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....


  1. When entering Johnson Key Channel from the west the water is usually deeper near the crab pot floats. Watch your depth sounder. As you make the turn to the right as you go around Johnson Key there is a fairly large shoal, about 3ft deep at low tide that comes out about half way out into the channel, stay to the left. You are now entering Bow channel now. Water is about 8ft deep here and should offer good shelter from the wind. Don't go very far into Bow Channel, it will get shallow fast. If it is a nice day , Anchor out at Snipe Point and take the dingy to the Beach. Nice place to walk in the sand at low tide. If it is not windy take some spray for the no-see-ums.

  2. Mike,
    I read your blogs regularly and enjoy all the work you put into it. It is a admirable task. We have a mutual friend in St. Louis, Rick Dornsief. Rick and I have been close friends since 1997. I am a retired firefighter/paramedic, and had lived with Rick when I was going through my divorce. Just to let you know, we are currently in Georgetown, Exuma Bahamas. Our boats name is Bens Play Pen (named after our grandson). I say this because I always get women asking who is Ben??? I think I need to change my name. Anyway we will be leaving to go north to Abacos, Bahamas sometime around 2/23 (weather permitting) and hope to arrive in the area around 2/28. We plan to stay there till around May. If you come this way, look me up and lets go lobster hunting. I also have extra scuba gear, lobster snares, etc... My wife only snorkles, and doesn't want to dive. I have the required fishing license and the season ends 3/31. Besides its always safer diving with someone in case of trouble.
    Anyway, prayers and have a safe passage where ever your bow heads.

    Talk soon,
    Ray & Angel Devine

  3. I've used XM weather for five + years both in a little airplane and on a boat. It's money very well spent.