Monday, December 22, 2014


  Back to "normal" after getting Swing Set back in the water. But it took a little elbow grease.
  Things to remember when getting bottom paint next time are to not take the yards word for it when they promise to put your boat somewhere in the yard where no one is sanding or painting on another boat, and to never let them put you between two boats taller than yours.
  The boat is going to get dusty, no two ways about it. The mistake we've made when hauling out in the past was to rinse the dust off the boat without doing a thorough cleaning before drying.
  The "dust" is typically bottom paint that turns into a liquid once you wet the dust with water, then it stains the gelcoat. I had to use a hull cleaner to get the stains off, which in turn stripped all the wax off that I had been applying for the last few weeks. Most of the time you can skip the hull cleaner and use a cleaner wax, but the job goes a lot quicker if you just get the boat clean first.
  One pleasant surprise that we received was that when we went to pay rent for the start of our second month here, we found out that the time we spent on the hard was applied to our time of stay, so our rent wasn't due for another five days.
  The other item that had me holding my breath was the bill, but the hours were honestly and fairly applied and there weren't too many charges for "miscellaneous" items. The total was actually a bit lower than we expected. If we are still here next time we need bottom paint, we'll have the yard here do the work again, if the paint job holds up.
  I've already arranged to have someone clean our hull monthly, starting in February. The price will be cheaper than the outfit we had doing it in Key West, and I've had the conversation already with the diver as far as scratching the hull of the boat like the last guy did.

  This view is from the docks near the pool here at Marathon Marina. Swing Set is the sixth boat from the left. (One of the boats is hidden pretty much, so you might count five.) As you can see, most of the boats dock "bow in" to enjoy the beautiful sunsets we get, as our sterns face due west. This view is to the southeast.

  With Swing Set back in the water we've resumed our dinghy trips out to Sombrero Beach. In the photo, you can see our set up, with Holly on guard. We have our binoculars, our GPS, a radio for music, and other items you can't see. Those items are a cooler, (the cooler you see is just a seat with life jackets and two gallons of spare fuel), a VHF radio, our phone, beach chairs, big umbrella for us, small umbrella for Holly, two paddles, an anchor with 50 feet of line, and of course our battery operated running lights. Did I mention beer?
  A fella was on the news recently when he went on an outing in his dinghy near here and after motor trouble, drifted 70 miles to the Cal Sal Cays in The Bahamas where the Coast Guard accidentally found him while they were on a normal patrol, stranded on a beach. We don't plan on this happening to us.

  It's the holiday season and lots of cooking goes on during this time of year, and although we don't resort to baking cookies, we do whip up a great Thanksgiving and Christmas feast for ourselves. I thought I'd mention some things about our galley if I haven't done so already.
  We feel like we have a pretty well equipped galley for such a small boat. In the photo, from the left, you can see the wooden door to the pantry we added before we left St. Louis. We keep most of the bulk canned goods in two cabinets in the salon, but we store items that we use on a regular basis in this small pantry, and the larger pantry to the left of it, across from our "office".
  To the right is our AC/DC Norcold fridge. The refrigerator is "smart" in that it runs off of AC when we are plugged into shore power, or have our diesel generator running, but runs off of DC when we are unplugged. When we are on the hook, we turn off the fridge at night as long as we don't open the door. Our wind generators can keep the fridge running without resorting to the noise of the diesel generator. But this blog isn't about power management, it's about the galley.
  Above the Norcold is our convection/microwave oven that I installed back in St. Louis to replace a perfectly working microwave. We can grill and bake in it and we feel like it was a good idea to install it as we don't have a oven, just the cooktop you can see to the right of the fridge.
  Below the cooktop is storage for dishes and pots. We bought some pull out shelving at The Container Store and they work great for getting to items to the back of the cabinet. We likee.
  You can see our spice rack, small cabinet for cooking oils and more spices, and above the cooktop is our pot rack. Do the pots clang and bang while we are underway? Surprisingly, they don't, but we keep a cargo net wrapped up above the rack and if we set out for an extended cruise, the cargo net gets stretched around the pots to keep them corralled.
  Our galley was equipped with a countertop blender. Have you ever used one of those? They never seem to be powerful enough, so I pulled the cover off of it and screwed it to the bottom of our knife block, which you can see to the right of the cooktop. Naturally it would sit adjacent to the cutting board, but you have to make the room where you can.

  Our faucet has a water filter attached which has also been a great addition to our galley. The filters last for months at a time, and our water tastes great whether we are drinking water we make ourselves with the watermaker, or if we are drinking from a dockside water supply.
  On the counter above the sink is a beverage dispenser. When we are on the hook, we fill the dispenser with water that we use for drinking and cooking. Why do that when we have a sink? Well, every time you turn on a faucet, the water pumps kick on. We fill up the dispenser when we have a power supply, then we can minimize battery usage throughout the day and at night when we always seem to need a big drink of water.
  The two cabinets above the sink house our coffee pot, coffee cups, bread, coffee, and toaster. Under the sink is our trash can, Kitchen-Aid blender, and a lazy susan with all kinds of stuff crammed into it. The crock pot to the right of the sink is housed in the lazy susan and we sure get lots of use out of it.
  Many people ask if an inverter is needed on a boat, and we really like having ours. For example, we don't have to run our generator while we are underway, but we can still cook in the convection oven, and use other plug in items like the toaster and crock pot. There has been many times we just loaded up the crock pot with a roast and a packet of pork gravy and let it cook all day while we are cruising. We don't heat up the galley and the meat can't really over cook, which we think is a crime.
  Cooking in that crock pot right now is some country spare ribs. They will melt apart when we get ready to eat them later.
  Which brings us to the title of this blog, "illy-galley". Illegally. Many crimes have been committed in kitchens, especially at this time of the year.

  If you didn't enjoy the joke, at least enjoy this photo of another beautiful sunset. Have a wonderful holiday.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another Haul-Out

  We're glad we made the decision to get adjusted to life in Marathon before getting Swing Set hauled out for bottom paint. Originally we were going to cruise into town and immediately haul the boat and get it over with, but going that route creates unnecessary anxiety that we didn't need.
  A three week wait to haul Swing Set was just about perfect, letting us get acclimated to the area and also to get to know some of the staff at the marina with who we would be dealing with during the bottom painting process.
  In the photo leading this blog we are once again at Sombrero Beach. On our time spent here a couple of years ago, we used to go to Sombrero Beach, but we didn't know about a little area on the eastern end of the beach where we can pull our dinghy up onto some nice sand. Now we can not only keep a close eye on the boat, we don't have to lug all of our stuff from the dinghy to the beach. That cooler starts out heavy.
  We've been to Sombrero at least five times since we've been here and we are starting to see "regulars" at the beach. One couple keeps wanting to introduce their dog to Holly and we keep dropping subtle hints that we would rather they keep their "animal" at a distance. Some people!
  Our date for haul out was approaching and we had reservations at a resort in the area called Banana Bay. Some friends had stayed there when they visited when we were here two years ago and they said that it was "OK", but now I think they were being kind.
  We were at Sunset Grille last Saturday night and were talking to some folks at the bar who were in town for a few days. We are trying to get a feel for the various hotels and motels in the area so we can give recommendations to our friends that want to visit, so we asked them where they were staying while here in Marathon. They said that they had reservations for Banana Bay, but when they went to see the room, it was "smelly and moldy". The red flag went up.
  We were set to check in at Banana Bay on Monday night after our haul out, but I couldn't sleep on Saturday night, wondering if we were going to regret staying at Banana Bay. I also got to thinking about hauling all of the stuff we were going to need for four nights, plus the commute to and from the boat while trying to get the hull waxed. I woke Rosie up with a "brainstorm", telling her that I'd decided to stretch our budget and spring for a room on site here at Marathon Marina. She was less than enthused to learn of this fact at 3 a.m., but came around to appreciating my decision at the light of day.
  The room we wanted was available, which was a room right next to our boat slip. It was easy to transport what we needed from the boat to the room when we checked in, and our scooter and bicycle stayed right where it was.
  Since we had a large freezer and refrigerator at our disposal, Rosie decided to pull everything out of the boat fridge so that she could defrost it and give it a good cleaning while Swing Set was on the hard. Also, since we had our food in the condo, we made our meals there which offset the added expense of not staying at Banana Bay, which didn't even have a microwave. Our condo at Marathon Marina had a full size kitchen and a gigantic newly remodeled bathroom.

  I posted this picture on Facebook of Swing Set on the Travel Lift as it was being pulled. I mentioned that these are usually trepidatious moments for most boat owners and some friends took this to mean that we worry about an accident with the lift our something, causing at least one to post a picture of a serious Travel Lift mishap. A real knee slapper.
  No, we don't experience any concern about the boat falling off of the cradles, but after having had Swing Set out of the water five times since we've owned the boat, there are other things we worry about.
  The one thing that always happens, no matter how much we try to prevent it, is that even though we deliver our boat in a spotless condition at haul out, after a few days in a boat yard, we get Swing Set returned to us in a filthy condition.
  I had made this concern known to the dockmaster and the yardmaster prior to this haul out and I was assured that the utmost care would be made to keep our boat as clean as possible, and away from anyone spray painting a surrounding vessel. Once the yard staff began power washing the hull of Swing Set, I got out of the way, only to see the yardmaster stick Swing Set in-between two of the largest yachts in the yard, both of them being prepared for paint. At this point I should have at least covered our new cockpit upholstery with a tarp, but I do try to give folks the benefit of the doubt, and usually suffer for it.
  Additionally, at every haul out, I ask for water and electric. "No problem", I am always told, but then find that water and electric is at least two boats away and all of the plugs are taken. Then I have to start begging favors to get the utilities that we need. And there is never a ladder.
  The last time we got Swing Sets' bottom painted, the yard had the sanding done on the first day. The first coat of paint was applied on the second day, and the second coat on the third day was finished and the boat was ready to hit the water. This gave me at least a day and a half to wax the hull, so I was anticipating a similar time schedule, but it was not a time schedule I expected. This too is usually an item that causes concern; a schedule that doesn't fit one that you expect, especially if you need to do other work on the boat yourself.
  When sanding did not start once the boat was on the chocks, I went ahead and went against the advice of the dockmaster and instead of waiting until the boat was sanded, I washed the hull and began the process of waxing. Then we got another surprise.
  We had been hiring a bottom cleaning service to scrape barnacles from the hull of Swing Set while we were at Stock Island Marina Village, and I was pleased with the thoroughness of the job that was being done, but it turns out that the job was a bit too thorough. Our boot stripe decal was carelessly scratched up, and the gelcoat above the boot stripe was also badly scratched up. The bottom cleaner was not very careful when using his bottom cleaning tools and the damage to our boat could not be seen until it was out of the water.
  Now I had the job of compounding the hull at the water line. The scratches on the decal were something we could do nothing about, at least until we decide to replace the boot stripe decal later on.
  The next two mornings I was at the boat at the crack of dawn before the yard staff showed up and I got the majority of the scratches out. Meanwhile, I stayed out of the way while the hull got sanded, the running gear got stripped. I finished waxing the hull by late Wednesday and still no paint was on our boat. I was assured by everyone concerned that we would have Swing Set back in the water by Friday.

  Did I mention how nice it was to have our room so close to the boatyard? Here, Rosie and Holly are on the deck of our condo about to watch another fabulous sunset.
  Masking tape was being applied on Thursday morning. We chose to avoid the boat and give the guy working on the boat all the room he needed. Not only that, there was some serious sanding going on with the two boats on either side of us and I couldn't bear to see the dust beginning to coat our boat.
  Friday morning came and two coats of bottom paint were on the hull of Swing Set but the running gear had not been painted yet. I expressed some concern about the time schedule and the dockmaster here at Marathon Marina promised our boat would hit the water by end of day "with everything done to perfection" of she would eat the cost of us staying in our room  for three more nights until the boat could be launched on Monday morning. You can't ask much more than that.
  We got a message from some friends that have their boat in Key West who were going to be passing through on Friday afternoon and wanted to stop in and see us. Since we were all packed up for our move back to the boat, but could only wait, it was a nice diversion for them to pop in for a visit.
  While we were waiting for them to arrive, another couple we have met at Stock Island Marina Village pulled into the parking lot! We hadn't had any visitors here in three weeks and here were two couples showing up within minutes of each other. Pleasant surprises.
  When our guests left us, we went over to the boat to check on progress. Our Prop Speed was drying nicely on the running gear, the underside of our swim platform had been primed and a topcoat was drying on it too. New zincs had been attached to our shafts, trim tabs and the boat hull. All that was needed was to lift the boat, remove the blocks and stands, and then paint the areas where the stands and blocks had been. Oh yes, and then give them a second coat once the first coats had dried. The clock was ticking.
  We watched from the deck of our condo until we saw the lift start to move with Swing Set cradled in it. It was well past quitting time once Swing Set finally hit the water, and I think the staff was happier than us to see it happen.
  The bill will come on Monday, but barring any unforeseen issues with that, as a whole, this has been a positive experience. We learned some things that we'll do different next time, but we also learned just how much the staff here will go the distance to deliver services as promised.
  The fairway is very narrow leading to the Travel Lift at this marina, which does not allow much room to turn a boat around once you leave the lift. I think I may have impressed the dockmaster when I backed Swing Set out between several boats along the seawall until I found a spot wide enough to turn around. I was feeling pretty good about things until I pulled the boat into the slip in a fair wind and discovered that Rosie had forgotten all the things we had talked about that afternoon as far as my plan of attack on tying up the boat once we got back to the slip. Thankfully she still looks good in a bikini.

  Another sunset from our slip here at Marathon Marina, and yet another boat hauling experience under our belts. We hope our bottom paint lasts longer than the last one. We used a different product than the Interlux brand we had used before, but I did some homework reading up on the Bluewater Brand and I have some confidence that we'll get at least two to three years from it.
  Rosie is rewarding me for all the work and worry I did this week by giving the boat a good scrubbing. She just hollered in to me that "all the alarms on the dashboard are going off!" I knew immediately that she had given our electrical system test panel a thorough soaking and it was complaining in the only way it can.
  "What do I do now?", she asked me.
  "It'll dry out and the alarm will stop", I said. "Eventually".
  A couple of hours later I stepped outside and the alarm is still going off. I unplug the systems monitor. It will dry out in a few days. But there is a bigger issue.
  The dust, or whatever it is, that has fallen on the boat has stained the gelcoat, something I was trying to avoid. Something that I know happens, and has happened every time our boat spends anytime in a boatyard. Had I not spent a good deal of the last three weeks polishing and getting a good coat of wax on the topsides, the staining would be worse.
  I don't expect anyone to do anything about it, even though I expressed concern over this very thing happening right from the start. I can only get out my equipment and polish and wax the boat again.
  I am at a loss as to how to approach having our boat in a boatyard again. OK, so now you know why I get a feeling of trepidation when our boat is hauled out for work.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Marathon Marina

 We are nearing two weeks here at Marathon Marina and we are impressed! Not only for the view, which is one reason we came here, but for some other things as well.
  The marina is not brand new, but it's clean. There are several restrooms and showers scattered around the premises and they are all kept in pristine condition.
  Bikes are only allowed in bike racks, none are on the docks, in fact, no personal items are cluttering the docks and pier fingers.
  Plenty of residents have dogs, but all are kept on leashes. Even the staff members who have dogs keep their dogs on leashes. This sets a good example for everyone else and pets aren't allowed to roam around and crap on everything.
  The workout room is small, but there are adequate windows. Rosie has been using it almost daily. I haven't gotten the urge yet.
  We have cable T.V. now, and since mail is easy to get, we've signed up for Netflix and we are getting DVD movies to watch.
  Packages and mail come right to the office and we don't have to go searching for them, and there is no extra charge to get either service.
  Electricity is included on our rent, which will be a big plus when summer comes when we have to run our A/C units. We might still be here then.

  I posted a picture of the pool in the last blog, but here is another. The water temperature is controlled, and on the day I took this shot, the air was a bit cool, but the pool water was welcomely warmer. There are seats along the edge of this walk-in pool and we are told that come January, it's a popular place to congregate at sunset. We're starting sooner.

  The Lazy Days Bar and Restaurant is just steps from our boat, as is the pool, and they have a great happy hour from 3-6 with half price drinks and cheap appetizers. We plan on going there only once a week. OK, maybe twice.
  The weather has been cool and a little windy, but we've gone out in the dinghy twice. We took a spin around from the oceanside through the Vaca Cut and toured a few of the little marinas in our area. We didn't see anything that appealed to us as much as where we are right now.

  Last Sunday we went to the Sunset Grille at the Seven Mile Bridge for Sunday Funday. They have a DJ at poolside, football was on the T.V.'s at the bar, and most of the seats were taken. We met the owner, and Holly made a few friends as they passed by. It's not Dante's, but we can take the dinghy there.
  One of our friends asked the other day whether or not our wind generators are used while we are at the dock, an interesting question we think.
  In the case of Marathon Marina, where our electric is included, it doesn't make much sense to use the wind generators at the dock, but at Stock Island Marina Village, I did consider it.
A person could flip on the wind generators at the dock when the wind kicks up, but if the wind drops off, you would have to turn the breakers back on for the shore power so that the battery chargers would do their job, much like when we would need to run our diesel generator while on the hook to keep the battery banks charged up. Remember, our wind generators only supplement our power needs, they don't provide them, unless the wind is really strong.
  While underway, we don't use the wind generators because the engine alternators keep up with our power needs. We keep them off to prevent a headwind from causing a "braking" situation for the wind generators. A constant braking cycle on them just shortens the life of the generator.
  A constant monitoring of our power systems would save us money, but we're not reduced to eating Beanie Weanies and pinching all our pennies just yet, so we pay for the luxury of staying at a marina for just that, the luxury. The small amount of electrical savings is just not worth the maintenance required, at least when electric is 18 cents per kilowatt hour. In the Bahamas where that cost is doubled, we would maybe think about running the wind generators at the dock, but remember again, our A/C units, cooktop, and water heater are not part of our inverter system, so we would have to run dockside power for these things anyway. Yes, we could run the diesel generator at the dock, but not only is this not advisable, it's rude behavior, adversely affecting the dock neighbors.

  The stern of Swing Set faces due west, as you can see in this photo. If the wind clocks around and comes in from a western quadrant, we can get some wave action, but the shoals out in the "flats" keep any significant waves from building too much, so far we've only had some gentle waves slapping against our hull which really has been soothing.
  One thing we haven't had to put up with is the constant jets screaming overhead landing at the Boca Chica Naval Base. Except for an occasional Medivac chopper coming into the nearby hospital, or a shrimper leaving Boot Key Harbor with straight mufflers, it's really quiet here.
  We don't have floating docks, and you can see in the photo that the finger piers are rather skinny, but the tidal swing is not very great. I installed a solar powered spotlight on the piling at our stern to light the way at night so we don't have to keep our cockpit lights on if we are out later than the sunset.
  Marathon Marina had a potluck Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and we took some oven roasted asparagus to share. The marina staff cooked five turkeys. We met some folks staying here, as well as some more members of the staff.
  How it happened, I'm not sure, but we wound up sharing our small table with an eight year old boy, and two girls, ten and twelve years old. Their parents must have thought we were safe enough to leave their children with, no telling what was going through their minds. We limited them to two beers each. Don't tell us we wouldn't have been responsible parents.
  A week from Monday we get Swing Set hauled for bottom paint. We've decided to go with Bluewater Bottom Paint, and Prop Speed on our running gear. One of the staff here that cleans boat bottoms recommended it to us yesterday, one of the benefits of attending the dinner. I also read some reviews about the Bluewater paint, and we weren't too impressed with the Interlux Micron Extra that was applied 18 months ago anyway. Let's try it.
  We have a room here in Marathon for four nights at Banana Bay while Swing Set is "on the hard". We aren't looking forward to that, but we hope all goes well. The marina wisely does not allow folks to stay on boats that are out of the water. If they did, people would just live on them in the "parking lot" like at Bobby's or DDD in Stock Island.
  We plan on waxing the hull down to the waterline after the sanding is done, much easier than doing it from the dock or the dinghy. Swing Set will be nearly perfect once it gets splashed back into the water.
  We won't have anything else to do on the boat except keep some wax on the topsides for the rest of the winter. Do you believe that?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hello Marathon!

  Our friends John and Pat were set to leave on Saturday the 15th of November, so we met them last Thursday night at the Rusty Anchor on Stock Island for a last dinner with them until we see them next year in Key West.
  The food was great, as expected. I may have had the best pan fried dolphin that I had eaten since arriving in the Keys, and the price was very reasonable. The Rusty Anchor has a fish processing facility at the rear of their family owned restaurant, and you can't get fish much fresher, unless you catch it yourself, and anyone who has been reading this blog knows about my ability to catch fish.

  On Friday, Rosie and I loaded up the Zuma for the trip to Marathon. One of our foldable motorcycle ramps was placed on the dock leading up to the gunnel, and one was placed from the gunnel down into the cockpit. The ends of both ramps were fastened to a nearby cleat, and Swing Set was tied fast as close to the dock as possible.
  We were offered help from a new dock neighbor, but being an independent sort, I wanted to see if my highly engineered plan would work in reality, and it did.
  The scooter was tied down at the front and our new cover for it was put in place. I never thought we could put a scooter on our boat without a crane of some sort. It's nice to be able to carry our two important modes of transportation along with us, the Zuma, and the dinghy.
  Our two dock neighbors, Jeff and Sandy, had some guests coming in, and we were invited to join them for dinner aboard the 63 foot Prout catamaran that they have for sale at the dock we share. The boat is offered at just over two million smackers, and it's a beauty. The mast is 110 feet tall and the boat takes up the most of the width of two slips.
  Dinner was stone crab and lobster, plus a scrumptious salad. Their friends were very nice and we had the best send off from Stock Island Marina Village and Key West that we could ever hope for. We know we'll see Jeff and Sandy on our travels along the way in our future.
  We filled up with diesel on Saturday morning after being waved off by several of our dockmates at the marina. We didn't need fuel, but diesel had dropped to $3.53 per gallon, the cheapest we had seen it since leaving St. Louis, and it is still well over $4 per gallon in Marathon, so fill 'er up!
  We made a slow cruise to Newfound Harbor, about midway from Key West to Marathon, and anchored just off of Picnic Island, intending to stay a couple of nights on the hook.
  It was hard to imagine that we hadn't been overnight on the hook in over fourteen months!
The wind was up and we bounced around a bit, but with our Drag Queen application activation of the iPhone, we slept rather soundly and our anchor stayed put.
  Some other boaters started arriving to spend the day at Picnic Island, and we started out just laying on deck and enjoying the sunshine, but at around 2 P.M., I started getting anxious to head to Marathon.
  We pulled up our hook and left Newfound Harbor in some fifteen mile per hour north easterly wind, which put the two to four foot waves on our starboard quarter beam, making our trip a little bumpy. My concern was the stability of the Zuma strapped down in the cockpit, but it stayed in one spot, thankfully. The cover kept the salt spray off.
  We dodged crab pots all the way into Marathon. I don't know about what laws regulate the placing of crab pots, and I suspect there aren't any short of having a license for them, but the floating markers are land mines to be avoided. A sharp eye is necessary to spot them, and even if we had auto-pilot, there is no way we could utilize it.  A short trip can be taxing, given the anxiety level present. I'll never buy stone crabs again, and I hope the fishermen who litter the cruising lanes with their traps rot in hell.
  We slipped into Marathon Marina about an hour before dark. We pulled into the inner harbor and was met by Judy the dockmaster. She helped us tie up along the sea wall where we intended to unload the Zuma before heading to our awaiting slip.
  I tried something that I had not intended to do, having some time to think about it on our way, plus a few Bud Lights did help in my thinking process. I put the motorcycle ramps leading out of the starboard side of Swing Set, having had them placed on the port side when we guided the scooter onboard, so that we could push the scooter forward putting it in, and also push it forward leading it out. Seemed like a good idea to me. (I haven't driven a two wheeled vehicle backwards, on purpose anyway.)
  Everything went well until the Zuma reached the top apex of both ramps, and then the rear luggage case got stuck against the bottom of the flybridge.
  The prudent thing to do would have been to return the scooter back into the cockpit and remove the top case, but I was determined, and always doing the prudent thing is not one of my strong suits.
  I was only lacking less than an inch in clearance, and the top case is thin plastic, so with just a gentle push, the Zuma popped free onto the downward ramp and onto the parking lot with not a scratch on it.
  We pulled around to our slip where some dock neighbors helped us nose into the slip. We applied some dock lines in a temporary basis, plugged in the shore power, and walked over to the office to check in.

  We got back to the boat just as the sun was setting, and this is our view from the stern which we can see every night from our new home.
  There is some exposure from westerly waves, but the wind rarely comes in from the west, plus there is shoaling in the basin just behind us which protects the boat from most waves from that direction unless it's a major storm. If very bad weather is imminent, we'll grab a spot in Boot Key Harbor, a well know hurricane hole, just around the corner.
  We spent the next day washing salt off of Swing Set and running power, cable T.V., and water lines. Being docked "bow in" requires us to run more lines than we normally would, but having an extra set of 50 foot 30 AMP power cords came in handy, as did having enough water hose to supply our onboard system, and also to have enough to put on a dock mounted hose rack for washing down the boat.
  I did have to make a trip to Home Depot to buy some more coax to hook up the cable. I bought a short 3 foot section to leave a "pigtail" in the trunk at our stern, so that I can unhook the cable and water supply at the stern and leave those two lines at the dock when we go out for a cruise. The power cord connection is also near the stern, actually no further away than the connection we had at Stock Island Marina Village, so I can disconnect from the extra cord I ran along the pier, and stow our regular power cord in the trunk. I never leave all the power cord at the dock. You never know when you might have to stay at a dock away from your home port. You want a power supply cord with you at all times.

  I finished running lines and cords yesterday morning and Holly approved of my work. I did have to make amends for the tidal swings, something I had become a bit uncertain of at our floating berth at Stock Island, but I made my line attachments at low tide, and checked for line length later in the day at high tide. We are using very long spring lines to account for the tide changes too. I think we have a good system for normal use, and tying and untying for a cruise should be a snap, especially since we don't have to back into the slip. Sweet.
  We were able to watch network T.V. last night for the first time since leaving Dinner Key a year ago last September. We did miss Brian Williams on the Evening News, but I don't think we missed much else. But some T.V. will take up some time on the long nights, and we did join Netflix again for the DVD program. The mail here is easy to get and we signed up for the three DVD at a time plan, so even with the slower mail here in the Keys, we should have at least one DVD in our mitts at any given time.

  We have a nice pool here at Marathon Marina for our use, but this picture was not taken today. The cold front that has invaded lower Florida has blasted in and it was a blustery 64 degrees this morning! Brrrrrrr!
  Maybe we'll be able to use the pool by Sunday, it'll be back into the 80's by then, but today we're going to snuggle in and make a big ol' pot of Hungarian Goulash from my grandmothers recipe. We have plenty of time to explore Marathon. We think we'll be here a long time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Calm After the Storm

  I try to avoid this blog becoming a review of our social life, but living at a marina in Key West does not lend itself very well to tales of cruising, but it's been over a month since my last post, and we've had lots of visitors.
  In mid October, friends started coming down to Key West. Our friends from St. Louis, John and Pat, were the first. They rent a house every year for a month, to encompass Fantasy Fest, Halloween, and the Super Boat Races. As the month progresses, they host a ton of visitors, all who we are very happy to see.
  Before their first guests arrived in town, we were able to get John and Pat out on Swing Set for a cruise. We had a beautiful afternoon ride out to Boca Grande, and we arrived back in Safe Harbor as the sun was setting. Everything worked like it was supposed to on the boat, and that is an important item to make for a good day.
  Last year we reserved a slip at A & B Marina in the Key West Bight for the main days of Fantasy Fest, and we wanted to expand the stay this year but we found out that there was a waiting list for the week of the boat races, so we just stuck with our plan to stay five nights and return to our slip at Stock Island Marina Village.
  We ran into a squall on the morning we arrived at The Bight, so we waited out in the harbor for the wind and rain to die down before trying to get into a tight slip in less than ideal conditions. There are no awards for docking in adverse conditions that I'm aware of, so waiting out the weather, if at all possible, is a better choice instead of playing pin ball in a harbor full of expensive yachts.
  The wait wasn't long, and soon we were slipping flawlessly between the two pilings that marked a slip just inches wider than the boat. Rosie was placing the bow lines onto the forward pilings when a guy off of a neighboring boat came over to "help".
  Now, Rosie and I had discussed exactly how we were going to facilitate our dock tie-up, but the fella wanting to help had other ideas, and Rosie, being the pleasant sort, was dutifully obeying the orders of the helper, even though the orders ran in opposition to our laid out plan. Being the "Captain" of our vessel, I had to intervene.
  "Rosie," I said, "Stick with our plan, and don't take orders from the dock hands. You should be giving orders to him."
  This is something we have trouble with on a regular basis. Rosie forgets that she is the one in control of what we are doing with our boat as far as handling the lines, not some stranger on the dock who walks up and wants to start barking orders.
  We soon had Swing Set tucked in for the next five days. We did reserve the same slip next year for a whole month. If you stay at a marina that has a monthly rate, you may as well stay the month because depending on their rate, a stay of three weeks may cost the same as staying for four. Such is the case at A & B.

  Sorry, no pictures of Fantasy Fest other than this one of Holly at one of the many parades. Holly was the subject of many picture takers, but she wasn't accepting money like the painted woman to the left in the background. If you zoom in, you can get an idea of what many of the "outfits" look like for the week of Fantasy Fest.
  It was nice to have the slip in The Bight for Fantasy Fest week, as all of the festivities are within walking distance, but we had to return to Stock Island.
  Brett and Christine, some other friends from the Mississippi River, made the ride back with us, along with some friends of theirs. The six of us had a very nice ride back out to Boca Grande before putting Swing Set safely away at Stock Island Marina Village where we all piled into our dinghy for a ride over to Hogfish for dinner.
  A few days of rest and then Jeff and Sandy, who live in Kentucky, arrived for a whirlwind weekend of Halloween. During that time, we found out that Super Boat International added a race in Marathon to their 2015 schedule. Jeff and Sandy promised to return for that race, so we're looking forward to it since there is more than a good chance that we'll still be in Marathon when that race is held during the 4th of July weekend.

  Also, Halloween is the day we celebrate Holly's birthday. Since we really are not sure of her official birthday, Halloween is nine weeks before Christmas, more or less, and it was Christmas Day when we got Holly back in 2012. Three years old and all she got was a rawhide stick for a present. Better than the steam iron Rosie got for her last birthday.
  There is no shortage of festivals in Key West. Right after Halloween was Parrothead weekend, a celebration of Jimmy Buffet music. It's amazing to see how many people like to dress in the same t-shirts, sing in unison to the same songs, and do all the cheers etc., all on que. We like to think we are more independent than that.
  We fielded many questions from our visitors, some we welcomed, some were plain tedious, as some of the questions were pretty basic, such as, "Where are you keeping your boat these days?" A question like the last one is usually answered with a question of my own, such as, "You don't read the blog, do you?"
  Now, I can't expect our friends to read this blog on a regular basis, but if a person is really interested in what we are doing, and they know they're going to be seeing us, it would sure be appreciated if they'd just take a peek at this blog to catch up so we don't have to answer over and over again, the same old questions. At least, unhide us on Facebook long enough to get the basics.
  I try not to bore company by telling the same jokes, and I certainly don't like telling the same stories, unless I can improve on them, using the age old licenses that are unofficially placed upon story tellers without penalty.
  One question we got was an interesting one, and it was, "If you had to make ONE improvement to Swing Set, what was the one that you could not do without?"
  I had to think about that one, but over all, I think the addition of our dinghy davit, to allow us to carry our fast dinghy, is the one that has served us best and has made life aboard the boat more enjoyable.
  I posted this fact on our Stock Island Marina Village Cruiser's Network, stressing the fact that we think having a fast dinghy is important. We had members agreeing, but stating that they wanted a dinghy that they could row or sail easily. I had a hard time visualizing us rowing our sailing our dinghy out to Boca Grande.
  We also got questions about who does Rosie's hair. One woman actually stopped Rosie in Publix to ask about her hair color, and who cuts it.
  Rosie cuts her own hair, and uses hair coloring from the pharmacy or grocery store, and it turns out very nice, even though she mixes left over colors together and amazingly gets pretty good results.
  The same logic does not apply to our annual Easter eggs, however. It's not too hard to figure out why our eggs every year turn out to be a dark purple color. They taste good though.
  Yesterday winded up a week of Super Boat races, and we avoided many late nights with our visiting friends and took in every race except the first one on the last day. Just couldn't make that early call after a full day at Dante's pool on Saturday.
  It was a good week of racing with only one serious crash, but no one got seriously injured. We can claim a few acquaintances on two of the race teams, and they both ended the week with mixed results, but injuries. It's an exciting week of racing.
  Friends are filtering out of town this week and by Saturday we'll be on our own again, and that's the day we leave Stock Island. We're planning on staying at Newfound Harbor, just off from Picnic Island, until next Monday when we'll arrive at Marathon Marina.
  We are scheduled to have Swing Set hauled in mid-December for bottom paint, and we're going to stay at Banana Bay in Marathon for four nights. We are going to also buff and wax the hull of Swing Set while she is "on the hard". That, hopefully, will complete our major expenditures for Swing Set this year.
  But we're not in Marathon yet, are we?

Monday, October 6, 2014

New Developements

  Swing Set has been setting in her slip for the last month, pickled with fresh water, waiting for our next outing. Since we stay on the boat full time, it's hard to justify taking the "big boat" out to cruise around by ourselves when we can just take the dinghy.
  A few weeks ago we loaded up Holly and the cooler and took our longest dinghy ride yet. We went "north", which is really east, to Newfound Harbor, about twenty miles away. Then we took the Niles Channel over to the bay side of the Keys, into the back country, and a long ride back home, dodging several storm cells as we went. It turned out to be about a sixty mile dinghy ride and we only burned a bit over four gallons of fuel.

  We took the picture above at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. This is indicative of the summer squalls that pop up nearly everyday. We went to Fort Zack for the first time with some of our dock neighbors for the afternoon and to watch the sunset. It's a great spot, especially if you want to avoid the crowds at Mallory Square.

  A week later we piled everything onto the Zuma and went back to the park with Holly. Naturally she had plenty of shade, and plenty of beach goers to get her attention for the afternoon. We don't know why we hadn't been to this beach before.

  We also attended Bike Fest here in Key West recently. Duval Street was closed off and we parked the Zuma amongst all the Harley's and the "hardcore bikers", you know, the ones who probably trailered their motorcycles down here from up north. Can't hardly blame them, the roads in Florida were never my favorite ones to ride a motorcycle on, being so flat and straight. We got along good with the biker crowd, Rosie's skimpy bikini probably helped in that regard.
  Just because the boat has been idle doesn't mean things don't go wrong. We were just about to watch a movie one night and we both heard the GFI trip on the port side of the boat.
Last year while in The Bahamas we had a problem with the same GFI tripping and I had a heck of a time figuring out the problem when one of our friends and readers of this blog suggested that we eliminate the ground plug from our desk top computer.
  That did the trick and we hadn't had a problem since, so this recent development had me scratching my head.
  There are only three receptacles on our port side, and believe me, they have lots and lots of things plugged into them, but everything is low watt items, and nothing is ever running at the same time, so we aren't overloading our circuits. But a GFI tripping is because of a faulty ground, and water can be a source of the ground problem. So, what was different?
  One thing different lately is the amount our air conditioner has been running, and when I went to check each of our receptacles, I found an inordinate amount of condensation on the plenum of the salon air conditioner vent, housed behind our salon loveseat. The constant cold air blowing though it turned the metal icy cold, and our built in vacuum canister also had condensation built up on it, having also been affected by the constant cold air being transferred from the plenum.
  Of all the things plugged into our port system, I unplugged the vacuum first, and sure enough, the GFI stopped tripping.
  The next day I spent the morning insulating the plenum for the air conditioning duct, inside and out, using some closed cell foam from our camping mat.
  I also moved the vacuum canister over a few inches so that it wouldn't condensate anymore. The vacuum has since dried out thoroughly and we haven't had any further issues. We're lucky we didn't have to call an electrician to diagnose the tripping GFI.
  I had mentioned previously about spending the winter in The Abacos, but we've had a change of plans. I occasionally check to see what is available in the Keys as far as docking goes, and I found a dock for sale in Marathon at The Bonefish Marina.
  We jumped on the Zuma one day and made the one hour trip to check out Bonefish and we almost made a deal on the slip until we got back to Key West and did some research.
  We found out that the marina condo association was not part of the surrounding resort condo association, so we wouldn't be able to use the facilities surrounding us, even though they were just feet away. That was a deal breaker for us, so we decided to take a pass on the slip, but it got us thinking about a move to Marathon anyway.
  Marathon Marina is at the western entrance to Boot Key Harbor and is very popular with the snowbirds once December rolls around. Folks reserve boat slips there years in advance, and we know from previous experience that getting a slip during the winter season is hard to do.
  I called the dockmaster and found out that we could reserve a slip on their west dock for the winter if we committed to the slip through March. We were going to travel to Marathon for bottom paint anyway at the end of November, so we went ahead and gave them a deposit.

  We'll dock Swing Set bow into the dock and from our cockpit, the view above is what we'll get to see everyday instead of the more commercial views we have now at Stock Island Marina Village. The view is looking west, so we'll have great sunset views. Occasional western winds will give us some chop, but that is largely broken up by the shallows just west of the marina. You may be able to see how shallow it is from the photo, but it's deep water access along the dock.

  The marina has a beautiful pool, a restaurant onsite, a travel lift and staff to do our bottom paint, cable T.V., a nice restaurant, condo rooms for guests, and last but not least, the rent will be cheaper and electric is included.
  If we want the excitement of Key West, we can rent a cheap room for a weekend and pop on down A1A on the Zuma once in a while. If we don't like it, we can always come back here. That's the beauty of living on our boat. We have options.

  Hey look! Our friend James at Marine Canvas Solutions made our Yuba bicycle cover and we put the cargo bike back onboard Swing Set. The cover is made from Sunbrella, same color as our bimini top, and should last many years.
  James put some velcro slits on the left side of the bike so the cover would fit around the brackets we have on the rails of our flybridge. The bike is secured to the rail with our bike lock and is as unobtrusive as we could have it, installed where it is.

  Once we got the bicycle cover, we sent James our Zuma cover and he dissected it to use as a pattern and made us another Sunbrella cover for the Zuma. With a few modifications, the  new cover protects every bit of the Zuma from the harsh suns rays, and it's waterproof, unlike the $50 cover from the Yamaha dealer. We had gone through three covers for the bicycle and we were on our second cover for the Zuma, so having these nice covers made was a good decision.

  Here's Holly showing off another addition to the boat, some new upholstery for our cockpit seat.
  Before we left St. Louis, we had our cockpit seat recovered, but not the backrest. Since then the backrest was showing signs of mildew, and the stitching was ripping on the bench part of the seat.
  New, stiffer foam, was installed on both the backrest and the seat bottom, and I made some modification to the seat bracket, and our local canvas guy here in Key West, Steve Alberts of Oceanside Canvas, made our new seat covers in just a couple of days. He also recovered our bar stools in the salon to match the outside seats.
  Oceanside will travel to Marathon when we need some other upholstery or canvas work that we can't talk James into doing for us. We need to find another Sedan Bridge up in St. Louis so James can make measurements on it. Hint hint.
  Some of the simplest jobs can be a pain. A few weeks ago I was noticing some pitting on our galley sink drain. There had been some small scratches on the chrome of our drain since we bought this boat, and they had gotten worse over time. The material is just chromed pot metal, so I found a plastic drain with a nice stainless trim ring at the local ACE Hardware and thought I'd spend about ten minutes installing it.
  For one thing, the pot metal of the drain body had fused itself to the locking ring, and no wrench I had was going to bust it loose. Before we left Missouri, I gave away three nice pipe wrenches in the size I needed, one of them brand new. I recently bought another pipe wrench that we needed for the Groco Flush kits that I installed this summer, but that wrench was too big to get into the small space under our galley sink.
  I borrowed a proper wrench from our dock neighbor, and even with that, I couldn't get a good hold on the drain body in order to loosen the nut, so I wound up having to drill a hole through the drain stem and run a Philips screwdriver through the holes in order to get the nut loose. There was cussing.
  Most people not only would not have gone through the expense of some of these things we've added to our boat, but it's our home and we like to keep it looking as nice as possible, and sometimes even the very small things make a difference. If you don't attack each problem early on, you can find yourself overwhelmed eventually and then your home is a pile of junk with everything broke.
  So what do we do when we have to borrow a tool? Next visit to the hardware store, proper pipe wrenches were purchased and a place to put them needed to be found.
  We spent yesterday cleaning out the dock box on the flybridge so that we could take the things that had accumulated in our marina dock box over the last few months and get them on the boat so we could make our exit next month.
  Two items that we needed our special attention was our two folding motorcycle ramps. It turned out that they didn't fit where I though we were going to put them, so at one point we really had a dilemma. I was even considering the engine room for a place to store the motorcycle ramps, and the engine room is tight enough for space as it is.
  With some shifting round, and some trashing of a few items we hadn't used in a while, we wound up with a nifty spot for the ramps between our flybridge dock box and the flybridge lounge seat. They are out of the way and held securely in place with some brackets I modified and attached to the backside of the dockbox.
  We may only use them a couple times a year, but we won't need to get a dock box at any of our future locations as everything is stored on the boat where it should be anyway. We might load up the Zuma like the Clampetts on their trip to Beverly Hills, but we try to keep the boat looking as stream lined as possible.

  Yesterday it was another afternoon out on the Boca Chica Sandbar. We're starting to see some regulars out there and we usually find some familiar faces to spend the day with. After so many months here in Key West, we've felt like we're starting to belong, and moving to another area comes with some misgivings. But like I said, Key West is just a few miles down the road, and we already know some folks in Marathon. We don't think the transition will be that difficult.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dog Days

  We weren't in Key West last summer, having been in The Bahamas from April until September of last year, so we weren't prepared for just how hot it gets here in the summer.
  When I say "prepared", I don't mean that our air conditioners don't work, because they are doing a great job, but I guess I just mean mentally prepared.
  Speaking of the A/C units; I recently checked the air filters on both units, and even though they didn't seem too clogged up, I replaced the Breathe Easy filters with new ones, and ordered a set of spares for next time.
  These Breathe Easy filters are ridiculously priced, and we ordered them from West Marine and picked them up at the local outlet. At the check out counter I used some coupons for my "Gold Advantage" account, (Having had to print out seven coupons...Hey, West Marine, we all have computers now, why can't you access my account at the store and view my rewards points?) the woman operating the register announces that for the purchase of my three small 10 x 12 inch thin air filters, I was to remand to her custody a tidy sum of $237.
  I said to her, "Think about what you are asking me. Look at what I am buying here. Three small air filters! Now, do you really think these air filters, as expensive as they already are, are going to be $237?"
  A little common sense goes a long way. So does knowing your product and your job.
  If you've been following this blog, you know about our trials and tribulations with our newly installed SeaDek. We've have two wood workers here to give us bids on installing teak on the steps to the bridge and from our cockpit. We are hoping to get at least a year out of the SeaDek, but now another step pad is "melting", so it's doubtful our pads will still be presentable for another year, but we've had, and expect, other expenses to take priority.
  We thought we would get through at least one month of not having something major break on us, and we were closing in on the last part of August when one of our Vacu-Flush heads went on the blink. The pump in our guest head (Holly's room.) wouldn't stop pumping when I flushed it one day. Perry, the Head Honcho, informed us when he was here recently to install new ball valves and seals on both toilets, that the valves on our pumps were going to be due for replacement soon, as they were running a bit long after flushes. We decided to wait, as we wanted to spread out the expense, but the day of reckoning had apparently arrived.
  I called the Head Honcho at around noon. He was in the shop, having had two cancellations from vessel owners who wanted to go fishing that day instead of having their toilets serviced, so he asked if he could be there in one hour. You betcha.
  The bellows on the offending pump was shot. No vacuum can build up with a leaking bellows, so the pump won't stop running. We also discussed replacing our old style (18 years old) pump motors with the new style motors, advertised to be quieter and more efficient. Perry just happened to have two of them on his truck. Our lucky day.
  Four hours later, on both head systems, we had new pump motors, rebuilt pumps, and eight new "duck bill" valves installed. With a generous "local labor rate", our bill still came in just under a healthy $1200, but now both toilets have all new components, are quieter and pump quickly. We should be good for years as far as our toilets go. Or, as far as we "go".

  We mix in some fun when we can. With the weather being fairly calm, we take the dinghy out as much as possible. The photo above is from Geiger Key Marina where we went for happy hour and stayed long enough to just get back to the marina as it got dark, enjoying the late evening smooth ride.
  We keep our scooter and bicycle covered from the beating sun, and both items are on their third cover. We decided to contact our friend James back in St. Louis about making some covers for both vehicles. James has started his Marine Canvas Solutions business and I thought that making vehicle covers for other boat owners who carry small vehicles with them on their boats, would be a nice niche to fill.
  He'll use Sunbrella material to match our Bimini top, which should last for years, especially when he sews them with the Gore-tex thread.
  We sent him one old cover from our bicycle that he can use as a template, and he'll send the new cover back. Then, we'll send the scooter cover to him so he can use that cover as a template, so on, so forth, blah blah blah.
  Marine Canvas Solutions. You can Google it, view the Facebook page, or call James at 314-623-1151. Tell him Swing Set sent you.
  We are getting antsy for some travel these days. Every time a boat leaves the marina we get nostalgic about continuing our travels. However, I have a medical procedure that is scheduled for mid-September, and then not long after, we are looking forward to the visits from our friends from the north for the annual Fantasy Fest celebration in late October, and then the Offshore Boat Races in November. Our livers are in training.
  We have the first part of December targeted for leaving Stock Island, at least temporarily, either to travel back to Marsh Harbour in the Abacos, or just to go further up the island chain until the spring, when we could continue travel up the east coast of the U.S. That's the luxury of living on our boat, we can do what we want, to some degree. We mailed in our applications for our new passports on Friday.
  Another item on our agenda is new bottom paint, which we'll probably have done in Marathon. I was largely satisfied with the job that Marathon Boatyard did on our last paint job, but wished it had lasted longer. The monthly bottom scrubbings haven't helped, but I think we should have used the Interlux Micron 66 instead of the Micron Extra. The service manager at the Boatyard agrees, but it was I that asked for the Micron Extra last time as I thought we might be traveling in fresh water within the year. We'll see how the Micron 66 does.
  Our friends have been commenting that they are missing my frequent blog posts, and like I've said on here before, it's hard to come up with things that are of interest to others in the boating community, which is primarily our audience. Our escapades in and around Key West may be of interest to some, but hopefully our readers can hang in there until we pull up stakes here in Key West and get into trouble somewhere else on this planet.
  Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Lobster Seizin' ?

  Did I mention the how hot it was down here in Key West? Although the high temperatures are usually in the mid 80's, according to my friends at The Weather Channel, it usually feels ten degrees hotter. People say it's the humidity, but we're from St. Louis, we know humidity.
  The heat in the summer is one thing we really weren't expecting here in Key West, and another is the temperature of the water. Around the beaches, sitting in shallow water is like sitting in a hot tub, and if the tide is going out, it's like sitting in a dirty hot tub in some areas.
  These are not complaints. It's just something you won't hear about in the travel brochures. But where would one go to escape hot temperatures in the summer? Maybe the mountainous eastern Tennessee region would be cooler, but it would be an ordeal to go "upstream" every spring. Fort Loudon Lake near Lenoir City, Tennessee may be attractive. Something to think about.
  We spent a few days looking at property around Key West, mainly as an investment. Some friends from the Midwest own a rental property down here and they do very well with it, what gave us the bug.
  After viewing a few places in person, and looking at hundreds on them online, we've decided it's not for us. For one thing, we wouldn't make much, if any, money on a property we would have to mortgage, and we both don't like jumping into debt again, for any reason. The newer properties are way out of our economic range, and the old ones are too expensive too, for what you get.
  When I remarked about the high prices, one of our real estate agents showing us some homes said, "It's the price you have to pay to live in paradise". I told him that we already lived in paradise...on our boat, already paid for. Paradise is where you make it anyway.
  So I think we have that out of our systems.

  Our boat neighbors invited us out on their 46 foot sailing catamaran, Magic Inspiration, a couple of weeks ago for a day sail up to Loo Key to go snorkeling. Outside of a group sailboat at Hedonism II in Jamaica a few times, we had never been sailing. As you can see in the picture, it was hard work for us, but there was little wind, so little sailing. We were actually motor sailing.
  We had been to Loo Key before on Swing Set, and weren't too impressed last time. The sea was choppy and murky, but there was a front moving in that day. This time we had calm seas and once we found a ball to hook to, we found about as clear as water as we have seen since being here in Key West.
  There were lots of fish to see, and everyone saw some sharks but me. (I had trouble with my mask fogging up.) The mooring field at Loo Key is in a protected zone, so no anchoring or fishing, in fact, don't touch anything, but we want to go back and use the Hookah Max onboard Swing Set sometime soon.
  With it being so hot, necessary waxing on Swing Set has come to a halt. Waxing will be something we'll do when it's cooler. We're keeping the boat clean with frequent washings and mopping when it rains. Upkeep has been minimal. I changed our air conditioning filters and had to replace a couple of light bulbs. Don't worry, the other shoe will drop at any time.
  One thing we are looking into is replacing the crappy SeaDek. I hope you read the story. We have two local woodworkers engaged in giving us a bid on installing real teak on our stairs. The one step I showed a picture of recently is just getting worse. I want to do this job right next time, but the cost may be prohibitive, especially with all the other things we've done to the boat since we've been here.
  Also on the radar screen is new upholstery on our cockpit bench seat, a better fitting sunscreen for the windshield, and a Sunbrella cover for the Zuma. We are on our third cover for the Zuma since February, and the one we have isn't even waterproof. Mainly we need one now for sun protection. We want a cover for the Zuma that will protect it from the sun and salt water once we get it onboard if we travel anywhere. Having the cover match our bimini top would be, well, it'd be just a cool thing to do.

  So what is left for us to do here in Key West if we aren't working on the boat constantly? Besides our frequent trips to Dantes pool, or somewhere for happy hour, we focus on taking the dinghy out.
  On our last trip out to Boca Grande, I found out that we only used 2.6 gallons of gas to make the round trip, which I  guess to be around 40 miles from our slip here at Stock Island Marina Village. Holding a six gallon tank, and a two gallon reserve can onboard the dinghy, we recently made another trip west; out to the Marquesas Keys. Forty miles past the Marquesas is the Dry Tortugas. Not many people take a dinghy from Key West out to the Marquesas.
  In the picture, we are at the entrance to Mooney Harbor, on the southern side of the group of islands that make up the Marquesas Keys. Those of you who have been there may recognize the wreck on the shoals just outside of the harbor. The big boat will never see the inside of Mooney Harbor, I can assure you.

  We went on a weekday, and there wasn't much boat traffic, with the exception of some tour operators. We cruised on back to Boca Grande in a southwesterly chop and seeked out the shade of some mangroves on Boca Grande where we tied to a tree and had a nice cool lunch in the shade. We were pleasantly surprised that we weren't bothered by any bugs.
  The best boat to get around in would be a larger center console, but we don't have one. We have the dinghy, which means we have to be particular when we go out, because any chop at all makes for a very uncomfortable ride. When people wonder if they should travel with a dinghy, I would recommend having a "fast" one. Some folks think the dinghy is only something they need to take their dog from the boat to the beach to take a crap, but we use the dinghy as our "sports car" trailed behind the big RV, so we can explore any area we may find ourselves in for any length of time. Since we get ten times the fuel economy in the dinghy, and most of the water around here is too shallow around the beaches for Swing Set anyway, it just makes sense for us to use the dinghy.
  The last two days of July every year is the lobster "mini season" in the keys. It falls a week before the regular commercial season opens, and it's a chance for the little guys to get out there and snatch a few bugs before the big boys scour the seabed. People fish for, and catch, lobster all season long. I'm not one of them, mini season or not.
  For one thing, on the day before mini season opened, we were out in the dinghy and our dinghy seat broke...again. I've mentioned before that the seat from the factory delaminated back in the Bahamas, and I replaced and modified it a couple of times using plastic fence lumber. I fully admit now that plastic fence lumber is still fine for mounting components in and around places on the boat, but for strength you can't beat real wood.
  So, on the morning of mini season, instead of joining the hundreds of other folks attacking the seabed, we were at Home Depot buying lumber to fix the seat in the dinghy. I'm not one to leave things broken. It bothers me.
  After looking at our options, I chose a primed 1 x 8, (This lumber is primed to hide the fact that it's comprised of spliced and glued pieces too small to make anything else with, but it's strong as the other stuff.) which we had them cut to size at the store so Rosie could carry it under her arm on the back of the Zuma.
  I dismantled the broken seat, took out all the precious stainless steel screws to use on the new seat, stacked the two cut pieces on top of each other, added the strut I had made for the old seat, used the sander to round all the corners, wiped it all down with mineral spirits, and then took it down to the engine room to put on a first coat of paint.
  The engine room? Yes, our "engine room" is not the size of a paint shed, but with pieces small enough, I use the engine room to paint because I can turn on the blowers to remove the overspray, and the paint can dry without worrying about rain. It's only inconsiderate slobs that would spray paint on the dock, and if I use any of the inconvenient public areas, any project I may be working on may not be there when I go back to get it.
  So late on day two of mini season, we took the dinghy out to look for some lobster, albeit without a companion seat. Rosie had to sit on the gunwale, which is illegal in Missouri, but oddly legal in Florida.
  With a bit of wind late in the day, the seas were choppy and murky, plus I don't know where the "good spots" are. We roamed around blindly for a couple of hours, only getting into the water a few times, and we went home empty handed. Not a big surprise there.
  One thing I can say, to make this little lobster expedition, we loaded up the dinghy with snorkel gear, a bucket, (no nifty cooler filled with ice to bed down freshly caught bugs), a net, a tickle stick with the required measuring device attached, a pair of gloves, and our usual small cooler, only filled with ice water instead of beer.
  Now to the part I didn't like. The water temperature is in the 90's, especially in the shallow water where I could even attempt to reach the bottom to look under rocks and coral. Imagine being in a washing machine, on hot cycle, breathing through a snorkel. That what I felt like I was doing during my "lobster hunt". I think I'll try it again when the water cools down, and on a calmer day. Meanwhile we'll reserve a table at Benihana's.
  I normally don't mention our health concerns, but a recent event prompts me to get into the subject a bit, for reasons which I'll explain.
  Last weekend, after a Friday night out, I woke up with a severe pain in my abdomen at around seven in the morning. I took some pain pills we have onboard, but to no avail. I squirmed and thrashed about for five hours before I agreed to be taken to the ER at the local hospital, just a few miles away.
  After an MRI and an Ultrasound, the doctors concluded that I had a kidney stone that was "99% passed". That last 1% is a real bitch.
  Late on Saturday, after a visit by the urologist, I was given some pain medication, a strainer, and my clothes back, and was told to go home, pass my kidney stone, and call the doctor on Monday. Sure.
  My only experience with kidney stones was when my dad had them over the years, and I was not prepared. We had dinner, the pain having had subsided to a great degree, and we went to bed at around 9 P.M., after taking one of the pain pills sent home with me. By midnight I was up with an excruciating back, chest, and abdominal pain, that rendered me in not only a useless condition, but one that left Rosie at her wits end. Finally at seven A.M., I put a shirt and some shorts on and we called a cab again.
  We got knowing looks from the ER staff, and was soon admitted to a room after some very helpful pain medications were injected into my body. I saw the urologist again, and he said I would be monitored for the day and night, and he would most likely do surgery on Monday to remove the stone.
  I'm not going to go into specifics here, but long story short, late on Monday afternoon, a stone was removed, a stint was installed, and I was sent back to the boat to recuperate until the stint would be removed in a week.
  Meanwhile, waiting for the blood in my urine to clear up, I had to make a previous scheduled appointment at the dermatologists to have an abnormal, yet benign, "spot" removed on my back yesterday. I'm a real treat about now. Can't get in the water for two weeks. Luckily I can't catch lobster anyway.
  My point in telling all this, is now I'm wondering what I'd do if we were anchored far from civilization somewhere here in this country, or worse in the Bahamas, or another foreign country, if I had another kidney stone attack, or a heart attack or something.
  I guess we could stay attached forever to the umbilical cord called "safety and convenience" but instead, my gut is telling me to throw caution to the wind, and continue our travels next spring. I hope we have more than a few years to go, and we don't want to spend them here in one spot, even as nice as it is. Life is too short.
  But I'm still wondering what we'll do in an emergency while out on the hook. I guess I'll keep wondering until something happens. Rosie says she isn't worried at all. If I have another two episodes like I had last weekend, she knows where the shotgun is. Think Old Yeller.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Gone Fishin'

  Everyone we talk to around here in Key West that has been here a while says that it's unusually hot this year. The median high for Key West is 90 degrees, and the highs have hit that several times in the last few weeks, but those highs usually don't occur until August.

  Our marina doesn't have a pool, but they've roped off an area in a slip near the ship's store to be used as a "swimmin' hole", but in the photo, I'm laying on a raft in our own slip, something we do when we don't take out the boat or the dinghy. I use the hose to jet myself around in the slip. No need to paddle.
  We've been taking Swing Set out at least once a week to keep the cobwebs out. On our last outing, we cruised up to Newfound Harbor and dropped the dinghy to mingle with all the other boaters at Picnic Island.

  It was roughly a fifty mile round trip and we didn't get back to Stock Island until after dark, but we were treated to a nice sunset on the way back.
  The boat ran good, although the engine temperatures are still running on the high side, but I think I have a handle on it, knowing a better way to clean the heat exchangers next time.
  Meanwhile, the engines get flushed with fresh water when we return from running them, so buildup on the heat exchangers should be minimal.
  Last week, one of our boat neighbors took us out on his Boston Whaler for some fishing. We went out about ten miles directly south of Safe Harbor, getting into some 1000 foot deep blue Atlantic Ocean water, where we cruised the giant seagrass beds, trolling for whatever we could find feeding under them.
  We don't fish much, as you know from reading this blog, so anything we caught was exciting to us. We were using three rods with plugs, or artificial lures, each with line let out at different lengths.
  Our neighbor, Joey, wasn't too impressed with our catches, but we did catch two dolphin, two bonita, a jack, a snapper, and one other little fish we cut up for bait. Nothing was big enough for us to keep for eating though.
  We were about to give up and head for port when we got a strike and Rosie started reeling in the fish. She was having trouble getting the fish in, saying it was awfully hard, but I was attributing that to the fact that she was holding the rod handle under her arm instead of against her hip. Rosie ran out of gas as the fish came nearer to the boat and then she handed me the rod.
  Holy Mackeral, and I mean it. It took me and our neighbor Joey two tries with the gaff to get a good sized King Mackeral into the ice chest, and not because it was so big, I had just never gaffed a fish before, nor had caught one even as big as it was.

  A squall was rolling in, so we headed to the barn with our fish in the ice chest. We hung it from the fishing cleaning station at the gas dock for the photo above, just like the big game fishermen that we are.
  It was only 20 pounds, but we yielded probably ten pounds of some nice eating fish. Joey only wanted a few filets, and we gave some other neighbors a couple filets, and we got to keep the rest.  The pink meat cooked up to a flaky white and was even more tasty than the last swordfish we cooked.
  Last Friday we put Holly in her carrier and we buzzed up to Geiger Key on the Zuma. We had a late lunch and did some sight seeing on the way back.

  The view from the Gieger Key Marina Tiki Bar is a nice one, and it's a good place to go for a quiet dinner or lunch. The owner also owns Hogfish and Roostica, two of our other favorite restaurants on Stock Island.

  Yesterday we loaded up the dinghy and took it out to the Boca Chica sandbar where we were met by some other new friends who brought their dinghies over too. They ran for cover later in the afternoon when the rain clouds starting rolling in, but we stayed until the rain began to fall, then high- tailed it into the harbor and headed straight for the aforementioned Hogfish Bar for an early dinner.

  A late afternoon rain will usually give way to some beautiful sunsets, and yesterday was no exception. We like the sunsets we can see from out at sea, but ones like this from the deck of Swing Set in our slip are pretty nice too.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Beach Party Circuit

  Our trip to the dermatologist was fairly uneventful last week. The doctor asked us if she could spare us the lecture about all the exposure that we were getting from the sun, and we told her that she could, we've heard it before. We promised to return in at least a year and out the door we went.
  I didn't know until yesterday how much fuel we used on our Boca Grande run weekend before last, but it turns out we only burned 2.6 gallons, in what I figure to be a 30+ mile ride, at wide open throttle. We carry six gallons in our fuel tank, and another 2 gallons in a gas can under the seat. Next time we might just run all the way to The Marquesas.

  Here's a photo of one of our SeaDek pads. You might be able to see how shiny the surrounding fiberglass is, and you might be able to see a burn mark, or "scar" on the right side of the pad. In less than one week of sun exposure, the pad was affected by the hot rays of the sun.
  I contacted both Tyler Shealy of Castaway Customs, and SeaDek, and was pretty much told that this was typical when the rays of the sun are reflected off of nearby surfaces. They "melt" the SeaDek material.
  It was suggested that we; cover any surrounding stainless steel with white tape to cut down on glare, put some plastic film on the surrounding fiberglass to minimize glare, or to have some protective covers made for the steps when they are not in use. You will not find any of these informative details in any of their literature. My call this morning to Customer Service was routed to voicemail.
  I was also told that Flexiteek would be hotter to stand on. That's fine. My response was that we could wear shoes, or sit on a towel. Nothing made for a boat should be ruined this quickly due to sun exposure. We bought SeaDek for cosmetic reasons, so it would make the boat look good. Maybe I'm waxing the boat too much.

  I installed flush kits on three of our Groco sea strainers. The strainers in the photo are for our main engines, and I have one strainer mounted at the seacock, and one after the strainer, both acceptable locations. I used two different methods because of the raw water hose routing. The seacock location allows one to remove the plug (after closing the seacock) and pump water from the bilge using a main engine if it is ever needed to do so. I sincerely hope it never comes to that.
  The main reason for purchasing the kits was so I could pickle the engines and generator with fresh dockside water after running them, so creepy sea life critters can't grow in them while we're just sitting at the dock, extending the interval for cleaning the heat exchangers.
  I did clean the heat exchangers on both engines, and our new generator last week. Every time I do this job I learn something new. This time I learned that I need to bypass the raw water pumps when I circulate the Barnacle Buster because the pumps impede the flow of the cleaning agent. We did see improvement in heat transfer after cleaning the heat exchangers, but next time I'll do a better job and expect better results.
  One thing I did after cleaning the heat exchanger on the generator was to run Barnacle Buster into the water intake of our air conditioners, and then let it sit for about four hours. Our air conditioner performance improved, even though I had seen no indication of poor water flow previously, but I'm sure we would have in time.
  Even in this hot weather, our cabin temperatures decreased to the point where we could increase our thermostat settings by two degrees, an indication that the units are now running more efficiently.

  The hot weather has brought a chance of rain nearly every day. This big cloud rolled in at sunset last week and it rained all night.

  This last Saturday we wanted to test the performance of our engines after cleaning the heat exchangers, plus I have vowed to take Swing Set out at least once a week to run engines, and help keep growth off of the hull.
  We headed to Newfound Harbor, about 20 miles east, but a big rain cloud formed over the Keys, so we veered out to Looe Key, a popular dive and snorkeling spot just off of Little Palm  Island, but the rain cloud followed us out there.
  I snorkeled for about a minute, but gave it up because I'm spoiled by the clear water in The Bahamas. We were also in about 18 feet of water and there wasn't much to see. We got there too late to grab a mooring in shallower water.
  Once the rain moved out, we motored in to Newfound Harbor and anchored just off of Picnic Island for the afternoon. Picnic Island is a place we are familiar with, and we'll probably make the trip on a more frequent basis, as the island is a popular gathering spot for the locals of BIg Pine and LIttle Torch Key, among others. We wound up cruising over fifty five miles that day.
  On Sunday morning we topped of the dinghy fuel tank for a day trip. I wanted to go back out to Boca Grande, but Rosie didn't want to go that far. We probably did wind up going just as far, but we did it in increments.
  First we buzzed by our regular haunt, Boca Chica sandbar. It was too early for many folks to be out, but we did see one couple we'd met before. They were very nice, but I remembered that he wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise last time. We decided to just wave hello this time around and save an afternoon with this couple when we don't have much to talk about.
  Then we headed north, crossing under the bridge at the Boca Chica Channel, and set a course for Snipes Point.

  Boats were gathering already at Snipes, but we kept going and for the first time, went a bit further and pulled up at Marvin Key, another popular hangout frequented by a lot of folks from Cudjoe Key and surrounding areas. We liked Marvin Key better than Snipes Point because you don't get waves rolling in from the Gulf as the beach is better protected by reefs, and as you can see, the water is pretty clear too.
  We had a good time there, but after a couple of hours, we went back to Snipes, which was chock full of boaters out for the day. We ran into some folks who usually frequent Boca Chica sandbar, but like us, were taking advantage of the calm conditions to run out to the areas that are a pain to travel to when the wind kicks up.
  We know we are making progress as "locals" when we start seeing people on the beaches on a regular basis, and we really know we are making progress when we are seeing people we want to avoid.
  We were bushed by the time we got back to the marina, and even though we both wanted to pop into Hogfish for dinner, we were just too hot and tired to bother. We had a good dinner of leftover tortellini and salad after refreshing showers. It was just plan nice to be sitting in the air conditioning!
  After dinner we put a movie in the DVD player and I didn't get past the opening credits before I was snoring away. (According to Rosie anyway.)

  But look at this sunset we missed! One of our boat neighbors took this shot last night, and also of another one of a lightening storm that moved in after dark. That too, I missed.
  The storm must have been substantial because we got a message from some friends in the Key Largo area, hoping that we were all right. Apparently we were, having not heard or seen any of the storm.
  It's also a sign that we are progressing as locals when we are making friends here that will inquire about our well being in the event of bad weather. That makes us happy.