Swing Set

Sep 28, 201308:44 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Familiar Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on Vaca Key

Our first night back in Marathon was very calm and peaceful. The harbor is protected from most any wind as it is, but on Monday evening it was especially calm, but it was also hot. We'll be happy to get to Key West and turn on our air conditioning.

In the Bahamas, I had made a repair to the seat in our dinghy. The thin fiberglass forward seat had begun to crack, so I made a truss to run along the bottom of the seat to give it some support, but the seat itself was beginning to de-laminate, so the damage continued. The material I needed couldn't be found in Miami, at least in places we could walk to, so early on Tuesday morning, we took a walk to K-Mart and Home Depot in Marathon to pick up some things on our list.

I bought some plastic trim board at Home Depot, an eight-foot-long piece, eight inches wide. I also found out I could have bought twice the amount of Starboard that I had purchased at Crook and Crook in Miami for about half the money. If you need Starboard, Home Depot is the place to get it.

We used our two-wheeled cart from West Marine to truck our purchases back to the dinghy, and then motored out to Swing Set. The long walk, plus the heat, had gotten to us, so we took a breather in the salon with the fans on high until I felt rested up enough to make the repair to the dinghy seat.

While I was just getting started, a neighbor from a sailboat rowed over in his dinghy to say hello. The fella was very interesting. He was 72, on his fourth wife, and had refurbished a 40-plus-year-old boat that he and his new bride were going to take to the Bahamas in November. We were trading some information about the Abacos when he suddenly asked me what time it was. When I told him, he said he was late picking up his wife from the library and had to go. He then rowed his dinghy away, saying we'd be talking later.

I finished my work on the dinghy without any mishap. The seat is about as strong as we could want. I used the truss from the old seat even though I probably didn't need it, but I didn't want the lumber to go to waste. I also mounted a rod holder to the bow of the dinghy, so we could put our new beach umbrella in it. Maybe we'll sail with it.

As I was wrapping up my work, our neighbor came back with his bride and introduced both of themselves. I mentioned that if her husband was late in picking her up, it was probably my fault, as I had kept him talking. She grumbled something about having to "wait in the cold library" for so long and didn't have too much else to say.

Rosie or I didn't feel too sorry for her, as we were both sweating our bejeebers off, thinking a little stint in the library air conditioning sounded pretty good. Our sailboat neighbors made their departure, and it was the last we saw of them. The next morning, they moved their boat. I wish I could remember what exactly it was that I or Rosie had said, or did, to get them to move, so that I can use the line on our next new friends, but I don't know what it was. Maybe the guy has bad taste in women. Some people get desperate late in life and will marry anything.

On Wednesday morning, we went to our scheduled appointments at the dentist, where we both got our teeth cleaned and no new problems were found. I was glad to learn that my use of the Water Pik they had suggested I get on my last visit had made an improvement. I hate to floss, and the Water Pik is easier to use.

We then went to pick up the sunglasses I had ordered on our last visit in March, plus Rosie had to pay for the sunglasses she had already picked up back then. The owner was there, and I made a suggestion to her that we made every effort to finish our business with her when we were in Marathon last, but she had went on vacation and closed up her optical shop. I mentioned that the worse thing she could do is not leave anyone in charge to dispense eyewear or to schedule appointments. She agreed with me and decided to hire a temp next time she goes on vacation, so she doesn't lose customers. We were happy with our glasses and also happy that she accepted the constructive criticism.

After our dentist visit, we went to one of our favorite breakfast joints, the Stuffed Pig, and had a great breakfast, which turned out to be breakfast and lunch, as it was so filling. This is one place where the name fits. They give you a lot to eat.

Later on in the afternoon, we went for a dinghy ride to see what had changed since our last visit. The advertised opening of Sombrero Marina Dockside Bar turned out to be false. The promised "refurbishing" is taking longer than expected. It's going to take a lot longer since there is no sign of anyone working on anything there.

Meanwhile, we've been going nuts ordering things online to have delivered to A&B Marina. Some things we've been putting off since we were in the Bahamas, or because we had to be someplace long enough to have them get to us. We had gotten some items delivered to Dinner Key when we were in Miami, but some medicine I needed was mistakenly sent to Miami when we had told them we had to have it sent to Key West, so we had to make up a mailer for a staff member at Dinner Key to use to send the medicine to us when it got to Miami, which they did.

We also ordered a new hot water heater from West Marine, just like the one we have in the boat now, only one that doesn't leak, hopefully. West Marine actually beat the price on the water heater from a couple of the other sources I use for supplies, Defender Marine and Amazon. I think West Marine gets a bad rap, but they are competitive on some things.


Shortly after we get to A&B on Tuesday, we'll have waiting for us my medicine, a new cap for our rubrail that came off in Nassau (none were available, so the Sea Ray factory in Tennessee had to make one up), a decal from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for 2014, dog food and potty pads for Holly, new impellers for the main engines to replace the ones I used so I always have spares, four new pillow cases, three new couplers for our Kitchenaid blender that we destroyed making daiquiris in the Bahamas, a new trash can for the cockpit, and some zincs from BoatZincs.com because our hull zinc is about gone, or at least half gone, and I want to replace some spares I have already used.

It's nice to be able to shop from the boat and have things delivered to a marina where will we'll be. Makes living without a car bearable.

One thing about Marathon, though, is that taxis are cheap. It only costs $5 to go just about anywhere on Vaca Key. Tip the driver two bucks, and you're royalty. The ride is usually a junky mini-van, but so what? It's the Keys, man.

I changed the oil in the main engines yesterday, only a few hours overdue. Boot Key City Marina is a good place to do a job when you have to dispose of waste oil or coolant because the marina has a nice recycle station on site. Makes things very convenient.

To celebrate a job well done on the oil change (we are always looking for reasons to celebrate), we decided to hit a happy hour on Thursday. Our first choice was Sparky's, home of the 25 cent wings and peel-and-eat shrimp. The downside of Sparky's is that Holly wouldn't be able to go. We wisely made a call to confirm they were open (It's the Keys, man) and were told they were also closed for remodeling. This info was true, as we found out later. The owners were gone for vacation, and instead of laying off the staff, they keep them on to do repair jobs and touch up around the restaurant. I think that's considerate of them as employers.

Our second happy hour choice was Porky's, home of half price beers and cheap appetizers from 3 to 6 p.m., at the bar only. Holly was welcome at Porky's, too.

There was already a smattering of customers entrenched at Porky's when we arrived via taxi at around 4 p.m. We took two stools at the bar, leaving ample room between around us, so that Holly wasn't too nervous. Porky's is basically an outside joint with a roof over it, and not fancy in the most liberal sense. The Overseas Highway is just a few yards away on one side, and the dock where numerous charter boats are lined up are on the other side. The building, if you can call it that, is a mishmash of construction, seemingly held together with the staples that are used to tack thousands of dollar bills to anything sturdy enough to hold them.

We took possession of two very cold Bud Lights, complete with coasters and cooly cups, for the mere price of $1.50 each. "Would we like to see a menu," was the question posed by our young bartender, still in possession of a fair amount of baby fat and sporting a tight, low cut T-shirt. She learned her trade well.

We declined the menu for the moment and were well into our second beers when a lone woman more or less stumbled into Porky's, looking for a seat at the bar. I know a barfly when I see one, and this woman fit the bill, and my suspicions were validated when she announced to anyone who would listen that she had been drinking rum and cokes since 8 a.m. that morning. I cringed when she took a seat right next to me.

Any attempts to avoid conversation were dashed when she spied Holly and left her seat to meet her. Holly took to her right away, and I suspected that she had pot on her somewhere in the skimpy outfit of hers, and I was right. Holly apparently likes the smell of pot and chums right up to anyone who is holding. I don't know where she learned that, and I'm not being sarcastic.

We ordered some appetizers: chicken wings and fish fingers, for five bucks each, and both items were delicious. I guess we made our new friend hungry, so when the bartender asked her if she wanted to see a menu, she said yes. No sooner had she gotten the regular menu than I offered her the "bar menu" featuring the happy hour specials. She was extremely grateful, ordered the chicken wings and nibbled on three wings in between stories of her exploits. "I don't eat much, I just drink," is what she told us. We couldn't guess.

A guy came in to play some music, and our friend went over to talk to him and we got to meet some other patrons at the bar, one being another sailboat neighbor in the harbor who knew the fella we met the other day with the new wife. He told us that the guy has moved his boat four times in the two months he has been in the harbor. We're not sure if we felt better about it, but at least we didn't feel totally responsible about them moving away from us.

All in all, we had a nice time at Porky's and it was dark before we got back to the boat. Anyone seeing us climbing aboard the boat at the late hour might have thought we were barflies.

Friday was grocery shopping day. We stocked up at Publix and hauled our groceries back in a taxi. But first, we went to breakfast at the Conch Diner, a place we also liked on our previous two visits. The Conch Diner has been in Marathon a long time, and perched out in front of the place is a pile of junk, which I supposed, used to be a small boat of some kind. The wood is completely rotted off and really what's left is a pile of Styrfoam and some drooping railings. After taking our coffee order, I mentioned to our waitress that they ought to pay somebody $20 to have the "pile of junk" out front hauled away. I may as well have told her that her grandmother was ugly.

"That's been out front for over 35 years," she said, "and some people like it."

I told her I could see the appeal if it still resembled a boat, but I maintained that it now just looked like a PILE OF JUNK. She walked off after taking our order, shaking her head and muttering. I don't want to know what they did in my omelet.

I was going to take a picture of the item in question, but there was another "event" when trying to leave our waitress a 15% tip. I won't get into it, but as things went, walking out front to take a picture may have prompted our waitress to grab a shotgun and have a go at us. Some people just can't take constructive criticism, or advice.

Honestly, I hate advice and mostly never heed it, unless I solicit the advice in the first place, but whenever anyone finds out that we are "new" to the area, they are compelled to tell us everything they think we need to know or do, based on what they know. I wish I could find a way to tell them to save their breaths without offending them.

Speaking of "piles of junk," we see plenty of boats that fit the description, and folks are living on them. I need to take some pictures. It's not just the sailboats, either. We saw a houseboat the other day that was loaded up with so much crap, there was hardly any room outside on the boat to even sit. But yep, there was a woman sitting in a plastic chair gabbing away on her phone, sucking on a cigarette, surrounded by piles and piles of rusty junk. I don't know how the boat was even floating. We don't live that way, and I hope we never do.

Yesterday, I mixed up some gelcoat and touched up three spots on the boat that had gotten nicked in some way or another, just trying to stay ahead of the game on a 17-year-old boat. Swing Set doesn't look much different than she did when we started out a year and a half ago, and especially after spending a year in saltwater.

I found a new cleaner at Home Depot, called Formula 88, that removes the diesel soot from the transom, and it's only $3 per bottle. Roll Off is about four times that, and it plain doesn't work. Formula 88 is also working on the dinghy, too, and nothing has been able to remove the dirt from it until now. We like to keep our dinghy clean, too.

This morning, we're going to unhook from the mooring ball and take on water, then go to Marathon Marina and fill up with diesel. We want to leave first thing Monday morning to head for Stock Island Marina Village, where we'll spend one night before taking our slip at A&B Marina in Key West Bight for the next two months.

Stock Island is the low rent district of Key West, and boat slip prices reflect the difference. We're committed to two months at Stock Island Marina Village after we leave A&B Marina. It's a new facility, and the pictures look pretty nice. If we like it, we may stay longer, but we can do anything for two months. There is a canvas shop on site, and we need some upholstery work done, so we'll probably do that over the winter. The floating docks there will allow a thorough waxing of our hull, and we'll be able to keep Swing Set sparkling clean with all the water we want to use at dockside. We'll get spoiled.

If we don't like it after two months, we're not sure what we'll do, but while we're in Key West Bight, I'm going to be doing some networking and line up some potential slip options for February, if we need them. But we need to find something more affordable than the $2,400 per month we'll be paying in slip rent for the months of October and November.

We need to adhere to our budget, so that we can attend more happy hours and meet more interesting people.

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