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Swing Set

Feb 24, 201410:52 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Staying Warm in Key West

Here are my two Valentines, celebrating Valentine's Day at Hogfish after a day out riding around in our dinghy. Four locals who joined our table helped make it a fun evening. My girls don't need fancy.

A week ago, we met up with some of our friends from Fenton, Mo., who were in Fort Meyers and drove down to Key West to spend a couple of days. We were able to get out on the boat on Monday, with the seven visitors. Three of the four women in the group are riding up front with Rosie and Holly in the picture above. We were able to make a hot loop through the Key West Bight and past Mallory Square before tackling some headwind when we set our course to return to Stock Island.

We finished the night at Hogfish, and everyone liked the place and the food. The next day, we met up with them at Schooner's Wharf Bar and killed a nice afternoon before we all took in dinner at the Rusty Anchor, where we found Katie, half of the sailboat duo of Katie and Jessie, on her first day on the job. She has mastered the chore of serving crackers very well.

The big red tugboat is finally gone from Stock Island Marina Village. The last we saw of her was as she was being escorted out of Safe Harbor under the power of those two 9.9 horsepower outboard motors, one mounted on the stern, and one on the bow. We don't know where the scow wound up, and we've looked. We heard a rumor that the owner wanted to take it out past the reef. Anywhere closer to shore and there isn't enough depth to fully sink her, the boat being so tall. He'll be spending some prison time if he sinks it without the proper permits. You wouldn't believe what it costs to legally scuttle a boat.

On the subject of scuttling boats, it occurred to me that it may become necessary at some point to require boats to pass some sort of inspection periodically to prove seaworthiness. I can hear the uproar now from all the boat owners who don't want another expense, but the growing number of derelict vessels on our coastlines is a problem that will have to be dealt with at some time or another. How would you like our highways to be lined up with junk cars as people drive them until they just leave them abandoned where they quit?

Last week we took our bicycle in for a "tune up," which was a complimentary adjustment of the limited number of adjustable things that one can find on a bicycle. We spent the time waiting at Dante's, and the bike was finally returned to us about three hours after it was promised. The one thing I asked them to do was adjust the rear brake, as it was a little spongy, and they didn't do that.

The fella in the service department offered to dispose of our receipt for the work, but as I told him, the receipt was really the only thing we wanted, as now we had proof that the bike was in for the "tune up" just in case we have some major problem before the one year warranty is up. I might have had a few beers while we waited at Dante's, but I didn't completely lose my senses.

We are increasingly becoming convinced to lay down roots here in Key West. The luxury of having convenient services and access to goods is definitely spoiling us, and even though we don't consider ourselves "old," living on the boat is a whole lot easier while tied to the dock. When we start to feel wanderlust again, we'll both know it, and we'll do something about it.

We do know that in our near future will be another trip to the Dry Tortugas, if for no other reason but to give our new generator a workout. It still only has a little over an hour on it, and that was put on it at the factory.

Our current adventures have mostly been taken in the dinghy!

Last weekend, we took the 14-mile ride out to Snipe Point. The dead pilot whales are gone, and with a southeasterly wind, the lee side of the point was calm and the water was clear.

By mid-afternoon, as the tide began to cover the white sand beaches, there were a fair amount of boaters out soaking in the sun. The water here, although not even close in comparison to the gin-clear waters of the Exumas, was about as clear as you're going to find in the Keys.

We snagged a crab pot with the outboard on our way back. I was staying well clear of the markers, but the long polypropylene lines were floating on the surface of the water, well away from the markers, and I didn't stay downwind from them. No damage was done, to our dinghy anyway, and we were soon underway. So, far it's us 2 and crab pots 0.

It hasn't been all play. I had never removed the lower gear-case housing on our Mercury outboard motor, but with help from the internet, I was able to pull off the lower unit to inspect the raw-water impeller, as the little telltale water stream stopped telling. The hard part was trying to figure out how to disconnect the shift linkage when removing the gear case, so I went to the nearby Mercury dealer for some advice. I didn't get any advice, as they were short staffed, being a Sunday at the time, but I did buy a new impeller while I was there.

I dug into the information available to me on the internet again and found a real nice service manual in PDF form. Even though I had to page through each of the 350+ pages to find the information I wanted, I learned how to easily disconnect the linkage, and I removed the lower gear case housing and then the impeller cover. The impeller looked OK to me, but I did find out that Murray Marine sold me the wrong impeller. I put everything back together and changed out the gear-case oil for good measure, and then used a wire to poke out the hole where the water stream emits from the powerhead, something I learned while cruising the internet while I was looking into why the Mercury wasn't spitting out water.

The task wasn't a waste of time, because checking the raw-water impeller is something that needs to be done annually anyway. Plus, the gear-case oil change was long overdue. I took the purchased impeller back to Murray Marine the next day and swapped it out for the correct impeller, so we could have a spare. Now that I know how to do it, swapping out the impeller, even if done on a beach somewhere, will be an easy chore.

Yesterday, we took the dinghy out again to a closer gathering spot just off of Boca Chica. Our dock neighbors, Ben and Katie, joined us later in the afternoon when they came out in their dinghy. Even though they had been at Stock Island Marina Village longer than us, they didn't know about the "Boca Chica Sandbar," and were happy to have found it. For our part, we're going to keep promoting it to anyone looking for a good "beach spot" in order to cultivate this sandbar into a social mecca. It may take time.

We also heard yesterday that our marina is charging full steam ahead with the plans for a boutique hotel, restaurant and pool. Ground is supposed to be broken this summer on the project. We can't wait to see how it shapes up. We hope the rent doesn't go up when the project is completed, but it will provide a place for our traveling friends to stay if they come to visit.

Part of the attraction of staying here is that we are getting a first-hand look at all the improvements in the area, not only here at Stock Island Marina Village, but around here on Stock Island in general. With the increase in transients and long-time slip renters, there is an increase in customers for businesses around here, and the smart money will capitalize on the situation. The Stock Island "old timers" who want to keep the status quo will just be disappointed, and in our view, the status quo is nothing but "run down and dilapidated."

Can't finish the blog without another picture of Holly. Robert "Ferd" Frank took this shot when the Fenton gang was out with us last week, and I thought it was cute not to post! Holly can't wait for her next dinghy riiiiiiiiiiiiide!

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