Tag Archives: boating

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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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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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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Expensive Day Ashore

Yesterday, Feb. 7, I decided that to try and ease some of the anxiety about my anchoring situation here in Bradenton Beach, Florida, I needed to add some chain rode to my anchors. So I got myself together to wend my way out to Home Depot and buy some chain. I don’t know why, but I tossed my telephone into my backpack along with a paperback book. The bus route I take there has only one bus an hour so I need some entertainment and I have some audio books on the phone.

The primary purpose for the phone is the mobile hotspot. I LIVE on the internet. I can pick up a couple of faint, free signals here on the hook but they fade in and out. My second use for the phone is the audio books and then comes actually making a phone call.

Anyway, when I got back to the boat after buying 70 feet of 1/4-inch chain for $139, I couldn’t find my phone. I’d lost it somewhere along the line. Could have been anywhere. I called TMobile on Skype to get my phone number. I mean who the hell knows what their phone number is, anyway? It took four attempts because using the free wi-fi I kept getting cut off. I finally got it and called myself hoping that it might have fallen out somewhere on the boat and calling myself I might be able to hear it ring. It went directly to voice mail.

So this morning I get dressed and paddle ashore. When I get to the dinghy dock and go to secure the painter there, on the bottom, was my phone. It was low tide and I was able to scoop it up out of the sand. At least the SIM card wouldn’t be affected sitting underwater for 24 hours. Now, another $181 lighter, I’m back on the boat and back on line. Going to be short rations for the rest of February.

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It Ain’t All Fun…

Had some serious trouble Sunday afternoon. The wind had been blowing and it\s been bouncy. I heard a bang as my hatch board which I keep sitting on the hatch cover blew off the hatch cover. Fortunately I have a line on it to keep it from going overboard. (Once in a while I actually do something smart) When I stuck my head out of the cabin I instantly saw that what had been my “mooring” had given up the ghost and the main anchor had let go and was dragging.

Luckily I had a second anchor rigged on the foredeck and managed, in spite of bouncing around in the rough waves of the anchorage, was able to let it go. I came to rest less than 100 feet from the rocky sea wall. A friend was able to roust Jeremay (correct spelling) who helps out with a lot of things here out of his boat. Too windy to tow me away from where I am but he put a THIRD anchor that he had out. So now there are three over the side though only two seem to be dug in. The wind is subsiding a hair but I am more than a little apprehensive to say the least.

dragged

Can’t get my engine to start and found out the primer ball is shot. I can get one at the Ace Hardware up in Holmes Beach, a trolley ride away, but I’m afraid to leave the boat unattended until things settle down. Besides, it’s a bit hairy trying to get ashore with a small dinghy…

I suppose I could call Boat U.S. and have them come tow me back out to where this all began. I’m a member, after all, and it wouldn’t cost me anything, but that’s no guarantee that once I got reanchored I wouldn’t drag again. So, since I haven’t moved, except up and down on the waves, in the last two hours, I guess I’ll stay put for the time being. Jeremay said he’d come back when the winds die down and tow me back out.

It’s clouding over and will be 90%ing on us soon. Damn, I wish I had a van down by the river right now.

A day later…

The winds died down here at the Bradenton Beach anchorage after sundown, Sunday. Then it started to rain. What little wind there was changed from SE to NW which put me parallel to the rocks which eased my mind a bit.

While the winds were still piping I discovered that I couldn’t get my outboard to start. The primer bulb wasn’t pumping fuel from the tank to the engine. As you saw in the video yesterday, there was no way I was going to try and get ashore to get a new one then.

This morning was flat calm with patchy fog. I got to the Ace Hardware a little before 9 and bought a new primer bulb. Of course I didn’t buy any hose clamps because I was sure I had some on the boat. Nope! I attached the bulb to the old lines and pumped away. NOTHING! I then began to wonder if there was a problem with the pickup system in the tank. There was enough fuel…about three gallons. But that was all the gas I had. The two, two gallon auxiliary tanks were empty. So I hiked down to Bradenton Marina and filled those and returned to the boat.

I dug the other 6 gallon tank out of the forepeak, dumped one can into it, switched the fuel line, pumped it up and the engine started right up though it leaked gas without the clamps.

One of the boaters, Morgan, was on the dock. A couple of months ago he’d gone to a nautical flea market and bought several anchors. He offered to sell me one, then, but they were quite large and I passed. After yesterday’s misadventure, though, I asked if he still had any of the anchors for sale. He did. I bought a genuine Danforth 22S for $20. They’re rated for boats up to 41 feet. I’m a 22 footer. New, like at West Marine they retail for around $140, so I got a bargain there.

I hied my way back to Ace where I bought two small hose clamps. I also bought two large shackles for the new anchor which is replacing the one that dragged, FOUR TIMES NOW!

I was able to roust out the anchor Jeramay lent me and I got out the old anchor. The line was covered with growth like you wouldn’t believe. The anchor that I threw over in desperation wouldn’t break free. When Jeramay came over to move me back to an anchoring spot he tried freeing it up using his big boat. A 55 horse outboard wouldn’t move it. We buoyed the line with a fender and will work on getting it up tomorrow. There’s a lot of junk on the bottom around here accumulated over decades.

I got towed back to nearly the same spot as before, the new Danforth was put over the side, and here I sit waiting for the evening to come. Almost no wind no, and the soothsayers say it’s not supposed to blow over 10 mph for the next few days, anyway.

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Weathering the Winter at Anchor

When I knew I had to repatriate to the U.S. from Panama because of my COPD and the fact that Medicare doesn’t pay when you step outside the country I knew there was only one way I could survive on the income I have, and that would be to either buy and live on a small boat or buy a van and live “down by the river.”

I am completely dependent on SS and it nets out at a little over $1,100 after paying the Part B Medicare. Now THAT was one of the smart things I did when I moved to Panama. I kept paying that Part B. While I fully believed I’d die down there and never return to the States, ya never know!

Anyway, since I spent most of my working life either running or fixing up boats that’s what I decided I should get. My friend, Stef, with whom I’d worked for more than 20 years and I started a search and sent emails back and forth about possible boats. He wanted to put me in a 30 footer which, in many ways, would be great except for one thing. I wasn’t going to be sitting idle in a marina somewhere. Don’t have the money for that. Dock rentals these days come close to what it costs to rent an apartment for crying out loud.

No, I decided it would be kinda cool to go take a cruise in waters I was mostly unfamiliar with and venture into waters I hadn’t been on in decades. In my early days living in Louisiana I worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee production field in Breton Sound. If you look on a map there’s a long chain of barrier islands from the panhandle of Florida all the way westwards into Mississippi and then southwards in Louisiana. Breton Island is the last in the chain. We actually lived on the island. Seven days on and seven off. The crew boats, there were four of us, would take the hand out to their facilities and then from well to well for them service. Back then the Island was roughly a half mile long and perhaps a quarter mile wide at it’s widest. Now, though, with all the hurricanes that have swept up through the Gulf since 1978 there’s practically nothing left of the island. A couple of hundred yards at best. I thought it would be kind of neat to cruise on over, take a look and take some photos.

As I mentioned in a previous post I only made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of Florida when it all came to a crashing end. It was the 5th of July at 2 a.m. when I called a “Mayday” on my handheld radio. I could barely breath and it was nearly impossible for me to even sit up. I actually thought I was dying and was telling myself, “It’s all right to let go.”

Surprisingly the Coast Guard station in Mobile, Alabama, over 200 miles away, picked up my 6 watt call of distress and dispatched a Sea Tow boat from Panacea to evacuate me 16 miles out in the Gulf. We were met by an ambulance at the dock in Panacea and I spent the next 16 days in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Health South. I had a complete renal shut down caused by severe dehydration. On the positive side, I guess, I learned that I had a 2cm bladder stone and a 1cm kidney stone. I’ve had kidney stones and this is a pretty good sized one, .4-inch. THAT’S going to be fun when it decides to move.

Obviously Breton Island was out. Now what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? Fort Lauderdale, a place I’ve lived in off and on for 35 years was out. Too big now. I remember when the tallest building in Lauderdale was FOUR STORIES TALL. The old Burdine’s downtown where the county offices are now. It’s also too expensive there. The price of a slip in a marina, if they’d even let me stay in a marina with my boat, would be almost as expensive as an apartment. The Keys were out, too for many of the same reasons. I decided I should try wintering it out at Bradenton Beach, a little south of Tampa Bay.

I’d stopped in there on my way north to wait for some papers for the boat insurance. There’s a large anchorage with fair weather protection from the north and northwest but wide open to south and southeast. There are some other nice, smaller anchorages within less than an hour run (I do 5 mph on a good day). There’s a nice dinghy dock available and a free “trolley” runs the length of Anna Maria Island from 6 a.m until 10 p.m. It passes by a Walgreens and a CVS pharmacy, Publix supermarket, an Ace and True Value hardware stores, a Dollar Tree store and a ton of restaurants. Then, if I need something more there’s a bus every hour that goes over to what I call “The Dark Side” i.e. the mainland. There are two, the Cortez #6 and the Manatee #3. I generally take the Cortez which will take me to Wally World, Home Depot or Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Burlington Coat Factory, West Marine and the YMCA (now simply the Y). I joined the Y to be able to use their fully-equipped health spa and to be able to take a hot shower a few times a week. There are no hot showers on a 22-foot sailboat.

When spring time comes I think I’m going to head south. I had been thinking about going back across the state and north to the Saint Johns River but now I think I’ll stick around this side of the peninsula. I’ve never been to the Saint Johns though I’ve passed its mouth in the many trips I’ve made up and down the Atlantic ICW over the years. There are a lot of cool places over here that I passed by on my way north last spring on my way to Louisiana that I should check out more closely. And then go on down into the 10,000 Islands section of the state and the Everglades National Park. All in all it’s a couple of hundred miles but I can get back to Bradenton Beach in a week, week and a half if I push it and spend another winter here. We’ll see.

 

 

 

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