Monday, September 25, 2006

Outboards, Barnacles, Vectors, and Why the Blind Cat Crossed the Road

First off...happy (belated) autumnal equinox to one and all. Life continues at a liesurely pace in Ft. Myers Beach with some moments of hard work and sweat.

We spent Saturday working on the outboard for the dingy. It had been running great but on this day it would start but not idle. I took it all apart (my favorite thing to do) and put it all back together. Four times. At one point cleaning out the little hole in the carburator where fuel passes seemed to help but it didn't last. That's me and my carburator below. Amazing...I wonder how it works? Everyone kept telling us that we probably had "bad gas". Now I'm as guilty as any other beer drinking guy of having bad gas but I still don't see how that could affect my engine. But what the hell? I took a couple of antacid tablets and got back to work. While I was at it I went and bought some new gasoline as well. Neither had any effect and now the engine won't start either. What else is there? How about a nice, shiny, new spark plug. Put that in, with the new gas and with the cleaned out carburator and that seemed to do it. Runs fine now and I have the confidence to dissasemble the engine in the future. I didn't even drop any parts into the sea...this time.

While we were at it we hauled the engine up on deck to scrape barnacles. YUCK! Man these things are nasty! We took the prop off to make sure we could get the barnacles that were sneaking up the water intake. From now on we ALWAYS haul the boat up on the davits at night and always tip the motor up when we are at the dingy dock.
I imagine the underside of the dingy looks bad as well but that's a job for another day.

Look...Sue gets all the fun jobs!

Today we decided to put the fins back on the wind generator. We took them off in preparation for Ernesto which probably wasn't necessary but oh well. It was a real pain taking them off as each of three fins has 3 bolts and by standing on the rail and wrapping one arm around the pole that holds up the generator I can just reach with the socket wrench and work the bolts. Takes forever.

OK, I'll tell you...the other problem is that when you take one fin off the whole thing is top heavy and free to rotate and it could happen that some hard working physicist who just didn't happen to be thinking about that right then could get a fin right in the forehead. It could happen.

So we decided to lower the whole pole and wind generator. This would allow me to do three things. Re-tap one of the holes where the threads got ruined, take the generator off the pole and grease that bearing, and easily put the fins back on. Good. Of course we're talking an 8 foot pole with about a 30 pound piece of machinery on top. There are two struts that hold this up. One is angled forward and the other goes across the stern making a 90 degree angle with the other strut. The pole itself sits in a little bracket that is free to pivot the pole for and aft. We tied the main halyard near the top of the pole and removed the struts. We planned to lower the assembly so the generator ended up in the dingy where I could then work on it. OK, lower away. Of course as it starts down there is nothing to keep the darn thing from swinging all over the place side to side. We took care of that with much swearing and sweating and grunting and swearing. Finally got the thing to sit in the dingy. Whew.

No problem re-tapping the bad hole (thanks Dad!) and putting the fins back on (not counting that it is now 93 degrees, bright sun, and NO wind). Now we realize that raising it is going to be a bit of an adventure. The main problem is that the pole sits in the very aft, starboard corner of the boat. I can put a line over to port to keep the pole from swinging to starboard but there is nothing to tie a line to to keep it from swinging to port. Hmmm...

After some test runs we arrived at a nice solution. I put another line on the pole and took it into the dingy. I kept the bow line on the dingy and put the engine in reverse while holding on the the line that went to the pole. I then motored out until the bow line was taut, kept the engine in reverse and tightened the line to the pole. Now I can (maybe) control things from the dingy (steer, rpms, tension on the line) while Sue hoists on the main halyard. It worked! Once the pole was vertical Sue could cleat her line and come aft and just hold the pole in place while I came back aboard. We put one strut back on but the other will have to wait as the collar that connects it to the pole ended up in the sea. Another 1 hour job that took all morning.

Finally, a report on Gracie. She is settling in nicely with Pete, her new owner. The other day Gracie and Mr. Butters (Pete's other cat) were outside in the little patio area at Pete's house. Pete says he looked away for about 30 seconds to talk to a neighbor and when he looked Gracie. He looked high and low! An HOUR later he went out front and there, ACROSS BUSY ESTERO BULEVARD Gracie was trotting south with her tail straight up in the air. Why did the blind cat cross the busy road? More importantly...HOW? Well, she's back and Pete will have to watch her. She still likes to go adventuring I guess.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Walk About Town

I took a walk along Estero Boulevard which runs the length of Ft. Myers Beach. I walked from the library to the northwest tip of the island at Bowditch Park. Not many people hanging out at the bars or on the beach this time of year but a few families and couples were enjoying themselves in the hot sun.

I was trying to remember how I felt when I first visited Florida from the north. I couldn't wait to sit in the sun and walk along the beach. Today I just walked mostly along the beach and it was hot but very enjoyable. After 2 1/2 hours I felt like I earned the cold Yeungling I consumed at the bar. Yum.

Here are a few photos from my walk......

This view above is from the bridge (Mantanzaz Pass) leading to the beach. The close water is the back bay and the further water is the Gulf of Mexico.

The view to the right is of the mooring field taken from the bridge as well. In the far view Enee is the 1st sailboat on the left. You may want to enlarge to see it.

The photo at left is one of about 40 beach access points. There are several hotels and resorts on the beach but the public is very welcome to enjoy the beachfront all along Estero Boulevard.

I love the bright white sand along this beach. And today the sky was clear and the sun was high and the colors were crisp. If I were to live on a beach I would choose a house something like this one at the right. A nice little beach house on stilts (space for a car to park underneath) with a deck facing the water. Not a bad way to spend the evening watching the sun set as you sit in the hot tub. Although I'd wait for December or January before entering the 'hot tub.'

I continued along the shore and spotted a house for sale, similar to the one in the photo. The asking price was $1,400,000.00 - a bit out of our range but not ridiculous for beach front property I think.

I spotted 3 different types of palm trees. At least they looked distinctively different enough to me. For example, the tree below: both photos are of the same tree.

Maybe because it's a young palm, I'm not sure, but notice how short and 'barky' the trunk is and how full and pointy the palm leaves are. The right photo is a close up of the bark.

This palm at the left is not only much taller but the trunk is much much smoother and very bulbous at its base. Is this perhaps a mature tree and the tree pictured above will look like this in a few years? Hmmmm. Some research needs to be done here.

But wait, there's one more:
the palm at the right has flowers! Well they look more like berries that I think bloom at a certain time of year. And...the bark is yet of a different variety - not extra 'barky' and not very smooth - something inbetween.

So, there you have it. My observations of palm trees in Florida. And where are the coconuts you ask. Missing in action. I didn't see a one.

I of course also spotted quite a variety of birds:

Toward the end of the island near Bowditch Park there were quite a number of different birds nestled in their own groups all facing southeast and basking in the sun. I was able to get fairly close before they would pop up from their roosting and scurry away from me waiting for me to pass so they could settle in again and gaze toward the sun. Even more research needed here.

At the very end of the island is a clear view of the channel markers (left) showing the way around the island toward Matanzaz Pass. Doesn't seem like a sail boat much less a large commercial boat would fit, yet this is our way in and out of the back bay area.

And finally.....
a picture of a sailboat sailing off into the sunset. Well, not really, it was only about 1:30 p.m. and definitely time to find that Beach bar to meet Scott and have that cold brew.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

To Bee or not To Bee.......

It seems the obnoxiously boiling summer days are on their way out. Mornings and evenings are cooler longer with a nice breeze throughout the day. We are very ready for the change.

Scott struggles with being bored when we sit in one place for awhile. I understand it. Being on the move is the lifestyle we both seek. Studying the charts, planning where to go next, watching the weather, hoisting the sails, cruising to a new place and arriving by’s a wonderful way to travel. I miss it when we sit in one place for awhile. Come December we’ll be on the move again.

In the meantime I’m enjoying living in the back bay of Ft. Myers Beach. Everyday is unique even though the heat has been very predictable. It’s a challenge to make shade on the boat since we turn with the current and swing with the breeze but it’s worth the effort to be able to sit in the cockpit to watch the day unfold. We were able to put an awning over the boom since we took the sails off which provides significant shade as long as we’re facing the sun. So far this morning the current has been in our favor.

The sky is ever so slightly overcast which is unusual. Maybe we won’t get the 95 degree heat that’s the constant forecast. No building clouds are visible on the horizon yet. These usually arrive mid day and it’s a crap shoot decision whether or not to close up the boat when going ashore for happy hour.

No sign of dolphins as yet although the black dog that lives at the turquoise house was barking and running along the shore which usually means that he’s spotted a few. I hear them before I see them - the dolphins that is. A distinct “blphew” swish of air noise - sounding something like breathing air in and blowing your nose at the same time - let’s you know they’re nearby. I used to screech “AH!” as if I was shot or falling off the boat when I’d spot one. “What! What’s wrong!?!” “Look!.......aaaaaa Dolphin!” “Oh. I thought you were shot or falling off the boat.” I get just as excited to watch them swimming by but I’m able to control my exclamation to......”Dolphin!” which is better for the marital relationship.

This morning as I’m reading “I Sailed With Magellan” (a fantastic book, by the way, by author Stuart Dybek who is a Chicago writer) I notice a bee flying around the stern of the boat. I think, ‘Oh great now we’re going to get inundated with these critters.’ I remember how pesky they can be in the mid-west at the end of summer when you’re trying to spend as much time outside as you can possibly fit in but the damn bees are everywhere, especially in your pop or beer cans!

After a few minutes the bee leaves. As I finish up the chapter called “Breasts” (now you really do want to read this book, don’t you?) he’s back. Well a bee is buzzing around the stern above the traveler and around the main sheet. No way to tell if it’s the same one. He lands on the traveler and crawls into one hole then another. These holes are functional holes in that these are places to set the locks for the main sheet. In other words the main sheet which helps position the boom can travel the length of this track (thus the term traveler). When it’s in the desired position you lock it in place by positioning these tab like things. They work similar to a bolt on a door except they go down not sideways. As you can imagine this traveler hasn’t been moved much since we’ve arrived in Ft. Myers Beach.

The bee doesn’t stay long but now I’m watching for him to return. I’m not disappointed but surprised when he does return with a small piece of green that looks like a leaf in his legs. (Click on bee pictures for close up views.) He heads straight for a hole, climbs in and stays for several moments. When he leaves there are no leaves with him. Hmmmmmm. Apparently he’s found a new home or at least nesting place. Hmmmmmm. What to do - what to do. Everybody needs to be someplace but I decide that letting this bee do all this work of building a nest just to cover it up or throw it away isn’t fair. I cover the holes in the traveler with a screen after the bee leaves and wait for his return hoping that he’ll get discouraged and fly off to find another hidey hole for his needs.

He does return and is flying above the screen, landing on the screen, flying above the screen. He moves to the other side of the mainsheet where there are other holes and tries them out but these are not the ones (actually the one) he’s looking for. Then he starts flying around the cockpit buzzing near the canopy, looking as if he will head down into the cabin.

Ok. That’s it. Where’s the fly swatter. I guess my experiences with bees flying into my pop and beer cans has made me a bee killer. Who knew. And it’s not even noon yet!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What ever happened to Ken Kesey?

A notice was published the Ft. Myers Beach Island Sand Paper. The name of the local paper is really Sand Paper. Listed among the notices for garage sales, apartments for rent, etc. was this quote. We added one of our photos.

If you click on the image at left you will see a larger version. The quote is also listed below:

“The answer is never the answer.
What’s really interesting is the mystery.
If you seek the mystery instead of the answer,
you’ll always be seeking.
I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer --
they think they have, so they stop thinking.
But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery,
plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.
The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”
--Ken Kesey

What ever happend to Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion" among others. Well he died in 2001 but apparently he has at least one fan here in FMB.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gracie's New Home!

She wasn't too happy being packed up into her carrying case, lowered into the dingy and taking the short ride to shore. She also wasn't too happy with the hot car ride to the beach. But once we arrived and Pete welcomed us into his airconditioned apartment, Gracie quickly made herself at home sniffing and exploring and finding her way as she lightly bumped into things. When Mr. Butters walked through the door Gracie didn't even notice. Well, she's blind so she didn't see him. She was also too busy trying to figure out the new smells and where she was. Mr. Butters positioned himself under a chair and held his ground there. Gracie walked into him at one point and he gave her a 'love tap' on the nose. She quickly turned around and walked back toward Pete. She then continued with exploring finding new rooms and spaces to bump into.

Pete invited us to visit anytime. It turns out that he's also an 'old salt' sailor although Gracie is happy to hear that he doesn't have any plans to live on a boat. He will take good care of her. I think she will enjoy this home on the beach for her retirement!

Friday, September 08, 2006

So Long Gracie...

Good news - Gracie has found a new home and it's not six feet under! A very nice man here at the marina has agreed to take her in so she can live out her remaining years in air conditioned comfort. Gracie will join Mr. Butters at Pete's apartment. Pete says that Mr. Butters is very docile and will probably not attack Gracie which would be easy to do as she is real blind. Pete promises to keep us updated as to how she is doing over the coming months. So it will be different aboard Enee Marie without our faithful four legged crew member but she will hopefully be a little happier kitty with a land based home. So, let's reminice with a look through Gracie's photo album...