Thursday, March 27, 2014

Having Other People Do Things For You Is A Lot Of Work Sometimes

  Let's start with some fun stuff! In the picture above is James and Marny with us at Turtle Kraals last week. James and Marny are friends we met at Lake of the Ozarks late in the last century. We haven't seen them since we left St. Louis almost two years ago. They came down with their son Alex on the Key West Express, a ferry that operates from Fort Meyers, where they had been visiting Gary and Judy, our mutual friends in Cape Coral.
  The weather was great last week and we were able to spend time at Dante's pool and get Swing Set out of her slip two days in a row. We took a 34 mile route one day out around the western end of Key West to show James and Marny downtown from the water, and then we cruised out to Sand Key Light where we saw the sunken Tug Boat Tilly on the way.
  There really wasn't much to see of Tilly, she's in thirty-five feet of water and only the light mast is sticking above the waterline. There is a danger buoy in place and Active Captain already has the spot marked on our Garmin Bluechart Mobile chart. I think they should just send divers down and cut off the super structure and let it fall, providing a cool diving spot, yet keeping her well below the surface so it's not an obstacle. The DEP will probably "study" the situation for a couple of years.
  We had another day out on Swing Set with James and Marny on the following day, but we mostly hung on the hook and enjoyed the sun, something they haven't been able to do back in St. Louis. We put Swing Set on plane for a bit to see if she was still running good, and she is, however this report most likely will jinx everything. "Never brag about your boat" is an adage I usually adhere to, but I also like to tempt fate.
  Rosie and I also found time last week to run by Geslin Sailmakers where our dinette, or at least half of it, was being re-upholstered, but it was closed and no one was around. This was not a real big surprise as it was the morning after St. Patty's Day, and this is Key West. But we also buzzed by there on Friday and was met again with a dark shop and no one home. Oh oh.
  I called Peter, the owner, on Monday morning to tell him we'd like to come by and see how the work was coming along. When he got back to us he told us he'd like for us to come by "for a chat". Oh oh.
  We entered the shop and there was our dinette section, placed nice and neat on a table, still only half finished, apparently nothing having been done on it since Peter's assistant took off. Three weeks had gone by and only the base of the seat had been upholstered, and upon closer inspection, Rosie and I were both not happy with what had been done so far.
  Peter was very nice and offered to refund our substantial deposit and return what is left of our dinette seat. We discussed the possibility of giving him more time, but in the end we decided to take our money back and go elsewhere to have the work completed.

  We couldn't take the dinette parts back on the scooter, so Peter delivered them the next day and I put them back in place, covering the undone section with three towels and fastening them in place with bungee cords. This is not a look we are going for, but at least we have our seating back while we plot out our next course of action.
  Before we had even gotten our dinette section back, I had contacted Boatswain's Locker, the folks who are making our Bimini top. Karina at Boatswain's Locker promised to make some inquiries at Sea Ray about getting new "skins" for our seats, plus see about what other options we had available to us.
  I also contacted another marine upholsterer in Key West that we saw advertised on a Marine Fabricators Association website, but they apparently are out of business.
  Karina got back with us in short order with some bad news. Sea Ray only keeps the patterns for upholstery for seven years and then destroys them! Who knows any boats less than seven years old that needs new upholstery? One way to sell new boats is to make it hard to restore old boats, I guess.
  The good news that Karina had was that they could recover our seats if we sent them up to their facility in Jacksonville, FL. We're looking into that option, but meanwhile, I again reached out to another shop locally, All Keys Canvas, located here on Stock Island.
  Dave Cutler from All Keys Canvas came by yesterday and is working up a quote. His shop has been in business since the 1950's. I hope we can get a fair quote from him to avoid shipping our dinette seats up to Jacksonville. My worst fear is that we lose the seats altogether and I have to have someone fabricate them from scratch.
  On the bright side, Boatswain's Locker is going to make a new sunscreen for our windshield at one third of the cost of what Geslin was going to charge, not to mention that our early dealings with Geslin is how we wound up contacting Boatswain's Locker in the first place, again saving a lot of money on a new Bimini and enclosure.
  I would still recommend Geslin Sailmakers for most canvas work, particularly sails, because Peter really is a nice guy and I thing he is honest. Sometimes honesty is the best thing to have. He's eating the cost of our materials, saying he'll use the vinyl on a future walk-in job. No hard feelings from us.
  I do want to mention that our friend James (who visited last week) has a fledgling canvas business he has started in the St. Louis area, Marine Canvas Solutions. Google it our look for it on Facebook. Admittedly James is "learning as he is going", but his prices reflect that, and he is somewhat of a perfectionist. Have him do some work for you while his prices are low!
  A dock neighbor has spotted a rat on his boat the other night, and since then, we have found rat poop in our cockpit. Rats are around boats, and have been for thousands of years, but not on our boat.
  We don't suspect that they have gotten inside, just nosing around outside, checking on our trash can, etc., but we're taking an offensive approach.
  First, no more "garbage" gets placed in the trash can outside. We'll only put beer cans and potty pads from Holly in there. (It seems like that is the only thing ever in there anyway.) Secondly, I'm putting out some traps, and we've asked the marina to do the same. We won't use poison on the boat due to Holly being around. I'm also going to make some rat guards for our dock lines, and have been thinking about a good way to make them.
  Rat guards are on the mooring lines of all big ships, but they can be found for small boats, but are expensive. Once I make ours I'll post a picture of the finished product. Rats can sink a ship, large or small, so we'll launch an all out effort to prevent them.
  We had great weather last weekend and explored some new areas in the dinghy. We took a looksee at the Harbour Keys just north of here and found a very nice pristine beach area, it being a beach only at low tide. Rosie and I were walking around on it when a two foot long shark came snooping by. It was funny watching Rosie high stepping it back to the dinghy like she was being chased by Jaws. Propriety prevents me from posting a picture of the episode.
  We also spent the day Sunday at the Boca Chica sandbar where we met a few folks, some down on vacation, and some locals too. The Boca Chica sandbar is close for us and we usually find someone to share a beer with.
  Some fierce winds blew in here on Tuesday night and we are getting rocked around here at the dock. Temperatures even dipped into the mid 60's yesterday and we made a big ol' pot of chicken noodle soup from a recipe I've had from my paternal grandmother for years and years. It was a good day for soup, of which you don't get many of, here in Key West.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Zoomin' On The Zuma!

  Here's Rosie standing next to our new Yamaha 125cc Zuma, the 15th motorcycle I've ever owned, and even though it's technically a scooter, it belongs on the list of motorcycles. You Harley riders will just have to live with that.
  Even though a better deal could have been made on a larger used bike of some kind, once you begin to learn the ins and outs of scooter parking here in Key West, you can quickly see that smaller is better. If you can't find a secure place to lock your ride to a post or rack with a cable, you won't have it long, and the Zuma is the most stolen scooter in the Keys, mainly because it's the most popular.
  Being a popular model, it will make selling it that much easier when or if the time comes to go somewhere else, but in a pinch we can stick this small vehicle in the cockpit for a trip to another marina or area. For the time being, we have the Zuma locked up next to our Yuba Boda Boda. I remember when I only knew about Schwinns and Chevy's.

  Speaking of models, here's one sittin' on our Zuma. Notice how the girl in the background can't keep her eyes off of this stylish creature? Must be the shorts.
  Even though we've been doing a good job of getting around the island on our bicycle, the marina shuttle, and other public transportation (with little success), we still felt limited in where and when we wanted to go. When we were traveling constantly, we just dealt with that, but since we've decided to stay put for a while there is no reason to retrict ourselves so much.
  Other things are happening too. We contracted with a local sailmaker and upholsterer to recover our dinette and to make a new windscreen cover. The dinette had some major surgery some years ago in St. Louis, but we tried to marry a new cloth seating area with the still good looking vinyl around the edges of both seats and we began to see the vinyl start to fail about a year ago. It was time.
  We did have a setback yesterday. Peter Goldsmith, the owner of Geslin Sailmakers, came by yesterday to tell us that the woman he had down here from Maine to help him with some of his upholstery work has left the building, so to speak.
  It turns out that she had come down with a major case of the Keys Disease, a malady that attacks many of the transients that arrive here. The sickness causes people to miss work, or just quit work altogether, especially if the weather is good and the fish are biting. It also affects the liver.
  Peter already has a helper lined up and he has assured us that we'll get our dinette back in one piece in a reasonable amount of time. In Key West, the term "reasonable" has a broad definition. At the core here is that we like Peter, and for that he's going to get a fair amount of latitude from us. This is why I always keep a pleasant demeanor about me. For the latitude.
  We've been also contemplating getting a new Bimini top and enclosure made, and even mentioned it to Peter, but we figured we'd have to wait until next year to address it, given the expense of the new generator, the current upholstery work, and of course the much needed Zuma scooter. But I got curious one day and started looking into a replacement top and enclosure made by the company that made the top in the first place for Sea Ray.
  I was searching the Internet and found outfits that will arrange to have a new top and other "factory made" canvas made, once you give them a hull identification number, but some of these outfits are in varying locations across the U.S., so I figured there had to be a main factory where they had the work done. It was easy to find out.
  Our 18 year old original top still has the tag attached to it with the name "Boatswain's Locker" and a phone number. Yep. Number was still in service and a very nice girl took my call and assured me that they were still in business here in south Florida. I gave her our hull identification number and she told me exactly what came with our Sea Ray from the factory, made right there at their facility.
  Within a day I had a bid back, at less than half of what I thought it would cost us. They quoted us a price that reflected a 30% discount and free shipping if we ordered everything this month. Sunbrella and Seamark (lined material for the top) materials with Gortex thread, lightly smoked Stratoglas for the windows, along with better zippers than original and new Lift the Dot snaps, with shipping, were quoted at less than six grand. We can't possibly have a new top and enclosure made from a local canvas maker. Even Peter agreed.
  We sent Boatswain's Locker a VISA deposit and they sent a sample so we could see the colors of the canvas and the Stratoglas. We should have it by the middle of April.
  I've also surrendered in the war of the barnacles, at least for now. The other day I spent four hours under the boat cleaning the bottom and even if you remove the nagging feeling that you're about to be lunch for any lurking creature that comes near, scraping is scraping, whether it's above water or not, and it's not a good endeavor for anyone with joint issues. And I have joint issues.
  A fella just happened to be scrubbing the bottom of a 57 foot sailboat on our dock and I asked him for a card and a ballpark quote. The price I got was for $2.75 per foot, which is under $120 bucks for our boat. That would be for a once a month job and I don't have to get my toes wet. Sign us up. We spend more than that on a night out, and I don't have to worry about drowning or getting eaten by shark.

  We had some storms come through southern Florida recently, and there was even tornadoes in the forecast. On the night of the storm pictured above, a boat a few slips over sustained some extensive lightening damage and I think I witnessed the strike first hand. At first I thought we had been struck ourselves.
  In addition, some of the dock boxes were blown off the docks and into the briny deep, which prompted me to have a discussion with Mark, our new dockmaster.
  My concern, as I presented it to Mark, was that the boxes were not attached to the docks by any method other than the weight of two bricks per box, and I want to see a more permanent method to attach them by the time hurricane season comes in another couple of months.
  I had mentioned this same thing to one of the staff when we first got here and was told that due to the fact that drilling into the concrete docks was not something the marina management wanted to consider, some new fangled brackets were being made just for this marina, and they were on their way. They must be on a slow truck.
  Mark has been slammed with issues since he started his job recently and prioritizing problems is, well, a problem, but the issue of the dock boxes are on his radar screen for sure.
  He mentioned that the current plan was to remove the boxes in the event of an approaching storm, but I countered with the fact that that solution was not only labor intensive when there would be other things to worry about if a hurricane is breathing down our necks, what about the contents of each box? The owners of boats may need the contents of the box that is assigned to their slip, especially if they want to store items in the box that they'd like to have off of the boat when a storm comes.
  We both agreed that making holes in the concrete is out, as eventually the holes will compromise the concrete in the way of cracking and such, so he mentioned using epoxy to glue the boxes down was another method being considered, but I asked him to also consider that using epoxy was not only expensive, but it would leave a mess if the box was ever to be moved if a boat owner wanted some flexibility in the location of the box. (I, for one, would like the box to be offset to the side of where it is now if we ever needed to park "bow in" at some point.) I think I've convinced him that using an epoxy is not a good idea.
  I've been around a lot of docks, and in areas of the country that are conducive to tornadoes and floods, and even had our own docks on the Meramec River for 20 years, so I know a little about mounting dock boxes and keeping docks, so I threw my idea out there.
  If I had my way, I'd use a twelve inch length of 2x4 inside each box on either end, with a hole drilled through one side of it (because the boxes sit on the edge of a skirting) to accommodate a 3/8" lag bolt, either stainless steel or galvanized, 5 or 6 inches long. Because the skirting surrounding the concrete decking is made of PVC "lumber", backed by thick treated framing under it, the two lag bolts only need to be drilled through the 2x4 in the box, then through the thin fiberglass of the box, through the PVC decking, and then into the thick framing of the dock. The 2x4s will keep the dockbox from tipping and breaking a hole in the bottom of the box, and using a 3/8" bolt will keep it from snapping off.
  The other issue is that the management here doesn't want to put any holes in the PVC decking. A couple of holes in the decking will be invisible, as will the method of attaching the boxes, but if one wanted to move a box and leave some holes exposed in the decking, those holes will be a lot better to have than a bunch of dock boxes flying around in a storm, and just yesterday they added two more bricks per box as a short term solution, I guess, so now each six foot dock box missile is armed with four bricks each. Could do some serious damage to a boat. Decking material is much cheaper to replace than a boat window.
  It was also actually mentioned that another solution would be to fill each box with water if a storm is coming to weight them down. Really? If removing the boxes, or filling them with water and bricks is the answer, if I was the owners here I'd just sell them back to the supplier and get my money back because the boxes will be of no use to the boat owners when they really need them, and that's to put belongings in when a storm comes, and have access to them immediately after.
 I hope I can get someone to seriously consider my idea to mount these boxes, and I'm going to be beating that drum whenever I can, but I'm the "new guy", and the new guy never knows anything.
  That's why it was so hard at the beer factory to get an idea across, because the turnover in junior management was so frequent, the senior beer brewers were still only "new guys" to them and they had to constantly prove themselves to college age kids, or otherwise older brewmasters with "stuck in a rut" ideas.
  So why do I care? Because I hate to see anyone waste money. Somebody here needs to do a cost analysis, in terms of materials and labor, plus any added liability if they fail to prevent damage to an expensive yacht due to a flying dock box. Seems like a no brainer to me. Maybe this is a military installation and money is no object.

  Progress is seen everyday here at the marina, though. Look at the picture of this 200+ foot dive boat that is here for a stay! There really is no other marinas in the area that can accommodate a boat of this size, and the piers at Mallory Square are strictly for the big cruise ships.
  Otherwise, we had a visit with some folks following the blog. They don't have a boat yet and they wanted to discuss some of their options for when they go looking. Hope we gave them some ideas, and dispelled some others.
  Our blog is not only inspiring non-boat owners, some friends back home on the Mississippi are beginning plans to retire and come down this way in 14 months or so, and thanked us for being their inspiration. That makes us feel good.
  What doesn't make us feel good is folks who resent the fact that we are retired down here enjoying great weather and they are still working and dealing with the cold and snow. We paid our dues. Don't be hatin'.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Red Tug Boat Is Gone, Really Gone

  I'm starting this post with a picture that was taken by "Ferd" when the Fenton gang was down here a couple of weeks ago, just because we like the photo so much.
  Ferd is Sharon's boyfriend and Sharon is the pretty woman smiling between Rosie and I when we spent the afternoon at Schooner's Wharf.
  Now, I'm not a reporter, so I don't have to research the facts, and I won't because then this becomes work and I'm not looking for more work. But the facts, as I know them, about the red tug boat that I wrote about a couple of blogs ago, is that we woke up one day and Tilly was being escorted out of the channel into Safe Harbor, as promised, one month after it came here.
  The boat, when we first saw it, was named "Tilly" and if you Google "Tug Tilly", you'll find lots of stories about it, but Tilly was tied next to a sea wall at the marina next door, and mangroves had taken root in the barnacles that had grown up to a foot thick at the waterline.
  As I have stated before, one morning we found "Tilly" tied up just a few yards away from where we first saw her, at a T-head on F dock here at Stock Island Marina Village.
  News reports say that the boat had no engines, and that some local shrimpers helped the owner float that boat to the dock here, and the staff member who "checked the boat in" had been called and told that an 85 foot motor yacht was coming into the marina. There was some cardboard hand made signs in the pilothouse windows advertising Tilly as having a new name, "Sea Gypsy". I can only assume that the reservation made for this vessel was made under the new name.
  The staff member told me first hand that he took cash for the slip rental for one month, which for a boat this size would have been over two thousand dollars. I can only assume that the money was taken without seeing the boat. I assume this because SIMV doesn't have a policy requiring vessel owners to provide proof of ownership, registration, insurance, or anything else when reservations are made. Maybe they need to rethink that.
  So, having paid up front for a month's rent, the marina allowed the boat to stay, but the owner was told that when one month was up, he had to go. The marina manager told me this first hand too.
  The boat owner, soon after he arrived, made an attempt to bring homeless folks onto the boat to start a commune of sorts, but marina policy doesn't allow subleasing a vessel once it is here, so a stop was put to folks going onboard.
  You saw the pictures of the little outboards attached to the stern of Tilly, but I'm not sure how the conversations went with the owner and the new dockmaster, but the owner had some things to say in the media that don't ring true to me in regard to how he was "made to leave" the marina.
  One thing I know is that if the marina doesn't take your rent money, you have to leave, and my personal belief is that if the marina wants you out, you're out. Period.
  Another news story says that the owner was duped into buying the boat, but I don't see how this is a problem for the marina here, but think about it from this perspective; let's say a guest comes to your house, under false pretenses or not, and decides to stay the night, or a week, or a month. Maybe forever. Don't you have a right to kick the person out?
  What if someone parks a camper in your front yard, likes the view, and decides to stay a while, rent free. If the camper fails to start, do you have to allow this person to stay until he decides to repair the camper so it can be driven away under its own power?
  Once Tilly was out of the channel into Safe Harbor, an anchor was set (so I've heard), but the anchor dragged and the boat drifted west, endangering other vessels, especially at night because no running lights were on the boat.
  Various tales have been told about how the boat sank, but sink it did, in 35 feet of water, inside the reef near Sand Key.
  There is a lot of finger pointing going on, but the marina is keeping mum. Probably best that they do, because the boat owner just looks like an idiot in the videos and news stories that we have been seeing.
  Too bad the boat had to sink before the boat owner was able to fill it full of ex-patriots and head to Cuba to escape this horrible country, but for our part, we hope SIMV (Stock Island Marina Village) is not held to blame for any part of this fiasco. The Coast Guard has issued their stance as being that "the sole responsibility of a vessel is that of the owner, floating or not".
  Estimates for salvaging Tilly and removing it from the sea bottom are being reported as being $500,000 or more. I don't think the owner has that kind of money, or any money for that matter.
  We have contracted with a nearby sail making shop, Geslin Sailmakers, to re-upholster our dinette, and to make a new sun screen for the windshield on Swing Set. I'll be letting you know how that goes.
  We also had the seals, flush ball, flush cartridges, and shafts replaced on both of our toilets. Perry, the Head Honcho, came on the day he promised to come, and did the work in just under two hours. It's work I've done before, but I wanted to establish a business relationship with Perry so that when we have that real nasty job come up that I cannot, or will not do, Perry will already know us and he'll come to the rescue.
  Perry wouldn't take any money on the day the job was done, and we saw him a few days later and asked to get a bill. We did get the bill and, as promised, he only charged us for one hour labor, and at a reduced "local rate". His price for parts was a tad more than I found them for online, but try to get a computer to fix your toilet when it breaks.
  So far we have a good relationship here in Key West with Key West Engines for our main engines, Mark's Diesel of the Keys for our generator, an electrician, a small instrument technician, a canvas shop, and an authorized Sealand dealer in the Head Honcho. We are also becoming familiar at the local bars and restaurants. No doubt, right?
  We were in Hogfish last weekend and a woman we knew from years ago came by our table and we all recognized each other immediately. We hadn't seen her in over ten years and it was a pleasant surprise. She had a friend with her who is a local cop and he told me to drop his name if I ever got into trouble. This is invaluable networking!
  Last week we were contacted by one of our blog readers who were staying in their boat in Marathon. Jack and his wife Pat wanted to take the Lower Keys Transit System and come for a visit, so we spent a couple of hours with them onboard Swing Set. They're leaving their boat in Fort Meyers for the summer and going back to Arizona for a while, and then making the trip over to The Bahamas next winter and wanted some first hand advice about it. I hope they got it.
  Also last weekend we got a call from some friends that were down in Jupiter to see the Cardinals in a spring training game, and decided to drive down to Key West for a couple of days. Mike and Sherry were just here in November for a week and here we got to see them again! What a great surprise that was. Even better was them stopping by on their way out of town to drop off the beer they didn't drink while they were here. Somebody pinch me.
  Yesterday we got another visit from some friends that were also just here in October and were in for the afternoon aboard a cruise ship that was in port for the day as part of the "Kid Rock Cruise".

  On the left is Renee and Jeff, who are friends of Jeff and Sandy next to them. Jeff and Sandy are friends from LaGrange, KY, but we know them from boating up on the Mississippi. We took this picture at the Lazy Gecko, just one of the stops we made downtown on a too short visit by Jeff and Sandy. Always good to see them.
  Rosie and I have been discussing our options, and we became increasingly convinced that Key West, and Stock Island Marina Village will become our home for the foreseeable future, so we decided to get a small scooter to get around on the island.
  Scooter parking is free anywhere around here, and it seems like everyone has a scooter. We went to the local Yamaha dealer and ordered a new Zuma 125. It should be here by this weekend. It's still small enough to stick on the boat if we want to go somewhere else, but it's also a best seller, so we shouldn't have any trouble unloading it in the future if we want to. I'll show you pictures when we get it. We already bought helmets, not something that folks wear down here, but we might value what little brains we have more than the other people down here do.

  I'm closing out the blog with another photo taken by Robert "Ferd" Frank. It's a picture of "Coconut Row", which is the south pier at SIMV. Ferd took some other photos on his visit to Key West and you can see them on his website,