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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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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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Live Aboard Simulator

This is FUNNY… Thanks to Larry at Google rec.boats.cruising

The Liveaboard Simulator”

Just for fun, park your cars in the lot of the convenience store
at least 2 blocks from your house. (Make believe the sidewalk is a
floating dock between your car and the house.

Move yourself and your family (If applicable) into 2 bedrooms and 1
bathroom. Measure the DECK space INSIDE your boat. Make sure the
occupied house has no more space, or closet space, or drawer space.

Boats don’t have room for “beds”, as such. Fold your Sealy
Posturepedic up against a wall, it won’t fit on a boat. Go to a hobby
fabric store and buy a foam pad 5′ 10″ long and 4′ wide AND NO MORE
THAN 3″ THICK. Cut it into a triangle so the little end is only 12″
wide. This simulates the foam pad in the V-berth up in the pointy bow
of the sailboat. Bring in the kitchen table from the kitchen you’re
not allowed to use. Put the pad UNDER the table, on the floor, so you
can simulate the 3′ of headroom over the pad.
Block off both long sides of the pad, and the pointy end so you have
to climb aboard the V-berth from the wide end where your pillows will
be. The hull blocks off the sides of a V-berth and you have to climb
up over the end of it through a narrow opening (hatch to main cabin)
on a boat. You’ll climb over your mate’s head to go to the potty in
the night. No fun for either party. Test her mettle and resolve by
getting up this way right after you go to bed at night. There are lots
of things to do on a boat and you’ll forget at least one of them,
thinking about it laying in bed, like “Did I remember to tie off the
dingy better?” or “Is that spring line (at the dock) or anchor line
(anchored out) as tight as it should be?” Boaters who don’t worry
about things like this laying in bed are soon aground or on
fire or the laughing stock of an anchorage…. You need to find out
how much climbing over her she will tolerate BEFORE you’re stuck with
a big boat and big marina bills and she refuses to sleep aboard it any
more…..

Bring a coleman stove into the bathroom and set it next to the
bathroom sink. Your boat’s sink is smaller, but we’ll let you use the
bathroom sink, anyways. Do all your cooking in the bathroom, WITHOUT
using the bathroom power vent. If you have a boat vent, it’ll be a
useless 12v one that doesn’t draw near the air your bathroom power
vent draws to take away cooking odors. Leave the hall door open to
simulate the open hatch. Take all the screens off your 2 bedroom’s
windows. Leave the windows open to let in the bugs that will invade
your boat at dusk, and the flies attracted to the cooking.

Borrow a 25 gallon drum mounted on a trailer. Flush your
toilets into the drums. Trailer the drums to the convenience store to
dump them when they get full. Turn off your sewer, you won’t have
one. This will simulate going to the “pump out station” every time the
tiny drum is full. 25 gallons is actually LARGER than most holding
tanks.They’re more like 15 gallons on small sailboats under 40′ because they
were added to the boat after the law changed requiring them and there
was no place to put it or a bigger one. They fill up really fast if
you liveaboard!

Unless your boat is large enough to have a big “head” with full bath,
make believe your showers/bathtubs don’t work. Make a deal with
someone next door to the convenience store to use THEIR bathroom for
bathing at the OTHER end of the DOCK. (Marina rest room) If you use
this rest room to potty, while you’re there, make believe it has no
paper towels or toilet paper. Bring your own. Bring your own soap
and anything else you’d like to use there, too.

If your boat HAS a shower in its little head, we’ll let you use the
shower end of the bathtub, but only as much tub as the boat has FREE
shower space for standing to shower. As the boat’s shower drains into a little pan
in the bilge, be sure to leave the soapy shower water in the bottom of
the tub for a few days before draining it. Boat shower sumps always
smell like spent soap growing exotic living organisms science hasn’t
actually discovered or named, yet. Make sure your simulated V-berth is
less than 3′ from this soapy water for sleeping. The shower sump is
under the passageway to the V-berth next to your pillows.

Run you whole house through a 20 amp breaker to simulate available
dock power at the marina. If you’re thinking of anchoring out, turn
off the main breaker and “make do” with a boat battery and
flashlights. Don’t forget you have to heat your house on this 20A
supply and try to keep the water from freezing in winter.

Turn off the water main valve in front of your house. Run a hose from
your neighbor’s lawn spigot over to your lawn spigot and get all your
water from there. Try to keep the hose from freezing all winter.

As your boat won’t have a laundry, disconnect yours. Go to a boat
supply place, like West Marine, and buy you a dock cart. Haul ALL
your supplies, laundry, garbage, etc. between the car at the
convenience store and house in this cart. Once a week, haul your
outboard motor to the car, leave it a day then haul it back to the
house, in the cart, to simulate “boat problems” that require “boat
parts” to be removed/replaced on your “dock”. If ANYTHING ever comes
out of that cart between the convenience store and the house, put it
in your garage and forget about it. (Simulates losing it over the
side of the dock, where it sank in 23′ of water and was dragged off by
the current.)

Each morning, about 5AM, have someone you don’t know run a weedeater
back and forth under your bedroom windows to simulate the fishermen
leaving the marina to go fishing. Have him slam trunk lids, doors,
blow car horns and bang some heavy pans together from 4AM to 5AM
before lighting off the weedeater. (Simulates loading boats
with booze and fishing gear and gas cans.) Once a week, have him bang
the running weedeater into your bedroom wall to simulate the idiot who
drove his boat into the one you’re sleeping in because he was half
asleep leaving the dock. Put a rope over a big hook in the ceiling
over your coffee table “bed”. Hook one end of the rope to the coffee
table siderail and the other end out where he can pull on it. As soon
as he shuts off the weedeater, have him pull hard 9 times on the rope
to tilt your bed at least 30 degrees. (Simulates the wakes of the
fishermen blasting off trying to beat each other to the fishing.)
Anytime there is a storm in your area, have someone constantly pull on
the rope. It’s rough riding storms in the marina! If your boat is a
sailboat, install a big wire from the top of the tallest tree to your
electrical ground in the house to simulate mast lightning strikes in
the marina, or to give you the thought of potential lightning strikes.

Each time you “go out”, or think of going boating away from your
marina, disconnect the neighbor’s water hose, your electric wires, all
the umbilicals your new boat will use to make life more bearable in the marina.

Use bottled drinking water for 2 days for everything. Get one of those
5 gallon jugs with the airpump on top from a bottled water company.
This is your boat’s “at sea” water system simulator. You’ll learn to
conserve water this way. Of course, not having the marina’s AC power
supply, you’ll be lighting and all from a car battery, your only
source of power. If you own or can borrow a generator, feel free to
leave it running to provide AC power up to the limit of the generator.
If you’re thinking about a 30′ sailboat, you won’t have room for a
generator so don’t use it.

Any extra family members must be sleeping on the settees in the main
cabin or in the quarter berth under the cockpit….unless you intend
to get a boat over 40-something feet with an aft cabin. Smaller boats
have quarter berths. Cut a pad out of the same pad material that is no
more than 2′ wide by 6′ long. Get a cardboard box from an appliance
store that a SMALL refridgerator came in. Put the pad in the box, cut
to fit, and make sure only one end of the box is open. The box can be
no more than 2 feet above the pad. Quarter berths are really tight.
Make them sleep in there, with little or no air circulation. That’s
what sleeping in a quarterberth is all about.

Of course, to simulate sleeping anchored out for the weekend, no heat
or air conditioning will be used and all windows will be open without
screens so the bugs can get in.

In the mornings, everybody gets up and goes out on the patio to enjoy
the sunrise. Then, one person at a time goes back inside to dress,
shave, clean themselves in the tiny cabin unless you’re a family of
nudists who don’t mind looking at each other in the buff. You can’t
get dressed in the stinky little head with the door closed on a
sailboat. Hell, there’s barely room to bend over so you can sit on the
commode. So, everyone will dress in the main cabin….one at a time.

Boat tables are 2′ x 4′ and mounted next to the settee. There’s no
room for chairs in a boat. So, eat off a 2X4′ space on that kitchen
table you slept under while sitting on a couch (settee simulator). You
can also go out with breakfast and sit on the patio (cockpit), if you
like.

Ok, breakfast is over. Crank up the lawnmower under the window for 2
hours. It’s time to recharge the batteries from last night’s usage and
to freeze the coldplate in the boat’s icebox which runs off a
compressor on the engine. Get everybody to clean up your little hovel.
Don’t forget to make the beds from ONE END ONLY. You can’t get to the
other 3 sides of a boat bed pad.

All hands go outside and washdown the first fiberglass UPS truck that
passes by. That’s about how big the deck is on your 35′ sailboat that
needs to have the ocean cleaned off it daily or it’ll turn the white
fiberglass all brown like the UPS truck. Now, doesn’t the UPS truck
look nice like your main deck?

Ok, we’re going to need some food, do the laundry, buy some boat parts
that failed because the manufacturer’s bean counters got cheap and
used plastics and the wife wants to “eat out, I’m fed up with cooking
on the Coleman stove” today. Let’s make believe we’re not at home, but
in some exotic port like Ft Lauderdale, today….on our cruise to Key
West……Before “going ashore”, plan on buying all the food you’ll
want to eat that will:

A – Fit into the Coleman Cooler on the floor
B – You can cook on the Coleman stove without an oven or all those
fancy kitchen tools you don’t have on the boat
C – And will last you for 10 days, in case the wind drops and it takes
more time than we planned at sea.
Plan meals carefully in a boat. We can’t buy more than we can STORE,
either!

You haven’t washed clothes since you left home and everything is
dirty. Even if it’s not, pretend it is for the boater-away-from-home
simulator. Put all the clothes in your simulated boat in a huge
dufflebag so we can take it to the LAUNDRY! Manny’s Marina HAS a
laundromat, but the hot water heater is busted (for the last 8 months)
and Manny has “parts on order” for it…..saving Manny $$$$ on the
electric bill! Don’t forget to carry the big dufflebag with us on our
“excursion”. God that bag stinks, doesn’t it?….PU!

Of course, we came here by BOAT, so we don’t have a car. Some nice
marinas have a shuttle bus, but they’re not a taxi. The shuttle bus
will only go to West Marine or the tourist traps, so we’ll be either
taking the city bus, if there is one or taxi cabs or shopping at the
marina store which has almost nothing to buy at enormous prices.

Walk to the 7-11 store, where you have your car stored, but ignore the
car. Make believe it isn’t there. No one drove it to Ft Lauderdale for you.
Use the payphone at the 7-11 and call a cab. Don’t give the cab driver
ANY instructions because in Ft Lauderdale you haven’t the foggiest
idea where West Marine is located or how to get there, unlike at home.
We’ll go to West Marine, first, because if we don’t the “head” back on
the boat won’t be working for a week because little Suzy broke a valve
in it trying to flush some paper towels. This is your MOST important
project, today….that valve in the toilet!! After the cab drivers
drives around for an hour looking for West Marine and asking his
dispatcher how to get there. Don’t forget to UNLOAD your stuff from
the cab, including the dirty clothes in the dufflebag then go into
West Marine and give the clerk a $100 bill, simulating the cost of
toilet parts. Lexus parts are cheaper than toilet parts at West
Marine. See for yourself! The valve she broke, the
seals that will have to be replaced on the way into the valve will
come to $100 easy. Tell the clerk you’re using my liveaboard simulator
and to take his girlfriend out to dinner on your $100 greenback. If
you DO buy the boat, this’ll come in handy when you DO need boat parts
because he’ll remember you for the great time his girlfriend gave him
on your $100 tip. Hard-to-find boat parts will arrive in DAYS, not months like the rest
of us. It’s just a good political move while in simulation mode.

Call another cab from West Marine’s phone, saving 50c on payphone
charges. Load the cab with all your stuff, toilet parts, DIRTY CLOTHES then
tell the cabbie to take you to the laundromat so we can wash the
stinky clothes in the trunk. The luxury marina’s laundry in Ft
Lauderdale has a broken hot water heater. They’re working on it, the
girl at the store counter, said, yesterday. Mentioning the $12/ft you
paid to park the boat at their dock won’t get the laundry working
before we leave for Key West. Do your laundry in the laundromat the
cabbie found for you. Just because noone speaks English in this
neighborhood, don’t worry. You’ll be fine this time of day near noon.

Call another cab to take us out of here to a supermarket. When you get
there, resist the temptation to “load up” because your boat has
limited storage and very limited refridgeration space (remember?
Coleman Cooler).

Buy from the list we made early this morning. Another package of
cookies is OK. Leave one of the kids guarding the pile of clean
laundry just inside the supermarket’s front door….We learned our
lesson and DIDN’T forget and leave it in the cab, again!

Call another cab to take us back to the marina, loaded up with clean
clothes and food and all-important boat parts. Isn’t Ft Lauderdale
beautiful from a cab? It’s too late to go exploring, today. Maybe
tomorrow…. Don’t forget to tell the cab to go to the 7-11 (marina
parking lot)….not your front door….cabs don’t float well.

Ok, haul all the stuff in the dock cart from the 7-11 store the two
blocks to the “boat” bedroom. Wait 20 minutes before starting out for
the house. This simulates waiting for someone to bring back a marina-owned dock
cart from down the docks…..They always leave them outside their
boats, until the marina “crew” get fed up with newbies like us asking
why there aren’t any carts and go down the docks to retrieve them.

Put all the stuff away, food and clothes, in the tiny drawer space
provided. Have a beer on the patio (cockpit) and watch the sunset.
THIS is living!

Now, disassemble the toilet in your bathroom, take out the wax ring
under it and put it back. Reassemble the toilet. This completes the
simulation of putting the new valve in the “head” on the boat. Uh, uh,
NO POWERVENT!
GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT SWITCH! The whole “boat” smells like the inside
of the holding tank for hours after fixing the toilet in a real boat,
too! Spray some Lysol if you got it….

After getting up, tomorrow morning, from your “V-Berth”, take the
whole family out to breakfast by WALKING to the nearest restaurant,
then take a cab to any local park or attraction you like. We’re off
today to see the sights of Ft Lauderdale…..before heading out to
sea, again, to Key West. Take a cab back home after dinner out and go to bed, exhausted, on
your little foam pad under the table…..

Get up this morning and disconnect all hoses, electrical wires, etc.
Get ready for “sea”. Crank up the lawn mower under the open bedroom
window for 4 hours while we motor out to find some wind. ONE
responsible adult MUST be sitting on the hot patio all day, in shifts,
“on watch” looking out for other boats, ships, etc. If you have a
riding lawn mower, let the person “on watch” drive it around the yard
all day to simulate driving the boat down the ICW in heavy traffic.
About 2PM, turn off the engine and just have them sit on the mower
“steering” it on the patio. We’re under sail, now. Every hour or so,
take everyone out in the yard with a big rope and have a tug-of-war to
simulate the work involved with setting sail, changing sail, trimming
sail. Make sure everyone gets all sweaty in the heat.
Sailors working on sailboats are always all sweaty or we’re not going
anywhere fast! Do this all day, today, all night, tonight, all day,
tomorrow, all night tomorrow night and all day the following day until
5PM when you “arrive” at the next port you’re going to. Make sure
no one in the family leaves the confines of the little bedroom or the
patio during our “trip”. Make sure everyone conserves water, battery
power, etc., things you’ll want to conserve while being at sea on a
trip somewhere. Everyone can go up to the 7-11 for an icecream as soon
as we get the “boat” docked on day 3, the first time anyone has left
the confines of the bedroom/patio in 3 days.

Question – Was anyone suicidal during our simulated voyage? Keep an
eye out for anyone with a problem being cooped up with other family
members. If anyone is attacked, any major fights break out, any
threats to throw the captain to the fish…..forget all about boats
and buy a motorhome, instead.

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