Saturday, August 17, 2019

Time to Go Somewhere.

It has been over two weeks since I have written in this blog. We have been very busy in a typical boating kind of way. I am not sure exactly what that means, but to us it makes sense. I have a lot to write about, and hope to get a couple of entries done in the next few days and maybe even another video.  For now, we will go back about two weeks.

We spent the month of July working on the boat and doing mostly day sails out into Tampa Bay. There are some nice places around the bay to anchor the boat, and enjoy the water. During the week, it is fairly peaceful, but on the weekends the activity level increases by a factor of 100. Here is a shot of a favorite anchorage called Passage Key on a sunny Saturday:

Passage Key on a busy weekend

The water is beautiful and clear. To the right of this picture is the passage out to the gulf. It is very shallow close to the island, so unlike the power boats that can tilt their motors and go right up to the shore, we have to anchor off about 200 yards off and swim and snorkel around the boat in 6 to 10 feet of water.

We have had these regular visitors to the boat. It seems these two doves like to sit on the grill in the cover of the bimini. We usually ask them to leave to save our grill cover from the droppings.

Two love birds on this boat.
We have been thinking about going somewhere to gain experience in unfamiliar water for a while and it seemed like my 60th birthday was the day to do that. We made reservations at the Municipal Marina in St. Petersburg, which is about 20 nm across the bay.

We set off about 10 in the morning and had decent wind, so we put up the sails. We even had a visitor to the bow rail.

Just as we got close to the Skyway Bridge the wind died and we brought the sails down and motored through. There was a large ship coming the other way, but there is plenty of room for both. Here are a few pictures of the first time we went under the famous bridge.

Approaching the bridge

Under looking up.

Large ship approaching.

Those large ships move much faster than we do, so you have to be careful when you are in the shipping channel. The good news we can see them on our AIS and it even tells me their speed and heading. This guy was moving at 12 knots, so we had a closing speed of about 18 knots.

Just after we got clear of the bridge, the wind picked up and we sailed on just the genoa over to St. Petersburg.

Our view of St. Petersburg as we approached.
We made it into the marina basin without trouble. As we approached the dock the promised line catcher was not there. I aborted by first attempt due to a bad angle and did a quick spin around and made a better approach the second time. Some local gentlemen came over to catch a line and we were thankful for that. Kim offered them a shot of rum and one accepted. This was the first time we had done a side tie and with the long bowsprit I was concerned about hitting it on a piling.

The docks were not in great shape and it seemed a bit run down for about $96 per night. I gave them a less than great review on the online dock reservation system called "Dock Wa". The cool thing, they apologized and gave me a $26 credit.

We got cleaned up and took a walk into the city. It is a very cool place with lots of hotels, restaurants and other businesses. We had dinner at 400 Beach, that was good, but expensive for my birthday. We then took a walk along the water and through some nice parks.

Birthday boy

Kim in front of a large Banyan tree
The historic Savoy Hotel. No pictures allowed inside. Built in the 1920's. Cool history area inside.

We then got on the free trolley. It winds all through downtown and the driver gave us a nice history lesson. We had a blast and the A/C was nice and cold. We got off and went to the Publix grocery store and bought a key lime pie and went back to the boat. It was a great birthday and one I will remember for a long time.

Downtown St. Petersburg at night

SHIFT at the dock

I have been wanting to get a good picture of the transom with the new name on the boat, but it is hard to do on most docks.
 We headed out about 10 the next morning to try to get back to our marina before some forcasted afternoon thunderstorms. After getting out in the bay, we had 10-15 knots of wind and we had full sails up. We were able to stay on one tack the entire way to the mouth of the Manatee river. We were flying at 6-8 knots. It was our best sail yet and a great way to end this first trip to somewhere.

I have been dreaming of traveling on a boat for a long time. This was the first time I have ever set out for a destination that was not on an inland lake. We now feel we are ready for the next step. Come back for my next entry, and I will write all about that. I will tell you now, the trip was not without problems.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New Sailing Video

I have been playing around with video of our first few sails in SHIFT.

Here is a link to the video I post up on my YouTube channel:

Sailing SHIFT #1

Sorry for the wind noise.

Sailboat Life

We have now been in Florida for three weeks. We have both been working hard to get the boat ready for our future travels. Some of the work has been outside in the hot, humid Florida weather. Some has been inside, which is much better because our air conditioner works very well. The list of tasks we have completed covers two pages in a full size notebook. I am feeling very good about our progress.

We have also had to do a number of administrative things including registering the boat in Florida and getting our FCC license for the radio.

We installed new smoke and CO2 detectors, a high water alarm, and tried to fix the cockpit mic. I ended up finding it was easier and cheaper to buy a new radio. I then installed it and a new cable to the cockpit. I serviced the furlers and the reefing systems. I am still not happy with the reefing system, but I have done some research and now have a plan to fix it. A big job was to remove the name "Solemates 3" off of the back of the boat and apply the new name, "SHIFT". We did carry out a renaming ceremony to appease Poseidon and bring us his protection on the sea. No need to tempt fate.

You can kind of see the new name in this picture.
We have gone out on 4 sails around Tampa Bay to learn how to sail the big girl and to test the systems on the boat. I have been very impressed how most of the systems have performed.

We have purchased new off-shore Life Vests with internal harnesses. This will allow us to stay clipped in if we get into heavy seas. We are still researching what other safety equipment we should have.

On Monday of this week, we sailed all around Tampa Bay in 10-15 knots of breeze. While we were over by the Skyway bridge, this Coast Guard C130 decided to take a look at us. At the time we had dolphins all around us, but I just could not get a good shot.

We then made a couple of long tacks and headed out the inlet to the open gulf. We were getting carried by the outgoing tide. We hit over 8 knots Speed over Ground (SOG),  with only 12.3 knots of wind, our new record. We sailed out about 4 miles before turning around.

After a great day of sailing, we dropped the anchor about a half mile from our marina to eat dinner. It was already 7 p.m.. We had a nice breeze, so we decided to stay put for the night. That gave us an excellent opportunity to test our battery systems. We had been unplugged all day and running our navigation, refrigeration and autopilot, so our batteries were down to 95%. Even though we were running our DC refrigeration system all night, the wind generator hummed away in the breeze and had our batteries up to 100% by morning.

Here are a few shots from our anchorage.

A building storm to our east, thankfully moving away from us.

Sunset at the end of a perfect day. 
Sunrise the next morning. It is an awesome time of the day. Cool temps and no bugs.
Kim slept in her hammock on deck and I slept in our bed down below. I set an anchor alarm on my phone and slept better than I expected.

The next morning, we dropped the dingy and attached the motor and cruised over to Desoto point. This is the point where the historians believe that the famous Spanish explorer first landed in what is now the US back in the 1500's. There is a nice visitor center there, that is run by the National Park Service. We took a walk and used the bathroom and then went for a swim.

There is a cross at Desoto point to signify the christian faith of the Spanish explorer. 
We have made the decision to stay in our current marina until October. We will continue to sail in this area and take a few short trips to other anchorages and marinas to gain experience. We are still planning to leave here in September, if there are no hurricanes, and take the truck back to Missouri. The plan is to then return in October and head south for the winter months.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Our First Sail

In my last entry, I wrote about our first time taking the boat out of our slip at the marina and motoring around the river. That was a good first step, but this is a sailboat, and the motor is auxiliary power. The main power is provided by the sails and we were now ready to take her out into Tampa Bay and actually raise the sails and see how we would do.

I learned how to sail only last year. I have sailed about 200 hours on the Hunter 22 that we just sold. I had gone out once on a Catalina 34 and then we chartered a Catalina 40 in Gulfport, MS last fall. That is it! That is all the real sailing experience that we have. I have studied sailing in books and videos almost every day for the past 2 years. Anyone that knows me, would say I am obsessed with sailing. Now it was time to put all of that book learning into practice.

I was watching the weather closely and it seemed that Monday, July 15, would be perfect. We were expecting about 7 knots of breeze out of the SE in the morning then diminishing to about 2 knots around noon, then turning to a westerly breeze in the afternoon between 5 and 10 knots. I now know this is the same forecast almost every day in the summer around here. The wind is a SE trade wind coming up from the Caribbean in the AM, then the land heats up and wind comes from the gulf back to land in the afternoon, which causes BIG thunderstorms almost every evening. You really need to be off the water by around 4 PM or be ready for what could be a dangerous storm.

I was up early and had a quick breakfast and then started getting the boat ready. Kim was right behind me. It is much like moving day in our RV. She took care of securing the cabin and galley and I worked on deck to get ready to go.

We backed out of our slip without incident and headed out the river. It was a beautiful day and it was very comfortable on the boat. We had a nice breeze through the cockpit. We have about a 5 mile motor out to open water. The channel is very narrow making sailing a bad idea. The tide was going out which added about 3 knots to our boat speed, so we were out to the bay in no time.

I was very excited when I turned over the helm to Kim and began working to raise the sails. It was a light 7 knot breeze, so I decided to deploy all three sails. The boat is a cutter rig, so that means we have two head sails forward of the mast. I was learning as I carefully raised the mainsail to the top of the mast. That went well. As Kim turned the boat to let the sail catch wind the main sail set with a resounding "thump". The boat speed immediately picked up to 3 knots. I went back and shut off the motor. Now we had the beautiful silence that only comes on a sailboat. I unfurled the staysail first and it set perfectly. It is a self tacking sail, so it does not require me to do much with it. Then came the big 135% Genoa. I unfurled it all the way and it billowed with the light breeze. I winched in the sheet and I glanced over at the knot meter and we were moving right along at 5.5 knots in 8 knots of wind. That is pretty good. Now to put this in perspective, you would not get a ticket in a school zone for going that speed (actually they would ask you to speed up) , but it sure felt awesome to me.

It is really hard to take a picture of a sailboat while you are on the boat, but you can see the leading edge of all tree sails in this shot. 
We sailed across the bay in the direction of the famous Skyway Bridge. It is a beautiful bridge and we hoped to sail right under, but before we got there the wind died as predicted.

That is the Skyway bridge off our starboard bow.
I took full advantage of the dying wind to play with my reefing systems. That is the system I will use to reduce sail when the wind pipes up a bit. I am glad I played with the systems because I found some things that needed some maintenance. Oh boy, more goes on the "to-do" list. That list is growing every day. Oh well, I was expecting it.

After about an hour of almost totally calm conditions the wind picked up and we were heading off in the opposite direction. We sailed for a few hours, made a few tacks and even had lunch in the cockpit while we moved along. It was an amazing day.

Kim at the helm, doing an excellent job. Notice those awesome binoculars hanging from the binnacle, those are a gift from Kim's Dad. We are using them all of the time and love them. Thanks Richie!
Here is a shot of me that Kim took while I was working at the mast. We both love to ride up on the foredeck. 
We saw the storms building to the east, so it was time to head in. We had a few issues putting the sails away, but that is all part of the learning. I got some great advice from a boat neighbor when we returned to the dock. Dave is a very experienced sailor and is always willing to answer my many questions.

That is enough for now. In my next entry, I will write about our next objective: A destination!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Living on a boat

The last 5 days that we were in Missouri went off like clockwork. We had a great plan and everything went better than we expected. We have been planning this move for quite a while and we thought of all of the contingencies.  I am a planner and Kim is an organizer, we really do make a great team. That team would be put to a test when we got on the boat.

With a few days to go, something kind of interesting happened. I had been mowing all day on the tractor. It was about 3 in the afternoon and I was tired and hot. I went in the trailer looking for a cool place to take a nap. I looked at my phone and there was a Facebook Marketplace add that looked interesting. It was some very nice snorkeling gear for a man and woman for $100. I went on line and priced the gear at over $500. We had discussed, this was one thing we knew we wanted to buy. After a flurry of texts, I was on my way to Springfield to make the purchase. The gear has been used twice in a pool. SCORE! So much for the nap. The gear is awesome and I can't wait to try it in the keys next winter right from our boat or dingy.

We were both waking up early each morning with thoughts running trough our heads of what we had forgotten. One early morning, it was as if the ranch was saying good bye, and don't forget how much you like it here. I was sitting in my chair drinking coffee and watching the sun rise when two deer walked over to the brush pile not far from the trailer. It was a nice doe and a young buck. They stuck around for about 15 minutes. This is a bad picture, but it is worth the memory.

With two days to go, we made our last visit to Shannon's and the grandkids and then it was focused execution of the plan. We moved our trailer to a storage location on the ranch and then removed the hitch from the bed of the truck. We then moved the truck into position to be loaded with items that we had staged in our storage. These items were all that we might need on the boat. I say "might", because we were not sure what was there and what was not. We also were not sure what we would use and what would just be taking up valuable space. We were very concerned that there would not be as much storage on the boat as there is in the trailer.

We stayed in the lodge the last night and headed out early on the 9th of July. We had reservations just south of Atlanta. That is a 11 hour drive from Mansfield. We added an hour by stopping at Kentucky Lake to check out some marinas. We are really glad we did, we now know what to expect if we ever get up that far north.

I took this shot of the Tennessee Titans Football Stadium as we passed through Nashville. 
We passed through Atlanta after rush hour and made it to the hotel at about 10 eastern. We then made a 6 hour drive the next day and by 3 PM, we were moving our overnight bags on to the boat. Here are a few shots of the boat:

The companionway hatch. That is our front door. I just love the woodwork on this boat.

From that point on we have been working on something from the time we get up in the morning, until we go to bed at night. There are so many systems that we have to learn and understand. We will have to do most of the fixing and maintaining ourselves. We have always been very self sufficient in the trailer, but with a boat there is no one to call if you are at sea. 

The one thing I will say is that living on a boat hurts! I can't tell you how many times I have hit my head or arm or back on something . I am slowly learning how to move on this boat, but learning is painful. You also have to be a contortionist to get into some of the tight spaces to work on something or organize a locker.

Kim has done an amazing job getting a place for everything. We are both amazed at how much storage this boat has and how much great stuff was left by the previous owners. I went to the grocery store to provision the boat and ended up buying $175 worth of food. We both said it would never fit, but it did, with space to spare. Here is our view in the evening at the marina.

Our gas grill is under that cover.

We saw two dolphins out in the fairway the other night. Very cool, but no pictures.
The first 4 days we were in Palmetto, the weather was very rainy and windy. It was all part of Tropical storm Barry that hit Louisiana. We decided to stay at the dock and work on the boat. Then on Saturday, we decided it was time. We cast off the dock lines and backed the 18,000 lb and over 40 foot long vessel out of the slip and into the fairway of the marina. I was nervous as a cat, but all went smooth. We cleared the harbor and headed out into the Manatee river. There was lots of boat traffic on this summer weekend, but we were fine once we were in open water.

We just motored around for a while testing systems including the autopilot and other very cool electronics. We even went over to an anchorage and dropped the hook for a couple of hours.

Kim wears her life jacket because she promised her mom she would. 
Look mom, no hands. You got to love autopilot

Happy is an understatement.

Kim at the helm.
 Then we had to bring her back to the dock. That did not go as smoothly. We had an issue that luckily did not cause any damage to our boat or a neighbor, but I was worried. They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one. We will go with that for now.

That is enough for now. In my next entry, I will write about our first time actually putting the sails up. Come back to see how that turns out.

Friday, July 5, 2019

T minus 5 Days and Counting

I am writing this on July 5th from the ranch in Missouri. We have been very busy getting ready to go to Florida and move on the boat. We are really moving from one house to another. The problem is that we are not sure what to expect. Our plans are totally TBD. We know we have a slip in a marina through the end of July, but have no firm plans after that. I have done extensive investigation to determine what options we have, but we won't know what we want to do, until we spend some time living on the boat in the summer heat of central Florida. We are both excited and nervous. We make plans and then decide that we just have to wait to see if that will work. We keep referring to the old saying, "You don't know, what you don't know".

One of the biggest mistakes we made when we moved from our old house to the RV was that we thought we knew what we were going to want and need. We made a number of purchases that turned out to be a waste of money. We don't want to do the same thing this time around, so we are only buying essential items and waiting until we get to Florida to buy most things. We are very eager to find out how we will decided to live our daily life.

The past three weeks have been a bit crazy. The first major thing that happened was that we sold both of our current boats. We had a 1986 Ski Nautique. She was my pride an joy, but I found some rot in the structural wood about two years ago. I know it is a reclamation project and am certainly not up to the task. It is still usable for now, but the work will need to be done. I put the problems in the add and asked $2000 for the boat.

My 1986 Ski Nautique 2001 - I loved skiing behind that boat
We also had the Hunter 22 sailboat that we purchased to learn how to sail in April of 2018. I have spent many hours working on her. I learned many new things about working on sailboats, that knowledge should be useful. I also logged over 200 hours sailing her last summer/fall. We bought her for $2400 and put about $1500 into the refit and new tires for the trailer, but I knew sailboats are tough to sell. So, we advertised her for $1000.

Our 1983 Hunter 22 - I really came to love this boat. 
Kim and I discussed these boats many times and came to the conclusion that we needed to sell both of them. We would not be using them and that would just cause them to degrade. We could also use the storage space that they are currently occupying.

I tried to find buyers, but could not get any takers, so I decided to list them on Facebook Marketplace. I finished the listings at 11AM on Thursday, July 13. By 2PM I had committed buyers for both boats. I showed and delivered the Nautique that evening and the Hunter the next afternoon. Wow! that was amazing. Just one more thing that needed to happen, and it just fell into place. Now we have room in our inside storage for both of our vehicles. That will be needed when we are gone sailing for extended periods.

Our Daughter and SIL were heading to Puerto Rico for the week of June 15 to 22 to take part in a mission trip with members of their church. We would be taking care of 5 kids age 3 to 15 for a week. We started the week by bringing them out to the ranch for the weekend. They like the ranch and we could spend time riding around the beautiful place.

This is a rock feature we call "Lava Rocks". It is a big waterfall when the water is flowing in the creek.
Here is a shot of the same feature with water running over it after some big rain back at the beginning of May. 
Will on Kim's quad
Will helping Amelia get geared up for a ride.

Isabella on the quad
Even Jake participated and rode the quad. We had a good weekend. Then we went back to their house in Ozark and went through a week of summer school for 3 of the 5 and countless other activities. It was a crazy week, but that is what is so great about our lifestyle. We get to spend quality time with all of the grands and really develop a relationship. At the end of the week we were exhausted.

Much of our time over the past month has been spent watching Will play baseball. I love Little League baseball. It reminds me of the time I was the coach at these same fields. I still say it was one of the best times in my life.

Will playing 3rd base. This was a night when he hit a 3 run home run. 
Will's team started out dominate in the league winning their first few games, but something happened late in the season. They went into the tournament seeded first, but lost their first game and sadly, the season was over. Both the kids and coaches were in shock.

I decided it was a bad way to end the baseball this year, so I took Will and my other grandson, Connor (that was in town) to the Springfield Cardinals game the next night. Our good RV friends Dick and Cathy were in town, so they came along and we had a great time. Springfield made it exciting and won in 10 innings.

Will, Connor, Me, Dick and Cathy
I love spending time with these two. I think they had fun at the game. 
That just about catches up this blog. We are now doing our final planning and packing. We will move the trailer to a storage location on the ranch to free up our full hook up site. We will then load the truck with everything we think we might need on the boat. We will make the 16 hour drive over two days arriving on July 10. We will slowly unload the truck into the boat as Kim does her magic with the packing and organizing. At some point, we will take our new boat on her maiden voyage with us at the helm. I can't wait. I will write all about it in my next entry.