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.