Swing Set

Feb 14, 201412:50 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

We Get Some More Company

Stock Island Marina Village had their Grand Opening and Kingfish Tournament on the last weekend of January, and the festivities started on Friday night and ran until Sunday afternoon. In addition to the fishing tournament, there was live music all weekend, two great complimentary cocktail parties on Friday and Saturday night, and a free breakfast buffet on Saturday and Sunday morning. The Sunday buffet included as many Bloody Mary's as you could stomach early in the morning.

The colder weather of January passed through, and February has turned out to be very pleasant, weather wise.

We had some friends from Missouri come and visit us a couple of weeks ago, and they stayed on a boat over at Oceanside Marina for five nights. Tim and Andrea said the boat was comfortable, and they got to have a true Key West experience by living for almost a week on the 32-foot Bertram.

We were able to get Swing Set out a couple of times while they were here, and on the last day, Todd and Debra, who live here in the Keys, joined us for a cruise up to Saddlebunch Key. We were poking our way into the shallow anchorage between Bird Key and Saddlebunch Key when two trailerable trawlers came up on our stern, also making their way into the anchorage. The captain of the second C-Dory called out, "Hey, Mike!" and then shouted over that they had been following the blog for some time. They were surprised to see us and just wanted to say hello. Nice to know my efforts are appreciated.

No sooner did Tim and Andrea cast off to head back to the winter chill of Missouri than we got a message saying that Steve and Krista were coming down for a few days. They're a couple we met in Kentucky, and they bought a condo here in Key West and visit when they can. We met with Steve and Krista at the Conch Republic for happy hour and had a good time with them. They're a fun couple, and we hope to see more of them when they come down to visit.

One morning, I decided to walk over to Key West Diesel next door, the local authorized Caterpillar dealer. I talked to Celeste over there and explained our problem with the port engine overheating and setting off the temperature alarm. Celeste had some good input, and following her advice, I bought two new thermostats and went back to the boat to install them. Another thing she mentioned was that, were I running a 50/50 coolant mix, I should weaken the mix to 30/70 to help the engines run cooler. Because I lost some coolant when I removed hoses to replace the thermostats, I just topped off each tank with tap water when my repair was done. It wasn't scientific, but it got the job done.

My trouble shooting tasks at the beer factory over the years taught me to never change more than one thing at a time when trying to solve a problem, but reality is that if you have to do service, or maintenance, you try to address as many things as you can while the equipment is torn apart, or while you are already paying someone for a service call. That in mind, I also switched out the temperature sending unit on the port engine with the one on the starboard engine, to see if the alarm migrated to the starboard engine.

So, now I had actually changed three things about our engines, and if the problem solved itself, I wouldn't be sure what exactly fixed it, unless the starboard engine started alarming. In that case, I was prepared to buy a new temperature sending unit. As it was, the two regulators and gaskets were only $40. Not much to lose.

We had known that a co-worker of mine at the beer factory was coming for two weeks in her RV, and the time had come. Renee was staying at Leo's Campground, not but a half mile away, so I texted her and asked if she and her two friends with her wanted to go out with us on Swing Set to test my work.

In the picture above, we had returned from our cruise and were acting silly. Marsha is on the left, Renee is in the background with Nancy in front of her. I'm not sure who the other two people are, but the guy is threatening to give the girl in the bikini a knuckle sandwich.

Our highjinks certainly were not an indicator of the success of the sea trial after my repair, as Swing Set didn't run like I had hoped. She went on plane, but even given my gradual increase in throttle, the engines wouldn't take any fuel. I'm not sure if it was the distractions, or liberal application of Bud Light, but it wasn't until that night in bed when I realized our fuel filters were most likely clogged. Had I been thinking clearly, all I had to do was switch from one set of Racors to the other to see if that would solve the problem. But as it was, I did it the next morning, and while I was at it, I changed the filters on the offending units. I checked my maintenance records and found that we had been running on those filters since July. It was time to do it anyway.

The calm weather was still holding, so with fresh filters in place, Rosie, Holly and I set out to give the motors a good test. I set a southeast course in a very light chop and pushed the throttles forward. We ran at 22 to 23 miles per hours for 40 minutes without an alarm on either engine. Our temperatures on both engines stayed under 205 degrees, which is within the specifications for these Cats. I was a little disappointed in our speed at cruise, because normally we get 25 miles per hour at 2500 RPM, so we were off the mark by 2 or 3 miles per hour, but I also knew that we were due for a bottom cleaning.

Our new friends, Neal and Cindy, were due to come down from Tennessee last weekend, so to kill some time while we waited, I decided to scrape our hull. I had a new dive mask I was wanting to try out anyway, so I got all my barnacle scraping stuff together, got our Hookamax fired up and went beneath the boat. The barnacles weren't too bad, but the hull was full of little white squiggly creatures, sort of like worms, which certainly could have slowed our hull speed down some. Most glaring addition to the bottom of the boat was a nylon crab-pot line loosely wrapped around the portside propeller. Yeah, that will slow your speed down some.

I easily removed the offending line and spent the next three hours scraping the hull with my three-inch paint scraper. I also inspected our shaft and trim tab zincs, noting that they should be good for a few more months. I also decided to inspect the bottom of the boat more often in the future, so that I can minimize the amount of time I'm under the boat. I also want to minimize dinner time for any sharks lurking around in the harbor.

The fella that owns this boat doesn't concern himself with optimum running performance. In fact, the motors in the boat don't run. Thus, the vessel was temporarily equipped with two 9.9 horse Yamahas. No fear of violating the no-wake zone here. When we first came to Stock Island Marina Village, this boat, Tilly, was tied up to the seawall next door at DDD Boatyard. I noticed the thick barnacle growth and the amount of rust on the hull, and figured that the boat would most likely sink in her slip at some point. As we have later found out, the owner was previously at Robbie's Marina, and having not paid his slip rental, was kicked out and moved to DDD.

He apparently didn't pay his rent there either, so they simply untied his boat one night and it drifted the 100 feet or so over to Stock Island Marina Village, where the marina manager was not very happy to discover that one of the staff accepted the reservation for "an 85-foot motor yacht" and accepted a cash payment for one month's rent on a vessel named Sea Gypsy, identified by a cardboard sign in a pilothouse window. The outboard motor setup was installed to make sure the boat left in one month, but now the owner says "he ain't leavin'," so the new dockmaster here removed the motors, not wanting to lose them forever. Not sure how far he'd get with that setup anyway.

The vessel has drawn lots of visits, from Customs Officers, to the Florida Water Conservation agents, to the Department of Environmental Protection. By the looks of the owner, the DEA ought to come around, too, if they haven't already. I have no respect for anyone who lets a boat go to seed, so we hope they can get this guy to move on in a month. If they want a world-class marina here, having derelict vessels like this one tied to the docks is not the way to go about it.

But other things are just peachy here at Stock Island Marina Village. We were doing our regular morning mop and maintenance on Swing Set one day when a fella walked over and introduced himself.

"Arch" found our blog on the America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association website some months back and has been following it. We had traded some messages a few times, and he wanted to come over to introduce himself and let us know that he found the marina here by reading our blog. Another satisfied customer!

Last week, the marina hosted a Reggae Party in honor of Bob Marley's birthday. There was live music from noon until the wee hours. Draft beer was $10 for a bottomless cup, and there was a shrimp boil and fried fish dinner, all you could eat, as many times as you wanted to go up to get some, for another $10 per person. What a deal!

I was preparing to deploy our dinghy last Sunday when a small sailboat was slipping into the harbor and I heard someone call my name. It was Katie on the sailboat Louise! She and Jessie arrived and were planning on staying a month or two, maybe longer if they find some decent employment. There is a link to their blog on our cover page, "Katie and Jessie On A Boat." Pretty good reading and very good pictures. Check it out.

Yesterday, we had a short but very enjoyable visit from a couple who both still work at the beer factory and are down here in Key Largo for a few days. Jeff and Merinda drove down to see us just for the afternoon. We had dinner over at Hogfish before they had to drive back to Key Largo. Merinda has been reading our blog for about a year, and they hope to do something similar when they get to retirement. We're happy to be an inspiration to them and know that we'll see them occasionally as they acquire their "on a boat" experience.

Today, it's very windy out, and it's been raining a good deal, so it's a perfect day to do some blog writing and wait in patient anticipation for the fried chicken and mashed potato dinner that Rosie has planned for us this evening. Neal and Cindy from Chattenooga are going back home today. They'll be back in a few weeks, but we won't feel guilty about laying around and reading our Kindles this afternoon. We'll top off the night with another movie from the library. Doesn't get much better than that.

This Sunday, some friends from our old homestead in Fenton, Mo., are driving down from Fort Myers to spend a few days and want to get together. We can't wait! There are seven of them, and they'll fly out on Wednesday. We'd like to have them out for a cruise, but the weather prediction for wind is only allowing a window for Sunday afternoon. We hope they get here in time for a sunset cruise at least, otherwise it'll have to be a dockside party. Those are good, too.

My immediate list of chores has gotten shorter. In the last three weeks, I've waxed the entire boat, addressed our engine overheating problem, scraped the bottom of the hull, replaced four gas struts on our trunk lid and flybridge hatch (also replacing the gasket on the hatch), repaired some gel coat scratches on the bow and on the portside hull, and replaced a tiny spring on one of our davit winches, which required me to completely disassemble the winch to install the spring. I never thought I'd get the thing back together. I also fixed Rosie's hair dryer. There is a limit to my talents, and I reach it regularly, but it doesn't keep me from trying new stuff.

We are really looking forward to a short visit from some good friends in St. Louis next month, and we found a doctor in Key West, so I can get my wellness checkup in early April.

We want to find a weather window for a short trip back to the Dry Tortugas, so we'll keep an eye out for that. We won't give up our slip to go there, because it's looking like Stock Island will be our home for at least a few months more.

Add your comment:
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Feed Feed