When Hurricane Irma was coming up the Gulf Coast aiming straight for Bradenton Beach I took down the mast on my boat. There are several reasons for doing this. One is to reduce windage aloft. I the days of the square riggers it was quite common to lower the top masts to the deck to reduce “top hamper.”
Another reason for lowering the mast was so I could get under a 10-foot high bridge to get into a small canal and hide in the mangroves.
When I returned to the anchorage after the storm passed I decided not to put the mast back up. There are several reasons for this. One, my hands are gnarled with arthritis and it’s painful hauling on the halyard to raise the sails. Two, with my COPD, raising the sails leave me panting for breath. Three, in the roughly 800 miles I traveled from Fort Lauderdale to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of the state and back down to Bradenton Beach I didn’t sail even a half dozen times. Either the wind was too strong for this 22-foot boat with no reefing system, or there wasn’t any wind, or the wind was “on the nose” and I didn’t have the patience to tack for hours to get to my next anchorage. So, essentially I was using the boat as a “terminal trawler.” That’s a term for sailboats without masts that travel under power alone.
Not only that, there’s the hassle presented by bridges that need to be opened because of the height of the mast. I had to open 57 bridges on my journey last year. Twenty nine between the Las Olas bridge in Fort Lauderdale to the last bridge in Stuart. There were 11 bridges on the Okeechobee Waterway cutting across the state, and another 17 bridges going up the Gulf Coast Intracoastal.
I had to do something with the mast. Lying down on the deck it was a hassle getting around it to go forward and tend to the anchor. And, as my friend Stephen said, it make the boat look like a derelict. I looked at dozens of mast and boom gallows on line. Some were pretty nifty. Some were pretty expensive. Some were temporary things made out of 2X4s and ugly looking. I needed something better.
What I came up with was to build a gallows out of PVC pipe. Easy to work with and inexpensive. At first I used 3/4-inch pipe because it’s the same size as the stainless steel railing of the push pit (damn, I LOVE salty talk!). It was okay. It DID get the mast raised and will, one day, serve as the center pole for a cockpit shade cover.
The problem with my first effort was it wasn’t very strong. I had to reinforce the corners with wood. After months of pondering what to do about the situation I discovered that Home Depot sells what is called “furniture grade” PVC pipe. It’s inch and a quarter diameter, a bit thicker walled, and comes in a variety of colors. For some reason red was the cheapest so that’s what I went with. I built the new gallows in one afternoon. No additional bracing needed.
It’s easy to take the mast off of the gallows and I didn’t cement the top segment so that if I want to reduce the air draft I can simply lift that segment off. This one is also a bit higher and I can, just, stand up underneath the mast at the after end of the cockpit. I’m quite happy with the results.
I grew up in the small town of Orleans where Cape Cod makes its eastern-most thrust into the ice cold Atlantic. For thirty five years my dad and my brother, Jeff , ran Philbrick’s Snack Shack out on Nauset Beach. I worked at “The Shack” for eight summers when I was in high school and the first couple of years in college. After getting out of the Navy I ran Nauset Beach Rides.
This weekend there was an ultra-nasty nor’easter that tore away at the beach and is bringing an end to an era. My dad built the Snack Shack with his own two hands in 1954. It has withstood nor’east storms and hurricanes for 64 years but this week it’s finished.
One thing I didn’t make clear is that while my dad built the Snack Shack and he and my brother ran it for 35 years, my brother stopped running it 29 years ago. John Ohman has been running it since then under another name. It’s sad, though, to see this bit of Orleans history bite the dust.
This last weekend.
When my brother, Jeff, was running the place he was selling a ton to a TON AND A HALF of onion rings A WEEK! The volume of food that passed through those windows was literally unbelievable! On the Fourth of July Weekend Sunbeam bakery used to bring a trailer full of hot dog and hamburger buns to handle all that would be cooked and consumed over those three days.
Back in the ’50s Howard Johnson’s was noted and famous for their hot dogs. They were made by the Boldeaux meat company. (Not sure of the spelling after 60 years) They only had TWO CUSTOMERS. Howard Johnson and Philbrick’s Snack Shack. I remember on time the Boldeaux salesman telling my father that the Snack Shack, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, sold MORE hot dogs than the top three year round Ho Jos in New England, COMBINED!!!
But it’s all over now. Mother Nature is a cruel mistress…
Last three photos from Cape Cod Times newspaper
I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…
Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.
THE BACK STORY
In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.
A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.
In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book available at Amazon.com.
In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)
THE PAST YEAR
Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.
I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: “Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.
In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.
I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.
Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.
I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.
A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.
ADDING IT UP
Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.
Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.
Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.
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.