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 DockSearch.com 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.