Pages

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gone Fishin'

  Everyone we talk to around here in Key West that has been here a while says that it's unusually hot this year. The median high for Key West is 90 degrees, and the highs have hit that several times in the last few weeks, but those highs usually don't occur until August.


  Our marina doesn't have a pool, but they've roped off an area in a slip near the ship's store to be used as a "swimmin' hole", but in the photo, I'm laying on a raft in our own slip, something we do when we don't take out the boat or the dinghy. I use the hose to jet myself around in the slip. No need to paddle.
  We've been taking Swing Set out at least once a week to keep the cobwebs out. On our last outing, we cruised up to Newfound Harbor and dropped the dinghy to mingle with all the other boaters at Picnic Island.


  It was roughly a fifty mile round trip and we didn't get back to Stock Island until after dark, but we were treated to a nice sunset on the way back.
  The boat ran good, although the engine temperatures are still running on the high side, but I think I have a handle on it, knowing a better way to clean the heat exchangers next time.
  Meanwhile, the engines get flushed with fresh water when we return from running them, so buildup on the heat exchangers should be minimal.
  Last week, one of our boat neighbors took us out on his Boston Whaler for some fishing. We went out about ten miles directly south of Safe Harbor, getting into some 1000 foot deep blue Atlantic Ocean water, where we cruised the giant seagrass beds, trolling for whatever we could find feeding under them.
  We don't fish much, as you know from reading this blog, so anything we caught was exciting to us. We were using three rods with plugs, or artificial lures, each with line let out at different lengths.
  Our neighbor, Joey, wasn't too impressed with our catches, but we did catch two dolphin, two bonita, a jack, a snapper, and one other little fish we cut up for bait. Nothing was big enough for us to keep for eating though.
  We were about to give up and head for port when we got a strike and Rosie started reeling in the fish. She was having trouble getting the fish in, saying it was awfully hard, but I was attributing that to the fact that she was holding the rod handle under her arm instead of against her hip. Rosie ran out of gas as the fish came nearer to the boat and then she handed me the rod.
  Holy Mackeral, and I mean it. It took me and our neighbor Joey two tries with the gaff to get a good sized King Mackeral into the ice chest, and not because it was so big, I had just never gaffed a fish before, nor had caught one even as big as it was.


  A squall was rolling in, so we headed to the barn with our fish in the ice chest. We hung it from the fishing cleaning station at the gas dock for the photo above, just like the big game fishermen that we are.
  It was only 20 pounds, but we yielded probably ten pounds of some nice eating fish. Joey only wanted a few filets, and we gave some other neighbors a couple filets, and we got to keep the rest.  The pink meat cooked up to a flaky white and was even more tasty than the last swordfish we cooked.
  Last Friday we put Holly in her carrier and we buzzed up to Geiger Key on the Zuma. We had a late lunch and did some sight seeing on the way back.


  The view from the Gieger Key Marina Tiki Bar is a nice one, and it's a good place to go for a quiet dinner or lunch. The owner also owns Hogfish and Roostica, two of our other favorite restaurants on Stock Island.


  Yesterday we loaded up the dinghy and took it out to the Boca Chica sandbar where we were met by some other new friends who brought their dinghies over too. They ran for cover later in the afternoon when the rain clouds starting rolling in, but we stayed until the rain began to fall, then high- tailed it into the harbor and headed straight for the aforementioned Hogfish Bar for an early dinner.


 
  A late afternoon rain will usually give way to some beautiful sunsets, and yesterday was no exception. We like the sunsets we can see from out at sea, but ones like this from the deck of Swing Set in our slip are pretty nice too.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Beach Party Circuit

  Our trip to the dermatologist was fairly uneventful last week. The doctor asked us if she could spare us the lecture about all the exposure that we were getting from the sun, and we told her that she could, we've heard it before. We promised to return in at least a year and out the door we went.
  I didn't know until yesterday how much fuel we used on our Boca Grande run weekend before last, but it turns out we only burned 2.6 gallons, in what I figure to be a 30+ mile ride, at wide open throttle. We carry six gallons in our fuel tank, and another 2 gallons in a gas can under the seat. Next time we might just run all the way to The Marquesas.


  Here's a photo of one of our SeaDek pads. You might be able to see how shiny the surrounding fiberglass is, and you might be able to see a burn mark, or "scar" on the right side of the pad. In less than one week of sun exposure, the pad was affected by the hot rays of the sun.
  I contacted both Tyler Shealy of Castaway Customs, and SeaDek, and was pretty much told that this was typical when the rays of the sun are reflected off of nearby surfaces. They "melt" the SeaDek material.
  It was suggested that we; cover any surrounding stainless steel with white tape to cut down on glare, put some plastic film on the surrounding fiberglass to minimize glare, or to have some protective covers made for the steps when they are not in use. You will not find any of these informative details in any of their literature. My call this morning to Customer Service was routed to voicemail.
  I was also told that Flexiteek would be hotter to stand on. That's fine. My response was that we could wear shoes, or sit on a towel. Nothing made for a boat should be ruined this quickly due to sun exposure. We bought SeaDek for cosmetic reasons, so it would make the boat look good. Maybe I'm waxing the boat too much.


  I installed flush kits on three of our Groco sea strainers. The strainers in the photo are for our main engines, and I have one strainer mounted at the seacock, and one after the strainer, both acceptable locations. I used two different methods because of the raw water hose routing. The seacock location allows one to remove the plug (after closing the seacock) and pump water from the bilge using a main engine if it is ever needed to do so. I sincerely hope it never comes to that.
  The main reason for purchasing the kits was so I could pickle the engines and generator with fresh dockside water after running them, so creepy sea life critters can't grow in them while we're just sitting at the dock, extending the interval for cleaning the heat exchangers.
  I did clean the heat exchangers on both engines, and our new generator last week. Every time I do this job I learn something new. This time I learned that I need to bypass the raw water pumps when I circulate the Barnacle Buster because the pumps impede the flow of the cleaning agent. We did see improvement in heat transfer after cleaning the heat exchangers, but next time I'll do a better job and expect better results.
  One thing I did after cleaning the heat exchanger on the generator was to run Barnacle Buster into the water intake of our air conditioners, and then let it sit for about four hours. Our air conditioner performance improved, even though I had seen no indication of poor water flow previously, but I'm sure we would have in time.
  Even in this hot weather, our cabin temperatures decreased to the point where we could increase our thermostat settings by two degrees, an indication that the units are now running more efficiently.


  The hot weather has brought a chance of rain nearly every day. This big cloud rolled in at sunset last week and it rained all night.


  This last Saturday we wanted to test the performance of our engines after cleaning the heat exchangers, plus I have vowed to take Swing Set out at least once a week to run engines, and help keep growth off of the hull.
  We headed to Newfound Harbor, about 20 miles east, but a big rain cloud formed over the Keys, so we veered out to Looe Key, a popular dive and snorkeling spot just off of Little Palm  Island, but the rain cloud followed us out there.
  I snorkeled for about a minute, but gave it up because I'm spoiled by the clear water in The Bahamas. We were also in about 18 feet of water and there wasn't much to see. We got there too late to grab a mooring in shallower water.
  Once the rain moved out, we motored in to Newfound Harbor and anchored just off of Picnic Island for the afternoon. Picnic Island is a place we are familiar with, and we'll probably make the trip on a more frequent basis, as the island is a popular gathering spot for the locals of BIg Pine and LIttle Torch Key, among others. We wound up cruising over fifty five miles that day.
  On Sunday morning we topped of the dinghy fuel tank for a day trip. I wanted to go back out to Boca Grande, but Rosie didn't want to go that far. We probably did wind up going just as far, but we did it in increments.
  First we buzzed by our regular haunt, Boca Chica sandbar. It was too early for many folks to be out, but we did see one couple we'd met before. They were very nice, but I remembered that he wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise last time. We decided to just wave hello this time around and save an afternoon with this couple when we don't have much to talk about.
  Then we headed north, crossing under the bridge at the Boca Chica Channel, and set a course for Snipes Point.


  Boats were gathering already at Snipes, but we kept going and for the first time, went a bit further and pulled up at Marvin Key, another popular hangout frequented by a lot of folks from Cudjoe Key and surrounding areas. We liked Marvin Key better than Snipes Point because you don't get waves rolling in from the Gulf as the beach is better protected by reefs, and as you can see, the water is pretty clear too.
  We had a good time there, but after a couple of hours, we went back to Snipes, which was chock full of boaters out for the day. We ran into some folks who usually frequent Boca Chica sandbar, but like us, were taking advantage of the calm conditions to run out to the areas that are a pain to travel to when the wind kicks up.
  We know we are making progress as "locals" when we start seeing people on the beaches on a regular basis, and we really know we are making progress when we are seeing people we want to avoid.
  We were bushed by the time we got back to the marina, and even though we both wanted to pop into Hogfish for dinner, we were just too hot and tired to bother. We had a good dinner of leftover tortellini and salad after refreshing showers. It was just plan nice to be sitting in the air conditioning!
  After dinner we put a movie in the DVD player and I didn't get past the opening credits before I was snoring away. (According to Rosie anyway.)


  But look at this sunset we missed! One of our boat neighbors took this shot last night, and also of another one of a lightening storm that moved in after dark. That too, I missed.
  The storm must have been substantial because we got a message from some friends in the Key Largo area, hoping that we were all right. Apparently we were, having not heard or seen any of the storm.
  It's also a sign that we are progressing as locals when we are making friends here that will inquire about our well being in the event of bad weather. That makes us happy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dinghy Ride To Boca Grande

  Once I had our SeaDek pads in hand, and they were found to be cut properly, early the next day after taking delivery of them I set to removing the old pads.
  A plastic putty knife came in handy and the pads peeled up without too much difficulty, but then the real work began. The residual glue was very difficult to remove, but I read the FAQ provided by SeaDek and set to work.
  First I used mineral spirits to wet down the surfaces and laid a mineral spirit soaked rag onto each surface for at least ten minutes. The glue was then easier to wipe up, and then I used acetone to remove all traces of the mineral spirits. A little glue was still in evidence, but I made sure it would be concealed by the new pads.


  The next morning, after the solvents had plenty of time to evaporate, we applied the pads in no time at all, using the easy "peel and stick" method.
  I sent Tyler Shealy of Castaway Customs some pictures of the finished product and he sent a quick reply, harboring no ill feelings. He apologized again for the delay in getting the pads to us in a timely manner, and offered his assistance in the future if we needed to replace these pads at some point. I hope they last more than two years.
  I've been mentioning our engine overheating problems recently, so again, last week we went over to our Caterpillar dealer at Key West Engine and spoke to our "go to" person over there, Celeste.
  Celeste asked me when was the last time we ran Barnacle Buster through the engines and I replied that it was only last fall, and that we hadn't put many hours on the boat since then. It was then that I realized that last September was nearly ten months ago. (Yes, time flies when you're having fun.) Celeste informed us that in this environment, our engines need to be flushed with acid every six months, especially if they set without being run. Remember me saying that the boat breaks even when we aren't using it?
  I bought a couple of gallons of Barnacle Buster, which we'll not only run through our main engines, we'll do the generator, and then we'll even run it through our air conditioners too.
  We went to Home Depot to gather some more fittings to rig up a system to allow us to flush our engines with fresh water after running them, and after buying a bunch of ball valves and fittings, I searched the web for engine flushing kits and found them made by Groco that are installed at the sea cocks, or strainers. They come with adapters to fit a garden hose to the flush kit, and make a neater installation. I ordered three kits from Defender at half the price West Marine charges.
  Not one to rush into such things, and the kits weren't due to arrive here at the marina until a few days, we decided to take the boat out last Thursday to give it some running time, maybe even to stay on the hook for a night,  as apparently we've been neglecting that pleasant chore.


  Thursday was rainy though, so we stayed in and waited for Friday morning to check the weather. The forecast was iffy, but we figured that either we could stay at the dock in the rain, or on the hook in the rain, so we prepared the boat to cast off.



  Holly knows when we are getting ready for a boat ride, whether it's in Swing Set, or the dinghy, and she waits patiently until we start removing dock lines, and then she begins to bark instructions, which we apparently are able to perform flawlessly every time, since she eventually settles down on Rosie's lap once we are leaving the harbor.
  We spent an afternoon in the rain last week, anchored near Saddlebunch Key, just a few miles up the coast from here. It was actually nice laying around in the boat with the air conditioning on, reading our books, and listening to the rain pelt the topsides.
  By the end of the day, the sun was back out, and so were the bugs from the nearby mangroves, so we headed back to the barn and rustled up some supper, making it an early night.
  On Saturday, we had planned to take our dinghy out to Boca Grande, quite a trip in the dinghy, but the winds were really calm over the weekend, and the 20 mile trip out to Boca Grande seemed like a good idea. But as soon as we got things ready, a squall came in and we sat for two hours waiting for the rain to quit.
  One thing about calm winds, is that the squalls don't move on, they just hover overhead, so by the time the rains subsided, we decided that even if we would have wanted to make the trip out to Boca Grande, no one else in their right minds would be out there, so we opted for a jaunt over to our favorite spot at the Boca Chica sandbar, where we spent the rest of the afternoon. We like to go places where we can inflict ourselves upon others.
  Ahh, but Sunday! Sunday we woke to a cloudless sky and after a big breakfast, we got the dinghy ready, topped off our fuel tank, and set a course due west.



  It was a ninety minute cruise, straight along the coast of the smaller keys that string out westerly from Key West to Boca Grande. The only islands west of Boca Grande are the Marquesas, just visible from the beach at Boca Grande, and then the Dry Tortugas, many miles further west.
  The beach at Boca Grande is a favorite spot for many Key West locals, and we met a few of them and had a very nice time.


  I'm not a rock hound, or a shell collector, but in all my years I never noticed something that I found to be interesting while we were cooling off on the beach yesterday. Look at the shell in the picture above; see how straight the back edge of the shell is? I found other shells like it, and never noticed, or realized, just how straight an edge that this sea creature is able to produce. I can't seem to think of another living creature in nature that has the ability to produce a straight edge such as this one. I know humans who cannot draw a straight line with a ruler. Isn't that amazing? Yawn. (Hey, I'm grasping at straws here, trying to find things to post in this blog.)
  When it came time to leave, we were invited to follow a fast pontoon back on the "inside route" of the bay, so we readily accepted the offer. I switched on our Garmin chartplotter so we'd have the track set to follow the next time we go back out there, because the ocean route can become bumpy very quickly.
  With the dinghy loaded up with our supplies, we can only coax 20 M.P.H. out of our 15 H.P. Mercury at wide open throttle. We were barely able to keep up with our pilot vessel, but soon we were within site of the familiar Northwest Channel. We peeled off when our new friends headed in to The Galleon, and we turned toward the Garrison Bight mooring field to complete our inside run back to Stock Island. The ride back from Boca Grande was another ninety minutes, and we were whupped by the time we got back to port. Boy, the air conditioning was a welcome pleasure when we got home to Swing Set.
  After we unloaded the dinghy, I began to crank it up on the davits, and the little keeper spring on one of our Fulton winches broke, making the cranking a two handed operation, not a big deal, but it was just one more thing that needed to be fixed. It seems like a day doesn't go by that something else needs to be repaired or maintained.
  I had three such springs in one of our various parts bins, as the same spring on the other winch broke when we were in The Bahamas and I ordered some spares last year from the factory. Replacing the spring requires nearly a complete disassembly of the winch, but since I've already done the job once, replacing the spring this morning didn't take too long at all.
  But by the time I was done cleaning up from that chore, the sun was beating down with a vengeance, making it easy to decide to hold off on installing our new engine flush kits until another day.
  As I was cleaning grease off of the repaired winch with some Formula 88 from Home Depot, I decided to squirt some on our Magma Grill and was pleasantly surprised at what a great job it did on removing the grease from the grill. Well, it is described as a "degreaser". Go figure. You get a gallon for less than five bucks. What a deal.
  Tomorrow we both have overdue visits scheduled for the dermatologist, something we did every six months back "home", but have neglected until we settled down some. The doctor in St. Louis would scold me every time I went there until I finally told him that we own a boat, we go boating, we are going to be out in the sun. Period.
  With an attitude like that, I'm bound to get bad news tomorrow, but we'll take that as it comes. If we find out that either one of us has to stay out of the sun for the remainder of our lives, the next blog you read may be sent from dreary old England. Do they have bars there?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The SeaDek Ordeal


  We're approaching two years that Swing Set has been in a salt water environment. The recent picture above serves as proof that our boat has never looked better, but keeping it that way has not been easy nor cheap, which is how I describe myself occasionally.
  Rust is a constant issue, but we've been able to keep a handle on it by rinsing off the exterior of the boat after every outing, something we couldn't do when we were traveling. We also use Salt Away, a product that we put in a garden sprayer when we rinse the deck and hull, especially after being out in rougher seas.
  The stainless steel rubrail inserts are a constant maintenance item, and so are the bow rails. We use a product we found at the grocery store, Perfect Sink, made by Hopes. It's designed for stainless steel sinks, but does a great job on the boat. We've found some success in saving money by using products made for the home that do not have the word "marine" associated with them.
  One bugaboo was the grab rail on our swim platform. Rust was constantly seeping out from under the grab rail mounts until I finally removed the rail, thoroughly cleaned the base of the rail, applied Boeshield T-9 Anti-Corrosion Spray, then laid in a base of silicon caulking around the mounting holes and then re-attached the rail. So far we haven't had anymore rust seeping out onto the swim platform.
  Our marina is in a protected harbor, which also means we don't get much current. Not quite a stagnant water condition, but the growth that attacks our boat bottom seem to like this condition, and our boat bottom cleaner is earning his money every month when he scrubs our boat bottom. I checked his work the other day, after the third time he has been here, and found that Jacob, of Down Under Boat Bottom Cleaning, did a better job than I had ever done. He left nothing on the hull, or running gear, but it will be back when he returns in July. We've made a commitment to ourselves to get the boat out and run it at least once a week, which should help deter the critters that cling to our hull from getting too plentiful.
  We've also vowed to start our engines at least weekly, whether we get the boat out of the slip our not. Initially, I was under the impression that the sea creatures that like to live on our hull, and in the cooling system of our closed cooled engines, needed flowing water to live. I've since found out that the opposite is true, that our cooling system grows barnacles just fine with the engines just sitting there full of salt water, so running Barnacle Buster through our engines is suggested on a semi-annual basis if we want to avoid overheating when we run at speed.
  One thing I've done to attempt to minimize the growth of barnacles in our cooling system is that I've ordered three Groco Engine Flush Kits from Defender Industries. These kits are not cheap, but when installing them at our sea strainers on both mains and the generator, we'll be able to easily flush our engines with fresh water in between outings. The offending sea life won't grow in fresh water. I'll let you know how the installation goes when I get them.
  Speaking of Barnacle Buster, I've also learned that it's more efficient to remove the zinc anodes from each engine and replace them with plain plugs before circulating the Barnacle Buster, otherwise the acid is spending all its scouring properties eating up those pencil anodes before it can attack the crud in the heat exchangers that is causing the reduction in heat transfer that we need in order to run our Cats at cruising speed.
  Each engine has five zincs, and they are not in the most reachable areas, so that chore alone makes circulating the Barnacle Buster not an easy task. The engine flush kits will help ease the pain, not only in reducing the time interval requirement, but also in hooking up the hoses to do the job in the first place.
  It seems like we've been engaged in some sort of project on the boat ever since we've returned from The Bahamas last September. We've been addressing engine overheating problems, getting the new generator installed, new water heater, new dinette upholstery, new bimini top and curtains, new stereo components, new seal kits on both toilets, two new batteries in our house bank, and waxing/washing, waxing/washing, waxing/washing, along with all the little projects that pop up nearly everyday.
  But the longest running project has been the replacement of some SeaDek pads on our cockpit stairs. Even though we haven't done any labor on this project yet, getting the pads from the supplier has been proven to be an arduous process. The emails, phone calls, and just plain anxiety of waiting takes its toll.


  I have pictures on the blog from when I first installed the SeaDek stairpads on Swing Set back in 2009. I had called SeaDek and they supplied us with the phone number of their installer in southern Florida, Tyler Shealy of Castaway Customs in Merrit Island. I now know that SeaDek could have cut our pads at the factory, I don't know why they farmed the work out.
  I made patterns and sent them to Tyler, as per his instructions. He cut one pad "upside down", not paying attention to my labels of "this side up", but eventually he corrected his mistake, but by the time he did, I couldn't install the pads until the spring of 2010.
  It's hard to tell from the picture above, but one pad began to deteriorate. I noticed it in July. No, not this July. No, not last July, but in July of 2012!
  So, two years after I applied the pads, one was beginning to curl up at the edges like an old shoe. Note that the SeaDek material is similar to the material that your basic flip flop is made of, which is a spongy foam. Soft to step on and sit on, but just don't drop a knife or screwdriver on it.
  We were traveling at the time, so we waited until we were in Cape Coral in the fall of 2012 before I called Tyler to order a replacement. I figured he could use the patterns that I had supplied him with, as he assured me that he would keep them around, not only for the reason at hand, but he could also use them to make pads for other 400 Sea Ray Sedan Bridges, one of the most popular hulls that Sea Ray has ever made.
  We were in Cape Coral for five weeks, and we supplied Tyler with the address of our friends Gary and Judy, and Tyler promised that not only would he make another pad that had begun to peel off, he would make a complete new set so that they would match.
  I volunteered to pay for the work, but he said that the pads shouldn't begin to come off so soon, and that he'd make and send the pads at no charge. If only that had been true.
  Despite emails and calls to Tyler, we left Cape Coral without receiving our pads. We traveled through the keys all winter and left for The Bahamas last April 2013, with other things on our minds besides the SeaDek. I figured that Tyler had lost the patterns, and I was right.
  When we decided to stay indefinitely here in Key West, I called Tyler in February of this year and asked him why he hadn't contacted us or sent the pads that he had promised. He was very apologetic and admitted that he had lost the patterns, but he was due to visit Key West in March and he promised to come by and measure our steps himself. I didn't really expect him to come, but sure enough, we waited at the boat on the Sunday he promised to come by and he did.
  It was a pleasant experience having him on the boat in person, and he acknowledged that the material he used to cut our original pads was probably the wrong color, as the black color for the caulking portion of the step was attracting the heat from the sun and causing it to curl.
  Again, I volunteered to pay for the labor and material, but he insisted on redoing the job au gratis, once he received the material from SeaDek.
  Beginning in late March, when I contacted Tyler via email, or phone call, I received no replies until, in late April, when we got an email from him apologizing for not getting back with us, and promising to "knock out those steps next week".
  This began a series of weekly promises to "have the pads to you by the weekend", until I finally told him that if he didn't actually deliver the pads by a certain date, that I would call SeaDek and find out why. Two more weeks went by and I made the call.
  I talked to a representative of the company and she was very understanding, saying that if Tyler didn't have time to cut our pads, that they could do it at the factory, no problem. I told her that we'd give Tyler one more week to come through, and to sit tight. She didn't.
  Apparently Tyler came by the factory before the week was up and he was told that I had called SeaDek and spoke to them. Once I found they he knew I talked to the folks at SeaDek, I sent him a note explaining to him that as I had promised, my patience had run out, and that I had called SeaDek to see that my options were. I received no reply.
  Meanwhile, I contacted a representative of Flexi-teek, to consider going with another product altogether. I also contacted the representative of SeaDek again and got quite a different reception from the one I received when I first contacted them. The terse response was the forwarding of my email to another person at SeaDek to "see what they could do".
  Within two days I got another short email from Tyler, with a picture attached, saying that the pads were already cut and on their way.


  I at least had proof that some work had been done on our pads, having gotten nothing but promises for months. At least I had some hope of getting the pads.
  I have been wondering why Tyler wasn't just truthful in the first place? Why didn't he get right back with us in October of 2012 and say he didn't have the patterns? And why, if he was so busy this year, did he keep promising the work "next week" when he could have said "I can't get to your work until mid summer", but at least send a picture with any progress if there was any?
  See, the thing is, if I tell someone something, or promise something, you can take it to the bank. I also don't have much faith in other people if they have proven in the past that their word is no good, which Tyler proved back in October of 2012.
  But guess what? As I was writing this post, our pads arrived! I removed them from the box and made sure they were right. I'll put them on when the weather dries out later this week, and if they don't hold up...well, it's a safe bet that I'll be calling the folks at Flexi-teek.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day


  For anyone who would doubt that boating is in my blood, proof is in the photo above. My dad is the guy in the middle in the photo.
 The year is 1956 and the location is a beach on the Mississippi River. The fella on the left is my uncle, Joe Herbst, my dad's brother in law. Joe Herbst was a Golden Gloves boxing champ and he got my dad his job at the beer factory, I think in 1949. This subsequently led to my career at the beer factory too. Thank you all.
  I don't remember the fella on the right, but as you can see, they are all enjoying a cold Budweiser, another item that is in my blood, more often than not. Who says boating and beer don't mix?
  We lost some good boat neighbors here at the marina last weekend, with them moving back to Fort Myers, where Greg and Alisa can send their daughter Sara to a better school, and Greg can be closer to his work as a doctor. They were fun, and we'll miss them.
  As a send off celebration of sorts, Alisa joined us on a Friday night, on the weekend before last, when Sara, another friend, showed up in Key West with two of her girlfriends.


  While some men fantasize about hitting the town with five women in tow, the true experience can only be described as something similar to herding cats, especially when every bar you go into is full of drunk men resenting the fact that a man is in the company of five women.
  We had a great night, but I paid for it and came down with a cold or something, the first bad one I've had since leaving St. Louis.


  But before I knew the extent of my malady, we took the dinghy over to the Boca Chica sandbar the next day, and as you can see, the sky was threatening a storm, but we had our umbrella up, watching the clouds and the direction of the storm.
  We didn't get a drop of rain on us, and the "beach" filled up with boaters as the afternoon progressed.
  We watched a boat coming in that was so full of people, that the waves were coming over the top of the little 15 foot open bow Bayliner that they were all piled into.
  There were five adults and six children onboard the little boat. I wanted to take a photo, but I didn't want them to find any reason to pull up near us on the beach, but sure enough they did anyway.
  Three of the adults dropped off the rest of the tribe and then took off in the boat, leaving two adults to entertain the six kids. Before the kids discovered Holly and started climbing around on the dinghy, we pulled up anchor and moved up the beach where we found some unsuspecting adults that we could inflict ourselves upon.
  Some other people we had seen on the beach previously showed up, and pretty soon we had a party going, just like the old days on the beaches of the Mississippi River. Boaters are people that are just waiting for the next party to break out.
  But that day took a toll on my health too, so on Monday morning we called our new doctor and he sent out a prescription to address my condition, which is just now getting better.


  Not one to let a little persistent cough keep me down, on Tuesday of this week we took the opportunity of some calm weather to get Swing Set out of the slip for the day. But let me back up.
  It had been two months since we even started the engines. We tried to start them up on the previous Thursday to go out for a spin, but the port engine wouldn't start. It seemed like dead batteries, but when I put my voltage tester on the battery terminals, I was getting a reading of 14 volts.
  I walked over to Key West Diesel, just next door to the marina, and talked to Celeste about what was going on. She said that maybe since we hadn't started up the engine for two months, that maybe the Bendix on the starter was frozen up. (Frozen up means "rusted".)
  I took the starter off and everything looked OK, but since I've had a new starter (newly rebuilt, anyway) onboard, I decided to put it on just for good measure.
  The starter acted the same, so then I checked the volts at the batteries and then at the starter while cranking the engine over and found out the voltage drop was too great for the batteries to be any good, in spite of the reading I got with my voltage tester.
  Key West Diesel didn't have any technicians available for at least two weeks, but Celeste suggested we call Matt Graf with Key West Mobile Marine Services. We know Matt from our stay at A & B Marina, and he agreed to come by the next day to check out our problem because our batteries were just one year old and shouldn't have been dead yet.
  Matt didn't make it over until Saturday morning and he confirmed that our two port side batteries were indeed toast, but more importantly, he discovered that our house bank of batteries tide to our Xantrex multi-stage charger were being "cooked" because a little switch that makes our charger a "mult-stage" charger was set in the wrong position. I swear that I never touched that switch!
  The only reason we hadn't cooked all of the batteries, I think, is because up until we became tied to shore power here at Stock Island Marina Village, we were on the hook most of the time and the batteries needed charging almost constantly.
  We bought two new batteries, and that particular problem was solved, albeit at a cost of $700, which brings us again to Tuesday of this week.
  We ran the boat out to Boca Grande Key, about 17 miles west of Key West. Because I wasn't feeling too well, and it was hot, we spent the afternoon anchored just off of a nice beach there and we just relaxed in the air conditioning. We've been needing to run the generator anyway. The warranty will be up in October and we only have about 15 hours on the Westerbeke.
  The bad news is that we found that our overheating issue on our main engines has not gone away, and that also, our engines were not getting up to speed.


  That evening I was trying to think pleasant thoughts, but my brainpan was occupied with trying to figure out what was wrong with our engines.
  Our primary Racors had just been changed, but still, I suspected a fuel delivery problem. I then decided to ask Celeste the next day if 350 hours on our secondary filters was too many. Celeste, not too tactfully, informed me that our secondary filters needed to be changed at least every other oil change, preferably every 100 hours. Dutifully chastised, I bought four filters, (two spares) and with my head hanging low, trudged back to the boat to pop on two of them.
  Still not sure about what to do about the overheating, (bear in mind that since our last outing, the water temperature has increased dramatically) I decided to test the integrity of the caps on our coolant reservoirs by taping some paper around each cap to see if coolant was leaking out the caps next time we ran. Leaking coolant wouldn't be the cause of the overheating, but we are losing a bit of coolant over time, so I wanted to check the easy stuff first.
  One of the easy tests is to check the raw water impellers. I removed the cover of the starboard raw water pump (the starboard engine was running hotter) and found a blade missing from that impeller. One blade missing off of a raw water impeller shouldn't cause an overheating problem of the magnitude that we are having, but I cannot put equipment back together if it's not knowingly 100%.
  It took me over six hours to replace the raw water impeller. First I dropped the shaft keeper key into the intake hose, prompting the need to remove a hose on the intake, but couldn't do that without loosening up the oil cooler some. I found the key, but then had to take off the inlet side of the heat exchanger to find the missing blade from the impeller.
  When I removed the end of the heat exchanger, I didn't find the missing impeller blade, but did find that the zinc anodes of that end of the heat exchanger were in need of replacement, something I had just done at the last oil change.
  By the time I got everything replaced and buttoned up, I was bathed in sweat, my back hurt, my hands were bloody, I was about to cry like a baby, and I hated boats.
  After such a trying day, Rosie and I walked to the Rusty Anchor to treat ourselves to a much deserved dinner. I also soothed my soul with only two icy cold Budlights, still being on medication and all.
  I wanted to test the boat on Friday, but we got word that an ex co-worker of mine was coming into town on Friday evening, so we decided to stay in and run the boat for a sea trial later in the weekend. It's hard for me to fathom that any co-worker of mine would still want to spend more time with me, so putting all else aside was an easy decision to make.


  Craig and Vivian drove down from St. Augustine and made the trip in eight hours, which I thought was unbelievable time! We met at the Marriot On the Beach, having made reservations at The Tavern 'N Town for 6 P.M.
  Tavern 'N Town had been recommended by one of our new local friends, and the best tip was that between 5 and 6:30, every entree is only $19.99. Now a $20 entree is usually even more that we like to spend, but the Tavern 'N Town is pretty fancy, and the entrees run anywhere from $30 to $40. Three of us got the forty dollar entree for half price, which was pretty good from a taste standpoint, but left a little to be desired in the portion size department.



  After a very pleasant visit with Craig and Vivian, we left them to enjoy their one planned night in Key West, and we returned to the boat and the glorious air-conditioning, where we watched a movie from Redbox, occasionally glancing outside at a serene full moon.
  We learned on Saturday morning that Craig and Vivian were going to stay one more night in Key West, so we invited them to join us for a boat ride. We had one more calm day in our weather forecast, and I wanted to see if our fuel transfer issue was solved. I didn't have much faith on our overheating issue being behind us, but one thing at a time.
  We left the dock around 1 P.M. and once the engines got to running temperature, I spooled up the mains. We got on plane quick enough, our throttles seemed to be responding much better, indicating that the secondary fuel filter replacement was a very good thing, but ten minutes into our trial, both engines heated up and the high temperature alarm sounded on the port engine. Last time it was the starboard engine.
  The overheating issue cast a pall on my day, but a cold beer smoothed out the edges, the company was very pleasant, and we took a three hour spin around to the end of the island. I'm repeating, and I've recently begun to say, "If money can solve the problem, there isn't a problem". Next week I'm going to visit Celeste at Key West Engine and tell her to put us on their service schedule. Fix it.
  All is not a disappointment, however. We're enjoying the visits from a multitude of friends, meeting new friends, and just enjoying Stock Island Marina Village and Key West in general.
  I have even managed to solve a problem which has plagued us for months. The light in our Norcold refrigerator quit working. The fixture was broken, but I also checked the wiring and found that even though the switch was good, the connection was bad between the switch and the light, and without taking the guts of the refrigerator apart, there is not a way to replace or fix the wiring.
  We were at our second home a few weeks ago, Home Depot if you didn't know it, and I was looking at some motion sensor lights and my own light bulb in my head came on.
  We've had a dusk to dawn motion detector light over our salon door for several years now, but we began turning it off when we started staying on the hook all the time as the rocking of the boat kept the light on constantly, making battery replacement an issue.
  I took the light down over the salon door, put fresh batteries in it, and mounted the light inside of our refrigerator. Presto! The light doesn't come on during the day, but at night, when we open the door, we have a much needed light so I can find my midnight snack.
  Today Rosie is out washing the boat, and I'm toiling away at this blog. We're going to stay low key for the rest of the day to finally give me a chance to rid myself of this cough I have.
We also hope this week to receive our SeaDek stair pads from Castaway Customs. We were sent a picture of the pads as proof that they were indeed cut, and were told that they "were on the way". When we get them, I'll have pictures of them installed, along with the full story.
  On Monday, we take the Zuma to the Yamaha dealer for a required 500 mile check up, and then on Tuesday we both have dental appointments. It's not all fun and games living here in Key West.


  Meanwhile, it's hot and sticky here lately, but both of our air conditioners are purring away. If they quit, I'm going to be like the creature pictured above. Very crabby.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Goin' Mobile

  This post isn't about that great Who song, but it's about friends finding ways to come down to see us here in Key West, and us keeping our options open regarding finding ways to transport our small inventory of possessions.


  You might have seen our solution as to how we transport our Yuba cargo bicycle on Swing Set on a previous post. We haven't had our Boda Boda onboard since we got here to Stock Island Marina Village, but we can get it stowed safely away in a matter of minutes.
  Hurricane preparation has been weighing on my mind recently, not too heavily, I might add, but I like to have a plan. What has complicated our plan was the acquisition of our Yamaha Zuma scooter.
  We have full coverage insurance on the Zuma, but leaving it locked on land in the event of a storm could leave it in danger of getting drowned by water covering the pier if the surge is too great. I don't like to see anything get ruined if I can help it, so I began to figure out a way to put the Zuma onboard Swing Set, whether we decide to stay put here, or make tracks to avoid any storm.
  You can see the two motorcycle ramps we purchased from Amazon a few weeks ago in the above photo. They each weigh 15 pounds, and are foldable. They hold up to 750 pounds and I can stow them in the bilge for a short period of time. I haven't tried out the system yet, but I'm fairly confident that I can get our 250 pound scooter onboard by myself, or at least with Rosie's help. We try to be a self sufficient as we can, especially in the event of an emergency.
  As equally important is having a place to tie down the Zuma once we get it into the cockpit, and the tape measurer was put into service multiple times before the ramps were ever ordered.
  I installed a "D" ring at the transom, next to our movable transom seat, where our cockpit trashcan sits. The front wheel of the Zuma will rest against the sturdy transom and I'll strap it down on each side, using the "D" ring on one side, and the cockpit seat bracket on the other. I can them squeeze the Zuma against the starboard side of the cockpit with the rear wheel just clearing the salon door. This leaves room to still open the hatch to the engine room. Our deck chairs, or at least one of them, will have to sit in the salon when the Zuma is onboard.
  This method is not pretty, but it  gives us options, and the cost was about $170. We like having our options, and part of living on a boat is at least the idea that we still have options. I've said it before that cruisers who rely on having a vehicle that they need to play hopscotch with as they shuttle it from marina to marina are just asking for more trouble than it is worth.


  Also mobile are our friends. Curt and Kathy, in the photo with us above, were in Naples and got a wild hair and took the Key West Express down and met us when we were at Dante's weekend before last. We spent a worldwind two days with them before they blasted back to their home in Missouri to prepare for a wild weekend on their boat at Lake of the Ozarks for Memorial weekend.


  We barely got two days rest and the folks in the photo above swooped down upon us, again on the Key West Express, only this time from Englewood, and we spent the day at Dante's and the night on Duval Street, before they flew out of town in a rental car, back to Englewood, Florida. Jill and Shelley, along with Rich, were lots of fun and hard to keep up with.
  We still have one currently outstanding issue concerning projects on the boat, and that being getting our SeaDek pads replaced on our cockpit steps. I keep getting promises from Castaway Customs that our pads are "on the way", but at some point, promises run out and words need to turn into actions. October will be two years since I started trying to get this done. Tyler, at Castaway Customs was down here in March to measure for the pads. It would be hard to believe he would take the time to come by and do the measuring if he won't find the time to cut the pads and ship them. We remain patient. For now.
  We're looking for a weather window to make another run to the Dry Tortugas, and we may have one this upcoming weekend, but economics are also playing a part. Our fuel tanks are a bit low, and not only do we need to fill them up to make the trip, we'll have to fill them back up when we return in order to be ready if we have to beat feet out of here to avoid a storm if we choose to.
  I've figured that to move Swing Set, even at a slow 9 m.p.h., costs about $1000 per 150 miles, give or take. That's within our budget, but if you've been following us for the last few months, you know we have had some pretty big expenditures since our new generator purchase back in December. One thing we've been able to do is just stay put and let our finances catch up to our budget if we get a little lopsided.
  The other day we finished up some swordfish steaks we obtained from some local commercial fishermen, some of the best eating we've had onboard the boat, outside of the fresh lobster we acquired in The Bahamas. We were contemplating how we were going to get some more fresh seafood, at a reasonable price, when one of our boat neighbors came over with a big bag of fresh Mahi Mahi, (Dolphin, the fish, if you don't know.), a gift to us for looking after some work on his boat while he was gone for a few weeks.
  You might notice I keep using the word "acquire", because it would appear that us fishing for any of this fresh seafood seems to be out of the question. We like acquiring.
  We deep fried the Mahi in a beer batter, using our Magna grill, keeping the grease and smell outside. Coupled with a salad and some macaroni and cheese, we had a feast last Sunday night when we got back from a day "at the beach" in our dinghy. Leftovers provided us with some great fish tacos at the end of our Memorial Day weekend last night.
  Some other boat neighbors left yesterday to head up the coast for the summer, saying they'll miss us, but will return next winter. We might be here, it's hard to say.
  Some other boat neighbors are heading out in a week or so to return to Fort Myers indefinitely. They've been fun and we'll miss them, but they like Key West and we think they'll be back occasionally, having easy access to the Key West Express.
  It's nice having good dock neighbors, but it's hell having bad ones. But unlike a house or condo, when we get boat neighbors we'd rather do without, we know that sooner or later, either they will leave, or we have the option to leave too, if we want.
  Like I told our neighbors who left yesterday, "Sometimes the best feeling one can have about neighbors, is ambivalence". If you've ever had a neighbor that you can't stand, you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sound Of Music


    Our friend Jackie came for a whirlwind two day visit a couple of weeks ago. She drove down from Naples where she is going to establish residence there and start life anew after leaving Missouri.
  We were able to get out on the dinghy before a pretty good storm blew up on us, but overnight the skies cleared up so we could spend the afternoon in the pool at Dante's. We needed quite a bit of rest after she left on Monday morning, something that seems to be required after all of our friends leave us.
  The last time we had Swing Set out, we discovered that our stereo was not working properly. I fiddled around with the wiring, (never a good idea), and got one part of the problem fixed, but then we discovered another one.
  We know a local marine electrician, Bill deSeve, owner of Key West Marine Electronics, and he found time to come to the boat and diagnose our problem.
  Our stereo system is not that old, having been installed just four or five years ago, but Bill found that not only one of our new speakers was toast, our amplifier was also not operating correctly. Bill ordered a new amp and a new set of speakers and within a week he was back to install our new components.
  We all left the boat so soon after Bill had completed his work, we didn't try everything out once it was all buttoned up. We came back to the boat after running some errands and we found that our outside speakers were not putting out enough sound.
  Bill came back within a few days and very reluctantly revealed to us that the head unit on our Clarion stereo was also bad, having been affected by the faulty amplifier.
  Now most people would have suspected something fishy, but we've spent enough time with Bill that doubting his word or ability was out of the question. We told him to order us a new head unit if he would promise to install it as soon as it came in. That was last Thursday and today our stereo is installed and everything is working great.
  Bill was very fair with his labor charges due to the trouble he had diagnosing the problem, but solving a problem is much harder to due when more than one component of a system is faulty.
  The marine environment is tough on electronics, even though our stereo is housed in the salon. We expected better longevity from our stereo system, but it's hard to predict how long things are going to last on a boat.
  One the upside, we have a better marine amplifier, and our receiver is now Bluetooth compatible, so we can play our music from our iPad or iPhone from anywhere on our near the boat. I can't wait to lounge on a raft behind the boat at anchorage and control the music from my iPhone. I suppose our stereo nut friends back in Missouri already have been doing such a thing, but we're always late catching up on trends like this.
  We discussed some other projects with Bill before he left the boat, but we have one more item to address on the boat before we take a break from spending, if we can, and that is to install our new SeaDek pads on the outside stairs from the cockpit.
  We have been promised to obtain our new pads from Castaway Customs by the weekend, but I'm not holding my breath. It's been two years since we first approached the subject of getting new pads from Castaway Customs, the areas authorized SeaDek dealer.
  I hope I have some good news about it for our next blog.
  The weather was been very windy lately and we didn't get to go out in the dinghy, or the boat, for over a week. Now it's been raining and it looks like it'll be yet another week before we can leave the dock in any boat.
  Besides the work we've been doing on the boat, we started a Cruisers Network on Facebook for the residents and visitors to the marina. You can check out the open group at Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network on Facebook. We have fifty members so far, but it's hard getting it off of the ground. Our intention is for it to take the place of a VHF Cruisers Network, which there wasn't one here at Stock Island Marina Village.
  We also want to take another trip over to Fort Jefferson when we can get a weather window, but first we might get some more visitors weekend after next and I have a notion that we better get prepared for them. They'll arrive like a tornado and go out like one too!