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Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Hostile Environment

  On Friday morning we called a taxi and made the trip up the Overseas Highway to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital to see Dr. Molly. She gave Holly the all clear on her ear infection. Holly's next vet visit will be for her next rabies shot on March 1st, so whatever we do, we will have that fact governing our travels.
  We called the taxi for the trip back and had to wait for about 20 minutes. When the taxi arrived, we jumped in the back and away we went. A five dollar taxi ride in the Keys does not always take you directly where you want to go, there may be other stops for other passengers, so we weren't surprised to take a detour to pick up another fare in a neighborhood just off the highway where a young girl jumped in the front passenger seat. Holly took all of this in stride and didn't make a peep, even when the girl turned around to say hello. But when we turned into the drive to the City Marina, Holly saw someone on a bicycle and let loose with some extreme vocal protest which nearly caused our aged driver to have a heart attack. I don't think using the term heart attack was too much of an exaggeration, the open pack of Lucky Strikes on his dashboard being a good indication of his current health status. We got out none too soon to suit the driver, luckily without being involved in an accident.
  We walked past the marina office and checked out. We told them we wanted to fill up with water on our way out and was told that there was a boat blocking the water station, but they were almost finished. I said we would watch for them to leave before we came in. Back at the boat we hoisted up the dinghy and strapped it down for the ride down the Hawk Channel. I knew it was going to be bumpy, but if we didn't go that morning, we may find ourselves in Marathon for another week. By the time we got mostly untied from the mooring ball I still could see the boat blocking the water station so I called the marina on the radio. I was told that we would be contacted as soon as the boat was out of the way as they were "taking on water". I took that to mean "filling up with water" and not sinking. Fifteen minutes later we cast off anyway. I called the Marathon Marina (not to be confused with the City Marina where we were) and told them we were coming in to get fuel and fill up with water. I then called the City Marina and let them know not to contact us, we were going to get our water when we got fuel. Adios, City Marina.
  We pulled up to the fuel dock at Marathon Marina where diesel was going for $3.99 per gallon, not too bad until you consider tax is not included. But you get free ice with a 15 gallon fill up. What a deal. I pumped about 121 gallons of fuel into our tanks and filled up. I then reminded the nice woman attending us that I needed water too. No problem, she unrolled the hose and we started filling up the 120 gallon water tank. While Rosie was watching the water, I went into the hut to pay. The woman there asked if I knew that the water wasn't free, but was 15 cents per gallon. This is after I pumped over $525 dollars worth of liquid gold into Swing Set's tanks. I remarked as to how I didn't know that the water wasn't free, but was why I called about getting fuel and mentioning the water when I did. Well, she let me have the water this time, but would charge us next time. At this point I asked if the free water was going to take place of the free ice. She looked at me and said, "I like you!" I always said you never get anything unless you ask for it. We pulled out having a good laugh and she wished us well on our travels.
  Once we got out into the Hawk Channel, the smallish waves were on our port beam were making our ride just a little unpleasant, but the 21 miles to our intended destination at Newfound Harbor was made in no time, partly due to the fact that I put Swing Set on plane for a while to "blow out the dust". After that, I settled back into our normal 8-9 miles per hour cruising speed when Rosie remarked that a "big boat was coming up on our port stern". An 80 footer or so, hard to say, was clipping along at over 25 miles per hour, towing a center console fishing boat that was longer than our boat. I know a Marlow when I see one and it was a beauty. We had been dodging crab pot markers the whole way, which in part was a good reason for a slow speed, but this guy was just blasting them out of the way, making at least a six foot wave. When he went past, not too far away, I had all but just enough time to quickly turn to port and take the huge wake on the bow, nearly stuffing it as I did. I've said before that I don't get humble when I view the large homes of others, but seeing this fabulous boat running at speed made me feel just a little inadequate. Just a little.


Picnic Island is in Newfound Harbor and a few boats were gathered around it in the shallows. We stayed off in deeper water and took in some of the sun. I was thinking about how fun this little island might be on a weekend and wished we would stay until Monday, but like I said, a cold front was moving in from the north and conditions were going to deteriorate by Saturday night.


  This is our official first sunset on the hook since we got to the Keys. While sunsets in Boot Key Harbor were pretty, with all the sailboats and all, this one was the first with a view of the open water before us. Had I known just how much things were going to deteriorate by the next night, we would have stayed put for a few days at least.


  Here, we are rounding the western edge of Key West. Tank Island had no homes on it when we had our boat down here last, about 25 years ago, but is chock full of them now. Wisteria Island is still uninhabited, but hundreds of boats are anchored all around it, and on the west side of adjacent Fleming Key, much more than we remembered.
  We pulled into Key West Bight, just to get the lay of the land, so to speak. The already small harbor was much more crowded than it was years ago, but that is to be expected. The rent in this harbor is beyond comprehension for us, anywhere between $3.50 and $4.50 per foot, per day. Rosie made a few calls and found out that for the lightening low price of $160 per night, which "included everything", we too could get a slip and enjoy the New Year festivities without the worry of having the boat, and Holly, out on a ball or on the hook while we were on land bringing in the New Year. "Does that price include tax?" Rosie dutifully asked.
  "Oh, no. That doesn't include tax, and there is a five day minimum."
  My gut feeling about finding an affordable place to keep our boat was coming to fruition, my gut feeling not being a good one. We motored up through the Key West Harbor where all the boats are at anchor, some on home made moorings, most likely cement blocks or engine blocks, or some other cheap, heavy material, no telling about the condition of them.
  I didn't want to be in the midst of such questionable surroundings, not only from the anchoring standpoint, but also from the shifty appearances of the clientele that seem to inhabit such places that are free. We headed up Fleming Key and rounded the northern tip to inspect the Garrison Bight mooring field where we had intended on renting a mooring ball for a week or so. We didn't like at all what we saw. The views were dismal, and as advertised by others, there was no protection from the forecasted northerly winds that were coming in with the cold front.
  We decided to give the anchorage on the west side of Fleming Key another look. Just around the tip, on the west side, was a small cut, just big enough for a handful of boats. I judged that there was room for us in a place that would protect us from waves coming in from the north, and a little wind protection from the spit of land which would lay just on our bow when the wind shifted.
  We had talked to the folks that manage the dinghy dock and pump out station for this area and asked about protocol. I had reservations about slipping in on someone else's "territory", knowing how people are, and we were told that there "were no rules, just don't tie up to someones 'mooring ball'", even though it wasn't a mooring field.
  As I was dropping anchor in front of a smaller sailboat, but giving them plenty of room, I noticed the two inhabitants of said sailboat peering through their windshield, with their heads poking up just far enough to be noticed as little as possible, like a couple of prairie dogs. I mentioned them to Rosie and she kept an eye on them, but they just hunkered down and watched, but when I left the bridge, the female of the pair had stepped out from behind their dodger, so I gave a friendly wave. She ducked back behind the dodger and I noticed that she had been taking a photo of our boat. I realize now that her intentions weren't from any type of admiration of our vessel, but she was just gathering evidence for the calamity that she was sure to take place due to our intrusion upon "their space".
  While I was trying to decide whether or not to deploy another anchor, a dinghy with a man and small boy came by and I waved. He waved back and came over. I think he meant well, but he warned me to not be surprised if anyone came by and gave us the "stink eye" because we were on anchor with questionable holding, and that everyone in there was on a mooring. I mentioned that it was my understanding that there were no moorings here, just boats at anchor, and he answered that they were "homemade moorings", whatever that means. I asked him about how were we supposed to know "what the rules were", and he said that there were no rules. I said, "Exactly", and made up my mind to do what we wanted.
  I did decide to put out another anchor, plus dive down on both anchors to confirm a good hold. I felt good about having deployed two good anchors, one to the east, and one to the west, figuring to have a good hold no matter which way the wind decided to come from.
  Now, a story: Many years ago at my job at the beer factory, there was a short, squat German fella by the name of Norm Noctwein. His nickname was "the Knocker". He was caustic, sarcastic, and hated everyone, or so he wanted everyone to think he did. I liked him.
  The Knocker told me a story about the time he bought his first house. He went over to one of his neighbors for the first time and told him that he was going to paint his house, and what color would his neighbor want him to paint it? The neighbor laughed and told Norm that he could paint it any color he wanted, "just don't paint it purple", he said. The Knocker went out and bought the paint and carefully painted his house the loudest shade of purple that he could find at the paint store. His neighbor never talked to him again.
  I don't know how this relates to our situation here, but I've always wanted to tell that story, so I did.
 

  Not too long before this sunset picture was taken, another neighbor pulled up to the folks behind us in the sailboat. He did give a reluctant wave was he motored past. He and the male prairie dog had a long conversation, all the while staring at us, but never saying a word to us. The recent arrival had a boat on our port side and was tethered to a mooring ball with a line over 50 feet long. He wound up tying his runabout to another 25 foot line behind his 50 foot sailboat, and yet another 15 foot line behind that holding his dinghy, insuring for himself quite a lot of buffer around his small flotilla as the wind blew it in circles. Meanwhile, another small cruiser came in and the couple waved as they came past us. I was starting to feel better about the situation, there being some other folks in our vicinity that were at least congenial.
  While we were enjoying our second, or third, Busch Light, (on sale, don't knock it) a larger "cruiser" (for lack of a better word) came barreling in right up to us. The captain started admonishing us for "anchoring in a mooring field" and continued to lambaste us until he started in on the couple who had anchored behind us in the small cruiser. The couple in the cruiser pulled up anchor and motored away to avoid a confrontation, and that set me off.
  The fella doing the complaining was still muttering half to himself, and still obviously in our direction too, when I asked him what prompted him to come over and complain to us. He said that he didn't need any reason, that he lived there and could do what he wanted. Well, the way I see it, we now lived here too, and I wasn't about take any crap from him and I let him know in very certain terms what I thought about him and the unlikely prospect of us running into his sorry excuse for a motor vessel.
  I was seething as the sun vanished from our view and Rosie started dinner. We had a delicious sirloin steak smothered in onions and brown gravy. We had gnocchi for the first time, having found them on sale at Publix in Marathon. We rounded out the meal with a small salad. The whole time Rosie tried to put her best face forward in light of our situation, which was that we were surrounded by other boaters that considered us to be "in their territory", we didn't feel safe anymore about leaving the boat alone for a second, and had the prospect in front of us of being at anchor, with just a slice of a dive knife on one of our anchor lines, away from peril. Nearby slips at the marinas were not only full for the most part, we weren't going to pay the outrageous rates that others were willing to pay, just to stay on our own boat.
  As I was checking weather one last time for the night and Rosie was doing dishes, and she began to cry. Rosie is not a "crier". I am a crier, but not her. When I asked her what was the matter, she said, "This has been our dream for almost three years, and these people who don't even know us, have ruined it."
  We put on a movie, and before it was over, the wind had kicked up and blew in from the north as predicted. We had a fitful sleep in the salon, keeping watch as much as possible, with some help from an anchor watch app on the iPhone. Neither one of us slept very well, with wind howling as bad as we've ever had at night, and all things being on our minds as to what we were to do if we got through the night.


  At daybreak the moon was still showing full to the west as I got up to get this off my chest. We had breakfast and are now going to formulate a plan. There are whitecaps in this harbor and pulling up our auxiliary anchor may prove to be too difficult to achieve this morning, plus we still don't know where we'll go if we can get out of here. There isn't much point in staying if we can't feel safe about leaving the boat to go ashore. The shine on our dream has been dulled somewhat so far, but we will press on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Barefoot Christmas


  Last Saturday, Marathon was not spared the foul weather that affected most of the northern states. It was blustery and cold, the closest we've been to needing coats or jackets since Halloween in Cape Coral. Had we needed a "coat", we would be SOL: We no longer even own what would be called a coat.
  In the photo above, Rosie is posing with Holly at the tiki hut at the City Marina. We took the dinghy over to listen to some live music provided by one of the harbor residents. The chill took hold as the sun went down and we braved the frigid mid sixty temperatures for about an hour and then headed for the barn before we could be inflicted with yet another Christmas song.


  The weather turned better on Sunday and we dressed in our Sunday finest and rode over to the Sunset Grille, just east of the seven mile bridge. There was a DJ playing reggae music and the outside bars eventually filled up with vacationers catching their favorite football teams on the numerous T.V.s. We kept up with our St. Louis Rams with their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the iPhone because the game was not worthy of national coverage.
  We were seated adjacent to the outside grille where huge hamburgers, hot dogs, and other various special menu items were being expertly prepared by two "chefs". I noticed an interesting item being grilled at one point and went over to ask what was being cooked and was told that they were grilling some bacon wrapped scallops. They were giant scallops, and anything that has bacon wrapped around it is good anyway. One order to share, coming up.
  We were at a table by ourselves, but had plenty of company throughout the day as Holly kept attracting visitors. Some of them she met with courtesy, and some she treated with downright disdain. I think she learned that from me. We met a nice couple down on vacation, and like the couple we met at Lazy Days last week, all they could talk about was how horrible their children were and how those adult children still lived at home and were preventing them from leading their "dream life", such as we were leading. Almost makes us feel guilty.  At any rate, we had a fun time until the sun dropped below the horizon and we knew we had better make the dinghy ride while we could still find our way.


    On Christmas Eve we took a long dinghy ride after reading our books some in the morning. We traded Facebook comments with a lot of our friends saying hello and planning their Christmas social activities. I did feel some sadness when reading about some friends that were feeling low, whether they were missing a deceased loved one or they were alone for the holiday. It's not always easy to cope for some folks when everyone around them is at least pretending to be having so much fun. The photo above reflects the introspective mood I found myself in as the day ended.


  Sick of Holly pictures yet? We aren't. Holly gets a special mention because Christmas Day is the anniversary of the day we brought her home with us; this Christmas being the 1st anniversary. Here she is with one of her first toys, a stuffed spotted leopard wearing a Santa hat. Don't ask why because we don't know. What we do know is that for the next few years at least, Holly is the main reason for us to celebrate a day which for others has some sort of religious significance, something to do with shopping and snowmen. Something like that.
  I had called my dad on Christmas morning, and Rosie had called some of her family. We got a call from good friends James and Marny back in St. Louis and really enjoyed the phone visit. I had also answered a holiday email from my brother and I had told him that we were staying at the boat and making a big pot of chicken and dumplings on the grill...but while listening to the cruiser's net at 9 A.M., we decided to make a bigger pot and take it up to a pot luck dinner at 1 P.M. over at the marina.
  We showed up just in time while there was still room at the table set up for everyone to place their dishes, and there were plenty of them. Just after setting up our chairs, two other couples set up camp next to us and we met them; one couple from Canada and one couple from Wales. Each couple had boats in various places, the Wales couple had boats here and in Turkey. We were able to share some valuable information with each other.
  As the dinner was winding down, two fellas walked up and introduced themselves and told us that they used to raft up with us when we boated up on the Mississippi River in Mason's Chute. They heard our boat name on the cruisers net that morning and came over to look us up. They were down for their annual vacation and will be here a month or two, I forgot which. It seems we are easier to find than I would have thought.
  There was another pot luck dinner over at a local bar and we got an invitation to that, but as it was, by the time it started, we were out of gas and had settled down to watch a DVD we had bought at Kmart, actually two DVDs; The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. We had watched The Shining on Christmas Eve. Both movies, although directed by the great Stanley Kubrick, stunk. But they were only $5 for both of them, and now we have something to trade when we want to see some others that someone else might have and willing to trade. We should have brought the ones from home but we donated them to our condo association library before we left.
  Our time is winding down here. Today will be laundry day and I'll take another walk to Home Depot. I don't really need anything, but Holly likes the walk and I bet I find something to bring back to the boat. Rosie suggested that I make the trip without her. I think she is just getting me out of the way while she is doing laundry. I tend to ask "How much longer is it going to be?" quite a lot.
  Tomorrow will be one more trip to Publix, or Winn Dixie, not sure which yet, then the trip to the vet on Friday morning to get the green light from Doctor Molly to see if Holly is fit for travel. I hope we find a good vet in Key West if she needs one. Between Tara back in St. Louis, Lorraine in Tampa, Molly here in Marathon, Holly has a good group of veterinarians that have treated her. I left out the quack in Cape Coral, and meant to.
  The next post should be from fabulous Key West where we hope to be in time to prepare ourselves for a New Years Eve outing somewhere. I don't think it much matters where we go, I think we'll have a grand time no matter where we wind up.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

More Notes From Marathon


  We are into our second week here in Boot Key Harbor, which is in Marathon, as most of you know. We have some relatively chilly weather occurring currently. The photo above was taken yesterday when the wind kicked up and our low was 66 degrees. This morning it was 55 degrees and the wind blew hard all night. We should get up to the mid seventies today and the wind should die down about mid day.
  We were going to take the dinghy over to Dockside last night, a bar/restaurant here in the harbor, but it was too windy to suit us, so we stayed in and used up some data transfer space and watched a movie on our Roku player.
  The harbor keeps filling up, mostly with sailboats. We have made some inquiries to two Key West marinas that manage dinghy docks and mooring fields. We are currently intending to go to the Garrison Bight Mooring Field. We would rather stay on anchor, but the anchorages around Key West are usually crowded, and as much as I have confidence in our anchoring abilities, other people may not be as responsible. The dinghy dock at Garrison Bight is close to shopping, a hardware store, and the main part of Key West, for our partying pleasures.
  Some sailors we spoke to have complained about the long dinghy ride from the mooring field to the dinghy dock at Garrison Bight, especially in a north wind, but we don't see a need to venture out if conditions aren't acceptable to us. The Garrison Bight mooring field looks sheltered enough from winds from other directions, so we'll see how it is for a week or so and then decide whether to stay in there longer or not.
  The game changer here in southern Florida, particularly the Keys, is that access to the shore via a dinghy, is somewhat restricted, so some type of arrangement usually needs to be made with a marina in the form of purchasing a pass for one's dinghy. The arrangement usually includes the permission to get free pump outs and water fill ups. The free lunches that we found up on the rivers are not found down here. We do have a friend with some condos in Key West, and we're going to see if we can get a hook up on a dock in Key West if we need it, and if it's reasonably priced. Docks in the Key West Bight go for $120 to $160 per night for a boat of our size, and about $2000 per month. These costs are not in our budget, but staying on the hook or a mooring ball is still affordable. Fuel is not astronomical either.
We'll be heading to Key West next weekend after Holly's veterinarian visit, if the weather permits.
  Meanwhile, work on Swing Set continues. The other night I was putting the dinghy up on the davits when one of the hooks on our fourpoint attachment gave way: an aluminum ferrel clamping around a cable just split down one side, letting the cable give way. The dink didn't drop far, or hit anything, and I left the dinghy float that night, and then made a trip to Home Depot the next morning to get stainless cable clamps, the traditional type. I replaced the aluminum ferrel with a stainless steel one, and then combined a cable clamp on all six vital points on our harness system. We shouldn't have any more problems.
  Non-boaters, or seldom boaters, may not realize how much attention is required to keep a boat working in order to live on it. Take just the water system, for instance: At home, you just turn the faucet and the water comes out, or at least it does if you pay your water bill. We don't have a water bill, but when we turn the faucet, lots of things start happening.
  First of all, we have to have water in the tank for water to come out. This requires getting the 120 gallon tank filled up about once a week. To accomplish this, we either get water when we get fuel, or depend on the good will of others in order for them to allow us to full up our tank. We may even pay for water, like we do here at the Marathon City Marina. Even though we are paying for a mooring ball, water is still 5 cents a gallon. We have the option of making our own water with our water maker. We haven't started using it yet, but the 3 gallons per hour that we will get from it will require us to use some battery power, whether we are cruising, or we have to fire up the generator to make that happen.
  So, let's say we have water in the tanks.... turn the faucet and a water pump comes on, you have to transfer the water from the tank to the faucet. In our case, two pumps come on. We have two pumps in order to keep water pressure up in the event someone is taking a shower and someone else wants to use another water faucet. (We have nine water sources on Swing Set.) Two pumps is good in case one quits, too. This has happened and it was nice to not be out of commission while shopping for another pump.
  We get water and we use it, but then it goes down a drain. In our case, the sinks drain to a central sump in the bilge. This sump accumulates the "gray water" and once the level gets high enough, a switch activates and a pump comes on to pump out the gray water. The sump needs to be regularly cleaned out because the soap scum gums up the switch and the strainer to the pump. We have replaced both the pump and the switch since we have owned Swing Set. The sump gets cleaned out about every four months. We use a wet/dry vac; it's a smelly job but doesn't take too long, our sump is easily accessible.
  Switches? Pumps? Electricity is required, either by AC or DC power. We have nine batteries on Swing Set, and they all have to stay charged up, a huge job in itself. We have to keep the generator maintained so it will work when we need it. The wind generators need to be considered too. Keeping juice in the batteries is a constant effort on our part, and more conservation is part of the equation. You can't just drink beer for three days and forget about the power level in the batteries. Why do I know this?
  In view of all of this, water conservation is always on the forefront. We don't waste it. Some things will always take place, no matter what. Rosie, keep shaving those legs...
  All of these mechanisms just to get water to come forth from a water faucet is just part of the bigger mechanical picture of our little world here, and something new is learned all the time. Learning new things will help to keep our brains sharp, at least this is the hope.
  Today we need to take the dinghy over to the marina office today to pick up a package from Amazon.com. We ordered dog food for Holly that was supposed to be delivered next week, but the six bags have already arrived. That's enough five pound bags to last a long time, maybe six to eight months.
   This is another advantage to staying on a mooring ball; we can get packages delivered and have a place to pick them up. This makes shopping for needed items a lot easier. We can also get our mail sent here too. I have an important letter coming from my father that we need to have a hard copy of, so we're having it sent to the marina, due to arrive before we depart next week.
  One thing we don't like about Marathon is how most of the restaurants and services are lined up along the busy Overseas Highway. There are sidewalks along most of it, but sitting outdoors at any of the eating establishments mean sharing your conversations with the exhaust of the passing trucks. We are looking forward to the more quiet settings of the Key West bars and restaurants. Quiet, unless folks visiting from up north are in attendance.
  Doesn't sound too exciting around here does it? But the weather will change this afternoon, or tomorrow, so we can return to dinghy rides, swimming, or just enjoying the view when we're not addressing the many issues that Swing Set requires of us. Not complaining. If we wanted things easy we'd have sold the boat and sat in our condo for the rest of our lives and let our brains turn to mush. Oh, we intend to have our brains turn to mush anyway, but we'll be active until the end while it happens.
  Enjoy your friends and family in the next few days; someone may be gone away on a boat somewhere by this time next year. It might even be you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Few Days In "The Black Hole"



  Marathon is called "The Black Hole" because so many boaters go there, never to leave again. We are determined to avoid being one of those, but I can see where it would be difficult to leave.
  The harbor is sheltered and the water quality is not as good as on the "outside", but it's not bad. I could almost make water from it, but don't need to. Stores, both for grocery and hardware shopping, are within walking distance, albeit a long walk, but taxi service is cheap too. There are places to go in the dinghy as far as a beach or places to eat. There is a large laundry room, a good library, a place to recycle waste liquids like oil and diesel, if you are doing any maintenance.
  We'll be here at least until the 28th of December when Holly has her follow-up visit to the vet to determine if our treatment for her ear infection has worked. The weather will determine whether or not we will venture forth in order to be in Key West for New Year's, which is our loose laid plan. Right now, a front is moving in and this afternoon the winds will pick up and by tomorrow there will be 5-6 foot seas out on the route to Key West. We don't intend to venture out in those kind of seas, on purpose anyway. We have made some inquiries as to some places to anchor in Key West, as well as a place to use a dinghy dock, and we feel confident that we can exist there.


  Last Saturday we took the dinghy out and scouted out the beach over on Sombrero Key. We took two turns around Boot Key in the process and wound up over at Lazy Days at the Marathon Marina. We had a few beers at the bar and met a nice couple from Ohio, down here on vacation. The picture above was taken as we left, and it was very dark by the time we found ourselves back at the boat.
  While we've been here we've done laundry twice, made three trips to Home Depot, and one trip to the Winn Dixie. The cart we bought earlier this year from West Marine came in handy when we hauled the groceries back to the dock.
  The generator oil got changed, another attempt to fix our water leak was done, some barnacles have been scraped, and some waxing was done too. I changed the filters in two of the Racor fuel filters and used our new oil extractor to pull dirty fuel from the bottom of the bowls in the filter housings. Using the extractor to siphon fuel is not recommended by the manufacturer, but I saw no danger in it and found it to be a perfect way to extract the contaminants from the bottom of the filter bowls.
  We went to a "presentation" on Tuesday night, over at the tiki hut at the marina, given by Chuck and Susan from "Trawler Beach House". A few other boaters were in attendance and we learned a few things and had some good conversations. We have a link to Chuck and Susan's blog on our home page.
  We have started listening in on the "cruisers net" at 9 A.M. each morning when boaters in the area chime in and trade information regarding the harbor, trades they may have, or any other requests. It's a good way to network with the other boaters in the harbor.


  Every day has included a dinghy ride, or a walking trip, keeping us busy. The sunsets with the sailboats in the foreground are just beautiful, as you can see in the above photo. We can understand the appeal of staying here in "the Black Hole", and becoming a part of this community. It's very interesting. I swear I saw Charles Manson getting water in his dinghy over at the marina, but I know better. There is a diverse group of boaters here, some on a shoestring, and others more flush. We might fall somewhere in the middle, but are in the minority here, being power boaters and all.
  I'm not impressed with this post, but thought I'd get you all up to date. Perhaps something more interesting will happen to us over the weekend and we can relay a good story. But we don't want it to be too interesting.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Everglades City To Marathon


   Before we left Goodland we needed to go to Stan's to see what the fuss was all about. We had a good enough time, but canned beer was $4. That's really all I need to say about it.
  While in Goodland, I had put a feeler out on the AGLCA forum to ask if anyone had any ideas about where we could get a package delivered in Marathon. I had called the UPS store and the owner said he would only hold a package for two days. We didn't have plans to stay at a marina, so calling one to accept a delivery was out. I got a call from a fellow "Looper" that has their boat in Marathon, and without giving us a lecture about where we should buy our zincs, or where we should stay, or how many spares we need to keep on board, Leslie and Flint Firestone on the MV Grace Full said they would gladly accept a package for us, just let them know when it would be coming. Great!
  On Monday morning I called BoatZincs.com and ordered four sets of pencil zincs for our Caterpillars and then sent the Firestones an email telling them when to expect them, but we still were not sure when we would arrive in Marathon as the weather was a little iffy.
  We had heard that Everglades City was a place to see, especially the Rod and Gun Club there, so even though Everglades City wasn't too far away, we set our sights on Indian Key and took a nice cruise down the Gulf and found a nice spot to set our hook. A sailboat that spent a night with us in Goodland had already arrived there and we waved as we cruised past them. There was no Internet service, or T.V. reception in our anchorage, which was among the mangroves between the Gulf of Mexico and Everglades City, so we cooked up a good dinner and played Scrabble.
  About midnight the rain started, and it rained. We found out later that Everglades City received over 4 inches of rain. For our part, we were bombarded by a hellacious lightening storm that had me just a little worried. It was a fitful night.  We got up in the morning and the ceiling in the salon was leaking badly. The repair I had done in Cape Coral was for nothing. I was troubled about it, but being troubled doesn't solve anything, so I pulled up the gasket material on the front part of our windshield and administered the same treatment I had given the port side wind screen. Now we have to wait for the next rain to see how I did. Meanwhile, I have developed a plan "B" and have also bought the materials for it, just in case. Always good to have a plan "B".
  Our next plan was to go into Everglade City for lunch on Tuesday, but it was cloudy well into the afternoon, so we scratched that plan and decided to wait. Meanwhile, I checked the wind report on Windfinder.com and saw that the Gulf was going to be bumpy later in the week, so we decided that we wouldn't wait until Wednesday to go to Everglades City, but leave our anchorage on Wednesday morning no matter what.
  Another sailboat slipped in next to us in our large anchoring spot while we were reading our books just after noon on Tuesday. The weather turned and by mid afternoon we were sitting outside and decided to go to Everglades City for dinner that evening, maybe coming back to anchor where we were in the dark, or just stay at a dock somewhere.


   Everglades City was about five miles inland through the Everglades National Park from where we were anchored. The route is circuitous and narrow, as you can see from the skinny channel in the picture above.


  Here's the Rod and Gun Club as we approached it. Dusk was coming on and it didn't help matters that no visitors, by boat or land, seemed to be at the place, making it seem desolate and uninviting. We checked the menu online and finding out that the hamburgers were nearly $14 helped us decide to pass it up.
  We cruised on up the Barron River to a couple of other establishments, but the two we saw were either not open, or had no customers. Rosie and I both figured we could have a better dinner on the boat, and could be back at our anchorage before dark, so we turned around and started planning our menu. We were happy to get back and drop the hook before darkness settled in. We found out later that our anchor neighbors were glad to see us return too.
  The next morning we made our decision to go. The forecast called for some winds to kick up later in the afternoon, so if we were going to make it with some comfort to our planned anchorage on the Little Shark River, forty miles away, before the Gulf got too nasty, we had better get going pronto.
  As we were pulling up the hook, our sailboat neighbors were gliding by and gave a friendly wave, so I hailed them on the radio and asked them where they were headed. They responded that they were headed to an anchorage in the Little Shark River, so I told them we were too. I followed "Alley Cat" out to a route nearly on his tail and I found out later that he was using Navionics too on his iPad. I also found out later that they had done this trip over 17 times, their home base being in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and I was impressed that our first time out that we were following the exact same course of some more experienced boaters.
  Not being a "follower" though, we hailed them as we passed and said we'd see them in the Little Shark River later on that afternoon. Our ride was as bumpy as we'd had so far on our travels, and we also found out later that Alley Cat almost turned around, but we found the markers to the Little Shark River and turned up into a swift current to make anchor.
  The current was ripping through the narrow river and the water was nasty. I figured it was good for fishing and threw out a line. No time later Alley Cat showed up and once they got a hook set, brought their dinghy over to say hello. Gerald and Phyllis are experienced sailors and are headed to the Bahamas. We chatted until the "No See Ums" attacked us all and they bade us goodbye after saying they were headed to Marathon in the morning and we said we were too, and we'd see them then.
  Now, I want to say this; our anchorage in the Little Shark River was the worst, the worst, I tells ya, anchorage we had encountered in nearly eight months of travel. The current was rushing past our hull, we had some marine life eating at stuff on our hull that sounded like an electrical fire was about to start, and the tidal current shifted twice in the night, setting off our anchor alarm both times. Did I mention the bugs? We were attacked during a game of dominoes with the utmost severity. No See Ums are not denied by any screen that man has invented. We had them flying all around us and they BITE. Oh, yeah, and the humidity was off the chart. I don't think they have a scale for the humidity that we were experiencing. I had more sweat running out of my head than I ever had during wrestling practice way back in the stone age. But we survived.
  We couldn't get out of there fast enough in the morning. The tide had dropped nearly five feet on the last turn and we barely had enough water to get back out to the Gulf. Alley Cat was on their way, and sure enough, we had both plotted to same course. On our way out, we passed a motor vessel that had been towing a center console fishing boat and had sunk it. The bill was going to be over $6000 to get the vessel back to civilization via Towboat U.S., and the vessel was sitting at anchor waiting for the rescue. Glad we weren't them.
   The pond was flat as a pancake as we went, the only issue being millions of crab pot markers that we had to dodge. We saw what appeared to be a small boat way off on our starboard beam and went over to investigate. No telling when someone might be adrift at sea: I read Hemingway. No souls onboard, so we hailed Alley Cat and told them not to bother when they went past.
  The skies had darkened to the west, as a storm had settled over Key West and the Dry Tortugas. I kept an eye on our weather radar and monitored the VHF weather reports from NOAA radio and knew we would evade any storm, but I'll tell you, the clouds we could see off the starboard beam were ominous indeed.
  It was pretty dreary as we approached the Seven Mile Bridge, but as we slipped beneath it, the sun came out and we steered our course back to Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.


  Back in the late 1980's we visited Boot Key Harbor in our 24 foot Formula, and we only were there for a few hours, so we wanted to spend a fair amount of time in Marathon this time around. In the picture, we are headed for the Marathon City Marina where we decided to get a mooring ball after seeing the derelict vessels anchored in the "free spots" in the harbor.


  There is well over two hundred mooring balls in this harbor and is well run by the Marathon City Marina. We called them and were directed into the office because we wanted to fill up our water tank before attaching Swing Set to one of the well maintained mooring balls. See Swing Set in the photo? They are about 65% full right now and expect to fill up by the New Year.
  After getting settled, we jumped in the dinghy and went sight seeing a bit. The first thing we did was go over to the  Sombrero Marina to check in with the Firestones on Grace Full. They were outside in the cockpit of their motor cruiser and were not hard to find. They were still on the lookout for our package and offered to drive us anywhere we needed to go in the next few days. We thanked them profusely and wondered how we ever thought we could be "independent" with all these good hearted people that tend to surround us.


  There is some beautiful vessels here in this harbor, and some very interesting ones too. This houseboat in the picture has been modified to take advantage of all the room there may be available. I really want to see the inside of this thing before we leave. By the way, they are anchored on the "outside" of the mooring field. Pirates, no doubt.
  We cruised by a couple of marinas and found out that most of them were using the tactic of not advertising a fuel price with tax included. According to what some long time residents in the area told me, this is a new phenomenon that is taking hold. I don't like it. We saw $3.99 plus tax, not too bad, but why not just say what it is?
  By the time we had returned to Swing Set, the set was setting. We saw Alley Cat pull in and hook up to one of the the sturdy mooring balls and we putted over to say hello again.
 Later, Rosie roasted some delicious chicken wings in the convection oven, as the wind kicked up and I didn't think the grill would stay lit. Even though we have an awesome Internet signal, there is no T.V., so it was an early night for us. But after a long travel day, sleep came easy and we had the confidence of being hooked to a secure anchor with no worries.
  Before we went to bed we formulated a rough plan for our Friday: We had some business to attend to via some phone calls and email, but first we were going to take a walk and get breakfast, walk to Home Depot, and then do much needed laundry. Well, we woke up and let Holly do her business on the swim platform, then I went to give her an early morning scratch behind the ears while she smothered me in kisses, when she yelped when I touched her ears. Do you remember when I told the vet back in Cape Coral that Holly was shaking her head as thought she had some ear trouble, but after two ear inspections we were told that everything was fine? I checked Holly's ears and found odor in both ears and some drainage in her right ear. Ear infection.
  I waited five minutes until 8 A.M., after searching for a vet on the Internet and made a call. We were able to schedule an appointment right away and was also told the name of a "pet friendly" taxi service. Within the hour we were in the waiting room of the Marathon Veterinary Hospital, a $5 cab ride away from the marina.
  Dr. Molly ascertained Holly's ear infection and we were given some medicine and instructions to bring her back in two weeks. We had been down this road before, but this time we had no reservations about staying in Marathon for two weeks and nursing our little pet back to health. This is a pretty good place to hang out.
  We walked back to the City Marina, stopping first at Laura's Deli for breakfast, then to the Tru Value Hardware, then to the Home Depot. It had to be over two miles back to the marina and Holly trotted alongside us like a trouper. I, however, got a blister and a backache.
  We dropped Holly off at the boat and we gathered up the laundry and headed back to the marina from our mooring. Once our wash was going, we went over to the big "clubhouse" where lots of other boaters were either using the free WiFi, reading books at the large library, or watching T.V. at one of the three flat screens on the premises, along with theatre style seating. It's casual but very nice.
  Once back to the boat we gave Holly her medicinal treatment that was required of us and she took it like a champ. Nothing better happen to this dog if we can help it.


  The sun was setting over Boot Key Harbor as I came in to post this blog entry. The only thing dampening our spirits is the senseless shootings we heard about at the school in Conneticut. What is wrong with people? I usually end a blog with something funny, or a twist on something I said earlier, but tonight....I don't have it in me.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goodland

  Yesterday was seven months into our adventure. When I reflect on the whole experience up to now, it's hard to believe all the things we've done and places we've visited, and there are so many more places to see. They will most likely consist of views of land and water.
  I was also reflecting on our interview with the writer from Heartland Boating that we did last Friday. One thing I wanted to convey, and I'm not sure I did, was that after a length of time, after the initial shock, or novelty, wears off, the experience of living on the boat boils down to just living, period. So, if you cannot find some way to be happy with whatever you are doing in your current lifestyle, or mate, it is doubtful that living on a boat is going to improve matters. The fact is that personalities won't change with the scenery, (you hope not anyway) and problems and challenges still occur, maybe even ones more challenging than you are accustomed to. We definitely are still enjoying this, but I do tend to "climb fences that haven't been built yet", it's inherent genetically. I am constantly reminding myself to resist any urges to worry about the future, just make a rough plan and see what pans out.


  We left Marco Island in mid afternoon last Friday. It wasn't high tide yet, but it was rising and I decided to make a go of it and just stop and wait for higher water if we encountered water that was too shallow. Before leaving the area, and while waiting for the water to come up, we cruised through the Marco Island Yacht Club. There are slips to sublease in there and I wanted to check the place out. We were about to turn around, having seen enough of the very nice facility, when we got hailed over the VHF radio. "Will the vessel cruising through MY harbor, please acknowledge?", came the voice of the harbormaster. We established contact on their working channel, and I was asked if he could "help us". I told him that I was considering getting a slip there at his marina and we wanted to make sure it was "up to our standards". Take that you stuffy creep! His tone changed and we were invited to tie up and take a closer look. We declined, saying that we had seen enough. Don't call us, we'll call you.
   It's a tricky five mile run to Goodland, and we needed every bit of the tide we did have to make it through, having slipped over 3.5 depths more than once. I found the transit over to Goodland to be just a bit nerve wracking, not knowing if we would run out of the wet stuff. We came within sight of the town and after one more skinny section, we could sigh a breath of relief.
  We circled the entire small town in the boat before deciding on an anchorage just east of the town next to Coon Key. We have a sailboat for a neighbor, as you can see in the photo, but no one is home there. We are just outside of a "no wake" channel, so passing boats don't affect our peace and quiet. Just west of us is a nature preserve, so there is nothing but mangroves, and lots of nesting birds. Many dolphins are at play here and they seem to like dusk and dawn best for their antics.
  On Saturday morning we took the dinghy out to explore the town. We first cruised over to the city park and boat ramp where a flea market was taking place. A big sign is posted with pictures that supposedly prohibit swimming, drinking, dumping trash, running naked, or otherwise having any fun at all. What do they do at parks in Florida?
  I don't like flea markets, and normally don't go to them. We don't have room on the boat for junk, nor do we want any, but it was something to do. For about one minute, it turned out. It took longer to get the dinghy tied, and Holly gathered up, than it took to tour the two outside aisles of do dads and trinkets being offered for our perusal.
  We got right back in the dink and toured the few canals in the area. This town is a direct opposite from what we've found in Marco Island and Naples. There are a few nicer homes, but for the most part, there is a lot of run down trailers on stilts to be found. However, people have been giving us friendly waves as we motor past their homes. Does a wave always consist of all one's fingers?
  We planned on lunching at the Marco Island Lodge, an establishment in Goodland that's been here since 1869. First, we cruised past Stan's and The Little Bar to see what there was to see and we did settle on the lodge for some chicken wings and a couple of icey cold Bud Lights. Can't go wrong much with that combination. I think a couple of the waitresses may have been employed since 1869 though.
  A few people stopped by our table to remark on "how cute your doggy is", until Holly would tear them a new pie hole with her barking and growling. She doesn't do this with everyone. We like to think she is a good judge of character, but we think she is making us miss out on some otherwise interesting folks. Maybe she will grow out of it.
  After lunch it was back to the boat and a nice nap. Rosie took a picture of me napping with Holly. I am not printing it. My hair is messed up. OK, I'll print it.


 After our nap, we did some minor cosmetic chores to the boat and then we took another dinghy ride close to sunset. It had been overcast and the sun setting beneath the clouds was very pretty. I was going to take pictures of this and post them, but my hair was messed up.
  Earlier in the day, I decided to order some pencil zincs for the Cats as we will be needing them soon. West Marine doesn't carry the size we need, so I searched Boatzincs.com, a place where I ordered from in the past. The prices at Boatzincs were very good, with free shipping on orders over $100. No problem. I'm ordering enough zincs to cover the next two change outs.
  My problem was finding a place to have them shipped to. We know we will be traveling through Marathon, so having them shipped there seemed naturally the thing to do. I called a UPS store there and was told that they would only hold a package for two days. Two days! I wanted a longer window, as we don't know exactly when we will arrive in Marathon, or how long it will take for the zincs to ship. I put out a request on the AGLCA site and got a phone call from some Loopers staying on their boat in Marathon until February. They told us they would be happy to get our package for us. That ought to do it. I'll call and order the zincs tomorrow and if the weather holds out, we should arrive about the same time in Marathon that the zincs do, unless we run into foul weather on the way. That is the fly in the ointment.
  We seem to be on schedule to make Key West by New Years, a loose knit plan of ours. We don't have any special plans for Christmas. We'll only be celebrating the arrival of Holly on that day last year. That's as special as it needs to be for us.
  I wanted to head south today, as the weather in the Gulf will be quiet, but Rosie wants to visit Stan's here in Goodland because "Carl said it was the best place to go". As it turns out, we have a great deal of fog here this morning as you can see in this next picture.


  We also know that our friend Carl is not to be disputed when it comes to fun places to go. He may be an expert. So, later this afternoon we'll go to Stan's for happy hour and a little sumpin' to eat. Stan's is dog friendly, so we shouldn't make too many enemies over there. Anyone who has been to Stan's should note that Stan passed away this year, in February, I think. I was told that they paraded his body around the bar for his wake on a Sunday afternoon, keeping up some sort of tradition. I hope they didn't have him dressed in an ascot.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Five Days In Marco Island


  Smokehouse Bay is in the heart of Marco Island. If you are coming up the river from the Gulf of Mexico, there is a small channel on the south side of the river that leads into Collier Bay. Smokehouse is past Collier Bay as you weave your way through the well marked channel in this no wake zone. The Esplanade, shown in the picture, is a resort and condominium complex on the East side of Smokehouse Bay and sitting right out front is the Esplanade Marina. They don't have services or fuel, but they do have some transient dockage. We anchored just a bit away from it, right in front of a small city park.
  After our fun day spent with Bert and Renee on Sunday, we wanted to just take a breather all day Monday, so we did. On Monday night we decided to watch some T.V. and in spite of being right in the heart of Marco Island, we couldn't get any reception, so we made plans to move the next day, out into the bay a little further.
  Rosie had decided on Monday that she didn't really want to do a "spa day" on Tuesday, that she would rather spend the whole day with me. You'd think she would be over that by now.
  Instead, on Tuesday, we took the dinghy over to the small dock right behind the nearby Winn Dixie and we walked to West Marine and I bought an "oil extractor", a device that creates suction by pumping a handle, and with a hose inserted into a dipstick, will suck the oil out of an engine. I wanted to use it to change the transmission oil in each of our transmissions. (The device worked as advertised, but I couldn't get the plugs out that house the oil filters on the transmissions, so I had to install new oil without cleaning the filters. Next time.)
  We also bought some new swimwear for me, and a couple of warm up suits for Rosie. We got back to the boat and Rosie went to unzip the top for one of the warm up suits and the zipper pull just broke off of the zipper, practically disintegrating in her hand. So now we had to walk back to that store to make a return. Stores in tourist areas don't mind selling you junk because they know you won't be around to return it when it breaks.


  We moved on Tuesday afternoon and got a better view of the sunset, plus better T.V. reception in the bargain. There are two other boats anchored over where we moved to and during one of our dinghy trips, we stopped by to say "Hi" to one couple in a trawler.
  They just retired a few months ago and have traveled from Houston, TX, and are heading in the same direction as we are, but first they have to keep their boat at a marina here in Marco Island and go home for a month or so. They also have plans to ship their boat overseas and cruise around Turkey, an ambitious plan for sure. They are very nice and we'll make it a point to keep up with them.
 

  Holly got a much needed haircut on Wednesday. I would say that she is 100% housebroken now, and uses the swim platform to do her "business", the majority of the time, only using her potty pad occasionally, but she goes into her room to use it as needed when we let her run around on her own in the boat. This method sure beats taking her to land in the dinghy twice a day, in all kinds of weather, but having a small dog is the key here.
  Let's see, what else happened? We cruised over to the Esplanade in the dinghy to check out if we wanted to visit a restaurant there with Bert and Renee before they go back home and the harbormaster there said that, "He was told" by his boss about us picking up Bert and Renee at the dock on Sunday. He personally didn't have a problem with it, but the board of directors didn't want their marina to become a place for people to be picking up and dropping off passengers. I said that I thought the fact that we visited a restaurant there later and spent a few bucks would offset any opposition to using the marina as a pick up spot. He agreed, but, that's not the way his boss sees it.
  This policy put a hitch in any plans to pick up Bert and Renee again in the boat, but I wasn't feeling too good this week anyway, and we did have plans for them to join us on Thursday night for dinner before they left. Our plan was to take the dinghy over to the marina and park it there while we were having dinner. This seems to be acceptable to the management at their stuffy marina.
  On Thursday morning we went back to the store where Rosie bought the cheap clothing. We also went to West Marine again, and we found an Ace Hardware within walking distance. I went to the Ace Hardware to get some gasket material for our sump box, plus I wanted a bigger Crescent wrench to fit the nut on the oil filter housing on our transmissions.
  I already have what is called a "10 inch" Crescent wrench. It doesn't open wide enough for the nut that I intend to use it on. In my world, and maybe yours, a larger wrench, say a "12 inch Crescent wrench, would logically open wider, right? The guy at the Ace Hardware store that waited on me didn't see it that way.
  I was looking at their selection of Crescent wrenches, housed behind a locked sliding glass case, (Marco Island didn't seem to be the place where tool pilfering would be a problem.) when a German fellow that worked there asked if I needed some help. I say "German fellow" because judging by his thick German accent, I only assumed he was German. I know this because not only am I "good friends with several Germans", as they say, but I am largely German myself and I know my way around a German accent. I, however, am a blog writer, not Kurt Vonnegut, so I am not so good at writing a German accent.
  As he was unlocking the glass cabinet, I explained to him that I had a 10 inch wrench, but wanted the larger one, but the package in was encased in did not provide the information as to how wide the jaws on this particular wrench would open. Using some calculation that I am unfamiliar with, he takes out a tape ruler and does some measuring on the wrench with the jaws closed and tells me that they will open about "one inch". I told him that wouldn't be the case because my 10 inch wrench opens over 2 inches, so the 12 inch wrench would open more. He disagreed, saying that they had much smaller wrenches that in fact would open wider than their larger wrenches. Now, I don't know what qualified this bird to be working at a hardware store, but I know my way around a Craftsman Tool box. I chose not to argue with this guy, but instead told him that if this was the case, I wouldn't be buying this $18 wrench then.
  As I was picking out my gasket material, another fella asked me if I was finding everything I needed. He turned out to be the owner of the store. I explained that I wanted a Crescent wrench that would open wider than the 10 inch wrench I had. "The 12 inch one will do that", he said.
  "That's what I think, but the fella that was helping me didn't see it that way, and I didn't want to argue with him", I replied.
  The owner unlocked the case and gave me a knowing look along with the 12 inch wrench. I would guess that he has had disagreements with this particular employee in the past himself. I was at the cash register when the German fellow noticed that I was buying the wrench and he commented on it. I jokingly offered to pay him ten dollars if the wrench didn't open over one inch, if he would pay me the ten dollars if it did. He declined, saying that if he had told me the wrong thing when I wondered if how far the wrench would open, that I would "come back to the store and throw the wrench in his face". They seem to have a rigid return policy at this particular Ace Hardware in Marco Island. He went on to say that he really didn't care how far the jaws on the wrench opened anyway. I wondered then, why he would say anything about the wrench at all if he didn't know, or care. I think this guy needs to find another line of work, say in a brewery somewhere. I'll never look at a BMW the same way again.
  We went on to Beall's outlet mall where Rosie bought two warm up suits of better quality, we hope. We also made another stop at Winn Dixie for a couple of items we missed earlier in the week. Then it was back to the boat for lunch and to rest up to meet Bert and Renee one more time before they left on Friday morning.
  Renee called later and said Bert wasn't feeling too well and they had to scratch dinner plans. We understood because I hadn't been feeling too well all week. They come to Marco Island every year, so we are sure to see them again, but after this revelation, we wished we had sucked it up and met them on either Tuesday or Wednesday. We just can't party like we used to.


 
  We went over to the Tiki Bar at the Esplanade any way. The octagonal bar was full of patrons, but I asked one bartender who he thought might be leaving and he motioned over to a couple of young guys finishing up a couple of cocktails. We moved over behind them and waited like vultures until they left.  We later asked a fellow patron to take the above photo. It would appear that we were having a pretty good time, and we were, but the pizza we ate was the worst pizza we ever had. They advertised it as a "14 inch pizza", but it was shaped like a football and the measurement was made along the longest side I guess.
  One thing I noticed about this ritzy bar; there was a lot of grown men wearing sweaters draped over their shoulders with the arms of the sweaters tied around their necks. This is not a good look, fellas. I even saw one guy wearing an ascot. An ascot! No wonder this town can serve bad food and employ idiots to work in their stores; the citizens seem to have more money than sense. We need to get to where more down to earth people live. When I go to a bar, I want the guy next to me to be wearing a Harley shirt, and his girlfriend to be wearing less.
  To end this entry on a high note: We just got through with an interview with a writer from Heartland Boating for an article that should appear in their January issue. We actually enjoyed the process, the writer was very personable. I hope she leaves out the part about the illegal aliens we keep in the engine room though.
 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Eight Days At Keewadin Island

  We spent eight days anchored off of Keewadin Island and would perhaps still be there except for the fact that we finally ran out of water, and we wanted to meet Bert and Renee from St. Louis who were coming down for a meeting for Bert's work.
 

  Until then, though, we spent every day doing a little of this and that on the boat, and we did spend one afternoon on the beach. We visited the "burger boat" on this day and each had a delicious hamburger with all the trimmings for not a bad price of $6. Holly pretty much ruined any chance of making new friends by barking her head off at anyone who remotely looked as though they might stop and chat. She does look cute, however, in her neckerchief.
  Mark and Terri came down in their boat from Naples on Thursday and brought much needed beer supplies. They also brought their very well behaved dog, Millie, who tried to set an example to Holly and did not utter a sound all afternoon. Holly did not take the hint, but we were able to get in some conversation between frequent comments from Holly on one thing or another.


  One strange thing we noticed was that when we would visit the swim platform at night, catfish would swarm to the surface behind the boat. We had been hearing of strange behavior from catfish in nearby areas attributed to some "red tide" along the coast, and wondered if this phenomenon was connected with that. I caught three of these catfish the next morning, but threw them back because we heard, and I read, that these fish are not all that good to eat. Just as well.


  On one of the overcast days we spent the whole day reading our Kindles, but for the most part we had good weather and realized how much money people spend to be on vacation and do just what we were doing. We consider ourselves very fortunate.
  We were going to head over to Marco Island and find an anchorage on Friday. We had called the marina where our vessel documentation certificate had been delivered and was told that it was there. We were going to leave Keewadin on Friday morning, but lots of boats were coming in for the weekend, so we decided to wait until Saturday morning to leave. Then Saturday morning came and even more boats were arriving, so we decided to wait until the end of the day to leave our attractive anchorage when the tide would be high to assist us for the approximately eight mile cruise through the mangroves to Marco. As we spent the afternoon people watching, we realized how attractive keeping our boat at a marina in Marco Island would be, at least during the hot months of summer, and then coming over to Keewadin in Swing Set, or even in the dinghy, for social activity. The area reminded us of our popular anchoring spot in Mason's Chute on the Mississippi, before the slough eventually silted in. I think the area has potential.
  Not too late on Saturday afternoon we went over to the marina that had our letter and we found that the person gave us someone else's letter, ours wasn't found. We decided to call the girl who agreed to accept our letter the next day, as she would be on duty to find out if she had put the letter away in a safe place. While Rosie was on the hunt for the letter, I filled up our water tank, so the trip was worth the trouble.
  I had in mind to anchor in Smokehouse Bay, just around the corner, so we made our way over there just before sunset. The anchorage is a quiet one near a city park, plus a Winn Dixie was nearby with a dock, so we could easily get groceries. We got the boat snuggled in and we dropped the dink and went back out to the channel to the Snook Inn for dinner.
  We got a seat at the bar and was able to meet some folks, as we left Holly in the boat and she wasn't able to object to anyone. One fellow on my left had grown up in the St. Louis area and we knew some of the same people, but no one we could call a friend, one in particular being the last CEO of the beer factory where I worked before the Belgians got hold of it.
  A local guy on Rosie's right was able to provide the best information for us in regard to our impending cruise over to Goodland. We're going to need to go at high tide as it gets a bit skinny in some areas, but once over there, he thinks we'll really like it.
  We were able to leave the place on our own volition, a nice change from the last bar visit in Naples. I only got lost twice going back to Swing Set in the dark, but I knew we would eventually find our home if we kept making left turns. The fact that we were anchored in the shadow of a relatively tall condo complex, The Esplanade, helped too.
  On Sunday morning, Rosie and I took the dinghy over and parked at a dock right behind the Winn Dixie and walked to Suzie's Diner and had a great, if not expensive, breakfast that we thoroughly enjoyed. With full bellies, we went back the way we came and stopped in at the grocery store to stock up on a few things.
  By the time we got back to the boat, put groceries away, and got our showers, Renee had called and said they were on their way. We picked them up at noon over at The Esplanade and set out for the day. We first went over to the marina to pick up our vessel documentation. The nice girl there told Rosie that she did indeed have it in her possession. Rosie jumped off of the boat and went in to retrieve the letter and left a generous tip for the girl. No telling when we might need her services again. I've intentionally left out her name, or the name to the marina, so she doesn't get in trouble for assisting someone who isn't staying there, an infraction that could spell trouble from "the board of directors". I generally take a dim view of "board of directors", just about in any capacity.


  We had a fun day with Bert and Renee. We took them over to Keewadin and rafted up with Fritz, who we had met last week, and some of his friends, four boats in all. I took the picture above, myself, as you can tell. I hate the image of me in this, but everyone else looks great. It was late late late when we returned to The Esplanade, some great harm having been done to more than one bottle of fine vodka by two persons in our party, the rest of the damage having been placed on some newly acquired Bud Light that morning at Winn Dixie.
  We stormed into the tiki hut at CJ's, the open air venue at The Esplanade and had a pretty good time. We met a woman there who we found out shared Rosie's birthday, same day and year. She worked over at the Marriott where Bert and Renee were staying and talked Rosie and Renee into scheduling a "Spa Day" for Wednesday. This is something Rosie doesn't normally do, but the price seems right and she deserves a one day vacation from me. Renee wanted me to join them, as Bert would be in meetings, but I declined, perhaps needing a similar vacation from my lovely wife, but I wouldn't admit that.
  I might spend the day tomorrow taking Holly for a walk and attempt to instill some social skills in her, or I might just chill out and read. We both know that today is going to be low key after the day such as we had yesterday.
  By the way, Rosie spied our friend from Cape Coral, Kim, the one with the derelict looking sailboat, cruising through the river channel in her dinghy, as we were returning from our outing yesterday. We would prefer that she doesn't find us in the next couple of days, or that she would somehow get wind of this blog. Don't tell her, OK?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keewadin and Little Marco Islands


  We've found a good spot here just inside the Little Marco Pass, between Keewadin and Little Marco Island. The beach on the southern end of Keewadin Island has a lot of beach goers, even on a Monday when we thought it would be deserted around here.
  But on Sunday afternoon there were plenty of boaters around. We took a walk along the crowded beach with Holly and she learned to jump over the anchor lines as we walked along the water's edge. A familiar looking boat caught my eye; it was a 1997 Formula 330SS with the same color scheme that our 280SS had. Upon closer inspection, the boat wasn't in very good condition, unlike our old boat, that a friend wound up buying eventually, keeping it in pristine condition.
  When we got back to Swing Set, a boater came by and hailed us saying, "Hey Swing Set, my buddy follows your blog everyday! He's from St. Louis and knows someone that used to work at the brewery with you." I told him to bring his friend back on Monday and we'll have a beer.
  At night we can hear the waves from the Gulf hitting the shoreline just outside the pass, but inside where we are anchored, it is very quiet and the water is smooth as glass. The boat trades ends with the tidal current twice a day, but we are anchored out far enough to avoid grounding when this occurs. We were all alone in here on Sunday night, just us and the fishes that come up to the swim platform when we turn on the spoiler lights.
  We were waiting for the morning chill to burn off on Monday morning, and watching boats file in for a day of beach activity, when the fella that hailed us on the previous day came by, and he had Mark Wood with him, the guy from St. Louis. Fritz and Mark introduced themselves after tying up. I didn't recognize the name of the friend of Mark's that was retired from the brewery, but it's a big place. We talked for quite a while and we were able to learn a few valuable things about the area. Local knowledge is always better from residents as opposed to a book or guide.
  Mark's wife, Terry, was concerned about Holly and he wanted to know if we needed the name of a vet, given our experience at the last veterinarian visit in Cape Coral. We told him to assure his wife that Holly was doing fine. We were additionally surprised when Mark brought out some "presents" for us and Holly. He passed over two six packs of Bud Light Platinum, a bag of pretzel sticks, a Christmas tree ornament, and some treats for Holly! We could stand some more loyal blog readers like this.
  Mark and Fritz said their goodbyes, leaving us to our intended chores, to which I was in no hurry to accomplish, but we were approaching slack tide, so it was time for some barnacle scraping. Mark might come back later this week with his wife Terry, we hope they do.
  There was no getting around it. I donned my wetsuit and gathered my tools. Rosie manned the Hookah Snorkel System and I got under the boat. The barnacles were not as bad as I had anticipated, but I didn't do as thorough of a job as I would have liked. The visibility was not as good as I thought it would be, especially once I started clouding up the water with debris from the boat bottom. For the most part, I accomplished as much as I needed to do for the present. I'll give it another go in a week or so.
  We sat in the cockpit and watched the boaters file back past as they went back to where they had all come from, and by sunset, we were all alone again. We had leftover fish fillets from The Dock in Naples, and Rosie made some potato pancakes from some leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving, and we rounded out the meal with leftover baked beans from our BBQ in Cape Coral with Gary and Judy. What a great dinner! The only leftovers still in the fridge is turkey, and I hope we never run out of that.
  We had moved the boat just a little from the previous night and the difference in T.V. reception was remarkable. We watched some favorite shows until ten o'clock, late for us, then it was time for a few minutes of Kindle reading.


  We had gotten some mail at St. Brenden's; some we shredded, but one important document that arrived there was our vessel documentation certificate. We had to find a location to have the mail forwarded to, but we couldn't find a post office, or other similar facility in Marco Island to have the letter sent to. I wound up calling a local marina and we arranged to have the letter sent there in care of the nice girl who worked there, even though we had no intention of staying. In a couple of days we're going to need to take on water, so that will require us to motor over to Marco Island proper. Our letter should be at the marina by then. We are amazed at how accommodating people are when you talk very nice to them. I should have been using this method a long time ago.
  Today we plan on doing some waxing, something that we'll always need to do, and the ongoing chore to keep Swing Set looking nice isn't be an easy task. We hope we can stay on top of it.
  After that, we're going to take the dinghy over to the beach. There is a "burger boat" that pulls up every day and we're going to have our lunch from there today. We learned from Fritz and Mark that this anchorage and beach is the place to be in the summer months, something we'll keep in mind if we decide to get a slip somewhere next summer when it gets too hot and we need to plug in to shore power for air conditioning.
  But it's too early to decide these things. Every place we go to seems better to us than the last place, so who knows where we'll wind up by next summer? Right now, this is the place we want to be.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We Leave Naples In Our Wake

  We had a quiet Thanksgiving Day. I called my dad and Rosie talked to members of her family. We didn't venture from the boat, doing some reading and enjoying some late afternoon sun in the cockpit.


  Most beings save their Thanksgiving nap until after they have dinner, but Holly doesn't know anything about all that and she naps when she wants. Here she is partaking in just that thing while Rosie has the turkey breast roasting in our convection/micro-wave oven. Even though our original microwave worked just fine, trading it for the convection model was one of the best things we did in preparing for our life aboard the boat.
  We ran the generator while cooking the turkey, but still it only took about one and a half hours to roast, turning out with a crispy skin and moist inside, just the way it should be. We rounded out the meal simply with instant mashed potatoes, gravy, asparagus, and the traditional cranberry sauce. No buns or stuffing, and no pie, but we were so stuffed from the rest of the food, a few cookies later on sufficed for dessert. One of the best Thanksgiving meals we've had. Pizza on the bed of a Motel 6 in Texas while on a motorcycle trip being one of the worst.


  Sunset in Crayton Cove in Naples on Thanksgiving was peaceful. We could see the various gatherings going on in the homes that line the cove and we both couldn't resist just a little remorse at the memory of holidays gone by, but we'll get over it.
  Black Friday is a day when a lot of people go out and spend money on junk they don't need, some spending days and nights on end waiting to save a $100 bucks on a T.V., but they won't take a job for $12 per hour. Our mission was to find a beer in Naples for less than $4.25, and we were successful.


  Rosie, Holly, and I parked the dinghy at the Naples City Dock and we walked to The Boardwalk near Tin City, just a few blocks away, and we entered a somewhat open air bar called CJ's, advertised to be dog friendly. Their website touted $1.00 mugs of draft between 4 and 7 P.M., but maintaining the website wasn't their strong suit and we found the mugs to be $1.50 instead. We found three seats at the bar and commenced to make friends.
  Rosie mentioned to a fella on her right that we had toured Fifth Avenue and that she was surprised that she didn't see any Christmas decorations up yet. The man lamented that all the folks there in Naples were all in a depression because the election didn't have the outcome they wanted, so it appeared to be a lean holiday this year. I was wondering how they were all going to cope in their million dollar homes, when a guy on my left accused us of being Republicans when he learned that we lived on a boat. We were in a no win situation with the clientele at CJ's, it seemed.
  While I was contemplating my answer, the fella on my left took a big sip of beer as I asked him, "What do I look like, freakin' Thurston Howell the Third?", which caused him to bust out laughing and spit out his beer in the process. After that, we got along fine.
  As the evening wore on, more people walked up and wanted to pet the "cute little doggie", but when they would withdraw after doing so, Holly would put up a fuss like you wouldn't believe. I was engaged in conversation with another patron on my left when I couldn't help but hear Holly barking and snarling like White Fang. (Forgive the Jack London reference, I've been reading his best novels lately.) I looked over and Rosie had Holly held out toward a retreating customer at arms length, sort of how one would hold a .45 caliber pistol while warding off some purse snatchers. More than a few of them stumbled over the bar stools in flight of our demon possessed until the bartender said we had to control our pet or leave.
  While we made an attempt to settle Holly down, one of the "owners" came over and declared his bravery in the face of any animal. The young man declared himself an immigrant from Poland, being fluent in Russian, German and other languages, and also having traveled extensively in Europe, Russia, and South America. I laid upon him a couple of Russian phrases that were stamped forever on my brain during my two years of required Russian language classes in junior high school. My questions in Russian of "Hello, how are you?", and "Why are your pants tied around your head?" were met with quizzical looks from our Polish friend. I can understand my butchered attempt at the second phrase, but the "Hello, how are you?" has always been answered with a "Thank you, and how are you?" retort, or something like it.
  I may have fingered the linguist as a fraud, but his claim of being independently wealthy while wearing ten year old sneakers and a soiled denim shirt didn't ring true for us, so we decided to make a friendly exit while we were still able. I think his claim to have being bitten in the face by a pit bull recently, and having no scars to prove it, was the icing on the cake as far as his believability went. Some people think that if "you are not from around here", it means you are an idiot.
  We bade our farewells and weaved our way back to the dinghy dock down the safe streets of Old Towne Naples. We succeeded in our mission to find cheap beers in Naples, thank you very much.
  On Saturday morning we called the City Dock on the VHF and announced our intention of coming in to take on water, empty our trash, pump out our holding tank, and pay for our four nights on the mooring ball, a lengthy endeavor without much outlay in the form of hard currency on our part. Deb wasn't around and the three employees we came in contact with were very nice and we left the Naples City Dock on a high note and headed down the "inside route" to Little Marco Island.
  Two hours later we made anchorage just inside the Little Marco Pass, just up from a popular beach that was beginning to fill up for a Saturday. The pass is too shallow for most vessels to transit, and there is no established channel, so we anchored in the "middle" so the tidal swings of both current and depth wouldn't put us on the hard during the night.


  If you have a sharp eye, or zoom in, you can see Swing Set anchored way up stream. We filed past the boats pulled up along the beach and were making our way back up the channel, looking for a place to land the dinghy and take in some of the local flavor. "Local flavor" is my code term for "Young girls in bikinis".


  We stayed on the beach and talked to a few folks before our own "local flavor" got cold and we headed back to the boat and had a fine dinner of leftover lasagna and salad before watching a movie on our Roku player, as the T.V. reception here on the southern tip of Little Marco Island leaves much to be desired.
  I woke at daybreak to let Holly out to do her business on the swim platform and looked down toward the beach and saw two boats sitting high and dry on the sand as it was low tide. I was happy that I followed my instincts and anchored where we did. We lounged over breakfast with huge mugs of hot coffee and snuggled inside against the frigid 51 degree temperatures outside. The high will only be in the low 70's today so getting in the water for any boat bottom maintenance will require my wetsuit, but being Sunday and all, it may just wait until tomorrow.