Monthly Archives: August 2014

Thoughts On Staying Put

One of the great things about living on the Gulf coast is that even when we’re too busy to take the boat out for the weekend, we can still squeeze in a few hours on a Sunday to do this:

Sitting by the ocean drinking bottomless Mimosas and splitting a six-egg omelette while listening to steel drums is an awesome de-stressor. And we’ve definitely wanted a little break from the urgent mop-and-bucket drills we’ve been running whenever our real estate agent calls to tell us we have another showing, and our ongoing possessional triage that we have to continue finding time for (Another Post, Briefer Than Most). If that weren’t enough, Rhonda has also now been having to tend to her father, who has put himself in the hospital for the second time this year. He’s 83, stubborn as a mule, and lives a life that we consider detrimental to his physical health. You know that old joke that goes “I spent most of my money on liquor and loose women, and the rest I just squandered.” That’s Rhonda’s father in a nutshell, at least since his wife died some years ago. If he’d knock it off and take better care of himself, he wouldn’t be taking quite so many ambulance rides and we could all spend fewer major holidays sitting in waiting rooms. Unfortunately, any attempt by Rhonda or her sister to conduct an intervention results in much anger and yelling (by him at them). So here we are on a sunny Sunday morning letting a champagne and orange juice buzz melt our cares away while the soothing sounds of Pensacola Steel whisks us to our happy place.

It’s a beautiful day with clear skies and a light sea breeze. It’s a bit hot, but hey, it’s Florida in August after all. But then we noticed it getting dark to the north. Polishing off our final round of drinks, we strolled the several hundred yards over to Red Fish Blue Fish on the Santa Rosa Sound side of the island to see what was brewing. Normally, it looks something like this:


Within minutes of our arrival, however, the once pretty day turned to this:


The wind started howling, the rain started pounding, and drinks starting flying everywhere. Patio umbrellas cemented into the ground were being ripped free. The water that had been calm just moments before was whipped up into steep rollers.


Small boats tied to the pier were being lifted four to six feet and then thrown against the pilings. Boats that weren’t docked dragged anchor. An unexpected 50 knot wind gust will do that. One boat was pushed up onto the beach. Another came within feet of hitting two others that weren’t dragging quite as fast. Fortunately these were all 20 to 30 foot runabouts, and not deep draft sailboats.

And then in ten minutes, it was over. The wind died, the rain stopped, and the sun started to peek back out from behind the passing storm cloud.

The owners of the boats that had dragged had probably all set inadequate recreational anchors on all-rope rodes and then gone ashore for lunch. They weren’t expecting foul weather on such a pretty day. But we’ve been caught in one of these pop-up storms before, and we dragged as well. Our problem was that we were using one of these:


When this little jewel was developed back in the 1930’s, it was the state of the art in small craft anchors. But that was a time when the typical anchor looked like something Popeye might have used:


Pretty much anything, even a rock tied to a rope, would have been an improvement. And because the plough anchor (which is actually the correct spelling, because it was developed in the UK—it would have been a “plow” anchor if an American had thought of it) , or CQR as it’s known, performed so much better than what little else was then available, it developed a reputation as an excellent anchor. But there’s a reason boaters today don’t use hemp lines and kerosene running lights, or much other gear from 80 years ago. It’s because the modern equivalents are so much better. It took us a storm or two to figure it out, but the same thing is true of anchors. Today’s modern designs, such as a Rocna, Manson Supreme or Mantus, have ten times the holding power as that CQR relic from the 1930’s. If you’re interested, here’s some information to consider:

Old Generation Anchors – What’s Really The Problem?

For those more visually inclined, you may want to take a look at this:

It can really ruin your day if you return to your boat and find it’s not still sitting where you parked it. A good anchor, and by that I mean one of a modern design that’s a least one, possibly two sizes larger than that recommended for your boat, probably costs less than 1% of what your boat is worth. And that seems like pretty cheap insurance.

So please, don’t be that sailor whose boat breaks loose and wrecks havoc in an anchorage during a pop-up summer squall. If you have something hanging on your bow roller that was designed during the Great Depression (the FDR one, not the Obama one), then we strongly suggest you think about an upgrade. If not for you, then for those with whom you share the harbor.

We use a Manson Supreme, by the way. So far, it’s been like being welded to the bottom. But before we head to the islands, I think we’ll be hanging a 60 pound Mantus on our roller. Because we don’t want to be “that boat…”

Oooh, That Smell

Eagle Too isn’t being used much while we’ve been focusing on our house, but she cannot be ignored. We try to make the half-hour drive to the marina at least once a week to check her dock lines, inspect her bilges, and verify that the air conditioning is still doing its job.

So it’s noon on Sunday, it’s Africa hot, there’s not a breath of wind, the humidity is a miserable 99%, but I’m reveling in the moment, because out of the entire 168 hours that make up the week, I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes on our boat! Thirty minutes that will have to get me through at least another week.

As I head up the dock, my eyes are aloft, inspecting the rigging for anything amiss. Reaching the stern, I pat her affectionately and say “Hello, Eagle Too!” before climbing aboard. We’re still in the process of getting to know one another, and I feel I owe her this courtesy. Stepping onto the swim platform and climbing into the cockpit, I scan her decks to make sure the outboard is still firmly locked to the rail, the dinghy is still securely lashed in place, and no part of the shore power cable has slid into the water.

Dialing the combo on the companionway lock, I pop it free and push open the slider. And Oh. My. God.

Every boat has its own unique aroma. Back in my submarine driving days, “boat smell” was that distinctive blend of ozone, lube oil, amine, diesel fuel, sweat, and cooking grease that permeated every person, place, and thing onboard. After returning from the ship, I and everything I wore exuded it.

On sailboats, it seems that boat smell still builds on a classic foundation of diesel fuel and machinery odors, accented with notes of permeated sewage lines and decaying bilge water, with highlights of mold and mildew. In short, a stinky funk. With the boat shut up and baking in the hot Florida sun, there just isn’t enough air exchange to keep her smelling April fresh, even with the air conditioning running.

This isn’t a quick 30 minute visit after all. I need to do something about this. Time to break out the bible of battling boat smell:


If you’re struggling with trying to root out the source of some nasty funk, this book is a great guide. We’ve already deduced that we have three main problems on our new boat. Number one is that all the sanitation lines are original. Which means they’re 17 years old. Which means they’ve got to go. But that’s not a job for an afternoon, or probably even a weekend. That’s a job for the off season, when a front is blowing through and we’re pinned to the dock cursing the cold weather. Besides, this doesn’t smell quite like that. It’s something else. Not diesel either — you can’t miss that smell, which will quickly coat every surface onboard with an odoriferous oily film if you have even the slightest weep of fuel from a fitting somewhere. No, this has to be coming from one of our other two odor generators.

First is the shower sump. Unlike a house, there’s no sewer system on a boat for gray water to drain away. When we take a shower, the dirty, soapy water goes here:


Some of it just sits there, while the rest drains to this:


Once this enclosed box gets full, the float switch trips on the small pump to push the water overboard.

Now this may work great if you take a shower every day. You’d be pushing plenty of new dirty water through the system, replacing the old dirty water before it can get funky. But we’re not currently using the boat much, and so that old shower water is just sitting there for weeks on end. Water that’s full of soap and body oils, an extremely fertile medium for growing nasty stuff.

So my long-term plan is to replace this whole thing with one of the new Intelligent Control shower waste pumps from Whale.


If you’re interested, you can read about them here:

Whale Marine Grey/Shower Waste System

Basically, when the electronic sensor in the drain sees water, it turns on the pump until the water is gone. There’s no storage box that holds a quart of water to ferment between showers, and the pump is a diaphragm type, so it won’t choke on hair that happens to go down the drain. If you’ve ever seen how long and thick Rhonda’s hair is, you’ll realize what a good feature that is!

But again, that’s for another time. For now, let’s just clean everything with a little bleach and dry it.

Our other olfactory offender is our incredibly deep bilge. I can’t even reach the bottom when lying on the deck, and I have a six-foot wingspan!


I’m pretty sure that water shouldn’t be black. I think I’ve found our problem. With no mop on board, the only option for now is to drag the fresh water hose from the pier down into the cabin and give the bilge a good thorough flush. It’s not a solution, but it will have to do for now. When we finally have time to work on the boat again, I’ll have to figure out some way to reach down there and give everything a good scrub.

You may be thinking “Why is there water down there? Is your boat leaking?” Why yes. Yes it is. The seal around the propeller shaft leaks about a drop or two of seawater a minute when the boat is sitting. It’s designed to do that. It might not sound like much, but a drop or two a minute for 43,200 minutes (a month’s time) really starts to add up. Most of the water, though, is actually condensation that drains from the air conditioner. I’ve got a plan for that someday as well:mermaid_condensator

It’s called a condensator. You install it in the seawater cooling line for the air conditioning evaporator, and it uses the venturi effect to suck the condensate out of the drain pan and send it overboard. More info here if you’re interested:

Mermaid Condensator

So you boat owners out there may find some of this useful. The rest of you probably just learned way more than you wanted to know about gray water. But I think it’s important that you realize that there’s a lot more to Life On The Hook™ than warm summer breezes and sunset Pina Coladas. A big part of living the sweet life afloat is dealing with things that dirt dwellers rarely have to consider. Like what to do with the old shower water when you’re done using it!

Till next time…

Another Weekend Slips Away

How we would have liked to have spent the weekend:

A Day On The Water With Friends

A Relaxing Day On The Water With Friends

How we actually spent the weekend:


Anything But Relaxing


But fear not fellow sailors. We think we might be able to complete a sufficient amount of dust busting to allow us to get back out on the bay by Labor Day. That’s the plan, at least. We shall see…

Caution – Adventure Ahead

For most of our lives, Rhonda and I have rolled along the crowded and well-traveled turnpike of American middle-class life.  A few years ago, we decided we might enjoy getting off the main thoroughfare for a while and taking the scenic route instead. It’s a slower, less certain byway with fewer amenities, but we hear it can be an amazing experience and well worth the trip.

Earlier this year, we thought we saw our exit coming up. We turned on our blinker and started moving toward the right hand lane.

Yesterday, we finally left the highway behind and pulled off onto the exit ramp headed for the road less traveled. We’re still not completely certain it’s the direction we ought to take, which leaves us feeling a little nervous, but all change tends to be somewhat unsettling. So while the destination this particular exit leads to is somewhat of a mystery, it promises to be an amazing journey.


If you happen to know of anyone who’s looking for a four bedroom custom home on acreage that has the privacy of a country house with the benefits of a close-in location, please send them our way. Because we have a boat to catch, rum to drink, sunsets to toast, islands to explore, dreams to make real…

Another Post, Briefer Than Most…

For those of you following along at home, you may have noticed that we haven’t had much to say of late regarding our progress toward embarking on our waterborne life. Here’s why:NewCarpet

Preparing to have the house recarpeted has consumed all our available time this past week. It’s amazing how much can accumulate in seldom used bedrooms and closets after 17 years. All of which had to be moved, examined, and possessionally triaged. (Keep it? Store it? Donate it? Throw it away?) It makes me wonder if there could be a market for someone to offer this as a professional service — a Downsizing Coordinator with total emotional detachment who could evaluate your accumulated “stuff” free from sentimentality and sort it into keep/store/dispose piles while you’re off relaxing on a nice cruise. If so, I think Possessional Triage would be a great name for the business, so I’m off to register another new URL!

Ahem. Sorry. That was the sleep deprivation speaking. Yes, we’re still making progress. We’re rounding the clubhouse turn on the task of erasing the 17 years of wear and tear our house has accumulated. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, there’s little indication that it’s from an oncoming train, and we hope to soon have time to resume the shakedown cruises on our new boat.

But for now, we need help putting a piano back in the living room, if anyone is available…