Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Get There Itis

Osprey Marina, Myrtle Beach, SC
Several readers wrote to express relief that we sought shelter rather than face this storm while out at sea. We too are glad, although I'm bugged that we could have been in Beaufort NC before the storm reached us. That is frustrating.
The emotion I'm feeling is called get-there-itis. I'm reminded of that because one of the people sending emails is a pilot. Pilots are thourougly trained on get-there-itis. That includes me, back in the days when I was flying. The disease has caused countless fatal accidents.
Here is the scenario. Unsafe conditions are approaching. Prudence dictates that one stay put in a safe place and wait for it to pass. However, you are bugged by the thought, "I want to get there first." That leads to unrealistic optimistic estimates of how you can beat the storm by getting to your destination first.
It is a powerful emotional tug on your brain. I'm feeling it right now, more than 24 hours after making our decision to play it safe. That is a symtom of a serious disease; if you feel bad about making the right choice.
Let's have it. All together now. Three cheers for training.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Back Inside

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
33 40.862 79 02.512 W

We're back in from the sea, tied up at Osprey Marina for two days.

Things were very gentle on The Atlantic this trip.  We had to motor 30 of the 40 hours that we were out.  But now comes the frustration.   The forecast for tonight and the next two days were for southerly winds 20-25 knots.  Ideal for continuing up to Beaufort NC.  But the same forecast also calls for a severe front with thunderstorms and tornado warnings.  We would not want Murphy to catch up with us with a severe storm just as we were crossing Frying Pan Shoals.  So we chickened out.

Why here?  Because our arrival time at the mouth of the river coincided with slack tide before flood.  Bucking outgoing tides in these rivers can be tough.

Another reason for coming in, 48 hours at sea seems to be our limit nowadays.   Too long out with too little sleep and fatigue creeps in while judgement creeps out.

By the way, we had a bit of unnecessary drama this morning.  For two days, we have been hearing the Coast Guard give warnings about a hazard at the entrance to Winyah Bay. It said, "Buoy 8 is off station.  It is stuck in the channel between buoys 5A and 6A and underwater."  Well, that's pretty scary.  How do you avoid hitting it if it is in the channel and hidden?    So in we came, dead slow speed and with Libby posted in the bow as a lookout as we approached 5A and 6A.   Nothing seen, no problem, and another 100 yards beyond, there was buoy 8 on-station right where it is supposed to be.  The whole hazard report must have been bogus.  I called the Coast Guard and told them.

By the way, 24 hours after departing Mayport, Libby calculated that we bypassed 360 miles of ICW.  That is 7 days at 50 miles per day.   Our rule of thumb that one day's sailing on the outside makes the same progress as one week on the inside on the ICW seems to be accurate.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Just passed Charleston

Heading for Winyah bay.
We bypassed 360 miles of ICW in the past 30 hours.

Nautical Ettiquette

At Sea, Monday morning
32 03.658 N 080 26.312 W
This is shaping up to be a strange passage. The wind is on again/off again, so we have been motoring half the tmie. The wind promises to get better starting Tuesday night but it wil bring potentially severe thunderstorms with it. Most strange, the weather info talks about flooding in all North Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina rivers. There must have been a really big rain event to the west that we didn't hear about.
When we do come in from the sea, it will be to a river. Flooding is a concern. I decided to continue until Tuesday morning, then decide what to do from there.
But today we are busybodies. The AIS allows us to snoop on the activities of other vessels. We've been doing that this morning. A big container ship, The New Delhi Express, came out of the Savannah River and passed close to us heading east 093 at 9.9 knots. No problem. I figured he was heading for India.
About a half hour later, we heard the New Delhi Express call the Charleston Pilot. I changed to channel 14 to eavesdrop., They made an appointment for the ship to arrive in Charleston four hours from now. We are heading towards Charleston, it is NE, bearing 052 at 60 nautical miles. To make the appointment, the ship woult have to turn left to 052 and increast speed to 15 knots.
But he didn't turn left, he turned right, heading directly away from Charleston. Strange. After 15 mintues of that, he stopped dead. Double strange. After sitting a helf hour or so, he resumed course 093 at 9.9 knots. What? That won't get him to his appointment. Finally, he increased speed to 17 knots but at 085 rather than 052. That will put him 35 miles east of Charleston at the appointed hour.
It would be a serious breach of nautical ettiquette to call him on the radio and ask if he is lost. There are numerous possible rational reasons for his actions other than being lost. He could have techical problems with the ship. He could be training a helmsman. Our role is to keep our noses out of his business, but it is sure hard to not speculate and also hard to not blog about it.
By the way. We have a new birdie num num. That's what we call the tiny land birds that land on Tarwathie as life saving refuge. We believe that they flew out to sea by mistake, and that they would perish if they didn't find us. It seems to always be a kind of small bird with yellow on his belly (Goldfinch?). If he is smart, he'll ride with us until we approachg shore. The same thing has happened a half dozen times in the past. Poor little birds. A lot of them must die.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Going Out To Sea, Whee

Mayport, Florida
30 18.916 N 081 25.771 W
We think that our window is about to appear. A window about 60 hours long. At the end of the 60 hours on Wednesday, a front with nasty thunderstorms will pass. We don't want to be out there then.
So, we'll take our chances. In 24 hours we can reach Port Royal Sound and Beaufort, SC. In 48 hours we can reach Charlestown, or the Wacamaw river, or maybe Cape Fear.
No promises as to whether I can post new blogs while out at sea. Maybe.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Crusing Tip, Safety Tip

Daytona Beach, Florida
29 06.096 N 080 57.104 W
Well, our dilemma, to wait or not to wait, is resolved. We did not wait. We made 71 miles yesterday from Vero to Titusville. We'll end up somewhere north of Daytona tonight. The weather has been nice, but increasingly hot. That is a reminder to get our asses north.
I'll pass on two excellent tips. Neither tip is mine. I heard them from others. But they are great ones.
First, a safety tip. When riding on dinghies or walking on docks, do not wear a heavy backpack on your back. I do that all the time, with computers and other heavy stuff in the pack. If you fall in the water with the pack, you'll go straight to the bottom like a stone, and you might not survive. Around the water, carry your back in your hand, not on your back.
Second, a cruising trip. In third world places we like to meet local people and to make friends with them. Often they might do great favors for us, and we would like to reciprocate. But how? What gift would be appropriate. A framed picture of the local family is very often a gift greatly appreciated. How do you do that? You need to carry a photo printer on board, plus good quality glossy photo paper, plus ink. You can also stock up on picture frames a the dollar store before departure. It is an inexpensive gift, and not too difficult for you, but that can be of great value to the recipient.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Light Tricks

Vero Beach, Florida

Look at the picture below. It shows one of two gimballed oil lamps we have on board, and the light patterns on the wall when the sun streams through the portholes and the lamp's globe.   We see the same patterns with both lamps and with light coming from any one of six portholes.

As you can see, the pattern is dominated by horizontal lines.  No such lines are visible in the glass.  Both oil lamps make similar patterns.  I've tried cleaning the globes with vinegar to see if it might be dirt on the glass causing the lines.  Nope.  

The porthole glass is tempered.  I suppose it is possible that the light coming through them is polarized.  But I can't see how that plays any role.  Besides, the different portholes would have random polarization orientations, but the lines are horizontal no matter which porthole the light comes in.

You can see in the picture that light from the portholes that does not go through the lamp globe has no pattern.

I just noticed that the picture shows something that is not visible to my naked eye.  I see spider-web like connections between the lamp and the wall.  It looks like the light rays cross forming an X pattern in the air.  Hmm, very interesting but I still don't see how that makes the lines.

Could it be constructive/destructive interference as light rays reach the wall via two different paths?

To me, this is an unexplained mystery.  Why the lines in the light pattern? Is this something a PHD candidate could write a thesis on?  I could spend days staring at that pattern trying to understand it.  What do readers say?  Please comment.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Traditional Dilemma

Vero Beach
27 39.650 N 080 22.279 W
We might be ready to depart on Tuesday. However, the next weather window to go outside won't come until Friday at best, and even that is iffy. Should we sit and wait for a window? Should we move on up the ICW looking for a window day by day?
We have agonized about exactly that dilemma many times in the past. We've made the former choice and regretted it. We've made the latter choice and regretted it. There is no right/wrong answer.
One major factor, from here north to Cape Canaveral we can go outside and jump into The Gulf Stream. If we did that, and if we had favorable winds, we could be in Beautort, NC in three days.
If we go up the ICW north of Cape Canaveral, the coast goes NW while the Gulf Steam doesn't. Going outside at Fernandina, the Gulf Stream is more than 100 miles east. It means that using the Gulf Stream's boost is impractical. With favorable winds, we could sail from Fernandina to Beaufort in 3 days, the same number of days as if we had just sat and waited here! So what't the point, why justify the expense of motoring up the ICW for three days?
On the other hand, we can sit here and come Friday we find that the window dissapeared. Wait another week, and that window disappers too. All the time, we are feeling more and more antsy. There is no upper limit on how long the wait might be. Hard core cruisers who almost never use their engines, need flexibility of departure/arrival dates of +/- two months!
But what I said is not totally true. I recall one skipper of a W42 (sorry, I forgot his name). He was not afraid of being stuck at sea with too little wind, nor afraid of being stuck out there in a storm. Not even north winds opposing the Gulf Stream currents would discourage him. He would go out at Fort Pierce and head for NC, not caring if it will take 3 or 30 days to get there. Hats off to him, but it's not for us.
Commercial delivery skippers are also different. They tend to depart on the first possible day, and hardly look at the weather forecast. But deliveries tend to have ample crew on board, and none of the crew are their family, and the vessels they risk loosing are not their homes.
So, which choice will we make this time? Stand by.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Feels Like (Yet Another) Home

Vero Beach, Florida
I've been through this before. Long time blog readers have too. Where is our home? Whatever the answer to that, Vero Beach feels like home. I could walk around much of this city at night, blindfolded, without stubbing my toe.
Yesterday we got into a real mess on the Saint Lucie Canal. We came to the end of the canal behind a tug pushing two barges. But the lock seemed to be jammed up. It seems that another tug pushing two other barges in the other direction arrived earlier in the day. It pushed one of the barges into the lock, then backed off. The barge was so big, that nothing could fit in the lock with it.
So the lock lifts the barge. What now? There was no way to get the barge out of the lock. On the Erie Canal, locks have powerful electric windlasses that can pull vessels without a tug boat. If they had one here, it wasn't working. Apparently, the barge had been in the lock most of the day. There was a huge backup of boats on the other side waiting to get through.
Finally the tug in front of us agreed to help. But it would take a half day to do all the maneuvers before it would be our turn. We gave up, and pulled into a slip at the Corps of Engineers Camp Site which happened to be right there.
Today, was a fine day on the water. We feared heavy holiday boat traffic near the Saint Lucie inlet, but traffic was light.
We'll stay in Vero just a few days to do errands, and to buy clothes for the coming year, then we'll head north. Ideally, we'll be able to go out to sea at Fort Pierce and go nonstop to North Carolina. But the chances of the weather cooperating that much are slim. We'll see.
By the way. Vero is a very rich town. The Salvation Army/Goodwill/consignment shops here are excellent. I joke that Vero has the only Goodwill with a Gucci section. We buy all our clothes here. Amazing bargains.
Both Libby and I need new glasses. We'll get our eye tests here, order online at zenni optical, and have them shipped to Dave & Cathy in North Carolina.

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.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Help Please. Urgent!

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Things have been chaotic around here this morning. We don't know what to do next. Here's the story.

Around 7:30 this morning we heard a noise and looked outside. There was a baby manatee in our dinghy? What the heck? I called Libby up on deck. As we were looking, the reason for this unprecedented occurrence became clear. A big hungry alligator, maybe 12 feet long, was circling around and trying to grab the baby. We think the baby jumped into the boat to escape. There's also blood in the dinghy.

OMG!!! We had to think quick. What to do? We thought about trying to lift the baby up onto Tarwathie. Nah. Too heavy. Even a baby manatee weighs several hundred pounds. We could hoist it up with a block and tackle, but without a proper harness we would injure the baby.

As we watched, the baby seemed to become more distressed. It made crying noises. We theorized that it was drying out in the sun and maybe dying. Quick, we grabbed our buckets and started pouring bucket after bucket of water into the dinghy. Soon we had it swamped. The dinghy's gunwales were under water, so fresh salt water could circulate and keep the baby healthy. The dingy didn't capsize because we had it tied up. That way it formed a protective cage, keeping the gator away from the baby, but the gator could easily tip it over.

But we still have no real solution to the problem. We called animal rescue at FWC, the Florida Wildlife Commission. Their answering machine said 8-5 Monday-Friday. No help. We called the US Coast Guard. They won't help either unless it is a person in danger.

The alligator hadn't gone away. It swam around and every once in a while it poked the dinghy with its nose. He must be desperately hungry. The alligator also gave its throaty roaring sound, perhaps to frighten the baby manatee. The baby's mother was nowhere in sight.

Now, we have more help. We got on the VHF radio and announced the predicament to the whole Boot Key Harbor. Soon a half dozen others came in their dinghies to help. Right now they are circling Tarwathie and slapping their oars on the surface, trying to keep the gator away. I'm worried about the boaters in the inflatable dinghies. One gator bite and they sink, dumping the people in the water.
As captain of this vessel, I decided that the best thing for me to do is to go below to write a blog post. If you have a constructive suggestion, please post it as a comment immediately. We may not have time to reply, but we'll read the comments in real time as they come.