Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back at Home

Well, you have to be wondering what has been going on since November.  Belle's engine conked out down in my favorite anchorage in the hook of Punta Blanco near Caya Costa.
It just had no power sounding like it was missing one cylinder.
Again on one of these trips, completely at the mercy of the for hire towing companies, I had to be thankful for towing insurance.  A simple call to Tow Boat US got me a tow within thirty minutes.  They happen to have a towing office right across the channel at Jug Creek Marina, which I happened to have been the day before.
This is not the first time I had this problem.  Up at Egmont Key, I had been nearly stranded on a lee shore as I inched my way out to a sailing angle.  I nearly set sail for Tarpon Springs that day thinking the motor was not reliable.
Amazingly, when I re-started it, I found  it ran fine--all the way down to Charlotte Harbor through several days of all-day motoring.
I must say, it acts like a stuck valve.  When I finally got it out and checked the compression, I only have 60 lbs on the top cylinder.  The bottom cylinder is 120 lbs like it should be.  The other possibility is a broken ring, but that is unlikely as it has been intermittent.
Anyway, after a two hour tow, I found myself at the repair dock.  Knowing I needed my truck to tow it home, I left it there and rented a car to make the trip back to Tarpon Springs.  After spending a little time with Jim at Marine Concepts, I said my goodbyes and headed back for Gasparilla Marina.
These guys and particularly John, the manager are amazing! There professionalism and courtesy was top-flight.  The cost for the nights stay and the haul-out was only $110.00.
 Once home, I had to come up with a way to remove Belle's 115 lb. engine.  Given my back problems and my (hate to even say it), march toward old age, I felt I needed a gantry to remove the engine.  Here is the result with the engine headed toward the test tank. 
I don't care to go into all the difficulties in building this (by myself) sufficed to say, a certain amount of ingenuity was required especially getting the cross-bars and the electric winch up and secured. Needless to say, the gantry is a temporary structure.  I will rebuild a smaller version inside my 18x41x12 foot shelter that goes in after the driveway is repaved and extended.
At the present, the 18 hp Nissan is in the shop for repairs.

I continue to work on small parts for Tridarka.  These are some I engineered and painted.  We won't talk about the troubles of winter-time indoor painting with a spray gun... The center piece is the new tiller head.
I had these plates cut for me at Metal Supermarkets on Pleasantdale Road.  The form the mounting plates for the tiller atop the steering head.  (Completed pictures will explain).

Here's the new tiller drilled oversize and poured with epoxy, then re-drilled to allow for a flexible tiller handle. I removed the varnish and put a layer off epoxy to seal out the water.  I will finish with at least three coats of marine polyurethane. 
All in all, this job is going well. I believe Tridarka will be ready for some fast and fun sailing at Cedar Key in May next year.
I am keeping my options open, but I think I would like to do a two week trip along the waterway in the Florida Panhandle after Cedar Key.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Today I paddled over to the Cayo Costa park dock.  The walk across the island is a pleasant adventure through a rich ecosystem well protected and as natural as can be had where humans are allowed to enjoy.

Interesting quince like bush with ripening fruit.
Another interesting plant.

A pleasant beach scene awaited me on the other side.

The lovely Egret being sailed by owner Dennis Bradley of Pine Island.  Dennis is a member of the West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron.
I ran into this guy paddling in the now clogged "tunnel of love".

My view from the boat.  Not so well focused because it is zoomed way out.  In summery, the area is richly endowed with flora and fauna.  I am enjoying both paddling and hiking.
I will either leave Sunday, or Monday for parts south.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'm at the south end of Punto Blanco just down from the Cayo Costa state park docks.  This is a very well protected, quiet and thankfully bug-free anchorage. 
The entrance required do care as the channel is narrow and worse yet, fishing boat was anchored in the middle. 
I put down the hook in six feet of water admiring the beauty of the area and immediately being aware of the rich variety of wildlife all around me. 
I have my own private little beach and access to the island "facilities," where only the gopher snakes, wild pigs and gopher turtles (and lord knows what else).
I got here yesterday afternoon after a pleasant two day stay with Bill Dolan and his wife.  They were most gracious, dockage and  nice bed and shower in there home.  Bill and I seemed to have a lot to talk about.  Most of all the Dolans made me feel welcomed. 
Over the previous two days an infection in my left index finger had rapidly built up a lot of painful pressure under my nail.  A trip to the local walk-in clinic provided me with relief via a drain hole in my nail and a double script for antibiotics.  It certainly looks and feels a lot better.
This morning I awoke to the sound of the phone ringing.  On the other end was Bill Van Dusen saying he would be over to visit by noon.  He also mentioned that a lot of the West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron members were cancelling there plans for this weekend's get-together here at Cayo Costa.  Clearly, the forecast for the weekend is having a dampening effect on attendance.  For the weekend, I will be exploring the area, hiking across the island to the Gulf side and maybe paddling down to the "tunnel of love" to pass through the mangroves to the Gulf side.  I've heard about this for years and never yet experienced the intimacy of this hard-to-find watery cut through. 
Meanwhile, I am enjoying the music and news on Sirius/XM radio.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Move South--Finally

Today I finally pulled the anchor and set off for parts south.  There was very little wind so I motored at about 6 knots.
I had planed to spend the night at Bunces Pass that borders Mullet Key.  As I made the approach, it was clear that my chances of going aground were good..."brown brown, go aground."  It has silted in badly since I was last there.  Worse yet my approach was at low tide with several hours to wait.
So here I am at Egmont Key in the middle of Tampa Bay.  There is no anchorage, just an area past the pilot boats wharf in about 5 feet of water.  Hope the wind stays down tonight as predicted.
These boats guide the huge cargo ships into the Port of Tampa.

At the other end of the island is a modern lighthouse.  There is a place to come ashore and see the historical sites.  Perhaps I may take some time to do that tomorrow.  For now, I am securing the cabin for my nights sleep.

One of the accomplishments today was to get the APRS and HF radio working.  I simply replaced the coax with a temporary line running over the deck.  Seems like the coax I installed so carefully has a problem.  So the good news is that the Little Tarheel is working well with the new coaxial cable.  Looks like I'll be "playing some radio."  By the way you can follow me on
Search for WB4FGF-9

Saturday, November 9, 2013

And off We Go

I'm writing from aboard Belle.  It's been a busy week.  We splashed in on Tuesday thinking I would be on my way at the latest by Thursday. 
I must give my thanks to Jim of Marine Concepts for helping me launch and then parking the truck and trailer.
So I decided to spend a day straitening the cabin and attending to last minute details.  The cabin really was, and still is for that matter a bit of a mess.  I am carrying a very full load with an eye toward staying out as long as my wanderlust will keep me.  Therefore, I have as you might have gleaned already, loaded it to capacity and then some with stuff.  Everything I need to survive on my own for two months at a minimum is aboard.  Last minute items were stacked with the idea of letting them find there place as need and priorities dictate.  So that was Wednesday.
Thursday I took off to explore Anclote Key.  I will post those pictures next.  Meanwhile, having satisfied my need to see what the island had to offer, I anchored just off Anclote at the place I anchored in February.  I had just settled down for a nice afternoon nap when the phone rang.
It was my mortgage banker with a sweat offer to refinance my house for a short term loan under HARP with a ridiculously low interest rate lock-in.  Needless to say, I knew immediately that my plans were to be changed.   After a good nights sleep,  Jim picked me up to take me back to my truck.
After a whirlwind trip up to Stone Mountain I am back at the anchorage. The power of attorney document is executed, thanks to a very responsive closing attorney.  Give or take a 1000 extra miles on the truck, I am back where I started and ready, READY I SAY to shove off in the morning.
 At night, this anchorage is quiet as a mill pond.  Not a voice or a motor disturbs the tranquil water which abuts and feeds into the nuclear power plant.  At intervals water is taken in, then subsequently discharges creating about a 4 knot current.  This can catch the unwary boater by surprise as he or she nonchalantly rushes up to the dock.  It can lead to an unhappy slam when four plus four equals eight knots of approach speed. 
I'll post the pictures from Anclote as soon as possible.  Meanwhile watch me on WB4FGF-9

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last Minute

I did the final cleaning today.  There will be leaves, no doubt.  But no dirty shoes.  She is packed and ready.  The trip will blow the leaves off.

I am leaving Tuesday, next week.  Monday is Karen's birthday, so I am staying a day to celebrate.

We actually have two warm days, yesterday and today.  Yesterday I sprayed Tridarka's decks with thick anti-slip paint.  The Awl-Grip product Griptex has worked well mixed in with the Interlux Brightside polyurethane.  The reason I had to repaint the ama was that I goofed on the last respray and left a few runs.  They were successfully sanded out and the final coat was applied with 33 lbs at the gun, thus avoiding excess flow.  This time, give or take a few landed gnats, it looks, well, perfect at least to me.

This is all in preparation for the debut of the new Tridarka at Cedar Key, May 4, 5, 2014.  We have two weeks reserved at the campground in our favorite site, number 38.  I almost gave up on getting Tridarka ready this year, but Indian Summer gave me a second chance.

During the winter I will finish the steering and the rigging and be ready to go.

Meanwhile, Belle is ready for up to 2 months out on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

All Aboard

Well, this is it, home sweet home for the month of November and perhaps more.  Everything is aboard.  Just my medicines and last minute personal items will be loaded the day I leave.

Monday, Karen and I will be reinserting the masts and securing them for travel.  One more cleanup of the exterior remains.

I suspect the next blog entry will be from Florida.

I just finished helping my friend Norm by installing a new antenna atop his tower.  Tuesday, I will be changing out a rotor and straitening up antennas atop Mike, ND4V's 70 foot tower.  That will conclude my tower climbing for a good while I trust.  While I am happy to help, I feel I have been up the tower enough considering my near 25 trips up my on 60 foot tower.

Again, Belle is ready!  See you on the water.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting ready in Earnest

Here we have 201 lbs of food stock for the trip.  How long do you think that will last? I'm thinking a lot longer than I'll be gone.  I'd say around 3 months give or take a few stops for incidentals.

I'm setting my sights low.  A good friend gave me some good advice.  It went something like this: " Take it in stages...30-40 days is what I have done... and finally.  Cedar Key to the Dry Tortugas is  one hell of a long trip for a small boat."

Actually I am leaving from Tarpon Springs, but I get the idea, and I agree.
My plan: somewhere about a month to six weeks.  Keep going if I am having fun.  Head back to Tarpon Springs where the truck is located and go home when I have had enough.  "Thank you Bill, for that sage advice," was my response to his words of wisdom.  Last trip, when the weather got so unbearable and I had a serious case of cabin fever, I bailed in 2 weeks.  That trip was supposed to be 3 months long.  Let me say, a short shakedown is in order when you have made major repairs and haven't sailed in three years. 
No harm, no fowl, I guess.  Just goes to show you that staying flexible is the key.  Every day is a day unto itself.  When the negatives kick in, stop while you're ahead.

I spent a lot of time getting the Little Tarheel II installed.  Trouble shooting the current vectors was a real nightmare.  I finally got rid of 200 pf of unwanted capacitance by bonding the solar panels and associated metalwork to the rest of the system. Finally, I came to realize that with the large aluminum structure of the trailer under the boat, the reactance (note  to spellchecker, reactance is spelled right!) is not going to respond to remediation.  I need that even pool of salt water under the hull. 

I spend a lot of time picking up after the trees!

Finally, I solved the pesky plumbing leaks.  I bought a 15-30 pound Jabsco low pressure pump to replace the high pressure RV type pump.  The nylon to plastic treads where bonded with Cyan o-acralate gel. Not the accumulator tank that keeps the pump from cycling.  A inline filter gives me pure fresh-tasting water.  And most of all, there are absolutely no leaks.  
I have 44 gallons of water and 24 gallons of non-ethanol fuel.  Most of my clothes and supplies are on-board.   
After the Stone Mountain ham fest, I am out-a here!

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's been a long time since I made an entry on this blog.  We have worked hard all year trying to get Tridarka ready for next year's Cedar Key event. 
The weather just didn't cooperate.  We had so many rainy days we just couldn't finish all the work. 
Then there is the matter of the winter trip on Belle.  It took most of the summer for Marine Concepts to finish painting Belle.  Same problem we had...really poor painting weather. 
Now, Belle is done and absolutely stunningly beautiful.  The job, well it was the best paint job I have ever seen.  Dan did a splendid and may I say, perfect paint-job.  So to Dan and Jim, thanks so much for the new beautiful Belle. 
Now it's time to get ready.  The blog will be active from henceforth.  I plan to leave around November 5.
The current jobs are mostly related to chasing leaks.  There is a tiny leak in the fore-hatch.  It is around the glazing, rather than the gasket.  As the hatch is 20 years old I thought it best to replace it with a new Bowmar series 900.  The hatch was bedded with 3M 5200 which is a permanent bed. So removing it was quite a chore.  The MAP gas torch came into good use softening the hard adhesive.  I still took a couple of chunks of gelcoat. Luckily it was under the rim so I can fill it with epoxy for now.  Next year I plan to pain the deck so it should look fine then.  I have ordered the hatch...$265 worth of it.  Cha-ching.  There goes another big chunk of prep money. 
I did find a very nice product called Anti-Bond that softens up the remaining adhesive so it can be removed without too much strenuous effort.  Once again, the 5 in 1 tool is indispensable for removing both the hatch and the adhesive.  It has to be one of my favorite tools
I have continued to improve the grounding for the ham radio system.  I finally had the nerve to drill through the deck and transfer ground from the bow pulpit/life line system down to the grid of 2 inch copper that circles the boat at the water line and connects as well to the ground plate.  The final solution will be the new Little Tarheel II screwdriver antenna and its compliment, the Turbo Tuner II for automatic tuning 10-80 meters. 
We are postponing our RV trip to Crooked River Campground due to the government shut-down.  Cumberland Island was a big part of our plans so we have decided not to spend money on a trip so very constrained by the closure of Cumberland Island. 
Therefore I am moving the new Icom IC-7100 over into the boat for my trip.  I plan on running APRS as WB4FGF-9 on 30 meters and use 40 and 20 meters for communications.  The radio runs DSTAR as well as 2 meters and 70 CM.  It should be a great addition along with the Tarheel to ham radio operations aboard Belle. 
The trip is going to be rather open ended so as long as the weather is tolerable and I am having fun, I will continue south from Tarpon Springs to as far as the Dry Tortugas (if the government shutdown is over by then).  For sure, I will frequent my old favorites along the Gulf coast of Florida going south. These would include stops at Caladesi Island, Bunces Pass and a leisurely visit to Fort Desoto.  I will continue south with stops at Sarasota and Venice.  I will spend a good deal of time in Charlotte Harbor headquartering at Caya Costa.  I hope to explore the Peace and Myakka rivers and so many other old haunts in the area. 
Enough about what I will do.  Stay tuned for the reports as the visits happen. 
Solar panels drinking in the fall sun. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I'm home in Georgia thanks to an amazing rescue by Karen.  Here are the headlines:

Too inclement, too cold, too early, too long...
What was I thinking?  Well, every time I talked to my friend Jim in Tarpon Springs around this time of year, he would report 70's and 80's.  Somehow I got the impression that central to south Florida was a good place to escape winter. Well, if you live there, it's a site better than the north, for sure.  However, when you are confined to the cabin of a small sailboat, it's a whole new ballgame.

Up front I want to say, especially to those that remember the fiasco of my last attempt to sail the coast of Florida: Belle came through with flying colors!  She did not leak.  She sailed well and sat well at anchor. The charging system worked amazingly well. All systems were a go. On the other hand, the captain didn't pass muster.  There were just too many storms and cold weather systems coming down the peninsula.  When your only escape is the great out of doors, a lot of bad weather really serves as a downer.  You begin to ask yourself, "am I having fun yet?"

I must also admit that I am a little more of a home body in my "dotage." I seem to need a little more routine and predictability in my life than I once did.  Having company and social interaction seems to have become more important to me than I was aware.  And shall we say, there are a lot of bumps bruises, cuts and aches that get worse aboard a boat as one gets older.

Here's my conclusion.  I plan in the future to pick my weather more carefully.  I plan to sail an area with the truck and trailer available to make my escape.  I plan to make my trips less than a month.  And I plan to spend most of my sailing time in the future with company.  That would be Karen who is my partner.

So, I did have fun, especially at Cedar Key.  In a way, however, I feel like I failed my first test.  Yet I can also look at it as a shakedown cruise, which is what I should have planned on all along.  So two weeks is what it was.  I learned my lesson and I'm moving on.

I hope my readers will indulge me in understanding the nature of the journey.  I think this journal of my experiences could have been fun to write and to read.  I'm sorry I didn't deliver.   Again, thanks for indulgence in what can only be construed as live reporting.  What happens, happens.  Farewell for now. Be safe, have fun and plan on more sometime in the future.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I'm now anchored at the Florida Power Plant in Tarpon Springs.  Despite  how it sounds, the setting is quite idyllic, especially at night, after Anclote Park closes and the ramp ceases to do its brisk business.

On Tuesday morning a cold northerly breeze was blowing shaking up the anchorage and making the prospects of another rocky night at anchor unappealing to say the least.

 Cedar Key had been downright cold over the weekend. Having been at Cedar Key over a weekend.  I was more than ready to move on.  My first thought was to take a more protected spot in the bight of Atsena Otie. But as I motored over that way I impulsively steered out the inlet and set off for Crystal River.  The trip is about twenty-three miles if you count the inlets.

I finally made anchorage in a very quiet anchorage, way up Crystal river in front of a place called Crackers.  There I settled in and made my way by dinghy to sample the fare.  It was good bar food washed down by a cold one.

In the morning, I had planed to be up early and fuel up at 7 am. Unfortunately an unseen bar had other plans.  It was low tide, thankfully.  By 9:30 I had finally muscled 5000 lbs of Belle of the bar and by 10 I was ready to head down the river.  A cold north wind offered good passage south.

After I snapped this surfing speed we topped 8.8 knots running wing on wing motor sailing.  I hated to motor but with 53 sea miles to go, I wanted to have the hook down at south Anclote Key as soon as possible.  I made good speed and did a precision "instrument approach" getting the anchor down exactly where I wanted it in complete darkness.  Even though a fairly strong breeze rocked Belle, I slept quite soundly.
 Here's Belle at anchor near the Power Plant.
After lunch with my friend Jim of Marine Concepts, Sailboats, I got the new inflatable kayak out and went for a paddle.  This is a big boat, suitable for two paddlers and gear.  It is comfortable and relatively easy to paddle.  I think it will make a nice addition the Belles "garage."
I share the anchorage with 4 other boats.  So I chose to anchor Bahamian style with two anchors holding Belle to a tight rotating angle.

  I am enjoying the native bird species.  I know the locals laugh at me for taking their pictures.  To me, though, they are exotic and add a tropical flavor to the scenery.

There are two osprey nests close enough for me to appreciate the parental presence constantly near the nest.

I'll be here over the weekend as I get my dinghy repaired and sort out a cabling problem between the Garmin GPS Mapping unit and the autopilot.  I also need a few supplies.

Mostly, I am happy with the warm weather. It's supposed to be 82 degrees tomorrow!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Worth the effort!

Tonight is one of those nights that makes all the hard work of adventure sailing worthwhile.  I took several pictures of the Sunset and had a difficult time deciding which was best.  I know this, having a good camera makes a difference.  This is the PowerShot SX10 which is a much better camera than the one I usually use.
I tried ever so hard to catch the Black Skimmers en mass doing what they do best: skimming just above the water at sunset on a calm night.
Here's what they look like.
I sit quietly in my ratchet-back chair enjoying the warm evening and sipping a fine glass of Captain Morgan Spice Rum.  Cheers from aboard S/V Belle, near the dock at Cedar, Key Florida

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A little Cedar Key History

Since I am land bound until Monday, I decided to take a little tour of the city.  It's not that I haven't done it many times before.  I just wanted to revisit the Cedar Key Historical Society Museum which conveniently is open to today, taking a moment to reacquaint my self with the rich history that is belied by simplicity of this small fishing village.

Additionally, I took a walking tour of the southeast side of town which richly rewards a little walking effort with architecturally interesting and beautiful specimens of the old mansions of the past.
Cedar Key history of course goes way back as evidenced by shell middens of the Timucuans dating as far back as 500 BC.  Very little useful material is available to stitch together much of a story until around the time of the first Seminal War which occurred in  1818.

The name to remember around Cedar Key is David Levy Yulee, a wealthy lawyer, entrepreneur and senator who was instrumental in the building of the Jacksonville to Cedar Key Railway.  As luck would have it, the fateful line was finished in 1861. The war between the states put a stop to economic progress in the town on Way Key (current Cedar Key) and Depot Key ( now known as Atesena Otie).  I wont bore you with all the details, but Cedar Key was a major center for shipping and commerce to points in Cuba, the Caribbean and New Orleans.  Goods were trans-shipped on Levy-Yulee's railway and moved aboard ships to distant water destinations.Cedar Key enjoyed a boom between 1865 and 1885. But lost out on the transportation race to Tampa Bay which got its own railroad and boasted a truly world class harbor facility.

Cedar Key was also the home of a thriving cedar lumber milling and slate manufacturing for the pencil industry. So successful was the effort that there are only a few small specimens left to show for the great cedar forests along this area of the Gulf

As I said, the Civil War interfered mightily with the goings on at Cedar and Depot Keys as the Union army blockaded the keys and confiscated and destroyed the salt making industry. They set of a base at Sea Horse Key which was the nexus of their harassing and pillaging of this area of the Gulf.  At the end of the war, David Yulee spent some time in prison until he was released in 1866. The railroad once again became operational after Mr. Yulee's release from prison.

Of course fishermen of Cedar Key added a rich history of sponge diving, net fishing and oystering.
Cedar Key's population peaked at 1887 in 1885.  In 1890's the population of Cedar Key slowly dwindled due to declining timber and fishing resources.

The great hurricane and storm surge of 1896 destroyed the Faber and Suwannee Lumber Mills of Atsena Otie and heavily damaged the Cedar Keys. The owners chose not to rebuild.
Cedar Key had a brief brush with the manufacturing industries (no pun intended) with the establishment of Standard Manufacturing Company. Their business was manufacturing fiber and a line of Donex brushes.  These fine brushes were made of the widely available Sabel Palm which is the state tree. Fiber was sold to brush companies all over the US, Canada Britain and Australia. 

I often ponder the realities of life in the 1880's on Atsena Otie as I walk its sun-dappled trails through the thick growth which obscures the buildings and cityscape of those far off years.  The small cemetery on the southwest side of the island is intimate and serene with dates posted from those years

Today, Cedar Key is a quaint fishing village catering to the professional and sport fishing industry.  In recent years, a fairly large and prosperous aquaculture industry was been gaining popularity with nearly 300 leased oyster beds in the close vicinity.

On a more cultural note, Cedar Key is home to a thriving artist community.  Works of Gerald Lindstrom, Jolie Davis, Willie Smith, Mike Segel, to name only a few are to be found in three galleries along Second Street in Cedar Key.  These galleries include: Island Arts Gallery, Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-op and there's even one called Barefoot Artists.

The Cedar Key Historical Society Museum

A familiar site on the Cedar Key waterscape: the honeymoon cottage, or what's left of it. The No-Name storm of 1993 mostly did it in.

In summary: Cedar Key is in a way, but a shadow if it's former self. At 800 population it is a fragile microcosm, an eclectic mix of citizens. At its backbone, are  the workers that keep it going.  They live in the scrub of the mainland for the most part.  There is a large component of wealthy retires. There also is a strong and thriving artist community.   The tourist often consist of  art gallery and shop browsing women and families, juxtaposed with brash sport fishermen types. .  The commercial element consists of various business ventures, aquaculture ventures and touristy shops.  The commercial fishermen are hanging on by a thread mostly due to the 1994 Florida law banning gill netting.

All in all, Cedar Key is a very Eco-friendly village, where conservation of water and energy is practiced scrupulously.  People here are friendly enough, but are not ones to intrude into your affairs.
And most if all, every year on the first weekend in may, we have the Small Boat Meet at Cedar Key. That's what keeps me coming back.  Unfortunately, I probably won't make it this year (20th).  I am heading south on the adventure of a lifetime.

I've been coming to Cedar Key for twenty years now, and I feel like I am just getting to know it.  And to know it is to love it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Good morning from Cedar Key, Florida.  I am luxuriating in the warmth of the day, ever mindful that Saturday, it could snow in CK.  The lows both Saturday and Sunday have been revised to 30 deg. F.  That is bone chilling especially with the 30 knot winds that will bring in the cold front.  I had a nice little Buddy Heater that runs on propane and darned, if I didn't elect not to bring it. What was I thinking?  Florida I guess.  Fact is, northers come down the peninsula pretty regularly at this time of the year.  It pays to be prepare.

One really cool thing is watching the charger.  With the bright sun I have seen up to 12.3 amps with 8-10 being average.  That should bring the battery bank up to full by the end of the day.  Two days of clouds really ate into the daily amp-hours budget, but I never ran below 12.5 volts so I'm guessing about 75 percent charge at the worst.
Here the charge monitor shows 12.1 amps.

Outside I hear the frequent "blow" of the dolphins hunting all around the boat.  Getting there picture of course, is a matter of rare chance. I don't concern myself with that too much.

Last night, I turned in about 8:30.  The cabin temperature was dropping at an alarming rate so I put on an upper and lower fleece (Polartec) suit and was off by 9 PM.  It really was a peaceful night with almost no rocking and knocking.  Saturday night will probably net me no sleep at all with that 30 knots with gusts to 40 disturbing the anchorage with large rollers and a vicious snap action as the boat wanders back and forth.

I'll have to be honest. I made a mad dash for "Eat at Pat's" the local greasy spoon to warm up this morning.  I'm trying to limit my forays into fast food.  But sometimes I just can't resist.

And I am going to be here a while.  I have to wait for the delivery of the Sea Eagle 380 on Monday.  It looks like the first weather window will be Wednesday.  I think Chrystal River at 20 nautical miles is a reasonable goal, what with the short winter days.  We'll have to check the weather then for the final run into Anclote Key at Tarpon Springs.  I got a months premium subscription to Sail Flow. This program will give you the hour by hour nitty gritty on every feature of the forecast for days to come.  That's how I make my decisions aboard Belle.  I hope that the change in latitude will bring a little more warmth.  I could use it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stuck in Cedar Key, I could do worse!

Greetings from a very soggy and chill
Cedar Key, Florida.  I am holed up in Belle waiting for better weather.  This is the lot of a full time cruiser.  Well anybody in actuality. Sometimes you can pick your weather for a short jaunt. But when your out there full time,  Well, you take what comes and try to remember why cold mornings sponging off with cold water is better than a warm bed at home and a nice warm shower in the morning.  It's my little kingdom like it or not.  I take the good with the bad.

As for transportation, you will remember that I had a mishap with a sharp oyster bed on Tuesday.  Well, I did my best to effect a clean and strong repair--to no avail.  The pressure when inflated, even after waiting twenty-four  hours was just too much and she leaked profusely almost immediately on inflation.
It's always good to have alternate transportation in your back pocket. I knew there was a reason I quipped, "I can't have forgotten anything.  The house is empty."  So out of the port locker of the vee-birth comes my plan "B."  Here is my little 6 foot Mercury dinghy.  I planed to use her with the 2.5 HP Nissan short shaft outboard.  I can't bring myself to get involved with a stinky motor right now so the oars are doing just fine, thank you.  I still need a paddling vehicle because so much of my trip involves exploring via kayak.  So I have a new SeaEagle 380.  It will arrive on Monday and hopefully I will be able to leave Tuesday.  I am getting to be a regular around Cedar Key.  If it weren't so cool and wet, I could get used to it.  The forgotten sail covers arrived today.  Thank you Karen for that.
 So what does a marooned sailor do in his spare time.  Well, today I washed clothes at the conveniently located laundromat located right down town.  I ate lunch at the Pickled Pelican.  Now I am updating the blog and cleaning up the boat.  There's always the library when I finish.
So what do I think about the oyster incident:?  I put the boat at risk by paddling that area especially on a falling tide.  I know how to avoid that in the future.  Believe me, I will.
Tonight I hope to make contact with a ham friend on 40 meters, side-band. The battery is at 12.6 volts so I need to conserve.  Tomorrow, with sun, I should be able to completely recharge.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last night was not particularly good, for several reasons. I chose to go on an extended paddle circumnavigating Cedar Key.  This trip proved to be much longer than I had anticipated featuring a muscle shredding paddle against winds of fifteen miles per hours and a contrary ebb tide of 2-3 miles per hour in some places.  It also featured a catastrophic encounter with the shallows laced with a razor sharp oyster bed.  For a moment there I thought I had lost control of my bodily functions as a loud burbling sound issued from below.  Fear not though, it was only the air escaping from the floor of my Kayak!  Now with my butt hanging down the clearance in the shallows was even worse and the drag through the water...well it was enormous. You can follow my three hour trip via my SPOT share page.  I tried to beacon enough to show the perimeter.  Towards the last, though it was pure survival.
The winds of course portended an oncoming cold front.  I had anticipated an stop at the Big Deck for a refreshing Draft Fosters, but by now dark was approaching and I was anxious to test my ability to scale the side of the boat with such wasted muscle strength.
Belle's butt was a happy site and I quickly secured the partially flaccid kayak and clambered up over the bull-works with amazing alacrity.  It was do or die if you please.
Back to the paddle itself.  I started on the north end of Cedar Key, the island, entering a slough that all the work boats use to make port.  I had timed my paddle for high tide, around thee PM.  So far so good.  Not being sure of the exact route, I came upon the obvious answer that the water knew the way out: just follow the current.  And so it was, that I found myself surprisingly adept at figuring it all out.  As rounded the eastern extreme I ran headlong into a 20 knot wind accompanied by 2 foot short chop and Gulf rollers.  It was somewhere along the east shore that I made that fateful encounter with the sharp and shallow oyster bed which lead to a "sinking feeling."  Resolutely, I kept at the paddling making no more than two miles an hour, hoping against hope that the back slough entrance behind the Cedar Key Airport would manifest itself.  Shallow water with sharp oysters became my constant companion, but so far, no more slashes.

At last I found myself tracing my convoluted path through the mangroves and saw grass.  Paddling effort had to be redoubled to fight the fierce currents in the narrows. I hugged the side as best I could to avoid the worst of the current.
Every firm piece of ground in the buyous taken with housing for the wealthy.  I must say in twenty years of coming to Cedar Key, I have really never seen any activities around these homes.  Cars are parked in the driveways but none are enjoying the views.  Waiting to die?
This is what I paddle for: encounters with nature and wildlife where they live.  
So I finally made my way under the bridge and caught site of the water tower.  Two more supreme struggles await me as I fight the full force of the wind with a sunken bottom.  I finally make my way slowly past the town dock and catch site of my home sweet home.
As I bellied over the coaming and slithered into my cabin, I was thankful to take a nip of the old Jack, single barrel.  The winds waxed and waned around 15 to 20 knots all night leaving me shaken, not stirred. Lousy sleeping night for sure, but Belle stayed cozy and safe.  
The sun has finally come out this morning and the charge indicator is showing 10 amps.  You gotta love those solar panels.  
Oh, by-the-way, I talked to my friend Paul Kelly, W4KLY on 40 meters last night.  Seems the Buddistick antenna is doing a fine job.
 Here's a picture of the slash in the bottom of the kayak.  Pretty bad for sure.  Thanks to Karen's reminder, I have a repair kit and it is all fixed.  After drying for twenty-four hours I can re-inflate it and go pick up the package of sail covers that Karen sent.  Hopefully, tomorrow is the day.  I will do laundry and prepare to head down the coast to the Withlacoochee river.