Saturday, September 28, 2013

Familiar Boot Key Harbor In Marathon On Vaca Key

  Our first night back in Marathon was very calm and peaceful. The harbor is protected from most any wind as it is, but on Monday evening it was especially calm, but it was also hot. We'll be happy to get to Key West and turn on our air conditioning.
  In The Bahamas I had made a repair to the seat in our dinghy. The thin fiberglass forward seat had begun to crack, so I made a truss to run along the bottom of the seat to give it some support, but the seat itself was beginning to de-laminate, so the damage continued. The material I needed couldn't be found in Miami, at least in places we could walk to, so early on Tuesday morning, we took a walk to K-Mart and Home Depot in Marathon to pick up some things on our list.
  I bought some plastic trim board at Home Depot, an eight foot long piece, eight inches wide. I also found out that I could have bought twice the amount of Starboard that I had purchased at Crook and Crook in Miami, for about half the money. If you need Starboard, Home Depot is the place to get it.
  We used our two wheeled cart from West Marine and trucked our purchases back to the dinghy, and then motored out to Swing Set. The long walk, plus the heat, had gotten to us, so we took a breather in the salon with the fans on high, until I felt rested up enough to make the repair to the dinghy seat.
  While I was just getting started, a neighbor from a sailboat rowed over in his dinghy to say hello. The fella was very interesting. He was 72, on his fourth wife, and had refurbished a 40 plus year old boat that he and his new bride was going to take to The Bahamas in November. We were trading some information about the Abacos when he suddenly asked me what time it was. When I told him, he said he was late picking up his wife from the library and he had to go. He then rowed his dinghy away, saying we'd be talking later.

  I finished my work on the dinghy without any mishap. The seat is about as strong as we could want. I used the truss from the old seat even though I probably didn't need it, but I didn't want the lumber to go to waste. I also mounted a rod holder to the bow of the dinghy so we could put our new beach umbrella in it. Maybe we'll sail with it.
  As I was wrapping up my work, our neighbor came back with his bride and introduced both of themselves. I mentioned that if her husband was late in picking her up, it was probably my fault, as I had kept him talking. She grumbled something about having to "wait in the cold library" for so long, and didn't have too much else to say.
  Rosie or I didn't feel too sorry for her as we were both sweating our bejeebers off, thinking a little stint in the library air conditioning sounded pretty good to us. Our sailboat neighbors made their departure and it was the last we saw of them. The next morning they moved their boat. I wish I could remember what exactly what it was that I or Rosie had said, or did, to get them to move, so that I can use the line on our next new friends, but I don't know what it was. Maybe the guy has bad taste in women. Some people get desperate late in life and will marry anything.
  On Wednesday morning we went to our scheduled appointments at the dentist where we both got our teeth cleaned and no new problems were found. I was glad to learn that my use of the Water Pik that they had suggested I get on my last visit had made an improvement. I hate to floss, and the Water Pik is easier to use.
  We then went to pick up the sunglasses I had ordered on our last visit in March, plus Rosie had to pay for the sunglasses she had already picked up back then. The owner was there and I made a suggestion to her that we made every effort to finish our business with her when we were in Marathon last, but she had went on vacation and closed up her optical shop. I mentioned that the worse thing she could do is not leave anyone in charge to dispensed eyewear or to schedule appointments. She agreed with me and decided to hire a temp next time she goes on vacation so she doesn't lose customers. We were happy with our glasses and also happy that she accepted the constructive criticism.
  After our dentist visit we went to one of our favorite breakfast joints, the Stuffed Pig, and had a great breakfast, which turned out to be breakfast and lunch, as it was so filling. This is one place where the name fits. They give you a lot to eat.
  Later on in the afternoon we went for a dinghy ride to see what had changed since our last visit. The advertised opening of Sombrero Marina Dockside Bar turned out to be false. The promised "refurbishing" is taking longer than expected. It's going to take a lot longer since there is no sign of anyone working on anything there.
  Meanwhile, we've been going nuts ordering things online to have delivered to A&B Marina. Some things we've been putting off since we were in The Bahamas, or because we had to be someplace long enough to have them get to us.
  We had gotten some items delivered to Dinner Key when we were in Miami, but some medicine I needed was mistakenly sent to Miami when we had told them we had to have it sent to Key West, so we had to make up a mailer for a staff member at Dinner Key to use to send the medicine to us when it got to Miami, which they did.
  We also ordered a new hot water heater from West Marine, just like the one we have in the boat now, only one that doesn't leak, hopefully. West Marine actually beat the price on the water heater from a couple of the other sources I use for supplies, Defender Marine and Amazon. I think West Marine gets a bad rap, but they are competitive on some things.
  Shortly after we get to A&B on Tuesday, we'll have waiting for us; my medicine, a new cap for our rubrail that came off in Nassau, (none were available, so the Sea Ray factory in Tennessee had to make one up.) a decal from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for 2014, dog food and potty pads for Holly, new impellers for the main engines to replace the ones I used so I always have spares, four new pillow cases, three new couplers for our Kitchenaid blender that we destroyed making daiquiris in The Bahamas, a new trash can for the cockpit, and some zincs from because our hull zinc is about gone, or at least half gone, and I want to replace some spares I have already used.
  It's nice to be able to shop from the boat and have things delivered to a marina where will we'll be. Makes living without a car bearable.
  One thing about Marathon though, is that taxis are cheap. It only costs five dollars to go just about anywhere on Vaca Key. You tip the driver two bucks and you're royalty. The ride is usually a junky mini-van, but so what? It's The Keys man.
  I changed the oil in the main engines yesterday, only a few hours overdue. Boot Key City Marina is a good place to do a job when you have to dispose of waste oil or coolant because the marina has a nice recycle station on site. Makes things very convenient.
  To celebrate a job well done on the oil change, (we are always looking for reasons to celebrate) we decided to hit a happy hour on Thursday. Our first choice was Sparky's, home of the 25 cent wings and peel and eat shrimp. The downside of Sparky's is that Holly wouldn't be able to go. We wisely made a call to confirm that they were open, (It's the Keys man.) and were told that they were also closed for remodeling. This info was true, as we found out later. The owners were gone for vacation, and instead of laying off the staff, they keep them on to do odd repair jobs and touch up around the restaurant. I think that's considerate of them as employers.
  Our second happy hour choice was Porky's, home of half price beers and cheap appetizers during from 3 P.M. until 6 P.M., at the bar only. Holly was welcome at Porky's too.

  There was already a smattering of customers entrenched at Porky's when we arrived via taxi at around 4 P.M. We took two stools at the bar, leaving ample room between around us so that Holly wasn't too nervous.
  Porky's is basically an outside joint with a roof over it, and not fancy in the most liberal sense. The Overseas Highway is just a few yards away on one side, and the dock where numerous charter boats are lined up are on the other side. The building, if you can call it that, is a mish mash of construction, seemingly held together with the staples that are used to tack thousands of dollar bills to anything sturdy enough to hold them.
  We took possession of two very cold Bud Lights, complete with coasters and cooly cups, for the mere price of a buck fifty each. "Would we like to see a menu?" Was the question posed by our young bartender, still in possession of a fair amount of baby fat and sporting a tight low cut t-shirt. She learned her trade well.
  We declined the menu for the moment and was well into our second beers when a lone woman more or less stumbled into Porky's, looking for a seat at the bar.
  I know a barfly when I see one, and this woman fit the bill, and my suspicions were validated when she announced to anyone who would listen that she had been drinking rum and cokes since 8 A.M. that morning. I cringed when she took a seat right next to me at the bar.
  Any attempts to avoid conversation were dashed when she spied Holly and left her seat to meet her. Holly took to her right away and I suspected that she had pot on her somewhere in the skimpy outfit of hers, and I was right. Holly apparently likes the smell of pot and chums right up to anyone who is holding. I don't know where she learned that, and I'm not being sarcastic.
  We ordered some appetizers; chicken wings and fish fingers, for five bucks each, and both items were delicious. I guess we made our new friend hungry, so when the bartender asked her if she wanted to see a menu, she said yes. No sooner had she gotten the regular menu, I offered her the "bar menu" featuring the happy hour specials. She was extremely grateful, ordered the chicken wings and nibbled on three wings in between stories of her exploits. "I don't eat much, I just drink", is what she told us. We couldn't guess.
  A guy came in to play some music and our friend went over to talk to him and we got to meet some other patrons at the bar, one being another sailboat neighbor in the harbor who knew the fella we met the other day with the new wife. He told us that the guy has moved his boat four times in the two months he has been in the harbor. We're not sure if we felt better about it, but at least we didn't feel totally responsible about them moving away from us.
  All in all we had a nice time at Porky's and it was dark before we got back to the boat. Anyone seeing us climbing aboard the boat at the late hour might have thought we were barflies though.
  Friday was grocery shopping day. We stocked up at Publix and hauled our groceries back in a taxi. But first, we went to breakfast at the Conch Diner, a place we also liked on our previous two visits. The Conch Diner has been in Marathon a long time, and perched out in front of the place is a pile of junk, which I supposed, used to be a small boat of some kind. The wood is completely rotted off and really what's left is a pile of Styrfoam and some drooping railings. After taking our coffee order, I mentioned to our waitress that they ought to pay somebody twenty buck to have the "pile of junk" out front hauled away. I may as well have told her that her grandmother was ugly.
  "That's been out front for over thirty-five years", she said, "and some people like it."
  I told her that I could see the appeal if it still resembled a boat, but I maintained that it now just looked like a PILE OF JUNK. She walked off after taking our order, shaking her head and muttering. I don't want to know what they did in my omelet.
  I was going to take a picture of the item in question, but there was another "event" when trying to leave our waitress a 15% tip. I won't get into it, but as things went, walking out front to take a picture may have prompted our waitress to grab a shotgun and have a go at us. Some people just can't take constructive criticism, or advice.
  Honestly, I hate advice and mostly never heed it, unless I solicit the advice in the first place, but whenever anyone finds out that we are "new" to the area, they are compelled to tell us everything they think we need to know or do, based on what they know. I wish I could find a way to tell them to save their breaths without offending them.
  Speaking of "piles of junk", we see plenty of boats that fit the description, and folks are living on them. I need to take some pictures. It's not just the sailboats either. We saw a houseboat the other day that was loaded up with so much crap, there was hardly any room outside on the boat to even sit, but yep, there was a woman sitting in a plastic chair gabbing away on her phone, sucking on a cigarette, surrounded by piles and piles of rusty junk. I don't know how the boat was even floating. We don't live that way and I hope we never do.
  Yesterday I mixed up some gelcoat and touched up three spots on the boat that had gotten nicked in some way or another, just trying to stay ahead of the game of eye appeal on a 17 year old boat. Swing Set doesn't look much different than she did when we started out a year and a half ago, and especially after spending a year in salt water.
   I found a new cleaner at Home Depot, called Formula 88, that removes the diesel soot from the transom and it's only three bucks per bottle. Roll Off is about four times that and it plain doesn't work. Formula 88 is also working on the dinghy too, and nothing has been able to remove the dirt from it until now. We like to keep our dinghy clean too.
  This morning we're going to unhook from the mooring ball and take on water, then go to Marathon Marina and fill up with diesel. We want to leave first thing Monday morning to head for Stock Island Marina Village where we'll spend one night before taking our slip at A&B Marina in Key West Bight for the next two months.
  Stock Island is the low rent district of Key West, and boat slip prices reflect the difference. We're committed to two months at Stock Island Marina Village after we leave A&B Marina. It's a new facility and the pictures look pretty nice. If we like it, we may stay longer, but we can do anything for two months. There is a canvas shop on site, and we need some upholstery work done, so we'll probably do that over the winter. The floating docks there will allow a thorough waxing of our hull, and we'll be able to keep Swing Set sparkling clean with all the water we want to use at dockside. We'll get spoiled.
  If we don't like it after two months, we're not sure what we'll do, but while we're in Key West Bight, I'm going to be doing some networking and line up some potential slip options for February if we need them, but we need to find something more affordable than the $2400 per month we'll be paying in slip rent for the months of October and November.
  We need to adhere to our budget so that we can attend more happy hours and meet more interesting people.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Goodbye Miami


  We spent a total of two weeks in the Dinner Key Mooring Facility, and even though the main reason we stayed so long was because we wanted to see a friend who was coming in to town, our visit was not a total waste.
  Our friend had just purchased a home in Hollywood, Florida, and as it turned out, he and his family were too busy getting the house in order to take the time out to see us. We get that.
  What we did learn was that we wouldn't entertain the idea of staying at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility again, unless it was for a day or two. It was just too rough there.
  We do like the marina there, and we could stay there for a while sometime. As we visit areas, we make a mental list of places we would like to visit again, maybe for a longer time. Coconut Grove is one of those places.
  I also replaced the vinyl on the inside of our transom door with a nice piece of Starboard. I cut it to fit with my jigsaw, and then sanded the edges with my orbital sander. Looks better than new.
  We spent our last weekend "in Miami" at Elliot Key, on the southern end of Biscayne Bay. Lots of boaters gather there, and some other spots, on the weekends. We're used to the party atmosphere at Missouri's Lake of the Ozark's, or even our home port on the Alton Pool of the Mississippi River. We weren't impressed.
  What is hard for us is to constantly be the "newcomers" in every place we visit. We need more than a few days to make an impression. Make that a "good impression".
  Yesterday afternoon we left Elliot Key and made our way south. We didn't know how far we were going to get, but the afternoon was very nice, we had a pleasant breeze on our bow, and we were just enjoying the ride.

  After a couple of hours of cruising, we picked a spot on the northern end of Key Largo. We had shelter from the wind and spent a quiet night after a quick dinner of pasta.
  This morning we waited until a squall passed us, then we followed the Intercoastal Waterway for eight hours until we found ourselves back in Marathon. The Waterway is shallow in some spots, and narrow, but we had the tide working to our favor and we made the trip without bumping bottom.
  As you can see, there is not much to report. We'll be spending more time in marinas in the next few months, and the blog posts will be less frequent, but I could tell I hadn't posted anything recently because I started getting emails in the last few days with folks wanting a blog. So here you are.
  One thing for sure is that it's HOT! The nights in The Bahamas were usually nice and cool, at least in the mid seventies. But since we've gotten back to Florida the lows are closer to 80 degrees. We'll be happy to plug into shore power and run our air conditioning when we get to Key West in a week or so.
  We have dental appointments here in Marathon this week, and I need to change oil and repair the seat on our dinghy. It's always something, but one thing is that our engines are still running great after I cleaned our heat exchangers.
  Another project due is to replace our hot water heater, but I'll do that in Key West. One issue is that I need to take apart the exhaust hose to access the water heater, and that may permit water to enter the bilge from the exhaust line. I bought a plug at Home Depot that plumbers use to seal a pipe when they are working on it. The plug is for a four inch pipe, but it gets inflated with air and will expand to six inches. That should be enough to seal the exhaust outlet on the starboard engine and allow me to take the inside exhaust hose apart. I'll fit it into the underwater exhaust port and inflate it with my Hookahmax.
  When we left Key Largo this morning, Rosie piled some pork chops that we had bought in The Bahamas into the crock pot, and dumped a can of vegetable soup in there, and let it slow cook all day. She made a pot of yellow rice and we had just about the best dinner you could have with little fuss. It was great!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Key To Having A Good Idea Is To Have Lots of Ideas

  If you've been keeping up with our blog, you know that we've been having some issues with our main engines overheating. While in The Bahamas, both raw water pump impellers were replaced and this improved the operating temperature of the starboard engine, but when the impeller on the port engine was replaced some months later, the high operating temperature was not solved on that engine. Therefore, we "limped" home to the U.S.A. at our normal cruising speed of nine miles per hour.
  I began to focus on the heat exchangers on our engines and made a call to Key West Engines to verify a few things, then I began a mission to clean the heat exchangers on our engines. We made no less than five trips to Shell Lumber and Hardware in Miami to purchase what I needed to CIP both raw water cooling systems on our Caterpillars, at the same time.

  I rigged up a bilge pump to supply the inlet to the port engine. I used this Igloo cooler because I figured that a bigger supply vessel would in turn provide a larger return vessel, allowing the particulates to settle out in the larger vessel and not be pumped back into the system.
  The return line from the outlet of the starboard engine was smaller than the supply, assuring that the lines would stay packed, eliminating a need for a cutback valve on the solution return.
  My mistake was using the cooler as a solution vessel because it was too big and I had to add more water to the acid concentrate to allow the pump to be deep enough in the solution to keep pumping. In the picture, the solution is just starting to turn dark, confirming that the acid is doing its job.

  In this photo you can see the PVC elbow on the inlet to the starboard engine. Why I had to make so many trips to the hardware store is because I kept improving my method to do this job in my mind. I was going to clean each of the four components separately, but this would have wasted a lot of Barnacle Buster, at $70 per gallon.
  I used a similar device as the one pictured above on the port engine, which is the inlet to the engine heat exchanger, which then exits that heat exchanger and then runs to the oil cooler. So then I routed the hose shown above from the outlet of the port engine oil cooler to the raw water inlet on the starboard engine. From the outlet of the starboard oil cooler, I ran the return line back to the Igloo cooler.
  I ran the solution for 90 minutes. In retrospect, I should have ran the solution, and then let it sit overnight in the acid bath. I think this would have cleaned the system better. Next time, I'll also use a smaller solution vessel (a regular bucket) and I'll use two gallons of Barnacle Buster to strengthen the acid solution as there is quite of bit of raw water in the cooling system of our Caterpillar 3116s.
  The key here is safety. An initial rinsing of the whole system is critical. I used rubber gloves in handling the return hoses, and then set up a fresh water supply and rinsed the whole system for ten minutes before I disconnected all my hoses and fittings.
  Once everything was put back in place, firing up both engines allowed the ocean water to complete my rinsing process. I couldn't wait to take Swing Set out for a trial run to see if the cleaning made a difference!
  Rosie and I put all our tools away, then we took showers. Next, we popped a couple of beers and left the mooring field. I was in no hurry for potential disappointment.
  We had some packages at the marina office, and we had to fill our water tank, so the next stop was the Dinner Key Marina. Rosie made the trek up to the office to retrieve our packages while Holly and I filled our water tank.
  Finally, we were headed out to Biscayne Bay. Both engines were warmed up and put the coals to them. We ran up and down Biscayne Bay without any temperature alarms, and I verified our panel gauges with the engine room gauges and we were well within proper operating temperatures on both engines. Rosie and I gave each other a high five.
  I still think we could be running at cooler temperatures, so I'm going to make sure we have no restrictions in any of the heat exchangers in the way of errant broken off zincs, but for the time being, Swing Set is running, and running well.
  I had been thinking about the little sunshade umbrella that we bought to use on the dinghy so Holly wouldn't have to sit in the sun all day, and was wondering why she got all the shade and we had to endure the sun all day.
  I searched Amazon, and then West Marine, and then some other umbrella manufacturers, and would up ordering a non-corrosive umbrella from Amazon to use on the beach, or in the rod holders on the dinghy, so that we could all have some shade when we took the dinghy to the beach.

  What we bought has an aluminum pole and nylon ribs so that nothing will rust. While the umbrella was being shipped, I thought of an additional use for it on the boat, as you can see from the photo.
  It always happens that our cockpit faces the setting sun in the afternoon for some reason, and the heat is unbearable at times. My idea was to use the umbrella as shown in the picture, so that we could get a little more shade in the cockpit than our small overhang on the flybridge provides. The rope keeps the umbrella post from turning when the umbrella is in the tilted position.
  I can envision our friends in a raft up back in Missouri using an umbrella like this to provide some shade as they gather behind their boats having a cold one.
  So today was a good day. After our trial run we cruised to downtown Miami. Not many boaters were out because today was overcast all day, but we became a little more familiar with the area.
  We took a spin through the other Municipal Marina in downtown Miami today and we saw a boat similar to Swing Set at a dock, surrounded by much larger boats, and we were reminded of just how small of a boat we are living on. And we don't care.
  This little tub may be small in comparison to some of the other boats we are running across, but dockage is charged by the foot, and a bigger boat just means more cleaning, not to mention more fuel to make it go. The most important thing is that with each maintenance issue that we're able to do on our own, we put another notch in our belt of independence, and although total independence from outside sources will never be accomplished, just getting closer to being "off the grid" is very satisfying.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Making Ourselves At Home In "The Grove".

  We met with John and Jen Ziegler last Friday night at Scotty's Landing. Scotty's is dog friendly, so we brought Holly and John and Jen brought their poodle Bella. Wagering was light on the possibility of a dog fight, in fact it was a non-event. Bella and Holly largely ignored each other, but happily barked at anyone passing by.
  The humans had fun too. We hadn't seen Jen in ten years, but we saw John two years ago before leaving St. Louis. As always, we reminisced about old times and what public school was like for us in a suburb of St. Louis.
  On Saturday morning we left Grove Harbor Marina and found our mooring ball next door at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility. We wanted to get a pump out on our way out to the mooring, but the pump out station at the dock was broken. We were going to have to wait until Monday for a pump out unless someone fixed the pump out at the dock. I was counting on Monday.

  There is over a hundred moorings at Dinner Key, and the exposure is pretty open, especially from the East. The photo above is an early morning shot. The moorings closer in to the marina are better protected and we had number 34. We were told that any number under 50 would offer decent protection.
  Earlier in the week, we had run into Leslie Hannah, half of a couple that we had met in Georgetown. They were only a couple of moorings over from us. We went over on our way out with the dinghy to catch up with what they had been doing. We learned that they were taking their sailboat north in the next few days and putting it up for sale. They want a catamaran because they have grown tired of the "dungeon like" feeling of a mono-hull sailboat. We tend to agree, and haven't even been on a sailboat.
  There is a gathering spot across the Bay at "Nixon's Beach". A shallow spot that is near where our former President had a home. The home has long been torn down, but the heliport is still there. We spent some time people watching at the "beach". There was a lot to watch.

  On Sunday we took the dinghy back out and first took a spin up the Miami River. The river is brackish, and there is lots of city type things to see. We wouldn't rate it as a "must do" event, but it was interesting.
  What was more interesting was the activities going on at Nixon's Beach. Naturally drawn to the party type atmosphere of such places, we returned for a whole afternoon of people watching. We met some folks who came up to us and wanted to meet. We were definitely older than anyone we saw, and most of the folks were Cuban, or Latino. Last time we checked, our ancestry on either side contain no lineage of those types. Those folks didn't hold it against us that we weren't latino, and they sure know how to have fun!

  We returned to Swing Set under the threat of rain, which it did, and then we had a nice dinner and turned in early after watching the sunset.
  For the last few days, we've been visiting the hardware store, the grocery store, the marine supply store, and the Dinner Key Laundry Facilities.
  We've also been getting packages from Amazon and St. Brendan's Isle, because I've ordered some items we have been needing and we've had some mail on hold, waiting to be delivered to us when we finally got somewhere where we'd stay for a week or two.
  We miss the air conditioning that we had at Grove Harbor! I did buy a larger oscillating fan at Home Depot, and we've enlisted the help of that to move a bit more air than what our little Bora fans provide.
  I've been accumulating the fittings and hoses necessary to clean our heat exchangers, both for the coolant and the oil cooler on each engine. I have purchased enough plumbing to hook up both engines in one single loop to circulate Barnacle Buster through both heat exchangers on each engine simultaneously. I had made a call to Key West Engines and got some pointers on how to do it, plus was told that they charge around $700 to do the job for us. I'll have the equipment to do this chore each time, and it's suggested that removing the scale from the heat exchangers via this method is an annual job.
  I bought a small bilge pump, and I'll mount it in an old Igloo cooler I keep in the engine room, and I'll "CIP" (clean in place)  the whole system at once, circulating the cleaning agent for an hour or two. This method eliminates the chore of removing each component separately and taking them into a shop to soak them, a very labor intensive operation. We'll see how it goes and give a report. I expect success, and beer brewer worth his salt knows how to clean brewery equipment. The same logic is applied on the process of which I am about to try.
  One thing we have learned first hand; we have eliminated any thoughts of ever staying in this mooring field long term. It's too rough. If a storm was predicted, we'd probably go elsewhere for more protection, but we are experiencing light winds and we're still getting bounced around out here.
  Lots of boats are anchored around the area, and are not in the mooring field, but paying for the mooring gets us pump outs (when they come by), and it gives us access to water, the laundry, and someone to accept mail and packages, and the rent is only $300 per month. But a mooring is only as good as its location, and even though we like Coconut Grove way better than Marathon, the mooring field at Marathon is far, far better. If we come back here to spend any length of time, we think it'll be at the marina.

  A few mornings ago, before this latest unsettled weather, we were treated to this sunrise with Miami in the background. It would be great if the water was this smooth all the time.
  For now, we'll be here for another week or so. A friend from my beer factory days is coming into town next week and we want to see him and his new family. Then we'll make our way to Key West and stay two months in Key West Bight, and then move to Stock Island where we'll be for at least two more months at the new Stock Island Marina Village, which is opening on October 1st. The dockage rates are fair at this new facility, and there is no requirement to sign up for a year to get a good rate.
  Our handle of "Swing Set On the Hook" may be inaccurate for the next four months, but after 18 months of continuous travel, we are wanting to take a bit of a break. Did I mention about how spoiled we got using the air conditioning at Grove Harbor?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Coconut Grove

  We've been in Miami for five days now and it still feels like we just got here, but a lot of things have happened. I took the photo above on our boat outing last Monday.
  We had gotten settled into our slip last Friday and had a nice dinner, happy as clams to be in air conditioning again. It is downright hot here in Miami. I suggested to Rosie after dinner that we take Holly for a walk, at least around the docks.
  This is a very nice, and well run marina. Extended stays are not allowed because there are no pump out facilities here, so boat owners can stay the weekend, but staying all week is not allowed. We're keeping a low profile, even with the permission from the dock master Tony.
  Back to our walk: We walked over to the Dinner Key Municipal Marina to take a look at where we wanted to have a slip. It's nice over there too. On our way back to the boat we passed Scotty's Landing, a casual waterfront restaurant. They had a sign that advertised that dogs were welcome, if they were well behaved. We took Holly in anyway and got a seat at the bar.
  We ordered two Bud Lights and were told they were $5.50 each! What? Were we back in Nassau? The girl took our order and told us that the "bucket price" was a little better, so being of a frugal nature, we bought a bucket. One must save when one can.
  Outside of an annoying drunk at the bar, (no, not me) we had a nice time at Scotty's. We looked over their very affordable menu and decided to return for dinner at some point, in spite of the high beer prices.
  On Sunday morning I attacked the water pump on our generator. The water pump is on the back side of the generator and is impossible to see, and very hard to get to or feel. I took some photos by holding my iPhone behind the generator and took some pictures and studied them. The photos in the service manual are blurry and very small. They are worthless.
  Once I knew what I was dealing with, I had to decide whether to remove the whole pump to access the impeller, or just change the impeller out while it was on the pump. There are four bolts holding the pump on, plus two hoses. Access to the four bolts was harder than the access to the six small bolts on the face of the pump that house the impeller, so I decided to focus on taking the six bolts off of the impeller housing.
  In between extracting the six small bolts, I rested my hands from cramping by cleaning out the heat exchanger on the generator. There was zinc parts blocking up one end of it, and I either dropped an "O" ring when taking an end cover off, or it was omitted last time, but I figured that an improvement was made by cleaning the debris from the exchanger and getting the unseen leak stopped by installing a new "O" ring on the one end.
  I dropped one of the small bolts on the impeller cover, and while hunting for it under the generator, I found a new impeller that had escaped sometime in the past. Apparently someone had dropped it and instead of looking for it, just got another, probably charging us for it. No, Karl. It wasn't you.
  I was able to coax the old impeller out with a small screwdriver. It was missing three of the six blades and the three remaining blades were about to go. No wonder we weren't pumping water at times. I had found the three missing blades on the inlet of the heat exchanger, plus an extra one from who knows when.
  I installed a new gasket on the impeller cover and started the hardest task of installing the impeller, but it turned out to be easy. The really hard part was getting the cover back on. It was impossible to hold the cover in place and start a bolt because only one of my hands would fit behind the generator at a time. Actually, only part of one of my hands. I left a large portion of the skin of my right hand on various parts of the generator. My right hand looks like a wolverine got at it.
  I finally got the sixth screw started, and using a very small 3" wrench, I began tightening each bolt, about an eighth of a turn at a time. Once I got everything back together, I fired up the generator and it wasn't leaking a drop and was pumping water like crazy.
  I was a filthy mess, about to pass out, but one more item was needed which was an oil change, so I did that in a few minutes and that took care of the generator, albeit at a total time of over six hours. A mechanic will chortle over my sense of accomplishment, but I can tell you that I was euphoric. A cold Bud Light was my reward. Make that two.
  I had intended on doing more work on Monday, but it was Labor Day. I decided to take the day off. We took Swing Set over to a popular hangout in No Name Harbor, a small hurricane hole just off of Biscayne Bay. Even though some wind and rain put a damper on things later in the afternoon, we were able to meet some folks in there and we wound up having a very good time. We also found another popular "beach" where literally hundreds of boaters were pulled up and wading around in two or three feet of water, socializing around the sterns of other boats, big and small. We're going to go there this weekend.
  On Tuesday, Rosie and I boarded the local "circulator bus" for a quarter and took a ride to a nearby hardware store, and then walked to a marine supply store. We bought some things that we have had on our list of things we began to need during our Bahama trip, and then walked back to the boat in order to learn the area.
  On Tuesday night we went to Cocowalk and went to the movie theatre. The Paragon 13 is the anchor to a very nice retail and restaurant mall right in the heart of Coconut Grove. We walked around "The Grove" after the show and was impressed. The area is very clean and the people seem to be nice, although learning how to speak Spanish will prove to be a challenge.
  There is an area in St. Louis called the Central West End, and Coconut Grove reminds us of that place. We lived there for a while and we liked it. We are liking Coconut Grove too, and we don't think there is as many purse snatchings occurring here.

    Mark and Debbie, (Yes, that is their real names) the couple we had met in the Exumas, live in the area and looked us up and invited us to dinner on Wednesday night.
  We went for cocktails for happy hour and then to an eclectic burger bar called LOKAL, for a casual dinner. They gave us a short tour of the area before dinner, and also overloaded us on local knowledge until I finally had to ask them to stop making any more suggestions. I couldn't retain the stuff they had already told us. The tour and dinner wound up being a delightful evening. The time flew by and before we knew it, it was nearly ten o'clock.
  I have everything I need to clean the heat exchangers on the main engines, but I called Celeste at Key West Engines for some advice. After she told me that I was on the right track with the method I had planned to use for acid cleaning the heat exchangers with Barnacle Buster, she told me about a new marina in Key West called Stock Island Marine Village.
  I checked the website of Stock Island Marine Village and showed Rosie. The facility is opening on October 1st. It is actually on Stock Island, on the "eastern" end of Key West, at mile marker 4.5. The marina will have floating concrete docks, a fitness center, and plans include a hotel and restaurant.
  We liked what we saw on the website, plus we liked the dockage rates, so we called the harbormaster, Rob. Rob was very nice and since we will be in Key West until December 1st anyway, we decided to get on the ground floor and reserve a slip at Stock Island Marine Village for the month of December to see if we'd like to stay there for the winter.
  But we don't have to be in Key West until October 1st, and we want to save some bucks, so we're leaving Grove Harbor Marina and going on a mooring ball at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility when we leave here on Saturday. Some other folks we had met in Georgetown have their sailboat moored there and they like it. Their "home base" is here.
  We're meeting another old friend and his wife on Friday night for dinner at Scotty's Landing. John Ziegler is the editor and publisher of The Waterfront Times in Fort Lauderdale. I've known him since first grade and we keep in touch. We are looking forward to seeing him and his wife Jen. They picked Scotty's because they knew Holly could come along. It's right next door to where we are practically, so we're happy to go there.
  We ran some more errands in The Grove this morning, and keep getting impressed with the area. We're actually torn between Key West and here, but we aren't making any long term commitments. Most likely though, we'll either stay in Stock Island Marine Village longer than a month, and then return here to Coconut Grove, or not return at all for a while.
  This is not a bad predicament to be in.