Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby

The High Tide + 4' of tidal surge from Debby 

The dockmaster said they had never had a tide this high since the marina was built over 5 years ago, normally the water is 4' below this fixed dock at high tide.

It's blowin 20-30 and Wand'rin Star is heeled over 5 degrees+

All Sailors have a special name for the Inclinometer, when it was blowin 50-60 this guy was at 15 degrees.

There is supposed to be a really nice dingy on the Hydrolic stern lift of this 68' Irwin

But it is upside down after being blown off in the 50-60 mph winds.
We have been watching this building storm when the disorganized low developed below Cuba. We always goto our weather guru on Weather Underground to check out the predictions for possible tropical development. WeatherUnderground predicted a tropical Storm developing, making landfall at Tampa and crossing Florida to the Atlantic where it would become a Hurricane. That was nine days ago, Debbie has been pounding Florida for 4 days now and we had lots of rain bands come through for three days before that. Tampa has had 19 inches of rain so far, the last two days have been more of a wind event with 30 mph sustained and 40+ mph gust. Since our slip faces West we are taking the SSW winds on our beam which causes Wand'rin Star to heel 5 degrees with 20 mph winds and up to 15 degrees when the 50-60 came through Sunday night for almost two hours. It is easy to tell when the winds reach 50+ since this is when things begin to fall from the shelves. We have been through this drill enough to know how to properly secure the boat for such so we have just found things to do during the day on solid ground. The dock master told me the tides have never been so high at this marina since it was built about 5 years ago. Very happy to be on floating docks since you can just get the dock lines set and then ride it out instead of having to constantly go out in the weather to adjust lines as the tide/surge rises and falls as those on fixed docks. On the night we had the 50-60 I went out to just check things after it calmed to 30-40. I looked over at our neighbors with the 68' Irwin and his dingy had blown off and was upside down. It had fortunately become fouled in the dock line from his port stern to the center pilling. They have returned to Indiana for a couple of months so I considered getting the kyak down to rescue the dingy but I was afraid that if I made a mistake I could end up far away in the dark. I went back down below and called and emailed the dock master. They were able to lasso the dingy the next morning and save the craft. There is a technician there now trying to revive the outboard that was mounted on the transom and had been submerged in the saltwater overnight.I recently viewed a video on youtube that tells how to pickle a outboard that has been submerged in saltwater. Some say that it is just a matter of time before dropping your outboard in the drink will happen to you, kinda of like running aground,  so I watched the video just for the info. The video can be seen at: . I thought it might come in handy to help this motor out but the dockmaster sent out the technicians so I did not get to practice the salvage techniques.  Debbie is so slow moving that we still have a couple more days of wind and a few rain bands coming, Florida will be more than glad to show her the door out.

Friday, June 15, 2012

While The Admiral is Away

With the Admirals direction we compiled a list of projects to get done while she was gone.

Mix a little of the Ingredients on the left in a gallon of water and scrub! then two coats of the Acrylic wax.

Ready for another year.

Floridians make use of every small Island in Tampa bay for Memorial Day! 
I thought I could just go to the Auto Parts to get a solenoid to replace the toasted one on the right

West Marine had the right Solenoid...A continuous duty!

The little truck that can got smacked by the Florida Nissan. My heavy duty trailer hitch saved me though
But the Trailer Hitch punched a hole right through his radiator.

Day Sail with Bill in Tampa bay on His Morgan 33

We spotted "Alkaid" in the St. Pete Marina This boat is from our old docks in Corpus Christi.

The PortVisors are great, I had to do a little modification to install this one though.

While the Admiral is Away

The Admiral had to make a trip back to Texas to assist her aging parents so we made a list of things for me to attend to while she was gone. I had about 20 things and the Admiral added another 7. There is a certain deadline of sorts to get lengthy exterior projects done on the boat since the temperatures are not getting any cooler as summer approaches so getting the deck non-skid cleaned and waxed was first on my mind. This is a three to four day annual project. First comes the hand scrubbing to clean and remove any of last years wax. I use a liquid acrylic wax that works great, I learned about this from the Catalina Owners web site. Once you have the deck thoroughly clean you just apply two coats of the wax with a foam brush and it is good for another year. Some people use a power washer to clean their decks but this scares me. The gel coat on older boats can get porous and I fear the force of the power washer would actually remove or blow out chunks of the gel coating.  So this is a get down on your hands and knees and scrub type job. It takes 6-7 hours to do this and some years I break it into two days to give the knees a break but this time I just pushed through and got it done in one day since there was rain in the forecast for later in the week. The next two days you are again on your hands and knees applying the wax with a small foam brush. Two coats will last about a year. This does a great job of sealing the gelcoat and it maintains a good shine. Cleaning the deck from then on just takes a hose, the bird poop and other dirt washes off easily just by spraying it all down. I got it all done in three days and then I had a good 48 hours of  warm weather to dry it all good before the rains here in Florida began. The next task was to re-bed the Starboard primary chain plate that had started to leak when it rained. I used a different 3M adhesive sealant this time hoping it would last longer than 6 months. I think this is the 4th time I have had to re-bed this chain plate. We had four days of heavy rains and everything stayed dry below so I was glad to have finished the task before the Florida Monsoon.
The anchor windless was the next project to tackle. I remembered that Josh Wallace, the second owner of this vessel, had mentioned to me that the solenoid would occasionally have to be replaced. The solenoid was kinda rusty and I had cleaned the contacts and sprayed a corrosion inhibitor on the contacts. When I turned the windless switch on at the electric panel it still made the “click” so I was unsure if replacing it would solve the problem. I left the windless switch on for some time while I rechecked the deck foot switch and the windless battery connections, when I back down below I touched the solenoid and it was hot so now I was sure this was the problem.  I decided to just take the solenoid off and take it to a nearby AutoZone to see if they had one that would work. The guy at AutoZone said he had one just like it so I bought it and installed it. Nothing worked and what was worse was there was no “click” when I turned on the switch at the panel. Time to research solenoids. Well solenoids are just another type of switch in the system. They just deliver the required amps to do the job. I checked the West Marine Catalog and sure enough they had one that looked exactly like the I removed. The big West Marine in St. Pete had two of them so I made the 1 hour trip by truck over and picked it up. It worked! I called West Marine and asked them to hold the other one they had on the shelf so I could have a spare on board. The windless is just something I do not want to ever have to do without ever again.
It was time to do the laundry so I took a break from boat projects to run up to the nearby Laundrymat to get this done and since the wifi at the laundry is really good this is the best place to upload my blog post. On the way back to the marina just about 6 blocks away, I was stopped in the left lane in a line of traffic waiting for a red light to change. I was feeling good, I was relaxed, and all of a sudden a 30 something manager of a Big Lots in St. Pete ran into the back of the Little Truck That Can. Freaked me out! So just because you are retired and take life in the slow cruising lane does not save you from the more unpleasant and unplanned sidetrips life brings. I will probably get the truck into the shop next week to have it repaired, so far his insurance company seems to be taking care of it all.
The weekend was approaching so I called Bill & Pam in St. Pete to see if they wanted to do anything for the weekend. I was looking for fun in between boat projects. They invited me over for Bar-B-Q so I told them I would buy the meat and the beer. Bill & I ended up taking his Morgan 33 out for a quick bay sail and on the way back in to the Municipal Marina we spotted Alkaid, a 37’ Shannon from G dock in Corpus Christi. I had heard that he had crossed the Gulf single handed and would be in St. Peter for a month or so. We cruised by slowly and hollered for John but we assumed he was not on his boat. The Bar-B-Q was better than expected (since we are not in Texas!), and after a very pleasant evening with Pam and Bill I retreated to Wand’rin Star and slept for a long time.
The next morning I installed two more “PortVisors”. These are very cool visors that are easy to install (10 minutes) over opening ports. They allow you to keep the port window open even if it is raining outside. I initially installed two of them on a opening port in each of the heads, one forward and one aft. This allowed me to keep the port windows open even if we were not on the boat to create a nice air flow throughout the interior. This worked really well so I bought two more for the ports in the aft cabin so we could open them when at anchor rain or shine. I finally ordered two more for two of the ports we have open the most, the one over the galley stove and the one over the chart table. Now no more wet drips on my papers at the chart table and over the cooking area when it is raining out. I had to modify the vent next to the port over the chart table but it was worth it. I will probably add 2-3 more just to complete the set but a couple of the visors will have to be modified to fit in the space. I emailed Paula at Seaworthy Goods and she sent back details on how to trim the plastic edges of the port visor with a drimmal tool so they will fit. I will put this at the bottom of the list for next months project. I will not get the whole list I am working on now done before the Admiral gets back this week but I have a lot accomplished ….hope she is Happy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Days 181-184 Trip to Sarasota

Approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Plenty of clearance at 191 feet!

Bradenton Beach Anchorage...need to come back here for a couple of nights.

Longboat Pass.

The Admiral at Big Sarasota Pass

Almost to Sarasota.

The Admiral liked the Green Roof of this structure at the marina

South Lido Key Beach along the Big Sarasota Pass

Looking back at Sarasota from South Lido Key Beach

Not sure if he ever got this one down

They are careful with the turtles just like South Padre

He just wanted some left over fries

Excellant Mangrooves at South Lido Key

Gulf side of south Lido Key

We keep trying to find a Banyon Tree..this is not one

The dingy beach at O'leary's
O'Leary's Tiki Bar And Grill

Sarasota Bay Anchorage looking toward the Gulf at Big Sarasota Pass and South Lido Key on the right

Wond'rin Star pointed every direction in this anchorage.

A night herring makeing good use of a mooring ball.

The Spoonbills just keep getting more color as you go south

The entrance to siesta Key Beach

The beach sand is finely ground quartz. It never gets hot to walk on!

Fill in the Blank

These Life guards have a great gig

Couldn't say it better.

Days 181-184 May 22-25 Trip to Sarasota
Underway 6:45 hrs, 40.5Km, avg speed 6.0kts. WNW 0-10 sunny 85 RPM 1750
Return: Underway 6:53hrs 40.3Km avg speed 5.8Kts ENE 0-10 Sunny 85 RPM 1800

The Admiral knew she would be returning to Texas soon to assist her parents again so she checked out the weather for the week of May 21 and she made the call to go to Sarasota before she had to go back to Texas. The weather looked good all week, the only concern was Memorial Day weekend. Tampa Bay is full of recreational boaters and we were concerned about being in some narrow channels with hundreds of other boaters. We decided to go Tuesday May 22 and make the return no later than Friday the 25th to avoid any heavy traffic. The only other concern were the tides, we were just hoping for an ebb tide to depart on since it can make a huge difference in getting out of Tampa Bay. We just had to get up and depart by 0700 to take advantage of the ebb but that is normal for us anyway to get up at 0530 and be gone early. The Garmin estimated 7 hours and by using the autopilot the trip was cut 15 minutes. It took about 3 hours to get to the Tampa Bay sunshine Skyway Bridge and by then the tide was slack so another hour to the ICW entrance from the bay south bound to Sarasota.

Anna Maria Island
Here the scenery begins to drastically change as you are surrounded by land small bays and anchorages. Anna Maria Island is immediately off to Starboard and although it was indistinguishable to us somewhere to port was the Manatee River. As we entered the narrow ICW I turned off the autopilot and took the helm. As the autopilot makes corrections it sometimes takes longer than the width of a narrow channel to correct the course at 6 knots. The water depth on either side of the channel was often 2 feet or less so you have to pay attention especially when you are sharing the space with all sizes of vessels. Our first bridge to get through was the Anna Maria Island Bascule Bridge. The bridges along this part of the ICW open up every twenty minutes so it is best to time your arrival so you do not have to tread water in a small area avoiding other boats doing the same. This is where the Garmin comes in Handy, I just set a course waypoint right at the bridge location, this way the Garmin reports a ETA to the waypoint and you can easily either speed up or slow down to time your arrival. About 4-5 minutes out I call the bridge tender on the VHF to let them know who we are, the direction we are heading and request a bridge opening. This works well and provides the bridge tender with sufficient time to manage the traffic, both on the road and in the water. The bridge tenders appreciate your being close to the bridge at it’s opening so the traffic will not have to wait to long for you to pass. The water and scenery continues to improve as we approach the Cortez Bridge almost exactly 20 minutes away.

Bradenton Beach Anchorage
Just past the Cortez Bridge is the anchorage at Bradenton Beach. Just seeing this makes you want to come back here and stay a couple of nights in this beautiful spot.

Longboat Pass/Bascule Bridge
Longboat Pass is just a narrow inlet from the Gulf, I am sure all of these small inlets would require some local knowledge before transiting them. They look kinda scary on the charts and Google Earth, but just like the East Pass at Destin with the proper knowledge and timing with the tides I am sure a sailboat can make the pass. I just wonder though if you were coming in on an incoming tide and you had to wait for the bridge to open?

Just after Longboat Pass is another great looking anchorage at Longbeach. Really cool spot! Then you come to New Pass/Bascule Bridge. Here I actually got to see a couple of fishing boats come in from the Gulf and watched as they waited for a short time for the bridge to open, I wondered what the current was doing in the pass just then.

Lido Key
When you get to Lido Key you are almost to Sarasota, you can see the skyline across the bay.. Lido Key is where the Admirals Grandparents would make an annual pilgrimage to every summer when she was a kid. She remembered the name of the resort where they stayed, “Azure Tides”. I thought it would be cool if somehow we could get over there somehow on this trip to see it.
The Ringling Bridge
As you approach the 65’ fixed Ringling Bridge you hope the tide is not at full flood. With a 61’ mast these bridges are always a concern. Just before we arrives at the bridge a 60’+ motor yacht had just cleared going the opposite direction at around 20 knots. The water was quite choppy on our approach to the bridge, the Admiral requested that I stop and wait for the waves to calm before we committed to the bridge and this again was another great call as after the water became flat again and I looked up as passed under it seemed as we had 2 feet or less clearance.

Sarasota Bay
The Sarasota Bay anchorage is just 5 minutes from the bridge. I had read several reviews of the anchorage on Active Captain and one review suggested to work your way in close and find an open spot near O’Leary’s bar so you have a short dingy ride to the dingy beach and you are away from the chop that develops from the transiting vessels in the ICW. Well we did just that and the Admiral has become an expert in driving us in to the best spot to drop the hook. We used to do a drive by around check it all out first, but know she just takes the wheel, I go up front to deal with the ground tackle and with just a few hand signals we get the task done easily. Even though the weather forecast was great for light winds and only a 10% chance of rain I decided to go ahead and set a second anchor since in the next two days we would see winds from W, N, E, and S. in the next two days. We had boats on all four sides of us and most of them just had 1 anchor out so I set the second one relatively close at a 30 degree angle since you want your boat to swing like all the other boats to keep a consistent distance away. The Admiral suggested I use the Kayak instead of the dingy to set the other anchor since getting the kayak down is quick. Well handling a heavy anchor and its chain on a Kayak is an interesting endeavour. I learned here the dingy is best suited for the job. This is a technique that I still need to develop, as we have not anchored with so many boats around us except one other time at the Navy Regatta in Corpus.

Big Sarasota PassAfter we got all that done we relaxed in the cockpit and enjoyed the view, to our Southwest we could see the Big Sarasota Pass and Siesta Key. We could also see Bird Key but we could not figure it out since it just looked like part of Lido Key.

Since the kayak was down we spent the afternoon kayaking around the shoreline to the Municipal marina and back to O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill. You pay O’Leary’s $2 to leave your dingy or kayak on their beach. They have convenient metal post spaced out so you can lock it up for the day. The next day I got the dingy down and we made the 75 yard ride to O’Leary’s to leave the dingy. You are already in downtown Sarasota so you just walk across the street so what we would describe as Florida’s Palo Alto. Zero trash, not even a cigarette butt on the street. 5 star restaurants, shops hotels, etc. every step. There is a Whole Foods about 5 blocks distance so we went there for lunch and we discovered a bus transit center right across the street. We went over there and found we could get a bus over to Lido Key, a wonderful local woman told us about South Lido Beach and highly recommended visiting this park for the day. So we took the next bus over the Ringling bridge, about a 15 minute ride and found this great park with four different environments to discover. There is a wonderful beach on the Gulf side, and then the Big Sarasota Pass runs along the South end. This is a very wide pass but I think only a small unmarked channel is navigable by boat and I would not even think of it without a local sailor on board. In the interior part of the park is a huge area of mangroves and a big attraction for kayakers. Of course lots of birds and wildlife, some of the trails looked like alligator habitat so we avoided that whole part. There were two large raccoons that came right out within feet of us to check out the garbage cans looking for some McDonalds I guess. They were cautious of the people around but they cruised by several people. One guy that must have been from Louisiana screamed COONS! I could not help but laugh out loud. I do not know if the man was trying to warn everyone or if he was hungry? Anyway this is a must do park if you ever come to Sarasota. The Admiral googled Azure Tides resort and found out that it had been leveled 5 years ago and the Ritz rebuilt a resort there. I tried to convince her to go have a drink at their Tiki bar that was preserved but she declined, we saw it as we drove by.
When we got back to the Bay we decided to take in the Happy Hour at O’Learys Tiki Bar. Again a wonderful local woman explained to us that we needed to definitely see Siesta Key Beach as it was rated America’s #1 Beach. So we made plans to go back to the little bus stop and use our second day on Siesta Key. We spent a second great evening in the anchorage with a great breeze funneled down the hatches keeping us cool all night.
Siesta Key Beach was another great beach and the amazing thing here is the sand is ground quartz. Super White and very cool to the feet, it never gets hot. You absolutely must have sunglasses here due to the incredible reflection from the sand and you are in a literal UV oven since you get it from above and below and from every direction. Two hours and we were done on this beach, we walked to the shopping district just down about a mile from the beach and enjoyed seeing the area shops. We decided to do happy hour on the boat so we stopped at Whole Foods on the way back for snacks and drinks, my favorite Pale Ale was on sale and I could not wait to enjoy another evening here before we departed back for Tampa. We dingyed back to the boat & I tried to convince the Admiral to get a drink and go for a dingy ride around the anchorage. She declined so I grabbed a beer and did a little tour, as I as getting back to the boat the Admiral encouraged me to quickly get the dingy up since there were some clouds building in the area. Sure enough just as I got it all up and put away it started sprinkling. The clouds that went over us to Lido Key seemed to have returned looking a bit meaner. I stayed out in the light rain getting everything in order as the Admiral was down below checking the weather on the IPOD. It was 2100 and almost dark now, the winds picked up and the rain very hard. Lots of red, and yellows, with some purple to the south of us. I decided to stay in the cockpit to make sure the anchor did not drag. It started getting crazy, I stayed under the dodger as the rain was coming in through the cockpit horizontal full force. The boat swung and healed over enough that stuff on the Galley counter fell off. The lightening and was insane and neither of us had ever heard such cracking thunder ever.The boat just ahead if us seemed to have dragged back even with us. As the winds turned from the south our stern was just 10-15 feet from his bow. I knew he was on board but I could not see him in his cockpit. I went down below to get the key so I could start the engine if I need to hold our position. The storm lasted two hours. what we learned later is that a 10% chance of rain in Florida means 10% will get a friggen Storm, in Texas it means a sprinkle maybe. After the rain died down I shortened the anchor rode a bit to keep us away from the boat that drug down. I saw him come up and check his gear but it was over so we could get some sleep and prepare to depart early am.
I knew our anchors would be well dug in the next morning so after I got my first cup of coffee I took it up with me to start retrieving the anchors. I could not believe it, the anchor windless was dead, it would not work. I had prepared a line to use just in case this ever happened with a chain hook on the end so I could use the Mast winches to winch in 20' links of anchor rode at a time. The second anchor was a bear, it took me 45 minutes to get it to the surface, and then I realized why, it had become entangled with some abandoned mooring lines. I had to get the kayak down and get the mooring lines off the anchor. 1st anchor was up and secure. The primary anchor came up without any fuss but I had to manhandle the last few feet by hand and I was just hoping I had not put to much strain on the old back.
The Admiral thought I was goofing off and when she came up she wondered what I had been doing, I tried to be nice. She took the helm and we motored out to the ICW so I could have time to clean up the deck and put all the stuff away in the anchor locker. It was another beautiful day and I would get tested a bit as the traffic was a bit heavier but most of it was going the opposite direction for Memorial Day. As soon as we got back to Tampa Bay I turned on the Autopilot and used it the entire 4 hours back to our home at Westshore. It seemed to work even better than ever, I think I have finally gotton all the cobwebs off.