Over the past few months my COPD has been catching up with me here in my small, anchored sailboat near the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL. Simple tasks like going forward to check the anchor rode leave me gasping for air. More and more I’d say to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Since I exist totally on a small Social Security deposit each month and a pittance in food stamps renting a room or an apartment ashore is financially out of the question. So, my choices boil down to returning to the Republic of Panama where I lived for eight years or “living in a van down by the river.”
I have three arterial stents, and I’m carrying some rather large kidney and bladder stones. The medical care I encountered in Panama was excellent and very reasonably priced, especially compared with the U.S. And I liked the fact that I was given the doctor’s cell phone numbers. I also liked that meds are all “over the counter.” No doctor’s prescription needed.
But the problem with Panama is it’s a “Pay up front” system. I’d have no insurance if I was down there. No company is going to insure a 78 year old guy with COPD and three arterial stents. If something serious happened to me there I’d have had to put up, IN CASH, a couple of thousand bucks to be admitted into one of the two private hospitals in David (dah VEED). You don’t even want to think about having to go to the government-supported hospital there. Sometimes, it’s been said, you have to provide your own bed linens. Panamanian officials and doctors really don’t like expats who have no health insurance and end up in a situation where the government has to take care of them when they need to be hospitalized. Who can blame them? I don’t want to be one of those people. It was one of the incentives for my repatriation three years ago.
One of the smart things, and there haven’t been that many in my life, that I did when I moved to Panama was to keep paying Medicare Part B. Many who expatriate drop this coverage to save the $140+ a month. But then, if they have to repatriate and sign on again, they are accessed a penalty and it’s hefty. I didn’t sign up for the Part D, prescriptions, when I turned 65 because wasn’t on any meds then. Now, because of the penalty, I’ll pay $100/month, FOREVER! Well, at least until I die…
So, really, the only solution is to remain here and move into a van. Lots of people have, and why not? It would actually have more living space than this 22-foot sailboat. I have a nephew in North Carolina who is a total gearhead. I’m going to rely on him to find a van for me. I have total faith that whatever he would choose will be sound and a good value. I’m in no big hurry so he can take his time.
It’s over three and a half years that I’ve not had to pay any rent, living anchored here off of Anna Maria Island, Florida. You can kinda do that in a van by “stealth” parking in urban areas or camping at state and national parks and on Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers areas. My dad did that quite a bit in his travels. But he was vacationing, not doing it because he had to.
When I posted on Facebook that I was going to have to move ashore and live in a van the owner of a campground near Ocala, Florida wrote and said they rent van spaces for $295/month. That’s do-able on my limited income. If I was in Panama I’d be spending up to $350/month for a place to live. Shortly after that a Facebook “Friend” I’ve been following and corresponding with for several years wrote and said that I could keep a van AND the boat at some land he owns on the Saint Johns River. It wouldn’t be free, of course. I’d pay half the electric (he lives on a boat there, too) and internet connection and “maybe $100/month to help with taxes.” Seems like a pretty good deal to live at THIS spot…
There are two ways I could get there. I have a boat friend, here, that has a trailer that could easily haul my boat. Load it up at the nearby ramp and we’d be at the new location within three hours. I’d pay him, of course though I don’t know how much. Didn’t ask. But knowing him for the last three years and being friends it wouldn’t be excessive.
But where’s the challenge in that? Where’s the romance? Where’s the ADVENTURE?
No, I’m going to get the boat over on its on bottom. It’s roughly a 650 mile voyage. It won’t be a fast trip. I generally can’t go faster than five miles an hour when everything’s going well. And there won’t be any long days at the tiller like when I was nearly four years younger and headed out on my first trip on the boat towards what I’d hoped would take me to Louisiana. We all know that ended up being rescued off the boat and taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from complete renal shutdown caused by severer dehydration. I put in some 10 and 12 hour days on that trip. No more of that. The last trip I made, about a year and a half ago was down to Cayo Costa, about 75 miles away. I took did with five and six hour runs. Pecking away at the journey in baby steps.
I could leave almost immediately, but in the recent Tropical Storm Eta, my kick-up rudder was damaged. I need to repair it. It’s an easy fix. But I still came out better than the NINE boats that sank up at the big anchorage by the Bridge Street Pier. In one instance a large catamaran broke loose from its mooring slammed into a good friend’s boat which caused them to be separated from their mooring and drove them into the nearby “Day Dock” at the city pier. Pete got off and helped get Shawn off the boat and onto the dock only seconds before the nearly six foot high waves forced their sailboat, and home, beneath the dock sinking it. A total loss but at least they’re alive. Fortunately her family lives in Bradenton so they weren’t forced into a cheap motel.
The little sailboat I live on, anchored near the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, has grounded out at low tide. Poked me head out of the hatch to take a look around and saw this yellow crowned night heron searching for breakfast…
I love people who are a little off kilter. Like this guy who came and dropped anchor not too far from me at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, and spent the night.
Sometimes you just have to get away even if it’s on board a 17-foot open bow rider. I couldn’t see if he had a cooler or way to cook, but I did make out he was eating something for an evening meal. He slept in rather late despite the bright sun, gulls squawking, and the dumpster trucks swapping containers out at 6 am. He had something to drink as he sat quietly in this tranquil spot, then he raised his anchor and motored off.
This is what gunkholing is all about. The name of the boat is “Out on Business.”
Three years ago I was holed up at Englewood, down south, for the Memorial Day weekend. I DON’T go cruising around when the world is filled with people who don’t believe their boats will go unless they have an alcoholic beverage in their hand. There’s a popular anchorage there (Top red block)
and in the late afternoon an older couple, retirees, probably, came in on their pontoon boat and dropped anchor. Nothing unusual about that. But then they set up a small tent, like people use when they go camping in the woods, in after part of the boat and put a camp stove on the boat’s table. They spent the next two days at anchor and then went home.
- Anna Maria Island
- Bad Weather Boating
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- Boqueron Panama
- Bradenton Beach, FL
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- Living Abroad
- Living in Panama
- Living off the grid
- Living on the hook
- Living Small
- Minimalist Cruising
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- Shanty boat
- Shantyboat Living
- Single burner cooking
- Small boat cruising
- Small boat kitchen
- Small Houses
- Small Sailboats
- Staying fit on a small boat
- Storm prep
I was puzzled a while back when someone asked me if I was ready for the fall. It took me a while to realize they were talking about autumn and not the collapse of civilization…Well, autumn has arrived here on Anna Maria Island, Florida.
It blew in about 3 a.m. on the Wednesday morning of September 30, 2020. I guess all the wind that The Great Orange Wart spewed during his “debate” with Biden finally made it from Cleveland to the island.
Living close by the Coquina North Boat Ramp I’m often awakened in the early hours by boats trailing their wakes as they disregard the “No Wake” zone on their way for a day out on the salt. So when I became aware of the first few bounces through my sleep that’s what I chalked it up to. But when the motion continued unabated I stuck my head up through the hatch and saw whitecaps all around reflected by the nearly full moon. It was blowing like stink. I checked the time: 3:15. I grabbed the handheld anemometer and saw that the wind over the deck was clocking in at a stead 20+mph with a couple of gusts close to 30!
I generally keep the dinghy tied up “on the hip”
instead of having it dangling astern on its painter. Since it was pounding up and down in the two to three foot chop churned up by the wind I untied it and let it bob behind in the lee of the bigger boat.
My biggest concern was for the semi-derelict, engineless power boat to windward. It has been dragging anchor for the last couple of months and worries me when I’m in its path downwind. The couple that supposedly own the boat, I call them “Itchy and Scratchy” are only aboard occasionally and were not there to help if things went belly up. I keep a large, very sharp knife in the cockpit so I can cut its anchor line if it drifts down on me. I turned on my mobile “hotspot” and checked “Willy Weather” for tide data. It was at half tide and falling. So, for the next five or six hours, with my 1-foot draft, I would be in water too shallow for the big boat’s draft to handle and by then the wind might have abated somewhat.
It was considerably colder, too. Just the night before I’d gone to bed with my 12-volt fan for a breeze but now, for the first time in months, I slipped into the comfort of my warm weather sleeping bag. And while Tuesday had a heat index reading in the low 100℉ range, Wednesday, with 15 mph breezes, remained a “keep your tee shirt on for comfort” day.
We’ve still got a couple of months before the really cold, for us, anyway, temperatures set in but it’s time to think about digging the long johns out and taking them to the laundry in preparation. It will be my THIRD winter here on the hook.
I know it seems that I’m always posting about Guabancex, the Taino* Indian goddess of wind and hurricanes constantly making life difficult for we who chose to live our lives at anchor as I do here off of Anna Maria Island, FL. But it’s not always like that. Much of the time I wake up to days like this…
(*Taino: The Taíno were an indigenous people of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage. And there’s no need for rants about what a horrible person Columbus was, and the genocide of the indigenous tribes, yada, yada, yada, ad nauseum!)
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Off the top of my head I can only think of two others of my FB friends who live on a boat full time like I do and they’re on the same boat together. On a Caribbean Island, no less. So I post things like this so landlocked people get an idea of what it’s like to live at the end of an anchor. And I have to stress that if I felt I was in any danger I wouldn’t be in this location, I’d be tucked away far up in the mangroves somewhere. I’m securely anchored in about 5 feet of water at high tide and I sit on the bottom at low. Right now that exposed oyster flat is no more than 25 feet astern. If things really got bad I can literally wade ashore.
For people who live on the land weather isn’t as personal is it is to people on boats. For them it’s “Oh, yeah, it’s a bit breezy today,” as they go from their stable home to their air-conditioned automobile. Weather is only noted in passing for the most part.
For us out here on the hook it’s much more intimate. Here’s what we’re looking at here at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL…
And while “Gale Watch” may sound quite sinister, I’ve been through thunder squalls right here much more severe. A couple of weeks ago one blew through with 60 mph winds and toppled huge lifeguard towers only a couple of hundred yards away and I did just fine..
Sept. 13, 2020
Riding out the fringes of Tropical Storm Sally.
First became aware of the winds around 3:00 am. Don’t know how strong they were, but the noise of the canvas rain tarp flapping around woke me. Trying to get back to sleep with the waves from the winds coming in from the SSE across Sarasota Bay was a bit difficult.
Heard the rain start up about 5:30. At 8:30 my handheld anemometer read a steady 20.5 mph gusting to 26.7. Looking at radar images the poorly defined eye of the storm is roughly level with me here on Anna Maria Island, FL, but far out in the Gulf of Mexico. The sooths from the sayers are predicting as much as 4 inches of rain in this area over the next couple of days. Flash Flood Warnings are up and there was a news story that one local bridge had been damaged from currents undermining the banks it spans. I’m safe, thanks, with stuff to read and food and water on board.
The solar panels are struggling, but as long as there’s light they produce SOME energy. Yesterday evening at sunset four boats were anchored here near the Coquina North Boat Ramp: A small runabout to the south, an engineless Carver 26 just to the north and a small, mastless sailboat even with the Carver bt farther our in the bay. Right now there are THREE. The heavy winds and seas broke the sailboat loose and I see it a couple of hundred yards to the north in amongst the piers.
When I dropped anchor here at Anna Maria Island, FL three years ago I needed a cooler to keep my fresh foods from spoiling. At the time I depended on a small generator (I eventually burned through THREE of them. They AREN’T designed for heavy duty use), so I sprung for a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler. Let me say, after three years, Yeti products are WAY overrated. I could have bought another brand at half the price that receives ratings as good as the Yeti. And the size of the Tundra 45 meant the only place I could put it on my 22-foot sailboat was in the cockpit where it takes up about half of the sole and sits higher than the bench seats. An awkward pain in the ass.
For the past three years I have been buying ten pound bags of ice, on average, every other day. Sometimes, in the heat of August and September I’ve been buying a bag a day. The Yeti will hold 20 lbs of ice and leave a little room left over for food storage. Not the best situation, but one deals with what one has. In the last year, after moving down from the large anchorage by the Bridge Street Pier to the Coquina North Boat Ramp, I have been buying ice at the kiosk at the trailer parking area. It’s the best deal on the island. . .a 10 lb. bag for a buck fifty as opposed to the Circle K two 10 lb. bags for $5. And the kiosk ice is cleaner, purer! Nevertheless, I’ve been spending $40-$45 a month to keep stuff from rotting. But there have been times where the ice has been very low. I’d look at the value of the stuff I need to keep chilled and weigh it against the hassle of rowing to shore, sometimes in trying conditions, and spending the buck and a half and just blow it off.
Readers who follow me know that in the past couple of years I have switched from using a generator to completely solar. Three hundred and ten watts of paneling, in fact. They have done a great job in keeping the batteries for my notebook, iPad, and phone with its wifi hotspot going strong, even on cloudy days. While the huge orange wart in the Oval Office believes that when the sun goes down you can’t watch television if you use solar power, even on the cloudiest of days the panels collect energy and direct it to your battery bank. MUCH slower than on sunny days, but they still collect and store energy.
After doing a lot of online research about 12volt-capable refrigerators I decided that the Ansten 30 liter fridge/freezer would be what I needed. It was compact and would fit inside my boat. The description said it will hold 42 12-ounce cans of soda. Not knowing how much volume that is, I went to the Publix Supermarket and bought my usual weekly supply of perishables. I then went to the canned soda isle and visually checked the volume of the cans with what I had in the shopping cart and the 30 litre fridge would be more than adequate.
Think about your refrigerator. How much of the total volume of the fridge is simply unused? You have shelves with jars and Tupperware containers and everything above their tops is just empty space. You also store a lot of stuff in there you don’t need to. Things that are heavy on vinegar such as mustard, ketchup, salad dressings really don’t need to be refrigerated despite what it says on the label. Since it’s just ME and not stocking food for a family of five, this little unit fills the bill.
Last week my good friend, Stephen, sprang for the fridge and yesterday I picked it up at my maildrop and wrestled it to its new home. After waiting seven hours to let all the juices settle after the unit had been turned every which way for who knows how long, I turned it on. The digital display (in Centigrade) said that the internal temperature was 86F (30C). In less than half an hour the temperature had dropped to 33.8F (1C)! I’m impressed. And it’s QUIET, too. Certainly won’t disturb my sleep. I was running it through the 110volt inverter because I need to rewire the cigarette lighter outlet before I can use it. The unit cycled a couple of times before the inverter alarm for low voltage went off and I shut it down.
There will definitely be times when there will be problems with this setup. It has been raining off and on all day and night since last Tuesday, and it’s been a challenge to keep the battery bank topped off. There’s been enough for the light stuff as cited above, but the draw from the fridge is a challenge.
While it looks as though Tropical Storm, potential Hurricane, Laura is going to miss us here we’re still going to have a lot of clouds and rain.
Now, as we approach noon it’s heavily overcast and will likely stay that way for the rest of the day and for the next few days to come. Life’s not perfect but there are more sunny days than gloomy ones so I’ll do fine.
Spent several hours doing “Salty” stuff here by the Coquina Beach North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, this sunny Sunday afternoon.
In the last year, here, with the storms of winter and the squalls of summer, my Manson Boss anchor with its 20 feet of ¼-inch chain has dragged through the muddy/sandy bottom about 100 feet or so from where I originally dropped the hook. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you have severe COPD like I do rowing a cockleshell dinghy into a stiff breeze is difficult. I’ve been contemplating relocating the boat for the last couple of weeks. Today was a good time to attempt it. The breeze was only about 5 mph out of the SE and the tide was flooding. The combination will work at helping the anchor dig in.
What I meant about “Salty” stuff is that I didn’t lower the outboard motor into position, start it up, and let it idle while going forward to raise the anchor and then rush back to the helm to then motor a hundred feet or so isn’t what I did. Where’s the seamanship in that? Instead I used the millennia-old system of moving a boat known as “Kedging.”
kedge (kɛdʒ) nautical
(Nautical Terms) to draw (a vessel) along by hauling in on the cable of a light anchor that has been dropped at some distance from it, or (of a vessel) to be drawn in this fashion.
I did it in three stages. The first two got me further to the south to about where I was originally and then I pulled myself closer to the shore. The way it worked was: I’d haul in the big anchor until the chain was “up and down.” Into the dinghy with the small Danforth “Lunch Hook” and row it forward to the full extent of the line I had attached to it. About 100 feet. Then back on board the big boat and haul the big anchor until it was clear of the bottom. No need to bring it on board since I was going to be dropping it right away. Just clear of the bottom was good enough. Then I hauled on the lunch hook line until IT was up and down. Drop the big anchor and wait for it to set.
Watch the shoreline to see if I’m drifting and my breathing has returned to what passes for normal these days. Did it a second time to get where I wanted to be but in looking aft I was right in line with the derelict Carver. So I took the lunch hook in towards shore and got it out of the way. I may have brought in a bit TOO CLOSE and will possibly take the ground at low tide But since the retractable keel it all the way up, the boat is basically flat bottomed, and the bottom of the bay is soft sand and mud without any rocks it’s okay. I’ve taken the ground before. We’ll see.
I actually knew Mike Royko and quaffed a few tankards of suds with him at the Billy Goat Tavern (Cheeburger, Cheeburger, no fries, chips).
When I was putting in my “sea time” in order to be able to sit for my U.S. Coast Guard license I worked at the Wendella Boat Lines as a deckhand. Wendella was located at the foot of the Wrigley Building. Walk up a set of steps and you were on Lower Wacker Drive to your right and a small side street. (Above Lower Wacker was Michigan Avenue and the ChicagoTribune Tower) Across that street was the Billy Goat. A bit down the river, away from The Lake was the Chicago Sun Times building where Mike worked, and a bit further on was the train station where commuters from the distant towns to the north arrived and departed.
Wendella ran a commuter service morning and evening taking people from the train station and running them to the Wrigley Building stairs. Mike was a regular passenger of ours and used to ride in the pilot house. That’s where I met him. Naturally he also spent time at the Billy Goat and would have one or two before boarding the boat to return to the station and home.
I certainly make no claim to being buddies with Mike Royko, but he DID know my name and we DID drink beer together from time to time…