Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

dscf6095

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.

dscf6097

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!

jacos

 

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.

sailingeast

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.

loadingeaglet

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

leavingrodriquez2

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.

leavingangelfish

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.

inthegulfstream

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).

biminisands1

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.

bahamascourtesyflag

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.

market6market5

There was a fabulous selection of produce…

market4market3market2market7

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

market8market9

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.

christmas2

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.

harborage1

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.

rogersfamily

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:

crossing1

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

crossing3

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.

christmas1

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.

christmas3

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

christmas4

 

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.

StPete3

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!

Don’t Wait Forever For Someday

Most people have a Someday plan. Someday they’ll do something, go somewhere, be something. Someday soon, hopefully. But not now. Because.

Life often sends people with Someday plans a message. A wake up call I guess you could say. The question is whether they listen or not.

I believe it was Wednesday when we got word that Tom had died. Brain cancer. We didn’t even know he was sick. We weren’t really friends, but we were friendly. The memorial was Friday at McGuires Irish Pub. He had worked there for a long time. The room was packed. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight when McGuires’s bagpipe band played Amazing Grace.

He was 58 years old.

I assume Tom had Someday plans. I really don’t know, we’d never talked about it. But most people do. Fifty-eight is too young to pass on to whatever is next. It’s the age when many of us are saying to ourselves, “Someday soon. But not quite yet.”

My point is that it’s important for us to each remember not to wait too long for Someday. Because far too often, Someday never comes. Something else happens instead. Something totally unexpected, that puts Someday forever out of reach.

We’ve made our choice. We’re on our way. So tell me, when is your Someday? And what are you waiting for?

OK. On a lighter note, (because I really don’t want to leave you depressed and introspective), I’d like to mention again how much we’re enjoying learning about this town that we’ve lived in for a very long time, but haven’t really experienced in a significant way until moving onto our boat downtown. We thought we’d scoped out the weekend’s events, and had several on our calendar. There were the dragon boat races and the Corvette show, Casablanca showing at the Saenger theater, and the Seahawks season opener at our usual sports bar. But I was clueless when Rhonda came home Friday afternoon and asked, “What are the white balloons for?”

“White balloons? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied.

“They’re all over,” she said.

Sticking my head up from down below, I could see she was right. There were indeed bunches of white balloons tied to every lamppost, street sign and park bench along the street next to the marina.

“Huh,” I said. “I have no idea. There weren’t there at lunchtime,” which was the last time I had been topside.

Later that evening, on our way back from Tom’s wake, the mystery of the white balloons was solved. DeLuna Plaza, at the foot of Palafox Street overlooking Pensacola Bay, was teeming with people. A huge crowd totally dressed from head to toe in white. There were rows of white linen covered tables, and the plaza was filled with the sound of a hundred conversations, laughter, and the clinking of champagne glasses. As we watched, it grew quiet, and then apparently on cue, everyone lit and held aloft a giant white sparkler. It was mesmerizing. I tried to take a picture. I wish it had turned out better.

EveningInWhiteWe had to know what was going on. We learned it was a flash mob event called An Evening In White. Originating in Paris, they’re now held all over the world. Apparently a sponsoring organization (in this case, the Junior League of Pensacola) plans the event as a charity fundraiser. Participants pay a fee ($30 pp in this case) to attend, but aren’t told the location of the event until noon the day of. Which is why we had no idea this was occurring right next to our marina, and explains the purpose of the mysterious white balloons. Google “Evening In White” to learn more. It’s an interesting story.

So late Sunday morning, as we’re walking the five blocks or so to the sports bar that reserves a section for our Seahawks fan group on game day, Rhonda noticed that the streets were eerily quiet. It was 11:30 on Sunday, but there were no cars on the streets. We soon noticed police cruisers blocking the major intersections. The roads were apparently closed for an event of some kind.

“Probably another race,” we said to each other. It seems there’s a 5K or fun run of some type every other weekend.

Well, we were partly right. It was a race. But not the kind we were expecting.

BIkeRace1
BikeRace2BikeRace3BikeRace4We watched them whiz past, trailed by a guy on a motorcycle wearing a jersey labeled “Official”. 

“Well that was cool,” I said. “Did you know anything about this?” I asked Rhonda.

“No, nothing,”

At the moment, it’s hard to find the time to fit in all the things we know about in this Summer Of Taking It All In. Now they’re even throwing stealth events at us!

All in all, not a bad problem to have.

God Bless you, Tom, you were a good man. I hope you made it to Someday before you left us.

Update: After writing this post, Rhonda received this video from a co-worker who’s with Pensacola Junior League.

Sitting At The Firing Line Of Fun

For almost six months now, I’ve enjoyed a life in which every day is Saturday (In fact, there will be a post soon that examines a half year of retirement). For Rhonda, however, life is quite different. She’s still caught up in the workaday world of early reveille and off to the office, then home (back onboard) nine hours later. Dinner, a cocktail, relax a bit and watch some television, and then it’s bedtime and the whole process repeats again.  So to break things up a bit, we tried something new yesterday. For the foreseeable future (as long as it takes to determine whether this experiment is a success or a dud) Wednesday evenings will now be Halfway Night, a cause for celebration. Suitable Halfway Night festivities may include dinner out, drinks with friends, a movie or show, or some combination of any or all of those. The noble purpose is to give Rhonda a break and make her work week feel shorter. We kicked off this grand experiment yesterday evening with dinner and drinks at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel.

Word apparently spread, as others got into the spirit. Upon returning to Eagle Too, we were treated to a wonderful display of pyrotechnics by our neighbor to our immediate west, Pensacola Blue Wahoo’s Stadium. Or maybe it had something to do with the baseball game that just ended. I’m not really sure. All I know is that fireworks are usually on Saturdays, not Wednesdays. So we’ll just accept it as part of the first Halfway Night observance.

How close are we to the action? Close enough that this morning our decks looked like this:

DeckDebris1That’s fireworks debris that rained down during the show. It’s no exaggeration to say that we sit at the firing line of fun.

All in all it was a pretty good trial run of the Halfway Night concept. I think it accomplished its main goal of inserting a relaxing diversion into the middle of the week. I wonder what we can arrange for next Wednesday…

 

Hug The Bottle

Rhonda writes:

After Robert’s post regarding “Our Perfect Storm”, it had us thinking about what we need to secure on the boat when Eagle Too does pitch to and fro.  We do a good job in securing the cabin on each of our outings and as Robert mentioned we only had a couple of things “fly” thru the cabin; a bag of small parts off the chart table and the tissue box.

But we do have glassware on board.  Yes, we shouldn’t but there are times that tequila or scotch makes for good medicine.  We didn’t have any glass break during the storm, however, that doesn’t mean sometime down the road, it couldn’t.

Robert had heard or read about putting tube socks around bottles so that when you stow them, they wouldn’t bang back and forth against each other, decreasing the possibility of breakage.  If it happens that the bottles break (which would be such a waste), the socks will help soak up the liquid and help contain the glass.  So I went shopping and found the perfect looking knee socks.

BottleSock5

I am able to put a sock on each of the wine bottles and stow them together below the deck, along with the socks on the tequila and scotch.

BottleSock1BottleSock2

BottleSock3

BottleSock4

So now our bottles are being hugged and when we need that extra comfort, we will be able to pull the sock off, and pour ourselves a toddie for our bodies.

Cheers!