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Friday, March 4, 2011

Wandering about Key Largo while Palling Around with Humphrey Bogart...

Key Largo certainly is a nice change of pace from Marathon and this Key definitely caters to a more affluent kind of crowd... as in European tourists and sports fishermen for starters.

It is also not uncommon to hear tourists speaking French throughout the various establishments. Scattered about this Key are quite a number of both quaint and upscale dockside bars all overlooking the various canals and sounds... it goes without saying that one really can't go wrong patronizing any one of these places.

In addition there are a multitude of dive shops and charter boats all busily ferrying tourist to and from the various alluring water sport activities.

I like Key Largo... it is a pretty cool place as far as tourist destinations go.

In any event I happened to be sipping on a few cold ones at the Caribbean Club a few days ago up on Blackwood Sound when to my surprise, none other than Humphrey Bogart shows up and takes a seat across the bar.

Soon thereafter we were both idly chatting about a whole lot of nothing and what not. He even later graciously picked up my bar tab. So yeah, me and Humphrey Bogart have since been hooking up and palling around the town in the evenings.

The guy is quite a charming character and can certainly appeal to the ladies. I've even had to fend off a number of exceedingly attractive French tourists with their salacious whisperings just for hanging around with the guy...

You may perhaps recall that it was at this dockside bar many moons ago that the movie Key Largo was filmed.

When Cruising Becomes Another Word for Camping aboard a Sailboat...

Contrary to pervailing perceptions, cruising aboard a sailboat is not always a most joyful experience. In fact I would venture to suggest that it is somewhat comparable to camping and can even be thought of as camping on a boat.

Camping per se can most certainly be an enjoyable activity if only because one doesn't go camping indefinitely. It can be a temporary yet welcomed respite from the usual daily routine of living in a regular household.

In addition, camping can also most certainly be a nice break from the mind-numbing daily commute through heavy traffic to the confines of an office cubicle in some tall building wherever that might be.

So no matter how much discomfort and inconveniences one might have endured on a camping excursion, there is always the emotional relief at the end of it all of packing up the wet gear and of driving on back to good ol' home sweet home.

Not so with a liveaboard sailboat. There is no home-sweet-home other than one's own boat when cruising. And please do note that cruising is not to be confused with day-sailing either. The one big advantage that day-sailing has over cruising is that when the weather turns for the worst one can always head on back to the docks, tie off, go home and sail another day.

Cruising is another matter because there is no getting around the fact that the boat is one's home and that there is nowhere else to go when the weather gets nasty... all of which brings to mind present circumstances aboard my boat.

This happens to be day three of what was supposed to have been a "weak northern" blowing down this way through the Keys and I've been stuck aboard my boat wishing that I were elsewhere. Preferably somewhere with a nice cushy sofa that came equipped with a TV remote.

... and while I'm doing some wishful thinking, I also wouldn't mind if the place had a refrigerator full of cold beer and the makings for a couple of those humongous sandwiches that Dagwood would periodically fix for himself.

You surely know the kind of sandwich I'm talking about... it's one of those a tripple-deckers loaded up with ham, baloney, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, crispy bacon, mayonaise and whatever else comes with it.

But heck, the tote box that serves as a pantry doesn't have any of that stuff so I'll just have to spread on another tin of Devil's Minced Ham on two stale slices of bread and make do.

Winds have been continuosly gusting a good twenty-five to thirty knots the past 48 hours and there has simply been just too much chop in the water to prudently want to load up the inflatable dinghy and head for shore.

The key word being prudent... there have been white-caps on the crests of the waves all throughout Buttonwood Sound. Besides, S/V Blondie-Dog happens to be presently anchored offshore a ways and it would be a heck of a long wet ride both coming and going.

The last thing that I need is for that AVON inflatable dinghy to get flipped over by gusty winds with me in it.

I suppose that I would somehow manage to cling on to that overturned dinghy and eventually make it to shore but it would most likely be at the expense of both my laptop and cell phone and I certainly wouldn't want that to happen.

Hopefully the winds will continue to diminish and shift on out of the south later today and if you happen to be reading this blog entry, it's because I somehow eventually did manage to make it to shore and post from the comfort of a nearby Starbucks with free Wi-Fi.

In any event I drank the last of my room-temperature beers last night and I also happen to be in dire need of a hot shower at the moment. I could also use a shave for that matter so I imagine that sometime today I'll pull up anchors and move in closer to shore.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Finally pulling away from the H-1 Mooring Ball in Boot Key Harbor City Marina...

In spite of my best intentions, pulling away from the mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor City Marina and motor-sailing on out of that harbor had more than just a few last minute delays.

For starters there isn't an alarm clock to be found aboard the boat and as a result I didn't stir around until my bladder insisted in no uncertain terms that I get up. After that there was a little matter of brewing a pot of coffee because it's hard for me to function in the mornings without a tall mug of coffee in hand.

As a result daybreak that morning was now but a feint memory... but heck, whom am I kidding? I was sound asleep at that hour. So much for good intentions.

Well after sipping on my coffee and taking a last minute inventory of things to do, it occurred to me that perhaps it might be a good idea to go ashore and take care of a few things. There were more than a couple empty water bottles laying around that needed to be filled. In addition, my pantry box could use a few additional heat & go provisions.

Besides, there was an assortment of items that needed to be secured inside the cabin before raising the sails. The last thing one needs is for stuff to be spilling out all over the cabin floor as the boat heels over while under sail. Also among my last minute tasks to perform was to dispose of some smelly trash.

Inside a plastic shopping bag of smelly trash was an empty tin of smoked herring opened the night before. It's amazing how something as small as a tin of oily fish bodies can smell after awhile. So yeah, that trash certainly needed to be taken ashore and properly disposed of as well.

Needless to say it was somewhat past mid-morning when S/V Blondie-Dog finally pulled away from her mooring and it was with mixed feelings as I reached down to insert the mooring line ring atop of her mooring ball.

Now there was a little matter of negotiating some narrow channels and of motoring on out of the harbor. My Nissan 9.8HP outboard has refused to consistently work for one reason or another in the past and sure enough it stopped running on three separate occasions while motor-sailing out of the harbor.

It was definitely an emotional relief of sorts when S/V Blondie-Dog finally cleared the last harbor channel marker and was out in deeper waters. It was a relief that nevertheless did not last long.

No sooner had I pointed the bow into the wind with the purpose of raising the sails, that the Nissan outboard konked out on me yet once again. Only this time the motor refused to start up again.

I had nevertheless managed to raise the sails in the relatively calm winds and was now under sail and on my way to Moser Channel which cuts underneath the Seven Mile Bridge. This was one of those Go or No-Go moments.

A reluctant phone call to the outboard motor shop where I had had my motor previously serviced at reveals that I may have inadvertenly flooded the carburetor. I had periodically been squeezing on the fuel line bulb while motoring and may have over done it.

I get some instructions on how to check whether that might be the case and of how to proceed. It was relief of sorts when it was not suggested to me to place a call Sea Tow because that was not going to happen... whether I had insurance or not.

I do manage to restart the motor but it soon quits on me yet once again. It was pointless to bother placing another call to that outboard motor shop so I don't.

It was at that moment after re-checking my nautical charts that I, for better or worse, thought to myself, "Screw it... I don't need no damned motor to sail" and with that I lifted the motor on out of the water, disconnected the fuel line and continued on sailing.

Winds were light and out of the southeast which made for a most exhilarating and enjoyable sail underneath the Seven Mile Bridge and back up the Inter coastal. I later dropped a hook off of Channel Key around four in the afternoon or so.

I'd had enough sailing for one day and it was time to get out of the baking sun. I even blew the hell out of my conch shell for the heck of it later that evening as the sun was setting.

It felt good to finally be out of Boot Key Harbor.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Unwelcomed Kink Aboard S/V Blondie-Dog...

Not that anybody gives a rat's ass but the difference between sexy and kinky is that sexy is when you use a feather and kinky is when you use the whole chicken....

And while on topic and speaking of kinky, I gotta believe that I may have indeed found the culprit of why my outboard motor kept persisting in showing total disinterest and why it kept konking out on me at the most inopportune moment while underway and attempting to negotiate narrow channels.

Well you see, I happened to notice an ever so slight sheen of what appeared to be either oil or gasoline glistening on the surface of the water behind my outboard motor this morning. Upon closer inspection, I also happened to notice that the bluish-purplish sheen led all the way to the gas can.

Upon a subsequent dis-assembly of the gas siphoning tube, if that is what it might be called, I noticed that the plastic tube, reaching way down to the bottom of the gas can with a filter at the end of it, was bent.

That tube had a 45 degree kink in it which may explain why the thing was in pain and could not perform as intended. I had to endlessly squeeze the siphoning bulb on the fuel line to ensure that enough gas flowed on through to the carburetor to keep that Nissan Outboard motor running.

It appears that my fuel problem might have had a simple fix. I simply snipped off about 3/4's of an inch off of the tube so that when inserted into the gas can, it would not bend.

I later ran the outboard on idle for a good while and never once did it give any inkling of showing any dis-interest and of wanting to stop functioning as it was intended to.

A Sunset Moment While at Anchor... Sunset Cove, Key Largo. N25 06.061, W080 26.657

It occurs to me that I might have perhaps lost a little bit of perspective on what the cruising lifestyle should be all about after tie-ing off onto on a mooring ball at Boot Key Harbor for months on end.

The amenities provided by the Marathon City Marina are most certainly quite acceptable. What's not to like about a safe harbor, restroom and shower facilities, a parking lot for vehicles, a project room, dinghy docks, a lounge with multiple tables, free Wi-Fi, and flat screen TVs?

So yeah... it certainly was just too damned easy to settle into a comfort zone and not want to sail off anywhere. All of which has me thinking that there are two types of cruisers... those who think of their boat as a house and those who think of their boat as a recreational vehicle.

Having made that observation, I'll need periodic reality checks to ensure that S/V Blondie-Dog doesn't stagnate in one place for any length of time. Any barnacles growing on the bottom of her hull from here on out better be from different harbors.

At the moment, S/V Blondie-Dog finds herself at anchor in Sunset Cove off of Key Largo in Buttonwood Sound. The view all about is as pristine and as idyllic as it gets. The past three or for days in the harbor have been a delight and it certainly is a nice change of pace from all the "noise" at Boot Key Harbor City Marina.

The serenity of the Cove is nevertheless in sharp contrast to the nearby heavy traffic on US1. This busy state highway is but just a short trek up one of the side streets.

Not far from the intersection of US1 and Ocean Drive can be found an assortment of fast food establishments, dockside bars, local diners, and dive shops. But best of all is the Starbucks that is just around the corner.

In any event it's time to start thinking about pulling up anchor and continuing on with my sail on up to Dinner Key Harbor in Coconut Grove but then again I just might have to remind myself of the message on a Keys billboard along US1... "What's Your Hurry?... You're Already Here!"