Tag Archives: Boating

The Legend of Captain Sonny

My wife’s birth father was named Sonny. She never knew him very well, as he left when she was very young. She can barely remember him, but she’s searched for his legacy throughout her life.

Sonny was a fisherman and boat captain. Early on, he ran an offshore boat out of Ocean City Maryland. Kim would spend her vacations at the beach trolling the marinas and fishermen bars looking for him, or someone that knew him. She never picked up his trail.

Then one day when she was twenty, she got a call from law enforcement in North Carolina. Sonny was dead. Could she come to identify his body? She didn’t know what he might look like at this point, but she went. She saw him there in the morgue and collected his meager belongings.

The picture below was in his stuff. The identity of the woman is unknown.

20170518_185549

Two years ago, we decided to look further into the life of a man neither of us knew. We knew that he had fished out of Bud & Mary’s Marina in Islamorada. We traveled to the Keys aboard out boat and began our research. At Bud & Mary’s we learned the names of a few guys that had fished with him years ago. One of them was still fishing. He was based out of the LoreLei these days and lived on Plantation Key. We tracked him down.

John Kipp was good friends with Sonny back in the 70’s and early 80’s. He knew a lot about Kim’s father. We also found another friend, Bert Rogers. Sonny worked on Bert’s father’s boat for ten years. The two became good friends and stayed in touch over the years. The two of them provided us with a picture of the man.

He wasn’t cut out for marriage, and obviously shirked his duties as a father. Though he did keep a worn picture of Kim in his wallet. He was a fishermen and boat captain. That was his life. He could find the fish. He could run any kind of boat. He won the very first White Marlin Open in Ocean City.

He’s on the right:

FB_IMG_1497372273881

Even after he moved to the Keys, he returned each year to fish the White Marlin Open, which is now the richest billfish tournament in the world.

For a while, he made it work. He paid his slip rent on time at Bud & Mary’s and put up with the tourists. Finally, hard living caught up with him. He suffered a massive heart attack while commercial fishing for tuna out of Oregon Inlet. The boat was loaded with yellowfin. He was in his young forties.

His friends hinted at drug use and maybe a few stints at smuggling. Every story highlighted his ability to catch fish and handle a boat. That’s what he did. That who he was.

On one occasion, Sonny and John Kipp were hanging out with some “ladies” who invited them to a party on a sailboat in Coconut Grove. They arrived to find that the boat’s owner was David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame. Crosby brought a young friend who played guitar and sang some songs. No one had ever heard of him at the time, but his name was Jimmy Buffett.

Sail on, Captain Sonny.

Advertisements

Water Tanks, Water Tanks, and More Water Tanks

 The most important issue for us while living on the hook is to conserve water. We’ve learned to be extremely frugal when it comes to water usage. We rarely, if ever take a “real” shower. We wash dishes in salt water and then rinse them in fresh, using a pump-up spray bottle. Every day is an exercise in using as little water as possible. 

  Taking on water to refill our tanks means loading jerry jugs in the dinghy and filling them at a dock someplace. We then haul them back and dump them in our tanks. This can mean many trips back and forth until all our tanks are full, including the jugs themselves. It might be a full days work. 

  When we purchased Leap of Faith, it came with two below deck, poly water tanks. They are small for a trawler. Each holds only 30 gallons. We soon learned that 60 gallons didn’t last very long. Being super stingy meant a daily water usage of three gallons per day, which lasted us about three weeks, with 20 gallons in reserve in the jugs. We wanted to stay out longer than that so we improvised. over time we’ve acquired more than double the water holding capacity through the use of additional tankage and jugs. 

  One of the things we are blessed with in our trawler is lots of space. We’ve got plenty of room and storage capacity. Our first big addition to take advantage of all that space was a 65 gallon poly storage tank which I installed on the flybridge.

Image

  That effectively doubled our capacity. We attach a hose to it and run it down to the lower deck for freshwater showers. It sits in the sun all day and it’s nice and warm when we return from the beach. The hose has a shutoff valve and a sprinkler nozzle. 

  Up on the bow are our jerry jugs, two six gallon and two five-gallon, for twenty-two more gallons of water. 

Image

  Kept inside the boat and out of the sun are these babies:

 Image

Four jugs at three-gallons each and a little two-gallon container. That’s fourteen more gallons. We use this water to make ice and coffee mostly. Sometimes I mix up some powdered Gatorade with it. If we run out, there’s always the rum! 

In addition to all that water kept in tanks and jugs, when we can we totally stock up on bottled water. We’ve got several cases stored under the settee, and several more in the Vee Berth.

Image

  Right now we have ten cases on board. We drink it, make ice and coffee with it when the small jugs run out. It really is a luxury to have so much space. Water conservation is still a constant concern, but now we can go two months before we need to start worrying about refilling. Of course, anytime we get somewhere that water is available, we top off everything while the getting is good. 

  I realize all of my sailboat friends don’t have the kind of space necessary to store all these extra jugs, tanks and cases, but what creative ways have you found to increase your water capacity? 

 

*As always, find all three of my books at Amazon. Help keep Leap of Faith afloat by purchasing one or all three today.*

http://www.amazon.com/Ed-Robinson/e/B00F42LGJ8

Marinas Will Suck You In

  Once upon a time Kim and I were diehard, “on the hook” cruisers. We took pride in our ability to live and prosper without the need to ever tie up to land. We survived almost three years solely on the hook. Then one day late last summer we found out that Laishley Park Marina in Punta Gorda was beginning to allow liveaboards. Our generator was dead, cash reserves were getting low, so we decided to come on in and take a slip. 

  Oh how our lives changed. We had unlimited electricity! We had unlimited water! We had HOT showers that we could stand in forever. We had a place to dispose of our trash. We had ready access to Publix, West Marine, the liquor store, and a whole host of bars/restaurants. We quickly became spoiled. 

Image

  Laishley Park is a beautiful, clean marina that is very well run by friendly staff. Our stay here has been wonderful. I even took a part-time job with the marina to help pay the slip rent. ($11.00 per foot for annual stay, but we paid 11.75 per foot because we did not want to sign a one-year lease.) We made lots of new friends, as one tends to do in a marina. Overall a great place that I highly recommend. 

  Then things started to change for us. We started noticing all the noise. Lawn mowers, pressure washers, bridge traffic, sirens, garbage trucks going BEEP BEEP BEEP at 4:00 a.m. We started having visitors almost every night. Folks stop by constantly to share a drink or sit and chat. These are good people mind you, people we like. But the constant flow of traffic to our boat was starting to wear thin. People know what your business is worse than in a small town. I mean they know when you poop for crying out loud. 

  We never had these problems on the hook. We lost our tolerance for everyday noise and stimulus somewhere along the way. It started to drive us crazy. In my second book, Poop, Booze, and Bikinis, I wrote a chapter called Marinas versus Anchorages. I listed the pros and cons of living in a marina as compared to living at anchor. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m more in favoring of anchoring out than ever before. Sitting on the boat off the island of Cayo Costa didn’t have any drama, except maybe the weather. Now we have dock drama on a daily basis. 

Image

  Sharing a deserted beach with only the lovely Miss Kim is much preferrable to sharing a dock with forty of your closest friends, who were all strangers a few short months ago. Giving up the marina will mean a return to running jerry jugs to shore for water and gasoline. It will mean lugging groceries in the dinghy, as well as laundry and trash. Going back to living at anchor will also mean no more quick trips to the store for bread and milk, no more last second runs to pick up a missing ingredient for dinner. It means conserving water like your life depended on it. It means conserving electricity more than any green environmentalist. It means paying attention to your boat and it’s systems with strict regularity. While at the dock I’ve let these duties fall by the wayside for long stretches of time. Shame on me. 

  For the past month I’ve tried harder to give Leap of Faith the attention she deserves. While planning our departure, it has taken lots of work to get ready to go. Before we lived in a marina, we were always ready to go within a few minutes. I miss the peace and quiet of Pelican Bay. I miss happy hour on the sand spit. I won’t miss all the noise in Punta Gorda, nor the dock drama. As nice as this place is, I can’t wait to get out of here. Kim and I each have a few more days at our jobs here in the marina, and we’ll be pulling out on Wedneday of next week, weather permitting. 

  We may miss this place and the people, but it’s time to move on.

Image

Home base will again be Pelican Bay, with provisioning in Fort Myers Beach. We may also head north to Long Boat Key again. We might even do some exploring in the St. Pete/Clearwater area. Who knows? One of the best things about cruising is just doing whatever you want on any particular day. No schedules, no hassles. Look us up if you make it to southwest Florida in your boat. 

 

http://amzn.to/1pEWKVY

Image

 

http://amzn.to/1iCe5jL

Image

Autopilot Installation Not for the Faint of Heart

  Seriously, don’t try this yourself unless you’re a glutton for punishment. Hire someone who has done it many times and knows what they’re doing. It’s a complicated and frustrating undertaking.

  However, Kim and I decided we really wanted an autopilot. Our vessel has very little “extras”, and over time we’ve learned that the one thing we really wish we had is an autopilot. Slow boats tend to require constant vigilance at the helm in order to run a straight line. It takes thousands of small adjustments to compensate for sea state, wind and tide. Long passages become quite tedious. Overnighters are almost impossible. 

  After some research I decided on the Sitex SP110 unit. Why? Because it’s the least expensive unit available with a proven track record of reliability. Sitex has been making autopilots since 1975 and has a great reputation among those who know. I discovered it via a cruisers forum and read several testimonials from those who own one. 

Image

  I opted to attempt the install myself for one reason only. I’m a cheap bastard. I also have the time and am a fairly handy guy. I was not prepared for how difficult it was going to be. Turns out you need to be a rocket scientist to hook these things up. I’ll start with the easy part. The electronic compass needs to be centered somewhere in the boat, away from anything magnetic. It has a limited length of cable that needs to run to the helm and attach on the rear of the control head. It should not be high in the boat, to reduce pitch and roll. Well there just wasn’t a good spot for it on our boat. It ended up on the floor of the companionway at the base of the steps leading to the Vee berth.

Image

I put a sign at eye level at the top of the steps; DON’T STEP ON THE COMPASS! 

 

  Next we move on to the Octopus reversible pump (for hydraulic steering). The autopilot itself did not come with hoses or fittings to tie the pump into the boats hydraulic system. I ordered what I thought I needed online and waited. When it arrived it turned out to be the wrong stuff. I sent it back and reordered another kit. When it came I closely inspected everything only to find that the tee fittings would not work with my system. The hydraulic hose have different end fittings than what came in the kit. Off to Ace Hardware to buy some fittings. I had to walk as we don’t have a car. I found 3 tees and 3 nipples that would make the hookup work. They rang me up and it came to $28.80. I said WHAT? 6 brass fittings for 28 bucks? I only had 26 bucks on me. Walk back to the  boat, grab some more cash, walk back to Ace and get my stuff. 

  I got to install the tees on the back of the steering pump and the lower one won’t tighten because it’s hitting part of the pump. Back to Ace again, on foot for the third time, to get a longer nipple. This time it worked. By the way, it was 96 degrees that day. The temperature under the helm console was something like 157 degrees. Access is limited and there is no light. I sweated gallons. 

Here’s the pump:

Image

And here’s the tee connections:

Image

I was so glad when this part was finished! Between ordering the wrong stuff and walking three times to Ace, it only took two weeks to complete. 

 

  Now for the real puzzler. The rudder indicator has to be installed in the lazarette. Mounting required drilling thru hardened steal and bronze. I broke a drill bit on the steel, went back to Ace again for a titanium bit and got the indicator mounted.

Image

The tricky part was attaching that arm you see running horizontally to the rudder post. My first attempt failed miserably.  I didn’t take into account that the indicator rose up on either side of the rudders full movement. I scratched my head and muttered under my breath for a few days, ruminating over the issue. The ideas that came to me were all jury rigs and unnacceptable risks. I was stumped. Fortunately I recently made acquaintence with a very nice fellow who happens to have an engineering degree from MIT. He’s not a rocket scientist, but close enough. 

  He came and looked it over, took some measurements and drew some diagrams. He took this information home to his shop and promised to manufacture something that would work. A few days later he returned with some aluminum with holes drilled in it. He mounted it up and had me turn the wheel. No Go! Holy crap an MIT engineer couldn’t rig this thing up so it would work. He frowned and shook his head, then scratched his head and muttered under his breath. (Heck I can do that)

  He said hold on a minute. Let me think this through. He then went off to Ace Hardware to wander the aisles until something caught his eye and sparked an idea. Back at the boat he managed to turn some weird household items into a gimballed mount. We drilled a hole in the brass arm using WD 40 as a lubricant to keep from breaking the bit. After about four hours we had it put together, and it worked! 

Image

Image

When he failed on the first try I felt a little less stupid. But then he comes up with this contraption and I felt dumb all over again. Good thing I met him huh? He’s a heckuva a nice guy. Without him I’d still be scratching and muttering. God bless Ace Hardware as well. 

 

  Finally I needed to finish up the wiring. (I skipped the part about running all the cables, drilling holes, etc.) I connect the cable from the compass, the cable from the rudder indicator, the wires to the pump and the power to the unit. I turned it on. It lit up. Good start. I pressed auto and hit the arrow key to move the rudder. POP. Blown fuse. Crawl back under the console to find I had hooked into a 5 amp fuse, while the unit called for a 15 amp fuse. Replace fuse and wire direct to incoming 12 volt supply with a 15 amp fuse inline. Turn back on. It lit up. Press auto and hit arrow key. I hear the motor running but no movement from the rudder. 

  Mutter a little more then decide I hadn’t bled the hyrdraulic system thoroughly enough. Here’s my rig for that:

Image

Spin the wheel back and forth a few thousand times and watch the bubbles rise up the tube and into the inverted jug. I left it this way overnight just in case any stray bubbles wanted to work their way through the system and escape. 

After bleeding very thoroughly, I tried moving the rudder again. It worked! Oh my god I wanted to jump up and down and shout Hallelujah. The damn thing works. 

  I still will need to do some calibrations and see if it will “talk” to my chartplotter, but I need to be underway for that. At the very least, I know it will hold a heading. Two weaks and many hours later I’m done with this project. Couldn’t be happier that it’s over. 

  Our plan now is to leave Punta Gorda next week on July 2 or 3. We will be in Pelican Bay / Cayo Costa for the Fourth.

 

As always, you can read more of Kim and Ed’s adventures by purchasing their books here:

http://www.amazon.com/Ed-Robinson/e/B00F42LGJ8

What’s So Great About Pelican Bay?

As some of you may know, we spend a lot of time in a place called Pelican Bay.It’s an Eden-like harbor that lies between the islands of Cayo Costa and Punta Blanca on Florida’s southwest coast. It’s just south of the Boca Grande Pass, at the convergence of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound.

Anchor holding is excellent in a sand/mud mixed bottom. Protection from east and west winds is excellent. Sometimes north or south winds can sneak into the narrow entrances and cause a bit of a roll, but you can move about in the anchorage to escape a blow from any direction. In a worst case scenario, the far south end of Punta Blanca has a nifty hurricane hole that will shield your vessel from winds in any direction. It’s a bit tricky getting in with a deep draft vessel, and is pretty much a one-boat anchorage, but it’s very safe in a storm.

 

Image

 

What else makes it special? The island of Cayo Costa is a tropical paradise. The only full-time inhabitants are the park rangers. They man a small store with a few essentials, including ice for $4 per bag. They rent kayaks and bikes for exploring the island. They also run a tram to and from the Gulf side beach. It will carry you and your beach stuff across the island at two hour intervals. Last train back to the docks is at 4 p.m.

Cayo Costa sports a seven-mile stretch of white sand along the sparkling sapphire waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We prefer to skip the park ranger ride and resulting tourists who’ve come by ferry and dinghy to our own private beach.

Image

 

There are rarely other humans on this stretch. It’s so awesome to hang out together, just the two of us, and gaze upon the Gulf.

ImageImage

 

It’s also a great area to explore via dinghy or kayak. Lots of wildlife including every aquatic bird known to the south, manatees, dolphins, dozens of fish species, and even wild pigs.

Image

Image

The best part about it is the peace. It’s so quiet here. There are no cars or trucks, no lawnmowers, no sirens. There is the breath of dolphins, the call of the osprey, and the sound of water lapping gently on the hull of the boat. It’s rarely crowded, except on holiday weekends in season. We have several times enjoyed being the only boat in the anchorage. On the other end of the spectrum, New Years Eve hosted 70 plus boats.

For provisioning, one can either cruise up Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda, about 20 miles, or head south down the intercoastal to Fort Myers Beach, about 26 miles. If you choose to go south via the Gulf route, it adds considerable mileage to the trip, but you can avoid the sometimes busy ICW with the constant boat wakes.

We can stay for a month easily and sometimes dread returning to civilization to re-provision. We’d much rather stay at anchor and enjoy beautiful sunsets.

Image

What do we do with all the free time? We relax. We walk on the beach and pick up sand dollars. We read. We have an adult beverage or three and enjoy the serenity. We explore the nearby islands. We meet up with other boaters on a sandbar for happy hour. We do whatever we feel like doing. It’s called Freedom.

Image

Image

Image

Image

We have explored Florida’s west coast from Tampa Bay to The Keys. We have found no other anchorage as nice and peaceful and safe as Pelican Bay. Most Keys anchorages offer poor holding and little wind protection. A few municipalities have decent mooring fields, but then you are surrounded by all the trappings of modern society. We’d rather be at one with nature. No better place to do it then in Pelican Bay.

Image

The Countdown To Departure Has Begun

  Kim and I found ourselves at Laishley Park Marina in Punta Gorda, Florida, way back in late August of last year. I had finished the manuscript for Leap of Faith and needed good internet and cell phone connections to get it published. We each took part-time jobs to raise a little cash. Reentering the civilized world was a culture shock for us. Work? I hadn’t worked in over three years. Kim hadn’t been employed for five years. 

  Noise? Oh my god you don’t realize the constant noise pollution all around you, every minute of every day. Out on the west coast of Florida we hear the breath of dolphins. The osprey chirp from Cayo Costa Island. Water laps at the hull of our boat. In the marina we hear garbage trucks at five a.m. BEEP BEEP BEEP! We hear lawn mowers and blowers. We hear the traffic on the route 41 bridges.

  For the past several weeks there has been a chain saw artist carving a wooden dolphin in the courtyard. There is no more annoying sound than a chainsaw. The other night I was awakened to the sound of a chainsaw at 4 a.m. I thought that the chainsaw guy must be drunk or something. I walked up the docks with murder on my mind, but it wasn’t him. It seems a drunk driver had taken out a palm tree at the entrance to the marina. A city worker was out there sawing away at it like it was 3 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. That was the last straw! 

  We have been planning and discussing our departure from the marina for a month or so. We were thinking the end of this summer. Now we want to leave today. As I type there is a worker pressure washing the marina building. It’s a gas powered pressure washer. It’s very noisy. I’m about to go out of my mind with the noise. 

  There are other reasons we’ve grown tired of the marina life, but mostly we long for the solitude of living on the hook. Just Kim and I and the dolphins, is what we miss. So we’ve upped our timeline and now plan to toss off the lines in mid-July. That’s right. Six weeks and we’re outta here. We’ll ride out the summer, and hurricane season in Pelican Bay. Hopefully we leave for the Bahamas in the late Fall early Winter. If things go well for us, we’d like to continue south to the Turks and Caicos and eventually to the Dominican Republic. We’ve had several friends tell us how wonderful (and cheap) it is in Luperon, DR. 

  On the way we want to explore the Exumas and the out islands south of Georgetown. Who knows? It depends on several factors. On is weather and our comfort with navigating foreign waters. The other is money. During our first Leap of Faith we lived off savings. This time we have much less, but we do have income from our books. I plan to continue writing and publishing to further supplement the cruising kitty. (Buy my books! Keep a cruiser afloat.) We will go as far as we feel safe, ever cautious. 

  Let the six-week countdown begin. Cayo Costa here we come. In the meantime we have lots to do. I just ordered an autopilot to assist us on longer and overnight passages. We really need that to make our trip work. I’ve been replacing bilge pumps and performing maintenance to prepare the boat for time away from land. We need mucho provisions. We need new water jugs and fuel jugs. We probably should replace our battery bank before leaving the States. Kim needs a new passport. It’s a long list. Our timeline is ambitious. Oh and one more thing. We will need new bottom paint before trying to cross to the Bahamas. This is a major undertaking for liveaboards. Your whole life is upended because your house is sitting on jackstands on land. Not looking forward to it, and we think we might do the work ourselves to save money. 

  So we are going to be busy over the next six weeks. The downtime we’ll get once we depart will be well deserved and much appreciated. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh, just Kim and me and Leap of Faith. I can’t wait. 

 

Luperon Bay

Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think we can find a spot to anchor?

 

If you like to contribute to the starving cruiser couple fund, you can do so by purchasing a book or two here:

http://www.amazon.com/Ed-Robinson/e/B00F42LGJ8

If you have already read one or more of my books, thanks so much. Kim and I sincerely appreciate the support we have received fro all of you.