Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Anticlimax

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

We cruisers continue to show tactical naivety regarding city politics.

Last night was the city council meeting. We believed that the anchoring rights issue would come up for a vote.  Therefore we (others not me) did several things.

  1. One captain prepared a proposal on anchoring rights.  Basically, he suggested taking the extensive areas which were to become "buffer zone" with anchoring prohibited, and change them to "managed anchoring area" with city marina authorized to set the rules.  "buffer zone" and "managed area" both have defined meaning in Florida law.
  2. Another captain prepared a proposal on fees.  He juggled the council's new and raised rates.  He proposed a new annual rate for full time residents that had the same monthly cost as they paid before for anchoring.  This would encourage them to move on to moorings.  Some fees, including the monthly mooring fee that we pay, would increase.  He also did a survey of dinghy dock fees from Annapolis, SC, and Florida showing that their new rates were out of the main stream.  The new anchoring rate in Marathon is $225/month, the next highest rate anywhere is $60/month.
  3. Both captains submitted the proposals in advance as they were encouraged to do by the Vice Mayor.  That would allow them to be incorporated on the agenda and/or time to modify the wording of ordinances up for vote.
  4. We called for a big turnout of boaters at this council meeting to show solidarity and to show that we think it is a big deal.
Well they outsmarted us again.  48 hours before the meeting they posted the agenda.  None of the boating issues were on the agenda!!! As a result, instead of 100+ boaters at the meeting as I hoped, we got only 20 or so.

When the boaters spoke during the public comment section, I watched the body language of the council members.  They appeared very hostile and uncomfortable being forced to listen to this stuff.

When it was all over, the mayor said that these questions would have to go to the "near waters committee", and "when will they meet?" he asked.   The city manager said there will be no meetings of that committee because they don't have enough members appointed to make quorum.   So where does that leave us?  In limbo.  Anchoring rights unresolved, the hiked fees still in effect, the threat of evicting Captain Jack still looming.

By the way, we do have a novel approach to change --- elect Captain Jack Mayor.  You see him below trying out the mayor's chair for practice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Key's Amateur Astronomer

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I've earned the reputation as the amateur astronomer of Book Key Harbor.  That is because I keep track of International Space Station flyovers and Iridium flares, and announce them on the Cruiser's Net on VHF channel 68 each morning.   Others in the harbor who manage to see these events with help of my info are grateful.  I enjoy doing it and it's dead simple.  I have an app on my Droid called Predisat that tells me exactly the times of major satellite flyovers and Iridium flares.

Also, since 1995, I've used APOD as my web browser home page .   APOD  gives wonderful information on Earth, space, and cosmology, in deligtful and easy to digest daily doses. For exmple, the picture below.  It is not an artist's impression.  It is a photo of the night side of Saturn.  Fantastic.

Image Credit: Cassini Imaging TeamSSIJPLESANASA

So, what is an Iridium Flare?   The Iridium Satellite phone company has a network of 77 satellites in very low orbits.  Sometimes, in the twilight hours, their solar panels act like signal mirrors.   They reflect sunlight down to a point on the earth.  If you are at that spot, you see a bright flash in the sky lasting about 1 second.    It's really cool.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hidden Secrets

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

When you stay in one place long enough, you begin to pick up some of the local secrets.  Here are some of Marathong's

  • The best key lime pie we ever tasted can be bought at the Specialty Hardware Store about 4 miles up US 1 from the Marina.

  • The best place to buy steaks is at the local dollar store, Daffy Dougs.  It's true. I swear.
  • The best produce in town, including tasty tomatoes, are found at the Chevron gas station not far from the marina.
  • At the hospital you can get a great lunch for $3 including grouper sandwidch.  Yummy.
  • If you need lettering for your boat name, go to the local pawn shop.
  • To my knowledge the only two places in the world to get a lobster reuben sandwich are at Keys Fisheries, and at the Stuffed Pig, both here in Marathon about 200 yards apart.  Keys Fisheries also serves a delicious blooming onion, big enough for 3-4 people.
  • They don't race horses here, nor greyhounds, but today is the day of the pig races at the Stuffed Pig restaurant.

  • Marathon has a semi secret network of canals and waterfront neighborhoods.  Tourists can drive past in their cars and see nothing.  That's because the people in these houses hang around in their back yards facing the water.   We can't take Tarwathie up the canals but today we toured them in a dinghy with Don and Margaret.  See the aerial picture below.  We went up into that little lake behind Sombrero Country Club.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Strike Up The Band

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I know a lot of blog readers are waiting for the verdict on our new prop.  It's installed!  Vibrations gone!  After living with these vibrations for 7 years, it is a major relief to have it fixed.

Boatyards in the keys are expensive.  One yard 6 miles East of here would haul me for $384 plus $50 for blocking.  Then I could stay and work for $40/day.  However, we want to repaint the bottom up on the Neuse river this spring. Marathon Boat Yard right in Boot Key Harbor quoted me $250/hour for a quick in/out.  WOW!  However, if I could do it in 1 hour it was cheaper.  That's what I did, and we did finish in 1 hour to the minute.

I disassembled the Maxprop.  The last piece is the hub that's pressed on the shaft.  I couldn't get it off.  My gear puller wouldn't pull it.  Once before I had to use an acetylene torch to sweat it off.  I had to ask the boatyard for help.  They considered and rejected using a hydraulic puller.  Then a beefy yard guy came with a 2" steel shaft and a 6 pound hammer.  WHANG and it popped off.  

When I paid, the boatyard owner asked if I used help.  I said, "Yes.  10 minutes."  He said their minimum labor was 1 hour at $100 per.  He charged me only 1/2 hour. That WHANG cost me $50.  But when you're up on the sling like that, you're at their mercy and in no position to negotiate.  I could have tried harder to get it off myself, or tried to argue with, but at $250/hour I was in a very big hurry.

Afterward, we went out for a test spin.  Vibrations, gone!!!   However, my max RPM is 2600, it should be 3000.  I'll have to have the new prop repitched.  Also, I was not able to slide the prop up on the taper enough for the conical prop nut to go on all the way.  I have no safety pin at the moment. That makes my very nervous.  I'm not quite sure at the moment what to do about it.

I only have 3/4 inch between the prop and the shaft log bolts.

The conical prop nut, that I could not safety with a pin.

Finished job with the conical hub zinc installed

The boat yard charged us $250/hour to sit in the sling.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Anchoring Rights Revisited

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Forgive me.  I forgot that everybody would know what I was talking about when I wrote about the proposed Marathon ordinance, so I didn't explain it fully.  I've had several comments like this one.
I'm a little confused as to why this is still going on. The question about the legality of such anchoring restrictions was settled a few years ago (it's not legal federal rights trump. If they are talking about "liveaboards" it's a different matter, which may well be what's going on there.)
Yes it was settled, but starting last summer, it got unsettled again under something called the FWC pilot program. FWC authorized St. Augustine, Stuart, Monroe County, and St Petersburg to pass temporary ordinances. After 4 years, FWC will look at the experience from those, and recommend a statewide law on what municipalities can do.  Read about it here.

On the FWC page it says, "Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 327.60 [the anchoring law that was supposed to settle things in favor of the boaters], Florida Statutes, a county or municipality selected for participation in the pilot program may regulate by ordinance the anchoring of vessels, other than live-aboard vessels as defined in s. 327.02, Florida Statutes, outside of a mooring field."

Monroe County means all of the Keys. There are draft county ordinances and ones for Key West and Marathon.  Marathon's proposal is to ban all anchoring everywhere near the harbor and Sisters Creek except one small patch big enough for 50 boats.  Right now there are 112 boats at anchor around here and in the past there have been as many as 150 at anchor, many on the waiting list for a mooring.

In Key West, and other places in Monroe County they want to permanently ban all anchoring in the most sheltered and thus popular places.

A group of local boaters, including me, are trying to fight it at the local level.  We've badgered the city council with emails, we're working on local businesses and the chamber of commerce, and we're preparing proposals to present to the council with less drastic restrictions.  I fear that we'll be crushed because other (invisible) political forces want the ban and they are more skilled politically.  They already caught us by surprise (using lies and deceit regarding public notice) leaving us only a few days to get organized and produce something.

My personal belief is that the real issue is that locals want to get rid of "undesirable" persons who live here at anchor year long with little money to spend on things other than alcohol; in other words, discrimination. Others believe it is a case of mismanagement.  There are plenty of unenforced laws on the books to regulate derelict vessels.  However, it takes time, effort and money to enforce these laws. Enforcement people want a way to enforce sitting at a PC in their office using a mouse and a geographic information system.

One problem is that our boater arguments are contradictory.  On one hand we argue the safety issue.  A boat won't dare come here without reasonable assurance of finding a mooring or a safe anchorage.  On the other hand, we argue that local businesses will lose if boaters stop coming.  Those two contradict.  If nobody comes, then there are lots of empty moorings and anchor spots and thus no safety problem.  If it is a safety problem, then the harbor is full and no business is being lost.  We can't argue discrimination because that has never been acknowledged as the motive.

Long term, Marathoners hope to see Cuba opened up.  They believe that would cause a local boom and they want to make Marathon the hub for high speed ferries to Cuba.  In the face of a wave like that, we cruisers carry little weight.

We boaters fear most that Marathon will become the example that all of Florida will follow at the end of the 4 year pilot period leading to a general statewide ban on anchoring.

A libertarian like me has no trouble finding examples of government gone bad.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Harbor Happenings

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I just made an appointment to haul the boat this Thursday.  It will be a quick in-and-out.  Haul at 11:30, remove the old maxprop, and put the new propeller on and splash at 13:00.  Wish us luck.

On Saturday they held a charity auction up at the tiki hut.  The auction was to benefit the Relay For Life cancer research fund.   Libby and I didn't have anything we wanted to buy.  We're more in the mode of trying to shed things on the boat than acquiring new ones.  However, Libby donated a pine needle basket, and Tarwathie donated an anchor, a WiFi booster, and a DC-AC inverter.  We were curious about how much money they would fetch.  The turnout was disappointing.  There were only about 30 people bidding.  Nevertheless, the auction raised $2200 for Relay For Life which made it a great success.   Libby and I got bored watching after 2 hours and left.

On Sunday, I attended a political meeting at the tiki hut.  It had to do with the proposed city ordinance about anchoring, and in the larger picture eventually anchoring rights for anywhere in Florida.  In short, the proposed ordinance would spoil Boot Key Harbor as a destination in our opinion. We are operating under the gun.  Using shrewd parliamentary tactics, the city council is giving us only about a week to organize, and produce alternatives to their suggested restrictions on anchoring in and around Boot Key Harbor.   Man, politics is difficult.  We had about 25 people there with about 50 ideas as to which direction we should go.  One man would say, "We can't shotgun them with ideas.  We must focus on 1 or 2 points."  The next man would say the opposite, "We all need to write letters to councilmen and our congressmen."   Without a leader or a procedure to resolve which path to follow, nothing could get done.  A third man wanted to make an organisation with officers, a board, bylaws and all -- clearly something with long term value, but irrelevant to what we could get done in the next 72 hours.  Never before have I been involved with actual politics at any level.  It is really hard even among a group of like-minded people with similar goals in mind.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recent Photos

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Mattie is Bob & Sandra's new puppy.  We borrowed Mattie to take her for a walk. We miss having a dog in our lives.  Mattie absolutely loves people.

The man on the boat next to us practices with his saxophone around sunset.  The whole harbor appreciates it.

Libby expands her horizons with a "diamond stitch" pattern.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dirty Jobs

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Here's something you won't see in the cruising magazines.  Cruising sometimes means sipping cool drinks in the cockpit as you gaze at beautiful sunsets.  At other times it means doing disgusting jobs and dealing with black water.  Wednesday was a black day for me.

The toilet on our boat is a genuine Wilcox and Crittenden Skipper model. Made of bronze and porcelain with no plastic, it is the Cadillac of marine toilets.  New ones cost almost $1000.   A few years ago, a blog reader said that I should be proud to own one.  It served us well.   Once an internal part broke.  Other times I had to replace rubber and leather parts that wear out.  I guess I've had to disassemble and reassemble it three times in 7 years.   On all those occasions, I was able to flush it thoroughly with clean water before doing any work, so the jobs weren't dirty.  Our friend Chris once had to replace an electric motor in his Vacuflush toilet that was submerged under black water, so I felt lucky not to own that brand.

A couple of weeks ago, we couldn't work the piston.  I blamed the joker valve.  I took out the joker (a dirty job), cleaned it, and that seemed to fix it.  Wednesday, it happened again.  That kind of failure can not wait a day or two to repair. We have only one toilet on board.  I had to tackle it instantly.  

II took out the joker once again.  It was clean.  I investigated further.  I found that the 1.5 inch riser pipe leading from the toilet to the siphon break was plugged with salt.  I removed the pipe, took it outside and poured a glass of water in the top.  Nothing came out.  The pipe was completely blocked with salt.  Then I checked the bronze siphon break -- blocked.  Then the pipe from the break to the Y-valve - blocked.  Then the Y-valve, nearly blocked. 

I worked for 30 minutes to clear the shortest 3foot  length of pipe.  Too tough without a Roto-rooter.  The longer 6 foot piece would have been impossible. So I ran to West Marine and bought 9 feet of new pipe hose.  $5/foot!  Boy their prices are high.  Then I head to clean  the break and the Y-valve of dirty salt, trying to keep that black stuff off the decks.  In the process (get ready to laugh blog readers) I dropped the Y valve overboard.  What a dumb stunt.  I'll get a local diver to retrieve it for me. 

Quickly I ran to Home Depot. I was able to buy a 1.5 inch male-male splicer.  With that I was able to pipe the black water directly to the holding tank without a Y-valve.  Finally, I went to put on the new 3 foot section.  It would not fit over the male stub at the toilet.  I looked at the old hose,  it had been stretched out an extra 1/8 inch in diameter to fit.  How the heck does one stretch hose like that? I have no idea.  I had to give up, go back to reaming the old pipe for another hour using a piece of wire, then reinstating the old hose.  Toilet back in service.  My final chore was to clean and rinse with chlorine all places between the head and the bilge where black water had spilled. Total labor 10 hours.  

So, what happened?  As far as I can figure, the salt built up in these pipes over the years.  We try to follow the recommendations to put vinegar in the toilet every week, but we forget sometimes.  It was not the toilet that was clogged, it was the plumbing.  When I feel how easily the piston works with the new plumbing, I realize that the force needed to operate it has been building over the years.  It must have increased so gradually that we did not notice.  Now, it flushes easier, faster and cleaner than it ever did.  How old was the old plumbing?  I don't know. If it was original equipment -- 35 years.

When I get the Y-valve back, I should replace the other 10 feet of remaining plumbing downstream of the Y-valve, even though the sections I can see do not appear blocked.  

Here is a picture.  You see the end of a 1.5 inch pipe.  The material is thick-walled vinyl. Only a 0.5 inch channel remained open for liquid to flow.  The inner liner is so smooth, regular and round that it appears man-made, but it is not. It is 100% dirty salt. Somewhere else in the length of plumbing, the open channel had narrowed to zero.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

FLASH! GPS wins, LightSquared loses

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

GPS wins, LightSquared loses
Bruce Buls
February 16, 2012
After an announcement this week from the F.C.C., it looks like the battle between GPS and LightSquared, a private company that wanted to establish a new terrestrial wireless broadband system using a satellite radio frequency adjacent to that used by GPS, is over. GPS wins.

Muddled In Paradise

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

We did not go to the city council meeting on Tuesday but lots of others did.  Reports said that 30-40 cruisers were in attendance.   So, what else did they report?

  • The council was said to be shocked, absolutely shocked, that anybody would think that the new anchoring fees were at all high, or that a 30%/year increase in fees was excessive.   But they asked why none of the cruisers showed up for the previous council meeting where the fees were discussed.
  • The cruisers said that none of us knew of the meeting.  The city attorney said that legal notice had been posted in the local newspaper, but nobody we know saw it.   One of the cruisers reported it to the Florida Attorney General as a violation of Florida's Sunshine law.
  • The council said no evil intent was behind the anchoring management issue.  Specific ordinances would have to be passed later to actually ban anchoring.   The next day on the VHF there was a debate to whether such an ordinance is or is not already drafted.
So in a nutshell,  nothing was decided, nothing was clarified, rampant rumors abound.  Are you surprised?

One positive development may come out of this.  The cruisers are going to try to form an association, with elected officers and everything.  If such an association exists, the city and the chamber of commerce might be willing to meet with it in advance of city council meetings.  I like the idea.

p.s.  Sorry to be slow reporting this.  Yesterday I ran into a buzz saw.  The toilet blocked.  That caused an emergency boat project all day yesterday and continuing into today.  I'll write it up later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trouble in Paradise

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I've been writing so many nice things about Marthon this year that it may be hard to mention bad things. Well, there's trouble brewing. Tonight there will be a city council meeting. A group of boaters from the harbor are going to the meeting to protest recent and proposed actions. I don't know how many will attend, so I can't call it a mob. Suffice it to say, the hotter heads here would like to make it a mob.

What's it all about? Two issues.

  1. Two weeks ago they raised the fees. The monthly mooring-ball rate increased from $275 to $300 with the new fee schedule, while monthly dinghy dockage for vessels at anchor increased from $135 to $225. The shocking part is the stiff fees for boats at anchor.
  2. Tonight they plan to vote on an ordinance that would ban anchoring anywhere in Boot Key Harbor except in a very small designated anchoring area. This would displace many dozens of boats that have been living here harmoniously at anchor for years. 
Many boaters, including myself, believe that what is really going on here is that the rich people do not want to live close to the poor people. The haves do not like the have nots. Almost none of the boats in this harbor are live-aboards in the Florida legal sense. They are all cruisers. However, there are year round cruisers who mostly live at anchor, and transient cruisers (like me) who come part of the year and stay on a mooring. The socioeconomic status of these cruisers spans an amazing range. Some are very poor, having bought their boats for only $1 and who live on next to nothing. Others are truly affluent. For example, on the cruisers net last week I heard one of them asking about buying jet fuel at the Marathon Airport. Evidently, she flew down here to her boat using her Lear Jet

I'm rather proud of this boating community. They are very egalitarian, and all of us, regardless of wealth are planning to stick up for the less advantaged. If only the land based residents of Marthon felt the same, we would have no problem. If the city succeeds in this ordinance, they will force many of these cruisers into homlessness. They will have to abandon their boats and live in one of the hobo cities hidden in the mangroves. Shameful and short sighted I think.

Anyhow, Libby and I can not go to tonight's meeting. I will however be intensely interested in hearing how it turns out. Some of the more level-headed boaters going have disciplined the mob to (a) select designated speakers, and (b) to limit their speech to three issues that can be expressed concisely.

Rates should not be changed without sufficient prior notice to those affected. Some say the Florida Sunshine Law makes that a legal requirement. A fee hike that does not apply until next winter's season is more reasonable.

The fees and anchoring restrictions are blatantly discriminatory against those who can not afford to pay.

The proposed changes would evict Captain Jack. My blog readers know Captain Jack. I've been writing about him recently. The "mob" feels strongly that no matter what else, the city must make an exception that allows Captain Jack to remain where he is.

Considering that this mob will probably be allowed only 60-120 seconds to state their grievances, I think their three items are well chosen. Stay tuned for a report on the meeting results.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Worst Foot Forward

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

It is customary for people and institutions to put their best foot forward, right?  Well that doesn't seem to be the case in the Florida Keys.   Which foot do I refer to?   It is US highway 1, locally called Overseas Highway.

As a tourist drives down US 1, he sees nothing but ugliness, tackiness, run down, ramshackle, retro commercial themes.   It would be fair to call it the world capital of tacky.  However, the beauty in the keys is in the water and at the waterfront homes and businesses.   Because of the geography, the waterfront is necessarily very close to US 1.

A few examples.  The Hurricane Restaurant where we go to SSCA luncheons each week, looks like a broken down business, perhaps a closed business.  Inside it is very nice, and the menu is good.  Behind the restaurant is a garden, then a nice motel, then a nice marina, then the Bay.  None of that is visible from US 1.

Boot Key harbor with all these cruising boat is nowhere visible from US 1.

The Sunset Grill with nice food, and beautiful views is not at all visible from US 1.

Vaca Key where Marathon is located is typical of the Keys.  Above is Florida Bay, below is the Ocean. US1 is the one and only highway.  To the left is the famous Seven Mile Bridge.  The big green areas is Boot Key for which the harbor is named.  There are no roads and no residents on Boot Key.  Short side streets come off US1, many dead-ending at the water.  Also there are many canals cut into the island so that residents can have boats in their back yards.  Typical Florida.  The side streets are numbered, and each has an ocean side and a bay side.   Navigation is very easy.

If you are a bank robber fleeing from the police, or a tourist trying to evacuate in advance of a hurricane, the Florida Keys are not a good place to be.

On the bridges between islands, you do get to see the beautiful waters, but of course you can't stop.

Not until Key West is there beauty you can see from the streets.   There are numerous very quaint and beautiful residential neighborhoods in Key West.

One man told me, "It's good that Marathon looks so ugly from US 1.  That way the tourists won't stop here; they'll keep going to Key West."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dinghy Photo Essay

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Boats come in an infinite variety of sizes and shapes. That's especially true for our very small dinghies. I marvel all the time at how radcially different some of them are.

Inflatable dinghies are the most popular among cruisers. They come with rigid bottoms or with soft bottoms. However, they look more or less the same above the water. Hard dinghies on the other hand show much more variety.
I made a little slide show of some of the dinghies here in the harbor with us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Libby continues to expand her horizons artistically.  The toothed starfish below is about 6 inches in diameter.   Libby wants to find a way to make it beautiful as an integral part of a pine needle basket. I think it looks formidable to the point of being frightening.

Libby said she does not want suggestions.  She wants to come up with her own concept for what to do with this piece of nature.

For something even more formidable, read about Felix Baumgartner.
The world’s most daring skydiver is preparing to jump out of a balloon on the edge of space. Felix Baumgartner, 42, hopes to break an altitude record which has lasted more than 50 years. He plans to dive 120,000ft – nearly 23 miles – from the adapted weather balloon full of helium. It should take 35 seconds to break the sound barrier and ten minutes in all, reaching more than 690mph. Baumgartner will not deploy his parachute until he is less than 5,000ft from the ground and he must rely on an astronaut suit and oxygen tanks to keep him alive.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What Do Cruisers Do All Day?

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W 

Let me count the ways.

  1. Sunday, lunch with friends.
  2. Monday, Dick volunteer a the library.  Dinner with friends.
  3. Tuesday, lunch with visitors from Schenectady.
  4. Wednesday, Libby volunteer at the library.  Pot luck dinner at the marina, Libby does Tai Chi with Bob & Sandra.
  5. Thursday, movie night at the Tiki Hut
  6. Friday, SSCA luncheon
  7. Saturday, farmer's market
  8. Sunday, I clean the bottom of the dinghy, Libby does laundry, we both fill the water tanks.
  9. Softball once per week, tennis every day
  10. Bacci ball once per week
  11. Yoga three times per week.
  12. Tuesdays: seminars and courses on things nautical
  13. Community Theater, amateur plays.  Bob  & Sandra volunteer there
  14. Star gazing.  We try to catch every ISS flyover and every Irridium Flash
  15. Fishing, snorkeling, bathing at the beach.
  16. Every third week, mosey on down to Burdines to buy gasoline for the generator and the outboard.
  17. There are numerous restaurants in town with great $5 lunch menues.
  18. People go to Dockside or Burdines at night for a few beers and live music.  Both places can be reached by dinghy.
  19. Libby's Pine Needle Basket class on Mondays, other crafts at the marina on Tuesdays.
  20. Ham radio club, Great Loop Cruiser's Club, Toastmasters Club.
  21. Book discussions and lectures at the library.  Nature films at a local church.
  22. On the cruiser's net, people make open invitations for mexican train dominoes, or Balderdash games.
  23. Last Sunday was a Superbowl party at the marina.
  24. Blah blah, many more.
All the above are in addition to boat projects.  My list of to-do projects it bottomless.

Do you remember the Eileen Quinn song, Tarpit Harbor?   Her lyrics were dead on.


Well the holding is good 
and the water's pretty clean 
it's an easy dinghy ashore 
the French bread is fresh 
and the laundry is cheap 
there's a well stocked hardware store 
feels so familiar, almost like home 
and I can't quite remember
what I left home for 

Tarpit Harbour
has sucked down my anchor
and with it my will to be free
there's some what goes sailing
I seem to go anchoring 
stuck in the muck this side of the sea.

Monday there's movies 
Tuesdays the potluck
Wednesdays I play volleyball
there's the luncheon on Thursday 
happy hour Fridays 
Saturday the market's 
got my favorite stall
Sundays I look at my list of boat projects
then lie down and try to recover from it all

Chorus: tarpit harbour ....

well I'd have been long gone 
if I hadn't been waiting
on boat parts from overseas
now my tools are all rusted 
autopilot's busted
and the freezer refuses to freeze
but I would have remedied 
all of these problems 
if I wasn't so busy shooting the breeze 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Why Marathon

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I'm not the only one who can write.  My friend Bob just posted a really good post about Marathon.  Instead of reading my stuff today, read Bob's here.  I recommend it. 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Captain Jack's 90th

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W 

Captain Jack is one of Book Key Harbor's most beloved residents.  He has been here on the keys, living on a boat, since the 1950s.  Today he is 90 and he's still doing it. Surprisingly, the women told me they don't mind.  I wish I could get away with that.

Jack also has plenty of stories to tell as you might imagine.  He knows volumes about Keys history.

I took Jack to lunch last week.  He told me how he got here.  Jack was sailing past the keys one day long long ago when a terrible storm came up.   Unable to make way to weather, he dropped hook on the reef.  Normally, that's not a good thing to do.  It damages the coral.  It also leaves you in on a shoal where the waves double or triple in size.  Anyhow, Jack kneeled on the floor hanging on to hand holds on either side and made it through the night.  When he went out in the morning after the storm has passed, his rudder was gone.  He couldn't go anywhere. [remind me to tell you my story about the day my rudder broken with my father on board] He had to get towed to the nearest place which happened to be Marathon.  He's been here on a boat ever since.  He earned a living running a dive boat out of Marathon.

This week, the cruisers in the harbor did well by Captain Jack.  At the Wednesday Pot Luck dinner, they had a big birthday cake for Jack.  Today we had Jack as the guest of honor at the weekly SSCA luncheon.  49 people were there.   The cruisers in the harbor gave him a special present -- a calendar for February marking 11 invites to Jack to go to lunch.   Anybody who manages to still live on a boat in paradise at the ripe old age of 90, (including all the infirmaries that come with it) earns our respect and admiration.

Jack also told me that there once was a very nice fresh water spring east of Boot Key Harbor.  There was also a fresh water lake there filled with flamingos and other exotic birds.  Then, they went and built a plaza for the Winn Dixie supermarket.  Stores in the plaza had septic fields that polluted the spring.  Then the polluted spring spoiled the lake too.  Eventually they filled in the lake to make a place for a Publix store and its parking lot.  Boy, I sure would have liked to have seen this place before so many people arrived.

Happy Birthday Captain Jack.

Jack at the Wednesday Pot Luck Dinner

Cutting the cake

Jack's boat and home

Jack at the SSCA Lunch

The crowd at the SSCA lunch.  We had 49 people.  We hold this lunch every Friday.
The restaurant has great lunches for only $5.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Just a quick note.  The current issue of Lattitudes & Attitudes magazine includes a two page copy of this rainbow photo of Tarwathie.  

Brian McPhee, the photographer who took the picture, finally got some money for his excellent work.  I wasn't so lucky.  Lattitudes & Attitudes published my article on Champlain a while back, but I never got a check.  I contacted the editor and she assured me, "The check is in the mail." But I never got it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Land Versus Water Cruising

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

It's kind of a running joke.  Cruisers start with a sail boat, then they graduate to a trawler, then to an RV, then to a wheelchair.   Ha ha, lame joke.   However, we've known people who have actually made each of those transitions.

In recent years, two of our closest cruising friends, gave up their boats and bought RVs.  First it was Stephan and Lori, then Pat and Ray.  I thought it was interesting as to their insights about how cruising on land was or was not like cruising on water.   I learned several things from them.

  • A boat can anchor out, or it can tie up at a marina.  Similarly, RVs can park in the wild, or they can go to an RV park.  Our friends tell us that parking in the wild is rarer in RVs than anchoring is in boats.  They spend almost all their evenings in RV parks.
  • Because they make reservations in RV parks, and because they are less influenced by weather, RV cruisers tend to fill up their calendars well in advance.   Boaters by contrast try to resist all planning and obligations to be at a particular place on a certain date.  I think that's a very profound and important difference.
  • The social dynamics of RV cruisers is different than boating cruisers.  One reason for that (as described to me is that in the morning, most Neighbors in the RV park will take off in all directions.  You're not likely to meet them again.  That gives less incentive to invest on making new friends spontaneously.  On boats, especially in the islands or along the ICW, you're highly likely to meet the same boats again and again, so friendships can blossom.
  • Creature comforts are much easier to host on an RV.   Things like a reclining easy chair, or an upright refrigerator, and a TV.  The TV can be corrosive though.  It can seduce RV cruisers back into the mainstream consumer culture they were trying to escape from.
  • Repairs are more frequent, more expensive, and harder to do yourself on an RV as compared to a boat.
  • Like boaters, RV cruisers like to hold rendezvous with others of the same make and model, or with some other kind of affiliation.   Boat rendezvous are more local.   RV rendezvous can attract people from thousands of miles around.
  • Some RV parks, like some marinas or harbors, attract mostly transient people who come in for a short time, then leave.  Others attract people who stay for extended periods, or who become semi-permanent residents.   In that respect, water and land cruising are alike.
Curiously, Stephan, Lori, Pat and Ray all gave up RV cruising and moved into fast land fixed housing after a couple of years.  Their RVs sit parked in their yards most of the time.  Their reasons for doing that were similar and family related.   Of course, unlike the sterotype, none of them are even close to wheelchair read yet.  It seems that water cruising, followed by land cruising, were chapters in their lives.   Libby and I don't plan to do that.  We hope to stay on the boat until we're too infirm to continue.

Another difference is the kinds of traffic you meet along the road. See below. :-)