Tag Archives: boating

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!


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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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Water, Water, Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Water, as everyone knows, is absolutely essential to life. Articles say that anywhere from between 50 to 70 percent of the human body is made up of water (I guess the variable is how fat one is). And a person can go anywhere from between eight to fourteen days without any before they die, and fat people can actually go longer without it than can someone who is skinny and out of shape.

People on land, at least in developed countries, take clean, potable, accessable water for granted. And we’re lucky, millions of people don’t have the water we take for granted and tens of thousands worldwide die each year because they don’t have it. More children, worldwide, die from the lack of clean water than those who die from AIDS and malaria COMBINED. But this is about access to water aboard a boat.

When you’re tied up at a dock in a marina water is similar to what it was when you were living ashore. Turn a knob and the water flows. You just have to hook up a hose from the dock to your boat.

What happens after you’ve cast off? At first you will depend on the water stored in your boat’s tanks and what you have brought aboard in containers. After that you can either make your own water with a reverse osmosis watermaker which is 1)expensive to purchase 2) a hassle to maintian 3) probably going to break down at some point which brings us to the most accurate definition of “cruising” ever: “Cruising is repairing equipment with inadequate tools and access to parts in exotic locations.”

OR, you can do what people have been doing since the dawn of time: collect and store rain water.


Don’t get me wrong. Watermakers certainly have their niche, and there are valid reasons someone might want to invest in one.

  1. As an emergency water supply. What happens in the unlikely event that your tanks spring a leak or get contaminated? Neither ever happened to me in all my years of professional and pleasure boating. BUT, I did have one incident when an inexperienced deck hand topped off the fuel tanks with the water hose, not paying attention to which deck fill he was opening. It’s also possible that a water tank could be contaminated with undrinkable water and you aren’t able to purify it. A hand operated model may also be a good thousand dollar investment for a ditch bag for long-distance cruisers in case they have to take to their last-chance of survival raft and could well save their lives. But that group of boater is a tiny minority of people who own and use boats.
  2. Reduce weight. A gallon of fresh water weighs 8.34 lbs, so, with a topped-off 50 gallon water tank that means you’re lugging around an additional 417 pounds.
  3. Extended range of travel. You don’t have to plan your cruise around stops to replenish your water supply.
  4. Save money in foreign ports. Available potable water in many foreign ports is limited even to their own inhabitants and if you want to fill your tanks from their precious water reserves you’re going to have to pay for it just like you have to pay for filling your fuel tanks.
  5. Provide a safe water supply on board. In many parts of the world safe, potable water is unavailable. If you’re able to make your own you won’t ruin your adventure with parasite-related illness.

But all this comes with a hefty price tag. Checking the West Marine on-line catalog the watermakers they offer range from $1,999.00 to $6,887.00.

An alternative, if you’re handy, is to build your own. You need a high-pressure pump capable of at least 1,000 psi, 3,000 psi is better. Then you have to buy the membrane that filters the water, the wiring and tubing, etc., etc. A Google search of “build your own watermaker came up with 8,170 hits, so there’s a lot of information out there if you’re so inclined.

If you have a watermaker you also have to have a power supply to run it, either 12 or 24 volt dc power or 120 or 240 volt ac power. All this presents another problem. There is one site I saw that is supposed to be able to make up to 72 gallons of water by dragging a special unit with a propeller behind your boat while underway and can be adapted to hand operation if you have to ditch the sinking mother ship. I offer this URL because I think the concept is interesting:http://www.watermakers.ws/

Collecting Rainwater

Harvesting rainwater has been going on since man lived in caves and a time-honored method of filling the water tanks at sea. People living a shore-based life have had cisterns for the containment of rainwater worldwide and is currently enjoying a reviva ldue to the inherent quality of rainwater and an interest in reducing consumption of treated water.

Rainwater is valued for its purity and softness. It has a nearly neutral pH, and is free from disinfection by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants. Plants thrive under irrigation with stored rainwater.
Appliances last longer when free from the corrosive or scale effects of hard water. Users with potable systems prefer
the superior taste and cleansing properties of rainwater.

There is archeological evidence that the concept of harvesting rainwater in China may date back 6,000 years. Ruins of cisterns built as early as 2,000 BC for storing runoff from hillsides for agriculture and domestic purposes are still standing in Israel today.

One of the best things about rainwater is that it’s FREE, and a collection system can be very inexpensive to install on your boat. When I was cruising on Nancy Dawson I only brought water from shore on two occasions in my nine-month trip. The rest came from the sky.

The first time I collected water on board was in Belize heading north from Belize City to Ambergris Caye. The wind stopped and the water came down so hard and heavy that it cut visibility to less than a hundred yards. I’ve been in fog banks were I could see farther. After it had rained for about five minutes in a deluge that Noah never had to deal with I felt that whatever salt and dirt might be on the sails had been washed off I raised the topping lift a bit and the water ran off the goose neck. I put a cup down to collect a bit of water and tasted it and it was sweet and clean. It was raining so hard and fast that I filled five of the gallon jugs I had aboard in about 15 minutes.

A couple of weeks later I stopped for a day at Caye Chapel where I filled my main tank with their water and headed south towards Guatemala. I had been thinking about how I would capture more rain water since that first experience. Standing in the rain to get the water off the goose neck didn’t seem like a practical exercise and I needed some system that wouldn’t require me to either get soaking wet or to put on my foul weather gear.

The deck fill for my water tank was on the port side just forward of the cockpit. I built a small dam from the cabin towards the toe rail and from the toe rail inboard leaving about a three inch gap so water could run the whole length of the deck and out the scuppers aft. I fashioned  the dam out with epoxy stick, something no boat should ever leave the dock without having several on board. They are a two part putty, one part wrapped around the other. They’re about six inches long and an inch thick. You simply break off the amount you need and knead the two different colored parts together until it’s a single color and them mold it around whatever you want to build or repair. Besides building the dam I used it to stop a persist ant leak in a through-hull fitting and to repair a broken part on my windvane self-steering. If I hadn’t had the putty I would have had to hand steer for about a thousand miles. After the stuff hardens it can be tapped to accept machine screws and the stuff hardens under water, too.

Anyway, I built the dam so that each section had a small groove where I could insert a small piece of wood when I wanted to utilize the dam for water collection but would otherwise remain open. From then on when it would start raining I would wait for a while for the rain to wash off the deck, open the deck fill and insert the piece of wood to close the dam and the rain water would drain into my tank. It worked like a charm.

Here are several other solutions that can be used for collecting this nectar from the Gods:



All this, of course, is grist for the mill for when I build my shanty boat, and since I’ll be living on the hook most of the time it will be a requirement. How feasible is it in Bocas del Toro? Well, I did some research on rainfall in the area and this is what I found:

Rainfall in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Month Mean Total Rainfall Mean Total Rainfall Mean Number of
(mm) (Inches) Rain Days
January 123.9 4.88 16.6
February 266.1 10.48 14.6
March 83.8 3.30 14.8
April 369.1 14.53 15.2
May 178.3 7.02 16.7
June 259 10.2 17.9
July 420.1 16.54 20.9
August 440.7 17.35 18.4
September 311.2 12.25 15.8
October 150.5 5.93 16.4
November 291.7 11.48 17
December 563.6 22.19 20
Total 3,458 136.15
That’s 11.35 FEET of water a year
This information came from the World Weather Information Service
Climatological information is based on monthly averages for the 30-year period 1971-2000.
Mean number of rain days = Mean number of days with at least 0.1 mm of rain.

With almost eleven and a half feet or rain falling in the area every year I think keeping dry will be more of a problem than keeping the water tanks full.

“All the water that ever was, still is today.  All the water that evaporates today the same amount also falls. The tears we cry could be the same ones Jesus wept”..Unattributed

POST SCRIPT: Ken, a regular reader of my blog and who contributes welcomed comments left a comment on this post and referenced the discharge of gray and black water from boats. You can read my reply, but I couldn’t upload a photo in the comments section so here goes.

Ken, this is common in the Bocas del Toro area as well as in the San Blas archipelago, and it’s NOT a phone booth built out over the water.bocas-outhouse


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