Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Goin' Mobile

  This post isn't about that great Who song, but it's about friends finding ways to come down to see us here in Key West, and us keeping our options open regarding finding ways to transport our small inventory of possessions.

  You might have seen our solution as to how we transport our Yuba cargo bicycle on Swing Set on a previous post. We haven't had our Boda Boda onboard since we got here to Stock Island Marina Village, but we can get it stowed safely away in a matter of minutes.
  Hurricane preparation has been weighing on my mind recently, not too heavily, I might add, but I like to have a plan. What has complicated our plan was the acquisition of our Yamaha Zuma scooter.
  We have full coverage insurance on the Zuma, but leaving it locked on land in the event of a storm could leave it in danger of getting drowned by water covering the pier if the surge is too great. I don't like to see anything get ruined if I can help it, so I began to figure out a way to put the Zuma onboard Swing Set, whether we decide to stay put here, or make tracks to avoid any storm.
  You can see the two motorcycle ramps we purchased from Amazon a few weeks ago in the above photo. They each weigh 15 pounds, and are foldable. They hold up to 750 pounds and I can stow them in the bilge for a short period of time. I haven't tried out the system yet, but I'm fairly confident that I can get our 250 pound scooter onboard by myself, or at least with Rosie's help. We try to be a self sufficient as we can, especially in the event of an emergency.
  As equally important is having a place to tie down the Zuma once we get it into the cockpit, and the tape measurer was put into service multiple times before the ramps were ever ordered.
  I installed a "D" ring at the transom, next to our movable transom seat, where our cockpit trashcan sits. The front wheel of the Zuma will rest against the sturdy transom and I'll strap it down on each side, using the "D" ring on one side, and the cockpit seat bracket on the other. I can them squeeze the Zuma against the starboard side of the cockpit with the rear wheel just clearing the salon door. This leaves room to still open the hatch to the engine room. Our deck chairs, or at least one of them, will have to sit in the salon when the Zuma is onboard.
  This method is not pretty, but it  gives us options, and the cost was about $170. We like having our options, and part of living on a boat is at least the idea that we still have options. I've said it before that cruisers who rely on having a vehicle that they need to play hopscotch with as they shuttle it from marina to marina are just asking for more trouble than it is worth.

  Also mobile are our friends. Curt and Kathy, in the photo with us above, were in Naples and got a wild hair and took the Key West Express down and met us when we were at Dante's weekend before last. We spent a worldwind two days with them before they blasted back to their home in Missouri to prepare for a wild weekend on their boat at Lake of the Ozarks for Memorial weekend.

  We barely got two days rest and the folks in the photo above swooped down upon us, again on the Key West Express, only this time from Englewood, and we spent the day at Dante's and the night on Duval Street, before they flew out of town in a rental car, back to Englewood, Florida. Jill and Shelley, along with Rich, were lots of fun and hard to keep up with.
  We still have one currently outstanding issue concerning projects on the boat, and that being getting our SeaDek pads replaced on our cockpit steps. I keep getting promises from Castaway Customs that our pads are "on the way", but at some point, promises run out and words need to turn into actions. October will be two years since I started trying to get this done. Tyler, at Castaway Customs was down here in March to measure for the pads. It would be hard to believe he would take the time to come by and do the measuring if he won't find the time to cut the pads and ship them. We remain patient. For now.
  We're looking for a weather window to make another run to the Dry Tortugas, and we may have one this upcoming weekend, but economics are also playing a part. Our fuel tanks are a bit low, and not only do we need to fill them up to make the trip, we'll have to fill them back up when we return in order to be ready if we have to beat feet out of here to avoid a storm if we choose to.
  I've figured that to move Swing Set, even at a slow 9 m.p.h., costs about $1000 per 150 miles, give or take. That's within our budget, but if you've been following us for the last few months, you know we have had some pretty big expenditures since our new generator purchase back in December. One thing we've been able to do is just stay put and let our finances catch up to our budget if we get a little lopsided.
  The other day we finished up some swordfish steaks we obtained from some local commercial fishermen, some of the best eating we've had onboard the boat, outside of the fresh lobster we acquired in The Bahamas. We were contemplating how we were going to get some more fresh seafood, at a reasonable price, when one of our boat neighbors came over with a big bag of fresh Mahi Mahi, (Dolphin, the fish, if you don't know.), a gift to us for looking after some work on his boat while he was gone for a few weeks.
  You might notice I keep using the word "acquire", because it would appear that us fishing for any of this fresh seafood seems to be out of the question. We like acquiring.
  We deep fried the Mahi in a beer batter, using our Magna grill, keeping the grease and smell outside. Coupled with a salad and some macaroni and cheese, we had a feast last Sunday night when we got back from a day "at the beach" in our dinghy. Leftovers provided us with some great fish tacos at the end of our Memorial Day weekend last night.
  Some other boat neighbors left yesterday to head up the coast for the summer, saying they'll miss us, but will return next winter. We might be here, it's hard to say.
  Some other boat neighbors are heading out in a week or so to return to Fort Myers indefinitely. They've been fun and we'll miss them, but they like Key West and we think they'll be back occasionally, having easy access to the Key West Express.
  It's nice having good dock neighbors, but it's hell having bad ones. But unlike a house or condo, when we get boat neighbors we'd rather do without, we know that sooner or later, either they will leave, or we have the option to leave too, if we want.
  Like I told our neighbors who left yesterday, "Sometimes the best feeling one can have about neighbors, is ambivalence". If you've ever had a neighbor that you can't stand, you know what I mean.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sound Of Music

    Our friend Jackie came for a whirlwind two day visit a couple of weeks ago. She drove down from Naples where she is going to establish residence there and start life anew after leaving Missouri.
  We were able to get out on the dinghy before a pretty good storm blew up on us, but overnight the skies cleared up so we could spend the afternoon in the pool at Dante's. We needed quite a bit of rest after she left on Monday morning, something that seems to be required after all of our friends leave us.
  The last time we had Swing Set out, we discovered that our stereo was not working properly. I fiddled around with the wiring, (never a good idea), and got one part of the problem fixed, but then we discovered another one.
  We know a local marine electrician, Bill deSeve, owner of Key West Marine Electronics, and he found time to come to the boat and diagnose our problem.
  Our stereo system is not that old, having been installed just four or five years ago, but Bill found that not only one of our new speakers was toast, our amplifier was also not operating correctly. Bill ordered a new amp and a new set of speakers and within a week he was back to install our new components.
  We all left the boat so soon after Bill had completed his work, we didn't try everything out once it was all buttoned up. We came back to the boat after running some errands and we found that our outside speakers were not putting out enough sound.
  Bill came back within a few days and very reluctantly revealed to us that the head unit on our Clarion stereo was also bad, having been affected by the faulty amplifier.
  Now most people would have suspected something fishy, but we've spent enough time with Bill that doubting his word or ability was out of the question. We told him to order us a new head unit if he would promise to install it as soon as it came in. That was last Thursday and today our stereo is installed and everything is working great.
  Bill was very fair with his labor charges due to the trouble he had diagnosing the problem, but solving a problem is much harder to due when more than one component of a system is faulty.
  The marine environment is tough on electronics, even though our stereo is housed in the salon. We expected better longevity from our stereo system, but it's hard to predict how long things are going to last on a boat.
  One the upside, we have a better marine amplifier, and our receiver is now Bluetooth compatible, so we can play our music from our iPad or iPhone from anywhere on our near the boat. I can't wait to lounge on a raft behind the boat at anchorage and control the music from my iPhone. I suppose our stereo nut friends back in Missouri already have been doing such a thing, but we're always late catching up on trends like this.
  We discussed some other projects with Bill before he left the boat, but we have one more item to address on the boat before we take a break from spending, if we can, and that is to install our new SeaDek pads on the outside stairs from the cockpit.
  We have been promised to obtain our new pads from Castaway Customs by the weekend, but I'm not holding my breath. It's been two years since we first approached the subject of getting new pads from Castaway Customs, the areas authorized SeaDek dealer.
  I hope I have some good news about it for our next blog.
  The weather was been very windy lately and we didn't get to go out in the dinghy, or the boat, for over a week. Now it's been raining and it looks like it'll be yet another week before we can leave the dock in any boat.
  Besides the work we've been doing on the boat, we started a Cruisers Network on Facebook for the residents and visitors to the marina. You can check out the open group at Stock Island Marina Village Cruisers Network on Facebook. We have fifty members so far, but it's hard getting it off of the ground. Our intention is for it to take the place of a VHF Cruisers Network, which there wasn't one here at Stock Island Marina Village.
  We also want to take another trip over to Fort Jefferson when we can get a weather window, but first we might get some more visitors weekend after next and I have a notion that we better get prepared for them. They'll arrive like a tornado and go out like one too!