Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Maintenance Issues

  We've reached a resolution with John Bloch of Bloch Marine back in St. Louis, I believe satisfactorily, to everyone involved. I had originally desired an adjustment to our bill from our bottom paint job back in March because for some reason some paint has been flaking off and we didn't want to bear the cost of a new paint job so soon after just paying off the last paint job. Pulling the boat and pressure washing the bottom in order to inspect the rest of the hull would remove most of some good paint still on the boat, and not pressure washing could dry out any growth I may have missed when I scraped the hull a few weeks ago, and the growth could dry up and peel off, taking paint along with it. Given the extent of the flaking, John decided to adjust our bill and give us a credit on our VISA after all. We cannot be more satisfied with the way Bloch Marine has treated us on this issue.
  If you remember, we had some issues with rain leaking into our salon during a heavy rain. I thought I had the problem fixed by tightening the mounting bolts on our spotlight, but that didn't seem to be the cause because on the day after we arrived here in Bimini Basin, we had a hard rain and the ceiling in the salon started dripping again. Rain water streams in around the windshield along the port side and runs down the inside of the flybridge. I opened some ports in the area looking for water inside the flybridge sides but couldn't find any. I mentioned the problem to our friend Gary down here and I also asked about the weatherstripping and how the windshield was attached to the top of the flybridge. Gary has a similar setup on his Gibson houseboat back in St. Louis and told me to remove the weatherstripping and check the screws that hold the windshield in place. I did just that and found that all of the screws along this port side were loose. I pulled out each screw, inserted some silicone into each hole and reinserted the screws. I think this will solve our issue but we haven't had any rain to test it yet.
  Hurricane Sandy is about to wreak havoc on the East Coast of the U.S. We've had some heavy winds here in Cape Coral and one of the small sailboats anchored here broke loose and almost made it to shore before hooking up again. The incident made us cautious and we made it a point to mostly remain aboard Swing Set so we could monitor the situation. I did put our big Danforth anchor down in addition to our bow anchor, just as a precaution. The area is fairly tight in here, plus seven other boats are in residence along with us.

  You can see the chop on the water when this photo was taken yesterday afternoon. The palm trees along the shore at the city park on the northern side of the basin are blowing pretty good and we could see the sand blowing too. Gusts of 35 M.P.H. were reported and our wind generators were doing a bang up job for us.
  A few days ago, one of the sailboats next to us had a hatch cover blow open. The owner was gone when it happened and Rosie reported to me that "the cover on that guy's window blew open and it's leaning against that pole". By "pole" she means "mast". Obviously we are not sailors. I asked one of the other "sailors" in here with us if I should go aboard and close the hatch, but was told that it wasn't a good idea. Given that the owner only paid $500 for the boat, it was determined that there may not be anything inside the boat to protect anyway, plus the owner did leave it partially open when he left to go out of town.

  On Friday I installed our new davit winches, shown here. I really like the look and they are easier to crank. The major issue with them was that I replaced the straps they came with and I used stainless steel cable instead.  I'm also revamping my safety strapping method for the dinghy, reducing the number of ropes and straps I have to use. I always say; less is more sometimes.
  Yesterday I took the dinghy over to gather up Gary and Judy and we spent our Sunday afternoon aboard Swing Set, enjoying the sunshine, although a stiff breeze blew all day long. It was like old times on the Mississippi River, but two items missing was their houseboat and about 30 of our other friends in their boats.
  Our neighbor Kim came by in her dinghy and said hello. She is the single woman that has lived aboard her sailboat for the last 19 years. When I removed the old davit winches I asked her if she knew of anyone who may want them and she said she didn't know of anyone off hand, but she would take them to a local marina and leave them on the "goodwill table". I took note of her benevolence in spite of her apparent meager economic condition, her having mentioned more than once about having no money and nothing to eat until "payday" on the 1st of the month, so when she came by unannounced with a couple of movies for Rosie and I to watch later on Friday, I asked her if she wouldn't mind taking some canned goods off of our hands, if the charity wouldn't offend her, of course. She took the few cans but when she came by yesterday to say hi when we were having a few cold ones with Gary and Judy, we learned that she "didn't like to eat canned goods". People are strange.
  I had been contemplating getting our transmission oil changed and having never did it before I was a bit uncertain about it. The procedure calls for replacing the oil sump filter, plus the drain plug is in a hard to reach area. I got online and found out how to do the job and I decided to give it a go, saving a few bucks.
  After breakfast yesterday with Gary and Judy at our favorite restaurant here in Cape Coral, El Mambos, we stopped by our favorite hardware store where we bought a small drill powered fluid transfer pump so I can remove the transmission oil with no mess. I found out that just cleaning the sump filter with mineral spirits and reinstalling is the common method, so I'm going to tackle this job myself on a day when I don't have anything to do. (This is a joke.) I paid a little more for the pump at the nearby hardware store than I would have paid at the further away Harbor Freight Store, but I told Gary that keeping that hardware store in business is a good idea and he agreed.
  The other night we went to the Monkey Bar for happy hour with Gary and Judy and had a pretty good time, although when the one man band struck up a tune that had some older folks in attendance up doing "the bump", I think I saw one or two colostomy bags burst. Welcome to the geriatric state of Florida.
  I mentioned El Mambos; for $3.50 you get three eggs any way you like them, a very generous helping of either sausage or bacon, Cuban bread, and a mug of delicious Cuban coffee. You can't beat it. The refill of coffee alone is $3! Last time we visited Cape Coral we went to El Mambos four days in a row. Geriatrics save money this way.
  I think if it was up to our friends here, we would go out to eat three times a day but we have to consider our budget and our livers, so during our two week stay here so far we've taken a few "breaks". Today is one of those days. I'm going to piddle around perfecting my dinghy safety harness system and also pull our four sea strainers and put some pennies in each one. I got this idea when we were staying with Carl and Greg in Panama City. Carl installed copper tubes on his raw water lines and I asked why. He said it was because the copper leaches into the intake water and inhibits some marine growth. The copper will eventually disintegrate, is what I thought, and I wondered if just putting some copper into the strainers would work just as good, not causing a leak at some point. (Think about the reasoning behind the method of including copper into bottom paint.) So after always leaving pennies at the sales counter anytime we got them as change, I found myself purchasing 50 pennies at the hardware store yesterday. It may not work, but it can't hurt anything, plus I'll always know where I can find my last 50 cents if we need it.

  We woke up to the calmest morning yet here in Bimini Basin, the water was nearly smooth as glass as this picture I took at daybreak shows. I decided to try an experiment this morning; as soon as I got up I let Holly out of her "room" and took her outside. The transom door has been left open lately and I told her to "go potty", and after sniffing around a bit, she stepped down to the swim platform and peed. She has been doing this throughout the day lately but this was the first time I tried letting her out in the morning first thing. Big deal, right? There is more. During our breakfast, Holly was left to run rampant around the salon, playing with one of her toys, and at one point she went over to the screen door and began pawing at it. Rosie let her out and she went back out to the swim platform to poop. This is monumental. We spend between 25 and 40 cents for each potty pad that we use, at times using two or three per day. We're talking about some serious cash here. I think I'll call Gary and Judy this morning and tell them we can afford happy hour on Wednesday now.
  Meanwhile, we are forging ahead with paperwork regarding the sale of our condo. It's nice having a scanner and printer here on the boat. Any form that cannot be DocuSigned can be printed, signed, scanned, and sent back, making this an easy experience so far. This being Monday, we expect to have documents and forms flying back on forth via computer all day long. I may have to take a rest before I start my self appointed chores.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Life In Bimini Basin and Some Good News

  Let's get the good news out of the way; we signed a sales contract on our condo back in St. Louis via DocuSign on the computer. We've had our condo for sale for over three years, and while this is good news, we are settling on a price $80,000.00 less than where we started at, and the price includes all of our furniture, electronics, dishes and pots and pans, you name it.
  But the sale will be a big weight off of our shoulders and will lessen our outlay every month, making our fixed income go farther. We have also been somewhat restricted in our travel due to not knowing when we might get an offer and have to be in a convenient area to close on the sale, something we will do here in Cape Coral in less than two weeks.
  We consider ourselves very lucky as Cape Coral as a destination was a goal for us even when we started planning our cruise. We were down here almost two years ago visiting Gary and Judy when after viewing property after property, we came to the conclusion that we would only be able to afford retiring if we quit looking at condos and just lived on the boat full time. We still think we made the right choice.
  As it is, the more material things you have, the more they own you. Our situation will make us as free as we can be, given our dependence on fuel, but now that we are below a latitude that will insure decent temperatures, we can sit in a spot as long as we like without using diesel except for the generator. The size of our small world here dictates how much junk we can accumulate, mainly because we don't like clutter and there is a place for everything aboard Swing Set, but also because we still have to keep her afloat. Yes, we are still a slave to our boat, but we can still tell her where to go.
  We've met some more of our neighbors here in Bimini Basin; one couple have a condo just yards away on the shore, but choose to live aboard their small sailboat. Their condo was purchased for family visitors and a place to "go peacefully to live out old age" according to Larry, a seasoned sailor. We haven't met his wife Linda yet, although we have seen her with Larry in the dinghy when they take their dog to the park twice a day.
  Melinda and Tony are "retired military", not sure what military, let's guess Navy. Melinda is very personable and we've talked to her a couple of times. They have a beautiful motor sailor, about fifty feet long, that was designed by Ed Monk Sr. It has a salty look that appeals to me. It holds 500 gallons of water and 750 gallons of diesel and they have had it all over the world. They have been visiting Bimini Basin with different boats for over 15 years. One can but dream. See, I even have higher hopes.

  Holly is getting to be a very good boat dog, albeit a noisy one. She barks at everybody and everything. The more I admonish her, the more she barks. She is quiet when it's just us alone, but no one will believe it. Her "luxating patellas" are not giving her an ounce of trouble and her teeth extractions that she had back in Tampa are all healed up. In the photo she is sporting her new haircut I gave her yesterday. She sits still as a stone when I trim her face and "other parts" which is very wise, but she doesn't like her feet messed with still. It is amazing to us how much joy this little dog gives us. Hard to believe she'll be one years old next week and is getting more freedom to roam on the boat when we are present. She will go to "her room" to do her duty when she is about the cabin, and when she is outdoors, will go to the swim platform if I have the transom door open.
  We went fishing with Gary and Judy two days ago but it was windy and we didn't catch much. We went to Fort Myers Beach and put the Grady-White at anchor just off the beach and took a stroll. The vacationers are starting to fill the beach chairs and we got tired of seeing the young girls in bikinis. Very tired. We went to a very popular bar right on the beach and the four of us made some new friends, but none of us are sure we wanted to. It was fun anyway. The winds have been kicking up fairly good around here and the ride back was a little bumpy. Hurricane Sandy will have some affect here although it is staying well off the east coast, but has a large wind field. We'll stay here in this protected basin and won't leave the boat much except when it's necessary.
  What's necessary tonight is celebrating the contract signing on our condo tonight at dinner with Gary and Judy. The real winds aren't supposed to pick up until tomorrow, so we feel confident leaving the boat long enough to have dinner and a few cocktails.

  We have visited hardware stores, marine stores, liquor stores, grocery stores, drug stores, book stores, auto parts stores, the license office twice, pawn shops, pet stores, and more than a couple of restaurants and bars here in Cape Coral, doing our best for the local economy. We're going to West Marine tomorrow to pick up two winches that I ordered to replace the rusting ones on our dinghy davit. I never did like the original ones and now we have a good reason to replace them. The new ones are made by Fulton and have an enclosed anodized aluminum body. We have one caveat, that we need to replace the nylon strap that comes with them with a stainless steel 3/16" cable, something I'm pretty sure we can do. The ends of the davits are equipped with pulleys that only cable can travel through, thus the switch is non-negotiable without a major redo of the davits and that is not going to happen. I'll post pictures when the work is done. Bet you can't wait.
  Notice our new Florida registration numbers on the dinghy. Swing Set is also sporting a Florida registration, good for two years. I just got the numbers on the dinghy on Monday when two Cape Coral marine police came by when I was out visiting neighbors and they asked about my life jackets, whether I had any. I said I did and they were satisfied and started motoring away. "Wait a minute", I said. "Don't you want to see them?"
  "OK, lets see them", they said. I proudly showed them the two jackets we keep in the cooler we use for a seat, and then they asked if I had a whistle. I showed them my whistle and then they asked if my fuel tank was portable. I remarked that it was and all they said was "OK".
  "I've never been asked that one", I said. "What difference does it make?"
  "If your tank is built in, you need a fire extinguisher", they answered.
  Before they left I said that we've been traveling for almost six months and I've yet to be asked anything by the water patrol and just wanted to be asked something. (This is not entirely true, if you remember the officers in Mississippi asking about the dinghy registration.)
  "Have you been drinking?" they asked, and laughed.
  "Um, no, except for orange juice and water. But it's early", I said. They waved goodbye and I noticed that they got on their radio. Most likely to check my numbers. I like to keep my state and municipal employees busy.
  We have some business in the works regarding our bottom paint flaking off. I've been in contact with John Bloch of Bloch Marine where we had our bottom painted in March before we left. John has been instrumental in getting us in touch with an Interlux representative who has been out to inspect our boat. We have contacted a local marina and may be scheduling a haul out next week to inspect again and perhaps fix the damage. We aren't sure how much adjustment John will allow us on repainting, but he has agreed to at least pay for a haul out. Things don't always go smoothly when work is done at any marine yard, but John has always stood behind the work they do and even though we aren't in local waters any longer, John has said that he wants to do something for us. I find this type of behavior rare these days. I'll keep you posted, of course.
  So we'll be busy for the next couple of weeks getting our condo sold and working on the boat but we're in a good place for it. There must be a Title Company on every corner down here in Cape Coral.
  When the humidity drops some, we'll continue waxing the boat, and once we get our new winches for the dinghy davit, we'll get them installed too. There is always lots to do but we don't let ourselves get over whelmed. By "overwhelmed" I mean "overworked". We save time to read a good book occasionally, and sometimes just do nothing at all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Finally In Cape Coral

  We left Englewood only an hour into high tide and I was a little worried that we wouldn't have enough water to get out to the channel, but I changed the course that I took coming in to our anchorage and found a much deeper route, so we had no problem.
  The clear water soon gave way to a brackish brown as we neared Charlotte Harbor but again cleared up once we crossed the Boca Grande Pass. We were impressed with all of the recreational boat traffic that we began to see as we slipped by Pine Island, Captiva Pass, and Sanibel Island. We were half-heartedly looking for an anchorage for the night as we thought that we'd wait until our friends Gary and Judy were home for at least one night before we showed up and started disrupting their lives, but once we saw Fort Myers and turned up into the Caloosahatchee River, we decided to go ahead and anchor in Bimini Basin for the night.

  We entered Bimini Basin about an hour after Gary and Judy arrived back at their condo nearly 6 months since they traveled up to St. Louis for the summer. We hadn't seen them since our Bon Voyage Party in May.
  We called them on the phone and invited them to come to Swing Set for dinner once they got settled. We found a good spot in the anchorage and fired up the grill and put on a nice big pork tenderloin. It's rare that we have an entree on the boat big enough to feed four people, so it was lucky that we had taken the meat from the freezer that morning.
  I picked up our friends at the appointed hour in the dinghy. Their condo is just a stone's throw from where our boat is anchored, among ten sailboats or so. We had a nice dinner, adding some canned asparagus and rice to the pork. We sat around and caught up on all the news from back on the Mississippi River, staying up long past our normal bedtime.
  It was late for us when I took Gary and Judy back to their condo in the dinghy and I was making one last check on Facebook, trading jabs with our friend Don in Lake of the Ozarks when the phone rang. It was Don, and we talked for nearly an hour, at one point using the Facetime feature on our iPhones. It was strange seeing someone on the phone as I was talking to them, and using this feature will take some getting used to.
  The next few days where a blur; between shopping trips, not only for us, but also for Gary and Judy, as they were setting up housekeeping and we had put off some purchases and business until we arrived here in Cape Coral.
  On Wednesday we got some news from our real estate agent; a client that had viewed our condo ten days ago wanted to see it again and we received a notice that is was being shown  that evening. We have since gotten a report that the client was still interested but as of this writing, we have not received an offer yet.

  Our spirits were high, though, when we took the dinghy over to the condo and met Gary and Judy to go to a sports bar nearby and watch the Cardinals play. They had beaten the Washington Nationals in the NLDS and were playing the Giants in the NLCS.
  We had fun at Laskos until a rain delay put a damper on things. After waiting it out for a reasonable amount of time, we headed back to the condo and then we weaved back to Swing Set. The game resumed way too late for us to see the end and it wasn't until the next morning when we learned that the Birds had beaten the Giants and were up three games to one in the seven game series.
  While not involved in shopping sprees with our friends, we were piddling around on the boat and taking the dinghy out, sightseeing and meeting our fellow boaters at anchor here in the basin.
  The first person we met didn't offer their name when we introduced ourselves, but seemed fairly friendly, if not a little outspoken. "Kim", as we found out from another boater, has been at the sailing lifestyle for over 19 years. During several conversations with her, we found out some things about the surroundings, and our boat, that we didn't know. First we found out that it was important to lock our dinghy when tying up to the public dock at the nearby park, a good tip to know. We also got lessons on the interests of community governments in regard to free anchorages, plus advice on how to shirk the boat registration laws in the state of Florida. We found out that our wind generators were not only useless, but dangerous as well, and it would be best to dismantle them and go with solar energy. Our anchor was not sufficient, we found out. I asked her if she had even seen our anchor, and she said that she had not. Once she found out that our anchor was as large as hers, and we have a smaller boat, she mulled that over for a while before asking how much chain we were using. Once she learned the length of chain on our rode, we of course were told that we need much more. I wonder how long we will have to do this before some folks will not consider us beginners.
  A couple more folks in here were not as opinionated, all of them full time cruisers, some of them in vessels in a little better shape than others, but all very friendly.
  Judy and Gary hauled us to the license office one morning and we got Swing Set registered in Florida. We'll have to go back to get the dinghy registered as I needed the original title, not the copy I had provided. We also got our Florida driver's licenses and our fishing licenses too. We opted for the five year option on the fishing license, saving some money. Our driver's license is now good for eight years and we still don't know how long we'll be in Florida.

  We've been getting up early, as this photo proves, and getting lots done. Like I said, the past few days have been a blur and I'm forgetting when we did what, but we had a visit from an Interlux representative regarding our bottom paint, I contacted a Sea Dek representative about making some replacement pads for the Sea Dek on our stairs, three of the pads are curling up on the edges. The Sea Dek may be under warranty, so we're keeping our fingers crossed on both the Sea Dek and our bottom paint issue. I ordered some snorkeling equipment from, and also picked up a weight belt from a local pawn shop, saving lots of money. I also ordered new winches for our dinghy davit, the salt air is doing a number on the galvanized ones, so I ordered some hardier Fulton anodized aluminum ones from West Marine. A neighbor of Gary and Judy's is a rod and reel salesman and we are buying a Penn reel and an Ugly stick from him, saving a few more bucks. When we were in Wal-Mart the other day, I bought a cheapie rod and reel combo, apparently more suitable to the bigger water we are in. Let's see, we also got our absentee ballots that we had forwarded here, filled them out, and sent them back. We also have some medicine coming here too. I don't know how we'll manage when we leave this lifeline that Gary and Judy have provided for us.
  We went fishing on Friday and Rosie caught the biggest fish, a sea trout about 22 inches long. We had 50 shrimp that we were fishing with, and between the fish stealing the bait, and the ducks stealing the fish, we left a busy fishing hole with nothing, except now Rosie is "hooked" on fishing. If only I could have recorded her excitement as she reeled in the big one. We cruised through the anchorage at Fort Myers Beach in Gary and Judy's Grady-White and took a spin clear around Estero Island. At one point we had 6 or 7 dolphin chasing us in our wake, close enough to touch. Rosie and Judy were both jumping up and down and clapping their hands like schoolgirls. Scantily clad schoolgirls.
  When we returned at dusk back to Bimini Basin, one of our neighbors told us that our anchor must have been dragging because a new boat that had anchored near us had to move his boat because our boat came close to his when the wind shifted. As I was surveying the scene and determining that our anchor was not drifting, and explaining that we had been in the same spot for over three days, the self appointed mayor of our community, Kim, came putting over in her dinghy and gave us some support, saying that the other boat anchored too close and we were there first, settling the matter with some finality.
  Before any of our single friends get any romantic notions about out unattached single sailboater, Kim, just realize that it was over 24 hours before we found out if Kim was a man or a woman. Just sayin'.
  On our fishing expedition, Gary found out that his power trim on the port Yamaha was not working, so on Saturday morning he and I went on a mission to get parts, but first we motored over to the beach at the public park and broke some laws pulling up on the sand and manually lifting the motor to inspect the situation. In the course of our operation, I cut my foot pretty good on who knows what, so we returned to Swing Set where Nurse Ratched, in the form of Rosie, cleaned up my wound and supplied me with white socks to wear with my boat shoes in order to protect the new bandage on my foot. I take a dim view of anyone wearing socks with boat shoes, but there I was, trudging along like a geek behind Gary at every stop, in our search for engine parts.
  Our mission barely got off the ground when we found out the adjustable pin wrench we had bought at Harbor Freight was on the cheesy side and wouldn't break the seal on the trim body, having been painted shut at the factory, plus had some corrosion to boot. We went in search of a stouter wrench but couldn't find one, so Gary is formulating a plan B. We did install some trim oil to get the trim working. It may not last long, but at least the trim is operational temporarily. We can tell that the seals will have to be replaced one way or the other.
  So instead of taking Swing Set out on Saturday like we had planned, we hung around the pool at Gary and Judy's condo. They let us go get Holly and she had a ball, snooping around real plants and grass, and otherwise running rampant around on the pool deck, barking at everything. We did have a hard time keeping her out of the pool, dogs being in the pool being an infraction of the condo bylaws.
  Rosie and Judy had earlier went shopping and bought the fixings for dinner. Judy BBQ'd and we sat around in the pool and we had a great dinner of pork steaks, cole slaw, baked potatoes, and green beans. I hate green beans and Judy didn't try to make me eat any.
  I know I'm leaving a lot of stuff out, that's why I try to post more often than every five days, but I haven't had time to spend at the computer much. Today we're taking Swing Set out. We have to haul anchor in order to get our water tank filled anyway, and get a pump out, so Gary and Judy are coming with us and we are heading for the local boater hang out and see what trouble we can get into, and maybe do some more fishing. Thought I'd never hear myself saying that.
  Meanwhile, several of our friends are arriving in Key West, a lot of them had thought we would be there by now, but we couldn't promise anything. The uncertainty of our condo sale situation, as well as mechanical and weather issues, made us not promise any schedule to anyone. We'll give our potential condo buyer a few more days to make up his mind, a week or so, maybe more, before we head south again. Hopefully I'll be back on here in a few days telling more good tales about our stay in Cape Coral, and announcing some good news about our condo sale.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Longboat Key To Englewood

  We had intentions of heading south on Friday morning but we noticed boaters congregating around a rather large low spot at the tip of Jewfish Key, and when the tide went out, a small island was visible which attracted more boaters. I figured that this spot would be a busy one on the weekend, so we decided to stay and see how it went.
  We took Holly out into the shallow water, four inches or so, and it was funny to see her try to walk/swim her way around, pawing at anything she would see crawling around on the sand bottom. We met some other boaters and they all confirmed that come the weekend, there would be lots of boats lining the small island.
  We had a good hook in on Friday night when we listened to the Cardinal baseball broadcast and heard the Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals to advance to the NLDS to play the Giants on Sunday.
  On Saturday I was going to just turn our stern into the beach, let out more bow line, and set a stern anchor, but we already had a lot of bow anchor line out and I didn't want to present a hazard to boat traffic near the island, but more importantly, our anchor line is our lifeline and we don't need anyone running over it. I pulled up the bow anchor, set it closer to the beach and then deployed the stern anchor in shallow water. With the tidal current pulling our bow out, and the northern wind pushing our stern away from the beach, we were strung up between both anchor lines tighter than a banjo string.
  With our anchor setup keeping the boat still, and the water being very clear, I decided to test out our Hookah Max snorkel system and address the barnacles growing on our running gear. The very small barnacles growing on the props brushed right off, and some others on the trim tab bodies scraped off with a little more effort. I used a wide plastic paint scraper and removed some very short algae growth from the rest of the bottom. I found some more bottom paint missing from the hull where some more barnacles had taken root, but they easily scraped off too. Again, more on the missing bottom paint later. (I'm working on it.)
  My underwater work didn't take long and I was happy with the snorkel system which is an on board compressor supplying air through two 100 foot hoses, utilizing a regulator that clips to a belt on your waist. The compressor will pump air through both hoses down to 30 feet. I can see where I'm going to need some weights for the belt, and maybe a buoyancy compensator, but I'll go to a dive shop and see what I can get within our budget.
  It was later that some neighboring boaters told me they had seen a bull shark swimming around, but it was small. If I can't see them, they aren't there, is how I'm approaching information like that.
  We were chatting it up with some other boaters that walked over to "listen to our music" when a mid-sized express cruiser came in and was making a feeble attempt at anchoring very close to us. They abandoned their mission and wound up anchoring out further on the other side of our boat where I couldn't really see them, but not long after, I noticed our stern slipping closer to the beach and went on deck to see if our bow anchor was still holding. It might have still been holding if the guy in the express cruiser hadn't hooked it and was trying to pull it up along with his own anchor, oblivious to what was happening.
  I hollered over to his girlfriend/wife/sister/whatever on the front of his boat that they were pulling our anchor up. She looked at me and said, "I can hear you", as if the volume of my voice was the only social infraction going on at the moment. Heck, I was still using my "friendly voice" and without any adjectives too!
  We didn't have time for me to use reasoning, as our rudders where already making comfy with the beach, so I told the guy that I would let out more line if he would just pull up his anchor by hand and kindly slip his anchor off of our line without damaging it. So I did, and he did, and the girl even thanked me, to which I replied, "No big deal". They sheepishly motored away and moved over by themselves and put their anchor down again, far enough away to avoid another mishap. We've all been there, some more than others.
  With our bow anchor pulled up, and the beach getting too crowded for us to comfortably set back into position, we hauled in the stern anchor and dropped our hook further away from the beach. We took the dinghy in later and visited some more folks until the sun started to set.
  Even though the forecast for Sunday was still a windy one, we decided to travel back up to Passage Key, about nine miles north, where we had spent the Sunday a week earlier. The tide was up and Passage Key was not showing, but we knew where it was, and we were the first ones there. We bobbed around like a cork wondering why we even made the trip before some other boats started showing up. By mid-afternoon the wind died down enough for us to drop the dinghy and go visiting. We met some people on the now-showing beach and it turned out to be a rewarding day after all.
  We had intentions of having dinner at a place in Cortez called the "Bridgetender Bar" but we found out it was out of business, so we went across the bay to the "Seafood Shack" and had dinner. I had baby back ribs (Isn't that what everyone orders at a seafood restaurant?) and Rosie had fried grouper. We started with some clam chowder was a good as I've ever had, and that includes Campbell's. We both really liked our dinners and were also going to stay and watch the Cardinals play the Giants, but once we ate, we were out of gas.
  We retired to Swing Set and tried to get the game on T.V. but there was no reception. We tuned into KMOX again on the internet and promptly fell asleep and almost missed the entire game, luckily waking up at the start of the exciting 8th inning. We stayed right there at the dock until sunrise, making off like bandits at the first sign of light. I say, "No harm, no foul" if we don't plug in and we spend a fair amount in the restaurant.

  This is a picture as we were leaving Cortez, but we were just getting to Sarasota as the sun peeked out and we had a scenic ride down to Venice. But south of Venice, the Intracoastal is not very pretty and we wished we had taken the outside route down to our planned anchorage in Englewood Beach.
  The sky was threatening when we got anchored with some mangroves protecting us from the north and the southwest. We were in front of some modest homes, but there is an anchorage in this area and I think homeowners are used to seeing transients here.
  We grilled some chicken wings and watched a whole lot of dolphins playing around the boat. One poked its head up two feet from the swim platform, apparently checking us out before going back to play. After dinner we watched the ballgame on FOX and had good reception. I really like Joe Buck as an announcer. Too bad the Cardinals didn't show up to play for game two.
  This morning we're waiting for the tide to come in to leave this spot as it was a little skinny making our way in here yesterday. By the way, we did see some evidence of the red tide we had heard about on the news, lots of dead fish floating around. A storm we had yesterday afternoon washed them away, but we are wondering if we will see anymore.
  We're keep getting closer and closer to Cape Coral, where our friends Gary and Judy have a winter condo and are arriving today. We should be able to meet with them by the weekend, or even sooner, but who knows what's going to happen between here and there?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tampa Bay To Longboat Key

  Rosie met Lorraine at 7 A.M. on Tuesday morning for her trip to the clinic where Lorraine is the medical director. She couldn't resist a tear or two as she placed her in a travel crate marked "animal rescue". No telling what was going through Holly's mind. Lorraine said she barked for a couple of blocks and then she was quiet for the rest of the day.
  For my part, I mixed up the mold eliminator that I had bought at Home Depot and brushed it on the dinghy according to the directions. I let it set for the directed three hours and during this time I could tell that it was going to work. I rinsed it off with the hose at the required time and all the mold spots had disappeared!
  Rosie and I had lunch and then took a dinghy ride around the "neighborhood", a series of canals just east of the Apollo Beach Harbor. It was sad to see how many of the homes were in disrepair, but some of them were kept up and very nice. The layout of the neighborhood is basically a subdivision with a canal in back instead of alleys. I decided long ago that I was not "subdivision material", the type that would not take too well to a neighbor who lets their property go to ruin. It was since been determined over the years that I am also not "condo material". I guess this is why we live on a boat. If we don't like the neighborhood, we pull up anchor and git.
  The much anticipated call from Lorraine came and she said Holly was doing fine. She had three puppy teeth that had to be pulled, which is what we figured. At 7 P.M.  Lorraine returned with our buddy, a little out of sorts, but all in one piece. During her initial examination, Lorraine found out that Holly has "trick knees" on her hind legs. What that means is that they become "dislocated" very easily, but will pop back in place on their own. We suspected some issue with her legs, as twice she has yelped and then favored a hind leg. We figured she was just being a baby, but now we know. We'll have to keep an eye on her and see how much of a problem this is going to be. I suspect it won't be much of one due to the fact that we hardly let her on the ground anyway, carrying her wherever she goes.
  On Wednesday morning I removed the remainder of the hardware for our old Weaver Davit. The stand-off rods laid on top of the transom and we had stopped using them on our current setup because they weren't effective. I had eight 1/8" holes to patch, so I mixed up some gel-coat and applied it, after filling the holes with some pop rivets. I only put the rivets in half way and then cut the heads off with my Dremel Tool. Then I tapped them in so they were just below the surface, plus provided a good hold for the patch. The directions say that you can sand the repair within an hour, but I decided to let it set until the next day.
  On Wednesday night we were invited to a surprise birthday party at a local Japanese restaurant. We had met John and Mary Jane back in 1989 at a resort in Florida and they had introduced us to Doug and Jeanne, along with Ed and Peggy Wingo way back then. It was Mary Jane's birthday and the whole gang who moved down from Ohio over the years showed up. We knew most of them. Doug and Jeanne picked us up in their motor home, along with several others in the group, and we all arrived at the same time in style.

  Here we are with Ed and Peggy, they are the couple we met back up in Tarpon Springs after they drove over from their home in Land O' Lakes. There were 14 of us at the restaurant meaning we had to set at two different tables, which we didn't like, but outside of sitting on the floor, we had no option.
  After dinner, we said our goodbyes after promising to meet Ed and Peggy later in Fort Meyers for Ed's birthday in December. This is doable. Doug and Jeanne visit Fort Meyers too, plus go to Key West occasionally, so we know we'll see them all down the road.
  Jeanne tried to entice us to stay for the weekend, but the weather report was predicting some wind coming in from the North which would increase the waves in Tampa Bay to an uncomfortable height, so we had already decided to leave Apollo Beach on Thursday morning.
  I wanted to leave at high tide because the entrance to Apollo Beach Harbor was a bit skinny at low tide, so I had time to sand and buff my gel-coat repair Thursday morning before we left. By 10 A.M. we were headed down the Bay.

 Here's the dinghy all trussed up for the ride, looking shiny and new. At the bottom of the photo you can see the top of the transom with the stand-off rods removed. My repair is going to need some touch up but it looks good in the photo. I have the rods if anyone needs them, free.

  We had the wind at our backs, and with the tide still coming in, we had some rollers to negotiate. I bumped up the throttles enough to stay ahead of the waves and it wasn't a bad ride. We did have to share the channel with some other vessels.
  We made a large turn at the mouth of Tampa Bay to check out Passage Key, but as we had expected, there were too many waves for anyone to be on the beach, so we made our turn to the East and endured some beam seas until we got into the shelter of the Intracoastal Waterway at Anna Maria Sound.
  We had no plan for an anchorage as usual, but we had cruised 36 miles and it was mid-afternoon. We checked our Waterway Guide and found an anchorage behind Jewfish Key, which is at the entrance to Longboat Pass, just North of Longboat Key.

  There were several boats pulled up to the low tide island and the water was finally what we have been waiting for, clear enough to see the bottom and check out our running gear. I donned my mask and checked our props for barnacle growth. The props were spotted with gnat sized bumps that will easily scrub off with a brush. Worse were the piston bodies for the trim tabs. For some reason, the barnacles attached themselves there first. They'll scrub off too, but I'll need to use the snorkel system for them. More disconcerting is the dime sized spots on the hull where our bottom paint is flaking off. I'll have more on that later.
  I intended to address some of the bottom work right then, but because we were so close to the pass, the tidal current was fairly swift. I'm used to dealing with fast currents but not when I'm underwater, trying to scrub with one hand and holding onto the boat with another. I'll find a calmer spot to clean the bottom; Rome wasn't built in a day.
  What concerned me more was the holding power of our anchor. I knew the current would shift several times, and the wind was forecasted to pick up during the night, so I deployed our new stern anchor for piece of mind. I just hope I can retrieve it when we go to leave. At least it's in shallow water clear enough to dive down to.

  For the rest of the afternoon Rosie and I enjoyed the view and listened to the broadcast of the baseball NLDS against the Cardinals and the Nationals. Since I can't get the game on the radio, I signed up on and can listen to the local broadcast from St. Louis using our iPhone or iPad. It only costs $3.99 for the year. Mike Shannon was a neighbor back in St. Louis and we like listening to his broadcast, always did, especially when he was with Jack Buck.

  The game didn't have the outcome that we desired but that means we get to listen again tonight during game five. We had a great dinner of ribeye steaks and salad as the sun set over Longboat Pass. We had a fairly quiet night and the temperatures are dipping into the high 60's at night, making for wonderful sleeping.
  This would probably be an interesting place to spend the weekend, but we are just a little too exposed here for my liking; not only for the wind, but for the current. I have it in my mind to get our bottom scrubbed and our waterline cleaned and waxed, so we'll look for a calmer spot to spend the next day or two.
  Go Cardinals!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tampa Bay Boating

  On Saturday morning we left Lands End Marina and Circles and used Google Maps to find the home of a "friend of a friend" where we were invited to dock our boat for a few days. Once we got the boat tied up and plugged in, Doug and Jeanne showed up on their Jet Ski and we headed out to Beer Can Island for the afternoon.

  There wasn't a whole lot of people out, I think the weather scared most of the boaters away. But we had fun and got way too much sun. We found our way back to the boat by late afternoon and had about four hours of rest and relaxation on the boat before Doug and Jeanne were due to pick us up by car to go watch the OSU and Nebraska game at a local bar.

  Lots of folks were at "Bobby's Bistro" that had moved down from Ohio, some we haven't seen in 30 years. Ed and Peggy drove down from Lutz, Florida, but most of the others lived in Apollo Beach, some of them living in homes that Doug had built for them over the years.
  Ron and Lorraine Ellwood were there too, and Doug and Jeanne had invited them and us to go boating on Sunday in their Grady White walk around fishing boat. So early on Sunday morning we hooked up this gigantic 272 fishing boat to Doug and Jeanne's SuperCab and headed to a boat ramp near the entrance to Tampa Bay on the Manatee River.
  We had a great day of boating and we visited Passage Key, a fun little island out in the middle of nowhere. It was fun being a passenger in someone else's boat for a change. Lorraine is a veterinarian and we were discussing the fact that Holly still had some of her puppy teeth, so Lorraine offered to pick Holly up on Tuesday morning on her way to work, pull her puppy teeth, and return with her at the end of the day. It was an offer we couldn't pass up but it meant staying at the dock we were in for a couple more days than we had planned.
  We had a day to kill on Monday, so I decided to make the most of it. The rollers on our salon door have been needing to be replaced but I didn't know how to do it, even after seeing some instructional material on Google. Doug not only builds homes, he's the landlord and handyman on all the properties he owns, so he knew just how to take the door apart to replace the rollers.

  Once I learned that I had to take the bottom rail off of the door frame to access the rollers, it was a piece of cake. Doug came to pick me up and first we went to his door and window supplier to see if they had the rollers and to get a stainless steel cap to install over the aluminum rail that the door had been rolling on for over 16 years and had some "bumps" in it. I found out about the rail back when we were in Tellico Lake but had forgotten about it. I still would have wanted to replace the rollers at the same time I installed the rollers.
They had the rail but no rollers and I began to think I'd have to order them and have them sent somewhere, something that I didn't want to do since I had the door apart already. I had had to take it apart to see what the rollers looked like in the first place.
  We went to Home Depot and they had the rollers hanging on the rack! While Doug was getting some electrical supplies, I loaded up my arms with all the stuff I've had on my "hardware" list for months.
  The door was repaired and installed in just a few minutes of returning to the boat, one thing off my list of bigger projects that had been hanging over my head.
  Since we were staying until Wednesday morning anyway, we were invited to a birthday party on Wednesday night with the Ohio folks again. Why not? We squared it away with the fella that got the dock for us and he came by so we could give him some money to get to the owner of the dock for the electric we were using.
  Tonight we are staying in at the boat to rest up. Tomorrow we'll spend the day in a nervous wreck until Holly is safely returned to us, but we know Lorraine will take good care of her.
  We've been having a lot of fun around here for the last few days, and more than one person asked if we were going to set down roots here. We answer that it still gets too cold here in the winter and we never get any dispute about that, so heading south is still our plan. Our sights are set on Cape Coral where Gary and Judy from St. Louis will be arriving in about ten days. We'll have to let them get things in order once they get back to their condo, but then we'll meet up with them probably by the end of the month and see what kind of trouble we can get into down there.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tampa Bay and Apollo Beach

  We pulled up anchor on a bright and sunny Friday morning and set a course for Apollo Beach. I took this picture of the famous Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg as we cruised by. (It's the big pink building.) We heard its been renovated. We're happy when landmarks are kept up and not left to decay.
  Our route to Apollo Beach was only 23 miles, but we decided to take a detour and travel up the western side of Tampa Bay and check out the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel and Marina.

  As we were tooling along at our normal 8-9 miles per hour, the boat in the picture showed up right next to us with no courtesy call on the radio or honk on the horn. The captain waved, but I would have liked it better had he given us notice. The wake he was throwing was a huge one, but not a bell ringer. I told him on the radio that he should have signaled us before he passed, but we understand, being peons and all.

  This is the entrance to the Vinoy. It's right in downtown Tampa, right next to a small airport. The harbor is home to several large yachts and is very nice. We were interested in seeing it because a friend of ours had his 65 footer there for about two years and we were hoping to meet up with him when we moved down to Florida, but he has since moved his boat back up to the Alton area. When he was down here, John Travolta kept his boat in the slip next to him. Nice neighborhood. My old boss has a boat in there too. A beer is named after his family. If we were going to stay in this area I would look into getting a slip at the Vinoy. They are negotiable on their pricing and are unbelievably reasonable as far as costs go.
  We had a mission, and that was to meet friends on Friday night at Circles, a bar/restaurant at the Lands End Marina in Apollo Beach, ten miles straight across the bay. I set a route in a straight line and we just putted along and watched lots of dolphins and manta rays as we went. The bay was calm and we were in no hurry. With a half tank of water and about the same on fuel, I cranked up the Cats and let Swing Set run for a few miles, I'm happy to report nothing broke.
  We got to the first light into the Apollo Beach Harbor and I followed the advice on Active Captain and hugged the starboard side of the entrance. We were at low tide and we soon were in four feet of water, nervous territory for me. I turned around, checked the chart, and made another approach favoring the port side. Big mistake, we were soon in 3.4 feet of water and I saw sand kicking up at our stern.
  At this point we turned back out again and I went to drop a hook outside of the entrance and wait for the rising tide to help us get in. It was only three o'clock and we weren't due to meet our friends until 6 or 7. Meanwhile I called the marina and got some local knowledge about the depth going into the harbor. I also called our friend Doug who navigates this channel quite a bit and I found that I should have just cut the channel right down the middle, like I normally would in the first place. (Unless we're in a river and heading into a slough.)
  While Rosie got her shower I sat in the cockpit and observed how other boats were navigating the channel and when a couple of the larger boats plowed right through with no problem, I knew we would be OK.
  Sure enough, we sailed right in there and pulled into a courtesy slip right in front of the restaurant. A patron at the bar came out and gave us a helpful hand getting our lines secure.

  Doug and Jeanne are here in the picture with Rosie. We met them back in the 80's at a resort down here in Florida. They lived in Ohio and moved down here in 1991, left their jobs and sold their home. Doug set to remodeling homes in Apollo Beach and now owns more than twenty properties and keeps very busy. Many of their friends followed them down from Ohio and they have a big social circle. We hadn't seen them since we bought our boat eight years ago and it was good to catch up.

  Another rain storm was developing while we were in the bar so we were glad we pulled into the marina and didn't leave Swing Set out on the hook.

  The worst of the weather spared us but we did get the salt rinsed off the boat with the cooling rain. We stayed in our slip until early morning and then moved out into the harbor to have our coffee and breakfast.
  We have an invitation to take our boat to the home of one of Doug and Jeanne's friends where we'll leave it for the day and take the dinghy out to "Beer Can Island" and meet up with Doug and Jeanne. We'll also be able to keep it there this evening when we all go watch some college football at a local hangout. Holly will have to miss out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Few Minutes In St. Petersburg

  I sure got a lot of response from my last less than optimistic blog! Not to worry, no one is giving up. I just was in the mood to provide a balance to our mostly positive experiences, and as I have been reminded, mentioning "balance" and "us" is usually not done in the same sentence.
  It rained all day while we were in our anchorage near Madeira Beach. The water was cloudy and not very inviting. There were lots of abandoned boats sprinkled around in the harbor and the dismal surroundings could get to nearly anyone.
  The rain kept us from visiting our neighbors in the dinghy, and we had wanted to. My one reservation was that most of them kept their boats in a deplorable condition, and it may be unfair to characterize, but a boats condition tells a lot about the owners, I think. Rosie was less inclined to go visit the one younger couple nearest to us with the boat in the worse condition, but then I don't think she saw this girl in her bikini. Motivation comes in many forms.
  We did venture out in the rain to visit the Publix in order to stock up on things we needed (wink wink) and to dump two bags of trash. We got soaked with rain that became worse as soon as we got a few yards from the boat. There was a nice courtesy dock right at the McDonald's next to the Publix. We may have not been burger customers on that day, but we feel like our overall consumption of Big Macs over the years should account for something.
 There was a huge American Legion Post right on the waterway that we had noticed coming in on our first day that was doing a booming business. When we returned to the boat I called Post 272 and asked if they were open on a Wednesday, check...Did they have a varied menu, check...Did we need to be a member, No?, check.
  The rain let up enough late in the afternoon and we decided to get cleaned up and go out to spend some dollars on the local economy. When I had earlier called a nearby marina to check on diesel prices, the person there had only one comment about my inquiry about going to the Legion Post for dinner. "Well, it's affordable", was his reply. There wasn't really anywhere else to go but McDonald's where we could dock the dinghy, so we headed for the American Legion Post anyway.
  Naturally as soon as we reached the causeway the skies let loose, drenching us. We tied up to the dock and made our way into the Legion Post and the first thing I noticed was tables lined up similar to the ones at a high school cafeteria, or a soup kitchen, or a medium security lockup. (Don't ask how I know this last bit of information.) But secondly, I spied a bar with nice comfy stools gathered around it and lots of veterans engaged in an early happy
hour. We claimed a couple of seats and a waitress brought us a menu. Soon after, a bartender came over and asked for our membership cards. I explained as to how we had called earlier and asked if we needed a membership and was told that we didn't, and that we had traveled via dinghy in the rain, and that we just wanted a couple of beers with dinner.
  The bartender says, "Well, I don't know who would have told you that you don't need a membership card, but even though you don't need one to eat, you need one to drink."
  I've been to enough Legion Posts for drinks and dinners over the years to at least know to ask the question, so I figured I did my due diligence by phoning ahead. So I said, "I don't know who told me that either, but I'm not making it up."
  Rules are rules, so she asked if we wanted to just eat. I looked over at the institutional type seating in the eating area and respectfully declined her offer. Rosie could see all of this coming a mile away and was already putting her rain gear back on as I stepped away from the bar. I wonder what the person who answered my phone call thought I meant when I asked about the membership? A person just can't ask enough questions anymore.
  In pouring rain we made our way back to the boat, just pulling over to a nearby pier to see if there may be a restaurant within walking distance, but the bugs and small crabs skittering about on the dock was enough to convince Rosie that eating back on the boat was the best course to take.
  Once we got back and hauled the dinghy back onto the davits, the rain stopped. I began to associate dropping the dinghy with rain, similar to those who associated rain with washing the car. I realize that this type of notion is self centered in its logic, just like those that pray to win the lottery. It's not like everyone washes their cars at once.
  It was over a delicious dinner of pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy that we decided to get out of Dodge on Thursday morning. We stayed up late to watch the first of the Presidential debates and spent our last night in Madeira Beach.

  Happy to have the sun back, we headed past John's Pass and down the Intracoastal. We had about a 30 mile trip to Apollo Beach where we were meeting friends on Friday night and we wanted to break up the trip into two segments.

  Just under the Treasure Island Causeway was where we were going to find our present anchorage, in the Boca Ciega Bay at St. Petersburg Beach. It was only a 7 mile trip, but we barely idled the whole way, enjoying the morning and the view of the homes along the waterway.
  We anchored in a very wide area with only one other boat in the area, an unoccupied sailboat that looked to be in very nice condition. The water was clearer here and once we got settled, I decided to ignore the possibility of being eaten by any sea creatures and lounged around on my raft for the whole afternoon. Rosie was less adventurous, but she did dip herself a couple of times off of the swim ladder.
  I forgot to mention earlier, but our dinghy tie up system has been modified once again. The dinghy sits as high up against the davits as I can get it, and the lines I have tying it up do not interfere with using the swim platform much, so we find it easier to get in and out of the water now. The only downside is that our dinghy is wrapped up better than a kidnap victim, if you consider that a downside.

  By late afternoon, the wind started whipping up and the clouds started rolling in. This is a sure indication to get out on deck and confirm that the anchor is well set and batten down the hatches. This was an ominous looking front coming our way, but the NOAA radio broadcast didn't mention anything about it being "severe", and the radar showed a narrow band, so we didn't get too worried, but those clouds just dumped rain on us, albeit for a short time.

  The storm soon quit and boats came back out. I had started watching the news after dinner and checked myself. I mentioned to Rosie how dumb it was to be watching more of the same 'ole same 'ole, and that we should be out in the cockpit admiring the sunset. She agreed and soon enough we were out setting in our deck chairs with an after dinner cocktail in the cool air, supplied by the passing weather front.
  I would have included a beautiful sunset picture but the promise of a spectacular sunset didn't materialize as we had anticipated. Life is like that. The best things just happen without a lot of planning, but if you over analyze and expect to plan a good outcome, more often than not it leads to disappointment. I think we'll pull up anchor soon and head south, and just see what happens.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Not All Blue Skies

  We are on our second day here in our Madeira Beach anchorage. I can't tell you a whole lot about it because we haven't left the boat yet, and we haven't met our neighbors in here yet either. The three boats in the picture are abandoned. The one in the middle is washed up in the mangroves, and the other two sailboats are now home to a great number of sea gulls and pelicans, having been vessels holding a better future for their owners at some point in the past.
  We are currently socked in by rain, with no let up in sight for this day, at any rate. Not a big deal because the temperatures are cooler, and even though it's raining, there is no associated winds to contend with. Our first night here was a restless one. The winds had us bucking around and the noise of the waves smacking our bow made for a sleepless night. Yesterday the sun peeked out once in a while but we just didn't feel like dropping the dinghy to go explore. We did do some minor chores on the boat; one using the rain to help wash the decks, the other to check the oil on the engines.
  Our intentions this morning was to go get some breakfast at a restaurant nearby but the rain has been steady all morning. We'll read our books today, like we did yesterday, and try to get out and about later this afternoon. We're glad to have our Kindles and our contacts via computer to keep us busy.
  We have T.V. reception, but honestly are already tired of the political commercials. The media has, or has been, replacing religion as a means to control members of society; necessary given the inability or refusal for humans to think for themselves, in my opinion.
  One thing that I must convey to our blog readers is that "living the dream" is not for everyone, and we are still in the process of determining if it's even for us. I think the process will be a long term ongoing one, but will have ups and downs like anything else.
  There is a downside to everything, naturally. Right now I am skeptical about having our boat full time in the saltwater; not so much for the effect it has on our boat, but I'm not sure about myself being in salt water. There is many more critters lurking about that can do me harm than I'm used to, and we're in water that I cannot see what's around me more often than not.
  For instance, keeping the boat looking nice is a priority for us, and getting into the water to scrub the sides is a necessity occasionally. This requires me getting in the water and walking around the boat. Not only do I have to contend with tides to avoid us going aground if I anchor in shallow enough water to do this chore, I don't know enough about the local inhabitants yet. In Crystal River where the water is fresh, I had less concern about harmful wildlife than I had about the tall plant life, abundant on that river, tickling my gizzards as I walked around the boat on the river bottom as I washed or waxed the water line. Not that I did it, because I wouldn't, but it's something that needs to be done and I'm putting it off.
  Bathing in the salt water is another thing. Rosie doesn't want to do it and I don't blame her. The water in most areas is brackish, caused by the tannin from plant life in the protected areas, and we both doubt about getting very clean in it. I do have optimism about being in clearer salt water where we can bath and just rinse off with our fresh water, especially when the water gets clear enough to start making our water with our water maker. We are not to that place yet.
  Another factor in our comfort is the heat and humidity. We won't run our generator 24/7 for air conditioning as it's not practical and never was part of our plan. Our 12 volt electric fans are what we rely on, and for the most part can suffice at night, but we need to be able to feel comfortable getting in the local water during the day to cool off and I don't think we are at that point yet either, at least where we would lounge around on our rafts like we did in the rivers.
  Accessing services is a constant consideration too. We've been managing, but we can't just jump in the car and get to the license office or hardware store, two things that we need to do soon. But we'll remedy these issues when it comes to the nitty gritty as they say.
  Don't get the impression that we're getting discouraged, but also don't get the impression that we think this way of life is for everyone, or that we are even convinced it's for us, yet. I do know this; still weighing on our minds is the inability to get our condo back in St. Louis sold for a fair price. If we get tired of this boating life, we really don't want to go back there and reside, so we need to get a value for it to be able to afford life in another location, but we cannot even consider any alternatives until we have our condo sold and the proceeds tucked away in the bank.
  Outside of that issue, we can advise anyone that if they cannot get used to life without a bunch of stuff, this isn't for you. Here's an example: How many purses do you own? More than one? How big is the one you have? Is it chock full of crap you forgot you had? Then there is the issue of shoes. How many pairs do you own? If there are two of you, multiply it. We have one or two pair each. More than that and you won't find room for them on a boat of any realistic size. I think this topic is bumming me out.

  On a brighter note...Rosie hates this picture that I took last night with our new iPhone while she was looking at the iPad before dinner, but I think it reflects what is great about our life here on Swing Set. Rosie for the most part is happy and enjoying herself, obvious here in the picture. (Makeup or not, I think she is beautiful.) My problem is that I think too much. Another problem is that I mention drinking beer too much, so I'll quit mentioning it, but I doubt that I'll quit thinking about things or drinking beer.
  We sat on our bow last night, during a respite of the rain, had a cool breeze blowing and watched numerous dolphin and manatees splashing around. I saw a sting ray fly out of the water about four feet in the air for the first time. I didn't know they did that. There's a lot of things about sea life we don't know but we figure we'll learn eventually, and Rosie and I will both have our doubts about our lifestyle choices and work our way through them, that too, eventually.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tarpon Springs To Madiera Beach

  We made the best of our last day in Crystal River by taking Holly in the dinghy to the beach and then over to the Three Sisters Spring for one last time.
  I also decided, after a good tip from our friend Don at Lake of the Ozarks, to get a new phone instead of a new camera. My old iPhone 3 was acting up, and there is no flash on the camera on that old model, plus the auxiliary jack quit working months ago.
  Don knew we were headed for Tarpon Springs and located an AT&T store there so I called them and after considering the options, had them get an iPhone 4S into the store for me to check out. The 4S is a nice phone and can be gotten at a good discount right now. The camera has a flash and the best thing about it was that the same connection cords for the 3G can be used for the 4S phone.
  We left Crystal River bright and early on Saturday morning after getting fuel at Pete's Pier. We only took on 30.4 gallons and the total was a whopping $140. Like some other places in Florida, the $4.25 price at the pump did not include tax. I am getting tired of having to ask whether or not the price at the pump includes tax or not. Live and learn though.

  Our cruise to Tarpon Springs was about 60 miles of open water and the weather was perfect. The Gulf was flat and we were running in shallow aquamarine blue water. We saw lots of dolphins and turtles along the way. I stopped the boat three times to take a swim and I wanted to get out my snorkeling gear.
  We found one of the very few anchorages in the Tarpon Springs area just east of Anclote Key, and as much as we wanted to join the other boaters lining a nearby white sand beach, we settled in for the night in a very unprotected anchorage which meant a noisy night for us because of the wave action, not the beach goers.
  On Sunday morning we called some friends about 15 miles away and they just happened to be looking for something to do, so we invited them to join us for the day and decided to meet up the river in Tarpon Springs at a marina.

 Tarpon Springs is an old Greek settlement and there are lots of shrimp boats and the sponge docks along the waterway are reminiscent of days gone by.

  This was our view as we waited at the Tarpon Landing Marina for our friends Ed and Peggy Wingo to drive over from Lutz. We hadn't seen Ed and Peggy for nearly 13 years but had no problem recognizing either one of them when they walked onto the dock.
  We went up to the restaurant there called Capt'n Jacks and had a late lunch while we caught up. After lunch we took a cruise and didn't drop them off until nearly dark. By the time we made our way out to the anchorage, it was dark and the wind was whipping up.

  On Monday morning we were treated to a rainbow on the horizon. The white boat in the photo is a very large wooden sailboat keeled over up near the bank in water about a foot deep. Their luck ran out at some point, rainbow or not.
  Once I confirmed that the AT&T store had the phone delivered to their location over the weekend, I dropped the dinghy and left Rosie in charge while I traveled to Spring Bayou, about 5 miles away, and tied up the dinghy at a public dock near the old section of Tarpon Springs. I then walked to the AT&T store over a mile away.
  I made my purchase and called Rosie to tell her I'd be heading back which would take about 90 minutes. When I left the river and headed across the bay to the boat, the wind had really picked up and the ride back to Swing Set was about the roughest I'd ever want to do. I couldn't wait to get the dinghy back on the davits and get out of there because we had some open water to negotiate on the way down to Dunedin.
  Once we got behind some protection from the surrounding keys, the waves let up but a stiff wind was blowing up from the south. I couldn't find an anchorage I liked with any wind protection.
  In Clearwater harbor there was some pretty water but all too shallow for us. I saw promising areas down in Boca Ciera so even though it was getting late, the weather was good and the wind had died down to a pleasant breeze, so we kept on going.
  We passed under the bridge to Madiera Beach and found our anchorage. There are several other boats in here too, some occupied, and some not. We are in about 6 feet of water which will get us only 4 feet when the tide goes out, but there isn't much else in the way of places to drop the hook until we get to Tampa Bay.

   Here's us playing with the new phone. Thanks for the tip, Don!
  Rosie got a good dinner ready in just a few minutes; we were having salad with chicken strips. T.V. reception is good and so is the Internet service. There is a Publix within view and it appears that there is a few people here in the anchorage that we can meet tomorrow. We have some business to attend to at the license office, if we can find one, so we may stay here a couple of nights at least, but not too long because we're meeting Ed and Peggy again this weekend, along with some other friends down here in Florida that we haven't seen for about eight years, over in Apollo Beach on Friday night. We think we'll like it here for a bit, we've already had several dolphins swimming by the boat.
  It's been a long, long day and we're glad to be at anchor in better protected waters than we had for the last two nights. We're both due for some better rest.