Thursday, July 31, 2014

Time and space and The Floating Bear ...

Today was day 18 of working on resurrecting The Floating Bear. She is going together slowly, as one would expect from this kind of project. There is hardly a straight line or square corner anywhere to be found. A new age Feng Shui type would say it is all organic and flowing, a space befitting the spiritual alignment of ocean and wind. For all I know they might even be right. For a craftsman trying to puzzle it all back in place though, would an occasional clean fit be too much to ask?

The budget restraint adds to the fun. The working hardware stash is literally the bucket full of bolts (and nuts, screws, and washers) that came out when The Bear was gutted. One paws through it looking for, say, a matched set of screws and nuts to rehang the head door. And no, before you ask, it wasn't a matched set when it came down. It will take a sharp eye to see the difference in the set of 6 nuts, and a Dremel tool will even up the screw lengths perfectly, thank you very much.

Too much new wood would be a budget buster as well, though some just had to be. A sheet of marine ply went into the floor. A length of new 4 x 4 was cut and fit to replace the corroded chunk of pipe that was the compression post. True, The Bear no longer sports a mast, but one must still hold the cabin roof up as little ones tramp over it. In addition a few small gel coat failures in the cabin roof revealed the glass underneath to be completely dry – no resin soak at all. I wouldn't bet 10 cents on the structural integrity of the cabin top without some kind of support, but it will keep the rain out. (Four of the six chain plates were bolted directly to the cabin as well. It is amazing that this thing survived sailing loads at all.) The new post not only looks much better, it also bolts solidly to the main bulkhead, stiffening it up and probably making the boat stronger than it was when it came from the factory.  Though, in this case, "better than factory" isn't much to boast about.

There are some bits of other new wood here and there but, like the hardware, the working stash for what goes back in is what came out.  That means a lot of repair, sanding, and filling is going on.  A chunk of teak that once held a chain plate gets reworked into a bulkhead support.  An old bit of trim becomes a fillet for a new bit of floor.  It may not get the interior looking shipshape and Bristol fashioned, but at least it will not appear to be hacked out of raw lumber by a Neanderthal using a stone ax.

Some things just can't be done "right" with the budget and time restraints. The hole for the starboard side port (the one rain delayed) was so badly butchered that no amount of Dow Corning 795 could be counted on to seal it. Honestly, it looked like that same Neanderthal chopped it out while suffering a hang-over. (Actually, maybe a hung over Neanderthal with a stone ax might have done a better job.)  I tack screwed the port in place and glassed it in.  If there is a hint of justice in the Universe the low rent, soulless bit of pig dung that sold the kids this boat will – somehow – be the person who has to get that port out next. He is about the only person I can think of who actually deserves such a fate.

Other things are just a mystery. There is a place where the compression post, bulkhead, head insert, door jam, floor, and a support board should all, more or less, end up in the same general location of space and time. Instead its like some kind of Fifth dimension has warped euclidean space all out of whack, where length, width, and breadth are only half of the things needing to be measured. A clean spatula and a fresh can of fairing compound will force things back into the normal, three dimensional, universe.

There is a reasonable chance that plumbing runs for the new head and holding tank have been plotted. "Ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag" is the actual task at hand. (Where did that Fifth dimension get off to?)

Hope right now is that the kids can move back aboard early next week.  After we get The Bear dock side livable the DC electrical system will be the arena of interest with, it looks like, some AC gremlins to be exterminated as well.  Then the REAL fun will begin.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rain delay

(Admiral and Co-owner of The Floating Bear, and my Daughter Eldest, has absolutely forbidden me working on the boat today. So I thought I would see if this computer still worked and maybe scribble a few words born of yesterday's efforts.)

Florida can be a difficult place to get work done, and someone should do a serious investigation on how it got the name, "The Sunshine State". Pure marketing propaganda would be my guess. The rain came again this morning. It was that special kind of Florida rain that thunders straight down in torrents that would near drown anyone foolish enough to look up and try to take a breath. Which meant trying to rebed the missing port in The Floating Bear had to be abandoned. In fact all work had to stop since the tarp had to go back over the cabin to cover the myriad of other open holes yet to be addressed after all of the sailing hardware was removed. Trying to do major boat work in a Florida summer is to take a graduate class in patience and adaptability.

For a while Grand Son JJ and I, both already soaked to the bone, sat on the cabin top under the sun cover and sang "BOOM" back to the sky whenever it sang "BOOM" to us first. We watched the occasional mega-yacht go by, windshield wipers slapping back and forth, and called out "Big Boat" to the ducks paddling around the pier. Ducks don't care about the rain. Fine for them, they don't have ports needing to be installed.

After a time it became clear that the forecast for a sunny day with a slight chance of rain was more marketing propaganda. The Floating Bear was buttoned up and the crew dispersed for lunch and hair cuts. I still hope to get the cabin mostly sealed today with the hope of getting the boat "dock side livable". (Ed note: didn't happen.) She has shore power and one battery bank. The rest of the electrical work can wait. Plumbing needs plumbed and the glass work in the cabin has priority. There are still weeks of work to do, and Kintala is waiting in the wings for her own projects to get started.

It would seem that, after a short taste of the cruising life last winter in the Abaco Islands, Kintala's journey has taken an unexpected turn. She has moved just once in the last three months and isn't likely to move again for at least three more. Our friends in lake Carlyle will do far more cruising this summer than will we. Basically we have taken up residence in a hurricane hole on the New River, just at the end of the Ft. Lauderdale River Walk, and become journeymen shipwrights. Work is now an all day, daily affair; but one that is depleting the cruising kitty rather than adding to it. The future is a little uncertain.

As much as we all hate to admit it, the future is always a little uncertain. We are not cruising in the usual sense, but we are still on a journey. We still live on the boat, relaxing by sitting in the cockpit and watching the water world go by. Though, according to Blue Chart, the far bank is about 180 feet away. This is a pretty small water world for a blue water cruising boat. We are working far harder than our old land jobs used to demand, and the toll on my 59-year-old body (Thank you all for the good Birthday Wishes!) is higher than it used to be. Kintala's interior is a bit of a wreck; now home to six people, two of which radiate the endless energy of young boys. That is also a harder on my 59-year-old body than it used to be.

But I get to sit on a sailboat cabin top, laughing at the ducks with my two-year-old grandson, cuddling to stay warm in the cool rain, and sing "BOOM" back at the sky.  

Friday, July 25, 2014


Almost eight years ago I hung over the railing in our condo stairway and said to Tim, "What would you think about retiring onto a boat?" I had been researching ways to retire that we would be able to afford and, being both employed in the aviation industry, retiring at all was a stretch. I believe his answer as he looked up from his motorcycle magazine was "Okaaaaay?"

Today is Tim's birthday. It's the 43rd one that we've spent together. Some have been happy, some long, some even forgotten, but this one is the best yet because I get to celebrate this man who has always supported me in whatever my venture, who dropped everything he ever knew to follow me in my dream, who has stuck with me this last year even though a good bit of it has been some of the most difficult stuff we've ever tackled. It might be his birthday, but he's the best present I've ever gotten.

Happy Birthday, Love


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Long Days

Sometimes you just have to take your smiles wherever you can get them.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yin and Yang

Photo courtesy of Brian Prugh
The repair / modification / refit of The Floating Bear has flung me into a yin / yang world. Taking this abused, neglected, poorly built Papa Oscar Sierra of a sailboat and turning it into a safe, more comfortable home for Daughter Eldest and Family is a really worthwhile project. It is also kind of fun, and more than a bit of a challenge.

Then again, we did not go cruising to spend 10 – 12 hours a day of a Southern Florida summer trying to salvage a disaster boat and turn it into something useful. Killer restraints on budgets and time don't add anything to the experience. Every dime spent has to be squeezed out of an already thin account somewhere. Until The Floating Bear is habitable some of the people I love most in the world are basically homeless.

So sometimes I can be found humming and content as I tear up rotten floorboards and tear down equally rotten headliners. Just hours later I can be found groaning in pain as badly fiberglass burned arms torture me through yet another sleepless night. The dink commute to work is normally the hardest part of the day with me at my lowest. There is so much to do and so many disasters to avoid. Glass work outside in Florida heat and humidity, grinding and laying, fairing and sanding, in full tyvek gear and full face breathing mask, ranks near the top of the miserable job list. Crawling down into a sun-baked lazarette to work on a totally screwed up drive train may rank even higher. Florida thunderstorms pop up and undo hours of prep work. It is hard to look forward to a day like that.

The dink ride home is the highlight of the day. Decisions got made. Work got done. The Floating Bear is just a little bit less of a disaster. (Though that would be hard to tell from looking at her unless one has been involved in projects like this before.) My old body is sore, hands chafed and often bleeding at bit, but that is what happens when one wrangles bad stuff into good. And I have to admit I enjoy the camaraderie of tough men doing hard work, something completely lost to the white collar, air conditioned crowd.

Dennis Carter is from Nicaragua. He laughs at my Spanish and lays down some of the prettiest glass work you will ever see. Freddy is rumored to be a crack addict trying to keep it together. But he would work any CEO in the country into the cardiac ICU if they tried to match him grinder for grinder. He doesn't talk much and is surprised that I treat him as an equal.

For it seems I have become a bit of a story. This is a yard of mega yachts and 80' sport fishing boats. Owners step out of air conditioned BMW's and Mercedes to complain to managers. The skilled people actually doing the work rate hardly a glance. Then there is me. The word is out that I used to fly jets, that this is my "other" boat, and that I am paying serious bucks to sweat and grind.
Which, to the skilled, makes me either bat-shit crazy or just plain stupid. They haven't decided which yet and, truth be told, neither have I. But this is a thing that has to be done and maybe being a little of both is the secret to making it to the end.

For now though, it doesn't feel like there is an end. Just another day, another task, a dink ride in and a dink ride home when the day finally ends. Each day has some yin and some yang. Some tasks go well. The keel repair is nearly done, the rudder work is forging ahead with parts arriving, old thru hulls are sealed, the compression post step is repaired. The old floor is gone and most of a new one is fitted.

Other tasks are still an uphill slog. Removing the worn shaft coupler was a monster and the new stuffing box is going to be a couple of days late. We still await word on the usability of the old shaft. No decision has been made on the new prop. Work has yet to commence on the wiring / bilge pumps / gray water tank / new head and holding tank install. Only half the cabin overhead is ground and ready for paint. There is still some deck hardware to remove, one exterior grab rail broke and will have to be repaired; there is soft and rotten wood everywhere. The spot where the old mast step folded down the cabin top is going to be more of a task than hoped.

 Another dink ride. Another day  Yin and yang.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sellers Beware

I'm probably the least violent person you will ever meet. I'm pretty thick skinned and if you piss me off you had to work at it really hard. I hate anything to do with guns, I abhor war in any form, and I generally back off from confrontation in general unless I, or someone I love, have been wronged. So you can imagine just how much it would take me to get to the point of telling you that I want to do physical harm to the guy who sold The Floating Bear to my kids.

The Bear's original name was Obsession. The previous owner was clearly not obsessed with anything but getting out of what was even more clearly a bad purchase he had made. Along come two newbies, and he saw his chance. The only problem? Those two newbies were putting two small children on the boat. My grandchildren.

You want to believe that things are different in the boating community.  After cruising for a year we've found that to be true in the cruising community and we certainly had the background of a fantastic group of people in our home marina in Carlyle, IL, but something happens to people when they sell their boat. All of a sudden they develop a severe case of selective memory.

Brad (name not changed to protect the innocent) willingly sold my kids a boat with serious, nearly fatal faults. And yes, before you leave a hundred comments about it, it was definitely their responsibility to have the boat inspected. Unfortunately, their mechanic father was otherwise indisposed in the islands. They were broke, needed a place to live, it was an inexpensive boat, it was where they needed it to be when they needed it to be there and did I say they were broke? They made many mistakes, the biggest of which was trusting a boat owner that said he "fixed the rudder", but you still find yourself hoping that any human being looking at those two toddlers could not find it in themselves to sell a boat with these chainplate mounts.

Did I mention that this pissed me off?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dashed Dreams and Pooh-isms

It starts as a thought. Sometimes it's as nebulous as a fleeting image amid the shifting colors and shapes that frequent our closed eyes, those ones in that few moments between the sigh of stretching out in bed after a long day and the blessed descent into deep sleep. Sometimes it's a nagging poke in our busy, workaday consciousness demanding attention when we have little to give, plaguing us like a fly at which we swat, irritated.

The Thought falls on fertile ground. The thought lurks in the darkness of the fertile soil, tenuous little shoots breaking through the hard shell of the seed to take root, small ones at first that will grow with water and sunshine.

The Thought becomes an idea. The Idea can't be ignored. It's a force to be reckoned with, pushing aside meetings, appointments, to-do lists, and schedules. You begin to hear musings like, “What if?” and “Maybe we could...” and “I'll look on, you know, just to see what's out there...”

The Idea becomes a dream. The Dream is all-encompassing. It involves your desire to live with less: less of a carbon footprint, less money, less “stuff” as an encumbrance, less stress. It might involve looking to travel. It might involve looking to escape. It might mean looking for a place to live with a view. You look at big boats you can't possibly ever hope to afford. You look at boats with all the comforts of home. You look at staunch blue water sailboats because you aspire to be Joshua Slocum. You pour over maps and glossy magazines with pictures of white, sandy beaches and aquamarine waters. Your umbrella drink is already in your hand as you swing in the hammock in the shade of a coconut palm.

The Dream becomes a plan. The Plan is usually the oft-intoned 5-year plan. Five years to look for and buy a boat, to take sailing classes, to purge yourselves of “stuff”, finish out your employment, move aboard, and cast off the dock lines. Ambitious? Yes. Doable? Yes.

In the same way as the seedling, this process is fragile and fraught with opportunities to fail. The process requires a mind open to new possibilities, to adventure, to change. It requires constant care. It requires thoughtful and careful choices, and it requires a tremendous amount of luck. Remove any of these and the beauty of a dream can fall by the wayside like so much refuse.

Our kids came dangerously close to this cliff yesterday. We hauled The Floating Bear out at a local marina in Ft. Lauderdale where they had made arrangements with a local mechanic to fix some of the more pressing issues so they could get on their way to their lives in Coconut Grove. The news was bad. In fact, the news was about as bad as it gets. The boat needs much more work than they anticipated, much more work than they have the financial resources to pay for, and even the mechanic who would be the beneficiary of the large check advised that our money would be better spent on another boat rather than the current money pit that is The Floating Bear. The Dream spiraled downward ever faster as the afternoon turned into evening and conversations became less hopeful.

Right around this time, as Tim and I walked back from the marina lounge, we happened to stop to chat with our friend Gillis, a full-time resident at the marina. Not being financially or emotionally involved in the drama of the Bear, he was able to offer some rather sage advice. He asked what their goal was.

Epiphany. We had lost site of the goal. The kids' goal was to find a sustainable, affordable way of living that would allow them to pursue their dream of writing and painting. While they love the idea of a sailboat and its way of fitting into nature in such a way as to compliment it rather than destroy it, they don't need a sailboat right now. They need a place to live. The Floating Bear didn't need to be The Sailing Bear.Very nearly all of the major repairs were related to The Bear's ability to ply the waters elegantly with canvas. Desirable? Yes. Necessary to reach the goal? No.

Discussions picked up this morning. Ideas were flung around, modified, tested, held up to the light, and some discarded. A hint of hope sifted through the conversation. The Dream began to be restored and a new Plan evolved. Tomorrow the Bear will begin the transformation from sailing boat to floating home and, as it is the home of an artist, a writer, and two small Pooh fans, it will undoubtedly be as creative as the original Floating Bear.  The Bear's days of sailing are over, but like its namesake, I think The Bear will carry her family safely through the floods that have been threatening, and when passersby exclaim that something (the mast) is missing from The Bear, they will have Pooh's words handy for retort: "I ought to say," explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, "that it isn't just an ordinary sort of boat."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Purge #3 Part II

Here's the next item up for removal from the boat. If you're interested let me know, otherwise it's going on eBay in a few days.

Purge # 3

We're going through the boat in project mode which usually means moving stuff around a lot which, in turn, means being tired of moving things around that we never use which, in turn, means wanting to get rid of some more stuff.

So what does this mean to you? It means I have a really terrific deal on a Marine stereo that we bought and decided not to install for various reasons. It's brand new in the box and you can get the details here or also in the sidebar top right of the blog. If you're interested, email us at svkintall att gmail dott com.

Sorry but this stereo is sold pending payment. If the deal falls through I'll remove this note.

Stay tuned for more listings...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Zen and the Five-year-old

When we left for the boat many, many things got left behind. In addition to ditching cars, motorcycles, jobs, income, and flying, my little workshop out in the garage was disassembled and sold off piece by piece. Most of my hand tools came along, but there is no room for things like belt sanders and table saws. Any joinery work needed on the boat now gets done the hard way. Most cuts are with a saber saw, a versatile little cutter not famous for leaving straight, clean edges in its wake. Anything that needs to look even half way finished will require much filing and sanding. Quick work in even a modest shop, slow work sitting on a bench with a sanding block and a sheaf of 80 grit.

Such labor intensity is anathema in the USA today. Anyone trying to squeeze a living out of a skilled trade needs maximum billing for minimum time spent. Even then most of the money will go to managers, insurers, and investors who don't actually make, move, design, or fix anything. But I'm not trying to earn a living. I'm just working on my old boat. The goal is to make it as safe and livable as a modest budget, and what skill I can conjure out of these old hands, will allow.

So I get to do a thing no one in the USA gets to do anymore, take a seat in the shade and run my fingers over an edge needing care. Then shave the rough stuff away with a rhythmic scraping that doesn't disturb the ducks or raise an eyebrow among the neighbors. The song flows through the fingers, whispers ideas to the mind, and settles in the heart with a sigh. Boats flow past on the river, clouds come and go, and occasional insect buzzes by but rarely bothers. Maybe its the thin, hovering veil of dust they don't like? In any case not many people have the time to spare to spend afternoons gently pushing wood into a needed shape.

Is it machine perfect when I am done? Of course not. But it looks okay to my eye and becomes a part of my home that no one knows as well as I do. It also becomes a part of my life, an afternoon spent in quiet motion making something that didn't exist before. And, in this case, came with an added bonus. My grandson sat next to me getting his first coating of wood dust along with his first lesson in the Zen of the sanding block. I don't think he caught much of the Zen part. Five-year-olds wake up every morning with more energy than they can burn in just one day. But he did a pretty good job for all that.

No modern society can exist on goods made this way. I make no claim that slow and labor intensive is somehow better. It clearly isn't. In almost every way - quality, quantity, cost of production, close tolerances to standards - the most modern, machine intensive way is far superior to the efforts of the lone craftsman. But that isn't to say nothing was lost when the machines came of age.

I rediscovered a hint of it today in a simple piece of wood. A piece that went directly from my hands to making our life just a tiny bit easier.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer work

The summer project list on the boat started with a modest little task. The "cup holder" at the helm is really a beer-can-in-a-cozy holder. Fine if one drinks beer from a can in a cozy. We don't drink anything from a can but Coke and Ginger Ale, and even those normally make it into a glass with ice and rum before needing a holder. Under way the helm is usually stocked with cold or hot drinks, as appropriate, in stainless steel thermoses that are tall and skinny. When Kintala heels over they fall sideways, threatening to tumble over and make it all the way to the deck with a crash.

In addition, our little Garmin Chart Plotter is mounted on a ratty looking articulating arm clamped to the binnacle tubing and blocking the handhold at the top. It has always been awkward and, during a helm change while banging around in 6 foot seas the other day waiting out the thunderstorms, Deb got caught in a lurch and very nearly suffered a nasty fall grasping for the non-existent handhold. (I always wondered where the phrase "caught in a lurch" came from. Now I know.) Why not get into "project" mode with an easy, one day modification we have been talking about for months?

A project which actually started yesterday, consumed all of today, and may get finished by noon tomorrow. When completed the drink holder will have been disassembled and deepened enough to hold a thermos secure even when heeled. It will also sport a shelf to mount the GPS lower and to starboard. There it will be easier to see, easier to tilt and twist when the person at the helm sits outboard, and with the control buttons an easy reach for us right-handed drivers. And though the relentless heat and humidity make varnish work a hit-and-mostly-miss affair, it will still look way more "shippy" than a wonked-up articulating arm backed up with zip ties. Best of all the the top of the binnacle will once again be a secure place to grab a hold when moving about the aft part of the cockpit.

And though I have to admit Cooley's Landing has (so far anyway) fallen far short of the customer service bar set by the staff of the Dinner Key mooring field, this place has a lot of serious work going on. A couple of slips down the diamond plate is coming off the bow of one boat to repair a soft deck. Palm sanders sing during the day from other slips, and various bangings and clankings echo out across the New River pretty much all day long. Kind of a surprise given the ritzy digs surrounding the place. It seems a bit like a hobo village nestled in the middle of Wall Street.

Three different people have introduced themselves as marine techs, including one who has agreed to help get The Floating Bear back in something nearer to ship-shape. He seems like a good guy, introducing himself by saying, "My friends call me Camper".

I had to tell him that, while we might be friends some day, right now he is a "marine professional" working on a family boat. I will make pretty near an instant and good friend with anyone who has shared the suffering of dealing with the marine industry's technical side. And indeed, the folks at Oak Harbor are friends I am looking forward to working with again next year. But so far they have been the exception that makes the rule. I will be really happy if we manage to survive both hurricanes and "marine professionals" during our summer in Florida.

This place is a popular "hurricane hole" so I think our chances are pretty good of getting through unscathed. Not guaranteed, but pretty good. Getting through unscathed by a "marine professional" is a whole other matter. But we are going to give it a shot.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Map - No Name Harbor to Cooley's Landing 7-3-14

North ... really!

After sitting though several days of nearly constant thunderstorm activity, including a lightning hit on the little tower near No Name Harbor that about gave me a heart attack, Thursday's forecast suggested just a 20% chance of getting another good scare. The plan was to get an early go, but that didn't happen. Late in the evening, just as we were falling asleep, a power boat wandered by that sounded awful close. Sure enough, when I poked my head out the companionway there he was, about 20 feet off the bow and fixing to drop his anchor directly on Kintala's chain. We exchanged a few words about technique and etiquette and he moved off to bother someone else.

Hopes for a full night sleep where then abandoned when a swarm of mosquitoes invaded the boat. There are about 200 zillion reasons not to spend a summer in Florida, and all of them bite. Come morning, covered with welts the size of quarters, I looked and felt like a zombie. But a day with just a 20% chance of storms couldn't be squandered just because I had spent the night on fire. Deck prep was a slow, painful affair that wasn't helped when the morning's 20% chance started rumbling out in the bay. After studying the RADAR for a bit we decided the threat was minor and moving away from us. Kintala was finally making her escape from Biscayne Bay.

The WesterBeast however, though making good water, wasn't as happy to be leaving. Anything over 15 – 1700 rpm pushed the temperature too high. But with a little help from a fluky WSW wind, that was enough RPM to have us moving at around 4 knots, towed dink and all. We decided to press on, and except for another 20% scare a hour or so later (the boomer stayed over land while we moved out into the Stream for a little extra push) all went well; right up to approaching the Port Everglades Entrance.

This time the 20% enveloped the port with driving rains and constant cloud to ground lighting. The Coast Guard came on channel 16 to issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the harbor. Tangling with that thing would clearly be bad for one's health. I suggested that Deb turn our bow back out to sea.

Even that was a tough go for a while. Kintala's ailing engine was not much of a match for the confused 4 to 6 footers thrashing around. It was a bumpy, ugly hour as we did figure eights trying to stay close to the channel entrance while staying clear of the storm's flank, and after a while I took the helm to give Deb a break. I had been driving most of the day since she was struggling a bit with the motion of the ocean. She had taken over to give me a break so I would be fresh for driving up the New River. Starting out the day way short on sleep was looking like one of the sorrier choices I have made lately.

The RADAR picture was looking grim and there was some talk of heading offshore for the night. All of a sudden a two engine trawler that could get out of its own way when needed, started sounding like a really good idea. Ten knots is so much better than three, and trying to play Kintala against this kind of weather was like betting on an asthmatic fat man in a bar fight.

Instead I turned the boat directly toward the breakwater. The next storm in line had gone very "soft" at its leading edge, fuzzy and indistinct. It was still menacing, spitting lightning and burying the port south of the turning basin in rain, but it didn't appear to be moving much. There was a couple of different ways of bailing out if things went sour, including using the storm's outflow to push us out of Dodge even if the WesterBeast called it a day.

And except for dodging a line of big ships leaving the harbor; one cruise ship, one Navy Assault ship, two container ships and a fast ferry, it went according to plan. We even hit the 17th Street Bridge exactly right to catch an opening without having to wait.  A few minutes later we ghosted up the New River in a gentle rain then tied to the floating docks to wait on the slack tide.

While I sipped what seemed like a well earned coldie, Deb walked under the bridge to check on the slip Cooley's had promised to hold for us. It had a power boat sitting in it. The alternate slip was full as well. In fact, in spite of having talked to these folks for the better part of a month, setting up having two boats with them for the summer, there appeared to be no room at the inn. Since it was already 2100 hours and the office was closed, I ended up spending a second night on the floating docks.

One happy captain just inside the breakwater

I never thought I'd see the day I would be happy to see an opening bridge!

This morning we found an open dock next to a launch ramp. Actually there were two, but one had an ugly, short little concrete pier on the launch ramp side that appeared to be just itching to punch a hole in a fiberglass boat. The slip was also half exposed to any half wit trying to get a boat off the trailer. The other open pier, on the other side of the launch ramp, had a full length concrete pier with a fixed bumper along its length and providing full protection from the half wits. We decided that was our home.

The Dock Master decided otherwise. Just as Kintala's bow passed the first piling he came running over to tell us that slip was already taken. "Really," I thought "The slip you promised us has a powerboat sitting in it, move that thing out of the way and I'll be glad to leave this one."

But I didn't say anything. We may be here for a while and were already starting out on the wrong foot. So I stopped, backed out into the line of boats waiting for the 7th Ave bridge to open, then backed up the river a bit, shucking and jiving and promising Kintala weeks of tender loving care if she would just go in the direction needed, just this once please. (Picture that asthmatic fat man backing down a spiral staircase after a few Rum & Cokes.)

In the end we eased into the slip we really didn't want like we knew what we were doing. Which was pretty good considering the last time I went to a dance with a dock the entry fee included a bent anchor shank.

So here we are. Kintala rests in a web of lines. The deck is set for sitting with the little dink deflated and stowed on top of the life raft along with the stay sail. The first of a long list of summer projects is already started. We have the River Walk nearby and have already met some interesting neighbors. Summer in Florida. I don't think I would recommend it, but sometimes things just go as they go.

We had both manatees and dolphins for company in No Name Harbor this time

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Used and abused.

Kintala was on the mooring ball in Dinner Key for 59 days. For 40 odd of those days I was back on land doing that thing. A couple of days ago we managed to get The Floating Bear to her summer berth then Deb and I returned to Kintala.

The other morning we woke up a bit early, just the two of us again. There was a low pressure area winding up off the coast of FL which eventually became Tropical Depression number one of the 2014 season (and is forecast to become a hurricane). Tired of facing relentless thunderstorms in the exposed mooring field, we decided to move to No Name Harbor for a few days. It took a while to get the boat ready for being underway again, even if it was a short way. But at 1105 the mooring ball fell astern and Kintala coasted at an easy pace through the marina and out the main channel. It felt good to be at her helm once again. At 1125, still in the exit channel, I noticed the engine temperature touching 200 degrees.

Of course; this is still Kintala and me. Just because we have nearly 2,000 nm under the keel and months of traveling together, doesn't mean we actually get along any better. But I had half expected something to go wrong with the dog and knew the wind would be okay for the direction we needed to go. With the head sail rolled out for the first time in months we settled into a 3 knot deep reach. Which wasn't too bad considering the winds were light, we were dragging a 12 foot dink, and sailing on a fouled bottom. (Another reason for going to No Name was to have a couple of days to get some work started.) Keeping an eye on the sky we ghosted up to the inlet, rolled up the sail, and started the engine just long enough to get inside and plant the hook.

Though it would be fine to spend a little time here, it appears we need to get a move on to Cooley's landing.  Daughter Eldest had a chance to talk with a true-to-life boat mechanic. (Apparently there are such in the world somewhere.) He looked over their boat and confirmed what I had deeply suspected; that the Bear is in much poorer shape than advertised.

Not really a surprise. Every person I know who has bought a "good old boat" discovered rather quickly that it was a piece of junk in need of serious work and a massive inflow of money. The common number seems to be spending a third to a half of the purchase price to get the boat safe and workable. A number that, even after nearly 8 years of being around this business, still astounds me. Imagine buying a used car for $10,000, leaving the lot and getting a few blocks before it stopped running, then discovering it will take $3 - $5,000 MORE to get it home.

In the marine industry that is considered a good deal.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how they get away with it, or why any of us put up with this larceny.

But it is what it is. The Bear needs the mast step repaired, the rudder removed and the entire steering system rebuilt, and parts of the floor replaced. She also needs new batteries and electrical work. And here's the thing (just to repeat myself) the true-to-life boat mechanic considered all of this to be a rather AVERAGE list of worked needed on a boat that was "ready to go" when sold just a few months ago.

Kintala is also in need of some work. Of course I have to figure out what's wrong with the engine (this time) before heading outside to Ft. Lauderdale. Once on her own dock the biggest job needing done is repairing a soft spot in the deck. This spot apparently has every insurance company in the world frightened like little children, something we discovered while trying to find insurance for being in the way of hurricanes this year. Of course these companies insure these pieces of junk, so maybe their attitude is understandable after all?  In just the time we have been in Dinner Key two boats have burned, one has sunk, and one chopped a "good Samaritan" to pieces just outside of No Name.  (He was trying to push them off the sandbar that the Captain had managed to run onto in spite of a full suite of first class navigation gear.)  Maybe nobody makes any money in this business.

In any case the life of anchoring out and wondering around will be put on hold for a few months. The family is in full  "huddle" mode, working together to figure out how to get the boats squared away. It is as much a part of the cruising life as heading for the Islands or sharing sun downers with new friends.  Eventually this too will pass and become part of the family lore.

But I am feeling used a abused at the moment.