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Swing Set

Jun 16, 201409:17 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Happy Father's Day

For anyone who would doubt that boating is in my blood, proof is in the photo above. My dad is the guy in the middle in the photo. The year is 1956, and the location is a beach on the Mississippi River. The fella on the left is my uncle, Joe Herbst, my dad's brother in law. Joe was a Golden Gloves boxing champ, and he got my dad his job at the beer factory. I think in 1949. This subsequently led to my career at the beer factory, too. Thank you, all. I don't remember the fella on the right, but as you can see, they are all enjoying a cold Budweiser, another item that is in my blood, more often than not. Who says boating and beer don't mix?

We lost some good boat neighbors here at the marina last weekend, with them moving back to Fort Myers, where Greg and Alisa can send their daughter Sara to a better school and Greg can be closer to his work as a doctor. They were fun, and we'll miss them. As a send-off celebration of sorts, Alisa joined us on a Friday night, the weekend before last, when Sara, another friend, showed up in Key West with two of her girlfriends.

While some men fantasize about hitting the town with five women in tow, the true experience can only be described as something similar to herding cats, especially when every bar you go into is full of drunk men resenting the fact that a man is in the company of five women. We had a great night, but I paid for it and came down with a cold or something, the first bad one I've had since leaving St. Louis.

But before I knew the extent of my malady, we took the dinghy over to the Boca Chica sandbar the next day, and as you can see, the sky was threatening a storm, but we had our umbrella up, watching the clouds and the direction of the storm. We didn't get a drop of rain on us, and the "beach" filled up with boaters as the afternoon progressed. We watched a boat coming in that was so full of people the waves were coming over the top of the little 15-foot, open-bow Bayliner that they were all piled into. There were five adults and six children on board. I wanted to take a photo, but I didn't want them to find any reason to pull up near us on the beach, but sure enough they did anyway.

Three of the adults dropped off the rest of the tribe and then took off in the boat, leaving two adults to entertain the six kids. Before the kids discovered Holly and started climbing around on the dinghy, we pulled up anchor and moved up the beach, where we found some unsuspecting adults that we could inflict ourselves upon. Some other people we had seen on the beach previously showed up, and pretty soon we had a party going, just like the old days on the beaches of the Mississippi River. Boaters are people that are just waiting for the next party to break out.

But that day took a toll on my health, too. So, on Monday morning, we called our new doctor, and he sent out a prescription to address my condition, which is just now getting better.

Not one to let a little persistent cough keep me down, on Tuesday of this week we took the opportunity of some calm weather to get Swing Set out of the slip for the day. But let me back up.

It had been two months since we even started the engines. We tried to start them up on the previous Thursday to go out for a spin, but the port engine wouldn't start. It seemed like dead batteries, but when I put my voltage tester on the battery terminals, I was getting a reading of 14 volts.

I walked over to Key West Diesel, just next door to the marina, and talked to Celeste about what was going on. She said that since we hadn't started up the engine for two months, maybe the Bendix on the starter was frozen up. (Frozen up means "rusted".) I took the starter off and everything looked OK, but since I've had a new starter (newly rebuilt, anyway) on board, I decided to put it on just for good measure. The starter acted the same, so then I checked the volts at the batteries and at the starter while cranking the engine over and found out the voltage drop was too great for the batteries to be any good, in spite of the reading I got with my voltage tester.

Key West Diesel didn't have any technicians available for at least two weeks, but Celeste suggested we call Matt Graf with Key West Mobile Marine Services. We know Matt from our stay at A & B Marina, and he agreed to come the next day to check out our problem, because our batteries were just one year old and shouldn't have been dead yet.

Matt didn't make it over until Saturday morning, and he confirmed that our two portside batteries were indeed toast, but more importantly, he discovered that our house bank of batteries tied to our Xantrex multi-stage charger were being "cooked" because a little switch that makes our charger a "multi-stage" charger was set in the wrong position. I swear that I never touched that switch! The only reason we hadn't cooked all of the batteries, I think, is because up until we became tied to shore power here at Stock Island Marina Village, we were on the hook most of the time and the batteries needed charging almost constantly.

We bought two new batteries, and that particular problem was solved, albeit at a cost of $700, which brings us again to Tuesday of this week.

We ran the boat out to Boca Grande Key, about 17 miles west of Key West. Because I wasn't feeling too well, and it was hot, we spent the afternoon anchored just off of a nice beach there and we just relaxed in the air conditioning. We've been needing to run the generator anyway. The warranty will be up in October, and we only have about 15 hours on the Westerbeke.

The bad news is that we found that our overheating issue on our main engines has not gone away and that also our engines were not getting up to speed.

That evening, I was trying to think pleasant thoughts, but my brain was occupied with trying to figure out what was wrong with our engines.

Our primary Racors had just been changed, but still, I suspected a fuel delivery problem. I then decided to ask Celeste the next day if 350 hours on our secondary filters was too many. Celeste, not too tactfully, informed me that our secondary filters needed to be changed at least every other oil change, preferably every 100 hours. Dutifully chastised, I bought four filters (two spares) and with my head hanging low, trudged back to the boat to pop on two of them.

Still not sure about what to do about the overheating (bear in mind that since our last outing, the water temperature has increased dramatically), I decided to test the integrity of the caps on our coolant reservoirs by taping some paper around each cap to see if coolant was leaking out the caps next time we ran. Leaking coolant wouldn't be the cause of the overheating, but we are losing a bit of coolant over time, so I wanted to check the easy stuff first.

One of the easy tests is to check the raw-water impellers. I removed the cover of the starboard raw-water pump (the starboard engine was running hotter) and found a blade missing from that impeller. One blade missing off of a raw-water impeller shouldn't cause an overheating problem of the magnitude that we are having, but I cannot put equipment back together if it's not knowingly 100 percent.

It took me over six hours to replace the raw-water impeller. First, I dropped the shaft keeper key into the intake hose, prompting the need to remove a hose on the intake, but couldn't do that without loosening up the oil cooler some. I found the key, but then had to take off the inlet side of the heat exchanger to find the missing blade from the impeller. When I removed the end of the heat exchanger, I didn't find the missing impeller blade, but did find that the zinc anodes of that end of the heat exchanger were in need of replacement, something I had just done at the last oil change.

By the time I got everything replaced and buttoned up, I was bathed in sweat, my back hurt, my hands were bloody, I was about to cry like a baby and I hated boats.

After such a trying day, Rosie and I walked to the Rusty Anchor to treat ourselves to a much deserved dinner. I also soothed my soul with only two icy cold Budlights, still being on medication and all.

I wanted to test the boat on Friday, but we got word that an ex co-worker of mine was coming into town on Friday evening, so we decided to stay in and run the boat for a sea trial later in the weekend. It's hard for me to fathom that any co-worker of mine would still want to spend more time with me, so putting all else aside was an easy decision to make.

Craig and Vivian drove down from St. Augustine and made the trip in eight hours, which I thought was unbelievable time! We met at the Marriot On the Beach, having made reservations at The Tavern 'N Town for 6 p.m. Tavern 'N Town had been recommended by one of our new local friends, and the best tip was that between 5 and 6:30, every entree is only $19.99. Now, a $20 entree is usually even more that we like to spend, but the Tavern 'N Town is pretty fancy, and the entrees run anywhere from $30 to $40. Three of us got the $40 entree for half price, which was pretty good from a taste standpoint, but left a little to be desired in the portion size department.

After a very pleasant visit with Craig and Vivian, we left them to enjoy their one planned night in Key West, and we returned to the boat and the glorious air conditioning, where we watched a movie from Redbox, occasionally glancing outside at a serene full moon.

We learned on Saturday morning that Craig and Vivian were going to stay one more night in Key West, so we invited them to join us for a boat ride. We had one more calm day in our weather forecast, and I wanted to see if our fuel transfer issue was solved. I didn't have much faith on our overheating issue being behind us, but one thing at a time.

We left the dock around 1 p.m., and once the engines got to running temperature, I spooled up the mains. We got on plane quick enough, our throttles seemed to be responding much better, indicating that the secondary fuel filter replacement was a very good thing, but 10 minutes into our trial, both engines heated up and the high temperature alarm sounded on the port engine. Last time, it was the starboard engine. The overheating issue cast a pall on my day, but a cold beer smoothed out the edges, the company was very pleasant, and we took a three hour spin around to the end of the island.

I'm repeating, and I've recently begun to say, "If money can solve the problem, there isn't a problem." Next week I'm going to visit Celeste at Key West Engine and tell her to put us on their service schedule. Fix it.

All is not a disappointment, however. We're enjoying the visits from a multitude of friends, meeting new friends and just enjoying Stock Island Marina Village and Key West in general. I've even managed to solve a problem that has plagued us for months. The light in our Norcold refrigerator quit working. The fixture was broken, but I also checked the wiring and found that even though the switch was good, the connection was bad between the switch and the light, and without taking the guts of the refrigerator apart, there is not a way to replace or fix the wiring.

We were at our second home a few weeks ago, Home Depot if you didn't know it, and I was looking at some motion sensor lights and my own light bulb in my head came on. We've had a dusk-to-dawn motion detector light over our salon door for several years now, but we began turning it off when we started staying on the hook all the time, as the rocking of the boat kept the light on constantly, making battery replacement an issue.

I took the light down over the salon door, put fresh batteries in it, and mounted the light inside of our refrigerator. Presto! The light doesn't come on during the day, but at night, when we open the door, we have a much needed light so I can find my midnight snack.

Today, Rosie is out washing the boat and I'm toiling away at this blog. We're going to stay low key for the rest of the day to finally give me a chance to rid myself of this cough I have. We also hope this week to receive our SeaDek stair pads from Castaway Customs. We were sent a picture of the pads as proof that they were indeed cut and were told that they were "on the way." When we get them, I'll have pictures of them installed, along with the full story.

On Monday, we take the Zuma to the Yamaha dealer for a required 500-mile checkup, and then on Tuesday we both have dental appointments. It's not all fun and games living here in Key West.

Meanwhile, it's hot and sticky here lately, but both of our air conditioners are purring away. If they quit, I'm going to be like the creature pictured above. Very crabby.

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