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?