We Bought a Powerboat!

Friends, do not worry- we still have Serenity and have been awaiting (for many months) for Parr Marine to update our 20K boat lift to accommodate her… Like all things in Port Charlotte, they don’t bother to call/text/e-mail and will cancel on you last minute, but we remain hopeful that eventually the job will get done. In the words of a man I once worked for, “They are not good, but they are slow!” Indeed- Serenity has developed a lovely slimy bottom since we have been waiting for 6 months for someone to modify the lift… FML and SMH… Anyhoo, since we are depth restricted during the winter (something that we were spoiled with not ever having to deal with at St. Pete Municipal Marina), Brian has been itching to get a little power boat. After many drive-byes and test drives of many boats, he found a Trophy Pro 2103C in Tampa off of Craigslist, and once the owner and we determined neither was a Nigerian prince, came to a very fair deal. The boat needed some cosmetic work (like cleaning) and once we got the title, had to make the choice- do we tow it with the Nissan (the trailer is crap) or bring it by water via the ICW (AND, we did NOT do a sea trial on this boat…) On a weird Friday night, we decided to throw caution to the wind, and tow it with the Nissan (after changing out the ball hitch, and pin… Don’t ask…) The Nissan, while it struggled on the hills, performed beautifully. Being that I did not realize we would be towing the boat down, did not bother to fill the gas tank, which was at a little over half full. FML, the gas light went off 5 miles from our exit (NOTE: I have never run out of fuel in my life. But this was not the time to tell Brian. So I panicked internally!) Once we hit our exit, we were able to refuel and drive our “barge” the remaining 5 miles to the house. The next day, we stopped at the gas station to fill her with rec fuel (FML- next powerboat I buy, I will make them not only deliver the boat, but have a full tank of fuel!) and launched her (still nameless boat) from the local boat. A powerboat is TOTALLY different steering wise, but it is bad-ass to be able to get from point A to B quickly. The previous owners of our house had a similarly-sized power boat, so we did not need to adjust the bunks, either, which was pretty awesome! While it could never replace a sailboat (I love my Serenity), it is still pretty awesome and a great boat for exploring the more shallow local areas.


Once we made the left hand turn into to ICW, we had two bridges to go under- Anna Maria Island and Cortez, before sunset. Being as that we did not know how many miles we would get under our belts before the sun set, we did not plan our marina stops in advance (and we would have to stop at marinas on this trip, as the tiny brown and white fur children STILL will not go aboard the boat- despite my newest effort of collecting dirt from their preferred potty sites to entice them to go on it… Why are they so stubborn?!? We ended up calling Marina Jack’s in Sarasota to inquire if they had a transient slip 45 minutes prior to arrival- indeed! We were in luck! While this is not a cheap marina ($3/foot per night), the crew and facilities are AWESOME! Atlas and Luna were grateful for the dog walk and park, which were really nice. The marina has a few restaurants, which were hopping, and the bathrooms were incredibly clean as well, which was paradise compared to our marina in St. Pete. While it was an early night for us, we did get to meet our really nice neighbors aboard another sailboat, and have thus deemed, this is a great marina! The next day, we departed early and our attempts to get to Port Charlotte were hindered by the bridge schedules. Sun was setting on day 2 and we found ourselves in Boca Grande after the last bridge closing. We called Uncle Henry’a Marina, and hence began a fiasco- Irma knocked out a few pilings, and the navigation was not showing up for this marina on the RayMarine Dragonfly. We ran aground, and hard. Stuck and embraced, I flagged down a guy in a pontoon boat (who was skeptical initially at helping us, but succumbed to my desperate pleas… This marina is not for those of draft beyond 3 feet- we ran aground again near our designated dock, and we able to free the boat. What a PITA. While the marina is charming, clean, and has concrete docks with shore power, it is not really depth friendly for sailboats. The pups were happy to have land to do their business on, but what a pain. We left early, so I taped money to the office door for our slip- ironically, we ran aground a few more times trying to leave the channel during high tide. SMH… The last leg of our trip consisted of more bridges and the turn into Charlotte Harbor- seas were still confused, and this made a bumpy ride for which Atlas was not pleased, and Luna, well, it is Luna- she slept. We found our main channel to our lot, and once again ran aground when making the turn. Remembering what our powerboat neighbor said, “Cling to the wall- it is deeper there!” I swear the final turn of going into our channel was the worst part of the trip- “FML- will it be deep enough? Did we buy a sailboat access house we can not even access?” No worries- the channel is actually deeper than the main one, and we were easily ably to maneuver Serenity into her new slip (oh, vey, it was close though- if we had a bigger boat, we’d be crying.) The look of surprise on Atlas’ face, though, was priceless to pull up to his new beloved backyard.

Escaping Tampa Bay!

This was an old post from November 2017 that I never published: We have been looking for the perfect weather window in which to move Serenity- which is always a funny thing when the weather man says one thing, and one finds the forecast to be totally out of whack and absolutely wrong. Last Wednesday, we made the command decision- we are moving the boat. On the inside, I was still damning Poseidon, and would have preferred to have an off-shore sail. But, we have two tiny dogs who refuse to pee on their little pee-station, and, despite the initial forecast 2 days prior promising happy seas, awoke to a Small Craft Advisory in Tampa Bay and offshore. Well, hell there went my hopes and dreams of making it to Charlotte Harbor as we were getting beat up in Tampa Bay just trying to get to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Brian was questioning our decision, and I think he wanted to turn back, but I kept to my decision, “No, we are going to just do this.” As we approached the bridge, we heard the calls of a shipping vessel hail us on channel 16, “Sailboat on the other side of the Sunshine Skyway, what is your status?” There was some confusion, as there were a few other sailboats nearby, but since we were motoring into the channel, we figured it was meant for us, as our course was the only Southbound one. After relaying, “We are the only true Southbound sailing vessel, next to the red and white trawler, and will give way to you. What is your ETA?” “10 minutes.” “Copy, thanks, and standing by” we jogged into big waves (this was so not fun) and waited… It seemed like forever until he finally passed, thanking us for giving way as he did with a few toots on the horn, but once he did, we were able to motorsail a little further with a little sliver of genny out to keep us a tad more stable until we made that left-hand turn into the ICW… The journey through the ICW was relatively uneventful, as the waters were significantly calmer. In our minds, we would make great timing and just would be a lot of motoring to make it to our dock. Had we not had the pups, I would have just chanced it and sailed offshore, but with two stubborn tiny brown and white dogs who refused to pee on the boat and held it all day, we were forced to seek solace on the first night at Marina Jack’s in Sarasota.


We have, sadly, neglected this blog for the past few months as life has gotten in the way. Things have been quite busy, fellow sailors! We’ve had three major life events occur:

First, and foremost, on a lazy Friday evening, Brian, being well in his cups, was perusing our local dog shelter website. “Look! A tiny Atlas! Who needs to be rescued!” Little did he know this would come back to haunt him, as indeed, I deemed we needed to save this little insane being… While she does indeed have similar markings to Atlas, that is where similarities end. She is definitely a chihuahua, and came from a hoarding situation where 107 dogs were confiscated. I felt, like many projects in my life, “We need to save her!” Brian insisted this was a bad idea, and it was, as she was pretty much feral from day 1. Needless to say, Atlas was less than pleased, but warmed up to her at the 6-week mark. (The vet stated that had she stayed in the shelter another week, she would not have survived. Unfortunately, Luna, as we have named her, has zero gratitude. Every day is a battle of teaching her manners and that it is NOT okay to pee on the furniture, eat poop, and kill things.)

Second, while we had pretty much given up building on our sailboat -access lot (prices, by greedy contractors, had increased $60K in a 5 month period), we found a house by accident, which met the 80% requirement parabola. Submitted offer, offer was accepted, and had to wait while sellers’ new house was ready. No worries- Serenity is still nestled in her St. Pete slip until we get ready to move her the 100 miles south. We are in hurricane season, people- hence, the fact this may be deemed an “easy day sail” by some gets a little complicated when you add two dogs and daily rogue thunderstorms- 54′ aluminum mast is no bueno. Hell, had it just been the two of us on Wu, we would have done it. Multiple fur children (especially a crazy one) and a taller mast adds a whole new level.

Last, but not least- I finally retired from the USAF! Hooray! This is a major life-changing event as I prep one house for sale, work on the other one, and make a huge transition into Life 2.0. Brian is still working as a contractor (someone has to pay the bills!), but it is a pretty big change!

Fair winds, happy sailing, and I will post some Serenity stuff soon!


Troubleshooting an overheating engine

After steam started coming out of the exhaust, followed by a high temp engine alarm, It’s time to start troubleshooting the raw water side of a Yanmar 2GM20F engine. I take a look at the raw water strainter, raw water pump, heat exhanger, antisiphon valve and the exhaust mixing elbow. I don’t think the problem was just one thing, but a few things compounded together. One of the splines was missing on the impellor, another was cracked, and the heat exchanger was heavily scaled and partially blocked.

Engine Woes, and Good Sailing

Engine Woes, and Good Sailing

dinkgirlDue to the cold front that came through last weekend, our sailing plans were thwarted. Making lemons out of lemonade, we bought a new (to us) AB Navigo VS 8′ RIB. In our never ending quest for the “perfect dinghy”, I think we are on to #10 now. While we do still have the Trinka 10, it is far to nice to use as an “every day dink to row Atlas to shore while cruising”, and while the very good inflatable one that came with Serenity is perfectly fine and holds air, it is large. The AB is a rigid-inflatable, and is the right size. It is really solid, and we are actually quite pleased with it.

Serenity also came with a circa 1990-ish Nissan 2.5L 2-stroke dinghy outboard. Brian has pretty much rebuilt the entire thing. We looked at newer outboards, but prefer this one. It is lighter, there really aren’t many 2-stroke outboards around anymore, and I hate to throw anything away without trying to save it first. This outboard has been the bane of Brian’s existence- just when you think you solved one problem, another appears.

The weather has been phenomenal this week, so the plan was to spend one night at dock (so that we could properly test the new dink and rebuilt outboard), and to anchor out tonight. The dink test was not without a few hiccups- the outboard stalled after about 15 minutes (luckily, we were 100 feet from the dinghy dock, and a very nice gentleman offered us a tow from his Achilles.) I took Atlas to “mark many things”, and Brian got the engine going again. Off we went, and spent a good hour exploring the docks of our marina as the sun set without any further mishaps. Ironically, all of our boat neighbors did stopby afterwards to comment on the “new ride”. (They must think we are insane, as we have had the kayak and the Trinka out here as well.) While we were gone, Serenity’s ice maker did its job, and provided a fine medium for the celebratory rum and Cokes. (Review for the dinghy itself- well, it only took us 13 years to find the right one! It is great! It was an eerily calm night at dock- generally, there is a slappy halyard to be heard or boat wake, but there was none of that. After a slow start this morning (I swear time goes by faster on the weekends), everything was off kilter. Our boat neighbor left a few minutes before us, and threwall of his lines on the opposite side of the piling- this threw me off, and I spent a good 5 minutes cursing at him, the piling, my carpal tunnel, and the damn snubber on the line which makes it a pain already to secure. Which also threw Brian off, as he thought I had the lines secured. Brian was cursing at the Dragonfly chart plotter- “The damn thing- now our maps are jacked up!” (I remembered, “Oh no! We forgot the memory card with the maps at the house!”) Ugh. Apparently, we also forgot to pack our sea legs, as both of us were tripping everywhere on the boat. After motoring out and passing the minefield of crab traps, Brian noticed the white vapor cloud emitting from the exhaust. Chalked it up to perhaps the bottle of fuel cleaner he added. Me, “The engine sounds weird to me. Can you go check it?” “It sounds fine to me, but okay.” A few minutes later, “Dammit!” He discovered the sea water strainer had a leak, was sucking in air, and remedied it with a atlas-dinghytemporary fix. At this point, I remarked how we had so many bad omens that day. Brian gave me the choice, “Your call.” “Well, let’s motor a bit further… But it still doesn’t sound right…” Five miles into the trip, the engine overheat alarm sounded. Oddly, I remained calm and stated, “Okay, let’s kill the engine, and sail back.” At this time, a large pod of dolphins appeared as if to say, “Oh hello! We see you are having engine problems! Need a lift?” I think the entire moment of stress was lost with these guys- seriously one even kept just popping his head up, as if he was posing for a camera. I referred to them as “The Dolphins of Instagram” and the one who kept posing as “Hashtag- Creature of the Day”. Sails up, we headed back. The wind ended up being absolutely perfect to get us back to port. More dolphins (I think they were intrigued by the dinghy), and a sea turtle surfaced and swam next to the boat. When we were near the channel, we took down the main sail, and continued to sail into the marina with the genoa (which is a first). Once we were near our dock, fired up the engine and were able to back in and tie up without incident. Although our day ended up turning out pretty good despite these nuances, a joint decision was made to go to the land-based house for the evening. As for the Serenity’s inboard- it could be a number of things- impeller, exhaust elbow, the fuel cleaner, or karma for remarking how great the inboard has been running. Tomorrow is another day. Additionally, props to Atlas for not freaking out when the engine alarm went off! Everything happens for a reason, and I will say, I’d rather it happen in the Bay, which we know well, vice, in a strange place where we do not know the topology nor people.

Living the Dream!

3 years ago, in the “Boatyard of Broken Dreams”, we met another couple who were refitting their 1985 Norseman 447 CC sailboat next to us. Their boat was in far worse shape than ours, and B-Mann and I would simply shake our heads, “Why?” and wonder if they would ever make it out of there alive. He- a gruff retired SMSgt; she- a mechanical engineer. They were grinding away at a terrible transom extension, and had so many other issues to contend with. But, despite the amount of sandpaper and tape they used, their area surrounding their boat was always immaculate. I would always feel bad about anything around our boat being untidy, as even their refit was surgical. Last year, they popped up in our marina- and we could not even find the boat initially, as it was completely unrecognizable- it looked amazing! (They are very meticulous, and were still working on it while it was now floating.) Every weekend, we’d pass them as we were going out and coming back in from a sail. Xiongwei promised me she’d text me when they did their “shakedown cruise” so we could take pictures. Well, last week I received a text with a video clip, “Dafuq? Dammit! They “shookdown” without telling me!” I texted Xiongwei back, and she replied, “We sailed to Marathon!” Seriously, I could see a shakedown cruise in the bay, but to sail to Key West right away? Anyhoo, they returned today- me, “Where’s the boat?” Alan, “Well, she’s moored in Marathon. We just decided to pull chocks once we got down there, and came back here to sort out loose ends. We’re heading to Cuba in February, and will decide from there.” I was floored, but so proud of them! We will be losing Chris and Stan on the SE of Disorder in May, and Cary and Maureen of the C-Lover in the Fall as they go about their sailing adventures, so if anything, it is kick in the pants when your yachting family is leaving the nest, and makes one re-evaluate whether you should just say “Screw it!”, sell the house, put everything in storage and follow the sea. If our boat neighbor, Gordon, decides that 2017 is the year to leave the dock to cruise full-time too, I am definitely going to consider following suit. Fair winds and traveling seas! Happy New Year!