Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Milestone

  Starting with the good stuff about living here in Key West on our boat; the picture is from one of our afternoons on the dinghy at the Boca Chica sandbar. No, we aren't trying to rig up a sail for the dinghy, we just use the umbrella for shade when Holly gets too hot.
  Today marks exactly two years since we moved onto Swing Set full time. If you've been reading our blog this whole time you know that for the most part it's been a very positive experience and we wouldn't trade the last two years for anything. Even though we are staying put here at Stock Island Marina Village for a while, there are still fun things to do, and side trips to make, but we have some outstanding projects going on and we want to clear them up before we take a trip to Fort Jefferson in a few weeks.

  Rats. I think we have beat them. I mentioned in the last post about finding some rat poop in our cockpit. I searched online and found some rat guards made in China, ranging from $60 to $75. Too much for us to spend. We wanted four of them, so I spent one sleepless night thinking about how to make some.
  I tried making some plastic circles cut from some Tupperware containers, but the material was too brittle and cracked when I was trying to cut them. I even considered cutting some circles out of a discarded Tidy Cat container, but the circles would have been too small to be effective. Going through the trash bins around the marina was a humbling experience, but I've had lots of those.
  Rosie and I took a trip to Home Depot on the Zuma. I knew the basic design I was going to use, but I had to find something to use for the disks. We weren't in the store two minutes when I saw these lids to five gallon buckets stacked up next to the buckets. Bingo!
  Then we went to the plumbing department and I found some 3/4" PVC pipe connection fittings and tossed them into our basket, and out the door we went.
  Back at the boat, I drilled a one inch hole into the middle of each lid, and then sandwiched the lid between each fitting. The resulting tube is about four inches long, and this tube prevents the lid from tilting onto our dock line. As you can see in the picture, I tied a knot on either end of where I wanted the guard to sit. The disks spin, so when a rat tries to climb over the guard, the guard spins and spits the rat off into the water. Or so it is supposed to work.
  For the power cords and water line, I put three holes adjacent to the tube on the guard that I installed on our stern. I made a slit from the edge of this guard towards these holes, and then slipped the water hose and power cords into the middle of the guard. This way we can easily slip the water hose and power cords out for when we undo them for a cruise. This disk won't spin as easily as the rest, but we're hoping that any rat using this particular entry point will be lazy and just turn around at the obstruction.
  My buddy James says that our boat is too close to the dock, but the rats that have been spotted aren't St. Louis sized, (think beaver), plus for this picture and my installation the boat was pushed against the dock. We keep Swing Set out from the dock more than this typically.
  We did put a cheapo rat trap in the cockpit, one that Holly can't get into, but we haven't seen anymore rat poop. One of our boat neighbors put some traps out and they did catch one rat that was feasting on their dogs food, inside their boat. I think they keep their salon door closed at night now.

  A few days ago we spied these two manatees in the harbour. I say they were "frolicking", but one has to understand that there is a very fine line between when a manatee is frolicking, and when a manatee is doing absolutely nothing.
  We considered putting Holly on their backs for a photo op, but we're sure the act would have been considered a manatee molestation of some sort.
  Lots of scars and missing hunks on the larger one. We read that the bone structure in the flipper of the manatee is similar to the bone structure in a human. Considering some of the humans we have met over the years, I can see how that is true. If you zoom in on the picture, you can actually discern five fingernails on the ends of their flippers. No lie.
  We've been to a few mooring fields and anchorages over the last two years that have a VHF Cruisers Net. At a specified time each morning, everyone gets on their VHF on a dedicated channel and discusses old business, new business, who just came in, who is planning leaving, things for sale, and help wanted, etc. Some times the three people tuned into a net like this can take a whole five minutes to go through the list.
  Stock Island Marina Village has a website and a Facebook page, but I had inquired about using the SIMV Facebook page for a cruisers network, but it was suggested that we just start a group of our own. So we did.
  We launched a Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network last weekend. We distributed some flyers, sent some requests out to folks we knew, and asked everyone to spread the word. The group is open, so posting is easy. There are 27 members so far, but not too much activity yet. Wait until someone posts the first really controversial subject and then watch out!
We sent invitations for all of the marina staff to join but so far only one has. That's a bit of a disappointment. We view the group as an opportunity for the marina to dispel rumors or bad information. Like everything else, we'll see how it goes.
  Our dinette is on the second go around on the matter of getting recovered. All Keys Canvas has the first section and we hope to get it back before weeks end, then they'll take the second section and perhaps by the end of next week we'll have a nice newly upholstered dinette to sit on. This is our hope.
  Tyler Shealey at Castaway Customs came to the boat a couple of weeks ago and measured for new SeaDek pads for our stairs on Swing Set. It appears that the old pads started curling up on the edges because they are black, and the black was absorbing the heat and making them curl. Tyler is promising new pads that will be brown and cream colored to resembling a teak and holly combo. We'll post pictures when we get them installed. Tyler says the new pads are on him.
  Our new bimini top and Stratoglass enclosure should be shipped to us in a few days. I'll have to install the Lift-the-Dot snaps. Boatswain's Locker will provide the tool so I can install the snaps, and I'll have to return the tool to them when I'm done. I'm a little nervous about not only how everything will fit, but also about my ability to install the snaps. You can be sure there will be pictures of the final product. Either that, or a nice obituary after I kill myself after I mess the whole thing up.
  Our friends, Gary and Judy, who live in the St. Louis area and also have a condo in Cape Coral, are down for a few days. They're staying on a boat over at Oceanside Marina, and we have a mission to show them around Stock Island instead of hitting the regular places downtown. We've already been to Hogfish and the Rusty Anchor, two of our favorites.
  Since my last post, I had a reader send an email, admitting that he had only read a couple of the recent blog posts, but he wanted to learn how we started out boating, and what prompted us to embark on our adventures. Really? I guess I could have re-written everything I've posted for the last two and a half years, but instead I politely suggested that he just go to the blog and start reading it at the beginning. Get back to me if you have any questions. We'll be here.



  1. Mike,

    I have been reading your blog for a year now. I think you do a great job. If the stars align, we will begin a Great Loop trip out of Houston early next year. I liked your ingenious rat-defender disk idea. One question: will tying a knot in your dock line to position the disk compromise the line?

    Many thanks for your entertaining blog.

    Steve M.
    "Knot Wading"
    2004 Cruisers 405 Express MY

  2. Whether or "knot" tying a knot in our line will compromise it is a very good question, to which I have no basis for a knowledgeable answer in regard to the physics of a knot in a rope. I do know that the lines I used for tying us to this dock are at least ten years old, so they are compromised enough as it is. Also, the bends at the cleats are taxing the integrity of the lines as far as I can tell, but these are 5/8" lines and I think they have enough strength in them to do any job we need them to do. In the event of a major storm that we may try to ride out, I'll string the boat up in this slip like a spider strings up a fly in its web, using different line, however, probably just as old. One thing for certain, taking those knots out will be next to impossible, but I need a new reason to buy new ones anyway.