Category Archives: adventure

Anchor Anxiety

People who live on land cannot know the anxiety felt by someone who lives their lives on a small boat that’s constantly at anchor when they read a weather forecast like this: ”

A chance of Showers and Thunderstorms early in the Morning, then Showers with a chance of Thunderstorms in the late morning and afternoon. Windy. Some Thunderstorms may be severe. Highs in the mid 80s. Temperature falling into the mid 70s in the afternoon. South Winds 15 to 25 Mph, becoming southwest in the afternoon. Gusts up to 45 Mph. Chance of rain near 100%.” Forty five mph winds are a Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale. . .A “Fresh Gale.” Tropical storm winds are anything over 39 mph.

Sitting in your solid house you wonder why that causes such anxiety? Well, consider this: When you live “On the hook,” your life and everything you own is literally hanging on the end of a hunk of metal dug into the sea bed with a piece of rope connecting it to your boat.

Last week I ordered a wind speed device; the Dwyer Wind Meter.

WINDMETER_600x600

I owned one way back in ’92 when I was on my 9-month, single-handed trip from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back. It’s the soul of simplicity. The only moving part is a small foam ball. It measures wind speed the same way a pitot tube does.Face directly into the wind with two small holes at the base of the gauge facing the wind and the little ball in the tube rises and you read the wind speed there. There were a lot of other wind speed jobbers on offer but they all have a few problems as far as I’m concerned. One, they need batteries to function. They all have LCD screens which are often hard to read in bright sunlight. The worst feature of all of them is they have little fans that the wind turns (cancer machines, maybe?). Anything that whirls around on an axle is prime fodder for a break down.

The reason I bought it was to see what the wind speed actually is where I am located. The online service uses recordings from the Sarasota Airport which is 10 miles away.

I tracked the order and it said it had arrived at Bradenton, but not at the address yet. My mail drop doesn’t open until 10a.m. so I waited until 10 to leave the boat hoping it would have been delivered by the time I got there. It was windy, around 15 to 20 mph with whitecaps everywhere. Of course I didn’t NEED it, but I WANTED IT!!!

Getting to shore wasn’t a problem. Unfastened the painter and gave the dinghy a shove and the wind blew me right to the dock tout suite.Only had to paddle a few strokes to be in a position to tie off.

Since chances are good that I’ll be boat-bound tomorrow, possibly Saturday, too, I stopped in at Dollar Tree to stock up on junk food.

Back at the dinghy dock I hung around for close to an hour hoping one of the boats that had an outboard would be heading to their boat and give me a tow, but no such luck. According to the new wind gauge it’s blowing mid teens to 20 mph. With my COPD trying to paddle against that breeze would put a severe strain on lungs and heart. But I wanted to got back to my mother ship.

Generally I don’t go ashore when the conditions are like this but I’d thought about using the following procedure, though.

I handed myself down the length of the next two dock south of the dinghy dock to where I was nearly parallel with the Venture. Now it was a matter of paddling ACROSS the wind, not into it as you can see from illustration. The only thing wrong with the illustration is that the heads on arrows for the wind direction should be 180 degrees in the other direction fro what’s shown.

wind

It’s time to cook supper now, and of course the wind has dropped to nearly nothing.

Then, on Friday, this comes through on the internet….”Tornado watch in effect until 4 p.m. as strong cold front approaches. Hail possible and gusts in excess of 45 mph.”

Uncomfortably bouncy here at the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage this morning. It started getting lumpy around 4 a.m. and I had to get up at 4:30 to see how bad it was. It wasn’t nice.

Though the forecast calls for near 100% chance of rain today it’s bright and sunny. Radar shows heavy bands of rain at the edges of its range heading this way but wont get to us for at least another couple of hours. There’s no telling, yet, how wide the band is, though.

The wind is puffing away. The reports from Sarasota Airport, 10 away, say the wind is blowing at 18 mph with gusts of 29.9 mph. My Dwyer gauge shows 15 mph with a couple of gusts in the mid 20s.

So far it’s no worse than other nastily windy days. I have three anchors over the side and check landmarks on shore from time to time and not dragging an inch.

Then: The worst is over. Though it’s still quite breezy, gusting into the mid 20 mph range, the sun came back out around 5 p.m.

I took down my tarp and lowered the Bimini top around 11 a.m. to reduce “sail area” of the boat due to the high winds as the cold front approached the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage.

It started raining heavily around 1 p.m. and the temperature dropped noticeably. I was hunkered down, snug as the proverbial bug in a rug while the heavy swells tossed stuff around in the cockpit and cabin.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, the wind edged around from southeast where it came across the 12+ mile fetch across Sarasota Bay to the southwest where it was coming across Anna Maria Island from the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with only a mile and a half of open water between the land and the anchorage the bouncing was almost completely reduced. Now the wind is in the northwest quadrant and there’s just a slight movement of the boat. Put the Bimini back up and got the tarp back in place. All’s right with the world.

Saturday morning and it’s bright sunshine, crisply chilly for a mid-April Bradenton Beach, Florida day. Wind’s still gusting up into the mid 20 mph range but coming from the northwest the wave action is minimal. With food and water on board and the battery bank charging well from the solar panels there’s no urgent need to go ashore today. Tomorrow winds are predicted to be less than half of what they are today and the temperature will be a bit warmer. A good Easter Sunday for those of you who believe in that stuff.

 

 

 

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A Mess of Metal

When I was returning to the boat at Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage after doing some grocery shopping Friday I noticed that the ½” line that leads to 40’ of ¼-inch chain that’s fastened to my 22-lb Manson Boss anchor was hanging oddly in the water. When I pulled on it I found, to my horror, that it was no longer attached to the chain. Somehow the shackle had become unhitched despite having the pin secured with a heavy plastic wire tie.

It was late in the day so I couldn’t go searching for the lost anchor and chain. The ⅜” line was still pulling well on the 30 feet of chain that links it to the 13-lb Danforth so I figured it was holding me well. I attached the bitter end of the ½” line to the 25-lb Danforth that was on deck and tossed it over the side as an extra precaution.

Saturday morning broke bright and nearly windless and the tide was almost dead low. The water was crystal clear and the bottom only about four feet below me. I hopped into the dinghy and went searching.

The last time I’d seen the anchors, a couple of months ago, they seemed to be fairly close together. I figured the best bet would be to run down the ⅜” line and search out from that point. I was surprised to find both anchors together and amidst a big ball of chain. I was JUST able to hook the mess with my boat hook but I couldn’t raise it to the surface in my tipy little cockleshell, and since the tide was rising I abandoned the effort for the moment. With light winds in the forecast and the Manson Boss seemingly well dug in I felt fairly confident nothing disastrous would happen. Realistically I was fastened to 35-lbs of anchors and 45-lbs worth of chain. In effect an 80-lb anchor.

My guess is that over the past couple of months with tidal currents pushing the mother ship back and forth  four times a day coupled with the rough, blustery winds we’ve been having out of the southeast and northeast the lines got pulled this way and that until everything got all messed up.

It occured to me as I was having supper that I could probably lift the metal mess from the bow of the mother ship, a more stable platform than the dinghy.

First thing Sunday morning, after my mug of espresso, of course, I hauled the iron mess up out of the water. It took several tries to break it free of the sandy bottom and I had to rest several times and suck on my inhaler. Fifty years of smoking licit and illicit substances was NOT a good idea. You can see from the photo what I was facing. I wasn’t able to get it out further than this, though.

I untangled a lot of it, but not all. I’m going to need the assistance of my friend, Todd to get it all done. His dinghy is much more stable than mine and we can haul it out. Plus, he’s much younger and stronger than I am. Since it is essentially one solid mass of metal right now I got it positioned so the Manson Boss is set in the sand and I’m good for the moment. We’ll go at it tomorrow. Sunday isn’t good because every jerk that owns a boat in Manatee and Sarasota Counties is out on the water on this beautiful day and the wakes would make the work nearly impossible. But it’s coming along.

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Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

It will be no surprise to anyone when I say I LOVE weird boats and the people who construct them. So Imagine how much I enjoyed seeing this boat drift into the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage this morning and beach out in front of the Bridge Tender Waterfront Bar.

tri 2

The owner’s name is Dean and he likes traveling around and poking into out of the way places with his canoe. But, he said, it was too unstable to allow him to go certain places. So, he took a Standup Paddleboard and but it in half along the centerline. Topped it off with some light plywood. The amas are held in place with construction extrusions and everything is put together with hurricane clips and wing nuts so it can be easily assembled and disassembled.The mast sail comes from a small day sailer. The jib is an old shower curtain and is self furling with a snap shackle fitting.

swivel

The lee boards were made from pine that he bought at Home Depot and glassed over. EVERYTHING was either scrounged, donated or came from a big box hardware store. He has a sleeping bag and a tarp to hide under when it rains. He spent the previous night anchored down in Sarasota Bay somewhere and was heading back there soon after we finished out conversation.

Never forget, whether you’re Dean on your cobbled together trimaran or a multi million dollar yacht the sunset’s exactly the same…

Oh, and as far as I’m concerned the crowning touch is the little mermaid figurehead!

figurehead

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That Time Of Year…

September is the most active month for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called. Here it is, the third day of the month and we’re already on edge…

“Oh, you live on a boat…that must be really cool.” That’s reason 347 for punching someone in the face.

Here’s what’s happening in MY world today.

STORM

Lots of wind and rain. Have two anchors set. Got food and water. Generator is running and charging computer, iPad and phone.

Enjoy YOUR Labor Day!

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Getting Ready For Stormy Weather

So far this year’s hurricane season has been tranquil here in the Gulf of Mexico. Conditions are ripe, though. Warm water is what fuels and intensifies tropical storms and hurricanes. Today in nearby Tampa Bay the water temperature is 85°F. Just slightly cooler than the air temperature. And we’re just entering into the worst month of the year for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called.

Current tropical weather forecasts say that there’s a tropical “depression” forming around the Turks and Caicos islands and it’s expected to cross over southern Florida in the next day or two and enter into the Gulf. Of course as it heads north in the Gulf it will pass the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage where I’m located. It’s possible that the “depression” could easily turn into a tropical “storm” bringing lots of gusty winds along with it. If the steering currents change it could possibly come closer to where I’m located and really be a problem. ¿Quien sabes?

Right now the predictions are for winds in the mid to upper 20s starting later today (Sunday, 2 Sept.) and continue like that for the next several days. The prognosticators are prognosticating winds out of the east which, in some ways, is good. The worst direction is from a southerly direction as the fetch across the open waters of Sarasota Bay causes large waves here in the anchorage. They may only be three feet or so, but the period between crests is less than two seconds. It’s like BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…BAM! One hippopotamus, two hippopota…Well, you get the idea. REALLY uncomfortable on a 22 foot sailboat. But the fetch from the east is only a bit over a mile as opposed to 15 miles from the south so the waves aren’t as much of a problem.

The bad part is I’m very close to shore where I’m anchored. There are docks only about 50 yards astern. I’ve dragged anchor here three times. The last time I got an emergency anchor overboard and it caught and stopped me from being run up on the rocks of the Bridge Street Pier 60 feet away. Scary stuff.

After that incident I bought a larger anchor from a friend and also a Manson Boss anchor that got the highest ratings possible. I also bought 70 feet of 1/4″ chain. Forty five feet of it I fastened to the Boss and the other 25 feet to the 25 pound Danforth. I rode out the winter without budging an inch.

I went for a bit of a cruise in July and since I’ve been back I’ve only been riding to the Boss, and doing fine. Went through a rough patch in the middle of last week with gusts under a thunder storm approaching 50 mph! With the depression coming I thought it best to set out a second anchor.

I don’t have the big Danforth. I lent it to a neighbor who was moving his boat but lost his anchor when it got hung up on something on the bottom and couldn’t budge it. So, I got out the 25 feet of chain I had stowed in the lazarette and shackled it to the smaller, 13 pound Danforth that I used most of last year, but the one that had dragged on me previously. I only had 10 feet of light chain on it.

Anyway, I rowed the anchor away from the boat and set it at about a 60° angle from the Boss. It’s a precaution. I’m also ready to go get six gallons of gas at the nearby marina as soon as I sign off on this. I need it to run the generator so I can have computer capability. And if the depression turns into a storm or, heaven forbid, a hurricane, I can always haul anchor and run across the Intracoastal Waterway and up into the mangroves where I rode out Hurricane Irma last year.

I don’t think it’s going to be real bad, but you never know.

boss anchor

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COPD Can’t Beat Me!

https://www.gofundme.com/copd-can039t-beat-me

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.

MOVING AHEAD

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.

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It Ain’t All Fun…

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.

dragged

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.

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