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HERMES WANDERINGS
The ongoing education of the much updated, Pearson 33, Double-Headed, Sloop-Rigged Sailing Vessel "HERMES", her crew, PuBu the Blue Shar-Pei, and especially, her Captain
Careers
Capt Don Q
04/11/2013, Back in New York

I've almost never told this story, but it shaped my entire life. For the good and bad, like most things.
When I was in college, I somehow become in charge of the recreation department. Basically that meant I was supposed to think up cool methods of recreation, or get speakers that specialized in recreational activities. At the time I was interested in SCUBA Diving (even though I had never been) and one day as I was looking through the pamphlets of various possible activities/speakers for us to bring to the school, I noticed that Stan Waterman was available for a decent price as a speaker. He was one of the best and most famous underwater photographers of my generation and I thought he would be cool to listen to, so I booked him.
He arrived looking like somewhat of a bookworm, tall, sunburned hair, very thin and he had a perpetual smile like he knew some secret that the rest of us didn't. While waiting in our "green room" for his presentation, I got a chance to talk with him for a while one on one. He was actually a very intelligent and soft spoken guy.

However he had one of the most unique outlooks on life I have ever heard.

At the time I was studying to be an Engineer. It was a good paying stable job, with lots of openings at that time so the probability of finding work after graduation was good. Everyone applauded my decision and commented on how level-headed I was being about my future.

My 30 minute talk with Stan derailed the entire thing.

Stan was probably in his sixties by the time I met him and retiring was something that he never even considered. He was doing what he loved and why should he stop? He found it very humorous that people paid him good money to do something that he would have been willing to pay them to let him do.
He told me
"When I was young I was constantly trying to raise money for dive and camera equipment. Constantly trying to find ways to get to the locations with gorgeous coral reefs and beautiful photographic opportunities. Spent every dime on it and sometimes went without food just to pursue my photographic endeavors. Then I found out that I could sell my pictures to various magazines and was amazed when they actually paid me for them. I couldn't believe it. As I became more well known I was actually paid to go to exotic locations to shoot various events and coral reefs. At first I was actually in shock over it. Why would someone pay me to do the thing I loved so much? It was a life changing revelation for me and I've had a great life because of it. Do you want to know the secret of a happy life? Find something you really love doing and then find a way to get people to pay you to do it. Simple. It doesn't matter what it is. People get paid to snow ski, scuba dive, drive cars, motorcycles, boats, fly airplanes, write, work in research labs, even film exotic coral reefs...you name it. You can get paid to do anything you can think of in this world. That's the secret to happiness."

At first I didn't really believe him. It wasn't possible to get paid to do fun things. We all had to get a job and work hard and pay our bills until we retire, right?

Wrong.

I became an engineer right out of college. I was stuck behind a desk for 50-60 hours a week and basically had very little life.
I lasted one year.
I went back to school to pursue some other career but always in the back of my mind, I remembered that little talk with Stan. Finally after four or five different majors in college, I decided to take some time off and try to get a direction in my life. I was starting to get an inkling that there was more than one way to live your life successfully and happily.
One day I sat down and decided that I was going to sort out this whole career thing in my mind. Using Stan's formula, I thought about what it was I really liked to do. I came up with :
"Hang Gliding" of all things. I really loved to fly my hang glider. Not such a great career prospect to start out with, but I figured, 'If Stan can make a good life out of taking fish pictures, maybe, I can find a way to do the same with my Hang Glider.'
Then I got my big break. While flying (while on vacation from a dead end job) at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, the owner was watching me answer questions from some newer pilots. I didn't know it at the time, but he had just lost his head instructor and he needed another. He started quizzing me and the next thing I knew I was running his program and getting paid to fly my hang glider every day.
No kidding, that was my job. Fly hang gliders and teach people about the sport.
I was getting paid and I was on my way.
Long story short, I eventually moved to Los Angeles, opened a large flight school with up to 12 employees, and in one four day period working on a Hollywood movie I made $43,000.00. For flying my Hang Glider!
I bought a large glider that carried two people and gave rides at $150.00 each. I gave over 3200 rides in ten years and taught literally hundreds and hundreds of people how to fly. I was invited to Japan to fly as a manufacturer representative for 35 days all expenses paid. Flights, food, housing, hang gliders, even clothing was included. I flew all over at every exotic location possible and I had a blast. It was one of those times where you need to pinch yourself to be sure it is real.
Don't get me wrong, though. I did a lot of hard and sometimes dangerous scary work. I did things that, in cold blood I wouldn't care to try and repeat. I was sucked up into a severe thunderstorm once and thought I was a dead man. I crashed several times while flying untried or new equipment as a test pilot. But, I was never seriously injured and I was living. Really living. There was nowhere else I would have rather been. I was having fun and I was making good money.

Eventually I matured to the next level and realized that life for me needed to be a journey. I moved on from Hang Gliding and got into Sailing.
By now I had it figured out.

I know that people will pay me to write about my experiences. I know that they will pay me to teach them how to sail, and how to set up their boats for cruising. As a Coast Guard Captain I regularly get paid well to deliver a large Yacht safely to it's destination. I get paid for doing lots of things related to Sailing and I'm having a great time.

My new interest pays for itself. As it should.

I have many friends that hate their jobs and can't wait to retire so they can really start living. I truly cannot imagine what retirement is. I don't want to do anything else, and I never want to sit at home and do nothing no matter how old I am. How boring. I can't imagine it.

I don't know what I'm going to do next.

Maybe I'll sail the rest of my life.

I do know that I'll have fun though. And get paid for it somehow!

Thanks Stan.

Hurricane Season
Capt Don Q
04/02/2013, Green Cove Springs

Hermes is safely on the hard again. Waiting out another hurricane season while I raise money for another season of cruising. I am already looking forward to the Bahamas or Mexico this Fall. When the boat was hauled I was very happy to see that my rudder repair looked perfect. Yaaay!
One curious note: When I painted the bottom last Fall, I ran out of paint just as I was finishing. I had a little left to paint in various areas and my neighbor in the yard offered some paint from the same manufacturer (Interlux) that seemed almost the same color. The color ended up actually being a little darker when it dried, but it was very close. I put some on the rudder, keel and at the bow.
When I hauled the boat, I had an opportunity to compare the results because of the slight difference in color and was amazed to see that both paints worked well, but the borrowed paint was shiny clean. No stains, slime, or anything. It looked like I had just applied it. Maybe even more polished and shiny. The other paint was OK, but it had a slight brown stain and some slime growth that had to be pressure washed off. I had scrubbed the entire bottom once during the season with SCUBA gear.
I guess that I will be using the other paint from now on (If I can justify the extra $65.00).
My primary paint was Interlux Micron CSC (OK, but brown stained and slimy $195.00 gal))
The borrowed paint was Interlux Micron 66 and it was clean and shiny (way more expensive $259.00 gal) at Jamestown Distributors.
Decisions. decisions.

I guess, like everything else, You get what you pay for.

Heading North
Capt Don
03/14/2013, Manatee Pocket, Florida

Well, it looks like Spring has Sprung up North. I have started the long trek back up there for the Summer. I should be six days travel on the water. Mostly on the ICW as the Ocean looks mean for the next several days. Lots of North Winds (on the nose) with 14 foot seas. Oh well, motor-sailing will have to do. I haven't used my engine very much again this year, so it will probably be good to run it for a while. I know they hate to sit and never get used.
As much as I hate to say it, Florida was a bust this year. I guess I have to be added to the burgeoning list of sailors that never intend to come back here for any length of time.

Next year, I will head offshore to the Bahamas, Mexico, or some other free, fun, place.
Too bad. The expense of cruising here is bad enough, but the Nazi police presence, ubiquitous mooring fields popping up everywhere, and general bad attitude towards cruisers is definitely too much for me.

I don't have any of the true horror stories of some of my sailing compatriots, but I still had quite an expensive and uncomfortable time in what are now heavily polluted and very murky waters. I rarely saw the bottom and even seeing my rudder or keel was a very rare occurrence. Anchorages are really not that good, often crowded with homeless derelict boats, and getting to shore is either uncomfortable, or incredibly expensive.
Diving and fishing, were basically non existent as you need to travel quite a ways (several miles) offshore usually to do either. I caught three fish this year and felt uneasy about eating something from these polluted waters.
I didn't travel the three to seven miles offshore looking for clearer waters for diving of fishing.

Cruising is supposed to be fun.

It is in other areas.

03/17/2013 | Brian McB
Does this mean you're bringing Hermes all the way back up?
Boat Batteries
Capt Don Q.
03/06/2013, North Lake Worth

Batteries
Basic Rules of Thumb:
1) Wet Cell Batteries Work Best For Cruisers
2) Four group 27 or two group 4D with one group 24 for starting is a good basic cruising system
3) 12 volt batteries function between 12.9 Volts (Charged) and 12.0 volts (Dead Battery)
4) We can only use ½ of Amps labeled on battery (100 amp battery gives us 50 usable amps)
5) Reasonably expect 4 years out of your batteries if you cruise 6 months a year. After that they deteriorate slowly.
6) Don't mix new an old batteries.
7) Battery voltage and amp meters should be mounted to monitor battery voltage and amps in and out if you really want to know whats going on with them.
8) Solar and wind is best way to charge batteries (solar-main system, wind-backup)(using the engine is very inefficient.
9) All charging regulators on wind and solar should be 3 bank systems. One for each bank.
10) You will need a small generator to run a 30 amp 3 bank battery charger for no wind cloudy days. I use a Honda (small and quiet).
11) We only get 60% of all amps we try to put back into battery (30 amp charger gives us 18 amps per hour into our batteries).
12) Use formula Amps=Watts/Volts to determine total daily usage of all electrical items aboard. Size your Battery Banks accordingly.
13) Hook your Alternator to a place where it cannot be disconnected by switches or a guest. My alternator wire is hooked directly to battery one (group 24). I then use the "Off, One Two, All" Switch on all to charge the other batteries when the engine is running.

I have had a lot of trouble finding good information on batteries. So many people are ignorant as to how they actually work that it took me years to figure out how to live with them powering my boat. First interesting fact. We live on 12 volt battery systems. All our pumps, lights, radios, etc are 12 volt usually. However, a 12 volt battery is dead at 12 volts. Yep, for all intents and purposes, dead.
Most charging systems run at between 13.5 and 14.2 volts, however after the charging system is unhooked the battery will revert to around 13 volts or the high 12's (12.8 or 12.9). We actually only have "1" volt of power to use for running our boats and then the battery is dead. At 12.9 the battery is fully charged and at 12.0 volts it is dead. That's how it works.
On my boat I have a meter hooked to my battery banks (3) and I can tell the state of each bank by flipping a switch and reading by its voltage.
There are three basic types of batteries, AGM, Gel, and Wet Cell. Agm and Gell batteries can be mounted at any angle and will not leak acid into your boat, but they charge so slowly and are so incredibly expensive, that they are usually not so good for the average cruiser. Most of us opt for the traditional wet cell.

Cruisers use deep cycle batteries for house batteries as they are designed to put out some power for a long period, as opposed to starting batteries that are designed to put out a lot of power for a short period. Starting batteries will not last if used as a deep cycle battery and deep cycle batteries will be damaged if used as starting batteries. You can do it, but it will seriously shorten the life of the battery.
Speaking of which. A typical battery is designed for 300-500 cycles of charging and discharging. Damaging them by overcharging or running them below 12 volts repeatedly will drastically reduce that number. We can expect a set of batteries to last 3-4 years when cruising 6 months a year. Several people claim up to ten years from a set of batteries. They are probably not full time cruisers, and do not recycle their batteries completely every day. The fourth year is usually dicey. The batteries go through a recharge cycle every day for 180 days a year, so four years is over 700 cycles. Four years from a battery is pretty good at that rate.
Our batteries usually spend most of their life between 12.3 and 12.8 volts. We usually don't run them so low that we damage them, and rarely get to recharge them fully up to 13 volts. A battery that is low say 12.1 volts will accept a lot of amps when first hooked up to a charge source, 50 amps or more, but as it gets near a full charge, the rate at which it will accept amps decreases, drops to 15 amps or so and then when it gets close to a full charge say 12.6 volts, it will only accept a few amps at a time say 2 or 3 amps. Because of this, it is easy to bring a battery from 12 volts up to 12.5 or 12.6, but then things slow down and as it gets closer and closer to full charge it slows down considerably. Sometime when you have to run your engine for a full day of travel in light winds or on the ICW, watch your amp meter on your alternator, you will see it drop consistently as the batteries become fully charged. It may start out putting out 50 or 60 amps, but several hours later it may be down to 15-20 amps and then much later it may be down to 4-5 amps. As the batteries get closer to full charge they accept lower and lower amperage. We rarely have the luxury to wait for a full charge, it just takes too long. So, our batteries are usually 80-85% charged at best (12.7 volts) and we should be careful to not allow them to get below 12.1 volts at the bottom end of the scale. As you can see, we cruisers have .6 volts to use for our daily electrical needs usually.
Another interesting fact. The amount of power to run a certain fixture, say a pump is a fixed number. That means that volts times amps equals watts is a constant formula W= V x A (P=VxI) or Amps (our important unit of measure)= watts/volts. So if a certain pump takes 100 watts to run at 12.9 volts (charged battery) it will use 7.75 Amps when running. However if your voltage is low, say 12.1 the wattage for the ump remains constant and your Amps needed will shoot up to 8.26. At 10 volts (severely drained battery) that same pump will draw 10.0 amps! As the batteries get low, they drop faster and faster. You should always figure your electrical usage at the rated Wattage for the fixture and use the number "12.5" for voltage when figuring how many amps you will need for a given electrical fixture.
There are a few sizes of wet cells, but the most common sizes used are the group 27 and the 4D, there are other sizes, and even 6 volt golf cart batteries are used by some, but these are the cheapest and most common. A typical group 27 battery is $100.00 and a good 4D is $170.00. The group 27 is rated at 100 amps and the 4D is rated at 200 amps. The 4d is a little bigger in size than two group 27's but at less than twice the price. 2 4D batteries give you over 400 amp hours for $340.00 and four 27's give you 400 amps for $400.00.
I currently have 4 group 27's and am switching to 2 4D's the next time I change batteries. The reasons are these. One of my four 27's went bad and pulled the entire system down. As they are hooked together in two banks, I had a tough time determining which one was bad, and what exactly was happening. That one bad battery sucked up all the charging amps I couldn't get a proper charge for the system with my 3 bank chargers. The regulators sensed the low battery and sent most incoming amps to it instead of the other banks. Also I will save money with the 4Ds and I think I will actually get more life and amperage out of them. Win win win. They're just heavy to move around. Fortunately I don't move them often (once every four years or so).
With just two batteries I will always know if one goes bad and which one it is. Kiss.
I also like wet cells because I can add water if it gets low. I will never buy "maintenance free" batteries again. When the fluid gets low, you lose the battery and can do very little about it. I like to be able to fix the things on my boat if possible and keep them running at their peak efficiency if possible.
The average 30 to 40 footer with refrigeration will usually do nicely with 4 group 27's and a group 24 starting battery or 2 4d's and a group 24 starting battery. Provided, you 1) conserve electricity as a matter of course and 2) keep your refrigerator as low as possible and still keep food fresh and 3) use led bulbs everywhere. Inside and out. Especially the anchor light and 4) have a good recharge system of solar and wind generators
I replaced every bulb on my boat with good cheap bulbs from mastlight.com and I highly recommend them. I kept all original fixtures, and just replaced the bulbs. My draw from bulbs now is negligible. I used to kill an entire battery just from running my anchor light for one night! Now I could run it for months on a single battery.
You will also need to be aware of two critical facts when figuring your battery use. 1) You will only get to use half of the available amps from your batteries. A 400 amp system will give you 200 usable amps when new. That's it.
Added to that is the fact that almost half of the amperage sent to your batteries from your chargers is also lost and you can figure that a 30 amp charger will only give you 16 to 20 amps of actual charging input. You have to remember that. It is a very inefficient system in that respect.
To charge a wet cell you send it power from various sources. Engine driven alternator, battery charger driven by small generator, wind generator, and solar being the typical choices when at anchor. Solar is by far the best. Dependable and quiet with virtually no maintenance (wash down periodically). Everything else is noisy, expensive, greasy, and noisy. Oh, and did I mention noisy? Solar will never ruin a pristine morning at anchor drinking your cup of coffee. All the others will certainly detract from the experience.
So after doing all the math of a typical week of living aboard and factoring every bit of electricity I use, I came up with the figure of 75 amps a day of needed electricity. I can go two days without recharging my system if I have to. But I would need to then put 180-210 amps back into the system to get it fully charged again (remember that you lose a lot when charging). The typical solar panel gives you 5.5 hours of full rated amperage a day at the lower latitudes (less that 30 degrees). 120 watts equals 10 amps and at 5.5 hours I can expect 55 amps from each solar panels a day. I have 2 panels so that means 110 amps. I figure I get 60% of that into my batteries, so 70 amps a day from solar alone. I have two wind generators, so a little breeze (typical) and I have all the electricity I need. Cloudy, windless days get me so I have a small Honda generator that runs a 3 bank 30 amp generator for a few hours on a cup of gas and I am then back in business. On really sunny days with no wind I get a little more from the solar panels and on cloudy windy days I get more from the wind generators. I rarely use my Honda and never use my engine for charging (incredibly bad for it an inefficient) unless I happen to be moving in no/bad wind conditions. I am also usually quiet to anchor next to with no exhaust smell.
After some time, the batteries start to hold less of a charge or take longer to recharge and their efficiency diminishes to the point where I often have to run my Honda to make up for their deficiencies.
Time for new batteries.
I always change all batteries at once. They are the same age and if some of them are going bad, they all will soon. I don't want to have to tear the entire system apart again just to try to squeeze a few extra months out of one or two batteries. I have enough work to do on-board. My group 24 battery will last a long time as it is used so rarely and kept at pretty much full charge all the time. I change it when I hear it turning the starter a little slowly. Sometimes it will last 10 years before replacement.
A quick note on engine alternators. If you run your engine with your alternator charging output disconnected the alternator will quickly destroy itself. It is trying to put out lots of power, but has no place to send it. Think of racing your car engine with the gas pedal pressed to the floor while in park. The car's engine would quickly destroy itself. An unattached alternator works something like that. You need to hook the alternator charging wire to something that will accept a charge and cannot be disconnected. On my boat, I have hooked that wire directly to the positive terminal Group 24 charging battery. It cannot be disconnected by accident and when I start the engine the electricity used goes instantly back into that battery. Then if I put my battery switches on "All" they are connected and the engine will charge them all at once. I can hear the engine working to run the alternator to charge the batteries when I do that. I always know that it is working that way. I can also disconnect the house batteries using that switch if I need a little extra power from the engine to fight a current, headwind, or something.

I have attached a picture of the Teak Block I made to hold my:
1) Battery Voltage
2) Amperage being used by all items on boat at any time
3) Amperage in from Solar, Wind 1, and Wind 2

I have a meter onb the engine that tells me how much Amperage my alternator is putting into my system when the engine is running.

The six switches below the meters are for; the three banks, and the three sources (wind 1 &2, and Solar).
I can check any of my three battery banks and any of my three input sources to see their status. If something goes wrong, it is easy to tell which item it is.

Again, this is my system. I invented it. Others successfully use different systems of their own design.

Epic Sail
Capt Don Q.
03/06/2013, Florida Gulf Stream

Epic Day-sail

I have a Pearson 33. My waterline is about 29 feet long at hull speed. According to the math my boat's hull speed is 7.22 knots (sq rt of 29 x 1.34=7.22). If I can average 6 knots over a long period of time, I am doing well. That means I could reasonably expect to travel 144 miles in a 24 hour period if conditions were perfect for the entire 24 hours. That very rarely happens in North American waters. The weather is too changeable.
On Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, I was anchored in the Florida Keys near the South end of Elliott Key with the intention of traveling North, possibly to Miami 25 or so miles North of my position. I expected to have to negotiate a lot of traffic and follow a fairly wandering route to get there, so I decided to make an easy, short day of it.
Raising my anchor at daybreak, I headed Northwest and immediately realized that the tidal current was against me. I was making barely 4 knots over the ground motoring in a light Southeasterly breeze with my sails hanging slack. It looked like it was going to be a long frustrating day.
As I neared Key Biscayne 4 hours later, I turned East through the Stiltsville channel and out onto the ocean to try to make up for my slow progress with some uninterrupted miles Northward. Maybe even make Fort Lauderdale if I was lucky. I was dreading Miami's traffic and all those bridges on the ICW.

Allow me to digress for a moment. Last year when I traveled to the Bahamas with some new cruising friends, we were shocked when we left the Lake Worth entrance and realized that the Western edge of the Gulf Stream was just barely offshore. Sometimes it is ten miles or more until we feel its effect carrying us Northward, but this year, we had to start fighting it right away. Usually we head a little South in a counter current running near shore, and then, as we feel the effects of the Northward current, we allow it to push us as we cross over to the Bahamas.
Back to my trip.
It turns out that the Gulf Stream is just offshore again this year. As I passed Key Biscayne and Miami I realized that I was already getting a decent push from the Stream. My knot meter was showing 5.75 knots through the water, but my GPS ground speed was already above 7 Knots over the ground. A 1.25 current was pushing me Northward and I was only in 50 feet of water 1 mile from shore. I decided to angle offshore into deeper water as I headed North to see what would happen. My ground speed increased steadily as I got into deeper and deeper water. By the time I was in 150 feet of water, I was making 8.5 knots over the ground with only a 6.00 knot speed through the water. I was in a 2.50 knot Gulf stream Current and I was only 2 miles out at sea.
I had set my Cape Horn wind wane to stter for the ocean passage and I noticed that the apparent wind was changing continually as the wind picked up from the Southeast and I had to reset it slightly for the new apparent wind direction. I also noticed that I was now doing 6.5 knots through the water and was approaching 9 knots over the ground. I allowed the boat to head more offshore as I traveled Northward and both my water speed and ground speed kept increasing. As the current was traveling with the wind, I had relatively small seas (3') in what was turning into a 15-18 knot following wind. Perfect sailing weather. Later I set my sails wing-on-wing as I was sailing almost straight downwind.
My ground speed was now over 10 knots as I passed quickly by Miami and it was only 11AM. I was originally following 2 other boats but they stopped in Ft Lauferdale as I caught and passed them. We were headed ultimately for Lake Worth and expected it to take us 3 days with stops in Miami, Lantana, and finally North Lake Worth. If we stayed inside on the ICW we would have to negotiate about 30 bascule bridges and it looked like it was going to be a slow frustrating three days for the trip. However, I was now on the ocean in good (unpredicted as usual) wind, racing North. A quick recalculation showed me that I might be able to make Lake Worth in one day, instead of three, if I could keep up my present speed of around 11 knots. I called my friends and explained that I was headed for Lake Worth 100 miles North of my starting position. I expected to be there before sunset if I could keep the speed up. They didn't reply, and I don't think they believed me.
Conditions actually got stronger from the Southeast as the day progressed and I had to hand steer the last fifty miles in 6 foot following seas and 20 knots of wind. My wind vane was having a little trouble keeping the boat straight as the large, steep, breaking seas came up from a broad reach position and kept slewing the stern around as I surfed down the face of the steep seas. My average speed was 10.5-11.4 over the ground for that period, and my water speed was over 8 knots in those conditions. Full hull speed and higher surfing in the large following seas. I was never more than 4 miles offshore.
I came roaring in the Lake Worth inlet at just after 5 Pm and headed up to the Northern anchorage. I was anchored before sunset and I had traveled almost 100 miles in 11 hours. My average speed for the trip was 8.9 knots and I had spent the first 3-4 hours doing only around 4 knots. The average speed for the last 50 miles was over 11.0 knots. In a boat that usually travels at a respectable 6 knots.
In the daylight of one day, I left the Keys, passed Elliott Key, Key Biscayne, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Hillsborough Inlet, Lantana, and finally entered Lake Worth inlet and sailed up to the north lake Worth Anchorage. All in daylight.

My friends arrived in Lake Worth after three days of travel and they had actually started 20 miles North of me.

So much for all those bridges.

100 miles in 11 hours. Not a bad sail. Sometimes it just works out.

Tarpon Basin
Capt Don Q.
03/06/2013, Key largo

Tarpon Basin, on the Florida Bay side of Key Largo is the clear winner as the cruising destination in all the Florida Keys.
I have now traveled the entire length of the Keys and feel confident in that statement.
Very nice shallow anchorage, protected from all directions and plenty of room for lots of boats. No current from tides. Free, nice, government sponsored dinghy docks. Free Bathrooms. Free Water at the dinghy dock. Nice benches with cool canopies for sitting and reading or just enjoying the day at the little park set up at the dinghy dock. No limit on stay. Crystal clear water in the entire area. Lots of wildlife (Manatee, Dolphins, tons of fish and birds). Areas around the basin for spelunking by dinghy (islands and mangrove tunnels). Lots of cool restaurants and fast food. Fuel almost right across the street. Publix and Huge West Marine within Walking distance. Pennekamp State park ($2.50 entry by bike) for diving and tourist things. Lots of shops, stores, and repair centers nearby (walking distance). Great Public Library next to Publix.
And best of all 'Friendly, welcoming people'.
What's not to like.
I've been here for three or four days now, waited out one cold front (no problem), and have had the best time so far on this entire trip. It's nice to be able to see my rudder, keel and prop from the dinghy again. Need to clean some of the fuzzy growth off (even with a new bottom job a few months ago). The weather has been nice; 80's for highs and 60's for lows at night except for the cold front when it got a little colder.
Of course there are the typical "boat bums" that show up wherever things are free, but, Oh well. There is so much to like about this place that I can ignore them. I have traveled throughout most of Florida now and this is probably number "1" as the best place to spend some time. Very reminiscent of the Bahamas.
My one caveat for Tarpon Basin is to look down when you drop your anchor. I motored slowly around, found a nice sandy-mud area and dropped the hook. If you aren't careful, you may drop your anchor in one of the many grass beds and it may not hold well. Take a few minutes and be sure to hit the sand-mud and you will be well anchored. The water is so shallow (5'-8') and clear that there is no problem with this. I've seen some cruisers come in and just drop their anchor and when they back down they end up with a lot of grass on their anchor instead of an anchored boat. It just takes a minute to and is easy to do.
Having fun again.

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