Thursday, December 24, 2015

Changes On The Horizon

  The view from the stern of Swing Set looks the same...but not for long. 
  We are ones who embrace change, we look forward to it, and encourage it. In fact we are catalysts for it. There is a big one coming up.
  But first...When we returned from our trip to Key West, which was one month after returning the boat to the water after bottom painting, I finally got around to checking the bottom to see how our new paint held up. It did, and it didn't.
  The paint on the hull looked fine, with the exception of some "wrinkles" where the straps on the travel-lift smashed the new paint, as we didn't allow for it to dry long enough. Check one lesson learned for next time. The major disappointment was that I found that the paint on all of the metal had sloughed off on a wholesale basis, right down to the bare metal. Ouch. This was the main reason we hauled the boat in the first place because the PropSpeed didn't hold up. Now I have to give the Interlux Primocon a thumbs down too, even if I didn't apply it properly, at least for the time being.
  The whole bottom painting debacle is what got me started thinking about moving the boat further north, allowing us to have cheaper rent, have access to more boatyards for service and bottom painting, and to also look into real estate that was not so ridiculously overpriced.

  In retrospect, the idea about expanding our horizons must have been brewing in my brain for some months, because back in September we leased a truck, as pictured above with Rosie at Sombrero Beach.
  So the seed was planted back then, and when the thought of moving moved to the forefront of my active mind, I ran with it, and Rosie was thoroughly on board. As in the past, when I get an idea, I run with it. I become so focused on what it is I want to do, the details get pushed aside, and for good or bad, what I want to accomplish consumes my only thoughts.
  I began by researching marinas along the West coast of Florida, but I didn't have to search long, as checking out marinas is something I've been doing for the last three years. Now, when we were in the planning stage, back in St. Louis, Tarpon Springs was high on my list. The reason being was that the area of Land O' Lakes is nearby. We have friends in that area, and have visited there many times over the last thirty years, and have always considered it to be a place where we could have a small condo and keep the boat fairly close in order to share time at both places.
  We both fell out of favor with Tarpon Springs on our way down the coast three years ago. We didn't like the water quality, and the marinas for the most part were about an hours idle up the Anclote River. The two hours to and from needed to get to any open water was a deal breaker for us.
  Later, when we visited our friends in Cape Coral, the idea of living anywhere north of there became a thing of the past, as we learned that the warmer weather in winter was mainly south of the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area.
  But something made me concentrate on the Clearwater area again. I started reading reviews on Active Captain about anchorages and beaches from Clearwater to Tarpon Springs. I noticed lots of comments about white sand beaches all along that area. I also noticed the string of barrier islands protecting the mainland in this same area, and a marina in Dunedin caught my eye.
  Before we left for Key West I called Marker 1 Marina and talked at length to the Harbormaster there. I thought we had a good rapport, and he seemed to be able to accommodate us upon our expected arrival date of after the New Year for a boat of our size and our needs. I also called some others, but eventually decided that if we moved the boat, it was going to be to Marker 1 Marina.
  Marker 1 is not a live aboard marina. That is a problem. I talked to folks here at Marathon Marina who have kept their boat there, and they said that like many other "rules" at Marker 1 Marina, the rule about not allowing live boards was largely ignored, the rule only being enforced when someone causes a problem. We've found this to be the case in many marinas when they have the no live aboard rule. (My thought is that marinas have the official policy of no live boards to satisfy their insurance carriers.)
  Knowing we could probably skirt the no live aboard policy, or at least spend enough days on the hook to technically adhere to the policy, I still wanted to satisfy my curiosity about real estate prices in the Land O' Lakes area, so I called a couple of friends that live there. The ball really started rolling then.
  Before we left for Key West, we had booked a studio apartment for three months, as well as told the folks at Marker 1 Marina that we'd be up to visit by the 4th of December. This is where the truck comes in.
  We intended on stopping by Marker 1 Marina on our way to Land O' Lakes on the 4th, a Friday, when I called and found out that everyone we needed to talk to about a slip was not around that day, so we headed straight for the studio apartment, planning on visiting Marker 1 Marina the next day.
  The place where we wanted to look at property, and where our temporary apartment was located, is in a resort complex, as I've mentioned, a place where we have been visiting for many years. Once we got settled in, we took a stroll around the property and was pleasantly surprised. The "club" area of the resort was in good shape, as was the residential buildings around it. In fact, the pool area was getting a major renovation and the new owner was doing his part in keeping up with improvements. We liked what we saw, which was one reason to inspect the property in person and not rely on what someone else thought.
  We saw a For Sale By Owner sign on a townhouse in a building overlooking the main pool and club area, a section of the resort that we've always wanted to have a place if we ever wound up buying property there. We jotted down the phone number, and then ran into a guy we met years ago that just happened to have a park model home for sale in the RV area of the resort. With nothing else to do, we took a tour of the place, and really liked it, but wanted to sleep on it as well as look at some other places for sale.
  The next morning we headed for Dunedin, home of Marker 1 Marina. Just thirty miles west of Land O' Lakes, the forty-five minute drive is a pleasant one, through some scenic (for Florida) countryside, and no busy interstate highways to lose your mind on.
  We stopped in the harbormaster office and met one of the harbormasters and "Tempie" gave us directions of the slip that they had picked out for us based on what I told them we needed.

  We requested a slip with a long pier on one side so we could deploy the dinghy if we docked bow in. There are only a handful of slips in the whole marina that have long finger piers on one side, and such a slip was reserved for us. Rosie is standing in front of it for the photo. There is one row of boats blocking our view of the open water, but given our experience here in Marathon Marina, the additional protection will be welcome in a southerly blow.

  Here's a view from the outer dock. The slip we wound up paying a deposit on is the empty one in the middle of the picture. Sure, we would really like a floating dock, but at $11 per foot, per month, we can exist just fine in this slip. It's officially ours on January 1st, paid in full.
  We had called the owner of the townhouse for sale earlier in the day and as we made our way to downtown Dunedin, we got a call back and was told that we could view the property the next day, so we made an appointment for 10 A.M. on Sunday. We couldn't wait to see it.
  We had lunch in Dunedin at a place called the Living Room. We ate outside where we could have Holly with us, and there were several other dog owners having lunch too. Servers brought doggy water bowls and strips of bacon for the pets. We won't let Holly have bacon, but I asked for a strip for myself.
  A drive down Mainstream Dunedin was a delight. The town appears very clean and there are lots of restaurants and bars. An outside bazaar was in full swing, and parking is totally free. I said free. We were impressed with Dunedin, it has a true "Old Florida" feel.
  We met the owner of the property we wanted to see at 10 o'clock sharp. We held back our enthusiasm as much as we could but without even talking to one another, we both knew that the other liked the place very much. After a thorough tour, we spent some brief time alone, rejoined the owner and made an attractive offer, but less than the asking price.
  The owner countered reasonably, and we agreed, but only if we could sign the contract that afternoon. By 2 P.M. we were signing the contract for purchase at the real estate office, with possession to take place on February 1st. We spent the rest of the afternoon having beers with Dee, the seller, asking about her experience at the resort and her plans for when she moves. Turns out Dee and her husband only had the place a couple of months before he had a stroke and died. Dee put her energy and dealt with her grief by focusing on going ahead with major renovations to the townhouse, of which we will now benefit from. We left at nearly 10 P.M., new owners of a place on land to call home, as well as a new friend.
  Our other friends in the area said that we could never be accused of dragging our feet.
  One word about the townhouse; the second bedroom is a separate lock-out, complete with a kitchen, bathroom, small sitting room, a nice sized bedroom, and an outside covered and screened in deck, that a person or couple could live full time in. We'll rent out the "studio" by the night, week, or month for extra income. In fact, we have the studio rented already for the month of March!
  We spent two full weeks exploring around what is to be our new "land home", and was amazed at the changes we found and were pleased to see the results. We think that the variety of trading time between the resort and the boat will keep everything fresh for us.
  One thing that we think we'll find is that the area we'll be boating in is better suited for what we like, with plenty of beaches, and with the protected water of St. Joseph's Sound to transit between Clearwater and Anclote Key. We'll meet folks at the resort, as well as friends we already have in the area, to take as guests out on Swing Set, something we like to do to get the most enjoyment out of our boat. We'll have more on that later.
  One thing is that we won't be spending so much on dock rent that we don't want to leave the dock. I think we'll be more inclined to take some week long, or longer, trips and not worry about how much we're paying for a slip that we're not in. We can dinghy to all of the many beaches in the area without being in open water, and leave Swing Set in the slip if we want. If the weather gets cold in Dunedin, we can cast off and head for warmer weather and still have all the comforts of home. This is something we're used to.
  Tarpon Springs does have an abundance of boatyards. If you don't know it, Tarpon Springs is largely a Greek community, and the Greeks there still hold to their boating roots. I have an eye on one boatyard in particular, Pittman's Yacht Services, where we'll pop in and talk to them about getting some anti-fouling paint on our running gear that will hold up.
  As it is, we're back in Marathon to spend the holiday, and some good friends are coming to visit on Sunday. They're here for a short stay, and then we'll head out of here by New Year's Eve and point the boat towards Dunedin, weather permitting of course.
  Some changes to the blog are probably in order since we're not officially "live aboard full time cruisers" any longer. But if you've been paying attention, we haven't been that for a couple of years now. We'll still be swingsetonthehook, but will probably change the description, and hopefully still be able to give you something to enjoy reading about occasionally.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Drip Drip Drip Can Sink the Ship

  After about ten hours of running time on our new bottom paint job, almost four hours of that at our cruising speed of 25 M.P.H., I decided yesterday to strap on my goggles and take a look at the boat bottom. Not good.
  Although no paint had fallen off of the hull itself, as far as my quick assessment could tell me, but the metal parts such as the shafts, rudders, exhaust outlets, and props, all had chunks of paint missing.
  There could be several reasons for this happening, but there is no doubt in my mind that surface prep and improper paint application are the reasons for the paint not sticking.
  No, I'm not going to bother trying to hold our marina responsible, again for several reasons, but a few of them are that I was the one who finished up the painting process on the underwater metal parts because the yard laborer who was supposed to do the work went on vacation before the work on our boat was finished. I also believe we launched Swing Set too early before the paint was completely dry, and probably didn't wait long enough between coats.
  The bottom line is that the boatyard here is not equipped to do much service work. I believe the focus on Marathon Marina and Resort as being a resort and marina is better suited for them rather than being a service facility.
  Also, we're leaving in a couple of days to drive north for some recon in order to find a more affordable marina, hopefully one with really good service facilities nearby. I think we have an eye on a good one. On my last post we got a few suggestions as to where we should keep the boat; those suggestions were ignored as being in areas where we have no intention of ever living.
  Maybe I'll do a quick haul out once we get settled just to address the underwater running gear, as like I mentioned, the hull looks O.K. except where the slings came in contact with the fresh paint where now it looks and feels wrinkled. Really wrinkled.
  Last but not least, the yard laborer who did the majority of the surface prep and painting on Swing Set is now in jail for what looks to be a long time. But that's another story.
  How about some good news?
  You may remember my post about cleaning up the shafts and reseating our dripless shaft seals so they would quit leaking. We have Strong brand Sure Seal System shaft seals on Swing Set. Well, the seal on the starboard shaft is tight and keeps the bilge dry as a bone, but the portside shaft seal has continued to drip at a steady rate. A steady drip if you're living onboard is one thing, but leaving a vessel unattended with a little drip can lead to disaster. (I read a statistic once that said the leading cause of boats sinking is due to shaft seals leaking. I believe it.)
  We have spare shaft seals in place on our driveshafts, I suppose they have been there since the boat was new, but I had been reluctant to use them because if I did, then...well then I'd have no more spare ones would I? But after trying to clean up the portside shaft and reseat the seal again, I went ahead and decided to use the spare on the portside to stop the drip.
  I utilized my friend Mr. Google once again for a quick video of how to attack the seal replacement chore. One thing that had me worried was just how much water was going to come rushing into the bilge when I pulled out the old seal, but the video and the commentary that came along with it assured me that it was no big deal.
  Now, I'm not giving a tutorial here on how to do this seal replacement, I would want you to do your own research if you need to perform this task, but I do have a few tips that may be of use to anyone attempting the job.
  One thing is that an allen wrench is needed for the seal housing, and an allen wrench won't turn around all the way because the drive shaft is in the way, so I used a socket with the appropriate size allen bit installed. This made quick work of the tedious job of tightening the five allen bolts. (Make sure they're started by hand to avoid stripping the threads on the housing.)
  I also used a small mallet to tap in the seal. I was happy to find that the new seal was still tight, as old as it was. (There is also a story here, but don't tempt me.)
  Anyway, the new seal is installed with not much trouble, and not a drip to be seen. Now I feel much better about leaving the boat for a couple of weeks although our neighbor has promised to keep an eye on Swing Set.
  I mentioned the mallet before, well I think I did, but I keep the mallet in the engine room along with several sizes of plugs. The theory is that is you get a hole in the hull somewhere, you can quickly grab a plug and hammer it home. I can see where this may apply in the case of a through hull valve breaking off, but any other hole will be jagged, and most likely occur in a spot where you can't swing a mallet, but at least I have good intentions.
  I also have a small assortment of rubber plugs to stick into the ends of hoses if I take any off in the course of some service work when I don't want stuff to leak out or in. I can't tell you how many times I took a hose off and scrambled around to find something to stick into the hose to stop the flow of water or other liquid. (Fingers are usually too fat. Don't ask.)