Sunday, April 17, 2016

Whack-a-mole, goodbyes, and finally a SSB

16 April 2016

Trying to finish stitching up the bimini is like playing whack-a-mole.  Every time I stitch up one ripped seam, another one disintegrates!!  I have two more sections in the rear part of the bimini and the other rips that keep rearing their ugly heads I am going to ignore!  We obviously need a whole new one, but I am not sure that I am up to sewing one from scratch myself even tho they are crazy expensive to buy.  Trying to exist in the Florida or Caribbean sun without a bimini is not an option.  It would be miserable and likely a significant overdose of sun and heat. 

Mike and Betty on JS Newby, Seth on Serendipity at Sea and Jim and I on Well, Why Not? had a farewell dinner at Burdines, one of the favorite spots in Boot Key Harbor. They are known for their wonderful hamburgers (impossible to eat with any sort of decorum) and a large discounted basket of fries to cruisers (impossibe to eat, because of volume).  It is beautifully situated by the harbor and the night we were there, we were serenaded by two singers from City Marina.  We hung around after eating just to enjoy the music.

Jim and I with Betty, Mike and Seth at Burdines
Enjoying live music
catch of the day???

A small group from C-dock at Regatta Point Marina got together yesterday for happy hour at Lazy Days in Marathon.  A few are staying at other marinas in the area, a few drove down to see about coming down here permanently and a few of us just happened to be here temporariy. Forgot to take pictures, but it was fun to reconnect with them. It stikes me that a typical characteristic of cruisers is that they are always saying "hello" and "goodbye"  and that once you have connected with someone, no matter where you run into them nor how much time has passed, they are still friends!

And speaking of "goodbye's, Seth left yesterday for Bimini.  It was a last minute decision based on the weather.  So we had breakfast at the Harbor Hillbillies floating breakfast cafe, Jim helped him raise the outboard and dinghy and then Seth left.  The "neighborhood" seems rather lonely without his Island Packet 38 moored right next to us!
Serendipity at Sea leaving Boot Key Harbor for Bimini

The major accomplishment of the week has been the installation of the SSB.  Mind you we have not yet successfully listened to anyone or transmitted anything, but we have the manuals and we will persevere.  Last week we attended a "hammer" lunch and met a local group of ham (not just marine) operators.  I was chastised mightily because when we introduced ourselves I did not know my ham call sign!  But really, I have had no radio either at home or on the boat, so why would I have memorized it?  But believe me, I am now going to memorize it and next time when asked, I WILL know it!!  :)  FYI it is KD0YDL for anyone who might care!
SSB in its temporary location

We have been watching the weather and it looks to us like the best weather for leaving will be Tuesday or Wednesday. Given a few more days than expected before departure, I think I will hunker down with my Kindle and get some reading done.  Nevermind cleaning the dinghy, restitching the bimini or staining the toerail.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Progress, Diversions and Plan B

April 5, 2016

One of our major motivations for coming to Boot Key Harbor was Alex at Sea Tek.  His company is based here and he did some great work for us last year.  This year's project was adding power.  To do that he determined that exchanging our older less powerful solar panels (120 watts each) for new ones (250 watts each) would make a significant improvement in our independence.  Enter Darren, his fabricator, who designed a new structure to mount the panels above the bimini.  He had to bend the stainless steel and in the process added grab bars which we had really wanted.  
new 250 watt solar panels
solar structure with grab rails
The second project was to fix the auto pilot which worked just fine when motoring but showed low power when we were under sail. New electrical cable had to be run from the steering quadrant underneath our aft bed to the circuit breaker in the salon via an amazingly circuitous route!  Jim managed to solve that maze and Alex finished the electrical hook up.  If we ever have a chance to sail, we will have the chance to confirm that it now works!
Jim running cable for the auto pilot 
Trying a different angle

In the meantime, before the new solar panels were up, but after the old ones were disconnected, our generator died!  Spectacular timing.  Running the engine accomplishes pretty much the same recharging of batteries so it was not crisis time, just irritating. Mike, a friend from Regatta Pointe very quickly diagnosed the problem - a dead fresh water pump.  We ordered a replacement and he and Jim installed it one afternoon.  Pretty straight forward except that they had to fashion their own gasket.  

Mike making the gasket for the water pump
It always amazes me when Jim seems to have stashed away whatever materials he needs and the gasket material was one of those things!  A drinking glass to make a circular pattern, scissors to cut it out, a hole punch and voila..a gasket!  And the generator was fixed!

The installation of the SSB is still a work in progress.  Again, running cables has been an exercise in flexibility, determination and scraped knuckles!  (See pictures above!)  The antenna has been installed onto the back stay and the ground plane is now in place. Much more to do: more cables, wiring, and equipment installation.  
Marg installing the antenna onto the rear stay

Another work in progress is hand stitching the ripping seams in our bimini.  All of the sudden many of the threads have decided that life in the sun is too hard and they are giving it up  en masse.  The effect of that is that we can no longer zip up our cockpit enclosures - neither the isinglass nor the netting - because the zippers are no longer attached to the bimini.  So in a fit of enthusiasm I bought a sewing awl which enables one to sew thick thread into thick material, one stitch at a time.  I admit to procrastinating and in the meantime more seams have ripped.  So I finally got started after watching a You Tube description of how to use the awl (there were no instructions that came with the awl) and although it seems very awkward at first, it gets easier and I got better.  It took me about 2 hours to stitch 2 1/2 feet!! This project will keep me busy for awhile!
A small example of the problem
First attempt, stitches at the left

The awl and some extra thick waxed thread

In between these projects we have made room for a variety of diversions.  First, Easter. An inviolate tradition in the Blanchard/Nelson household has been to make carmel nuts rolls at Christmas and matter what!! This year was no exception.  I have no conventional oven on the boat but I do have an Omnia Stovetop Oven.  Thanks to it and Pillsbury instead of homemade yeast rolls we had a minimally modified traditional Easter breakfast. 

We joined friends for a real Easter dinner:  A multi course meal with the pre dinner Polish competitive entertainment of cracking hard boiled eggs.  It was a lovely time.

Starting the competition of egg cracking

Jim trying his best

with Mike and Betty

The Budweiser Clydesdales came to town last week.  It was quite the event!  They drove an 8 horse hitch around the parking lot of Publix and gave rides to a few lucky folks.

Unloading the wagon from the semi

What a way to travel!
And now for Plan B.  Between projects and iffy weather, time has run out for going to the Bahamas. We, along with many others have had to make other plans.  When the weather looks right for SAILING and not motoring we will head back north and do some "gunkholing" around the ten thousand islands and then head up to Save Cove where we plan to put the boat on the hard.  Then ... back to Minnesota.