Friday, October 5, 2018

Hmm. Puerto Rico

This is one of those days when I just can't seem to get away from the starting line. Sure, I have things to do but I seem to have left my get-up-and-go somewhere else.
I'm now working part time at West Marine. It's an interesting place to be and I'm afraid I fit in a bit too well with the other "older" gentlemen there. You know the kind: thinning grey hair, white beards, a few years in the face. Yep. That's me. I chuckle when I look at and talk to these guys. We all have our "life before West Marine" stories.
Most were professionals. Office types and glad to be out of the rat race. The kids are all grown and the condo life is just fine.
Surprisingly, some have been with WM as many as 20 years or more. That's as long as my tech writing career. To think that I could be here 20 years is not out of the realm of possibility. Mind you, I'm a relatively young man not yet 60!
I'm okay with that.
I like chatting with boaters,cruisers and contractors. I actually have some experience and knowledge of what I'm talking about and I enjoy talking with new boaters.
As for education, West Marine has an impressive amount of information stored in their catalog and online. Part of the attraction of working there is the online classes and tests made available to me as an associate.
It's a bit like drinking from a fire hose. You could make a career out of each department: Electrical, sanitation, plumbing, safety, Fiberglas repair, paint and so on.
There's also the flexibility of working most anywhere near the water. Florida has 15 stores and there are stores as far afield as Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Perhaps down the line I can go to Puerto Rico to work there for awhile.
Hmm. Puerto Rico.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

My 2000 Watt Insurance Policy

In my quest to have more options on the boat, I added a generator. My concern was that I would be "out there" and run out of power and be unable to start the diesel or recharge batteries or not be able to recharge battery powered tools and the like.
I am no fan of gasoline on a boat but I took the leap and got a 2000 watt generator that is gas powered. At the moment I keep a one gallon gas can on the rail next to the diesel jugs. In the event there is a spill, the fumes and gasoline (or diesel) will go over the side harmlessly.
I use the same plan for the propane canisters on board. They are stored in a 4" PVC tube strapped to one of the stanchions and hanging over the side. Since propane fumes are heavier than air, they will drop over the side and not settle in the cabin or the bilge.
Back to the generator.
My 2000 Watt Insurance Policy
2000 watts is enough to recharge the batteries and power the boat lighting, radios and bilge pump. I put together a cord that plugs into the generator and the shore power input on the boat. Once the generator is running, the boat operates as if on shore power. The power goes through the battery charger and the interior 120V plugs.
So I have three options for recharging batteries: the diesel engine's 35 amp generator, the 2000 watt gas generator and the 100 watts of solar on the top of the bimini.
One thing I would still like to add to the mix is the ability to pull start the diesel like a lawnmower. It would require an additional pulley on the main crank shaft and a few feet of rope. By opening the compression levers and giving the cord a yank, I could start the diesel if all else fails.
Having options while "out there" is a good thing and to me, the more the merrier!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Louisiana and Its Charms

The trip from Kemah, Texas was an advanced course in boating. Thankfully I had the help of Scott, a former US Coast Guardsman and well versed in the waters around New Orleans.
The trip took a week or so longer than planned because of weather stops and taking a week off in New Orleans for me to visit my brother and he his daughter.
All in all, it was a good experience. I will tell the tale in pieces instead of trying to spit it out in order with a lot of detail. Parts of the trip were crushingly boring, like driving through the salt grass of Louisiana, and others were heart-stopping moments.
There is a beauty to all of the areas we passed through. Well, maybe not the Harvey Canal. That is as industrial as it gets. Driving a little plastic sailboat past all of those hulking, steel barges, ships and structures just waiting to crush you to bits is humbling.
The anchorages, like the Mermentau river or Shell Island for example, were beautiful. I'd stay there again if given the chance.
Anchored in the Mermentau River
Since there were no cities around, the night sky was on full display. I hadn't seen that many stars since back in the 90's when camping in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park in Texas.
In March the temperatures were comfortable and the nights cool. The one word of warning though, and you'll see this coming - is put the screens up before sunset because the mosquitoes arrive in clouds! The buzzing might just keep you awake.
Watching birds is something I really enjoy and along the Intra Coastal Water Way (ICW) there are plenty of opportunities. We identified Bald Eagles, Osprey, Ibis, plenty of sea gulls. There were several other varieties I don't know.
There were trees full of these guys for maybe a mile or so
If you have the opportunity, take a trip on the ICW. The scenery and people along the way make the trip worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rain, Lighting, Work and Long Hauls

It rains a lot here. A LOT!
It's not so much the rain as there is also a regular light show, seemingly every night. I'm told that Florida is the lighting capitol of the world. I thought it was local boasting: you know, like the biggest mosquitoes or highest winds. Nope. It's not boasting if it's true.
This time of year you can count on a bit of rain most every afternoon. You can't set your watch by it but it is regular. When the forecast says "isolated" showers take them at their word. Walk a few feet and you're out of the rain.
Big deal. I live on a boat.
I'm now working at a West Marine store near the boat. It's a two-mile commute so there's no crying about that. They're a nice bunch of people and of course, they all have boating in common. It beats the office.
Retail is new to me. I've always been on the other side of the counter. It's a new perspective. I don't have any horror stories yet but give me time. I'm sure there'll be some.
Getting settled in takes time but I'm managing. It's not a sprint. I'm in for the long haul.
At the tiller on the trip from Kemah, Texas

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Change is good. Right?

After several years of planning and many, many stops and starts, I have moved the whole shebang to Florida.
Originally, I was to take a year off and go sailing and then return to Texas and reinsert myself into the office work life.
So much for that!
Three years later, having made the promise to move to Florida if my parents did the same, I have finally cut the lines and now find myself in the Tampa area.
It's an open-ended plan and going about as well as can be expected. Leaving behind all of the music contacts, boating contacts and office contacts has me a bit out of sorts. When I think about it, dragging me up out of my rut will be a good thing.
Mind you, I liked my rut. It was comfortable. I had squelched myself down in the mud and knew where everything was. All of my favorite restaurants and guitar stores and hideouts were right where I knew and all was good.
Now I'm trying to work my way into a new music scene, learn where all of the shoals are in the waterways and find some work that will keep food in the fridge.
There is much to be gained. I am closer to some really good cruising grounds and the water here is amazing! The trip over was an advanced boating course in itself and I had many firsts - often several in a day.
So. A new chapter opens and as intimidating as it is, here I go.
Jeff

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Year and a New Commitment to Keeping Up With this Thing

So, okay.  I've been derelict in my blogging duties.  Oops!
Frankly, I've become lax in realizing just how many people enjoy reading about the foibles of living on and working on boats.  I've been at it long enough that it's old hat to me.
I'll do better.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Robert Burns from his poem, “To a Mouse” and the source to John Steinbeck’s title, “Of Mice and Men.”

Or

“All dressed up and nowhere to go.”

Insert your favorite platitude here.

I’m still at the dock after all these months. The plan was to leave in January after quitting the day job in December. Lucky thing I didn’t leave. The transmission conked out and required several boat bucks (a measurement of money in thousand-dollar increments) to repair. It’s just as well. I would have ended up in a foreign boat yard trying to negotiate a deal.  As it is I worked with the local guys that I already have a working relationship with. While a good thing, I’m still out many boat bucks and the cruising kitty is reduced.

Next on the horizon is hurricane season. It’s a little lottery we on the gulf coast look forward to every year hoping we don’t win. Maybe ‘looking forward to’ isn’t exactly accurate and in my particular case I’m enduring it. It will set my evil scheme back another six months.

So here I sit at the dock working on various boat projects and trying not to fry in the Texas gulf coast sun (106°F heat index today).  Fortunately I’ve picked up with the band again and found work on a work boat during the week. “What about the office?” you say. Not a chance. While my wallet would thank me my nerves just wouldn’t. I’ve become accustomed to not commuting and the negative atmosphere would do me in.

Why would I want to do that? I’m driving a paid-off pickup truck that suits my needs and living on a boat that I’ve rebuilt, made more close friends than I’ve ever had and hanging out with a bunch of quirky retirees that entertain me daily. I’ve seen my first alligator in the wild and more fish than I can count.

We all cuss the ducks and their duck byproducts they leave on the docks and argue when the next high tide will be. My favorite is the “who’s laundry day is it?” conversation. You’d never guess the level of interest in laundry machine availability. Go to the office and miss this?

I wake up with the sun and often go to bed by it too. I’m more relaxed and my blood pressure has dropped. I’m eating a little better and the neighbor that drives the big rig occasionally brings fruits and veggies from his trips to the valley. We share here and look out for each other.

So I don't grouse about not getting away just yet. I already have.