No Autographs Please!

April 19, 2014:

I don’t know if I’ve ever said this before, but for those of you out there who think cruising is all cocktails and sunsets, I can assure you it’s not.  Owning a boat is a lot of work.  You may recall our “million mile march” through St. Pete to pick up a portable pump from the Back-Door Marine Supply Guy to change the engine oil.  As the previous day in Ft. Myers had been devoted primarily to getting the dinghy to crank, the next bright and sunny day was committed to changing the oil in the diesel engine on the boat.  Fun, fun!

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It was definitely time to do it, though.  With all of the motoring we had unfortunately had to do to “weather” the weather in the Gulf, we were well over our allotted 50 hours, so we set to it.

It certainly was a cleaner job, though, with our new, smaller plastic oil pump.

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The oil dumped right in, and we were able to seal her off and plug the tubes nicely with Q-tips, so no mess!

We also checked the raw water strainer to make sure she wasn’t clogged.

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Unfortunately, she came out looking like a love-child mix of Bob Marley and Medusa.

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Yipes!  It was definitely time to clean her out as well and we noticed a significant difference in the flow rate of the water exhaust on the stern after we did.  Let’s just say she had a lot more “oomph” – I believe is the technical term.

We also checked the sacrificial zinc on the heat exchanger.  He was almost toast!

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Because the metals that are immersed in seawater in the heat exchanger create a battery, that also means they lead to corrosion.  If you’re interested, read more HERE.  And, this little guy is meant to take the brunt of that.  He corrodes first (hence the term “sacrificial”) and then we replace him with a new soldier so the other, more important metals, don’t corrode at all.  Or so the theory is.

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That is one battered warrior!  Thanks Zinc!

We also checked the fuel filter as well.

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“Umm … sir, I definitely see some build-up here.”  It was time to change that as well.  Not much of an issue, but when we began to disassemble the housing for the secondary fuel filter, we ran into a slight issue.

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The connector ring broke …

But, never fear!  That’s why we carry back-ups!  And back-ups for our back-ups!  I got my little First Mate fingers back there and fixed her right up.

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Good as new!

We then cranked her up to make sure everything was running just right, our engine was maintaining temp, water was flowing out of the back (this time with “oomph”) and that our oil level was right where it needed to be.  All systems were a go, so we hopped off the mooring ball for a bit to head up to the fuel dock to fill up and dump our oil.  The Diversified Yacht Facility there was huuuggee!

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They had handfuls of 100-foot yachts stacked in there like toys.  It was incredible.  They were also very friendly and got us filled up (water and fuel), dumped out, scrubbed up and everything in between.  We were ready for our next passage for sure.

We were thinking of heading out the next day, Sunday Funday!, to make the jump across the Gulf to Key West, but our buddy, Johnny, whom we were meeting up with in Ft. Myers, was going to wait to make the crossing on Monday, so we decided to suffer another day in Ft. Myers Beach – ain’t life tough …

The minute we got the boat back on the ball, we cleaned up, spruced up and made a right proper to-go drink for shore:

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Phillip:  “I’ll have an ‘Oh Shiiiit’ please.  Heavy on the rum!”  

Annie:  “You got it Cap’n.”

We trolled around downtown checking out the local tiki bars and scenery.

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And, the local wildlife as well …

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I think this one may be extinct real soon … 

Then the craziest thing happened.  We were walking on up to Petey’s Upper Deck, above the Matanza’s Inn, when this guy on the dock hobbled humbly up to us and asked “Are you Annie, on the Plaintiff’s Rest?”

I mean … Total record-scratch moment.  Errrruunnnhh (or however you spell a record scratch sound?).

“Excuse me?” I asked, thinking I surely had never seen this man before and didn’t know how he could possibly know me, or my boat …

“I’m friends with Bob,” he said.  “McDonald.  He got me hooked on your blog.”  

Eek!  A real live blog follower?  An honest-to-goodness fan?  And, he’d spotted me on his very own in Ft. Myers Beach??  The fame went instantly to my head.

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Okay, I wasn’t that bad … hopefully … but I was certainly smiling from ear to ear.  Here he is – Capt. Doug on the s/v Puffin!

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He’d been “on the ball” in the Ft. Myers mooring field for about six months and has been following our blog for quite some time.  He was a great guy – a lot of fun – and certainly living the right kind of salty life there in Ft. Myers Beach.  Like many in the boating community seem to do, he offered to help us with anything if we needed it or provide us names of fellow mechanics, riggers, etc. if we needed any work done in the area.  We had a big time chatting with him about ‘old blog times’ – the original Gulf Crossing and other debacles.  He was great.  Thanks Doug!

And, you’ll be happy to know I wasn’t too celebrity about it.  I gave him an awesome autograph, which I’m sure he’ll hang right on top of this one:

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See?  Didn’t go to my head at all … 

After the exciting celeb sighting, Phillip and I hit the deck!  Petey’s Upper Deck for their famous Key Lime Coladas.

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Mmmmmm … 

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Those things were awesome.  And, totally calorie-free I was told.  Or, was it calories don’t count at the beach?  I can’t remember.  Either way, they were incredible.  All three of them!

We finally met up with our buddy Johnny Walker on the s/v Windwalker who was making the trip down to the Keys with his son, Jeremy.  Say hey Johnny!

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Johnny is an incredible diesel mechanic, a life-long boater and fellow die-hard cruiser.  He’s also just a few months shy of 72 and still living on his boat and living out his dream.  No matter what story we told (and I’ve got some really tall ones – hacking off our dinghy in the middle of the Gulf, fixing a transmission leak with a Dasani bottle and some duct tape … ) it didn’t matter, Johnny had heard it three times before and knew of someone who had done the same thing in 6-8 foot seas with one arm tied behind his back.  The man was full of colorful tales.  Oh, and spare parts as well.  No matter what minute little part we may have noticed was having an issue on our boat, he had three of them and was happy to share.

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See – here he is now:  “Oh, I’ve got one of those.  I’ll drop by your boat later and bring it to you.”

Johnny was a trip.  Beyond generous and full of spunk.  And, that’s his wife Cindy, a real salty survivor.  She’s been through some serious times on the boat with that man.  Her stories, and her perspective, rather, actually impressed me the most.  She can remain calm through anything.  That’s the kind of gal you need on a boat.  She had drove down to spend the weekend with Johnny in Ft. Myers Beach during his trek to the Keys with his son, so she was just staying a day or two.  (But, that meant she had a car!  A real, live car, which also meant a full-fledged trip to the store for us the next day!  You know how we love our provisions!).

We had a big, hearty time hanging out with Johnny and Cindy, scarfing up their great greasy pizza at Petey’s.  (Which I was also told did not have any calories).  We continued to tell tall tales until nightfall, then we dinghied on back to the boat and crashed hard, yet again.  This beach living is rough!

Martaritas and Oysterfellers

April 18, 2014:

Did I say a margarita?  Okay, it was probably more than one … maybe more than two.  After we got the “car” (aka our dinghy) cranked and running, we scooted on up to the dinghy dock at Ft. Myers Beach to see what all the fuss was about.  We checked in at the Matanzas Inn and, like many of the other mooring fields we had stopped at along the way, Ft. Myers did not disappoint.  For a sum total of $15/night, we were secure on the ball with welcomed access to the dinghy dock, restrooms and showers, and (in our opinion), a pimped out laundry room:

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I mean, more than one washer and dryer … and a book swap?!?  This place was four star!  We were thrilled with the amenities.  We signed up for two nights and hit the town, puffing out our chests and cheering ourselves along with a mighty “They can’t handle us!” mantra.

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We headed first to the beach to see the shore and what kind of salty, sandy folks we were dealing with in Ft. Myers.  We stumbled upon a place called “Top O’ the Mast” and thought how fitting?  

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I’d been there a time or two already on this trip.  Why not?  Let’s give it a try.  We ordered up a couple of their signature rum runners and headed out to the beach.

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There we found a diverse bunch of beach bar bums and laz-abouts that felt just our speed.  We kicked back with our drinks and watched several gals who looked like they were about three years out of middle school and three sheets to the wind crash their kayak repeatedly in some heavy surf, an older couple on wobbly legs attempt to dance to Eagles tunes and a steroid-infused jet ski rental dude hit on anything remotely resembling a tweenager.  It was an easy, entertaining scene.

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We then ventured out to find some late lunch beach grub and we came upon an open bar restaurant spilling over with folks called SOB – Smokin’ Oyster Brewery.

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Whether it was the name or the atmosphere, I’m not sure, but that place fit us like a worn glove.

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We’re not!

When we walked in, there was a band playing in the corner, an old Commodores song I believe, and the lead singer/saxist (or is it saxophonist?) was sauntering around barefoot, playing his heart out, making all the old biddies croon.

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He was a big beast of a guy, with what appeared to be several drinks spilled down the front of his shirt, but he was an incredible musician with an obvious passion for his … work.  We kicked right back and ordered up a cocktail, a margarita and some delicious sweet, crunchy coconut shrimp.

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That was followed by another round of margaritas (I told you it was more than one!)

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and another appetizer – the oysters Rockefeller – which I couldn’t manage to call anything but “Martaritas and Oysterfellers” by then.

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Luckily the gal who was waiting on us spoke ‘Annie’ and she was able to pick up what I was putting down.  For the most part …  But, put it down we did.  We followed the appetizers up with a slow braised pork shank.  Put your fingers to your lips and spritz them out with a smack.  Mphua!  Whatever that is – that’s what our pork shank was.  DE-lish.  (And don’t ask me where the picture of it is … I took one I know, but lost it I’m sure!)

After filling our spirits and savoring our big, filling late-lunch, we sauntered back to the dinghy and cruised on back to the boat.

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There she is!  What a beaut!

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We kicked back in the cockpit and took in, what I can now safely say, was the best sunset of the trip.

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By cockpit that is …

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After the horrendous storm we had encountered in the mooring field the night before, it was nice to see the view we had just seen the day before brewing with ominous clouds now serene and stained with shocking pinks and a burning yellow.

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It was so beautiful it silenced us.  We both sat in awe, enjoying the slow movement of our chests rising and falling in gratitude,

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as the realization started to sink in.  We had made it all the way down to Ft. Myers — by boat!  Our next stop was Key West.  We would be making the jump across the Gulf in just a couple of days.  This was it!  We were on it.  The trip we had been planning for months, preparing and provisioning for for weeks, dreaming about for years.  And, here we were.  Truly living it.  But, we both knew we were enjoying every stop, every step and every breathtaking sunset along the way.

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It was the destination that had motivated us, initially, to set our sights on the sea, but it was now the journey that was capturing us, calling us onward, always, for more – to anywhere and nowhere – by boat.

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