Tag Archives: Living on the hook

The Morning Cup

Like gazillions of people I like my caffeine fix first thing in the morning when I wake up. Kick starts the day.

It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, the only thing I liked about coffee was the way the grounds smelled when you opened the can. The product had no appeal to me. Part of it might have been that my dad was a coffee addict. Drank it all day long at the restaurant at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass., out where the forearm of Cape Cod turns northwards in the cold Atlantic Ocean. He took his coffee with cream and sugar but he rarely drank the entire cup and you’d find these disgusting, half-filled cups sitting around, here and there, with cream curdled on the top.

I started drinking coffee when I was in my mid 40s and living over in Antibes, France, (between Cannes and Nice) on the French Riviera. Not surprisingly, the coffee I drank was brewed in a “French Press.”

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Whenever I was someplace where they had an espresso machine, though, I’d always get a cup or two of that…my preferred coffee drink.

The last five years living in Fort Lauderdale I had a great countertop espresso maker and used it exclusively though I still kept the French press around.

When I moved to the Republic of Panama I started out as a house sitter in Potrerillos Arriba, in the mountains above the city of David (dah VEED). What a wonderful place that was! I was so fortunate to be able to spend an entire year up there. Actually, the year was divided into two six-month stays, the intervening six months was spent in Boquerón where I would spend the remaining six and a half years before repatriating to the U.S. In the mornings I’d sit out on the front porch with a freshly brewed cup of locally grown coffee (how I miss Panamanian coffee) and gaze down the mountainside all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the distance.When the coffee kicked in I’d move to the back porch under the loom of Volcan Barú where I wrote my book “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” (Available through Amazon)

While up in the mountains I switched from the press to a moka pot…

[The moka pot is a stove-top coffee maker that brews coffee by passing boiling water pressurized by steam through ground coffee. Named after the Yemenite city of Mocha, it was invented by an Italian engineer named Alfonso Bialetti in 1933.[1] Bialetti Industries continues to produce the same model under the name “Moka Express”.]

It wasn’t a Bialetti, but rather a cheap knock off that I think cost me under $10. It was a six cup model (that’s espresso-size cups!) and I used it daily until about a week ago when the handle broke off.

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I made a bus trip out to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought a REAL Bialetti six-cup model. As you can see, it’s actually larger than my original pot.

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Now, one of the problems I have with this size pot is that the brew nearly fills an American-sized coffee mug. That wasn’t a problem when I was living in Boquerón because when the coffee would cool down to below tepid I’d just nuke it for 30 seconds and I’d be good to go to the bottom of the cup. Not having a microwave on the boat ended up throwing away close to a half cup every day, and of course wasting the grounds to make the stuff. A moka pot on brews up what it’s designed for and you can’t adjust it.

I went online and ordered a 1-cup Bialetti model. It’s fine for making a thimble-size Café Cubano for an aprés dinner sip, but not nearly enough to get the day started. That, then, led to the purchase of the 3-cup model which is just right. It cuts down on the volume of grounds used, and if needed a second batch can be brewed up in no time.

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Life is good anchored out…

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Anchor Anxiety

People who live on land cannot know the anxiety felt by someone who lives their lives on a small boat that’s constantly at anchor when they read a weather forecast like this: ”

A chance of Showers and Thunderstorms early in the Morning, then Showers with a chance of Thunderstorms in the late morning and afternoon. Windy. Some Thunderstorms may be severe. Highs in the mid 80s. Temperature falling into the mid 70s in the afternoon. South Winds 15 to 25 Mph, becoming southwest in the afternoon. Gusts up to 45 Mph. Chance of rain near 100%.” Forty five mph winds are a Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale. . .A “Fresh Gale.” Tropical storm winds are anything over 39 mph.

Sitting in your solid house you wonder why that causes such anxiety? Well, consider this: When you live “On the hook,” your life and everything you own is literally hanging on the end of a hunk of metal dug into the sea bed with a piece of rope connecting it to your boat.

Last week I ordered a wind speed device; the Dwyer Wind Meter.

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I owned one way back in ’92 when I was on my 9-month, single-handed trip from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico, Belize, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and back. It’s the soul of simplicity. The only moving part is a small foam ball. It measures wind speed the same way a pitot tube does.Face directly into the wind with two small holes at the base of the gauge facing the wind and the little ball in the tube rises and you read the wind speed there. There were a lot of other wind speed jobbers on offer but they all have a few problems as far as I’m concerned. One, they need batteries to function. They all have LCD screens which are often hard to read in bright sunlight. The worst feature of all of them is they have little fans that the wind turns (cancer machines, maybe?). Anything that whirls around on an axle is prime fodder for a break down.

The reason I bought it was to see what the wind speed actually is where I am located. The online service uses recordings from the Sarasota Airport which is 10 miles away.

I tracked the order and it said it had arrived at Bradenton, but not at the address yet. My mail drop doesn’t open until 10a.m. so I waited until 10 to leave the boat hoping it would have been delivered by the time I got there. It was windy, around 15 to 20 mph with whitecaps everywhere. Of course I didn’t NEED it, but I WANTED IT!!!

Getting to shore wasn’t a problem. Unfastened the painter and gave the dinghy a shove and the wind blew me right to the dock tout suite.Only had to paddle a few strokes to be in a position to tie off.

Since chances are good that I’ll be boat-bound tomorrow, possibly Saturday, too, I stopped in at Dollar Tree to stock up on junk food.

Back at the dinghy dock I hung around for close to an hour hoping one of the boats that had an outboard would be heading to their boat and give me a tow, but no such luck. According to the new wind gauge it’s blowing mid teens to 20 mph. With my COPD trying to paddle against that breeze would put a severe strain on lungs and heart. But I wanted to got back to my mother ship.

Generally I don’t go ashore when the conditions are like this but I’d thought about using the following procedure, though.

I handed myself down the length of the next two dock south of the dinghy dock to where I was nearly parallel with the Venture. Now it was a matter of paddling ACROSS the wind, not into it as you can see from illustration. The only thing wrong with the illustration is that the heads on arrows for the wind direction should be 180 degrees in the other direction fro what’s shown.

wind

It’s time to cook supper now, and of course the wind has dropped to nearly nothing.

Then, on Friday, this comes through on the internet….”Tornado watch in effect until 4 p.m. as strong cold front approaches. Hail possible and gusts in excess of 45 mph.”

Uncomfortably bouncy here at the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage this morning. It started getting lumpy around 4 a.m. and I had to get up at 4:30 to see how bad it was. It wasn’t nice.

Though the forecast calls for near 100% chance of rain today it’s bright and sunny. Radar shows heavy bands of rain at the edges of its range heading this way but wont get to us for at least another couple of hours. There’s no telling, yet, how wide the band is, though.

The wind is puffing away. The reports from Sarasota Airport, 10 away, say the wind is blowing at 18 mph with gusts of 29.9 mph. My Dwyer gauge shows 15 mph with a couple of gusts in the mid 20s.

So far it’s no worse than other nastily windy days. I have three anchors over the side and check landmarks on shore from time to time and not dragging an inch.

Then: The worst is over. Though it’s still quite breezy, gusting into the mid 20 mph range, the sun came back out around 5 p.m.

I took down my tarp and lowered the Bimini top around 11 a.m. to reduce “sail area” of the boat due to the high winds as the cold front approached the Bradenton Beach, FL anchorage.

It started raining heavily around 1 p.m. and the temperature dropped noticeably. I was hunkered down, snug as the proverbial bug in a rug while the heavy swells tossed stuff around in the cockpit and cabin.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, the wind edged around from southeast where it came across the 12+ mile fetch across Sarasota Bay to the southwest where it was coming across Anna Maria Island from the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with only a mile and a half of open water between the land and the anchorage the bouncing was almost completely reduced. Now the wind is in the northwest quadrant and there’s just a slight movement of the boat. Put the Bimini back up and got the tarp back in place. All’s right with the world.

Saturday morning and it’s bright sunshine, crisply chilly for a mid-April Bradenton Beach, Florida day. Wind’s still gusting up into the mid 20 mph range but coming from the northwest the wave action is minimal. With food and water on board and the battery bank charging well from the solar panels there’s no urgent need to go ashore today. Tomorrow winds are predicted to be less than half of what they are today and the temperature will be a bit warmer. A good Easter Sunday for those of you who believe in that stuff.

 

 

 

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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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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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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…

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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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That Time Of Year…

September is the most active month for tropical cyclones as they’re properly called. Here it is, the third day of the month and we’re already on edge…

“Oh, you live on a boat…that must be really cool.” That’s reason 347 for punching someone in the face.

Here’s what’s happening in MY world today.

STORM

Lots of wind and rain. Have two anchors set. Got food and water. Generator is running and charging computer, iPad and phone.

Enjoy YOUR Labor Day!

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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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