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Friday, January 31, 2020

There’s cold and there’s cold



It’s been a bit cold, but it’s Florida cold. It’s not the sub-zero temperatures of back home. It’s hard to believe there was a good 70 degree difference between home in northern NH and Florida today.

Monday our time at this campground is up so we’d better have something lined up before then. Once again a major consideration is getting my lovely wife’s prescriptions filled. We were going to be living on the sailboat next, but we’ll most likely put that off for a bit. We don’t want to be stuck on the boat in bad weather as her meds run out. Instead, we are thinking of a state campground further down the state. We’ve been there before, but it’s been a long long time.

Yesterday I pointed out to my lovely wife that we haven’t seen many pop up trailers this trip. Well, today one just pulled in next to us. That’s the universe laughing at me again.

Our old neighbor left us a canopy. It had no instructions. We set it up, but it took some engineering. For a while there I wasn’t sure if our old neighbors liked us or hated us. Eventually it all got sorted. The next time we set up will go smoother. It helps that we now know how it’s supposed to look.

It’s taken a while, but I’m finally starting to like the old Chevy Blazer we purchased. When we were looking for a used vehicle our main requirement was for it to be able to pull a boat. The fact that stuff like the air conditioner works is just bonus. The dog has taken a liking to it. It’s a warm place on cool days and a cool place on hot ones. She’s such a princess.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I Voted!



My lovely wife and I cast our votes for the New Hampshire presidential primary.

This is how we had to do it while on the road. When we left in early December, the primary date had not been set so we couldn’t get absentee ballots then. Keeping track of the news, we learned it was set for February 11.

We had to get forms at an on-line NH government website. While we have computers with us, we had to go to a library to print them out. At the time we were down the Keys.

The next step happened while we were camping in the Ocala National Forest. After filling out those forms we called our town hall to find out their fax number. We faxed the forms to the town hall to save time. They mailed our ballots out to us general delivery at a local post office. Earlier we’d stopped in at the local post office to get their exact address.

Once the ballots came in we filled them out. Once filled, they were placed in an affidavit envelope where we had to put our names and address and other info on the envelope and sign it. That envelope went inside another one provided by the town. Then it was mailed out.

The state provides a website with tracking numbers so we could follow the status of our ballots.

It’s a hassle but I feel it’s my civic duty.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

New Day, New Issues


I woke up Tuesday morning, looked over at the Blazer and noticed one of the tires looked low. Sure enough, it was down to 15 pounds. Good thing we travel with a small compressor just for such problems. A local tire place took a look at it right off. Turns out it was just a bad valve core and a quick and easy fix. While there the mechanic pointed out the tires were due for rotation. Sure enough, it was time. They did everything for $20, which I though was a bargain.

News out of China is looking worse all the time. Even my home state of New Hampshire is dealing with a couple of suspected cases. Face and appearances are more important than public safety in China, Doctors had been instructed to keep silent about the disease instead of warning the public. Right now the they are closing the barn door after the horses have left.

How severe the disease is going to be will depend on how virulent it becomes. Health care systems are not prepared to cope with a major outbreak. In the United States there are too many people like me -without health insurance. We don’t go to the doctor’s unless we are dying as it causes financial ruin. That will delay treatment.

Then there’s the issue that people can’t afford to take time off when they are sick. Instead of staying home and getting better, they go out in the public and spread whatever they have.

I guess I’m going to have to pay more attention to the news instead of blissfully ignoring most of it. With that in mind, it’s time to shop for a new cell phone. Mine is randomly dying and unreliable. Odds are it won’t last us the next couple of months. Such is life.

My lovely wife and I are looking at possibly moving back on the boat for the next part of our adventure.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sailboat Test



We put the sailboat in the St. John River just south of Lake George. The town of Astor has a pretty nice boat launch. My lovely wife and I checked it out on Sunday but didn’t bring the boat. We heard it was always super busy on the weekend. As it turns out, it was also pretty busy on Monday, but we launched anyway.

I gave Spud’s little outboard a good workout. It ran well. Motoring against the current and wind we were doing about 4.9 mph. With the current we moved along at 6 mph. Since the theoretical hull speed limit is 5.5 knots, the little motor didn’t do too badly.

After a couple hours of motoring upstream, we threw out the anchor and had lunch. Coming back we were able to sail. Between the light breeze and the current we poked along at 2.5 to 3 knots. Turns out that was a good speed for observing waterbirds.

The plan was to take a bunch of photos, but the phone’s camera died almost immediately. The phone shuts down when it still has over half a charge. Time to get a new one.

This is the only photo that came out. If you blow it up you can see one of the fishermen on the river.


-Sixbears

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Planning, Preparation and Resupply



We’ve been using our time at the campground to catch up a lot of business. A nearby library has made us feel very welcome. One of the librarians lived in New Hampshire for 30 years and loves to talk to us about our state.

One librarian remembered me from two years ago. We met her at Clearwater Lake Campground. Her and her husband had purchased a neat little camper trailer. Their problem was that they didn’t understand how the solar electric was set up. She saw I was using solar and begged me to figure out their system. I was happy to help and sorted it out.

The library has decent wifi and we even used their fax machine.

We’ve picked up a lot of information about other places we want to check out. We are in the process of planning our next moves. I’ve done some work on the boat and changed the oil in the motor.

Of course, there’s all the mundane stuff like laundry and grocery shopping that needed doing too. This has been a time to sort out some business and to get ready for the next stage of our adventure.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 24, 2020

Pandemic?



China just locked down cities with 18 million people. This quarantine is an attempt to keep a new coronavirus from spreading. Anybody remember SARS? That outbreak killed an estimated 800 people. Frankly, we got lucky with that one. Time will tell how this one sorts itself out.

With modern travel being the way it is, there’s been a number of cases that have popped up all around world. So far they’ve been held in check.

Will this be the next world wide panic? Too early to tell. It may all depend on how the virus mutates from here on out. Then there’s the fact that the Chinese quarantine may prove effective. It’s a defense that’s worked since the Middle Ages, but there can be no exceptions. My guess is that the normal varieties of flu will end up doing more damage than this new virus.

Eventually the world will suffer another Black Death or Spanish Flu event. It’s only a matter of time. Modern medicine can do wonders, but it’s not geared towards huge numbers of people getting sick all at once. Hospitals have only so many isolation wards.

Individuals have a few options. One way is to just avoid people. Hermits living in complete isolation don’t get communicable diseases. That’s probably not practical for most people. Keeping healthy and sanitary will have to do for most.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Changing Travel Conditions



Making long term travel plans can be difficult. Conditions and policies change all the time.

It used to be that one could spend the night in just about any Walmart parking lot. Now a lot of those are off limits. Of course, you can’t blame Walmart for that. People have abused the privilege. Instead of spending just a night or two, they would basically move in. They set up lawn furniture and barbecue grills like it’s their private campsite. Some people in RVs have actually dumped their waste tanks right in the parking lot.

It takes a little more planning to find a safe spot to pull over and get a few hours rest.

Life on the water has added restrictions. Many of Florida’s communities are not nearly as boat friendly as they used to be. Anchorages have disappeared. Some have become mooring fields where you have to pay. There are communities where boaters are constantly harassed by local law enforcement, even though they have the right to anchor.

Federal lands are in flux. Many campgrounds have been taken over by private concerns that raise prices and add more rules.

Right now it’s still possible to find work arounds to most problems. Of course, if you have money to burn, there are always options. For those of us on a budget, we have to be clever and flexible. With everything changing it’s difficult to make long term plans. What if I buy another boat and can’t find a cheap place to keep it? The same could happen if we bought an RV or converted another van.

One issue that a lot of RV campers have run into is the ten year rule. Campgrounds can refuse to allow equipment greater than ten years old. Imagine spending thousands of dollars on a good used RV only to be refused entry to parks. The rule was designed as an across the board way to ban broken down and unsightly RVs. With that in mind, it’s often possible to get around the rule by sending photos of your well kept or restored RV. Of course, if the reality doesn’t match the photo, they’ll kick you right out again.

There are times when I think back to when I’d stealth camp with a backpack. I’ve also canoe camped using my dark green canoe that I’d pull off into the bushes. That wasn’t too back when I was young and single. As an older dude with a wife and dog in tow, that’s not such a great option.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Frozen Florida



We expect it to be another cold night in the Ocala, but it’s supposed to warm up after that. My lovely wife and I are using the cool days to take care of business in town.

By the way, Google Maps still hates me. It sent us down 7 miles of dirt road bad enough to warrant engaging four wheel drive.

Our neighbors at the campground are also avid boaters. They were able to share some really useful information about places to launch the sailboat. While the Internet is a good place to start, often conditions on the ground are somewhat different. Nothing beats first hand reports.

Not only are they boaters, the guy is also a boat builder. While normally they tow a sailboat to Florida, this year he brought a rowing skiff he built. Of course, we had a good time talking about boat building. It’s supposed to be warmer tonight so we plan on more discussions around the fire.

While it’s cold here, it’s Florida cold. It’s not like the record setting cold days New England has been getting. My friends back home have no sympathy for days that only get into the 50s.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Huge Thanks to Spud



Spud and his wonderful wife let us pitch our tent at their place for the weekend. Their hospitality was most excellent. We had some interesting discussions.

Not only that, Spud had exactly the type of Honda outboard I was looking for. He cleaned it up and got it purring like a kitten. That solves my outboard motor problem and we’ll be doing more sailing in a few days.

Right now we are back up in the Ocala National Forest. It’s supposed to be in the 30s at night, but will warm up to the 50s during the day. By Wednesday it’ll be back in the 50s at night and around 70 by Thursday. That’s not really a hardship and we’ll be just fine.

My lovely wife was able to book a couple weeks here so we’ll have time to settle in for a bit.

-Sixbears

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Ortona Locks



My lovely wife and I have been staying at Ortona Locks, watching the boats lock through.



We’ve been taking it pretty easy. I’ve caught up on a few projects. Back home it was -6 with a wind chill of -24. Feels pretty good to be able to walk the dog in shorts and a T-shirt.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Without a net



Camping in the State of Florida is at a premium during the winter months. People make reservations months in advance. We tend to book about a week ahead of time. It can be tricky doing it that way, but we really don’t know exactly what we’ll want to do months in advance.

We had a secure option at the last campground, but my lovely wife was ready to move on. Some campgrounds have first come first serve sites. She gambled that the one open site at this campground would still be open when we got here. Sure enough, she was able to score three nights just by showing up.

I’ve got to give her credit. This site is nicer than the last one we stayed at.

I’ve come to a decision about an outboard motor. Unless a super deal on a good used one pops up, I’m going with a little Honda 2.3 long shaft. It’s small, but big enough to do the job. Being air cooled, I don’t have deal with flushing salt water out of water pumps. Changing impellers can be a pain and it doesn’t have one of those either. One of the big factors is that the motor only weighs 30 pounds.

Now all I have to do is find a dealer that has one.

In my travels I met a guy who describes himself as a survivalist. He lives on about 60 acres in Arkansas. The guy is in his 70s and never got a SS number. His sons don’t even have birth certificates. He was camping in a converted box trailer. The guy did a nice job. We had some interesting discussions, but I’m going to respect his privacy and leave it at that.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Things I’ve learned



Well, I set out to buy an outboard motor for the sailboat. Instead of buying a motor, I received an education.

The first thing I learned is that just because Google says a company sell outboards doesn’t mean they really do.

Another thing I learned is that there are a wide variety of small long shaft outboards available -if you are willing to wait 10 to 14 business days. Very few dealers keep much stock. If they have outboards, they tend to be the more popular short shaft ones.

Which brings me to something else that was added to my education. Motors that don’t sell get sent back to the factory. There they are tested and put back on the market. Certain dealers buy big lots of them. Then they go on sale for a marked down price, but without a warranty.

That’s how I came across a never used 2016 5 hp Evinrude with sail drive for $1100. Nice enough motor, but I’d be on my own if it had issues. Not sure the discount is worth the risk. However, it was about the only suitable motor anyone had in stock.

Decisions. Decisions.

In the short term we are going to have to find another place to camp instead of being on the water.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

After much discussion


After much discussion my lovely wife and I came to a decision. When our electric motor failed we weren’t sure what we were going to do. While I got it running again, I still hesitate to trust it.

We didn’t know if we should park the boat for the boat for the winter because didn’t have a trusty motor. In the end, we’ve decided to go outboard motor shopping. It’s most likely going to be a small gasoline engine, but I’m not totally opposed to propane either.

Not only are we looking for an outboard, we’ve decided to go with a new one. I’m really not in the mood to buy someone else’s problems right now.

The two of us had given serious thought about buying a new motor before heading south, but decided against it. The thinking was that we should give the electric motor a solid test first. If we had to buy a motor, there’s a lot more options here in Florida. Not a lot of sailboat outboards get sold during the winter in the mountains of New Hampshire.

My lovely wife and I have been talking about a lot more than outboards. That was a catalyst to discussions of greater and wider issues. There are changes going on in our lives and all around us. The warm weather and greater opportunities for outdoor exercise have done me a lot of good. I’ve needs, but so does my lovely wife. This has been a transitional year. At some point we’ve got to figure out our lifestyle for the next few years.

Even our home situation back in NH is on the table. It’s beautiful there and we love it, but none of our children and grandchildren are local anymore. Every year there seems to less reason to stay.

Maybe we’ll do something totally unexpected like move to Spain or something. You never know.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 13, 2020

Way down on the Caloosahatchee



Time to bring my good readers up to date. We’ve been busy.

One more night at the marina allowed our mail to finally catch up with us. We also got some other business done at the public library at Big Pine. While we travel with two laptop computers, we don’t have a printer. Fortunately, libraries usually have them these days.

Our take out from the marina was a mess. The electric motor ran just enough to get us in front of the channel to the bay. Then it died and the tide sucked us into the channel. I was able to paddle the boat to the side where my lovely wife grabbed the mangroves. I jumped into the channel holding onto the bowline, doing my best “African Queen” impression.

I was figuring out how to get the boat back into the marina when some nice young Mexican fishermen agreed to tow me back. The rest of the loading was uneventful. We even made it to our campground on the Caloosahatchee in time.

Currently we are staying in our tent. While I was able to do what had to be done at the channel, my muscles were sore the next day. We’ve been taking it pretty easy since.

The problem with the electric motor turned out to be a corroded wire connection. That’s been fixed. I’m thinking a test on the river here will be in order. The plan is to motor into the wind. If it dies we can then sail back. Better to test it on a narrow body of water than in the middle of the ocean.

When it first failed I was tempted to toss the motor in the dumpster. That might still happen, depending on how well the test goes. Whatever happens, we aren’t going to go out there with a motor we can’t trust.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 10, 2020

Change of Plans



We had planned on heading out of the marina today. However, some important mail still hasn’t caught up with us. For some reason Florida mail can be extra slow. I can get stuff to Canada quicker, and that’s saying something.

We will extend one more day at least. We’d hoped to avoid some windy and stormy weather, but decided to sit it out. Winds are predicted to come from out of the east and that’s our most protected direction.

On the bright side, my lovely wife was able to get her meds with 12 to 16 hours to spare. After that she starts to go into withdrawal.

We’ve met a lot of interesting people as we aren’t afraid to strike up conversations with strangers. I used to be hesitant to do that, but years of travel loosened me up. My mother used to connect with people very easily. The saying was that she never met a stranger. Everyone was a friend she just hadn’t met yet.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Two things I miss



This is our first long trip since I had to sell our ambulance/motorhome conversion. There are a couple things I really miss about it.

The first one is being able to pull over at a Walmart or truckstop and get some sleep. Last time we traveled with the ambulance we only paid for a hotel twice. The first time is when my lovely wife had food poisoning and I wanted her to have a comfortable place to recover. The second time is when I really really really wanted a hot shower. This trip we’ve already spent three nights in a hotel.

The second thing I miss is our rapid set up and tear down time. We could pick up our chairs and other gear and be on the road in ten minutes. It’s a lot slower when confronted with a tent. Not only does our tent take time to set up and tear down, we fill it with all our gear. When estimating travel times I forgot how long it could take to load up.

On the bright side, even though the Blazer gets poor fuel mileage pulling the boat, it’s cheaper to run than the van. A big plus is the working AC. After we drop the boat and trailer, it’s a lot easier to park.

Loading up should be a bit quicker in the future. My lovely wife organized the Blazer to save space. We threw away a fair bit of junk too. She also put together a good sized box of stuff to mail home. There’s been a learning curve with our current vehicle.

We are still in the process of figuring out what we want to do in the future. So far we’ve pretty much settled on the idea that we want to be mobile, be it by land, water, or some combination of the two. Settling down to one place doesn’t excite me right now. Who knows what the future might bring?

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The water’s been nice, but . . .



We’ve had a good time in the Keys. My lovely wife and I still have a couple days left here before moving on. Yesterday we gave serious thought to spending time out on anchor. However, the long range marine forecast looks pretty bad.

We aren’t in this to suffer. When our time here is up we’ll move upstate a bit and do some camping for a while. My lovely wife has booked us into a place we’ve never been before so that should be interesting.

There’s some flexibility in our schedule so we don’t have to try and get there in a single day.

Later in the season we can always come back to the Keys. It’s all good.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

In One Spot



One of the reasons we booked time in this marina is to have a stable place to take care of business. The nomad life has its advantages, but some things take time. For example, my lovely wife, once again, is trying to get her monthly medications. It’s a pain and can take almost a week to sort out. We are hoping it’ll take less than that, but we have to prepare for the possibility.

While it’s nice here, we are thinking that if we can figure out how to live out on anchor it’ll be a lot cheaper. The big issue is finding a cheap place to store the boat trailer while we are on the water.

Living in this marina has given us a chance to gradually change over to boat life. Right now our Blazer is parked close to the boat so we have easy access to all our stuff. Over time we’ve been organizing and sorting out the boat. Soon we’ll have it ready for living at anchor.

One of the concerns about staying on the boat has been my agility. My long struggle with a bad infection really set me back physically. I’m happy to say that I have no difficulty doing the boat yoga needed to move around on the small boat.

I am so grateful that my health has been improving so much. Life is good.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 6, 2020

Rocking and Rolling



It was a very rocky night at the marina. The winds were blowing strong all night long and into the next day. While my lovely wife and I got some sleep, it wasn’t the best. I kept dreaming that a martial artist was beating me up all night. However, while it is still windy, it’s not nearly as strong. This should be a better night for sleeping.

I took advantage of the cooler day to sort out some issues with my trailer lights. Before we left the campground to come here a light check revealed they weren’t all working. To get us on the road I did a quick and dirty repair, but that was not a long term solution.

The thing about boat trailers and trailer plugs is that they are in water all the time. Salt water is the worse. My quick and dirty taped connections were replaced with regular connectors using waterproof shrink tubes. One of the issues was traced to an original wiring job done on the Blazer. When you buy a Craislist special, you usually buy someone else’s kludge repairs too.

Since it wasn’t a beach or sailing day, we drove across the Seven Mile Bridge into Marathon. They have a good sized Publix there and it’s nice to restock with fresh foods.

Just to make things interesting this morning the power went out. Apparently it was pretty widespread across a number of islands. I had a bit of a debate with myself. Do I set up a windbreak and brew my own coffee or hope the power comes on? The marina offers a free coffee with the slip, but they have to have power to make it happen. This time my slothful nature was rewarded and power came back up. I like a problem that gets fixed without my intervention.

At least the cell towers were still working. There was some on-line business that needed to be done. My hotspot device worked just fine. The computer was powered off my little inverter connected to the Blazer’s solar electric system. It’s nice to have my own backup systems.

One of the big news items in the local papers is the realization that it’s impossible to evacuate the islands within 24 hours if another hurricane comes. The Key West military bases recognize the problem. They start to evacuate three days before a potential strike. Think about it. They have planes, boats and trucks. One of the things they specialize in is moving people on short notice. Even they figure it takes three days.

While I love to visit here, I wouldn’t own any property in the Keys. A few bad hurricane seasons and it’s all over.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 5, 2020

That was interesting



My lovely wife and I are still at Bahia Honda. We’ve been sleeping on the boat in the marina. Our Blazer is parked nearby so we don’t have to keep all our necessities on the boat.

We put the little electric motor on the sailboat to the test the other day. I figure we were going up a 2.5 knot current against the wind as we tried to exit through the bridge cut. While we were successful, it was a near thing. After the bridge we spent a lot of time tacking in a narrow channel.

Once that got boring we turned around and rode the current and tailwind back to the marina. That was a fun bit of fast sailing. On the way in a good sized ray jumped out of the water right in front of the boat. It’s those unique experiences that make travel worthwhile.

We were surprised by visiting friends from back home. They are staying in the military campground at Key West. They read my blog so knew we were just up the road from them.

The weather has been in the 80s but a cold front is moving in. It will be windy and in the 60s. While cool for the Keys, it’s still a heck of a lot warmer than back in NH.

A couple with a trailer sailer pulled in the marina at 5 p.m.. We watched them setup for a time, but as the winds kicked up from nearby storms, they became too painful to watch. The winds and dark clouds had everyone scrambling to leave the park. While that was going on, the guy with the sailboat was setting up his mast.

Instead of watching the potential disaster, I took my lovely wife out to dinner in Marathon. We dined at a great little Cuban place. When we got back to the marina, it appeared the sailor guy had gotten his boat off the trailer and into the water. Personally, I’d have slept in the boat right on the trailer and dealt with it in the morning.

On a more serious note, my lovely wife and I say we’ve been following the news just enough to see if we are at war or not. Dang, that’s not really a joke. It appears that we are well on our way to war with Iran. The same people who got us into Iraq are excited by an Iran war. Considering how badly Iraq turned out, that should give one pause. Personally, I’m against another unnecessary war. I know too many young people who’ll pay the ultimate price for military meddling.

So now I just can’t enjoy my road trip. I’ve got to keep one eye on the news to see how crazy things are going to get.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 3, 2020

Back to boat life



As promised, I’m uploading a few pics from our jaunt to the Everglades.



Now, however, we are in this marina in the Keys.


This is about the most economical way from us to visit the Keys. The hurricane eliminated a lot of campsites that have yet to come back. Those campgrounds up and running have adjusted prices upwards -quite a bit in most cases too!

The little marina a Bahia Honda is still charging $2/foot, the same it charged us years ago. Just as important, we have a place to park the Blazer and boat trailer.

We had a long day on Wednesday getting down here and made it just before closing. We barely had time to launch the boat before dark. It took a little hustle to get it ready for sleeping, but we made it.

So what’s one of the first things we did Thursday morning, our first day in paradise? We went to do laundry. After a week and a half in the swamp we were pretty much out. I also had to find a post office and talk to my town clerk back at my home. The business of life goes on.

After lunch we took turns snorkeling off the island, which is more like it. Frankly, I also did a lot of sitting the shade with the dog drinking ice water and watching life go by. Good place for it. The weather here has been perfect and we finally have a break from the bugs.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!



I’m spending my New Year’s Day driving down to the Keys, checking into a marina, and launching the boat. We’ll be staying on the boat instead of in a tent.

This time of year about the only way to get a place to stay in the Keys is to bring a boat. It’s always been pretty tight to get a camping spot, but hurricanes eliminated hundreds of them. There are campgrounds that never reopened.

One of the things about the gypsy life is the constant struggle to find good places to stay -for the right price. It’s surprising how much time that can take. It’s even harder when we have limited Internet and cell phone connections. We have marina reservations for ten days. That should give us some time to figure out our next move.

As for New Year’s resolutions . . . naw. . . not going to make any. I’ve enough plans and projects in the works as it is.

-Sixbears