Swing Set

Dec 22, 201208:36 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

More Notes From Marathon

We are into our second week here in Boot Key Harbor, which is in Marathon, as most of you know. We have some relatively chilly weather occurring currently. The photo above was taken yesterday when the wind kicked up and our low was 66 degrees. This morning, it was 55 degrees and the wind blew hard all night. We should get up to the mid-70s today, and the wind should die down about midday.

We were going to take the dinghy over to Dockside last night, a bar/restaurant here in the harbor, but it was too windy to suit us, so we stayed in and used up some data transfer space and watched a movie on our Roku player.

The harbor keeps filling up, mostly with sailboats. We've made some inquiries to two Key West marinas that manage dinghy docks and mooring fields. We're currently intending to go to the Garrison Bight Mooring Field. We'd rather stay on anchor, but the anchorages around Key West are usually crowded, and as much as I have confidence in our anchoring abilities, other people may not be as responsible. The dinghy dock at Garrison Bight is close to shopping, a hardware store and the main part of Key West, for our partying pleasures.

Some sailors we spoke to have complained about the long dinghy ride from the mooring field to the dinghy dock at Garrison Bight, especially in a north wind, but we don't see a need to venture out if conditions aren't acceptable to us. The Garrison Bight mooring field looks sheltered enough from winds from other directions, so we'll see how it is for a week or so and then decide whether to stay in there longer or not.

The game changer here in southern Florida, particularly the Keys, is that access to the shore via a dinghy is somewhat restricted, so some type of arrangement usually needs to be made with a marina in the form of purchasing a pass for one's dinghy. The arrangement usually includes the permission to get free pump-outs and water fill ups. The free lunches that we found up on the rivers are not found down here. We do have a friend with some condos in Key West, and we're going to see if we can get a hook-up on a dock in Key West if we need it, and if it's reasonably priced. Docks in the Key West Bight go for $120 to $160 per night for a boat of our size, and about $2,000 per month. These costs are not in our budget, but staying on the hook or a mooring ball is still affordable. Fuel is not astronomical, either.

We'll be heading to Key West next weekend after Holly's veterinarian visit, if the weather permits.

Meanwhile, work on Swing Set continues. The other night, I was putting the dinghy up on the davits when one of the hooks on our four-point attachment gave way; an aluminum ferrel clamping around a cable just split down one side, letting the cable give way. The dink didn't drop far, or hit anything, and I left the dinghy afloat that night and then made a trip to Home Depot the next morning to get stainless cable clamps, the traditional type. I replaced the aluminum ferrel with a stainless steel one and then combined a cable clamp on all six vital points on our harness system. We shouldn't have any more problems.


Non-boaters, or seldom boaters, may not realize how much attention is required to keep a boat working in order to live on it. Take just the water system, for instance. At home, you just turn the faucet and the water comes out, or at least it does if you pay your water bill. We don't have a water bill, but when we turn the faucet, lots of things start happening.

First of all, we have to have water in the tank for water to come out. This requires getting the 120-gallon tank filled up about once a week. To accomplish this, we either get water when we get fuel or depend on the goodwill of others in order for them to allow us to fill up our tank. We may even pay for water, like we do here at the Marathon City Marina. Even though we are paying for a mooring ball, water is still 5 cents a gallon. We have the option of making our own water with our watermaker. We haven't started using it yet, but the 3 gallons per hour that we will get from it will require us to use some battery power, whether we are cruising, or we have to fire up the generator to make that happen.

So, let's say we have water in the tanks.... Turn the faucet, and a water pump comes on. You have to transfer the water from the tank to the faucet. In our case, two pumps come on. We have two pumps in order to keep water pressure up in the event someone is taking a shower and someone else wants to use another water faucet. (We have nine water sources on Swing Set.) Two pumps is good in case one quits, too. This has happened, and it was nice to not be out of commission while shopping for another pump.

We get water, and we use it, but then it goes down a drain. In our case, the sinks drain to a central sump in the bilge. This sump accumulates the "gray water" and, once the level gets high enough, a switch activates and a pump comes on to pump out the gray water. The sump needs to be regularly cleaned out because the soap scum gums up the switch and the strainer to the pump. We have replaced both the pump and the switch since we have owned Swing Set. The sump gets cleaned out about every four months. We use a wet/dry vac; it's a smelly job but doesn't take too long, as our sump is easily accessible.

Switches? Pumps? Electricity is required, either by AC or DC power. We have nine batteries on Swing Set, and they all have to stay charged up, a huge job in itself. We have to keep the generator maintained so it will work when we need it. The wind generators need to be considered, too. Keeping juice in the batteries is a constant effort on our part, and more conservation is part of the equation. You can't just drink beer for three days and forget about the power level in the batteries. Why do I know this?

In view of all of this, water conservation is always on the forefront. We don't waste it. Some things will always take place, no matter what. Rosie, keep shaving those legs....

All of these mechanisms just to get water to come forth from a water faucet is just part of the bigger mechanical picture of our little world here, and something new is learned all the time. Learning new things will help to keep our brains sharp, at least this is the hope.

Today, we need to take the dinghy over to the marina office to pick up a package from Amazon.com. We ordered dog food for Holly that was supposed to be delivered next week, but the six bags have already arrived. That's enough 5-pound bags to last a long time; maybe six to eight months.

This is another advantage to staying on a mooring ball; we can get packages delivered and have a place to pick them up. This makes shopping for needed items a lot easier. We can also get our mail sent here. I have an important letter coming from my father that we need to have a hard copy of, so we're having it sent to the marina, due to arrive before we depart next week.

One thing we don't like about Marathon is how most of the restaurants and services are lined up along the busy Overseas Highway. There are sidewalks along most of it, but sitting outdoors at any of the eating establishments means sharing your conversations with the exhaust of the passing trucks. We're looking forward to the more quiet settings of the Key West bars and restaurants. Quiet, unless folks visiting from up north are in attendance.

Doesn't sound too exciting around here does it? But the weather will change this afternoon, or tomorrow, so we can return to dinghy rides, swimming or just enjoying the view when we're not addressing the many issues that Swing Set requires of us. Not complaining. If we wanted things easy, we'd have sold the boat and sat in our condo for the rest of our lives and let our brains turn to mush. Oh, we intend to have our brains turn to mush anyway, but we'll be active until the end while it happens.

Enjoy your friends and family in the next few days; someone may be gone away on a boat somewhere by this time next year. It might even be you.

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