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Friday, February 28, 2014

Broken things



On any boat trip of any length things will break down. In fact, cruising has been called boat repair in exotic locations. Our little cruise had its own breakdowns.

Somehow the connector on the main antenna cable went missing. I've no idea where that went. Since I was using the handheld marine 99% of the time that wasn't a big problem. It did leave us with only one radio.

The Snow Leopard case for the iphone was a great idea. It's a waterproof case with additional battery power and a solar panel. I loved it, but it did not survive the trip. First the special duel lock on the case broke. I was able to keep it closed with a small piece of twisted wire. Then the waterproof USB door broke off. At the end of the trip, the USB port itself broke. It's too bad the case did not hold up, but to be fair, the phone would have been destroyed at least 4 times had it not been in the case.

The hand throttle for the outboard came apart and key parts disappeared into Florida Bay. While I did get it running, after a fashion, it's time to replace the outboard. A quick search on-line for the parts has been an eye opener. I've been unable to find all the parts needed, and the ones I have found are darn pricey.

One of the turnbuckles for the rigging got bent. That was my fault. While trying to a avoid the random movements of a barge I hit a dock a bit hard. In spite of being damaged it worked fine for the rest of the trip, but no need to push my luck.

There were lots of little repair jobs that were successfully completed. Upgrades to the electrical system worked just fine. We spent up to 5 days at anchor without depleting the battery too badly. A rudder control line was replaced with a heavier duty piece of cordage that worked much smoother. The new coat of bottom paint held up fairly well. Assorted pins and clips got replaced as needed.

The big Sea Eagle 420 inflatable kayak worked out well. It took a lot of abuse and still looks good. By allowing us to anchor out instead of paying for marinas, the kayak paid for itself. The kayak paddles had some minor issues. Two of the little pins that hold the blades flew off and became gifts to Lord Neptune. Oh well, so it goes. A little electrical tape held things in place. Maybe I should have upgraded to the fancy carbon fiber blades. Then again, I could build good paddles for a lot less.

The MSR Whisperlite stove eventually plugged up. Considering I was burning marine gas in it at the time, that's no surprise. I had back up parts so just replaced the burner until I get around to cleaning up the fouled parts.

No doubt there are some other repairs I just can't remember.

One good thing about being a very simple boat, there are whole systems that I didn't have to fix because we never had them in the first place. Simplicity has it's perks.

-Sixbears


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Long road day



21 hours on the road. I woke up at 3 a. m. and was one the road by 3:30. By 12:30 a. m. I was back at my dad's. That's 825 miles of driving.

When I got back down to Bahia Honda Key, I inflated the kayak and paddled out to my anchored sailboat. It took a bit of time to get that back to the boat launch and loaded on the trailer.

For a month and half I didn't drive a car at all. Then within 3 days I drove over 1200 miles. Crazy. Travel at 3 – 5 knots is a lot more comfortable and sane.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Travel Day



Monday started out with my lovely wife and I loading a whole lot of gear and the dog into the kayak. Once loaded, we paddled from our anchorage to the Bahia Honda State Park Marina. I walked from there to the nearest bus stop outside the park.

Eventually a bus came by and took me up the chain of islands to Marathon. There a car was rented. Then it was back to Bahia Honda to pick up the lovely wife and all our gear. 420 miles later we arrived at my dad's place in Brooksville Florida. That was one long day.

Today the rental goes back to the company. The van and trailer will be checked out and prepared for Wednesday's travel.

Wednesday I plan on getting up bright and early and driving the van and trailer all the way back down to the Keys. Once at the park, I'll reinflate the kayak and paddle out to the sailboat. With any luck, the increasingly tired outboard will start allowing the boat to be motored back to the boat ramp.

The sailboat has to be secured on the trailer and the mast and rigging taken down. Once ready it'll be one long slog back up to Brooksville. If I do get tired, there is a nice full sized bed in the van, so that might come in handy.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anchored out



We spent last night anchored between the bridges at Bahia Honda. I must admit to having a few reservations about that. There's a good 3 knot current and the holding can be sketchy. A few years ago we saw a Flicka 20 get destroyed on the old railroad bridge when it dragged its anchor.

In the morning, I paddled around the anchorage and checked out the bottom. The last few days I watched to see where boats had the most success setting their anchor. I got lucky and the anchorage was empty when we set out. My first anchor appeared to set well, but I set a second one as insurance.

The night was a bit bumpy from the occasional boat wake, but the cost (free), privacy, and lack of bugs made up for it. I'm pleased to say that we woke up in the same place we went to sleep.

In the morning we paddled into the park for coffee and breakfast. There are no dingy dock fees for day use, so this a real bargain -in paradise, no less!

Now that I have confidence in my anchors, I feel I can leave the boat for a couple days while I get my van and boat trailer. Reservations are set for a rental car in Marathon on Monday. We'll paddle our stuff to shore, then deflate the kayak and take it with us. When I get back with the van I'll blow it back up and fetch the sailboat. Bahia Honda has a couple of nice boat ramps, so this is as good a place as any to pull out.

We had thought of going down to Key West, but Key West is not the Key West of old. How many T-shirt shops does a town need anyway?

I think my lovely wife is ready for a break. She's been a trooper, spending week after week on a 19 foot boat. Few wives would put up with such cramped conditions. Of course, there have been benefits. Have I mentioned that seeing dolphins never gets old?

-Sixbears

Friday, February 21, 2014

Oh the huge manatees!



Manatees aren't the easiest things to photograph. Most of the time all that sticks out of the water is their snout. Sometimes their back sticks out of the water and all we get to see is a dark fleshy hump. Even so, I think they are a kinda neat.


A couple hours after this photo was taken, this manatee was almost run over by a powerboat. They have a precarious life and may die out. Too bad as the world would be a little less interesting without these great gentle beasts.

I must admit to a tiny bit of perverse pleasure to see the powerboat operator ram his boat into a cement dock at a good rate of speed. Instant karma.

We are just taking it easy in the sun, enjoying the water. I took the kayak out for a good paddle and watched the fish through deep clear water.

This phase of our trip is winding down, but we have no exact definite schedule. For now, we are on island time.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bahia Honda State Park



Only about 12 miles separate the anchorage at Marathon and the marina at Bahia Honda. 12 miles sound like nothing at all in a car. On a small sailboat in 5 – 6 foot seas, it's far enough. In fact, it's just about right. The wind and waves made it interesting, but it's no far as to wear a person out. Even so, it was good to get into the protected waters of the marina.


Our neighbors are nice and friendly. We had coffee together at our picnic table in the morning. It turns out they'd been camping in Flamingo and saw our boat when it was up there. Small world.

The current plan is to enjoy the delights of Bahia Honda for a few days yet. However, we may anchor out instead of paying the marina fees. The marina has a nice little snack bar with a good selection of ice cream, so we don't want to go too far.


Almost a month and a half has slipped by since we launched out of Bayport. My lovely wife has put up with fairly primitive camping type conditions most of the time. It might be she's ready for a break. The crowded island of Key West seems to have lost its appeal for us and we'd rather enjoy the nice beaches here.

The real has reared its ugly head a bit. Our youngest daughter and family decided to move to California, but will be passing through Miami on the way. It would be a long motor against the wind to meet up with her. We are toying with the idea of fetching our van and tow the boat up. Then we could sail the upper Keys – Biscane Bay area for a bit before pulling the boat out for a few weeks. I feel this trip is starting to wind down -at least this phase of it.

-Sixbears




Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rules and enforcement



Technically, there are rules for just about everything. Even the Everglades has rules . . . and people to enforce them, but their presence is thin. Here in the lovely city Marathon, there are also rules but unlike the Everglades, there is a lot more opportunity to enforce them. The City Marina has a tight grip on everything that goes on in the harbor.

I understand that civilization has rules and laws; that's just how things work. That's maybe why I'm a barbarian at heart and a nomad in practice. The nomad thing will come in handy here in Marathon. They have a very strict pump out schedule for boats in the harbor. Even though we are not actually on a mooring ball, but at anchor, their law holds sway over us.

Keeping the harbor clean is a good thing. I'm not polluting it. However, our simple bucket and bag it waste system, doesn't meet code. That limits our time here. We plan on leaving long before we run afoul of the floating honey wagons.

I can see the attraction of long ocean passages, far from other boats and people.

These civilized ports are where we land to resupply. We don't even have to fire a gun or wave a cutlass. They still accept those silly little plastic cards in exchange for real things so plunder is easy.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 17, 2014

Marathon

My lovely wife and I spent two quiet nights anchored at Long Key. Sunday we had a great sail down to the City of Marathon.


We pulled into Boot Key Marina around 4:30. That's when we found out that all moorings balls were taken and there was a waiting list. This is one crowded and popular marina. We wandered around looking for a place to anchor and even got grounded briefly. By 5 we'd squeezed into an anchorage. The marina was closing at 5:45, was going to be closed all day on Monday. We needed to do laundry and take showers in a bad way.

Our anchorage was a long long way from the marina. We grabbed our laundry and dug our paddles in. At 5:30 we made it to the marina, got our bathroom keys and laundry card. Nothing like clean laundry and a warm shower.

Monday we kayaked in bright and early. We ate at a funky little breakfast place. After that we loaded up on groceries. Since then we've decided to take it easy for a couple days. After all, this is the Keys and we are on island time.

It's not snowing here, so that's a plus.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The people you meet



One of the true pleasures is the people we've met while sailing. There have been a lot more nice ones than nasty. Boaters have gone out of their way to share information or lend a hand when needed.

Another cool thing is running into our new friends further down the line. People we've met in marinas have ended up in the same anchorages. While sailing near Cape Sable we were hailed on the radio. Some folks recognized our boat and were concerned that we might be trying to cross Florida Bay too late in the day. We were able to assure them that we'd already decided to go to Flamingo to wait out the bad weather.

Then there were the nice couple on a 17 foot sailboat. We met them in Flamingo and anchored next to them near Long Key. They've been sailing these waters for years in their small boat and know a lot of tricks, which they've shared freely.

Now that we are in the Keys I expect to run into more of our new friends.

We also will try to connect with friends and family, so that'll be nice.

It's just another lazy day here in paradise.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 14, 2014

Back to the world

I've been without cell phone service since Goodland. Now we are anchored off of Long Key. (The Keys at last!)

It's been a real long day, so I'll sum up for now.

From Goodland to the Indian River we had no wind so we motored the whole way. Spent the night at anchor. In the morning, motored out of the river then raised the sails. When I tried to raise the motor, the whole throttle assemble came apart in my hands. Several parts landed in the drink and disappeared. I did a temporary fix with electrical tape, cordage, hitch pins and other odds and ends. It's not pretty but it works.

The sailing got pretty rough. We took shelter at a tight little anchorage on the Lostman River. That is one remote piece of real estate. The channel is shallow and twisty. It's also where we encounter several large sharks hanging around the boat. They were about 8 feet long, which is long enough for me.


From there we went to the Little Shark River. (More sharks there, no surprise.) Winds gave out on us the next day so we had to motor.

By then fuel and water were getting low. Instead of heading across Florida Bay to the Keys, we made a side trip to Flamingo. There's a campground, Ranger Station, and a marina of sorts, and that's about it. Very remote. I could not get Verizon cell service, but apparently AT&T is available. We were stuck there three days while waiting for the weather to improve.

One couple in a 17 foot sailboat did leave and they had a horrible time of it. I know as we just anchored next to them at Long Key. My lovely wife and I made the jump across the bay by sailing and motoring. We got to our anchorage just as the sun was going down.

That's a thumbnail sketch. More details later.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 7, 2014

Goodland



We took Spud's advice and sailed from Marco Island to Goodland. It's a good place to jump off into Florida Bay. Deep draft boats need not apply. That means it's perfect for a shallow draft boat like ours.

Since I planned to spend the night at anchor, I decided to stop at a waterside restaurant. That worked out well enough. After our meal we motored over to a little anchorage right next to the Calusa Island Marina. I called the marina to see if they had a dinghy dock. The guy on the phone was pretty rude to me and said it's a private marina and they don't grant shore access. I was willing to pay a reasonable dinghy dock fee, but that wasn't an option.

The dog still needed to be walked on land, so we paddled over to the county boat ramp. They have an $8 launch fee, but they all were gone when we got there. Imagine that. Goodland has a good reputation, but they don't seem to care to much for those of us out on anchor. Pay full price to stay at a marina or keep on moving. To be fair, there may be some little known free dock I'm unaware of.

Our next stop will be somewhere out in the Ten Thousand Islands. So far Verizon cell service has been good. I'm glad, as I feel I'm paying too much for it. T-mobile has a terrible rep among the boating community. Their service has been very poor out on the water.

At our last marina stop on Marco Island, we met a few boaters who are heading down to Key West. With any luck, we'll met up with some of them again. Mostly people have been nice. Many are fascinated by our travels on a small boat. Many on much bigger boats say they had more fun sailing when they had small boats. A few have even downsized -not as far down as where we are, but going from a 50 foot boat to a 27 footer is a big step.

Dolphins, sunsets, sea turtles, osprey, eagles and other wonders of nature never get old. Big boat wakes and biting bugs do.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Marco Island on $31/day



I just paid $31 for another night on Marco Island. I don't know where else on the island I could stay for that price as it's a pretty expensive tourist area. Of course we aren't doing a lot of touristy things, except for lunch on the water, dolphin and bird watching, that sort of thing. (there might have been a pretty good sized shark in the marina, but I didn't get a positive ID on it.)

In a way, we are just sitting out unfavorable winds. We could burn gas and pound against the wind, or we could sit it out for another day. Since the fog was thick and heavy in the morning, deciding to wait it out wasn't that hard a decision.

We caught up on the the little repairs that seem to pile up on any boat. At least with my small boat, my repairs are small.

My lovely wife doesn't complain, but she does have some health issues. Giving her another quiet day to rest isn't a bad idea either. She's willing to sail when I say to sail, so it's up to me to make sure she gets her rest.

I was chatting with a dockmaster the other day. He said he should put a little shed near the docks and rent it out to divorce lawyers. Lots of marriages come to grief on the water. We don't want to be “that couple.”

Currently we are at Rose Marina. It's a working marina, but that just makes for interesting things to watch. Nice folks here. The ship's store is stocked better than most. They also get high marks for having fresh coffee every morning. Almost as important, they have a fair selection of charts -including the one I needed to bridge the gap in my Florida Bay charts.

Publix was in reasonable walking distance, so we have topped off our groceries. The little boat is just about ready for the next leg of the adventure.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Against the wind, again



It is said that a gentleman does not sail against the wind. Sadly, I am no gentleman. We pounded against the wind from Wiggins Pass most of the day until Gordon's Pass. Gordon's Pass is the entrance from the Gulf to Naples. However, instead of going up the channel to Naples, we turned south on the old ICW. Now we sit at anchor just north of Marco Island. It was a long long day.

The plan is resupply at Marco Island as it's the last real full service town before crossing Florida Bay.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 3, 2014

What happens next



Life can be full of happy little surprises sometimes. We spent two days hanging around the dog beach. One of the guys we talked to was a Mexican with his little dog Diageo. The dog was a real character, full of energy and attitude. His owner, Mario, seemed like a real nice guy and we got along well. The morning of our departure, he showed up on the beach with a half dozen traditional tortillas for us. He also wants us to visit him at his ranch in southern Mexico. Who knows, it could happen someday.

Our little boat could barely make headway against the current, but we finally made it to the open Gulf and raised the sails. Winds were lighter than predicted so travel was slow. Even so, we did not want to start the outboard. Instead, we changed our destination. Our little boat ducked through Wiggins Pass and we found a slip at a marina.

It's not much of a slip, just a section of dock. We have power, but no water at the boat. There are some nice bathrooms but no showers. On the plus side, the price is right, the staff is friendly, and they have fresh coffee at the ship's store.

My lovely wife discovered she was low on one of her medications. Google indicated we were about as close as we were going to get to a CVS. Even so, the nearest one was over 4 miles away. First thing in the morning I paid for a second night; we were going to need the extra time.

After some phone tag with the different pharmacies, we thought we had her prescription transferred to the one 4 miles away. As it was a bit far to walk, she was going to hire a cab. First, however, we walked about a mile down the road to have lunch. While sitting at the outdoor tables, I saw something through the trees that look just like a CVS. Sure enough, that's what it was. Why it didn't show up in Google is a mystery to me. They were able to fill my wife's prescription, so that saved us cab fare.

I'm using the downtime to square a few things away on the boat, catch up on e-mail, and rest. In the morning we'll cast off and head south once more.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To the dogs



We left Ft. Myers Beach expecting north winds. Instead of strong north winds, we got fluky winds mostly from the Southeast. Thank you weather service for sorta trying. The winds failed completely and we had to motor the last few miles to our destination, the Bonita Dog Park Beach.

Dogs run free off the leash there, so that's a treat for our dog. We anchored right off the beach and took the kayak in. There's a strong tidal current, but the anchor held well. Saturday we spent the whole day at the beach -with a break back at the boat for lunch.

Not only do dogs come in all shapes, sizes and colors -so do dog owners. We talked with a lot of different sorts of folks. We talk to everyone, the tattooed redneck to the rich guy with his trophy wife.

Temperatures hit the low 80's. Every sort of boat imaginable was out on the water. At times we were concerned about some of them. While some came a bit close for comfort, none actually collided with us. Now that it's after dark, there's only one other boat left, and it's anchored across the small bay from us.

Sunday we hope to make it at least as far as Naples. Winds are predicted to be from the Southeast, so they'll probably be from the north. If we have any decent wind at all, from any direction, we will be sailing. Our boat is a sailboat, after all.

Most of our gear is holding up will. One exception is our camera. We hope to get that running again, or eventually find a replacement. Maybe when we stop at Marco Island.

-Sixbears