KEYS IX (Final Days)

In keeping with my prior post and commemorating the last couple of weeks here in Marathon, I’ve dusted off the iPhone to take more memory pics.

My wonderful view everyday as I look, from my back deck, to the north. Boats from all over the US and from several countries. Hard to remember that when I arrived on Jan 1st I think there were only 4 boats in the basin and it remained quite empty till close to the end of Jan. Since then, it has been and remained full with only an occasional empty slip because weather or other circumstances delayed an arrival.
No, I’m not holding the flag taut. As the waves and flag indicate, there’s a stiff north wind. A cold day actually when the temp never exceeded 70.
Three minutes later than the above picture and the sky has changed. So pretty and relaxing.

LASTS:

Last steaks at the marina
…and pizza
…and crab stuffed yellow snapper
Another beautiful sunset. A tradition apparently in the Keys is a salute to the sunset. As the sun ‘touches’ the water, boat horns in the various marinas sound off in a sunset cacophony.

Flowers aren’t bad either
View from Key West International Airport out to the Florida Straits
Shrimper off shore of the airport


Tuesday 3/10/20. The crew’s Jeep, which has been here in Marathon for the past 2.5 months, has now been brought north and put into safe storage. It has been invaluable having it available for grocery, shopping and restaurant runs, doctor and surgery runs here in Marathon and Miami (5 trips to Miami), and 5 runs between Marathon and Key West. Marlin Bay Resort and Marina (www.marlinbay.com) has been most accommodating. They have little onsite parking for the marina with the few boaters who have cars parking on the street. Marlin Bay reserved an onsite, within the gates, site for the exclusive use of the Jeep.

Their concierge, Barbara and staff, dockmaster Jose and staff and head of maintenance, Buffalo, have been super accommodating – actually pampering. At slip pump outs were always done within an hour of requesting. Local questions etc received good responses and recommendations including physicians. Every evening the mail was delivered to the slip along with pleasant conversation. Was told that Last Resort was, hands down, the biggest recipient of Amazon and other packages (including big and small boat oriented packages like 40# of hoses and clamps, gallons of oil, 17 gal of coolant, filters, dryer belt etc.) Marlin Bay is a truly enjoyable first class resort for boaters and for land visitors. If you ever have family or friend get togethers and want to stay together, consider Marlin Bay. Their single family style overnight or weekly rentals with 3 or 4 bedroom/en-suites might be ideal. No shortage of great sun and swimming out the door and lots of nearby exploring, diving, snorkeling, sport fishing, head boat fishing, boat or jet ski rentals nearby. Dolphin hospital and a turtle hospitals are nearby. Restaurants of every type and easy day jaunts to Key West if you want crowds.

On my boat side, the engines are all put back together, fluids all fresh, new filters, all new hoses and clamps (and there are a lot of them). The engine and engine room paint is touched up, the bilges degreased, scrubbed and rinsed, and new white fresh oil/diesel absorbent mats laid down under the engines, shafts and transmissions. Strainers have all been pulled and cleaned. All spare parts and pieces below deck are organized into labeled plastic containers. Water tanks filled and holding tanks emptied. Thanking my crew.

Have my quarantine flag aboard in case COVID 19 should blow off shore.😇. At least two weeks or more of groceries, soda, bottled water, meat, TP, hand sanitizer and more are stowed away. RXs all filled for 3 months. No problem shopping here but as one travels, stores are limited to those within walking distance of the marinas and, according to some news, even some services such as Instacart and Uber etc might be limited in availability.

Ran the engines this morning to bring them up to operating temps; checked for leaks (tightened one hose clamp); and operated the transmissions (while tied in the slip). Turned on and checked all the electronics. Updated all the electronic charts. After a week of high winds, they are getting lighter today and departure day, tomorrow, promises to be a bright warm sunny day with winds 10-12 ENE. First stop will be about a 1/4 mile away to fuel up at Keys Fishery (should be between 300-350 gal) and then maybe 10 miles to Moser Cut/Channel under 7 Mile Bridge and on into the open ocean headed towards Miami and then the Chesapeake, some thousand plus miles away where the boat will be put up for sale.

KEYS VIII (Sunsets etc.)

What a location! The sunsets etc here in the Keys are fantastic and this marina location is a few hundred feet off the shoreline and my location in the marina has an uninterrupted western view. And so, I stay ‘on watch’ capturing the views

Ever vigilant
I was advised that there was a sunrise every morning so I had to find out. Box, checked.

More my style

Evening sail…
Afternoon weather moving in…
Sunset after a storm…
Panoramic view

Maybe I’m just seeing better with my ‘new’ eyes!

KEYS VII

Completion of the engine maintenance is on hold for a few days. Apparently there are two types of configurations for the connection between the engines and heat exchangers and the supplier of custom hoses sent hoses for the “other” configuration. What was sent was a large diameter formed hose. My configuration has a metal portion between the two so two shorter hoses are needed and of course an additional set of marine stainless clamps. So the correct hoses and clamps are being sent from CA and I’m returning the incorrect ones. The new ones should arrive Monday. So reinstallation of the heat exchangers is on hold as is adding all the new fresh coolant. Paint touch up continues.

Heat exchangers waiting to be reinstalled; gallons of coolant waiting for all the hoses and fittings to be completed

I’ve written previously that I wanted to tone down the night lighting on the flybridge hardtop. After some missteps, I finally found properly sized blue LEDs for the nine existing fixtures. I needed to enlarge the bulb hole in the reflector but I think the final result looks good.

I’ve now had another post op appointment on my eyes. Pressures seem to have steadied at around 14 vs low 20s pre-surgery so that should bode well. Restrictions have been lifted so I can swim, lift more than 5 pounds etc. My 3 additional types of eye drops are down to one and in two weeks I can discontinue that one and be back to my normal 3 types.

Went back to the Dockside for a supper. Dockside is at a nearby marina and is a tent type operation serving a burger type menu. Had a home made chicken pot pie and it was great. I’ve written about the place a couple of posts ago. It also features live music, mostly country 60s, with good musicians and the place draws a big crowd. I just wish I could get better sound than with an iPhone at a distance. Oh well.

Taken from the cockpit, a commercial boater comes to port after a day tending to crab🦀 and lobsters🦞 pots
Another day comes to a close.

KEYS VI & Possible Plans

Now to continue the engine maintenance task. All the old hoses have been removed. New hoses are sorted for each engine and installed on one engine. The aftercoolers and heat exchangers have been soaked clean. The pitting on the port ac was ground out and the units pressure tested just fine. Parts have been repainted and reinstallation has started.

Top to bottom: Stbd engine aftercooler, heat exchanger and belt shield. Visible on the aftercooler are the two brass nuts which retain the sacrificial zincs in place. Heat exchanger also has two but only one is visible (barely).


Possible/probable future plans.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about future plans over the past weeks. Crossing to the Bahamas isn’t going to happen. Up in the air is whether to extend here in Marathon for two addl weeks – to the end of March.

When I bought the boat late last February, it filled a desire that I’ve had for 40+ yrs which was to again own a significant boat and then to live aboard it and cruise. I’ve now done that and enjoyed it to the fullest I’m able. I also had hoped to do the America’s Great Loop which I planned to do in one year. Due to circumstances, I only got to do, perhaps, a third of America’s Great Loop. But years ago, as a family, we cruised for several years, most of Lake Michigan’s east coast and I’ve sailed/crewed several trans Lk Mi races and one Chicago-Mac race. With this past year’s cruising I had great fun and a wonderful learning experience doing it. So many fun stops at towns and cities.

However it will not be possible to complete the Loop this year of 2020. The locks in Illinois portion of the Loop will be completely shut down for maintenance the latter part of the summer and early fall leaving 3 alternatives.

One would be to rush, rush rush up the ICW to NY, Canada and the Great Lakes to reach Chicago and the IL River by August. I’ve found boating to be very tiring and I don’t want to compound that by having a schedule that demands a full travel day 5 out of 7 days. How could one smell the roses?

Another would be to run the Loop in reverse and take the IL locks in the Spring/early Summer. To do that, I would need to go north UP the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers which, at any time and especially in the Spring, is against the current. In the Spring one probably will encounter flood waters, floating trees and other debris, flooded marinas etc. Dodging crab pots is not nearly as dangerous as dodging logs at a closing rate of 10-15mph. Last Resort has powerful enough engines to make speed against a current running 5 knots or greater but why work that hard?

The 3rd possibility and the one many Loopers plan to do is the typical slow northerly run up the ICW to Canada and the Great Lakes but then in the fall have the boat hauled and winterized in Canada, Michigan or WI, fly home for the winter and recommence the trip the following 2021. I have no home to fly to and I don’t want to be in cold climates. Further after a year of cruising, I know I am too old to continue for two more seasons.

Boating, even with the autopilot, is EXTREMELY tiring and often on the ICW or rivers, the autopilot is not that useful. You just can’t set it and relax for a half hour. You are always on watch, always maneuvering around a shoaling area, around another turn or always adjusting speed for No Wake zones, for passing other boats or being passed, checking the charts to see where you are or where you should have been, and checking depths in the narrow, shallow ditch known as the ICW. I found that running 40-50 miles in a day is exhausting to me. Sometimes I need an hour of rest after coming into a marina just to get enough energy to walk down the dock to the dockmaster office to register and pay. Dinner plans are shelved in favor of a 6pm bedtime. So there’s no mistake here, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I enjoy the travel very much but not the effort. To give an idea of what I mean — if I were in Savannah right now and decided that it would be fun to head to Myrtle Beach, by boat/ICW, that would be a 5 day trip for me and I’d probably need one rest day mid-trip and at least one more at the end. By motor vehicle, it would be a 3.5 – 4 hour trip followed by a relatively short nap.

To repeat, I have enjoyed the experience and the boat immensely. I am in so much better shape than when I started and for that I’m grateful. One needs enough agility to jump on and off the boat, strength to haul on the lines, stamina to wash down the boat (it’s a big boat). When I bought it, I was barely able to climb aboard without effort and nervousness afraid I’d fall.

The boat itself has been oh so comfortable! It is built so well – I really like all the beautiful wood joinery. It’s as much a pleasure to live on as any house, condo or RV I’ve owned. It is very stable regardless of weather and a joy as far as handling or docking. It is not something I could handle alone however.

I’ve enjoyed learning all the systems on the boat and there is a lot to learn. Though I have difficulty getting down in the engine room and am grateful for a crew that enjoys it, I have liked learning all the diesel and other systems and maintenance etc. I am only now beginning to evaluate a problem and decide what the most probable cure might be.

It’s been 45 yrs +/- since Sharon and I took Power Squadron (class room boating classes). But charting then was paper, pencil, parallel rules, a geometry style compass and a protractor. While I still have paper charts, they are my backup. Today the charts are electronic and plotting is done while sitting on the sofa and Bluetooth(ing) it to the boat chartplotter. Learning to read the charts again, to pick from the many mapping programs and learn how to use them has been fun. I enjoy the radio traffic between the boat and lock or bridge operators and between boaters. I have really enjoyed the challenge of entering a strange marina, finding the assigned slip and backing the boat in. For the most part I got it right the first time and, I think, only once did it take more than two tries (and that time was a total failure with 10 or so attempts🤢). I really liked experiencing the rivers, streams, canals, cut offs, bays, ocean and cruising the East Coast.

I have missed seeing mountains and desert-scapes though.

So what can I do?

One alternative, but one I’ve pretty much discarded, would be to turn Last Resort into a floating condo. Spend the winter in a southern marina, hire a captain to move me and the vessel north before hurricane season and dock it in a marina or two for the summer and fall, reverse and repeat. Not using the boat as a boat is not good for it. When boat shopping last year, I saw some boats that rarely were used and though the owners seemed to be proud that they only put 20 hours on the engines in a year, the engine and systems surveys told a different story – that the systems liked to be worked. Last Resort is ready on a moments notice to run from the Keys to Maine and beyond, either inside or on the open ocean.

So my present thinking is that I enjoyed full time RVing for 14 + years followed by two years of summer travel by motor home and almost one more year of full time RVing and I find that my wanderlust is still there. I probably would buy another motor home, probably a 40 footer, and a toad and once again travel full time by RV.

This is present thinking, subject to change. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile there was dinner to enjoy…

…before the end of another wonderful day

Today, Tuesday, drove to Key West for lunch. It’s about an hour away. Having been there a number of times there was no need to spend hours there. As always, the chickens/roosters are all over.

Tuesday morning – crowds are more to my liking
A couple of cruise ships at the dock. Here the Carnival Victory shoves off the dock on its Miami/Key West/Cozumel cruise. The thrusters far below the water barely create a surface ripple.

I am now 12 (Left) and 5 (Right) days post cataract surgery and have zero regrets. Should have done it 5 or 10 years ago. No pain or irritation. At my followup appointment on Friday, my right eye tested at 20/25 and my left at 20/50. Pre-surgery, the left was 20/250 (20/200 is considered legally blind – I didn’t know that before🥴). I certainly see better with much more color and clarity. I can even read reasonably well now with my left eye!

KEYS V

BOAT ROUTINE MAINTENANCE:

As previously posted, the oil and oil filters have been changed. Nervous about it as a DIY job but it went well. The diesel antifreeze/coolant has now been drained and disposed of. Awaiting delivery of fresh from Cummins. Internet shopping is so nice. The aftercoolers have been taken off and the cores removed.

Each aftercooler is basically 2 parts; a large cast aluminum container and a removable core consisting of many adjacent tubes. An aftercooler removes heat from the compressed air coming from a turbo before it enters an engine’s induction system. The heat runs thru one set of tubes in the core while cooling sea water passes thru adjoining tubes, all under pressure. And after the heat is passed to the water, the now heated water is discharged thru the hull.
Here the impure sea water calcification process has clogged the cooling portion of the core tubes.

No leaks are allowed. The water and hot air must never mix as water introduced into the turbo can be catastrophic. So the parts are soaked in a lot of brake cleaner followed by soapy water and thorough rinsing. The aluminum casting is air pressure tested to be sure it has no leaks of any sort.

The cores of both aftercoolers were pristine as was the starboard alum casting. It was installed new last Feb as part of the boat survey/purchase. The port casting is showing corrosion and pitting with the pitting at the opening being of concern. Can it be ground smooth enough while retaining tolerances to reinsert the core and holding under a pressure test? It is undergoing that shop analysis now.🤞

Also removed from the engines this afternoon were the heat exchangers. They are sent out for cleaning etc much like the aftercoolers. Have not heard a report on those yet.

The heat exchanger is the equivalent of a car radiator. It takes the heat out of the engine coolant and returns the cooled fluid to the engine. In a car, the cooling medium is rushing air, in the boat it is sea water and just like bugs, paper or whatever can make a car radiator inefficient causing the engine to run hot, so too can sea water contaminants, minerals, etc clog the heat exchanger.

So all that sea water going in and out of the boat travels through rubber hoses and those also can get fouled. In addition, the rubber tends to get old, get brittle and or deteriorate. Clamps are subjected to the hot and humid engine room conditions as well. While ALL hoses are dual clamped for safety, a failed hose or broken clamp many miles from land is not good. Some clamps are showing wear and there is black speck evidence on the white engine and floor of some hose deterioration. So new pre formed hoses and marine grade stainless steel clamps were ordered and have arrived. Did I say internet shopping is great?

Also have checked all the belts and replaced those needing replacement, the O rings on the sea strainers and moved one of the bilge pumps to better drain an area of the bilge. Stagnant water is not healthy but also increases steam and humidity in the engine room creating rust. Also coming yet via internet order is matching white Cummins engine paint for touch up. I will have to get someone to adjust the new dripless shaft seal that was installed in May. There is a bit of dripping and the adjustment is in millimeters. I also will need to get a Cummins mechanic to do a valve lash adjustment on the engines (adjusting the clearance usually within a 100th or thousandth of an inch between the rocker arm and valve stem. I’m not an expert on that but I do know what happens if not done

Some might remember our last RV pulled by a small International semi tractor. Coasted into this Memphis church parking lot when the truckIn a split second, explosively stopped running. Delayed valve lash adjustment (I didn’t even know it needed to be done) resulted in the destruction of pistons, engine block head and a depletion to my wallet of almost $12,000. Thankfully the truck, unlike the boat, had only one engine
What the top of a piston looks like when it collides with the head
And what fixing everything looks like. Moral of the story: deferred maintenance is not good

gg

Thankfully, I’m post surgery so can’t do much or any real work other than supervising😎. So I can sit and relax while grilling dinner
and watching for passing fish
Life is hard….

KEYS PHOTOS IV

You may have read or heard about the 7.7 magnitude earthquake south of Cuba/north of Jamaica last week. I’ve experienced one once before in N VA when Sharon was in an inpatient physical rehab facility. The building shook and after my mind did a few seconds processing, I knew what was happening.

Not quite so much on a boat. I was sitting in the boat salon that afternoon. Glass like a mirror. All of a sudden the boat starts rocking side to side which is really pretty rare. It rocked three times and stopped. I got up to see what boat in or near the marina was throwing a wake. Not a boat moving in any direction and the water was still or again glassy. It wasn’t until a bit later when I heard about the earthquake via a text from one of this blog’s readers that I realized what had happened and it was confirmed to me, in my mind, when I later heard of buildings rocking and even evacuated in Miami. At least there are no cracks or leaks in the spa and swimming pool here😂.

Last Thursday I went by car to Miami for laser cataract surgery and a simultaneous MIG procedure on my left eye. A week later the same will be done on the right eye. The MIG is a stent implant designed to reduce eye pressure or at a minimum keeping it from going higher. I don’t have a lot of expectation for the left eye due to previous retina problem but we’ll see😆. The procedures themselves took about 10 minutes though with travel etc it blew through 10 hrs. I had a follow up appt Friday with the local referring Doc and she though all looked very good. It is a fact that already I do see better, though not great, with the left eye and the left eye sees more color. I can distinguish a semi truck from a bicycle now😂.

But enough about fixing me. Before heading to the Bahamas mid March there’s a lot of scheduled maintenance to be done and as reported in the last blog we put together a list. Based on the list of what needs doing we put together a list of all the parts needed and I ordered them from Seaboard Marine in California – a major Cummins parts supplier. Some $2,200 in parts should arrive next Weds. Due to surgery and upcoming surgery I will be out of the equation for repairs. As it was I wasn’t strong enough from the bent over position in the engine room to break loose a nut that holds a zinc in the engine block.

I was impressed with the guy who fixed my dryer a week or so ago. 40ish- not old like me, shorter (helpful in the tight engine room), agile and seems to be knowledgeable. He has a boat about the same size, lives on it and does his own work. So I had him come over to review the scope of the work and he and my crew will get it done🙂. I just got a message from another boater that I met in Baltimore who is in another marina in Marathon stating that they heard I was going to use this guy (how did they hear?) and that they use him and that I will be pleased. 🤞

One of the things I’d like to do is replace the 9 white LED lights in the flybridge hardtop with blue one. So I’ve replaced one of the nine today to see how it will look. I think nine of the wattage I’ve tried will be a little much but if I get lower wattage bulbs, it should make for a soft glow?

Today (Monday 2/3) was a very very low humidIty day. Not sure if it’s the low humidity or my 1./2 completed cataract surgery, but the horizon appeared particularly sharp today. Very 😎 relaxing.

My new friends on Knot Ready left this morning (as did a number of other boats. Knot Ready is heading to my old stomping grounds, Everglades City, for a birthday airboat ride before heading towards Ft Myers/Tampa area where the boat will be berthed or put on the hard while the owners head back home to Los Angeles for awhile. Their slip didn’t stay empty long before a sailboat arrived

This pic is taken for my relatives. When out on the foredeck this afternoon, I noticed this new arrival across the basin. I couldn’t believe it so I had to walk over. The hailing port is ‘“PELLA, IOWA” which is basically the stomping grounds of my mother and her whole side of the family. The folks aboard said that although not Dutch, they do add a “Van” in front of their last name at Tulip Time.

Coincidentally, this morning a shared a memory on Facebook of a picture I took of Sharon in 2004 while RVing through Pella

She loved our 14 yrs of full time RV traveling and I’m sure she would have also loved living and cruising on the boat.

KEYS PHOTOS III

I am a member of a number of internet groups featuring boating: several America’s Great Loop groups, trawler groups, Bahamas travel groups, owners groups for a couple of manufacturers, and even a marine HVAC group. Lots of good and perhaps some not so good info is available. Some groups are very technical while others have formal social components like educational seminars. A few have informal get togethers with internet postings along the lines of

Boat Name X” has arrived at “name of harbor/marina” and if anyone else is here please join us Thurs (or whatever) at 4pm at Slip # X or at “Y” restaurant. Bring snacks.

Being as social as I am, I’ve never participated. I don’t enjoy the small talk dance involved in meeting new people and certainly embarrassed to not remember someone’s name 60 seconds after introduction. There are lots of Loopers in Marathon at this time of year and the new friends from the vessel Knot Ready (that recently arrived in the marina and whom I’ve written about in the last blog post and earlier Miami post) told me of such a gathering happening in a marina a couple of miles down the road and invited the Last Resort captain and first mate to join them.

We went. The marina had a large tiki hut with a bar and small ‘order at the window‘ restaurant in the hut (as opposed to the nice restaurant also on the premises). Apparently the Keys are a place where musicians who are between gigs congregate in the winter and get together with other like minded folks to jam. This marina is known as such a place.

There were a couple of local regular musicians playing with three transient musicians that night and most of the music they played and sang was 60s type Country. Most all of it was slightly different arrangements than the popularized ones of Johnny Cash, George Jones etc. And they just kept playing – like 60 min sets. Not once did I hear a mistake or anything off key. The Looper group fluctuated but generally was 12-15 people. Enjoyed meeting some of them, talking boats, eating a burger, drinking a couple of diet Cokes and listening to some really great music. Haven’t enjoyed that much live music of my youth since attending a Six Pak gig two and three years ago. Maybe I should get out more?

Listening to an arrangement of an ALABAMA popularized tune


During a recent FL cold spell, the news carried stories of iguanas falling from the trees. Temps in the 40’s apparently shut down their systems and the iguanas become comatose, lose their hold on branches and are known to fall out of the trees and remain like dead where they land until rewarmed by the sun. Apparently this fellow, seen on the marina sea wall, has warmed up in the FL sunshine and decided to hang around the nearest grill area in case some food might appear.

Probably about 3’ long

Scattered along the docks on both basins are areas with propane grills, tables and of course the ubiquitous seating areas oriented to the sunset views. Sunset watching is an official Keys pastime.

Getting ready to grill a couple steaks
Place to gather for meals if you choose not to eat on the boat
And one of many places around the marina to enjoy the sunsets. Last Resort is the 2nd boat on the left side
Tonight’s dinner.
Lightly charred, rare and juicy. Really tasty!

Yesterday I had a pre surgery physical (my first eye is being done together with a MIGS [shunts] procedure to reduce eye pressure on Thurs followed by the other eye the following week). I went to a licensed nurse practitioner and liked it. Far more thorough – far more – than any Dr I’ve been to in years, probably decades. I had to have an EKG and I reported ahead of time that there would show a bundle block and how over the years, the doctors get all excited and send me for stress tests, chemical stress tests and even heart catheterizations. I provided the clean reports from those procedures. They did the EKG and the NP told me that she knew the Drs in Miami and that the ‘anesthesiologist will have a cow’ when he sees my EKG. So I gave her the physicians’ names that have done EKGs on me over the past 10 yrs (good to keep your health records in the cloud) and she obtained the EKGs since 2015, saw zero change and cleared me for surgery. Phew!

My crew has put together a list, rather long, of maintenance that needs to be done (hoses, belts, clamps that are due to be replaced, impellers checked, aftercoolers, heat exchangers, turbos etc servicing etc.). One does not want something to fail while on the ocean traveling to the Bahamas. I already have heard I’m not to have a lot of strenuous exertion post op so I’m trying to find some knowledgeable labor source.