Tag Archives: Living on a sailboat

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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Anchor Work

It’s nice to sit down to lunch and bask in the feeling that you actually got something important taken care of in the morning other than arguing politics with people you don’t know on Facebook.

When I’m going to be sedentary, like I have been over the winter anchored here at the lower end of Anna Maria Island, Florida, I like to employ two anchors. I set my 25 lb Manson Boss anchor and its 25 feet of 5/16” chain and ½” nylon rode out to take the weather coming from the south. The 25 lb Danforth with its 25 feet of 1/4” chain and ⅜” nylon rode was deployed to the north to handle weather from that direction.

It all worked as it was supposed to through the winter months, but for the past month or two I’ve noticed that the Danforth’s line has been more or less lying parallel to the Manson’s line. But when I’d pull on it from the bow it appeared as if the two were at a decent angle to provide good holding from storms coming in from the north or south. In addition to the wind blowing the boat in one direction of another the tidal currents flood twice a day towards the north and twice a day ebb to the south. Whichever direction the boat is facing depends on which of the two, current or wind, is strongest at the time. So over the course of a day the boat can swing around to all points of the compass. This can cause the lines to twist around one another even if care is taken to keep unwrapping them every day or so.

For a time this morning it seemed I might be forced to move MY boat because a fleet of semi-derelicts was drifting down towards me and the owner of the mess wasn’t around and calls to his phone went to voicemail. So I scooted up to the bow and started hauling in on the Danforth’s ⅜” line. The Danforth is my secondary anchor. It wasn’t easy. When I got to the chain it seemed as if the anchor was snagged on something below. It wasn’t, but over months of being pushed and pulled in one direction and another the chain had been dragged around and become fouled on the stock and flukes. It was one large ball of galvanized metal weighing around 50 pounds. The flukes of the anchor were NOT dug into the sand and undoubtedly it was simply the sheer weight of the anchor and chain that were providing any holding power. For the uninitiated these are the parts of a Danforth anchor…

 

A younger person in better health might not have been too fazed at this. But I’ll be 78 in just over a month and I have serious issues with COPD. This was going to be a challenge. One thing I HAVE LEARNED with age is to not simply plunge into something like this. So I sat there looking at this galvanized lump swinging just above the water and thought about every step I needed to take to achieve my goal. . . I cut the nylon line where it was attached to the chain through a clevis. I led the bitter end of the rode behind the pulpit railings so I could raise the anchor up on to the deck more close to amidship and left the bitter end dangling over the side.

In the dinghy I pulled myself hand over hand to where the end of the line was hanging over the side. I tied it through the clevis at the head of the stock and then went back aboard. At the bow again I let the chain that was gathered on deck fall into the water and, after a mighty heave to bring the big anchor on board, I retrieved all of the chain. It’s done it’s job. After nearly three years being submerged in salt water some of the links are perhaps only half their thickness.Time to bring it to shore. 

I put an anchor bend on the clevis and for now will keep the big Danforth on deck ready to be deployed in an emergency. The Manson Boss anchors have a good record for resetting themselves if pulled out of position. But I’m anchored in good sand and mud where I am. It’s shallow, too. Often at real low tides I’ve been aground without even knowing it until I looked over the side. I’m still good here even with one anchor on the bottom.

 

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Filed under adventure, Anchor, Anchoring, Anna Maria Island, boats, Boqueron Panama, Bradenton Beach, FL, Coping with COPD, Coquina Beach, Living Abroad, Retirement Afloat, Uncategorized

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.

hole2

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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Winter’s Coming…

Temperature at Bradenton Beach, FL, in low 50F this morning. Really a shock climbing out of the sleeping bag at 6:30. Dug out the thermals and fleece-lined booties before cranking up the stove for my morning mug of espresso. Don’t think low 50s is cold? Just a couple of weeks ago we were dealing with heat index figures of 108F!

Just before 8 last night I stood up in the hatchway to secure the shade tarp into its “rain” configuration which, while acting as a dodger, also serves like a spoiler directing the wind up and over the Bimini top. JUST as I was doing this the wind did a 180 and swung around into the NNE and went from nearly dead calm to mid to upper teens in wind speed in a matter of seconds. Shortly after that the temperature began to drop and a stiff chop developed bouncing my little craft uncomfortably. So uncomfortably that I couldn’t fall asleep for several hours.

Sometime in the middle of the night I got up to do old man stuff and there, less than 200 feet away and nestled into the mangroves was this derelict. And I mean mangrove branches are touching the hull! There are several like this up in the big anchorage by the pier. People come in with boats they no longer want or can’t afford, drop a hook and abandon them. It’s a big problem. THIS ONE has been up there for over a year and a half!

In the light of morning you can see that the lower ends of the two anchor lines hanging from the bow are BOTH about 4 feet ABOVE the waterline which leads me to believe that they had been deliberately cut in the night.

It’s a good thing the boat didn’t hit me. If it had I’d have been forced to track down whomever cut the lines and kill them!!!

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Filed under adventure, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, Living on the hook, Retirement Afloat

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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Filed under Bradenton Beach, FL, Living on the hook, Uncategorized

Same Old…

Except for the calendar January 1, 2019 seems just like December 31, 2018. It’s better than January 1, 2018 when the temperature in the morning was down into the upper 30s here in Bradenton Beach, Florida, anchorage. The temperature today is expected to get up into the upper 70s!

did you go out

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Filed under Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Living Small, Small Sailboats, Uncategorized

Mea Maxima Culpa…

I know I’ve been horribly neglectful about posting to this blog. It’s not that things haven’t been going on, it’s just that I’ve been posting to Facebook instead of to this wider audience. I’m making my New Year’s Resolution early to keep things up to date here.

We’ve moved into winter here at the Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage. This past week was extremely nasty as far as weather was concerned.

So here are a few of the items to bring things up to date…I live full time on a very small sailboat, a Venture 22, at anchor. Sometimes it’s really, really not easy…

My Facebook friend Chris Shelton’s liveaboard boat is on the hard in St.Pete. He came by earlier this morning, Wed, the 20th, in his pickemup truck and we went toddling off to Home Depot where I could pick up some final things I need to finish off a project to keep rain from seeping under my sliding hatch.

We then drove to South Sarasota and had delicious mahi sandwiches at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. Before he retired Chris was a science teacher in small town Missouri and the owner of the place is the uncle of a couple of his former students. The man came over to visit with us and he and Chris had a great timemtalking about thenplaces they knew in common.

One of the things I bought at Home Depot was a new, cheap, set of rain gear. Good thing,too. Prognostication was for rain to move into the area for the next couple of days. Well it started on our way to lunch and was going pretty good by the timemwe got back to the dinghy dock.

I had to bail a good bit of water out of the dinghy before settling off, but I made it easily enough. There was enough juice in the batteries to put a good jolt into the depleted cell phone (and wifi hot spot) and the iPad. The patter of rain lulled me into a nice nap.

Thursday was a nasty, rainy day with the wind strong out of the south. When it’s from that direction there’s a fetch of a dozen miles and the wave action here in the shallow anchorage is really nasty. It never gets much more than 3 feet since at low tide I’m just sitting in about 5 feet of water but it’s uncomfortable as can be. It rained all day long and filled my dinghy to the point where it was close to sinking. Water weighs 8 lbs a gallon and there was at least 40 gallons in the boat designed for a load of about the same. When there was a bit of a lull in the afternoon I went out and bailed about 3/4 of the water out. But with food and water aboard I was doing okay. Just before going to bed the 25 pound Danforth anchor I have on deck (I have two other anchors down and holding me) kept moving around rumbling across the non-skid area from the wave action. I’d never be able to sleep with that going on so I suited up and went forward hanging on, desperately, to the mast to keep from being tossed into the water. I have two milk cartons tied to the bow pulpit rails to hold the anchor lines. I grabbed the bitter end of the 1./2-inch line, fastened it to the anchor stock with a bowline and tossed it overboard. No more noise and I can recover it at my leisure. Then I snuggled down and went to bed.

About 3 in the morning a gust of wind hit me so hard it woke me from a sound sleep. It broke one of the restraining straps on the Bimini top and the whole boat shuddered. It kept up like this for hours and hours. The saving grace was that the wind had swung around to due west. That put the land just a hundred yards or so there was nearly no wave action. All day long the wind roared across the anchorage…

wind

As you can see gusts were coming at us at close to 50 mph!!!

That’s all over now, though. It’s calm here as if nothing ever happened except it’s cold.

On Thursday night I saw flashing lights ashore from Fire/Rescue vehicles but had no idea what was going on. It turns out that a couple of experienced sailors who live on a boat here were trying to go ashore. Their boat overturned and dumped them in the water. They were in the drink for nearly half an hour before being rescued by the Coast Guard, who happen to be stationed right on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway from the anchorage, and taken ashore and treated for hypothermia. 

I haven’t seen them since the incident but I’m sure they were trying to take Shawn ashore for her shift at the nearby Circle K. Come on, folks, there isn’t a job in the world worth risking your life to get to! EVER!!! 

Enough for now.

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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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