There are a zillion boats in Florida. Some of the waterways are down right crowded. Certain choke points, like the Miserable Mile, force a lot of boats into narrow channels. Can someone really escape a disaster in a sailboat?
Like everything else, it depends. If there's a local disturbance like a riot, chemical spill, or fire, it's easy enough to slip away. If you are out on a mooring ball or at anchor, you are somewhat isolated from the problems on shore. Even if you were in a marina you'd probably have a better chance than most people. Security at marinas varies from pretty good to nonexistent, but it's not the first place rioters seem to go to. There are better places to start looting. Most boats can be untied from the docks quickly.
How about a more widespread disaster? In a Mad Max world, sailboats appear to have a serious disadvantage: they are slow. My sailboat can do a bit over 6 knots. Just about any power boat can go faster?
In an EMP type situation that disables electronics, being able to raise sail and harness the winds puts a sailboat ahead of most power boats. Only military boats with hardened electronics or extremely old simple motors would stand a chance of working. The majority of power boats would be dead in the water.
Where a sailboat really shines is range. The further off shore one sails, the fewer the power boats that have the ability to follow. If you leave early and give everyone the slip, before long you are past of the fuel capacity of most boats.
Sailboats during the best of times are hard to pick up on radar. Many sailboats carry radar reflectors that are hoisted up in the rigging to make their boat more visible. I've heard of of people stealing a sailboat and it taking days for the Coast Guard and Navy to find them. There's a lot of open space out there. If someone takes measures not to be found, they can stand a good chance of disappearing.
Where to go? Even my little boat has enough supplies to last a few weeks. My big limitation is fresh water, but I can collect rain water. Maybe it's just a matter of sailing up or down the coast to a place that's safer. Perhaps going to an offshore island might be the thing, but I'm sure a lot of other boaters will be thinking the same thing. It might even make sense to just go offshore and wait it out.
While a sailboat isn't perfect, it's a pretty good bug out vehicle. Many people think a big 4X4 truck is the ideal bug out vehicle, but I'd rather be in a sailboat. I can carry a good load, it's not limited to the roads, and it can harness the wind for power. Mainly though, I'm usually on the boat or very close to it. The best bug out vehicle is the one you are already living on.
No photos of sunny beaches and anchorages today. It's rain with a chance of more rain plus the occasional thunderstorm and maybe a tornado.
One of the guys staying at the marina said he's never coming boating in Florida during the month of January ever again. Can't say I blame him. As for myself . . . well . . .you don't have to shovel rain, like you do snow.
My lovely wife and I are taking advantage of a nice boater's lounge with decent wifi. It also has one of those big magic talking picture boxes. We don't watch TV at home, so it's an amazing and slightly disturbing thing.
I see Trump will be ignoring the Republican Debate. What a coincidence. I planned on ignoring it too.
I woke up bright and early with the sound of something bouncing around in the boat's cockpit. The scuppers had plugged up again and the cockpit was filling with water. Once the drains were cleared things went back to normal and I went back to bed. Minor problem in the big scheme of things.
There's more rain on the way so we are hunkering down for the duration.
A long long day and too tired to blog. Nothing sinister. Winds were light, but we sailed as much as we could. At the end of the day the wind died completely and we were still a half dozen miles from where we wanted to anchor. It was a bit stressful but thanks to our little GPS map plotter we were able to stay in the channel, even in the total dark.
By the time the anchor was set it was getting late. Progresso makes some pretty good stews and chilies packed in tear open bags that don't need refrigeration. When tired it's good to have an easy to heat meal. I'm sure these one pot meals taste a lot better on the boat than they do at home.
We anchored at Picnic island again. What can I say, the dog loves that place. It's a good sized spoil island and she can run around as much as she likes. The winds were light once more so we had to motor all the way to Moss Marine in Ft. Myers Beach. It's a pricey place, but it has a great captain's lounge that allows dogs. With thunderstorms predicted we were looking for a place to get off the boat and take the dog with us.
We'd planned on staying three nights until the storm passed, but it's actually cheaper to pay for a week than three days. Might as well stay longer. There's a lot of stuff to do at Ft. Myer's Beach and this marina is in the heart of it.
Another guy with a sailboat in the marina invited us over for drinks tomorrow. He and his girlfriend never sailed before. That didn't stop them from buying a boat in Boston and sailing it down to Florida. I bet they have some interesting stories.
One of my blog readers e-mailed me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asked if this sailing around the Gulf Coast is a good as it's supposed to be.
Of course the amazing wildlife is good. That never gets old. However, there are hassles associated with living on a small boat: constant moving, dinghy access, bad weather, dragging anchors, boat repairs -all that stuff.
My short answer was that it was awesome, which it is -for me. That doesn't mean some of the hassles would not be deal breakers for other people. Know thyself and all that.
First of all, I think there's something magical about being on a sailboat. Here's a little mobile living space that can go just about anywhere on wind power alone. When the sails are raised and catch the air, the boat heels a bit and jumps forward like a living thing. For me, that alone is worth is a lot of hassle.
There's a joke, and it's only a half joke because its true, that cruising is boat repair in exotic places. Even here in “civilized” Florida, on the water boat repairs can get interesting. One guy had Sea Tow haul his sailboat with a busted transmission, not to a repair marina, but to this stretch of water in the bayou. The boat sat tied to the mangroves for a month while the guy fixed his own darn transmission. He saved $5000 doing the work himself.
The thing about sailboat life is that the problems are real and you are responsible for your own solutions. It's not like being in an office and being chewed for using the wrong cover page on form XYZ.
If you don't like an area and/or the people there, raise sails and move on. The world is big and full of awesome things. A sailboat is a way to get there. If you love freedom, that's what a boat is. For some people, freedom isn't worth much hassle.
Here's my personal feeling about boat hassles. Start with a cheap boat, the smallest that will do the job. Small boats have smaller problems that cost less money to fix. I think they are more fun to sail too.
You've got to ask yourself what kind of person you are. Are you afraid to talk to strangers? Just about everyone I meet while on the water is a stranger -the first time I meet them. Some places and people are very open to transient boaters. Others, not so much. You find out which are which. By the way, it helps to have a cute friendly looking dog with you. Great ice breaker.
Another important thing is the boat's crew. Many people go cruising with their spouse. One cruising couple told me how they judged if a couple was cruising material or not. In their home on land, do they find themselves spending most of their time in the same room together or in opposite ends of the house? If they are happiest being together all the time, they stand a pretty good chance of getting along together on a boat.
If you sail alone, how comfortable are you in your own head? One of the great thing about cruising is that you do get to meet some interesting people. However, you can also spend a fair amount of time by yourself. The quiet and isolation isn't for everyone.
If you look between the palm trees, there's our little sailboat -pretty awesome place to be.
One of the worries of living on a boat is having the anchor drag. Of course, this usually happens in the night.
During the night the winds changed directions. I woke up with the wind and waves hitting the boat broadside. Even in what's a fairly protected anchorage, 40+ mph wind gusts take their toll. I'm guessing my anchor dragged some, but probably less than ten feet. Still, nothing to take lightly.
I decided to lengthen the lines tying the boat to the mangroves. That allowed the boat to meet the winds at a better angle. As soon as the sun came up I paddled a second anchor into the wind, tossed it out of the kayak then set it from the boat. Then I felt a lot more secure.
This boat just north of us was very well anchored but even he was adjusting his lines early in the morning.
The high winds are supposed last all day and through the night.
I hadn't gotten much rest last night. That sometimes happens to me in a new anchorage. It didn't help that we were anchored not too far from two boats that had been blown into the mangroves. Maybe the bottom holding for the anchor wasn't so good? I need not have worried as the winds were light and we stayed in place. Once I woke up in a panic thinking I saw another boat's anchor light right next to mine. It was big and bright . . . and the moon.
In spite of the restless night my lovely wife and headed out at sunrise. We paddled to the boat landing I'd found the night before. After locking the kayak to a handy tree we hiked into town. Our first stop was coffee and a breakfast sandwich from Mickey D's. It's not my usual stop, but it was on the way and had outside seating for us dog owners. That, and I really needed a coffee.
We made it to the CVS pharmacy on time. My lovely wife went in while I waited outside with the dog. She came back out empty handed. We'd spent the previous two days trying to set up this medication pick up so I was in a minor panic. There have been times when we've had to stay in a location for a few extra days to sort things out. With a storm on the way, I did not want to do that. However, it was just an hour delay. Much better than “we have no record of your prescription.”
By the time we were back on the boat it was after noon. Winds had shifted directly on our nose. There was no help for it but to motor all the way down to the bayou. I'd picked this spot to wait out a predicted storm so we really needed to get moving. Motoring a sailboat is a drag, but sometimes it's the smart thing to do.
After running aground on the way in last time, we were a bit tense in the channel, especially since it was close to low tide. However, I did learn from my mistake and made it in without a single problem. Once in the channel there was the little matter of finding our spot to tie up in the mangroves. My first choice was a bust as a British boat was busy setting out a third giant anchor right where I'd wanted to pull in.
No problem, as there were still plenty of good places. The guy might have felt bad hogging so much of the anchorage as he rowed over and offered to tie off my mangrove lines for me. That was nice of him, but some things you don't trust to other people. My friends know I'm a stickler for tying my own knots.
There was just enough daylight left to take the dog to shore. With the tide down so low it was an athletic feat to get from the kayak to the dock. Good thing I've been getting a lot of fresh air and exercise.
On the way in we met this barge in a narrow part of the ICW channel. The was enough room, but my lovely wife had a nervous moment.
After a nice ham and potato dinner I took a good long nap before getting up to write this bog. Life is good.
One of my lovely wife's prescriptions is running low. It's a difficult one to fill, always a hassle. She looked into getting it filled in Venice, but it would take days for the pills to come in. That would have us spending a lot more nights in a marina. We want to be in a better protected place as the storms are coming in on Friday.
Thanks to Active Captain and Google Maps we found a pharmacy down the coast close to an anchorage. (near the Tom Adams Key Bridge.) It's an all right spot for a mild night. Judging by the two sailboats tossed up into the mangroves, it's not that great a place in a blow.
We are anchored about a 10 minute kayak paddle from a small unofficial landing near the bridge. The dog needed her trip to shore so it was a good opportunity to check out dinghy access. There are some “official” dinghy docks, but they aren't close to where we need to be. The kayak should be fine locked to a tree for a few hours.
Then it's down the coast to the Boca Grande Bayou once again. Hopefully we can do it all before dark. The weather radio keeps upgrading the expected winds so we want to be tucked in before then.
One more parting parting bridge shot. It was another day of backing up car traffic.
My lovely wife and I spent most of the day trying to figure out where we'd head next. There are some places north of us that we know well and love. However, some nasty weather is predicted to head our way in a couple days. There are no good free anchorages directly north of us that offer much protection from the predicted wind direction.
So south it is then. We've a few good anchorages where we can hole up in. It's going to be a pain to go through all those bridges again, but it can't be helped. Conditions out in the Gulf are too rough for our small boat. At least we have options.
We've been trying to track down some persistent leaks on the boat. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be a leak in the hull. This boat has a poorly designed scupper system and that might be part of the problem, especially when traveling at hull speed. After our little sail out in the Gulf the other day we had some water sloshing around. At least I've stopped 99% of the porthole leak. Also found some good sized bolt holes that would allow water that came into the cockpit work its way into the cabin. Plugged those with a marine quality adhesive/filler.
One of the reasons we were heading north was in case my needed some follow up medical tests. She has a doctor upstate. Today we got the good news that she won't need those tests. That made our trip planning a lot easier.
We'd taken one more day in Venice to sort out the boat issues and to figure out our plans. My lovely wife and I did get to walk into downtown Venice for breakfast. It took some doing but we found a place that served real breakfast food -things like bacon, sausage, eggs, omelets, home fries and all the rest. They had outdoor seating with is important when traveling with a dog.
This is our last night at this marina. We connected with an old college roommate of my wife's. Her and her husband took us on a provisioning run, so that was nice. I took advantage of the marina facilities like hot showers and filled up on fresh water. Tomorrow I'll buy a few gallons of gasoline before heading out. Marinas aren't cheap, but it helps that our boat is relatively short as they charge by the foot.
Monday we took my wife's friend and her husband out into the Gulf. The forecast just dropped the small craft warnings, but it was still pretty lively out there. We didn't stay out too long as one of our guests was feeling some anxiety with the big waves. In fact, when we got back to the marina drinks were in order. (My lovely wife and I really enjoyed ourselves out in the Gulf.)
Winds are against us so we'll be motoring up the ICW. There's a problem with one of the bridges across our route. It's under construction and can only open half way. It should be enough, but you never know.
We've had some very high winds and nearby tornadoes. This marina has provided decent protection so it was worth the stop.
Can't wait for the northern blast of cold Arctic air to go away and for the warm Florida weather to return.
We pulled into Venice Florida and are once again staying at a marina. This is more marina time than we planned, but my lovely wife has friends here in Venice so we hope to meet up with them.
It wasn't supposed to be a great sailing day, nor is the ICW considered good sailing waters. In spite of that we sailed enough to only use about a quart of gasoline. Not too shabby.
The route required us to get 5 different bridges to open. There's a procedure for that. The bridges on the west coast of Florida operate on VHF channel 9. You hail them on the radio giving the name of your boat and using the name of the bridge. Most of these bridges opened on request which means they open soon after you ask. One of today's bridges opens on a schedule, but we only had to wait 10 minutes, so it wasn't too bad.
Always, always, always be polite to the Bridgemaster. A huge powerboat did not identify itself by name. They took forever to get around to calling the bridge by name, and on top if it they were rude to the Bridgemaster. They were ignored. They ended up squeezing through the unopened bridge by staying in the center of the channel and passing where the bridge arched a bit.
I came up behind them, was polite and used proper protocol, and the bridge opened right away. The Bridgemaster was laughing.
This is the view over the stern of the boat. Way in the distance is one of the bridges that opened for me.
There's an awful lot of powerboat traffic on the weekend. Very few slow down to limit their wakes. Some power through the no wake manatee zones. We saw a manatee in one of those zones so they are definitely there for a reason.
What do think about this boat? It's a bargain!
This a abandoned condo project dates back to 2006. It was the early days of the real estate collapse. The building was abandoned long enough to suffer from structural problems. It's a good wind break for the Marina.
As I write this we are sitting in a marina, watching the storm and tornado warnings on TV. We looked for a protected spot, back among the canals and trees and condos. There should be a break in the weather and we hope to move up the coast. It might just come back and hit us again Sunday.
This photo was taken early in the morning as the storm was just starting to get interesting. If you look carefully you can see our sailboat mast sticking up between the power boats.
This is a nice place to sit it out, but the building closes at 5 so it's back to the boat. Hopefully the worse will have passed by then.
Cool, wet weather with a chance of thunderstorms . . . and possible tornadoes.
I woke up Thursday morning to a cold cloudy day. It was very tempting to just slide back under the covers and wait out the bad weather. That wouldn't have been a bad plan. The bayou was a protected anchorage.
However, we did get a sailboat to go sailing. So we bundled ourselves up, lifted anchor, and headed out. It was rough getting out of the channel. Wind and waves had all of Charlotte Harbor to build up. Our little outboard barely made progress against the wind and waves. Once we got out into the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) we had just enough of an angle to the wind that we could raise sail. Good thing our boat can sail pretty close to the wind.
One of my worries along the route was the Boca Grande Causeway swing bridge. It's under construction, there's shoaling near it, and if we missed an opening we'd have to somehow hold position for a half hour until the next opening. Luck was with us and our timing was perfect. It was with some considerable relief that we were able to put that bridge behind us.
Once past the bridge, the waterway narrows and passes houses and condos. They wind lessened, but we were able to remain under sail. We only had to fire up the outboard at the channel to the marina. Cape Haze Marina is tucked in the mangroves and is well protected. They are very full, but by not needing shore power they were able to tuck us into a little slip. Looks like a good place to wait out the weather.
It wasn't a long sail, but it was a good sail. Here's a photo of us gliding past all the houses on shore.
There's nothing like having a parent pass away to focus one's mind on one's own mortality. It's no coincidence that soon after dad passed I bought a boat here in Florida. There were plenty of reasons for not buying a boat. I didn't even know how much it would cost to finalize dad's arrangements. For me, it was not the time to be overly prudent. The boat was important to my life goals.
Here's the thing, I want to live. I want more days in my life and more life in my days. Two years ago my lovely wife and I spent 10 weeks on a small sailboat and I loved it. Even better, I felt great after that trip. I'd gotten a lot of exercise and even took off a few pounds.
Since I've been on the new sailboat I've been a very happy man. Sure there are challenges. Not everything is sunshine and beaches. That's life. Actually, what's life without a few challenges? I know I feel pretty good about myself when I overcome them. Fortunately I can also laugh at my mistakes so I never lack for entertainment.
My lovely wife and I are having a good time. If she wasn't also into the lifestyle it wouldn't be much fun at all. Good thing she's as crazy as I am. (maybe more so, at times!)
As for my health . . . well, I've got a really good tan. My vitamin D levels must be right up there. Back home in the frozen north I'd be taking massive doses of D3.
My exercise level is way up. Take today for example. My wife had heard of a good landing for the kayak. It was much further away than we thought. Of course, then we had a long walk into town. The whole process had to be repeated to get back to the boat.
We are eating less. To start the day we each had a little oatmeal. Later in town we split a doughnut and a sandwich. Back at the boat we each had a hamburger and some fruit. If I'd been stuck inside a house doing nothing I'd have eaten a lot more out of boredom. We aren't suffering. Now and then we go out and have a real nice restaurant meal. However, when we do, we've usually had little else to eat that day.
My lungs were damaged when I was a firefighter. Cold dry winter air is hard on them. It would not be uncommon for me to get a bad cough in October and have it linger until May. Thanks to the warm moist air of Florida that hasn't been a problem this year.
I didn't know there was swelling in my legs, but I guess there was as my ankles haven't been this slim in years.
On the downside I have a bunch of new scrapes and bruises. It takes time to figure out how to move on a new boat. Space is cramped, there's a lot of hard pokey bits like cleats, rigging and anchors. Seas can be rough, tossing us around some. My lovely wife had to dig a splinter out of my foot that was causing me to limp. It healed up fine. In fact, all my little cuts and scrapes are healing well. We pay close attention to them as we don't want any nasty infections.
I don't know if this lifestyle will help me live longer. After all, there are some real hazards out there. At any rate, I certainly am getting more life out of my days.
Breakfast on the boat: there was only one egg left so I scrambled it with cheddar cheese and served it with spiced home fries made from canned potatoes.
We decided to get coffee at the local coffee and bake shop while giving the dog her walk. It was a cool morning here, in the low 50s, but eventually warmed to around 70. My lovely wife ducked into a nearby hardware store while I sipped my coffee. She found some shock cord to replace the one I had to cut off the kayak a while back. In the middle of the night during rough weather it had gotten tangled in the outboard prop.
Boca Grande has a good dog park so Brownie got to run around off leash for a bit. There's a pretty decent pizza place in town that allows people with dogs to eat out on the patio. Unlike most eateries around here it's reasonably priced.
Back at the boat I installed the shock cord on the kayak, checked the pressure in the air tubes, and cleaned it up a bit. After that it was a bunch of little boat projects, including that pesky leaky porthole window. I hope it's fixed as there's rain in the forecast.
There's good AT&T coverage here so I'm able to access the Internet with my hotspot device. Along with writing and e-mail my finances can be accessed on-line. It certainly makes life easier.
This isn't a big boat, but it's big enough so I can sit at a table with my laptop and a cup of tea. My lovely wife is reading a book. Our solar panel provides all the electricity we need. We can cook on a one burner stove and wash dishes in a tiny sink with a hand pump. Our composting head is working well. Our basic needs are easily satisfied.
During the day the neighboring boats lifted anchor and cast off. It's quiet out here on the bayou.
Sunday night my lovely wife and anchored out on one of Punta Gorda's mooring balls. I think the Dockmaster had the map of the mooring field upside down when he showed me where my ball was. Sunlight was fading fast as we headed out to the mooring field. My lovely wife was in the bow, boat hook in hand, ready to snag the ball.
We could not find it. The numbering system confused the heck out out of me. (I think there were two #28s, but that's unlikely, right?) My lovely wife got tired and came into the cabin while I motored around in circles.
Eventually I found the elusive #3 mooring ball. By that time one of the other boaters motored over in his dinghy to see if I was okay. Once we got hooked up we were fine. One nice thing about the Lashley Park Municipal Marina is that they have a very long day dock and you can spend all day on it. Many people on mooring balls bring their big boat in rather than dinghy to the marina.
We had a great sail all the way down Charlotte Harbor. The motor only ran when we exited the marina and again at the end of the day when we entered the bayou channel. It was a really excellent sailing day, in spite of being a lot cooler.
Unfortunately I ran the boat aground while coming into the bayou. That's my own fault. I used the backtrack function on the GPS and followed the path I took when I left the bayou. When I left it was close to high tide and there was an extra foot and a half of water than when I came in. The sun was in my eyes so I missed seeing the shoals. It only took a few minutes to rock the boat off using the outboard, so things could have been worse.
We dropped anchor and tied up to the mangroves with enough sunlight left to have dinner and to take the dog to shore for her walk.
I hope to take advantage of the calm conditions here to get a few little projects out of the way. One of the portholes by my bunk leaks a bit in heavy rain so that's a priority.
The weather has turned cooler than normal. After the hotter than normal temps it's been a shock to the system. I know, I know, it's still Florida. How cold can it get? We are giving serious thought to sailing south to warmer waters than heading to the Tampa area.
My lovely wife and decided to spend another night in Punta Gorda. Why not? The price is right and the winds will be better on Monday. We don't have a set schedule. The marina is packed so we had to move out to a mooring ball. Fortunately, they have a long day dock where we can spend the day and only have to use the mooring at night. That saves us from having to paddle in. They gave us an option for a second night on the mooring ball, but we'll probably head back to the bayou.
The boat is well provisioned. Water tanks are full. Even the composting head has been changed out.
About that composting head: people have asked questions. Here's the thing about bathrooms on boats. There are few perfectly ideal situations. The composting head has a liquid separator. Liquids go in a gallon jug in the front, which can either be poured into a toilet on-shore or duped out at sea. (where allowed)
Solids are well mixed with peat moss. There's a earthy smell when open. It's not unpleasant and certainly doesn't smell like sewage. When it's time to change it out I put my rubber gloves on and dump the inner container into a plastic trash bag. On a land based system it would go in another container to finish composting. On a boat the normal thing to do is to toss it into a dumpster. It's a lot less vile than baby diapers.
What about the boats with regular marine heads and holding tanks? Well . . . marine heads are not like regular house toilets. There's usually something to pump or at least buttons to push. They are also known for plugging up and that's nasty. Then there's the holding tank. That has to be pumped out. Sometimes there's a nice young man at the dock to do it for you, but often a boater is expected to it themselves. That doesn't always go well.
I saw really expensive boats that had pump out accidents and ended up smelling like a sewage plant. They don't put that in the advertising brochures. Over time the hoses to the holding tank get porous and ooze with resulting odor.
Some people just pretend their boat doesn't smell. Maybe they've adapted.
Oh, one more thing. Don't put toilet paper into a marine head. So what does one do with it? Most people have a special little trash container for “used fluffy paper goods.” My lovely wife didn't like the idea of that so came up with a system of her own. She bought a 50 pack of small paper sandwich bags. The tissue goes into the paper bags and are rolled closed. The bags go in a big ziplock plastic bag.
Everyone has to get rid of physical waste. Most people don't think about it. Most of us grew up in a world of flush toilets. The problem just went away. It didn't really. The problem was taken care of by someone else, a huge treatment plant that came with a monthly bill.
Off grid people, be they on the water or on land, have to deal with reality of human waste. On land it might be a septic system and getting that pumped out once in a while. That way someone can use “normal” house fixtures. It might be as simple and primitive as an outhouse. Composting is certainly a less smelly option that that. Outhouses rely on anaerobic bacteria while composting use aerobic bacteria. Outhouse anaerobic bugs are the smelly ones.
One thing about this sort of life, you know where everything comes in. . . and where everything goes out.
Some days you never know where you are going to end up. I connected with my buddy in the Punta Gorda area. He'd planned on going to a gun and knife show, and asked if I wanted to go along. Sure, why not? After all, who knows how long they will be allowed to go on?
So we checked out the gun and knife show. I'm always willing to look at interesting guns. Did I buy anything? Heck now. I'm on a boat. Where the heck am I going to put stuff -especially valuable metal things that rust. Actually, I pretty much have what I want for guns. There are a few pieces that I wouldn't mind having in my collection, for the right price. Nobody had anything that interested me at any price.
I wouldn't mind having a Mossberg Mariner, but I can wait until I get back to New Hampshire. It's the land of no sales tax.
My buddy also gave me a lift to Publix, so I had a chance to stock up our supplies. This is a great marina, but the grocery store is just far enough away to be a long walk. Much better to have a ride, then I don't mind buying heavy things.
We've got to figure out if we will try and stay another day or if we will head out. Our plan is to go back to the bayou anchorage for a bit. There we will do some more work on the boat while waiting for favorable winds.
My lovely wife and I woke up to a steady rain. We wondered if conditions would finally be good enough to try and make it to Punta Gorda. Strong winds from the north had prevented us from attempting the trip. One of the problems is that Charlotte Harbor has few anchorages. We pretty much had to do the trip in one shot.
The rain quit, we raised anchor and motored out of the canal. I raised the sails, shut down the motor and we had a really nice and lively bit of sailing -until the wind died completely. Our boat has only a 2 hp outboard, but on a totally calm day it moves the boat along at 5 knots. Considering hull speed is 6.1, that's not bad at all.
Later in the day I was able to turn the outboard off and raise sails for a while. However, winds were light and in the end we motored some more to get to the marina before it closed. We pulled into the marina just as the gas in the outboard ran dry and coasted up to the day dock. Nice. All in all we used a half gallon of gasoline.
Laishley Park marina in Punta Gorda FL is a city run facility. They were also totally packed. The only places left to stay were out in the mooring field. That would have been a pain as it's a long paddle to the dinghy dock. However, the marina guy cut me a break and let me tie up on a floating dock near the fishing pier. It has no electric, but my solar panel has been keeping up with all my electrical needs. He only charged me the mooring fee too.
A friend of mine lives near Punta Gorda. He and his wife met us at the marina and we went to the on-site ice-cream shop. My buddy offered to drive me around in the morning to get supplies so that's a bonus. It was great to connect with him again.
It was also time for a good long hot shower and a chance to catch up on the laundry. Clothes can get pretty funky sitting in the laundry bag on a damp boat. We don't like to go too long without dealing with it.
The people here at the marina have been very nice so far. We probably won't stay all that long as there are places to go, people to see.
My lovely wife and I went into town again today. We stopped in at a hardware store, which she loves to do. It's like a great date for her. We also wandered around until we found a place to have dessert, rum cake and coffee. Some of the restaurants in this town are pretty decent, but most of them are darn pricey.
We were able to pick up a few groceries at a not too outrageous price. Around here that takes careful shopping. Then again, even high priced groceries are better than higher priced restaurants.
I'm told there's some serious old money families on the island. The Bush family has property here. They say the island used to be crawling with Secret Service back when Bush the elder was in office.
The anchorage in the Bayou is getting more interesting. When we headed down to the docks to kayak back to our boat, we couldn't see it. Two bigger boats had anchored on each side of us, keeping us hidden from the docks. I hope nobody dropped their anchor on top of mine. Guess we'll find out when we try to leave.
The boaters out here are much friendlier than in the last marina we stayed at. We've chatted with a few and everyone's really friendly. There seems to be a general “we are beating the system” vibe to these folks. I like it.
The cruising life is known for higher highs and lower lows -often in the same day. My lovely wife and I had that very experience. Tuesday we had dinner at a very nice budget busting place, The Pink Elephant. They were withing easy walking distance of the marina and had outdoor seating that allowed us to have our dog with us.
We walked back to a deserted marina. Earlier in the day there was a power outage on the island and they sent everyone home. Once the power came back on they did not reopen. That's fine as their restrooms and laundry room are unlocked. We were able to do a load of laundry.
The main reason we ducked into a marina was to try to find a safe harbor from the high winds. Unfortunately the winds were exactly wrong and blew right into the marina. The waves tossed our boat so badly that we doubled our lines. One of the lines holding our kayak snapped. The second one held but the kayak moved back far enough to allowed the kayak deck shock cord to get tangled into our outboard prop. With the boat tossing like a wild bronco in the dark I cut the cord then secured a second line on the kayak.
There was no hope of sleeping on the boat. I grabbed our sleeping bags and we bedded down among the marina picnic tables like homeless people. Come about 3 a. m. the tide was low enough that shoals blocked the worse of the wave action and we were able to finish the night aboard the boat. That would be our last night in the not-so-protected marina.
So let's rewind a bit. When we walked the dog to the restaurant we passed a narrow canal. My lovely wife got into a conversation with a local. He assured us that there was a good five feet of depth if one hugged the eastern sea wall. Later at the restaurant we had a long conversation with a drunken elderly single handed small boat sailor who was anchored in the canal. She said the trick is to drop an anchor in the middle of the channel and then back into the mangroves and tie a line there.
After our rough night we left the marina and did just that. It's an amazingly protected anchorage with a lot of wildlife. Free public docks are available for shore access. My only wish is that we'd known about it earlier, before spending money at the marina.
As soon as we were set up the no longer drunk lady rowed her dinghy over and we invited her aboard for tea. We had a delightful conversation and she was a wealth of local information.
By morning the winds are supposed to have changed. Right now I'm not sure if we'll continue our journey or call another rest day. This is a very nice place to be right now.
Monday morning our plans changed. Instead of a long sail we did a short motor over to a nearby marina. The little 2hp kicker motor was barely up to the job. Pushing into the wind and current our speed sometimes dropped to just over one mile per hour. Though slow, it was forward motion and our speed improved a bit as made it out of the worse of the current.
It took the better part of the morning to get into Boca Grande Marina. It's a fairly high end resort sort of place -not the type of thing we planned. It does give us protection from high winds and rough seas. We'll just have to adjust the budget. After a week living at anchor, we can afford staying here. This marina gives boaters a break on dockage fees if they don't tie into marina power. Once again our solar panel pays for itself. Our relatively short boat length also saves us money as marinas charge by the foot.
This island is one of those places in Florida where golf carts are allowed on city streets. Included with our marina fee is a half priced golf cart rental so I rented one for the day. We didn't get a chance to resupply any provisions because the town rolls up the sidewalks at 5. Hopefully I can get a few things in the morning.
We are booked for two nights. By Wednesday the winds should be more reasonable.
It had been a bouncy night on the hook. When the wind is kicking up it can make for a restless night. Occasionally we'd wake up and check to see that we hadn't dragged anchor. Fortunately we are not prone to seasickness.
Sunday was a day of rain. My lovely wife and paddled the dog to the park for her “shore leave.” On the way back to the boat the rains came and soaked us to the skin in short order. It really felt good to settle into the boat's cabin and put on some dry clothes and brew up some hot coffee.
The day was pretty laid back. My lovely wife won most of our cribbage games and we did a lot of reading. When the rain slacked off for a short while we hustled out on deck to set up our jib sail on the roller. A few days earlier we'd taken it down to do some repairs. Roller furling is something we are still getting used to, but we got it right the first time.
If all goes as planned we'll be sailing as you read this. We'd hoped for better winds, but sometimes you take what you can get. At least half our planned trip will be right into the wind. Most sailboats would just put the sails away and power into the wind. With out undersized outboard that's not a good option for us. Besides, there should be room to tack into the wind so we'll manage.
The marina we are heading for is a long day's sail for us. Winds are supposed to pick up in the night and we hope to be safely tied to a dock by then. We are ready for hot showers and meals that don't come out of a can.
Currently we are sitting tight in Pelican Bay. Bad weather and strong winds are keeping us here. Sailing is not all beaches and sunshine. We are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, but each update is worse than the last. Our supplies are good for a while yet so we really aren't in any pressing need to leave.
The park store has a few supplies -very few. There's some ice-cream bars, sodas, candy, ice, and a small selection of canned goods. If we stay here too long I might actually buy something just for variety.
Our anchor is holding really well. The boat is a bit bouncy at times, but that doesn't bother us too much. It does make it hard to type, so I'm going to cut this short.
By the way, I'm still having a great time. After all, I'm on a boat. Nobody who's living on a sailboat has much reason to complain.
On the Beach was a 1957post-apocalyptic novel written by Nevil Shute. It might have been one of the first end-of-the-world books I ever read and it stuck with me. The thing that really got to me was that everyone was basically expecting to die. The fatalism did not go down well with my younger self.
However, this is a totally different beach.
My lovely wife and I paddled to the park to get some ice for the cooler. Later we paddled across the bay to this nice little island. This seems to be the one where people bring their dogs so they could run around. We met a nice local Florida couple who were also giving their dog “shore leave.”
This is supposed to be the last unseasonably hot day for a while. Cooler Saturday, then significant rain is predicted for Sunday. Winds are not favorable so we'll stick it out here for a while yet. We are hoping to get winds from anywhere other than the north as there's where we'd like to sail next.
Tonight my shoulders are letting me know that I haven't been kayaking all that much lately. The last few days of paddling took a toll. From past experience I know that in a few more days I'll be back in the grove.
A dolphin followed us in when we paddled to the park. It was still there playing around when we decided to head out again. The dog sat right up on the bow of the kayak to be closer to his “sea puppy” friends.
We did spend a few hours doing some repair work on our jib sail. Once done we celebrated with coffee& rum. Not a bad day at all.
With cooler and wetter weather is in the forecast, it's not always sunny on the beach, but today it was.
Unlike Shute's novel, my radiation exposure consisted of too much sunshine on my shoulders resulting in a mild sunburn.
Now's a good time to figure out if you are in the place in your life where you want to be and with the people you want to be with.
As for myself, I'm sitting on a sailboat in sunny Florida with my lovely wife. No complaints here.
It was a mixed year for me. My dad passed from cancer so that was rough. At least I was in a position in my life where I could be there for him.
I did have a lot of time to look on-line at sailboats for sale. When dad passed my lovely wife and I checked out a boat and bought it. A month went by before we could get back to it, but I took some comfort in knowing there was a boat waiting for me.
When dad passed it really brought my life in focus. The number of our days are finite. We just don't know the time or the day. Dad didn't live as long as my grandfather did. Dad's father lived on ice-cream, bacon and eggs, cheap whiskey, and cigarettes yet he made it to 87. Dad didn't drink, quit smoking decades ago, and only went to 80. (cancer sucks) A doctor once told me I wouldn't make it to 45. I'm happy to be 57. I feel I've already cheated death.
That being said, my lungs took enough damage from firefighting that they had to retire me. I'm fat and out of condition and haven't seen a doctor in about 16 years. I did promise my kids I'd make an appointment and get a physical when I get back home in the spring.
I'm gaming the odds a bit. Since living on a sailboat I've been eating lighter and getting a lot more exercise. By spring I'll be less fat and more in condition.
One thing for sure. We may not be able to know long we will live, but we can do a lot about how well we live.
New Years is a good time to look back at the past year and see if what you are doing is getting you where you want to be. If it isn't, maybe change is in order.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.