Mar 31, 201308:31 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Back in Business
After not having rain for quite some time, it's natural that on the morning we were to have the boat hauled at the Marathon Boatyard it would be raining. But we arrived at the scheduled time of 8 a.m. and waited patiently for Swing Set to get hauled out. Two hours later, we were in the sling.
I purposely left the bottom alone for the last month, not scrubbing it or scraping any barnacles. I wanted to see how well our bottom paint was holding up. In my opinion, it wasn't. None of the running gear had any paint left on it at all. A great deal of barnacles had found a home on the hull, and there was plenty of plant life to go along with it. We'd taken Swing Set out three times and had run it up to speed, which I thought would have sloughed off the bottom growth, but I was wrong.
Sherri, the service manager, came out and introduced us to Randy, the yard manager. We discussed the course of action in regard to getting new bottom paint applied, and we decided which zincs to replace. It took only about a minute to determine that our cutlass bearings were in good shape, one bit of good news there. New cutlass bearings (actually bushings) would require pulling drive shafts, a labor intensive process we were glad to avoid.
As planned, a subcontractor arrived to discuss a bid for cleaning and waxing our hull. This is something I've had done the previous two times we had bottom paint done, so I had a base point on what the job should cost. Being in Florida, the labor rate is lower than in Missouri. As a comparison, the shop rate is $15 per hour cheaper than comparative yards we have dealt with up north. Matt, the young man who ran his own detailing business, was very nice and personable. He said he would present an estimate to Elizabeth in the office, and she would get back with me with a price. Before we left, I got an email from Elizabeth with a bid of nearly $1,000 to clean and wax the boat hull. I said, "No thanks." Either Matt's price was out of line, or the up-charge from the yard was nearly double the bid.
We left the yard to check in at the motel we were going to be staying at, promising to return later in order to make sure our electric was running, once they got Swing Set on the blocks and plugged in. As we were leaving, Swing Set was getting her bottom pressure-washed.
Our room was ready at the Blue Water Resort, just a short walk across the Overseas Highway from the Marathon Boatyard. One of our biggest challenges for the week was to be able to cross the highway at least twice a day without getting killed. The speed limit appears to be upheld, but tourists can't seem to keep their eyes on the road. The sight of a pelican makes them forget the concept of steering a vehicle.
The Blue Water Resort has seen better days, most of them were probably in the 1950s. Four nights ran us close to $600, not a bad price in this area, but I'd describe the place as a dump. We found this unfortunate because the management was friendly, and it was right across the street from the boatyard. Our price included a substantial discount due to the referral from the boatyard. But they took pets, and not many places do.
I left Rosie to unpack our small bags of belongings into the rusty refrigerator and into the equally rusty medicine cabinet, to go back across the street to check on the boat. They had a step ladder in place at the stern for me to climb aboard. I was impressed.
Good thing I went, because even though they had Swing Set plugged in, the breaker was tripped on the post we were plugged into. Bobbie, one of the yard workers, helped me look into the problem. Bobbie is not an electrician. I suspected a bad 50-amp circuit on the post, so we split a 30-amp circuit, but that didn't work either, the breakers on the post closest to our boat were tripping. This meant a problem at the post, not on the boat.
The next closest post only had one 30-amp plug, so we plugged into that. It worked initially, but I waited around for a while to see if it would remain working, and eventually the breakers on the boat tripped. This meant between the two battery chargers, the refrigerator and the de-humidifier, we managed to pull more than 30 amps. We needed a 50-amp plug.
Bobbie hunted up another 50-foot dual 30 cord, and using our splitter and our 50 feet of dual 30-amp cord, we were able to just stretch the cables down to the next post with a 50-amp plug. Everything worked, but I was concerned that if another boat was put into the empty slot, our plug would get moved back to the faulty post, so even though all seemed to be working, I left the wind generators on so we wouldn't run our batteries completely down.
I made my way back across the street in one piece after a quick stop at a nearby Tom Thumb convenience market, the only place within a half mile to get groceries or something to eat. It was going to be a long week.
The day remained rainy and blustery. In fact, the wind had picked up considerably, and we could see the whitecaps from our view of the bay when we stuck our head out the door to our room. We left the dinghy in the water at the dinghy dock at the Marathon Boatyard, but after viewing the weather forecast for the rest of the week, I didn't think we would be out using the dinghy. We spent the rest of the day lounging in our luxurious suite at the Bluewater Resort, reading our books and listening to the neighbors slam car doors.
Following a sleepless night -- we couldn't help feeling bugs crawling over us all night -- we had a quick breakfast, then stopped into West Marine next door to Marathon Boatyard before finding the boat bottom already sanded, bad zincs removed and a base coat of epoxy applied to the running gear, the stern and the bottom of the swim platform...the main problem areas where the previous paint didn't want to take hold.
The electric was still on, so we turned off the wind generators, no sense letting them spin if we were plugged in. We promised Randy we'd return the next day and on the way out ran into Matt, the guy who we'd wanted to wax the hull. I apologized to him for not doing business with him. It didn't seem to bother him; in fact, he said it was nice of us to stop and explain why we weren't having him do the job. He went on to say that we could do the waxing ourselves, the boatyard wouldn't mind at all.
On yet another nasty day, weather wise, we holed up in our room and read our books. I kept thinking about waxing the hull of the boat, but even though I manage to keep the topsides waxed, I only do a little part at a time, never working more than an hour or so. I've only waxed the hull while the boat was in the water, but even so, it's hard on my joints and now I'd be working off a ladder. I'd rather be mugged than wax the boat hull, at least I'd have a fighting chance of my body not taking a beating. Waxing the hull in a short amount of time was bound to leave me a physical wreck, but nonetheless, I called Elizabeth to see if it was true: Could I wax the boat myself? She answered in the affirmative, so I began to form a timeline in my mind as to how I could get the job accomplished without getting in the way of the bottom painting, our priority in the first place.
Taxing the brain makes one thirsty. Even though it was sprinkling rain off and on, we took Holly for a walk to see what was in the general vicinity, within a mile or so, in the way of a good place to engage ourselves in happy hour.
We found Porky's. From 3 to 6 p.m. daily, they have half-price domestic beers and a "Happytizer" menu, at the bar only. With only one other diehard patron at the mostly outside bar, we saddled up in seats of our choice.
Porky's is a "dive bar." This is a good thing. The decor is eclectic, to say the least. But the menu is outstanding. Of course, BBQ is the specialty, but on this night, the special was beer-butt chicken, served whole, standing up at your table for you to carve and pick at. Side dishes are extra, so two people can mix and match what they want with the chicken. It really looked good to us, but we went with the happy hour fair of chicken wings and a pork slider sampler plate. We met some folks at the bar who finally made their way in, and Holly annoyed nearly everyone with her behavior. Usually it's me.
We left much after happy hour was over and walked back to our simple cottage in a light rain. The weather, and several beers, made our room seem like a cozy little hideaway, at least until the beer wore off around midnight, and then it was lumpy bed and creepy-crawly city once again.
We marched back across the highway early on Wednesday, expecting to dance around the painters working on the boat while trying to wax the hull, and we found the tape off of the waterline and the paint job completed!
I found Randy, mentioned a couple of minor issues that were promptly addressed, and then Rosie and I were given carte blanche permission to do the waxing. Any additional concerns were to be taken care of by Bobbie, at our request. We both worked for several hours, knocking off at 3 p.m., and managed to get the bottom half of the hull done, and wax applied to the top half, working off the ladder. I had to quit when I got so tired that falling off the ladder was a sure possibility, so that's when I knew it was time to head to the barn.
I wasn't happy with the waterline painted on the port side of the swim platform last time we got the bottom painted, and this bothered me all night. I wondered if I should tape, sand and paint this area myself, or if it was even allowed.
On Thursday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we again crossed the busy highway and went to work. I'd decided to adjust the paint on the swim platform without asking permission. I could always plead ignorance, an easy thing for me to do, usually.
While the paint was drying, I removed the wax from the top portion of the hull, and we were out of there just after noon.
Swing Set sits ready to go after new bottom paint and waxing. We also had a new hull zinc and new trim tab zincs installed; our shaft zincs were still in good shape. All running gear below the waterline was painted, except for the props. We're optimistic the paint will last longer than a few months this time. It may have been too cold up in Missouri when it was painted last March, who knows?
We were in the mood to celebrate! We walked back to Porky's for happy hour again on Thursday. We posted a RiverBill's sticker amongst all the other doodads and dollar bills stapled to the ceiling or walls. Look for it if you ever visit; the name Swing Set is printed on the sticker with a Sharpie. There may be prizes if you spot it.
It would have been a perfect visit, but a couple of bores took seats next to us and proceeded to brag about all the stuff they had, and all the stuff they knew they thought we needed to know. Sort of like this blog, but you have the option to not read it. Try as I might to ignore these people, they couldn't take a hint. Rosie remained nice and attentive, most likely the one reason the guy didn't want to leave us alone. When I don't like the company, I can't fake it.
We couldn't get away from our lodgings fast enough on Friday morning. Rosie shook out our clothing before packing it, hoping to leave any hitchhiking critters behind.
Our bill was ready at the boatyard, as well as a package of medicine that arrived in the mail late on the previous day. It's always an anxious moment when you get a bill. Mostly, you wonder how creative the person doing the billing can get when assessing costs. We were delighted to find that our bill was $600 lower than our original estimate! We thanked those in the office, promising to be back for further service work in the future. With the allowance made to our charges by Bloch Marine from our last bottom paint, this expense didn't hurt too much.
We declined the offer of a "courtesy boat wash," opting instead to do the job ourselves. Once Swing Set was pulled away from the sling, we tied up to a wall and was told to take our time, don't hurry, and stay as long as we needed to.
We both started washing, but when it came time to dry, I walked to a Mobil On The Run and picked up some fried chicken. Our experience at the Shell station in Mississippi made us savvy on the fact that some of the best fried chicken can be had at a gas station.
By the time I got back and loaded up the dinghy, Rosie was ready for us to head out. Our first stop was to be the Marathon Marina to top off our fuel. It's easy to get the Marathon City Marina, The Marathon Marina and the Marathon Boatyard, all confused. I wound up talking to all three one day when I called on the VHF radio to talk to one of them on our way out last December.
On Friday morning, the wind was blowing fairly hard. I had a bit of a challenge getting alongside the fuel dock at Marathon Marina, but did so in fine fashion, only to have my first mate and the dockhand join forces and sabotage me. Swing Set was brought alongside the dock into the current and wind, but my two helpers tied a line from the dock at midships, to a cleat forward on the bow. Once told to "shut 'er down. Captain," the wind and current proceeded to cause us to drift back away from my place at the dock, and thus away from the dock itself. I had to kindly ask the dock attendant to make fast a line at our midships to prevent our escape, which she was able to do just in time. As I was coming down from the helm, Rosie was bragging to the dock attendant about how "I don't know how he does it." Believe me, I don't know how either.
It gets worse. I get the fuel nozzle inserted into the port fuel filler and just start "pumping" and the dock attendant asks me if I "was getting anything." It took me a moment to ponder her question when I realized that no fuel was coming forth from the pump. I was then informed their power was out. Apparently, there was an accident on the highway and no one had any electricity. Just then, we could hear sirens, life in the Florida Keys.
We pulled away, a little disappointed because we wanted to be full when we left Boot Key on Monday, but I also knew I'd want to fuel up before crossing over to Bimini, so a plan to fuel up later on Monday became a necessity rather than an option.
I called the City Marina on our way into the harbor proper and got assigned a mooring ball. In a fairly stiff wind, Rosie positioned herself on the bow in order to snag the mooring harness. She did that part rather well, but as I struggled with the wind, trying to keep the boat over the ball and the harness in her hands, Rosie struggled with threading the lines through the harness. This is the part that can test a relationship, and ours was tested big time.
I'll make this as kind and as short as I can. I want you to picture a toddler learning how to tie their shoes. The toddler ties one shoe, then directs their attention to the other shoe and goes to work on that one. Now, picture the end result is that the toddler manages to tie one shoe to the other one. The word "tie" being used loosely. A "tangled mess" would be more appropriate in this case. After some "firm direction" from the helm, Rosie was able to get us at least held fast to the ball for me to shut down the engines and go to the bow to make head or tails of the situation. Keeping our boat out of harm's way among shallow water and other vessels in a stiff wind doesn't do anything for my level of patience. Let's just say we're working on a better method to use next time we need to hook onto a mooring. It was a quiet night on Swing Set that Friday.
But Saturday was a new day! We left Holly onboard and walked to the Cracked Conch for a good breakfast. We like the Stuffed Pig and the Wooden Spoon much better, but the Cracked Conch does have very good coffee and it was on the way to Publix. We loaded up with all sorts of meat products to stuff into the freezer. We also bought four more cases of Bud Light, bringing our total to six. This is supposed to last until we get back from the Bahamas, which could be three to four months. Let's all have a good laugh at that one.
We called a cab and was quickly picked up by a driver with a death wish. I'd have complained to him about the chances he was taking with our lives, but I didn't want to be left at the side of the highway with $300 worth of refrigerated goods, so I held my tongue. Even once we got back to the safety of the marina, I just paid him, along with the customary tip and just wanted him to go.
While Rosie systematically stored away our purchases, Holly and I took a dinghy ride to fill up the fuel in the dinghy. Barely three and a half gallons and $19 later, we were back at the boat and Rosie was finishing up.
Holly wanted to play, but we were ready to relax. She was going to have to wait. Before dinner, we motored over to the showers and got cleaned up. On the way, more than one person announced that a manatee was in the harbor, and there were several folks gathered around taking pictures. We not only didn't stop and gawk with them, we seized the opportunity to claim a shower before all these other folks got in before us. See? Manatees can serve a purpose!
We both enjoyed two beers each as we watched the sunset. Our new ration of Bud Light has been proclaimed to be only two each per day in order to make it last as long as possible. If they can put a man on the moon, we can do this. Rum will become our newest friend to make up for the difference.
After a nice dinner of burgers and salad, we played three games of gin rummy, taking us to nearly 10 o'clock. Our second night on the boat after leaving the Bluewater Resort was more pleasant than the first. It wasn't as chilly as the first night. All kidding aside, it feels good to be back in the clean surroundings and comfortable bed here on Swing Set. I don't know where we'll stay when we get work done at the Marathon Boatyard next time, but it won't be the Bluewater.
So, today is a holiday for some. For us, we'll just do the same old thing and soak up the beautiful weather. I'll make some routes on our chart that will take us to Rodriquez Key or Hens and Chickens, or maybe Angelfish Cut. It all depends on when we can get out of here tomorrow. Holly has her visit with the vet at 9 a.m. Monday morning, then we'll head out.
By law, we have 48 hours to enter the Bahamas after Holly gets her health certificate here in the States. It's our luck that the wind is supposed to die down and shift to a more southerly direction, allowing for an agreeable transit across the Gulf Stream. If all goes well, we'll enter Government Cut in North Bimini late Tuesday, either checking in on Tuesday afternoon or early on Wednesday. We have a three-day weather window, so we're not sure which direction we'll take upon leaving Bimini, or when we'll go, so filing a float plan with U.S. Customs will be a little difficult, but I think I can be flexible.
Our crossing to the Bahamas has been a few months in the planning, with all the bureaucracy involved with Holly. It's also of no small expense, with the fees involved in regard to Bahamas immigration, not to mention the fuel, so we'll stay over there as long as possible. We'll have phone service, albeit at some extra expense. My biggest concern is being able to get weather predictions. With August comes the beginning of the height of hurricane season, so we might head back by then, we'll just have to see how it goes. We're disappointing some friends that will be passing through Marathon in April and want to see us, but a few days can turn into a few weeks, and we already are staying here longer than we wanted to. They call Marathon the vortex. People come and never leave. We don't want to be those people. Not this time around, at least.
We do plan on being back in Key West by mid-October, but we have to wait until July to see if we have a spot or not. It's doubtful we'll go if we can't get a slip in Key West Bight. We'll keep you posted.