Category Archives: Minimalist Cruising

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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Filed under Anchor, Anchoring, Anna Maria Island, Bad Weather Boating, Coquina Beach, Living on the hook, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement Afloat, sailboats, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

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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Filed under adventure, Anchor, Anchoring, Anna Maria Island, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coquina Beach, cruising, Living on the hook, Living Small, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement, Retirement Afloat, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

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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Filed under adventure, Anna Maria Island, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coquina Beach, Living on the hook, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement, Retirement Afloat, Uncategorized

A Journey Begun

Three years ago, today, May, 3, 2017, I set out from Ft. Lauderdale, FL., on my little Venture22 sailboat and eventually ended up anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island over on the Gulf side of the peninsula.

first day

 

The original destination was to be Breton Island, Louisiana, where I’d worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee oil production field back in ’77/’78. I actually LIVED on the island for nearly a year…working 7 days on and 7 days at home.

Back then the island was about a half mile long and, perhaps, a quarter mile wide at its widest. But over the intervening years hurricanes had reduced it to a sand spit a couple of hundred yards long. I wanted to see it.

breton

I made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of the state.That’s where, 18 miles off the coast, on July 6, 2017, a Coast Guard-dispatched boat took me aboard their boat and dropped me off at the dock in Panacea, Florida where an ambulance was waiting to take me to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from total kidney shutdown due to severe dehydration. I spent 17 days at TMH and Health South, a rehab facility, until I’d regained enough strength before returning to the boat to continue my voyage. I decided to head south.

rescued

I made it to Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island where I’ve been ever since with one excursion, last year, to Cayo Costa to the south. About a 200 mile round trip.

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Filed under adventure, Anna Maria Island, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coquina Beach, cruising, Living Small, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement Afloat, sailing, Small boat cruising, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Anna Maria Island, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coquina Beach, cruising, Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Microcruising, Minimalist Cruising, Retirement Afloat, Uncategorized

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).

IMG_0171

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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Filed under Boat Repair, boats, cruising, Living on the hook, Minimalist Cruising, Outboard Motors, sailboats, Small boat cruising, Uncategorized

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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Filed under adventure, Boat Repair, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, cruising, Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Minimalist Cruising, Outboard Motors, Uncategorized

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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