Friday, July 29, 2016

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Stock Island

 Stuck on Stock Island —

Easing out of Marathon and pointing toward Hawks Channel, there was nothing but smooth seas and clear skies as far as the eye could see. Settling into a lazy 1200 RPM and slowly making way toward Key West, there was no hurry, it was going to be a short day.

Mel had read good things about Stock Island Marina Village so we thought we'd check it out before going to Key West.
After a few short hours of plodding along, we turned to Safe Harbor's approach and hailed Stock Island Marina. There was not much wind, no current to speak of and we effortlessly backed into a nice new floating dock.
All good.

Surveying our surroundings, we see a gritty industrial area with fishing boats, research vessels, boat yards, and in the midst of all this is a little oasis of a marina, Stock Island Marina Village.
The marina was teeming with seemingly bright young folks, standing by with smiling faces, eager to help catch lines.

We like the authentic low key feel of Stock Island, it's not busy like Key West Bight so we're thinking it's our kinda place.

There's a funky Keysian/Conch side to Stock Island Marina.
Coconut Row

Walking down the road that divides Coconut Row you'll experience first hand the carefree bohemian counterculture that is the Conch Republic. Probably the last bastion of this lifestyle left in the Keys, their stated goal is to bring more "Humor, Warmth and Respect" to a world in sore need of all three. Of course we wholeheartedly agree, but I'm afraid we're part of the few. Gentrification rules these days so I'd expect Coconut Row to be condos and shopping in the future. But, maybe not. Time will tell.

After looking around Stock Island, we think this is gonna be alright.

Then I go down to the engine room...

Before leaving N Palm Beach I had replaced a keel cooler hose and lost coolant. Slowly topping that off to the appropriate level, it's not unusual to add small amounts of coolant till the engine finds it's happy spot. Add too much and the big John Deere will spit coolant into the bilge; that's messy.
You can probably tell where this story is going.
The coolant level had dropped out of sight and I was concerned so I made a call. A knowledgeable buddy told me to check the engine oil. "There could be an issue with the oil cooler or something and it may be dumping coolant into the oil pan. Probably not, but check" my learned friend advised.

Surely not, I reckoned.

I reckoned wrong.

There on the dipstick, to my horror, was an extremely high oil level.

In my mind I was nervously sorting through all the possibilities: Cracked block, Head gasket, exhaust manifold, turbo... oh shit... large amounts of money... oh shit... stuck in the Keys, at their mercy... oh shit... oh shit...

I call my friend back and he validates my thoughts and fears... oh shit... oh shit... oh shit...

How could this be? I had checked the oil at Marathon. We had such a nice run, the engine was humming like always, not overheating, no oil pressure alarm, reading normal on the gauge, how could this be?

The next day I manage to find a John Deere authorized mechanic... things were looking up. (Thanks, Next Dance)
This guy shoots down the oil cooler diagnosis and leads with the more ominous and expensive causes. "You've got a serious problem", he says and he says it in the flat monotone voice of an oncologist.
But, if there's a bright side, Key West Engine has a great reputation and he's next door. There will be a mechanic over in the morning.

So to make a long story shorter, it wasn't any of the really bad things, it was the coolant/water pump. A relatively quick fix and inexpensive ($1200) part.
Istaboa doesn't have cancer.

Now for the rest of the story:

I'll tell it with emotional bullets:

  • Relief that the problem wasn't catastrophic
  • Surprised that they could have parts shipped overnight and start fix the next day
  • Happy to see the mechanic early the next morning
  • Patient when he says he'll have some new hoses shipped overnight to replace old ones.
  • Perplexed when he doesn't show the next day.
  • Annoyed when he doesn't show the second day
  • Anger when I call Key West Engine Service and they tell me my mechanic won't be back for two more days because he has to work on another boat 
  • Indignant - What's wrong with my boat and all the overnight shipped parts sitting, waiting?
  • Frustrated when the power keeps going off at our slip
  • Weary from lack of sleep because several times, in the middle of the night, I had to go out on the dock to reset GFI breaker
  • Exasperation when the seemingly bright young marina folks tell me the power problem is my boat and my fault, not the GFI. "Use your generator", they say.
  • Elation when the mechanic returns, installs pump, and coolant problem is fixed. (fingers crossed)
  • Respite - We move Istaboa to another slip with good power. (Obviously Istaboa's not the problem)
  • Comfort - All ACs work in all rooms.
  • Relax - I've slept all night without resetting a GFI or starting the generator.
  • Guarded optimism - The whole ordeal is over... we hope

So that's where we are now. It's Sunday and this all started 9 days ago.

We've spent much time in the Bahamas and we've done a lot of work over there. We understand Island Time and we can work with it.
The Lower Keys operate on a completely different style of Island Time.
In the Bahamas, that's the way the islanders were raised ... in the Keys, people from all over the world come here to get away from something... not to work. And, for the most part they don't or if they do it's at their pleasure, not yours. It's called Keys Disease.

Kinda like New Yorkers with an island attitude. (That's so not fair to all New Yorkers, sorry.)

In the Bahamas: It's de islands, Mon
In the Lower Keys: It's the Keys, asshole! Get over it. We'll get to you when we get to you. Go drink a Margarita. (That's so not fair to all Keys folk, sorry.)

We did find a nice fellow who fixed a head pump.
Perry, The Head Honcho

Oh yeah...  the fritz list after a week on Stock Island?  Vacuflush Head Pump, a dead, (brand new), TV, and our poor generator just got older while at the dock.

Bad timing or a black hole? Don't know.

With time on our hands, Mel and I rented a Jeep in an effort to make the best of our stay. We quickly realized a vehicle in Key West is a burden. (try finding a parking spot in the bight area.) The Lower Keys voted to ban Uber so taxis are the default mode of transportation... and they're not cheap. 

But, we did find a few nice restaurants nearby. Shrimp Road is a food truck with a bar that's a cool place to hang out. Roostica has great pizza and other Italian dishes, Hogfish Bar and Grill is exactly what it sounds like with good fish and a good hang.

So today we're booked into Conch Harbor in Key West Bight where we hope things will return to normal. We know we'll have better WiFi; that's something we control.
It's rainy and coolish today, that's nice for a change, and the forecast temps are going to be in the upper end of the 80s, another nice change.

So, all good? We hope.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Like coming home.

We left Miami early in hopes of catching favorable currents that would put us at the mouth of Boot Key Harbor before closing time. And, we made it. At exactly 5:00 PM we were greeting Dennis, Marathon Marina's manager, and tying up. They gave us a great slip.

I'd finished washing the salt from Istaboa and we'd walked the boys, just in time to catch a famous Marathon sunset. We've forgotten how pretty this spot is.

Kicked back, watching this sunset, recalling old memories that haven't been pulled up in a long time.

Over the years we've spent much time here. Old Marathon's Faro Blanco Oceanside Marina was shelter in our early days, it's long gone now. Nothing left but the bones of what was once a fairly functional offbeat hideout in the Keys. 

Oceanside was homeport to some of the most interesting eccentrics we've ever met. Live-aboards and castaways from all walks of life and different parts of the world occupied this weathered old marina year round. We felt fortunate to know them. Their attitudes and philosophies enriched our lives and inspired us in many ways; their tales still amuse us to this day.

The official Happy Hour on the dock started everyday at 4:30 and ended when the sun disappeared behind 7 Mile Bridge.  -BYOB-  It made no difference if you were rich or poor; or your boat was big or little. If you cared to sit and drink and sincerely get along you were made to feel welcome.

The conversations would range from sailing to exotic places around the globe to smuggling marijuana in and out of the Keys back in the 70s. Almost always ending with a discussion about the mythical Green Flash and "Happy Days" was the final toast as the gathering dispersed.

I think it was Hurricane Wilma back in 2005 that destroyed much of the marina and finally led to it's closing. By chance, we happened to be there in the final days as many of the long time live-aboards were woefully moving on.
Unlike our other layovers at Oceanside, this was a sad time, the end of an era, not, "Happy Days".

But not all has changed.

The skeletal remains of an old wreck still lies in the shallows just to the west of the marina; it's the gathering place for the many Cormorants, Gulls, and Pelicans who, like the diverse cast of characters of that bygone marina, seem to casually and effortlessly coexist.

We're, once again, TCB and enjoying our surroundings while we do. The Keys are fairly sleepy this time of year. The large groups of boaters have all migrated back up north leaving The Keys quieter and friendlier. Local folks aren't so busy, they have time to breath and enjoy the Keys themselves so the vibe is definitely more laid back.

Though it's mighty hot, we find much pleasure in the peaceful summertime at Marathon.

We think we'll drop the dink and motor over to Burdine's for a burger.

Key West is up next — So much for peaceful.

Happy days,

p.s. An old post, circa 2007

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Different Cruise

The South Florida ICW is completely different than other portions of the long and winding waterway. We've swapped naturally green, tree lined rivers overrun with flora and fauna for the concrete, glass, and steel of the canyonlike canal that separates Miami from it's beaches.

Don's tilting at high-rises

It's been interesting in it's own way though, not necessarily 100% to our liking, but this leg of our trip has lent a one-of-a-kind texture to our customary cruising life.
The rumors of many shallows are just that. We've found deep water pretty much this whole trip. If, you stay in the channel.

Today, we're tied up at Miami Beach Marina, taking care of biz and experiencing all that goes along with South Beach, Miami. Interesting and entertaining.

Tonight — South Beach Saturday Night... — I don't even need to say it.


P.S. It is a small world after all. Our Tennessee River friends will get a kick out of this.
While walking down the dock here at MBM we spotted a familiar face. Eddie Trimble, Infamous as a former marina manager from our Pickwick Lake days, he's now the Captain on the boat next to us. Fun catching up with Eddie.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Marina By Marina

Before leaving home we noticed an addition to the menagerie.   This pretty little Dove has setup housekeeping on a light fixture out next to the pool.

We're sure she'll appreciate our absence. We startle the hell out of her (or him) every morning when letting the dogs out the back door.

So, restarting our Marina Tour after a short hiatus that produced a shiny new dink atop Istaboa, we left our little abode in Jupiter and made way south.
Starting at North Palm Beach Marina, where we stayed a few days doing a bit of work, we left for Bahia Mar in Ft Lauderdale.

4th of July at Bahia Mar is a busy, crowded, very noisy celebration. Though I didn't see the fireworks, the reports shook the boat for about 30 minutes. The show was just across the street at the beach.

After a couple of days there, minding to biz and enjoying company, we've moved on.

Having never run the ICW south of Ft Lauderdale, I've been warned about shallows, but that hasn't been an issue yet. Bridges? Yes... but once you time one, the rest fall into order. Just idle through and you'll hit them all as they're opening... so far.

Today, we're in Hollywood at Loggerhead Marina.  A nice marina with a friendly staff and Hollywood is surprisingly cool. Just a few miles south but a totally different environment than Ft Lauderdale.
There's a huge Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Spa complex here, (we'll pass on that) and we motored by the famously funky Saloon Le Tub . (looks like our kinda place)
Cut from Le Tub's site:
Established November 2nd 1959 as a Sunoco gas station.... Closed by the energy crunch of the early seventies, your Host purchased the barren property in 1974 and dedicated a concentrated year personally hand building LeTub totally of Flotsam, Jetsam and ocean borne treasures all gathered daily over 4 years of day break jogging on Hollywood Beach. All landscaping, planting and decor by your host.

About Let Tub

Today, we'll stay in Hollywood — doing what we do.
Me thinks our new dink will be splashed and a famous Le Tub burger enjoyed.

Tomorrow? Another marina. Loggerhead Aventura. 2 miles away.

Different than our usual summer cruise, but so far so good.

Next up - - Miami, The Keys... and ?? — We'll see

I know, I know — all work and no play — Tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Message In A Bottle

While rummaging through Istaboa, tossing off the unneeded/unwanted, we came across this.

In our younger days, starting in 99, many times we attempted to run our boat from homeport on the Tennessee River, down the Tenn-Tom Waterway, across the Gulf of Mexico, through the Keys, and cross over to the Bahamas. And most of those times we completed all the legs of that long journey, but that last and most important stretch eluded us. Due to time limitations and weather, it took us several tries to finally realize our dream and make it to the Abacos. Yep, we finally made it over to the islands, but it took until 2003 to pull it off. 

But, that's not to say we didn't have a blast while trying. Much was learned and more enjoyed as we spent time and became familiar with almost every port from Demopolis, Alabama to Ft Lauderdale.

That little airline bottle of Captain Morgan's? (Thanks Northwest Airlines) It's filled with sand that was taken from our anchor; first from The Dry Tortugas then later off Tahiti Beach/White Sound/Elbow Cay. Besides anchor sand, there's a note and a tiny shark's tooth. The note says "The best of times. Dry Tortugas 5-28-01"
Forever etched in our minds, those were the best of times.
Looking at that little bottle brings back memories...
Mel and I dancing on the flybridge of our 480 SeaRay as Delbert McClinton sang, "I've Got Dreams To Remember" ... the sun barely peaking over Ft Jefferson.

That year, our aborted trip to the Bahamas turned into a long stay in the Keys. The pinnacle of our grand adventure was a run out to the Dry Tortugas. We were trying for Cuba, but politics, good judgement, and time won out.

Max's World Famous Conch Bar - Long Island, Bahamas - 2007

The original Istaboa's helm
62 Offshore
(Note the Compaq Tablet on the upper right instrument panel... High-Tech stuff in 2005)

Yes, lots of really good times, and to us, our life aboard has been and still is wondrous. The people, the places, the stored away visuals and sounds... We may not have gone around the world, but we've done so much for so long; had more fun than two people should be allowed. And, for the most part, because that's the way we roll, we did it all alone, in our own time, and our own way.

Spanish Wells, Eleuthera - 2005

And, after all these years, we're still enjoying The Best Of Times. Somewhat differently now that time isn't such a handicap, but still.

Maybe it's time to put a little more anchor sand in that bottle.

Bakers Bay, Abacos - 2006

Oh yeah... just left Palm Beach, heading for Ft Lauderdale.

It's a beautiful day.

Happy 4th of July

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Holy Guacamole!

We think it time for us to begin the southern leg of our trip. The area's rivers and lagoons are turning into something that's not the water we in Jupiter know and love.  This part of Florida is known for it's beautifully landscaped shores and clean waters.

For us, the traces of the toxic algae have popped up in just in the last few days.  Luckily, Jupiter and the Palm Beaches have been exempt from this monstrous algae bloom that is caused by fertilizer runoff into Lake Okeechobee that's transported east by the St Lucie River, it's been an issue for Stuart for the most part.
We'll,  the Corp of Engineers just decided to let some of the goo run through another outlet that dumps directly into Lake Worth lagoon. The effects, while not as bad as Stuart, are causing Palm Beach County to shut down the ever partying Peanut Island for the 4th Weekend. For the Palm Beach area... This is Yuge!! (I can't believe I just typed that)

Me thinks something will be done about it now that the rich and famous are looking out from their seaside estates, watching the sun set into a lagoon of glowing guacamole... Too little, too late? Hope not.(exaggeration, it's not that bad in PB)

This too shall pass.

Hopefully by the time we get back.

Chao pescao

The “no-swimming” advisory for Peanut Island has been lifted, Palm Beach County said Saturday.
Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection took samples of the waters off the island, where blue-green algae was spotted late this week. They also inspected the area visually Saturday morning and saw no trace of algae in the water, said Dan Bates, deputy director of the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management.

Reminds me of Jaws —