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Swing Set

Dec 19, 201308:23 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Making Ourselves At Home

If you own a boat, and you're not busy, you're not taking care of it. I don't mean you have to be doing something every minute of every day, but finding at least something to do for a couple of hours a day should be easy to do.

The picture above is one of our gray water sump box, and installing the deck plate on the cover of it was one of the little projects I did lately to make life easier on the boat. Even though doing boat chores is necessary, I'm always looking for ways to make the chores easier.

The gray water sump collects the water on our boat from three sinks, two showers and the condensate lines from the two air conditioning units, and then when the float switch detects enough water in the box, the pump kicks on and pumps the gray water overboard. This eliminates extra through-hull fittings on the side of the boat. The sump box needs to be cleaned out regularly, because the liquid soap we all use goes down the drain as suds, but eventually turns into little hard bars of soap, clogging up the pump, or making the float switch not operate properly.

Since we've owned Swing Set, I've replaced the original switch with one that's free floating (the original switch was one of those that operate inside of a little blue box, and the box always gets gummed up with soap residue and the switch won't float). I've replaced the pump because the original just quit, and I've replaced the Plexiglas cover with a Lexan cover. The Plexiglas cover cracked because Plexiglas is more pliable than glass, but not as forgiving as Lexan. I also replaced the cover gasket and exchanged the 12 nuts on the cover screws with wing nuts, making it easier to remove them to service and clean the box.

But I was in the engine room of a 52-foot Sea Ray recently and noticed that the sump box on that boat had a screw-in deck plate on the housing cover, and I liked that idea, so when we were in West Marine last time, I saw this see-through deck plate and decided to install it in our sump box cover.

Last week, I removed the cover, held the float switch up to pump out as much water as I could, then used our wet vac to suck out the rest of the water and all the hardened soap scum from around the switch and the pump. Then, I scribed a circle around the deck plate after placing it where I wanted the hole to be, used my jig saw to cut the hole, then drilled the holes for the screws to mount the deck plate. Once I put a bead of silicone around the hole and inserted the screws, I installed the cover screws and wing nuts, and my job was done.

The deck plate unscrews from the frame and has an O-ring to keep odors in. (The sump box stinks.) Next time I have to clean out the sump box, usually every six months, it'll be an easier job.

If you've been reading this blog, you do know that it's not all work for us. Neal and Cindy had some friends down visiting from Tennessee, and we all met at Dante's one Saturday afternoon.

Holly is relaxing under her own shade umbrella, just like the one we bought in George Town last summer when we were in the Exumas. One of the locals we've been seeing at Dante's on a regular basis gave this umbrella to Holly as a gift when he noticed that we were having some difficulty keeping her in the shade during our visits.

We've been riding the 4.5 miles to Dante's on our bicycle on the weekends to enjoy the pool there. It's a pretty flat ride, but when the wind is blowing in from the east like it has been, the ride back to Stock Island at the end of a long afternoon at the pool is taxing, to say the least.

Speaking of the bike, here's the final generation of our mounting system. The brackets are nearly invisible. I used the rods from two Magma Grill bow rail mounting units. We can turn the bike upright, hook the front wheel onto one rod, and then swing the back end of the bike up and place the frame of the bike right onto the other rod, which is positioned at the top of the "triangle" formed by the frame, shown just up and behind the crank in the photo. An Ancra tiedown strap will be used when we are in transit, and pieces of cut "pool noodles" keep the bicycle frame from getting scratched on the flybridge rail.

Last Sunday, the wind had died down and we took the dinghy on an exploration trip of the bay side of the keys. The waters just north of the lower keys is full of mangroves and little islands, just waiting to be explored in a little boat. You have to use a little boat because most of the water is too shallow for anything but a little boat. We were looking for a beach just off the tip of Snipe Point, about 14 miles to our northeast.

I was using my iPhone to navigate, and we found Snipe Point with no trouble. We were at a rising tide, and the beach was underwater, but as we approached the point, we saw what appeared to be some dinghies floating in the trees along the shore. When we got closer, we got a whiff of a terrible stench, and then we realized that we weren't looking at dinghies but the carcasses of three or more small whales, rotting away.

We found out later it was against some law or another that the carcasses couldn't be removed, and had to just sit there and rot. We won't be making any more trips to Snipe Point anytime soon.

We took a circuitous route back to Stock Island, only getting lost once, maybe twice, but eventually finding the A1A bridge we had to go under to get back to our side of Stock Island.

Like many parts of the Florida Keys, anywhere you have a free anchorage, you usually have derelict vessels. The eastern side of Stock Island is no exception. I took about a dozen photos of some of the worst looking vessels we saw in a "managed anchorage," and there were dozens more that I could have taken photos of. In my opinion, these people are just bums that happen to have a "home" that floats. It's not an unfair assumption that most of the vessels in areas like this have no means of propulsion. How would our highways and roads look like if car owners could just abandon their vehicles wherever they happen to break down? This topic deserves more coverage than I'm willing to devote to here.

Last Tuesday, we finally got our new generator installed! Here is Mark de Jong, owner of Marine Diesel of the Florida Keys, directing the fork truck operator over at Oceanside Marina as he gently slips or long awaited new Westerbeke generator into our engine room without a hitch.

The generator has been delivered for a while now, but since we had to wait for the wind to die down, last Tuesday was the first day that wasn't a weekend that we could take Swing Set over to Oceanside, and it was still a little blustery out.

Mark agreed to let me install the control panel in our salon, run the wire harness for the generator, mount the coolant overflow bottle and install a new anti-syphon valve, saving us quite a bit of labor costs, so we aren't planning on hooking up the new generator until after Christmas. But that's OK, it's a small worry off our shoulders just getting the new Westerbeke sitting where it belongs, since we had paid for it weeks and weeks ago.

Stock Island Marina Village continues to fill up. Last night, a boat just like Swing Set came in and the owner came over to see our boat. His boat is two years newer, and he and his wife just got it. They sold their home in Georgia and are going to make Stock Island Marina Village their new home. We have plans to get better acquainted soon over some cold beverages and discuss some of the improvements we've made to Swing Set that George and Donna may want to make to their 1998 model.

As boats were coming in and reservations for slips mounted up, I knew our chances to change slips were diminishing, so for a variety of reasons, we moved Swing Set to a new slip two days ago. Our cockpit faces the east now, instead of the west, and the hotter afternoon sun isn't beating into the cockpit at the time of day when we've usually had our fill of sun, so that alone makes the move a good one. We're also now in a dock sitting right between the laundry and the showers, but between the two we have a view of the ocean from our flybridge. Our bicycle is also in a bike rack just at the top of the dock ramp. I think we're going to like this slip better.

Stock Island Marina Village is having a holiday party this Sunday, and all the boaters are invited. Food and beverages are free. How could we miss that?

We may also have some friends visiting over Christmas. They're on a cruise, and when their ship returns to Miami, they just might drive down and spend a day or two with us. We'd be happy to see them. (Don, Kris, and their daughter Katie visited us in Marathon last Spring.)

In early January, Rosie's two cousins and their husband and wife will be staying at one of the "boatels" here at the marina for a week, and we can't wait to see them. Rosie's cousin, Rose Ann, and her husband, Denny, have been close friends of both of ours for a long time.

If you are so inclined for Holiday Greetings, or Merry Christmas, here it is coming at you from both of us, the closest thing to a Christmas card that we'll be sending out.

We can't believe we're nearly at the end of our first full calendar year of living on the boat. Hope we have many more.

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