02/11/2013, Marathon (still)
Still in Marathon. Turns out that my TWIC (some sort of clearance card required to keep my Coast Guard Masters License)(Just another way to get money from us) is in Key West and I have to go there to pick it up. As a government office they are only open Tues and Weds from 8-12. No kidding, that's their entire weekly schedule. I had to pay for another several days to wait for them to be open. Silly TWIC card renewal is costing me over $200.00. And I don't even have it yet.
Wednesday, I am heading up the Keys to Cotton Key or Tarpon Basin. I may have to wait there for a few days for a cold front to pass, then I will go to Key Largo and points North. Sadly, I'm done with the Keys...probably forever. Yet another example of a great cruising area that I am 40 years too late for. 30-40 years ago their were plenty of nice anchorages with lots of shore access, cool things to do and, I am sure, much cleaner water. Not anymore.
I hope to sneak away with at least some of my cruising kitty intact. And I hope that there will be no serious cold fronts until I can get to a decent anchorage that won't cost me 20-30 dollars a day.
I sure sound bitter. Actually I'm not. I usually look at this as a learning experience and just shrug my shoulders and move on. I've read so much that is negative about Florida and this year I thought I would give it a try. In 2 1/2 months, it has cost me over $2400.00 and I never even spent one night at a dock. That averages out to only about $15,000.00 a year, but considering that I anchor almost always, that is a lot of money. In the Bahamas I usually spend $2,000-3,000 for 6 months of beautiful cruising. Spend a few nights here and there tied to a pier, eat out way too much, swim, dive, and fish all the time, and am I surrounded by friendly people that want me there and are happy to see me. Great weather and very clear water everywhere. And I never see or have to worry about the authorities messing with me.
This year in Florida, I have met so many other cruisers that swear they will never come to Florida again. They all have bad stories to tell about their time in Florida. I've been hearing that from so many different sources for several years now, and I wanted to give it a look for myself to see if its true.
Next year, I will sail from Jacksonville down to Lake Worth on the ocean, and then cross over to the Bahamas.
What is a Sailor?
Am I a sailor?
I have a sailboat. I sail it regularly and have sailed thousands of miles on the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean.
I enjoy Sailing. I think it is one of the only pure and beautiful things left on this tired old Earth. I can tie several knots, bends, and hitches. Quickly and easily...in the dark if necessary. I can splice and eye in three strand, and double braid. I can do a long and short splice. I have rigged several different types of sailboats for ocean work (including two of my own). I have a 100 Ton Masters Ticket from the US Coast Guard. I've delivered Yachts ranging in size from 24' to 68' on both coasts and in every conceivable condition (thank you Mr. Weatherman). I'm somewhat superstitious, like all sailors.
But does that make me a sailor?
Honestly, I don't think so.
A sailor is born as a sailor. It isn't something to get used to, or that you can learn to like. I often tell people to try sailing. If they are sailors, they will have no choice in the matter. I never have hopes for anyone on that score because of that very fact. Once they sail, they're hooked and can't do a single thing about it. If they're sailors.
On one of my deliveries on the Pacific, we waited for a favorable weather window before setting out and the weatherman was wrong. Very wrong. The seas were so high and steep that they actually submerged the entire boat routinely. Just a mast sticking out of the water. The owner was with me but securely tied into a bunk locked down below. I didn't see him for two days of hand steering through truly incredible conditions. The water temperature was about 48 or 50 degrees. The maximum wind was steady at 68 knots. I can't even comprehend it now, even though I sailed through it. If the Coast Guard had showed up I would maybe have just gotten off the boat. If that was even possible with those seas.
We finally made Port in the late morning after the storm abated somewhat. I dropped the anchor and slept the sleep of the dead for about 14 hours. When I woke up, I started checking the weather, getting ready to go out again the next morning. The owner was incredulous...
"You're not seriously thinking of going back out there?"
"Actually....Yeah. The weather seems to have settled down and conditions seem OK."
"There is no way I am ever setting foot on a sailboat again. I'm done, finished. I don't care if it sinks right where it sits."
I was amazed that I was so eager to go sailing again as I had a much worse experience than he did.
But I did. I looked forward to going back on the ocean almost immediately after getting the crap kicked out of me. It got me thinking,
As absurd as it sounds, our next leg was to round Cape Arguello and Point Conception on the way to Los Angeles. Both of which are reported to be really rough sea areas and I wanted to go through there and successfully round both points.
By the way. I didn't have time or the inclination to be scared during those two days. I was busy and my mind was constantly working to solve the problem of keeping the boat upright, afloat, and undamaged. Even now I'm not scared as I think about it. It feels like I was trying to solve a difficult math problem or something while the storm raged around and over me. Not life threatening or scarey, but mentally picturing the keel, mast, rudder, rigging, and the constantly changing wave forms, how they would all interact with each other, and then deciding what angle to meet the waves, how much rudder, how much sail (ended up under bare poles), and with that I had to mentally picture the entire boat and decide if anything could endanger us further like flogging sails, lines in the water, the dinghy, weak rigging etc. It was a real mental exercise, all in pitch blackness, screaming winds, and huge waves constantly breaking over me.
I made some mistakes early on, and was immediately knocked flat by the breaking seas. Our decks were washed clean of everything that wasn't bolted down; gas and water cans, bikes, cushions...everything. Once I took a sea too direct on the bow and we literally flew out of the back of the curling wave. Fully airborne, it felt like we dropped 15 feet back into the trough with a tremendous splash. Too spooky, I didn't do that again.
But eventually I got it figured out, what angle to meet the roaring wave, how much rudder to make that happen, etc. and we just trundled along while Neptune pounded the crap out of us. I kept the boat basically upright and the wind pressure on the mast alone was enough to keep us moving at hull speed or more when we reached the tops of the waves. It was relatively quiet in the troughs as the huge waves then blocked a lot of the wind even from hitting the mast. Sailboats are incredibly tough. You can't imagine the pounding they will take. Truly astounding. I took the waves on the starboard bow for 60-70 miles and then turned on the back of a wave to start taking them on the stern quarter. Those were the only two places I could allow the wave to hit us and I had to be precise about it. If one of those waves hit us too much on the beam it would have rolled us instantly over and over. On the other hand too direct a hit on the bow would have probably pitch-poled us backward or again I would fly out the back of the wave and be airborne. That drop to the trough was way too scarey.
I went for a walk to muddle it over in my mind. I came to the conclusion that day that I was indeed a sailor. And frankly, I don't feel as if I have any say in the matter.
Yeah, I guess I'm a sailor.
Good thing I enjoy it.
Imagine being a carpenter that hates wood.
Okay, maybe this is funny, maybe not.
I can't really decide.
I am currently in the huge mooring field at marathon. Hundreds of boats, so, hundreds of personalities. There is also a marina wall that you can tie up to for $13.25 a foot per month or something like that.
It's for the "Gold Platers".
One of the Gold Platers has these two rat dogs that yip and yap all the time. Very annoying, and the owner seems immune to it as he lets it go on continually. Two of them, yip yip, yap yap, non-stop.
They are the kind of fluffy dog that you could stomp on with one foot each and make a nice pair of slippers out of them. You know the type.
Well, I have this silent (never makes a noise) wrinkly little Shar-pei puppy with an odd aversion to anyone seeing her go poop.
Trust me, this rather odd fact fits in with the story later.
In the two years I have had her, I have maybe seen her poop three times. No kidding. I have to let her temporarily off her leash so that she can go hide in the bushes and do her business. I guess she's shy or something. Whatever.
So there we are, she is in the bushes doing her thing, while I wait patiently in the grass nearby, and what does she find?
A stray cat.
Kind of a pschyo cat as it turns out.
As soon as it sees PuBu, it instantly goes tearing out of the bushes, across the parking lot, and across the pier. It has kind of an insane look on its face as though it thinks it's escaping from instant death by Shar-Pei or something.
Anyway, for some reason it decides to jump on the nearest boat for protection, and it chooses...you guessed it...the rat dog boat.
It probably wasn't thinking clearly. PuBu sometimes has that effect on things.
The owner of the rat dog boat was down in the cabin, lying down, reading. But, fool that he was, he had left his companionway hatch slid completely open.
I'm sure that the cat intended to land on the top of the cabin, but once in the air it realized that the top was open. Extending all its claws and legs didn't help slow it down that much as far as I could see. It went down out of sight with claws extended.
Kind of picturesque actually. It resembled one of those flying squirrels, except the panicked cat couldn't fly or even glide. It just sort of plummeted down through the hatch and out of sight.
I'm not sure if it landed directly on the guy reading his magazine or hit the two rat dogs while they lay on the settee next to him, but It didn't really matter because things started happening really fast about then and I'm sure everyone got involved.
Lots of shocked yelling, and of course rat dog yip yapping, and tearing around inside the cabin. The cat was mostly quiet.
Probably shock I'd guess.
The boat was rocking back and forth fairly violently and it seemed to go on for quite a while.
PuBu came meekly back to me and we turned and sauntered away as innocent as you please in the opposite direction.
I have no idea how it turned out.
I hope the cat was OK.
Other than the psycho look on its face, it seemed like a nice cat.
If you like cats.
02/03/2013, Nazi Florida
I am at a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor. That is actually big news. I have not been at a mooring ball in several years. Maybe more than several. I almost always anchor, but this time I decided to see some of Nazi Florida instead of the Bahamas, Mexico, or the Caribbean. So far that decision has cost me an extra $800.00. I have been forced by the always polite local constabulary to register both my sailboat and dinghy. My sailboat got through with little cost, but they really got me on my little dinghy. They made me pay sales tax on it from when I bought it several years ago. I tried to explain that is was several years old, but NOOO I had to pay hundreds of dollars in sales tax on something I didn't buy here, or in the current year, at an exorbitant rate, and I am now registered in a State that I don't live in. Go figure! Nazi Florida has a law that says "If you are here for more than 90 days-everything you own that is here has to be registered with the state tax collector. Nazi Florida-then they made me buy $150.00 worth of gear for my dinghy as I have a 4 HP engine on it and they do not honor Documented vessel tenders. Horn, flares, fire extinguisher, throwable (I'm alone, who am I going to throw it to?), etc. etc. etc.
Now I am in a huge mooring field paying $120.00 a week (1 week only thanks). Otherwise I have to pay $22.00 a day to go to shore for the tiny anchorage here. The mooring field is the lesser of two evils. Lots of boaters here, so it is a real festive atmosphere. Actually a lot of fun so far. All the rules in Florida have my skin constantly crawling. I won't be back. I did it once and that will be enough. The rules really take a lot of the fun out of something that is supposed to be based on freedom. I tried to go to the Everglades, just to see it, but I only lasted less than 12 hours. 38 pages of rules. I wanted to go to the Dry Tortugas but finally gave up on that idea (48 pages of rules) and the weather wouldn't cooperate.
Next season I will go somewhere where freedom still exists and I get to spend my $800.00 on fun things.
The weather has been great and the sailing has been good too. If it wasn't for officialdom, I would be having a great time. Florida was probably a great place twenty years ago.
Back to the Mooring Ball.
12/28/2012, Bimini Basin
Currently anchored in Bimini Basin on the West Coast of Florida. Very nice anchorage to get things done and hang out for a week or two. Lots of services close by, and a free dinghy dock, and a park for walking the dog. I had a great Christmas with some cruising friends and I hope you did too.
I wrote about bottom paints a while ago. Here is the rest of the story, how to get your boat ready for the paint.
The properly finished bottom paint job will be about 3 inches above the water when the boat is sitting at anchor or the pier. To properly do this, you will need to probably get wet. Before that though, fill all fuel and water tanks, bring aboard all stores, supplies, spares, parts, bikes, dinghy, generator, sails, computers, charts, books, etc. etc. etc. for an extended trip, and then have four of your friends come aboard and station themselves around the boat. It is said that the average cruiser brings aboard 2,000 lbs of gear, food, water, etc. Each person. This will definitely affect the waterline. The designer and manufacturer really don't know how much stuff you will have aboard, and they can only make a best guess at the waterline you will need. It's your job to actually mark your waterline yourself when "cruise ready".
Now get a small ruler (1' is plenty) and a marker that won't easily wash off. A dull pencil actually works pretty well for this. On a very calm day get in the water next to your boat (may be able to do this from the dinghy with help). Maybe. Be sure there are no ripples to mess up your measuring. Make a mark, every few inches, 3" up from the actual water all the way around the boat. Connect the dots (marks). This is the line you have to paint up to when you paint the bottom. If you find you are down by the bow or stern from the manufacturers line, you may have to shift stores or supplies to get everything level and square. Don't leave the boat stern low or bow low or heeled one way or the other. In my boat, I had to place all my extra water, fuel, and all canned goods on the port side to compensate for the 5 batteries (4-27s, 1-24) on the starboard side or it would have been permanently heeled to starboard a few degrees. Also, with the dinghy on the davits (on the ICW, not at sea), I was stern low, so I moved all the spare chain, rodes, and anchors to the anchor locker forward. Now the boat is balanced and my waterline looks symetric all the way around.
You don't want your bottom paint to stop just at the water level as the constant ripples around your boat will leave you with a green furry circle just at the waterline, above your bottom paint, all the way around the boat which is very ugly and will have to constantly be cleaned off. Your bottom paint needs to be 3" or so above the actual waterline to prevent this. Your boot stripe can be then painted above this new and correct waterline and it will stay clean.
You may be amazed to see that you have lost a lot or all of your manufacturers boot stripe. This is typical and it will have to be repainted at its correct position later. Try to keep your new waterline parallel to the manufacturers waterline (as mentioned ablove).
Most of us also use that last bit of paint in the can to paint an extra layer just at the waterline all the way around the boat and also the rudder. The paint gets washed off there rather guickly too.
Last but not least are the metal parts. Interlux made an excellent spray for these parts. Everything but the face of the depth sounder and the paddle for the knotmeter needs to be sprayed. I even spray up into all my thru-hulls as well (after removing all the wads of anti-insect screen I shoved up there when I stored it).
With two coats of ablative bottom paint, an extra layer at the waterline and on the rudder, you are ready for probably three years of cruising before it has all worn off and you have to do it all over again.
Make sure your thru hulls are all working properly and have lanolin on the moving parts and you are ready to splash her.
Oh, and don't forget to put your knotmeter paddlewheel back in. Been there, done that.
Work work work.
12/14/2012, La Belle, FLorida
People often ask me what I do all day on the boat and "Don't you get bored?" Actually, right now, I'm beat.
My boat sat on the hard in Southern Florida during the Hurricane season.
It took me two days of constant hard work to first get it basically cleaned and all the mold and dirt removed.
Then, I had to rebuild my rudder skeg and mount the new skeg shoe and fair it in (two days). I polished all the topsides, scrubbed and painted the entire bottom and centerboard (another day) . Disassembled all thru hulls and cleaned and lubricated them (one day).
Pulled the prop shaft out and cleaned and painted my coupler, replaced the cutlass bearing, shaft log hose and repacked all stuffing boxes and put everything back together (two days).
I wire brushed and painted my engine, cleaned my air intake, rebuilt the water pump, replaced the ignition system, and lubricated everything I could think of (3 days). Emptied and cleaned all lockers, cabinets, drawers, and cupboards and washed all the dishes and silverware and packed everything back and ready for travel on the ocean (one day).
This is a partial list. I spent 11 days total getting everything ready.
I would literally start at sunriise and finish well after sunset. One day I had breakfast finally at 9PM. I usually stopped for one meal each day (late afternoon). I would drop into bed aching and tired and wake up aching and tired.
Once the boat was in the water, I had to hoist all the sails (main, jib, staysail), run all the running rigging through the various blocks and pulleys, check all the nav lights and electronics, and clean and prepare the dinghy (mount my new 4hp long shaft).
There is still a ton of work to do, but I took yesterday off.
I'm currently tied to a free dock in the wonderful town of La Belle, Florida where I have free water and electricity as well as the free dock for three days. Pretty cool.
The rest of the work (finishing teak, waxing the boat, installing new portlights, etc., will be done a little at a time as I travel.
Ahhh the simple life of a cruiser. Nothing but sun, beaches, and girls in bikinis.