Sunday, January 31, 2010

Duval Crawl

I rented a car for the weekend so that I could see some of Key West.  Maury (of Gypsysails fame) and I did the "Duval Crawl."  Duval Street is the main bar/tee-shirt/junk/etc. street in Key West.  Given our age and expected stamina we took a nap until midnight and then. headed down town.

First stop was the "cowboy bar."  I don't remember the name, but its claim to fame is topless bull riding.  This apparently only happens on Wednesday nights for two hours during which the women drink for free.  Since it wasn't Wednesday night the place was pretty empty.

We then headed to "The Green Parrot."  Great music from a eclectic band - several percussionists, a trombone player, a sax player, and a vocalist who doubled on accordion.  I know it sounds a bit weird but the music (sort of Jazz - Cuban fusion) was very dance friendly.

On to Ricks/Dirty Harry's, a collection of several different theme bars and dance floors under one roof.  Since one of the bands was playing metal I felt compelled to call Spencer.  Of course it was 2:30 AM EST.  He is a college student and it was only 1:30 AM in Madison so of course he answered right away!  If I was with a larger group of people this would be my bar of choice, if you got tired of one theme there were lots of other choices.

Then on to the Hemingway Bar across the street.  I was so unimpressed I have forgotten its name.  We stuck our heads in a few other places but nothing memorable.

After a total of about 2 hours of bar crawling we old guys called it a night and headed back to Boca Chica.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Maury Home

Maury is home.  He got a clean bill of health.  It appears that he is just suffering from muscle strain from working on the boat

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A long day, and OK end

Last night Maury of Gypsysails told me that he had been having minor chest pains for about the last week. He said that Gypsy was encouraging him to go get it checked out. I told him in no uncertain terms that I agreed with her completely. So this morning our friend Nick drove him to the hospital (and by the way, drove me around to do a lot of errands - thanks Nick.) The good news is that Maury has no indications that he has had any heart incidents but they are keeping him in the hospital overnight for observation and a stress test in the morning. So please say a prayer or some kind words or whatever you do tonight to show Maury and Ginger our support.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sprinkler Error

Today I went in for the morning coffee group. I parked my dinghy on the dock. I came out to find that the grass sprinkler system runoff was filling my dinghy with water. The things you learn.
It will be hot today and I expect to focus on boat projects.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Cost of Learning

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend who inquired as to the cost of my cruising life. Although I still owe him a longer explanation that I will post I was reminded this morning of the cost of learning.

What happens is that something goes wrong and you discover that you need to spend money. Examples:
1. If you travel the ICW without towing insurance you are nuts. The average tow is going to be $500 to $1500. With the shoaling the likelihood that you will run aground is very high. One day I heard over 10 boats requesting a tow.
2. Ground tackle - having dragged, and having watched Gypsysails drag resulted in the purchase of another 150 feet of anchor chain. Thank goodness Gypsysails had towing insurance (see #1 above) and got pulled off the shallows without significant expense.
3. For only the second time since my departure from Milwaukee I am sitting on a mooring ball. Having now shredded two mooring lines on the rusted shackle on the mooring ball and finding just how difficult it is to pick up a mooring ball that does not have a pendent while single handing I have invested in a large snap shackle. Of course I now also have to replace the shredded mooring lines.

The above examples do not take into account the other (capital) costs of moving to the cruising life. I am writing how I have changed Reboot three times: from a casual family cruiser to a long distance racer to a long term cruiser and home. I expected that the significant expenses converting from a family cruiser to racer would set me up for long term cruising. How wrong I was.

Since on am filing on SSB the much longer post on the costs of the cruising life will get filed the next time I have Internet.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Small Victory

It Started! That is to say the outboard engine is running! This is a small victory since the last time I tried to start it was 4 years ago on a family trip to Michigan. I did not get it to start, so it hasn't run in at least 5 years. Of course it is now belching 5+ years of accumulated crud so I have it running alongside Reboot. I did tow Gypsysails dinghy back over to them, since it weighs about twice as much it was kind of funny. I could only turn toward the side to which the tow line was attached. I did a couple of 270 degree turns to get there. The way back was much easier.
I feel a bit like the teenager who just got his driver's license. Presuming it keeps running I can now travel on my own schedule.

Dinghy Business

Yesterday the wind turned cold again (in other words, 65 degrees.) I got a ride from Nick into town and was able to amass project parts. The dinghy is in the water and seems to be holding air. This is something one wants to make sure of before putting the outboard on it. Today I will work on getting the motor running, it has not been started in about 3 years so we will see how that goes.
The weather forecast for today is quite warm. I am looking forward to it. I did not expect the constant high levels of humidity on Reboot, everything seems soggy most of the time. Warm sunshine is a break, everything dries out.
I am still in Boca Chica Key listening to the "Sound of freedom." Last night they did night ops - but fortunately it ended by midnight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Finally - A day in Paradise

Ever since leaving Milwaukee on August 5th I have been waiting for my day in Paradise. For one reason or another it never seemed to quite come together. So i am pleased to announce that on Martin Luther King Day 2010 (January 18th) I finally got as close a I expect to for a while.
I am currently in Boca Chica Key, one of several keys owned by the United States Navy. This is in fact the place where the Naval Air Facility Key West has their hangers and runways. I am sitting on a mooring ball in the marina which is quite well protected and has an interesting history. During World War II the Navy started building a submarine base here. They dredged out the sub "pens" and some of the channel and then the war ended so they stopped. They dredged enough to create an area that was later turned into a military marina.
So this morning I finally got my dinghy pieces to shore and got it assembled. I sat under a straw (or whatever they use for Tiki Bars) roof, drank a rum and coke, waded in the water, and basked in the sun. Then I went back to Reboot and did projects. Of course, every project at some point required something I did not have to continue so I ended the day with 5 partially finished projects. But that is pretty much the way it goes.
Ace was planning on flying down but the enroute weather is not good so I don't think he will make it. The sailboat racers are in town, perhaps when I go ashore tomorrow morning for parts I will see some of them.
No internet so I am back to SSB radio to file my reports.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Pictures - Norfolk to Key West

I have posted new pictures in Facebook.  The link is

Tired of the Cold and Blow

Today was another day of very below normal temperatures for Key West.  I am frankly tired of it all.  Yes, I know that it is much colder North of me.  But there is a difference.  At anchor (rather than in a marina tied up to a dock) everything has a price.  The price is usually not only money but inconvenience.  For example, there are (at the moment) three ways of generating heat on Reboot.  The first is to use an electric heater.  This runs the batteries down in a matter of minutes, so in order to use it you run the engine.  This uses diesel fuel.  A second way is to run the small propane heater.  This uses screw on cartridges at the rate of one each 4 or 5 hours.  Not only expensive, but doesn’t make for a long night sleeping.  One could, of course, hook the small propane heater up to the big propane tanks.  That requires a couple of adapters.  I have been able to purchase all but one of the required adapters as I write this.  The final way is to run the stove.  This generates quite a bit of heat from the big propane tanks.  Of course when they get empty it will be a 45 minute round trip walk to get them filled.  Of course I do have the permanent propane heater still in a box as other tasks have taken priority.  That will be more efficient than any of the afore mentioned options but requires about 20 hours of labor to get hooked up and running.

The second problem is that Reboot, like most boats, has no insulation.  It takes less than 15 minutes after you turn off the heat for the boat to revert back to the ambient temperature.  Since it is also sitting in a big bathtub of water the water temperature has a big impact on the temperature inside the boat too.  Of course, with this extended cold snap the water temperature has been dropping like a stone.

A second (and third, I suppose) rule of boats is that all projects have some glitch that stops them dead, and that all projects take at least 4 times as long as estimated.  Today Maury hoisted me up to the top of the mast to do a number of items:  replace the Windex, run wires for the Windex light, run the control cable for the Garmin wind sensor, and replace the bulb in the anchor light.  Score:  the Windex mount is frozen – I can’t get it unscrewed, the Windex and Garmin wind sensor wires are down the mast but we can’t get them out of the bottom, and given that once up on top the wind freshened to about 25 very cold knots I completely forgot to put the new bulb in the anchor light.  And so it goes…

The winds will shift eventually.  When they shift to the South we will get a blast of very warm and damp air from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  The problem is that the forecast suggests this will happen very quickly – translation – winds approaching or exceeding gale force (35 knots).  We are nicely tucked in and protected from everything except – you guessed it – gale force winds from the south!  So we will move back to the north side of Sigsbee until the winds decide to shift back to the north again.

Of course next week is forecast to be quite calm and nice.  That is why next week is Key West Race Week, one of the largest international sailing regattas.  So they can come down and bob around with no wind.  LOL!  But Ace is planning on coming down, and after that I am taking Reboot to the Bahamas for a few weeks.

With all my complaining above I should point out that I am very fortunate that I did not go to the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago.  The weather has also been very cold but in addition there have been very large seas – I know of at least two couples that have been stuck on their boats for the better part of two weeks!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cold, Wet, and Windy

I reported some time ago that I had moved from the North side of Sigsbee Island to the South side.  I did this as the winds were predicted to be both strong and from the North for about a week.  As I sit on Reboot listening to the wind whistle thru the rigging am I glad I made that decision.

Today has been windy, constant rain and temperatures in the high 50’s.  If you think of such conditions on a camping trip you can determine that today has not been much fun.  I have been occupying my time reading, first The Fair Tax and then various cruising guides to the Bahamas.  I do confess I am still waiting for a few back to back warm and sunny days.  They too will happen, but apparently not for at least another 5 days.  Ugh!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Moving South (a little bit)

The winds here have shifted to the north quadrant and are expected to stay that way for a few more days. The result has been very rough seas across the anchorage and much cooler temperatures. Checking the charts for a protected anchorage from north winds Gypsysails and I discovered that we could go to the south side of Sigsbee. The south side has a dredged channel, apparently another artifact of WWII. First we took a dinghy ride to scope out the channel. It was a good thing we did, as there is a critical turn at Green "33" where you must go on the wrong side of the mark or go aground. The correct side marks the channel to Stock Island.
We anchored at the far end of the cut, almost at the Sigsbee causeway. Little did we know that we were going to become a cause of consternation. Soon after dark we were visited by Navy security. They told us that we could not stay anchored as this was a Navy base. We said that was good since we were Navy. We identified ourselves to the security staff and returned to the boats.
Yesterday continued to be cold making working on the deck unpleasant. However, the water was flat and the wind very light, much improved over the north side.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Morning After

Reboot held her position last night. After TowBoat US finished pulling Gypsysails back into deeper water they swung by Reboot, took my Fortress anchor and ran in out a couple of hundred feet and dropped it. Checking this morning it does not appear that it is doing anything but being a backup - which is fine with me. The TowBoat guys were really nice, I suggested that helping me put out the second anchor might avoid a call later in the night and they agreed.
This morning the sky is clear and bright but the winds have turned cold. Cold here is 60 degrees lol. It was 25 gusts to 30+ this morning but it has moderated to 20 gusts to 25. Still, not fun to be out on deck, I get cold right away as I am still in shorts.
I have made a great deal of progress on boat projects the last couple of days and expect to spend the rest of today on running the permanent power cables for the radar and water maker.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

This was the first New Year's Eve in many years that I have been without any family close by. I headed to down town Key West with two couples and the son and girlfriend of one of them. We visited Mallory Square to watch the sunset and took in a couple of the street performers. We then walked along Duval Street (bars, T-shirt shops, junk shops - you get the drill) and went to the top of the Crowne Royal Plaza which is the tallest building in Key West. Since we were in town relatively early the street parties had not really gotten underway. I was sure my sons would have liked it but it just left me feeling lonely and old. After a bit we got back into the dinghy for the 20 minute ride back to our anchorage. I was invited to dinner by one of the couples and had an enjoyable meal but by about 8:30 pm I was done with New Years Eve and headed back to Reboot, read for a while and went to bed. Trevor and Spencer woke me at midnight Eastern time (they were together in Madison in Central Time).
New Years Day dawned glassy calm. I made the necessary poetry entry in the ships log and went to work on the chart table area. I have been installing some outlets (12 and 110 volt), a bilge pump counter, and completing the install of several components that have been bread-boarded together.
This afternoon the weather changed dramatically. A front is passing thru. The winds have clocked 180 degrees and gotten nasty with gusts in the 35+ range. As I was in the process of writing this Gypsysails dragged her anchor. Fortunately it caught again before they went aground, but they are in 0.2 feet of water with the engine running to take some of the strain.
I took the opportunity to throw my Fortress anchor over the side. It isn't doing anything now as it is under the boat but if the plow starts to drag the Fortress will hopefully also dig in. At that point I can also choose how much rode to put out. it will be a long night, as least until the winds abate to the 15 to 20 knot level that is usual for this anchorage.
I have not had much access to the internet so these reports are being filed by SSB radio.