Sunday, March 22, 2020

Decision Making in the Unknown World of Covid-19

18 March 2020

Self quarantined.  Check.  Social Distancing.  Check.  Plenty of provisions.  Check.  Warm, sunny, breezy weather.  Check.  Virtually private anchorages.  Check.  Why did we struggle so hard with the decision to head home?  

View from our anchorage at Charlotte harbor
Here is the dilemma.  So many changes from day to day.  Marinas and fuel docks are closing.  Will our boatyard be considered "non-essential" and therefore have to close down leaving us stranded in Charlotte Harbor? And if so, will there be any boatyards and marinas available to new boaters?  Will interstate travel be limited and gas supplies low?  We just decided we would rather deal with the unknowns and the challenges that we think are facts now and deal with all the inevitable reiterations from home.  We are still controlled by tides, water depths and winds but as soon as they came together, we made it back to the dock at Safe Cove Boatyard.

It has been a very short season on the water, but we had one of the best sailing days we have had since owning Well, Why Not? and it was glorious:  7.2 knots with 12-18 knots of wind.  

Trying to get a good sailing picture...we need a drone!

This was the best I could do.

Our view after transiting the "infamous" lock for the last time this season
We have a few days to unpack the boat and pack up the car.  And with that I am signing off until next season.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Apparently enough is NOT enough!

14 March 2020

The "head" saga continued what seemed like forever!  Details are really not pleasant so I won't regale you with them other than to say that in desperation, Jim finally cut the blocked hose and pulled it out in  pieces.   We bought a new hose which went in so easily Jim wondered why he had waited so long to cut the old one out. When all was hooked back up again, he tried pumping the toilet to flush it and first it squealed and then water spurted out from the base!!  What next?  Turns out there was a crack in the pump assembly.  After some pondering we headed off to West Marine and bought a whole new toilet with pump assembly.  The good news was that it made a thorough cleaning of the whole bathroom easy once the old toilet was removed.  The new one was installed with minimum fuss and maximum fanfare!!  A few pumps and it seemed to work well, but not easily.  We should have taken note because we are now out on the water and it really is not yet working quite right.

Jim finishing up the plumbing 

Last year when prepping the boat for hurricane season, we removed both the genoa and the mainsail.  (Both are roller furling  - the genoa curled around a furling line and the mainsail curled up inside the mast)  We had a horrible time, neither sail would budge so called the rigger for advice.  He was baffled by the mainsail's inability to drop down when the halyard was released.  Finally with due apologies to our intelligence, he asked if we were really releasing the main halyard.  Well, that is how it was labeled, but in an act of desperation we untied the genoa halyard and the mainsail dropped down.  So much for  labeling!!  We had the sails inspected, cleaned and restitched as needed over the summer and this year the rigger came to put the sails back on.  It is not a job for the faint at heart and the winds were blowing 20 knots which did not help matters.  After installing the sails he scampered up to the top of the mast to make an adjustment to the furling mechanism to preclude it locking up, which it has done in the past.

Anthony, our rigger at the top of the mast

Pre departure rug scrubbing

Thursday afternoon Mar 12th we left the dock, made it through the hand operated lock and anchored near Hog Island in the northern part of Charlotte Harbor about 6:30pm!!  So nice to be "on the hook" enjoying the gentle motion of the boat.

Well, Why Not? heading down the canal

Our first sunset off Hog Island
We have a new anchor buoy this year:  vinegar bottle meets Margaret's artistic urges!

Our new anchor buoy
We have a two level copper basket in the galley.  We keep vegetables and fruit in it.  There is only one problem - it swings back and forth with every movement of the boat.  It is especially  noticible when we are at anchor and sitting in the cabin.  I cannot look at it or even catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye without getting slightly sea sick!  So it was either get rid of it, or stop the swinging!  A couple of cable ties holding it to the window latches has done the trick!!

Hanging baskets,  needed for extra  storage

Sunrise at Hog Island

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Enough is Enough!

08 March 2020

The windlass has been an adventure - It took a lot of man hours to dig it out of the deck, but the actual installation of the new one went fairly smoothly until we ran the anchor out (on land) and discovered that the link connecting the 100 feet of anchor chain to the 200 feet of rope was too big to fit through the mechanism!! 

Jim Getting Ready to Lower the Anchor on Land
Apparently we should have anticipated this, but after doing some research we found that it was a common problem and the solution was to splice the rope onto the chain rather than use a shackle.  I figured this was something I could do and thanks to youtube, Jim's ingenuity of hooking up a work station for me inside, and two tries I was able to get it done!!  It turned out to be quite fun.

Work Station for Splicing

Almost Done

Finished Splice
The first time we tried to pull it through the windlass, it was a bit stiff, but after a few times it worked perfectly.  Jim wanted the option to operate the windlass manually (in case we had some sort of power failure) and that required buying another part which was rather irritating, but we did it and now have that option.

About a week and a half ago, we made the 100 yard move into the water and are still tied up at the dock.  It's not a bad spot to be if you can't be out sailing.  This is where we have things checked out that need water to operate:  engine, generator, air conditioning and heating.  We hire mechanics to do this.  And this year, it was a good thing.  Our generator had a pin hole in the exhaust mixing elbow which we would probably never have spotted.  We rarely use the generator, but when we do, it is for heating or airconditioning and we tend to have the boat closed up.  Not to put too fine a word on it, an exhaust leak into the cabin seemed like a very bad idea!!  Part ordered, departure delayed, part received, generator fixed.

Jim Learning from the Diesel Mechanic

The engine passed all tests with flying colors!!  So did the air conditioning and heating.  (And there were a few nights where it got down to 40 degrees and we were very glad to have heat!)  

This week we were so frustrated with the plugged up head, that we decided we needed a break.  We took a day to drive to Port St. Lucie on the east coast to visit a friend from my days at Pan Am. 

Cattle Egret who Jumped on our Hood and Enjoyed a Short Ride

We figured it had been over 40 plus years since we had seen each other.  It was an absolute delight to get caught up and I think we could have kept talking for days!!  Because in his work with IBM Jim had worked at the  Pan Am office he was vaguely familiar with some of the people we were talking about and only occasionally rolled his eyes.  

Reminiscing with Anne about the Good Old Days
We are hoping to take off early next week and have been making lists again - things to do before we can cut the apron strings.  We are almost beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the water at the end of the lock!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Dirty Side of Boating

05 March 2020

One of the places that is most distasteful to me is the bilge.  This is an area underneath the flooring that forms a gutter from the front to the back, where stray water collects, (where Jim loses his glasses), where anything leaking can find a place to hang out (gas, oil, transmission fluid, though hopefully not very much or there are some other significant problems)  We have four access doors to check all areas of the bilge. The center of the boat, ie the deepest part of the bilge, is where most things collect. It is there that we have two bilge pumps and were we to spring a leak, they would get a good workout pumping the water out. It tends to be grimy, slimy, oily, and ugly.  This year I decided I would clean it out and paint it which would improve it mightily.  I confess that I could barely look at it, but Jim volunteered to clean out most of the gunk and liquid.  The rest I managed to deal with and proceeded to put on two coats of bilge paint.  I wish I had taken a "before" picture, but I didn't so you cannot possibly appreciate just how wonderful it looks now!!

Cleaned and Painted Bilge

There is a dirty word in the sailing world.  A nautical four letter word if you will.  "Schedule"  Schedules might work on land where one has a little more control, but when sailing, we are dependent on weather, winds, waves, tides and the smooth functioning of the boat.   It has never been too much of an issue with us as we have pretty much done just coastal cruising.  We have had only a few visitors and coordinating their schedule with ours has not been difficult.  This year is a little different.  We have a deadline for getting back to Minnesota, (deadline is almost as bad a word as schedule) and we had planned to go to the Bahamas.  As the project list has expanded, our departure from the boatyard has been pushed later and later.  Given that we have already misssed one weather window for leaving the boatyard, (tides and winds are cruicial) and are just about to miss another and the fact that we still have a lot to finish up and given the uncertainty of waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream on the way to the Bahamas and back again, our length of time to spend in the Islands is dimishing.  We have done quite a bit of preparation already for this trip, so it is a little discouraging to think that we might not be able to go.  No decision yet, but it is looking grim. 

Another "dirty" aspect of sailing is he head (toilet) although quite necessary.  We actually have two onboard, a manual one forward and an electric one aft which is part of an onboard sanitation system.  For awhile, neither one was working right.  The aft one which just had a fresh water leak has been fixed, but the manual one is blocked up.  We have a somewhat complicated system of hoses which provide a variety of options for where the waste goes:  into a holding tank, directly overboard, to the holding tank and then through a macerator then overboard, to the holding tank then to the pumpout boat (or station).  No toilet paper goes into the toilet, but apparently urine and saltwater (which is used to flush) create calcium which then builds up inside the hose -  think plaque in the arteries!  So eventually the hose gets smaller and smaller and eventually closes up..and voila a plugged up toilet hose.  Because of the complicated running of the hoses and "Y" valves, there are many possible spots for blockages and no straight runs for a snake.  So Jim has been working for a number of days on it, in fits and spurts with no real success.  In the meantime the whole boat is strewn with a variety of tools, as well as things that had to be removed from the bathroom to make space to work. Jim is nothing if not tenacious and methodical, and in the end he will prevail, but this is really getting tiresome.  (I am not unaware that it is worse for him!!)  But, when I asked if he was having fun yet, he said "sure".  

So there you have it.  We feel lucky to be where we are, doing what we are doing, enjoying warm weather and the boating lifestyle.  

Sunday, March 1, 2020

More Electrical Gremlins

01 March 2020

Last season we were dealing with a freezer and refrigerator that would not play nicely with each other.  If one was running and the other one kicked on, either the first one quit running or the second one kept trying to cycle on but never succeeded.  So we learned to turn one off when we wanted the other one to run and switched them often enough to keep the refrigerator at an appropriate temperature and the freezer cold, but not quite cold enough.  It gave us time however to eat the foods from the freezer and effectively we had two refrigerators.  Same problem this season.

It took the electrician about two minutes to provide a diagnosis and about a week for us to fix it.  We have two condensers, one for the fridge and one for the refrigerator.  Each one has its own wire coming from the battery, but there was only one wire shared between them to complete the circuit back to the battery.  He suggested that Jim add a second wire so they no longer would have to share.  Anyone who has tried to rewire anything inside a boat knows that it is no mean task.  Jim worked off and on during the next week to run a new wire.  He would work until he got too frustrated, then take a break only to try again later.  The wire had to go from the condenser to the hull of the boat under the sink, behind a lazarette, then behind a kind of wall lining in the shelving, into the aft head and then take a 90 degree turn downward behind the wall of the bathtub (!) to meet up with the battery. By pulling the wire beyond the downward path and then pushing it back, he created a loop of wire which by sliding into a "crawl" space behind the wall of the bathtub on his back, he could reach up and pull down.  From there he could relatively easily attach it to the battery.  So, we now have a freezer that freezes and a refrigerator that refrigerates.  And they do it at the same time! What more could one ask for??
Jim doing battle with a wiring challenge

During this time, we had the chance to take two social breaks.  Square Dancing friends, Jerry and Patti made the trip from southeast Florida to southwest Florida to visit with us and see how we spend our winters.  We were very flattered that they were willing to do the extra driving!!  We showed them the boat (takes about two minutes), walked in a local park, ate dinner one night at a Turkish restaurant and one night at a new waterfront seafood restaurant. There we were treated to drumming on the beach and the traditional blowing of the conch shell at sunset before dinner overlooking the Gulf. We played 500 back at the boat.

Patti and Jerry at Well, Why Not?
Patti and Jerry at Pennington Park

In a richness of blessings we were also able to connect with neighbors Sandy and Bill who had finished a birding trip throughout southern Florida and still wanted to go through the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It is ever so much more fun "birding" (we are pretty much just walking) when you do it with someone who knows what they are hearing and seeing and shares their spotting scope so that we, too, could see things!!  Afterwards we found a small Mexican cafe that was actually more of a grocery store where we had a good supper and I bought 1 1/2 dozen homemade tortillas.  It would almost be worth the 2 hour drive down to  Ft. Myers to buy some more...

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Binoculars, Cameras, Huge lenses and Spotting Scope
and Bill and Sandy as guides!

So after our socializing, it was back to work!

Our second not-on-the-project-list "crisis" was finding our bimini spotted with mildew and mold.  The bimini is the "roof" over the cockpit.  Windows and screens zip and snap onto it to provide a protective area in cold and wet weather as well as protection from sun.  We stored the windows and screens but left the top on over the summer.  With so much airflow, it never occurred to us that mold or mildew could develop....wrong!  It took me two days to get it 90 percent clean.  

The last 10 percent can wait...

Friday, February 28, 2020

Back at the Boat - The Inevitable Project List(s)

February 28, 2020

Every boater that we know has a project list, ranging from scraps of paper to formal computer files.  Our list always starts in our heads and after we get totally frustrated going in mental circles, we finally grab a piece of  paper and write things down.  The result is that we have lots of lists that rarely end up in the same place!  This year, we started working on it while still at home with intentions of being better organized:  things to do while on the  hard, things to do while on the water at the dock, things to do whenever.  Some things were simple, some required sub categories, some required professional help.  We were organized and ready to  hit the road running...we thought.  

Our Projects Lists

Arriving at the boat we were greeted by our first unanticipated and not-on-the-list "crisis". The stove was not working.  No stove, no coffee. No coffee, no work.  The Project List was rendered temporariily irrelevant.  Turned out the solenoid for the propane was dead.  Ten minutes to diagnose the problem, and two days of calls and driving all over to find the right sized replacement and install it.  Ready for that cup of coffee...we thought. Nope. Our coffee pot is a percolator with a little glass top and just when needed the most, it broke while making that first pot.  Slivers of glass in our coffee?  No thanks.  After a day of calls, visits to a variety of stores, and strange looks from sales clerks who did not know what I was talking about I accepted that Mister Coffee and Keuric rule!!  Two days later we had two replacement glass tops thanks to Amazon. Things were looking up.

Retro Percolator Tops

At the end of our sailing season in April, 2019, we knew that we had some electrical "gremlins" which had manifested themselves in the windlass, the freezer, the refrigerator, the SSB and the autopilot.  Our priority was to identify and elimate them.  With so many things at play it seemed prudent to hire an electrician.  So we did...

Turned out that the the windlass motor was dead.  Since it is the piece of equipment that we use to lower and raise the anchor it seemed prudent to get it fixed.  Unfortunately it was probably original to the boat, ie 30 years old, was no longer being made and was not worth rebuilding.  Off to West Marine to order a new one.  More on that later...

In the meantime, Jim replaced the faucet in the galley.  The old one was so low that I could barely rinse dishes under it.  The new one is high, arching and is a vast improvement. 

Working on Plumbing Under the Sink 

About six feet of the rub rail on our dinghy had come loose over the summer.  It was a quick fix for which the time consuming part was finding the right kind of two part epoxy specifically for a hypalon dinghy.  Given the various bags of different types of glue we have onboard, it would seem like we should have had some, but as often happens, we didn't and had to go out and buy something else!! Holding it in place for 24 hours took some ingenuity.

The Rubrail Repair - a tight rope around the whole dinghy

These projects are just the tip of the project iceberg, but once in a while we have to take a break. On one of our afternoon walks along the dock, we were greeted by "Oliver" (aka "Albert" or "Edgar")  He has grown since last year, but seems perfectly content to snuggle into the weeds between the dock and the shore. Although he appears benign it is alarming how his eyes follow you as you walk along.  I would not choose to interact with him, but he is our reminder that we are back at the boatyard


And there is Oliver!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Time Flies

March 22, 2019

Jim and I both enjoy the "Doc Ford" series of books written by Randy Wayne White.  Probably the main reason is that they all take place in the area that we are beginning to become familiar with:  The Everglades, Marco Island, Ft. Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, and Cabbage Key.  We have mental images of most of the places he describes.  In honor of that we decided to walk to Doc Ford's Bar and Grill for lunch.  It is about a mile over the famous blue bridge to Ft Myers.  En route we had a great view of the Mooring Field and if you zoom in far enough you can see our boat - the farthest one out and just behind a sailboat with a black hull.  (Don't bother, I can't see it either!)

Mooring field as seen from the Ft. Myers Bridge
Ft. Myers bridge as seen from our boat

Feeling a need to explore a little, we headed south on the trolley to Lovers Key yesterday.  It is a 1,616 acre State Park south of Ft. Myers Beach.  It is a perfect spot for canoeing, kayaking and hiking.  It is also a great chance to discover just how out of shape we are!  However, we did a little hiking, a lot of watching kayakers, had a picnic lunch and then headed back. 

A word of caution

Typical of the kayaking waterways
One of the most enjoyable spots was a shallow area that was apparently also a favorite of the manatees.  We had a chance to watch a mom and baby as well as two "adolescents" enjoying themselves in the shallows. The mom had a series of white scars on her back from a run in with a propeller.  The manatees are hard to see in the water and altho there are numerous signs for boats to be careful, it is likely that powerboats don't even know that they have gone over one.  Almost all of them have scars of some sort. 

The manatee with mulitple white scars is the mom, baby is right by her

We knew traffic was tough on Estero Blvd (the only thru road in town) but we had no idea that it would take us three hours (instead of one) to get home.  Construction turned much of it into a one lane road.  It was a good spirited group on the trolley (a large number were headed to the main section of Ft. Myers Beach for a Pub Crawl and advertized it with their bright matching chartreuse t-shirts).  No grumbling, but many of us were tempted to get off and walk - it would have been faster, but it was too far for our endurance level.

Arriving back at the dinghy dock, Jim was concerned (and I was terrified).  The wind had picked up to 17 mph plus and the floating docks were bouncing to the point that walking was nearly  impossible.  There were the usual large number of dingys and they, too, were bouncing and looking as if they were trying to fling themselves onto the dock.  The current running through a normally quiet area was powerful and the winds were crazy.  By sitting on the dock we were able to safely scoot into the dinghy and Jim managed to back out without hitting either other dinghys or any of the concrete posts covered in barnacles.  The ride back to the boat involved surfing swells as they rolled in from the Gulf.  They lifted us up and then passed on by.  As we got closer to our boat, at the back of the mooring field, things calmed down - thank goodness for the protection of distance and other boats.

Just in case you may have thought we left Mr. Wiffles behind -  We did not, but we haven't been dragging him around with us.  He has been here before.

Mr. Wiffles taking it easy