Tag Archives: sailboats

More of the Cruising Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cruising Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEW!

 

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A Mess of Metal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Boat?

Okay, this is the boat my friend went to look at in Miami this morning.

It’s a MacGregor 25 with a pop top and a swing keel. When the pop top is raised there’s 6-foot headroom in the after part of the cabin. The swing keel raises and lowers. With the keel down the boat draws nearly five and a half feet. With the keel fully raised it needs less than two feet of water to float, perfect for the shallows of the Gulf Intracoastal waterway and the Florida Keys. The boat can be taken right up to the beach.

This is what a pop top does

There are canvas attachments that enclose the pop top when it’s up but I don’t think this boat has one. I was thinking that a modification could be made with thin plywood and plexiglass, though. And the boat also has a Bimini top…

Cosmetically it needs work as you can see, but it’s nothing that bothers me. Four or five short days and all that blue non-skid can be made right. I’d paint it a sand/beige using a one-part polyurethane paint. I used Interlux Brightside in the cockpit of my Kaiser 26 and it held up remarkably well. Very resistant to abrasion and it retained most of its gloss over six years. Of course when painting the topsides you want to use a non-gloss paint to cut down on reflection.

The cushions are all in good shape which is rare for these older boats. The outboard motor needs to be tuned up. One of the major problems is that non-boaters shut the things off and the gasoline sits in the carburetors and evaporates leaving gummy residue. What needs to be done if the boat isn’t going to be used for a while is to disconnect the fuel and let all the fuel burn out leaving the carb dry. Also when outboards, or any boat that uses circulating water to cool the engine,  sit for a long time the rubber impellers that pump the cooling water deform so they need to be replaced.

None of that is a problem. Stef is a first-class mechanic and when we had out repair business in Fort Lauderdale years ago I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we did this kind of work.

As the French author, Blaise Pascal, famously said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Here’s how I found out what kind of a mechanic Stef was. When I got back from France and cruising down to Guatemala back in ’92 I was at loose ends and needed some kind of work. Stef had a ski boat on a trailer in his car port and I said, “Why don’t we paint that up and sell it?” He said that the engine, a Ford V8, wasn’t working. A minute later he said, “Listen, come back around 8 in the morning and we’ll get this thing together.”

When I showed up he had a hydraulic motor lifter

and an engine stand.

That’s something you bolt the engine block to and you can move the engine around to reach all parts of it without having to bend over. It took us less than an hour to get the engine out of the boat and onto the stand. Then Stef started disassembling the motor and throwing parts into a couple of 5-gallon buckets. All I could think of was that he was a fucking mad man. The only thing he did that seemed at all normal was he placed the pistons carefully on a work bench in the order that they came out of the block. When everything was off the engine he said, “I’m going to go to ‘Engine Rebuilder’s Warehouse’ and get what we need. While I’m gone you take all those bolts that are in that bucket and clean them up with this wire wheel on the electric motor.”

When he returned he showed me how to hone the cylinders with a special tool on a drill motor

 

and while I was doing that he laid the bolts out on the work bench according to size. With that done he started putting the engine together. New bearings and guides and all that good stuff. We broke for a quick lunch and then finished up. The ONLY time he consulted a manual was when he was looking at the torque specs for the piston ends and the head bolts. The engine was back in the boat in a flash, and at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon he turned the key and BRRRRRRROOOOOM, the damned thing started right up. TO ME that was like MAGIC!!! Over the next several years we probably rebuilt a couple of dozen engines. With a manual at hand I wouldn’t be afraid to tackle a rebuild on my own. I later found out that he used to have a xmall chain of engine rebuilding shops in New York for VW engines. The deal was, get it in by 8 in the morning and you could drive home with a rebuilt engine after five in the afternoon.

So, anyway, there’s a nearby marina where we can store the boat for $300/month (that’s TWO MONTHS apartment rent here in Boquerón). Stef says the engine is practically brand new, it’s just been sitting. He can take it up to his warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale and do the tune up there.

The asking price is $1,300 for the boat and $1,300 for the motor. Stef told him that was a bit too much for condition of things and Fernando agreed. The way Stef left it was he was going to send me the pictures and see what I wanted to do. As I told him, there’s nothing I can’t take care of. Sure, the life line stanchions were removed, but they’re on board and it’s only a matter of drilling 16 holes to get them reattached. Certainly no biggie there.

There will be a lot of things that I’ll need to buy to make the boat what I’d really like it to be, but it doesn’t have to all be done at once. That’s one thing a lot of people never understand. They aren’t comfortable with the “that’s good enough philosophy.” For them everything has to be exactly “just so” before they feel they can cast the lines of the dock. That’s why so few people actually GO SOMEPLACE on their boats. And, too, a lot of the stuff I’ll need, like the paint, etc., I can get wholesale through Stef’s account at Lewis Marine, one of the largest marine supply companies in the country. They ship worldwide, so things won’t be as bad as they might be for some people of limited means.

Stef’s going to call Fernando tomorrow and offer him $2,500 for the whole shebang. He’ll probably take it. I told Stef that if he balks go for $2,700 which is $500 off the asking price. I can certainly live with that. I’ve talked with Fernando via Skype and Stef, of course, in person, and Fernando is an anxious seller. He’s had the boat up for quite some time though he stopped advertising it a while back.

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…By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet….

It would be impossible to try and remember the names of all the boats I’ve run. The first boat I had was an 8-foot pram my dad built in the basement of our house in Watertown, Mass., when I was about 8 years old. Every summer until I was 12 we spent the entire summer at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass., way out at the forearm of Cape Cod, and I spent as much time as I could in that boat. Franny Cullum was a couple of camp sites away and he had a 10-foot plywood skiff. We shared our adventures which consisted primarily of catching yellow perch and diving after sun turtles in Flax pond with Tony Taylor who, our moms figured out, were born about an hour or so apart on either coast of the U.S.

That pram didn’t have a name. It was simply “The Boat.”

The first boat I worked on was a 125-foot dinner cruise boat in Fort Lauderdale named “Le Bateau” and supposedly patterned after Les Bateaux Mouche that ply the Seine in Paris.

While I wasn’t the captain of this boat I DID get to sail on it for the first and second Fort Lauderdale to Key West Races in the middle ‘70s., It was  the “Rainbow,” a 65-foot, semi-custom Choey Lee ketch, owned by Charles Scripps who, at the time, owned UPI and Scripps-Howard newspapers, radio and television stations. That boat played an important role in my early development as a professional seaman as well as wrapping up that part of my life 16 years later. Interestingly enough, back then Mr. Scripps owned the “Hollywood Sun-Tattler” newspaper in Hollywood, Florida. A few years before sailing on “Rainbow” I was offered a position as a general assignment reporter on the paper but turned it down to go work as the assistant public relations director at Holy Cross Hospital, the largest private hospital in Broward County.

The biggest boat in the photo is “Rainbow” tied up in Key West after the very first Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race…

rainbow-key-west-1975-copy

My very first captain’s job was on a 43-foot Hatteras Tri-cabin in Chicago back in 1974. It was named “Kadico” which was short for Kadison Company. The owner of the boat and company, which made chemical food products, was Sylvan Kadison. He and his wife were HORRIBLE people. I couldn’t stand either one of them, but the job held out the promise of taking the boat from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale at the end of the summer season. Fortunately the owners were only on the boat from Chicago to Mackinaw Island and then for the Erie Canal portion of the trip. They were on board from Buffalo, New York to Stamford, Conn., where one of their daughters lived. My deck hand had to bail out in Norfolk, Virginia and I did the entire Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway from there to Fort Lauderdale ALONE! The boat was an absolute SLUG. Probably only did about 12 knots wide open with it’s GM 653s.

This is what a 43-foot Hatteras Tri-cabin  looks like…

tri-cabin

While that was my first “command” I didn’t get my U.S. Coast Guard license until June of 1975 and then I ran the 75-foot, double-decked 300-passenger sightseeing boat “Marlyn” doing half-hour harbor cruises in Chicago for two summers. Talk about a boring job! It was SO BAD that I made a tape recording of the cruise lecture. We’d leave the dock and then I’d hit the “Play” button on the tape deck….”Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls….” Yuck!

The Marlyn

marlyn-copy

In early ’77 I moved to New Orleans and after working for a short while on a 176-foot oil rig supply boat as an ordinary seaman I got a job as captain of a 47-foot inland crewboat operating in the Kerr-McGee oil and gas production field in Breton Sound. The first boat I ran out there was called the “Capt. Shane.” It was a deep vee Breax Craft aluminum boat with a pair of 871s. There were two other Crewboats Incorporated boats there with me: “Lake Runner” and “Wave Runner.” They flattened out underwater unlike the Shane and outran my boat like crazy. BUT I learned a lot running the Capt. Shane, especially during the winter when it was necessary to put men on and off of high-pressure gas wells in 8 to 10 foot seas. During good weather all the guys wanted to get on the Runners because they were faster, but when the weather turned to shit they fought to get on the Shane because it had a better ride in rough seas.  I ran several other boats for Crewboats, Inc., but can’t remember their names. Oddly enough, in 2005 while my family was gathered at a restaurant at the marina in Venice, Florida inlet prior to scattering some of my dad’s ashes in the Gulf a green and white, 47-foot crewboat pulled up to the fuel dock. I went to take a look at it and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the name of the boat…It was the “Lake Runner!”  Is that’ Pat Pescay’s boat, I asked the young skipper?” I

“It is,” he replied. “How’d you know that?”

“Because, believe it or not, I used to run THAT BOAT out at Breton Island!!”

It had been sold and he was delivering it to the Keys where it was going to be used as a dive boat.

This is what those inland crewboats looked like…

crewboat-underway1

Not wanting to spend another winter on the water putting guys on and off of gas and oil wells in nasty weather, I left the crewboats and taught a course in “Nautical Science” for a year at West Jefferson High School.

teaching-certificate-copy

The only job I ever had worse than that was the few weeks I worked as an ordinary seaman in the Great Lakes aboard the self-unloading ship “Consumer’s Power” where I shoveled coal and rock salt for 12 hours a day and roomed with Abdul from Yemen.

The worst job of my life was on this tub…

consumers-power

Teaching wasn’t for me so after the school year was up I took the captain’s job on the “Lady Ann,” a 58-foot (65-foot overall) Hatteras motor yacht with New Orleans Tours. All in all it was a decent job though it should have paid better than it did. The “Lady Ann” was the second biggest yacht out at West End. We used to do cocktail and dinner charters, and the great Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme used to charter us a couple of times a year to throw dinner parties for his suppliers. FANTASTIC cook, but I have to say, the best thing I ever put in my mouth on that boat was Ann Reuther’s crawfish bisque. I also made several trips from New Orleans to Destin, Florida with the boat. The owners loved to have the boat sitting at the dock outside their condominiums there to show off how much money they had.

Second largest yacht at West End Marina…

lady-ann-hatteras-58-copy

When I finally got tired of ferrying drunks around…the paying kind, the owners were NOT into drunken debauchery…I went to work on crewboats again, this time for Ronco Barge and Crewboat Rentals out of New Iberia, Louisiana. That’s where the offices were, but on crew change days I’d drive to Bayou Blue, that’s right, where the song came from, and leave my van there for the week I was out working. We ran to drilling rigs in the bayous of south western Louisiana and up into the  deep cypress of Atchafalaya BasinI ran several boats for them but can only remember the name of one…”Capt. Leonard.” It was a strange craft in that it had TWO RIGHT HAND TURNING ENGINES. Normally twin engine boats have their engine’s rotation turning in opposite directions, but not the “Capt. Leonard.” Backing her down had a learning curve to it.

I worked for Ronco for nearly three years, but the oil exploration business was hitting a rough patch and after having taken two deep pay cuts in order to keep working I just wouldn’t take the third which would have had me working for less than I’d started at three years earlier.

A few years later, after working in a boat yard as a rigger and paint prep dude I left Louisiana. I went to visit family on Cape Cod and landed the job of running and restoring a fine old classic yacht named “Christiana” after the owner’s daughter. She, the boat, not the daughter, was made by Grebe’s yard in Chicago. The aforementioned “Marlyn” used to winter at Grebe’s yard so I was familiar with what fine boats they were. I got the boat in Falmouth, Mass., and took it down to Ft. Lauderdale where I worked on it all winter replacing part of the transom, remounting the swim platform and laying on coat after coat of varnish on the brightwork.

In the spring I managed to take on two Irish girls from the Old Sod, Gerry from Kerry and Anne from Limerick, to take the boat up to Provincetown. It was, hands down, the best trip I ever made, EVER. They were such good girls and surprisingly we had a lot in common. We were each one of seven siblings. Anne was born in June, I was born in July and Gerry was a Leo born in August. Anne was actually an American citizen. Her parents were the Irish Consuls in New Orleans, where I’d lived for 10 years, and Gerry had a brother who lived out in the western suburb of Metairie and she’d stayed with him for a couple of years. When I went to pick them up and bring them to the boat I discovered that they were living in the building next to where my ex wife and I had lived for three years!

Gerry on the left, Anne on the right and Christiana behind us in Hyannis at the end of our delivery…

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The three of us hit every happy hour from Lauderdale to Hyannis. People would hear their thick brogue accents and would end up inviting us to their homes, take us out to dinner and took up to see the best three-piece rock & roll band I’ve ever seen out on the Isle of Palms near Charleston.

I spent the summer of ’87 in Provincetown learning what it feels like to be a woman walking past a construction site. P’town has ALWAYS been a homosexual haven. When the summer was over I took the boat back down to Fort Lauderdale and spent the winter prepping and painting the hull. Job finished.

I spent a while working around Lauderdale Yacht Basin doing day work and then got a job as mate on the 176-foot “Gallant Lady” a Feadship owned by Southeast Toyota.

The” Gallant Lady”

gallant-lady

I was on her for less than a year. We were doing a Christmas party cruise in ’88 and in Port Everglades I spotted a Woods Hole research ship that was skippered by the first captain I ever worked for, Larry Bearse, on the “Le Bateau.” We got together for a quick beer after I got off work, and this is how serendipity works. Larry was flying out for Boston the next morning at 5 a.m. We had also sailed together on “Rainbow” and he told me that Tommy and Dawn were running a new boat for Mr. Scripps and that it was at the Derektor-Gunnel yard in Dania.

I called them the next day, and the day after that I went to see the 95-foot motor sailer the old man had bought. They invited me to have lunch with them the next say and who should be there but Mr. Scripps. The result of the lunch was that I landed the job as skipper of the custom-built, 85-foot motor sailer “Jolie Aire” he owned  based over in Antibes, France. I’m getting tired of writing this stuff, so suffice it to say I was there for nearly 3 years prior to moving her to Marbella, Spain, in preparation to “cross the POND” which I did in November of ’91.

While I was over in France two people effected what I was to do later on.  One was Estelle, my first French girlfriend, the other was “Cheshire” Bill, and American who was supervising the building of a 65-foot catamaran for his boss in Texas. Both has spent a lot of time in Belize and seeing their photos and videos made me want to go see the place for myself. I was determined that when I got back to the States I’d take whatever money I’d managed to save and buy a sailboat and go there myself. I didn’t much care what the boat might be as long as I could lie down in it and stay dry when it rained. Well, I lucked into A Kaiser 26, hull #24 of only 26 built.

It was named “Little Dipper.” Not bad. Certainly better than the likes of “Bull Ship” or “Blow Job.” But years before, in a dusty little used book store on Royal Street in New Orleans’s French Quarter, I’d found the most fantastic book of nautical lore ever assembled: “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”  (The 973-page tome is available in paperback through Amazon). It’s a one-volume encyclopedia of everything you could imagine about, well, Ships and the Sea. One of the entries was for “Nancy Dawson” which, I found out, was the tune to which the rum ration was piped in the British Navy for more than 200 years. I told myself that if I ever owned a boat worthy of the name she would carry that name on her transom.

You have no idea how much I miss my Nancy…

nancy-dawson-copy

When I return to the States I’ll be moving on to a small sailboat to explore coastal Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Brownsville, Texas, hopefully. The boat will, of course, need a name. There are some boat owners who continue a boat’s name and add I, II, III, etc. after it. There are also some owners who simply use the same name, period…Jim Moran’s boats were all named, simply, “Gallant Lady” and when I was working for him he actually had THREE at the same time with the same name! Of course I’ve thought about giving whatever new boat I buy the name “Nancy Dawson,” but after reflection I think I’m going to go with something else.

I’ve lived for nearly eight years in Chrirquí Province, Republic of Panama, and I think I’m going to name the new boat, “La Chiricana.” The women of Chrirquí are probably the prettiest in all of the country. I’d like for the boat to remind me of them.

The next boat will be named “La Chiricana”

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Masts

No matter what boat I end up buying I’m going to modify the mast. Make it shorter and make it easy to lay down and raise easily so I duck under bridges as I cruise the inland waterways. For example, the mast of a Catalina 22 is 29’1″. It would be scary trying to creep under a 30-foot bridge with less than a foot of clearance. A breezy chop or the wake from a slow-moving nearby boat could easily have you nailing the underside of the bridge.

Between Ft. Lauderdale’s inlet and the one in West Palm Beach, roughly 40 miles, there are 19 bridges. There are only two that don’t present a problem: Lauderdale’s 17th Street bridge at 55′ and the Lake Worth Bascule Bridge at 35-feet. The Linton Blvd. Bascule Bridge in Boca Raton has a clearance of 30-feet and you’d have your heart in your throat trying to creep under it.

It’s not so bad going down the 24 miles to Government Cut in Miami. There are only 11 bridges. Two of them, N.E. 192nd Street Bridge at 65-feet and the Julia Tuttle at 55-feet are no problem. The Sunny Isles bridge at 30-feet is one of the “iffy” ones. So that means there are eight bridges you have to wait to have opened for you and ALL of them have specific opening times. Of the 30 bridges between Government Cut in Miami and West Palm Beach Inlet that 22-foot sailboat you’d have to wait for 26 of them to open so you could continue on your journey. And if you weren’t at the bridge for a scheduled opening time you’d have to circle around for up to a half hour to get through. So, if you’re planning to take a trip to Peanut Island in WPB from Ft. Lauderdale in a boat that’s going to plod along at about 6 mph, at best, even if you hit every bridge opening perfectly, an impossibility, you’re looking at a VERY long day.

The solution, of course is being able to raise and lower your mast so you can creep under almost all the bridges you’re ever going to encounter. But raising and lowering the mast of a even a Catalina 22 and similar boats that have shrouds is NOT an easy thing to do no matter HOW MUCH the builders tout the simplicity of THEIR boats.

Does this look simple to you?

Not only that, but I don’t want to have a mast that’s longer than the boat itself…

masts too big

My idea is to build a mast tabernacle. I’d want it high enough so that when the mast is lowered the mast would clear the pilot house I’d eventually like to build.

From a Facebook response to a previous mention of this people have written saying, “MY boat has a tabernacle” and then they send a picture of something like THIS…

autoimage-165544_BoatPic_Extra1

Well, technically they’re correct, it IS a tabernacle but THIS is more along the lines of what I’m thinking of…

hinged_tarbenacle_mast_3_20121030_1586766886

Lowered it would look like this…

Pedistal

AND I’d want to add some weight to the bottom of the mast, like this one, to counterbalance the whole lot and make raising and lowering an easy one-man task.

Good tabernacle pic

With an arrangement like the two boats above you’d be able to clear nearly every bridge you meet. And think about this…during thunderstorms lightning strikes the highest thing around, and if you’re on a sailboat the highest thing around is YOUR MAST! Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly and easily lower the mast making you less of a target? You might say, “But I’m out sailing, I CAN’T lower my mast.” But I’m generally going to be on inland waterways so as a storm approaches I can duck into shallower water somewhere, drop anchor, lower the mast, wait it out in the comfort of the cabin.

I want an unstayed mast and will go for either a junk rig or a balanced lug. I won’t be carrying as much square footage, that’s for sure, but when I am using the sails it will be with the wind abeam, on the quarter or dead astern. No more beating into the wind.  God invented engines to allow boats to do that. The “auxiliary power” on MY boat will be the sails, NOT the engine.

 

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The Boat I Want and Why

About a year ago when my friend Stephen suggested I move back to the States and that we’d look for a boat for me to buy and live on I wasn’t ready to pick up sticks and leave Panama. But the kernel had been planted and I started mentally masturbating about what kind of boat I’d look for if I did make the move. The exercise begins by figuring out HOW the boat would be used.

If I were to return to the States I wouldn’t want to live on a boat stuck in a marina. Been there, done that. But I had a reason I was living like that…I needed to work to make money and survive. I survived but I didn’t make much money. I always had something going where I paid little to no rent at all for nearly five years. (Then I fell in love, moved ashore, and now both the bitch and the boat are gone…) Now, having retired and getting a Social Security deposit every month I don’t have to worry about survival any more.

So, if I was going to be on the move, where would I be going? Well, it’s something I’ve named The Great U.S. Inland Waterway Challenge. You don’t have to cross oceans to have nautical adventures. In fact, you don’t even have to go very far to have them, either. Unfortunately most people thing that “cruising” means traversing large bodies of water while fighting gale-force winds. Not so! Taking your boat to a lake or estuary and investigating parts of it you’ve never seen before is just as valid a nautical adventure as sailing single-handed around the world in a 10-foot boat.

There’s a ton of water-born adventuring to be done inside the boundaries of the United States. For instance there’s the “Great Loop.” That’s a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States by water.

loop

There are clubs, Facebook pages and internet groups devoted to this enterprise. They even have a website and burgee…http://www.greatloop.org

burgee

Well, I’ve got that one under my belt. In ’74, my first captain’s job I took a 43-foot Hatteras tri-cabin from Burnham Park in Chicago, went the lengths of lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, out the Erie Canal, down the Hudson River and then did the entire 1,100-mile Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway single-handed. (Ive since run the Atlantic ICW four more times. Three times south and once south to north.) In ’75 I left Burnham Harbor with a couple on their 51-foot sailboat and we went down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans and then happened to end up at Bahia Mar marina in Fort Lauderdale, FL where I’d ended the voyage the year before.

What else is left? Lots. There’s the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway for an additional 1,000 miles. I’ve done a couple of little segments from Destin, FL to New Orleans and little parts of it in Louisiana when I was running inland crew boats around Morgan City, New Iberia and a few other sections.

Then, I thought, if I had a small enough boat that was easily trailerable I’d haul it up to Minneapolis and come down the Mississippi all the way to the Tennessee river, veer off there and take the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to Mobile. Already done that segment of the Mississippi from the confluence of the Tennessee to New Orleans in ’75. Coming down the river I’d have to stop a couple of days at Lock and Dam #20 in Canton, Missouri. It’s 30 miles or so north of Hannibal and the home of Culver-Stockton College that I attended for three years.

How about pulling the boat up to Pittsburgh, PA and going down the Ohio in the wake of those great shantyboat inspirations Harlan and Anna Hubbard? At least as far as the Mississippi once more. From there I could have it trailered to Sioux City, Iowa and run the 735 miles of the Missouri River.

So, what kind of boat would I need to do that sort of thing? Well, first of all it couldn’t be too big. It would have to be a “Trailer Sailer” with a retractable keel or centerboard so it would be easy to move around the great distances between, say, New Orleans and Minneapolis cause I’m not going to be able to sail against the current all that way, All along the Gulf ICW in Florida and Texas it’s SHALLOW so draft is a big consideration. My beloved Nancy Dawson drew four feet and so needed  five feet or better under her keel to do well. Many trailer-sailer have drafts as little as a foot and some even less than that.

Roaming around on Craigslist and other boat for sale sites I see that there’s a slew of trailer-sailer boats in the 23-foot range that can be picked up for under $2,000. When I brought this up to my friend Stephen he said, “Yeah, but wouldn’t you be more comfortable on something around 30-feet?” Well, probably! I’d also be a lot more comfortable on the 85-foot Jolie Aire that I ran over in France for three years, too. What’s your point?

I’ve mentioned in other posts about building a pilot house onto a small hull to give standing headroom in the cabin. I DO WANT to stand up when I’m cooking, at least, and to put on my pants.

But the best thing about a small boat in the 23-foot range is that it’s a LOT cheaper than a 30-foot boat.

In and around Fort Lauderdale dock rates are $1.50 to $2.00 per foot per day. So, for a 30-foot boat it would cost $60/night @ $2 and $45/night @ $1.50. For a 23-foot boat it would be $46/night @ $2 or $34.50/night. A difference of $15 or $10.50 at the buck and a half rate. Some of the marinas, though, charge on a minimum of a 30-foot boat no matter how much under that it actually is. Others charge at a 25-foot rate. Even that way it’s $50 a night @ $2 or $37.50.

So, let’s take the lower rate and assume, in all these numbers, that I’ll have to spend one week a month at a marina. The 30-footer would cost me $315/month. The 23-footer would be $241.50 a month, a $73.50 a month savings. Even at the 25-foot minimum rate the $262.50 is a $52.50 savings on my $1,100/month SS check and equals 17.5 gallons of gas @ $3.00/gal. Assuming I can get 12/miles per gallon that one month savings at the lowest amount will get me roughly 210 miles further up the river.

Of course I wouldn’t be spending much time at a dock in Fort Lauderdale to begin with. So let’s take a look at an out-of-the-way place like Steinhatchee up in the Big Bend area of Florida…

At Riverhaven marina in Steinhatchee, FL, up in the Big Bend area of the Gulf Coast, the cost for an uncovered slip is 50¢/foot a day. So, easy-peasy, a 30-footer would go for $15/day. The 23-footer would be $11.50/day or $3.50/day savings. No big deal. But the weekly difference would be $24.50 or, over a year that’s $294. That would be 98 gallons of gas @ $3 gal. or 1,176 miles under the crank-up keel.

Let’s say I wanted to spend the winter months up there. The monthly rate is quoted at $149.50 and for a four-month stay it would set me back just under $600. Not bad when you consider that my half of the duplex rent when I lived in Fort Lauderdale six years ago was $600/month.  In fact, the monthly rate at this marina would be just half a buck short of what I’m paying for rent in Boquerón.

So, let’s go over to Texas since I plan on running the ICW all the way to Brownsville…

In Corpus Christi, at the Corpus Christi Marina short term slip rates are $1.50/ft. = $34.50/night for 23-footer and $45 for the 30-footer.

Across the way at Islands Moorings in Port Aransas doesn’t matter if it’s 23-foot or $30 the rate is $35 per night for vessels up to 32 feet and then they’re gonna nick ya $7 to hook up to 30 amp electricity. At the end of the line in Brownsville and South Padre Island there are several marinas but most don’t list their rates. It’s sort of a “Surprise, you can’t afford to be here…” situation. The one place that DID list a rate for transient dockage is the Sea Ranch Marina at South Padre Island and 23’ or 30’ or any feet it’s $65/night though they’re generous and throw in the electricity at that price. And people wonder why I’m so inclined to say TUCK FEXAS!!! But if I want to complete The Great U.S. Inland Waterway Challenge gotta go there.

In 11 days I find out if my new choppers are going to fit. If they do, I’ll give it a month to make sure they don’t need to be adjusted and if all’s good to go then I’ll be having my 74th birthday party in Fort Lauderdale. (July 9th)

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