Saturday, December 16, 2017

More drama than necessary!

December 16, 2017

As we left the dock on a beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon, we were feeling pretty good.  
The canal
The tides were rising (an important fact for those us sailing with a 5 ½ ft keel).  We had calculated our departure to arrive at the hand operated lock just before high tide.  In case we went aground (a common occurrence) we would have a rising tide to lift us off.  The nine and a half mile canal trip was lovely, the lock was not.

The lock
When we arrived at the lock, there were two boats on the other side, trying to enter the lock. A powerboat was towing a sailboat and they were struggling with how to manage both boats through the lock.  While we waited what seemed like forever, I just drove in circles.  When they finally made it through, they were not able to reset the lock.  Nevertheless, we headed in, barely clearing the partially opened gate.  

All went well until we were exiting.  The final step is to tie off at the dock and pull a chain to reset the lock for the next person.  Somehow, in the process of trying to tie off the boat and pull the chain at the same time, Jim lost his balance and fell into the water between the boat and the dock.  Being concerned about getting squished between boat and dock, he first tried to pull himself up onto the dock.  In the process he managed to become way too close and personal with the many barnacles attached to the pilings.  But it was just too high of a stretch and he couldn’t do  it.  

My inclination was to get off the boat and help pull him up, but he was concerned that the boat might float off without either of us.  He just wanted me to throw him another dock line which I did.  He fastened it to one of the pilings and had me hold on to the other end while he stepped on it, effectively using it as a one rung ladder. Pretty clever and it worked. His comment afterwards was “Well, that was refreshing”!  That is quite a statement from someone who thinks any water less than 100 degrees is cold!!  

His binoculars which he had around his neck survived (they are waterproof), his Tilley Hat didn’t float away, two knives stayed in his pockets and his watch continues to run.  Although his legs are quite scratched up, the only “tragedy” was his magnifying glass that he uses regularly. Apparently it neither floats nor stays put in a pocket.  Luckily he has a second one!
Cleaned up before betadine

Post betadine
His legs have been painted orange with betadine and he is taking some antibiotics prophylactically.  Just another day in the life of a cruiser.

We are now gently rocking at anchor just off of Hog Island in Charlotte Harbor.  The weather is wonderful - warm with a soft breeze. We are relaxing and enjoying being on the water.  Itinerary and schedule have yet to be determined and may never be.
And this is why we cruise.  Sunrise at Hog Island.

Off the dock and on the move!

December 16, 2017

This is a list of all of the “fun” we have had since we put the boat on the hard and finally left the dock. It makes one wonder why we choose a cruising life!

Fiberglass gash from last Spring repaired during the summer– check

Dodger and bimini constructed and mounted during the summer but after Irma - check

All of the shade netting that we put on in the Spring removed - check

Three house batteries and one start battery purchased - check

Said batteries hooked up and all things electric working correctly – check

Cockpit table varnished and mounted - check

Teak around the companionway sanded and varnished – check

Teak toerails sanded and sealed - check

Manual pump on the head replaced - check

Engine serviced – check

Generator serviced and water pump rebuilt – check

Fresh water pressure pump replaced – check

Anchor Windlass disassembled and inspected – check

New fender covers put on - check

Boat washed and scrubbed – check

Many trips made to West Marine to buy all sorts of miscellaneous stuff - check

Provisions purchased and put away – check

Sail Repair tape purchased – check - will fix the sail at anchor! 

It was high time to get off the dock and do what we came down to Florida to do - cruise!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Off the hard, at the dock!

Dec 12, 2017

Life improved when we move to the dock last week. 

On the way to the dock....can anyone see Mr. Wiffles?

Jim following Well, Why Not?'s journey
Boats are happier in the water and so are their owners.  The gentle motion is pleasant, the breezes are cooler and the absence of the 10 foot ladder is wonderful. 

Our  inaugural lunch at the dock
In our new location we have a variety of wildlife neighbors.  Birds and fish, of course.  A little more exotic are the Florida soft shell turtles and a small crocodile.  

the soft shell turtle with my reflection
Two very large turtles spend much of their time swimming around the boats at the dock.  If they get too close to one another a real ruckus takes place and after much splashing, one quickly exits.  The  small crocodile (about 4 feet long) pretty much ignores the turtles and vice a versa.  The dockside discussion is whether or not he is actually a crocodile or an alligator.  Assertions are made on both sides of the issue.  I have spent time on the internet looking at pictures and tho it would be unusual, I think it is a crocodile.  I base this on head shape.  I have not been able to take a picture – it glides quietly by and I never seem to have my camera at the ready when he makes his appearance.  But, there is  a large verifiable alligator in one of the side canals who seems to keep pretty much to himself, but bellows in the early evening darkness.  He sounds like a large bullfrog on steroids.  Happily he never comes out and joins us dockside.

Once we were in the water, a diesel mechanic came to service both our Yanmar engine and our Westerbeke generator.  Jim got some practical application for what he had learned at the boat show as the mechanic was happy to let Jim work alongside him. The Yanmar got top marks, but the generator did not fare so well.  We rarely use it which we now know is not good for it.  Our departure from the dock will have to be delayed until the water pump can be rebuilt.  We have plenty to do and no particular schedule so it’s not a tragic turn of events.  Just one more dip into the pocket book.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Living "on the hard" ain't easy!

11 December 2017

Living on the Hard – it’s all part of the adventure…or so they say

As a neighbor here in the boatyard described it to a friend, “it is like living in a small camper suspended up in the air, accessible only via a 10 foot ladder" and I would add, with lots of very close neighbors.  Getting on and off is bad enough, but trying to carry up groceries or taking off trash can be a challenge.  We use a 5 gallon pail as a poor man’s substitute for a “dumb waiter” to lift things up and let them down.  If something is too heavy, we use the hoist on the dinghy davits.  If it is really too heavy, then we get someone from the boat yard to use the bucket on their tractor!

The only water available is what was left in the water tanks from when the boat was put up.  In our case that means approximately 200 gallons of water which we use for cleaning, cooking, etc, but not drinking.  It has been sitting for 5 months in those tanks – who knows what joined it there.  We only use water at the galley sink.  But there is the issue of where does the grey water go….  We open the thru hull under the sink and then put a bucket under the exit of the thru hull to catch waste water so we don’t create a puddle underneath the boat.  That is our plumbing system!

The heads in the boat are not usable on the hard so we get our daily exercise walking to the bathrooms which are located about 200 feet away and are shared with however many people are staying in the boatyard at that time.  Middle of the night runs to the bathroom become a challenge.  Under the heading of TMI, here is our solution.  A bucket with a soft foam seat…what more could anyone ask for?? 

A modern day chamberpot!
Cooking is a pain because of the dishes – which in all fairness one could carry to the bathrooms where there is a large sink- but I prefer just using fewer dishes and washing them in as little water as possible.  It is also a good excuse to go out for meals!

At the boatyard we are plugged in to a 15-amp 110 outlet which provides enough power to run most of the electrical needs that we have on the hard: mainly outlets for charging computers, phones etc. and provides back up charging for the boat batteries when the solar panels are not keeping up.  

We took three days off last week to go to the St. Petersburg boat show.  

Lots of power boats, but you can see some masts!
Always a fun time even though the power boats seem to dominate!   Jim took an all day class on diesel engines and altho he picked up some useful information, he admitted that what he really needed was a hands-on workshop.  I just enjoyed a variety of seminars, some informative (communication devices, weather) and some fun (travel hints and tips for the Bahamas and the Caribbean)  I wandered through a variety of new sailboats and catamarans but confess that I prefer the look and the feel of the older boats.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Birth of a Cockpit Table - the Agony and the Ecstasy

November 26, 2017

We had a perfectly good but not perfect cockpit table on Well, Why Not?.  It was golden, amber colored teak, highly varnished, and folded out of the way against the steering pedestal when not in use.  It had fiddles on four sides which kept things from sliding off when in the upright position.  However, it was not wide enough to have even one normal sized plate sit flat on it.  It held binoculars, extra dark glasses, and the miscellaneous small things that seem to accumulate in the cockpit.  But using it as a dinner table did not work and eating out in the cockpit is something we really like to do. 

Jim’s summer challenge was to enlarge the table at home where he had all of his tools.  The summer progressed and finally, after weeks of strategizing and planning, he bought a beautiful mahogany board – 8 ft long, the minimum length available and 6 feet longer than what we needed!   Jim sliced our current table in half with the idea of inserting the mahogany in between the two teak halves and attaching it with hinges so that the table would have two leaves which could be folded up for the lowered position and in the upright position could be either closed or opened.  We liked the idea of the contrasting woods of teak and mahogany. 

The original cockpit table cut in half
The original table with the mahogany set in the middle

I could write a novel about the next several convoluted steps and the agonizing he did over them…..but I will give the “cliff notes” version instead.  He searched for hinges that would lie flat when opened, debated using chisels or buying a router to drill out a shallow layer of wood for the hinges so they would be flush with the surface of the table.  After some frustration with the chisels, he borrowed two routers from a friend, practiced with them on a spare piece of wood and eventually got pretty good.  
Finally got it right!

Working with the router

Then he did the routing on the actual pieces only to discover that he had put two of the hinges on the wrong side of one leaf so that the fiddles would be in the middle of the table when the leaves were in the closed position.  


By this time summer was coming to an end and departure time to head south was fast approaching!!  The solution??  Make a completely new table out of the mahogany!  Once he finally accepted the inevitability of that decision he made quick work of it.  
The all mahogany table with one hinge mounted

No time to get it varnished, but it was one of his first projects when we arrived in Florida.
Jim's system for putting on the varnish
Once he finished varnishing he attached the brackets used to hang the table from the pedestal and adjusted them (several times!) so the table was level – or at least as level as the boat.  There are no fiddles on this table – maybe next summer! But it is beautiful and we are looking forward to meals in the cockpit. 

Hanging on pedestal in closed position

Upright in opened position

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Back at (but not on) Well, Why Not?

November 21, 2017

Another chapter of "The good, the bad and the ugly"

During the summer we had arranged to have several projects completed while we were away from the boat.  The first was the repair of the damage we had done to the fiberglass – a gash in the hull and the chewed up bottom of the keel and the rudder.

The second was to have a new dodger and bimini constructed so that we could have zip out windows with screens behind them.  Our old bimini was falling apart and had been rendered partially unusable due to the structure for the new solar panels.  The clear vinyl in the dodger was cracked and brittle.  Our strapping tape repairs were not working well.  (No surprise there!) 

When we arrived at the boat we were met with a beautifully repaired hull and an attractive dodger and bimini enclosure. We now have a complete surround to our cockpit - with windows down for cold windy weather or windows up and screens down for warm buggy weather.  It is always a bit nerve wracking having work done long distance but in this case it worked out well and we were pleased. Thanks to We Paint Boats for the fiberglass repair and Nick at American Yacht Outfitters for the new dodger and bimini.

New dodger, looking into cockpit from foredeck

Bimini seen from aft deck

More good news was that there were no signs of cockroaches like last year. The bad news was that we had some new water stains on our teak and holly floor.  But the ugly news was that we had no power in the boat and each attempt to turn the power on caused the boatyard circuit to blow.  It took 2 days or so to eliminate a number of possible causes but ultimately Jim concluded that the batteries - all 4 of them – were dead, never more to be revived.  In the meantime the notion of staying on the boat became much less appealing - though in fact it is never fun on the hard so we retreated to the relative comfort of the Motel 6!  

The next day we ordered three new AGM deep cycle batteries which we picked up at West Marine in Punta Gorda.  With an individual weight of 115 lbs, they pose a handling challenge.  After sitting in the back of our pickup over the weekend, Matt from the boatyard came over with a forklift and helped Jim unload the old batteries and load the new ones. These will replace our house batteries but we have yet to deal with the start battery.

Two of the three new batteries waiting to be loaded
Matt and Jim bringing out the old batteries

Getting batteries up onto and off of the boat

Lowering battery into the cabin

In the meantime I have been sanding and staining the toerail, putting stuff away and cleaning. Jim has been varnishing our new cockpit table, unloading his tools from the pickup and working on miscellaneous projects that do not require boat power.  We expect to move onto the boat in a few days.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Heading South with a New Crew member

November 20, 2017

For 30 years we bred and raised llamas on our small farm.  They are gentle, smart, regal animals.  They make a soft humming sound that is soothing to the soul. They can be aloof or when the moods strikes, they can be friendly and affectionate.  Our last 3 geriatric animals died the year we started cruising, and we have missed them.  So it seemed appropriate to welcome Mr. Wiffles on board.  He doesn’t take up much space, he never complains, he loves to go everywhere and see everything.  He makes me smile and remember the  many llamas that were a part of our lives over the course of 30 years.  He will be a silent partner in this blog.  Keep your eyes open for him. 

Mr. Wiffles making himself at home
Heading out the door

They say that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.  But not necessarily the most fun.  This year we headed south by going east to Ann Arbor where Jeremy and family moved this summer.  It was only 4 hours longer, took us through some beautiful fall colors and though short, was a fun visit. 

Cy with Mr. Wiffles
Cy with Grandma and Grandpa

Three Generations of Nelsons
From there we again headed south to see our friends Jill and Bud in Port St. Joe.  Since our last visit they had bought a fishing boat and we had a chance to head out with them on a beautiful warm, sunny and calm day.  Theoretically we were fishing but mostly we just enjoyed being out on the water.

A Day of Fishing???

Bud and Jill's Fishing Boat
A day south of there we met with Seth, a sailing friend from Regatta Pointe and his mother in Dunedin for breakfast/brunch.  Seth is offering us quite the adventure which we could not refuse.  His boat, Serendipity at Sea, has been in Trinidad for the hurricane season and he will be sailing north from there, through the Eastern Caribbean to Jamaica. We will fly to join him for the sail from there to the San Blas Islands and the Panama Canal.  Our sailing season on Well, Why Not? will be shortened in exchange for quite the adventure on board Serendipity at Sea! 

Seth leading us down the slippery slope of ice cream indulgence
Among other things, Seth is quite the global connoisseur of ice cream.  I hold him entirely responsible if I gain 20 pounds travelling with him - he is a very bad influence and a very persuasive one - at least in that department!  However, as far as I know, there are no ice cream parlors on the high seas between Jamaica and Panama.  That will help!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

26 April 2017

Back "on the hard" and time to close out our very short sailing season.  I think this was the first year that we really felt like we were cruisers.  We spent most of our nights at anchor, some of them on a mooring ball and none at a marina.  We experienced all types of weather (no snow!!), waves, currents, winds.  We had our moments of concern, discomfort, blissful sailing and gently rocking anchorages. We had mechanical and equipment failures and we gained the confidence that at least so far we could deal with them.

The last part of the trip to the boatyard involved a hand operated lock that makes the transition from the Myakka River at the north end of Charlotte Harbor to a canal that leads to the boatyard.  It is an intriguing little operation that is fraught with "challenges". On our way out in March we went aground right at the lock but wind conditions were better for our return and we had a higher tide so we thought things were going to be better. Mother Nature had something else in mind.  The winds picked up and the current was very energetic.  The turn into the lock is a very short 90 degree angle. It is very difficult to get a straight shot at it and we ended up being blown into the dock with a resulting unpleasant crunching sound.  We finally managed to get straightened out and proceeded through the lock. our desire to get out of there, we forgot to pull the chain one last time to prepare the lock for the boat that followed us.  We tried to back up - didn't work - but fortunately they were able to deal with it tho not happily.  When they passed us in the canal we tried to apologize but they were intent on "waking" us (in a pontoon boat no less) and angrily passed us by at full speed! 

Looking backward in the canal
Looking forward in the canal

We spent two days dockside at the boatyard doing a variety  of chores that require the fresh water of the canal - running the generator, running the outboard out of gas (we took a little tour of the canal just to see what the canals were like), washing the salt off the boat etc.  At haul out time,  thanks to strong winds we had a hard time lining up with the haul out well.  Then there were problems getting the sling from the lift underneath our boat thanks to low water levels due to the lack of rain in this area.  All in all, our boating life would be easier with a shallower draft.

We have been a little more organized about getting projects done while on the hard but again nothing fun to write about.  So here is a visual.

Shredded flag halyard

Preparing to replace line

Putting up secondary SSB antenna

Big "oops" from the lock!  Needs the pro's

Preparing to paint storage behind settee
The before picture

The after picture

Cleaning, waxing, buffing

There are lots of trawlers in the boatyard - seems like many sailors are moving over to the "dark side" as they get older.  They are enjoying the increased room, and increased ease of handling that type of boat.  Not us, not yet.

Trawlers of the "dark side" - our neighbors

The big excitement this week was the delivery of a new travel lift for hauling out and launching boats.  It took one huge semi, two boom trucks and two days of "putting it together".  It looked like a very large set of legos!

Travelift arriving preceeded by two large boom trucks

Almost finished

It is almost time to head back to MN and already I can feel my focus switching to farm projects and summer activities. The transition from water to land is always a bit of a jolt, but we are very lucky to be able to experience both modes of living.

A mandarin peel flower created by Jim

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Musical Mystery

April 17, 2017

I am very sensitive to sounds on the boat - a new pitch in the engine, a creak or a groan from the hull, the water pressure pump, the cycling of the refrigerator or freezer. For a while I have been noticing two musical notes that sounded somewhat like a flute.   They alternated at irregular intervals,  one of them more prevalent and pronounced than the other and they were a major third apart in pitch.  I never heard them when we were under way - way too many other noises.  As soon as we anchored or picked up a mooring ball I would hear them.  At first I thought they might be coming from a channel marker with a bell. But after the same two notes became part of every place that we stopped I eliminated that as a possibility. 

Last night the winds were particularly strong and after a dinghy ride into town when we were bringing the dinghy up to tie it down for our last stretch of sailing, I heard the tones very distinctly.  After looking around at the dinghy davits, I found that one of them had a hole in it, about 3/8 inch across.  So I blew over it - like we used to blow over coke bottles and there was my sound!!  I have not yet discovered the second one, but I am rather amused that my dinghy davits are a two note "flute"!!

We are at the end of our "on the water" time.  The last week at Ft. Myers was longer than planned and a bit boring. We were waiting for a part to deal with a gas leak in the outboard motor.  It took a week to get there (!) and we were hesitant to use the motor much so we were pretty much stuck on the boat except for a few necessary trips to the mainland: pay the bill, laundry, showers, grocery shopping and of course sampling key lime pie!! 

Finally the part came in!!  Took all of a half hour to fix after they used their monstrous forklift to get the dinghy out of the water. Afterwards we enjoyed supper at the Parrot Key Carribean Cafe.

Dinghy on forklift - overkill?

Parrot at Parrot Key Caribbean Cafe

Key Lime pie at Parrot Key

The next morning it was not a boring day sailing in the Gulf up from Ft. Myers Beach to Cabbage Key.  We had beautiful winds, sunny pleasant weather, turning to no winds, turning to stormy and rough water, wind direction changing to the wrong direction, motoring and finally light rains!! Tucking into well protected Cabbage Key was a welcome relief.

Our momentary beautiful sailing

We headed up to Punta Gorda the  next day where we spent two days at anchor. Very bouncy.  I hate to be too picky, but it seems to me that I have a love/hate relationship with the wind.    It is hard to get it just right!! It is either too strong, in the wrong direction or not enough. And then there are the waves....I won't go there - not much love in that relationship.

We spent an afternoon at Fisherman's Village on the north side of Punta Gorda. It is a rather touristy area, but pleasant.  We went ashore for lunch and a walk around. As we motored through the marina looking for a dinghy dock we happened to see some friends from Regatta Pointe Marina who are now living at the Fisherman's Village marina.  Fun to chat with Robert and Joni!   We were amused that there was no dinghy dock but there was a "jet ski" dock.  We used it!!

Jet ski "parking lot"

The Fish Market at Fisherman's Village Mall

Key Lime pie at the Fish Market - what else?

After a few hours ashore we headed back to the boat in bouncy seas for our last sail back to Hog Island where we were staging for the return to the boatyard.