Category Archives: Minimalist Cruising

Further Adventures In DIY Boat Maintenance

Exactly a month ago I wrote about removing the old, frozen outboard motor bracket from the boat…  https://onemoregoodadventure.com/2019/10/01/the-cruising-life/. As of yesterday the new bracket is now sitting jauntily on the transom. It wasn’t easy!

You have to know a bit about me to understand how difficult the job was. I’m 77 years old. I operate on lungs with a bit less than 40% of capacity due to COPD. I have three arterial stents and my fingers are gnarled from arthritis. I live full time on a Venture22 sailboat anchored off of Coquina Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida, a bit south of Tampa Bay. Most of my adult life I made my living on the water either operating boats or repairing the damned things.

I tried to install it a week or so earlier but couldn’t do it. I I thought if I could get one or two of the 5/16″ bolts through the holes it might hold up well enough until I could climb down under the port seat in the cockpit to get the nuts on. And I’m trying to do this in a dinghy! The damned thing is heavy at 20 lbs and wakes coming in from the nearby Intracoastal Waterway had me bouncing up and down. Kersploosh! One of the bolts drops off into Davy Jones’s locker. Certainly a pain, but from years in the business, even though there are only four holes to be filled I bought FIVE bolts.

This wasn’t going to work so I gave up for the time being. I made a couple of calls to guys I know who are anchored up above but got no reply. So I’m thinking over the next couple of days, “What would I do if I was off on some deserted island by myself? How would I be able to cope and get the job done?

I pondered for a couple of days and then it hit me. I’d been going at it from the wrong direction! If I had a bolt sticking OUT of the transom it should be easier to get one of the holes to slip over IT than to try and get a bolt to slip into what is a small, moving hole. In my container of assorted odds and ends I found a 3” long bolt and nut and a couple of fender washers. The strange thing I notice as I’m digging through the stuff is that I’ve got a good assortment of bolts but, oddly, very few nuts to fit anything.

So, I have to climb down under the portside cockpit seat and it’s not easy. For the benefit of those who didn’t read the previous post this is the challenge…

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Best case scenario is that I’ll only have to do this three times. Did I tell you I still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny?

I toss the bolt back to the transom and dive into the hole head first and inchworm my way aft. Though it’s a bare 7 feet, a half century of inhaling the smoke of licit and illicit substances has taken its toll and I have to pause a couple of minutes until my breath returns to normal. Or a reasonable facsimile of normal, anyway. Struggle my way out of the hole, into the cabin and up into the cockpit where I have to rest up for a few minutes.

I then wrestled the 20 pound  bracket down into the dinghy and, hand over hand, pulled my way to the stern. I tied the bow and stern of the dinghy off to keep from moving around as much as possible and then tied a length of paracord to the bracket and secured it to the stern railing so that if I lost my grip on the thing it wouldn’t fall into the water.

I lift the bracket up to set it on the protruding bolt and it nearly slides back into the hole. I forgot to secure it with duct tape as I’d planned.

Unfasten the bracket. Back around to the side of the boat and up into the cockpit. Down into the cabin where I rest for a couple of minutes before plunging into the hole again. A couple of pieces of tape over the head of the bolt only take a couple of seconds. That done, it’s inch my way topside again and tie up astern once more. Resecure the bracket to the stern railing and lift the bracket up onto the bolt. Holding it in place with one hand I slide a fender washer over the bolt and finger tighten the nut to hold the bracket steady while I put the bolts into the upper and lower outboard holes of the bracket. The holes aren’t exactly lined up but a couple of light taps with the small hammer I’ve brought along takes care of that, and the bolts are head-deep in the holes.

The problem comes with the inboard bottom hole. The way the thing is built the bolt (yellow arrow) protrudes too far to allow the head of the bolt to pass by and enter the pre-drilled hole (red arrow).

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Back into the boat cabin and dig out the cordless drill and a bit that will fit through the hole. I’ll drill all the way through the transom from the outside in the hole just above the intended one. It will be a pilot hole. Then, when I’m inside the hole again, with the proper sized bit, because that one won’t fit through the bracket hole, I’ll enlarge the hole until the bit bottoms out on the metal of the bracket.

Now I’m back in the hole for the THIRD TIME. Tighten the two lock tight bolts after fitting aluminum backing plates over the bolts and enlarge the new hole. I remove the tape from the pilot bolt and use some two-part epoxy stick putty to fill the hole that’s useless.

Outside and tied up to the transom again I remove the pilot bolt and put the new bolts into the holes. Back around to the side of the boat. Up into the cockpit. Down into the cabin. Squeeze into the hole. Inchworm my way to the transom and tighten the two final bolts.

DONE!! It looks cool back there. Today I just gave the go ahead to Cannon Marine down in nearby Longboat Key to order me a Yamaha 6 horsepower, long shaft, four stroke outboard. The price is nearly $300 less than a similar model Mercury outboard from West Marine or Bradenton Beach Marine. Monday I’ll know when it will be delivered. It has to be ordered from Yamaha as it’s not in stock but will be coming in with some other, larger engines they’re going to be ordering. When I get it I plan on doing a bit of cruising around the area. Up into the Manatee that goes through Bradenton and into Sarasota and the Hillsborough River that flows through downtown Tampa. I want to go up there and check out the Jean Street Boat Yard. It’s the only one close by (40 miles away) that will let you work on your boat yourself. I need to paint the bottom to fend off the barnacles and other flora and fauna that grow on it in these warm, shallow waters. An interesting side bar to the Jean Street yard is that it’s the oldest boat yard in the entire state of Florida, opening its doors for business in 1848!!!

 

 

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More of the Cruising Life

One nice thing about being retired is that there’s no big rush to get things accomplished ASAP. I’m under no deadlines as far as working on my boat, especially since no one’s paying me to do it.

I’ve needed to scrape the bottom of my dinghy for a while. When was the last time you went out and scraped junk off of the bottom of your car or pickup truck? All last week I watched a piece of seaweed that can best be described as looking like a leaf of very ripe lettuce grow larger and larger. Really nothing I could do about it then. There’s a tiny, postage-stamp bit of beach on the south side of the boat launch ramp, but it’s only usable at low tide, and the tides weren’t synced right last week. But today it was dead low at 0830 so I went in around 10 on a rising tide. There was enough of the “beach” left to put the things I keep in the dinghy, shopping cart, life jacket and throwable flotation required by the USCG, spare paddle, etc. on shore.Flipped it upside down and went to work with the scraper. For most people reading this it wouldn’t have taken you more than about 15 or 20 minutes to get the wildlife (barnacles) and vegetables off the bottom, but I’m working with about 40% lung capacity so several breaks to catch my breath extended the job to about an hour. It’s amazing how much easier it paddles with all that stuff gone.

As I wrote, recently, I need to replace the original outboard motor bracket that came with the boat. The last year with the old Honda 9.9 at more than 100 lbs rocking and rolling in the passing wakes bent the arms of the bracket so I couldn’t raise or lower it. I’d always had a problem with it and had resorted to a block and tackle arrangement to use it. Even then it was extremely difficult.

I described how I got the jackplate (as the brackets are sometimes called) off the transom, elsewhere. Of course the bolt holes of the new bracket aren’t the same as the old one. So last week I bought some epoxy stick. Break a bit off the stick and knead it until the color from the two parts blend into a solid color and then stuffed it into the old holes.

This afternoon I climbed into the dinghy with the bracket to which I’d attached some rope to tie to the stern railing to keep it from taking a swim.

The first hole was easy. I moved the bracket around until it looked good. . .i.e. there was enough room to operated the lift arm properly. . . and made sure it was about an inch away from one of the original holes and went at it with the 11/32 drill bitt. Of course it needs to be a bit bigger than the 5/16″ bolt so it can slide through the hole in the transom easily.

With that hole drilled I slipped one of the 5/16 bolts through to help hold the bracket in place so I could determine where the next three holes needed to be drilled. Using a smaller bitt I drilled into the center of the holes and then removed the bracket completely off the transom. Back to the 11/32 bitt I used the smaller holes as guides and drilled completely through the transom.

t was the middle of the afternoon when I finished this up and I didn’t feel like moving all the detritus necessary to climb into that 16-1/2″ entrance to where I’ll be accessing the bolts to tighten things up. I’ll get that done sometime in the next few days. No hurry.

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The Cruising Life

Some wag once said, “The cruising life is repairing your boat with inadequate tools in exotic locations.” The fact that I have only “cruised” about a third of a mile in the last six months does NOT negate that statement.

I’ve been struggling to remove the original outboard motor bracket on the port side of the transom. The boat had a 25hp Yamaha when I bought it. Much too big and heavy for such a small, light boat as a Venture 22.  It as a lousy engine, too boot. Broke down THREE TIMES between Ft. Lauderdale and Stuart. First time was in Boca Raton, about 20 miles from the start of my venture. It broke down again another 20 miles or so up in West Palm and finally in Stuart. If you searched for the term “hunk of junk” in the dictionary there’d be a picture of that outboard.

I replaced it with an old model 9.9 Mercury outboard. It took me from Stuart, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway up to Carabelle in the eastern panhandle, and back down to Bradenton Beach where I live at anchor. Last year it took me from here to Cayo Costa and back, a journey of nearly 200 miles. The engine has worked like a charm for close to 2,000 miles. Its single shortcoming is that it’s a “short shaft” outboard and the prop cavitates when I’m rocked with the wakes of other boats and I really can’t use it when the seas are over 2 feet.

To work properly as auxiliary power for these small sailboats the outboards really need to be “long shaft.” Twenty inches, minimum, from where the engine attaches to the motor bracket to the cavitation plate rather than the 15 inches on the “short shaft” outboards. Five inches doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact, most women would scoff at that, but it makes a huge difference with an outboard motor. 

A little over a year ago I bought a second-hand Honda 9.9 long shaft 4 stroke outboard. I had another bracket, sometimes called a “jack stand” that I attached to the starboard side of the transom, and moved the Mercury to it, and put the Honda on the original bracket. 

I just never got the Honda working right. Problem with the idle speed. Since the Merc worked fine I never did what needed to be done to get the Honda working properly. So it sat on the stand for over a year. The bracket was never very good, either. I had to rig it with a block and tackle so I could raise and lower it when the Merc was on it. Over the year as the sailboat rocked and rolled in the wakes of passing boats and waves from storms the engine swayed back and forth on the stand. Sometimes worryingly so. Nothing I did with ropes got it to stay stationary.

I’ve been thinking about getting a BRAND NEW four stroke, long shaft motor for a long time. Actually since from about the time I bought the boat in the first place. But I needed to get rid of the Honda so I’d have a place to put a new motor. I DON’T want a used one. I want something BRAND NEW! I want something that if it poops I can take it in, after using the Merc to get me to the repair shop, and say, “Fix it! It’s on warranty!!!” 

Well, I sold the Honda a couple of weeks ago for almost as much as I paid for it. Damned thing was HEAVY. When it came off the bracket the rear end of the boat rose  a bit over two inches! I know, because the barnacles grow just at the waterline and there were over two inches of the buggers above the waterline with the engine gone.

Then I found that the bracket was frozen. The arms are slightly bent from the side to side action of the motor riding the waves. It’s impossible to raise or lower it. I bought a big breaker bar to try and get the bolts loosened up but no go. So the thing to do was to remove the bracket from the boat and see if I can straighten it out on shore. Easier said than done…

Heaven only knows how old the bracket is. Could be as old as the boat which was built in 1980! It’s attached to the transom by four bolts. Now, since I’m doing this unassisted, I have to slither through a small opening into the space beneath the cockpit seat to get to where the nuts are.

Once through that the space opens up a bit, but not a whole lot. Not enough to be able to sit up, so everything is done lying on my stomach. Here you can see where three of the bolts have been removed.

I got plenty of practice doing this sort of thing working as a rigger at a boatyard in New Orleans. But I’m 36 years older now, have arthritic hands, and less than 40% of normal lung capacity.

If everything goes well, HA! You work your way aft with your wrenches and take the bolt off. Easy Peasy, no? NO! These are lock-tight nuts. They have a plastic insert in the hole so they can’t vibrate loose.

I get the two lower bolts off easy enough. The top, inside nut is on an extra long bolt and the ratchet socket won’t fit over it. Of course I’m not prepared for this. I don’t have a box wrench or pliers with me . The top outside nut turns the bolt so it’s not coming loose.

Here’s why this is happening. Take a look at this more modern bracket.

See how the holes are square? They take bolts like these…

The square shoulders fit down into the squares on the bracket holes. This makes it easy to then go on the nut side of the bolt and fasten the nut without having someone on the outside holding it with a wrench to keep it from turning like happens with THESE…

 

 

Now I have to slither BACKWARDS out into the cabin to work out my next plan of attack. And don’t forget, I have serious COPD problems. I’m operating on about 40% of normal lung capacity so after doing something like getting out of the hole I have to sit for five minutes until my breathing gets back to what passes for normal.

I delve into my tool locker and dig out a pair of Vice Grips and my channel lock pliers. I don’t have a box wrench the proper size.  Over the side, into the dinghy and around to the bracket. I need to attach the Vice Grips to the bolt head. As the bolt is going to turn when I work on the nut, inside, the plier’s handle will also rotate until it comes to rest against one of the arms  keeping the bolt from turning further. OOOOPS. I know from experience that there’s a good chance the pliers might come loose. If that happens they’d fall into the water and be lost. So it’s back around to the side of the boat, up into the cockpit. Rest and catch my breath. Now, where the hell is that ball of twine? I’m not a super organized guy so it takes a while to find it. Back over the side into the dinghy. Around to the bracket. Hold on for a few minutes till my breathing is relaxed again.

After tying the twine to the pliers and securing it to a cleat,  I tighten the pliers onto the bolt head using both hands to lock them on. Back around to the side and up into the cockpit. Sit to catch my breath. Slither into the 16 inch hole and up to the transom. Rest to catch my breath. Use the channel locks to unfasten the nut. When it’s off I take the small hammer and whack away until the bolt end is flush with the transom. That sucker’s really in there. Rest for a few minutes to catch my breath. Agonizingly back out of the pit. Rest. Over the side into the dinghy and back to the bracket. pull the bolt the rest of the way out of the hole and reattach it to the remaining bolt head. Around to the side of the boat. Climb into the cockpit. Rest to catch my breath. Into the hole and work my way to the transom in a motion resembling an inch worm. Rest to catch my breath. Using the channel locks the nut starts working itself off the bolt. CLUNK! The Vice Grips have fallen off the bolt head. SHIT! F WORD! F WORD! F WORD!!!

Out of the hole. Rest. Into the dinghy and back to the bracket. See, I needed that twine. An eighth of a turn on the knob at the base of the pliers and a mighty squeeze with both hands gets them back on the bolt head. Around to the side of the boat, back in the cockpit. Rest. Back into the hole and inch worm my way to the transom. Rest. This time all’s good and the nut’s off. Back out of the hole. Rest. Over the side. Into the dinghy. Back to the bracket. Pull the bolt from the hole. Back to the side of the boat and into the cockpit. Rest. That part of the job is done.

Now I have to pry the bracket off of the transom. It’s stuck on, now, with silicone. Thank heaven it’s not done with 5200 which is the most tenacious adhesive sealant ever created. Silicone has the least adhesive properties of all the sealants, but there’s no telling how much was used when the bracket was attached. In any case, it won’t be easy getting it off. Since the holes on the old bracket are simply round, and not square like the new ones I’m not going to reuse it. I’ll buy a new bracket.

I’ve found a nearby marina down in Longboat Key has four stroke, 6 hp long shafts for sale for $1,650. That’s $200 less than the equivalent Mercury or Suzuki which will cover the cost of a new bracket. And, they’ll bring it up to me. They have to order it first, so it will take a while. Meanwhile I’ll work on removing the old bracket, order and install a new one.

WHEW!

 

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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.

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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.

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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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Getting Ready For Stormy Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

boss anchor

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COPD Can’t Beat Me!

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

I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…

Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.

THE BACK STORY

In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.

A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.

In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book  available at Amazon.com.

In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)

THE PAST YEAR

Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.

I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.

MOVING AHEAD

In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.

I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.

Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.

I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.

A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.

ADDING IT UP

Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.

Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.

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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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