They’re Coming in HOT!!

May 2, 2014:

Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!   Okay, you probably have no idea what I’m trying to replicate here (but if you do – five gold stars!).

We rose the next morning before sunrise.  The sky was choked at first with soft, billowing blue clouds, covering every inch of the space overhead with only one sliver of light growing in the east.  As the sun rose, the blue canopy began to dissipate and everything turned a fiery shade of pink.

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Now you’ll understand — Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!

I went for a sunrise paddle that morning – left before the sun rose, and watched it taint the sky as it climbed the horizon.  I felt like I was the center of the Circle of Life!  Everything seemed to open, bloom and awake around me and change from a dusky blue to a golden pink.

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Pelicans were swimming and flying right along side of me.

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 

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The water was rippled pink, purple and blue and the only sound I could hear was my paddle dipping in and out of the water.  (Well, other than the African Lion King chants I was wailing in my head).

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 

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And then I emerged!

Me

“THE CIIIIRRRR-CUUULLL OF LIFE!!”

Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic in reality.  I just pulled up to the boat.

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Hello Beautiful!

But, it was an intensely serene sunrise paddle.  Such a beautiful area right around our boat to tool around in.

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I paddled around Bird Island.  I didn’t know – then- that the other was called Snake Island, but I’m glad, now, that I avoided it!  Since it was our first day in a new port, we decided to what any good adventurer would do … get out and explore!  We walked around the boat a bit and checked out the cool rock jetty (Venice Inlet) that leads out into the Gulf – knowing we would be headed out that way in just a few days.

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We noticed it was both (1) very narrow:

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and (2) very rocky:

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A bit of a bad combination for entry and exit in a boat, particularly in rough seas.  The sea state was still kicked up with the storm rolling in to Clearwater, so we knew we would be hunkering down in Venice for at least a day or two.  But, I tell ya, it wasn’t a bad place to be!  We had the boat nice and secure at an excellent marina,

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and we had attracted some friends around the boat.

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And the jetty, inlet and Gulf waters were beautiful.  Lots of folks came out it seemed to eat lunch, sit and read, and just hang out around the jetty.  Excellent walking/meander grounds.

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But, like I said — we were ready to explore!  A little further than what was achievable on foot.  So, remember the free bike rental I mentioned at Crow’s Nest Marina for marina guests?

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Suh-weet!  We checked us out a free pair and set to it!

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The area around the jetty was really nice, and it was a perfect sunny day for a bike ride, so we decided to make a day of it.  We biked … all … over!

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Adorable little condos and townhouses by Crow’s Nest.  Many of them had stairwells up to the roof where they had set up a little sunbathing area on top of their house!

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Quaint shaded streets and light traffic made for perfect neighborhood cruising among HUGE banyan trees.

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I almost crashed five times trying to look up at the Spanish Moss.  Well, I take that back, I almost crashed several times because I’m just well, accident prone, and I was shooting while biking, AND I’m a blonde.  So, I had a lot working against me.  But, I somehow managed to stay upright.  The biking was actually excellent exercise for the knee which still had a little pain and a pop, but was improving daily.  We found an excellent public beach access that appeared to be the perfect place to set up for kiting if we got some favorable winds while we were there.

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We actually met a kiter who was out there setting up that morning and chatted him up for a bit.

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He told us the thermal winds in that area were usually pretty steady, meaning you couldn’t trust the wind prediction.  It was always off.  Good to get the local wind scoop!

Wind scoop …

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Get it??

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We rode our bikes all the way to town!

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Tis me!

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Annnd, I didn’t crash taking that shot either!  You’re welcome.

We found this awesome 1950’s throw-back trinket shop – Nifty Nic Nacs!

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So true …

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Take an old photo, put a funny caption on it and BOOM!  I just love these things!

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Apparently, the shopkeep didn’t LOVE my love of them, though.  He totally busted me for taking photos of his stuff.  Sorrryyy!  It’s just cause it’s such cool stuff!  The lengths I go to to capture our adventures for you all … I could have been arrested!

Having biked all morning, we set our sights on lunch.  A little research told us this Blue Island Bistro was the hot lunch spot in Venice, and boy were they right!

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Quaint little bistro atmosphere overlooking the hotel pool.

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A pile of hand-made shoestring onion rings, three chicken, avocado and lime salsa tacos and a piled-high pork & coleslaw sandwich later, and Phillip and I could barely walk, much less pedal!  It took us a while to roll out of our seats and ease back onto our bikes to make the trek back to the marina, but it was totally worth it.  That was a mighty tasty lunch!

We had good timing, too, because just as we made our way back to the boat, we got to see first-hand what that storm that was headed to Clearwater looked like.  Our marina was haunted with looming grey clouds and dark horizons.

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We hunkered down in the boat for a bit to wait for the storm to pass.

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I actually love being on the boat when a storm comes through.  Granted, I don’t want to be buried in a wicked thunderstorm, but it’s a neat feeling to be on your boat, on the water, out in the middle of a torrential downpour, but you’re dry and secure, watching it all first-hand.  It’s kind of like getting a cozy, front-row seat to some of Mother’s Nature’s most amazing displays.  And, our boat needed the rinse, so we were fine to let it pour, pour, pour!

I tell you one thing that rain didn’t clean, though, was the paddle board!  Remember the new “friend” we had made at the marina?  The one I thought was so cute because he was hanging on our dock line?  I had been snapping shots of him that morning, telling Phillip “Look, Phillip, we’ve got a little buddy!”  Awww … how cute!

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Well, he turned out to be a real shitty friend, that bird!  He used our paddle board as his own personal hunting perch and he SHAT all over it!

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That terd!  It took some serious industrial scrubbing to get it clean!

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But, we got it clean, and cleaned ourselves up as well.  The previous night, we had fine-dined at the swanky top floor of the Crow’s Nest Marina restaurant, so this time we decided to check out the casual, cozy tavern on the bottom floor.

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I required some serious industrial cleaning as well after the foul fowl discharge clean-up!  But, I think I turned out alright.  You can’t see the elephant arm at all!  We mozied around the marina a bit to check out this huge fishing boat that had pulled in for quick cover during the flash storm.

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And, just as we were walking the docks, checking the boat out, we saw this other sailboat come flying in.  The boat would easily qualify as a “work-in-progress.”  It had big, brown paint patches in places, no lifelines to speak of and a few buckets and board planks lying around on deck.  The boat made a quick u-turn near the fishing boat where we were standing and then started on a beeline back toward our boat – just hauling through the marina (which always makes you nervous).  It’s like watching a car up ahead on the interstate swerving and screeching around.  You’re either going to ease back and stay out of the way, or floor it when you pass them to make sure they don’t careen into you.  But, the problem was, we weren’t on the boat!  Meaning, we had no way of getting our boat out of harm’s way.  We both craned our necks up and watched with tight-lip frowns as the blazing boat made a quick turn into the slip right next to us (not on us, at least).  Whew!  It was clear they weren’t going to hit our boat, but they were still barreling into the slip, headed straight for the dock.  Phillip and I both started running toward their bow as one of the crew on the fishing boat shouted:

“THEY’RE COMING IN HOT!!”

Open Says-a-Me!

May 1, 2014:

That’s right.  May.  We finally made it to MAY.  Phillip and I both couldn’t believe we had spent an entire month on the boat and it had felt like only a couple of weeks, a few days at the most!  Time was flying and our trip, it seemed, was slipping by faster than we would have liked.  But, I’m sure it always feels that way.  You never really want to go back … once you start going!  But, sadly, we had jobs and meetings and all sorts of other obligations calling us back to Pensacola, so we needed to start making way that way.  Although our original plan had been to make our way up along the coast to Clearwater before we jumped back across the Gulf to Carrabelle, considering our engine situation (one drip approximately every 10 seconds) and reports we had heard of storms rolling into Clearwater, we decided to motor up the ICW to Venice to shave a little off of our trip to Clearwater and closely monitor our engine in the safety of protected waters.

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We would then make the Gulf crossing we had now made three times back from Clearwater to Carrabelle.  It would be the last BIG crossing of the trip.

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And, as you may recall, the last time we made this passage, from Clearwater to Carrabelle, we beat into 30 hours of rough weather and seas and had to hack off our dinghy in the middle of the crossing.

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The really mind-blowing thing was, though, that she made her way across the entire Gulf alone and ended up in Ft. Walton, where we reclaimed her.  This time, thankfully, we had opted for an inflatable dinghy, which was stowed safely below, so, assuming good weather, we were hoping to have a smoother passage.  But, that was the next leg.  We set our sights first on Venice via the ICW.  Now, recall we still had a dripping dripless, although it was relatively minor, and a fluky manual bilge pump which we attributed to a cracked pump hose.  So, our first mission that morning was to retrieve the replacement hose we had ordered at the Gasparilla Marina and make sure our manual bilge pump was working.  That was the mission anyway …

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I will say, it was a beautiful area around Gasparilla for walking, biking, canoeing, and

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they had a very friendly staff at the marina, happy to sell us any type of hose we wanted.  Cha-ching!  Unfortunately, though, the new hose didn’t fix our manual bilge pump problem.  Even after feeding the new hose from the pump at the cockpit down to the bilge, we still couldn’t suck the last bit of water out.  It seemed the pump wasn’t sucking very well.  It kind of sucked at sucking, I guess you would say …

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But, our electric bilge pump was working fine, our manual pump was only kind of sucky and our thirsty Thirsty Mate, that trusty ole’ chap, was working great.  Super suckage.  So, we decided to go for it.  We tossed the lines, had a friendly lad at the dock help us ease out (hence – no docking debacle this time!) and headed up the ICW toward Venice.

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See ya!

Now, the ICW runs along the West Coast of Florida from Anclote Key (Tarpon Springs, just north of Clearwater) down to Ft. Meyers, and serves as a nice option if the sea state in the Gulf is gnarly and you still want to make way along the coast.  Most of the bridges along that route are either 65 feet or taller or they open to allow marina traffic through.  We had six bridges total to make it through from Gasparilla up to Venice.

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Most of them were open on-demand.  Meaning you call the “bridgemaster” (I assume that’s his technical title) about 10 minutes out to request he open the bridge for you — “Open Says-a-ME!”  Assuming no traffic or issues, it’s no problem, he opens the bridge as you’re headed toward him and voila!  Occasionally, he may have some traffic backed up or some other issue and you’ll have to do a few circles before he can make it happen for you, but it’s generally not a problem.  Other bridges open on a schedule, once every 15 or 30 minutes.  So, you just have to know your bridges ahead of time and schedule/plan accordingly.

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Luckily, I travel with the most awesome Captain in the world, and he had figured all of this out ahead of time and had all the numbers and times and everything printed out, ready to go, while I sat around and ate grapefruit.

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Ain’t life grand?  Okay, I shared some with the Captain, too.

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Grapefruit … yum!

But, Phillip soon wised up and put me to work, keeping up with the log book, checking on the bridge times and

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(of course!) monitoring our engine drip.

Drip … 

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Drip … 

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We were motoring under moderate load most of the day and she was dripping once approximately every 15-20 seconds.  It seemed the hotter and harder she ran, the less the drip.

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No comment …  Likely the pressure and heat caused the seal around the stuffing box to swell, which created a tighter seal.  In all, we were pleased with the slight drip and felt comfortable spending the day motoring up the ICW.  The esteemed Captain called ahead as needed for bridges that opened on demand.

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“Open Says-a-ME!”

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And we tried to motor accordingly (slower or faster) to come up on those that were scheduled just about the time they were opening.

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It was pretty cool to see the massive cranks and gears that raised these bridges.

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It’s pretty impressive to take a road that can hold tons upon tons of traffic and just … eehhh … crack it open and let a boat through.  While most opened up like a drawbridge, we did pass through one that spun on an axis.

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Like I said.  Pretty cool.  Definitely a different feeling than making our way across the Gulf.  While we prefer to sail — always — it was a nice motor day and we got to marvel at some impressive engineering feats along the way.

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An inspection of the arm showed I was developing a rare case of what we quickly coined “elephantitis.”

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Everything from the wrist down was normal until about here,

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where it balooned out and took on a squishy, swollen feel all the way up to my shoulder.  And, let me just warn you – do NOT Google images for elephantitis.  Just.  Don’t.

We made it to the Crow’s Nest Marina in Venice around 3:00 p.m. and settled in nicely at Slip No. 9.  The staff at the marina were exceptional.  They helped us dock, welcomed us with maps, info, a menu for the local Crow’s Nest restaurant and showed us the facilities.  Washer & dryer, nice showers, restrooms, even free bike rentals for marina guests.  Sweet!

Live webcam leading out to the jetty:

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By then, it was getting close to 4:00 and we were getting … happy.  “I’ll take an Oh Shit!, please.

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Mmmmm-Hmmmm!

We sat and sipped and uked and watched the marina activity for a bit,

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before cleaning up to head over to the Crow’s Nest Marina Restaurant for dinner.  They had separate shower suites, with restroom and shower stalls, which is super nice.

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Not “truck-stoppey” at all!  The arm was looking awesome …

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Not disgusting at all!  Just kind of Popeye’ish if you ask me.

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I do eats me spinach!  But, it was progressing along fairly well and still attached … so, no complaints.

We cleaned up and got ready for a nice dinner at the marina restaurant.  The bottom floor of the Crow’s Nest Restaurant is more casual, a tavern-like atmosphere with light fare, live music, etc.,

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while the top floor is a ritzy, fine-dining restaurant.

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We figured, when in Venice

“Table for two, please.  Top floor.”

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And, the food … was … decadent!  We ordered up some phenomenal chicken skewers and oysters to start,

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which of course came with a basket of piping hot fresh bread and a trifecta of dipping goodness (salty house-made butter, crushed garlic spread and olive oil with spices.

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Then, well, things got a little hazy.  I remember ordering (and thoroughly enjoying) the snow crab legs, and Phillip got the lamp chops.  But, let’s just say, we were a few cocktails, two glasses of champagne and a couple bottles of wine in.  I told you we were going to take this crazy act on the road!  I remember the crab legs, but not the bib …

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You say it brings out my eyes?  Stop it.  Cap’n, you’re making me blush.  My, my … “

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Don’t Worry … We Can Pump Gallons Out at a Time

April 30. 2014:

So, we’d done our homework.  We knew we had a Lasdrop stuffing box and that it wasn’t sup-POSED to drip.  We also knew the guys at Gasparilla Marina would be sending a mechanic back out to our boat early the next morning to follow-up on our leaking stuffing box so we grabbed a bite at the Waterside Grill — buffalo shrimp, grilled grouper (plate and sandwich) —

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enjoyed a sliver of sunset over the marina,

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and crashed hard on the boat.  We woke the next morning, though, to excessive buzzing, dinging and chirping of our phones.  It seemed the masses were trying to reach us.  After ignoring the first few, we finally lulled ourselves awake to see what all the buzz (no pun intended) was about.  And, that’s when we got the terrible news.  Our home port of Pensacola had endured 20 inches of rain in 24 hours.  There was extreme flooding with inadequate drainage.  Many homes were flooded, cars submerged, roadways engulfed.  It was unreal.

ABC News – Powerful Floods Tear Through Pensacola

Damage due to flash flooding is seen along Johnson Ave. in Pensacola Charles Davidson (no shirt) and his friend Jeremy Goodwin (back) help neighbors to safety off Kelly Ave. in Pensacola Flood8 Flood7 Flood6 Flood5  Flood3 Flood2 Flood4

We started making frantic calls – checking on friends, family, the office, the condo, other boat owners.  It was a mess.  And, it was so ironic that everyone had been calling often checking on us as we were out making passages, crossing the Gulf of Mexico, putting ourselves in the path of potential storms and yet home is where she decided to strike, while we were tucked safely in a marina in Gasparilla.  We felt a slight tinge of guilt that we were sound and secure while others back home were dealing with such damage and loss.  We weren’t even sure yet about your own place or our cars.  We just did what we could remotely and set our sights on making way back to Pensacola.

We got on the phone with the guys at the marina and they sent out a sprite little stick of a man (stiff breeze would have blown him over) to come check out our stuffing box.  But, he was sharp, friendly and super-knowledgeable.  You could tell he’d been working on boats for a long time.  That’s just the kind of guy I want sticking his hands up under our transmission.  Guy cracked me up though.  Just before he bent over into the engine room, he snapped back up real quick and said “Better empty my pockets first.  Don’t want these dumping into your bilge.”  And, then he proceeded to set not one, but two packs of cigarettes and a lighter on the nav station.  I’ll bet that’s a one-day supply for this guy.

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He maneuvered some things around, wiggled it – just a little bit! – and said he was able to create a decent seal.  One he thought would hold well enough to get us home.  You mean, no haul-out?!?  We were certainly relieved to hear that news.  But, we were certainly going to test it to be sure.  We decided to crank her up and go for a test run.  Much like the crossing we did last year when we were catching and dumping transmission fluid back into the transmission, I found myself again, hunkered down next to that noisy engine, watching a drip.

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But, that was fine with me.  I’d much rather have an engine that’s running but requires a little drip supervision than one that’s not.  So, I busted out the all-important boat tool used last time to capture the name on the stuffing box – my PHONE – and did my best to capture the drip so we could accurately time it and see what we were dealing with.  I caught three drips in 30 seconds, meaning roughly 10 seconds in between each drip.  In the video, I move the flashlight beam to indicate each drip.  Riveting footage I assure you …

After watching her under various amounts of load, we determined the box was dripping roughly every 5-7 seconds at idle, every 10 seconds under moderate load and every 20-25 seconds under heavy load.  The more load that was on her it seemed the more pressure on the box which created a better seal.  So, on average, one drip every 10 seconds when the engine was running?  We figured that was probably common, if not less, than the intended drip on most stuffing boxes designed to drip.  Certainly something our bilge could handle, assuming we found ourselves having to motor a lot on the way home.  If we were able to sail most of the way – no issue at all.  So, we decided to go for it.  We were going to make our way back home with the very minor dripping-dripless and address it once we got back.

As usual, we had been discussing the stuffing box ordeal with some fellow cruisers and our broker-turned-boat buddy, Kevin, offered some sage advice.  While our electric bilge pump was working fine (in fact, its frequent automatic activation is what helped us uncover the leaking stuffing box in the first place), Kevin suggested it might be a good idea to check our manual bilge pump(s) before leaving the dock.  Just … in … case.  Smart man, that Kevin.

While Phillip always tells me the most effective “bilge pump” you can have is a motivated sailor and a bucket,

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we thought it best to follow Kevin’s advice and check on our other mechanical bilge pumps.  The manual pump in the cockpit,

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and, the almighty Thirsty Mate!

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It seemed the Thirsty Mate was working fine.

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That thing sucks.  In the best way possible.  And, I rigged up a hook on the end of it that attached to the drain in the sink in the head so it could be used single-handedly by a crew member to pump water out of the bilge and into the sink to drain out (in case Captain’s holding the helm, and I’m doing the sucking – a likely scenario if we found ourselves really taking on water).  So, Thirsty Mate – check!

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the same luck with the bilge pump in the cockpit …  The suction was incredibly low and we didn’t think any water was actually making it out of the boat.

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After some troubleshooting, we were sure there was some crack or poor connection in the hose from the pump at the helm to the bilge that was hindering suction (like a straw with a hole in it).  We decided to get a new hose for it.  Not that we planned to re-run the hose under the cabin floor and back up to the cockpit before we left, just so we would have a secure hose that we could connect to the pump in the cockpit and hand-feed down to the bilge just in case we had a sufficient leak, and the electric bilge pump went out, and we couldn’t sufficiently drain it with the Thirsty Mate.  A lot of prerequisites there, which sufficiently met our concerns for getting back under way.  Some friends, however, didn’t seem to have the same reaction.  I explained our situation via text to a few non-boating gal pals of mine, advising them we did have a small leak, but we were able to pump “gallons out at a time,” so we felt it was fine to head back out into the Gulf, and THIS was the reaction I received:

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GALLONS?!?

She mentioned experiencing something similar to “heart palpatations” at my use of the phrase “gallons at a time.”  Where’s your sense of adventure?  I’m kidding.  I have some really great friends who worry a great deal over me, but in secret, they live vicariously and they know they love it!  ; )

We felt good about it.  One drip every 10 seconds, no haul-out and no costly mid-trip engine repair.  Yee-haw!  Let’s go!  The only downside was that the marina said they couldn’t get the manual bilge hose we needed until the next day, so it was one more day in Gasparilla, which was fine with us.  I will say, the marina there is pretty impressive.  Hundreds of boats just stacked up on shelves like toys.  The scale of it kind of blows your mind.

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Those are all 18-20 foot center consoles sitting on the shelves like dolls.  And, they have this HUGE forklift that plucks them out of the water like they only weigh ten pounds.

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It’s so cool I filmed it for you!

And, you’ll find it highly entertaining to know that I forgot about the whole “Just Cause” conclusion in the video until I was just now re-watching it, thinking the whole time … Oooh, ooh, I know what I can say as the caption for this video — “Why did I film this … ”  I’m so good I beat mySELF to the punch sometimes!

So, after all of the pumps were checked and our hose was ordered, we decided to clean up and hit the town!  Or … the … Waterside Grill at the marina.  But, hey, that counts.  Look out Gasparilla!

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It’s Happy Hour on the Plaintiff’s Rest!

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Peel-and-eat shrimp, a fully-dressed hot dog and live music out on the deck.  It doesn’t take much to suit us.  After a few glasses of wine and a hearty dinner, we sauntered around the marina in high spirits,

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entertaining ourselves with inSPIRed but obvious observations:

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“How many you see there, Cap’n?”

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In all, we were thrilled to have received good news about our stuffing box situation and excited to start making way the next day – one drip at a time.  Look out Venice!  We’re taking this inspired-but-obvious act on the road!

Good to the …

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right, but be patient.  We’ll get there.

April 29, 2014:

While the run-aground in the ICW was certainly not fun (and quite embarrassing on my part) it, thankfully, was a very minor graze with a soft bottom and one that we were able to ease off of fairly quickly.  And, while I know I deserved some of the scoldings and finger-shaking I received as a result, I’m not sure I agree that it rose to the level of demotion from my position as First Mate as one of our followers opted for (you know who you are!).  But, I tell these tales so that hopefully some of you fellow cruisers can learn from our mistakes and, on the rare occasion, brilliant discoveries!  It’s all about getting out there and doing it – mistakes included.  But, assuming the demotion was in order, we’ll see if this little diddy can salvage me.  I call it – Redemption of the Selfie!

Selfie

So, still maintaining our slight trickle from the stuffing box around the propeller shaft, we motored our way into the Gasparilla Marina so we could have our leak inspected.  And, you would think, by now, with all of the docking debacles we’ve encountered, we would be pros at docking.  Well, we are better, but I’ll tell you, I’m just not sure anyone can actually call themselves a “pro.”  You just never know what kind of conditions you’re going to face with the wind, current, pilings, finger docks, etc.  There’s always some element to contend with that can turn your perfect entry into a … well, a cluster.  As we made our way into the marina and found the slip they had assigned us to, we knew we were going to be contending with some pilings.

Dock

I even called the dockmaster to see if he could send some guys over to help catch some lines (Captain decided not to be too embarrassed about it, knowing my knee was not 100%) but, unfortunately, they were all on the other side of the slips at the fuel dock (a good 10-minute walk from our slip on the other side).  So, it was the Captain and I, easing in …  While we would have loved for it to have played out something like this.

In3  Boat      Good

Voila!

Sadly, that’s NOT what happened.  After debating it a few times and exchanging a couple of confirmations (“midship first?  stern second?  then bow?”), we went for it.  The wind was coming across our starboard deck, so we had decided, as we were easing in, to put a loose midship line around the second piling to keep us from hitting the dock on the port side.  A grand idea at first …

In3 In

 

But how loose is is too loose?  Or, more importantly, not loose enough?  You’ve got to cleat to the boat it at some point or it has no purpose, so I lassoed the pole, pulled out about 8-10 feet, cleated it and hobbled back to the stern to try and catch the piling on the starboard stern.  Unfortunately, though, it seems my “8-10 feet” was not enough and as Phillip eased forward, the midship line pulled taut, causing the boat to … well …

In2 Bad

Like I said, a total cluster.  Thankfully, we were able to push off the port piling, back out and try again.  This time we decided to forego the midship line, catch the stern on the way in and then run up and tie off the bow.  Well, run, hobble, crawl – however I could make it happen.  So, we tried again.

In4

This time we caught the stern fine and start to ease forward.  But, do recall that other element I mentioned.  Ahhh, yes, a sailor’s best friend (or worst enemy at times).  THE WIND!

Wind

 

The wind was pushing our boat over to the dock on the port side and we had yet to tie a line to hold the bow off.  Without a friendly set of hands on the dock to catch a line, I tossed a pile of the starboard bowline onto the deck hoping it would stay put until I could get off to tie it.

MM2

Thankfully, the pile landed solidly on the dock, and I took off to catch it!

MM3

Here I come to save the DAAAYYY!”  Yes, that is what I sang to myself as I leaped.

Luckily the pile remained, I was able to grab it, tie it off and keep our boat off of the dock on the port side.

Done

Whew!  Have I mentioned before how much I hate docking – period – but particularly at new places??

With the boat secure, the Captain set to contacting the guys at the marina to have them come out and look at our leaking stuffing box.  A young guy came out pretty quickly, jumped down beneath the engine and started pulling and wiggling the stuffing box, as Phillip and I kind of stood there, hovering, exchanging worried looks.

IMG_0085

“You see something?”

He came up slowly, with a sullen look on his face, wiping the oil from his hands tediously, without saying a word.  I took this as a bad sign.  Like a doctor who’s about to dish out some really bad news.  He told us he tried to tighten the hose clamps but he thought the seals were going to have to be replaced.  Which meant … a haul-out.  A haul-out??  Mid-TRIP?!?  And, they’re so freaking expensive, too.  The haul-out alone can sometimes cost 3/4 of a grand, not to mention the labor and expenses that will follow repairing the seals.  And, anytime you haul-out, you always want to try and get as many “haul-out” requisite projects taken care of then to get the most of the hard-earned dollars you paid just to see your dripping keel, but that means more repairs, more time, more labor, MO MONEY.  That was some pretty bad news.  But, Guy No. 1 did say he wasn’t 100% sure and he was going to have his supervisor come out – the head mechanic at the marina – to have a look as well.  A second opinion?  Uhhh, yes please!  Send in Guy No. 2!

It was nearing the end of the day, so we decided to get cleaned up while we waited for the head honcho, John, to come out and check out our stuffing box.  The shower facilities at the marina were really nice, and they had a great Captain’s Lounge with TV, AC, books, wifi, coffee, etc.  We also saw they had a little restaurant, the Waterside Grill, which we decided would suit us fine for dinner.  After a long day-and-a-half of passage, we were ready to shell out a few dollars to kick back and let the friendly folks of Gasparilla bring us platters of fish & shrimp!  When I hit the showers, a ‘body check’ confirmed that, a day-and-a-half since “the fall,” and the arm and knee were still showing signs of a collision.

IMG_0034     IMG_0036     IMG_0038

I know, pretty right?  The knee still had a little pain when bending and a funny ‘pop’ upon extension but, otherwise, was functioning reasonably well.  The arm was functioning fine but was swollen to about twice its normal size and pretty hard to the touch.  Just weird … No broken bones, though, so no complaints here.  I’ll take functioning-but-weird any day.

When I got back to the boat, the head mechanic, John, was just leaving.  Thankfully, he left us with better news than Guy No. 1.  John said he thought it might could be adjusted, maneuvered somehow to sufficiently slow the leak to allow us to get home.  It would just depend on what kind of stuffing box it was.  So, THAT was our homework assignment.  We had to find out what kind of stuffing box we had on there.  Guy No. 1 had told us previously he could barely see the label on it from underneath the propeller shaft, but he couldn’t get a good enough angle to read the whole name.  We searched our bag of instruction manuals to see if there was one for the stuffing box.  (As I have advised before – always keep every instruction manual for every piece of equipment you install on the boat – you never know when they might come in handy).  Unfortunately, no dice.  We couldn’t find any paperwork on our stuffing box.  We had to lay eyes on the label.  But, the label was on the bottom of the stuffing box, facing down and there was only about a 2-3 inch gap between the label and the hull.

IMG_0093    box2

We broke out the little mirror that we keep on the boat.

2

I call this a mechanic’s mirror.  We use it to look underneath things we can’t get under, much like a mirror under a car.

Mirror

Super handy piece of equipment to have on a boat.  But, the problem was, this label was too far underneath the stuffing box for the mirror to allow a reflection.  The last thing you could see before the face of the mirror was lost under the transmission was just the tip of the label.  We needed a new plan, so I got to thinking …  I don’t know if you did this as a kid, but we used to make and buy those little boxed-mirror gadgets that allowed you to look around corners or over walls?

Nifty

Nifty!  Thankfully, though, my brother’s hair didn’t look like that.  Or this …

fty

But, we were HUGE Inspector Gadget fans!

Gadget2

(Doo-bee-doo-bee-doop.  Inspector Gadget!  Doo-bee-doo-bee-doop.  Bum, bum.  Whoo hoo!   I know you’re singing along!  Click HERE to reminisce further).

And we all know Penny secretly rocked that show.

Penny

“I’ve got it Uncle Gadget!”

Okay, so I digress.  But, I did get a little Gagety with it.  I started thinking about those around-the-corner mirror devices and started looking around for another mirror.  While two mirrors would have worked fine, the first thing that caught my eye was my phone and that’s when it came to me.  The selfie app!  Now, not only could I view the image via the mirror function on the phone (a.k.a., the “selfie app”) but this way I could capture it via photo to confirm, show to Phillip and keep for our records.  I positioned the phone under the stuffing box, tilted just enough to provide a reflection on the mechanic’s mirror so I could see what the screen on the phone was capturing.

Image

I took a few (dozen) missed and blurred shots, but I was getting closer.

IMG_0047   IMG_0044  IMG_0051   IMG_0045 IMG_0060   IMG_0068

There!  See?  You can almost see it there.  A few minor adjustments, taps on the cell phone screen to auto-adjust and BAM!

IMG_0061

I got it.  Good to the … LASDROP!  It was a Lasdrop stuffing box.  Now that we had a name, we could get some dinner at the Waterside Grill, relax and check back in with John in the morning to see about a solution for our leak.  See?  Good selfie training CAN be an important skill to have on the boat!  I know my fellow blogger Dani would agree.  Redemption of the Selfie!!

On that note, let’s end on a selfie montage, shall we?  Let this play in the background and enjoy …  All Byyyyy Myyy-seee–heee-eelllf:

IMG_7734 IMG_7708 IMG_7722 IMG_7846 photo 3 (1) IMG_8053 IMG_8143 IMG_8096 IMG_8227 IMG_8213IMG_8163 IMG_8371 IMG_8412 IMG_8485 IMG_8573 IMG_8851 IMG_8852 IMG_8873 IMG_8877 IMG_8894 IMG_8936IMG_8966 IMG_8984 IMG_9101 IMG_9161 IMG_9320 IMG_9332 Yipes IMG_9524IMG_9525 IMG_9912 IMG_9948 IMG_9924 IMG_9982

If It’s Called a Dripless, You Would Think It Wouldn’t …

April 29, 2014:

Uh-huh.  Go on.  Say it.  DRIP.  We found while motoring that morning that we had a steady drip coming out from the stuffing box around our propeller shaft.  The stuffing box is basically a seal around the shaft of the propeller to keep the water that’s supposed to stay outside of the boat … OUTSIDE of the boat.

Diagram            Box4

While some stuffing boxes are designed to drip slightly when the shaft is turning, to cool the shaft, others are designed not to drip at all.  Hence the name — dripLESS.  But, ours was doing more than dripping.  We had a steady trickle when the shaft was turning and a slight gush upon manipulation – think more of a heavy flow than light.  We needed some protection!

Pad

Close

While stopping the leak was a priority, until we could get to a marina to troubleshoot and diagnose, we certainly wanted to maintain the leak.  It was dripping right into the bilge, which is not a problem assuming the bilge pump is working fine.  We were certain ours was because the automatic pump actually seemed to have been kicking on a little too frequently during our last day or two in the Keys, a pattern we now knew was attributable to our dripping dripless.  But, we decided to try and capture the trickle before it made it to the bilge to reduce the load on the pump in having to frequently dump the bilge.  This called for the handy little pads we keep on the boat that I like to call “diapers.”  Fancy name, I know.  They’re those oil change pads you get at Auto Zone, CarQuest and the like.

Roll2       Roll

We keep a roll of them on the boat and one always stuffed forward of the engine to capture fluids that might drip from the engine (particularly oil) before they can make it to the bilge.

There’s one!

Diap

We used them to capture the transmission fluid when it was leaking during our first Gulf crossing.  You might recall the duct tape and Dasani bottle fix … good times!

Seeing as how we had a fresh new leak, we put a fresh diaper in to catch the water trickling in around our stuffing box.

Dance

Ahhhh .. that’s better.  Motor-all-you-want protection!

We were making our way up the ICW by Sanibel Island where we had planned to spend a day or two at Costa Cayo.

sanibel_web

But, that’s the thing about plans …  They seem to all go to pot when you’re boat’s leaking!  Granted, our leak did seem manageable.  It was just a trickle (for now) and whatever made it past the diapers was only going into the bilge, which was pumping out fine as needed, but still.  A leak is not something you just want to shrug your shoulders at, say “Ehhh” and keep on cruising.  I believe it was a really smart man who said: “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

Ron2

Brilliant.

So, immediately our priorities changed from finding a neat, new anchorage along the ICW to finding the closest marina possible.  Turns out that was in Gasparilla – ironically, where we had our survey/sea trial for the boat back in April, 2013.

Haul1      Haul3

Here, we were a year later, bringing her back in, but this time we were hoping it would NOT require a haul-out!

Haul

Unfortunately, it was pretty tight in the ICW and we did not have favorable wind to sail, so motoring was the only option.  Much like when we had the transmission leak, we were taking turns kneeling down by the engine, watching the drip, and making sure it was remaining JUST a drip.  We were making good way through Pine Island Sound and expected to make it into Gasparilla around mid-afternoon.

Map

All was well, right?  You would think.  Until I made just about the stupidest mistake I have made on the boat.  Well … aside from the recent slap on the deck.  But, it involved that … kind of.  So, we’re motoring through the ICW.  Nice and easy, plenty of depth, plenty of fuel, our drip was just dripping and our marina was just a few hours away.  Nothing to it.  Phillip set the Otto so he could go down below to — take care of some business (that’s all I will say) — and left me to watch our course on deck.  To his infinite credit, he showed me the red and green markers in front of us and told me where to keep the boat.  Easy peasy.  But, this dumb mate decided to do something I will never again do when I am manning the wheel alone.  I made a phone call.  I know what you’re thinking.  Wow … that shouldn’t be too hard.  Drive a boat and talk at the same time?  Okay, but do recall that I am unfortunately blonde, so walking and talking gives me a little trouble.

Yipes

Me?  I know …  

But, apparently driving the boat and talking have proven to be the real challenge.  I decided all was well on watch so I could take a moment to call some folks to catch up and let them know we had made it back across the Gulf just fine (well, despite the slight leak issue).  But, I didn’t realize at the time that I hadn’t yet actually told anyone the story about my fall.  I can safely say it was certainly a frightening, eye-opening experience, one that had left me battered and shaken and thankful to at least be upright, walking and conscious.  I was re-living it again for the first time while talking to my Dad.  I’m up on deck talking and sort of re-enacting my out-stretched hand for that damn swinging halyard, “I was reaching out, Dad, on my tippy toes, and … “

Pic

when I hear Phillip shout up from the head — “Annie, what was that?”

“What was what?  I’m just up here talking on the phone.” (stupid First Mate)

No, THAT.  I feel it.  Annie, we’re hitting bottom!”

SHIT.

I hobbled back to the cockpit as fast as I could and glanced at the GPS — 5.4 ft.  SHIT!  While engrossed in my fall story, I had let us drift out of the ICW onto a shoal.  I turned the wheel sharp to starboard hoping to pull off.  The boat grazed the ground, groaned and started to list to port.  I could hear Phillip scrambling up and I knew what I had done.  I hollered into the phone “Dad, I gotta go.  We ran aground.”  SHIT.  I was apologizing profusely when Phillip came up.  It was just stupid, and I had done it and here we were.  But, thankfully we had been here before – running aground is just going to happen when you’ve got a big, honking keel down below.  While it’s best to avoid it, of course, it also helps to know what to do when it happens.  We had unfortunately hit bottom coming into Clearwater, on our way down to the Keys.

oun

That time, Phillip threw it in reverse and I hung way over the lifelines on the port side to tilt the boat off the shoal.  This time, we decided to take it one step further.  We swung the boom all the way over to the port side and I hung all of my weight from it.  The knee might have been giving me trouble, but the arms were functioning!  With the wheel all the way to starboard and the boat listing to port she finally started to ease off and move forward.  Within a minute, we were off and motoring forward again.  I was sick with guilt, embarrassment, anger.  I was SO MAD at myself.

Book23

One of my favorite all-time books growing up by the way.  (John – you remember this one!).  As a kid, I would get SO MAD at myself when I couldn’t do something right.  I would stomp and huff and get in a real nasty funk about it – an all-out, over-exaggerated one-woman pout show.  I’m sure it was wildly entertaining to those watching me.  But I was MAD.

I apologized profusely over and over.  Phillip was great about it.  He knew it was a mistake and that I was incredibly sorry but we decided – no more phone calls for Annie while on watch.  She just can’t handle it …  But that did remind me to call my Dad back and let him know we were alright — disaster miraculously averted again.  I’m sure hearing me say “we ran aground, I gotta go!” followed by a *click* was not very comforting for him, but he seemed to take it in fine stride.  “I figured you were alright.  You usually are,” he said.  A true statement and a common one he made when I was growing up, typically when I fell off of things as I seemed I did a lot back then too.  But, knowing me as well as he did, he told me “It was an accident, though, Annie.  Don’t get in funk all day about it.”  Good advice.   I apologized to Phillip just a couple more times and pouted (just a little) as we made our way into Gasparilla.

I mean … a near-death drop, a leaking boat and a run-aground.  What else was in store?