Swing Set

Aug 14, 201309:08 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Some Mechanical Issues and a Staniel Cay Redux

(page 2 of 3)

With a new focus for the afternoon, Rosie began using up our precious international calling minutes, and started contacting the other marinas in Key West Bight. She hit paydirt with Key West Bight Marina. They said we could reserve a slip for the month of November, which was better than nothing, but I consider the place a dump, and they were going to charge us a premium for the days of the offshore powerboat races. We decided to give one more last ditch effort to get a slip at A&B Marina, at least for November, but Rosie only got a voicemail when she called them. We then decided to hold off until morning and try to call A&B again, first thing in the morning, as we knew the harbormaster was usually in the office by 6:30 a.m.

We arrived at Rat Cay Cut and entered it without incident. Then, we snaked our way over to an anchorage that we stayed at on our way down, just off the beach at Lee Stocking Island. We were tucked into a fine spot, protected from some predicted prevailing winds, and then proceeded to salvage the remainder of our day with a short cocktail hour and a fine dinner. Two other vessels came by with an eye on our prime spot, but they moved on. That “bird in the hand” that we had acquired earlier, also turned out to be the “early bird that got the worm.”

Before we went to bed, I fired off a lenghty email to Mark Miller at A&B Marina, so that he could go over just what it was we’d be asking about when we made the call I was promising for first thing next morning. Rosie wondered why we had to use up our valuable phone minutes to call, when we could just use email. I reminded her that folks can find it easy to ignore an email, or even lie when giving a response, but when faced with a phone call, or a face-to-face encounter, most people will find it difficult to put you off. We needed a slip, and the gloves had to come off.

Rosie checked our mail before 6:30. Mark had been in the office even earlier than we had anticipated and had responed to my email. He could promise us the whole month of November! This was great because most of our friends weren’t arriving in Key West until October 31 anyway. After our phone call, things even got better. We asked Mark that if we promised to arrive on October 1, and then vacate the slip for the booked up time period of the annual Key West Fantasy Festival, could we then return and have the month of November? We wound up with such an agreement. We could keep the slip until October 18, leave and then return on October 28. We would either anchor out, our get a mooring ball over at Garrison Bight, a short dinghy ride into Key West Bight, for those days of Fantasy Fest. Mark also promised that if there were any cancellations for a slip of our size, it was possible we migth not even have to vacate the slip at all. This is what we were after in the first place. So, now we have a plan of some sort, but primarily we need to be at A&B Marinas by October 1.

We spent a day or two at Lee Stocking Island and then moved on. We transited the Adderly Cut and made way northwest for 10 miles or so to the Rudder Cay Cut, with the intention of snaring our anchorage just off the island of Rudder Cay, where the giant lobster was that I had seen on our way down. A 42-foot Tiara Open was anchored just around the corner from our intended spot, but we didn’t see anyone around. We passed by them, dropped our hook and before long we went calling on our lobster. It was not only not home, no other ones were home, either.

We were back at our boat when the folks that owned the Tiara cruised by in their dinghy to say hello. Mark and Debbie were on vacation. Mark hails from Miami, and Debbie has a home in Ft. Lauderdale. They turned out to be very nice, and we chatted with them until some locals noticed Mark’s dinghy over near us and came by to see if we wanted to purchase some lobster. Mark and Debbie had gotten some earlier, and told us what they had paid. I thought it was a bit high, but I had no room to negotiate, given the circumstances. The fishermen had several lobsters in their boat, one looked like the giant one I had seen weeks earlier, but the smaller ones are sweeter, so we bought two smaller but still very nice sized ones. The monster wouldn’t have fit in any cooking utensil that we owned anyway.

Mark and Debbie invited us over for sundown cocktails later on, and we agreed on a time. Meanwhile, I perpared our lobster tails for dinner later that evening by slicing them along the topside and pulling the meat out of the shell. This permits the meat to expand, preventing it from remaining dense in the shell when you steam it. Like popcorn, only better.

Our intended visit of an hour or two with Mark and Debbie turned into four hours. We got back to the boat to meet a miffed Holly, at an hour too late to prepare a nice lobster dinner. We ate some Triscuits and went to bed.

The next morning, I had a plan to tighten the water pump belt on the port engine, hoping to find a solution to our overheating problem. If I found the belt to be loose, and it would solve our problem, I would then make the effort to tighten the belt on the starboard engine. I should have never turned down this particular road.

Now listen friends: I try not to complain, or even divulge my physical ailments or maladies. For one thing, no one cares. For another, it’s no ones business. But on that day, I about wrecked myself.

The guards for the belts on our Caterpillars are not easy to remove. This is an understatement. For one thing, the first bolt I attempted to remove was frozen solid, and it was stripped on the head. I couldn’t even get my giant vice grips to get purchase on it. I wound up removing the entire bracket that holds the bottom of the alternator on, and the bolts for that were in a place almost impossible for me to get to, given my current supply of tools. (A 3/8-inch swivel socket is now on my shopping list.) Now, I know what my friend Karl Kotraba was cussing at when he installed these same belts before we left St. Louis back in April 2011.

Seven hours later, I had the water pump belt tightened on the port engine and the guard re-installed, and I was ready to fall out with either heat stroke or shear exhaustion. Mark and Debbie had inquired about getting together, but we had to take a pass. All I wanted was to eat our lobsters and go to bed early. I got myself a nice, hot shower, and as Rosie prepared our dinner, I managed to find some energy to start up the port engine and make sure I at least put it together properly. The loud sqeal that emitted from the engine room informed my that I had made the belts too tight. I was real quiet during dinner.

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