Category Archives: Living on the hook

Time To Move

Over the past few months my COPD has been catching up with me here in my small, anchored sailboat near the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL. Simple tasks like going forward to check the anchor rode leave me gasping for air. More and more I’d say to myself, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Since I exist totally on a small Social Security deposit each month and a pittance in food stamps renting a room or an apartment ashore is financially out of the question. So, my choices boil down to returning to the Republic of Panama where I lived for eight years or “living in a van down by the river.”

I have three arterial stents, and I’m carrying some rather large kidney and bladder stones. The medical care I encountered in Panama was excellent and very reasonably priced, especially compared with the U.S. And I liked the fact that I was given the doctor’s cell phone numbers. I also liked that meds are all “over the counter.” No doctor’s prescription needed.

But the problem with Panama is it’s a “Pay up front” system. I’d have no insurance if I was down there. No company is going to insure a 78 year old guy with COPD and three arterial stents. If something serious happened to me there I’d have had to put up, IN CASH, a couple of thousand bucks to be admitted into one of the two private hospitals in David (dah VEED). You don’t even want to think about having to go to the government-supported hospital there. Sometimes, it’s been said, you have to provide your own bed linens. Panamanian officials and doctors really don’t like expats who have no health insurance and end up in a situation where the government has to take care of them when they need to be hospitalized. Who can blame them? I don’t want to be one of those people. It was one of the incentives for my repatriation three years ago.

One of the smart things, and there haven’t been that many in my life, that I did when I moved to Panama was to keep paying Medicare Part B. Many who expatriate drop this coverage to save the $140+ a month. But then, if they have to repatriate and sign on again, they are accessed a penalty and it’s hefty. I didn’t sign up for the Part D, prescriptions, when I turned 65 because wasn’t on any meds then. Now, because of the penalty, I’ll pay $100/month, FOREVER! Well, at least until I die…

So, really, the only solution is to remain here and move into a van. Lots of people have, and why not? It would actually have more living space than this 22-foot sailboat. I have a nephew in North Carolina who is a total gearhead. I’m going to rely on him to find a van for me. I have total faith that whatever he would choose will be sound and a good value. I’m in no big hurry so he can take his time.

It’s over three and a half years that I’ve not had to pay any rent, living anchored here off of Anna Maria Island, Florida. You can kinda do that in a van by “stealth” parking in urban areas or camping at state and national parks and on Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers areas. My dad did that quite a bit in his travels. But he was vacationing, not doing it because he had to.

When I posted on Facebook that I was going to have to move ashore and live in a van the owner of a campground near Ocala, Florida wrote and said they rent van spaces for $295/month. That’s do-able on my limited income. If I was in Panama I’d be spending up to $350/month for a place to live. Shortly after that a Facebook “Friend” I’ve been following and corresponding with for several years wrote and said that I could keep a van AND the boat at some land he owns on the Saint Johns River. It wouldn’t be free, of course. I’d pay half the electric (he lives on a boat there, too) and internet connection and “maybe $100/month to help with taxes.”  Seems like a pretty good deal to live at THIS spot…

new home

There are two ways I could get there. I have a boat friend, here, that has a trailer that could easily haul my boat. Load it up at the nearby ramp and we’d be at the new location within three hours. I’d pay him, of course though I don’t know how much. Didn’t ask. But knowing him for the last three years and being friends it wouldn’t be excessive. 

But where’s the challenge in that? Where’s the romance? Where’s the ADVENTURE?

No, I’m going to get the boat over on its on bottom. It’s roughly a 650 mile voyage. It won’t be a fast trip. I generally can’t go faster than five miles an hour when everything’s going well. And there won’t be any long days at the tiller like when I was nearly four years younger and headed out on my first trip on the boat towards what I’d hoped would take me to Louisiana. We all know that ended up being rescued off the boat and taken to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from complete renal shutdown caused by severer dehydration. I put in some 10 and 12 hour days on that trip. No more of that. The last trip I made, about a year and a half ago was down to Cayo Costa, about 75 miles away. I took did with five and six hour runs. Pecking away at the journey in baby steps. 

I could leave almost immediately, but in the recent Tropical Storm Eta, my kick-up rudder was damaged. I need to repair it. It’s an easy fix. But I still came out better than the NINE boats that sank up at the big anchorage by the Bridge Street Pier. In one instance a large catamaran broke loose from its mooring slammed into a good friend’s boat which caused them to be separated from their mooring and drove them into the nearby “Day Dock” at the city pier. Pete got off and helped get Shawn off the boat and onto the dock only seconds before the nearly six foot high waves forced their sailboat, and home, beneath the dock sinking it. A total loss but at least they’re alive. Fortunately her family lives in Bradenton so they weren’t forced into a cheap motel.

 
With the exception of a 15 mile section of the Rim Route around the eastern and southern edge of Lake Okeechobee I couldn’t traverse because a swing bridge with just 11 feet of vertical clearance was being worked on and couldn’t open, until I get to the Saint Johns is back tracking over ground I’ve already covered.
 
I’ll be able to do that part of the Rim Route now that my mast is down and my air draft is a hair over 7 feet. I can sneak under it now. I might have to open the Fort Denaud swing bridge on the land cut section of the waterway. It has vertical clearance of only 9 feet. But I snuck under the 9-foot bridge at Blackburn point on my way too and from my last trip to Cayo Costa. Other than that I don’t think I’ll have to open any bridges.
 
I took my mast down three years ago when Hurricane Irma was set to roll over us here on the island. I decided not to put it back up for a couple of reasons. One is that on my 600 mile journey from Lauderdale to Carrabelle and back to Anna Maria I didn’t have the sails up but, perhaps a half dozen times. Then, with my COPD, raising the damned things left me tuckered out, and my arthritic fingers made the job painful. Since I’d done practically the whole trip under power I just decided to use the boat as a “terminal trawler.”
All along the Indian River there are dozens of spoil islands where I can spend the night. Many of them are set up with picnic tables and charcoal grilling facilities. I’m looking forward to that section of the trip.
There will be days when I won’t travel at all because of weather. I’m not going to be spending my time plowing through a rainy day. And since it’s winter there will be cold fronts passing through every couple of weeks that will keep me holed up somewhere. On the first trip I spent almost a month anchored in the Suwannee River waiting on the weather. A couple of weeks in each direction.
 
I also avoid travel on weekends. That’s when all the amateurs are out and many of them believe the boat is incapable of moving if they don’t have an alcoholic beverage in their hands. Better to drop anchor in some peaceful gunkhole Friday afternoon and wait until Monday before continuing on.
 
I love the planning of a trip. I use a program called Pro Charts on my iPad for plotting routes. Coupled with my small GPS receiver via Bluetooth it acts as a plot charter while underway giving me information such as speed, courses to steer, time to destination, etc.
 
I also rely on a site called Waterway Guide. This is indispensable. It shows where there are free anchorages and docks. Marinas if you want them, bridges and, most importantly, places along the way to refuel.
There are things to get done before hoisting the hook and I think I’ll wait until Christmas is over and the new year begun before heading out. Should pull into the new home port sometime in the middle of February.
 
This is the route I’ll be taking…
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Filed under adventure, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coping with COPD, Coquina Beach, cruising, Living on the hook, Uncategorized

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

I know it seems that I’m always posting about Guabancex, the Taino* Indian goddess of wind and hurricanes constantly making life difficult for we who chose to live our lives at anchor as I do here off of Anna Maria Island, FL. But it’s not always like that. Much of the time I wake up to days like this…

(*Taino: The Taíno were an indigenous people of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage. And there’s no need for rants about what a horrible person Columbus was, and the genocide of the indigenous tribes, yada, yada, yada, ad nauseum!)

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Filed under adventure, Anchor, Anchoring, Anna Maria Island, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coquina Beach, cruising, Living on the hook, Uncategorized

Making Life Better

When I dropped anchor here at Anna Maria Island, FL three years ago I needed a cooler to keep my fresh foods from spoiling. At the time I depended on a small generator (I eventually burned through THREE of them. They AREN’T designed for heavy duty use), so I sprung for a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler. Let me say, after three years, Yeti products are WAY overrated. I could have bought another brand at half the price that receives ratings as good as the Yeti. And the size of the Tundra 45 meant the only place I could put it on my 22-foot sailboat was in the cockpit where it takes up about half of the sole and sits higher than the bench seats. An awkward pain in the ass.

For the past three years I have been buying ten pound bags of ice, on average, every other day. Sometimes, in the heat of August and September I’ve been buying a bag a day. The Yeti will hold 20 lbs of ice and leave a little room left over for food storage. Not the best situation, but one deals with what one has. In the last year, after moving down from the large anchorage by the Bridge Street Pier to the Coquina North Boat Ramp, I have been buying ice at the kiosk at the trailer parking area. It’s the best deal on the island. . .a 10 lb. bag for a buck fifty as opposed to the Circle K two 10 lb. bags for $5. And the kiosk ice is cleaner, purer! Nevertheless, I’ve been spending $40-$45 a month to keep stuff from rotting. But there have been times where the ice has been very low. I’d look at the value of the stuff I need to keep chilled and weigh it against the hassle of rowing to shore, sometimes in trying conditions, and spending the buck and a half and just blow it off.

Readers who follow me know that in the past couple of years I have switched from using a generator to completely solar. Three hundred and ten watts of paneling, in fact. They have done a great job in keeping the batteries for my notebook, iPad, and phone with its wifi hotspot going strong, even on cloudy days. While the huge orange wart in the Oval Office believes that when the sun goes down you can’t watch television if you use solar power, even on the cloudiest of days the panels collect energy and direct it to your battery bank. MUCH slower than on sunny days, but they still collect and store energy.

After doing a lot of online research about 12volt-capable refrigerators I decided that the Ansten 30 liter fridge/freezer would be what I needed. It was compact and would fit inside my boat. The description said it will hold 42 12-ounce cans of soda. Not knowing how much volume that is, I went to the Publix Supermarket and bought my usual weekly supply of perishables. I then went to the canned soda isle and visually checked the volume of the cans with what I had in the shopping cart and the 30 litre fridge would be more than adequate. 

Think about your refrigerator. How much of the total volume of the fridge is simply unused? You have shelves with jars and Tupperware containers and everything above their tops is just empty space. You also store a lot of stuff in there you don’t need to. Things that are heavy on vinegar such as mustard, ketchup, salad dressings really don’t need to be refrigerated despite what it says on the label. Since it’s just ME and not stocking food for a family of five, this little unit fills the bill.

Last week my good friend, Stephen, sprang for the fridge and yesterday I picked it up at my maildrop and wrestled it to its new home. After waiting seven hours to let all the juices settle after the unit had been turned every which way for who knows how long, I turned it on. The digital display (in Centigrade) said that the internal temperature was 86F (30C). In less than half an hour the temperature had dropped to 33.8F (1C)! I’m impressed. And it’s QUIET, too. Certainly won’t disturb my sleep. I was running it through the 110volt inverter because I need to rewire the cigarette lighter outlet before I can use it. The unit cycled a couple of times before the inverter alarm for low voltage went off and I shut it down.

There will definitely be times when there will be problems with this setup. It has been raining off and on all day and night since last Tuesday, and it’s been a challenge to keep the battery bank topped off. There’s been enough for the light stuff as cited above, but the draw from the fridge is a challenge.

While it looks as though Tropical Storm, potential Hurricane, Laura is going to miss us here we’re still going to have a lot of clouds and rain.

Now, as we approach noon it’s heavily overcast and will likely stay that way for the rest of the day and for the next few days to come. Life’s not perfect but there are more sunny days than gloomy ones so I’ll do fine.

 

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Filed under Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Living Small, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement Afloat, sailboats, Small boat kitchen, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

Doing “Salty” Stuff

Spent several hours doing “Salty” stuff here by the Coquina Beach North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, this sunny Sunday afternoon.

In the last year, here, with the storms of winter and the squalls of summer, my Manson Boss anchor with its 20 feet of ¼-inch chain has dragged through the muddy/sandy bottom about 100 feet or so from where I originally dropped the hook. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you have severe COPD like I do rowing a cockleshell dinghy into a stiff breeze is difficult. I’ve been contemplating relocating the boat for the last couple of weeks. Today was a good time to attempt it. The breeze was only about 5 mph out of the SE and the tide was flooding. The combination will work at helping the anchor dig in.

What I meant about “Salty” stuff is that I didn’t lower the outboard motor into position, start it up, and let it idle while going forward to raise the anchor and then rush back to the helm to then motor a hundred feet or so isn’t what I did. Where’s the seamanship in that? Instead I used the millennia-old system of moving a boat known as “Kedging.” 

kedge (kɛdʒ) nautical

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(Nautical Terms) to draw (a vessel) along by hauling in on the cable of a light anchor that has been dropped at some distance from it, or (of a vessel) to be drawn in this fashion.

I did it in three stages. The first two got me further to the south to about where I was originally and then I pulled myself closer to the shore. The way it worked was: I’d haul in the big anchor until the chain was “up and down.” Into the dinghy with the small Danforth “Lunch Hook” and row it forward to the full extent of the line I had attached to it. About 100 feet. Then back on board the big boat and haul the big anchor until it was clear of the bottom. No need to bring it on board since I was going to be dropping it right away. Just clear of the bottom was good enough. Then I hauled on the lunch hook line until IT was up and down. Drop the big anchor and wait for it to set.

Watch the shoreline to see if I’m drifting and my breathing has returned to what passes for normal these days. Did it a second time to get where I wanted to be but in looking aft I was right in line with the derelict Carver. So I took the lunch hook in towards shore and got it out of the way. I may have brought in a bit TOO CLOSE and will possibly take the ground at low tide But since the retractable keel it all the way up, the boat is basically flat bottomed, and the bottom of the bay is soft sand and mud without any rocks it’s okay. I’ve taken the ground before. We’ll see.

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Filed under Anchor, Anchoring, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coping with COPD, Living on the hook, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising

Hunkering Down

Second break in the bad weather. It started raining sometime in the middle of the night and kept on, steadily, until late morning. Stopped briefly and I was able to get about 2/3 of the water bailed out of the dinghy before it started pouring again.

What’s happening is that as Tropical Storm Cristobal swirls counter clockwise out in the Gulf of Mexico it’s sweeping its feeder bands across our area here where I’m anchored at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida.

During this second break I was able to get inside the dinghy and bail it dry. It’s going to keep on raining according to the forecast and tonight The prediction is for winds gusting into the 25 mph range later on and 1 to 2 inches of rain is possible. The dinghy wouldn’t be able to take that much if it wasn’t bailed out. Could easily sink. Might, anyway. The canoe on the nearby power boat is down because it filled up with rain water. Haven’t seen those people in close to 2 weeks. They’re new to living on a boat and, perhaps, they just decided to cut their losses and walk away. They only paid $2,500 for the boat.

Starting to rain again. I might have to do a bit of bailing before I hit the sack tonight.

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Staying Aboard

I often write about how I’m confined on my boat anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, because high winds prevent me from being able to paddle my dinghy the 130 yards to the boat ramp dock…

But then there are beautiful days like today. There’s a pretty blue sky filled with puffy white clouds and hardly a breath of air. I’m not leaving the boat simply because there’s no reason to. I have food, water and there’s a plague still raging on the land. I’m content being where I am…So I’ll just sit here picking at my ukulele from time to time and arguing with people I don’t know about politics on Facebook.

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Another Blustery Day

Third blustery, windy day in a row anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island, Florida Thankfully I have water on board and enough food for several days. It’s been a week since I did any grocery shopping, though.

Two days ago I had to get towed out to the boat. I’d gone ashore to the hardware store to buy some fiberglass resin to make repairs to my shopping cart. I bought it last September because it was supposed to be aluminum. Maybe some part is, but I don’t know which. Overall I’ve been satisfied with it. It’s the fourth cart I’ve had in three years. The others rusted out fast and literally collapsed. This one had the wheels fall off on a trip one time but the Chinese company that makes the carts sent me replacement parts for free. It did take a couple of weeks to get the though.

Trying to stop the cart from rusting out I’ve been keeping it encased in a heavy-duty construction-grade plastic trash bag. I have to keep it in the dinghy, after all, because there’s no room for it on the boat. Not completely successful but it has slowed the deterioration down some. Not entirely, though. There’s lots of rust all over. On my last trip to Publix, last week, lifting it onto the trolley I felt something give way. On inspection back at the boat I found there are several rust-through spots as you can see.

hole2

hole1

The wind was a bit blustery and gusting into the teens but it was blowing directly from the east; ninety degrees across the path to the dock. I paddled ashore to go to the hardware store and buy some polyester resin to make some fiberglass repairs to the holes while adding strength. I already had matt and cloth in my tool locker.

The trolley is only running once an hour so, after the hardware excursion and a stop at Dollar Tree for junk food replenishment it was over two hours since I’d started. The wind had shifted into the NNE and increased to a steady mid-teens range.

I started paddling out to my boat about 100 yards away and struggled to get a third of the way when a strong gust pushed me back a good 15 to 20 yards despite my putting everything I had into fighting back. It was no use. So I quickly drifted back to the dock and waited. Perhaps a half hour later a pontoon boat came in to be recovered to its trailer. I asked if they would give an old man with COPD a hand and tow me out to my boat. They were understanding and a few minutes later I was tied off and back on board my boat.

I didn’t try and go ashore at all yesterday (May 13th) as it was blowing steadily in the mid teens. And I’m definitely not going anywhere today. I just took a reading on my handheld anemometer and got a gust of 24 mph!!!

Since I’m bouncing around on the waves, as you can see from the video, I can’t get up on the foredeck where I put the cart to repair it until things settle down some.

p.s. I just ordered an ALL ALUMINUM cart. Will be up to two weeks before it gets here.

The joys of living on the hook full time…I’m fine, thanks.

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Finally Gone

The beached boat is finally gone after many unsuccessful attempts to free it from the oyster bar.

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Months ago this boat, semi-derelict, was anchored up among the boats at the Bradenton Beach, Florida, anchorage. In a very violent storm it dragged anchor and came to lay against another anchored boat. In order to save himself and his boat, he person living on the anchored boat severed the yellow boat’s anchor lines and let it drift free. It came to rest on an oyster bar behind me. This all happened in the dark, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I woke up in the morning to discover this behind me. I have no idea how close it must have come to me as it passed by in the night.

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There have been many attempt to move it and all failed until this afternoon when a BoatUS tug started pulling on it. It wasn’t easy, believe me, but finally it started to move.

 

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Sunshine State My Aging White Pooper!

Gonna be a wet, nasty day anchored here at the south end of Anna Maria Island, FL. But that’s life on the hook in Florida. The MyRadar site is predicting 1 to 2 inches of rain today and 1-2 inches overnight. The challenge isn’t to stay safe. It’s to stay DRY and keep the dinghy bailed out.

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Yuck

I absolutely HATE days like this as I sit anchored at the south end of Anna Maria Island, Florida. Wind is out of the NNE gusting into the upper teens and low twenties. Heavily overcast. Overall there’s a 60% chance of rain and it’s been sixty percenting off and on so far this morning. But what I REALLY hate is that I’ve been up for a couple of hours (It’s now 9:30) and I just put on a sweat shirt. A bit earlier I donned the bottoms of my long johns. It’s the MIDDLE OF APRIL, DAMNIT!!!

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