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 Birdbusters.com 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.