Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hate NWS

Clewiston, Florida
26 45.401 N 080 55.218 W
Well, after two excellent nights at Labelle, and two times at the Log Cabin BBQ Restsurant, we decided to leave. Out plan was to go to Moore Haven, spans the night there and cross Lake Okechoobe tomorrow. You see they forecasted thunderstorms this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, and we don't want to be on thst lake during a severe thunderstorm. Part of the plan is to be well past Saint Lucie Inlet before Easter Sunday. That place is on of the worst for holiday boat traffic.
My plan was flawed. The place I thought we could tie up in Moore Haven wasn't there. So, we planned to tie up to a barge. That turned into one of the most frightening experiences we ever had on the boat. I'll blog about it someday, but not today. Anyhow, we were forced to continue another 12 miles to Clewiston and tie up at an expensive marina. I called ahead to reserve a place.
Now for the angry part. Looking st the radar, I could see a huge rainstorm coming from the south, clearly, it would reach us before we reached the dock. There are no safe places to anchor or tie up in the canal we were traversing. So I checked the National Weather Service.
Sure enough, they warned about a severe thiunderstorm, damaging hail, frequent lightning, and strong winds. Damn. We were very exposed, and I couldn't beat the storm, the only thing to do was to be stoic, and not tell Libby about the warnings. In reality. I was very worried.
Well, the storm hit us. It was mild. Just rain, no hail, only a few lightning strokes, and the wind speed dropped from 15 to zero. Those people at NWS are forever overdramticiazing their warnings. I'm sure it is a matter of CYA. They can't get sued for over warning, only for under warning. But it tees us boaters off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bella Bella Labelle

Labelle, Florida
26.7606 N 081.4392 W
According to Libby and i, this tiny city of 4.570 people is the most charming place we know in all of Florida. It can't compete with Marathon as a haven for cruisers, but in pure charm it wins. Consider a few of the following facts.
Lavelle offers free docks with electricity and water for boaters. Those docks were completely rebuilt and modernized last year.
I'm writing right now from a coffee shop one block away from the dock.
The sidewalks in Labelle detour around the roots of live oak trees instead of cutting through the tree's space.
Labelle is the home of the best restaurant in America (according to us). It is The Log Cabin BBQ. I started salivating just thinking about that as we passed through Fort Myers. We ate there last night, and will again tonight. I'm thinking about lunch.
The speed bumps in Labelle have signs that say "Traffic Calming Area"
The air conditioned library is only 100 feet away from the dock.
The town fills up with hoards of Mexican agricultural workers on some days. Numerous local businesses cater to them. It's like a vacation trip to Mexico.
Labelle hosts the Swamp Cabbage Festival.
Consider the dress and attitude. The picture above shows a man in the coffee shop. He was a tall man, with a ten gallon hat, big boots, a middle aged belly, and red suspenders. In Texas he would have been an LBJ lookalike and quite an intimidating presence. In Labelle, he wore short shorts and his legs looked like Flamingo legs. That makes quite a different impression.
A nature trail a few blocks away leads down to the river. It compares with Cumberland Island as a nice trail.

We can buy mangrove honey here.  This is the only place in the world we know of to buy that.
The approach to Labelle is on the Caloosahachee River. Life along the banks of that river appear to be the best that Florida offers. I compare it to the charm of Otter Creek in Vermont.
Ok, I confess. It was the desire to visit Labelle that made us choose this indirect route to come north from the keys. We will cross Lake Okechobee to reach the East Coast after leaving here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Great Start

At Sea, 25 50.351 N 081 45.478 W
Monday, April 14, 11 AM
It has been a while since we were at sea. Last night was a great start.
We are sailing from Marathon to Fort Myers Beach. A distance of about 110 nautical miles (117 statue miles). The winds are light and we are motoring while sailing.
We departed Marathon Sunday around 5 oclock. (I miss Marathon already!!!) That gave us about three hours of light to get out of the harbor, under the bridge and on course. We chatted with our friends Bob and Sandra on Carpe Diem. They were anchored at Coconut Key for the nighgt. They and we appeaered to be the only vessels in Florida Bay. Amazing. The sky was clear blue and the water turquoise.
As an added treat, we had a nearly full moon. Libby and I love sailing at night with a full moon. It's really beautiful. The moonlight competed with the phosphorenct light in our wake. At first I thought we would be treated to a sight we've never seen before; a lunar eclipse while at sea. But I misread. The eclipse is tonight, not last night. We'll probably be sleeping tonight at 2AM.
Right now, we're passing Marco Island. We should arrive in Fort Meyers Beach after dark. That could be a problem. We may decide to put in at Naples instead because we could be there in daylight. But we've never been in Naples harbor before. We'll see. Tomorrow afternoon might be stormy. We don't want to be exposed then.
One bit of bad luck. We snagged a lobster trap. It must have happend after I went to sleep around 4AM. Libby didn't notice. She turned on the engine, pushed up the throttle and continued. When I got up around 7, I immediately saw that the speed was too low and the engine was laboring too hard. Something was wrong, and I suspected a lobster pot.
So, we stopped the engine. I stripped naked, put out the boarding ladder, put on my mask and snorkel, deployed the boarding ladder, grasped a sharp knife in my teeth and dove in the ocean. Romantic huh? The water was warm which I appreciated.
I checked the propeller and shaft. It was clear. I checked the rudder. Aha! We did have a trap and its line was jammed in the 1/2 in gap between hull and skeg rudder. We have a metal tab that crosses that gap to prevent lines from getting in there, but sometimes it happens anyhow.
During the day, we keep an eye out for lobster traps and avoid them. At night, we can't do that. Many cruisers refuse to sail at night because of that risk. But they have fin keels, spade rudders, and exposed propellers. The likelyhood of them snagging a trap is higher and the severity of the damage is more, than on Tarwathie.
If my memory is correct, this is the fourth time in 9 years and 45,000 miles of cruising that we snagged traps. The worst was in Maine where I nearly succumbed to hyperthermia while cutting it free.
I dove down and cut the line. It only took five seconds. (Having an extremely sharp line-cutting knife on board is very important.)
That fixed, the problem. Speed and engine power returned to normal. I estimate that we must have dragged that trap 15-20 miles. I'll have to train Libby to be on the lookout for such events. But in this case we would have had to wait until daylight to dive. I never would have spotted that black line in the water in the dark.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ready To Leave. Maybe

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
I really don't want to leave here. It is so nice. But summer and hurricane season approches. Sigh.
I was planning on leaving Monday, and heading for Fort Myers and the Okechobee Waterway, just because we like that. But weather forecasts said it would be better to leave today.
  • Solar panels stowed Check.
  • Go up the mast and inspect the rigging. Check.
  • Test run the engine after the recent work we had done on the alternator. FAIL!
  • Tell the cruisers net that we are leaving. FAIL!
  • Put the Honda generator away and bolt down the cockpit floor for sea. Check.
  • Retrieve my bicycle and check out from the marins. Pending.
  • Put the dinghy on deck. Pending.
  • Re-clean the bottom and prop. Pending.
But wait, what about the two fails? I found a wiring mistake. The alternator lead was hooked to the wrong side of the current measuring shunt. That means it worked OK, but was not measured correctly. If fixed that.
The cruiser's net failed because of some problem with the power wiring to the VHF. It is intermittent. I rewired it a month ago, and it has been working fine until this morning. I'm going to have to rewire it again before leaving. If that doesn't work, we'll have to cancel today's departure.
Gotta run. More work to do. We can leave anttime before dark. By the way, there should be a beautiful full moon tonight. That will be very nice.
If we do leave today, next blog won't be before Tuesday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Protecting Yourself from Heartbleed

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I was about to be stampeded into changing all my passwords, when I got the following information from Lookout Mobile Security.  As you can see, changing passwords too fast may work against you.

How can you protect yourself?
Look out for communications from the services you use. As companies patch this vulnerability and secure their own systems, some may send emails or other communications to let you know. Not all services will be communicating about this vulnerability, but you can always contact them to ask if their systems are secure.

Get a new password ready. If you receive communications from any of your service providers telling you that their systems are secure, this is the best time to change your password. Changing your password before a system is secure could actually make your new password easier to intercept.

Download Lookout's Heartbleed Detector. The OpenSSL vulnerability also impacts some Android devices. Although the likelihood that you will encounter an exploit is low, our Heartbleed Detector app will let you know if your operating system is affected by the Heartbleed bug and if the vulnerable behavior is enabled. You can download the app in Google Play now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Revenge on Murphy

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Like all engineers, I'm a big fan of Murphey's Law. If anything can go wrong, it will. I even like to speak as if Murphy was some kind of God-like super being looking down at us and laughing. But another thing that I'm fond of saying is that Murphy's law also applies to Murphy himself; its recursive. Ha ha LOL.
So, it is with particular pleasure that I can report having bested Murphy when finishing my recent deck painting project. In this case, I bought a quart of very expensive Interlux topside paint for $49. I also had a quart of naptha, and a top quality $15 paint brush.
In normal circumstances, the project would require 1.25 quarts of paint and naptha and the brush would harden halfway through. That's Murphey's law. Not only would I be forced to buy more stuff, but I would be forced to carry the leftovers in my paint locker on board the boat for years.
But in this case, I finished the job with less than one ounce of paint and less than one ounce of naptha remaining, and the brush was just beginning to get hard. I was able to trash all three with a good consience. No leftovers for the paint locker.
The mere fact that Murhpy wins 90% of the time makes it more delicious when we win the other 10% of the time.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Place For Everything. Everything In Its Place.

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

In addition to refinishing the top deck surfaces, we've done quite a bit of rearranging.

  • We stopped carrying our 6 person life raft.  The placard on the raft says that it needs to be certified every year (maybe every 2nd year, I forget).  But the certification costs $850.  We are not about to spend that kind of money unless we are making an ocean crossing.  Therefore, we left the raft in Dave's garage.
  • Without the raft, we found that we miss a key function -- being able to use the raft as a step platform for viewing, and to make it easier to climb the mast.
We also have wanted more on-deck storage.   I thought of a fiberglass dock box.  We see those everywhere, including on boats.  But those boxes are too large for the space and far too expensive -- $400-$1200.
  • I got a quote form a local company to make a custom box from starboard.  It would be on the order of $500.  Too much.
  • Finally, it dawned on me that the dimensions of a box that would fit are almost identical to a common ice chest cooler.   I checked online.  Bingo!  I found a Coleman Marine Cooler almost exactly the specified size.   I bought it for $35 delivered.  Outstanding
Here you see the cooler in its new permanent position, just in front of Tarwathie's mast.  It is strong enough to sit on or stand on.  We can store broom heads, mop heads, gloves, a hammock, a kettle bell, and a tarp in there.  It is securely bolted to the life raft chocks.  By the way, you see two circular ventilation ducts on either side of the cooler.  The one on the left has a winch handle sticking out of it.  We find that to be a very handy place to store the handle for use on the mast winches.

 Behind the cooler and in front of the mast is a secure place to store our canvas sun shade tarps.  Those used to be stored on top of the Turtle and under the dinghy when under sail.

Here you see the turtle.  It is the big square white box between the dinghy chocks.  The turtle covers the companionway hatch and prevents water incursion in case a breaking wave swamps the boat.  We used to store the  tarps there, but now that space on top of the turtle is used to store solar panels when we are under way.

When in use in Marathon, we hang the solar panels on the starboard side, and prop them up at an angle of about 60 degrees. (You can see one of the panels on the left side of the top two pictures. When in use elsewhere, we put the solar panels on top of the flaked mailsail on the boom. They are too big to store below decks, and there is no suitable place on Tarwthie to mount them permanently. This dual in-use and in-storage arrangement for the panels seems to work well.

So, a place for everything and everything in its place.   Life is good.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Minor Disaster

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Yesterday I lost my balance for a moment while taking my pants off and put out a hand to steady myself. My hand hit my eyeglasses that were sitting on the counter and broke the bridge. Oh no!
Libby and I tried several ways to make a temporary repair using tape, glue, heat shrink able tubing and solder. None worked. The bridge was titanium, something that can normally not be soldered.
We are about to leave Marathon. There is no time to get a new prescription and new glasses before leaving. We normally buy glasses online from Zenni Optical for $100 or less. But they take about three weeks to fulfill an order. The only option I know that is faster would be to go to LensCrafters in Vero, and get glasses in one hour, at a cost of nearly $500.
Oh well. As you know, we are big on having backups. We keep our old glasses as backups. That's what I'm wearing right now. Not great, but better than nothing.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Nasty Critter Attacked Libby

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Poor Libby is the victim of some nasty critter. She was bitten about a dozen times on the abdomen and the legs. At first we thought they were mosquito bites. But then they got worse in the following days. Now 2 weeks later, they are mostly healed but before doing so, some of them left an abscess of necrotized flesh about 2mm in diameter and 2mm deep. Poor Libby suffered lots of discomfort from those bites.

The bites appeared on the morning after a busy day with John and Becky. We went to Blackfin Resort, to the Blue Hole on Big Pine Key, to No Name Pub, to Key West, to Keys Fisheries for dinner. That night was particularly windless. On nights like that, flying insects can find their way out to our boat and of course we sleep with all the ports and hatches wide open. The next morning, the bites appeared.

I had no bites at all.

Our theory has shifted from mosquito bites to spider bites. But in reality, we have no idea. A second theory is plant stings.  Libby did a bit of pine needle gathering in the forest that day.  Perhaps she was pricked by the spines of a baby poisonwood tree or some other noxious plant. 

Maybe readers have other theories.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Longest Project Finally FInished

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Is this my longest project?  Perhaps so.   Many years ago, we became unhappy with the nonskid surfaces on our upper decks.   They were worn, and unsightly.   I had the idea of painting them with nonskid paint.  Big mistake.  That failed.  Four subsequent repaintings also failed.  Part of the problem is that a rough nonskid surface can never be properly prepared as a paint base.   Anyhow, we decided to have it done professionally.  Here were the steps to that project.

  1. Sand the nonskid surfaces.  We did that at the dock in New Bern, starting in October 2012.  My son Dave helped out.
  2. Got a quote from Dawson Creek Boat Works to redo the nonskid professionally.  The quote was for $3,500. 
  3. Move the boat to Minnesott beach.  They told me that my sanding was inadequate.
  4. Resand all surfaces down to bare glass.  Turns out that I overdid the sanding.  It cost me another $1,300 to have Dawson Creek fill the areas that I over sanded.
  5. Leave the boat from 4/12 to 9/12 as we did our road trip.  Dawson Creek did the work while we were gone.
  6. Nonskid complete 9/2013. It turned out beautifully.  I'm very pleased.
  7. Now I had to repaint the white smooth deck surfaces.  They too were unsightly, and scratched by my sanding.  Primer coat applied at the dock in New Bern, by mid October 2013.  That took me about 10 working days.
  8. The last step was to put a finish coat over the primer.  That took another 10 working days over an elapsed time of about 40 days.  It turned out beautifully.  I'm very pleased.

Close up of the non skid, September 2013
Overview of top decks this morning.  All work complete.

So after 5-6 years, and 5-6 thousand dollars, we finally have beautiful looking top decks.  Whew.  I'm tempted to say that it wasn't worth the trouble and expense, that we should have lived with the original decks with their old gelcoat.  But it's not true.  The result is very nice and in the balance, I'm glad we did it.

In retrospect, I should have turned the whole job over to professionals from the start.   That's a lesson I have not yet learned adequately; when to do it yourself and when to let the expensive professionals handle it.