Tag Archives: sailing

COPD Can’t Beat Me!


I have started a Go Fund Me campaign. All contributions gratefully accepted…

Hi! I’m Richard, a 75 year old sailor with COPD and I need your help to write my SECOND book.


In my early working life I was a newspaper reporter, a magazine editor and published many freelance magazine articles. But I’d always dreamed of being on a boat. I never wanted to sail around the world, though. I wanted more attainable goals…like doing The Great Loop, a circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean had been a childhood dream.

A quote that changed my life came from Richard MacCullough’s book Viking’s Wake. He wrote: “And the bright horizon calls! Many a thing will keep till the world’s work is done, and youth is only a memory. When the old enchanter came to my door laden with dreams, I reached out with both hands. For I knew that he would not be lured with the gold that I might later offer, when age had come upon me.” So, at age thirty, I left a good-paying job as assistant PR Director at a large hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a minimum-wage deckhand on a dinner cruise boat I knew I could take up writing again at any age. I became a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain of yachts and small commercial craft and spent the rest of my working life on boats. I did The Loop. I sailed across the Atlantic. I transited the Panama Canal. I lived out the dreams of my childhood.

In 2009 I retired and moved to the mountains of western Panama where I wrote my first book: “Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.” The book was translated into Spanish by two girls at the Universidad Latina in David (dahVEED). I combined both versions into a dual-language book  available at Amazon.com.

In April, 2017, with my lung capacity down to only 34% of normal, I repatriated to the U.S. In spite of struggling for breath after even simple chores like making my bed, I knew I couldn’t let the COPD dominate my life. (Yes! I gave up smoking about six years ago.)


Back in the states I bought a small, 22-foot sailboat
on the “One Easy Payment Plan,” and cruised from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the state and up the shallow waters of the state’s Gulf Coast. I made it to Carrabelle in the eastern panhandle when total renal shut down caused by severe dehydration put me in Tallahassee hospitals for nearly three weeks. When I recovered enough to return to my boat I made my way back down the coast to the anchorage at Bradenton Beach, FL, a little ways south of Tampa Bay. In all the trip was around 800 miles.

I blogged about the trip and posted updates on Facebook as I cruised, but, wintering here at anchor in Bradenton Beach, an idea for a non-fiction, book has been germinating. It has a working title of: Four Feet or Less: A cruising guide for gunkholers.” Gunkholing is a boater’s term for wandering from place to place in shallow water and spending nights at anchor rather than in a marina. The name comes from the gunk, or mud, in creeks, coves, marshes, and rivers. “Boondocking” is the term used by RVers for a similar “off the grid” experience on land.


In order to finish researching the book I need to revisit many of the places I anchored before to gather more detailed information. To do this successfully I need some extra equipment. Subsisting entirely on Social Security alone it’s nearly impossible to put much aside after paying for dumb stuff like, oh, FOOD, meds, phone. What I need, in order of necessity, are: 1) a reliable, second outboard motor 2) a Go Pro-style action camera 3) a small drone so I can take aerial photos of many of the anchorages.

I need the outboard because I can’t sail anymore. My hands are too painfully gnarled from arthritis to haul on halyards and wrestling with flapping sails leaves me on my hands and knees gasping for air. In the roughly 800 miles I traveled in the past year I only actually sailed the boat about 4 times. Either there was NO wind, there was TOO MUCH wind for a 22 foot boat, or the wind was on the nose and it would have taken too long to tack my way to the next anchorage.

Since many of the places I need to return to are often out of cell phone range and far from the rescue services of Boat US or Sea Tow, a reliable second engine is a safety factor, not a luxury. I’m NOT looking to buy a NEW outboard. A second hand 6 to 9.9 hp two-stroke engine will do just fine. Good USED outboards run about $800 to $1,000. I already have a second outboard bracket on the transom.

I need an action camera because they’re waterproof. I took a lot of photos on my last trip but used it sparingly so it wouldn’t get it wet and be ruined. Again, I’m NOT looking for a top of the line model, just one that will take reasonably sharp photos under all conditions. These cost around $250.

A drone that can carry that action camera aloft for photos of the anchorages would be fantastic! I have photo editing programs I can use to mark routes to the anchorages. A decent drone would cost about $250.


Altogether I should be able to purchase the equipment I need for around $2,000.

Donations of $25 or more will receive a free electronic edition of Adversity’s Wake: The Calamitous Fourth Voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Donations received above and beyond what is needed for buying the equipment will be donated to the American Lung Association.


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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…


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…


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


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…


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.


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…


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…


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…


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”


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…


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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Setting Priorities

When I get back to the States sometime around July I want to buy something like this —


Why? Primarily because they’re cheap to buy. This one has an asking price of $3,500 and if you look on Craigslist you’ll find a lot of these “trailer sailers”some with asking prices of $1,500 or less.

It’s easy to see that a boat like this sure doesn’t have much headroom inside. Many of the builders eased that a bit with the creation of “pop tops.”


These give close to 6-foot headroom in much of the cabin. Of course you’ve got all that open air space between the top and the cabin. Not real good when it’s raining or you’re somewhere where it’s buggy. But they do make canvas fixtures that enclose the cabin.



Several downsides to something with this. First, you can’t use it while underway. Second, can you imagine what a pain in the patootie it would be putting this thing on every day if you’re out cruising? And taking it down. And doing it when the wind’s blowing like stink. Or it’s raining. No thanks.

So I’d want to build a pilothouse that would cover where the pop top was in the first place and make it attractive.


That pic is of a Compac 23, but it wouldn’t be that hard to do with glass over foam. My friend, Stef, and I could do a good job of it.

BUT, one of my goals upon returning to the States and getting a boat is to go “adventuring.” The first thing I want to do is run up the ICW and go explore the St. John’s River and then return to Ft. Lauderdale for the first Thanksgiving dinner in seven years.

That means setting priorities. One thing I learned long ago as a professional yacht captain is that if you wait for everything to be “just right” you will never get off the dock. There are some things on your “to do” list that don’t have to be done before you leave. They can be done along the way. Building the pilothouse isn’t one of them, of course but it can wait since it’s not essential for making the trip, just for making it more comfortable.

Every boat comes with some extras that simply aren’t mentioned in the ads. Things like compasses, fenders (you lubbers call them “bumpers”) docking lines, life jackets, etc. Usually, but not always. I’ve given this a lot of thought about what is essential in order to make my first cruise.


The Coast Guard mandates that boats carry certain equipment when underway. Some things are required on ALL boats no matter what their size, but mine will be less than 26 feet so I’m just going to list what I’LL need to have…

Recreational boats must carry Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices, in good and serviceable condition, and of the appropriate size for the intended user. Wearable PFDs must be readily accessible, not stowed in bags, locked or closed compartments or have other gear stowed on top of them. Throwable devices must be immediately available for use. There must be one Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person on board or being towed on water skis, etc., PLUS one Type IV throwable device.

This is a Type II life jacket and is for “inshore” use and since I’ll only be cruising the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) this is all need. I’ll carry three so I’ll have some if I want to take a couple of people along for an afternoon.

Type II

A “throwable” device could be one of these.




Each vessel is required to have a “throwable” floating device: throw

I’ll probably get one of these for myself. It’s a “Coastal Automatic Inflatable Life Vest… cuz with a small boat like the one I’ll be on you never know when you might end up in the drink and this type is light and non-restricting.




This is kind of “iffy.” You’re supposed to have at least one B-1 type Coast Guard-approved hand portable fire extinguisher.


Where the “iffyness” comes in is that they’re not required on outboard boats less than 26 feet long and not carrying passengers for hire if the construction of such motorboats will not permit the entrapment of explosive or flammable gases or vapors, and if fuel tanks are not permanently installed. I’ll be a “sailboat” not a motorboat. I’ll be under 26 feet long and I won’t be carrying passengers for hire. Also my fuel tanks won’t be permanently installed. I WILL, though, be cooking on board with propane and one would be really stupid not to have a fire extinguisher. In fact, you should probably have one in the kitchen of your HOUSE. Flash fires from cooking oil or bacon fat are not unheard of.

All boats are required to carry visual distress signals approved for daytime and nighttime use. For pyrotechnic devices (hand-held or aerial red flares, floating or hand-held orange smoke, and launches for aerial red meteors or parachute flares) a minimum of three required, in any combination that totals 3 for daytime and 3 for night use. Three day/night devices will suffice. Devices must be in serviceable condition, dates not expired and stowed accessibly. Again, running in the ICW makes having these kind of a waste of money, but you HAVE TO HAVE them, soooo.

Every vessel less that 39.4 feet (12 meters) long must carry an efficient sound-producing device: a bell or a whistle. COLREGS (The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea) have specific rules about sound signals that vessels are required make in foggy conditions. Horn signals if the boat is underway, and bells if anchored. A horn isn’t strictly required but is a “must have,” in my opinion, in order to signal bridges that need to be opened and to  signal other boat of your intentions when underway in passing situations.

Now, just because you have all that on board doesn’t mean you’re ready to leave the dock and go cruising…In addition to the stuff that’s required there are still the…


In no particular order of importance, you’ll need to have:

At least four lines to secure the boat to a dock. It’s also a good idea to have a couple of others in reserve since it’s not unknown to leave on on the dock from time to time. One should also carry about 100 feet of extra line, just in case.

Your boat also needs to have running lights to comply with COLREGS if you get caught out after dark. You also need to have an all-around white light to show if you’re anchored. As far as the anchor light is concerned I’m really thinking of getting two or three of these…



When I first ran across them somewhere in my net surfing I thought they’d be great as anchor lights and for interior lights as well. A couple I know who recently settled in nearby Boquete did some extensive cruising that encompassed the Pacific coast, a passage through the Panama Canal and Caribbean cruising said they has some of these and they loved them.

A VHF radio, either a base station or a hand held is essential. You need them to contact bridges you need to have opened. You need them to contact the Coast Guard in case of an emergency. You need them to hear local marine weather notices. You need them to talk to other boats.

An anchor. TWO actually. One as the principle anchor and a smaller, lighter one as a “lunch hook” for temporary anchoring or in cases where currents turn with the tide. What you do in that case is to drop and set your main anchor, let out double the scope you need at that spot and then drop and set the second anchor. When you’ve done that you pull yourself back to where you’d have been after dropping off the first anchor and secure both. Now, as the current changes direction you’ll ride to the second anchor rather than swinging in a big circle possibly dislodging the single answer and be dragged to some place you don’t want to be.

You’d also use two anchors close in to shore. As you approach the shore you drop one of the anchors and let out rode until your bow touches the beach. Step off into the shallow water, take your bow anchor and embed it deeply some distance up from the high water mark. Now, pull back on the stern anchor line until your sitting comfortably and secure both anchors.

Use PLENTY of chain between your anchor and rope rode. ALL CHAIN rode is best, but you’re not going to be able to carry enough of it around on a 23 foot boat! Curiously my Kaiser 26 had 200 feet of chain rode. The simple weight of it was often enough to keep the boat in position. I vividly remember anchoring off of Ranguana Caye on the outer reef in Belize. I was in six feet of water and let out 60 feet of chain. Whenever possible I dove down to make sure the anchor was well dug in to the bottom. As I swam along in the crystal-clear water I noticed that the chain was lying in an “S” shape about 2/3rds of the way to the anchor. The anchor wasn’t well dug in. It was a rather large Danforth and the flukes were only half way dug into the sand. Problem was they wouldn’t go in any further since it was simply a thin layer of sand over coral.

In the middle of the night a strong squall ripped through the area. There was lightning and heavy rain. The wind was piping at who knows how fast, but the rigging was moaning a low tune. I got up, went on deck towards the bow trying to ignore the rain pelting my skin like evil little imps taking chunks in nasty bites. I let out probably another 50 feet or so, secured it and went back below to my bunk. In the morning I went over the side and swam along the length of the chain. As strong as the wind had been it hadn’t moved the boat enough to straighten out the chain and the “S” was still there, so the strain never reached the anchor itself.

For me, I’ll probably limit the amount of chain I use to no more than 15 feet before connecting it to rope rode. Chain’s heavy, and it’s really going to be rough for me with my COPD to haul that chain and a 25 pound anchor off the bottom and onto the boat. It has to be done FAST because I’ll be by myself almost all the time and once the anchor breaks free from the bottom I’ll be adrift and need to get to the engine and tiller ASAP!

I was lucky on Nancy Dawson since the boat was equipped with a windlass to haul the anchor.Mine was a Simpson-Lawrence but looked a lot like this.


It was mounted on the bow just aft of the bowsprit. You put a winch handle in the hole on the top and cranked away. It was fairly easy though there were a few times when the wind was blowing and I had to haul the weight of the boat against the force of the wind. (A little aside: I see many sailboat boat ads that say the boat is equipped with “wenches.” not “winches.” If they really WERE equipped with wenches I bet they’d sell in no time.)

A motor. On boats like this it’s generally an outboard. A 9.9 hp is generally the maximum and I’ve seen a lot of ads for these trailer sailers that have a 5 hp outboard with them. I’m sure that would push the boat along quite well since they’re rather light not lugging around a huge heavy lead-filled keel.  My Nancy Dawson had one of those keels and she was also built like a tank. She had an 8 hp Suzuki outboard that did double duty as power for the mother ship and for the Avon dinghy, and it did quite well. I’d hope for a 9.9 simply because I believe I’d get better mileage since the engine wouldn’t be pushing so much weight you could run it at a lower throttle setting and save gas.

Almost every one of the boats advertised has sailing gear. Mast, sails, rigging, etc. That’s nice, but I don’t intend on using it. What I’d want to do is scrap the tall mast and rigging and replace it with a free-standing mast that would carry a lug sail like this…


I’d go for something even smaller than that rig. Ninety nine point nine percent of my cruising is going to be in very constricted waters like the ICW and a sail would only be used with the wind abeam, from astern, or on the quarter, and then just to be able to ease up on the outboard’s throttle. I’m done beating into the wind. If I have to go to windward ever again it will be under dead dinosaur power only. AND what I would do for a sail, at least initially, would be a polytarp contraption like this…


Hey, don’t laugh and don’t forget, I’m doing this on the cheap!

So why scrap the original mast? First, because most of my future cruising is going to be on the ICW I want to open as few bridges as possible, and there are a TON of bridges you have to have open for you when your air draft is 30 feet or higher. I’m thinking of a mast around 20 to 25 feet high in a tabernacle that I can raise and lower in a couple of minutes by myself. Also, being in a tabernacle I could lower it and support on a boom gallows so I could cover it with a boom tent to enlarge my sheltered living space while at anchor or docked.

A nice to have feature, but not an “essential” would be a Bimini cover in the cockpit.

I’m kind of on the fence as to whether a dinghy is an essential or a nice to have. Dinghies are the pickup trucks of cruising boats. They ferry people to shore when the boat is anchored and haul supplies to the anchored boat from shore. They’re also good for visiting other boats in the anchorage and for exploring little creeks where the big boat can’t go. But since I’m going to have a boat that has such shallow draft that I can simply step ashore in ankle deep water, and if I DO have to anchor out it will only be for a night or two at best so why would I need a dinghy.

But if I have a dinghy it WON’T be an inflatable, unless it’s part of the package when I buy the main boat. Inflatables have several bad features. For one, they’re targets for thieves. The damned things are prone to leak air and deflate, and there are a lot of little vandals who like to stick the tubes with something sharp just for fun. Because the primary boat is going to be so small my ideal dinghy would be something like this…


I’d also consider making a Puddle Duck Racer that could be “nested” like the dinghy above. The PDR can be rowed, handle a small outboard or sailed. There are even plans for a modular PDR…I’ve loved the concept of this boat from the first moment I laid eyes on it.


I like the idea of building it with foam and glassing it over. Lightweight, and if made modular it would fit neatly on the foredeck without disrupting the trim too much.

One thing to consider about a dinghy is to make it unique. Make it stand out from the crowd either by design or by painting it some atrocious color so that only an idiot would steal it because it would instantly be recognized as being stolen.

A rain water collection system I would consider an essential so you wouldn’t have to depend on going ashore to a marina to fill water jugs. There are umpteen million ways this could be done, of course so I won’t get into trying to list them, but this is how I did it on Nancy Dawson when I was on my nine-month cruise.

I used some of that epoxy stick I mentioned earlier and built about a two-inch high dam between the cabin and the toe rail astern of the water tank fill, leaving about a four-inch gap so water could flow through unhindered to the scuppers. When it would start to rain I’d let it go for five minutes or so to rinse off the cabin top and the decks. Then I’d plug the gap with a dish towel and open the water tank fill. In a good hard downpour I could fill that 35-gallon tank in about five minutes. During the whole cruise I probably didn’t go ashore for water more than three or four times.

Compass? Most boats will come with one screwed into a bulkhead, but even if there isn’t one on the boat do you think it’s vital when you’re cruising in waters like this…


 If you can’t figure out which way north and south are, here, you shouldn’t be out in a boat in the first place. Which reminds me of a story. (LOTS of things remind me of a story.) Back in ’68, shortly after my ex wife an I moved to Fort Lauderdale I was driving a cab while looking for another job. One afternoon I was sitting outside one of the hotels on the beach waiting for a fare when a car pulled up beside me and asked how to get to such and such a place. I said, “Go north for about…”

“Which way is north?” the tourist interrupted.

Jesus fucking Christ nailed to a stick. Have you ever seen a fucking map of the United States in your entire life? We’re sitting right on the edge of the whole damned continent. Another hundred feet or so and we’d be in the damned Atlantic Ocean and you have to ask which way north is?

Anyway, I consider a pair of binoculars to be an essential item. You need it to pick out crucial buoys and day markers when you approach inlets with a profusion of markers.

That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head right now so I’ll stop. Things that I think are nice to have but non-essential gear will be dealt with later.

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Getting Around

One of the first entries I posted on this blog was way back in April, 2009.


None of that has really changed, of course, but thinking about living on a boat on the hook again has the whole dinghy situation churning around in my head. Sitting on the back porch of Dos Palmas Hotel in Bocas del Toro you look out at the Bocas Marina and the anchorage.


Every one of those boats has an inflatable dinghy with as big a motor on it as it can possibly handle. After sailing to Panama at what was probably an average speed of around five miles an hour now that they’ve arrived they have to zip around as fast as they possibly can while the natives, descendents of those who lived here before Columbus arrived in 1502, have a more sedate manner of getting around.


I’d be lying to you if I said I hadn’t loved my semi-rigid inflatable when I was on my nine-month tour of Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. I enjoyed zipping around in it, the wind ruffling my hair. But times and ideas change.

My first inclination for a dinghy would be one of my favorite designs ever…A Puddle Duck Racer. http://www.pdracer.com/ I’ve written about these so many times in the past that I won’t elaborate on just why they appeal to me.

Here are a few reasons why I think one would be an excellent dinghy.

  • No asshole is going to punch a hole in one like often happens with inflatables.
  • You can row one whereas rowing an inflatable can be a exercise in frustration, especially if you have to row into a headwind.
  • You can sail a PDR. Ive seen, on line, sailing kits for inflatables, but I’m not so sure how well they’d work.
  • You can even put an electric trolling motor or a very small gas outboard on one, too.
  • The thing is so ugly that theft wouldn’t be a worry. Why? Well, because it would most likely be the only PDR around and instantly recognizable as stolen if you weren’t in it.

And the downside of a PDR?

Unless you’re going to tow it everywhere, there’s really no place to easily stow it on board a 23-foot boat with a 6-1/2-foot beam since the PDR has a 4-foot beam. There’s nothing wrong with towing a dinghy. I towed mine for, literally, hundreds of miles without incident.

They’re fairly heavy. I’d be living at anchor in a place with a tidal range of around 19 feet. That means that sometimes when I’d want to get ashore I’d be afloat, but when I’d be ready to return home both boats would be high and dry, or there would be a lot of sand to drag the PDR over to get to enough water to get it to float again. An inflatable would be even worse.

So, what’s the solution? Is there one? I think so. It would be in the form of what is known as a one-sheet boat. That’s one that is made from a single sheet of plywood. Made from 1/4-inch ply one would weigh around 35 lbs. It, too, would be something that wouldn’t be too attractive to thieves, especially if you painted it some garish colors. Here are a couple of pictures to show you what people have concocted with just a single sheet of plywood.


And this from the designer of the boat above: http://koti.kapsi.fi/hvartial/oss_sam/oss_sam.htm


Here’s all you need to build one of those: http://www.simplicityboats.com/minisharpie.html

If you find those interesting just Google “One sheet boats” and in the images section there are hundreds to look at.



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The Liveaboard Simulator redux

Recently I came across a blog about a young couple who bought a boat to live on and sail around the world. They’re living on it, the” sail around the world” part is yet to be started. I’ve wasted hours of my time when I should have been working on my new book reading their blog http://ventureminimalists.wordpress.com/ but it’s certainly been entertaining. And reading about their struggles with the new life of living aboard a boat I’m sure they would have been better prepared had they read my June 2009 post “The Liveaboard Simulator.” Hey, t.v. networks have re-runs…why shouldn’t I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meteor Fizzle in Boquerón

Next to man-made fireworks I like celestial ones, too. Early this morning (Jan 4) there was supposed to be a super meteor shower from 2 a.m. on. The Quadrantids shower was hyped up to have upwards of 80 to 100 “shooting stars” per hour. I set my alarm for 2:30 hoping to see some pyrotechnics to possibly rival what the locals put up on Christmas and New Years Eves.  Well, it was a washout here, if, indeed, anyone could have seen them in Panama to begin with. It was heavily overcast with clouds and only three or four stars were visible through tiny holes in the sky. Oh, well.

I’ve seen one before. Often when I tell people about my single-handed cruise on my beloved “Nancy Dawson” back in 1992 people ask, “Don’t you wish you’d had someone with you?” Well, the answer, for the most part is “Not always, but there were some events it would have been nice to share with someone.”

One of those times was when I was anchored out off the tiny island of Ranguana Caye at the edge of the reef in Belize. It was a lovely, isolated spot and everything a tropical islet is supposed to be. Small, at the edge of a coral barrier reef with a long line of breaking surf off to seaward, and covered with dozens of coconut palms. I was anchored in about 7 feet of crystal clear water on the leeward side of the island. A gentleman I’d met in the small town of Placencia owned the island and was building three tiny cabins that he hoped would earn him his fortune renting them out to dive tourists. He and a couple of helpers would come out during the week to work on the cabins but most of the week I spent there I was by myself.

One night I was lying out in my hammock that I’d strung up between the mast and the fore stay. I had finished off the last of a righteous bud I’d bought a week before from “Dancing Sam the Rasta Man” who had a small house beside the town’s famous “sidewalk.” I reclined there in my hammock miles and miles from the nearest artificial light. There was no moon, even. Just this wonderful canopy of a gajillion stars in the sky above. Marcia Ball, Doctor John and the Neville Brothers drifted up from the boom box in the cabin below.

And then the light show began, as if just for me. It was early August and the earth was moving through the Perseids belt. Shooting stars blazed all across the sky. For the next couple of hours not a minute went by without at least two or three and often dozens of meteor trails shooting across the heavens. And when I’d look over the side of the boat long luminescent trails ran in all directions as medium-sized fish chased little fish and big fish chased the medium-sized ones all intent on a fresh sushi night cap. THAT’S when I wish I’d had someone along to share the moment with.


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