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Different Strokes

I love people who are a little off kilter. Like this guy who came and dropped anchor not too far from me at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL, and spent the night.

Sometimes you just have to get away even if it’s on board a 17-foot open bow rider. I couldn’t see if he had a cooler or way to cook, but I did make out he was eating something for an evening meal. He slept in rather late despite the bright sun, gulls squawking, and the dumpster trucks swapping containers out at 6 am. He had something to drink as he sat quietly in this tranquil spot, then he raised his anchor and motored off.

This is what gunkholing is all about. The name of the boat is “Out on Business.”

Three years ago I was holed up at Englewood, down south, for the Memorial Day weekend. I DON’T go cruising around when the world is filled with people who don’t believe their boats will go unless they have an alcoholic beverage in their hand. There’s a popular anchorage there (Top red block)

and in the late afternoon an older couple, retirees, probably, came in on their pontoon boat and dropped anchor. Nothing unusual about that. But then they set up a small tent, like people use when they go camping in the woods, in after part of the boat and put a camp stove on the boat’s table. They spent the next two days at anchor and then went home.

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Chillin’

I was puzzled a while back when someone asked me if I was ready for the fall. It took me a while to realize they were talking about autumn and not the collapse of civilization…Well, autumn has arrived here on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

It blew in about 3 a.m. on the Wednesday morning of September 30, 2020. I guess all the wind that The Great Orange Wart spewed during his “debate” with Biden finally made it from Cleveland to the island.

Living close by the Coquina North Boat Ramp I’m often awakened in the early hours by boats trailing their wakes as they disregard the “No Wake” zone on their way for a day out on the salt. So when I became aware of the first few bounces through my sleep that’s what I chalked it up to. But when the motion continued unabated I stuck my head up through the hatch and saw whitecaps all around reflected by the nearly full moon.  It was blowing like stink. I checked the time: 3:15. I grabbed the handheld anemometer and saw that the wind over the deck was clocking in at a stead 20+mph with a couple of gusts close to 30! 

I generally keep the dinghy tied up “on the hip”

instead of having it dangling astern on its painter. Since it was pounding up and down in the two to three foot chop churned up by the wind I untied it and let it bob behind in the lee of the bigger boat. 

My biggest concern was for the semi-derelict, engineless power boat to windward. It has been dragging anchor for the last couple of months and worries me when I’m in its path downwind. The couple that supposedly own the boat, I call them “Itchy and Scratchy” are only aboard occasionally and were not there to help if things went belly up.  I keep a large, very sharp knife in the cockpit so I can cut its anchor line if it drifts down on me. I turned on my mobile “hotspot” and checked “Willy Weather” for tide data. It was at half tide and falling. So, for the next five or six hours, with my 1-foot draft, I would be in water too shallow for the big boat’s draft to handle and by then the wind might have abated somewhat.  

It was considerably colder, too. Just the night before I’d gone to bed with my 12-volt fan for a breeze but now, for the first time in months, I slipped into the comfort of my warm weather sleeping bag. And while Tuesday had a heat index reading in the low 100℉ range, Wednesday, with 15 mph breezes, remained a “keep your tee shirt on for comfort” day. 

We’ve still got a couple of months before the really cold, for us, anyway, temperatures set in but it’s time to think about digging the long johns out and taking them to the laundry in preparation. It will be my THIRD winter here on the hook.

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Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This…

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

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

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Riders On The Storm

Sept. 13, 2020

Riding out the fringes of Tropical Storm Sally.

First became aware of the winds around 3:00 am. Don’t know how strong they were, but the noise of the canvas rain tarp flapping around woke me. Trying to get back to sleep with the waves from the winds coming in from the SSE across Sarasota Bay was a bit difficult.

Heard the rain start up about 5:30. At 8:30 my handheld anemometer read a steady 20.5 mph gusting to 26.7. Looking at radar images the poorly defined eye of the storm is roughly level with me here on Anna Maria Island, FL, but far out in the Gulf of Mexico. The sooths from the sayers are predicting as much as 4 inches of rain in this area over the next couple of days. Flash Flood Warnings are up and there was a news story that one local bridge had been damaged from currents undermining the banks it spans. I’m safe, thanks, with stuff to read and food and water on board.

The solar panels are struggling, but as long as there’s light they produce SOME energy. Yesterday evening at sunset four boats were anchored here near the Coquina North Boat Ramp: A small runabout to the south, an engineless Carver 26 just to the north and a small, mastless sailboat even with the Carver bt farther our in the bay. Right now there are THREE. The heavy winds and seas broke the sailboat loose and I see it a couple of hundred yards to the north in amongst the piers.

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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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I Miss Mike…

I actually knew Mike Royko and quaffed a few tankards of suds with him at the Billy Goat Tavern (Cheeburger, Cheeburger, no fries, chips). 

When I was putting in my “sea time” in order to be able to sit for my U.S. Coast Guard license I worked at the Wendella Boat Lines as a deckhand. Wendella was located at the foot of the Wrigley Building. Walk up a set of steps and you were on Lower Wacker Drive to your right and a small side street. (Above Lower Wacker was Michigan Avenue and the ChicagoTribune Tower) Across that street was the Billy Goat. A bit down the river, away from The Lake was the Chicago Sun Times building where Mike worked, and a bit further on was the train station where commuters from the distant towns to the north arrived and departed. 

Wendella ran a commuter service morning and evening taking people from the train station and running them to the Wrigley Building stairs. Mike was a regular passenger of ours and used to ride in the pilot house. That’s where I met him. Naturally he also spent time at the Billy Goat and would have one or two before boarding the boat to return to the station and home.

I certainly make no claim to being buddies with Mike Royko, but he DID know my name and we DID drink beer together from time to time…

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Enervating

Another sunny, enervating day anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island, Florida. Willie Weather site says, “Partly cloudy. Isolated Showers early this Morning, then isolated Showers and Thunderstorms late this morning and afternoon. Highs in the lower 90s. West Winds 5 to 10 Mph, becoming northwest this afternoon. Chance of rain 20 percent. HEAT INDEX VALUES UP TO 107F.”

Stifling without a breeze. The AREA is getting a good breeze. Last few days the lifeguard stands have been flying a red warning flag for swimmers because of the danger of rip currents. I can look out of the cockpit and see the tops of palm trees bending from the brisk west wind. And therein lies the problem. The line of mangroves about 100 feet due west of me completely block the breezes leaving me in a wind shadow.

mangroves

The last four nights have been horrible. I wake up sweating several times each night because of the heat. HATE IT!!!

As we used to say over in Antibes, France, “C’est la effin’ vie!”

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Incremental Improvement…

Major improvement in life at the Coquina North Boat Ramp on Anna Maria Island, FL. Upgraded the dinghy propulsion system from a kayak paddle to a pair of oars…What a difference!

I’VE KNOWN oars would be better but a couple of things held me back. First it was money. When I arrived here in the Bradenton Beach area nearly three years ago my financial situation was nearly faded as my jeans, to steal a phrase from Kris Kristofferson. Didn’t sit real well after shelling out $150 or so, I honestly don’t remember how much, for a cockelshell dinghy. A set of oars would set me back nearly as much as I paid for the dinghy. I remember THAT. But a kayak paddle was less than $25 at (boo…hiss) Walmart.

The paddle worked decently enough BUT there were lots and lots of days I was stuck on board the boat because of brisk winds that I couldn’t paddle against. My dinghy isn’t titled and getting a title so I can register it as required for even an electric trolling motor just isn’t worth the hassle. Anyway, the transom needs major work before it could take any kind of motor at all. While electric trolling motors are initially inexpensive there are a lot of add-ons to consider. Battery to run it with then a charger, etc. Costs add up rapidly. 

I pretty much dismissed the idea of buying a small, cheap, used, 2-stroke outboard out of hand after watching so many people in the anchorage buy them and then spend days trying to keep them running. It seemed that someone always had one of those buggers in pieces.

I’ve been looking on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for a reasonably priced dinghy replacement. Something around 8 to 10 feet long. Nothing within range either in price or distance from where I’m anchored.

So, I started to look online for oars. I wanted wooden oars. To me those are what real oars are about. But a set of them (2) run close to $150. So I lowered my expectations and finally went and sprang for a set of 6-½’ aluminum oars for $85 along with a pair of oarlock sockets. I don’t like the oarlocks that bolt onto the shafts and bought a pair of the ones that look like a horseshoe. I ordered the oars from Amazon and paid a bit extra for expedited delivery. Without that expected delivery date was sometime in the middle of July.  Why Amazon? Well, the only place around here with oars is West Marine and a similar oar is $60 for ONE! These were $85 for a PAIR. They arrived yesterday.

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I picked them up at the mail drop this morning, installed the sockets as soon as I paddled back out to the boat. Then, rearranging the stuff in the dinghy, shopping cart, required life jacket and throwable device, I put the oarlocks in the sockets and headed into the dock with my empty water jugs. Now, granted, there was no wind at the time and I was riding the ebb current, but I made it to the farthest end of the boat ramp, probably 150 yards or so away, where the water faucets are in about a third of the time as I would have done with the paddle. The BONUS was that when I’d paddle in I’d usually have to stop AT LEAST once, sometimes twice, to let my breathing even out. Not with the oars. Straight on in.

It’s HOT here, so I soaked myself down before starting to fill the water jugs. Replenished 7 1-gallon jugs and hosed myself down once more. Now, a breeze had sprung up a bit. Not a whole lot but it would be “heading” me and I was now going directly against the current. The trip back took a bit longer than going in, but still, perhaps half the time it would have taken to paddle. Again I didn’t need to stop to catch my breath and when I tied back up to the main vessel I didn’t have to sit holding on for five minutes until I was back to what passes for normal these days eight days away from my 78th! I think I’ll be going ashore more on those, “Well, I’ve got water and food on board so I don’t need to battle 10 to 15 mph winds” days. 

It would be better if the boat was a tad bigger but this morning someone told me about a dinghy I might be able to get my hand on and it IS a hair larger. Anyway, this has been a big improvement over the kayak paddle and falls into that category of “Why didn’t you do this a couple of years ago?” Well, money and ….inertia.

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Living In Nature

Some days it’s like I’m living in an NPR “Nature” episode I went up into the cockpit of my boat anchored here at the south end of Anna Maria Island, Florida to play my ukulele I noticed that nearby there were a couple of dolphins herding a shoal of mullets and then pouncing on them to feed. Pay attention at the one minute mark. You’ll see a stunned mullet flip through the air and then be instantly gobbled up. There’s no wind so the filming was easy.

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Cleaning Up The Neighborhood

Well, the neighborhood here at the southern end of Anna Maria Island, FL, is clearing out. The ratty fleet of boats has disappeared completely.

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When I moved down here last year to escape the goings on at the anchorage off the pier, there was one other boat. She moved not long afterwards because people would blast by her boat with their wakes.

Then came “Pappi” with his derelict fleet including a large sailboat that was stranded for quite a while but moved last month as noted here. For several months before Papi arrived I was alone down here and nobody, not the Bradenton Beach Marine Patrol, Manatee County Sheriff’s Department or the Fish and Wildlife officers gave me a hassle. In fact, the F&W once told me that I was “Fine where you are.”

 

Sinking

But after Pappi showed up so did the Sheriff. It wasn’t just his collection of shitty boats that don’t run, it was his whole way of being that irked the authorities. There is a county ordinance prohibiting the use of the boat ramp from anything other than the launching and recovery of boats. But nobody said anything about me going in and tying off while I went about my business on land. Pappi, on the other hand, would go in, tie up and be gone for several days at a time. After a while the Sheriff told me that I couldn’t use it as a “dinghy dock” anymore. Now, I tie my dinghy to a tree limb and I’m within the scope of the law, at least.

Now all of his boats are gone. I don’t know where. Don’t care, just so long as they aren’t here.

After Pappi a couple with an engineless 28-foot Carver showed up. I won’t go on about them other than sometimes they’ve been entertaining. Like when they were fighting one afternoon and he screamed “You’re the worst thing that every happened to me!” They’re still together, though. They went away for Memorial Day and haven’t come back. Supposedly their car shit the bed.

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Then there’s the couple I refer to as “Itchy & Scratchy.” She’s obese and her face is perpetually glued to her phone. His IQ points wouldn’t cover a domino. They ere told by the BB Marine cops to leave the big anchorage. And here they are, with a 22 foot sailboat with no engine and no anchor lights. When I say these people are worthless consider this…Their boat doesn’t even have a small outboard. Their aluminum dinghy, about 12 feet long is constantly filled with water and has sat tied to the bushes for the last few weeks. They’ve been having Pappi ferry them to and from shore. They each got a $1,200 “stimulus check” and did they do anything to improve their boat? NOPE! They rented a motel room for a week and blew the rest on drugs, supposedly.

If those two boats could disappear it would be nice here once again…

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