec River for 20 years, so I know a little about mounting dock boxes and keeping docks, so I threw my idea out there.
  If I had my way, I'd use a twelve inch length of 2x4 inside each box on either end, with a hole drilled through one side of it (because the boxes sit on the edge of a skirting) to accommodate a 3/8" lag bolt, either stainless steel or galvanized, 5 or 6 inches long. Because the skirting surrounding the concrete decking is made of PVC "lumber", backed by thick treated framing under it, the two lag bolts only need to be drilled through the 2x4 in the box, then through the thin fiberglass of the box, through the PVC decking, and then into the thick framing of the dock. The 2x4s will keep the dockbox from tipping and breaking a hole in the bottom of the box, and using a 3/8" bolt will keep it from snapping off.
  The other issue is that the management here doesn't want to put any holes in the PVC decking. A couple of holes in the decking will be invisible, as will the method of attaching the boxes, but if one wanted to move a box and leave some holes exposed in the decking, those holes will be a lot better to have than a bunch of dock boxes flying around in a storm, and just yesterday they added two more bricks per box as a short term solution, I guess, so now each six foot dock box missile is armed with four bricks each. Could do some serious damage to a boat. Decking material is much cheaper to replace than a boat window.
  It was also actually mentioned that another solution would be to fill each box with water if a storm is coming to weight them down. Really? If removing the boxes, or filling them with water and bricks is the answer, if I was the owners here I'd just sell them back to the supplier and get my money back because the boxes will be of no use to the boat owners when they really need them, and that's to put belongings in when a storm comes, and have access to them immediately after.
 I hope I can get someone to seriously consider my idea to mount these boxes, and I'm going to be beating that drum whenever I can, but I'm the "new guy", and the new guy never knows anything.
  That's why it was so hard at the beer factory to get an idea across, because the turnover in junior management was so frequent, the senior beer brewers were still only "new guys" to them and they had to constantly prove themselves to college age kids, or otherwise older brewmasters with "stuck in a rut" ideas.
  So why do I care? Because I hate to see anyone waste money. Somebody here needs to do a cost analysis, in terms of materials and labor, plus any added liability if they fail to prevent damage to an expensive yacht due to a flying dock box. Seems like a no brainer to me. Maybe this is a military installation and money is no object.

  Progress is seen everyday here at the marina, though. Look at the picture of this 200+ foot dive boat that is here for a stay! There really is no other marinas in the area that can accommodate a boat of this size, and the piers at Mallory Square are strictly for the big cruise ships.
  Otherwise, we had a visit with some folks following the blog. They don't have a boat yet and they wanted to discuss some of their options for when they go looking. Hope we gave them some ideas, and dispelled some others.
  Our blog is not only inspiring non-boat owners, some friends back home on the Mississippi are beginning plans to retire and come down this way in 14 months or so, and thanked us for being their inspiration. That makes us feel good.
  What doesn't make us feel good is folks who resent the fact that we are retired down here enjoying great weather and they are still working and dealing with the cold and snow. We paid our dues. Don't be hatin'.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Red Tug Boat Is Gone, Really Gone

  I'm starting this post with a picture that was taken by "Ferd" when the Fenton gang was down here a couple of weeks ago, just because we like the photo so much.
  Ferd is Sharon's boyfriend and Sharon is the pretty woman smiling between Rosie and I when we spent the afternoon at Schooner's Wharf.
  Now, I'm not a reporter, so I don't have to research the facts, and I won't because then this becomes work and I'm not looking for more work. But the facts, as I know them, about the red tug boat that I wrote about a couple of blogs ago, is that we woke up one day and Tilly was being escorted out of the channel into Safe Harbor, as promised, one month after it came here.
  The boat, when we first saw it, was named "Tilly" and if you Google "Tug Tilly", you'll find lots of stories about it, but Tilly was tied next to a sea wall at the marina next door, and mangroves had taken root in the barnacles that had grown up to a foot thick at the waterline.
  As I have stated before, one morning we found "Tilly" tied up just a few yards away from where we first saw her, at a T-head on F dock here at Stock Island Marina Village.
  News reports say that the boat had no engines, and that some local shrimpers helped the owner float that boat to the dock here, and the staff member who "checked the boat in" had been called and told that an 85 foot motor yacht was coming into the marina. There was some cardboard hand made signs in the pilothouse windows advertising Tilly as having a new name, "Sea Gypsy". I can only assume that the reservation made for this vessel was made under the new name.
  The staff member told me first hand that he took cash for the slip rental for one month, which for a boat this size would have been over two thousand dollars. I can only assume that the money was taken without seeing the boat. I assume this because SIMV doesn't have a policy requiring vessel owners to provide proof of ownership, registration, insurance, or anything else when reservations are made. Maybe they need to rethink that.
  So, having paid up front for a month's rent, the marina allowed the boat to stay, but the owner was told that when one month was up, he had to go. The marina manager told me this first hand too.
  The boat owner, soon after he arrived, made an attempt to bring homeless folks onto the boat to start a commune of sorts, but marina policy doesn't allow subleasing a vessel once it is here, so a stop was put to folks going onboard.
  You saw the pictures of the little outboards attached to the stern of Tilly, but I'm not sure how the conversations went with the owner and the new dockmaster, but the owner had some things to say in the media that don't ring true to me in regard to how he was "made to leave" the marina.
  One thing I know is that if the marina doesn't take your rent money, you have to leave, and my personal belief is that if the marina wants you out, you're out. Period.
  Another news story says that the owner was duped into buying the boat, but I don't see how this is a problem for the marina here, but think about it from this perspective; let's say a guest comes to your house, under false pretenses or not, and decides to stay the night, or a week, or a month. Maybe forever. Don't you have a right to kick the person out?
  What if someone parks a camper in your front yard, likes the view, and decides to stay a while, rent free. If the camper fails to start, do you have to allow this person to stay until he decides to repair the camper so it can be driven away under its own power?
  Once Tilly was out of the channel into Safe Harbor, an anchor was set (so I've heard), but the anchor dragged and the boat drifted west, endangering other vessels, especially at night because no running lights were on the boat.
  Various tales have been told about how the boat sank, but sink it did, in 35 feet of water, inside the reef near Sand Key.
  There is a lot of finger pointing going on, but the marina is keeping mum. Probably best that they do, because the boat owner just looks like an idiot in the videos and news stories that we have been seeing.
  Too bad the boat had to sink before the boat owner was able to fill it full of ex-patriots and head to Cuba to escape this horrible country, but for our part, we hope SIMV (Stock Island Marina Village) is not held to blame for any part of this fiasco. The Coast Guard has issued their stance as being that "the sole responsibility of a vessel is that of the owner, floating or not".
  Estimates for salvaging Tilly and removing it from the sea bottom are being reported as being $500,000 or more. I don't think the owner has that kind of money, or any money for that matter.
  We have contracted with a nearby sail making shop, Geslin Sailmakers, to re-upholster our dinette, and to make a new sun screen for the windshield on Swing Set. I'll be letting you know how that goes.
  We also had the seals, flush ball, flush cartridges, and shafts replaced on both of our toilets. Perry, the Head Honcho, came on the day he promised to come, and did the work in just under two hours. It's work I've done before, but I wanted to establish a business relationship with Perry so that when we have that real nasty job come up that I cannot, or will not do, Perry will already know us and he'll come to the rescue.
  Perry wouldn't take any money on the day the job was done, and we saw him a few days later and asked to get a bill. We did get the bill and, as promised, he only charged us for one hour labor, and at a reduced "local rate". His price for parts was a tad more than I found them for online, but try to get a computer to fix your toilet when it breaks.
  So far we have a good relationship here in Key West with Key West Engines for our main engines, Mark's Diesel of the Keys for our generator, an electrician, a small instrument technician, a canvas shop, and an authorized Sealand dealer in the Head Honcho. We are also becoming familiar at the local bars and restaurants. No doubt, right?
  We were in Hogfish last weekend and a woman we knew from years ago came by our table and we all recognized each other immediately. We hadn't seen her in over ten years and it was a pleasant surprise. She had a friend with her who is a local cop and he told me to drop his name if I ever got into trouble. This is invaluable networking!
  Last week we were contacted by one of our blog readers who were staying in their boat in Marathon. Jack and his wife Pat wanted to take the Lower Keys Transit System and come for a visit, so we spent a couple of hours with them onboard Swing Set. They're leaving their boat in Fort Meyers for the summer and going back to Arizona for a while, and then making the trip over to The Bahamas next winter and wanted some first hand advice about it. I hope they got it.
  Also last weekend we got a call from some friends that were down in Jupiter to see the Cardinals in a spring training game, and decided to drive down to Key West for a couple of days. Mike and Sherry were just here in November for a week and here we got to see them again! What a great surprise that was. Even better was them stopping by on their way out of town to drop off the beer they didn't drink while they were here. Somebody pinch me.
  Yesterday we got another visit from some friends that were also just here in October and were in for the afternoon aboard a cruise ship that was in port for the day as part of the "Kid Rock Cruise".

  On the left is Renee and Jeff, who are friends of Jeff and Sandy next to them. Jeff and Sandy are friends from LaGrange, KY, but we know them from boating up on the Mississippi. We took this picture at the Lazy Gecko, just one of the stops we made downtown on a too short visit by Jeff and Sandy. Always good to see them.
  Rosie and I have been discussing our options, and we became increasingly convinced that Key West, and Stock Island Marina Village will become our home for the foreseeable future, so we decided to get a small scooter to get around on the island.
  Scooter parking is free anywhere around here, and it seems like everyone has a scooter. We went to the local Yamaha dealer and ordered a new Zuma 125. It should be here by this weekend. It's still small enough to stick on the boat if we want to go somewhere else, but it's also a best seller, so we shouldn't have any trouble unloading it in the future if we want to. I'll show you pictures when we get it. We already bought helmets, not something that folks wear down here, but we might value what little brains we have more than the other people down here do.

  I'm closing out the blog with another photo taken by Robert "Ferd" Frank. It's a picture of "Coconut Row", which is the south pier at SIMV. Ferd took some other photos on his visit to Key West and you can see them on his website,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Even Setting Still, Things Break

  When the Fenton gang was here last week, Robert "Ferd" Frank was nice enough to take some photos, and even nicer to send them to us once they got sorted out.
 I explained to Ferd, that even though I do take a fair amount of photos on our travels, I like it when we have company and someone else is doing the camera work. I can then concentrate on the "captaining duties". There is distraction enough when the boat is loaded with passengers, let alone me having to drive and take photos too.

  Just look at this photo that Ferd took when we were all at the Hogfish Bar!
  Check out his website at for more of his spectacular photos.
  As indicated by the title of this blog, we still get systems failures on the boat even while parked here dockside. Like I told Eddie, one of the Fenton visitors, when he asked me how much do we work on the boat; I told him we are usually working on something every day.
  The latest thing to go wrong was found when Rosie flushed the toilet in the master head yesterday morning. The pedal wouldn't actuate smoothly, and the ball valve wouldn't seal, making the vacuum pump continue to run. My previous experience tells me that the shaft that connects to the ball valve was probably broken. This happened two years ago and the shaft and ball valve seal kit I bought at our local boatyard had some whiskers on it, meaning the dust was so thick on the packaging that I knew it was the old style, also meaning that the shaft was made of the original plastic, and not the bronze ones now sold.
  But the kit was in hand and available, so I bought it and put new seals and the kit in myself, but also knowing that the shaft would probably fail again in a few years. We are apparently at that point now.
  We rode our bike into town last night and arrived at Key West Marine Supply just after they had locked the doors for the day, but one of the staff unlocked the door and asked what we needed. I told him I needed a seal kit for a Sealand marine toilet, and he told me that I needed to contact Head Honcho of Key West for parts. I told him I knew Perry of Head Honcho, thanked him for opening the doors for us, and then rode over to the still open West Marine store just down Caroline Street, to see if they had what I was after. I was not surprised to find that West Marine did not have what I wanted, so I planned on calling Perry first thing in the morning.
  Another thing that broke was our hand held VHF radio. Our current unit is one we've had for about 17 years. It's an ICOM radio that I've been nursing along since we left St. Louis. I've had to discard the lithium battery and resorted to AA batteries instead. I've also had to do some soldering on it too, but I tried to use the radio when we were out on the dinghy last Sunday and the radio was on strike. I began to search for hand held VHF radios on, but first I decided to try fresh AA batteries, but of course we were out of that size.

  Which brings us back to our trip into "town" on Monday afternoon. Late afternoon, as you can tell from the photo above. Rosie is posing along North Roosevelt Road which has been torn up now for almost two years, but the road work is nearing completion.
  Palm trees line a section of scenic road for about three miles, and the new concrete bicycle and side walk have been completed for a couple of months now.
  It's a four and a half mile bike ride for us to downtown, but it's bike path nearly the whole way. Key West is very bicycle and scooter friendly. There are lots of places to lock up bikes, and scooter/motorcycle parking is free everywhere. Car parking is expensive, so it makes sense to ride two wheels.
  What doesn't make sense is the habit for everyone to not wear protective head gear. We wear ours; our feeble minds cannot afford brain damage too. I mean more brain damage.
  Our main reason to bike into town was to see a movie at the Tropic Cinema, but now we had a mission to visit Home Depot and the marine supply stores mentioned previously. I keep a running list of stuff we need at the store on the iPhone, so that when we get to any store, I can check the list and make sure we don't forget anything.
  One thing on the list was a wider paint scraper for scraping barnacles off the bottom of Swing Set. Strunk Ace Hardware had a dandy eight inch wide stainless steel scraper for a mere twelve bucks, which should work better on the bigger hull sections than the three inch one I've been using. Anything that will make scraping barnacles easier is money well spent.
  Our light in the Norcold refrigerator has stopped working, and the lamp base was found to be broken. New parts from Norcold are cost prohibitive, and shipping for the parts was more than the parts cost, so I decided to just install a new 12 volt light in our fridge, so it was another thing on our list, but except for high priced units at West Marine, I didn't find anything I wanted to buy at any of the places we went to. Amazon would be pressed into service when we got back to the boat.
  But we did get the scraper, some batteries, a small flashlight, some Soft Scrub, some stainless steel brackets to hang another mop handle when we want to, and some holding tank treatment solution that we found much cheaper at Home Depot than anywhere else.
  We saw a very good movie, American Hustle, and had a pleasant ride back to the boat, although we'll be much happier when the street lights along North Roosevelt are working. Even with the lights we have mounted on our Yuba bike, it is a very dark ride home from downtown.
  Once back to Holly and the boat, I tried the new batteries in our ICOM radio and found that that wasn't the answer. I didn't think things would be that simple, but I wanted to at least try easy before spending money on a new radio.
  I found a nice new ICOM unit on Amazon, plus a little 12 volt LED light for the refrigerator that I think I can make work. I also bought two shaft and ball seal kits for the Sealand toilets we have, but still planned on calling Head Honcho this morning.
  I got hold of Perry at Head Honcho this morning to find out if he would sell us parts and he said he would. He did suggest that we replace both shafts on our toilets because, like I already knew, the plastics ones are crap and the bronze ones will last. Perry knows us from just being around so much, so in order to establish a business relationship with us, he offered to replace the shafts and seals on both toilets for a one hour rate.
  I also thought it fair to employ him in this mundane task, knowing full well that we're going to have to call him at some point to do a chore on our head systems that we would rather not do, such as replace duckbill valves on the vacuum tanks, or unplug a line to the holding tank.
  Even though I already ordered two new shaft and ball valve kits from Amazon, we'll keep them as spares for when something breaks and we're in The Bahamas. Maybe even have them on hand for someone else who may need them. Boat neighbors are extremely pleased when you are in a remote area and you have a part they need.
  Speaking of having things for boat neighbors, the captain of a luxury yacht staying here at Stock Island Marina Village, "Line Drive", walked over while Rosie was mopping the decks and asked her if she had a Magic Eraser. Rosie had a slightly used one and promptly gave it to him. Magic Erasers, if you don't know it, are standard issue on the list of cleaning supplies of anyone who knows anything about cleaning boats. They are like little sponges with a slight abrasive mixed into the sponge. They do a great job on vinyl!
  Later, the captain comes walking over with a bottle of wine, repayment for the Magic Eraser. He said that he was in dire need of the Magic Eraser, but was in no need of the wine. I had no doubt about that; the wine cellar on his yacht was probably bigger that our master stateroom.
  One disappointment today so far has been my failure to contact Chuck Sherman at Canvas Works of Key West. Chuck came aboard our boat a year ago to discuss some new upholstery for our dinette, so we wanted to line that work up, and also talk about a new sunscreen for the windshield, and also begin negotiations for a new flybridge enclosure. The number for Canvas Works of Key West is no longer in service.
  I know where his shop is, or where it used to be, so I'll go over there and see what's up. There are other canvas repair businesses around here, but the other close one doesn't have good reviews. Our tax refund will be substantial enough for us to get the ball rolling on some new upholstery and the other things, so I better get busy and do some networking.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Staying Warm in Key West

  Here's my two Valentines, celebrating Valentine's Day at Hogfish after a day out riding around in our dinghy.
  Four locals who joined our table helped make it a fun evening. My girls don't need fancy.

  A week ago we met up with some of our friends from Fenton who were in Fort Meyers and drove down to Key West to spend a couple of days.
  We were able to get out on the boat on Monday with the seven visitors, three of the four women in the group are riding up front with Rosie and Holly. We were able to make a hot loop through the Key West Bight and past Mallory Square before tackling some headwind when we set our course to return to Stock Island.
  We finished the night at Hogfish and everyone liked the place and the food. The next day we met up with them at Schooner's Wharf Bar and killed a nice afternoon before we all took in dinner at the Rusty Anchor where we found Katie, half of the sailboat duo of Katie and Jessie, on her first day on the job. She has mastered the chore of serving crackers very well.
  The big red tugboat is finally gone from Stock Island Marina Village. The last we saw of her was as she was being escorted out of Safe Harbor under the power of those two 9.9 horsepower outboard motors, one mounted on the stern, and one on the bow. We don't know where the scow wound up, and we've looked. We heard a rumor that the owner wanted to take it out past the reef. Anywhere closer to shore and there isn't enough depth to fully sink her, the boat being so tall. He'll be spending some prison time if he sinks it without the proper permits. You wouldn't believe what it costs to legally scuttle a boat.
  On the subject of scuttling boats, it occurred to me that it may become necessary at some point to require boats to pass some sort of inspection periodically to prove sea worthiness. I can hear the uproar now from all the boat owners who don't want another expense, but the growing number of derelict vessels on our coastlines is a problem that will have to be dealt with at some time or another. How would you like our highways to be lined up with junk cars as people drive them until they just leave them abandoned where they quit?
  Last week we took our bicycle in for a "tune up", which was a complimentary adjustment of the limited number of adjustable things that one can find on a bicycle. We spent the time waiting at Dante's, and the bike was finally returned to us about three hours after it was promised. The one thing that I asked them to do was to adjust the rear brake as it was a little spongy, and they didn't do that.
  The fella in the service department offered to dispose of our receipt for the work, but as I told him, the receipt was really the only thing we really wanted, as now we had proof that the bike was in for the "tune up" just in case we have some major problem before the one year warranty is up. I might have had a few beers while we waited at Dante's, but I didn't completely lose my senses.
  We are increasingly becoming convinced to lay down roots here in Key West. The luxury of having convenient services and access to goods is definitely spoiling us, and even though we don't consider ourselves "old", living on the boat is a whole lot easier while tied to the dock. When we start to feel wanderlust again, we'll both know it, and we'll do something about it.
  We do know that in our near future will be another trip to the Dry Tortugas, if for no other reason but to give our new generator a workout. It still only has a little over an hour on it, and that was put on it at the factory.
  Our current adventures have mostly been taken in the dinghy!

  Last weekend we took the fourteen mile ride out to Snipe Point. The dead pilot whales are gone and with a southeasterly wind, the lee side of the point was calm and the water was clear.

  By mid afternoon, as the tide began to cover the white sand beaches, there were a fair amount of boaters out soaking in the sun. The water here, although not even close in comparison to the gin clear waters of The Exumas, was about as clear as you're going to find in the Keys.
  We snagged a crab pot with the outboard on our way back. I was staying well clear of the markers, but the long polypropylene lines were floating on the surface of the water, well away from the markers and I didn't stay downwind from them. No damage was done, to our dinghy anyway, and we were soon underway. So far it's us 2, and crab pots 0.
  It hasn't been all play. I had never removed the lower gear case housing on our Mercury outboard motor, but with help from the internet, I was able to pull off the lower unit to inspect the raw water impeller, as the little telltale water stream stopped telling. The hard part was trying to figure out how to disconnect the shift linkage when removing the gear case, so I went to the nearby Mercury dealer for some advice. I didn't get any advice as they were short staffed, being a Sunday at the time, but I did buy a new impeller while I was there.
  I dug into the information available to me on the internet again and found a real nice service manual in PDF form. Even though I had to page through each of the over 350 pages to find the information I wanted, I learned how to easily disconnect the linkage and I removed the lower gear case housing and then the impeller cover. The impeller looked OK to me, but I did find out that Murray Marine sold me the wrong impeller. I put everything back together and changed out the gear case oil for good measure, and they used a wire to poke out the hole where the water stream emits from the powerhead, something I learned while cruising the internet while I was looking into why the Mercury wasn't spitting out water.
  The task wasn't a waste of time because checking the raw water impeller is something that needs to be done annually anyway. Plus, the gear case oil change was long overdue. I took the purchased impeller back to Murray Marine the next day and swapped it out for the correct impeller so we could have a spare. Now that I know how to do it, swapping out the impeller, even if done on a beach somewhere, will be an easy chore.
  Yesterday we took the dinghy out again to a closer gathering spot just off of Boca Chica. Our dock neighbors, Ben and Katie, joined us later in the afternoon when they came out in their dinghy. Even though they had been at Stock Island Marina Village longer than us, they didn't know about the "Boca Chica Sandbar", and were happy to have found it.
  For our part, we're going to keep promoting it to anyone looking for a good "beach spot", in order to cultivate this sandbar into a social mecca. It may take time.
  Yesterday we heard that our marina is charging full steam ahead with the plans for a boutique hotel, restaurant, and pool. Ground is supposed to be broken this summer on the project. We can't wait to see how it shapes up. We hope the rent doesn't go up when the project is completed, but it will provide a place for our traveling friends to stay if they come to visit.
  Part of the attraction of staying here is that we are getting a first hand look at all the improvements in the area, not only here at Stock Island Marina Village, but around here on Stock Island in general. With the increase in transients and long time slip renters, there is an increase in customers for businesses around here, and the smart money will capitalize on the situation. The Stock Island "old timers" who want to keep the status quo will just be disappointed, and in our view, the status quo is nothing but "run down and dilapidated".

  Can't finish the blog without another picture of Holly. Robert "Ferd" Frank took this shot when the Fenton gang was all out with us last week and I thought that it is too cute not to post! Holly can't wait for her next dinghy riiiiiiiiiiiiide!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

We Get Some More Company

  Stock Island Marina Village had their Grand Opening and Kingfish Tournament on the last weekend of January and the festivities started on Friday night and ran until Sunday afternoon.
  In addition to the fishing tournament, there was live music all weekend, two great complimentary cocktail parties on Friday and Saturday night, and a free breakfast buffet on Saturday and Sunday morning. The Sunday buffet included as many Bloody Mary's as you could stomach early in the morning.
  The colder weather of January passed through and February has turned out to be very pleasant, weather wise.
  We had some friends from Missouri come and visit us a couple of weeks ago, and they stayed on a boat over at Oceanside Marina for five nights. Tim and Andrea said the boat was comfortable, and they got to have a true Key West experience by living for almost a week on the 32 foot Bertram.
  We were able to get Swing Set out a couple of times while they were here, and on the last day, Todd and Debra, who live here in the Keys, joined us for a cruise up to Saddlebunch Key.
  We were poking our way into the shallow anchorage between Bird Key and Saddlebunch Key when two trailerable trawlers came up on our stern, also making their way into the anchorage.
  The captain of the second C-Dory called out "Hey Mike!" and then shouted over that they had been following the blog for some time and were surprised to see us and just wanted to say hello. Nice to know that my efforts are appreciated.
  No sooner did Tim and Andrea cast off to head back to the winter chill of Missouri, that we got a message saying that Steve and Krista were coming down for a few days. They're a couple we met in Kentucky and they bought a condo here in Key West and visit when they can.
 We met with Steve and Krista at the Conch Republic for happy hour and had a good time with them. They're a fun couple and we hope to see more of them when they come down to visit.
  One morning I decided to walk over to Key West Diesel next door, the local authorized Caterpillar dealers. I talked to Celeste over there and explained our problem with the port engine overheating and setting off the temperature alarm.
  Celeste had some good input, and following her advice, I bought two new thermostats and went back to the boat to install them.
  Another thing she mentioned was that if I was running a 50/50 coolant mix that I should weaken the mix to 30/70 to help the engines run cooler. Because I lost some coolant when I removed hoses to replace the thermostats, I just topped off each tank with tap water when my repair was done. It wasn't scientific, but it got the job done.
  My trouble shooting tasks at the beer factory over the years taught me to never change more than one thing at a time when trying to solve a problem, but reality is that if you have to do service, or maintenance, you try to address as many things as you can while the equipment is torn apart, or while you are already paying someone for a service call.
  That in mind, I also switched out the temperature sending unit on the port engine with the one on the starboard engine, to see if the alarm migrated to the starboard engine.
  So now I had actually changed three things about our engines, and if the problem solved itself I wouldn't be sure what exactly fixed it, unless the starboard engine started alarming. In that case, I was prepared to buy a new temperature sending unit. As it was, the two regulators and gaskets were only $40. Not much to lose.
  We had known that a co-worker of mine at the beer factory was coming for two weeks in her RV, and the time had come. Renee was staying at Leo's Campground, not but a half mile away, so I texted her and asked if she and her two friends with her wanted to go out with us on Swing Set to test my work.

  In the picture above, we had returned from our cruise and were acting silly. Marsha is on the left, Renee is in the background with Nancy in front of her. I'm not sure who the other two people are, but the guy is threatening to give the girl in the bikini a knuckle sandwich.
  Our high jinks certainly was not an indicator of the success of the sea trial after my repair, as Swing Set didn't run like I had hoped.
  She went on plane, but even given my gradual increase in throttle, the engines wouldn't take any fuel. I'm not sure if it was the distractions, or liberal application of Bud Light, but it wasn't until that night in bed when I realized that our fuel filters were most likely clogged up. Had I been thinking clearly, all I had to do was switch from one set of Racors to the other to see if that would solve the problem. But as it was, I did it the next morning, and while I was at it, I changed the filters on the offending units. I checked my maintenance records and found out that we had been running on those filters since July. It was time to do it anyway.
  The calm weather was still holding, so with fresh filters in place, Rosie, Holly, and I set out to give the motors a good test.
  I set a southeast course in a very light chop and pushed the throttles forward. We ran at 22-23 miles per hours for forty minutes without an alarm on either engine. Our temperatures on both engines stayed under 205 degrees, which is within the specifications for these Cats.
  I was a little disappointed in our speed at cruise because normally we get 25 miles per hour at 2500 RPM, so we were off the mark by 2 or 3 miles per hour, but I also knew that we were due for a bottom cleaning.
  Our new friends, Neal and Cindy were due to come down from Tennessee last weekend, so to kill some time while we waited, I decided to scrape our hull.
  I had a new dive mask I was wanting to try out anyway, so I got all my barnacle scraping stuff together, got our Hookamax fired up, and went beneath the boat.
  The barnacles weren't too bad, but the hull was full of little white squiggly creatures, sort of like worms, which certainly could have slowed our hull speed down some. But the most glaring addition to the bottom of the boat was a nylon crab pot line loosely wrapped around the portside propeller. Yeah, that will slow your speed down some.
  I easily removed the offending line and spent the next three hours scraping the hull with my three inch paint scraper. I also inspected our shaft and trim tab zincs, noting that they should be good for a few more months, but I also decided to inspect the bottom of the boat more often in the future so that I can minimize the amount of time I'm under the boat. I also want to minimize dinner time for any sharks lurking around in the harbor.

  The fella that owns this boat doesn't concern himself with optimum running performance. In fact, the motors in the boat don't run, thus, the vessel was temporarily equipped with two 9.9 horse Yamahas. No fear of violating the No Wake zone here.
  When we first came to Stock Island Marina Village, this boat, Tilly, was tied up to the sea wall next door at DDD Boatyard. I noticed the thick barnacle growth, and the amount of rust on the hull, and figured that this boat would most likely sink in her slip at some point.
  As we have later found out, the owner was previously at Robbie's Marina, and having not paid his slip rental, was kicked out and he moved to DDD.
  He apparently didn't pay his rent there either, so they simply untied his boat one night and it drifted the 100 feet or so over to Stock Island Marina Village, where the marina manager was not very happy to discover that one of the staff accepted the reservation for "an 85 foot motor yacht", and accepted a cash payment for one months rent on a vessel named "Sea Gypsy", identified by a cardboard sign in a pilothouse window.
  The outboard motor setup was installed to make sure the boat left in one month, but now the owner says "he ain't leavin'", so the new dockmaster here removed the motors, not wanting to lose them forever. Not sure how far he'd get with that setup anyway.
  The vessel has drawn lots of visits from Customs Officers, to the Florida Water Conservation agents, and the Department of Environmental Protection. By the looks of the owner, the DEA ought to come around too if they haven't already.
  I have no respect for anyone who lets a boat go to seed, so we hope they can get this guy to move on in a month. If they want a world class marina here, having derelict vessels like this one tied to the docks is not the way to go about it.
  But other things are just peachy here at Stock Island Marina Village. We were doing our regular morning mop and maintenance on Swing Set one day when a fella walked over and introduced himself.
  "Arch" found our blog on the American Great Loopers Cruisers Association website some months back and has been following it. We had traded some messages a few times, and Arch wanted to come over to introduce himself and let us know that he found the marina here by reading our blog. Another satisfied customer!
  Last week the marina hosted a Reggae Party in honor of Bob Marley's birthday. There was live music from noon until the wee hours. Draft beer was ten bucks for a bottomless cup, and there was a shrimp boil and fried fish dinner, all you could eat, as many times as you wanted to go up to get some, for another ten bucks per person. What a deal!
  I was preparing to deploy our dinghy last Sunday when a small sailboat was slipping into the harbor and I heard someone call my name. It was Katie, on the sailboat Louise! She and Jessie arrived and were planning on staying a month or two, maybe longer if they find some decent employment. There is a link to their blog on our cover page, "Katie and Jessie On A Boat". Pretty good reading and very good pictures. Check it out.
  Yesterday we had a short, but very enjoyable visit from a couple who both still work at the beer factory and are down here in Key Largo for a few days. Jeff and Merinda drove down to see us just for the afternoon. We had dinner over at Hogfish before they had to drive back to Key Largo.
  Merinda has been reading our blog for about a year and they hope to do something similar when they get to retirement. We're happy to be an inspiration to them and know that we'll see them occasionally as they acquire their "on a boat" experience.
  Today it's very windy out, and it's been raining a good deal, so it's a perfect day to do some blog writing and wait in patient anticipation for the fried chicken and mashed potato dinner that Rosie has planned for us this evening. Neal and Cindy from Chattenooga are going back home today, they'll be back in a few weeks, but we won't feel guilty about laying around and reading our Kindles this afternoon. We'll top off the night with another movie from the library. Doesn't get much better than that.
  This Sunday, some friends from our old homestead in Fenton, Missouri are driving down from Fort Myers to spend a few days and want to get together. We can't wait!
  There is seven of them and they'll fly out on Wednesday, and we'd like to have them out for a cruise, but the weather prediction for wind is only allowing a window for Sunday afternoon. We hope they get here in time for a sunset cruise at least, otherwise it'll have to be a dockside party. Those are good too.
  My immediate list of chores had gotten shorter. In the last three weeks I've waxed the entire boat, addressed our engine overheating problem, scraped the bottom of the hull, replaced four gas struts on our trunk lid and flybridge hatch, (also replaced the gasket on the hatch), repaired some gel coat scratches on the bow and on the portside hull, and replaced a tiny spring on one of our davit winches, which required me to completely disassemble the winch to install the spring. I never thought I'd get the thing back together. I also fixed Rosie's hair dryer. There is a limit to my talents and I reach it regularly, but it doesn't keep me from trying new stuff.
  We are really looking forward to a short visit from some good friends in St. Louis next month, and we found a doctor in Key West so I can get my wellness checkup in early April.
  We want to find a weather window for a short trip back to the Dry Tortugas, so we'll keep an eye out for that. We won't give up our slip to go there, because it's looking like Stock Island will be our home for at least a few months more.