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.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fort Myers Beach

09 April 2017

That first day at Matanzas Bay we did not dinghy in to register. Weather was not good and we knew that the outboard was uncooperative. The next day, April Fool's Day, things had calmed down so we went to the dinghy dock where we roared in.  (It was the slow idle that was not working so we could only go fast!  As soon as Jim throttled back, the motor died)  No crash landing fortunately.  After registration we waited in a long line for shower availability.  Amazing what a hot shower does for one's perspective.  It also turned out that the City was putting on a free BBQ for the boaters so we stayed in town and reconnected with a few other boaters that we had met last year at Marathon in the Keys.  

That afternoon, for obvious reasons, Jim decided that he needed to practice rowing the dinghy.  It actually went well, but notice that he kept himself tethered to the boat....just in case.

Practicing - note the blue tether!
When we took the dinghy in to be looked at, they fixed the slow idle easily but discovered there was a small gas leak.  One thing always seems to lead to another.  We are now waiting for the small part to fix it.

We have been at Matanzas Bay for almost a week and it has been very peaceful and semi productive.  Jim has finished the Auto Pilot and is still working on the SSB. He also discovered a problem with the windlass. We have very little information on it and the phone number for service has been disconnected.  ??

My accomplishments are more mundane: laundry (not a la Well, Why Not?), grocery shopping, a haircut and knot tying!  Apparently neither my girl scout training, 30 years with llamas or a week of sailing lessons had a lasting effect on my knot tying abilities.  Finding myself at a loss when faced with a tying challenge, I decided it was time to buckle down and work on them. Armed with a small rope and a 1969 booklet about knots I persevered.  

My "salty" instructor

Check out that bowline!

We have not done much sightseeing because of the dinghy but we did manage to continue Jim's key lime pie obsession and we have done grocery shopping via dinghy and via trolley.  

Key lime pie at Matanzas Bay Restaurant
Key lime pie at Nervous Nellie's

The only obvious sign for  Nervous Nellie's is this chair!
The Ft. Myers Beach trolley 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Yin and Yang of Sailing

April 7, 2017

The yin:

Cabbage Key to St. James City at the south end of Pine Island was an easy hour plus of motoring through the Intracoastal Waterway.  We anchored just west of the island.  Lots of fishing boats hotrodded up and down the waters giving us alternatively a gentle and not so gentle rocking.  Fortunately by dark all of their activity stopped and we had a very peaceful night.  

Going into St. James City the next day was a new experience for us. The city is largely built around canals lined with fairly small houses, all with boat lifts which held mostly fishing boats, some considerably larger powerboats and a few sailboats.  We explored the main canal by dinghy and ended up at the Ragged Ass Saloon.  With a name like that we had to stop there for lunch. They had NO desserts so no key lime pie, but their shrimp tacos were wonderful!  There was a small marine store nearby where Jim managed to get some parts that he needed to finish the wiring of the auto pilot!

Heading down the canal at St. James City

Jim in front of the Ragged Ass Saloon

The yang:

When we returned from our dinghy exploration, the outboard engine decided to misbehave, ie die. It waited until we were about 20 feet from the boat with the wind and current pushing us away from the boat. Jim could get the motor started but it would no longer keep running at low speed.  He managed to get it started many times and by the last time we had made enough progress towards the boat that we were able to grab the rail and hang on long enough to tie off the dinghy.

More yang:

The winds were picking up and changing direction so we decided to move from St. James City and find a more protected anchorage.  Glover Bite seemed to be perfect. It was pretty much east of where we were and altho we had to thread our way around a plethora of fishing boats all of whom were sharing the narrow beginning of the Okeechobee Waterway we made it.  We found, however, that the winds were penetrating what had seemed like a very protected bay although it was better than other nearby options.  However, after three tries at anchoring only to drag each time after we thought we were holding, we opted to go on to another anchorage in San Carlos Bay, across from Sanibel Island and north of Ft. Myers Beach.  

By the time we reached our anchorage, the winds were increasing and coming from the south - the one direction from which we had no good protection.  We had been on the move most of the day and it was getting late although not dark yet. We could have crossed the bay to the east coast of Sanibel or tried to call the Matanzas Bay mooring field again to see if they had space.  (I had talked to them earlier and they were full) But, we were tired so we stayed put and I made a rookie mistake.  I was carefully monitoring the depth, but not the tides. When we dropped anchor, the depth gauge read 8'.  (We draw 5'6") The anchor held and though it was rather rolly and bouncy with winds in the 15-18 kt range we thought we were OK. 

 About 10:00pm we were startled by a bumping of the boat on the bottom. At this point the depth gauge read 5'.  We tried to pull forward and managed to get far enough to pull up the anchor, but then we went hard aground. Now the depth gauge alternated between 4'2" and 4'9"!  There we sat for a very long two hours while the tide came back in ever so slowly.  We tried to take advantage of the waves to raise us up and move forward a bit. Meanwhile it was pitch black. We had our reckonings that we always take when we are at anchor, so we could pretty much tell that we were moving slightly. It did not appear that we were heading toward any other land. The jarring bashes into the bottom, the strong winds and waves, worrying about what damage we were doing to the boat and wondering how long this would continue were a bit disconcerting. 

Finally around midnight we could tell that we were making some progress pulling forward and then all of a sudden we were free.  We simply went out further into deeper water and reanchored.  We survived a very blustery night on a watery roller coaster but no more incidents. The next morning it was still rough but the mooring field now had an available ball so we hightailed it into the Matanzas Bay mooring field.  Thanks to a good Samaritan who came over in his dinghy to help, we were able to pick up the mooring ball. (It was missing its pennant and our boat hook didn't fit the tight loop on the ball itself.) Though the winds continued to whistle above our heads, inside the bay the water was calm!!  A deep breath, a cup of coffee, a nap and all was well!! 

And this was the beautiful and peaceful end (the yin) to what will be remembered as quite the "interesting" adventure.

Sunset our first night at Matanzas Bay