Monthly Archives: February 2015

Manatee visit and pig races

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

Today was a big day. First, it was day 2 of the national pig day celebration…something Tricia was really excited about, given her love for pigs. It included pig races which we bet on. She picked the names for the 3 races we bet on, picking Shakin’ Bacon, Katie Piggy Perry and Lindsay Lowham. We won 2 out of three and it was a hoot.

Before we left for the pig races we saw a manatee swimming next to some of the boats in the marina, and when we got back it was swimming by our boat…
…and by our neighboring boat of friends Bob and Cat. It hung around for close to an hour and was very tame. It loved having it’s belly rubbed:

It was very cool to interact with this manatee. Cat got into the water and the manatee was pretty spooked and swam away. We noticed scars on it’s back and chunks out of the tail, indications that it had some run-ins with boats…a real bummer to see:

A really cool day!

Happy Birthday Caedance

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

First, happy 2nd birthday to our granddaughter Caedance!
Caedance 2015
We love you and miss you, as well as all of our kids and grandkids. I can’t believe she is 2 already. We are bummed about missing out in the celebration.

There hasn’t been much exciting going on here. The weather has been great and we have been doing work in the mornings and then relaxing in the afternoons, as it has been getting hot (sorry northern friends). Our new batteries are installed and it looks like we could be getting to use our friends car for a few days starting next Monday. We plan to take the old batteries back to Walmart and then do a Costco run in Miami. Other than that we have been working on teak refinishing and our taxes (that sucks), thinking we will attempt a run to the Bahamas in the first weather window in March. Right now it doesn’t look good for the next 2 weeks, but we have been getting ready. We got a sim card for my iphone that will work there, giving us voice and data, and we bought our Bahamian courtesy flag. For those who don’t know, when you get to a foreign country in your boat, you fly a yellow flag – called a Q flag or quarantine flag – from the starboard (right side of the boat) spreader until you clear customs and immigration, at which point you fly the courtesy flag and take the Q flag down. You must fly the courtesy flag until you depart. If the weather window doesn’t open pretty soon, we’ll probably just start moving north…very slowly…as we need to be above the Florida line before hurricane season, and we are also renting a house with the kids and grandkids at Kure Beach NC the first week in June.

You folks up north…keep warm. We are not missing the mess that you are dealing with. We are missing all the people though. Looking forward to seeing everyone on our next visit.

A couple of great days

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

The weather has started to turn for the better. Winds have died down and shifted to the east, and the temperature has been close to 80 the last 2 days. This is the normal winter pattern and it is a welcome site. Our sympathies to friends and family up north who are dealing with a nasty, nasty winter, and I am sure the worst we had here would be a delight to those folks. All I can say is…move south! If I had known how much better this is, I would have pushed harder to get here sooner.

We had a fantastic couple of days with our extended family members Jim and Linda. They are some of the best people you could ever meet in this world, and we were delighted that they made the trip here to spend some time with us. We went to Key West yesterday and hit all of our favorite spots. Here we are at the Green Parrot:
We also stumbled upon this really cool Banyan Tree:
We wish they could have stayed longer.

Also thanks to Jim and Linda, we had the new batteries for the boat before we needed to pull the old ones out. That gave me the chance today to charge them up and make sure they are ok before going through the pain-in-the-ass effort of changing them out.

We heard on the cruisers net today about lots of people finally getting a weather window to make a run to the Bahamas, and several of our friends that have been waiting in the Miami area are also going too. There is a lot of discussion here at Harbour Cay about making the next move, some going to the Bahamas, some moving slowly back north. Maris and Linda on Amekaya left Saturday, and Mark and Jane on Average Looper are leaving Tuesday. There is an element of bittersweet in all of this, as we have made new friendships and have enjoyed spending time with everyone here. At the same time, it is exciting to think about the adventures to come and checking out new places.

As for us, we are still planning to shove off to the Bahamas early in March, hopefully after getting some solar panels installed. Stay tuned….

Typical day in the life

Marathon FL
Posted By Bill

Frequently, non-cruisers want to know what it is like to live like this. Yesterday was so typical that I thought it was a good thing to blog about to help people understand the lifestyle.

If you follow the blog you know we have a battery issue. I did all the research and decided to go with Full River AGM group 31 batteries, and buy them from a discount battery dealer in Miami called DC Battery Specialists. Our friends, that we consider family, Jim and Linda, have been wintering and doing a cruise in the Fort Lauderdale area during the last 3 weeks or so. They wanted to stay in Marathon for a few days to see us and are on their way as I type. Now you have the back ground info.

Our original thought was to rent a car in Marathon, take the current batteries back to Walmart, get our money (if we can) back, pick up the new batteries in north Miami, hit a Costco, and come home. This will take all day, and the refrigerator and freezer on the boat would be without power . Not a huge deal, but less than desirable.

Then Tricia’s friend, who lives in Key West, offered her car to us for several days so we didn’t have to deal with a rental…very generous. We made a plan, and then her daughter had some car trouble and we had to abort…no problem…she would set it up for another period.

Yesterday, Jim called and asked if they could pick something up for us on their way down. I asked which way they were going to go, and it turned out that DC Battery is less than 1/2 mile off their path. So I call DC and ask if someone else can pick them up…yes they can. Then check with Jim to make sure he is ok with going there…yes they are. In the mean time, DC sends me an invoice and tells me that the batteries have to be paid for before Jim picks them up. Oh…and they don’t take credit cards. We can pay via money wire, ACH transfer or depositing a check into their account at a Bank of America Branch. I try a money wire or ACH from our bank accounts, but all of them have a 2 day process. Then I try brokerage accounts, which allow you to wire for no charge. So I call DC back and tell them that a wire would be the mode of payment. They told me that it would probably be a day or so before it processed through their system…bummer. Finally, I see on Google that there is a Bank of America branch in Marathon a couple of miles away. I call them to make sure they are open, then call DC back to see if that will process fast enough, and it looks like it will work.

As an aside, we have been hauling 40 pounds of rolled coins that we grabbed in our haste when we left Ohio 5 months ago. So I get a backpack, load up the coins, ride my bike in the 28 knot winds to the bank. They take the check and gladly exchange the coins for dollars (and didn’t even charge me a fee). I stop by the grocery since I am right next door and pick up as much stuff as I can carry back on my bike. I ride home in the 28 knot winds, call DC to make sure the money hit the account and that the batteries would be waiting for Jim, and let Jim know that we are all set.

I started this process at 9 AM and it is now 4:30 PM. It has taken an entire day to buy batteries and go to the grocery.

We will still have to get a car to take the existing batteries back to Walmart, but having the replacements ahead of time will allow us to run the boat systems while we do the return. As crazy as it sounds, I feel really good that I got all of these things to line up, and save the crap in our freezer and refrigerator when we make the return at Walmart! It was a very satisfying day!

Sitting through some rough weather

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

We knew it was coming…and it did.

As stated before, this has been an abnormal winter in the keys. North winds that last for days on end with high wind and chilly temps. This one was forecasted to be an ass kicker with winds over 30 knots several days over the course of a long weekend.

We were invited to cook out with 4 of our new friends at Harbour Cay Club the night before last, and in spite of the cold and wind, we had a great time. Then the shit hit the fan and we were blasted by 35 knot winds out of the northwest all night. We had white cap waves rolling into the docks. I awoke around 2 to check out the dock lines, and I stood on the dock watching our 42 foot 23,000 pound boat repeatedly rise up and smash down into the oncoming water. The rise and fall was easily a range of 5 or 6 feet. I stood bewildered about how to adjust the lines to reduce the stress on the boat, but after a couple of adjustments just let it be.

The next day continued the same. The winds abated to the 25-30 knot range and then 20-27 knot, and the boat smashing stopped. The rocking and rolling did not. Our friends Jim and Jackie, stopped for a visit from their place on Big Pine Key, and they took one look at the boat being tossed around, and said “let’s just sit in the car and visit”…good move! Actually, you get used to the motion after awhile, but if you have other options, you usually take them. We had a fish fry at Harbour Cay last night which was really good eating and social time. It was downright cold for the keys, but we had some protection from the wind and everyone wore jackets and long pants. Then it was back to the boat and another night of little to no sleep. Temps went down into the mid-50s.

Today, the wind shifted to east-north east which protects us from the seas and also breaks the wind some. The worst is over and temps will be back to normal tomorrow. If we had to endure this crap on a regular basis, we would be dirt dwellers, believe me.

A visit with Homeland Security

Key West FL
Posted by Bill

There are some pretty strict procedures that one must use to enter and exit the country, and some specific rules for boats, one of which is having to report to Customs and Border Control when you return to the States. Only the captain of the vessel can go ashore until the boat and all passengers have “cleared in” with the authorities. Homeland Security has made the process much easier for pleasure craft with something called Local Boater Option. You essentially fill out an application online, schedule an appointment with a designated Customs office, present yourself and your passport, and they give you a card with a unique number. When you get close to shore when returning to the US, you call the phone number on the back, give your number, and 99% of the time you don’t have to show up in person. Gotta like that!

So this was one of the things we needed to do before we went to the Bahamas. Completing the application, we noticed that there was an office in Miami and another in Key West. We have heard that the Miami office could be pretty stringent about following the letter of the law, so we picked Key West. It is closer than Miami, and who doesn’t like an excuse to go to Key West for the day!

We took the bus from Marathon. The bus has an automated system where you can text the stop number and it will tell you when the next bus will be there. We scoped it out for a few days to see the normal pattern, which for our stop included a pick up around 10:30…perfect. So this morning I text around 9:30 and it says 55 minutes away…cool. We get our crap together and at 9:55 I text again, and it says 10 minutes…shit!!! We hurry, close up the boat, and make it to the bus stop with no time to spare…but no bus. I text again and it says 177 minutes…WTF! Every few minutes I text and get various answers, and finally the bus arrives around 10:35.

It’s always fun to take public transportation and this was not too bad.
An hour and a half later, it drops us off a block from our favorite place to eat in Key West…BO’s Fish Wagon. This place is basically a small camper type thing, surrounded by makeshift patios with roofs and seating. Some people look at it and think “never going here”, but the food is always fantastic. Here are some pics:
I always get grilled fish and fries. Today Tricia got shrimp.

Our friends Bob and Cat on Sea Lyon decided to drive down from Harbour Cay Club and join us as we worked our way around some of our favorite spots in Old Town, including:
The Green Parrot
Captain Tony’s
A pig and acrobat show at Mallory Square

We ended the day watching Pete and Wayne (another one of our favorites) at Sloppy Joes:
IMG_1316 2015 02 17

Our meeting with Homeland Security was a breeze and we got our Local Boater Option cards. It was a fun day!

Trying to catch up on boat work

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

We have been here at Harbour Cay Club for just over 2 weeks. Our original plan was to make an attempt to go to the Bahamas in March, or head to the Dry Tortugas and possibly up the west coast of Florida. Before we leave, we needed to get some boat work done, with top priority being new batteries, solar panels and teak work. Being sick for over a week put us a bit behind and now we are looking at crunch time if we want to leave the first of March. We have the battery thing worked out in our heads, and the solar solution has been narrowed down…we just need to execute on those. That leaves the teak, which we started back up on 3 days ago. There is a lot of teak on the exterior of the boat and when it is finished, it looks very nice. We have been stripping the old stain off (Sikkens Cetol) for the last 3 years, mostly letting nature help us out, but there are still areas to strip, so we have been working hard to finish it up. We also did some sanding, followed by cleaning the wood with a diluted bleach and liquid Dawn mixture. Finally, we will wipe the wood down with a solvent and lay on the Cetol. We are going to use the Sikkens Natural, followed by Sikkens Gloss to give it a varnished look. The weather here is perfect for doing the staining (called bright work in the nautical world). There is not much humidity, the temps have been in the 70s, and we don’t have to worry about dew or bugs. Here are some pics to give you the idea:

The cone of knowledge

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

This is the Tiki Hut at Harbour Cay Club. Every day around sunset, everyone brings cocktails and gathers at the Tiki Hut to watch the sun go down and socialize. There is a sign hanging in the hut that reads “The Cone of Knowledge”. Sometimes there is a good exchange of knowledge, and some days a good exchange of bullshit, but it is usually a fun time.

The other day,at the Tiki Hut, I learned something new that I think everyone would find interesting. There are many phrases and terms that we use in our everyday conversation that are derived from nautical origin, and often it is not obvious. Such is the origin of a term that we use quite frequently, and one that has multiple meanings.

In the 1700s and 1800s, the northern part of New England was primarily a crop producing area. Cattle and livestock were typically raised in the southern New England states. As such, there was a lucrative market for fertilizer in northern New England, where there was no animal waste to fertilize the fields. The cattle farms would save the animal waste and mix it with hay, forming it into bails. The bails were loaded into cargo ships and transported to northern New England in the typical bilge storage. During the first series of shipments, the water that naturally accumulated in the bilge of the ship mixed with the bails of fertilizer, creating a less than desirable environment for a ship, and they quickly learned to store the bails higher in the cargo area and away from the bilge water. Consequently, they labeled the bails to insure proper stowage: Stow High In Transit, abbreviated S.H.I.T.

There you have it…direct from the Cone of Knowledge!

On the mend

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

I have realized a full recovery…yay!! Tricia is not feeling 100% but she is close, and we have been out and about again. We have been working on boat projects most of the week, changing oil in the generator, changing oil in the outboard engine (dinghy engine), sanding teak, polishing stainless steel. Yesterday we took our bikes and went to K-Mart and the grocery store. It still amazes me that it takes an entire afternoon just to go to the grocery store!

We stopped by Boot Key Harbor, which is the mooring field that is run by the City of Marathon. They maintain 226 mooring buoys that you can rent, have restrooms and workrooms to do projects. It is always full this time of year, and there is a waiting list of about 20 boats waiting to get a mooring. Here is a picture of the dinghy dock at Boot Key:
IMG_1298 2015 02 11 cmp
There are a lot of boats waiting for a weather window to jump to the Bahamas. Typically, you want light winds with no northerly component. Winds with a north component oppose the Gulf Stream and cause a nasty sea state that no one wants to transit. This year, there has not been very many weather windows in January or February. Winds that usually clock through the north in a day or two, have been sitting out of the north for four or five days at a time, abating only for a couple of days and then going back to north again. It has been a very rare pattern for this area. Those of you living up north can understand why this is so…the storms up there have been relentless. You not only need good weather for a crossing, but depending where you are landing in the Bahamas, you need a few days of good weather to get somewhere that has some protection from the north winds. All of this has caused a pretty good back up of boats from Fort Lauderdale to the keys, all waiting for a window. I am glad we did not plan on crossing until later as the weather has been pretty rough in the Bahamas so far this winter.

The north winds cause us to rock and roll at the dock, but other than that, the weather here is really nice. Most every day looks like this:
IMG_1295 2015 02 08cmp
Locals have been bitching because the temps have only been in the 70s during the day and mid to high 60s at night this winter. I know we aren’t bitching! The people here at Harbour Cay Club area really nice and we have made some good friends. Everyone pitches in to help when ever anyone is needing it. The other day people pitched in to help Dr Frank go up the mast:

We met Tricia’s friend Shelly for lunch at Brudines and saw this sailboat being towed in for repair. It was dis-masted, the mast broken off at the spreaders:
That really makes for a bad day!

Still dealing with the flu

Marathon FL
Posted by Bill

Not too much to post about lately. I am just getting over what we found out was the flu, and now Tricia has it. It kicked our asses and it has been going around here in the Keys, spreading like wild fire. My flu shot didn’t help a bit this year. Based on my experience, it looks like it lasts the better part of a week, so we will be laying low at least until the weekend as Tricia fights it off.

Unless something exciting happens, there won’t be much blog posting until we are back in action.