Yesterday, Feb. 7, I decided that to try and ease some of the anxiety about my anchoring situation here in Bradenton Beach, Florida, I needed to add some chain rode to my anchors. So I got myself together to wend my way out to Home Depot and buy some chain. I don’t know why, but I tossed my telephone into my backpack along with a paperback book. The bus route I take there has only one bus an hour so I need some entertainment and I have some audio books on the phone.
The primary purpose for the phone is the mobile hotspot. I LIVE on the internet. I can pick up a couple of faint, free signals here on the hook but they fade in and out. My second use for the phone is the audio books and then comes actually making a phone call.
Anyway, when I got back to the boat after buying 70 feet of 1/4-inch chain for $139, I couldn’t find my phone. I’d lost it somewhere along the line. Could have been anywhere. I called TMobile on Skype to get my phone number. I mean who the hell knows what their phone number is, anyway? It took four attempts because using the free wi-fi I kept getting cut off. I finally got it and called myself hoping that it might have fallen out somewhere on the boat and calling myself I might be able to hear it ring. It went directly to voice mail.
So this morning I get dressed and paddle ashore. When I get to the dinghy dock and go to secure the painter there, on the bottom, was my phone. It was low tide and I was able to scoop it up out of the sand. At least the SIM card wouldn’t be affected sitting underwater for 24 hours. Now, another $181 lighter, I’m back on the boat and back on line. Going to be short rations for the rest of February.
Had some serious trouble Sunday afternoon. The wind had been blowing and it\s been bouncy. I heard a bang as my hatch board which I keep sitting on the hatch cover blew off the hatch cover. Fortunately I have a line on it to keep it from going overboard. (Once in a while I actually do something smart) When I stuck my head out of the cabin I instantly saw that what had been my “mooring” had given up the ghost and the main anchor had let go and was dragging.
Luckily I had a second anchor rigged on the foredeck and managed, in spite of bouncing around in the rough waves of the anchorage, was able to let it go. I came to rest less than 100 feet from the rocky sea wall. A friend was able to roust Jeremay (correct spelling) who helps out with a lot of things here out of his boat. Too windy to tow me away from where I am but he put a THIRD anchor that he had out. So now there are three over the side though only two seem to be dug in. The wind is subsiding a hair but I am more than a little apprehensive to say the least.
Can’t get my engine to start and found out the primer ball is shot. I can get one at the Ace Hardware up in Holmes Beach, a trolley ride away, but I’m afraid to leave the boat unattended until things settle down. Besides, it’s a bit hairy trying to get ashore with a small dinghy…
I suppose I could call Boat U.S. and have them come tow me back out to where this all began. I’m a member, after all, and it wouldn’t cost me anything, but that’s no guarantee that once I got reanchored I wouldn’t drag again. So, since I haven’t moved, except up and down on the waves, in the last two hours, I guess I’ll stay put for the time being. Jeremay said he’d come back when the winds die down and tow me back out.
It’s clouding over and will be 90%ing on us soon. Damn, I wish I had a van down by the river right now.
A day later…
The winds died down here at the Bradenton Beach anchorage after sundown, Sunday. Then it started to rain. What little wind there was changed from SE to NW which put me parallel to the rocks which eased my mind a bit.
While the winds were still piping I discovered that I couldn’t get my outboard to start. The primer bulb wasn’t pumping fuel from the tank to the engine. As you saw in the video yesterday, there was no way I was going to try and get ashore to get a new one then.
This morning was flat calm with patchy fog. I got to the Ace Hardware a little before 9 and bought a new primer bulb. Of course I didn’t buy any hose clamps because I was sure I had some on the boat. Nope! I attached the bulb to the old lines and pumped away. NOTHING! I then began to wonder if there was a problem with the pickup system in the tank. There was enough fuel…about three gallons. But that was all the gas I had. The two, two gallon auxiliary tanks were empty. So I hiked down to Bradenton Marina and filled those and returned to the boat.
I dug the other 6 gallon tank out of the forepeak, dumped one can into it, switched the fuel line, pumped it up and the engine started right up though it leaked gas without the clamps.
One of the boaters, Morgan, was on the dock. A couple of months ago he’d gone to a nautical flea market and bought several anchors. He offered to sell me one, then, but they were quite large and I passed. After yesterday’s misadventure, though, I asked if he still had any of the anchors for sale. He did. I bought a genuine Danforth 22S for $20. They’re rated for boats up to 41 feet. I’m a 22 footer. New, like at West Marine they retail for around $140, so I got a bargain there.
I hied my way back to Ace where I bought two small hose clamps. I also bought two large shackles for the new anchor which is replacing the one that dragged, FOUR TIMES NOW!
I was able to roust out the anchor Jeramay lent me and I got out the old anchor. The line was covered with growth like you wouldn’t believe. The anchor that I threw over in desperation wouldn’t break free. When Jeramay came over to move me back to an anchoring spot he tried freeing it up using his big boat. A 55 horse outboard wouldn’t move it. We buoyed the line with a fender and will work on getting it up tomorrow. There’s a lot of junk on the bottom around here accumulated over decades.
I got towed back to nearly the same spot as before, the new Danforth was put over the side, and here I sit waiting for the evening to come. Almost no wind no, and the soothsayers say it’s not supposed to blow over 10 mph for the next few days, anyway.
When I knew I had to repatriate to the U.S. from Panama because of my COPD and the fact that Medicare doesn’t pay when you step outside the country I knew there was only one way I could survive on the income I have, and that would be to either buy and live on a small boat or buy a van and live “down by the river.”
I am completely dependent on SS and it nets out at a little over $1,100 after paying the Part B Medicare. Now THAT was one of the smart things I did when I moved to Panama. I kept paying that Part B. While I fully believed I’d die down there and never return to the States, ya never know!
Anyway, since I spent most of my working life either running or fixing up boats that’s what I decided I should get. My friend, Stef, with whom I’d worked for more than 20 years and I started a search and sent emails back and forth about possible boats. He wanted to put me in a 30 footer which, in many ways, would be great except for one thing. I wasn’t going to be sitting idle in a marina somewhere. Don’t have the money for that. Dock rentals these days come close to what it costs to rent an apartment for crying out loud.
No, I decided it would be kinda cool to go take a cruise in waters I was mostly unfamiliar with and venture into waters I hadn’t been on in decades. In my early days living in Louisiana I worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee production field in Breton Sound. If you look on a map there’s a long chain of barrier islands from the panhandle of Florida all the way westwards into Mississippi and then southwards in Louisiana. Breton Island is the last in the chain. We actually lived on the island. Seven days on and seven off. The crew boats, there were four of us, would take the hand out to their facilities and then from well to well for them service. Back then the Island was roughly a half mile long and perhaps a quarter mile wide at it’s widest. Now, though, with all the hurricanes that have swept up through the Gulf since 1978 there’s practically nothing left of the island. A couple of hundred yards at best. I thought it would be kind of neat to cruise on over, take a look and take some photos.
As I mentioned in a previous post I only made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of Florida when it all came to a crashing end. It was the 5th of July at 2 a.m. when I called a “Mayday” on my handheld radio. I could barely breath and it was nearly impossible for me to even sit up. I actually thought I was dying and was telling myself, “It’s all right to let go.”
Surprisingly the Coast Guard station in Mobile, Alabama, over 200 miles away, picked up my 6 watt call of distress and dispatched a Sea Tow boat from Panacea to evacuate me 16 miles out in the Gulf. We were met by an ambulance at the dock in Panacea and I spent the next 16 days in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Health South. I had a complete renal shut down caused by severe dehydration. On the positive side, I guess, I learned that I had a 2cm bladder stone and a 1cm kidney stone. I’ve had kidney stones and this is a pretty good sized one, .4-inch. THAT’S going to be fun when it decides to move.
Obviously Breton Island was out. Now what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Fort Lauderdale, a place I’ve lived in off and on for 35 years was out. Too big now. I remember when the tallest building in Lauderdale was FOUR STORIES TALL. The old Burdine’s downtown where the county offices are now. It’s also too expensive there. The price of a slip in a marina, if they’d even let me stay in a marina with my boat, would be almost as expensive as an apartment. The Keys were out, too for many of the same reasons. I decided I should try wintering it out at Bradenton Beach, a little south of Tampa Bay.
I’d stopped in there on my way north to wait for some papers for the boat insurance. There’s a large anchorage with fair weather protection from the north and northwest but wide open to south and southeast. There are some other nice, smaller anchorages within less than an hour run (I do 5 mph on a good day). There’s a nice dinghy dock available and a free “trolley” runs the length of Anna Maria Island from 6 a.m until 10 p.m. It passes by a Walgreens and a CVS pharmacy, Publix supermarket, an Ace and True Value hardware stores, a Dollar Tree store and a ton of restaurants. Then, if I need something more there’s a bus every hour that goes over to what I call “The Dark Side” i.e. the mainland. There are two, the Cortez #6 and the Manatee #3. I generally take the Cortez which will take me to Wally World, Home Depot or Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory, West Marine and the YMCA (now simply the Y). I joined the Y to be able to use their fully-equipped health spa and to be able to take a hot shower a few times a week. There are no hot showers on a 22-foot sailboat.
When spring time comes I think I’m going to head south. I had been thinking about going back across the state and north to the Saint Johns River but now I think I’ll stick around this side of the peninsula. I’ve never been to the Saint Johns though I’ve passed its mouth in the many trips I’ve made up and down the Atlantic ICW over the years. There are a lot of cool places over here that I passed by on my way north last spring on my way to Louisiana that I should check out more closely. And then go on down into the 10,000 Islands section of the state and the Everglades National Park. All in all it’s a couple of hundred miles but I can get back to Bradenton Beach in a week, week and a half if I push it and spend another winter here. We’ll see.
It’s days like this that make me wish I was living in a van down by the river instead of on a 22-foot sailboat anchored in Bradenton Beach, FL.
It’s completely overcast now that the dense morning fog has lifted. The wind’s strong out of the south gusting to 25 mph. The boat is bouncing around in the two to three foot whitecaps we get here when the wind’s whipping across the 15 mile fetch of Sarasota Bay. It’s not real cold. Mid 50s. Rain is forecast for later in the day.
When the conditions are like this one becomes boat-bound. Could get off if it was an emergency, but since it’s not then one stays put. In a van you can at least chug on down to the store or a mall. People in vans and RVs don’t have to worry about their anchors dragging and running aground or into the rocks to leeward. And they don’t have to worry that another van or RV is going to break loose from its mooring and run into THEM!
But I have plenty of food for several days and good books to read so it could be a lot worse. At least it’s not snowing!
Recently in one of the Facebook groups I run someone asked me if it was possible to go from New Jersey to Florida in a twenty-two foot boat. Well, you could do it in an inner tube I suppose, but having been up and down the east coast from Cape Cod to Key West a half dozen times I said it shouldn’t be a problem. I said I would run up and down the two big bays, Delaware and Chesapeake and then down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) and would avoid going “outside” at all costs. I don’t know exactly where he’s starting from in New Jersey and I’ve always run outside along the coast, there, but if one chose their weather with care it’s only a couple of hundred miles and there are inlets along the way to duck into when things turn yucky.
I should have said, and I’m going to post this to the group when I’m done, is that I just made a voyage from Fort Lauderdale, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway and all the way up to Carrabelle in the eastern end of the panhandle and then back down to Bradenton Beach, FL where I am wintering at anchor on a 22-foot sailboat. These are some of the things that made it possible.
A GPS. I bought a Dual GPS for a hundred bucks.
It’s small. About 2 inches square and works via blue tooth onto my iPad. It also works on Android tablets as well.
I then purchased the Pro Charts navigation system. It has electronic charts that cover all of the U.S. I bought the premium package because it updates the charts weekly though you could easily get away with just the free download.
Then, I got the electronic version of Waterway Guide. I found this to be extremely valuable for finding places selling fuel; free anchorages, although with a shallow draft boat with a swing keel very few places are inaccessible; bridges and their heights, marinas, if you’re so inclined. Don’t leave home without this.
In the past I have tried to keep politics off of this blog, but since the election of the the whiniest, most petulant asshole in the whole history of the presidency I will NOT keep my mouth shut. If you support Trump this is NOT the blog for you. You may comment but it will be consigned to the trash bin as soon as I read it. Don’t like that? Then start your own damned blog and don’t bother coming here…