Monthly Archives: April 2016

There Are Worse Places To Wait For Weather


We’re sitting comfortably in a slip at Boca Chica marina at Naval Air Station Key West at the moment. After a week of pushing steadily southward, knocking out 40 to 60 miles a day, we’re enjoying the opportunity to kick back, relax, drink a few beers ($2 drafts at the Navigator bar at the head of the dock!) and listen as the conchs are blown each day at sunset.

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Our plans are to take care of some minor maintenance issues and give the boat a much needed bath, and then get ready for the right weather window to jump over to Varadero, Cuba. Our plans were to shoot for May 1st, but right now it’s looking more like the 4th or 5th before the winds lighten up and turn more northerly so we can have a pleasant sleigh ride south rather than beat into six foot seas. But there are definitely worse places to be stuck waiting for weather! The laundry here has six washers, so we were able to knock out our entire backload of washing in 35 minutes by shoving it all into three washers at once. And I believe the dryers actually use surplus jet engines from the nearby airfield, as they completely dry a huge load in 15 minutes. There’s an Enterprise car rental agency about four miles away at the Key West airport, so tomorrow we’ll probably order up a car for a few days and play tourist.KeyWest4

One of the things that stands out about this trip so far is that you just have to trust and accept that you can’t plan for or control every aspect of the voyage. You prepare as best you can, and then you just head out and hope for the best. It’s amazing how much we’ve picked up along the way. Pretty much our entire trip from Tarpon Springs to here has been affected and informed by people we’ve met as we’ve headed south. We’d planned to end up here at Boca Chica, but we’d never even heard of places like Factory Bay, Little Shark River, or Moser Channel before leaving Pensacola. Even our route changed based on things we picked up along the way. I’d originally thought we’d enter the Keys via the Northwest channel on the west side of Key West. But it was a much shorter trip through the Moser Channel under the Seven Mile Bridge, which then led us to the delightful anchorage at Bahia Honda State Park that we were totally unaware of.

Now sometimes this bugs Rhonda a bit. She’s always been a planner, and she wants to know what the plan is for tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after. But if you meet someone at an anchorage and you tell them your plans, they might just have a better suggestion for a place to anchor or to pick up a cheap mooring, and like that, the plan has changed. So keeping an open mind and having some flexibility in your plans seems to be pretty important.

Boats Are Not Cars

The internal combustion engine has been around for over 125 years, and it’s been pretty well perfected. You jump on the highway in your car or truck and drive 500 miles and never give a thought to your engine other than keeping an eye on the gas gauge. You might go months without even lifting the hood. But boats are not cars. When you’re motoring along 50 miles offshore, you really start to obsess about your engine. Did the RPM just change? What was that odd noise? Is the belt starting to squeal? What is that drip doing there? Every three to four hours, I’m opening up the engine compartment and looking around with a flashlight. One time I found a small seawater leak that had started dripping on the engine (fixed with new hose clamps). Another time, I noticed that a fuel line was rubbing against a motor mount, and it was starting to chafe a hole in the line (fixed with a piece of scrap hose used as padding and a few zip ties). I lost a night’s sleep when I found a small puddle under the fuel filter that I thought could be the beginning of a fuel leak. I spent several hours yesterday with soapy water, a rag and some brushes completely cleaning the backside of the engine, to ultimately learn that a little bit of oil dripping from the engine intake (perfectly normal, since the intake draws air from the crankcase thanks to the EPA) had mixed with about a tablespoon of rainwater that we’d acumulated during the rainstorm we experienced in the Everglades to create a little amber puddle that looked like fuel. Oh well, at least the engine is nice and shiny again!

One of the most useful things we’ve had along on the trip has been the cheap little Android tablet I picked up at BestBuy for $100 prior to leaving Pensacola. It’s running the Navionics navigation app, and it lets me chart and plot and measure and look at bays and anchorages ahead without having to mess with the chartplotter that Rhonda is using to drive the boat. I fiddle with that thing all day long when we’re underway, and we use it for each evening’s chart review when we’re planning to get underway the next day.

Follow Us On Vessel Finder

A friend pointed out the website to us. Since we broadcast an AIS signal while we’re underway, we apparantly show up on and you can see our latest position. So if you’re interested in seeing where we are, just go to the site and search for Eagle Too. No idea if this will continue to work once we leave the US, but the site does show ships around the world, so who knows, it might!

Well, breakfast is ready and it’s time to start the day, so that’s it for now. We’ll try to post some more pictures very soon. Eagle Too out!

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Twenty-two days ago, we left Pensacola. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that our plans were to be in the Keys by April 25th. I thought that that was just about right to give us a few days to relax and soak in some of Key West’s funky vibe before jumping off for Cuba on May 1st, the date on our approved Coast Guard documentation.

Well it’s April 25th. And today at 1520, (3:20 PM for you lubbers) we dropped anchor in a delightful little anchorage off Bahia Honda state park in the Florida Keys.Recap9 Recap10

I have to admit I’ve had my doubts. When we ended up falling for St. Petersburg and hanging out there for a week, I thought our schedule was completely busted. But we didn’t stress over it. Because that’s the great thing about being cruisers rather than merely people who own a sailboat. Time really doesn’t matter, at least on a micro level. Oh, the seasons are still important, as you don’t want to be caught in the wrong latitude at the wrong time, weather-wise. But if you find a spot you like, well, you just hang out until you’ve had just short of enough. There really is no schedule.Recap1 Recap2 Recap3 Recap4

It’s been a really interesting trip so far. Pensacola to St. Joseph Bay, and then on to Apalachicola via the Gulf County Canal and ICW. Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs (nice town), entering the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW) at its northern end.  Anclote Key to Clearwater to St. Petersburg (where we could see ourselves living very comfortably) via the GIWW. Then down to Bradenton, Sarasota, Boca Grande and Ft. Meyers, completing the entire GIWW (and successfully managing the Miserable Mile) before re-entering the Gulf. A mooring ball in Ft Meyers Beach, a night at anchor in Factory Bay on Marco Island, and a run to Little Shark River on Cape Sable in the Everglades. For those who may be thinking of following in our wake someday, we’ll try to provide some additional details in the not too distant future. But suffice it to say that our plan to head south in early April has been spot on. For our three biggest legs to date: Pensacola to St. Joseph Bay, Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs, and south down Florida’s west coast from Sanibel to the Everglades, we’ve been able to ride the mild north winds behind weak late-season cold fronts. No 30 knot northers like we’d have seen in February or March, and no afternoon or evening thunderstorms like you’d expect to see in late May through October.  In fact, in the last 22 days, the only time we’ve had any significant rain at all was yesterday evening, when we were anchored in the Little Shark River in the Everglades.Recap6

I imagine it probably rains there almost every day, and the rain danced across the river like a scene from a Japanese block print rather than storm with menace. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the season has at least one more mild cold front to offer us so that we can again ride the gentle north winds south to Cuba. As May turns to June, the seasonal southeast winds usually fill in pretty strongly, winds that oppose the Gulf Stream that has to be crossed a couple of dozen miles south of the Keys. When wind opposes current, the seas turn turbulent, the boat pitches madly, and Rhonda becomes a very unhappy camper.

We called Boca Chica Marina at NAS Key West when we were several miles from crossing under Seven Mile Bridge (the marker that finally said to us “You’re in the Keys!!!”) and made a reservation for the remainder of the month.Recap8

Our plan has always been to try to secure a slip there, as it’s extremely affordable (as all MWR marinas are), has everything we need to be comfortable (water, power, ice, laundry, and of course a bar. And a restaurant too). And best of all, it’s only a 10 minute bike ride from Duvall Street in Key West. We’d kept our fingers crossed, and we got lucky. We should be moving there tomorrow morning.

The boat has performed extremely well.  We blew out one of our jib track stoppers on our first passage, but it was a $6 part, which we found in Bradenton. A small seawater leak from our engine’s vented loop just required some new hose clamps. And our steaming light has apparently expired, but we’re not doing much nighttime motor-sailing, so it’s not a problem and can wait until we get to the Rio Dulce to fix it (you sailors will understand). Our biggest problem? We picked up a bazillion mosquitoes in the Everglades, and we’re having to fumigate the boat to get rid of our new guests. So while I’ve been wanting for a while to have the time to whip out a quick blog post to let you all know how things are going, we could have done without being trapped in the cockpit for three hours while insecticide percolates below. But at least we planned ahead and had what we needed onboard.


We hear you knocking but you can’t come in!

We’ve seen some really cool things and interesting places. We’ve had some less than optimal days (and nights). But all in all, the last three weeks have been a blast, and every bit the adventure we were hoping for. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

A Day With Dirt And Dali

Among other things, St. Petersburg hosts a world class museum featuring the works of Salvador Dali. It’s located just a few hundred yards from where our boat is docked, close enough that we don’t even have to bother with the bikes. When we saw that their current featured exhibit  was “Disney and Dali: Architects of Imagination,” well, we naturally wanted to check it out.

Fortunately, it was a Thurday, the day the Dali Museum offers a special $10 admission from 5 to 8:30 PM. Tickets are normally $24 each, and while we were intrigued, I’m not sure we were $48 intrigued. But for 20 bucks, sure, let’s try it.

But first, we had some time to kill. So we hopped on the Back Bay folding bikes and rode the mile and a half to Sunken Gardens, one of St. Pete’s oldest attractions. Rhonda has always had a love for horticulture, and a hundred year old tropical garden built in a sinkhole in the heart of the city sounded like a fine treat for her.


Our garden tour complete, on the ride back to the marina we ended up passing dangerously close to The Avenue, the little streetside bistro that we discovered on our first night here and which we can’t seem to go a day with visiting. It beckoned, and dammit, we were too weak to resist its call.TheAvenue1 TheAvenue3

Full of great food and some darn good beer, it was time to drop off the bikes at the boat and walk over to The Dali.




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Our lives sufficiently enriched, we returned to the boat for sundowners and to plan our next adventure in this really interesting town.

We’re tentatively planning to move the boat down to the Bradenton area tomorrow, weather permitting. Right now there is a strong NE wind and small craft advisories, but it’s only 15 nm across Tampa Bay, so as long as we can get out of the slip safely we should be fine. We’ll probably be there for a couple of days so that we can get some canvas projects done, but then we’ll need to pick up the pace heading south so that we can be in the Keys by the last week of the month. It looks like we still have a little over 200 nm to go.

One thing I will add about St. Petersburg is that if we were going to spend a bit more time here, we’d probably move the boat a little ways north to the Municipal Marina mooring field. They have a wonderful basin with over a dozen moorings that’s right in the middle of downtown. There’s an excellent dinghy dock, and the fee is only $15 a day. What a great rate for such a super location! I could see us getting stuck there for quite a while… 🙂StPete16


There’s Something Odd Going On In Clearwater – A Look Back

Before moving south to St. Petersburg, we spent a couple of days at the Clearwater Harbor Marina. Our first impression of Clearwater was that it looked like a pretty nice town. It had a cute little downtown with clean streets and outdoor art works and a collection of bars and restaurants. There was a Starbucks three blocks up the street and a Publix supermarket within a 15 minute walk from our pier, and on the day we arrived there was a waterfront festival going on in the park adjacent to the marina. We thought it looked like a place where we could hang out for a couple of days and relax.

It was toward the end of our first walk around town that we noticed that there was something very odd going on. I think Rhonda noticed it first, and then I started picking up the same vibe. Almost everyone we passed on the streets were all wearing the same outfits. Black pants, white shirts, gray vests. The women all had their hair pulled back, and the men all sported short haircuts. It looked like we were wandering around the campus of an airline flight attendant academy. No one would make eye contact. No one would say hello. Once they came to our attention, we started noticing them everywhere. On every street, walking about, apparently all needing to be someplace other than where they currently were since they were constantly moving. It started to feel like we’d wandered into the Twilight Zone. We were in a giant ant hill. Welcome to Androidville.Androids1 Androids3

“What is going on?” we asked ourselves. So we pulled out our phones and started Googling. That’s when we found out that Clearwater has basically been taken over by the Church of Scientology. Back in the 70’s, their founder L. Ron Hubbard declared it the spiritual center of their universe, and they’ve apparently been working ever since to take over the town. Once we learned what was going on, we really started noticing what was happening around us. They had their own bus system, separate from the municipal busses.Flag Bus

They had their own security force separate from the city police, outfitted with utility belts and radios.Androids2

They wandered around looking in the windows of businesses and writing things on clipboards. After a while, it started totally creeping us out.

Cruising is about experiencing new and interesting things. This was all that and a bag of chips. I guess nowhere does it say that we’ll actually enjoy everything new and unusual that we encounter. We were glad to put Clearwater behind us.

Here’s an interesting article if you’d like to learn more about what’s going on in Clearwater.

The Town That Scientology Built

On a lighter note, we now have a fully functional outboard. The old carburetor turned out to be a lost cause, but once I installed the new one our little kicker was back to her old self again. I can now swap out a carburetor in less than 10 minutes thanks to all the practice! I also spent an hour hanging over the bow swapping out our bow roller so that the anchor will pay out better, and didn’t drop a single tool or part overboard. Rhonda used the time to catch up on her journal and get some laundry done. And we were successful in finding a Yanmar dealer within biking distance where we could pick up a few odds and ends for our diesel. So all in all, it was another Good Day.

St. Petersburg And A Very Good Day

StPeteSunsetSo we’re sitting here in the cockpit sipping freshly made Mojitos and watching the sun set over the city, and I found that I might actually have a moment to write something for the blog. So let me begin by saying that we’re having to rethink the entire purpose of Life On The Hook. For the past two years it has been my creative outlet while we talked about cruising, planned to go cruising, and made preparations to go cruising. But now that we’re actually cruising, well, it turns out that for us at least, being cruisers means having very little time to spare for things like lengthy blog posts. A typical day consists of making breakfast, reviewing our planned move for the day, taking a look at the weather, reviewing the charts, seeing if there are any draw bridges to contend with, getting the boat ready to go, checking our stowage to make sure everything is tied down, starting the engine and weighing anchor or throwing off the lines and getting underway. Then it’s a whole day of navigating and sailing the boat, followed by docking or anchoring, making power, making water, making dinner, making sundowners, cleaning up, and then sitting down to plan the next day’s trip, which includes a detailed review of the weather and the charts for the area we expect to traverse next. So an hour or two to edit pictures and write an elaborate blog post? Forget it. Just not enough hours in the day. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’ve probably figured out that it’s become our primary means of telling folks about what we’re up to each day. If you’re not following us, and you would like to stay up with where we are and what we’re seeing and doing, you really should Like our page.

So today we had a few things we wanted to accomplish. First and foremost, I wanted to find a local Tohatsu dealer where I could take our crapped up outboard carburetor to have it boiled clean, and possibly pick up a new one as a spare. We needed to talk to the Post Office in Pensacola about the fact that they hosed up our mail forwarding. We’re using the mail service St. Brendan’s Isle to handle our mail now that we’re traveling constantly, and while the form we submitted to the Post Office clearly listed our new box number at St. Brendan’s Isle, they neglected to put it into their system, so our mail has gone a bit wacky.  And we had a Sailrite order to complete. Just south across Tampa Bay in the Bradenton area are Deb and TJ on S/V Kintala, a cruising couple that blog at The Retirement Project that we’ve followed for several years now. Deb has a Sailrite sewing machine onboard and is supposed to be pretty handy with a needle, and we have determined that we need some covers made for our Scuba tanks and watermaker that we store on deck. We described what we needed, she put the material list together, and we placed the order.

In our time living in downtown Pensacola, we got to be on a first name basis with the mail clerks at the Post Office, so when I called and explained the problem, they filled out the paperwork for us and assured us that it would all be taken care of in a day or two. And The Great Oracle (Google) told us that there was a Tohatsu dealer a little over three miles away. So we broke out the Back Bay folding bikes and headed across town.StPete1

St. Petersburg is turning out to be a really cool town. It has an attractive downtown full of parks and great street culture, with an incredible number of bars and restaurants with streetside service. They don’t just have bike lanes, in places they have completely separate bike highways to get around town.StPete2

We peddled the three point something miles to the outboard shop past neighborhoods full of Craftsman style houses lining brick paved streets.


Once we arrived the staff there bent over backwards to help us. They didn’t have a carb in stock to sell me (yes, I called first and I knew that before we went), but they offered to take the carb off another 6HP outboard and sell it to us so that we could leave with one in hand rather than have to wait three days for an order to come in.StPete5

Meanwhile, they took the carburetor I brought in and put it in their soak tank. Since it needed an hour or two to soak, they suggested a nearby Italian market for lunch. So we gave it a try.

The name of the place was Mazzaro’s, and it was absolutely amazing. Think grocery store, produce market, butcher shop, wine cellar, espresso café, bakery, deli, and family Italian restaurant all mashed up into one place, and you’ll get an idea of what it was like. After lunch we wandered around taking pictures, it was so colorful. A delightful way to while away a couple of hours while our carb soaked at the engine spa.StPete7 StPete8 StPete9 StPete10 StPete11 StPete12 StPete13

Riding back to the boat, we stopped briefly at the waterfront park next to the marina to watch the rehearsals for a Theater In The Park production of Monty Python’s “Spamalot,” which opens tomorrow night. It’s a show I’ve always wanted to see, and we’re going to pack our camp chairs over there tomorrow or Thursday. Tickets are “pay what you can.” Seriously. That’s what they’re asking for.StPete14

So at the end of the day, we checked off all of our objectives, which qualifies it as A Very Good Day. So far this is probably our favorite town of all the places we’ve stopped, and we’re planning to spend at least a few more days here. The Salvador Dali museum is highly rated, and is only a couple of hundred yards from where we currently sit, there’s a Dale Chihuly exhibit in town, who is one of our favorite artists, and we really want to bike up to the Sunken Gardens, the local botanical garden, because Rhonda does love her plants.

So now we’re sitting here having sundowners while Rhonda feeds her new friends. Days like this make me wonder why anyone would ever want to do anything else.StPete6

We Might Just Pull This Off After All…

Today is April 1st. It’s the day we picked over a year ago as Departure Day, the first day of what we hope will be a grand adventure. Back when we first stuck a pin in the calendar, we hadn’t really noticed that the first of April was a Friday. As you may know (or are about to find out), there’s an old maritime superstition that it’s bad luck to begin a voyage on a Friday. Now if all we were talking about was a quick jump to the next island or a move to a new marina, well, we’re really not that superstitious. But to actually head out on the first passage of our long planned journey? It can wait a few days. Just to be sure.

And it’s also raining. Quite a lot. Much more than we’d want to try and drive the boat through if we didn’t absolutely have to. Which we don’t, because we have all the time in the world now. Well, technically we want to be in Boca Chica marina across from Key West by the end of the month, because we’ve told the Coast Guard that we’re jumping off for Cuba on May 1st. But that’s four whole weeks from now. Plenty of time to sit out a rainy spell and await sunnier weather.

So where do things now stand? Well, for the first time in 40 years, neither of us owns a car anymore. I signed the title of my truck over to its new owner last Tuesday. The buyer was actually the same person who purchased Rhonda’s car the week previously, believe it or not. As we were finalizing the deal on Rhonda’s convertible, I jokingly asked, “You wouldn’t happen to want a nice truck by any chance, would you?” Turns out he did. Rhonda’s happy that while they’re no longer ours, our former rides will continue to keep each other company in their new home.Colorado

We also finally cleared out of the storage unit we wanted to vacate. It’s hard to believe that not that long ago we’d open this door to a wall of boxes stacked front to back, floor to ceiling, the result of only having three weeks to move from our home of 18 years. It took over a year to process through all of it, but we finished with a few days to spare!Storage

We managed to arrange the necessary appointments at the Health Department to receive our second round of hepatitis A & B shots. It’s a three shot series for full immunity, with the second shot being required 28 days after the first. We were worried we wouldn’t get in before Departure Day, but we set the alarm yesterday and started calling at 7:30 AM on the dot and succeeded in getting a same day appointment.

The generator is serviced. We rebedded a lifeline stanchion that had developed a leak. The fuel tank and the on-deck jerry cans are all full. The bikes and the watermaker are lashed down. Our new mattresses are onboard. Our rigger is stopping by in the morning to give the new rigging one last check. GeneratorStanchionMattress

The outboard? Sigh. Let’s just say it’s being a pretty typical outboard. Even though we ran the carburetor dry last fall so that we wouldn’t have any issues with bad fuel when we recommissioned it this spring, it still refused to return to life. I rebuilt the carb and changed all the fluids and filters, but it’s still acting wonky. The local Tohatsu dealer tells me they don’t have any carbs in stock and will have to order one, which will take at least a week. But we’re not going to let it tie us down. I’ve been able to get it running well enough to make do until we can get to St. Petersburg, where we expect to find some real marine dealers that actually keep parts in stock.Outboard

My Nemesis

My Nemesis

The plan all along has been to wait for the first mild Spring cold front that sweeps through after April 1st, and then ride the north winds that follow it south. Right now, it looks like Sunday might be our day. The prediction is sunny and 72° (22° C) with a brisk north wind. A perfect beam reach to St. Joseph Bay, 120 nm to our east. An easy overnight passage with a favorable breeze.

Rhonda is making our final provision run tomorrow. We’re returning the borrowed car to her sister. We have a few things yet to stow or tie down, but nothing that would prevent our departure. If the weather holds true, we intend to bring the lines onboard at 0800 on Sunday April 3rd.

And then the fun really begins… 🙂