Monday, February 27, 2017

A Mix of Work and Play

Brenda's provisioning process.

OK. We've played a lot lately and now it's time to get to work on boat projects (at least for part of the day). Boats are like houses...they continually need attention. Wrinkles is 33 years old now and some things are just plain wearing out. So, in the last week, Mike has changed the oil and replaced a fuel bleeder, installed new fuel filters, installed grab bars so we have something to hold onto when we go from the cockpit to the deck, upgraded our swim ladder with starboard non-skid steps, added a fuel filter/water separator for the dinghy, patched the dinghy leak, put an on/off switch on the depth sounder and you already heard about the head. Brenda cleaned all the stainless, sent in our taxes, organized and inventoried all our provisions, hung our cockpit lights, sewed a mast boot cover and another jerry can cover. Together we filled all the water jugs and biked all our provisions (groceries) back to the boat.

Garmin 741xs - Sweet!
New boarding ladder steps with non-slip surfaces.
Movie night with Will and Sonia
Our festive cockpit lights.
Brenda aboard The Ernie T

But don't worry, we have still found time to play. We went to a movie in the park under a beautifully starry sky. Guess what they showed? Titanic! We went to the huge nautical flea market in Islamorada. Mike found a slightly used wet suit for $20. Of course Sonia (Allora) found Mike struggling to get into the wetsuit so entertaining she started taking pictures! None of those pictures will be making it into this blog. We went to Hurricanes Bar to hear a band called Fiddle Rock, attended the American Legion breakfast, fished in Sister's Creek from the dinghy, SUP'd, made baskets, carved wood, attended happy hour at The Ale House and watched numerous beautiful sunsets. Hiking state park trails with Roger and Peggy (Never Say Never) was fun and the ice cream afterwards was perfect. We also had a wonderful night of dinner and drinks with Will and Sonia aboard their beautiful cruiser Allora. Each day we stop by the marina office/rec room to download movies and check up on other cruisers. We enjoy chatting with cruising couples like Lynn and Brian (Midori) when we bump into them there. Quite often these chance meetings turn into plans to get together for a happy hour or sundowners aboard a boat. You meet the nicest people here. In the evenings we are reading our new Bahamas cruising guides (Stephen Pavlidis) and our Explorer Chartbooks.

Happy hour fun.

Our time in Boot Key Harbor is winding down so quickly. We have loved exploring the area and meeting so many great people. But, we are getting anxious to sail off and explore new places. Our good friends Don and Gail (Island Tyme) are enroute and expect to be here in just 2-3 days. We are thrilled that we we will be getting back together and hopefully sailing over to the Bahamas with them. Sail fast "Little Pig".


Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Plan for the Bahamas (or lack thereof)

Bahamian Flag

We have been asked many times over the past month about our plans for the Bahamas. We always answer that we want to head over around the first week of March and be back in the States in June. That is a pretty vague plan. Thankfully, many people here have made the trek across to the Bahamas several times and are willing to share their wisdom. We have attended meetings where travel to the Bahamas was the topic. We have been part of several Captain's meetings (ok, usually at a happy hour). And we have read everything we could get our hands on including the blogs of friends who are already over there. There seems to be two trains of thought: head straight to Bimini from here or travel up Hawk's Channel to Rodriguez Key (Anglefish Creek) and stage there for the jump across to Bimini. Either route is about half the distance we covered when we hopped across the Gulf of Mexico.

From there most suggest that you head through the Berry Islands to the Exumas at this time of year. Otherwise you are heading north to the Abacos. North means colder and that is not what we are after. People suggest that you save the Abacos for the end of your trip when the weather has warmed up. Who would have thought of any part of the Bahamas as "north". But if you look at the map, you'll see they are correct.

Once you are in the Bahamas, you have several areas to explore, although many never get past Bimini because they like it so much. Then there are the Berry Islands, the Abacos, Andros, the Exumas, and Eleuthera. That should keep us busy for three months. Everyone has their opinion on what area is best. Some like more populated areas and want to stay in marinas. We tend to like the more remote areas and are anxious to explore and snorkel. Where will we be when? Who knows. It all depends on the weather and what kind of adventuring we feel like doing.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Brenda Gets Spoiled For Valentines Day

Sunset on Valentines Day

For Valentines Day Brenda got what every woman on a boat dreams about. Yup, Mr. Romance bought her a new head (toilet for you landlubbers). But wait, there is more. He even bought brand new matching shiny sanitation hoses to hook it up. Geez, can this guy be any smoother? Oh yes he could. He was sweet enough to let her haul the toidy back from West Marine strapped onto her bike rack. Wow, is he earning big romance points or what?

Oooh, that is pretty.

So, the lovely couple spent all of Valentines Day sweating and bleeding as they installed the new head and hoses. What a lucky girl.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Local Boaters Option at U.S. Customs

Last Tuesday was our scheduled appointment at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in Key West. As a small U.S. vessel we are able to apply for Local Boaters Option cards as part of the Small Vessel Reporting System. We applied online for the LBO which was free. Once that step is done you have to make an appointment at the nearest Customs office for an interview. (Also free!) Since Key West is the closest office, we made an appointment there. Upon completion of the interview a boater can file a float plan online with Customs and then return later to the U.S. with a simple phone call rather than an in person visit.

The local bus runs about every two hours, so we boarded just after 8 a.m. for the ride to Key West. The ride was lively, loud and crowded. Seems everyone was headed to Key West that morning. We arrived at 10 a.m. and wandered the streets until our LBO appointments at 11:30 a.m.

You can't take a cell phone into the Customs building, so Brenda held on to both our phones outside as Mike went inside. As soon as you go through the front door you pass through an airport type security line before entering the interview office. Mike reported to the office and supplied our boat paperwork and his passport. The officer simply verified the documents and Mike's ID before inquiring about Brenda's passport. Mike told the officer that Brenda was just outside the front doors. The officer walked Mike outside and verified that Brenda was there in person with a valid passport. He handed us our LBO cards on the spot and our task was quickly completed.

U.S. Customs

OK, time to play tourist. Strolling around Duval, Caroline and Greene Streets we enjoyed the beautiful weather. First we headed to the Schooner Wharf for lunch, but heard steel drums and took a detour. The artist was fun to listen to, but our stomachs were also talking. It was a quick walk along the harbor to the Wharf, where we had lunch with the family a few weeks ago. The singer was a little too mellow for us, so after we finished lunch, we wandered some more. We eventually made it back to Mallory Square and listened to the island music from one of the three cruise ships docked on the sea wall. The roosters entertained us almost as much as the music.

Sunset Pier

Because the cruise ships were blocking our view, we climbed to a second story restaurant bar that had plenty of public seating. There we had a splendid view of the festivities. The setting sun capped off a fun afternoon.

We quickly found the bus stop for our return to Marathon. We wanted to be sure of a seat. There we met many of the same people who were on the bus with us on the way down. It was almost like a reunion as we shared tales of our day's activities. Ahh, such is the life of a cruiser.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Manatee Mania

We have seen some manatees since we have been here, but nothing compared to what we saw yesterday. We were just out for a dinghy cruise when we spotted what we thought was a big log floating in the water. And then it moved! We had come upon two manatees! We quickly turned off the dinghy motor and drifted toward the two as they slowly rolled around. They were about 20 feet away, but about to get much closer.

Evidentially these gentle giants were as curious about us as we we about them. Barely able to maintain our composure, we managed to pull out the phone and get some video. We used up all available space in the video memory and switched to photos alone. That's when they came right up to the dinghy. One put his flipper on the back pontoon and gave us a good looking over. The other manatee came up on the other side and rolled over. It was sooooo tempting to reach out and touch, but we were good.

Here is a link to a 48 second video.

We drifted together for about 30 minutes as they swam under and around our dinghy interspersed with face-to-face visits. They were nuzzling each other and at one point we wondered if we had interrupted a sunset tryst. We hope not - can't be interrupting manatee nookie time! We were so lucky that they came to the surface so many times. They usually float just below the surface, which makes them susceptible to propeller strikes. You can see the scars on the back of one.

Roly-poly seems a good description of their gentle movements in the water. They glide clumsily if that is a good description. However you describe it, we certainly enjoyed their show.

The average male weighs between 800 and 1000 pounds and is ten feet long. These two were about nine feet long, so it was a little intimidating when they swam under the dinghy. They are herbivores, so they eat the "fuzzy stuff " growing on docks, sea walls and posts. At one point one of the manatees used his flipper to wipe off the piling we were holding on to and ate what floated away.

As Mike said as we headed back to our boat, "That was worth the price of admission."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rum Run

Oh no, The rum is gone!

Mike was out of rum, so we decided to bike to the Walgreens past the airport to see if they had any of his favorite, Oakheart. Right next door is Beall's, a kind of TJ Max's, and since Mike was down to one pair of good shorts with holes in them, he bit the bullet and went clothes shopping. This rates right up there with going to the doctor with him. But he was a big boy and found a couple pairs of shorts and a shirt. Brenda had no trouble finding a shirt to add to her cruising wardrobe. Sweet! We can now go out in public again.

After such an ordeal, ice cream was in order. Island Time Ice Cream also has sandwiches, so we had a delicious lunch with ice cream for desert. That little stop pretty much negated the benefits of our bike ride, but, oh well.

While we were gone Tom Crank of Dependable Dive Service cleaned our boat bottom. He was amazed at the amount of growth. We needed to pay him, so we putted over to his boat and checked on Roger and Peggy's boat.

As long as we were that far out.....we dinghied on to Castaways loacated near the end of a channel filled with working fishing boats and processing buildings. And are we glad we did. We tried their crab Rangoon appetizers. They were to die for. These were not the usual rangoons, but more like a puff pastry with crab, creamy sauce and rice inside. Delicious! We got five for $5. We'll be back. We contentedly dinghied back home. Yet another beautiful day in Paradise.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Dual Outboards On An 8' Dinghy?

We hadn't run our Tohatsu 4 hp outboard in weeks, so it was time to start it up again. Outboards really don't like to sit idle for long periods of time. The gas in the carb, lines and tank starts to evaporate leaving behind a gummy residue that makes the motor run poorly or not want to start at all. Since Brenda was on land helping another couple sew up a new riding sail with her Janome sewing machine, Mike figured this would be a good time to take the motor off the stern rail mount and haul it ashore. The marina has a test barrel filled with water for the cruisers to use, so Mike planned to take it there.

As Mike was deciding how to transport the outboard in the dinghy he thought, "Hey, why not just slide the 9.8 hp outboard to one side and set the 4 hp on the transom right next to it and test run it right there?" So that is what he did. While Mike was running the 4 hp a long term liveaboard on a nearby boat came out on deck to see who was running their outboard. The look of total bewilderment on his face was priceless as he simply stared open mouthed at Mike sitting proudly in his dual outboard dinghy. We can just imagine him thinking, "What kind of a moron northerner is this guy!"

It did look pretty cool though.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dinghy Chap Pockets

Hauling tools ashore in our new pockets.

I was so excited to get rid of our old, decaying cockpit cushions. The foam inside was crumbling, but the Phifertex material on the outside was still in pretty good shape. I hated to throw that part away and I had a plan. Our dinghy is small and we always have "stuff" on the floor: anchor, spare oil and no place for cups during a dinghy ride. So, I cut the phifertex material into pieces that could be used as pockets on the inside of the dinghy chaps. We marked where we wanted the pockets to be located and pulled off the chaps.

I used some left-over vinyl to make a casing for the top of the pockets. Then I turned under an edge on the remaining three sides and sewed the pockets to the chaps. It was an easy project and now our dinghy rides are clutter-free.