Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Back In Marathon With A Laundry List

  I'll get a couple of things out of the way first. The wind generator worked for a couple of days and then quit again, so we're going to embark on a plan to get it fixed. On a successful note, I put on my snorkel gear and quickly found our grill that I had sent flying into Newfound Harbor by accident.
  On Friday and Saturday we spent some time visiting other boaters on Picnic Island. For the most part, the people we met were nice. Two couples from Canada waded over to meet Holly. We talked for a bit and one of the things we talked about was Little Palm Island Resort. The one fella told us how they visited one time, and two shots and two appetizers came to a total of almost three hundred dollars, and that dinner was typically five hundred dollars and up. To spend the night there ran over three thousand dollars. You can rent the whole place for five hundred thousand dollars per night.
  Most people would be telling you this in a way of bragging that they had spent this kind of money on something as fleeting as dinner. I'm telling you this so you can avoid the place. Some people have more money than sense.
  As we were getting ready to head back to the boat, the Canadians, who had retired to their pontoon boat, invited us over for a beer. I normally trust my instincts, and my instincts were telling us to decline, but my instincts were also affected by the consumption of a few cold ones, so we went. Mistake number one.
  Of course, they would have none of us sitting in the dinghy, so we were invited to come sit up on the deck of their boat. Mistake number two.
  I knew they had been fishing. Fishing poles lined the rails and fish scales and whatever else was in the carpet. Holly thought she was in heaven. We tried to hold her in our laps, but she scrambled away at every chance, and ignored us when we tried to rope her back in. Compared to fish guts, we are nothing to her.
  Now these folks were putting some good dents into their supply of rum and Budweiser, I must tell you. They had the idea that we must hate sleeping on the boat, and offered us the comfort of a bedroom over at their house. Not that we would accept any such invitation, but they had no regard as to where we were to keep the boat, or the dog. A similar request was made to join them all in Key West over the weekend. They would drive us all over there and spend a night or two, again, they didn't seem to think that leaving our boat at anchor in Newfound Harbor while we were all traipsing around Key West drunk as monkeys was of any concern.
  Short of saying, "Are you people idiots?" We had all we could do to be polite and continue to ward off their invitations. Now, let's be honest. Had one of the women looked like Supermodel Kate Upton, there might have been some wiggle room. The term, "far cry", would apply here.
  No, but really, why do people think that we must not enjoy sleeping on our own boat? If we wanted to sleep in a "bed", we would have sold our boat and kept our condo, and saved a ton of money.
  Our patience ran thin when we heard the one guy say, "Boy, your dog sure likes Doritos!" Even after explaining to all of them about how we don't give Holly "people food", here's this guy feeding Holly right out of the bag. We were gone in less than one minute.
  The next day we kept more to ourselves. Lots of people bring their dogs along when they visit Picnic Island, so there are many of them running around in the shallow water. The owners would walk up to see the source of the ferocious barking coming from our small dinghy, and when they would see Holly, they would want her to come and "play" with their dog. This is not gonna happen.
  No offense to other pet owners, but there is no upside to letting Holly play with other dogs. Maybe there is an upside to her, but we've already established that she is fickle and has no taste. One bite from "oh, my little doggie is friendly", and it's over. Not only that, I can audibly hear the ticks and fleas on the other dogs making plans for the attack whenever they get within range of Holly. Our policy is to keep her away from other pets, and we're sticking to it. Call us bad parents.
  The forecast called for a calm day on Sunday, and the wind was due to pick up from the south on Monday afternoon, so we decided to abstain from any more delights to be had at Picnic Island on Sunday, and head east to Marathon in the morning. I was securing the dinghy and Linda, our new friend on Ramrod Key, came motoring up in her Boston Whaler. She wanted to meet us before we left, and knowing we where low on water, brought two six gallon jugs of water for us to put into our tank. She had this handy gizmo that she stuck into the jerry can, shook it up and down a couple of times, and the water began siphoning from the jerry can into our water tank. I will be getting one of those things.
  Linda has a very friendly Lab, called Mercy, and I felt like a jerk telling Linda about our policy of not letting Holly play with all the other reindeer, (?) but I think she understood.
  We cast off at high tide and headed into the Hawk Channel and made a left. The sun was shining, we had coffee and egg burritos at the helm, and after twelve days in Newfound Harbor, we were glad to be on our way. When we got to Bahia Honda Key, I let Swing Set loose at cruising speed and we ran along at 25 miles per for a half an hour or so until we reached Vaca Key. The channel is very close to the Gulf Stream in this area, and the water is very clear. We saw dolphins and big turtles, and we began seeing jelly fish too. Made a mental note. Jellyfish: bad.
  We spent mid day exploring around the south side of Marathon. We checked out Key Colony Resort, and Cocoa Plum Marina.
  We had Sparky's Landing in our sights and I called them on the phone to ask if we could buy some water. This notion was foreign to the woman who answered the phone and she didn't know where to begin to find out as to how much we should pay for it. I made a few suggestions, and we negotiated a fair price of ten cents per gallon. We pulled in and ten dollars later, we had our tanks full and were set to spend the night on the hook before entering Boot Key Harbor the next morning.
  We sat at anchor and just enjoyed the day, as it was calm and the forecast was promising little to no wind for the evening. There is a reason places are called "harbors" and I learned that in the future, we needed to be on the lee side of something before spending the night anywhere. Even though the local forecast called for calm conditions, the waves that came after midnight didn't get the memo. We were bucked and tossed all night long and neither one of us got any sleep. The sun just began peeking over the horizon when we started our routine to head out.
  We had high tide to our advantage as we entered Little Sisters Creek. Two months earlier when we would visit the beach there, we saw more than one boat run aground in the area, hugging the east side of the inlet too much. Knowing to favor our port side of the inlet, we sailed right in, never having less than five feet under our keel.
  There is a nice anchorage up into Little Sisters Creek, and I had notions of spending a night our two there, but reviews of the area on Active Captain revealed that some large government radio towers in the area messed with instrument and phone transmissions. I suspected those towers to be the source of our difficulty in trying to watch the Academy Awards the night before. I swear I could hear the Voice of America coming over our VHF as we snaked through the Little Sisters channel.
  We called the City Marina and were directed to a mooring ball. Once we got tied up, we finally had our breakfast, promising to come into the office with the dinghy later on to make payment for our one month stay. Then, I got on the phone. First I called Sea and Land Technologies, or SALT, an outfit referred to us by E Marine in Fort Lauderdale, to see if they could fix our wind generator. "Leave everything the way it is, and we'll be out on Wednesday", we were told. Even though we won't be able to claim the repair on our warranty, if we can get this thing fixed without sending the unit away and waiting for who knows how long to get it back, it will be worth it. I just hope the $95 per hour they charge does not include a "head scratchin' charge", but will go only towards actually fixing it, and won't exceed the price of a whole new unit. One can but dream.
  Then I put in a call to Marathon Marina to the service manager. I know Mondays are busy in the boat yard world, so giving my number to wait for a call back was expected. I was prepared to wait until the following day, actually.
  Rosie was at work too. She made some calls and scheduled a dental appointment for both of us, as well as an eye doctor appointment for her, as she is down to her last set of contacts. I kept at it and made the appointment for Holly to get her rabies shot on Friday, and began to consider the logistics of getting her health certificate, and the timing needed to get into the Bahamas with the necessary paperwork before permits expire.
  While Rosie finished up, I gathered up our trash and pulled the five gallons of engine coolant in the bilge that we had been dragging around for over a month, waiting to get to the recycle station at the City Marina here in Marathon.
  It was mid morning before Rosie and I made it over to the office. Rosie paid us up, and I took care of the engine coolant and trash. We returned a movie that we had also been dragging around and picked up a couple of books at the library. We kept busy back at the boat but began to wear down after lunch.
  I was reading when the phone rang. It was the service manager from Marathon Boat Yard. Sherry was very nice and patient while I relayed to her our history of the bottom paint on Swing Set, which is lengthy. I requested a haul out on the 25th of March because it's the day our month is up here on the mooring ball. This presented no problem for them, as it's far enough in advance. So if the estimate that they will present to us in a couple of days is fair, we are set to get new bottom paint.
  Another issue is where we will stay when Swing Set is on the hard. Sherry suggested a resort across the street from the boatyard, as they give a fair discount to boaters getting work done at Marathon. The Blue Water Resort had a vacancy for the week we needed, and more importantly, accepted pets at an extra $15 per night. When they found out that Holly only weighed 6 pounds, we got the rate reduced to a mere $10. I wonder if there is an adjustment if Rosie and I both lose a few pounds in the next four weeks? In my case, one can but dream.
  So things are falling into place. Holly and I took a dinghy ride in the afternoon while Rosie worked at making an appointment for an annual physical for me, and to have our dental records sent to the dentist that we are going to see. We discovered that the restaurant over at Sombrero Beach was closed indefinitely. We didn't go there on our last visit. Oh, well.
  It was close to 5 P.M. when Rosie and I took the dinghy over to get showers. We also had dumped our two plastic jugs of water into the tank on the boat in order to refill them at the dock. This is an effort not to save on the 5 cents per gallon charge for water, but just to avoid taking the boat over to get filled up every week. Not only is there a queue for boats wanting to get water at the city dock, the less times we have to negotiate the mooring ball will be better for our marriage.

  At the end of the day we felt like we had gotten a lot accomplished, at least got the wheels in motion. If we can get everything done in time, we can stay on our loose plan of getting to The Bahamas before the end of April. We wanted to get over there well before hurricane season, but we'll be nearly on top of it. If we can but stay only a couple of weeks this time around, we'll feel like we've set out what we intended to do from the start, for the most part.
  It won't all be dull here in Marathon, though. We'll have some visitors in a few weeks and be able to get out on the water with them before the boat gets hauled. We'll also begin stocking up our provisions for the scarcity of such that we expect to find when we get to The Bahamas. We expect, though, that we'll be more than ready to get back in the saddle and out on the seas by the time we are finished here in Marathon. At least, for this time around.

Friday, February 22, 2013

We Emerge Victorious-For Now

The wind and the rain has let up finally. Three days ago we pulled up anchor and tried to get into Dolphin Marina to get our water tanks topped off. I quit using the water maker because without the port wind generator working, the power drain was too much on our house bank of batteries.
  Toward the largely unmarked northern end of the channel leading to the narrow secondary channel into the marina (which is marked) we began to stir up sand, so we turned around and got away unscathed, and decided to learn more about entering Dolphin Marina before we make another attempt. We also didn't go at high tide, which would have helped.
  If you read the comments on our previous posts, you already know that we cruised over to Little Palm Island to get water. Active Captain indicates that there is a marina there, with fuel, but this is not so. I did figure that they had water and perhaps we could buy some.
  I rarely call ahead to a marina or a dock if the approach is obvious and it's not too crowded, so our approach to Little Palm Island Transient dock was no exception. Two guys from a large yacht already docked there came off their boat and gave us a hand in securing lines. By the time I stepped off of Swing Set, an employee was walking down the dock to meet us.
  I asked about getting our water tank filled up and he said he had to get on the radio and ask his boss. My optimism in regard to us getting our water sank. I had told him that we could probably use about 100 gallons, and offered to pay whatever the going rate was for it, but I'm not sure if he relayed to his boss the fact that we were willing to pay. All I heard on the radio was, "Give them 10 or 20 gallons, but not no 100 gallons. We got a boat comin' in here soon and they are in the way."
  Some water was better than none, and I also knew that there was nothing to measure how much water was going in, so we stuck the hose in and started filling 'er up. After a few minutes, the harbormaster came down to the dock with a sour look on his face. He took exception to the fact that we had tied up to his dock without asking first. He asked if it was our habit to tie up to a dock without permission. I explained to him that I initially believed that we were approaching a dock that had fuel, and no, we had never encountered an issue with tying up to a dock without permission. (OK, just that one time in Marco Island, but this guy didn't have to know it.)
  By the time we got done chatting, he softened up somewhat but reminded us to call ahead next time and as he walked away, he grumbled something about "give it no more than ten minutes, and that's it". Our tank was full in seven minutes, thank you very much. While I waited, I talked to the captain of their shuttle vessel about how to approach Dolphin Marina next time and got the scoop on that. We tipped the dock attendant and we went on our merry way.
  The day was overcast and we made our way back over to our anchorage, but decided to get closer to Picnic Island as the weather was due to change and we wanted to be closer to allow us to engage in the social activities that the small island promised. By this time we had been in Newfound Harbor for four days and we were anxious to get off of the boat and visit humanity.
  The Looe Key Resort and Dive Center is nearby on Ramrod Key. Their website advertised a tiki bar with Tuesdays being "Taco Tuesday". We also got a tip from one of our blog readers about this place, so even though rain was threatening, we dropped the dinghy in the water at about 5 P.M. and motored over to the resort to get some 75 cent tacos.
  We found a nifty spot to park the dinghy and the parking lot reflected a full house. The "tiki hut" is enormous and it was packed to full. We walked in and took the one empty chair at the bar, but a young couple was there and the guy offered his chair so we could both sit, but I declined. Nicolas and Olivia turned out to be very nice locals and we struck up a conversation with them that lasted into the evening. Nicolas used to be a Merchant Marine who now runs a small dive operation over on Big Pine. We had a lot in common; he is an amature beer brewer and has an appreciation for German motorcycles and American cars. It also turns out that he went to school with Steve, the mechanic that worked on our engines in Key West.
  We had a great time at the tiki bar. Holly didn't bite anyone, and she did her part to get us introduced to a few people that came up to meet her. We finally weaved our way back to Swing Set in the pitch darkness, only running aground once.
  With a significant hangover on Wednesday, I decided to attack our port wind generator. I unbolted the port tower and laid the generator down on top of the radar arch. At this point, I didn't want to pull the wires out of the tower and unplug them. I gave some misleading information about Primus Wind Energy in my previous post. Primus didn't purchase Southwest Windpower, but did purchase their "Air Line" of wind generators. The contact person for our Air-X unit was still in Arizona. "Bo" had told me to check the contacts for the brushes inside the housing to see if they were dirty, or pitted. This was my mission.

  That shiny brass post on the right side of the wind generator (which is actually the bottom) is called the yaw assembly. The post is really three separate brass pieces with a non-conducting buffer between them. Behind this post is the contact brushes that connect to the circuit board. The white wires go to the stator and rotor which are in the front of the unit that I have set aside to the left in the picture. With me so far?
  The yaw assembly had some light dirt on it, most likely residue from the brushes, but when I turned the yaw to see the backside, I could see some shallow grooving occurring where the brushes were meeting the yaw. (The wires that come from the generator are attached to the insides of those brass cylinders.) Then I had a revelation. The wind generators are designed to swivel on the tower to collect the wind, so they must turn around on the post to do so, and would normally wear evenly around that yaw assembly. But a boat is typically at anchor, and the boat itself will turn and face the wind on the anchor line, so that means that the wind generator won't always be spinning around on the tower, but will most likely always be facing towards the bow of the boat. This will make the brushes contacting the yaw in the same spot, most of the time anyway.
  I took some 400 grit emery cloth and shined up the yaw and evened out the grooves. I cleaned everything with trusty WD-40 and put everything back together. We had enough wind to get the blades spinning and they started up. Within a few seconds, the brakes came on and I knew my repair had failed. Depression set in.
  Bo at Primus Wind Energy had given me the phone number of E Marine, based in Ft. Lauderdale, and I called them to discuss our options. I talked to Andrew and he was very helpful. We obtained an RMA number and were instructed to send the unit to them when we got to Marathon. They were backed up due to some difficulty getting parts from Primus, but they would do everything they could to get the wind generator fixed for us. As I got off the phone with him, I began contemplating sending the unit to them, but then cruising up to Fort Lauderdale on our way to The Bahamas to retrieve the unit after the repair.
  But I couldn't get the issue off of my mind. My bosses at the beer factory use to call it "obsessing", but I'd call it being fixated on a problem. My tenacity in regard to solving a problem is vexing to Rosie, as is a problem is also vexing to me, but I usually get results.
  For no concrete reason, I decided to switch off the circuit breaker on the wind generator, and then switch it back on. I already had turned the unit off with the supplied inline power switch. Now get this: The wind generator started spinning, and stayed spinning! The power disconnect did something good to the circuit board after having it apart. Maybe it had to "reset". Hell, I don't know. We kept watch on it all day, anticipating for it to fail again. I wasn't about to start celebrating yet.

  We watched another gorgeous sunset and waited for dark. As the light faded, the little indicator light on the body of the wind generator glowed like it is supposed to when all is well. Each time I got up during the night I went out to view the light. By morning I was convinced that cleaning the yaw was the solution to our problem, and my revelation about the contact of the brushes remaining constant was an interesting concept, shared by Andrew at E Marine, when I called him to tell him I wouldn't be sending our wind generator to them for repair. This time, at least. But of course my phone call to announce our success was sure to jinx us. I plan on adjusting the yaw on the starboard generator about 1/8 of a turn in order to ward off a similar occurrence on that unit. So far, three days later, we're still making electricity with the port generator.
  We got up yesterday and left Holly to guard the boat and took the dinghy to Dolphin Marina to dump some trash and fill up our water jugs with potable water. The people there were really nice, and Jennifer at the gas dock dutifully accepted our 70 cents in payment for the seven gallons of water we took away. I offered two bucks, but she would have none of it. I did manage to leave the extra 30 cents from my dollar bill. No one can say I don't tip.
  We also got directions over to Keys Sea Center, up a canal over on Big Pine Key, where we intended on having breakfast at Big Pine Restaurant. We were directed over to a nice cozy tie up at their dock and were told that there were "no worries" about us docking there as long as we needed to, in order to visit the restaurant and get some supplies. They couldn't have been more accommodating.
  We walked just a short distance to the restaurant and had a wonderful breakfast, plus got walking directions to nearby stores. On our walk to Walgreens, we saw key deer and roosters roaming about. We turned our heads to avoid seeing an already limping key deer cross the busy U.S. 1 roadway, but luckily for it, the deer made its way into the protection of the woods along the highway.
  We loaded up our West Marine cart and pulled it back to the dinghy. Holly was glad to see us once we got back to the boat and as Rosie was stocking the larder with our new supplies, I noticed a business card on our transom door. I called the number of the person who left the card and met Linda Vanaman, a local captain who stopped by because she had noticed our boat in the harbor now for a number of days. Linda offered to drive us to the store if we needed to go, but since we had just returned from there, her and I spent about an hour talking about entry into The Bahamas, and pertinent information in that regard. She had some great insight into the matter, plus visiting with a pet, because she had done the trip nearly twenty times. I added her blog site to our list of websites that are our favorites, if you want to take a look at her blog site.

  Yesterday was a very nice day. Boaters had started coming in to Picnic Island. The dinghy was already in the water, so we put a few Bud Lights in the cooler and went to join the party. We immediately met two couples; a local couple, and their friends visiting from Springfield, Illinois. We asked the couple from Springfield if they knew Jim and Kathy Dickerson from there and the one woman had worked with Kathy years ago! We've known Jim and Kathy for over twenty years, having met them on a cruise, and then running into them everywhere else we went. The local couple, the Flattery's, promised to meet up with us again over the upcoming weekend, and also gave us their number if we needed anything while in the area. How nice is that?
  When those four left, we met another couple who were locals and they had a big Laborador retriever that Holly found a reason to bark incessantly at. They also turned out to be very nice and were going to come back for the weekend party at Picnic Island. I guess we'll stay for a few more days. The man did ask me if I was a "diver", or a "fisherman", and I replied that I was neither. Just a boater. I felt like a complete failure.

  A big sailboat came in to share our anchorage last night and helped us admire another sunset. We fired up the grill and made some chicken for dinner.
  As I was taking the last piece of chicken off of the grill, I used too much torque and the grill slid off of the cast iron skillet and right "into the drink". (My brother and his new wife will get a kick out of my use of the term "into the drink".)
  Now I have a mission for the day, which is to retrieve the grill and clean the "hair" off the sides of the hull. It's been a month since I scraped barnacles. The barnacles are being kept at bay, but the algae has taken a liking to Swing Set's bottom. A quick wipe with an abrasive pad will dispense with the algae in no time.
  Not sure what else is in store for us today, but it will probably involved a visit to the beach with the dinghy. There may be some icy cold Bud Lights in our future too, but I can't promise anything. At least we don't have snow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Prophets Come In Many Forms

  Remember that fella we met in Key West at the Conch Republic Bar? The one who started his conversation with me by saying that our wind generators were noisy and were going to break? Yes. Him.
  It turns out I should probably go back and find him and anoint his holiness with adulation and praise, for he is apparently a prophet worthy of being the center of a new religion, because his prediction has come true. Our port side wind generator is broken.
  The port side wind generator started "braking" for no apparent reason when we left Key West twelve days ago, but I suspected it was because our house bank of batteries was just fully charged and the generators don't supply a charge when the voltage is at an acceptable level. Then, over the weekend, when winds were blowing continually at 30 miles per hour, and the voltage had dropped on the house bank because we were running the water maker, the port side wind generator continued to "brake" unnecessarily and then ceased to run at all. Boo.
  Southwest Windpower has just been bought by Primus Wind Energy. This took place in January. Our wind generators are under a three year warranty, but it will be interesting to see how this process will go. I called them yesterday, but realized that they were probably closed due to the holiday. (President's Day, in case you missed it.)
  I did call Dave Ludwig from Bloch Marine back in St. Louis. Dave did the installation and I had a question regarding the method we used to plug in the generators to the 6 gauge wire that he ran to the control panel. The wind generators were installed in such a way that replacing them, or taking them down for service, would be an easy operation. What won't be easy is shipping them off to Colorado to have them "inspected" before the warranty is honored. I'll keep you posted as to how this transpires.

  I've mentioned the bad weather we've been having. The temperatures have been only as high as 55 degrees during the day at times, and we've had plenty of rain. Yes, my repair of the water leak on the bridge has been successful.
   The view in the photo above is looking to the south towards Looe Key. Little Palm Island is the land mass on the left. We are well at anchor in Newfound Harbor and have been here in the same spot going on five days now.

  The days are lazy ones. We've been reading a lot and Holly has been getting her share of naps in too. Rosie is keeping the decks mopped, and the rain has washed most of the salt off of Swing Set. I've done some minor chores and even some sewing, but otherwise any other service that the boat needs will have to be done where I can take used oil, engine coolant, and diesel fuel. So basically I'm resting on my laurels due to my status of having solved our rainwater leak. I'll milk it.
  We have also started playing gin rummy, a card game we used to play quite a bit years ago but had lost interest. We found some interesting new rules to play by and since we've been cooped up inside, we are enjoying it again.

  On our coldest day, we made this big pot of chicken soup. I am an expert at making home made chicken soup, chicken and dumplings and Hungarian Goulash, and I may have outdone myself with this variation of my grandmothers age old recipe.
  I boiled two chicken leg quarters in eight cups of water, added some pepper and chicken bouillon and a can of carrots, including the juice. I deboned the chicken after an hour and added four packages of Ramen noodles, along with the seasoning that comes in each packet. Then came the secret ingredient, catsup. Yes, catsup. I squirted about half a cup of regular old catsup right into the pot. This took place of the tomato paste that we didn't have on hand, which is in my grandmothers recipe. It gives the soup a nice rich color and really adds to the taste. Try it sometime.
  Today is the day we plan of venturing out. We were going to take the dinghy, but our water tank is low. We aren't making as much water as I would like because the 12 volt battery bank that supplies the water maker isn't charging with the wind generator and we don't need to run the diesel generator just to make water. It's easier to just cruise over to a nearby marina and take on water than it is to run another wire to the other bank of batteries. We need to dump trash anyway.
  We've been getting some good comments and emails about the blog with people saying that our exploits are an inspiration to some people that want to do this very thing. Those comments make my writing the blog worthwhile. Sometimes I feel like the blog is just a way to say, "Hey look at us, how much fun we're having!" I don't like to give that impression.
  We get requests from folks who want to see our Facebook page, but generally we decline those requests. I use our Facebook page to express views that would not necessarily be acceptable to the general public, so we keep it separate. Some readers want to share phone numbers, but that's not something we do much of, talk on the phone. Unless we need to talk to someone that finds the blog and wants to meet nearby, we don't relish talking on the phone to people we don't know. We like meeting people in person better. Usually.
  Anybody want to visit? Please realize the limitations of our not being at any specific location. Just finding a place to pick up passengers for a daytime cruise can be problematic. We also aren't travel agents, and don't know where the best hotels or resorts are at because we don't use them. We might be able to squeeze an overnight guest onto the boat for a night or two, but space is tight on Swing Set for people, and for their "stuff". We'd love to have a continuous succession of overnight guests if our boat was bigger, but it's not. It was great getting visitors in Key West because everyone had their places to stay, and we were at a dock. It was perfect. If we ever get settled into a specific location for any length of time, we'll be able to plan on having visitors a lot easier.

  Why the picture of Holly sleeping? Because we get requests to see more pictures of Holly. Nobody ever asks to see pictures of me, and that's OK.
  I almost forgot. I bought an app months ago called Boat Beacon. It's supposed to show ships and other boats in our area. I haven't used it for that, but I've found a good use for the app. It has an anchor alarm that can double as a theft alarm. If I use our iPad to set the alarm and leave it on the boat when we leave, the alarm will send an email message to my iPhone if the boat moves further than a predetermined setting. This can give us some peace of mind about the anchor dragging when we are away from the boat. The app is only a few bucks, so it's worth it if it works. We might try it today.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Back In Newfound Harbor And Defying Logic

  The islands north of U.S. 1 in the lower keys are abundant, but the routes through them are shallow and meandering, and there are plenty of good anchorages to protect boaters from wind that may arise from just about any direction.

Tarpon Belly Key

  We left Johnston Key after spending four nights there and moved just a few miles east to Tarpon Belly Key. The wind protection wasn't any better, but we wanted a change of scenery and we found it. Tarpon Belly Key used to be the site of a shrimp farming operation many years ago that didn't pan out. Since I'm not a historian, nor a travel guide, I'll dispense with the facts about it and suggest you peruse the Internet if you want to find out more about it. One thing remarkable is that due to its historical nature, the small island gets a few visitors, so we could watch the boaters and beach goers come and go from our anchorage a couple hundred feet off of land. I say, "beach" but use the term loosely, there seems to be no evidence of sand, but only large shells. Everyone wears shoes.
  We waited until the tide was rising on Friday to start our cruise to Newfound Harbor, about eight miles away as the crow flies, but a crow needn't worry about running aground usually. The sky was overcast most of the way, not a good setting for reading the bottom, but our two chart plotters worked very well, plus I've learned that a line of crab pots isn't set out in water too shallow for a boat to retrieve them, so even though I curse the existence of crab pot markers most of the time, I've learned to use the placement of them to our advantage.
  Our route took us in a zigzag manner through some very shallow water, some as low as four feet, and this was on a rising tide, over to the Niles Channel Bridge which is between Summerland Key and Ramrod Key, a total of 16 miles from our starting point at Tarpon Belly Key. With a 40 foot vertical clearance, one would think the channel under it would have a depth suitable for a vessel that needs that much clearance to pass, but we found the shallowest water just north of this bridge, so I made a note on our track for the day to only attempt the Niles Channel from Florida Bay to Newfound Harbor during high tide, or close to it. There are only so many bridges on U.S. 1 that allow a boat like ours to pass under, and this is one of them. Some are high enough, but the water is not navigable. Being able to get from north to south is important when avoiding hazardous weather and wind conditions.
  We are on our 8th day on the hook since we left Key West and have been making water with the water maker, and are pretty happy with the results. Without too much use of the generator, I feel like we can exist on the hook for long periods of time before a trip to land is necessary. We'll probably need human interaction way before the food runs out. Limited phone conversations with friends and family have been sufficing for the time being.
  With nearly a full tank of water, we're prepared to stay here in Newfound Harbor for a few days. Little Palm Island guards the southern entrance to Newfound Harbor and there is a ritzy resort and restaurant there. Passengers come from the "mainland" in vintage water taxis to visit the resort and eat at the restaurant where "gentlemen must wear long slacks and a collard shirt". A sport jacket is suggested. Guess where we won't be going to eat.
  There are a few other watering and dining holes on nearby Little Torch Key and Big Pine Key. We want to check out Dolphin Marina too, long term dockage may be affordable there, but I have a suspicion that the person I had talked to on the phone a month or so ago was selling themselves cheap.
  After getting set in a sand bottom, with room to swing in six feet of water, we nestled in the cockpit waiting for a sunset to appear that never did. The clouds rolled in and by the time we had finished our Valentine's Day dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, and asparagus, we could feel the boat start to spin and rock.
  I had checked the weather radar earlier and the wind coming from the south was going to push the harsh weather to our north away from us, or so I thought. The wind shift showed a big storm cell coming from our west and we were right in the path of it.
  Our anchor alarm was set and I had confidence in our holding, as I had at least a hundred feet of rode set out. The cold front blew in and the boat tugged at her anchor, but we stayed put. The rains came, and we finally got to test the leak repair I had done back in Everglades City. The test failed.
  Not only did water start dripping onto our settee in the salon, proving that my repair was to no avail, when I switched on the iPad again to check the radar, I got a message that said No SIM card. I can multitask. First, pull up the cushions on the settee, put towels down and a wastebasket to catch water. Then I started Googling to find out why we were getting the message about No SIM card when I know one is in there. I tried a few online remedies, but got nowhere.
  I gathered my spirits and due to no T.V. reception, we played two game of dominoes as the wind and rain died down. It was 11 P.M. before we doused the lights and slept like babies. As is usually the case, I problem solve best first thing in the morning. Brain storms come in the A.M. for me.
  The sun was barely up and I went to inspect the flybridge to search for something I may have missed during my previous water leak source searches. (That's a mouthful.) There is a small snap cover in the floor of the flybridge deck that hides a screw where the snap for the carpet used to be when we had carpet up on the flybridge. I had considered this screw as a source of the leak before, but discounted it because the screw now holds down a silicon washer which would keep water from entering the hole where the screw sits. Right?
  Water leaks defy logic, so I removed the screw, squirted a liberal amount of silicon sealer into the hole and inserted the screw again. This screw is in the direct path of a small stream that appears as the rain water rolls off the inside of the isinglass onto the floor. This has to be the source of our leak, but we won't find out until it rains again, which should be this afternoon or tonight. If this solution doesn't work, we may have our upholstery covered in all vinyl and treat it like our seating in the cockpit outside and just let the rain pour in while we wear our raincoats at the dinette for dinner.
  While we ate our breakfast, I contemplated the iPad issue, then I reset the iPad which always makes me nervous, but like a good doctor, "I did no harm", but I didn't solve the problem either. Even though I had removed the SIM card and re-installed it before turning in last night, I went through the process again even though logic says I was wasting my time. When turning on the iPad, I got a 5 bar 3G signal like we're supposed to. I am learning to ignore logic when it comes to rain water leaks and computers.
  In an unprecedented move, I'm updating this blog due to a momentous occasion; I believe I have fixed the leak in our salon ceiling! Was it that screw in the floor? No, sorry to say.
  It has been raining off and on all day, and I've been on the settee in the salon reading. This afternoon the drip commenced again from one of the light fixtures right where it always does. I grabbed my screwdrivers and went up to the flybridge. The only screws on the port side where the leaks appeared to be coming from have been removed, filled with silicon sealer, and put back in...except for four of them that hold the brackets on some bimini struts. These struts are under a bit of pressure and if anyone is reading this who has ever taken those screws out that hold the struts in place can attest to, they are most difficult to get back together sometimes. Well, with Rosie's help, and some creative leveraging, I got the screws out, filled the holes with silicon, and got everything back together without a mishap. But the dryness under those brackets led me to believe that I had wasted my time.
  New problems occur usually because something has changed. The key is to find out what is different. The leaks were not occurring on the starboard side of the boat, but the same windshield and hardware screws exist on that side too. I was studying a trickle of water on the dash, coming from the zippers on the smile windows that are on our bimini top. The water was running into a joint where the dash meets the sides of the flybridge. This joint is on both side of the dash, and I know the walls are solid from where the windshield is attached to the top of them, all the way to the flybridge sole. Not so fast, partner.
  Not only was the joint where the dash meets the sidewall on the port side missing some sealant, once I looked under the dashboard on the port side, I could see where the trickles of water were running down the sidewall and into a hole where the wires for the dash are routed to points below. Bingo! What had changed, other than us having the boat out in the rain more than the previous owner had done? For one thing, I have run more wires up to the dash since we bought the boat. Water usually runs along wires and drips off at low points, so any water that may have leaked in before was now finding new spots to manifest itself inside, instead of running down the insides of the hull down to the bilge. Another difference is that this particular access hole is only on the port side, the side where the leaks were occurring.
  I said, "Where the leaks were occurring." I am so sure of having found the source of our water leak that once I installed sealant along the dash and sidewall joint, I pulled the protective cover off of the settee and told Rosie our leak problems were over. And I also told you.

  The day didn't turn out so bad after all, and here is proof: a pretty sunset that I didn't think we were going to see this evening!
  We have some exploring to do in this area which will most likely be done in the dinghy. Picnic Island is close by and is frequented by the locals. Maybe we'll find some friendlier people around here than at our last beach visit. As I had mentioned, there are some restaurants nearby too, and we'll try to visit one or two of them while we are here, but it all depends on the weather. We are expecting some nasty winds and rain this weekend, so we'll stay close to the boat unless conditions are otherwise. I really, REALLY, don't want to have any exciting stories to tell next time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Time For A Scenery Change

  This is the fourth dawn breaking over Swing Set here in Jewfish Basin, and it looks like rain. We haven't had any significant rain since we were near Everglades City. When was that?

  On Sunday afternoon we stayed on the boat. I had secured the dinghy and we deployed one of our auxiliary anchors for a Bahamian Moor. This view to the East shows the whitecaps here in the basin. Out in the Gulf, the waves were much bigger. We have a rule to not leave the boat when the wind picks up, in order to be on hand for evasive action, and we will adhere to this rule even if it means missing out on social activities.
  We really dodged a bullet when our anchor dragged on Sunday morning. It was entirely my fault and could have been avoided had I put out enough scope, but I let out a short leash when we came in on Friday to prevent the anchor line from chaffing on the bottom and since it held so well for two days, I didn't adjust for the greater wind conditions that materialized.
  I needn't have relied on a short rode though. I have been using a float at the point where the anchor chain meets the line and it keeps the splice off the bottom where rocks and coral can wear through the line and cast you off, adrift in the sea. There is no need to worry about rocks or coral here, the bottom is grey mud. It's looks like wet cement and is as dead as it can be. The mud means some low visibility, but outside of a few dolphin and flying fish, I haven't seen much below the surface to entice me to take a closer look beneath the waves with snorkel gear.
  I have some loose ends to tell about. One thing we bought while in Key West was a small de-humidifier. It's very compact and is doing a great job, pulling about a cup of water from the air in our stateroom per day. The unit is about the size of an electric can opener, uses little power, and is very quiet. You must empty the water reservoir manually but it holds about two days worth of water and has an automatic shutoff in case you forget. We have it setting right next to the bed, so it's hard to miss. I'd say this purchase was a success.
  Less successful was our purchase of a Single Side Band Radio Receiver. I have a concern about receiving weather reports while in the Bahamas, so after listening to another boater make a recommendation in regard to a SSB receiver, I bought one. The unit is small and compact and has more directions with it than most new automobiles. I remember my first transistor radio; it had two knobs, volume and channel. One plug for an earphone jack. One band, AM. This SSB radio has four bands and ten thousand functions. I messed around with it three times over the course of a few days and I was able to get some music from Cuba on it. It is doubtful that we'll be able to avoid a hurricane with this radio, but at least we'll be able to dance to some salsa music while we wait to die.
  After another discussion with a seasoned traveler on the dock at A & B Marina, I got the idea to check into a weather receiver for our Garmin GPS unit on the flybridge. I found one on Amazon at a good price and ordered it. The XM Sirius Weather Receiver is a small antenna device that plugged right into the back of our Garmin. I signed us up for the marine package at $34 per month (including tax) and XM waived the $50 one time activation fee. We can always put the account on hold when we don't need it, but I did activate the unit in order to get used to its function before we leave the country. XM doesn't advertise that the unit will work more than 100 off the coast, but the fella at A & B swore that his unit worked just fine as far as the Exumas. I asked the XM folks why the receiver would work in Puerto Rico, but not the Bahamas, and a supervisor had to be consulted. Maybe this is why they waived the activation fee. If nothing else, we'll have another tool in our arsenal in which to predict the weather, and one that is not cell signal dependent.

  Happiness is evident on Rosie's face in this picture, but it's hard to tell with Holly, one must view tail wagging to be certain. We had a pleasant day on Sunday even though the wind was blowing over 15 miles per hour all day. You might notice that I don't deal in knots. (A knot is about 1.11 times one M.P.H.) I'm not a sailor and won't pretend to be one just because we live on a boat. Anyway, we grilled some "spareribs" on the Magma Grill and had a fine dinner. The spareribs are a cheap cut of meat, but with proper marinating, most meats can be delicious, and these were no exception.
 As an aside; we had a thin cut of chuck roast the other night that we had marinated like you would a ribeye, cooked fast in our cast iron skillet like we do a ribeye, and it tasted like a ribeye, (especially after a few cold ones) for a lot less money.
  Our plan was to leave our present anchorage mid-day on Monday, but the wind was still blowing and we had the extra complication of hauling up our other anchor in the wind, not an easy task. Rosie started working on our taxes on Monday morning while we waited for the wind to settle down and the tide to come up, but as the sky was overcast, and I became lazy on the couch reading my book, I found sufficient reason to stay put where we were. At least for another day.
  This is the best thing about having no schedule. We can do what we want if nature is agreeable. There is nothing wrong with where we are, but as you must know by now, we like to see what is around the next corner. But we can be patient about moving on.

  Yesterday was a productive day all around. Rosie found some additional overpaid taxes by using Turbo Tax, to the tune of over $1000 and I finished reading Les Miserables on my Kindle, finally. (Boy can that Victor Hugo go on and on...) I also waxed the Magma Grill and our dinghy davit, so by outward appearances, Swing Set is in fine shape. We have an oil change due, and some pencil zincs probably due for replacement, but we'll wait until we get to Marathon for those chores. You can see by the photo above that we got to enjoy just one more sunset in this location.
  The promise of rain was met this morning with a tiny sprinkle, but it was enough for Rosie to mop the salt residue from the decks while I played here on the blog. If we can get the Danforth up off the bottom this morning we'll cruise east to Johnston Key, about eight miles away, to see if we can find a spot more protected from the southerly winds that we are expecting later this week. We don't need to be anywhere until at least the 1st of March, so we are going to pick our way along the island chain to see what we can see. We want to spend a fair amount of time near Big Pine Key and get to know the area, so I'll try to get there in the next few days. But then again....

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Just When You Think It Might Get Boring

  On our first full day at anchor after leaving the security of A & B Marina we had a fairly calm day, so I dropped the dinghy in the water and while Rosie and Holly stayed aboard Swing Set and did girly things, I went in search of lobster. We were anchored in about 9 feet smack in the middle of a big sand bottom which was great for holding, but not good for lobsters to hide in. They like rocks and crevices, so I had to venture out.
  Venturing out means getting far away from the boat. Alone. In water that I've seen very big fish in, and at risk of tidal currents taking me drifting away from the dinghy and my means to get back to the security of the "big boat". While I am still in the process of having the nerve to do this sort of thing without a great deal of reservation on my part, I am not quite there yet, to say the least. After about 90 minutes of peering below, and occasionally donning my mask for a closer look below the surface, I gave up and returned back to Swing Set lobsterless.
  The wind was due to pick up during the weekend and I had an anchorage picked out which was about four miles away, so we pulled up stakes and made a slow cruise east to Jewfish Basin, and to an anchorage written about in Active Captain. I have been using the Garmin Bluechart Mobile Application which incorporates Active Captain right on the chart. It's a nice integration and I also spent the extra $3.99 for the weather feature.
  There are two potential entrances into Jewfish Basin and I chose one with the widest channel. If you look at the basin on the chart, you would think that it was surrounded by islands and mangroves, perhaps guarded from the wind by nice tall palm trees,
  What looks like land on the chart is just very shallow water, maybe a couple inches of sand at low tide. Wind exposure is still significant, but the worse winds were due to come from the east on Sunday and we anchored just west of a land mass once inside the basin. The problem is that the land mass is surrounded by shallow water and we couldn't get close enough to the island for it to be of much help in wind reduction, but it did help for those potential easterly waves that were also forecasted.
  During the night, Swing Set swung around on her hook a whole 360 degrees, the wind had shifted that much. But we still held in about 6 feet of water even though I didn't dive down on our anchor. The chart reported a mud bottom; I would describe it as more of a mud/sand bottom, but as it turned out, probably more mud than sand.
  We kept seeing small boats entering the nearby mangroves, so we took a dinghy ride to see if there was a party going on at a sandbar somewhere. There was. We found 6 or 7 boats anchored in shallow water with about 25 or 30 folks of various ages standing around listening to music and tossing a football around. Some of the women had only half of their bikinis on. Perfect. The only thing the group was missing was a higher degree of hospitality. When we motored in and tossed out our anchor, the looks we were getting made us feel like we were from another planet. We're used to getting those kind of looks, so it's no big deal, but no sooner than we made a few words of small talk to a few of them, a fella comes over and says he needs to put his boat just about where ours was, because "the tide was going out". Of all the places for him to need to put his boat, wanting to place it right in the same spot as ours happened to be was not a way of making us feel welcome, so we mulled around a few minutes more and went in search of friendlier surroundings. Like back to our boat.

  Undaunted, we decided over a few beers while watching another beautiful sunset, that we'd return the next day and inflict ourselves on these new people with a vengeance. We do that sort of thing. But it was not to be.
  The wind started freshening with some intensity from the South during the night. The island to our east was not helping at all, but as our anchor had held for nearly two days, we didn't worry and after a good dinner of Italian sausages and rice with Alfredo sauce, we tucked ourselves in for a somewhat bumpy night.
  We were still in the same spot when we got up, thankfully, and after a good breakfast of biscuits and gravy and a ham and cheese omelet, I decided to "relax" on the couch with the book I am reading before attempting my intended chores for the day. I read for a while and then decided to get my toolbox out, but once I looked outside I knew we were in trouble.
  Our anchor had dragged and we were blown into about three feet of water into one of the shoals separating us in the basin from the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was coming in, but the wind was complicating things. I knew that as the water rose, the wind was only going to push us farther onto the shoal. Waiting it out was not an option, and kedging off the shoal with the anchor was also not an option. With barely nothing under our keel, I started the engines and gently applied throttle with the transmissions in reverse. I knew I had deeper water behind me and I slowly made some progress towards it, only the anchor was ahead of me in shallow water. Luckily the soft mud kept the anchor from holding us in position and I was able to get us into deeper water. I finally got the anchor up and set out to find some better holding.
  Whitecaps were building in the basin and the wind was not to make its full potential until later in the afternoon. I positioned us over what appeared to be sand, but when I went to deploy the bow anchor, nothing happened. After several attempts, and after checking all the stuff I normally check when this happens, I went to the bow and deployed our big Danforth and was able to get a hook. Danforths work in the soft sand and mud, and we were not due for a wind shift for a couple of days.
  Once we were set, I pulled up the dinghy that I had left trailing us, secured it in the normal fashion, and then set to find out what was wrong with the windlass. I suspected that I had overheated the small inline circuit breaker, but even after jumping the breaker, the solenoid would click, but the windlass wouldn't turn. I checked the big 60 amp circuit breaker, but really didn't think this was the problem as the solenoid was working. Maybe I wasn't getting good contact when I tried jumping the breaker, because eventually the windlass started working when the small breaker reset itself. I have other spare breakers on hand in case I need to replace the one currently installed. I may have weakened it.
  Given that the auxiliary Danforth was deployed, I started the boat and drove to the right, leaving the Danforth about 75 feet to our left, and dropped the bow anchor, giving us a "Bahamian Moor". Bring it on, Mother Nature. I have two well set anchors coming off the bow at 45 degree angles. I set our anchor alarm for insurance and we plan on staying put until the wind dies down in a couple of days.
  One of the chores for the day was giving Holly a haircut and she was not to be spared just because we had a minor crisis. She survived her beauty treatment with no scrapes or cuts, and no bleeding toenails because she won't hold still for nail trimming. Rosie set her course to remove dog hair from the cockpit and I set to writing this blog post.
  Our plan to visit the beach party again today are foiled. I'm not dropping the dinghy back in, just in case we have to make a fast exit, plus the wind is blowing such that many small boats won't be out today any way. The breeze will cool us down as we sun ourselves in the cockpit this afternoon, and we have some spareribs thawing to grill on the Magma Grill this evening. Looks like it's just the three of us again today to try to amuse ourselves. Oh darn.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Back On The Hook

  After being in Key West, and A & B Marina for one month, we left there this morning with mixed feelings. We really had a good time during our stay, met some nice people, and got familiar with the town. We do hope to get back to Key West later this year, but it all depends on if we'll be able to get a slip in Key West Bight during what will be the busiest time of the year. I had a nice conversation with the harbormaster before we left, and although he didn't guarantee the availability of a slip for us, come this fall, he did indicate that we will have an inside track if we call him this summer. But sitting at a dock every day gets old and we were anxious to get back on the anchor.
  Yesterday was a busy day for us. We called a cab and rode to the airport for our interview with the Customs and Border Patrol in order to enroll in the Small Vessels Reporting System and the Local Boaters Option. Theoretically, this should allow us to call on the phone when we return to the U.S. if we go out of country, making it unnecessary to report in to a customs office in person. Our interview consisted of some amiable chatter with a half dozen customs officers and getting our fingerprints taken. Rosie hadn't been printed since her birth. I haven't fared as well over the years, but I feel like my run-ins with law enforcement have made me a well rounded person.
  We got another cab and got a ride to Winn-Dixie for provisions. One item on our list was a small griddle to use on our range top. Rosie says I ruined her copper clad fry pan by using it on the Magna grill outside, and the eggs are sticking to it. I fail to see how a pan is ruined unless there is a hole in it, but what do I know? We determined just where in our already full storage areas we were going to put the griddle before getting one. For $19, if it doesn't work out, I'll use it for an anvil.
   We now have a loosely followed system of only filling one grocery cart (level) which allows us to be able to carry in our bags, backpack, and cart, whatever we wind up buying at a grocery store. We still had to wait more than a half hour, surrounded by our booty at curbside, for a cab to arrive to take us back to the marina.
  By the time Rosie got finished stocking our purchased into the fridge and pantries, our afternoon was nearly shot. We decided to relax on the boat and watch the activity on the dock.

  A large Westport Yacht at the end of the pier was filling up with guests for a cocktail cruise. Big Time always has a party going on, and there is a continuous parade of guests rolling overnight bags down the dock for a night or two aboard this fabulous yacht. In the photo above, two of the guests aboard Texas Tea were going over to join all the other folks on Big Time. Holly was taking a rest from "greeting" everyone who walked by our boat.

  We paid one last visit to The Conch Republic Saloon which overlooks Key West Bight. They have a pretty good deal at Happy Hour and we took advantage of it. Then, to celebrate a successful visit to a fun town, we treated ourselves to dinner at Berlins, the "B" in A & B Lobster House, the "A" being Alfonsos, the bar/restaurant the sits below Berlins on the first floor. Our meal cost us nearly what we paid for a whole cart of groceries from Winn-Dixie, but we'll be on the hook for the next few weeks and won't be spending a dime. You can't take it with you.
  We said some goodbyes at the dock, shaking a few hands, but not making a big production out of leaving. We feel like we'll see most of these boaters again somewhere. No point in getting all blubbery. Honestly, I think some of our dock neighbors were glad to see us go, the "greeter" became annoying at times.
  I took the shot heading up this blog this morning as we set a course up the northwest channel from the cruise ship dock. We ran at our customary 1200 R.P.M.s, around 9 miles per hour. There was still some wind at our backs and I knew that once we got past the reef and headed east, we'd have some beam seas, so I figured to take our time. My hunch paid off and we had a pleasant cruise to our "lobster hole". We put the anchor down on a sand bottom in 9 feet of water and got a good hold.
  Lunch time comes early after a very light breakfast, and after lunch, some book reading time appealed to me more than getting gear on to search for lobster. Those lobster won't go anywhere. We spent the afternoon on the foredeck, soaking up rays and reading our Kindles.

  After another ho-hum sunset, (we are getting spoiled) it was time for our dinner of leftovers. It's our way of saving money and also our way of keeping the refrigerator organized. Rosie mixed rice and black beans, beef stew, steamed broccoli, and added some brown gravy, served it up with some Tostitos Artisan black bean and garlic chips for a satisfying meal.
  During a game of dominoes Rosie noticed hole in the seam of one of our throw pillows, so when we finished the game, I got out our sewing kit and mended the pillow while she played around on the iPad. Finding some green thread that matched the pillow was a small joy that can't be appreciated by most people. I even looked for, and found, another spot on the pillow that needed mending. The chore was that rewarding.
  We're anchored only five miles or so from Key West, and we can see the lights of Key West and Stock Island off in the distance. But it's dark out here, the wind has calmed down considerably, and it feels good to be out on our own again. I wonder if the owners of Big Time would be satisfied with this comparatively simple existence?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The More We Learn The Less We Know

  This photo has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. It's just a picture of a beautiful Hinckley Yacht docked here at the A & B Marina in Key West. Some things are just what they are and have no other value and serve no purpose. One of those things are advice; that's why I seldom, or ever, give advice here on this forum. The blog is about our experiences. Others can draw from it what they will.
  But people still give lots of advice. And on other matters, I do too, even though I know it is of no use. I like it when people relate a story about their experiences, but I don't appreciate it when I'm told what I should do by others. Especially if they don't know what they are talking about.
  Take for instance, our intention of going to The Bahamas. Notice that I didn't say, "We are going to The Bahamas". We want to go. We intend to go. We are making plans to go. But are we going? That's like asking what's going to happen next week.
  I've been poking around for information about traveling to The Bahamas in a boat for some time now and I'm nowhere near to being totally informed. I say, in a boat, because invariably when the subject comes up, someone will say, "Have you been to The Bahamas?" Yes. Several times. On our honeymoon to the West End, and more than once to New Providence and Nassau. So we know how things are there, or used to be, so many years ago.
  We have been focused on getting Holly prepared for the trip and I've neglected the necessary preparations for getting us and Swing Set prepared. But I'm making up for lost ground.
  As I've shared before, Holly can't go anywhere without her rabies vaccination, and she can't  get that until after March 1st. Doctor's orders. We've applied to The Bahamas Department of Agriculture for her entry permit and we are still waiting for it, but we'll go with the application and receipt for payment in hand if we have to. We'll also need a medical certificate from the vet too. The Bahamas regulations state that the certificate can't be over 48 hours old. I feel like this stipulation will not only be flexible, but the date can be left blank and we can fill it in when we have to. I can make this happen. A scanner is a wonderful tool. Another logistical issue is that the rabies shot has to be given a month before you arrive in country. See how easy it all is?
  As far as us...we purchased charts for The Bahamas when we were in Cape Coral last October. While here in Key West, we ordered from Amazon two guidebooks for the Abacos and The Bahamas. We ordered our identification decal from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service. This decal is necessary for any vessel over 30 feet. The decal will be here before we leave Key West, or so I'm told.
  We've been "networking" about the trip with others, trying to gather some personal experience, not to be confused with advice about what we should do, as I've said. Everyone has a different opinion about the easiest ports of entry, or the best cruising areas, or what equipment we need. If we tell people that we intend to anchor out, they never fail to list the best marinas to stay at. If we reveal what charts and books we have, we are invariably told that we "need" another book or chart. Folks never fail to enjoy spending other peoples money.
  Yesterday a well meaning boater wanted me to come down and look at his chart plotter setup. I declined, telling him that it didn't matter what he had, we were going to use what we had, not having any desire to spend yet more money on this old tub. This was only after having listened to him list all the other stuff like his that we needed. Well, we have a water maker. He doesn't. So there.
  I had learned of something called the "Local Boaters Option". It's part of the Small Vessels Reporting System. I learned of this from one of the guides that we purchased. It usually allows citizens returning from Canada and The Bahamas to re-enter the U.S. by simply making a phone call. For us it could mean not checking in at Miami or Key West when we return and waiting for an inspection. I made a few calls, found the cumbersome application online, filled it out, and was able to schedule a required "interview" by a Customs agent here in Key West. Our interview will be tomorrow morning. We have to take a taxi to the airport here in Key West for the interview, but we'll incorporate a trip to Winn-Dixie on the way back.
  This trip to The Bahamas will be no different than the rest of our travels so far. We read lots of material concerning cruising the inland rivers and crossing the Gulf of Mexico before we started out last year. Some of the advice was legitimate, but some was unnecessary, and future travel will be the same. Troubles will come. We'll deal with them as we can as they come up; there is no way a person can plan for every occurrence.
  Put this way; we don't go off unprepared. But some people over analyze and try to anticipate every negative aspect of a situation. That takes all the fun out of everything. We'll do reasonable diligence and leave the rest to good luck. It's as good a system as any.