Swing Set

Sep 5, 201309:56 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Coconut Grove

We've been in Miami for five days now, and it still feels like we just got here, but a lot of things have happened. I took the photo above on our boat outing last Monday.

We had gotten settled into our slip last Friday and had a nice dinner, happy as clams to be in air conditioning again. It is downright hot here in Miami. I suggested to Rosie after dinner that we take Holly for a walk, at least around the docks.

This is a very nice and well run marina. Extended stays are not allowed, because there are no pump-out facilities here, so boat owners can stay the weekend, but staying all week is not allowed. We're keeping a low profile, even with the permission from the dockmaster, Tony.

Back to our walk: We walked over to the Dinner Key Municipal Marina to take a look at where we wanted to have a slip. It's nice over there, too. On our way back to the boat, we passed Scotty's Landing, a casual waterfront restaurant. They had a sign that advertised that dogs were welcome if they were well behaved. We took Holly in anyway and got a seat at the bar.

We ordered two Bud Lights and were told they were $5.50 each! What? Were we back in Nassau? The girl took our order and told us that the "bucket price" was a little better, so being of a frugal nature, we bought a bucket. One must save when one can. Outside of an annoying drunk at the bar (no, not me), we had a nice time at Scotty's. We looked over their very affordable menu and decided to return for dinner at some point, in spite of the high beer prices.

On Sunday morning, I attacked the water pump on our generator. The water pump is on the back side of the generator and is impossible to see, and very hard to get to or feel. I took some photos by holding my iPhone behind the generator and took some pictures and studied them. The photos in the service manual are blurry and very small. They are worthless.

Once I knew what I was dealing with, I had to decide whether to remove the whole pump to access the impeller, or just change the impeller out while it was on the pump. There are four bolts holding the pump on, plus two hoses. Access to the four bolts was harder than the access to the six small bolts on the face of the pump that house the impeller, so I decided to focus on taking the six bolts off of the impeller housing.

In between extracting the six small bolts, I rested my hands from cramping by cleaning out the heat exchanger on the generator. There were zinc parts blocking up one end of it, and I either dropped an "O" ring when taking an end cover off, or it was omitted last time, but I figured that an improvement was made by cleaning the debris from the exchanger and getting the unseen leak stopped by installing a new "O" ring on the one end.

I dropped one of the small bolts on the impeller cover, and while hunting for it under the generator, I found a new impeller that had escaped sometime in the past. Apparently, someone had dropped it and instead of looking for it, just got another, probably charging us for it. No, Karl. It wasn't you.

I was able to coax the old impeller out with a small screwdriver. It was missing three of the six blades, and the three remaining blades were about to go. No wonder we weren't pumping water at times. I had found the three missing blades on the inlet of the heat exchanger, plus an extra one from who knows when.

I installed a new gasket on the impeller cover and started the hardest task of installing the impeller, but it turned out to be easy. The really hard part was getting the cover back on. It was impossible to hold the cover in place and start a bolt because only one of my hands would fit behind the generator at a time. Actually, only part of one of my hands. I left a large portion of the skin of my right hand on various parts of the generator. My right hand looks like a wolverine got at it.

I finally got the sixth screw started, and using a very small three-inch wrench, I began tightening each bolt, about an eighth of a turn at a time. Once I got everything back together, I fired up the generator. It wasn't leaking a drop and was pumping water like crazy.

I was a filthy mess, about to pass out, but one more item was needed, which was an oil change, so I did that in a few minutes and that took care of the generator, albeit at a total time of over six hours. A mechanic will chortle over my sense of accomplishment, but I can tell you that I was euphoric. A cold Bud Light was my reward. Make that two.

I had intended on doing more work on Monday, but it was Labor Day. I decided to take the day off. We took Swing Set over to a popular hangout in No Name Harbor, a small hurricane hole just off of Biscayne Bay. Even though some wind and rain put a damper on things later in the afternoon, we were able to meet some folks in there and wound up having a very good time. We also found another popular "beach" where literally hundreds of boaters were pulled up and wading around in two or three feet of water, socializing around the sterns of other boats, big and small. We're going to go there this weekend.

On Tuesday, Rosie and I boarded the local "circulator bus" for a quarter and took a ride to a nearby hardware store, then walked to a marine supply store. We bought some things we have had on our list of "things we began to need" during our Bahama trip and then walked back to the boat in order to learn the area.


On Tuesday night, we went to Cocowalk and went to the movie theatre. The Paragon 13 is the anchor to a very nice retail and restaurant mall right in the heart of Coconut Grove. We walked around "The Grove" after the show and was impressed. The area is very clean, and the people seem to be nice, although learning how to speak Spanish will prove to be a challenge.

There is an area in St. Louis called the Central West End, and Coconut Grove reminds us of that place. We lived there for a while and liked it. We are liking Coconut Grove, too, and we don't think there are as many purse snatchings here.

Mark and Debbie (yes, that is their real names), the couple we had met in the Exumas, live in the area and looked us up and invited us to dinner on Wednesday night.

We went for cocktails for happy hour and then to an eclectic burger bar called LOKAL, for a casual dinner. They gave us a short tour of the area before dinner and  overloaded us on local knowledge until I finally had to ask them to stop making any more suggestions. I couldn't retain the stuff they had already told us. The tour and dinner wound up being a delightful evening. The time flew by, and before we knew it, it was nearly 10 o'clock.

I have everything I need to clean the heat exchangers on the main engines, but I called Celeste at Key West Engines for some advice. After she told me I was on the right track with the method I had planned to use for acid cleaning the heat exchangers with Barnacle Buster, she told me about a new marina in Key West called Stock Island Marine Village. I checked the website and showed Rosie. The facility is opening on October 1. It is actually on Stock Island, on the "eastern" end of Key West, at mile marker 4.5. The marina will have floating concrete docks, a fitness center, and plans include a hotel and restaurant.

We liked what we saw on the website, plus we liked the dockage rates, so we called the harbormaster, Rob. He was very nice, and since we will be in Key West until December 1 anyway, we decided to get on the ground floor and reserve a slip at Stock Island Marine Village for the month of December to see if we'd like to stay there for the winter.

But we don't have to be in Key West until October 1, and we want to save some bucks, so we're leaving Grove Harbor Marina and going on a mooring ball at the Dinner Key Mooring Facility when we leave here on Saturday. Some other folks we met in Georgetown have their sailboat moored there and they like it. Their "home base" is here.

We're meeting another old friend and his wife on Friday night for dinner at Scotty's Landing. John Ziegler is the editor and publisher of The Waterfront Times in Fort Lauderdale. I've known him since first grade, and we keep in touch. We look forward to seeing him and his wife, Jen. They picked Scotty's because they knew Holly could come along. It's practically right next door to where we are, so we're happy to go there.

We ran some more errands in The Grove this morning and keep getting impressed with the area. We're actually torn between Key West and here, but we aren't making any long-term commitments. Most likely though, we'll either stay in Stock Island Marine Village longer than a month and then return here to Coconut Grove, or not return at all for a while.

This is not a bad predicament to be in.

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