Tag Archives: cruising

More of the Cruising Life

One nice thing about being retired is that there’s no big rush to get things accomplished ASAP. I’m under no deadlines as far as working on my boat, especially since no one’s paying me to do it.

I’ve needed to scrape the bottom of my dinghy for a while. When was the last time you went out and scraped junk off of the bottom of your car or pickup truck? All last week I watched a piece of seaweed that can best be described as looking like a leaf of very ripe lettuce grow larger and larger. Really nothing I could do about it then. There’s a tiny, postage-stamp bit of beach on the south side of the boat launch ramp, but it’s only usable at low tide, and the tides weren’t synced right last week. But today it was dead low at 0830 so I went in around 10 on a rising tide. There was enough of the “beach” left to put the things I keep in the dinghy, shopping cart, life jacket and throwable flotation required by the USCG, spare paddle, etc. on shore.Flipped it upside down and went to work with the scraper. For most people reading this it wouldn’t have taken you more than about 15 or 20 minutes to get the wildlife (barnacles) and vegetables off the bottom, but I’m working with about 40% lung capacity so several breaks to catch my breath extended the job to about an hour. It’s amazing how much easier it paddles with all that stuff gone.

As I wrote, recently, I need to replace the original outboard motor bracket that came with the boat. The last year with the old Honda 9.9 at more than 100 lbs rocking and rolling in the passing wakes bent the arms of the bracket so I couldn’t raise or lower it. I’d always had a problem with it and had resorted to a block and tackle arrangement to use it. Even then it was extremely difficult.

I described how I got the jackplate (as the brackets are sometimes called) off the transom, elsewhere. Of course the bolt holes of the new bracket aren’t the same as the old one. So last week I bought some epoxy stick. Break a bit off the stick and knead it until the color from the two parts blend into a solid color and then stuffed it into the old holes.

This afternoon I climbed into the dinghy with the bracket to which I’d attached some rope to tie to the stern railing to keep it from taking a swim.

The first hole was easy. I moved the bracket around until it looked good. . .i.e. there was enough room to operated the lift arm properly. . . and made sure it was about an inch away from one of the original holes and went at it with the 11/32 drill bitt. Of course it needs to be a bit bigger than the 5/16″ bolt so it can slide through the hole in the transom easily.

With that hole drilled I slipped one of the 5/16 bolts through to help hold the bracket in place so I could determine where the next three holes needed to be drilled. Using a smaller bitt I drilled into the center of the holes and then removed the bracket completely off the transom. Back to the 11/32 bitt I used the smaller holes as guides and drilled completely through the transom.

t was the middle of the afternoon when I finished this up and I didn’t feel like moving all the detritus necessary to climb into that 16-1/2″ entrance to where I’ll be accessing the bolts to tighten things up. I’ll get that done sometime in the next few days. No hurry.

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The Cruising Life

Some wag once said, “The cruising life is repairing your boat with inadequate tools in exotic locations.” The fact that I have only “cruised” about a third of a mile in the last six months does NOT negate that statement.

I’ve been struggling to remove the original outboard motor bracket on the port side of the transom. The boat had a 25hp Yamaha when I bought it. Much too big and heavy for such a small, light boat as a Venture 22.  It as a lousy engine, too boot. Broke down THREE TIMES between Ft. Lauderdale and Stuart. First time was in Boca Raton, about 20 miles from the start of my venture. It broke down again another 20 miles or so up in West Palm and finally in Stuart. If you searched for the term “hunk of junk” in the dictionary there’d be a picture of that outboard.

I replaced it with an old model 9.9 Mercury outboard. It took me from Stuart, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway up to Carabelle in the eastern panhandle, and back down to Bradenton Beach where I live at anchor. Last year it took me from here to Cayo Costa and back, a journey of nearly 200 miles. The engine has worked like a charm for close to 2,000 miles. Its single shortcoming is that it’s a “short shaft” outboard and the prop cavitates when I’m rocked with the wakes of other boats and I really can’t use it when the seas are over 2 feet.

To work properly as auxiliary power for these small sailboats the outboards really need to be “long shaft.” Twenty inches, minimum, from where the engine attaches to the motor bracket to the cavitation plate rather than the 15 inches on the “short shaft” outboards. Five inches doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact, most women would scoff at that, but it makes a huge difference with an outboard motor. 

A little over a year ago I bought a second-hand Honda 9.9 long shaft 4 stroke outboard. I had another bracket, sometimes called a “jack stand” that I attached to the starboard side of the transom, and moved the Mercury to it, and put the Honda on the original bracket. 

I just never got the Honda working right. Problem with the idle speed. Since the Merc worked fine I never did what needed to be done to get the Honda working properly. So it sat on the stand for over a year. The bracket was never very good, either. I had to rig it with a block and tackle so I could raise and lower it when the Merc was on it. Over the year as the sailboat rocked and rolled in the wakes of passing boats and waves from storms the engine swayed back and forth on the stand. Sometimes worryingly so. Nothing I did with ropes got it to stay stationary.

I’ve been thinking about getting a BRAND NEW four stroke, long shaft motor for a long time. Actually since from about the time I bought the boat in the first place. But I needed to get rid of the Honda so I’d have a place to put a new motor. I DON’T want a used one. I want something BRAND NEW! I want something that if it poops I can take it in, after using the Merc to get me to the repair shop, and say, “Fix it! It’s on warranty!!!” 

Well, I sold the Honda a couple of weeks ago for almost as much as I paid for it. Damned thing was HEAVY. When it came off the bracket the rear end of the boat rose  a bit over two inches! I know, because the barnacles grow just at the waterline and there were over two inches of the buggers above the waterline with the engine gone.

Then I found that the bracket was frozen. The arms are slightly bent from the side to side action of the motor riding the waves. It’s impossible to raise or lower it. I bought a big breaker bar to try and get the bolts loosened up but no go. So the thing to do was to remove the bracket from the boat and see if I can straighten it out on shore. Easier said than done…

Heaven only knows how old the bracket is. Could be as old as the boat which was built in 1980! It’s attached to the transom by four bolts. Now, since I’m doing this unassisted, I have to slither through a small opening into the space beneath the cockpit seat to get to where the nuts are.

Once through that the space opens up a bit, but not a whole lot. Not enough to be able to sit up, so everything is done lying on my stomach. Here you can see where three of the bolts have been removed.

I got plenty of practice doing this sort of thing working as a rigger at a boatyard in New Orleans. But I’m 36 years older now, have arthritic hands, and less than 40% of normal lung capacity.

If everything goes well, HA! You work your way aft with your wrenches and take the bolt off. Easy Peasy, no? NO! These are lock-tight nuts. They have a plastic insert in the hole so they can’t vibrate loose.

I get the two lower bolts off easy enough. The top, inside nut is on an extra long bolt and the ratchet socket won’t fit over it. Of course I’m not prepared for this. I don’t have a box wrench or pliers with me . The top outside nut turns the bolt so it’s not coming loose.

Here’s why this is happening. Take a look at this more modern bracket.

See how the holes are square? They take bolts like these…

The square shoulders fit down into the squares on the bracket holes. This makes it easy to then go on the nut side of the bolt and fasten the nut without having someone on the outside holding it with a wrench to keep it from turning like happens with THESE…

 

 

Now I have to slither BACKWARDS out into the cabin to work out my next plan of attack. And don’t forget, I have serious COPD problems. I’m operating on about 40% of normal lung capacity so after doing something like getting out of the hole I have to sit for five minutes until my breathing gets back to what passes for normal.

I delve into my tool locker and dig out a pair of Vice Grips and my channel lock pliers. I don’t have a box wrench the proper size.  Over the side, into the dinghy and around to the bracket. I need to attach the Vice Grips to the bolt head. As the bolt is going to turn when I work on the nut, inside, the plier’s handle will also rotate until it comes to rest against one of the arms  keeping the bolt from turning further. OOOOPS. I know from experience that there’s a good chance the pliers might come loose. If that happens they’d fall into the water and be lost. So it’s back around to the side of the boat, up into the cockpit. Rest and catch my breath. Now, where the hell is that ball of twine? I’m not a super organized guy so it takes a while to find it. Back over the side into the dinghy. Around to the bracket. Hold on for a few minutes till my breathing is relaxed again.

After tying the twine to the pliers and securing it to a cleat,  I tighten the pliers onto the bolt head using both hands to lock them on. Back around to the side and up into the cockpit. Sit to catch my breath. Slither into the 16 inch hole and up to the transom. Rest to catch my breath. Use the channel locks to unfasten the nut. When it’s off I take the small hammer and whack away until the bolt end is flush with the transom. That sucker’s really in there. Rest for a few minutes to catch my breath. Agonizingly back out of the pit. Rest. Over the side into the dinghy and back to the bracket. pull the bolt the rest of the way out of the hole and reattach it to the remaining bolt head. Around to the side of the boat. Climb into the cockpit. Rest to catch my breath. Into the hole and work my way to the transom in a motion resembling an inch worm. Rest to catch my breath. Using the channel locks the nut starts working itself off the bolt. CLUNK! The Vice Grips have fallen off the bolt head. SHIT! F WORD! F WORD! F WORD!!!

Out of the hole. Rest. Into the dinghy and back to the bracket. See, I needed that twine. An eighth of a turn on the knob at the base of the pliers and a mighty squeeze with both hands gets them back on the bolt head. Around to the side of the boat, back in the cockpit. Rest. Back into the hole and inch worm my way to the transom. Rest. This time all’s good and the nut’s off. Back out of the hole. Rest. Over the side. Into the dinghy. Back to the bracket. Pull the bolt from the hole. Back to the side of the boat and into the cockpit. Rest. That part of the job is done.

Now I have to pry the bracket off of the transom. It’s stuck on, now, with silicone. Thank heaven it’s not done with 5200 which is the most tenacious adhesive sealant ever created. Silicone has the least adhesive properties of all the sealants, but there’s no telling how much was used when the bracket was attached. In any case, it won’t be easy getting it off. Since the holes on the old bracket are simply round, and not square like the new ones I’m not going to reuse it. I’ll buy a new bracket.

I’ve found a nearby marina down in Longboat Key has four stroke, 6 hp long shafts for sale for $1,650. That’s $200 less than the equivalent Mercury or Suzuki which will cover the cost of a new bracket. And, they’ll bring it up to me. They have to order it first, so it will take a while. Meanwhile I’ll work on removing the old bracket, order and install a new one.

WHEW!

 

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A Mess of Metal

When I was returning to the boat at Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage after doing some grocery shopping Friday I noticed that the ½” line that leads to 40’ of ¼-inch chain that’s fastened to my 22-lb Manson Boss anchor was hanging oddly in the water. When I pulled on it I found, to my horror, that it was no longer attached to the chain. Somehow the shackle had become unhitched despite having the pin secured with a heavy plastic wire tie.

It was late in the day so I couldn’t go searching for the lost anchor and chain. The ⅜” line was still pulling well on the 30 feet of chain that links it to the 13-lb Danforth so I figured it was holding me well. I attached the bitter end of the ½” line to the 25-lb Danforth that was on deck and tossed it over the side as an extra precaution.

Saturday morning broke bright and nearly windless and the tide was almost dead low. The water was crystal clear and the bottom only about four feet below me. I hopped into the dinghy and went searching.

The last time I’d seen the anchors, a couple of months ago, they seemed to be fairly close together. I figured the best bet would be to run down the ⅜” line and search out from that point. I was surprised to find both anchors together and amidst a big ball of chain. I was JUST able to hook the mess with my boat hook but I couldn’t raise it to the surface in my tipy little cockleshell, and since the tide was rising I abandoned the effort for the moment. With light winds in the forecast and the Manson Boss seemingly well dug in I felt fairly confident nothing disastrous would happen. Realistically I was fastened to 35-lbs of anchors and 45-lbs worth of chain. In effect an 80-lb anchor.

My guess is that over the past couple of months with tidal currents pushing the mother ship back and forth  four times a day coupled with the rough, blustery winds we’ve been having out of the southeast and northeast the lines got pulled this way and that until everything got all messed up.

It occured to me as I was having supper that I could probably lift the metal mess from the bow of the mother ship, a more stable platform than the dinghy.

First thing Sunday morning, after my mug of espresso, of course, I hauled the iron mess up out of the water. It took several tries to break it free of the sandy bottom and I had to rest several times and suck on my inhaler. Fifty years of smoking licit and illicit substances was NOT a good idea. You can see from the photo what I was facing. I wasn’t able to get it out further than this, though.

I untangled a lot of it, but not all. I’m going to need the assistance of my friend, Todd to get it all done. His dinghy is much more stable than mine and we can haul it out. Plus, he’s much younger and stronger than I am. Since it is essentially one solid mass of metal right now I got it positioned so the Manson Boss is set in the sand and I’m good for the moment. We’ll go at it tomorrow. Sunday isn’t good because every jerk that owns a boat in Manatee and Sarasota Counties is out on the water on this beautiful day and the wakes would make the work nearly impossible. But it’s coming along.

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What You Need To Make A Voyage

Recently in one of the Facebook groups I run someone asked me if it was possible to go from New Jersey to Florida in a twenty-two foot boat.  Well, you could do it in an inner tube I suppose, but having been up and down the east coast from Cape Cod to Key West a half dozen times I said it shouldn’t be a problem. I said I would run up and down the two big bays, Delaware and Chesapeake and then down the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) and would avoid going “outside” at all costs. I don’t know exactly where he’s starting from in New Jersey and I’ve always run outside along the coast, there, but if one chose their weather with care it’s only a couple of hundred miles and there are inlets along the way to duck into when things turn yucky.

I should have said, and I’m going to post this to the group when I’m done, is that I just made a voyage from Fort Lauderdale, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway and all the way up to Carrabelle in the eastern end of the panhandle and then back down to Bradenton Beach, FL where I am wintering at anchor on a 22-foot sailboat. These are some of the things that made it possible.

A GPS. I bought a Dual GPS for a hundred bucks.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pro-charts-marine-navigation/id451093694?mt=8

It’s small. About 2 inches square and works via blue tooth onto my iPad. It also works on Android tablets as well.

I then purchased the Pro Charts navigation system. It has electronic charts that cover all of the U.S. I bought the premium package because it updates the charts weekly though you could easily get away with just the free download.

 

http://www.miratrex.com/procharts/

Then, I got the electronic version of Waterway Guide. I found this to be extremely valuable for finding places selling fuel; free anchorages, although with a shallow draft boat with a swing keel very few places are inaccessible; bridges and their heights, marinas, if you’re so inclined. Don’t leave home without this.

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Keeping In Touch

I’ve learned quite a bit in the last couple of days…

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m going to be wrapping this blog up and moving on to one subtitled “And Old Man And A Small Boat.”

I knew I’d need a telephone and I was planning on buying one of those pre-paid burner phones you can pick up almost anywhere.

I knew I wouldn’t have the convenience of constant internet availability like I do here with a cable hookup. I wasn’t looking forward to having access only at places like McDooDoo’s or Starbucks, and most marinas that offer WiFi are password protected so you generally can’t piggy back on their signal, and I’m planning on spending most of my time on the hook, anyway.

I posted my problem on a couple of Facebook groups for cruising and live aboard boaters that I belong to. The responses I got showed me solutions that were more simple than I imagined.

First of all, the Samsun sorta smartphone I own is not “locked,” and all I need to do is do to any of umpteen gazillion stores and buy a damned new chip and enroll in a pre-paid program from a myriad of providers. Easy peazy

I also looked at a number of mobile “hot spot” programs. They are not un-similar to the what I was doing here in Panama with Claro before Cable Onda wired me up and gave me high-speed internet for a few pennies less than $40/month. The first thing I had was a USB modem. Like a thumb drive and I had unlimited data for about $40/month. It wasn’t fast and you couldn’t use if for streaming video, but it got you onto the social networks, you could read news and send emails, that sort of thing. It looked like this.

 

When I had to move out of the house I’d been living in for four years I found a place at what’s called La Barriada. That means little more than “neighborhood,” but has a nice ring to it than “barrio.” The street the house I was renting hadn’t been wired up to Cable Onda yet, so I went back down to Claro to see what they had. I wasn’t too please with having to go back to  the slower way of accessing the net, but I needed to be there. They no longer offered the USB modems but had gone to a small remote router which is called a “hotspot” device in the States. But they no longer provided unlimited access. You bought so much data, and when you used it all up it shut you off until you bought more.

It looks like this…

You could rent the thing but I opted to buy it. I think it was about $50 or so, with a year contract. It worked fine, but within a month Cable Onda wired my street and I signed up with them again. I then wen to the Claro main office, turned in my paper work and told them I was returning to the States. They voided the contract since it had been less than a month and I was done with them. I don’t remember even having to pay a penalty for canceling. But since I’d bought the router I kept it.

Now that’s a good thing. Looking at the pre-paid hotspot vendors in the U.S. it looked like I’d have to pay about a hundred bucks to get one of their hotspot devices and, like Claro, you had to buy some time. I have no idea how much I’ll be using, but I’ll start out with one program, see how it goes and if I have to I’ll either buy a large package or cut down on how much I use it.

But then one of the group members said I could buy a chip for this, too, and sue enough for less than $20 I’ll be back in business. The hotspots work anywhere there’s cell coverage, and since I’m going to be running along the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, and not offshore, there will be few places it won’t work. This is ATT’s coverage map as an example…

 

 

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Counting Down…

Yesterday, April 4, I bought my airline ticket to the States. The countdown begins on the time I have left here in Panamá…Twenty days.

It”s also a countdown on how much longer THIS blog will continue. It’s mainly been about my life as an expatriate. (I hate it when people call it expatriot! That implies that a person was once patriotic but no longer is. The key part of the word is patriate,  from the Latin Patria,  or homeland).

When I return to the states I’ll be moving onto a small sailboat…

and, hopefully, making my way along the entire littoral of the Gulf of Mexico from Fort Myers, Florida to Brownsville, Texas.

Starting a new chapter in my life means I need to start a new blog to document it. I’ll provide a link later, but it’s going to be called Another Good Adventure.”

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Butterflies

Sent off a wire transfer of funds to my friend in Ft, Lauderdale  to buy the MacGregor sailboat in Miami.

Also sent a bit extra to pay for marina space for the rest of April rather than have it “on the hook” until I get up there….

And about THAT!

Went on line to see what it’s going to cost to get up to Ft. Lauderdale.

Spirit Airlines is supposed to be the cheapest, but they want $199 for a one way ticket from PTY (Tocumen). And then they CHARGE for every bag INCLUDING carry ons. Adding it up it came to $306 for what I plan on taking with me. PLUS, the flight doesn’t leave Panama until TWO IN THE MORNING!!! That’s A.M. folks. PLUS their seats don’t recline!

So, I went online again and looked at what it would cost to fly COPA which also flies into Ft. Lauderdale. Their price was $299. $7 cheaper than Spirit AND no charge for carry ons or the first two checked bags, AND their seats recline. Their flight leaves at 11:45 IN THE MORNING for the three hour flight!

Supposedly if you have “Jubilado” status   (Jubilado roughly translates as “old fart”) you’re eligible for a discount on travel. I went on line and found a travel agent, Jose Palm, in David. Talked to him and explained what I was looking for and asked if there was a “Jubilado” discount.. It does, and he quoted me a ticket price of $241.14. I’m going to go to his office tomorrow morning.

Will be returning to the States either April 19th or the 26th. Don’t know which. Need to get rid of some stuff here like my bicycle and clothes washer, etc. What I’ll do is take the midnight bus from David to Panama. It gets in to Panama around 4:30 or 5. Take a cab out to Tocumen and wing my way back to Trumplandia….also known as “Murika”

So I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all day long. I’ve been talking about repatriating to the States for over a year. I’d hoped to be there last July, but the dentures delayed that, and then it moved from summer into fall and then into winter and I WASN’T going to go back up there in the winter even if it was to Ft. Lauderdale. Hell, back in ’76 when I was helping bring a big sailboat up from Key West it EFFIN’ SNOWED!!! Now the reality of picking up sticks and actually doing this thing has me a bit on edge. As they say, Talk’s Cheap. I think, well, I haven’t paid for the ticket yet and I suppose I could tell Stef not to pay Fernando and then the six yapping dogs at the house 30-feet away start going nuts and I try and picture how tranquil it will be anchored up at some small island off the coast of Florida or the barrier islands of the panhandle and I know I’m doing the right thing.

 

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