Sunday, March 31, 2013

Back In Business

  After not having rain for quite some time, it's natural that on the morning we were to have the boat hauled at the Marathon Boatyard, that it would be raining. But we arrived at the scheduled time of 8 A.M. and waited patiently for Swing Set to get hauled out. Two hours later we were in the sling.
  I purposely left the bottom alone for the last month, not scrubbing it or scraping any barnacles. I wanted to see how well our bottom paint was holding up. In my opinion, it wasn't.
  None of the running gear had any paint left on it at all. A great deal of barnacles had found a home on the hull, and there was plenty of plant life to go along with it. We had taken Swing Set out three times and had run it up to speed which I thought would have sloughed off the bottom growth, but I was wrong.
  Sherri, the service manager, came out and introduced us to Randy, the yard manager. We discussed the course of action in regard to getting new bottom paint applied, and we decided which zincs to replace. It took only about a minute to determine that our cutlass bearings were in good shape, one bit of good news there. New cutlass bearings, (actually bushings) would require pulling drive shafts, a labor intensive process we were glad to avoid.
  As planned, a subcontractor arrived to discuss a bid for cleaning and waxing our hull. This is something I've had done the previous two times we had bottom paint done, so I had a base point on what the job should cost. Being in Florida, the labor rate is lower than in Missouri. As a comparison, the shop rate is $15 per hour cheaper than comparative yards we have dealt with up north. Matt, the young man who ran his own detailing business, was very nice and personable. He said he would present an estimate to Elizabeth in the office, and she would get back with me with a price. Before we left, I got an email from Elizabeth with a bid of nearly $1000 to clean and wax the boat hull. I said, "No thanks". Either Matt's price was out of line, or the up charge from the yard was nearly double the bid.
  We left the yard to check in at the motel we were going to be staying at, promising to return later in order to make sure our electric was running, once they got Swing Set on the blocks and plugged in. As we were leaving, Swing Set was getting her bottom pressure washed.
  Our room was ready at the Blue Water Resort, just a short walk across the Overseas Highway from the Marathon Boatyard. One of our biggest challenges for the week was to be able to cross the highway at least twice a day without getting killed. The speed limit appears to be upheld, but tourists can't seem to keep their eyes on the road. The sight of a pelican makes them forget the concept of steering a vehicle.
  Our room. The Blue Water Resort has seen better days, most of them were probably in the 1950's. Four nights ran us close to $600, not a bad price in this area, but I would describe the place as a dump. We found this unfortunate because the management was friendly, and it was right across the street from the boatyard. Our price included a substantial discount due to the referral from the boatyard. But they took pets, and not many places do.
  I left Rosie to unpack our small bags of belongings into the rusty refrigerator and into the equally rusty medicine cabinet, to go back across the street to check on the boat. They had a step ladder in place at the stern for me to climb aboard. I was impressed.
  Good thing I went because even though they had Swing Set plugged in, the breaker was tripped on the post we were plugged into. Bobbie, one of the yard workers, helped me look into the problem. Bobbie is not an electrician. I suspected a bad 50 amp circuit on the post, so we split a 30 amp circuit, but that didn't work either, the breakers on the post closest to our boat were tripping. This meant a problem at the post, not on the boat.
  The next closest post only had one 30 amp plug, so we plugged into that. It worked initially, but I waited around for a while to see if it would remain working, and eventually the breakers on the boat tripped. This meant between the two battery chargers, the refrigerator, and the de-humidifier, we managed to pull more than 30 amps. We needed a 50 amp plug.
  Bobbie hunted up another 50 foot dual 30 cord, and using our splitter, and our 50 feet of dual 30 amp cord, we were able to just stretch the cables down to the next post with a 50 amp plug. Everything worked, but I was concerned that if another boat was put into the empty slot, our plug would get moved back to the faulty post, so even though all seemed to be working, I left the wind generators on so we wouldn't run our batteries completely down.
  I made my way back across the street in one piece after a quick stop at a nearby Tom Thumb convenience market, the only place within a half mile to get groceries or something to eat. It was going to be a long week.
  The day remained rainy and blustery. In fact, the wind had picked up considerably and we could see the whitecaps from our view of the bay when we stuck our head out the door to our room. We left the dinghy in the water at the dinghy dock at the Marathon Boatyard, but after viewing the weather forecast for the rest of the week, I didn't think we would be out using the dinghy. We spent the rest of the day lounging in our luxurious suite at the Bluewater Resort, reading our books and listening to the neighbors slam car doors.
  Following a sleepless night, (We couldn't help feeling bugs crawling over us all night.) we had a quick breakfast, then stopped into West Marine next door to Marathon Boatyard before finding the boat bottom already sanded, bad zincs removed, and a base coat of epoxy applied to the running gear, the stern, and the bottom of the swim platform, the main problem areas where the previous paint didn't want to take hold.
  The electric was still on, so we turned off the wind generators, no sense letting them spin if we were plugged in. We promised Randy we would return the next day, and on the way out, ran into Matt, the guy who we had wanted to wax the hull. I apologized to him for not doing business with him. It didn't seem to bother him, in fact, he said it was nice of us to stop and explain why we weren't having him do the job. He went on to say that we could do the waxing ourselves, the boatyard wouldn't mind at all.
  On yet another nasty day, weather wise, we holed up in our room and read our books. I kept thinking about waxing the hull of the boat, but even though I manage to keep the topsides waxed, I only do a little part at a time, never working more than an hour or so. I've only waxed the hull while the boat was in the water, but even so, it's hard on my joints and now I'd be working off a ladder. I would rather be mugged than wax the boat hull, at least I'd have a fighting chance of my body not taking a beating. Waxing the hull in a short amount of time was bound to leave me a physical wreck, but nonetheless, I called Elizabeth to see if it was true: Could I wax the boat myself? She answered in the affirmative, so I began to form a timeline in my mind as to how I could get the job accomplished without getting in the way of the bottom painting, our priority in the first place.
  Taxing the brain makes one thirsty. Even though it was sprinkling rain off and on, we took Holly for a walk to see what was in the general vicinity, within a mile or so, in the way of a good place to engage ourselves in happy hour.

  We found Porky's. From 3-6 daily, they have half price domestic beers and a "Happytizer" menu, at the bar only. With only one other die hard patron at the mostly outside bar, we saddled up in seats of our choice.
  Porky's is a "dive bar". This is a good thing. The decor is eclectic, so say the least. But the menu is outstanding. Of course BBQ is the specialty, but on this night, the special was beer butt chicken, served whole, standing up at your table, for you to carve and pick at. Side dishes are extra, so two people can mix and match what they want with the chicken. It really looked good to us, but we went with the happy hour fair of chicken wings and a pork slider sampler plate. We met some folks at the bar who finally made their way in, and Holly annoyed nearly everyone with her behavior. Usually it's me.
  We left much after happy hour was over and walked back to our simple cottage in a light rain. The weather, and several beers, made our room seem like a cozy little hideaway, at least until the beer wore off around midnight and then it was lumpy bed and creepy crawly city once again.
  We marched back across the highway early on Wednesday, expecting to dance around the painters working on the boat while trying to wax the hull, and we found the tape off of the waterline and the paint job completed!
  I found Randy, mentioned a couple of minor issues which were promptly addressed, and then Rosie and I were given carte blanche permission to do the waxing. Any additional concerns were to be taken care of by Bobbie, at our request. We both worked for several hours, knocking off at 3 P.M., and managed to get the bottom half of the hull done, and wax applied to the top half, working off the ladder. I had to quit when I got so tired that falling off the ladder was a sure possibility, so that's when I knew it was time to head to the barn.
  I wasn't happy with the water line painted on the port side of the swim platform last time we got the bottom painted, and this bothered me all night. I wondered if I should tape, sand, and paint this area myself, or if it was even allowed.
  On Thursday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we again crossed the busy highway and went to work. I had decided to adjust the paint on the swim platform without asking permission. I could always plead ignorance, an easy thing for me to do, usually.
  While the paint was drying, I removed the wax from the top portion of the hull, and we were out of there just after noon.

  Swing Set sits ready to go after new bottom paint and waxing. We also had a new hull zinc and new trim tab zincs installed, our shaft zincs were still in good shape. All running gear below the waterline was painted, except for the props. We are optimistic that the paint will last longer than a few months this time. It may have been too cold up in Missouri when it was painted last March, who knows?
  We were in the mood to celebrate! We walked back to Porky's for happy hour again on Thursday. We posted a RiverBill's sticker amongst all the other doodads and dollar bills stapled to the ceiling or walls. Look for it if you ever visit, the name Swing Set is printed on the sticker with a Sharpie. There may be prizes if you spot it.
  It would have been a perfect visit, but a couple of bores took seats next to us and proceeded to brag about all the stuff they had, and all the stuff they knew that they thought we needed to know. Sort of like this blog, but you have the option to not read it. Try as I might to ignore these people, they couldn't take a hint. Rosie remained nice and attentive, most likely the one reason the guy didn't want to leave us alone. When I don't like the company, I can't fake it.
  We couldn't get away from our lodgings fast enough on Friday morning. Rosie shook out our clothing before packing it, hoping to leave any hitchhiking critters behind.
  Our bill was ready at the boatyard, as well as a package of medicine that arrived in the mail late on the previous day. It always an anxious moment when you get a bill. Mostly, you wonder how creative the person doing the billing can get when assessing costs. We were delighted to find that our bill was $600 lower than our original estimate! We thanked those in the office, promising to be back for further service work in the future. With the allowance made to our charges by Bloch Marine from our last bottom paint, this expense didn't hurt too much.
  We declined the offer of a "courtesy boat wash", opting instead to do the job ourselves. Once Swing Set was pulled away from the sling, we tied up to a wall and was told to take our time, don't hurry, and stay as long as we needed to.
  We both started washing, but when it came time to dry, I walked to a Mobil On The Run and picked up some fried chicken. Our experience at the Shell station in Mississippi made us savvy on the fact that some of the best fried chicken can be had at a gas station.
  By the time I got back and loaded up the dinghy, Rosie was ready for us to head out. Our first stop was to be the Marathon Marina to top off our fuel. It's easy to get the Marathon City Marina, The Marathon Marina, and the Marathon Boatyard, all confused. I wound up talking to all three one day when I called on the VHF radio to talk to one of them on our way out last December.
  On Friday morning the wind was blowing fairly hard. I had a bit of a challenge getting alongside the fuel dock at Marathon Marina, but did so in fine fashion, only to have my first mate and the dockhand join forces and sabotage me. Swing Set was brought alongside the dock into the current and wind, but my two helpers tied a line from the dock at midships, to a cleat forward on the bow. Once told to "shut 'er down Captain", the wind and current proceeded to cause us to drift back away from my place at the dock, and thus away from the dock itself. I had to kindly ask the dock attendant to make fast a line at our midships to prevent our escape, which she was able to do just in time. As I was coming down from the helm, Rosie was bragging to the dock attendant about how "I don't know how he does it". Believe me, I don't know how either.
  It gets worse. I get the fuel nozzle inserted into the port fuel filler and just start "pumping" and the dock attendant asks me if I "was getting anything". It took me a moment to ponder her question when I realized that no fuel was coming forth from the pump. I was then informed that their power was out. Apparently there was an accident on the highway and no one had any electricity. Just then we could hear sirens, life in the Florida Keys.
  We pulled away, just a little disappointed, because we wanted to be full when we left Boot Key on Monday, but I also knew I would want to fuel up before crossing over to Bimini, so a plan to fuel up later on Monday just became a necessity rather than an option.
  I called the City Marina on our way into the harbor proper and got assigned a mooring ball. In a fairly stiff wind, Rosie positioned herself on the bow in order to snag the mooring harness. She did that part rather well, but as I struggled with the wind, trying to keep the boat over the ball, and the harness in her hands, Rosie struggled with threading the lines through the harness. This is the part that can test a relationship, and ours was tested big time.
  I'll make this as kind, and as short, as I can. I want you to picture a toddler learning how to tie their shoes. The toddler ties one shoe, then directs their attention to the other shoe and goes to work on that one. Now, picture the end result is that the toddler manages to tie one shoe to the other one. The word "tie" being used loosely. A "tangled mess" would be more appropriate in this case. After some "firm direction" from the helm, Rosie was able to get us at least held fast to the ball for me to shut down the engines and go to the bow to make head or tails of the situation. Keeping our boat out of harms way among shallow water and other vessels in a stiff wind doesn't do anything for my level of patience. Let's just say we're working on a better method to use next time we need to hook onto a mooring. It was a quiet night on Swing Set that Friday.
  But Saturday was a new day! We left Holly onboard and walked to the Cracked Conch for a good breakfast. We like the Stuffed Pig and the Wooden Spoon much better, but the Cracked Conch does have very good coffee and it was on the way to Publix. We loaded up with all sorts of meat products to stuff into the freezer. We also bought four more cases of Bud Light, bringing our total to six. This is supposed to last until we get back from the Bahamas, which could be three to four months. Let's all have a good laugh at that one.
  We called a cab and was quickly picked up by a driver with a death wish. I would have complained to him about the chances he was taking with our lives, but I didn't want to be left at the side of the highway with $300 worth of refrigerated goods, so I held my tongue. Even once we got back to the safety of the marina, I just paid him, along with the customary tip, and just wanted him to go.
  While Rosie systematically stored away our purchases, Holly and I took a dinghy ride to fill up the fuel in the dinghy. $19, and barely three and one half gallons later, we were back at the boat and Rosie was finishing up.

  Holly wanted to play, but we were ready to relax. She was going to have to wait. Before dinner, we motored over to the showers and got cleaned up. On the way, more than one person announced that a manatee was in the harbor, and there was several folks gathered around taking pictures. We not only didn't stop and gawk with them, we seized the opportunity to claim a shower before all these other folks got in before us. See? Manatees can serve a purpose!

  We both enjoyed two beers each as we watched the sunset. Our new ration of Bud Light has been proclaimed to be only two each per day in order to make it last as long as possible. If they can put a man on the moon, we can do this. Rum will become our newest friend to make up for the difference.
  After a nice dinner of burgers and salad, we played three games of gin rummy, taking us to nearly ten o'clock. Our second night on the boat after leaving the Bluewater Resort was more pleasant than the first. It wasn't as chilly as the first night. All kidding aside, it feels good to be back in the clean surroundings and comfortable bed here on Swing Set. I don't know where we'll stay when we get work done at the Marathon Boatyard next time, but it won't be the Bluewater Resort.
  So today is a holiday for some. For us, we'll just do the same old thing and soak up the beautiful weather. I'll make some routes on our chart that will take us to Rodriquez Key or Hens and Chickens, or maybe Angelfish Cut. It all depends on when we can get out of here tomorrow. Holly has her visit with the vet at 9 A.M. Monday morning, then we'll head out.
  By law, we have 48 hours to enter The Bahamas after Holly gets her health certificate here in the States. It is our luck that the wind is supposed to die down and shift to a more southerly direction, allowing for an agreeable transit across the Gulf Stream. If all goes well, we'll enter Government Cut in North Bimini late Tuesday, either checking in on Tuesday afternoon or early on Wednesday. We have a three day weather window, so we're not sure which direction we'll take upon leaving Bimini, or when we'll go, so filing a float plan with U.S. Customs will be a little difficult, but I think I can be flexible.
  Our crossing to The Bahamas has been a few months in the planning, with all the bureaucracy involved with Holly. It is also of no small expense, with the fees involved in regard to Bahamas immigration and not to mention the fuel, so we'll stay over there as long as possible. We'll have phone service, albeit at some extra expense. My biggest concern is being able to get weather predictions. With August comes the beginning of the height of hurricane season, so we might head back by then, we'll just have to see how it goes. We are disappointing some friends that will be passing through Marathon in April, and want to see us, but a few days can turn into a few weeks, and we already are staying here longer than we wanted to. They call Marathon the vortex. People come and never leave. We don't want to be those people. Not this time around, at least.
  We do plan on being back in Key West by mid October, but we have to wait until July to see if we have a spot or not. It's doubtful we will go if we can't get a slip in Key West Bight. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wrapping Up A Month In Marathon

  We had some very calm days at the beginning of last week, so we took the dinghy out to Molassas Key on Wednesday and we were joined by a few other boats too.
  Some folks were watching something in the water that turned out to be a small nurse shark, maybe only 2-3 feet long, but it was still the first shark we've seen since we've gotten to Florida. I count this as a good thing.

  We let Holly swim around some in the shallow water, but she still couldn't touch bottom. We can tell when she is really enjoying herself because she doesn't make an attempt to climb up our legs or claw up the side of the dinghy right away, but swims to and fro, or around in circles.
  Our repaired wind generator continues to operate. SALT has informed us that they are working diligently at getting some of our money refunded from the manufacturer due to us having a three year warranty, but I'm not holding my breath. We're just glad to have the unit working again without us having to send it away somewhere and be left without it, not knowing when we'd get it back.
  Our friends Don and Kris, along with their daughter Kayte, arrived in For Lauderdale on Wednesday, and on Thursday they came through Marathon, checked into their resort, and then kept going onto Key West, a place they wanted to see. They asked if we wanted to join them, but we didn't leave anything when we were down there in January, plus neither one of us relished the idea of the long car ride. We made plans to see them Friday morning.
  For our part, we grilled up the last of the contents of our freezer because we intended on defrosting it before pulling the boat out at the beginning of next week. We had been making a reduction in our refrigerator contents, but still made some shopping trips to stock up our "dry goods". If we get our boat back in the water by next weekend, we'll load up our refrigerated goods in a nice clean refrigerator. If all goes well.
  Don called on Friday morning and let us know they were headed over to the marina. We unhooked from our mooring ball and met them at the dock and loaded them all on to the boat. The day was overcast and a bit windy, but we took a long ride out to Bahia Honda Key, a place we've been wanting to check out and just hadn't had a reason. What we found didn't give us a reason to ever go back there. I didn't feel like there would be much in the way of protection from anything but the lightest of winds from the Northeast.
  We wanted to go by boat over to Sunset Grille for dinner, but the water is too shallow to get in there with Swing Set. Then we tried getting close to the dock at Lazy Days, but I didn't like the short piers they offered for parking, and a "stern to" method of parking would have left our props exposed to a questionable bottom depth. The list of places to go by boat to dinner seems rather short around here, unless you take a dinghy.
  We decided to go back to the mooring ball and hang out for a while. We all finally got hungry, so all five of us loaded ourselves into the dinghy and motored over to the dinghy dock at the City Marina and then got into Don and Kris's rental car and drove to Sunset Grille.

  Here's we are with Don while we waited in the bar area for a table out on the pool deck.
  Earlier that day, we had spoken with Doug and Jeanne, our friends from Apollo Beach. They were headed for Key West to visit their daughter and son-in-law and said they'd check back with us when they drove through Marathon to see what we were up to.

  Doug and Jeanne had seen our post on Facebook and no sooner than we had gotten our table, but who walks into the Sunset Grille, but Doug and Jeanne! In the picture from the left is, of course, Rosie, then Kris, Kayte, Jeanne, Doug and then Don. We all had a good dinner and watched the sunset. It was pretty late when we finally left the restaurant. Doug and Jeanne had gotten a spot at the nearby campground at the last minute, and Don and Kris dropped us off at the City Marina and then to their room at Banana Bay.
  Don called on Saturday morning. They had to check out of their room but wanted to spend some more time with us. Believe it or not, we decided to go back to the Sunset Grille again, in order to have a late lunch and soak in their pool.
  We had a monster lunch, and all of us but Kayte tried some the "specialty drinks" on the menu. We all got in the pool, along with what seemed like two hundred kids, (to me, anyway), and watched the water clarity diminish as the afternoon progressed. Wonder why?
  It was then time for our visitors to go. They were headed back to Fort Lauderdale for a couple of more days, but were starting to talk about staying here in Florida for another week. The weather forecast in Missouri is not a promising one; about a foot of snow was predicted for Sunday.
  Don and Kris dropped us off again, for another tearful goodbye. I seem to be getting better at these things, and Rosie is getting worse. I think it has something to do with how many "specialty drinks" we may have had.
  Rosie and I went back to the boat, and boy was Holly glad to see us! We took a little nap and got up before sunset. An acoustic "jam session" was planned for that evening at the City Marina Tiki Hut, so we loaded up our chairs, cooler, Holly, and our laundry bag, and took the dinghy over and joined several of our boating neighbors here in the harbor for some music.
  Rosie did some laundry in between cocktails. Holly barked and howled, depending on the music. We met some of our boating neighbors that we had only been waving at for the past month. It was a pleasant evening and we had a great time. It had been a long day, however, and it took its tole on us on Sunday morning.
  But we had plans! First, it was off to the local Legion hall, where they were serving their last breakfast for the season. For seven or eight bucks, depending on whether or not you got steak, you get coffee, juice, grits, two eggs anyway you want 'em, or a three egg omelet, potatoes, toast, either bacon or sausage, and a pancake! Best deal in town.
  Then we walked to Publix and did some more shopping. By the time we got back to the boat, we were both bushed. Our fridge had defrosted while we were gone, so Rosie cleaned the shelves and then loaded up the stuff we had put in our coolers. I touched up some scuff marks on our vinyl seats with some white shoe polish that we bought, and then we just rested for a couple of hours.
  We made a short dinghy run over to the office, and to dump some trash. We had to turn in the keys to the bathrooms in order to "check out" of the harbor. Then we took a ride over to the Marathon Boat Yard where we need to be first thing on Monday morning. I wanted to scope out the scene so I wouldn't have any surprises when I pulled in there with the big boat.
  We are following "The Trawler Beach House" on their blog. The link is on the home page to this blog. Chuck and Susan are in the Bahamas and if the weather is co-operative, we'll loosely follow their route from Bimini to the Berry Islands and then on to the Exumas.
  I've called Boat U.S. and changed our coverage to include the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands, for only $100 extra per year. They break that down, so for less than $10 per month, we'll be covered over there, and we can changed it back when we get back to the U.S. I had them send a confirmation via email so there is no question about our coverage.
  The blog will be dormant until I can get back to our desktop. I wanted to post this entry, even though not a whole lot happened that would interest most people. But it did interest us, and we had a great time, albeit a short time, with good friends.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More Marathon News

  You last heard news about our newly installed wind generator circuit board and there were some "minor details" that needed to be ironed out. Hardly. I ran a rudimentary test suggested to me by Chris from SALT, and was not able to come to any conclusion, so then I started looking into the paperwork that came with the new circuit board and I found that the wrong boards were sent from E Marine in Fort Lauderdale.
  It appeared that SALT ordered the correct boards, the ones for our Air-X, but boards for the Air Breeze were sent. No one at SALT caught the error, and thus the wrong board was put in our unit. They look identical, and everything lines up, however, the LED is green on the Air Breeze generator, but red on the Air-X, and the circuitry is different. So what?
  Well, according to Shawn, one of the owners at SALT, the blades for the Air-X perform differently than the blades on the Air Breeze, therefore the circuit boards work differently. Our unmatched setup would mean inefficient operation of our Air-X generator, and I'm not overwhelmed with their performance as it is.
  I had wondered who would be the first to suggest that instead of changing out the boards, we could "upgrade" to the Air Breeze blades, making our generators quieter and increase their output. The very idea was suggested within minutes. I may have taken the bait, but we have our upcoming work at Marathon Boat Yard to consider, so I opted to stay on course and accomplish what we set out to do in the first place, and save upgrades for the future.
  Shawn agreed, and had already ordered the right boards, and he promised to get the incorrectly installed board swapped out, and get the proper spare in our hands, ASAP. I have faith in human nature, but did possess some protection in the fact that VISA was used in all our transactions, plus I had plenty of email verification that all would be done to our satisfaction. I also know that you can't run a business for free, so I agreed to pay for all our labor thus far, after balking at the number of hours they intended to bill us, and settling for a lower figure. More about that later.

  Marie wanted to hang out at their resort on Wednesday, but Andrea called and said she would join us at a happy hour. Rosie and her chose Sparky's Landing, and Andrea picked us up in Marie's beautiful new Audi.
  Andrea was nice enough to take us on two errands on the way, and we got to Sparky's Landing one hour before happy hour, and those .25 cent wings and shrimp. We grabbed the three best seats at the bar and met "MJ", a very personable bartender.
  The bar began filling up and was standing room only by the time 4 P.M. rolled around. We didn't wait too long and we ordered a dozen wings and twenty shrimp for the three of us, totaling a whopping eight bucks.
  While we were digging into our food, a fella on my left informs me, nicely, I think, that I was in his favorite seat. I allowed as to how it was a very nice seat, and that I scoped it out on our last visit.
  "Yep, I get here everyday at 3:30 and stay for three hours. I have three of these PBR's and spend six bucks."
  "You're kidding!" I told him, and he appealed to the bartender to verify his claim.
  The bartender gave me a deadpanned look and said, "Yes, he spends three hours here everyday and his bill never exceeds six to eight dollars".
  "Why, you're takin' up valuable space!", is what I told him. He did laugh, but then proceeded to tell me that he possessed a "carry permit".
  Remembering a true adage that, "the drop is quicker than the draw", I summed up his demeanor and decided to not give him "the drop", but instead ordered twenty more shrimp because Andrea and I were going through them like Grant took Richmond.
  We spent our three hours there, and considerably more than six to eight dollars, and hitched a ride back to the marina with Andrea while she was still legally able. As we made our departure, my PBR friend moved his seat cushion (yes, he brings a seat cushion) over to his favorite seat, happy at last.
  Thursday came and almost went with no word from SALT about our circuit boards, so I called them and was told one was in, but the other one wouldn't come in until the next day. We left it at that, but shortly after, Shawn called and said Chris would be out to replace our board on Friday, no matter what. It was just a matter of whether it would be in the morning or in the afternoon. I told him I'd be waiting for a call in the A.M.
  What would be good for everyone to know, is this practice of charging "door to door" on labor rates. I don't know how us consumers ever let this practice get a foothold, but we need to be aware of it. The labor total was calculated on this "door to door" total at $100 per hour. The original bill amounted to the one hour of diagnosis at the outset, and then an additional four hours applied for the board swap out. We settled on three hours, but I was fully aware that the time on our boat was under three hours when the wrong board was installed, but I allowed some wiggle room.
  The funny part, if there is a funny part, comes in the marked difference in the time required for our service call, between when we were paying for it, and for when SALT was doing it on their dime.
  On the first visit, Chris informed me that he had to stop by Home Depot for some Super Glue, and he would then get to the marina. Of course, there was to be a stop at the marina office to "check in". All this I was agreeable to, not knowing about the "door to door" policy.
  Chris eventually pulled up to the ramp at the dinghy dock where I was waiting patiently. He got out, walked around the truck, pulled out his tool bucket and a box with our parts in it, and set them carefully on the ground. I was nearby and asked if he needed help carrying anything, but was told that it was not necessary. He then pulled into a parking spot just a few feet away. I was still watching as he diddled around at the truck for a few minutes more.
  I appreciated the attention to detail that Chris possessed, yet was surprised as to how many times he had to revert to the lengthy instructions included with the part in regard to how to install it, even though it was the wrong one.
  When Chris showed up on Friday morning with the right part, he whipped into the parking lot, power sliding his van into the nearest parking spot. (Just kidding here, but no stop at the dinghy dock ramp was necessary this time, although the amount of things to be carried was identical.)  It took about 90 minutes to swap out the board and he went on his way.
  Bottom line though, I will do business with SALT again. I'll just make it clear about what I expect in regard to the "door to door" policy, and always use our VISA card to help in our protection for potential exorbitant charges.
  We still need to stop by the SALT office to collect our spare board and then there is still the issue of us getting a credit applied to our card when and if any warranty claim is judged to be in our favor. I'll keep you posted.

  Marie, on my right, and Andrea of Rosie's left, met us at Lazy Days on Friday afternoon for another happy hour. Their discounts start at 3 P.M. and you better get there early as the happy hour prices are at the bar only and it fills up fast.
  We took the dinghy over as the wind was from the East, but we had the protection from Vaca Key, making our ride a dry one. Holly had to stay on Swing Set, as Lazy Days recently changed their pet policy to exclude them. Marie and Andrea both inquired as to her well being, a little disappointed not to see her, as they were leaving the next morning to head back north.
  They took their leave a bit earlier than us. Rosie walked them out to their car after I hugged them both goodbye. I don't know how it fared in the parking lot, but I was able to keep a dry eye during our goodbyes, not something I'm always able to do, but I make an attempt to remain stoic at goodbyes. One never knows when it's the last time you will see anyone else, but I try to look at all departures as it's only temporary. Life is just too hard if you look upon goodbyes any differently, but we are not always so successful. Once the dam breaks and the tears come, the game is over. We had a very nice visit with Marie and Andrea. Who knows where we'll see them again.

  We got back safely to the boat and was able to watch yet another beautiful sunset over Boot Key Harbor. It's a long ride in the dinghy from Lazy Days, as it's "No Wake" the whole way. It's even a longer ride after a few cold beers, and made even longer when your hat blows off and you have to spin the dinghy around to go fetch it.
  We watched one of our DVDs, "We Bought A Zoo", and actually were able to watch the whole movie without falling asleep. Scarlett Johansson may have had something to do with it, in my case anyway.
  On Saturday morning we listened to the harbor cruiser's net, and then unhooked from our mooring ball and went over to the dock at the City Marina and took on 82 gallons of water. Then we idled out to the Marathon Marina and took on 200 gallons of diesel, to a tune of nearly one thousand bucks. ($965 to be exact.) Fuel in The Bahamas is ranging around the $6 per gallon price, so we'll make sure we're chock full when we leave the U.S.
  The sun was out on Saturday, but the wind was blowing and the temperatures were on the brisk side, but since we were off the ball, we took a ride and anchored out for a while to enjoy being out of the harbor.
  We didn't stay out to see the sunset, but instead went in early enough to get back on the ball with enough light to see what we were doing and got hooked back up with a good deal of success.
  Rosie roasted some chicken in the convection oven. We added some macaroni and cheese that was doctored up with a half can of spinach left over from our lasagna, and we had a feast. One short game of gin rummy later and we were both lights out.
  We had some shopping we wanted to do on St. Patrick's Day. We stopped by a neighboring sailboat and dropped off the DVD of "We Bought A Zoo" for them. A young couple is living on their boat with three of their children and were happy to get the movie. They offered a movie in their collection in return, but when I suspected that most of their collection was geared towards younger viewers, we declined their offer, saving room in our cabinet for DVD's more of the "blood and gore" variety. Oh, and maybe something with Scarlett Johansson in a more "adult" role.
  We walked to The Wooden Spoon for breakfast and were not disappointed. Their prices are fair and the service was prompt. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and would heartily recommend this small mom and pop restaurant to anyone.
  Next, it was on to Kmart on the return walk. They didn't have hardly anything on our list that we wanted, but we still managed to fill up our West Marine cart that we wheeled back on the sidewalk to the City Marina.
  We took our showers at the marina before taking our purchases back to the boat, and a much needed mid-day rest.

  I recuperated by early afternoon and went topside to do a bit of waxing and found this iguana contemplating boarding our vessel with no invitation. I tried splashing at it to fend it off, but it only started making way towards my foot. I retreated and armed myself with the boat hook and eventually was able to get it to move on to our more enthralled boat neighbors. You can't tell from the picture, but this thing was about as big as Holly, and not nearly as cuddly.
  The day was shaping up to be quite pleasant. I had intended to take a break from the barley burgers, even though it was St. Patrick's Day, but when Rosie announced that we still had some Bud Lights floating around in ice in the cooler from the day before, I could not counter her sensible argument in favor of us partaking of them.
  In fact, we loaded up those extra cold ones, with some not as cold ones, into the dinghy, grabbed Holly and set ourselves off to Sombrero Beach and some human interaction. The beach was full of sunbathers, and some other dinghy owners pulled up while we were there, and we had a few words with them, all pleasant.
  Four folks in one small dinghy piled out, loaded with coolers, chairs, and one umbrella. They politely posted the umbrella in the sand next to one of them who just happened to have just part of his right arm. The wind was brisk, so his proximity of the shady umbrella required him to keep hold of it with his one hand, which prevented his enjoyment of the beer sitting in his cooly cup attached to his chair. I wondered how long it would take his compatriots to notice his dilemma as he sat patiently for the wind to die down long enough for him to take a sip or two. A small rope would have come in handy, but I admire the guys patience. Had it been me, Mr. Umbrella would have sailed across the beach before I was made to choose between the shade and a quaff of beer.
  By late afternoon we were ready to head back to the boat. We had planned a decent Irish meal of Roast Pork Tenderloin and Saurkraut, but I had a taste for fish.
  I mentioned visiting a nearby place called Keys Fisheries, so we cleaned up and walked across the highway to the bayside and this casual restaurant. The ritual for customers is to stand in line and order your food at a window. Then, go over to another area to get condiments and beverages, pick your outside table, either a picnic table or round plastic one, and then wait for your name to be called. Signs requesting that trash be placed in appropriate containers insure a small employee count at this restaurant.
  We didn't wait long before we had our meals in front of us. Rosie chose a soft shelled crab sandwich and I had the Hogfish sandwich. We weren't long into our food when I realized my tactical error of choosing a table just under the stairs to an upstairs bar area. Although my choice had to do with being in the shade, the fact that people walking above us on the open stairway, increased the possibility of dust and gravel falling off their shoes onto our food and us, almost had us getting up to grab another table out of harm's way. Almost.
  It was right about then that a youngish Latino girl in a very short dress mounted the steps and began a slow walk to the upstairs bar. I suppose some of my mouthful of sandwich may have dropped from my lips as I stared at "the view". I'm certain I saw "Hollywood", as my old friend John O'Keefe used to say, and this woman was very familiar with Mr. Bic, but not as endeared to Fruit Of The Loom.
  Rosie was not as enthusiastic in my decision to stay put in our nice, shady seats, but we stayed and finished our food anyway. How I was able to finish my sandwich while gazing upward for a return engagement of the young Latino girl, I can't explain, but I did.
  I'm not sure if we'll go back to Keys Fisheries for the fish. Thirty bucks for two fish sandwiches is a bit steep, even though the fries and the slaw were excellent. But I might be inclined to nurse a beer or two for a number of hours at that "under the stairs" seat. I wonder if I can reserve it everyday from 3 til 6?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How About A Boat Ride!

  The annual Seafood Festival was held in Marathon last weekend. It's billed as the biggest event in the Keys, second only to Fantasy Fest, that's held in the fall in Key West. My experience in regard to any festival is that if the event is held behind fences and gates, and there is an admission charge, it can't be any fun.
  Our friends from up north came in on Saturday, but after a long travel day, they decided to forgo the festival on Saturday and rest up. Lucky them.
  We walked over to the Seafood Festival at around 3P.M., paid our $5 each to enter the "compound", and took it all in. In a matter of minutes, we saw all the vendor booths, asked someone passing by where they had gotten their beer, and then made a bee line over to the one beer tent. One. If a festival of any type in St. Louis would only have one beer tent, the people would revolt and there would be hangings. This is a given.
  Lobster and fish dinners where being served, and there were conch fritters and other fried delights, each food vendor was complete with long lines of hungry festival goers eager to buy a Styrofoam plate of fried food to eat standing up at a plywood table. The only thing I'm willing to eat standing up is a bratwurst, so that's what we bought. There may have been seafood in the bratwurst, who really knows?
  There was live music and we were able to snag a couple of seats and listen to a reggae band for a while. Then some guy carrying two beers thought that he was able to climb the bleacher seats without tripping and spilling every drop of both beers. He was wrong. He was not able to accomplish this feat at all. My left leg wound up getting doused with the beer. I regret that he didn't spill it on my head, I may have had at least a chance of getting some in my mouth.
  After the reggae group, a rock band struck up a Pink Floyd tune. One of their slow, sleepy tunes, but aren't they all? It was dark by then, so we decided to take our leave and get back to Holly and the boat. No pets were allowed at the festival.

  We sprung our clocks forward on Saturday night, but I was still up early enough for a sunrise photo. Andrea and Marie were coming to the boat on Sunday and we got ready. We met them at the entrance to the marina because the parking was sparse due to the festival. There was ample parking in the marina, but we had to prove to the officer entering the parking area that we were patrons of the harbor. When Andrea and Marie arrived in Maria's new Audi, we were waved right in.
  We figured to have lots to talk about since we haven't talked to Andrea since last May, so we took them out to the boat in the dinghy and we stayed in the harbor and told lies all afternoon and I think we all had a fun time.
  On Monday morning, the technician from SALT called me and I picked him up in the dinghy so he could install the new circuit board in our port wind generator. Chris, the tech from SALT used to work in Belize on airplanes, and it turns out he knew the flight director for Tropic Air, a guy from Fenton that we also knew. The new board was installed, and the generator began working, but there is a minor bug that needs to be ironed out. I need to do some testing on the wind generator tonight. It has to be night because there is a tiny LED light that comes on when certain conditions are met and it has to be dark to see it.

  Why didn't I do this testing on Sunday night? Because as soon as Chris had left, Andrea (on the left) and Marie (in the middle) showed up and we took Swing Set out for the afternoon to a nearby key, Molasses Key.

  Molasses Key sits just south of the Seven Mile Bridge, on the western end. You can't see it in the picture, but there is a nice sand beach. We anchored just off the beach, thinking that there would be quite a number of beach goers on such a nice, albeit windy day, but the only boaters that showed up were in a dinghy. There were about six men and women in this regular size dinghy and they piled out and began to remove all of their clothing. I would have called the Florida Water Patrol, not because anyone was naked, but because a couple of the women hadn't seen the sharp end of a razor on any parts of their bodies, apparently ever.
  It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the marina. I was going to drop off Andrea and Marie at the dock, and then fill up our water tank in the process, but the wind had picked up and I didn't like the looks of the situation. The wind would have blown us up tight against the concrete dock, a scenario that made me nervous, so we hooked back up to our mooring ball, dropped the dinghy, and then we took our guests back to their car. Safe, not sorry.
  Today was dental appointment day. On our walk to the dental office, we stopped by the Health Clinic and picked up our paperwork from my visit there last week. Then we stopped into the Optometrists office to check on our new glasses. They had Rosie's contacts, but the glasses are due in tomorrow. We both had a good visit at the dentists, got our teeth cleaned, and I got my regular scolding about not flossing enough. Nothing new there.
  After the dentists, we were headed to West Marine and a fella pushing a cart with all of his belongings in it asked me if I knew what time it was. Now, we used to live in a big city, and I know what the question is that is always after the question about "what time is it", and that question is always, "have you got any spare change"? Always.
  So, I said I didn't, in fact, know what time it was.
  "But you're wearin' a watch!", this guy shouted at me, and then started berating me in a threatening manner, warning me that I "didn't know who he was".
  Well, he doesn't know who I am either. I'm the guy with a watch. That doesn't hand out money to panhandlers. I let our government do my charity work, and I'm happy to let them.
  We stopped in at a little restaurant on the Overseas Highway called "The Stuffed Pig" and had lunch. I bet the guy with the cart would have had some choice words for me had he seen us entering that place. Rosie overheard a waitress say that a couple, who had been eating outside, finished all of their food and then complained about how horrible it was, and then refused to pay. They were ordered to leave. Hasn't that waitress heard of the story of Br'er Rabbit? This is the kind of stuff that happens a lot around here, the land of washed up hippies.
  Back at the boat, Holly was glad to see us, and we were glad to be back too. We were hoping for a "down day" and so were Andrea and Marie, so this is working out perfectly.
  I might just spend the rest of the afternoon thinking of ways to earn some extra spending money, short of asking strangers for it. One idea that comes to mind involves razors..... and Molasses Key.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's All Coming Together

  We went to the Bahamas seminar last Wednesday and did get some useful information, as well as meeting some other boaters here in the harbor who we've only heard on the cruiser's net in the morning but haven't met yet. There were at least fifty people at the seminar, some who have been planning on "making the jump" for years and haven't done it yet, to those who are going in just a few weeks or so. We hope to be in the latter group.
  We were happy to learn that we at least had all of the equipment that is usually recommended for the trip, plus some. We are also on the right track as far as what we need for paperwork when we visit The Bahamas Customs and Immigration Office, plus a valuable tip in regard to how to list everything onboard the boat, which is one of the requirements. We can condense the list to "usual ships stores", and be done with it.
  One big reservation we have is the ability to get our weather information when we are in The Bahamas. We still aren't sure if our XM Weather for our Garmin GPS unit will work, so we'll need a back up plan. We bought a small SSB receiver, but we still need to practice using it, and program some regular weather channels on it, particularly the channel that Chris Parker broadcasts on at 6 A.M. each morning. Most of the marinas have WiFi, but we don't want to have to stay at marinas, naturally wanting to stay on the hook. We'll look into purchasing Internet service when we check in, but will have to see how that goes.
  We've pretty much decided to check in at Alice Town in North Bimini. From Angelfish Cut, just south of Key Biscayne, it's only about 50 miles to Bimini, which we'll do at cruising speed or close to it. From there, we'll try to go to the Berry Islands if the weather permits, otherwise we can go further south to Andros or north to Grand Bahama. But for now, a loosely formulating plan is to take us through the Berry Islands, maybe stop at Nassau, and then on to the Exumas. But we'll take it one day at a time like we've done every day so far.
  We've decided to get Holly her examination on April 1st, which is required for her entry into The Bahamas. This gives us a day to run up the coast to Angelfish Cut, stay overnight, and then cross the Gulf Stream on the 2nd, fulfilling the ridiculous 48 hour Bahamian requirement to have a pet examined and get a certification no longer than that time period before entering Customs. We understand there may be wiggle room, but we'll try to adhere to the law. This will put us in Bimini on a weekday so we don't have to ask a Customs official to come in special on a weekend. I would think that this would make them crabby and therefore more scrutinizing, just in case we have some loose ends.
  But we're going nowhere if the wind generator isn't fixed. But...we have hope! SALT has ordered two circuit boards from E Marine in Fort Lauderdale and now has them at their facility here in Marathon. We are scheduled to have one of them installed on Monday morning, and will keep the other for a spare. SALT tacked on a healthy markup, but with a little negotiating on my part, we were able to get the circuit boards without feeling entirely robbed. The key here is whether the new board will work or not. I'm having SALT install the board, just to remove any doubt about the installation if the board doesn't work. It would be easy for them to blame it on me. We'll just remove that aspect from the equation.
  Last Thursday it was cool and breezy so we decided to check out a place called The Hurricane for happy hour. We walked there from the marina got there at 3 P.M. and it was deserted, so we called a cab and went to Sparky's Landing. The cab ride over the Vaca Cut cost $2 more than regular, but it was worth it. It was standing room only around the bar, but we did find one chair, which I of course, gave to Rosie. Chivalry is not dead. We struck up a conversation with two couples from Delaware, and when they left, we both were able to have a seat. Chicken wings and peel and eat shrimp were both .25 cents each. Now that's a good happy hour price for appetizers! We had a good time there. The bartender was on her game, and we plan on going back soon. The only down side was that we had to wait outside in the "cold" for nearly a half hour before the cab came to take us back to the City Marina.

  We go to bed early and get up early, usually before the sun comes up, like this predawn photo from Friday morning. The view is to the West, with most of the mooring field in view. It is required for everyone to have an anchor light on at night, and with all the vessels in the harbor right now, it looks like lots of twinkling stars close to the water. The predawn light is just beginning to shine on the boats.
  We have ordered some DVD's from Amazon and now have a movie library of 26 good movies. Watching streaming videos take up too much data transfer space and we always run out before the end of the month and have to pay extra. If we really get sick of a certain movie, we'll use it for bartering to get something later that we haven't seen yet, or are willing to see again. Normally we don't watch a movie more than once. I mean, Gone With the Wind was a great movie, but we've only seen it once. Isn't that the one where everyone dies at the end?
  Our Eva-Dry de-humidifier that we bought on Amazon in Key West is really doing a good job of eliminating mildew in the boat. It has really been effective, and I would recommend to anyone living in Florida, on a boat or a home, to be using a de-humidifier. Ours doesn't use much power, in fact it doesn't even register on our Magna Inverter control panel when it is on.
  Holly got a haircut yesterday morning, a chore that we try to do once a month or so. She still fidgets some, and I'm still afraid I'll nick her. We may forgo as many haircuts while we are in The Bahamas. Veterinarians to repair clipper damage will be nearly impossible to find.
  Yesterday, while waiting for SALT to call, I tried to run an antenna wire to the bridge from the salon and was unsuccessful. For two hours, I tried everything I could think of, using my arms and a steel fish tape, to run a wire but just couldn't do it. I buttoned up everything and decided to approach it at a later time. About an hour later we were enjoying the late afternoon sun and I wanted to listen to some music and our outside speakers wouldn't come on. I took the panel apart behind the stereo and luckily found a loose wire, but where was it supposed to be attached? We have a switch near the stereo so we can either have sound on the outside of the boat, or not, and this is where I found where that loose wire was supposed to be attached. I plugged it on the terminal, cable tied it for security in the future, and we were in business. I mention this for a couple of reasons, but one is to say how having a switch to turn off the outside speakers comes in handy when you want to listen to surround sound for a movie or listen to the stereo inside the boat and not disturb your neighbors at a harbor or at a dock.
  The other day we found a canvas bag floating in the harbor and it turned out to be something resembling a pillow, but had two vest type life jackets inside of it. It took us a couple of days to locate the rightful owner, and when they came by to pick it up, left us a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio in way of appreciation. What better to have with wine than a nice Italian dish?

  With the help of Chef Bar Ardee, we made lasagna for our dinner on Friday night, along with some garlic bread, the last of the loaf of Cuban bread we bought earlier in the week. The lasagna was made mostly entirely from canned goods. In a glass dish we layered some canned beef ravioli, then some canned spinach and cottage cheese. Then another layer of ravioli, spinach, cottage cheese, until we got to the top and used some mozzarella too. Sliced egg on top is something my mother always did and I'm not sure how Italian this part is, but we like it. Baked in our convection oven for about 30 minutes, sprinkled with Parmesan, and served with the bread and the wine made for a delicious, quick meal.
  Today we have friends arriving and staying at a nearby resort for the next week. The annual Seafood Festival is being held at the City Park right next door, so we'll go to that this afternoon. The event is billed as the largest "happening" in the keys, second only to Fantasy Fest, which is held in Key West in the fall. I suspect that this event is quite a bit different from Fantasy Fest, however. Sadly different, I may add.
  We did get the results back from my physical the other day, and the nurse said "everything was normal". I don't know how broad their definition of "normal" is, but I guess I'd rather hear that than anything else.
  We are also waiting to get our eyeglasses that we ordered, and we have a dental appointment on Tuesday morning. It seems like the longer you stay in one spot, the more things you find that you need to have done. We aren't sure how long we'll be in The Bahamas, so we're trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible. But when you think about it, life is nothing but a succession of loose ends isn't it?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Of "Life On the Ball"

  For the Florida Keys, the weather lately has been chilly. There was a lot of rain last Sunday, but the inside of our boat stayed nice and dry thanks to the repair I did a few weeks ago.
  We picked up a few ingredients at Winn-Dixie on our way to Advance Auto to pick up some engine oil I had ordered, so that we could make a big pot of ham 'n' beans, or in this case, Spam 'n' beans. I had soaked a half package of great northern beans in water and some baking soda overnight, so I rinsed them and put 'em in a small pot and got them to a boil for a few minutes. (The baking soda is supposed to help get the gas out of the beans, or reduce it at any rate. No one here wants to mess with the tried and true.) Then, I rinsed them again and put them in a bigger pot along with a can of sliced carrots, a can of diced potatoes, a can of chicken bullion, two cans of Spam that had been diced, and a can each of vegetable soup and bean with bacon soup, adding juice and all to the pot. The last two items were added only because they were about a year old and Rosie doesn't like to keep stuff that long. They didn't hurt the recipe, in fact, we like to make use of what we have. You'll notice that everything came from a can except for the beans, and in a pinch, I'd use canned beans too. I added some water to cover the mix, plus salt and pepper and let that big pot simmer, steaming up the windows and warming up the cabin as the sun went down. Not sure if the baking soda works, but I wouldn't have wanted to be around that night if it didn't.
  On Monday morning I called Sea Air Land Technologies to find out if we getting a visit from a technician. I received a return call about an hour later and one of the owners of the company was coming to assess the problem with our wind generator. I picked up Bob, from SALT, in the dinghy and on the way gave him the history of our problems with the port wind generator. Before we had reached Swing Set, he said that it sounded like we had a bad circuit board. That's exactly what I had thought initially.
  Bob and I discussed a course of action, plus some ways to improve our system, one of which is to integrate both battery banks, something I wanted to do when the system was installed, but installing wind generators was new to Dave Ludwig at Bloch Marine and I don't fault him in the least. Bob from SALT, in fact, remarked at how nice the installation was. One hour, and $95 later, I dropped Bob off again at the marina office and promised to come by their office the next day and give them my credit card information. I also wanted to see if they had success in ordering a new circuit board.
  It was a nice day on Monday, but still chilly, so we walked to Winn-Dixie to stock up on our dwindling supply of canned goods. We are intent on reducing the contents of our freezer so that we can efficiently defrost it and then restock it before we get it hauled for bottom paint, so we didn't buy any fresh meat.

  We had the dinghy stacked high with hundreds of dollars worth of canned goods and four cases of Bud Light, and when we stowed everything away in its proper place on the boat, Swing Set was sitting level in the water again, as the twelve gallons of oil brought aboard on the previous day had put her on a slight list to port.
  We lounged in the salon for the rest of the afternoon and then heated up some of our bean soup for dinner, the added treat was some fresh Cuban bread that we bought at Winn-Dixie, slathered with Country Crock margarine for a nice addition to our meal. Buttered bread is something we never eat much of.
  I ate like I was going to the electric chair, but I could have no food after midnight due to my blood work I was scheduled for on Tuesday morning. We left the boat at 8 A.M. and then walked to the Community Health Center, about a mile from the City Marina. I was there for an annual physical, something I've always done, if not for anything else but a reality check.
  After about an hour of filling out forms and waiting, I was finally able to see the doctor. He started to look into my eyes with that little flashlight of his before I suggested that I remove my Ray Bans. "Good idea", he said.
  We talked a bit about the long questionnaire that patients had to fill out, with some questions having no relevance to any one's medical condition. I also remarked about the question asking if I was suicidal, and how anyone was supposed to answer the question about their past history with sexual partners while their mate was watching on, in an honest fashion, without being just a bit suicidal. He laughed at that, so I determined him to be a competent physician, based on him not being as dry as a popcorn fart.
  The nurse took some blood on the first try which is always good, and told us to call in two days for the results and to schedule a followup visit. Seems like doctors and veterinarians work on the same principal; get 'em in often, and keep 'em coming in.
  The offices for SALT were just across the street, so we went there next. I met Shawn, another one of the owners, and gave him my credit card info. They had no word on whether the circuit board had been ordered, but would learn something soon. They promised to keep us in the loop. There will be no trip to The Bahamas this spring if this wind generator isn't fixed.
  After having no breakfast, Rosie and I were hungry as we entered The Stuffed Pig, a small diner near the marina, at 85th street thereabouts. We had a combination of breakfast and lunch, which meant a big breakfast, and then walked back to the City Marina.
  We rested and read our books for a while and then decided to take Holly for a dinghy ride and go to happy hour at Salty's, a place we had heard and read about, that was dog friendly.
  We took on some fuel in the dinghy at Burdine's, a marina on the way, which set us back over $17 for 3.5 gallons of regular, and then took the dinghy out of the channel out of Boot Key and then under the Seven Mile bridge to the "bay side" of Marathon where we found Salty's back in some mangroves, but within a stone's throw of the Overseas Highway.

  We had forethought to bring along a RiverBill's sticker and I pasted it on the wall there behind Rosie for a picture. When we think of it, we put "Swing Set" on the sticker with a Sharpie, along with the month and year. If anyone sees one in their travels, let us know. There may be prizes.
  Salty's isn't a bad place, but the happy hour menu doesn't offer much in the way of promoting happiness. Yes, the beers are reasonable at $1.86 (including tax) but chicken wings at $5 for six of them isn't exactly a deal. Other places advertise .25 cent wings, or three for a buck, during happy hour.
  We watched the charter fishing boats come in and learned that the fishing was pretty slim this season. One boat came in with four clients on board and they had one fish. The next boat came speeding in and couldn't dump off their clients fast enough, and began to hurriedly wash down their boat. Not only did the clients get a little wet as they exited the boat, we nearly got some over spray at our table several feet away from the dock. We learned that they had gotten "skunked", meaning that not one fish was caught during their outing.
  While we watched road dust blow over the harbor from the nearby highway, we were contemplating whether or not to order appetizers when our waitress showed up and said that her shift was over and could we "settle up"? I hate it when a business has a shift change during happy hour, the busiest time of the day usually, and then the customer is passed from one server to another. The waitress was nice, and she was expressing her desire to "get over the the good side of the bar", so we didn't want to ruin her day. We gave her our card and she brought our new "server" over for us to meet. The new girl looked to be all of fourteen and promised to return when the beers we had were in need of replacement.
  Fifteen minutes later she returned, noticed our previous check and credit card on the table and asked if the first waitress had taken our check. In her hurry to get to the bar, she had "forgotten" to take it, so had to come back to take care of it. Understandable if the place was hopping, but we were her only table.
  Against our better judgement, we ordered two Bud Lights and two orders of chicken wings from our young server. Two beers, two chicken wings. Simple. "I better write this down", is what our new server wisely decided.
  Our beers and chicken wings came and we dug in. They were cooked as ordered, well done, but then our math skills came into play and we counted only five wings on each plate. Rosie tracked down the server who happened to be standing next to the owner, and explained that the menu said six wings per order, but we got five. "You got an old menu", was the only response Rosie got back from the owner. This is not a sign of a good business acumen.
  We decided to leave Salty's and check out Castaways, as it was on the way back to the boat. Castaways sits at the end of a canal past a long row of shrimp boats, right next to a building with a sign advertising "Fishmonger". We were able to get a seat out on the patio where we could have Holly join us and were also able to get a food order in right before happy hour stopped at 6 P.M. The happy hour menu offered "three beef, or three chicken tacos" for seven bucks. A lot more than Taco Bell, but we had hopes that they would be better than Taco Bell, not a big accomplishment.
  A new waiter eventually came over and informed us that our server had to leave due to an emergency phone call, and that he would be helping us. He asked what we had ordered and I answered that we had ordered "three chicken tacos and three beef tacos". A short time later he came back and began to place six baskets of tacos upon our table, a total of eighteen tacos for two people. Ah,
  "Whoa, whoa, whoa. We only ordered three of each, a total of two baskets."
  "I thought this was too many baskets of tacos", the server said.
  I agreed and he took the extra tacos away and promised to take them off of our bill. Thank you very much.
  It was dark by the time we got back to Swing Set, and happy to be there. Now, we don't like to be too critical of businesses, but we get inundated by brochures and ads about local restaurants that have no basis in fact in regard to happy hour times or specials. We realize that we are in "tourist country", and should take these ads with a grain of salt, but typically we travel several miles in the dinghy to visit some of these places, sometimes in less than pleasant conditions, and disappointment is magnified when our efforts usually exceed just the normal "pull up in a car, and walk into the bar" variety.
  It's also typical that the servers are new to the job, and we try not to be demanding, but the owners of these tourist traps don't care if the service is below par, or the ads and menu aren't accurate. They just want you to come and drop off your money.
  Now, part of the fun of traveling is going to new places of business, and finding out where the goods ones are. But if a place turns out to be a bad experience for us, we'll tell you about it and let you decide. Just because we are in "paradise" doesn't mean that we don't still have "issues" with businesses like everyone else.

  Wednesday promises to be a good day. We'll do some cleaning on the boat and then there is a seminar planned over at the City Park for those who are planning a trip to The Bahamas. We hope we learn some valuable information at the seminar, with the hopes of an April crossing still being possible in order to let us enjoy that part of the world before hurricane season settles in.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Slice Of Life At Marathon City Marina

  The last six days have just flown by here in Marathon. We had several goals when we arrived here and we've accomplished a few, and have high hopes for others.
  The big thing was getting Holly's rabies shot. We knew getting the appointment wouldn't pose a problem, so calling the vet on Monday was not high on the list, but calling the wind generator repair people was. The promise of a Wednesday visit left us optimistic that this other big goal of getting the wind generator fixed so we would have it for travel to The Bahamas would be met before weeks end.
  Wheels also began turning for a potential haul out by months end and getting new bottom paint on Swing Sets hull, something we could put off, but we need to wait a month after Holly's rabies shot before entering The Bahamas anyway, so this seems to be a good time to do it. Marathon Boat Yard could put us on their schedule. They sent a reasonable estimate, and upon their recommendation, we were able to secure lodging for a week across the street from the boatyard at the Blue Water Resort Motel. The people I have spoken with so far at Marathon Boat Yard are very nice. I'm looking forward to doing business with them.
  On Tuesday I changed the oil in the Westerbeke generator. I change this oil every 100 hours and it's easy. Our onboard oil changer pulls the oil out, I switch filters, and then I dump a gallon of new oil in. I usually only ruin one pair of pants and a shirt in the process. I also used our new vacuum oil extractor and pulled the dirty fuel from the bowls of our Racor fuel filters and put new filters in. I have been using 2 micron filters in our Racors for years, but I learned that 40 micron is what I should have been using. The 2 micron elements work better, but they don't last as long. I have a case of them to use up before I need to buy any 40 micron filters.
   I also painted our cockpit speaker grills and the housings for our port and starboard running lights. I have found that the best thing to do with any new plastic, especially white, is to just go ahead and paint them with a plastic compatible paint right away, otherwise the sun will break them down in no time, either turning them yellow, or just causing them to disintegrate.
  On Wednesday morning I waited patiently for the phone to ring, hoping for the technician from SALT, or Sea, Air, Land, Technology, would be arriving early enough to get our wind generator looked at. Rain was predicted for the afternoon, so I wanted to beat the weather. We had made several appointments but we kept this day clear of all commitments, as the wind generator is on high priority. By 10 A.M. I called SALT. They barely knew who I was.
  "We have you on our list, and a technician will call before he comes", we were told.
  "My decks were cleared for today, but now we have other appointments scheduled, so we can't promise to be here when he calls."
  "That's OK. If he can't come, there will be other things for him to do."
  It might be OK for them, but I hope we don't regret not pulling the unit down and sending it away as soon as we got here.
  A late afternoon visit from SALT was still possible, but by 3 P.M. we closed up shop and took the dinghy over to Lazydays for happy hour. A few cold Bud Lights later, along with happy hour priced chicken wings and pepper poppers and I couldn't even spell SALT, much less care if they came or not.
  On Thursday we had an optician appointment for Rosie at noon. In the morning I touched up some corroded spots on our spotlight where the paint has started flaking off. No call from SALT.
  By 11 A.M. we left the boat in the dinghy and left it at the dinghy dock, and then we walked a short way down the Overseas Highway to the opticians. My "everyday" sunglasses are over ten years old and are a little worse for wear, so I used my last prescription and ordered a new pair of sunglasses that are not polarized. I know polarized is better for the sun, but you can't view an iPad, or some instruments, with polarized lenses unless you tilt your head sideways. I could tilt the iPad, and tried that for a while, but just never got used to using it that way. Rosie ordered a new pair of glasses "for morningtime", whatever that is, along with a supply of contact lenses.
  After a short visit to West Marine, just down the street, we crossed the highway and went to check out the Blue Water Resort Motel. We have stayed in worse places, but it would tax our memories to list them. I called the Marathon Boat Yard and asked about the chances of getting the work done on Swing Set within the week, allowing us to only stay at Blue Water Resort for four nights instead of seven. I made it well known that I intended to give the bed bugs as little time as possible to do their work.
  Then to lunch! We walked over to a "Chicago Style" hot dog place, and I ordered the grandest hot dog combo on the menu, and Rosie chose the close second. In a few minutes, we were served big Cokes, hot fries, and two of the smallest hot dogs I have ever seen, albeit smothered in everything one could possibly put on a pint sized bun. I guess we are still in tourist country.
  One thing about Marathon is that almost everything is on the one stretch of roadway, the Overseas Highway, so if your walk is long enough, you'll pass every business there is to pass. Hello...there's SALT!
  We walked in and I asked to talk to Brad, the fella I've been negotiating with to get our wind generator fixed. I wanted to put a face with a voice. Brad was very apologetic, and thanked us profusely for our patience. When I told him that we needed our wind generator fixed by the time we get hauled out at Marathon Boat Yard on the 25th, he said that a technician would be at our boat on the 24th. Now, that is funny. No, he assured us that someone would be over by the middle of next week, and we even talked about the work being covered under warranty. Their shop is very neat and I liked what I saw when we were there. It wasn't a dump and there was a full staff. They sell water makers, wind generators, air conditioning units, and other things not normally seen at your typical marine supplier. I'm giving them the full benefit of the doubt, and will only pull out at the last minute. Sort of like a kamikaze pilot who suddenly has second thoughts. Envision your own metaphor.
  My dad called while we were making our way back to the boat in the dinghy once we got back to the marina. He wondered if we were in Nassau yet, but I assured him that we wouldn't leave the country without a phone call to him first. He was making dinner and his description of how his mother and mine used to make stuffing for chicken was making me hungry. Cooking was always a big thing in our family and it's always been a source of pleasure in sometimes a mundane day.
  Chili and macaroni was our fare for dinner on Thursday night, with Fritos Scoops.Then it was gin rummy until bedtime. Did I mention that my Chicago Dog earlier in the day had chili on it? Rosie may attest that it was less than a pleasant night for her.

Marathon City Marina Dinghy Dock
The showers and laundry are in the building.

  Our big day, Friday, and Holly's visit to the vet. Rain was threatening as we left the boat. Rosie called the cab as we landed at the dinghy dock and they showed up in less than five minutes. The cabs in Marathon are a set price: either $4 or $5, depending on who you call, no matter where you are going, as long as it's within the Marathon City limits.
  We got to the Marathon Veterinary Hospital about a half hour early, so I called the Bahamas Agricultural Department to see what was taking so long for Holly's permit to immigrate into their country. We have spent nearly $20 so far in phone calls trying to get this permit. We mailed the application back in January and followed up with faxing it on February 5th. I was passed over to the second person during our phone call and then I was disconnected suddenly. I am not deterred so easily.
  On the second call I was finally speaking to someone with a command of the Kings English, which my limited schooling here in the United States gave me a fighting chance to enable me to communicate with a fair amount of the inhabitants of this planet. (The required Russian language course that I was forced to undergo for two years in Junior High has been a bust.)
  "Miss Borroughs" informed me that our permit was mailed on the 8th of February and "we should have gotten it". No kidding.
  "But we didn't get it."
  "Did we fax it to you?"
  "I don't have a fax machine at my house, How about this? Just fax it to me now, as we are at our veterinarians office. Could you do that, please?" With molasses on it?, I was thinking.
  "I'll do it right away. Sorry for the delay", was the sweet sound I heard over the phone from Miss Borroughs.
  Ten minutes later we got the permit we have been waiting for. While I was engaged in this phone call, Rosie was in the examination room with Dr. Molly Willet and Holly. We waited for the results of Holly's heartworm blood test and I noticed a woman in the waiting room trying to hold back tears without much success.
  "Is your pet hurt?", I asked her.
  "No, she is just old...." more tears.
  The one cruelty that all pet lovers endure is the prospect of losing a pet. It's why we weren't going to ever get another dog. Ever. But the joy is too great. After 13 years without a dog, we couldn't imagine life now without Holly. Our heart went out to this girl in the waiting room.
  Then Dr. Molly came out, all smiles as usual. "Holly is just fine, but she still has problems with her teeth."
  "What?" On her last two visits, Dr. Molly mentioned how beautiful Holly's teeth were, and now there's a problem? Apparently Holly has a loose front tooth. We can live with that, and so can Holly. I think Tara, our vet back in St. Louis, would be paying better attention.
  We scheduled a visit for Holly to get her health certificate on March 29th. Once she gets her certificate, by Bahamian law, we have 48 hours to enter their country. "Yes... that's reasonable", no one has ever said.
We have reports that we have more flexibility than that, as much as 10 days. Who knows? Weather will play the biggest part on when we enter The Bahamas, and where.
  We left the veterinary clinic and walked over to Advance Auto because I wanted oil filters. A man at the counter asked if he could help me, and as I began to talk, he began to talk to a co-worker at the counter with him. I stopped talking and he finally did too. Multi-tasking is commendable, but it's been my experience that talking and listening at the same time is not a good practice. He didn't have the filters for the mains, and began to say that he could have them by the afternoon. I said that we'll just see if he had the filters for the generator instead, not wanting to explain anymore to him than I had to. He had several choices for the generator filters, and asked if I wanted the $14.99 filters, or the $5.99 filters. In my world, this falls under the heading of "stupid questions".
  "Does Advance sell inferior oil filters?" I asked him.
  "Why no."
  "Then the $5.99 filters will do just fine."
  "If money is an object, then I have some Fram filters for $4.99."
When is money never an object when you are buying something? This last thing he said was with a smart aleck tone.
  "Sell me the Fram filters", I told him.
As he walked into the back he said something like, "Too bad we don't sell anything but boat stuff here." I did find out that the oil I use was on sale, but couldn't buy it then because we wanted to walk back to the boat without carrying 12 gallons of diesel oil. It's four miles.
  We did Mickey D's for lunch. I smuggled Holly through the restaurant so we could eat out on the deck outside. The only way possible to do this is to hold my hand over her eyes so she doesn't see something to bark at, which is typically everything.
  Last stop was the AT&T store, but first Rosie popped into a jeweler and got a new battery in her watch. With that accomplished, we entered the AT&T store and no one was in there but the two people working there. We wanted to see if we could combine our data transfer minutes on the MiFi device we have with the 3Gigs per month we have on the iPad. The nice young man at the counter said that we could, and still said we could when I told him that we didn't want to mess with our iPhone plan because we still have unlimited data transfer on that contract. Then his phone rang, and he went into the back to take the call and the other employee took his place. This is never a good thing for the customer.
  "What can I help you with?" she says. Now, I have to explain everything all over again to this new person. I usually don't do this sort of thing in the best humor, trust me.
  Long story short, we couldn't change our plan without affecting our unlimited data feature on the iPhone, so we wasted about half an hour at the AT&T store. It was still better than calling them on the phone, which is an excruciating process each and every time.
  It was well into the afternoon by the time we got back to the boat. Rain was threatening, so we both relaxed and got into our books until 5 P.M. Then it was time to go back to the marina for our showers. As I have mentioned before, we are trying to avoid using up all our onboard water, and so far we've done pretty good.

  It had started to sprinkle, so we put on our rain gear and motored back over to the dinghy dock. I took a few pictures to give you an idea of what the Marathon City Marina looks like. The picture above is the approach from the harbor. The big building on the left is the office and community center, along with a workshop and storage area.

  At this time of year, the dinghy docks are usually full of dinghies. The hard bottomed dinghies go on one side of the dock, and the soft sided ones like ours go on the other. The dinghy in the picture looked like it could go either way, about as home made as I've seen. The fella who owns it has a small cruiser with two wind generators on the radar arch, and every other surface of the vessel has solar panels on it. His boat looks similar to this dinghy. He is probably a very interesting guy and I plan on talking to him soon.

  Another view of the dinghy docks. Even though it was raining, boaters found reasons to leave their vessels to either use the shower facilities, the laundry, go to "town", or hang out in the community center at the marina.

  Here's Rosie posing after her shower in the community center. There is a large library in here, and there are usually plenty of boaters setting at the tables using there laptops and taking advantage of the free WiFi at the marina. We only wish we could get it out in the harbor on the boat. This is a very stout building and I wouldn't hesitate to use it for shelter in the event of a hurricane, but I don't know what their policy is in regard to doing so.

  Here's another view where you can see the little seating areas in the back, each with a nice T.V. and theatre seating in case you want to sit in there and watch T.V. all day. The building closes at 5:30, so going there to watch something in the evening is out of the question. I would prefer to have this building available well into the night so we could have drunken beer parties. But that's just me.

  Here's part of the workshop and storage area. If we were to stay here for a long period of time, a storage locker would be a good idea. Then we could start accumulating junk again after getting rid of it all last year. It does seem like a good place to take on a project which would be messy or cumbersome onboard the boat.
  Today was a work day. I changed out all the zincs on each of the main engines, and all went well. We hadn't changed them since last April when Karl Kotraba and I did it, and the raw water zincs were still serviceable but the zincs in the oil coolers were about gone. I'll make it a habit to check them all every 4-6 months from now on.
  I also changed the engine oil in the Cats and only ruined one shirt, managing to not get any oil on my pants. This is progress.
  After we had lunch, we gathered up all of the trash and used oil, put it in the dinghy and rode back over to the marina. They have bins for used oil, fuel, coolant, dirty rags and used filters which is very nice and thoughtful, I think.
  We picked up a few things that we had purchased from Amazon over the last few days. Yet to be delivered is 16 DVD's we bought so we could watch them and use them for bartering in the future. While online yesterday, I bought our Rotella oil from Advance Auto which I will pick up at their store when I can get a ride over there, or take a taxi. I was able to save an extra 15% by using their online site. The oil filters for our Cats will be delivered free here to the marina, something that the fella in the store told me they don't do. Take that, multi-tasker!