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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.

LaBelle, City Wall

Recall last night when we were tied up between 2 dolphins. When we did that there was a current pushing us southward (we were tied east to west) pushing on our beam and away from the pilings. We knew that if the wind pushed the other way that could be an issue, but we tied the boat up to make sure we didn't rub or bump, and we dropped the dinghy so it, too, wouldn't bump on the pilings. We also triple checked with the weather, and no such wind was supposed to come up.

And yet.

Moonset, just before dawn
A south wind came up around 11 pm. By 11:30 there was some banging. Russ investigated. The south wind was only around 7 mph, which is nothing, making a slight chop of about 6 inches, which is also nothing. But our dinghy is crazy back heavy with a big motor and a very small free board. Taking the weather on its beam made it bounce into our boat, then bounce off the pilings then back. Russ tried several line configurations to get it either secured or away enough to keep it from hitting anything but nothing worked. After struggling with it for 2 hours, the wind direction shifted, and so the the waves. The dinghy then settled. And remained settled through the night.

Leaving the lake you meander through grasses,
like one of those air boats.
That's the second time the dinghy has been an issue while tied to inQuest. Russ is done. A new dinghy has been pushed to the top priority list.

Despite the lack of sleep, we got off the dolphins and raised the dinghy without any problems. We crossed Lake Okeechobee, which was absolutely placid without and problems. Russ took the helm most of the day and locked us through the two locks before we got to our destination, LaBelle. The entire day was perfect.

Lots of smoke from sugar cane burns.
By the way, we were half way across the lake, commiserating over the events of the evening, when it dawned on us what we should have done. We carry this spool of dynema line, which is long, strong, and floats, for med-mooring. We've used it once. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT! We could have use that to tie up between the wider-gapped dolphins and never even lowered the dinghy. I was so frustrated that we didn't think of it that I almost turned inQuest around to go back and try it again.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Mayaka Lock, anchorage (of sorts)

I keep saying "I'm not going to do more long days" and yet we keep doing them. We left this morning around 6:30, before the sun came up and were getting tied off after sunset. 

The entire day was amazing. Blue skies, warm temps, calm winds, lots of sun -- we haven't had a day like that in a long time. As we are now somewhat seasoned boaters we know to look at the weather ahead. Come Monday and Tuesday nights we're looking at a low front coming in, dropping temps 30 degrees. Our warm 83 degree days will turn into the upper 50s. So we're trying to get somewhere to plug in and hang out with the heater on. 

When I first plotted the course to Mayaka Lock (which, by the way, we have never locked through because the lake it so low typically that the doors are just open!) Navionics said it was a 9 hour ride. When we set out, however, it was much more positive, giving us an arrival time around 2:30, which would have been awesome. But we got caught by a bridge (a delay of 15 minutes) and when we reached the first lock, Lucie Lock, they were still locking someone down, so we had to wait for the turn around (about 45 minutes). Add to that it was a glorious day in south Florida on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend -- traffic galore in some places. But the real drag was the section of the waterway between the 2 locks. Turns out that since the lake is high there is a current running toward the Atlantic Ocean -- a formidable one at that -- which slowed us down nearly a knot. Our ETA was looking around 4:35.



The plan was to lock through Mayaka, get onto the lake, and anchor for the night. The lock closes at 5, and the last lock through at 4:30. We pushed a bit to try to get there in time. At 4:28 we rounded the last corner of the canal to we were in view. We hailed the lockmaster, asked for a lock through, and he said the door will be open when we get there. We love it when a plan comes together! 

Lots of boats out. We can't blame them.
Lovely day on the water.
(Note: We locked up to the lake, about a foot. Woo!) 

Pulling out of the lock the anchorage is just off the right. We dropped anchor. It didn't catch. We tried again, Again it didn't catch, We tried a third, a fourth, and a fifth time. The sun was now setting. We changed our plans and decided to tie up on the dolphins (a cluster of pilings bolted together so they look like the nose of a dolphin sticking out of the water) just outside the lock. They are meant for that. We tried to tie between a set, and they were too far apart for our lines. So we moved to another pair, but they were space perfectly to line up so our dingy would be what would bump if the wind changed. We gave up, tied off, and dropped the dinghy to keep it away from the pilings. By the time we were done it was nearly dark.

Tomorrow should be a shorter day. And by Monday we'll be in Fort Myers. At least that's the plan.

And, hey! DOLPHINS! (Watch the volume!)

Friday, November 20, 2020

Vero Beach, marina

Always moving just
a little east, every day.
Last night on the ball was a bit noisy but of late I'm getting used to the sound of water splashing on our hull. I used to need earplugs, now I sleep fine. Which is good, since there was a lot of it. Winds continue to batter the east coast. They did die down just before dawn.

Getting off the ball was very easy and we were underway around 7 am. I'd made a proclamation about spending no more than 5 hours underway. Seems like a decent time to call it a day. But we pushed it a little today. With the holiday coming the only marina that had space for us was the SunText Vero Beach Marina (aka Loggerhead until recently). We wanted to stay for a week somewhere while we do the holiday thing. These folks had space. I wanted to get in and get settled if possible, so we put in an 8 hour day. You know, like work.

Docking was a little nerve wracking because there was some wind. In hindsight we agreed that we're both a little gun shy now after St. Augustine. It went like clockwork. We just were too wound up to see that. (See what I did there?)

Yes, that pad, that one right there... stop looking at me!
Our bad luck continues to follow us. Lizzie is still being trained to use a piddle pad on the boat. She needs to learn this because there will be times when getting her to shore is right out! Like, for example, off the gulf coast where the only land around is infested with alligators. Right out! For whatever reason, she hates that piddle pad. That dog will hold it for 24 to 36 hours. However, if we aren't looking, she'll relieve herself on the carpet of our master bedroom. Let me be clear, going on the boat isn't the issue, it's going on the boat on the pad we bought for her that is... right out! So while underway I closed the bedroom door to ensure she doesn't do just that. Which in reflection was a silly thing to do since she's upstairs with us and we have a gate so she can't come down. However, I did it. And when I needed to go into the bedroom later the door was locked.

The tongue of the lock is no more.
If you recall from when we first got the boat we discovered that the locks on these stateroom doors were invented by a moron. You can only lock and unlock them from the inside -- you cannot unlock them from the outside. Ever. Usually interior doors have a small hole that you can put a key (typically a tiny flathead screwdriver-like thing) to unlock. NOT THESE! You cannot unlock them for any reason. Seriously, who needs that kind of privacy on a boat?!

Russ removed the trim around the door then took a hacksaw to the tongue to cut it. And that's how we got the door opened. 

Not near as "Mission Impossible" as the last time.

We accidentally locked the guest stateroom. To get into it
Russ took out the vac system, then made his way through
the closet into the room. You can see his feet.
Kinda like boat spelunking.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Titusville, mooring ball

We ended up staying 2 nights on anchor in Rockhouse Creek. When we woke after the first night the winds were over 20 mph with sustained gusts in the 30s. It was howling! The anchorage was protected a bit, so it wasn't near as bouncy as it could have or should have been. 

We thought about leaving anyway but decided against it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we cross a fairly unprotected piece of the ICW, and weather would be on the beam, our least favorite way to travel. 

But more importantly, from 6 am to around noon the wind and tide were moving in the same direction, north to south. There was a sailboat anchored behind us and, as far as we could tell, they were new or inexperienced. They didn't put on an all-around light during the night, and their rode had to be really short, like 3 to 1. Ours was 7 to 1 for the wind. Not only were they whipping back and forth like crazy on their line, but we were a bit close to them since our rode was longer. In conclusion, bringing up the anchor then maneuvering inQuest around the sailboat while a king tide and 30 mph winds were pushing us into her, well, that just didn't sound like fun. Add on top of that the new belts Russ installed since one of the old one broke... basically I lacked confidence.

The pink semicircle is our track from being
on anchor. When on anchor we always record our
motion so we know we aren't dragging.
So we waited a day, bobbing around on the creek, watching the kiteboarders in the distance enjoy the blustery day.

While the winds were still high this morning they shifted to the east so they had less impact on us. More importantly, the sailboat left. So, yay!

Not the best ride. The open waters were bumpy but not terrible. Gray skies, some rain. Nice temps, in the  lower 70s made the ride decent. Russ started calling ahead for space in marinas. We're getting the same answer up and down the coats. No room. Between the weather, the weekend, Covid, snowbirds, and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, space it getting to be a premium.

Still enjoy a lovely sunrise.
We were able to find a marina in Vero Beach, about 70 miles south of Titusville. That's where we'll park the boat for the holiday. But tonight, and probably tomorrow too, we'll be on the hook.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

New Smyrna, anchorage

We left Palm Coast without any issues. 

I am beginning to really dislike this hurricane season. While Iota is hundreds of miles away, it's screwing up our weather, just like Eta did, causing lots of windy days for the next week. You can see this with a weather app we use called Windy. While we are in the ICW the winds were coming from the north. Our ride was fine since the waves were following (boaters headed north were bouncing). But it's just the start of some bad days ahead.

We planned on anchoring tonight. The wind and current on this little inlet made anchoring the biggest challenge we'd had in a long time. We tried to anchor between 2 already anchored boats, but all of us kept swinging back and forth and in ways that we just couldn't predict, and not all in the same direction that we'd come to be able to read. We gave up and moved closer to the inlet, away from everyone, and did just fine. The wind and the current are against each other (the wind is coming in and the tide is going out) and our boat can't decide which it wants to follow.
We did get to catch up with the Mackeys!
We also caught up with my brother and my f
So a good visit to St. Augustine.

While underway we did have another (old and familiar) issue. After pulling out of the marina we slowly got up so speed, which we normally do. But a fast boat wanted to pass. We slowed down for them and suddenly there was a lot of squealing coming from the belts of the port engine. After we got passed I kept the rpms slow and Russ investigated. Pretty quickly wafts of rubber reached my nose. But he said it was fine, just go slow until the squeal is gone. Which it did, and we drove without problems the rest of the way here.

That prompted Russ to redouble his efforts to find a serpentine kit for that engine. He made calls, talked to a number of people, but no one seems to have a kit that fits our Yanmar. One gentleman told him this shouldn't be happening and he should try to tighten the belts when they are hot hot hot!

Oh, look! A chicken!
After we anchored Russ did just that. Only to discover that we'd been on one belt today -- the other did, in fact, break.

Man, it's kinda been a bad week for us!

Okay, change of topic. Can anyone tell me what is making this noise? Turn up the volume and listen to the tapping on our hull.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Palm Coast, marina

Boy, when it goes bad it can really go bad. I mean, no one got hurt, and I certainly have heard some extremely bad stories from fellow boaters that resulted in fires or sinking. And NONE of that happened to us. But...

We stayed at River's Edge Marina specifically because it is the cheapest marina in St. Augustine. And they had the cheapest fuel from this point forward. Turns out the reason the fuel is so cheap is because, well, they don't have any themselves but there's this guy you can call and he'll bring a truck of diesel to you! We'd made arrangements with the fuel truck over the weekend. First thing this morning he called and we had a plan. All we had to do was get to the "fuel dock" where he'd fill us up and we'd be on our way.

Recall the tides and currents and our little adventure getting into the slip. The sailboat we moved over for showed up Sunday, so we had a neighbor. The tide was coming in, but close to cresting, so we knew that meant we'd probably move toward the sailboat as we left.

We backed out, and immediately the wind and tide pushed us onto the sailboat. Both they and us had fenders out, so no harm would come to either of us, but it's still something we try to avoid. I worked the throttle to try to get away with no affect. I called Russ to that side to the boat to help fend off. That's when things took a terrible turn. In his rush to do that he left a line on the stern. Which slipped off. Which got wrapped around the port prop. The engine never stalled, but it wouldn't respond either. I'm trying to maneuver our boat off another boat, against the wind and current, with a single engine. We twisted so we got perpendicular to the sailboat. Our fender got stuck in his rails on his bow sprit, so we couldn't move. Our boat continued to swing, like a gate, and we hit the boat next to the sail boat, as well as laid on the pier between them. Russ and the sailor (who realized his boat was in jeopardy and ran to help us) untwisted the fender and pushed us into the fairway, but the only direction we could move was forward. Toward the restaurant.

Great parking for the restaurant, tho
Having walked by the place a number of times I knew the fairway widened there, so it wasn't the worst place to be. It would be easy to turn the boat around, way easier than where we were. But I had little control and fought to keep inQuest from hitting some of the other boats (there were a number of very expensive sailing cats on the piers). With a little bit of finesse (and lots of tears and frustration) I got our boat on the wall by the restaurant. But in trying to get her onto the wall I managed to take out one of their pilings. We didn't hit hard, it's just that the tide was so high that our boat was barely in the water, so a decent part of her weight was on these pilings that, frankly, were not intended to have a boat on them.

Engines off, Russ got ready to dive the prop to cut the line off. I went to find the dockmaster and show him what we did to the piling. Meanwhile the boat next to the sailboat claimed we did some damage. 

Fuel truck. Note the water behind and around him.
While Russ was under water another man walked up and said he was sorry we had such a hard time. I assumed he was another dock worker. Turned out he was the fuel guy! He offered to fill us up right here, and we accepted. He backed his truck down the restaurant's parking lot (which at this point is largely under water) and filled us up.

After checks were written, apologies made, and the prop freed, we headed out. The tide turned by the time we left, but the wind was blowing us off the dock. Ultimately we left with little drama. Similarly, docking here was like clockwork.

Yeah. That was perfectly vertical. Before us.
So. That cheap dockage and cheap gas? Yeah. Not worth it in the long run.

Yeah, gonna need a new one of those.
That's the vent for the washer/dryer.
Well, used to be.

That's from a sign on a piling near our slip.
Now we have a racing stripe!