Monday, May 24, 2010

Water...Good & Bad

Water is a very important aspect of life. Water covers 71% of the Earth and makes up 60-70% of the human body. If it weren't for water, there would be no boats and I wouldn't be living on the S/V Exposure in the middle of the Florida Keys. But a boat needs more than just the water it floats in...there's drinking water, dishes water, shower water, ice-making water, dog bathing water, toilet flushing water...and it all needs to get to the boat somehow. Some boats are equipped with water-makers or desalinators which take the sea water and filter the salt out of it to make it fit for human consumption. The S/V Exposure has a water-maker, but it is currently in it's "pickled" state keeping it preserved for future use when water is not as readily available. The filters are expensive and we would run through them pretty quickly in the silty water of the harbor. So we haul all of our water to the boat. The City Marina has a dinghy water dock where you can fill up your water receptacle for 5 cents a gallon...pretty cheap considering what has to be done to get running water here. All of our water comes from the mainland...there is NO fresh water available in the Keys that doesn't come through a pipe down US1. We do have emergency desalination plants in case of hurricane or being cut off from the mainland, but they have not proven to be cost-effective enough to run all the time. We used to haul our water in 6 gallon jugs, providing us with 12 gallons per trip but since the launching of the new dinghy, we have come up with a better plan.

Just last week, I invited my girlfriend, Megan, to drive with me to Tavernier to procur a 55-gallon barrel. I had called ahead of time and made sure the place was open and asked what had been in the barrels and would it be safe for the application of hauling water. The guy assured me that all of his barrels had held non-toxic substances ranging from concentrated fruit juice to ascorbic acid. Megan and I stopped along the way for a little water-front dining [Ah, ha! The importance of water again!] at Whale Harbor where she had the shrimp po' boy and I had the skirt steak quesadilla. Both of which were absolutely delicious and the view was magnificent. After lunch, we took a few minutes for a snap shot or 2 and then continued on up US1.
I found Glander Boats after passing it once and making a u-turn. Then a barrel was purchased and shoved into the backseat of my car and Megan and I headed for home.

The barrel got a good rinse upon it's arrival at the marina and then sat overnight to soak with a bit of bleach. The next day we were ready for our first big water run and loaded the barrel into the dinghy.
After a few minutes of filling, we were ready to go. Jeff had previously ordered a transfer pump to get the water from the barrel into the water tanks of the sailboat.

It worked like a charm.

We made one more trip the following day and put the barrel away for the time being. The plan will be to run a full load once a week and that should keep our tanks topped off with fresh water.
Water is good.

But water can be bad.
Too much water in the wrong place can sink a boat, and that's almost what happened to us yesterday.
It was Sunday morning and we were all prepared to spend a lazy day, reading books and lounging about. We were so set on it, that I didn't even get up when my phone rang at a little after 9am. Jeff didn't budge when his phone rang shortly after that...and again right after that. Then came a knock on the boat and Jeff got up to see who it was. It was Austin from the city marina and we had a problem. The 19ft. O-Day sailboat that Jeff had purchased over the winter was full of water and near close to sinking. We had had some rain lately, and knew the boat probably needed to be bailed out since it has no door and the cockpit drains are no longer working but Jeff had been by the tiny sailboat on Friday and all had seemed well. So we motored over in the dinghy with a battery and a bilge pump and set to getting the water out. The boat had so much water in it that we were afraid to step onto it and remained on the dinghy and tossed the pump in. I am sorry to say, I didn't take my camera, but the water was well over the kicker plate in the rear and up over the writing on the sides.
We pumped a lot of water for a very long time. So long in fact, we decided to leave it sit and go get a cooler full of ice so we could have a refreshing beverage while we waited for the water to recede. Several times while sitting there, we both smelled a dead fish...somewhere. Perhaps in the nearby mangroves? As we circled the boat to leave, I took a look inside and found the culprit. It was definitely a dead fish in the cabin and it looked big! So not only did we get a cooler of ice, but we grabbed a net and pokey pole and with much reluctance, headed back to address the dead fish.
Upon our return, the water had receded enough where it was safe for Jeff to step on to the boat. He tried getting the fish into the net but it was just too big and broke the net. Jeff had to resort to reaching in and grabbing the deceased beast by the tail and hauling it out. The thing was monstrous once you could see it all. It was a 45+ lb. tarpon and at least 3 feet long.
It must have jumped in the cockpit and in an attempt to escape made his way into the cabin. Tarpon are considered a sport-fish and although they are no good to eat, they are very popular to fish for because of the grand fight they put up when in the throes of capture. They are all bone, muscle, and fins.
This particular tarpon was no less the fighter and in his thrashing for freedom, he broke off 2 of the the thru-hull fittings inside the cabin creating 2 holes in the bottom of the boat which copious amounts of water where now pouring through.
That was why it seemed we were pumping out water for such a long time as it was coming in almost as fast.
Jeff went back for tools and a couple of wooden plugs and temporarily sealed the hole.

We were going to wait a little while before restoring the baby sailboat as we are still tired from our last restoration job but it looks as if we have no choice. We are pulling the boat out of the water today and after a bit of drying out, it will be the next stay tuned for that one!

Thanks to everyone who called and were concerned about the sinking boat and thanks to Denise for providing the pictures of the tiny sailboat used on this blog.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mother's Day Visit

For Mother's Day weekend, Jeff's mom, Denise, came for a visit. She arrived Saturday afternoon just after the launching of the new dinghy. First order of business was a cruise of the harbor and then back to the boat to relax, cool off, and settle in. We opted for an early dinner at had been a long day for all of us...where we shared delicious, stuffed hogfish, shrimp ceviche, and a fried seafood platter.
The next morning, we had tea/coffee on the boat and then headed to shore. I took Denise with me to run an errand and go to the grocery while Jeff dug out the Mother's Day presents he'd been holding on to since March...2 beautiful copper and glass sculptures purchased at the seafood festival.
Jeff could just picture them in his mother's hosta bed and attached to the large, maple tree in her back yard softly lit from underneath so that the colored glass sparkles. Jeff's present also includes delivery and installation so Denise will have to wait a little while before she can view her new yard art actually in the yard.
After the big reveal, we took several pictures then safely tucked the presents back into the storage area. Next, we went back to the boat for a little downtime and to marinade the steaks for the cook-out we had planned for the evening. We had invited 12-13 of our close friends to bring a dish and join us at the tiki hut for a Mother's Day celebration. At 6 o'clock we fired up the grills. I melted butter in a roasting pan for some fried plantains, and we tossed the steaks on the grill. The steaks turned out to be quite tasty after marinating all day in pineapple juice, garlic hoisin, and soy sauce. We had quite the array of yummy side-dishes...chips and bean salsa, Caesar salad, pasta salad, fresh mozzarella with basil, fresh fruit, and grilled squash & zucchini with key lime pie and carrot cake for dessert. Good food, good conversation, and good friends. You couldn't ask for a better way to spend an evening.
Everyone made Denise feel welcome and are still telling me what a lovely lady she is and what a pleasure to talk to.
[Nothing I didn't already know.]
Monday morning came around just like it normally does...with one exception: Jeff didn't have to leave us for work in the morning as he had taken the day off. We had a nice breakfast at the Wooden Spoon and then ran some errands. A battery was purchased at NAPA and then a trip to West Marine. While Denise and I looked at sandals and hats, Jeff purchased fenders and a battery box. Later we spent some time just hanging out on the boat watching the water go by until it was time for happy hour at Lazy Days. We had arranged to pick up Megan and Cindy since we were traveling by dinghy and they wanted a ride in the new dink.
Lazy Days is renowned for their happy hour. Starting at 3pm, they offer 1/2 price drinks and a fabulous selection of appetizers such as wings [hot, mild, bbq, or teriyaki garlic], conch fritters, jalapeno poppers, and peel & eat shrimp...all 3 for a $1.
We had a big table of people...some we didn't even know to start off with.
And once again, good food, good conversation, and good friends were the order of the day.
We motored on back to the sailboat and spent the evening watching the sun go down.
Tuesday was to be Denise's last day, but we had saved the best for last by booking a Dolphin Encounter at the Dolphin Research Center for her and Jeff. I have been volunteering one day a week at DRC for several weeks now. One of the best parts is wandering around the lagoons in the morning and being one of the first people the dolphins get a glance at. They are happy to see you and quite chatty and attentive. We went in the gate at 8:30...a half hour before the public is allowed entrance. I gave them a quick tour of the grounds and we walked out onto the causeway to visit the dolphins. The 2 new babies, Luna and Delta were happily swimming around with their mamas in their lagoon. The big boys [Rainbow, Talon, Pax, and Sandy] kept popping their 500 plus pounds out of the water for a peak and to say hello. Jax was busy watching a diver in his lagoon and paid us no attention, but all the others observed us with one eye out of the water and chattered or blew bubbles our way.
Jeff and Denise walked back to the gift shop to get checked-in for their encounters and I went to the volunteer office to put myself down as the swim monitor for their group. It's one of the jobs volunteers do. We take a stopwatch and sit on the platform while people are in the water, timing the encounter and providing an extra set of eyes and ears for the trainers.
At 10:15, Jeff and Denise entered the water of the front lagoon to swim with Tursi and Cayo. They were having a great time, but apparently the ladies of the lagoon were not. We had to take a dolphin "time out" when Tursi smacked poor little Cayo with her tail. The trainers switched dolphins around, and just as they were getting ready to get back in the water Cayo gave Gypsi a similar smack with her tail. The trainers decided to leave the girls to work things out amongst themselves and the swimmers switched lagoons to be with Talon. Talon was happy to be included and proved himself to be quite the enthusiastic entertainer and playmate.
Unfortunately, their time in the water with the dolphins was over way too quickly. They headed to the photo tiki to peruse their photos and I went to write down the time and sign out.
Lunch time was quickly approaching so we decided to go next door to the Wreck & Galley for a bite to eat. Denise and I ordered Grouper BLT's and Jeff opted for a fried mahi sandwich. Both were excellent choices. The grouper was crispy and well seasoned served on texas toast with lettuce, tomato, and bacon. Jeff's said his sandwich was quite possibly the best he's ever had as the huge, slab of mahi dwarfed the bun.
We were having a nice, relaxing lunch on the Wreck's breezy, outdoor porch when we were approached by a chicken...a bold, hungry chicken, at that, as she jumped up on Jeff's lap and took a bite of his sandwich.
We shooed her away, but she circled the table to come around on my side. I was busy guarding my lap when she jumped up on the table in the middle of mine and Denise's plates and scattered ketchup and french fries everywhere. The ketchup mostly ended up on my shirt and shorts and the fries fell to the ground below where baby chicks waited for what their mama might provide. The waitress was horrified and while she tried to get the owners on the phone, the bus boy rushed to clean up the mess, all the while apologizing. We assured her that it was alright, that it wasn't her fault, and we were done eating anyway. She brought our adjusted bill to the table and offered me a free t-shirt or tank of my choice. It ends up, the chicken is named Juliet and she has several babies to feed. The next morning, I overheard some of the guys at DRC talking about the chicken who had attacked several diners at the Wreck. They were trying to catch her and her brood in order to relocate them but so far she had eaten all the bait and evaded capture. Smart chicken, I'd say!
It certainly gave us a good laugh and made lunch even more memorable.
We spent the rest of the afternoon floating around the mooring ball. Denise and I got in several hands of gin [which she won!] before we called it a day.
The next morning, we took her to shore and sent her on her way...
We certainly enjoyed the time she was here and hope she comes back soon!

Check out the slideshow of the Mother/Son Dolphin Encounter.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Great Sponge Boat Caper

It was mid-February when we found the abandoned dinghy on the beach. Jeff had a sneaking suspicion as to who owned the wayward boat and a quick peak inside along with the FL numbers confirmed that suspicion. After bailing out the nasty water and towing it back to the harbor, Jeff called the owner, a former harbor resident who hasn't been seen in these parts for awhile, and asked him what he wanted to do with the boat. He replied that that particular boat had been an albatross around his neck and that if Jeff wanted it, he could have it. He dropped the title in the mail the next day and ownership was transferred. But oh, my! What a project to take on!
The first chore was pulling it back to the beach...the very same one that we rescued it from amidst a swarm of clean the bottom. Then it was back to the marina to pull it out of the water using the lifting davit. We tucked it into the garage and the next day borrowed a pick-up truck to get it to the carport that friends Matt and Kendra were gracious enough to let us use. In fact, it was Matt who believed the boat to be an old sponge boat judging by some of it's features.
The first step in the restoration was quite easy. All we had to do was let it sit and dry out.
But nothing was easy after that!
Jeff proved himself to be quite the jack-of-all-trades as he first played carpenter and removed the old stringers and the bow locker, all the while hoping the boat didn't collapse in on itself. Then he became a boat builder as he replaced all the stringers, adding new ones as necessary. Next, he was the body repair expert with endless hours of filling and sanding, sanding and filling. Then he constructed a floor for the interior and benches to sit on. Shortly after came the skilled fiberglass installation.
And more filling and sanding.
And then some vacuuming on my part.
And have I mentioned that I really hate fiberglass?
We walked around itchy and scratchy for weeks. I was really glad when that part was over.
Finally, after a complete rebuild on the entire boat, we were able to start the painting process.
Prior to this point, we had deliberated over several paint samples from Home Depot and agreed on a soft turquoise green, a bright, sunny orange, and a luscious lavender paired up with Hatteras white. We sent the samples off to have them made into Signature Finish paint, a 3 part paint made for boats that is supposed to last for 10 years with little or no maintenance. It came highly recommended by several people and we thought we'd try it out.
Our colors came out perfectly matched to the samples we sent and dubbed with names of "Sponge Green", "Sponge Orange", and "Sponge Violet."
We flipped the boat upside down and several coats of Hatteras white went on the hull along with multiple layers of stinky, black bottom paint.
Then we flipped it back over and continued painting. The first bit of color was the "Sponge Green" along the rail, in the bow, and across the transom.
The next day was my turn to do a little painting. I had decided that a sponge boat should be sponge painted and I managed to talk Jeff into it. So while he was at work, I added layer after layer of color on the white hull with an assortment of sea sponges. The first coat was "Sponge Green". Next followed "Sponge Orange" and then "Sponge Violet." I finished it up by sponging the Hatteras white over the entire design and waited for Jeff to arrive.
I was a little nervous about his reaction. He was very fond of the pristine white hull against the green rail but, why have that when you could have a one of a kind paint job? I assured him I had a talent that you could only be born with and it would be alright.
At first glance, he didn't say a word. Which made me more nervous. He mixed himself the prerequisite after-work cocktail and set in to peruse the paint job.
His first comment was a light-hearted, good-humored, "You girl-ed my boat up!"
Well. Maybe a little.
But it looks great, don't you think?
And quite the transformation from floating piece of trash to showboat extraordinaire!
We worked really hard on the boat for several weeks and took very few evenings off because we had a deadline to have it in the water by the time Jeff's mom, Denise, arrived for Mother's Day weekend
On the Friday before the big weekend in question, we recruited 5 full grown men from the marina plus Jeff to lift it on the trailer without scratching the paint. Then Jeff and I finished up the final details of bending the metal on to the rub-rail, grinding off the ends, and installing chalks, cleats, the sampson post, and a bow-eye.
We crawled home some time close to midnight then crawled back the next morning to get it launched.
We got it in the water for it's maiden voyage back to the harbor then tied up to the dinghy docks to switch out cars and return the borrowed trailer.
We had just finished with a quick shower and were relaxing in the shade when Denise called to say she was minutes away.
Perfect timing.
We have since taken the dinghy all throughout the harbor to claps, thumbs-up, and shouts of appreciation. It certainly makes it worth all the hard work to kick back now and admire our new ride.
We're still taking suggestion for names...if you've got a good one please let us know.

CLICK ARROW, and then the play arrow, TO BEGIN SLIDESHOW ~>

For a bigger version of the slideshow, click here and find the "slideshow" button in the top left corner or flip through the pictures and captions on your own.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Party for Peter

This past Saturday we had a party at the marina to wish our friend, Peter Barker, bon voyage since he will be leaving us after a 6 month stay in the harbor to continue his sail around the world. To honor Peter's Australian heritage I thought we should cook something from the land down under, but the only Australian cuisine I've ever had consists of food from the Outback Steakhouse. I decided we would throw some "shrimp on the barbie"...sounds Australian, right? 8 pounds of Key West Pinks were purchased first thing Saturday morning from Keys Fisheries, and my friend, Megan, and I headed to the S/V Exposure to wrap them in the 5 pounds of bacon purchased the previous day and put them on skewers. We made bloody mary's and set ourselves to the task. It took about 2 and 1/2 hours to get the shrimp cleaned and ready, but in the end we had 4 big bags of skewers ready for the grill. Next we headed in to get the keg and the cake. Upon arriving at the liquor store, we found that the keg we had ordered had not been delivered but they had a smaller one we could have instead. We supplemented with a few cases of cans and called it done. The cake turned out lovely with a picture I had taken of Peter on Australia Day somehow magically transferred on the surface.
The cake was actually quite lucky to make it to the party since I tripped coming up the steps to the marina while carrying it. I banged my knee pretty good but somehow saved the cake. By the time I took it's picture though, it was a little worse for the wear and the heat...but you get the gist of it.
We had a great turn out for the event.
Most people showed up with a dish to throw on the table and socialized around the keg while Peter said a few words about his stay here in the harbor and presented Richard Tanner, our harbor master, with a plaque noting all the unique amenities of the Marathon City Marina and proclaiming it to be the best. Richard, in turn, presented Peter with the last remaining flag from the now defunct Boot Key Harbor Sailing Association featuring [just as you would suspect] a boot and a key.
Over at the grills, I barbecued the shrimp and Tut [Sloop d' Jour] finished up a few legs of lamb. It may not be very Australian, but I made a huge pan of cheese grits [topped with bacon and parmesan cheese and loaded with butter and cream] to accompany the shrimp. Call it a "Kentucky Twist" was Derby Day, after all! Then the line formed and judging by the way party attendees snarfed up the food until there was no more, I'd say things turned out pretty tasty. I tucked a few shrimp kabobs and a bit a lamb away for later and vacated the chaos of the serving area. Peter's boat, Bowtie Lady, was tied to the nearby seawall and a small gathering congregated there on the sidewalk. I had a bowl of jello of the spiked variety and was willing to share as soon as somebody found me a spoon. As the evening continued, more and more people assembled around the Bowtie Lady. Some came to tour the ocean-going vessel, some just came for the jello, and some were holding out for cake, but the party ended up on the sidewalk alongside Peter's boat. After much conversation, laughter, and an empty jello bowl, Peter cut the cake...or at least he attempted to. I took the knife away from him when he started to cut the rectangular cake into wedges. The last of the party-goers ate cake with their fingers served on napkins since we had no plates or plastic-ware and then with sticky fingers and big smiles meandered back to their respective boats.
I had a GREAT time with my girlfriends both planning the party and attending it, but I do believe a good time was had by all who came.
We will certainly miss Peter with his charming accent, interesting idioms, and debonair ways but we wish him well in finishing his quest. I'll be following his blog and keeping track of his progress and hope to see the Bowtie Lady and her Captain another time.

Good Luck & Bon Voyage, Peter!

[And thank you for the tulips! XXOO]