Category Archives: boats

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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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, homemade boats, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

Dinghy Repairs

When I bought my boat nearly two years ago and took off on my ill-fated journey that ended up at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital I had no dinghy.A dinghy didn’t become essential until I got to Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage. Then I bought a cockleshell piece of junk for $150. It’s ugly as sin, needs to have gunwales installed and a bunch of other things, but all in all it has served me well.

One of the problems the dinghy had was what serves as a seat in the bow was separating from the hull on the port side. It has bugged me for ages but I just let it go. A month or so ago when I went out to buy some new shoes I found myself not too far from West Marine so I went there and bought some Six10 thickened epoxy adhesive.

I’m a big fan of thickened epoxy. When my friend Stephen and I had a marine repair business in Fort Lauderdale decades ago we used a LOT of the stuff in rebuilding things like sport fishing boat cockpit decks. Stef had the West System Epoxy pump system that automatically mixed the proper 5:1 blend with the push of a lever. Add colloidal silica or micro fibers and go to town with the stuff. But buying the individual chemicals and glop to do a small job was not worth spending the money…epoxy, hardener, thickener. I’d seen the Six10 in the West online catalog and it was an all-in-one tube you use with a caulking gun. I sprung for the $26 and bought some and an extra couple of nozzles because the job of repairing the dinghy wasn’t going to use all of it.

Those nozzles are pretty ingenious. As you look at one it has lots of little chambers along the way. The tube is divided into two parts: epoxy and hardener. They get mixed as the goo is squeezed out of the tube. The chambers (19 of them) shift the resin and the hardener from one side to the other to combine the two.

As you can see it’s a pretty big gap that needs to be filled. A quarter of an inch, at least. Because of the location how do I get the seat and the side of the boat to hold together close enough while the epoxy is hardening…Five hours according to the instructions on the tube? Obviously I don’t have clamps big enough to do the job.

The solution was pretty easy. I had a bunch of #8 machine screws, nuts, and flat washers. I drilled through the seat flange and the hull and then stuck the bolt through.Squirted the epoxy down into the gap and tightened the nut and bolt until the epoxy started to be squeezed out. Tightened JUST ENOUGH for the stuff to be compressed and stopped. There’s still a good-size gap, but the integrity of the hull will be strengthened when the epoxy “kicks off.”

One of the biggest errors amateurs make when using caulking or, in this case gap-filling, is that people put a nice, thick layer of caulking around something and then they tighten the screws, or bolts, down till they’re completely tightened thus squeezing 99.8% of the caulk out and leaving a paper thin layer of goop. Then they wonder why it still leaks. You need to put that caulk down and tighten it up JUST ENOUGH to have the caulking ooze out around the lip of whatever’s being bedded and then STOP!!! Let is sit for a couple or three days until it’s cured THEN go back and tighten the screws or bolts as tight as they’ll go. You’ve created a gasket now and it WON’T leak.

gap

bolts

epoxy

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When you have more boat than water…

The water here at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage is very shallow. Lots of boats come in at high tide and drop their hooks. For every high tide there’s a low tide and this is what happens.

Fortunately for ME I have a retractable keel and when it’s up (it always is, btw) I only draw about a foot of water. At low tide I’m sitting in about 3 feet of the wet.

low tide

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Mea Maxima Culpa…

I know I’ve been horribly neglectful about posting to this blog. It’s not that things haven’t been going on, it’s just that I’ve been posting to Facebook instead of to this wider audience. I’m making my New Year’s Resolution early to keep things up to date here.

We’ve moved into winter here at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage. This past week was extremely nasty as far as weather was concerned.

So here are a few of the items to bring things up to date…I live full time on a very small sailboat, a Venture 22, at anchor. Sometimes it’s really, really not easy…

My Facebook friend Chris Shelton’s liveaboard boat is on the hard in St.Pete. He came by earlier this morning, Wed, the 20th, in his pickemup truck and we went toddling off to Home Depot where I could pick up some final things I need to finish off a project to keep rain from seeping under my sliding hatch.

We then drove to South Sarasota and had delicious mahi sandwiches at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. Before he retired Chris was a science teacher in small town Missouri and the owner of the place is the uncle of a couple of his former students. The man came over to visit with us and he and Chris had a great timemtalking about thenplaces they knew in common.

One of the things I bought at Home Depot was a new, cheap, set of rain gear. Good thing,too. Prognostication was for rain to move into the area for the next couple of days. Well it started on our way to lunch and was going pretty good by the timemwe got back to the dinghy dock.

I had to bail a good bit of water out of the dinghy before settling off, but I made it easily enough. There was enough juice in the batteries to put a good jolt into the depleted cell phone (and wifi hot spot) and the iPad. The patter of rain lulled me into a nice nap.

Thursday was a nasty, rainy day with the wind strong out of the south. When it’s from that direction there’s a fetch of a dozen miles and the wave action here in the shallow anchorage is really nasty. It never gets much more than 3 feet since at low tide I’m just sitting in about 5 feet of water but it’s uncomfortable as can be. It rained all day long and filled my dinghy to the point where it was close to sinking. Water weighs 8 lbs a gallon and there was at least 40 gallons in the boat designed for a load of about the same. When there was a bit of a lull in the afternoon I went out and bailed about 3/4 of the water out. But with food and water aboard I was doing okay. Just before going to bed the 25 pound Danforth anchor I have on deck (I have two other anchors down and holding me) kept moving around rumbling across the non-skid area from the wave action. I’d never be able to sleep with that going on so I suited up and went forward hanging on, desperately, to the mast to keep from being tossed into the water. I have two milk cartons tied to the bow pulpit rails to hold the anchor lines. I grabbed the bitter end of the 1./2-inch line, fastened it to the anchor stock with a bowline and tossed it overboard. No more noise and I can recover it at my leisure. Then I snuggled down and went to bed.

About 3 in the morning a gust of wind hit me so hard it woke me from a sound sleep. It broke one of the restraining straps on the Bimini top and the whole boat shuddered. It kept up like this for hours and hours. The saving grace was that the wind had swung around to due west. That put the land just a hundred yards or so there was nearly no wave action. All day long the wind roared across the anchorage…

wind

As you can see gusts were coming at us at close to 50 mph!!!

That’s all over now, though. It’s calm here as if nothing ever happened except it’s cold.

On Thursday night I saw flashing lights ashore from Fire/Rescue vehicles but had no idea what was going on. It turns out that a couple of experienced sailors who live on a boat here were trying to go ashore. Their boat overturned and dumped them in the water. They were in the drink for nearly half an hour before being rescued by the Coast Guard, who happen to be stationed right on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway from the anchorage, and taken ashore and treated for hypothermia. 

I haven’t seen them since the incident but I’m sure they were trying to take Shawn ashore for her shift at the nearby Circle K. Come on, folks, there isn’t a job in the world worth risking your life to get to! EVER!!! 

Enough for now.

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Filed under boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Living Abroad, Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Uncategorized

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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Filed under adventure, boats, Living on the hook, sailboats, sailing, Small boat cruising, Storm prep, Uncategorized