Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Show Me The Way To Go Home - Please

March 8-March 26
Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

     I said in our last blog entry that we might not leave for 2 weeks after our month contract was up and it is now almost the end of those two weeks.  Due to some needed repairs and the weather we have had to prolong our stay in Marathon.
     After my brother Kevin left we started on a cleaning frenzy to get ready to head back towards home.  It’s amazing how much dust and dirt finds its way into our home on the water.  One would think that dust is a land borne problem.  Aside from cleaning the inside we also needed to address the exterior and that included the sails and sail cover.  When raising the main sail to get rid of mud dauber nests we discovered one of the attachment points that holds the sail to the mast had torn and another was ready to come off.  The sail cover also needed to have some reinforcement grommets added.  I found a local canvas shop to do those repairs but had to wait a week before they could start.  I was fortunate enough to have friends on three other boats help me take the sail and cover off.  I never would have been able to do it without the help of Bill, David and Fred.  Once I took the sail and cover to the canvas shop I found out it would be at least a week before I could have them back.
     During this waiting period Lynn and I volunteered to work at the local Seafood Festival.  The festival is held on a weekend and sponsored by the local fishermen to raise money for scholarships.  Lynn helped bread fish filets and I worked on the assembly line making up food platters.  Last year there were over 24,000 attendees and this time by 6pm on the first day they had cooked over 2,000 lobsters and we found out that they ran out of food early in the afternoon of the second day.  We both had fun helping and one of the benefits was all the seafood you could eat while working.  I ate lobster, stone crab claws, oysters, and Mahi-Mahi until I thought I couldn’t eat another bite.  The fishermen working with me on the line also provided a never ending supply of sodas and beer.  If we are ever here during the festival we would volunteer again.
     We also seemed to have developed an oil leak under the engine.  I couldn’t find where it was coming from and cleaned the area underneath and the engine itself.  Checking every day afterwards I never saw another drop.  We took the boat out along the shore and ran it for about 2 hours and still saw no more leakage.  I contacted a local diesel mechanic to see he if he had any ideas.  It took several days for him to show up and after spending about 1 ½ hours checking every inch of the motor he could find nothing either.  He did say that the engine appeared to be in great shape and that due to its age the oil could be from “blow by”.  That would be caused by loose fitting piston rings.  We put an additive in the fuel and the oil to help remedy this problem.  Whether it will work or not remains to be seen.  I’ll keep a close eye on the engine during our trip north.
     Our refrigeration also decided to cause us a few problems.  What can I say, it’s a boat and there’s always something that needs attention even when you think all is well.  The compressor would start to run and then shut off.  Start to run again and then shut off.  This only happened when the batteries were in a minimal state of charge, 12.4V.  I walked over to a company that works on refrigeration and talked with one of the technicians about our problem.  He said that the cause most likely would be a loose or corroded ground wire.  I came back to the boat and lo and behold found the ground connection to the control module pulled off in my hand with no force exerted.  I replaced the connector and everything seems to be running well.  As I have been completing tasks on our to-do list, Lynn keeps adding new ones.  I really think she needs to find something else to do with her spare time!
     For Lynn’s 65th birthday we had more fresh lobster tails on the grill and stone crab claws.  We are sure going to miss all the seafood that we can get down here.  Our friends Laura, Graeme, Bill and Terri called her in the evening from the Bahamas and sang Happy Birthday.  She had a smile on her face for several days after that phone call and the ones from our sons.
     One hot afternoon I put on my SCUBA tank and went to work cleaning the barnacles and growth that attached itself to the bottom of the boat during the time we’ve been in Florida.  I took me almost an hour but the water temperature was perfect.  It was a great way to cool off and get a little “diving” done to boot.  I picked up my sails and cover the following day and Fred and David came back to help me put them back on.  Bill had already left for their trip back home.
View of rain storm headed towards our boat

  We are now just spending our time waiting for a decent weather window to leave.  We need to be in the ocean for three separate days before we can get to a spot to travel inside on the ICW.  Once on the Intracoastal Waterway we will be able to move north without worrying about the sea conditions.  During this wait we did get our Income Tax return done and are glad to be getting something back for once.  We miss our sons and daughter in-laws and especially our two grandsons.  It’s nice to be able to receive pictures of them growing up and I, for one, am very happy I got an iPhone before we left on this trip.

 Ryley with his new friend
River being cute

     I hope we are able to leave on Saturday the 30th.  We are spending entirely too much time online ordering stuff from Amazon and eBay!!!  We even ordered a large supply of Chai Latte for Lynn’s morning fix.  We will be traveling with Fred and Pat from Marianna at least as far as West Palm Beach.  I hope my next blog entry will be from someplace in northern Florida.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Relaxing in Paradise, Florida Style

Feb 14 – Mar 7   Boot key Harbor Mooring Field

     We spent the first few days here getting reacquainted with the marina and the surrounding area.  Not much has changed since we were here 3 years ago.  I went to Publix, our favorite grocery store, for fresh produce and bread items and Lynn did the laundry.  The washers and dryers are now $3.00 each per load, quite expensive for marinas even in the Bahamas.  The first weekend brought lots of wind, cooler temps and rain so we stayed on the boat and read.  The temps were low enough to pull out the polar fleece blanket again.
      Friends we have traveled with before are also here and we have spent a bit of time socializing with them.  I took a couple of long walks, over a mile each way, to the CVS for meds and to a local dive shop to pick up a couple of items.  I was able to get our backup propane tank filled right across the street from the marina and at a fairly decent price.
     On 24 Feb, my 65th birthday, I received a phone call at 0900.  I answered the phone to a chorus of Happy Birthday from our friends in the Bahamas.  Laura, Graeme, Bill and Terri were thoughtful enough to make an international call and surprise me.  It was the highlight of my day and great talking with them.  Thanks Guys !!!!!!!
     My brother Kevin arrived later that day for a 10 day vacation.  When he left Ohio it was freezing cold but was in the mid 80’s when the plane landed in Key West.  He actually changed into a pair of shorts while standing at the bus stop.  While he was here we made two attempts to SCUBA dive.  We took our boat out to two different reefs on two different days and both times the water was too rough to even think about going in.  At least he was able to experience the boat ride even if it was under less than optimal conditions.  One afternoon we took our dinghy out to a small island about ¼  mile offshore and snorkeled.  We spent about 2 hours in the water, which was like bath water, and saw conch, star fish, lots of fish, a moray eel, coral, and one dead lobster.   Our orders from Lynn were to bring back dinner, she wanted lobster that night.  Having failed our objective we all went across the street to a great seafood restaurant and stuffed ourselves with lobster sandwiches, stone crab claws, onion rings, coconut shrimp, buffalo wings and of course cold adult beverages.   While there we noticed  they were running a special on fresh lobster tails till the end of the week.  On Friday we walked back over and bought 12 lobster tails and one pound of stone crab claws to cook for dinner on the boat.  I cooked the tails on the grill, something I’d never tried before.  With only 3 of us for dinner there weren't any leftovers.

Our seafood feast on the boat

     One afternoon while Kevin and I went to the store Lynn called our health insurance company.  We are both now officially on Medicare and she discontinued our Cigna policy.  We were able to get a great supplemental plan through BC/BS and should enjoy a rather large increase in monthly income by not paying the outrageous premiums for the group plan from Cigna.  On this note – neither one of us even feels close to being old enough to qualify for Medicare.  That’s something for really old people …………. right????
     The last two days Kevin was here we rented a car to do some sightseeing.  I had reserved a compact but when we got to the rental agency they didn't have any available.  The woman apologized and offered me a choice of either a minivan or an almost brand new Cadillac for the same price.  Sort of a no brainer which car we got, eh?  The caddy drove fantastic and the gas mileage was astoundingly good.  We drove north up the Keys towards Key Largo stopping at a couple of places along the way.  The first was Bass Pro Shops to restock on shorts and shirts (they have the best selection at great prices) and then had a very light lunch at the restaurant outside.  Next stop was Divers Direct.  Kevin was able to get a monitor for his underwater camera and I picked up a couple small items.  I find it very hard to go to  a dive shop and not find something!  We then drove to John Pennekamp State Park and both drove and walked around the grounds.  It was amazing at the amount of “tourists” that were milling about.  Most had just returned from a snorkel trip and several seemed to be either coming or going to the beaches.  We left there and headed to see the African Queen, the same boat that was used in the movie of the same name.  It has been completely restored and is available for canal cruises for $49 per person for about 90 minutes.  Too rich for our blood so we stood and watched some fishing charter boats come back to the docks and off load their catches.  While they were cleaning the fish on the dock  pelicans floated in the water below catching the “treats” from the cleaning process.  The last stop for that day was dinner at the Fish House, a great place for seafood we found several years ago.

 Egret waiting for fish innards
Sign at the dock next to the African Queen

     The next morning we started early and went to the Stuffed Pig for breakfast.  It is a small crowded diner with good food.  After eating the large portions of biscuits and gravy, sausage, grits, hash browns, bacon, and toast we drove south to Key West.  Kevin was flying back home that day but not until early evening so we had time to play.  The drive down was scenic and without any traffic.  Our first stop in Key West was the Most Southern Point in the US.  The traffic now was so bad that we could barely get through stop lights when they changed because of gridlock.  The spot is marked with a huge cement monument and Cuba is only 90 miles off shore.  We worked our way through the streets of Old Key West until we came to Duvall Street.  For those who have never been there I can only describe it as being something from another country.  Crowded with tourist from cruise ships, bus tour people and college students on Spring Break the sidewalks are full and the mood is party, party, party.  We, as tourist ourselves, did our share of shopping and checking out more than one pub.  It’s called the Duvall Crawl when you start at one end of the street and work your way, bar by bar, down to the other end.  We cheated and started 2/3 of the way to the end.  

 Southernmost Point Marker
 Stop #2 of the Crawl
Stop #3

     We dropped Kevin off at the airport with plenty of time for him to check in and wait for the plane.  It was really nice having him visit and I really appreciated all the help he afforded.  Especially with getting water and loading the heavy jugs on the boat and the company while walking to the grocery store and back.
     Our contract here ends on 13 Mar but we will have to extend due to a couple of repairs that have to be addressed.  It could be as long as two more weeks after the 13th before we can start our voyage back north.