Thursday, March 31, 2016

Marathon - New dinghy motor, provisioning, sell old motor

The inside of the Cracked Conch, not fancy but very good conch - the best is the conch sandwich
I finally bought a new 6 hp Mercury outboard. Shelter Bay Marina had a special on their 2014 Mercury motors which I took advantage of. The 6 hp model was $1400 as opposed to the $1759 price that West Marine wanted for the current model. The 2014 model was brand new, still in the packing crate. So with the new outboard in the trunk of our rental car, I advertised our old motor for $500. As it turned out, I saw two guys in a dinghy struggling like I had trying to start their outboard and offered them my previous Mercury for $400 and gave them my card. He later called back and I offered to lower the price to $350 but no lower. He later thought that was a good deal and I took the old motor over to his boat around 4:00 pm. I gave him 24 hours to decide if he wanted to keep it and he's currently testing it around the marina.

Nobody does conch better
Our new motor is working fine. It's also a 6 hp Mercury, just a never used 2014 model. I' m determined to use only non ethanol fuel which you can get at marinas down here so I'll fill up on the supply which ought to last until I return south in the fall.

Free snow removal!!
Meanwhile I rented a car for the next day and we replenished our food supply, not much, just a few odds and ends. What we did splurge on was a late lunch at the Cracked Conch. It's a local restaurant mostly visited by locals. Their speciality, of course, is conch. Their preparation is such that the conch they serve is always tender which is not always the case in other restaurants. The food network did a special on the restaurant several years ago. Around here it's an institution. They pride themselves on always being open, even during hurricanes (the locals have to eat somewhere...)

Some go all out for solar down here on a boat, 20 panels in all
It is so much easier going to a dock with a working motor! It's especially comforting to know it will always start and not die when you're at an inlet anchorage with a 2 kt current going out to sea when I take Hoolie ashore in the evening which is the main reason we got a new motor.
And we end with a sunset, as always

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Marathon - Repaired outboard ran and then quit again

Somebody's been busy at the Marathon City Marina
I went into the marina around 4:00 and found that our motor was running in the tank, great news I thought. I asked the tech what he did for the repair and received the reply that he just cleaned the carburetor. So I didn't' get a carburetor rebuild for $300, just a cleaning. No worn parts were replaced (e.g., the needle valves, gaskets, etc.). At the time I was happy just to get a working engine. Before restarting the engine, I put new gasoline in a new tank with a new fuel line from the tank to the engine just to be sure everything started up without new contamination. There's no water in the fuel since the fuel is less than a day old.

I was very happy to have the motor working to return to Fleetwing with a 15 kt headwind and a knot or so of adverse current. I took Hoolie in for his evening outing and all was fine on the way back until I got within 100 ft of Fleetwing. Suddenly the motor sputtered and stopped. It would not restart after many pulls. It was the exact same symptom as the first time. I can only conclude that in cleaning the carburetor not all the debris was removed and the cleaning must have loosened dirt that eventually found its way to the needle valve and stopped fuel flow once again. The repair shop will certainly hear from me in the morning but now I have to decide on whether to trust this engine to take Hoolie ashore in 1 to 2 knots of current in inlets. If the engine quits under those conditions, I will find myself far from Fleetwing, either heading out to sea or into a bay, a major problem of the first magnitude.

At least we could see the sunset
So what to do? We need to start moving north, Saturday at the latest. We have a car reserved for Thursday and a quote on a new motor. We will probably take the quote in order to have a completely dependable motor for Hoolie relief. We just can't fool around anymore. I'll take the old motor home and personally rebuild the carburetor  with a proper rebuilding kit from Mercury and all the right cleaning chemicals like the tech should have done in the first place. Perhaps I can sell it over the summer to recoup some of the money from all this foolishness.

As if that wasn't enough, the new gas tank I bought last spring which I hadn't used yet leaked. The fuel port (where you put the nozzle in) leaks. The cap does not fit tight so now I have to also find a new tank which I'll look into on Thursday. Isn't boating exciting...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Marathon - Dinghy motor still not repaired

My poor outboard - awaiting parts
Today was the day the dinghy motor was to be repaired but it was not to be. After a long row to the marina in the bathtub with an excited dog (he's going ashore!), I found that in disassembling the motor to remove the carburetor. the technician had to cut the hose from the fuel pump to the carburetor since the hose would not come off otherwise. All was cleaned and ready for reassembly but then the tech discovered that the shortened hose would no longer reach between the fuel pump and the carburetor and, alas, nobody nearby had hose of the right size (metric?). The tech had to send out for the correct size hose, less than 6 inches worth.

It's a long row into the marina, especially with 88 degree temps and wind on the bow
So now it's another day of rowing a dinghy with a wiggly passenger. It wasn't too bad until the wind picked up this afternoon after a front came through. Luckily, I picked up a tow from a passing dinghy that made the trip much faster. They took pity on my poor attempts at rowing such a vessel. Of course I accepted all offers.

At last, a decent sunset
With the arrival of 6 inches of hose on Wednesday, the repaired outboard will be fired up for the first time. Hopefully, it will run. If not, it's more analysis to find out what's wrong, stay tuned. At least we had a decent sunset for the first time in weeks. It's still not up to the usual standards but it's a beginning.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Marathon - Disaster (if you have a dog), outboard won't start

Marathon - the sun set behind a cloud bank, not a good sunset for color
I think the subtitle of my next book on cruising will be, "I make all the mistakes first so you don't have to!" My outboard set unused for two months on the back of the boat. In retrospect I should have mounted it on the dinghy and tried it out before I left Key West - but I didn't. Now, all our plans of reaching Marine Stadium by Wednesday go by the wayside. There are only anchorages between here and Miami and having a dog means one requires the outboard to work. The reason for that is the 1 to 2 kts of current through the anchorages not to mention wind. The dinghy rows like a bathtub and steers about as well, one needs a motor.

All went well at first. We left Key West at 8:00 and pulled into Marathon at 2:00 pm. The sun was warm, the seas were calm and we made good time. We refueled and easily found a place to anchor. Marathon is not so full anymore. In fact, we saw some empty moorings but we just anchored anyway.

I did some minor diagnostics to no avail. I pulled the sparkplug and saw a spark when pulling the starter cord so I put the sparkplug back in but it still would not start. Midway through a 10 minute pulling exercise the motor started up but quit after 5 seconds but would not start again. Thinking I flooded it, I let it sit for 1/2 hour but it would still not start, groan. So now it's off to find a mechanic for the outboard (bad fuel pump, bad fuel?, carburetor bad, spark not strong enough, plugged filter, etc.) I guess we get to explore Marathon some more.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Key West - A Mallory Square sunset and goodbye to Key West

About 1/3 of the people at Mallory Square
Where have the days gone?? We've been here two months and it's gone in a flash. One thing I like about cruising vs taking vacations is the time spent doing it. I can remember taking a two week vacation when I was working and it went by in a blur. Two weeks later you're back at work as if nothing happened. Cruising is different if you do it long term. Our time on Fleetwing is about 9 months out of the year. We return to New York for the summer and our house to be with our grandkids. However, we are now ending our sixth trip down the ICW to Key West and the second time we've been here for two months. It is still not enough. We now know all the locals on the docks, the captains that take people out for a sail, the dockmaster, the piano player at The Gardens Hotel and many more. It's like a second home. We had to go around tonight to say our goodbyes.

Goodbye Key West
I finally did get over to Mallory Square and it was full of people as usual. There were acrobats, fortune tellers, all kinds of food vendors but the main attraction was the sunset. There were dozens of boats out for a sunset cruise which provided a foreground for the event. It was kind of sad to see the sun set for the last time in Key West (until next year!)

The weather window is holding so far. Given the forecast we'll anchor at Marathon tomorrow night, then at Caesar's Creek and then at Marine Stadium in Miami. After that we'll wait for a window to reach Ft Lauderdale, sailing outside from Miami since we can't get under one of the fixed bridges with our mast. Sad to go but it's time to go.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Key West - Pastels for 2017 Culture Magazine

Two palms, a pastel
Ann has been doing pastels on the back of the boat since we've  been down here. She just enjoys painting but she saw an ad for the Florida Keys Council of the Arts. They are doing a magazine for the Keys that shows artists' interpretations of the the local area. There was no charge to submit paintings so she selected three out of her collection for submission.

A house nearby - everything's in bloom in Key West
Not being a local, she has little chance of winning anything but it would be nice if one of her paintings was selected to appear in the magazine. So I took photos and did the submission over the internet this afternoon. Everything is done this way now. You used to submit slides but everyone's gone digital anymore.

Ann's sunset
We're still watching the weather and it looks like Monday through Wednesday are good days to get all the way from Key West to Marine Stadium in Miami. We'll take the weather while we can, it was so unpredictable on the way down.  Besides, it's getting hot down here, 82 today. We had the air conditioning on all day. At anchor it's fine since you're turned into the wind and get good ventilation but at a dock the wind doesn't always come over the bow.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Key West - Enterprise, provisioning, Bliss and El Galeon at night

Not sure what the bird is but he was intent on looking for fish
I used up the last of my points for a free car today. You can get lots of points too if you rent a car for almost two months like we did in returning home for the holidays. I lost my internet cable connection since I had to return the equipment this morning. Now I'm back on Verizon wireless but it has a 10Gb limit for a month. We can watch a few shows but we have to pace ourselves.

Just great fish preparation
We wanted a "Goodbye Key West" dinner so we looked at all the ratings and chose Bliss. The inside is rather stark with wooden tables, no linen but the food was outstanding. Their signature dish is yellowtail snapper. As described on the menu, "Pan seared yellowtail snapper filet encrusted with a blend of Japanese bread crumbs, fresh herbs and a touch of parmesan cheese in a light cream caper sauce. Served with white rice and sautéed spinach" It was the best fish fillet I've ever had.

El Galeon at night
Coming back to the boat we saw El Galeon all lit up. They had lights shooting skyward illuminating the rigging, a stunning sight. Back at Fleetwing, we smelled them preparing dinner. The wind was just right to blow the aromas to the back of our boat. It was an odd combination of odors. They were cooking with wood to begin with but the spices were ones I was not familiar with. Meanwhile, we're still looking at leaving Monday and we hope to reach Marine Stadium in Miami by Wednesday, weather watching time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Key West - We tour El Galeon, see Hokule and pay our last visit to Jimmy Olson at The Gardens

This ship is tall! This shot is from the foredeck. 
As we near the end of our stay in Key West, things are getting busier. El Galeon arrived yesterday and today she was open for tours. I bought a ticket on-line ($15 each) and we were one of the first ones aboard. You're allowed to go up to both ends of the ship, far above the water and then descend into the ship's hold. What strikes you about the ship is the shear size and how impressive it must have been to natives used to canoes. Actually, nevermind that, it was impressive to me!

They had 60 cannons for defense.
The officers' quarters were finished in fine wood paneling with a very sturdy table for meals. As reported yesterday, the ship is a 1:1 reproduction, it's not scaled down. I was surprised at the headroom, you never had to bend over. The height of the rooms were about 6 ft 5 inches or so.

Nice furniture, the officers traveled in style - it even had a "back porch"
Down below were two rows of cannons, 60 in all were carried on board. I cannot imagine the deafening noise when the cannons were fired.  Counting all hands and passengers, roughly 1000 people were on board when she set sail. I cannot imagine such a crowd on such a boat.

Can you imagine these cannons all going off at once!?
See Sarah - proper coiling!
Coming back to our dock we noticed another odd boat moored at the end. It turned out to be Hokule, a Polynesian style boat that's currently sailing around the world. They just happened to reach Key West last night around 10:00 pm and are docked for the day.

Twin masts, open boat, thousands of miles of open ocean, wow
It's an open boat, sail powered. The crew is completely exposed to the elements and it's manned by volunteers. It's patterned after real Polynesian boats. We chatted with one of the crew that came on board in Brazil. They average 4 to 6 kts under the best of conditions with lots of wind, around 25 kts needed. The boat has no motor and has to be towed when coming to dock. After that we were glad to be fully enclosed in our Fleetwing!

Goodbye Jimmy until next year
We paid our last visit to Jimmy Olsen at The Gardens. He plays a baby grand piano Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 7:00 and also sings along. We've always enjoyed him and we said goodbye until next year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Key West - El Galeon arrives and we visit with Curtis Hoff

Our diver team from Down Under Bottom Cleaning - good guys
Today was "clean the bottom day" and our divers arrived around 9:00 am ready to start. The current rate seems to be $3/ft no matter how clean or fouled your bottom is. However, on the way north I wanted a clean bottom so I could do my usual 7.3 kts under power. Any fouling of the bottom slows down the boat a lot and we have a long way to go to reach Poughkeepsie, NY up the Hudson River. The zinc wasn't too bad since I had replaced it in January but part of the reason for that was the additional zinc I attached to the rigging and placed overboard. That zinc looks much worse than the one attached to the prop.

A very large ship!
Around noon El Galeon came into port. The ship is much bigger than I imagined. It's 171 feet long but seems overly tall. It originally carried 60 guns. The ship that arrived today is a reproduction but it's a 1:1 reproduction, a rare thing, most are scaled smaller to save cost. In seeing the ship in person at the dock, you are stunned by the shear size of the vessel. It's not just the length but also the height, it towers over everything in the harbor.

I liked the "back porch"
I bought tickets to tour the boat on Thursday. We had a chance to do that when it was in St Augustine but I'll not miss the chance this time. The original boat was launched in 1698 and I'm sure it was an impressive, state-of-the-art ship at the time.

Curtis and Melanie Hoff - nice couple
Later in the evening we went over to see Curtis and Melanie Hoff for wine on the back of his Trawler. They are just across the alleyway from El Galeon so they have a first row seat. It's great fun sharing stories on boating. Meanwhile we are starting to get serious about looking at the weather for a good window to head east. We hope to make Marathon the first day and then move on to Caesar's Creek followed by a sail up Biscayne Bay to Marine Stadium by Miami. Of course, that's only the plan and only if the weather holds, weather becomes paramount shortly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Key West - Peter Lik, Pepe's and Mallory Square

The Peter Lik Gallery on Duval Stret
Ann wanted to take a walk down Duval Street to see more of the art shops so with a high of only 75, it was a good day for that adventure. We chanced upon an art gallery owned by Peter Lik. He's a photographer but he has his work printed in brilliant colors, quite stunning when seen full sized with bright lighting. Here's some examples: Ghost, Universe, Pele's Whisper. The art has won numerous awards and they typically sell for $3500 to $20,000 each. Several have sold for over $1,000,000. If you are ever in Key West, you ought to stop by his gallery on Duval Street, it's right next to Willie T's. 

Pepe's, like most restaurants in Key West, seem to grow up around trees
We had always wanted to eat at Pepe's which is right across from us on Caroline Street. We've been by the place 100's of times but never stopped in to eat. It was founded in 1907 so it has a long history in Key West. One of the best attractions is happy hour from 5:00 til 6:30 where you can get a freshly made magretta for $5 and it's actually pretty good. The specialize in oysters for appetizers but we're not big oyster fans so we passed and had another magretta(!)

Outdoor seating is the norm
They have a full menu of seafood and steaks but we just wanted a light dinner so we settled on the blackened fish sandwich with homemade coleslaw which satisfied nicely.

Not good color yet at Mallory Square - I'll keep looking
I had time to walk Hoolie over to Mallory Square which was packed as usual. Unfortunately, I didn't stay until the sunset, too crowded and it looked like lots of clouds close to the horizon anyway, maybe next time.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Key West - Kenny Chesney gives a free concert at Sloppy Joe's

One of two buses outside of Sloppy Joe's
We went out for our morning exercise and saw Duval Street blocked off. That was odd we thought so early in the morning. When we returned to the boat, Ann looked it up and found that Kenny Chesney was coming to Key West for a free concert at Sloppy Joe's in preparation for his summer tour.

They were all waiting to get in Sloppy Joe's, good luck
So I took a walk downtown later that day and sure enough, Kenny Chesney's buses were there and a crowd was waiting to get in even though the concert didn't start until 5:00 pm (it was 3:30 at the time). Sloppy Joe's is not very big and it was already packed. There was no way everyone was going to get inside. There was a faint hope of a line formed but they were all too late, every seat was taken and there wasn't even any standing room left. The most that could be done was to look in through the doors.

I finally got a telephoto shot from outside the bar over the heads of several fans
I came back later when Kenny was due to be on (after 5:00 pm) and was able to take a few photos from far away over the head of some of the fans. I don't know much about his music but everyone seemed to be having a great time. 

They were still going at it when I left around 7:30
We had our predicted high winds today with a peak gust of 35 kts! Most of the day it blew between 20 and 30 kts, all day long. Tuesday is due to be much calmer and we're scheduled for a bottom scraping to get ready for our move north next Wednesday. I did get the oil and filter changed after wrestling with the oil filter for a couple of hours to get it loose. One step at a time. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Key West - Forward hatch fixed, rains come

We have a new neighbor, a huge, 129 ft powerboat from Australia. 
The new hatch I ordered from Beneteau had arrived a couple of days ago but it was too hot to install. Today was cloudy, perfect for deck work. As luck would have it, the replacement was identical to the old hatch. The lid was detachable so off it came from the old hatch and I removed the new lid and then just installed it on the old base already cemented in place on the deck roof. For once it was simple. That is rarely the case when working on a 12 year old boat! This time it worked for which I'm very grateful. I'll never get this simple an installation in the next 20 years! I've used up all my "simple installation chits".

For some reason, temporary tattoos have a large attraction in Key West
We're getting a change of weather. A cool front is coming from the north and we watched it approach on radar. The worst of the weather seemed to pass either north or south of us so we just endured with no problems. After it passed, I took Hoolie on his evening walk along Duval Street and the crowds have definitely thinned out after the spring breakers left. There is still a fair amount of people but not bumper to bumper as in the past.

We are in the last week now of our Key West stay so I have to get moving to get the boat ready for our cruise north. That includes changing the oil and filters, checking the impeller, having the bottom scrubbed and the zinc replaced, installing the hour meter and the list goes on. Key West was fun (and still is) but it's time to get ready for the trip north.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Key West - Our helm seat and sunset

Ann seated in our Todd Cape Cod Helm seat
I've received several requests to describe our helm seat, most recently a request from yesterday. We've been cruising since 1985 but our distances have greatly increased in the last 10 years. At first it was trips to Maine from our home base in Poughkeepsie, NY up the Hudson River and then it was down and back along the ICW to Key West. During all that time you spend a lot of time behind the helm. We've logged 3900 hours on our engine due to just the motoring part of the trips.

With all that time behind the wheel, you want to be comfortable. We've tried various solutions. I used to just stand and steer, Ann liked to sit but the cockpit teak seat was too low so she used to pile up either cushions or life vests. Those solutions were unsatisfactory, they were not stable, especially when sailing.

It hit a high of 87 today, hot! Too hot for Mallory Square tonight
After that we went to various helm seats but didn't like any of them until we found the Todd Cap Cod Helm Seat. The seat was comfortable, waterproof and provided excellent side to side support as well as back and arm support. The problem was how to secure it to the boat. Normally you would use a pedestal made for the job but there was no room for one on our Fleetwing, a 42 ft sailboat. So I found a seat made for a shower stall and shortened the legs to fit our purpose. I bolted the Todd seat to the shower stall seat and strapped that seat to the cockpit seat with a ratchet strap. That setup secured the seat and we use it not only while motoring but also when sailing. I can lean back into the seat and it provides lateral support while tipped. For long tacks I can even sit in the chair since the high sides provide good lateral support. When I need aft access to the swim platform, I just undo the ratchet and lift off the seat. That only happens after we anchor so there's no problem.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Key West - Laundry, hair dresser and we finally get our new hatch

Palm trees everywhere. The city ensures we have an adequate supply
Laundry in the morning, enough said. Ann always gets her hair done when in Key West, it's one of the few stops where she can find decent stylists. The only other stylist she uses is at Fernandina, Florida. Here she found The Beauty Bar at 328 Simonton St. It's run by two guys who just like to cut hair. Nice to find someone who likes what they're doing. They are from New Jersey (everybody in Key West is from somewhere else) and just moved down and set up shop, they like the area, who wouldn't.

Ann's new haircut
Later in the afternoon I got a call that a package arrived and lo and behold, it was the long awaited hatch replacement. The stupid tax only came to about $250 for the new hatch with a direct order from Lewmar through the Beneteau USA manufacturing site in South Carolina. Since only the closing part was damage, I plan on replacing only that part - which is probably not a good plan but I'll take the seemingly easier path first. The frame still attached to the boat appears okay (which means it probably isn't). Just in case, I ordered some butyl tape to rebed the new hatch frame to the boat if I have to remove the old one. Butyl tape, I hear, is the best rebedding material out there, better than the gooey, white stuff. I'm getting all of this second hand but they seem to be good sources. I'll let you know how it turns out.

One of these days I'll get over to Mallory Square
Since it's a Friday, we went to BO's Fishwagon to listen to  Barry Cuda but he's off somewhere else I guess. He hasn't been there for the last two weeks. Lots and lots of bands in Key West but we still like Barry Cuda the best.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Key West - The Gardens Hotel piano bar, Irish music and dinner at Schooner Wharf

Our musician at The Gardens Hotel
Everybody had Irish Day entertainment here in Key West. Downtown was a zoo of crazy outfits. The upper level above the new Waterfront Brewery is now open. It doubles the area of the brewery which is really a very large restaurant with micro brews as well as a game center with a dozen or so LCD screens showing sport events. My interest is in the three, full sized pool tables they have on hand but none of that today.

A better view of the entire area, never very crowded
The first stop after the heat of the day was The Gardens Hotel where we listened to Irish broadway tunes as played on a baby grand piano. There's no charge for admission but there is wine available. It's every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. As you might guess the crowd tends to be on the older side but that's fine with us.

The Irish Band, The Greens
We left around 6:30 and headed to Schooner Wharf for their own Irish Night celebration. Naturally they had an Irish band which to untrained ears sounded very good. They also had Irish food and I got the corned beef and cabbage but Ann stuck with the fish sandwich she liked so much from our last visit.

Note the new upper level at The Waterfront Brewery
It was just an enjoyable day, great music, good company, perfect weather - and we both are stuffed.