Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Time For An Adventure

  We know that trading for a home in the Florida Keys for one in Tampa would mean some compromises, one of those being the fantastic weather in winter that we enjoyed for a few years down there, and we're OK with it, but boy, this January has been unusually cold. But then again, no one further up north has been having a picnic either. We had some time free up a couple of weeks ago and I began eyeing the weather a bit further south, particularly in Marco Island.
  The forecast here in Tampa was a dismal one for last week, and Marco Island had some predictions that were running about ten degrees warmer than us. We didn't have time for a trip all the way down to the Keys, and the budget didn't warrant a trip all the way there either, so we thought that the 160 mile run to Marco Island would fit the bill.
  I like to think we keep Swing Set ready to go on a long trip at any time, so outside of a usual trip to the grocery store on a Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago, it was just a matter of topping off our water tank and taking the covers off of the boat and the dinghy and we were ready to head out.
  Naturally I checked the wind forecast, I do that any time we plan on leaving protected waters, and if we're in the dinghy we check the wind forecast every time. We had to be home in no more than 14 days, so I checked Windfinder for a window to return north and there was a small one in 12 days, so I decided it was good enough to head out. Really, staying in the Intracoastal wouldn't be an issue, but there is about a 45 mile run from
Ft. Myers to Marco Island that in a head sea can be nasty, but our current forecast showed northern winds for the trip down, and a turn for southern winds for a short period for the trip back. What we didn't concern ourselves with was the fog.
  We had nothing but time, so we wanted a nice relaxing cruise down on the inside, and initially it was, but I kept noting the fog out on the Gulf as we made our way down to Pass A Grille at Shell Key, where we normally venture out to cross Tampa Bay. When we passed
St. Johns Pass, I could see the fog was thick out there and it was coming inland.
  Now, of course we've had fog before, but not really since we've been near the ocean, so there was some things I wasn't aware of. One of those things was that I have been under the assumption that fog will dissipate once the sun warms the air temperature up by mid-day, but the one thing to consider is that the ocean stays cold this time of year no matter what the sun is doing. The other thing is that the weather people don't have a real handle on where there is going to be fog. They just say it's going to be "spotty", and it may or may not be where you are. No kidding.
  The fog settled in around us like a blanket as we started making way out Pass A Grille, and I started considering anchoring somewhere and waiting it out, but I thought maybe once we got out passed the warmer land mass the fog would lighten up so we went ahead.
  Now, I gotta say here that we weren't totally prepared for fog, as I discovered earlier last fall that our radar was not working. I don't use radar. The last time I used it was when we were returning from The Bahamas in 2013, and that was to see a rain storm so we could avoid it. I also rarely run at night, so the radar didn't seem so necessary.
  There was a boat following us, thinking we knew what we were doing, but he turned off and started calling marinas on his radio. I probably should have turned around too, but I trusted my instruments and I considered crossing the ship channel into Tampa Bay as our only dangerous point, and the ship channel is actually very narrow where we were going to cross. As it turned out, by the time we got to the crossing, the fog there wasn't too bad, we could see the Sunshine Skyway off to our east, and although it was worse out to the west, I was sure I could see a ship if it was coming our way. They go pretty slow through there anyway.
  I was feeling pretty good about our situation once we crossed the ship channel, but once we got behind Egmont Key and on to the east of Passage Key, the fog shrouded us again as I made way back into the Intracoastal for an intended anchorage on the inside of Longboat Key, between it and Jewfish Key, where we stayed for a few days when we first came through there in 2012.
  We inched along through Bradenton, twice coming across local fishermen running along at plane, one without running lights on. We had ours on and they saw us first and we didn't have a collision, but I was wondering about the intelligence of them not having their lights on, and us being out there in the first place.
  Once we reached the southern tip of Jewfish Key, a check of our chart showed some deep water out to the east of Jewfish Key, so I decided to check it out, remembering how tight it was in the anchorage we had been in before. We did't get too far when our depth gauge didn't agree with what I saw on the chart, but that's no surprise because the info on most charts are years old. I scrapped that plan and backed out to what I at least was vaguely familiar with. I did the best I could do with the visibility I had and dropped anchor as we lost the last of our light.
  I don't mind learning lessons, and when you're not as smart as you think you are, you're always learning lessons or paying to have your mistakes fixed. Right then I learned that I should have updated my anchoring application for our iPhone before we left port. Oops.
  Neither of my two "go to" anchoring apps would work, and I couldn't update them, but I was able to purchase a new app, and I had a choice between a 99 cent one and a $5.00 one, and since I've been programmed to think that more expensive means better, I chose the more expensive one. It's called, appropriately enough, Anchor Alarm.
  It works differently than the other apps I've used, and I think it's simpler. Simple is good for me. Once you acknowledge the disclaimer, your GPS is fixed, you check five boxes that apply to your situation, and you draw a line around the dot that is your position where you want to alarm to sound if you drift into the area where the line is. On an iPad, your position is in the shape of a boat. For five bucks, I want our boat to look like more than a dot, but I was using the phone, so I drew a shape that was similar to the deep water that we were setting in, only allowing about a hundred feet to drift in the longest direction.
  Last month I installed a Shakespeare T.V. antenna on Swing Set, so I turned on the T.V. and searched for channels and found a ton of them, but mainly we're only interested in CBS or NBC and both came in with phenomenal pictures. Rosie had been cooking a chuck roast in the crock pot on the way down, so we had a great dinner while watching the news and monitoring our anchor alarm. The alarm sounded once in the middle of the night when the boats swung around with the tide. I got up to check our position and reset the alarm. Nighty night.
  The next morning we were still socked in with fog and the wind had really picked up. By mid day, the fog was still thick, and I didn't want a replay of the previous day, and we had Sarasota Bay to negotiate with it's twist and turns, so as time was on our side and it was cold, we snuggled in and read our Kindles.
  Between reading one of the countless Robert Crais books, and thinking of other things, the sun peeked out late in the afternoon and I decided to address an issue with the dinghy davit that had been troubling me. In the last blog, I mentioned my satisfaction with the rig I had come up with for the new dinghy, but the little bit that our dinghy was swinging as we crossed some boat wakes on our way down had me rethinking my tie down method.
  Before we took delivery of the dinghy back in November, I had purchased some stainless steel ratcheting tie down straps, but I didn't come up with a good way to use them without causing stress on my davit arms and winch system. While reading "L.A. Detective", I thought that maybe I could still use the tie downs to keep the dinghy from swinging from side to side in rough water. When the sun popped out, I got out my drill and installed two stainless eye bolts on each davit, each into a bracket that was located just below where the bottom of the dinghy tubes rested against the davit arms. I ran one strap from the back lifting ring on the outside of the dinghy transom, under the starboard tube without it touching, and up to the davit support opposite it. Then I ran another strap under the dinghy from the bow eye back toward the stern to the rear davit support. They wouldn't be pulling the dinghy down, causing stress on the davit arms, but if I just snugged them up, they'd just be pulling against each other, keeping the dinghy from swinging side to side on the stern of Swing Set. I felt pretty confident that it would work, and it was simple. Later we got a chance to test the system in earnest.
  On Saturday morning the fog was lifted and we pulled up anchor at first light. It was cold and blustery and we dressed for it, but even though we had a full day of running down to Sanibel, it was less than pleasant. When we crossed Charlotte Harbor the wind had really picked up, but as predicted, it was on our stern, and it was a good thing. We had a three foot chop in the Bay and we ran Swing Set at cruise to smooth out our ride. Not many other boaters were out even though it was a Saturday. We pulled into Sanibel Marina and got fuel with the intention of putting out a hook on the southern end of Sanibel Island for a run down to Marco the next day, or at least to Naples, but conditions out in San Carlos Bay just west of Ft. Myers beach were not suitable for anchoring and it was getting late.
  We had spent about three weeks in the area back in 2012 visiting friends, so we knew the area some. I had ideas about where we could put a hook, but the winds were blowing in gusts over 25 miles per hour from the north. The lee side of most of those land masses were nothing but shallow water. Even though some folks we knew in the area were out of town at the time, we decided to head up the Caloosahatchee River to Bimini Basin where we spent most of our time in Cape Coral over five years ago.
  The channel into Bimini Basin is narrow, and we were at low tide, and even thought we had no issue using that channel five years ago, we were having an unusually extreme tide and we bumped going in just from the river. Had I remembered my local knowledge from those many years ago, I could have used another channel just to the east that would have gotten me to the same place, but alas, my memory just doesn't serve me as well as I would like.
  We eventually pulled into a crowded Bimini Basin, but found a spot with plenty of room and again dropped our hook just as the sun was going down. Once again we monitored our anchor app and located channels on our T.V. while noshing on a pork roast that had been cooking in the crock pot. Another full day.
  I was anxious to get going on Sunday morning and I knew the tide was low, but I've always thought that if you can get in, you can get out, so we pulled anchor and made way back out to the river to see if it was too rough for a run down to Marco Island. We never found out.
  In the channel out to the river proper I was trying to avoid the spot where I had bumped the bottom on the night before when a hellacious noise emanated from the bottom of the boat. It sounded like we had run up on some rocks, but even though I would have liked to see a bit more depth on the depth gauge, it wasn't shallow enough to be on rocks. But before figuring all that out, I had pulled the throttle back and put both transmissions in neutral.
  We had drifted into deeper water, but I didn't want to drift out of what was anyway a narrow channel anyway, so I put the starboard engine in gear, but only for a second as a noise somewhat like what you'd hear if you dragged a chain across a fence pipe caused me to quickly shut down that engine. A test of the port engine was good, so I began to make way out to the river and deeper what with one engine.
  Here is where I interject about something that has crossed my mind for several years about people wanting two engines in case one craps out. It doesn't always work.
  For our boat anyway, it was nearly impossible to steer, especially with the wind and current working against me. I kept spinning the wheel and feathering the transmission to get us out to the river. Once I somehow got us out there I couldn't turn the boat into the wind which was upriver and toward a marina that I knew had a travel lift. Before I could decide to drop a hook before we blew out of the channel and into a shoal, the same noise that caused me to shut down the starboard engine started coming from the running gear on the port side. I calmly shut down the port engine and was able to deploy a hook in a narrow channel of the Caloosahatchie.
  I can't say I didn't have a great sense of foreboding at that point, because I did. In fact the feeling I had was similar to the one I had a few months after we bought Swing Set. It was in late October on a nasty and blustery day in a slough off the channel of the Mississippi River when we ran aground. I don't think I knew about Towboat U.S. back then, but even so, I hate to ask for help from anyone, and I made two dips into the frigid Mississippi in my birthday suit to get us shoved off into deeper water. Two, because when I first got us off the sand, the wind blew us into another sandbar before I could get underway, and in my birthday suit because I didn't have a wetsuit onboard, or any dry clothes to put on if I got them wet. But I digress.
  The hook was out on the Caloosahatchie and I called Towboat U.S. There was a guy there in about twenty minutes since no one in their right mind was out on the water in the cold and wind. After considering taking us to the Marine Max up the river where I was thinking about going, the captain of the towboat suggested he tow our boat to Tarpon Point marina just downriver where we could get along a dock and he could dive on our running gear and take a look. Sounded good to us and Marine Max wasn't open on a Sunday as far as using the travel lift, and Monday was a holiday too.
  It just so happens that we had let our Gold Membership expire on Towboat U.S. and we only had basic coverage amounting to $300 when you add our boat insurance coverage with our basic $50 coverage on our Boat U.S. membership. We had intentions of increasing our coverage to the Gold Membership when our policy became due again at the end of the month. Two weeks away.

  Here we are along a nice transient dock at Tarpon Point. Yes, there are two Towboat U.S. vessels in the picture. Next, I'll tell you why.
  Ed, the first towboat operator, made a quick look under our boat without an air supply just to see what we had. He came up and told us we had a crab trap wrapped around the starboard shaft and prop, and the line for it had become tangled around the port shaft. I knew we hadn't seen a buoy for the trap, so we apparently drug it off the bottom in the shallow water. That's what you call "lucky".
  We have never used Towboat U.S. before even though, as I've mentioned, we've run aground and even picked up our share of crab pots, but this is January in Cape Coral, not the warm waters of Key West, so I had it in my mind to let Ed fix our problem if he could, but I also didn't know that Towboat U.S. operates on an hourly basis and Ed was the king of dragging his feet. I am also smart enough to not try to rush anyone who is doing you a favor even if you are paying for it.
  Ed took his good 'ole time getting tools and his air supply hooked up. When we got serious about untangling the crab pot from our running gear, he kept coming up to remind me of just how hard the job was going to be. He got the line untangled from the port side shaft, but came aboard to rest and tell me that the rebar from the crab pot on the starboard side was "wrapped tight" around the starboard shaft. He didn't know if he could get it off.
  At this point, mustering up as much tact as I am capable of mustering up, I told Ed that whatever he wanted to do was up to him, but if he left us there without a complete resolution of our problem, I was going to don my wetsuit and fire up our Hookamax and take that crab pot off of our prop and shaft if I had to, cold water or not. I think he believed me, so he came up with a plan.
  He said he would need a hand, and that there was liability issues if I got under the boat with him, so he would call a buddy that worked with him to help bend that pesky rebar wrapped around the shaft. I decided that "in for a penny, in for a pound", and told him to call his buddy. Billy arrived in the second boat in fairly short order.
  Of course we had to wait for Billy to don his gear (I didn't know Towboat U.S. was even prepared to dive under a boat needing assistance) and take his time acclimating himself to the water before getting down to business with Ed under our boat. In very short order they pulled up the crab pot that was twisted into a ball, and then the rebar that I thought was curled up like an elevator spring, but only slightly out of whack. But we were good to go with no collateral damage to the shaft or props. Ed did report a gouge in the tunnel where the rebar had tried to poke a hole in our bottom, but didn't. The only water coming into our bilge was from the port side dripless seal. I suspected a torqued seal and I knew I could deal with that on my own.
  The bill wasn't so bad after all. We let Ed swipe our VISA card for the $157 over what our insurance was going to cover, and we gave both Ed and Billy $50 each, not knowing what the protocol was. They seemed happy to get it as it was a slow day for them.
  It was too late to head to Marco, and too windy anyway, so we decided to treat ourselves after a disappointing day, so we called the harbormaster and booked our slip for the night and went up to one of the several restaurants there at Tarpon Point and had a nice dinner.
  The next morning the wind was forecasted to be on our stern if we headed for Marco Island, but we were both apprehensive about going on with our trip. We had had to spend some money we didn't plan on spending, but ultimately we figured we came this far and there was still a window to return on the following weekend if we did make it to Marco. We both agreed that if the Gulf was too rough once we got out past Ft. Myers, we'd turn around and head home on the Intracoastal. As it turned out we ran down to Marco on plane at least until we got to Naples, there we had to slow down for a multitude of crab pot buoys.
  Hurricane Irma tore up Marco Island, not as bad as the Keys, but we could see damage as we came slowly into the pass. I had never used this pass before and even though the chart looked OK, I didn't know what the hurricane had done to it. There was no other boats going in to follow. After a tense transit into the channel of the Marco River, I called the harbormaster at the Esplanade Marina to get a line of the channel into Collier Bay. I asked if the big boats in his marina were still going in and out and he said they were, but only at high tide. We just happened to be at high tide so in we went, through Collier Bay and then into Esplanade Bay.

  That's Swing Set in the upper center of the photo, safely on the hook in Smokehouse Bay where we spent seven nights in what turned out to be just about as cold as weather as Tampa was having.
  Our weather window to leave was holding up, but there was a fly in the ointment. We had to leave at high tide and high tide on the day we wanted to leave wasn't in the morning, which was our preference, but not until late in the afternoon. We would plan on leaving our anchorage on Sunday, get fuel and water, get a hook in Factory Bay and then leave to go north on Monday.

  We did have some warmer temperatures on our first day in Marco Island. We ran the dinghy up to Naples for lunch, and then came back to Keewaydin Island, where we spent about a week on the hook back in 2012.
  We touched base with some friends who snowbird in Marco, and met up with a chum from up on the Mississippi River. We spent some time at the Esplanade Marina and also was able to spend another day at the beach even though it was too cold to enjoy it.
  On Sunday we waited for high tide, but left on a rising tide when I saw a 59 footer leave the marina and head out to the river. We followed him with his five foot draft and neither one of us had a problem. Once we got out to the river, he headed to sea and we headed to Rose Marina for fuel. I was filling our port side tank when a familiar voice called out to Rosie.
  A friend from Fenton was having a beer at Jacks Lookout when someone mentioned that there was a woman in a thong on some Sea Ray at the fuel dock. He looked out and recognized Rosie and the boat and came out to say hello. It was a nice surprise to see him and we were sorry we didn't remember his family had a place down there. We had a quick chat and then we went out to Factory Bay to get an anchoring spot and relax with a beer or two and watch the sunset.
  I was up at five A.M. the next morning thinking it was six. Rosie got up too since if I ain't sleeping, she isn't either. We had a nice breakfast, checked weather again, and pulled anchor before sunrise at 6:45. There was enough light to see our way to the pass and we exited into the Gulf of Mexico at 7 A.M. As soon as we got into deep water I put Swing Set on plane with intentions of running straight to Clearwater with the boat. That almost happened.
  As we approached Sanibel Island I could see fog in the distance. The weather people were forecasting it to burn off by 9 A.M. but it was past that. It was calm enough to stop at anchor if we had to, but we could see the crab pot buoys good enough to press on, but once we got up around Captiva, we were so socked in I had to slow down to idle speed.
  It was soup. I was nervous as we passed the entrance to Charlotte Harbor, as that would be the last point where any bigger ships would be going, but we got passed that point and visibility improved to where I put Swing Set up to just on plane, about 20 miles per hour.
  We ran along with our running lights on, nervous as cats, but we were able to spot the crab pot buoys in time to avoid them. At one point we came upon a small fishing boat sitting there in the fog with no lights on. I'm pretty sure we scared the crappie out of them.
  By the time we got up to about Englewood, the sky cleared and we ran at our cruising speed of 25 MPH. I never ran our boat for so many miles at that speed and wasn't sure if we had enough fuel. At the midpoint we had more than twice our fuel left over so I relaxed a little. A back up plan would have been to pop in somewhere and fuel up but we didn't have to. It was a smooth ride all the way albeit a cold one. The winds picked up by the time we got to St. Petersburg, but they were on our stern quarter and weren't unpleasant. At a little less than seven hours after we left Marco Island we were entering Clearwater Pass.
  We fueled up at the Clearwater Beach Marina and learned that we had gotten .8 miles per gallon. I thought we could get a mile per gallon, but at least I know our range at cruising speed.
  After we pulled into the dock we rinsed the salt off of Swing Set and the dinghy and turned in early. The next morning I flushed all of the engines and fixed the leaking port side shaft seal. We headed home with a mini adventure behind us, not a big trip but considering not many boats even leave our harbor, we could be proud of ourselves for attempting it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

It's All About The Dinghy

  Hurricane Irma was devastating to so many people but a silver lining for us was our move to Clearwater Harbor Marina. We've adjusted to our new home for Swing Set and have settled in nicely.
  In the middle left in the posted photo is the Sand Key Bridge which leads from Clearwater Harbor out to the Gulf of Mexico. Being in close proximity to an inlet means dealing with a current, at times up to three miles per hour, that will affect us when we dock, but when you spend years boating on the Mississippi River, a little current can be dealt with.
  One way we deal with the current is that we turned the boat around (which was our intent in the first place) so that we are berthed bow in. Of course, pulling bow in to any slip should be easier for anyone, and backing out into the fairway is a piece of cake too. Our slip was not provided with one of those dock wheels on the outer corner, and we were told that the city would provide one simply if we would ask, but I could see how other wheels were installed in the other slips, so I decided to buy our own and install it the way I wanted to.
  I also ran our utilities from the post to a spot on the end of the finger next to Swing Set. I made the installation nice and neat, bunching the two 30 amp cords together with the water hose laying along the top, making a pyramid of the three lines. I used cable ties every eight inches, screwing them into the band board that runs along the side of concrete floating docks. I installed one of those boxes at the end of the finger to house a hose roller so I had access to our wash down hose without dragging it over the bow of the boat from the pedestal every time I wanted to use it. We decided to forgo the cable, which is not free at Clearwater Harbor Marina. One less thing every time we unhooked services for a boat ride, but more on that later.
  Since we share our double slip with another boat, I ran some of our old anchor line from the piling in the middle of the two slips over to the middle point of the dock, making it as tight as possible. This line provides a "guide", not only for us, but for our dock neighbor as well, so we have some room for error when entering or exiting the slip in any wind or current.
  I installed two big round inflatable fenders along the finger to keep our hull from constantly rubbing on the black dock edging when the wind or current is extreme from the south.
  We're happy with the result, and have received compliments from our boat neighbors as well as marina staff on the job. It's good to have marina staff like any "improvements" to a slip, especially when you don't ask for permission.
  Some folks like to be on the outer finger at this marina, for the view, but as you can see in the photo, to capitalize on the view you not only have to back into the slip, sometimes the harbormaster puts a transient vessel on the outer side of the pier which impedes the view, plus that outer pier gets the brunt of any wind or waves that blow in from the west, which is most of the time. We couldn't have hand picked a better slip to be in, and we still get a pretty good view of the sunsets.

  Previous posts have mentioned some mechanical problems we were having with the Mercury outboard on our dinghy. We thought we were on our way to getting them resolved until Hurricane Irma interfered. What started out as a simple carburetor rebuild turned into finding out we needed a new carburetor and throttle cables. When the mechanic we were dealing with suggested that getting a whole new engine would probably be the best way to go, I balked. It made no sense to me to discard what was a perfectly good running engine just because it needed a carburetor rebuild.
  I pulled the plug on the mechanic that we thought would fix us up, and after several calls to local Mercury mechanics, I settled on a local repair shop, and with some help, got the motor off the dinghy and to the shop, expecting to have it back in a few weeks. That was back in September.
  Meanwhile, we spent time on the water on Swing Set without the benefit of our dinghy and we were constantly reminded of how much we used the dinghy in the first place, which was a lot. As time wore on, and calls to the repair shop resulted in "we should be able to get to your motor next week", the seed was planted to just sell our motor and dinghy and get a whole new rig.
  Just like Irma, opportunity presents itself in some of the most inopportune moments, and acting on those moments can be a good thing if they're recognized. It came to be that we were able to recognize just one of those moments.
  In our nearly two years in the area we've met a handful of folks out on the water, and one couple in particular happened by our boat one day and tied up. Now, we had known that Brad, the male half of the couple, said he was in the business of "building boats", but I don't make it my business to probe too much into the business of others, so I really didn't know to what extent his "boat building" experience was made of, but I was telling Brad about our trouble getting the Mercury repaired on the dinghy and his girlfriend mentioned to Brad that maybe we were in the market for a new dinghy.
  Brad, not being a pushy sort, rather dismissed the idea until I pressed for details and we found out that he was the owner of one of the largest inflatable dealers in the Tampa/St. Pete area, Suncoast Inflatables. The seed was not only planted, but started taking root, especially after I went home and researched their website and saw what kind of boats that they offered.
  We played email tag and instant messaged a few times regarding what would be a good choice for us, given our specific davit requirements, and between what I knew about what I thought our davit would hold, and what Brad knew what was available, we decided on what dinghy was best for our needs, and Brad whole heartedly agreed.
  On a visit to his shop in Pinellas Park, there was a model similar to the one we were interested in on his showroom floor and Rosie and I both liked what we saw, but it was rated for a smaller engine than I wanted, and it had a Tohatsu engine on it. The 15 H.P. Mercury we had in the shop is essentially a Tohatsu motor, and from what I have learned about our own motor over the last six or seven years, I didn't want any part of a Tohatsu motor, I wanted a Yamaha outboard.
  Yamaha has recently come out with the lightest 25 H.P. motor in the industry, and it's a four stroke. The AB Mares 10 dinghy was rated for a 30 H.P. motor, but the suggestion was to install a 25 on that particular model. It was just our luck that Brad's extensive inventory included not only the Mares 10 with the 20" transom necessary for the bigger motor, he also had the Yamaha with power trim and tilt in stock. Not only was the seed planted and the tree  was growing rapidly, once Brad gave us a price on a whole new rig, I could envision the tree all grown and falling leaves were blocking up our gutters.
  By this time the repair shop came back with an estimate for the repair of our Mercury, but still hadn't even ordered the carb. I told them to order the carburetor and install it. I told them I had a buyer for our motor and dinghy and I needed it in a week. Then I set out to find a buyer.
  One of our boat neighbors said that a guy on our dock was looking for a dinghy, so when I saw him the next day I went to him and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He didn't even have a davit for a dinghy on his boat, but I also knew that if I was forced to trade our dinghy in, the offer I made to our dock neighbor was good for him, and good for us, and I told him that Suncoast Inflatables would store his dinghy for him until he could get a davit installed. He agreed on the price without countering, realizing the opportunity offered to him.
  We called Brad, told him we had made the deal with our boat neighbor on our old dinghy and set up a time to finalize the deal on the new rig for us. The Fort Lauderdale boat show had taken place the previous weekend and Brad gave us the "boat show price", plus a "friend of Brad" discount, and we used the savings to outfit our new rig with everything we needed in options so the result was exactly what we wanted given the parameters of a custom made davit made for a much lighter rig.
  We visited Suncoast Inflatables twice while our new dinghy was being rigged. I was impressed with the attention that was given to our purchase. The staff was in complete agreement with a couple of minor suggestions I made about how they rigged the boat, which was slated for delivery on the day before Thanksgiving.
  In the meantime, our Mercury was ready for pickup. I had sold it without even knowing how much the final cost was going to be, and was disappointed to find out that the bill was twice the estimate. When I went to pick up the motor I negotiated a lower price, but not by much. Still, the sale meant we didn't have to wait to find another buyer, or find a place to put our old dinghy if we didn't want Suncoast to sell in on consignment. 
  Again, with some help, I got the dinghy motor installed back on our old dinghy and took it out to make sure it ran right. After a call back to the technician who did the carb install, I made a quick minor adjustment to the idle and was satisfied with the operation so that I could sell the rig to a neighbor without regret. We spent a few hundred dollars more on the repair, but at the end of the day, we were very happy to be getting a new dinghy and motor, and our boat neighbor was happy to be getting his first dinghy.

  Here's a photo of our new dinghy, secure in a new harness on the stern of Swing Set after I spent of few sleepless nights figuring out how I was going to adapt a dinghy weighing about two hundred pounds more than our old one, plus with a console that was preventing me from winching up the dinghy as high as the last one.
  Faithfull blog readers may remember issues we had with our davit, going back to our trip to The Bahamas in 2013. The davit had broken at welds twice while we were over there. Since then we hadn't had any problems, and once I forgot to pull the plug on the bilge drain and rain filled the boat up with water and we took off from an anchorage with over two hundred pounds of extra weight in the dinghy. I only noticed this when we went on plane out in the Gulf and I saw the transom flexing from the extra weight. While that was not good, and I quickly drained the bilge on the dinghy at that point, at least I knew that the davit itself was strong enough to hold more weight. But I wanted some insurance.
  Bear with me while I convey to you how I approached housing our new boat on our old davit.
  In the photo, the boat is lifted and stored in "traveling mode". That's a new term for me as my approach with the old dinghy was pretty much either "up" or "down". In the up mode, the old dinghy was raised until the tubes made contact with the davit itself, on the arms that extend out over the swim platform. The console on the new dinghy prevented me from using that method, and I was opposed to cut anything supportive away from the davit, which was an option. But what I realized was that my method of securing the old dinghy used "opposing forces" to prevent the dinghy from swinging while underway. The cables on the winch were under stress just holding the dinghy up, and were under more when tightened against the force of the dinghy tubes when in contact with the davit.
  At first I thought of using ratcheting straps to hold the new dinghy in place, but again, that required an "opposing force" which I could quickly see was putting too much leverage on the davit arms, especially at the motor end.

  After first replacing the 3/16" cables with 1/4" polished stainless cables on each winch, I bought some small bow pulpit rollers that you can see in the previous picture. I rigged an auxiliary harness to run from the rollers to the attachment points on the dinghy harness. How this works is that I utilize the existing lifting pulleys on the davit, which is necessary otherwise the dinghy can't easily be pulled up due to how much the swim platform sticks out. I crank up the winches as high as possible and I run the auxiliary harness out to the end of the davit arms and then attach the carabiner to the dinghy harness. Then, I lower the winches and the rollers allow the harness to roll back until the dinghy rests against the upright supports of the davit. Some tension is left on the winch cables, but the majority of the weight is hanging from a point on the davit arms closer to the upright supports, and the weight of the dinghy against the davit supports, plus the angle of the cables, are instrumental in keeping the dinghy from swinging while underway. No, I don't know how this will work in extremes seas, but we have been able to avoid extreme conditions for several years and I'm fairly confident that we'll be able to continue to do so.

  Everyone knows a nice dinghy is necessary to keep most women happy, and Rosie and Holly both love the new rig. The seating position, power trim and tilt, plus electric start, are new additions to this dinghy that I'm not sure how we lived without for years. I highly recommend those features. We also have a depth finder, and I use the Navionics app on our phone to navigate. A Bluetooth speaker provides some tunes while we're underway and at anchor.
  We've taken the new boat down to Passage Key which is about 80 miles round trip. We cruise at 25 M.P.H. and get 12 M.P.G. doing it. Beats the 1 M.P.G. we get on the "big boat" and we keep it free hanging from the davits from our floating condo in the form of Swing Set at the marina in Clearwater.
  We're very happy we decided to buy this new boat. We know we'll get lots of use out of it on the beautiful beaches in our area, and we were really happy with the owner and staff at Suncoast Inflatables. By the way, within a couple of days of our boat neighbor taking possession of our old dinghy, Suncoast had him set up with a davit on the back of his boat.
  I can't go without relaying to you the one bad experience we've had at our new marina, but I hope how we've dealt with it can help someone else with a similar problem.
  We didn't have issues with birds too much at Marker 1 Marina, but for some reason the bird issue at Clearwater Harbor Marina is unbelievable. Twice a day, right at dawn, and then again at dusk, thousands of grackles, a member of the blackbird family, swarm in from the barrier islands and invade every boat in the harbor, lining bow rails, yardarms, bimini tops, and every other surface they can find, and for about a half an hour they appear to crap out everything they've ingested since their previous visit.
  There is little as disheartening to us other than leaving Swing Set all clean and shiny on a Monday and come back on a Friday to have it covered in bird poop. Other boats in the harbor were using Gull Sweeps, ribbons, wires, and other assorted methods to ward off those birds, along with pigeons and of course the pelicans. Anyone on board when the flying hoards would arrive can be seen out on deck clapping hands, or shining lights in an effort to keep them away.
  I declared war.
  We are taking a three pronged aggressive approach, and it seems that two prongs are working. First I found an app on the trusty iPhone called Pest Control for Birds for 99 cents.
I connected that to our Bluetooth speakers as the birds approached and sure enough, the eagle in distress sounds would keep the birds from roosting on our boat. That's great for when we're there, but the issue remained as far as when we weren't at the boat. To Amazon I went.
  I bought a gizmo that is motion activated that I installed on the top of the radar dome. The theory is that if birds landed on the bimini top, a light would flash and an ultrasonic sound would emit from the solar powered device. OK. The one thing about ultrasonic sounds is that I sure as hell can't tell if they are emitting or not, and the solar charging capability is great for the birds at dusk, but after sitting all night in the dark the device isn't up to scaring away much of anything as the batteries are dead by morning. Hence, prong number two.
  I was mentioning my dilemma to our neighbor here at our condo, and he suggested a decoy bird that flies from a pole. An outfit called "Jackite" sells various decoy birds such as eagles, ospreys, and Canadian Geese. He said that I wouldn't believe it, but the Canadian Goose decoy would work best. I had my doubts, but installed one anyway, and it works! 
  I would think the eagle or osprey would be best for around the water, but the eagles is big and doesn't fly without a whole lot of wind, and the osprey is too small.
  Yes, the wind does not blow all the time, but the tackles are birds of habit, as most birds are, and apparently if the birds have seen the goose flying once, they avoid it whether it's flying or hanging there looking dead. But there is still prong number three.
  From I bought a CD that has a 30 minute loop of various bird sounds that claim to keep crows and other birds away. For ten bucks, and another ten for shipping, I ordered one and play it on our outside speakers while we are gone. It's not loud enough to annoy our neighbors, but even if they can hear it while sitting on their deck, they are getting some residual benefits from my war on the birds, as not only is our boat clean when we get to it every week, theirs is too.
  Now, we do get some flyover bombs, you can hardly avoid that, but another thing I did was coat our bimini canvas with new waterproofing so that any new deposits will easily hose off. Bird poop, especially pelican poop, will eat through canvas if left on there, so we don't.
  Some boat neighbors have taken notice and I've delivered two of the decoy geese to them, thinking I could start a franchise. Just one of those opportunities.