Friday, January 26, 2018

January 26, 2018 Camping (and Volunteering) in Key West

Well, here we are, experiencing the typical high winds in January in Key West.  Not much for sitting outside or other casual activities.  
Monday, I did report for 2 hours work on the Key West gardens - they've pretty much been cleaned out from Irma, but there's always work to do.
Yesterday, we joined a group of people to help clean up part of US1 from Irma.  72 bags of debris!  Plus a pile of items that would not fit into a large construction bag.  Ouch, my aching back was talking to me!

Today, I’m mostly sitting inside, cleaning out my email, writing for the blog (!), reading.  I’ve read some really good books recently!  
I’ll close with a picture of the working group from yesterday.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

An Update - January 18, 2018 (I apologize for the lengthy post - it's been awhile!)

An update, January 18, 2018
Well, here we sit in Key West, Florida for the next couple of months.  We fled the extreme cold at our home in Michigan, as we normally do at this time of year.  We left Michigan in our truck, with camper aboard, on January 4, arriving at my daughter’s house in northern Georgia on 
January 5.

My daughter and family live in Dahlonega, in the middle of the state, about one hour north of Atlanta, in the mountains.  We leave I-75, as guided by our GPS, and proceed through about 2-1/2 hours of 2 lane, twisty/turny roads, through small towns, and wooded mountains. 

We had one adventure (it seems we always have some sort of mis-adventure on our journeys) on the way through the mountains.  I looked back at one point and saw that the outside door of a storage area on the camper was completely open.  As soon as possible, Dan pulled over to close it.  Unfortunately, the compartment was empty…The tool box, two electric drills, batteries, chargers, electrical cables, and drinking water hoses – all gone, likely either on the side of the road or down the mountain.  We did turn back, watching carefully as we retraced our path around some S curves, mostly with no shoulder and no guard rail.  On the first pass, we didn’t see anything.  On the return, we saw a couple of the items and pulled off at the next opportunity.  All we recovered was a box of drill bits, a trailer hitch, and a rivet gun.  Bummer – the tools were not particularly costly, but necessary.  Dan was able to replace most of everything for under the $500 deductible on our household policy. 

Another event on the trip was seeing a sign “Guns and Drugs”, an advertisement for a store in the next town.  Dan felt it was imperative that we stop and see if they had any t-shirts…  This was a truly unique store – it was a regular pharmacy, also a compounding pharmacy, a home health store (walkers, canes, etc.), plus all kinds of guns and ammunition!  And, yes, they did have t-shirts.  One said “Pistols and Prozac”.  One said “Because Sometimes, Short, Dumb, and Slow Will Do the Job”.  You won’t see those anywhere else!

Ordinarily, we can expect temperatures in Georgia to be much warmer than at home.  But, not this year!  It never got above about 21 degrees – so, the winter clothes and the heater in the camper stayed on!  We enjoyed the time with Laura and Derek, parents to my two grandsons, Rylan, age 12/almost 13, and Brody, who just turned 10.  It is always amazing to see how they’ve grown and changed in the few months since last seeing them.  Rylan, in particular, is now 5’6”, almost as tall as I am!  I taught that boy how to play Michigan Rummy, and he caught on almost too quickly!  Brody killed me in a game called, aptly, Aggrevation!
From north Georgia, we headed to our friends’ house in Orlando.  The Sprenkles always welcome us, with extreme hospitality, a place to park our car and camper, and even electrical hookup!  Finally, we got some warm weather!  What a pleasure to remove most of the layers of clothing, plus socks, and put on those sandals!  We spent two days with them, with Denise plying us with her usual good cooking.

On Thursday, January 11, we headed to Key West.  This year, hurricane Irma did a number on the Keys.  Key West fared better than the Middle Keys, but still had significant damage.  The campground on the Navy Base had damage to the shower/restroom/laundry building and was not available.  So we took a spot on the Sigsbee base campground until our preferred Trumbo became available.  We were just glad to be able to get a spot in Key West, a place where we always enjoy ourselves to the max.  We were at Sigsbee for about 5 days, and then were assigned a space on Trumbo.  Hallelujah!  Besides getting to move to our preferred Trumbo, this also facilitated our move into the much larger (a real kitchen, walk around bed, easy chairs…) 5th wheel trailer we store there.  What a pleasure to have comfortable seating, a fully equipped kitchen to prepare meals, and a bed that I can walk around!

So, now we are at the Trumbo campground with many familiar faces.  We are currently ‘suffering’ with ‘extreme cold’ and high winds.  I’ve been mostly inside all day, wearing shoes and socks, and two layers of sweatshirts.  The temp is now at its high of 60 degrees and sunny – but, the 25 mph winds are keeping most of us indoors, waiting for that famous lovely warm weather.

One happy discovery, this morning, is that there are a few ‘looper’ boats currently in town.  They are members of the same America’s Great Loop Association that we had joined two years ago, before we even owned a boat.  We are in contact with them, and will be meeting some of them for some social time once the winds die down a bit.

Life is good!

Monday, December 18, 2017

October 2017 - Latest adventures on the Kittiwake – we are still learning!

We left our ‘home’ marina to travel to the Norfolk area, at least a two day cruise. Our first day was to Deltaville, Va.  We had been there by the road – takes about an hour!  We decided to stop the second day before traversing the area by the huge Norfolk shipping channel, with huge container ships, tugs, Navy ships like destroyers and aircraft carriers!  The third day was a short one, just to a marina in Portsmouth, which is just across the river from downtown Norfolk.  Turned out the shipping channel was no big deal and not stressful at all.
Most cruisers we talk with have modern day chart plotters and software – basically, they point to where they want to go from their current location, and their systems plot a course for them to follow on the electronic screen.  The Kittiwake came with a pretty old chart plotter that we know little about.  We were encouraged to get out the manual, which we did, and it did become a bit more functional for us.  But, the course plotting wasn’t something we are comfortable with.  Fortunately, Dan is familiar with paper charts and the old fashioned method of navigation – it must work because we have always landed where we intended!
Visit with Dan’s grandsons and son-in-law:
Annie, Dan’s daughte, is in the Navy and was on a cruise in Europe.  So, Chuck, Dan’s son-in-law, drove the boys, Eric and Jared, to the marina to meet us and see the boat.  The boys decided they would spend the night on the boat on Saturday but wanted to go home for Friday night.  We went to dinner together, and we drove them home so we could keep the car.  Next day, we picked up the boys and brought them to the boat.  We took them out in the channel, up the river for a ways, then back down by the Navy Operating Base.  We had a nice day, and then they spent the night in our guest berth.  They were a little nervous, but they actually did sleep very well!  We all had a good time – we don’t get to see them often enough.

Our first time in a boatyard on the hard!
What we thought would be a quick, lift the boat out of the water for two rather small but necessary tasks, turned out to be a two day extravaganza!  It was fun seeing the boat being lifted out of the water and interesting to see a part of the boat we had not previously seen!  The unexpected discovery was that the props had encountered something that caused some damage.  So, the props were pulled and sent off site for repair.  That left Dan, me, and Max needing a bed for two nights.  Yikes, the only hotel that allowed dogs was, shall I say, pretty basic.  Relatively clean, no bugs, but not somewhere we wanted to hang around much.  We survived it, but were really glad to get our boat back!  We ended up changing props to the ones that had been stored on board as spares.  They will suit us better, being a better size and slope. 
Leaving the boatyard, we just went the short distance to the marina where we had been.  We left there the next morning, thinking we would go all the way to Deltaville and skip the marina where we had stopped to avoid going through the shipping channel in the evening. 
First encounter with bad weather
As we approached the mouth of the river and started into the Chesapeake Bay, we encountered WAY more turbulence than we wanted to handle.  I was stressed, but Max was really really upset.  The boat was bucking and slamming on the next wave – everything in the salon behind and below us was falling to the floor.  Since the weather was blowing and spraying, we were piloting from inside the boat to stay out of the cool and wet.  None of us had life jackets on.  With all this commotion, Max decided he wanted OUT.  The pilot house door slid open, and Max went outside and up to the bow of the boat.  There’s nothing up there to keep him in the boat except for a narrow railing.  Next, Dan went out there, falling to his hands and knees to keep from being thrown into the water.  Of course, this left ME at the helm!!  I have never been so frightened in my life.  So, picture Dan, one hand on the railing and the other on Max’s collar.  Max didn’t want to go ANYWHERE, so Dan had to drag him back to the pilot house with one hand while into the wave, slowing down the engine (based on Dan’s hand signals).  We quickly turned back and headed to a safe marina just inside the river.  I held it together while we got tied up and situated in our slip.  THEN, I fell apart, shaking and crying at what could have happened.
So, we are stuck for at least two days waiting for good weather – what shall we do?
We settled in, thinking we would just relax for the two days of foul weather.  While surfing the web, Dan saw mention of something called the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous.  It was to start that very evening in the town where we were!  We quickly signed up and attended the very enjoyable and informative conference.  We learned a lot and met some delightful people.
After the conference was over, we were able to navigate the two days back to our ‘home’ marina, Olverson’s, in Lottsburg, Virginia.  We spent a few days there getting the boat ready to sit until next April or May when we will return.  That involved cleaning, removing most food items, winterizing everywhere there is water that could potentially freeze.  We loaded up our truck and, regretfully, headed back home to Michigan.  I say ‘regretfully’, because we have truly to feel like the Kittiwake is our home.  We love the time spent on the boat.  Of course, we also love time at home, being able to see the grandchildren at least occasionally.  We will be at our ‘dirt’ house until after the holidays, when we hope to head to Key West for some good living in our 5th wheel stored there.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Shhhh! Don't say it out loud, but it appears that everything on the Kittiwake is working!!

The refrigerator, the shower sump, the dinghy motor, the electrical system, the LectraSan system, the bilge pumps, the washer/dryer…no problems remaining!  Dan did the oil changes, the antifreeze change, engine tune up on the starboard side and will do the port engine in the spring when we return.  I am so proud of my husband, his talent, his can do attitude, his fortitude. 
This week we’ve taken the boat out of the slip a couple of times, just for fun and for practice.  I’m comfortable driving the boat, except for those close quarters.  Sitting in the captain’s chair and looking at the slip – it just looks so small!  But, I’ll keep practicing and one day I’ll feel more at ease.  Out in the middle of the river yesterday, I just decided to turn the Kittiwake 360 degrees for the fun of it.  It’s pretty easy with two engines – just slowed down to idle speed, put the starboard engine on forward and the port engine on reverse – she almost turned on a dime!  We also tried out the dinghy for the first time.  We had the engine serviced, and it works like a charm.  The dinghy rests on a cradle on the top of the boat.  To get it into the water, you connect it to a crane-like device, called a davit, pick it up, then swing it to the side and drop it into the water.  Not difficult, but not something we’ll want to do often.  And, frankly, with Max as our passenger and his needing to get to land several times a day, we will not be anchoring out much.  One enhancement we will consider is the installation of a davit on the aft of the boat, which will lift and lower the boat from just a few feet above the water.  It’s a much simpler and quicker way to utilize the dinghy.

On Wednesday, we plan to head down to Norfolk.  It will take us about two days to get there.  We want to have Dan’s grandsons, Eric and Jared, come to visit us and take them for a ride.  They live in Chesapeake, Va.   Next week, we will come back to this marina, winterize the boat, and leave her for the winter.  
This picture is of our dinghy, with Dan and Max.  We didn't try to take it out with Max this time, because getting him in it was enough!  Notice there's not much room - not sure if all three of us could even get in there!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

And the Saga of the Refrigerator is Really Over Now!

The refrigerator....AGAIN!  
Well, as I ended the last posting, I related that the refrigerator was back in the cabinet and all was well.  Not exactly, as it turned out.  The temperature in the freezer never got below about 32 degrees, which meant that the refrigerator compartment never cooled below about 50 degrees.  After talking to the technical people with the company, it was decided that we needed to take the refrigerator back to the place where we bought it – about an hour’s drive away.  Once again, Dan took the sliding door and its track from the main entrance, then wrenched the fridge from its cabinet and out the door.  He had help getting it over the railing, into a wagon, and on to the truck.  Of course, I had had to pull out the two ice chests, buy some ice, and transfer the contents of the refrigerator.  (Freezer items had been left in our chest freezer on the fly bridge.)
Dan and I drove to the place, and left the fridge with them for about 3 hours.  They replaced the fan (which wasn’t starting) and the control module for the compressor.  Back on the truck, back to the boat, hauled it back into the boat and into the cabinet.  Voila!  It started to cool right away, and by that evening, the freezer was at zero and the fridge compartment was in the acceptable range.  We decided that the next time the refrigerator had to come off the boat was when we would sell the boat!  What an ordeal.
Gena gets into one of the compartments in the bottom of the boat.

Watching Dan get into and out of the several compartments for maintenance on the boat, I had sworn that I would do ANYTHING to avoid getting in there!  But, it’s just not fair that Dan has to do everything.  He is the mechanical and electrical expert, but I should do whatever I am able to do my part.  We needed to add salt to the LetraSand system, a simple enough task.  So, I removed the hatch cover, got down inside the compartment, and took care of that task!  It wasn’t as tough to get out as I had feared.  I feel good that I was able to do that much.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

….And other maintenance issues that have been dealt with, as promised!

1.  Washer/dryer:
When we first moved aboard the Kittiwake, I ran a load of wash in the combo washer/dryer.  It will only take a small load, but it is such a blessing to not have to use the marina laundry facilities!  While the dryer portion of the cycle was running, we discovered that the vent to the outside of the boat was not connected.  This caused steam to stay inside the boat – never a good thing.  Like anything on a boat, the unit is a tight fit in a cabinet.  Fortunately, there is an access panel to the rear of the unit from the guest berth.   Since this was far down the list of things to be fixed, it took a few days for Dan to get to it.  He had to pull the unit out of the cabinet, then contort himself to get the dryer hose reconnected to the outside vent.  Now, I tend to run one load just about every day – it does take a while to go through both the wash cycle and then to dry the items.  But, again, what a wonderful asset to have on board!
2.  Shower:
The first time I took a shower on board, I didn’t know that the shower sump pump needed to be turned on at the electrical panel.  Oops.  The sump filled, then ran over, making a mop up mess in the hallway.  After that, I knew to have that pump on (actually, we keep it on now).  But, we still ended up with water in the hallway – not as much, but enough to be a  nuisance.  Dan took the sump and pump and hoses apart, to discover that the filter was clogged from use.  Yuck – it’s one thing to have to clean out our own hair, etc., but this was probably years in the accumulating.  Anyway, it’s all good now – no extra water in the hallway!!
3.  Lectra/sand sewage treatment system:
With this fairly sophisticated system, sewage is treated with salt and electrical pads that render the sewage perfectly clean and able to just be pumped overboard – Really!  Proven fact.  There is a panel with lights that confirms the successful treatment.  Unfortunately, the message we got was that the treatment was NOT successful. With Dan busy on other systems, I took it upon myself to read the manual and investigate.  The first possibility of a problem is that the electrical pads were dirty.  The solution is to use a solution of muriatic acid, let it sit in the system for an hour, then flush.  Still, it was not successfully treating the sewage.  Next, the suggestion is that the system isn’t injecting salt, or enough salt, to make the treatment work right. It was time for Dan to investigate, meaning he had to go into the compartment where the Lectra/Sand system resides.  In order to work on the engines, the Lectra/Sand system or the generator, Dan has to contort himself to lower into the appropriate chamber, tucking his head to avoid hitting on the floor above.  Getting out is a real trick, too.  Good thing he’s a thin and still fairly agile person!  When he examined this system, he didn’t like the look of one connection to the submersible pump.  The pump is in a vat that includes salt and water.  We have to periodically add salt to this system.  The connection was bad, but the pump was totally dead anyway.  We ordered a new one and it should be here today.  In the meantime, to determine if the lack of salt was the only problem in the system, we add a couple of cup or so of salt each time the toilets are flushed.  Yay!  The system is happy and is correctly treating the sewage now. 

I already described the extensive work done on the electrical system – took forever, but we are now in a much better position.  We have an inverter that will service us very well, while underway or anchored out.  We have a generator that works (after the mouse nest was removed and wires replaced!).  Dan has replaced many of the ceiling lights with more efficient LED bulbs.  He has replaced a hinge on the cock pit gate – it was broken and had been sort of fixed.  It looked bad.  Now, it’s good.  We have cleaned the outside of the boat, which takes scrubbing.  Dan polished the horn, something that the Coast Guard requires on the boat.  The air compressor that powers it works just fine.

All in all, we are feeling much better and much more ready to cruise!  The next few days, Dan plans to do a tune up on these big diesel engines, a cost of $500 to have it done.  My Dan has the skills and know-how to do it himself.  Fortunately, the previous owner had installed an oil change system, which makes changing the 3 gallons of oil for each engine much easier.  We are very fortunate that the Kittiwake had been very well maintained until the last two years.  But, the owner had been ill, and the boat had not moved much in that time.  Boats don’t like to sit still – thus, here we are bringing her back to being in good shape.  Sometimes, I think about other couples who buy a used boat.  If Dan wasn’t as talented as he is, we would really be in a fix – at the mercy of anyone who wanted to be hired to do all this work!  We are so lucky!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Refrigerator Saga.....

September 26, 2017
The story begins when we returned to the Kittiwake around September 5.  We had left her for about 5 weeks to go home and take care of some business, prepare for a longer time on the boat.  When we left, the boat was plugged into electricity, so we left the dehumidifier and the refrigerator/freezer running.  I had left just a few things, plus some meat in the freezer, so that I wouldn’t have to immediately run to the store upon our return.  Coming into the salon, we immediately were assaulted by a nasty odor.  Turns out the refrigerator had stopped working at some point, leaving the things inside to thaw and start to rot.   Retch!  Cleaned that up, started to fiddle with the refrigerator and electrical panel switches to see if we could get it going again.  No soap.   I tried to find a repair person who could check out the unit, but no one was available in the near future.  Dan felt that it might be a simple matter of the refrigerant having leaked out.  But, Dan was invested in other issues, so I made the executive decision to just buy a new refrigerator.  The previous owner had maintained excellent documentation, so I called the place where he had bought the refrigerator 12 years ago.  They had one that would fit in the cabinet!  Yay!!
Getting the old refrigerator (1) out of the cabinet and (2) out of the boat was quite an ordeal.  The cabinet was very tight, and getting the unit out of the main door was made possible only by removing the track and frame of the sliding door!  So, out the door, into the truck, and away I went.  I got very general directions for the local recycle center – after cruising up and down the 2 lane highway no less than 4 times, and after asking 3 or 4 very nice people, I finally found it.  There was no sign and no sight of the place from the road.  Weighing the truck first with and then without the refrigerator, they then paid me $7.20!  Woot woot!
The place where I could purchase the new refrigerator was about an hour’s drive away.  The nice young man there loaded the new unit on the truck, and charged me only $1,700+ !!  Returning to the boat, we wrestled the new unit inside and into the cabinet.  It was just slightly taller than the old unit so that last quarter inch that had to go into the cabinet had to be just forced.  Yay!!  I was so excited!  At least that one issue was resolved with nothing but a little time and a few ‘boat bucks’!  No more working out of an ice chest!!  We had to leave the refrigerator sitting for a day to allow the oil and whatever to collect back in the base – it had been shipped on its side, and that was my instruction.  Hard for me, since I am not a patient person at all.
Next morning, I joyfully went on a grocery shopping spree, buying things for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  I bought a few frozen things for times when I wanted just a quick easy dinner.  After waiting about 20 hours (that’s close enough to a day, isn’t it??), I fired up that new fridge and loaded it with all my purchases. 
Fast forward until the next day….opened the freezer to get something and realized everything was thawed.  I was just sick.  We cycled the power to the fridge off, waited a few minutes, then on again.  It did start up again and the ice cube tray I put in the freezer as a test froze in a couple of hours.  This bit of delightfulness repeated itself over and over in the next days.  It would run for a day or two, then quit.  Cycle the power, get it going again…..  Until one day, it wouldn’t restart.  That was, I thought, a bit of bad/good news.  An intermittent problem is very difficult to solve.  Now, at least, we had a hard failure.  This was just as the weekend started, so no technical support until Monday.  Got out some ice chests, put groceries on ice.

Now, while I’m mostly dealing with the refrigerator fiasco, Dan and our friend, Mike Steele, were hard at work on the electrical system on the boat.  Because of that, we weren’t sure if the refrigerator problem was because of a fault with the refrigerator or with an electrical problem on the boat.
Shall I make a very long story short?  It was the boat’s electrical system causing the issue with the refrigerator.  They had installed a new and more powerful inverter and had put it in a different location than the last one.  That meant running very large new cables to and from the inverter plus rewiring the entire electrical panel for the boat.  They never actually found exactly what the problem was, but during some reworking of the electrical panel and outlets, the problem did get resolved.  Imagine my excitement.  After running the kitchen from two ice chests for about a week, plus walking around this large refrigerator that was in the middle of the floor for several days, it was time to put it back in the cabinet and back into service! 
You would think the refrigerator saga was at an end, right?  Wrong.  The guys wrestled the refrigerator back into the cabinet, and IT WOULDN’T TURN ON!!!!!  They checked the voltage from the panel and at the outlet, after having to remove the refrigerator AGAIN.  Voltage was fine in both places.  But, there was some wiring and a very small circuit board at the bottom of the back of the unit – in the wrestling of the fridge into the cabinet, that little circuit board had been broken.  Of course, this happened after business hours and the availability of that part couldn’t be ascertained until the following day. 
Thankfully, the following day, today, I called the local store where we bought the refrigerator, and they had the part we needed.  Phew.  So, I drove back to the place, actually hedged my bets and bought TWO of the circuit boards, only $11 each.  After installing it and carefully following the circuitry picture provided by the vendor, we now have a working refrigerator….knock wood.

More on other maintenance issues in another issue!