Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Old Friends

This morning we left Miami Beach. Last evening Dyna and Dylan had their final romp in the Miami Beach dog park. It's a wonderful group of dogs and people, and it's amazing how quickly one becomes attached. On our first dinghy ride back to the park Dyna and Dylan began crying as soon as we passed under the bridge and the park came into view.

So Dyna and Dylan said goodbye to Dewey, Annie, Sterling, Oliver, and many others. We lingered longer than usual, not wanting to say goodbye to the dogs or people. Some hugs, promises for next year, and we pulled the dinghy away from the dock.

When we left Marathon we started our trek back through the places we'd been. For Dyna and Dylan that means getting to play again with some of the dog friends they've made along the way. In Marathon they met up again with Riggs from Spray and Godiva and Cassie from September Song and swam on Sombrero Beach.

They'll look for Duke and Holly in Vero Beach who they played with at the beach and then in a pool (watch the video). And Carly and Andy who took them to a beach on Sullivan Island (watch the video).

And of course there is Goose and Huck from the Charleston Maritime dog park.

Cruisers love to talk about the wonderful people we meet along the way. And it's true. It's also true for our canine crew.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Delivery Diesel

It's hard to believe that we've always passed by Miami Beach. Especially the anchorages off the Venetian Causeway. This is an exceptional area. You can get anything you want here within just a few blocks - multiple Publix grocery stores, every type of restaurant imaginable, hardware, Post Office, 18-theatre complex, an Apple store, Office Depot, etc. The dog food we use is a speciality brand that we have to order on the Internet for delivery. But here there's a store 6 blocks from the dinghy dock that stocks it. Together with the dog park at 5 pm, we didn't think it could get any better.  Then we met Leon.

Peterson Fuel has always updated their diesel prices in ActiveCaptain. We like that. It's good for them and it's good for our captains. Peterson has 2 barges - one in Miami and one in Ft. Lauderdale. In our 8 transits through both areas we'd seen the barges before. Boats would pull up and get fuel - seems like a nice business. Here's what I didn't know - if you need 250 gallons or more, they'll come to you. Delivery Diesel!

The delivery area includes, you guessed it, the area we like to anchor in for Miami Beach. So I called Peterson and arranged for a fuel fill up right on the hook. Honestly, how cool is that?

They called me this morning and told me which half hour they'd arrive. Right around the scheduled time we saw the yellow barge coming down the Venetian Causeway access on Biscayne Bay.

We met Captain Leon who eased the barge against aCappella, tied up to us, and set the spuds to lock us both in position. Leon is a true pro - a licensed captain with a tanker endorsement. He's on the barge 6 days a week doing this type of diesel delivery.

Leon handed over the nozzle and hose (extremely clean) and worked with us to adjust the flow. The pumps onboard the barge are high speed - 140 gallons per minute - that he can adjust to any rate needed. We prefer between 20 and 40 gallons per minute.

We completely filled our rear 2 tanks and topped off the front 2 ones - about 490 gallons total. It was simple and I really enjoyed monitoring the fuel sites in a nice, cool engine room.

After filling up and putting all the hoses and equipment back on the barge, Leon invited us onboard to tour the barge. Because it's a licensed fuel barge, we had to provide picture ID's and sign into the ship's log. Leon showed us around the well-kept machinery. The barge holds 10,300 gallons of diesel and they often pump it dry on a busy day.

In the blink of an eye, the lines were untied, spuds lifted, and we were waving goodbye to Leon as he set off for the ICW and more boaters looking for fuel.

This is the first time we've gotten fuel away from a marina. It's a nice option. Peterson has an excellent fuel price. We considered getting fuel in Marathon but ended up saving about $250 on almost 500 gallons. There is a $0.10/gallon discount for cash/checks too.

Leon told us that although there's a 250 gallon minimum for delivery, he'll often go into an area where a few boats all need fuel and their combined total will be over 250 gallons.

Peterson keeps their fuel price very up-to-date in ActiveCaptain. I'm glad we noticed it and checked it out.

So there are services that will deliver food to your boat, pump out boats that will remove your waste, and now fuel barges that deliver fuel right to your anchored boat. Find me a delivery dog walking service and we'll never have to leave the boat!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Long hot showers...

We're almost ready to leave Boot Key Harbor.  We've been doing the last minute things to get ready - filled our dinghy gas tanks and cans, cleaned the water line, last minute grocery shopping, etc.

One thing we haven't taken advantage of here at the marina are the public showers. With two showers on the boat, it's much nicer to shower there. But on a mooring, we're always conserving water so the showers are brief.

Today we decided to take advantage of the really nice public showers at the marina. There's all the water you want and it's as hot as you like it. The showers are single person but we snuck in together, probably breaking the official rules.  Heck, we're operating under the same marriage license so it's allowed.

It was fantastic...

Next we're turning north and east and starting the slow trip back to the Chesapeake and Maine.  Miami Beach is the next major destination for us.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dinghy Ride 101

Most people have morning routines - a cup of coffee, completing a crossword puzzle, watching a morning TV show. For us in Boot Key Harbor, we have a morning ritual too - Dinghy Ride 101.

Dinghy Ride 101 arrives daily at Sombrero Beach or the Marathon Park depending on weather conditions. All passengers arrive well-rested, happy, and with wagging tails.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

LRA - Larry's Remote Anchoring technique...

Our dinghy weighs about 800 pounds. She's a rigid inflatable with a 40 HP engine. It's our family car when we're cruising and we put a lot of demands on her.

So I was telling Larry how much of a hassle it is when bringing the dogs to the beach. Beaching the boat ends up pushing the whole boat sideways on the beach with oncoming waves and can become very difficult to re-float it when it's time to leave. Instead, we keep going back every 5 minutes to push the boat back into the water.

Larry had a solution. He always does. And this one is a doozy.

"You don't know how to use the trip line on the anchor to remotely anchor the dinghy?" Larry asks. Well, no, I don't. I've never seen anyone ever do it. With that Larry gives me the specs for what I need and explains exactly how to do LRA - Larry's Remote Anchoring.

First, the equipment and deployment.

I use a grappling hook type of dinghy anchor. LRA is real anchoring so I created a special rode of 5 feet of chain with 8 feet of 3/8" line. I attached a clip to the end of it so it could be attached to the bow eye of the dinghy close to the water.

The critical piece of equipment is 100 feet of 1/4 inch nylon line on a spool. That gets attached to the trip line eye at the bottom of the anchor.

With that all ready, this video shows the equipment and deployment at Sombrero Key.  We land in about 2 feet of water and push the boat out to anchor in 4 feet of water. Turn your sound up - it's hard to hear - lots of dogs hanging around the "studio".

The magic is in putting all of the equipment on the bow which is easily popped into the water by a slight tug of the trip line. The trip line is the retrieval device and an emergency line in case the anchor fails. It isn't good enough to hold the dinghy in a gale, but for going to the beach, it's plenty good enough.

Retrieving the anchor is just as easy.

It's all pretty easy to do. I strongly suggest using chain on the anchor if you're going to use this technique. Total cost for this was about $25 plus the anchor which we already had.

Now Larry, how about a trick for rinsing and drying off wet dogs before they get back onto the boat?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sombrero Beach swimming...

The weather has turned perfect - 75 degrees, sunny, calm - just perfect.  We're starting to get boat projects done (sealing every deck intake, cap rail renew, water line cleaning, dinghy chock painting, lazarette cleaning, rudder packing adjustments, gel coat fixes/polishing/etc). There's also a tremendous amount of ActiveCaptain development, legal work, and writing as we start to roll out our upcoming Co-Op capability.  Much more will come out about that in the next few weeks. It's incredibly exciting!

None of this gets in the way of our 7:00 am dinghy ride to Sombrero Beach for some serious dog swimming. We go almost every morning. It's much nicer with the warmer weather although the water has always been a nice 70 - 73 degrees.

First up - Dylan retrieving by himself:

Next - Dyna by herself - take 1. She can be a bit stubborn:

Dyna, take 2:

And finally, the team together:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Worst Job On The Boat

Today was not the day we were expecting when we woke up.

Last night we got a call from Bill and Sheila our friends on Spray to come over for breakfast. Remembering the wonderful frittata Bill made for us in Charleston, we eagerly accepted. Just as we were about to leave this morning the forward head wouldn't stop running. Figuring it was just a seal needing to be wiped off, we shut it off and planned to deal with it when we returned.

We had a wonderful breakfast featuring Sheila's Fried Polenta and stayed much of the morning enjoying good company and talking about boats. The day turned out to be beautiful and sunny so we thought we'd take the dogs to shore for a walk and check out some of the day's events -- a new thrift store was opening across the street with a ribbon cutting ceremony by the mayor and a festival of gospel music was happening in the park next door.

Things didn't turn out the way we expected. What we did instead was tear apart a hanging locker to reach the vacuflush pump for the holding tank so we could dissemble it to replace four worn duckbill valves. Now if that is all Greek to you, then all you need to know is that the pump creates suction to pull "material" from the toilet to the holding tank. If there's no suction, there's no material movement. My sweet husband ended up being the one in the hold while I played gofer - neither job was pleasant but I think I got the better deal.

You will be happy to know that all is well and that we refrained from taking any pictures.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer and less windy. We plan on taking the dogs swimming early and going to shore for some hamburgers at Annette's. At least that's the plan...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dyna and Dylan Famous?

We had mentioned in an earlier blog that I had been asked by Nor'easter Magazine to write a column about our cruising. Well the first column has appeared in this month's issue. You can read it online on the Nor'easter website, the article starts on page 10. But the best part is that Dyna and Dylan are mentioned 3 times! Not only are they mentioned in my bio and in my article but the editor also mentions them on page 5. Now if this doesn't increase their readership by at least 300% then nothing will. I guess we'll be dealing with the paparazzi and autograph seekers now. I'll have to buy them big hats and sunglasses...