Category Archives: adventure

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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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, cruising, Minimalist Cruising, Uncategorized

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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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, cruising, Uncategorized

Back Again for 2018

I have been horribly neglectful in maintaining this blog. Last post was back around April. It isn’t that I haven’t been writing about what’s been happening, I simply have been posting on, gasp, shame, Facebook instead of here.

It would be impossible to explain all that’s happened since the last post so I’ll try and do it succinctly.

Because of deteriorating health problems with my COPD and the fact that Medicare doesn’t pay a penny once you step outside the boundaries of the country I was forced to leave my beloved Boquerón, Chiriqui, Panama and repatriate last April.

The only way I could afford to live in the states just having Social Security to depend was to buy a boa. It’s a small one, a Venture 22, and after fitting it out with my friend Stephen, I left Fort Lauderdale and headed north on the Intracoastal Waterway giving the Tangerine Twatwaffle’s Mar a Lago the finger as I passed.

earlier photo

The boat came with a 25hp Yamaha outboard. It was just all wrong for this boat. Over powered, overly heavy and the damned thing quit on me three times between Fort Lauderdale and Stuart. While there I exchanged it for a 9.9 Mercury which is the max recommended for the boat. Never a moment’s problem with it. It took me across the Okeechobee Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico and then all the way up into the panhandle of the state to Carrabelle. I had been planning on going all the way to Louisiana to look at what little was left of Breton Island where I’d run crew boats in the Kerr-McGee oil production field for a couple of years. With all the hurricanes since 1978 what was once an island about a half mile long and a couple of hundred yards wide where we actually lived at night has been reduced to a couple of hundred square yards total. I just wanted to see it once more.

But the dream died in Carrabelle. I’d had a complete loss of appetite for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t that I was sickly. I just lost interest in eating. I collapsed in the office of the marina there on the 4th of July. On the 5th I departed and headed toward Bradenton Beach, a few miles below Tampa Bay. I knew a couple of people there; a lady I’d met in Panama and her sons. I thought I’d go there to spend the winter months.

Some 15 miles out in the Gulf at about 2 a.m. I could barely breath and was unable to sit up. I dug out my little 6-watt handheld VHF radio and called “Mayday, mayday, mayday.” The Coast Guard station in Mobile, Alabama, heard my call and after determining my GPS position they sent a boat that evacuated me to shore where an ambulance waited and took me to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. I’d planned on having a nice lobster dinner for my 75th birthday on the 9th but ended up eating hospital fare instead.

In all I spent 17 days in either Tallahassee Memorial or Health South Rehab Hospital before getting back on my boat which had been towed into Panacea harbor and heading down to Bradenton Beach.

Why Bradenton Beach?

  • It has a great free anchorage and dinghy dock. There are a number of other smaller anchorages nearby.

anchored here

  • Access to good public transportation that makes owning a car unnecessary. On Anna Maria Island, of which Bradenton Beach is but one of three towns, there is a FREE “trolley” service that runs every 20 minutes from 6 a.m.to 10 p.m. Okay, they aren’t really trolleys; just buses made to look sort of like New Orleans street cars or San Francisco cable cars. They run past Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, Publix supermarket, Ace and True Value hardware stores, and, as it happens, one of the stops is half a block away from my new doctor’s office.

TROLLEY

  • If I need to go over to the mainland there are two Manatee County Transit buses. They go by Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s, Winn-Dixie supermarket, West Marine and tons of restaurants and fast food emporiums. The #6 bus also ruAftns by Blake Memorial Medical Center, one of the two hospitals close by. The cost for old timers like me is 75¢ but I buy an “unlimited” fare card for $20. The only problem with this is it’s only once an hour but I know know when I need to get to the bus stop to catch one. Also learning when it passes other places I go to like Wally World, etc.
  • The #6 bus runs right past the Y that I’ve enrolled in. Gives me use of their indoor heated swimming pool, a fantastic spa with ultra-modern exercise equipment and, best of all, HOT SHOWERS. There are no showers on 22-foot sailboats.
  • I know a couple of people here. One is a lady I actually met down in Panama who is a native of Bradenton and moved back here just after I did and lives with her two adult sons.

I’d been in Bradenton Beach for about a month when I developed severe chest pains. Not a heart attack, wrong side of the chest and having already HAD a heart attack it wasn’t the same kind of pain. I got myself ashore, got a cab and went to Blake’s emergency room where I was admitted for a four-day stay. Underwent several CAT scans, ultra sounds, X-rays and an endoscopy to discover I had a “very large” duodenal ulcer. Meds have brought that under control.

A month and a half ago my new doctor gave me a sample of something called Breo Ellipta for my breathing. This is a totally unsolicited endorsement of the product. It has literally changed the quality of my life for the better.

It’s expensive even after my insurance discount (I’ll pay $265 a month until my med costs have reached $600 then I can apply to the manufacturer for help). It doesn’t stop me from getting short of breath but those times aren’t nearly as severe as without the Breo.

I still need the Ventolin inhaler but since starting on the Breo a month ago I’m using it A LOT LESS THAN BEFORE. I had been buying an inhaler about every two weeks. Today I stopped by the pharmacy and bought another one to have in reserve. My insurance knocked off a whopping $6 (welcome to America, Richard) off the cost so what cost me $9.35 over the counter in Panama is now costing me $53.01 here) BUT I still have 58 puffs left from the 200 each inhaler starts with AND the pharmacist checked and I bought this last one on November 23. A MONTH AGO!!

Let me fill you in on some of the places I stopped at on my cruise in no particular order:

  • Indian Town. It’s on the Okeechobee waterway east of the lake itself and has a nice little marina. There’s very little to the town except for a few restaurants, a couple of banks, a hardware store and a road OUT! There was a resident alligator at the marina.

Indiantown Marina

  • Cedar Key. I’d read a lot of good things about events that go on there on Facebook. Place was a total disappointment. On the way north I didn’t even stopped. Looked around and the continued on to…
  • Suwannee River. Yes, Virginia, there is such a place. It’s hauntingly beautiful, too. On the Gulf side it’s very reminiscent of the Cajun Country marshlands. The river, itself, reminded me a lot of the Atchafalaya River with it’s huge stands of cypress trees. The town of Suwannee is nearly nonexistent. Desolation might be an improvement. There are two marinas where you can get fuel and basic marine supplies. One of them has a restaurant that’s open for breakfast and lunch and is famous for serving the WORLD’S WORST MEATLOAF! There’s a small store about a half mile away from that marina with a limited amount of groceries for which they rip your eyeballs out on prices but it’s the ONLY store around. In all I spend TWO WEEKS anchored around in the river, a week going north and then coming south. I had to wait on the weather because I wasn’t about to go out in the open Gulf of Mexico in 25 mph winds in a 22 foot boat.

Suwannee River

  • Oh, and once I left Bradenton Beach on the run north I also ran out of phone contact and had no internet connection. One of my readers, not having seen me publish anything on Facebook for almost two weeks called the Coast Guard and reported me “missing and over due.” When I finally found out the Coasties were trying to find me and contacted them by radio they said they were within a couple of hours of actually sending out planes to search for me!!!
  • Carrabelle. Easternmost panhandle port. Nice run up the river past several small marinas to the large Moorings Marina. Docks are a bit shabby, but the free breakfast every morning more than makes up for that. The Moorings is a convenient place for cruisers to stop. Restaurants within easy walking distance. Fairly decently stocked IGA grocery store across the street. Ace Hardware a block away.
  • Panacea. In the panhandle. Well protected harbor. One dry stack marina but with gas and a restaurant. Nothing town.

Panacea Harbor entrance

  • Econfina River. Good anchorage inside the river but a long way from anything. Just a scenic overnight spot if you’re coast-crawling through the big bend. Spent two nights there coming and going.

Sunrise on Econfina River, FL

  • Keyton Beach. There is absolutely NO REASON for a cruising boat to stop here! No town. No fuel. Shallow anchorage.
  • Steinhatchee. (Pronounced STEEN hatchee). It’s a LONG HAUL from the Gulf into the river where there are two marinas usually full up. Restaurants are available with wifi. Dozens of sailboats anchored along the river above the marinas. It’s an endless boat parade as people pour down from the launch ramps north of the anchorage and on out to the open water. August is scallop season and it’s absolutely nutso. There’s one small combo gas station/food store there about a quarter mile walk from Hungry Howie’s restaurant. They have a small floating dock and if you buy a little something from them they’ll let you tie up for a bit to go shopping.
  • Crystal River. A couple of marinas. Limited good anchorages where you don’t get bounced around on the wakes from the endless parade of boats, especially on the weekend. No shopping available. One marina has a brilliant marketing ploy. They are at the very end of the river selling gas. You have to motor about 10 miles in from the Gulf to get to it and then back of course so you burn up a lot of fuel. As you run up the river you notice hundreds of palm tree trunks without tops that were torn off from various storms and hurricanes.

Crystal River Sand Island 2

  • Port Richie. There’s a NEW Port Richie but you get to this long before you get to that. Coming in the long entrance (they’re ALL long along the shallow Gulf coast north of Dunedin) you pass what the charts euphemistically call “Shacks” but they’re pretty grand retreats built out on the water on pilings. Very reminiscent of “Stiltsville” that was located in Biscayne Bay near Miami but succumbed to numerous hurricanes. There’s a nice little marine store and gas dock up towards the end of the river. There are a couple of restaurants, including a Hooters with free wifi and off to the left there’s a good-sized pond, Miller’s Bayou, that’s an excellent anchorage. All together I spent about five days anchored there going and coming because of the weather.

Miller's Bayou 2

  • Tarpon Springs. Go if you must. I wasn’t impressed. There are a couple of places to go get fuel. A small anchorage not too far in from the Gulf near a public park and boat ramp.

Sunrise over Tarpon Springs

  • Hernando Beach. There is only ONE reason for a cruising sailor to stop at this place and you have to have a very shallow draft vessel to do it. That is if you’re sleepy and the next anchorage is too far for your physical condition. If you go up a long, long, winding, narrow channel and come to the town you’ll find absolutely NOTHING for you. No marinas, no fuel, no shopping no place to anchor. But, back down, not too far from the channel entrance, on the north side of the channel there’s a series of rocky spoil islands and inside that a rather large bay with a low water depth of a little more than 3 feet. I anchored in their just behind the seaward-most island. It gave me excellent protection from the vicious wakes of the power boaters and commercial fishing boats that pass by in a constant stream. Otherwise, avoid the place.
  • A little ways north of Tampa Bay, and just south of the Welsh Causeway bridge, over on the northeast side of the waterway in the shadow of the Veteran’s Hospital there is an excellent anchorage with decent protection all around. And one of the best shantyboats I’ve ever seen…

Then there was Hurricane Irma to contend with. Early on all of the “spaghetti” models, save one, had the storm tracking up the east coast of Florida. That one had it traveling right up here over Bradenton Beach! While everyone was saying it looked like we were going to be in the clear I kept saying, “You watch, that bitch is coming up the single, solitary path on all the forecasts. Guess who was right?!?

I struck the mast and then headed out of the anchorage as most of the boats did, but I went where none of the others did. I went across the ICW and under a little bridge and up a narrow canal. After the canal turned 90  degrees to the right I found another narrow canal that seemed like a good place to check out. It was so narrow in there that I’d be unable to turn around so I backed down into it. A couple of hundred yards in I found an indentation in the mangroves that lined both banks and headed into it. It was perfect! Two thirds of my port side was covered by thick mangroves and half of my starboard side was. Ahead of me was a jungle of trees and astern, across the sliver of canal there were three, two-story, cinder block houses and, more mangroves.

I got half a dozen lines into the trees and hunkered down for the storm. That was the worst of it. The anticipation. Then, two days after I secured myself the storm started picking up. The wind literally blew the water out of Tampa Bay, only a couple of miles north of me, and I ended up with 2/3rds of the boat sitting on the mucky bottom. Fortunately the Venture 22 has a swing keel and a flat bottom and will float in just a foot of water. I was actually looking UP at the ground level from my cockpit!

As the winds increased they simply blew right over my head. In fact, before the eye neared us I went to bed. In the morning the winds were replaced with rain and when I was able to stick my head out into the open I found that the worst thing I’d suffered from the hurricane was about a gazillion mangrove leaves covering nearly every inch of the deck. I stayed put for another day before returning back over to the anchorage. Some of the boats that hadn’t moved to safer shelter were still doing well, but looking around the whole anchorage area seven boats had sunk.

hidden

mangroves2

I decided to leave the mast down. In the several hundred miles I covered from Fort Lauderdale, across the state on the Okeechobee Waterway and then up to Carrabelle in the Panhandle and back down to Bradenton Beach I actually only sailed four times. The rest of the time it was a combination of things…too much wind, not enough wind, or the wind was coming from the wrong direction.

Having the mast lying down on deck as it was for the hurricane was unacceptable and a nuisance. So I made a “gallows” for it out of PVC piping. It now sits up in the air, low enough that I’d be able to get under any bridge with at least 10 vertical clearance and yet I can stand upright under it back by the tiller. It also makes a wonderful anchor for a tarp to protect the cockpit and over the hatchway.

MAST VERTICLE.jpg

There have been some nice days here at the anchorage…

Rainbow central.jpg

SUNSET 2

Some were downright scary!!! This is less than a quarter mile from where I’m anchored.

spout 1

Well, that wraps it up. I’m not promising that I’ll be a LOT better than I have been, but I will be SOMEWHAT better.

Happy 2018!

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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, cruising, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Repatriation, sailboats, sailing, Uncategorized

Watch This Spot For Future Developments

I haven’t been sleeping well since the shanty boat bug bit me again. I’ll go to bed and then wake up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning as 72 year old men are wont to do, but then when I lay down again my mind keeps churning about all the possibilities of  this venture that I can’t get back to sleep. So a half hour, forty-five minutes later I’m up again and roaming around on the computer.

Here’s one of the hurdles I have to overcome…

Where I Am

As you can see by the yellow stick pin where I am and where the boat should be are quite far apart. Not only that, running right smack between those two pins is the continental divide. A mountain chain thousands of feet high!

I have a complete set of plans for a shanty boat called the Brandy Bar

brandy-bar

It’s 25 feet long and 10 feet wide. That would make it too wide to put on a trailer and truck over the hills to Almirante where it could be launched. The construction is pretty straight forward. It’s like building a house because everything is right angles and no complex compound curves. It would be pretty simple to simply modify the plans and scale the beam down to 8 feet so it would be trailerable.

Another problem is cost. Even scrimping on things like interior design and not counting such essentials as navigation lights, anchors with their chain and rode, regular lighting, cooking facilities, etc., etc., the bare hull would cost around $4K!

Then we get into construction problems themselves. 1) The best source for marine plywood is over there in Bocas del Toro. I live here in Boquerón. For those of you not familiar with boat building, real marine plywood is expensive stuff. Without getting into a big dissertation about how plywood is made I’ll just say there’s “Marine Ply,’ ‘AB’, ‘BC’ and stuff called ‘CDX.’ The letters all refer to the condition of the outermost ply, and the X means ‘exterior.’ All need to have exterior grade glues so the plies won’t delaminate.  The supplier I know of charges $99.95 for a 3/4″ sheet of the stuff. Tack on Panama’s 7% tax and each sheet come in at $106.95. There are approximately 18 sheets needed to build a Brandy Bar or $1,925.00 worth of plywood! He also carries CDX which costs $54.95 for a 3/4” sheet. That would cut the plywood costs to $1,058.33.

Now all that doesn’t include the framing lumber. There are 21 frames that need to be built with 2X6 inch, pressure treated lumber. Each of the frames requires 14′ of the stuff. An 8′, pressure treated 2X6 costs $14.12 (tax included). Each frame is 3′ high, so the lumber for the framing comes in at about $77.00 whether you’re building with top rated marine ply of CDX.

I was also directed, yesterday, to a place that’s supposed to sell plywood in David. What I’ve seen so far has been disappointing, but I’ll check out the new place in the next few days.

And that’s just what the lumber costs. Add in epoxy resins which are far from cheap and which I haven’t even tried to price out though I did find out about a place in David that sells it, fiberglass mat for protecting the hull against ship worms down here (Columbus abandoned two of his boats here in Panama in 1502 because of ship worms). And so on and so on with expenses.

Another problem arises in the building process. You have to build the damned hull upside down on a kind of large jig to hold the framing in place while you’re putting on the plywood sheeting and glassing it all together.

upside downSo, when it’s all sheeted and the fiberglassing is done you have to do this…

flipping itYou have to turn it over so you can build the cabin. And the flippin’ thing is HEAVY right now. (The last two photos courtesy [though they don’t know it yet] of http://littleshantyboat.blogspot.com/ which is one of the best blogs I’ve read anywhere about the actual building process of a shanty boat. If you’re interested in building one you need to bookmark this site.)

So, the other night I was talking to my surfing friend, David, who lives in Costa Rica but who is thinking about resettling, too, in Bocas, when an idea hit me. . .

From time immemorial boats and ships have been built as a single unit. The keel was laid down, frames were attached to that and planking was added to the frames to complete the hull. Instead of building my 25′ long by 8′ wide hull as a single unit, why couldn’t I build, say, units that were 8’X8′ which would be a lot lighter in weight and them, with epoxy, through-bolt those units together? Sort of like putting Legos® together.  Why not, indeed? I mean they build HUGE ships and aircraft carriers that way, now, don’t they?

If they can build something as big as an aircraft carrier in sections and, essentially, bolt the pieces together why couldn’t I do the same thing with something so simple as a shanty boat?

So, naturally, this set me off in other sleepless wanderings around the internet. I found a TON of stuff. From Viet Nam there was this: http://www.hapby.v-nam.net/builds/projects.php,   And this: http://shantyboatliving.com/2012/collaborative-modular-project-post-1/ Plus a bunch more, but you get the idea.

Four Puddle Duck Racers bolted together would make a 16’X8′ hull. Six of them and you’ve got a 24X8. Four of them with a deck covering the top of each one, and joined with spanning  members floored over and you’ve got yourself the pontoons and platform for a pretty large floating home.

And here, too, you don’t have to build it all at once. You can build something large enough (or small enough) to give you a place to live in while you construct further modules. My uncle Dick and his wife Helen lived in the basement of their house in Cincinnati, Ohio while they were building the big house. My secret heros, Jim Kimball and Jay Viola (not to mention their wives who worked just as hard as they did, though in the States) built a fabulous Eco Resort, Tranquilo Bay (http://www.tranquilobay.com/) on the island of Bastimentos  in Bocas del Toro, Panama, piece by piece, and they lived in a TENT on a rickety dock when they started the venture. You really SHOULD read this story, it’s absolutely inspiring about what guts and determination can accomplish…http://www.inc.com/magazine/20080501/paradise-the-hard-way.html I had the good fortune to spend a couple of hours with Jim Kimball a few years ago when I was making my first exploratory trips to Panama and it would be hard to find a nicer person  willing to sit down with a total stranger for a couple of hours and discuss the stranger’s crackpot ideas of building a shanty boat.

So, there you have it. I’m sure there will be many more sleepless nights ahead because of this nonsense. My birthday is only a couple of weeks away. I think this year I’m going to gift myself with some power tools. I’ll show you when I get them.

 

 

 

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Why No Posts Lately?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. Lots of bloggers post every day. I did when I first started this project several years ago. Others post every other day, and some, like my cyber-friend Linda at  http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/ who writes finely-crafted posts and puts up one a week.

Me? Well, none of my posts are finely-crafted. They’re essentially first drafts, quickly written and carelessly checked for misspellings. I post them when I feel like it.

Recently I’ve been negligent about posting anything. There are several reasons. 1) Life gets in the way and other things that take precedence. 2) Nothing noteworthy has been going on and 3) Sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Number 3 has been my excuse lately.

It’s not like I’ve been comatose since the last post, so I’ll give you a few updates over the next couple of days.

As my regulars know, I bought myself a motorcycle for my 70th birthday.

I call it the “Orange Arrow.”

As luck would have it I threw out my back a week after I got the bike. I was in severe pain for the first week afterwards. In so much pain I was THIS close to going to see a doctor. But it’s getting better now and I only get a twinge every now and then.

But another problem came up. I found out that my Panamanian driver’s license isn’t good for motorcycles and if I get caught riding without an endorsement I’m going to get a ticket. What are the odds of getting caught? Excellent. There are traffic cops all over the place daily setting up road blocks everywhere and checking people’s licenses.

I went to the license bureau last week to see what I need to do to get the endorsement. It was pretty discouraging. It seems that I have to go to a driving school which will cost me a couple of hundred bucks. Then I have to take a written test (in Spanish) and pass a practical test. Then I have to go through the whole licensing rigamarole all over again…photo, eye test, hearing test, another $40 fee.

The worst part is that now that I’ve turned 70 I have to go to a gerontologist or an internist and get a letter saying that I’m physically and mentally fit to drive a motorcycle. I could probably pass the physical part okay, but isn’t there something suspect about a septuagenarian’s mental health if they have gone and bought a motorcycle?

Oh, well, we’ll see.

 

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Dry Season In Panama

Well, January is just about over and we’re definitely in the middle of the dry season. So far this month we probably haven’t even had an inch of rain. One afternoon it rained very gently for about an hour and that’s it.

You may remember this video I shot a couple of months ago when we were getting a lot of rain every day…

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Well, here’s the same stretch of river this morning…

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The Liveaboard Simulator redux

Recently I came across a blog about a young couple who bought a boat to live on and sail around the world. They’re living on it, the” sail around the world” part is yet to be started. I’ve wasted hours of my time when I should have been working on my new book reading their blog http://ventureminimalists.wordpress.com/ but it’s certainly been entertaining. And reading about their struggles with the new life of living aboard a boat I’m sure they would have been better prepared had they read my June 2009 post “The Liveaboard Simulator.” Hey, t.v. networks have re-runs…why shouldn’t I?

Just for fun, park your cars in the lot of the convenience store at least 2 blocks from your house. (Make believe the sidewalk is a floating dock between your car and the house.

Move yourself and your family (If applicable) into 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Measure the DECK space INSIDE your boat. Make sure the occupied house has no more space, or closet space, or drawer space.

Boats don’t have room for “beds”, as such. Fold your Sealy Posturepedic up against a wall, it won’t fit on a boat. Go to a hobby fabric store and buy a foam pad 5′ 10″ long and 4′ wide AND NO MORE THAN 3″ THICK. Cut it into a triangle so the little end is only 12″ wide. This simulates the foam pad in the V-berth up in the pointy bow of the sailboat. Bring in the kitchen table from the kitchen you’re not allowed to use. Put the pad UNDER the table, on the floor, so you can simulate the 3′ of headroom over the pad.
Block off both long sides of the pad, and the pointy end so you have to climb aboard the V-berth from the wide end where your pillows will be. The hull blocks off the sides of a V-berth and you have to climb up over the end of it through a narrow opening (hatch to main cabin) on a boat. You’ll climb over your mate’s head to go to the potty in the night. No fun for either party. Test her mettle and resolve by getting up this way right after you go to bed at night. There are lots of things to do on a boat and you’ll forget at least one of them, thinking about it laying in bed, like “Did I remember to tie off the dingy better?” or “Is that spring line (at the dock) or anchor line (anchored out) as tight as it should be?” Boaters who don’t worry about things like this laying in bed are soon aground or on fire or the laughing stock of an anchorage…. You need to find out how much climbing over her she will tolerate BEFORE you’re stuck with a big boat and big marina bills and she refuses to sleep aboard it any more…..

Bring a Coleman stove into the bathroom and set it next to the bathroom sink. Your boat’s sink is smaller, but we’ll let you use the bathroom sink, anyways. Do all your cooking in the bathroom, WITHOUT using the bathroom power vent. If you have a boat vent, it’ll be a useless 12v one that doesn’t draw near the air your bathroom power vent draws to take away cooking odors. Leave the hall door open to simulate the open hatch. Take all the screens off your 2 bedroom’s windows. Leave the windows open to let in the bugs that will invade your boat at dusk, and the flies attracted to the cooking.

Borrow a 25 gallon drum mounted on a trailer. Flush your toilets into the drums. Trailer the drums to the convenience store to dump them when they get full. Turn off your sewer, you won’t have one. This will simulate going to the “pump out station” every time the tiny drum is full. 25 gallons is actually LARGER than most holding tanks.They’re more like 15 gallons on small sailboats under 40′ because they were added to the boat after the law changed requiring them and there
was no place to put it or a bigger one. They fill up really fast if you liveaboard!

Unless your boat is large enough to have a big “head” with full bath, make believe your showers/bathtubs don’t work. Make a deal with someone next door to the convenience store to use THEIR bathroom for bathing at the OTHER end of the DOCK. (Marina rest room) If you use this rest room to potty, while you’re there, make believe it has no paper towels or toilet paper. Bring your own. Bring your own soap and anything else you’d like to use there, too.

If your boat HAS a shower in its little head, we’ll let you use the shower end of the bathtub, but only as much tub as the boat has FREE shower space for standing to shower. As the boat’s shower drains into a little pan in the bilge, be sure to leave the soapy shower water in the bottom of the tub for a few days before draining it. Boat shower sumps always smell like spent soap growing exotic living organisms science hasn’t actually discovered or named, yet. Make sure your simulated V-berth is
less than 3′ from this soapy water for sleeping. The shower sump is under the passageway to the V-berth next to your pillows.

Run you whole house through a 20 amp breaker to simulate available dock power at the marina. If you’re thinking of anchoring out, turn off the main breaker and “make do” with a boat battery and flashlights. Don’t forget you have to heat your house on this 20A supply and try to keep the water from freezing in winter.

Turn off the water main valve in front of your house. Run a hose from your neighbor’s lawn spigot over to your lawn spigot and get all your water from there. Try to keep the hose from freezing all winter.

As your boat won’t have a laundry, disconnect yours. Go to a boat supply place, like West Marine, and buy you a dock cart. Haul ALL your supplies, laundry, garbage, etc. between the car at the convenience store and house in this cart. Once a week, haul your outboard motor to the car, leave it a day then haul it back to the house, in the cart, to simulate “boat problems” that require “boat parts” to be removed/replaced on your “dock”. If ANYTHING ever comes out of that cart between the convenience store and the house, put it in your garage and forget about it. (Simulates losing it over the side of the dock, where it sank in 23′ of water and was dragged off by the current.)

Each morning, about 5AM, have someone you don’t know run a weedeater back and forth under your bedroom windows to simulate the fishermen leaving the marina to go fishing. Have him slam trunk lids, doors, blow car horns and bang some heavy pans together from 4AM to 5AM before lighting off the weedeater. (Simulates loading boats with booze and fishing gear and gas cans.) Once a week, have him bang the running weedeater into your bedroom wall to simulate the idiot who
drove his boat into the one you’re sleeping in because he was half asleep leaving the dock. Put a rope over a big hook in the ceiling over your coffee table “bed”. Hook one end of the rope to the coffee table siderail and the other end out where he can pull on it. As soon as he shuts off the weedeater, have him pull hard 9 times on the rope to tilt your bed at least 30 degrees. (Simulates the wakes of the fishermen blasting off trying to beat each other to the fishing.) Anytime there is a storm in your area, have someone constantly pull on the rope. It’s rough riding storms in the marina! If your boat is a sailboat, install a big wire from the top of the tallest tree to your electrical ground in the house to simulate mast lightning strikes in the marina, or to give you the thought of potential lightning strikes.

Each time you “go out”, or think of going boating away from your marina, disconnect the neighbor’s water hose, your electric wires, all the umbilicals your new boat will use to make life more bearable in the marina.

Use bottled drinking water for 2 days for everything. Get one of those 5 gallon jugs with the airpump on top from a bottled water company. This is your boat’s “at sea” water system simulator. You’ll learn to conserve water this way. Of course, not having the marina’s AC power supply, you’ll be lighting and all from a car battery, your only source of power. If you own or can borrow a generator, feel free to leave it running to provide AC power up to the limit of the generator. If you’re thinking about a 30′ sailboat, you won’t have room for a generator so don’t use it.

Any extra family members must be sleeping on the settees in the maincabin or in the quarter berth under the cockpit….unless you intend to get a boat over 40-something feet with an aft cabin. Smaller boats have quarter berths. Cut a pad out of the same pad material that is no more than 2′ wide by 6′ long. Get a cardboard box from an appliance store that a SMALL refridgerator came in. Put the pad in the box, cut to fit, and make sure only one end of the box is open. The box can be no more than 2 feet above the pad. Quarter berths are really tight. Make them sleep in there, with little or no air circulation. That’s what sleeping in a quarterberth is all about.

Of course, to simulate sleeping anchored out for the weekend, no heat or air conditioning will be used and all windows will be open without screens so the bugs can get in.

In the mornings, everybody gets up and goes out on the patio to enjoy the sunrise. Then, one person at a time goes back inside to dress, shave, clean themselves in the tiny cabin unless you’re a family of nudists who don’t mind looking at each other in the buff. You can’t get dressed in the stinky little head with the door closed on a sailboat. Hell, there’s barely room to bend over so you can sit on the commode. So, everyone will dress in the main cabin….one at a time.

Boat tables are 2′ x 4′ and mounted next to the settee. There’s no room for chairs in a boat. So, eat off a 2X4′ space on that kitchen table you slept under while sitting on a couch (settee simulator). You can also go out with breakfast and sit on the patio (cockpit), if you like.

Ok, breakfast is over. Crank up the lawnmower under the window for 2 hours. It’s time to recharge the batteries from last night’s usage and to freeze the coldplate in the boat’s icebox which runs off a compressor on the engine. Get everybody to clean up your little hovel. Don’t forget to make the beds from ONE END ONLY. You can’t get to the other 3 sides of a boat bed pad.

All hands go outside and washdown the first fiberglass UPS truck that passes by. That’s about how big the deck is on your 35′ sailboat that needs to have the ocean cleaned off it daily or it’ll turn the white fiberglass all brown like the UPS truck. Now, doesn’t the UPS truck look nice like your main deck?

Ok, we’re going to need some food, do the laundry, buy some boat parts that failed because the manufacturer’s bean counters got cheap and used plastics and the wife wants to “eat out, I’m fed up with cooking on the Coleman stove” today. Let’s make believe we’re not at home, but in some exotic port like Ft Lauderdale, today….on our cruise to Key West……Before “going ashore”, plan on buying all the food you’ll want to eat that will:

A – Fit into the Coleman Cooler on the floor
B – You can cook on the Coleman stove without an oven or all those
fancy kitchen tools you don’t have on the boat
C – And will last you for 10 days, in case the wind drops and it takes more time than we planned at sea.
Plan meals carefully in a boat. We can’t buy more than we can STORE, either!

You haven’t washed clothes since you left home and everything is dirty. Even if it’s not, pretend it is for the boater-away-from-home simulator. Put all the clothes in your simulated boat in a huge dufflebag so we can take it to the LAUNDRY! Manny’s Marina HAS a laundromat, but the hot water heater is busted (for the last 8 months) and Manny has “parts on order” for it…..saving Manny $$$$ on the electric bill! Don’t forget to carry the big dufflebag with us on our
“excursion”. God that bag stinks, doesn’t it?….PU!

Of course, we came here by BOAT, so we don’t have a car. Some nice marinas have a shuttle bus, but they’re not a taxi. The shuttle bus will only go to West Marine or the tourist traps, so we’ll be either taking the city bus, if there is one or taxi cabs or shopping at the marina store which has almost nothing to buy at enormous prices.

Walk to the 7-11 store, where you have your car stored, but ignore the car. Make believe it isn’t there. No one drove it to Ft Lauderdale for you. Use the payphone at the 7-11 and call a cab. Don’t give the cab driver ANY instructions because in Ft Lauderdale you haven’t the foggiest idea where West Marine is located or how to get there, unlike at home.
We’ll go to West Marine, first, because if we don’t the “head” back on the boat won’t be working for a week because little Suzy broke a valve in it trying to flush some paper towels. This is your MOST important project, today….that valve in the toilet!! After the cab drivers drives around for an hour looking for West Marine and asking his dispatcher how to get there. Don’t forget to UNLOAD your stuff from the cab, including the dirty clothes in the dufflebag then go into West Marine and give the clerk a $100 bill, simulating the cost of toilet parts. Lexus parts are cheaper than toilet parts at West Marine. See for yourself! The valve she broke, the seals that will have to be replaced on the way into the valve will come to $100 easy. Tell the clerk you’re using my liveaboard simulator and to take his girlfriend out to dinner on your $100 greenback. If you DO buy the boat, this’ll come in handy when you DO need boat parts because he’ll remember you for the great time his girlfriend gave him on your $100 tip. Hard-to-find boat parts will arrive in DAYS, not months like the rest of us. It’s just a good political move while in simulation mode.

Call another cab from West Marine’s phone, saving 50c on payphone charges. Load the cab with all your stuff, toilet parts, DIRTY CLOTHES then tell the cabbie to take you to the laundromat so we can wash the stinky clothes in the trunk. The luxury marina’s laundry in Ft Lauderdale has a broken hot water heater. They’re working on it, the girl at the store counter, said, yesterday. Mentioning the $12/ft you paid to park the boat at their dock won’t get the laundry working before we leave for Key West. Do your laundry in the laundromat the cabbie found for you. Just because noone speaks English in this
neighborhood, don’t worry. You’ll be fine this time of day near noon.

Call another cab to take us out of here to a supermarket. When you get there, resist the temptation to “load up” because your boat has limited storage and very limited refridgeration space (remember? Coleman Cooler).

Buy from the list we made early this morning. Another package of cookies is OK. Leave one of the kids guarding the pile of clean laundry just inside the supermarket’s front door….We learned our lesson and DIDN’T forget and leave it in the cab, again!

Call another cab to take us back to the marina, loaded up with clean clothes and food and all-important boat parts. Isn’t Ft Lauderdale beautiful from a cab? It’s too late to go exploring, today. Maybe tomorrow…. Don’t forget to tell the cab to go to the 7-11 (marina parking lot)….not your front door….cabs don’t float well.

Ok, haul all the stuff in the dock cart from the 7-11 store the two blocks to the “boat” bedroom. Wait 20 minutes before starting out for the house. This simulates waiting for someone to bring back a marina-owned dock cart from down the docks…..They always leave them outside their boats, until the marina “crew” get fed up with newbies like us asking why there aren’t any carts and go down the docks to retrieve them.

Put all the stuff away, food and clothes, in the tiny drawer space provided. Have a beer on the patio (cockpit) and watch the sunset. THIS is living!

Now, disassemble the toilet in your bathroom, take out the wax ring under it and put it back. Reassemble the toilet. This completes the simulation of putting the new valve in the “head” on the boat. Uh, uh, NO POWER VENT! GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT SWITCH! The whole “boat” smells like the inside of the holding tank for hours after fixing the toilet in a real boat, too! Spray some Lysol if you got it….

After getting up, tomorrow morning, from your “V-Berth”, take the whole family out to breakfast by WALKING to the nearest restaurant, then take a cab to any local park or attraction you like. We’re off today to see the sights of Ft Lauderdale…..before heading out to sea, again, to Key West. Take a cab back home after dinner out and go to bed, exhausted, on your little foam pad under the table…..

Get up this morning and disconnect all hoses, electrical wires, etc. Get ready for “sea”. Crank up the lawn mower under the open bedroom window for 4 hours while we motor out to find some wind. ONE responsible adult MUST be sitting on the hot patio all day, in shifts, “on watch” looking out for other boats, ships, etc. If you have a riding lawn mower, let the person “on watch” drive it around the yard all day to simulate driving the boat down the ICW in heavy traffic. About 2PM, turn off the engine and just have them sit on the mower “steering” it on the patio. We’re under sail, now. Every hour or so, take everyone out in the yard with a big rope and have a tug-of-war to simulate the work involved with setting sail, changing sail, trimming sail. Make sure everyone gets all sweaty in the heat. Sailors working on sailboats are always all sweaty or we’re not going anywhere fast! Do this all day, today, all night, tonight, all day, tomorrow, all night tomorrow night and all day the following day until 5PM when you “arrive” at the next port you’re going to. Make sure no one in the family leaves the confines of the little bedroom or the patio during our “trip”. Make sure everyone conserves water, battery power, etc., things you’ll want to conserve while being at sea on a trip somewhere. Everyone can go up to the 7-11 for an icecream as soon as we get the “boat” docked on day 3, the first time anyone has left the confines of the bedroom/patio in 3 days.

Question – Was anyone suicidal during our simulated voyage? Keep an eye out for anyone with a problem being cooped up with other family members. If anyone is attacked, any major fights break out, any threats to throw the captain to the fish…..forget all about boats and buy a motorhome, instead.

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