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Between Two Worlds

It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything. The reason is pretty simple. For the last six months, we’ve been in transition. After four years as liveaboard cruisers, we’ve returned to the life of typical American dirt dwellers. We haven’t quite “swallowed the hook,” as we still have Eagle Too and continue to harbor dreams of extended island cruises. But our typical day to day now deals much more with home decorating and utility bills rather than passages and travel to exotic destinations. The money we used to spend at West Marine now goes to Lowe’s instead. And frankly, I just assume that the average reader of this blog probably doesn’t care that much about how we get 50 channels of TV without paying a cable bill or how we set up a drip irrigation system for watering house plants. You’re here for the marine maintenance tips and the travelogues. So I just haven’t felt compelled to post for a while.

But a recent message from a long-time reader asked for an update on how our life as CLODs (Cruisers Living On Dirt) is going. And in thinking about it, I realized maybe we do have some information and advice to share. After all, almost everyone who embarks on a life of cruising eventually has to wrap it up and move back ashore. And I’m here to tell you that after several years afloat, the transition back to land can be just as trying as the move onboard was. So here’s the first in what will probably be an occasional series about what we’ve learned as CLODs.

Let start with something simple:

Q. What do we like the most about returning to life ashore?

A. Lots of things. In no particular order, here are just a few:

Sleeping in a king sized bed, especially since it’s one that you don’t have to crawl into. Our sort-of-a-queen-sized master berth on Eagle Too was adequate at best. One of us always had to crawl over the other to get in or out, and it took some pretty elaborate contortions to perform the maneuver without banging our heads on the overhead. Just putting the sheets on it involved a lot of what I can only refer to as mattress swimming, squirming around like a stranded sea turtle with its flippers flailing, trying to make it off the beach and out to sea. Once or twice is humorous. But after four years, it wears a little thin.

Long hot showers and a full-sized toilet that you don’t have to wait in line to use. You can often tell a cruiser by their subtle aroma. Most cruisers are more like Europeans in that that usually don’t shower every day. Boat showers are typically cramped, use too much water, and generate way too much humidity onboard. But the average marina shower is always a crap shoot. The more pressed you are for time, the more likely you’ll find someone’s already using it, and has brought their bluetooth speaker and a hair dryer along, so you know they’re camped out for quite a while. And the toilets are often out of paper, clogged, or just dirty enough to make you reconsider exactly how much room still remains in your holding tank.

A washer and dryer that we don’t have to feed quarters into and that we don’t share with people washing oily rags, pet beds covered in fur, or sandy carpets. Or that leave their clothes in for hours after they’re done.

24/7 air conditioning (and in the winter, heat). As I write this, it’s over 100ºF outside, but it’s a cool, comfortable 75º inside, the air conditioning barely a quiet whisper in the background. Onboard, we’d either be in a floating sauna, or if lucky enough to be plugged into shore power, we’d be treated to the loud whir of the AC running non-stop, struggling to maintain a temperature below 80º despite the sunshade we’d rigged topside.

Unlimited ice and water. Friends of ours still tell the story about how amused they were when we met them for drinks on their boat one evening, and we were amazed that they offered us fresh ice with every refill (turns out they had an ice maker onboard). After several years of cruising, ice truly becomes a most valued commodity, so even though we now have a refrigerator that dispenses it on demand, after six months ashore we still hesitate before dumping a glass of it in the sink, as it seems such a waste.

No fear of passing storms. If it’s the middle of the night and we awaken to the sound of distant thunder, there’s no need to worry about whether the anchor alarm is set, or run a “rain drill,” pulling the wind scoops and closing all the hatches. No need to get dressed and go on deck to see where any neighboring boats lie that could possibly drag down on us. We can just sigh and go back to sleep.

Fast, reliable high speed internet. I don’t think I even need to explain this one. A 21st century life is a connected life, and it was always a struggle while cruising to find good internet for banking, bill payment and communications.

There’s more, but I think you get the idea.

Q. What do you miss the most about Life On The Hook™?

A. First I’d list the sense of community. Cruisers congregate, and I think because they all share a challenging, some would say difficult life, they relate to each other as equals. Drop anchor in any bay or harbor, make a radio call asking for information or assistance, and I assure you there will be several dinghies headed your way. People we’d barely met offered us help in so many ways, and we in turn tried to pay that forward to as many other cruisers as possible. Now that we’re living in a typical subdivision, we’re reminded that most Americans never bother to get to know their neighbors. The first thing most of our neighbors have done when they moved in is put up a privacy fence. Sometimes when we’re walking through the neighborhood, we’ll come across someone else who lives in the area, and while usually polite, they generally project a lack of interest in making our acquaintance. I think if we ever needed help with something that we couldn’t handle by ourselves, knocking on doors and requesting assistance would be met with reluctant skepticism.

Awareness of our natural surroundings. As cruisers, we usually knew the phase of the moon, when the tide turned, what the wind forecast was for the next few days, and when the next front was expected to pass. Sunsets were a daily cause for quiet celebration. And while cruising (not so much while living in a marina, but more while out traveling) we were almost daily treated to some delightful display of marine life, be it a jumping dolphin, a spotted ray swimming by, or even just a grouper or barracuda hanging out in our boat’s shadow.

A sense that we were living self-sufficiently and lightly. There’s a satisfaction in making your own power and water and providing for your own needs. While cruising, we got by on about 15 gallons of water a day. Many cruisers would say that that was extravagant, but we had a water maker, so we didn’t sweat it. Fifteen gallons a day works out to about 450 gallons a month. Now, according to our water bill, we’re using between 12,000 and 18,000 gallons a month just to water our lawn. We don’t have a choice, because our homeowners association would have a fit if we turned off the sprinkler system. But it does make you think about how we use our resources.

Personal physical fitness. A cruising life is an active life. When sailing, we were almost always in motion. Even when anchored or tied to a dock, simply moving around on the boat meant dozens of trips up and down the companionway stairs, or twisting, turning and bending during movement that just isn’t necessary to get around in a single story house with wide hallways and 9 foot ceilings. Climbing in and out of a dinghy is way more physically demanding than getting in and out of a car. We used to walk or bicycle almost everywhere we went ashore. Now we drive. And let me tell you, after six months, we can tell. We’re gaining weight, developing aches and pains, and just generally starting to feel older than we did when our lives involved much more fresh air and physical activity.

There’s more I could say on the subject, but this makes a good start. It’s actually too early for us to say with certainty what we miss or don’t miss about a Life On The Hook™, or whether becoming CLODs was or wasn’t the best decision. It will be a while before we can answer those questions definitively. But I will say this—the thing we clearly learned is that cruising changes you. It changes you in ways that just learning to sail or buying a boat or doing an occasional charter doesn’t begin to. Many of those changes I believe are beneficial, making us better human beings. Some of those changes probably put us a bit out of step with modern American society, which can be stressful. But having lived what we have lived so far, I can’t imagine our lives without having had that experience. So many moments, so many memories, so many good people well met. We have been greatly enriched by this amazing adventure together.

Anchor Maintenance

What’s that? Anchors need maintenance?

They do if you have a Mantus. They’re terrific anchors that grab quickly and hold you in place like you’re welded to the bottom. But to make them easy to ship, they come in three pieces that you bolt together. And after three years of use, I just didn’t like the way the bolts on our 55 lb Mantus were looking. Loose scaly rust was developing on the ends.

First bolt removed

Now these aren’t your typical Home Depot variety galvanized steel bolts. They’re grade 5 high strength fasteners. Fortunately, Mantus sells a replacement bolt package for just a few bucks (real bucks, not boat bucks!), which can be ordered from their website.

The bolts arrive with a package of Lanacote to apply to them to add corrosion protection. It’s been three years since I put The Beast together, and I’d forgotten that little fact. But when I took a wrench to what I thought were rusty bolts, they actually released very easily, and once removed, I could see that the threads and body of the bolts were pristine. The Lanacote had done a good job of protecting them, and they probably didn’t need to be replaced. The rust was limited just to the exposed ends. But for the minor expense involved, it was worth it for the peace of mind.

Next, our Crosby 3/8″ shackle was looking a little corroded. I’ve always been conscious of the fact that the safety and security of our entire boat depends on this tiny piece of metal when at anchor, which is why we only use Crosby shackles for this vital role. It took all of five minutes to swap out the old one for a new one (we carry several spares onboard) and mouse it with stainless steel wire.

All bolts replaced and a new shackle added

Finally, it was once again time to re-mark the first 100 feet of our anchor rode. We’ve tried a variety of ways to mark the chain so that we know how much we pay out when anchoring. The cheapest and easiest way we’ve found is to just spray paint a mark on the chain every ten feet. We’ve tried several different types of paint, from fluorescent marking paint to galvanized steel primer before finally settling on white Rustoleum automotive enamel. Nothing holds up in salt water for more than about six months. But it’s only about an hour’s work to lay the first 100 feet of chain on the dock and repaint it.

And with that, we’re another step closer to starting Season 4 of our Life On The Hook™. 🙂

The Designer Gods, They Must Be Crazy

We cruise on what is commonly called a “production boat.” This means Eagle Too is the nautical equivalent of a Chevy or Ford. There are those who say production boats are unsuitable for cruising. We say that’s nonsense. But our recent visit to the St Petersburg Boat Show has me wondering whether that’s still true for the new models now being produced. While we enjoyed the opportunity to climb aboard a variety of boats and inhale that new boat smell, some of what I saw truly horrified me. Designers have in many cases focused on building very expensive houseboats with a mast. They have automatic dish dryers, wide screen televisions that disappear into hidden compartments and multi-channel surround sound, but I think trying to take them to sea in anything but the most benign conditions would be highly inadvisable.

Here are some examples, in no particular order. For starters, what’s wrong with this picture?

Can you imagine trying to reset a dragging anchor in the middle of the night while having to straddle that hatch? To show you that this isn’t a quirk of just one builder, here’s another example from a different manufacturer.

Let’s just put a big fragile hatch with a No Step sign right where you absolutely need to stand while anchoring. By the way, did you happen to notice that these hatches open the wrong way if you want to catch the breeze while at anchor?

Another common “feature” is the long, projecting bow roller assembly necessary to allow the anchor to clear the plumb bow that’s all the rage with designers today. I observed that while this assembly was almost the equivalent of a bowsprit due to how far it projected out the front, the gauge of steel wasn’t anywhere near robust enough to stand up to the forces of a boat surging and sailing at anchor in a blow. The stainless looked to be about half the thickness of that on our boat’s bow roller, and would probably fold up like cardboard if you loaded it up laterally, as is common with the boat swinging about when anchored in storm conditions.

Next, imagine trying to work on these foredecks in any kind of sea state. Other than the lifelines, what the hell could you hold onto to keep from being pitched overboard?

Look how far it is to the nearest handrail.

Now I don’t know about you, but when we’re underway, we spend a lot of time behind the wheel. We have a big comfy West Marine captain’s seat, the one with the armrests, that whoever has the helm uses.

But on so many of the boats we looked at, the helm seat was treated as a major annoyance that looked like the designer was forced to include against their wishes. It was obviously much more important to design it to easily fold out of the way in order to open up the wide stern tailgate than to actually provide the helmsperson a comfortable place to sit.

There’s not enough room on these little planks to use our big blue chair, much less stand a four hour watch in rolling seas.

Another current design trend is to carry the boat’s maximum beam all the way aft. While this creates enormous space down below, this also results in huge, open cockpits. Cockpits with practically nothing to brace against when the boat heels to the breeze. Just imagine how far the fall would be to the far side of this cockpit if you slipped off the seat with the boat heeled 20 to 30 degrees. If you were lucky, maybe the lifelines on the far side would stop you. Or maybe they would just carve you up like a cheese slicer as you fell overboard.

The builders made a subtle acknowledgement of the problem by molding these little toe-stubbers into the cockpit floor on some boats. Yes, this is all you get to brace against to keep yourself in place while surfing down eight foot rollers.

Or you could perch on the little plank (with no backrest) that’s provided for the helmsmen. But at least you have the room to hold a Mambo contest in the cockpit if you wanted to.

That wide beam also leads to open, airy salons down below. But tell me how exactly you’re supposed to maneuver around this cabin in any kind of sea state. I guess you just pick your next point and launch yourself towards it, as there’s nothing to hold onto in route. Hopefully you’ll make a soft landing. Or maybe they expect you to crawl. But hey, it has an icemaker!

And do you happen to see anything to hold onto as you try to exit the salon on this boat and climb up to the cockpit?

Sometimes I like to operate the occasional breaker on our boat’s main breaker panel. You know, like if the sun sets and we want to turn on the running lights, or we’re craving some tunes and want to turn on the stereo. Things like that. But in new boats, I guess people don’t do those things anymore, because getting to the breaker panel requires you to crawl over the settee.

And I suppose I’m just being a cranky old salt, but occasionally we do like to start our engine, which means we need to be able to reach the throttle and shifter. But I guess if you own one of these expensive new dock queens, such things really don’t matter. So the throttle/shifter is located where you have two choices — you can either reach through the wheel, or you can squeeze your arm through the 3 inch gap between the wheel and the coaming.

There’s more, but I think you get the point. Pony up a half a million dollars, and you too can have a boat that looks and smells wonderful. But actually take it out in anything more than a Force 3 wind? Forget it!


Cleaning House – Parts For Sale

Now that we’re settled in for the summer, waiting out hurricane season in Pensacola, we’ve been doing some tidying up here onboard Eagle Too. With the exception of promoting my novel Lunar Dance (you have seen the link on the page to purchase it from Amazon, yes?), we don’t usually engage in commerce here at Life On The Hook™. But I know some of our followers have boats similar to ours, and so I thought I’d quickly mention some windlass parts I just posted for sale on eBay.

You may remember that we recently replaced our ailing Simpson Lawrence Sprint Atlantic windlass with a new Lewmar V2. Well, the old one still worked, it’s just that it started tripping the breaker under load. I really didn’t have the time or the desire to dissemble it and try to figure out exactly where the problem was. Maybe the motor needs brushes, or maybe the gearbox needs to be disassembled, cleaned and re-lubed, or possibly it just needs a new bearing for the capstan shaft. Don’t know, and I really don’t care. But it occurs to me that someone else might like to take a crack at fixing it, and besides, there’s a perfectly good gypsy and capstan to scavenge for parts.


In addition, since the new V2 we installed uses a completely different solenoid pack and breaker, we have no use for the old ones. A spare solenoid or two and a breaker can be a handy thing to have onboard, so up on eBay they went.


If you have a similar unit on your boat, you might want to take a look. Here are the listings:

Sprint Atlantic Windlass

Windlass Motor and Gearbox

Windlass Solenoids and Breaker

So here’s a chance to grab some spares for your gear, and help us make a little more space here onboard Eagle Too in the process.

Come Join Us!

For those of you who don’t see our Facebook posts and thus haven’t seen our upcoming event, please come join us at Jaco’s Bayfront Bar & Grille tomorrow ( Friday, June 23rd) from 5 to 7 PM. Tropical Storm Cindy is supposed to be spent by then and the sun should make an appearance, so come on by for cocktails and conversation. After six months away, we’d love the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family. Also, an aspect of cruising that we’ve come to enjoy is the social side, with its gatherings for sundowners and pot lucks. We’re not sure why folks here in the marina don’t get together occasionally. Let’s do something about that!



That Went Well

Maybe we’ve learned a thing or two in our first year of cruising. Or maybe we just got lucky. It was probably a bit of both. But I had a plan to move us swiftly and safely from Marathon in the Florida Keys to Bimini in the Bahamas. A plan based on a careful analysis of the winds, currents and predicted weather. And it played out perfectly.

First, some constraints. I promised Rhonda when we left Pensacola that we’d only sail overnight if absolutely necessary. She really doesn’t like it, and the truth is I’m not really a big fan either, although I’m willing to do it when it makes sense.  But our weirdest occurrences have always happened in the darkest of night, like the time a flailing jib sheet rolled open the valve on one of our deck-stored scuba tanks and I thought a bomb had exploded, or our encounter with the fleet of weirdly lit UFOs (unidentified floating objects) in the middle of the Yucatan channel. Things that go bump in the night are always much less frightening if there’s no night and you can plainly see what’s bumping.

Some people sail a single leg from Marathon to Bimini or Gun Cay. But it requires you to leave in the afternoon and travel through the night for arrival the next day. So I knew we needed to move closer before crossing. I’d made a promise, after all. I wanted to stage the boat where we could make it across the Florida Straits in the span of a single day’s light. The first step was to hop up to Rodriquez Key, a trip of about 45 miles. The moderate cold front that had just blown through Marathon and cost us a night’s sleep promised a day of 15-20 knot winds from the northwest. Normally this is a bit sportier than we would prefer to head out in. When the winds get to 20 knots or higher, things can break on a sailboat if you’re not careful. The margin that allows you to make a few mistakes without hurting anyone starts getting a bit thin. But I knew that because it would be a broad reach (wind from behind the boat), it would be easier, and traveling up the Hawk Channel on the southeast side of the Keys, the islands would block the wind some and the seas would be flat. And it worked! While it wasn’t a pretty day, we had a rip-snorting sail under reefed jib and double reefed main, regularly topping seven knots even though we were towing our dinghy, which was 1/3rd full of water from the following seas.


A brisk downwind sail in flat seas. In case you noticed, don’t worry, Rhonda fixed her harness shortly after I took this picture.

We sailed the entire way, arriving well before sunset and tucking in between Rodriquez Key and Key Largo for shelter. Even though the wind was still blowing 15 knots or more, the water was like a calm lake, and we had a good night’s sleep.

Many sail from Rodriquez Key to Bimini as a day trip. But to do it in a boat like ours, which usually travels at six to seven knots, requires leaving at around 4AM to get into Bimini by late afternoon.  With sunrise currently occurring at about 7AM, this means several hours of travel in pre-dawn darkness. While we’d normally take that deal in order not to have to spend a night at sea, there was a big problem. This time of year, the entire area is heavily mined with crab traps, since it’s the season. And a 4AM departure meant one of us (probably me) would have to spend several hours sitting on the bow with a spotlight searching for a clear path, until we made deep water or it got bright enough to see the traps. Miss one crab trap, sail across it and tangle the prop, and then we’d be drifting until it got light and we could break out the dive gear to cut ourselves free. No thank you.

So we had to move even further toward our goal to stage for our crossing. At this point, we were only 24 miles southwest of Angelfish Creek at the northern end of Key Largo, a popular jumping off point for people headed to the Bahamas. An easy four hour trip, especially since the weather for the second day of our trip was supposed to be calm with a light southeast wind. So we took advantage of the conditions and motored though mostly placid seas, arriving in mid-afternoon.


Bringing our dinghy on deck gains us an extra half knot of speed when traveling.


Negotiating traffic off Key Largo

This is where I decided to take a bit of a gamble. Entering Anglefish Creek from the Atlantic Ocean side to reach the protected anchorages within requires clearing a shallow bar. Our cruising guidebook said to be extremely cautious if your draft exceeds four feet, and with our five foot draft and a dropping tide, it was a chance I just didn’t want us to take. Instead, we decided to anchor north of the mouth of the creek (off Old Rhodes Key}. It’s not marked as an anchorage in any of the guides and it was a location that was completely exposed to the south and east, but the prediction was for 5-10 knot southeast winds through the night, and the sandy bottom meant our anchor would set well. So counting on the mild conditions, we basically dropped anchor on the edge of the ocean off a lee shore (wind blowing toward the land, which can be dangerous). Not only did this save us from having to cross a shallow bar twice at low tide (once to enter the creek and anchor, and again on the way back out), but it put us almost an hour closer to Anglefish Pass through the offshore reef to gain the open ocean the next day. And that extra hour made a daylight-only crossing to Bimini very doable!

The prediction was accurate, the winds blew sedately from the southeast, and we had a pretty decent night. Getting up before the sun the next day, we were underway at 7AM, and had about 45 minutes of avoiding crab pots and crossing the reef, and then we were in two thousand feet of water with nothing but 54 miles of open ocean between us and our destination.


Departing the US for Bimini

A mild southerly breeze calmed the northward flowing Gulf Stream, and we motored-sailed in two foot swells as the miles flew by. We pointed the bow about 15 degrees south of our destination, and let the rapidly moving stream sweep us northward, the current adding to our speed, which topped 8 knots at times.


Passing time while crossing the Gulf Stream

We saw humpback whales. We saw the purple-blue crest of a sailfish broach alongside us as he checked us out. We saw the ocean change colors from blue to bluer to bluest. We clearly saw freighters crossing our path from miles away rather than as colored blobs on our radar and AIS screens. In the end, it was worth it. We enjoyed so many things that we would have missed traveling in darkness. All the routing and planning and waiting for suitable weather resulted in our having the easiest Gulf Stream crossing we could expect.

Unfortunately, others were not as lucky. The VHF crackled with calls from boaters requesting offshore towing or assistance. We listened raptly for an hour as a sportfishing boat sank 20 miles off Bimini, and the 300 foot mega-yacht Tatoosh (apparently owned by Paul Allen) vectored to their position to rescue three people in the water. We heard the next day that a sailboat sank in the darkness after our crossing. A friend of mine and fellow cruiser recently commented that those of us who chose this life sometimes don’t realize how close to the edge we actually live. I prefer to think that this life rewards the cautious and punishes the foolhardy. Maybe all of our careful planning and weather analysis paid off. Or maybe we were just lucky.  But to paraphrase something a famous man once said, we feel we’ve been very lucky in this life we’ve chosen, and we’ve found that the more we plan and prepare, the luckier we get.

We arrived at the Bimini Sands Marina and Resort at 3:30 in the afternoon, two months and a day after leaving Pensacola (yes, we took the scenic route).


We had plenty of time to unstow and assemble our folding bikes and peddle the two miles to the airport to clear customs and immigration. Our Bahamas courtesy flag is now flying, and Eagle Too has safely delivered us to our third foreign country in the last year.


Next up, we’re pouring over our guides and charts to work out how we will start working south towards Georgetown. There are literally hundreds of islands and cays to explore between here and there. It should be an interesting few months…

Market Day

On Saturdays, St. Petersburg puts on a big public market in the parking lot of Al Lang Stadium, the waterfront home of the local soccer team the Tampa Bay Rowdies. It was a quick 10 minutes by bike from our marina, a popular form of transportation in this town where the sun seems to almost always shine.market1amarket1

It took over an hour to explore it all.


There was a fabulous selection of produce…


…and a wide variety of food and crafts, along with live music.


It was yet another delightful adventure in this town that we’ve lingered in to explore in depth.

Ah, the life of a cruiser… 🙂

Merry Christmas From Eagle Too!

Rhonda and I wish all our family, friends and followers a very merry Christmas! We hope the day finds you at peace,  surrounded by love and the spirit of the season.


After a week of travel, we accomplished our primary objective of reaching St. Petersburg in time to relax and enjoy the holidays. We’ve settled into a slip at The Harborage Marina, just south of downtown, from where we’ll spend the next few weeks exploring the area. When we passed through the city on our way south last April, we had to reluctantly move on after just a week, as we had a deadline to meet for our jump to Cuba.  But this time, having no set schedule, we’ll stay here for three or four weeks learning more about the area.


We broke out our Back Bay folding bikes yesterday and peddled up to Publix supermarket, where we picked up tonight’s Christmas rib roast. We also met some old friends from years past for dinner who now live in the area.


What A Difference A Few Degrees Of Latitude Make

We’ve also made significant progress in our quest for perpetual summer. Things were getting just too darned cold for us back in the Panhandle. This is Rhonda while we were crossing the northern Gulf:


This was just two days later, as we made our way from Clearwater to St. Petersburg.


I think it’s quite evident how much happier she looks. 🙂 For the first time in a month, we’ve been able to put the jeans and long sleeves away, and we’re now back in shorts and T shirts.

We look forward to taking our time getting to know the area. The wonderful thing about cruising is traveling with no set schedule. As long as we feel there’s still more to see, we’ll stay. But when we think we’ve gotten to thoroughly know the area, we’ll move on to the next place.


But for now, we’re just going to relax and enjoy the day. After a week of pushing forward, we owe ourselves a day off.


Rhonda and I extend to you our warmest holiday wishes. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and a rewarding and prosperous New Year!



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

Octogenarians Don’t Do WiFi

You may have noticed that we’ve gone quiet this past week. We’re currently in Gastonia, North Carolina (quite a ways from Pensacola, Florida) on the final leg of Rhonda’s Family Farewell Tour. There was a bit of a scramble last week as we packed the car and prepared to leave, and I didn’t have time to dash out a quick post about our upcoming trip. Since then, we’ve been traveling from house to house throughout the southeast United States visiting Rhonda’s extensive collection of aunts and uncles, all of whom are in their 80’s and 90’s, and none of whom have any kind of internet connection. We’ve basically traveled back to a simpler time, with rotary-dial wall phones and homemade preserves and lots and lots of quilts. And no WiFi. We’re actually at a cousin’s house today, one who has AT&T U-verse and high speed internet. I’m sitting on a porch swing sipping some 8 O’clock coffee and taking advantage of the opportunity to do this quick update and gorge on sailing and political blogs before we leave on our final leg prior to heading back home. We’ll have some details on the who’s, why’s and how’s next week.

One thing we were able to accomplish on the trip is to pay a visit to Diver’s Supply in Jacksonville, where we loaded up the trunk of the car with dive gear. Since we finished our open water Scuba certification last month, I’d been shopping online, putting gear packages together so that we’d have everything onboard that we’d need to go diving once we depart for our Life On The Hook™. But after discovering that the shop I settled on had a store in Jacksonville, I decided I’d much rather we try the gear on than just go by the online size descriptions, so we paid them a visit. It turned out to be time well spent, because not only did they have a much better gear selection than our Pensacola dive shops, and at better prices, but they were able to steer us toward some options that we were not familiar with, but which I think will better meet our needs. Plus they threw in a 20% discount and a few “we’ll throw this in for free” items due to the quantity of gear we were purchasing, something we couldn’t have gotten online.

We should be back sometime next week, just in time to try and figure out how we’re going to handle Thanksgiving this year, our first as full time liveaboards.

Until then, cheers!