Tag Archives: living aboard

Staying Aboard

I often write about how I’m confined on my boat anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, because high winds prevent me from being able to paddle my dinghy the 130 yards to the boat ramp dock…

But then there are beautiful days like today. There’s a pretty blue sky filled with puffy white clouds and hardly a breath of air. I’m not leaving the boat simply because there’s no reason to. I have food, water and there’s a plague still raging on the land. I’m content being where I am…So I’ll just sit here picking at my ukulele from time to time and arguing with people I don’t know about politics on Facebook.

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Another Blustery Day

Third blustery, windy day in a row anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island, Florida Thankfully I have water on board and enough food for several days. It’s been a week since I did any grocery shopping, though.

Two days ago I had to get towed out to the boat. I’d gone ashore to the hardware store to buy some fiberglass resin to make repairs to my shopping cart. I bought it last September because it was supposed to be aluminum. Maybe some part is, but I don’t know which. Overall I’ve been satisfied with it. It’s the fourth cart I’ve had in three years. The others rusted out fast and literally collapsed. This one had the wheels fall off on a trip one time but the Chinese company that makes the carts sent me replacement parts for free. It did take a couple of weeks to get the though.

Trying to stop the cart from rusting out I’ve been keeping it encased in a heavy-duty construction-grade plastic trash bag. I have to keep it in the dinghy, after all, because there’s no room for it on the boat. Not completely successful but it has slowed the deterioration down some. Not entirely, though. There’s lots of rust all over. On my last trip to Publix, last week, lifting it onto the trolley I felt something give way. On inspection back at the boat I found there are several rust-through spots as you can see.

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hole1

The wind was a bit blustery and gusting into the teens but it was blowing directly from the east; ninety degrees across the path to the dock. I paddled ashore to go to the hardware store and buy some polyester resin to make some fiberglass repairs to the holes while adding strength. I already had matt and cloth in my tool locker.

The trolley is only running once an hour so, after the hardware excursion and a stop at Dollar Tree for junk food replenishment it was over two hours since I’d started. The wind had shifted into the NNE and increased to a steady mid-teens range.

I started paddling out to my boat about 100 yards away and struggled to get a third of the way when a strong gust pushed me back a good 15 to 20 yards despite my putting everything I had into fighting back. It was no use. So I quickly drifted back to the dock and waited. Perhaps a half hour later a pontoon boat came in to be recovered to its trailer. I asked if they would give an old man with COPD a hand and tow me out to my boat. They were understanding and a few minutes later I was tied off and back on board my boat.

I didn’t try and go ashore at all yesterday (May 13th) as it was blowing steadily in the mid teens. And I’m definitely not going anywhere today. I just took a reading on my handheld anemometer and got a gust of 24 mph!!!

Since I’m bouncing around on the waves, as you can see from the video, I can’t get up on the foredeck where I put the cart to repair it until things settle down some.

p.s. I just ordered an ALL ALUMINUM cart. Will be up to two weeks before it gets here.

The joys of living on the hook full time…I’m fine, thanks.

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A Journey Begun

Three years ago, today, May, 3, 2017, I set out from Ft. Lauderdale, FL., on my little Venture22 sailboat and eventually ended up anchored at the southern end of Anna Maria Island over on the Gulf side of the peninsula.

first day

 

The original destination was to be Breton Island, Louisiana, where I’d worked running a crew boat in the Kerr-McGee oil production field back in ’77/’78. I actually LIVED on the island for nearly a year…working 7 days on and 7 days at home.

Back then the island was about a half mile long and, perhaps, a quarter mile wide at its widest. But over the intervening years hurricanes had reduced it to a sand spit a couple of hundred yards long. I wanted to see it.

breton

I made it as far as Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle of the state.That’s where, 18 miles off the coast, on July 6, 2017, a Coast Guard-dispatched boat took me aboard their boat and dropped me off at the dock in Panacea, Florida where an ambulance was waiting to take me to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital suffering from total kidney shutdown due to severe dehydration. I spent 17 days at TMH and Health South, a rehab facility, until I’d regained enough strength before returning to the boat to continue my voyage. I decided to head south.

rescued

I made it to Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island where I’ve been ever since with one excursion, last year, to Cayo Costa to the south. About a 200 mile round trip.

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Yuck

I absolutely HATE days like this as I sit anchored at the south end of Anna Maria Island, Florida. Wind is out of the NNE gusting into the upper teens and low twenties. Heavily overcast. Overall there’s a 60% chance of rain and it’s been sixty percenting off and on so far this morning. But what I REALLY hate is that I’ve been up for a couple of hours (It’s now 9:30) and I just put on a sweat shirt. A bit earlier I donned the bottoms of my long johns. It’s the MIDDLE OF APRIL, DAMNIT!!!

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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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Dead Computer…

I’m writing this on bright but chilly morning here in the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage on my new “almost” a computer. An Acer R11 Chromebook.

The day before yesterday (Friday 1-4) my Macbook Air took a bath. Don’t ask…It’s the second time that’s happened. I took it apart for the second time and dried everything off but it won’t start. There’s a good possibility that it needs a needs a new I/O board like the last time. They’re cheap so I’ll try and get an new one. BUT the thing is I NEED a computer. I LIVE on my computer because there are days when I can’t get ashore, as you know.

Yes, I have my iPad but it’s getting kind of funny and having problems charging. Sometimes I have to wiggle the connection around to get it to work properly. The problem may be in the pad itself, or it could be in the plug. There are 16 gold contacts (eight on each side) and after a while they wear down and problems arise. I’ve gone through probably a dozen sets of chords since I bought the thing down in Panama about six years ago.

The Macbook Air is maybe a year older and that’s ancient in computer terms. But I loved it. Best computer I ever owned and I’ve owned a bunch. But after the first drenching and getting it up and running again it had problems that I didn’t bother to correct. The keyboard no longer worked so I bought a cheap one to plug into the computer. For some reason the Bluetooth program disappeared so I had to go with a keyboard with a cord. A pain in the ass, frankly, but it worked. Also left-hand speaker died as did the fan. But it was still kinda workable.

So, when the thing went down for the second time I knew it was time for a replacement. But I sure didn’t have $1,300 lying around doing nothing so a new Macbook Air was certainly out of the question. Even a regular Windows computer runs around $600 which is half of what I get each month in Social Security. Why not stick with the iPad until I can save enough? Well, the virtual keyboard thing sucks. That’s why some of my posts are riddled with spelling errors. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard but it’s big and clunky and doesn’t work very well.

Looking at computer ads the most reasonably price jobber doos were Chromebooks. They’re “Almost” computers but everything is done on the “Cloud.” Maybe I’m a 21st century Luddite, but I’ve never grasped the concept of the “Cloud” and I don’t trust it. And Chromebooks really need to be online to work. But the Chromebooks only cost a couple of hundred bucks and, with my Christmas largesse and some money I actually had left over from last month’s economic life I could swing that. And I gave serious consideration to how I actually use my computer.

First of all I’m almost always online. That’s why I spend $70/month for a hotspot on my phone although right now I’m piggybacking on a nearby open wifi site and my phone is turned off. Most of what I do is zero in on Facebook, news sites like Yahoo, emails, and writing like now. A “real” computer is a bit of overkill for what I do. I don’t play a lot of games other than Angry Birds 2 and some card games like Spades Plus, so a Chromebook will do okay.  I went over to the mainland in the afternoon and, as much as I hate to admit it, went to Wally World that advertised the lowest prices for Chromebooks.

I’d done some research via the iPad on different models. Acer has a good reputation and the R11 model has some things I like. Such as a touch screen so I can embiggen (as the Simpsons would say) what’s on the page to help my feeble eyesight. Looking at the array in the store, the Acer had the sharpest, most vibrant display of any, and at just over $200 it was something I could afford. So, here I am happily pecking away on a decent keyboard and content.

When the tide comes in a bit more so I can easily get up on the dinghy dock I’ll go ashore and do a little grocery shopping. I need to do laundry but that can wait until tomorrow.

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Spending Christmas Largesse

It’s a stay aboard, stay warm kind of day here at the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage. Temperature nearly 20F below yesterday’s high. Heavily overcast and winds gusting up into the mid 20 mph range. Lumpy seas and a 90% chance of rain forecast.
 
I’ve een over on the mainland a couple of times in the last few days spending some of my Christmas largesse. It’s all stuff I’ve truly needed but haven’t had enough extra cash to follow through on my wants.
 
One of the most difficult things to do when living on a small boat on the hook is staying clean. It’s easy during the summer. Just hop on the trolley, go down to Coquina Beach where there are a dozen showers for bathers to rinse the salt off after swimming in the Gulf. Naturally you can use it for keeping clean, too. This time of year, though, it’s often too cold to take an outdoor shower PLUS the fact that the water is really cold now as well.
 
Last year I had a membership to the Y. It’s right on the #6 bus route. The problem I have with it is that if I catch the bus RIGHT ON TIME the trip to the Y, some exercising, and a shower, it was a FOUR HOUR excursion. Miss the bus over at the Y and we’re looking at FIVE HOURS.
 
A better alternative is one of the several health clubs that dot Manatee Avenue. There’s a bus running along IT every half hour so missing one isn’t as bad. One of the clubs has a $10/month plan so I’m going to sign in on that. But in order to use facilities like this you need sneakers or running shoes. I didn’t have those. All I have is a pair of sandals and they’re held together with cable ties! So I went out Monday and fitted myself out with a rather inexpensive pair of shoes.
 
I then walked a mile, taking a few of rest stops to catch my breath, damn it, and went to West Marine. I bought a quart of bottom paint for the dinghy and some epoxy to make a repair to the dinghy as well. That blew a chunk of a $76 bill all over the counter. But it was necessary. You wouldn’t believe how fast barnacles and vegetable gunk grows here at the anchorage. I’ve been taking the dinghy in once a month or so and scraping an inch of junk off and I’m tired of it.
 
Wednesday I went to the mainland and bought three pairs of jeans. I absolutely detest shopping for clothes and was down to a single pair of jeans with huge holes around the knees. Used to be when our pants got to that stage we’d cut them down for shorts and now the rips and tears are effin’ FASHION STATEMENTS!!! So got those and I’m probably good for the rest of my life as far as clothing is concerned.

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