Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Wood Carvings by Mike

We added a new page for Mike's carvings. Go to the PAGES section on the right hand side and click on "Mike's Carvings".


Monday, June 27, 2016

Planning for the Bahamas

Look what hopped into Brenda's hands when we were exploring Mariners Trading Inc, a consignment/resale store in Port Charlotte. We picked up this planning guide for a couple bucks to just get us started thinking about what particular spots in the Bahamas we would like to visit and then figure out how to get there. We also want to get more familiar with the lay of the land. We've heard people talk about Marsh Harbor, Green Turtle Cay, the Berry Islands and Rum Cay. Now we can really dig in and start making the rest of our dream come true. Hopefully we will head to the Florida Keys in November/December and then jump to the Bahamas from there.

Our trip up and down the west coast of Florida gave us a good foundation for the Bahamas. We are comfortable anchoring out for extended periods of time. We are pretty much self-contained. However, the Bahamas will be more remote and will require more consideration for provisioning as well as where to obtain water and fuel. We anticipate we will be anchored out in various places for four to five months and will need to be somewhat strategic about where we stay.

It's never too early to start planning.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mike's Recent Carvings

Jeff Dunham's "Walter"

Why hasn't Mike been spending much time carving over the last couple of months?

Too busy having fun? Too many boat chores? Just plain lazy? Well, maybe all three reasons have kept him away from his hobby. While we were in Clearwater Mike carved the little guy above based on ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's "Walter".

Then while in Sarasota Mike decided he wanted to carve an artist. This is how he turned out.

Maybe now that we will be in Punta Gorda for a while Mike will get busy and create some new characters.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

No Joke...That Joker Had to Go!

Sailboats and heads (toilets) seem to have a love-hate relationship. When they work, they make life much more pleasant (even though you have to pump rather than flush). When they don't....well, let's just say it isn't pretty. And we were to the "not pretty" phase. It seems that lately when we pump to empty the bowl all is well until you turn around and walk out. Then the bowl fills back up, and not with clean water. Time for a new joker valve. That is a rubber piece that keeps the bad water from coming back into the bowl.

Mike went online and found a complete rebuild kit and had it sent here to the marina. As long as we were going to replace one part we might as well do a complete rebuild. To make the job a little less odiferous, we had the holding tank pumped out and flushed with clean water. Mike was ready to go. Brenda stayed outside on the other end of the boat. Way on the other end!

The rebuild on our Jabsco Twist-n-Lock head went pretty quickly. Hopefully the new joker isn't as funny as the last one.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Anchoring Out vs Staying in a Marina


The sailing life is a balancing act.  Should we keep the sails up and go slower, or turn on the motor to get there faster?  Should we wait another day before taking off in hopes of catching better winds or take off today and see what happens?  When it is raining, should we cook on the grill to reduce the heat in the cabin or get wet while cooking?

One of the biggest decisions we face is whether to anchor out or pull into a marina.   Mind you, sometimes there is no choice.  One area might have a marina but no anchorage.  Another might only have anchoring but no marina.  There are several things to consider when we make this decision.  Here is our personal list of the pros and cons of anchoring out vs slipping at a marina.

Anchoring Out Pros
  • Boat faces into the wind which means you can catch a breeze easier
  • Facing into the wind reduces the slapping of waves on the transom (back end of the boat)
  • More privacy
  • Cheaper
  • More natural setting
  • The sound and feel of the waves rocking you to sleep
  • The view
  • Feels more like cruising
  • Fewer flying pests
  • Much easier to pick up and leave quickly
  • No reservations required
Anchoring Out Cons
  • Mores susceptible to bad weather
  • Shore access is sometimes limited
  • Harder to meet other people
  • Refilling water and provisioning takes longer
  • Pump-outs not usually readily available
  • Electrical needs must be produced on board
  • Garbage and recyclables need to be stored on board
  • No guarantees of a spot
Marina Pros
  • Easier to meet people
  • Creature comforts-electric, water, showers, laundry
  • Amenities close by - restaurants, grocery store, live music
  • Easier to get exercise
  • Secure feeling
  • People close by willing to help out
  • Access to garbage receptacles
  • Easier to walk away from your boat for longer periods of time
  • Easier access for visitors
  • The toilets flush!!
Marina Cons
  • Depletes cruising kitty faster
  • Temptations to spend more on dining out/entertainment
  • People walking by your boat (looky-loos)
  • You don't usually get rocked to sleep
  • More boats around if weather gets really rough
  • View not usually as nice
  • Boat not always facing into wind and waves
  • Stress of docking/maneuvering a full-keeler in tight quarters
How does your personal list differ from ours?  For right now, slipping in a marina wins due to the hurricane season.  After the hurricane season passes, we will be doing a lot of anchoring out...hopefully in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hot, Hot, Hot!

The summer heat and storms have come early here on the west coast of Florida. Every day seems hotter than the last. We installed our tiny A/C unit in our companionway door and it has been awesome. It keeps the boat cooler and drier which makes sleeping so much nicer.

Last season we bought a couple of those cheap blue plastic tarps to fashion a crude sun shade for Wrinkles. It was amazing the drop in temperature inside the boat once those tarps were put up. We hated the noise they made whenever the wind picked up, but it was still worth it to leave them up. We decided to make a cheap sun shade this season which would be simple to put up, quieter than the plastic tarps and cover a bigger area. A 12' X 15' painter's tarp at Home Depot fit the bill perfectly.

We marked out a couple items like the mast and some halyards which would require slits or holes in the sun shade. This part of the process took much longer than expected as a large group of dolphins came to feed just 150' away from our slip. All work stops for Brenda if there is a dolphin in sight. Brenda eventually decided to get back to work and made those modifications and then made reinforced attachment points using sail repair tape and nylon strapping. Finally she re-stitched all the seams and edges on the painter's tarp with good UV resistant outdoor thread.

Bret (s/v Elusive) pitched in by rolling on some Thompson's Water Seal to make the sun shade at least a little bit water resistant. It was amazing how much of the Thompson's Seal the canvas sucked up. Brenda would sew up another painter's tarp for Bret and Theresa's Jeanneau as well.

Re-inforced attachment points

We installed the sun shade and it is working really well. If it lasts one or two years it will have done its job.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Sail Green Blog

We want to be good stewards for the beautiful waters that we now call our backyard. In researching subjects such as environmentally responsible bottom paints, oil spill prevention/remediation and non-toxic or natural cleaning products we found the subjects fascinating. Since we have a bit of free time on our hands we have launched a new website based on "Leaving a clean wake."

Go take a look if you are interested.


Friday, June 10, 2016

A Visit Too Short

Sarah, Steve and Brenda on Englewood Beach.

Our good friends Steve and Sarah have gone back to Illinois after visiting us in Punta Gorda. We met this awesome couple several years ago when we attended a sailing event for Com-Pac owners which they were hosting. By the end of the week-long event we knew we had new lifelong friends.

During their week with us we had fun bumming around both on and off the water. Steve especially enjoyed the tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Well, maybe enjoyed is a little too strong of a word. Let's say he didn't hate the tour.

Steve and Mike using the walking tour audio units properly.

We dinghied to a waterfront restaurant and they saw an Inkfish for the first time. Weird little fish!


We searched for seashells and watched sunsets as our week slipped quickly away. Thanks for coming to visit us guys. We miss you already.

Sarah and Steve
Mike hunting for the perfect seashell.
Steve and Sarah playing in the Gulf.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Running Out Of Juice

Wrinkles in her slip at Fishermen's Village

Wrinkles has four house batteries to supply all her electrical needs. Refrigeration, lighting, water pumps, bilge pump, fans, electronic items, instruments and more all need juice to perform. We can keep the batteries charged three different ways.

  1. Run the Yanmar diesel which has an alternator. This is fine when we are going somewhere, but Mike hates to run the Yanmar just to produce electricity when we are at anchor.
  2. Solar panels which work non-stop whenever there is some sunlight. They have supplied ALL of our power since we last used shore power (see #3) back in February. How cool is that?
  3. Shore power - just like an RV we can plug Wrinkles into an outlet on land. Shore power is alternating current (AC) which is converted to direct current (DC) by a boat's battery charger. This is just like using a car battery charger plugged into your outlets at home.

Since Tropical Storm Colin has been hiding the sun these past few days our solar panels finally fell behind our electrical needs. No fans running in the boat when it is raining and 90+ degrees out is not a good thing! No problem, we'll just go to shore power. We plugged into the marina's outlet and waited for the sweet hum of our battery charger telling us the juice was flowing. Listen, listen, listen. Silence is nice, but not when you are waiting for an expensive piece of equipment to run.

Boat spelunking.

Test the shore power coming into the boat. Check. Test the power going out to the battery charger. Check. Ok, time to empty the port lazerette and go boat spelunking. Fun times, right Jim? Mike climbed down into the lazerette and started troubleshooting the battery charger.

Testing the Xantrex battery charger.

The well known joke that B.O.A.T. stands for, "Break Out Another Thousand" has it's roots in the truth. The 14 year old battery charger is fried and will need to be replaced. Not "Another Thousand", but a pricey fix indeed. The good news is the sun is starting to peek out again and our solar panels are back at work. At least we get to run the fans again tonight.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Blackburn Bay and Englewood Beach

Blackburn Bay

Now that we are safely tucked in at Fisherman's Village Marina we wanted to let you know what we had been up to the last few days.

We anchored overnight in Blackburn Bay just off the GIWW. It didn't offer much for exploration, but there was a nice little beach beckoning us over for a swim on this hot day. We took The Ernie T over to the beach and enjoyed a short swim and some nature watching. If you are sailing through the area and need a quiet spot to drop your anchor give Blackburn Bay a try.

The following morning we moved further south toward Englewood Beach. Looking at our charts and reading the reviews on Active Captain made Englewood Beach look like a neat spot to stop for a few days. We arrived at near high tide to clear the sand bar just off the GIWW at the entrance to the anchorage. If you turn a little too soon or late you get to call TowBoat US. We never saw less than 6 feet of water which was a relief.

We found a good anchorage spot and set the hook. We found that the tide runs really strong through here and would swing us too far north into shallow waters. Hoisting the anchor and chain we moved about 100 feet to slightly deeper water and reset the anchor. To limit our swing due to the reversing current we decided to put out our second anchor from the bow. Mike climbed in The Ernie T with the Bruce anchor and deployed it 65 feet down current. Perfect.


Here is why we needed two anchors. As the river current switches from ebb to flow our boat would swing in a huge circle. The anchor would pull itself out and then have to reset in the new direction.

One anchor set in a river.

The solution is to deploy a second anchor down river which limits boat swing. When there is an ebb current we would hang off of the purple anchor. When the current reverses we would hang off the red anchor. Kinda neat isn't it?

Once safely anchored at Englewood Beach we were surprised when Bret and Theresa (s/v Elusive) pulled in and anchored near us. We didn't expect to see them again so soon. They rowed over to Wrinkles for sundowners and snacks which was a lot of fun. We made plans for a happy hour at the White Elephant Bar the next day. We picked Bret and Theresa up in The Ernie T and putted to shore. We enjoyed live music and some really great Pulled Pork Nachos.

The following day our good friends Steve and Sarah from Illinois came to visit us. We met at the White Elephant Bar for a late lunch and a couple of cocktails. We loved the Pulled Pork Nachos again! We dinghied out to Wrinkles where Steve and Sarah got an up close dolphin visit for several minutes. Dolphins are fascinating and beautiful creatures. After a tour of Wrinkles and a long swim we made our way back to the White Elephant for another cocktail.

Steve checking out Wrinkles.

We wandered across the street to watch the sunset from the beach. It was nice to share one of "our" sunsets with good friends.

Brenda and Sarah on a seashell hunt.
These sunsets never get old.

We looked forward to spending a couple more days with Steve and Sarah at Englewood Beach, but as you know Tropical Storm Colin would change our plans.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tropical Storm Colin

This screenshot of the western coast of Florida gives you an idea of what TS Colin is thinking. It appears that the storm will track mostly offshore and then curve into the Florida panhandle north of us. As we watched the forecasts over the last few days it became obvious our area was going to be affected by the storm. We pulled up both the anchors we had set in Englewood Beach and hustled down the GIWW. Entering Charlotte Harbor we turned north and pointed Wrinkles at Fisherman's Village Marina in Punta Gorda.


We had planned on spending the storm season at Fisherman's, but we didn't expect the storm season to begin so soon. Arriving just outside the marina on Saturday afternoon we just barely had time to set the anchor before a strong storm front rolled through. On Sunday we hailed the marina and received permission to enter slip C27. Wrinkles snugged herself into the slip and we tied her in with a number of lines.

The storm appears to have come a little earlier than the forecasters thought with heavy rains already pounding down. Monday and Tuesday appear to be the windiest and rainiest days, so we will stick close to Wrinkles to monitor lines and adjust them as necessary. It sounds like the biggest concern is flooding which could cause our boats to get too high in their slips. Hopefully TS Colin will treat us nicely and all we'll get is a good boat wash.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bridges, Bridges And More Bridges

Blackburn Swing Bridge

After releasing our mooring ball at Marina Jack in Sarasota we turned Wrinkles south into the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. The dolphins waved goodbye to us and then just one mile later we were waiting for the Siesta Key bridge to open for our passage. Bridges would be the theme for the next two days. This stretch of the GIWW has bridges galore.

Bridges make traveling by boat interesting to say the least. In many areas the low mechanical bridges have been replaced by 65 foot high fixed bridges. Wrinkles' mast is only 44 feet high, so we can just cruise right under them. The swing and bascule bridges are a different story. The night before we travel we spend time working with our charts and books to find possible anchorages or marinas. We also note the information for each bridge along the route. The proper name to hail the bridge tender on VHF. How much vertical clearance? Opening times on demand or on a time schedule? Any current construction or maintenance going on that might alter the opening schedule? How many miles from bridge to bridge?

Bascule Bridge

It seems like a lot of information, but believe us it is all necessary. Some bridge tenders won't respond if you don't hail the proper bridge name. Been there, done that. Sail ten miles up the waterway to find a bridge closed for repairs. Done that too.

The opening schedule is the most important item. Our sailboat only goes about 5 mph, so rushing to catch an opening isn't really possible. Arriving 15 minutes before an opening can be an unnerving event. Sailboats don't have parking brakes, so sitting in a skinny channel with other boats for any length of time is a real struggle especially when the current is strong. Sailboats don't steer unless they are moving. The solution is to know exactly how far away the next bridge is and to sail at just the right speed to cover that distance and arrive a couple minutes before the bridge opens.


If you have done your math right and you arrive on time, then it is time to hail the bridge tender on the VHF and request a bridge opening. Most of the bridge tenders are awesome and make the process fairly easy. Occasionally you get "Mr./Mrs./Ms McGrumpy", but not too often.

A 2 1/2 minute video of Wrinkles raising a bridge.

Sweet, through another bridge. "How far to the next one dear?"