Swing Set

Mar 6, 201301:47 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

More "Life on the Ball"

 For the Florida Keys, the weather lately has been chilly. There was a lot of rain last Sunday, but the inside of our boat stayed nice and dry thanks to the repair I did a few weeks ago.

We picked up a few ingredients at Winn-Dixie on our way to Advance Auto to pick up some engine oil I had ordered, so that we could make a big pot of ham 'n' beans, or in this case, Spam 'n' beans. I had soaked a half package of great northern beans in water and some baking soda overnight, so I rinsed them and put 'em in a small pot and got them to a boil for a few minutes. (The baking soda is supposed to help get the gas out of the beans, or reduce it at any rate. No one here wants to mess with the tried and true.) Then, I rinsed them again and put them in a bigger pot along with a can of sliced carrots, a can of diced potatoes, a can of chicken bullion, two cans of Spam that had been diced, and a can each of vegetable soup and bean with bacon soup, adding juice and all to the pot. The last two items were added only because they were about a year old and Rosie doesn't like to keep stuff that long. They didn't hurt the recipe; in fact, we like to make use of what we have. You'll notice that everything came from a can except for the beans, and in a pinch, I'd use canned beans, too. I added some water to cover the mix, plus salt and pepper, and let that big pot simmer, steaming up the windows and warming up the cabin as the sun went down. Not sure if the baking soda works, but I wouldn't have wanted to be around that night if it didn't.

On Monday morning, I called Sea Air Land Technologies (SALT)  to find out if we getting a visit from a technician. I received a return call about an hour later, and one of the owners of the company was coming to assess the problem with our wind generator. I picked up Bob from SALT in the dinghy and on the way gave him the history of our problems with the port wind generator. Before we had reached Swing Set, he said that it sounded like we had a bad circuit board. That's exactly what I had thought, initially.

Bob and I discussed a course of action, plus some ways to improve our system, one of which is to integrate both battery banks, something I wanted to do when the system was installed, but installing wind generators was new to Dave Ludwig at Bloch Marine and I don't fault him in the least. Bob, in fact, remarked at how nice the installation was. One hour and $95 later, I dropped Bob off again at the marina office and promised to come by their office the next day and give them my credit card information. I also wanted to see if they had success in ordering a new circuit board.

It was a nice day on Monday, but still chilly, so we walked to Winn-Dixie to stock up on our dwindling supply of canned goods. We are intent on reducing the contents of our freezer so that we can efficiently defrost it and then restock it before we get it hauled for bottom paint, so we didn't buy any fresh meat.

We had the dinghy stacked high with hundreds of dollars worth of canned goods and four cases of Bud Light, and when we stowed everything away in its proper place on the boat, Swing Set was sitting level in the water again, as the 12 gallons of oil brought aboard on the previous day had put her on a slight list to port.

We lounged in the salon for the rest of the afternoon and then heated up some of our bean soup for dinner; the added treat was some fresh Cuban bread we bought at Winn-Dixie, slathered with Country Crock margarine for a nice addition to our meal. Buttered bread is something we never eat much of.

I ate like I was going to the electric chair, but I could have no food after midnight due to my blood work I was scheduled for on Tuesday morning. We left the boat at 8 a.m. and then walked to the Community Health Center, about a mile from the City Marina. I was there for an annual physical, something I've always done, if not for anything else but a reality check.

After about an hour of filling out forms and waiting, I was finally able to see the doctor. He started to look into my eyes with that little flashlight of his before I suggested that I remove my Ray Bans. "Good idea," he said.

We talked a bit about the long questionnaire that patients had to fill out, with some questions having no relevance to any one's medical condition. I also remarked about the question asking if I was suicidal, and how anyone was supposed to answer the question about their past history with sexual partners while their mate was watching on, in an honest fashion, without being just a bit suicidal. He laughed at that, so I determined him to be a competent physician, based on him not being as dry as a popcorn fart.

The nurse took some blood on the first try, which is always good, and told us to call in two days for the results and to schedule a follow-up visit. Seems like doctors and veterinarians work on the same principal; get 'em in often and keep 'em coming in.

The offices for SALT were just across the street, so we went there next. I met Shawn, another one of the owners, and gave him my credit card info. They had no word on whether the circuit board had been ordered, but would learn something soon. They promised to keep us in the loop. There will be no trip to the Bahamas this spring if this wind generator isn't fixed.

 

After having no breakfast, Rosie and I were hungry as we entered The Stuffed Pig, a small diner near the marina, at 85th street thereabouts. We had a combination of breakfast and lunch, which meant a big breakfast, and then walked back to the City Marina. We rested and read our books for a while and then decided to take Holly for a dinghy ride and go to happy hour at Salty's, a place we had heard and read about, that was dog friendly.

We took on some fuel in the dinghy at Burdine's, a marina on the way, which set us back over $17 for 3.5 gallons of regular, and then took the dinghy out of the channel out of Boot Key and then under the Seven Mile Bridge to the "bay side" of Marathon, where we found Salty's back in some mangroves but within a stone's throw of the Overseas Highway.

We had forethought to bring along a RiverBill's sticker, and I pasted it on the wall there behind Rosie for a picture. When we think of it, we put "Swing Set" on the sticker with a Sharpie, along with the month and year. If anyone sees one in their travels, let us know. There may be prizes.

Salty's isn't a bad place, but the happy hour menu doesn't offer much in the way of promoting happiness. Yes, the beers are reasonable at $1.86 (including tax) but chicken wings at $5 for six isn't exactly a deal. Other places advertise .25 cent wings, or three for a buck, during happy hour.

We watched the charter fishing boats come in and learned that the fishing was pretty slim this season. One boat came in with four clients on board, and they had one fish. The next boat came speeding in and couldn't dump off their clients fast enough, and began to hurriedly wash down the boat. Not only did the clients get a little wet as they exited the boat, we nearly got some over-spray at our table several feet away from the dock. We learned they had gotten "skunked," meaning not one fish was caught during their outing.

While we watched road dust blow over the harbor from the nearby highway, we were contemplating whether or not to order appetizers when our waitress showed up and said her shift was over and could we "settle up?" I hate it when a business has a shift change during happy hour, the busiest time of the day usually, and then the customer is passed from one server to another. The waitress was nice, and she was expressing her desire to "get over to the good side of the bar," so we didn't want to ruin her day. We gave her our card, and she brought our new "server" over for us to meet. The new girl looked to be all of 14 and promised to return when the beers we had were in need of replacement.

Fifteen minutes later she returned, noticed our previous check and credit card on the table and asked if the first waitress had taken our check. In her hurry to get to the bar, she had "forgotten" to take it, so had to come back to take care of it. Understandable if the place was hopping, but we were her only table.

Against our better judgement, we ordered two Bud Lights and two orders of chicken wings from our young server. Two beers, two chicken wings. Simple. "I better write this down," is what our new server wisely decided.

Our beers and chicken wings came and we dug in. They were cooked as ordered, well done, but then our math skills came into play and we counted only five wings on each plate. Rosie tracked down the server who happened to be standing next to the owner and explained that the menu said six wings per order, but we got five. "You got an old menu" was the only response Rosie got back from the owner. This is not a sign of a good business acumen.

We decided to leave Salty's and check out Castaways, as it was on the way back to the boat. Castaways sits at the end of a canal past a long row of shrimp boats, right next to a building with a sign advertising "Fishmonger." We were able to get a seat out on the patio where we could have Holly join us and were also able to get a food order in right before happy hour stopped at 6 p.m. The happy hour menu offered "three beef, or three chicken tacos" for seven bucks. A lot more than Taco Bell, but we had hopes they would be better than Taco Bell...not a big accomplishment.

A new waiter eventually came over and informed us that our server had to leave due to an emergency phone call, and that he would be helping us. He asked what we had ordered and I answered that we had ordered "three chicken tacos and three beef tacos." A short time later he came back and began to place six baskets of tacos upon our table, a total of 18 tacos for two people. Ah, no.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. We only ordered three of each, a total of two baskets."

"I thought this was too many baskets of tacos," the server said.

I agreed and he took the extra tacos away and promised to take them off of our bill. Thank you very much.

It was dark by the time we got back to Swing Set, and happy to be there. Now, we don't like to be too critical of businesses, but we get inundated by brochures and ads about local restaurants that have no basis in fact in regard to happy hour times or specials. We realize that we are in "tourist country" and should take these ads with a grain of salt, but typically we travel several miles in the dinghy to visit some of these places, sometimes in less than pleasant conditions, and disappointment is magnified when our efforts usually exceed just the normal "pull up in a car and walk into the bar" variety.

It's also typical that the servers are new to the job, and we try not to be demanding, but the owners of these tourist traps don't care if the service is below par or the ads and menu aren't accurate. They just want you to come and drop off your money.

Now, part of the fun of traveling is going to new places of business, and finding out where the goods ones are. But if a place turns out to be a bad experience for us, we'll tell you about it and let you decide. Just because we are in "paradise" doesn't mean that we don't still have "issues" with businesses like everyone else.

Wednesday promises to be a good day. We'll do some cleaning on the boat, and then there is a seminar planned over at the City Park for those who are planning a trip to the Bahamas. We hope we learn some valuable information at the seminar, with the hopes of an April crossing still being possible in order to let us enjoy that part of the world before hurricane season settles in.

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