Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The last of the big projects... for now

The old dinghy.
We have been in Longboat Key for over 3 months now. Having done this for a second year (staying in FLA for the winter) we remain very happy with our selection of  "home port." Weather is decent, lots of restaurants around (not that we got to enjoy them much this year due to Covid), and various marine-specific stores and workshops nearby. 

In fact, there are only 2 things that are not convenient about our location. Firstly, it is an island, so you do have to plan for that, especially during "the season." It can be tricky -- lots of traffic, long waits, and no movement -- to get on or off the island. Most weekends we don't even try to go anywhere; we have our shopping all done and just cook on the boat.

The new tender

The second problem with our location is getting a small boat in or out of the water. Normally this doesn't concern us but (big project #1) we bought a new dinghy. Russ had to traverse a portion of Sarasota Bay to get to the nearest boat ramp both to retrieve the new dinghy and deliver the old one. Of course, weather being the uncooperative entity that it is, both days were very windy, making the task that much more of a bother. He survived. And we do love the new tender (we decided we should us a more upscale term for our tiny boat). We settled on a Rigid Boat. It's so awesome.

The view from the tender while going out to lunch on Sarasota bay.

Big project #2 just got finished today. We had the upstairs cushions reupholstered, with some new, harder foam in the seats we use most frequently. The original covers were in a faux leather vinyl. It worked, but it wasn't exciting. And we managed to ruin one of the cushions within the first week of owning the boat. We thought we'd go with a fabric this time. However, with supply chains still an issue, any pattern we selected was not in stock. Then out of the blue the gentleman who did our job showed me the fabric he was doing on his boat. Something new. Silicone.

We went with green.

And we just love it.

Out with the old (you can see the patch on the left side) with the new.

That done we planned on heading out. But, a health issues raised its head. The dermatologist discovered I had a basal cell carcinoma that needed to be removed. Once the stitches are out we'll be underway. Early next week.

From here we plan on heading south. We've yet to get to the keys so that's our destination. We'll pass this way again in April or May, stay a while, then continue north to go into the river systems -- Nashville, Chattanooga, and Pittsburgh are on the list of places to get to.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

More Projects

We remain stationary here in Longboat key, but not at all bored. We are still knocking out projects. Some are completed, some are in motion (like getting the upstairs furniture reupholstered), and some are perpetual (like cleaning the boat, which has been an ongoing activity since December).

Project #1: New Chair

We decided we liked our Bradd and Hall chair so much that we should get another one. For the dog. Moving in the new chair meant hauling away that the old settee where the new chair was going to go. The settee was getting old and squishy, no longer comfortable to sit on, and took up a lot of space.  

Out with the old...

In with the new!

Project #2: Fender Organization

Long ago we got tired of fenders littering the decks, tangling and tripping us as we needed to run for lines or beer. We realized that Walmart had big buckets that worked for stowing them while underway, the drawback of which was that we looked like Appalachia on the water, bringin' down the 'hood with our back water ways. So, we got shiny, more official fender holders.

Ooooooo, looking like a real boat.

Project #3: We did manage to sell a number of items. We had 2 deck chairs, the aluminum kind you see in West Marine all the time, which we sold and replaced with 2 folding teak ones. Russ also sold his bright orange kayak as is going back to using the Oru origami kayak.

Folding teak chairs, which store much better than the
aluminum ones did.

Project #4
: New radio

We've always had 2 radios, a main radio, who's antennae is affixed to the boat, and a little handheld which we use for docking and short range conversations. But sometimes it's nice to hear 2 or more channels. So Russ installed a 2nd radio, antennae and all. Now both the pilot and copilot have radios.

Radio on copilot side. You an see the small handheld above it.

Project #5: Weather station

It's been a frustration that we can't know what the weather is right now, right here, acting on the boat. Cat-n-Dogs had one but it was rarely accurate. Russ installed a new one on inQuest. So far it's been great, since it's attached to our NMEA so we can see the info right from our phones!

The weather data looks something like this.
We've gotten rid of some of the info we don't need to make it cleaner, 
but you get the jist.

Smaller projects include replacing the washer vent, which we ripped off in St Augustine. I couldn't get a good shot of it from the pier so you'll have to trust me that it's new and shiny.

We have had a couple of little adventures. Recall those new refrigerators we put in last month? Well, this happened.

What looks like ice is actually glass.

Safety glass, thankfully. All over the floor.

While moving things around in the fridge one of the glass shelves exploded. We're getting replacements, yes plural, as I just want to replace the other one still intact in the other fridge.

Awesome sunrises still abound, thankfully

I call this "The Morning Star"

A funny story: We went to eat lunch outside at one of the restaurants here called Latitudes. It's on the beach facing the Gulf. A lovely spot to eat. We faced the water and I see a seagull flying toward the restaurant. Closer and closer, it looks like he's aiming for the couple next to us (the man, of which, wasn't facing the water so he didn't notice this happen). Closer, and closer, and I'm sure this bird is going to land on his head! But it just misses him and artfully tips over his high stemmed glass of red wine, which not only spills all over the chicken wings but manages to knock a couple of wings to the ground. Waiting nearby -- as this was clearly a rehearsed maneuver -- were a bunch of little birds who immediately pounced on the fallen wings. Bird cahoots!

The view from our table at Latitudes

Note the birds and the lumps that are chicken wings!

Projects to be updated in our next installment "Even More Projects" will include a new refrigerator for the sky lounge (turns out the Whynter was totally busted so they're sending a replacement) and new upholstery!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Longboat Key (Projects list, part 1)

Frankly, I miss blogging. I take pictures of random things and, without a blog, have no one to share them with. So this is mostly pictures.

Besides, we have done a few projects, and have a few more planned. Documenting them will help me remember what I never want to do again.

Project Refrigerator: We had 2 boat-sized refrigerators. They needed constant attention since they would frost up in just weeks. Every now and again one would stop keeping temp. We assumed they were original to the boat and we wanted to replace them. Finding something similar took lots of googling and research, but we finally did.

The old...

The hardest part about these types of tasks is getting things 
on and off the boat. There was much heavy lifting, and careful
planning so nothing fell into the water.

One in, one to go

Ta da! They're perfect.

Turns out one of the old fridges was original. The other was only a couple of years old. It, however, was the one that leaked most recently, making us make the change.

Boat brains...

Project Refrigerator, part 2: About a year ago we bought an electric cooler for the sky lounge (which is the fancy name for the helm, upstairs). But it died. After talking to the manufacturer they told us to send it back.

Upstairs fridge packed to be returned.

From our boat we get some amazing sunrises. I call this series "Sunrise over Sarasota."

Bald eagle, right on the golf course, eating his lunch

We spent 3 days at my folks house for Christmas. This is a 
dock cart packed with our travel stuff. Was a time when
all I needed was a backpack. When did we become these people?

A boy and his dog.
More specifically, my brother and Bear.

Did I mention the awesome sunrises?

Project wash the carpets: We have a couple of large carpets inside the boat that, after a year of travel, rain, sand, dogs, and barefeet seriously needed to be washed. The pressure washer did an amazing job.

Project scooters: We owned a couple of vespas. They were perfect for getting around in New Orleans, but lousy for the island. We tried to sell them but no takers. We decided to donate them to charity instead. 
The Vespas being loaded and hauled away.

Another life chapter closed....

Project Fitness: This last year wasn't great activity-wise for me. So my New Year's resolution is to get into shape. I blame the drugs I'm on for wiping out all my "joie de vivre" but that's just an explanation, not an excuse. I've already started with some daily walking.

The paths on the key are quite lovely.

All over the island are banyan trees. They grow from the top down, 
sending branches into the soils that become part of the trunk.
I think they are my favorite tree.

And everytime I see one I start singing Aja by Steely Dan.
"Chinese music under banyan trees
Here at the dude ranch, above the sea.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

LBK, home

Brrr.... Chilly morning. Russ powered up the generator which allowed us to run the heat. The low was around 50. During the night we were comfortable enough, the three of us huddled together in the bed, but tough to leave the warm sheets.

The anchor came up without a hitch and we were off. I hadn't realized it, thinking we were another night from Longboat Key, but we were only a few hours away. Today was the day we got home.

Roughly 3000 miles ago we left Longboat Key to be with friends while they finished up their loop. The first of those was in St. Augustine when About Time crossed her wake. The second of which was As You Wish crossing their wake in Charleston. The rest of the cruising season was stunted by Covid and crazy high temperatures (6 weeks of over 90 degrees in Baltimore when they typically have 2). It wasn't until September that we got the opportunity to really cruise when we traversed the Potomac with Bella Gatto. Hard to believe another 9 months of boating is under our belts.

The Sarasota skyline. Such a cute little city.
We docked without much drama (I'd forgotten how narrow our slip really is). 

The blog will be a little dark for a while. We hope to do some day and weekend cruising to take advantage of the cool spots around the Tampa Bay, but not much is planned from now until March. The current thought is to go to the keys then for a while, then bop around the tip of Florida up to Miami. From their we're hoping to make the run to the Bahamas and stay there until June, then make our way back. But... Covid. So we'll see.

If you've been reading this blog all this time, I thank you. I will not forget to update it if anything exciting happens, boating or otherwise. I confess, it's nice to be back at homebase.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Englewood, anchor

I admit, we didn't stay very long in Ft. Myers. I do like the place. I'm hoping we have a chance to visit over the winter. We did get to see some friends who also have an Endeavour. They winter in Ft. Myers. It was really nice to catch up and trade stories about our summers.

Early in the morning, right after breakfast, we headed out with a stiffer NE wind. We suspected that it would make for a bumpy ride at the big inlet near Cayo Costa, and we were right. We had to do some tacking to make the ride a less beamy.

Otherwise the day went without a hitch. Including anchoring, which caught solidly on our first try.

Enlarged you can see Gypsy's Palace at 
the Edison Ford Marina.
Our only real adventure happened in the late afternoon when we decided to take Lizzie to shore. But we forgot, between the Thanksgiving holiday and our short visit to Rigid Boats to look at new dinghys (more on that in a bit) to get it a new battery. Russ managed to coax the engine for a while, making progress about 1/4 of the way to the dock. But then it stalled. After repeated attempts to get the 20 hp engine running, we gave up and broke out the paddles. Disgruntled and a little embarrassed, we slowly got back to the boat.

Back in west Florida. The depths in the ICW
are closer to 10 feet or less. Right off
the bow you can see land.
Recall the incident on Lake Okeechobee and Russ being done with our dinghy? Once in Ft. Myers one of the first phone calls we made was to a company called Rigid Boats. We'd been eyeing these small crafts for a couple of years now. They aren't cheap, so it's been on the "someday" list. Conveniently, Rigid Boats is located in Ft. Myers. Serendipity! They came out, picked us up, and took us to tour the facility and make our order (all in masks, by the way). Each boat is made to order. We hope to have our delivered to Longboat Key in late January. 

Which is handy, since that will give us some time to get rid of our current dinghy. Anyone interested in a used small boat?

Monday, November 30, 2020

Ft. Myers, marina

We left LaBelle around 7 am. It was a little scary since there is a current these days with the water being so high and it, of course, was pushing us into the boat next to us. But we managed to pull out from the cute town wall without bumping them.

The day started out amazing, like the last 2 days had been. But we knew a change was coming and hoped to get into Ft. Myers before the storm. While about a mile from the Franklin Lock, the last we had to get through, we heard a west bound vessel hail it for an opening. The lock needed to be set for them, which was the delay we needed. We hailed the lock ourselves and told them our location, hoping they'd wait for us. The lock master said, "If you get where I can see you I'll hold the lock." We put the spurs to her and dashed ahead.

Water at 8 am.

Water at 10 am.

We made it. The other boat was named Fryedaze. While locking we chatted we discovered they were heading to their winter port of Longboat Key. Hey! We winter in Longboat Key! We have plans to try to connect once we're both "home."

Between the lock and Ft. Myers are lots of slow zones, some from boaters, some from "manatees are here." As we progressed the weather eroded. The winds came up and at us from the west, making a decent chop. We had waves of 1-2 feet on the nose. With the channel being so narrow, there was no opportunity to tack to avoid it.

Did get to enjoy dinner outside
downtown Ft. Myers.

Gusts blew into the 20s. To the north we could see the brunt of the storm, with lightning and thunder. Once we could see Ft. Myers we noticed the town itself was sunny. We hailed the marina, got our docking instructions, and hoped for the best.

Once we entered the marina the water's immediately calmed. We were able to make our way to the slip (a bit of maneuvering in the fairways) and... the rain started. Russ was on the bow getting fenders and lines ready, getting soaked. Two folks came out to meet us from the marina, both wearing adequate rain gear. We sterned in without any drama, and just as lines got tied off the winds came up. We just beat a crazy monsoon of weather.

The storm lasted 30 minutes or so. I'd much rather be at anchor or in port for storms. This was quite a pleasant one. Thank goodness we made the lock.

Behold, the little downpour. Watch your volume!!!!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

...two more things

 First, a quick rant.

All the way down the coast we'd been following Bob423's route. Russ found a way of downloading the route into the chart plotter where we simply press a "follow route" button and the boat drives itself. Once we turned westward, leaving the Atlantic behind us, we lost that cool feature since Bob kept heading to Miami and we did not. Russ missed the "self driving" thing. Moreover, we were about to cross Lake Okeechobee so such a feature would be handy... there's like 90 minutes in one direction. Should be trivial.

So we asked the chart plotter to plot a route to LaBelle in hopes we could follow that.

What our chart plotter wanted us to do. WRONG!

What Navionics wanted us to do. Right!

The last time we tried the chart plotter to calculate a route was on the Potomac. We got the sense that it was trying to kill us, sending us precariously close to shore as it tried to smooth out the ride up the twisty river. Now we're convinced it is, in fact, trying to kill us. It has our boat's specs: it knows how much we draft, for example. Yet it sent us into "grass" labeled waters with 2.9 feet of depth. We draft 3 1/2 feet. The chart plotter thinks we draft 6.

We knew the route was ridiculous and didn't try it. But some inexperienced boater very well may. 

Second, a small victory. While locking through Moore Haven Lock, my dog used the piddle pad. So... yay! She got big smooches and a treat.