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More Month Than Money

One of the worst things about being old and living solely on Social Security is that as soon as the deposit is in your bank account you’re instantly poor again. It seems there’s always one big hit each month and then you scrimp along eating grilled cheese sandwiches so you can try and fool yourself into thinking you’ve had a hot meal.

Last month it was having my generator die. Living on a small sailboat at anchor I NEED to have a way of keeping my computer, iPad and phone with its wifi hotspot charged. It was a nice generator, too. A quiet four-stroke that hummed along right up until it blew a piston ring and vomited so much white smoke that a nearby neighbor jumped in their boat with a fire extinguisher thinking I was ablaze.  

So, I had to go ashore, catch the once-an-hour bus over to the mainland and get to Harbor Freight and get one of their cheapo 2-strokers. It’s actually the THIRD ONE I’ve gotten from them. When I bought the first one over in Fort Lauderdale I also bought the extended warranty. The thing worked well enough for about nine months and then shit the bed. I took it to Harbor Freight and got free replacement. That worked until I’d enough money ahead that I was able to get the 4-stroker. I put the 2-stroke away as a back up. When I dug it up I couldn’t get it started, and you only get ONE free replacement. So I had to buy a new one and it came to a bit over $100 with the extended warranty.

A hundred bucks doesn’t seem like a lot of money to most people. Didn’t to me, either, for years. But NOW it’s almost 10% of my monthly income. Add on top of that $70 for phone and unlimited hotspot and another $115 for meds and instantly you’ve got more month than money.

Nearly a year ago I bought a 50 watt solar panel. I bought IT instead of a 100 watt panel because of its physical size; the same as the sliding hatch in my companionway. It’s 22 x 27 x 1.5 inches. The 100 watt panel is 47.3X21.3X1.4 inches. You have to remember, I’m limited on space with just a 22 foot boat with an 8 foot beam. I thought 50 watts would take care of my meager electrical needs. Nope! It does well. Takes care of close to 50%, I’d say. For instance, I didn’t need the generator yesterday. Was able to charge everything to the top simply off of my batteries which were, of course, charged by the panel. But I’m tired of listening to a generator going for several hours every day to keep things running,  and I’m also tired of spending around $4/gallon for ethanol-free gasoline to run them.

So, this morning, I checked to see if the SS deposit was in the bank. Confirming that I went online and ordered a Renogy 100 watt kit for $220: 20% of my monthly allotment.

Renogy has a good reputation and manufactured the 50 watter. I got the “kit” because it include things you need to have like all the wiring to run from the panel to the battery bank, a 30 amp charge controller and “feet” to mount the panel. It’s scheduled to arrive at my mail drop in Holmes Beach, a free trolley ride away, next Tuesday.

My four-stroke generator is on an extended warranty for two years so I’m not in any great hurry to replace it. I’m pretty sure that with 150 watts of solar energy I won’t need a generator very often once the new panel is installed. If it works as it should, the savings of not buying all that gasoline will have the panel paid off in about six or seven months. In any event the immediate bonus is that I’ll have an additional $35 to $40 a month every month.

Now that I’ve posted this I need to row to shore and get to the pharmacy where I’m going to be out another 10% for my meds and then to the grocery store for probably another 10%. Doesn’t leave a lot left over if there’s an emergency.

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If you don’t vote . . . don’t bitch

I grew up in the cradle of American Revolution. For several years we lived right next to Lexington where some of- the first shots in the American Revolution were fired.

All through high school we lived out on the elbow of Cape Cod and pure democracy reigned. We had what is called “Town Meeting” government. Once a year a “Warrant” was drawn up and all the voters and taxpayers in town assembled at the high school auditorium to vote on all the projects to be down in the town for the next year and to vote on appropriating the tax funds to follow through. I was steeped in the entire ethic of voting. With the single exception of 1992 I have voted in every presidential election since 1964. I didn’t vote in ’92 because I was off on a nine-month cruise on my sailboat from Ft. Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back. The guy I would have voted for, Bill Clinton, won anyway so it didn’t matter whether I voted that or not.

A couple of months ago when I reregistered my boat I also changed my address and made sure I was registered to vote.

Supposedly it was all taken care of. The day before the recent primary election I went online to see where I was supposed to vote. It gave me a location in Holmes Beach. When I got there and checked in they said I wasn’t at the right location and then we spent nearly an hour trying to straighten things out. I ended up filling out a “Provisional” ballot. I knew things weren’t going to go well when they didn’t have a clue as to what to do with it after I’d sealed and signed the envelope the ballot was in.

Today I went to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office to straighten things out. Easy to get to. Hop on the #6 bus, ride it to the end of the line at DeSoto Station. The El;ections office is adjacent to the terminal.

Everything about my registration was all screwed up. The address they had for me was one that I used a single time in Bradenton to get some insurance papers. I had to fill out new paperwork and then there was still some computer problems with the application. A supervisor was called out to go over everything. It was then that I found out that muy Provisional ballot had NOT BEEN COUNTED! That’s because the address they had is a mail drop so it was rejected.

I explained that since I live anchored on my boat I don’t have a permanent residential address. Seems this is not actually a big problem. I was registered using the Elections Office as my residence. Seems that THAT is legal where a drop box isn’t. So. with the help of an elections officer I’m all signed up and was told where my poling place is located. They also said I could “Vote by Mail.” But I’m not sure I trust that, and since this coming election is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT I’m going to take the two busses necessary and vote in person

If you don’t vote you forfeit your right to bitch about what’s going on…

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That Time Of Year…

September is the most active month for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called. Here it is, the third day of the month and we’re already on edge…

“Oh, you live on a boat…that must be really cool.” That’s reason 347 for punching someone in the face.

Here’s what’s happening in MY world today.

STORM

Lots of wind and rain. Have two anchors set. Got food and water. Generator is running and charging computer, iPad and phone.

Enjoy YOUR Labor Day!

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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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Caveat Emptor (“Let the buyer beware”)

I went to the pharmacy this morning to pick my Breo Ellipta prescription. The girl said, “That will be $245.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “it was only $45 last month. What happened?”

“Well, this is a three month supply.”

Okay. Now I’m not the brightest bulb on the tree when it comes to math. How bad am I? Well, when I transferred to the University of Miami in ’62 I had to take a placement test in math…I got a blinkin’ SAMPLE PROBLEM WRONG! How dumb do you have to be to get a sample problem wrong? Even so, I was able to quickly grasp the fact that if I took a three month supply I’d be paying $110 MORE than if I bought one every month. So, naturally I bought just the one.

People like me get ripped off at the super market every time we shop. I can’t take advantage of the “Buy 3 for …” because I don’t have a refrigerator where I could keep the other two so I have to pay the regular unit price for a single which is a bit more than one of the three special. Sure, it’s only pennies, but over the course of a year those pennies add up.

I DO take advantage of Buy One Get One Free on non-perishables that I can store in the lockers under the bunks on my boat, and that helps a lot for someone on a tight Social Security budget.

 

 

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Keeping Clean

One of the biggest challenges facing someone living full time on a small boat on the hook (at anchor) is simply staying clean.

One thing we lack is an unlimited supply of water. We can’t simply turn a tap to get it. I try and keep about six gallons or so of drinking water on board, but where does it come from? Well, I buy fresh gallons of spring water at Publix super market for 86 cents a gallon. A lot of times I’ll take my empties up there and fill them from their filtered machine at the entrance for 35 cents a gallon. When I do my laundry I take four empty jugs with me and fill them at the deep sink. There’s a faucet at the nearby Post Office that a lot of people use but the admonition is “don’t let them see you doing it.” I’ve never used it. As you walk around a few block area near the dinghy dock you’ll notice that all of the outdoor outlets are missing the knobs. The owners keep them hidden and only attach them when they need to use a hose.

A lot of people trap rain water. I haven’t figured out a good system for that on this boat, yet. When I was on my Kaiser 26 down in Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, I worked out a good system that would fill my 35 gallon tank in just a few minutes. I never drank that stuff but used it for washing dishes and myself. The main problem with rain water, though, is it’s not reliable. It doesn’t rain every day.

Another source for water, though not for drinking, is the melt water out of the cooler chest. A gallon of fresh water weighs 8 pounds, so there’s a bit more than a gallon of water in each of the 10 pound bags I buy. I buy two bags at $2.49/each a couple of times a week so I’ve got nearly five gallons extra water on board. It’s good for washing dishes and sponge baths, and that’s it. I keep that water in the old empty jugs. I’ve marked the tops of those with a dab of yellow fingernail polish that I’d bought to mark something else a long time ago.

So, how does on handle personal hygiene? Sponge baths only go so far. I subscribe to a lot of RV sites on Facebook because those people face a lot of the same challenges boaters on the hook do. They recommend joining a fitness club with branches all over the country. That’s good for them, but there aren’t many of those clubs close to the anchorages and then you’re faced with getting to them without a car.

There are a couple of fitness clubs here on Anna Maria Island, FL, but they’re rather pricy. Even day passes so you can get to take a shower will cost a minimum of $5. This winter I joined the Y over in Bradenton which was right on the bus route. It cost $20/month. I had access to a great fitness center there as well as hot showers. As with everything associated with this lifestyle there was a hitch. . . There’s only one bus every hour that goes over to the mainland. But you get to know roughly when you can catch it so you paddle to shore in advance and wait. By the time you board the bus you’ve eaten up close to an hour or your day. Then it’s a half hour out to the Y. You spend a couple of hours there exercising and taking a shower. A bit less if you only take a shower. Then you have to wait for that ONE BUS that’s headed back to the island. If you miss it you’ve got to hang around for an hour until the next one comes. In all, to keep yourself from stinking, you’re going to spend the equivalent of half a working day just to take a shower. I found myself going longer and longer between trips to the Y as the winter and spring progressed.

Last Friday I was going to make a shopping run up to Publix on the free trolley. They run every 20 minutes up and down the length of the island. As luck would have it I JUST MISSED a northbound connection. It was a hot, breathless day so I switched over to the southbound stop figuring it would be more comfortable sitting in the air conditioned trolley down to Coquina Beach at the south end of the island and then back up to the Publix than it would be waiting in the broiling sun for the trolley to pass me southbound, take his five or ten minute rest break down there and then get back to the northbound stop. I’m glad it worked out that way.

I was getting a little “ripe.” My hair was gunky from not having washed it for longer than I want to admit, here. (I was no longer a member of the Y so a ride out there wan’t doable.) As we pulled into the bus slot at the beach the thing that caught my attention were the people taking showers! All along the pine tree lined beach path there were at least a half dozen shower pylons so people could rinse the salt and sand off of themselves before getting in their cars. As we used to say in Antibes, France, “Vòila!”

Saturday morning I was up early. Packed my shampoo, soap, wash cloth and towel and headed out. As we turned into the bus slot the county bus that goes over to the mainland was just pulling out which was great for me. I planned on going across the bridge to Annie’s Bait and Tackle to get some fishing gear. So with the bus just leaving that meant I had an hour to take my shower.

By each of the shower pylons there is a little “Changing Station.” To cut it short, I had a delightful, refreshing shower. Cool water but not cold, and with the temperature already in the low 80s that morning I enjoyed it a lot. Now, when I’m here at the anchorage I’ll be going down there several times a week to get cleaned up.
But I’m not going to be here much longer on a permanent basis. I’m looking to get under way in the middle of next week and go gunkholing around the area. I want to stay close by until after my birthday early in July because there are so many good restaurants here. Last year, for my 75th, I wanted to go have a nice lobster dinner. The three quarters of a century is definitely a “milestone” birthday.*
Instead I spent it at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from renal shutdown caused by severe dehydration.

When that’s over I’m planning on heading south to check out the gunkhole possibilities around Pine Island Sound and up into the Peace River. The nice thing about rivers is they’re fresh water so you can scoop buckets full and bath yourself. Not a big fan of diving over the side since there are gators everywhere. Last week a woman was snatched off the bank by a 12 foot gator and eaten.

That’s it for the moment…

*Milestone birthdays. There are certain birthdays in a person’s life that are extra special. Milestones if you will…At 16 you can drive a car most places. At 18 you can register to vote. At 21 you can go into a bar and legally order a piña colada. Then you’ve pretty much go to wait around for the 50th and 75th. Milestone all.

 

 

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Getn’er Done

Another bright, blustery day at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage.
 
It calmed down for a while yesterday in the early afternoon. There were things I needed to get. Dumb stuff like FOOD! Also the ice had all melted. The way things have been going you take whatever opportunity presents itself. The wind was out of the southeast and the dinghy dock was to the northwest so getting ashore was a cinch. I wasn’t looking forward to the paddle back, though. Sometimes that really does me in with the COPD and all.
 
At the free trolley stop by the Publix there were nearly a dozen people waiting for the ride south. With my folding shopping cart filled to the brim it would be a battle to get on and there would certainly be no seats. I do feel a bit awkward since the cart protrudes into the aisle and people have to work their way around it.
 
The trolley came and I decided to wait for the next one, supposedly 20 minutes later since it looked like a can of sardines. Sitting there, waiting, five more people showed up. Then I decided to go across the street and catch the next northbound bus. Even if it was a bit crowded people would most likely be getting off at one of the two beaches the bus stopped at. I was right.
 
I’d only taken the trolley once all the way to the northern end of the loop so it was enjoyable seeing different things. Nearly three hours after I started the wind had laid down considerably so the return to the boat was a snap. When I went to be bed around midnight it was flat calm. Now, it’s gusting up to the mid 20s and there’s no going ashore except in a dire emergency.

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