Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seven Days and Counting

It's 12/29 and we are kind of winding down a tad on things that have to get done before we leave for Pompano Beach on 1/5. I pretty much have my major tasks done. Lisa is still grinding through some of the heavier things on her list, but she is making it.

One of the things that we have had to do is to ship boxes down to where the boat is since we are not going to be driving down there. We have made several trips to our local UPS Store and they have been very helpful. The total cost of shipping these boxes has already been about $200 on shipping charges and there are still two boxes to go. Ca-ching.

But all is well.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Report from St. Louis

Let's see....St. Louis - today's forcast is for a 30% chance of rain with a high temperature of 43 degrees, seas are, well, nothing. Pompano Beach's forecast is for mostly sunny skies with a high temperature of 81 degrees and East southeast winds 12 to 15 knots. Seas 3 to 4 feet. Dominant period 5 seconds. Intracoastal waters a moderate chop. No small craft advisories at all. I'll take that.

We have been working very feverishly to get all of our unfinished business moved to the finished category. We are packing boxes to send down to Florida with the first shipment of 4 or 5 boxes going out today. Just this morning we booked our flight reservations to return to Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 5 leaving STL at 7:20am arriving at FLL at 1pm. We are going to rent a mini-van down there so that we can make plenty of runs to all of the stores that we need to. The West Marine store on Federal Highway in Pompano Beach is going to become our favorite haunt. (info: West Marine for boats = Auto Zone for cars). We are sure that plenty of our money will also end up in the hands of Target, Walmart and Home Depot.

One of the things that Lisa and I have been discussing is that the very first thing that we have to do when we get on Why Knot is to do a complete inventory of all of the things that are part of the boat. Things such as the lines (and their lengths), engine parts (fuel and oil filters especially) and all of the other things not physically attached to the boat itself.

14 days to go.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Random Notes

Bumps in the Road
I have said that perhaps the greatest salesman ever is the guy that sells the water amusement centers that many towns and municipalities have constructed. Talk about an intangible sale - "What you need is a water park for your citizens so they can have fun!" (Fun is the most intangible of intangibles). The second greatest salesman is the guy who sells carnivals to Catholic schools. I thing the third best might be the guy that sold almost the entire state of Florida on the concept (and the corresponding products) that every mile of interstate highways and roads need to have reflector bumps on the dividing lines attached to the pavement. Even just changing lanes you get that machine gun fire ratta-tatting shooting up through the suspension and up into your teeth. These are almost as big a pain in the neck as......

Most of the above mentioned streets and boulevards have some kind of concrete dividing median going down the middle. So you can't make a left turn onto one of the above mentioned streets from a cross street or parking lot exit. You end up having to make a right, go down until there is some kind of cut in the median, then make a U-ie. What a pain. The same goes for wanting to make a left turn into something when you are driving on the divided street. I could see that the reason for this craziness is that there was some well-meaning road official that concocted the idea that the occurance of accidents might be high on streets without medians. And maybe they were right. But believe me, this dependence on u turns is chaotic in it's own way. Nuts.

Jacksonville needs boats.
In a previous post I said that Lisa and I stayed at a hotel on the south shore of the very wide St. Johns river in Jacksonville and that the vista seeing downtown was very nice. But the waterfront was dead as a rock. There were docks all up and down the river banks and it is obvious there had been attempts made to get the banks to be a cool place to be but things were just dead. The reason is very obvious, even to non-boaters. We walked from our hotel kind of on the east end of a river walk built out of some nice docks and piers towards the west end to one of the only restaurants on the riverfront. We liked the view but were disappointed by the lack of life. We then saw the reason. There were signs that said, "No docking of boats." (like what else would you dock. A blimp?) That's the problem. No boats allowed at a dock...on the water. Huh? There are two reasons why this is a big mistake. First, boats and boaters are colorful and fun, and people are attracted to that. The second is that as we have been on our adventure we have found the rumor that boaters are just about the nicest people around to be true. Get a bunch of nice people together and good things are sure to happen.

And the restaurant winners are...
In a previous post I said that we were kind of disappointed with the restaurants down in Florida. Here is an indicator that this is true: There were only two restaurants that we went to three times, and they were both donut shops. Bradenton Donuts in Bradenton, and Dandee Donut in Pompano. Honorable mentions go to the fish restaurant in Marathon, FL where we had lobster reuben sandwiches, the italian restaurant in Bradenton with the name we can't pronounce (two visits) and Heavenly Pizza in Pompano.

One Friday evening in Bradenton we stopped at a Wendy's for dinner. There were two elderly gentlemen there wearing shirts and ball caps of the local high school football team. One man had left to go to the bathroom. The other man was standing there so I asked him if there was a big game that evening. When he spoke to me, to my surprise, he spoke with the biggest hick accent that I think I had ever heard. "Yep," he said, "Weez be playing dat teem from Pie-nellis countee, up thar in Tampy." (Translated - We're playing that team from Tampa, up in Pinellas (p-nel'-lis) County.) Gotta love the locals, ya'll.

Gator Tail is boring
Lisa had deep fried Alligator Tail tidbits for dinner Friday night in Jacksonville. Pretty much bland and tough to eat. If you see it on the menu skip it. The gumbo was good.

Indigenous trees
One of the very obvious differences between northern and southern Florida is the trees. Mostly fir trees up north, palm trees down south. Nothing earthshaking in this but it is very obvious.

All around Florida
We drove the entire parameter of Florida. I-10 on the north. US-19 (could have been a FL state highway) and I-75 on the west, US-1 to the Keys, and all the way up I-95 on the east coast.

Back in STL, the drive home.

We are back in St. Louis. The first day of our drive saw us leaving Pompano Beach about 9am-ish as we knew that we had a short day ahead of us. We also had to do a bit of laundry. And we wanted to drop most of that clean laundry onto the boat, as Jerry and Siste have been very nice to let us do so.

The reason for the short drive to Jacksonville on Friday is that we had a date to see another boat. Yes, we did buy the Why Knot and that has not changed. But we were going to take a look at a Great Harbor GH-47 trawler that was brought down from the Norfolk, VA area for the winter and it was going to be docked at a marina in Green Cove, Florida, just down the St. Johns river from Jacksonville. This particular GH-47 is called Vegas Girl and it is a boat that I have actually known about for quite some time. It is a 2009 and the most recently built GH-47 by Great Harbor. I have known about it in fact for a long enough time that it's picture has graced my computer desktop just like Why Knot has. Lisa had found out that it was now in our neck of the woods and arranged for us to take a look at her. The GH-47 is the boat that we aspire to eventually get. And it is a beauty. The GH series of trawlers are kind of chubby looking and the general opinion is that they are very much an acquired taste. But the opinion on it's capabilities, accouterments, live-aboard-ability, economy, sea worthiness and general passage-maker-ness is universally positive. We were very excited about this opportunity and the real thing did not disappoint at all! Vegas Girl is a beauty. First of all she is in absolutely pristine condition. Gorgeous. Up to this time I had only seen many pictures of her and other 47s. But seeing one face to face was a BIG highlight of the entire trip. Perhaps what impressed me the most was that Vegas Girl is only two feet longer than Why Knot (47 feet versus 45 feet) and they both have a 15 foot beam. But the GH-47 has so much more room and more of a feel of massiveness than other boats. Very impressive.

We stayed in Jacksonville Friday night. Nuff said. Sorry to say that even though we stayed at a hotel on the wide St. Johns River right across from downtown Jacksonville, and that was a pretty vista we were wholly unimpressed. The hotel room had a nice comfy bed but that was about it. Move on.

We woke up very early on Saturday morning and got on the road. We made good time on up into Georgia through Macon, Atlanta and other small burgs along the way. The time and miles passed very quickly and we soon found ourselves in Nashville TN mid-afternoon. We futzed around there for awhile. We saw the Grand Ole Opry (snore) located in Opryland (even more of a snore) and we headed north on I-24 in search of a hotel as Nashville was going to be our stopping point for the night. But we had made such good time up to there and since it turned out we had only 290 miles to go to St. Louis we pushed on. We pulled into the driveway about 9 pm, for a total of 877 miles in 17 hours. Whew.

So here we are for a few short weeks as we do some final preparation work before we head down to Why Knot and start our Great Loop adventure.

Friday, December 9, 2011

MIssion Accomplished

It's Friday morning December 9, 2011 and we are sitting on our balcony of the Beachcomber Hotel in Pompano Beach FL. The skys are overcast as a front moves in from the east. We just watched a very large container ship under steam glide past us from the north to the south: probably going to Miami from some port up east, not too very much offshore, we could see the details of the superstructure and containers very clearly. A yacht, probably a 100 footer just past us going south also.

We have completed the purchase of Why Knot. All that is left to do is wire the money from the bank in St. Louis Monday morning. Easy. We have dropped off some of our stuff onto the boat yesterday which was a great relief to the Mazda's suspension. This will be our last morning in Pompano Beach and we will be travelling much lighter going back then we did coming down to Florida 39 days ago. From here we are travelling to Jacksonville FL to pop in this afternoon to see a Great Harbour 47 trawler which is actually the boat that we want to end up with a few years down the road. Tomorrow we will travel to Nashville (most likely), and then make it in to STL on Sunday. (I understand the weather there kind of sucks. Dang.)

We will be returning here in a few weeks to actually take possession of the boat. The sellers, Gerry and Siste Sheppard have been very kind and accomadating to us. Since the survey (which went well) we have spent the better part of two days going over all of the systems of Why Knot such as the engine, generator, electrical and plumbing. I have learned how to perform all of the routine maintenance such as the oil changes that are needed every 200 hours for the main engine and 100 hours for the generator, keeping the electrical system in check, cleaning, the electronics. Jerry and I have spent a good amount of time in the engine compartmet and I feel confident that I am up to the challenge. I do have few lingering questions about the electrical system that Jerry was not able to provide solid info on. I will get those answered when we get back here. Lisa has spent alot of time with Siste and while I know (and fully expect) that she wants to be involved with more than just the "domestic" or "first mate" kind of things she took in all of the info that Siste offered up. Lisa and I have always worked very well together so we will together grow well with Why Knot. As to the Sheppards generosity the boat is still tied up at their residential dock (free!), they will keep a close watch on her while we are gone and have kindly offered to let us linger there a few days when we return. We are anxious to get on with our adventure but not so stupid or naive to turn down as much education as we can get.

All is well. Our mission started 39 days ago is complete. We have had a wonderful time down here and we are very happy with Why Knot and are looking forward to many wonderful miles on her. But for now it is time to return home to St. Louis for the holidays, take care of some business and to get ready to return here most likely right after New Years day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Tween Weeks. And Dunwurkin is gone. Hello No Hurry

Let me explain how a boat is bought and sold. It is not too dissimilar to buying a house. A offer to buy is made at a certain price with contingencies and provisions. The seller has an opportunity to accept the offer, make a counter offer or reject the offer all together. When an agreement is reached an inspection of the property is made by a professional home inspector who prepares a written report for the buyers. This report contains information about the mechanical and structural systems in the house, of which the buyer can make a decision to accept as is and proceed to close on the house, enter negotiations with the seller to correct the flaws found in the inspection, or reject it outright and let the deal die. Marine purchases are pretty much the same with the exceptions that the inspection is called a survey rather than an inspection and the survey also includes a sea trial. (Try taking a house for a spin around the block).

We had the Dunwurkin surveyed and were not surprised that the mechanics of the boat were rated as being in poor condition by the surveyor. The engine was certainly able but the hoses appeared to be on the older side and we knew that an exhaust elbow had to be replaced. The packing around the propeller shaft and the rudder were both tightened in as far as they could go which results in a very slow leak into the bilge and needed to be replaced. The generator was a mess all the way around. The electrical system was likewise. There were odd owner-made repairs that needed to be "un-repaired" and then fixed properly. As I said, poor condition. But we like the boat otherwise especially the very spacious main aft cabin and the sundeck. It is certainly quirky but we figured if we could actually acquire the boat for a small enough amount we would be willing to invest up to $15,000ish on the mechanics and we would have ourselves a really nice cruiser. We also took the position the it was obvious to us that the sellers had approached the point that they not only would not but also could not take on the financial responsibility to make any of the repairs, which were more than just desirable repairs but absolutely necessary repairs to make the boat seaworthy. This means that if we wanted the boat we would be taking on the burden to make it right, not the sellers. After careful deliberation we decided that the boat was not worth anything near what the seller had originally want nor at the low enough price that we felt comfortable with the risk/value trade-offs. In other words we would only pay so much, the sellers would only sell it for much higher, so the deal died.

Oh, and by the way, our car broke down too.

Even though we had a rental car we felt somewhat stranded. Now don't get me wrong. Getting stranded in south Florida ain't a bad place to get stranded, but it kind of felt that way. The deal on Dunwurkin was kaput so we didn't have any work to do on it. We had to wait for the car to get fixed because the parts had to be shipped in. So, stuck we were.

What do we do? We had already looked at just about every diesel trawler on the market in our price range. Or had we? As we looked at things we started to realize that we had a new set of eyes, so to speak, when it came to looking at boats. Our position with Dunwurkin was that we were tentatively going to buy what we considered to be he best as far as layout and fit and finish and spend the money on the engineering aspects of the boat. What if we turned that around? What if we try to find the best boat from an engineering perspective and spend the money (very likely less) on the cosmetics of the boat? And as we had new knowledge about boats gained from our experience with Dunwurkin our search could be more fruitful. This took us to look back at the boats that we had originally looked at when we first arrived here some 5 weeks ago. This took us back to No Hurry, a 36ft Albin trawler. Charlie took us back to that boat and we looked at the boat from a different perspective. Since we had better knowledge about what to look for in the engine compartment we were able to see it much more accurately, which is that it seems to be a much better maintained and seaworthy boat. The engine and generator are both in good shape. The battery power is plentiful - 550 amps of power, though this is a combo battery that would be used for both starting and house needs. Mike, our surveyor, will be able to sort that out for us. Now, cosmetically there are some issues. First and foremost is that the two sun-light deck hatches have to be replaced. The fore hatch is pretty messed up and the aft hatch is missing entirely. I have come up with a design for some strong temporary hatches that can be very easily made and put into place. We would want a better long term solution but it will do for now. Some of the faucets need to be replaced. Most problematic is that Albins have a reputation of the window designs allow for some hefty leaking. This is the case with this boat as the owner has actually caulked the windows shut, so that there would be no ventilation in the main cabin. That certainly needs to be fixed. And of course the double size bed is tucked under a deck ledge. The stowage in the cabins is scarce. But some of these challenges we would fix or have fixed for what we would expect to be for a lot less that having engine work done like we were planning on Dunwurkin. The one part of No Hurry's mechanicals that has us spooked is that the starboard fuel tank has some pretty deep rust in the forward inward corner.

We reached an agreement with the seller. The next step is that he is hiring a diver to give the hull below the waterline a quick barnacle scrapping. We will schedule the survey including a haul out and sea trial for this coming tuesday or wednesday. If all is aok we will close the sale, take possession of the boat, move it to Regatta Pointe Marina (No Hurry is currently docked at a home-side dock near the sellers home in Apollo Beach.), make a few minor repairs (namely the hatches and locks on the to two cabin doors) so we can head back to St. Louis for a couple of weeks starting next Saturday or Sunday.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Florida, and, The Plot Thickens!

Thanksgiving in Florida has been, to say the least, different. We started the day by going to a movie theater and seeing the new Muppet Movie. Very funny, four stars. It was interesting that while there certainly a load of youngsters there there was also a bevy of middle age folks there like us. Then instead of the normal turkey dinner we had Chinese. Quite good chinese food too. Then, as we hopped onto the interstate and headed into the heart of Tampa itself. We hadn't made it up into Tampa yet as we have been south of there so far. The highlight of the drive was making our way over to Treasure Island in St. Petersburg where we easily found the Bilmar Hotel Resort. It was at this same hotel that my family vacationed three years probably 45 or so years ago. It was in great shape and it was fun finding it.

The Plot Thickens - before we headed up to our new hotel in Ruskin Florida we made an offer on a different boat, The No Hurry, a 36ft Albin trawler. From what we, along with are able broker Captain Charlie Pendergrass, differently from the Dunwurkin, the machanics at least appear to be much better off, and the trim and accouterments will need more attention. Low and behold Charlie sent us a text message today that the offer had been accepted. Yay!

Today (Friday) we are going to go and check out some of the marinas in the area for an appropriate haul out for the survey, hopefully in the early part of this coming week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Speaking of Rooster Tails.

One of the oddities that we came across, first at the bed and breakfast, and then almost everywhere else, is that the keys are run a muck with feral chickens and roosters. In downtown Key West they are flippin' everywhere. Lisa and I were down at the docks before sunrise this morning and we heard and saw about a dozen or so. And yes, the roosters do crow.

The story goes that cock fighting was legal in the Keys until some time in the 1970s when it was banned. Apparently this was a pretty big enterprise with a lot of birds. When it was banned the people that had the chickens and roosters had no other purpose for them so they just set them loose to fend for themselves in the wild. I guess they have done pretty well because they are very common on streets, sidewalks, parking lots and parks.


Really Fast Boats!

It's now Sunday. Once again we head off from our bed and breakfast south on US1 the 90 miles to Key West. This trip down was a little different though. As we are both very much getting into the life aquatic with this entire trip our conversations have turned from "oohs and aahs" to things having to do with navigation and boating. As we are driving along and can see the water we are beginning to see the features that are important to boaters such as the markers and seeing the differences in the water color that come with shoals and shallow spots. We are beginning to be more critical in our thinking as we gaze out over the water. It is becoming more about how to get here and there along the way. Lisa then has a great idea. We have the entire Maptech chartpack of Florida which is a very large wire-bound book of all of the charts you need to navigate Florida waters including the Keys. We pull over the car pop the trunk and grab the book. So now as we drive along we are noting the time, water depths, channels and markings of the waters on either side of the Keys. Here is what we have surmised.

The north side of the keys for the most part are shallow and full of shoals. As Dunwurkin has a three foot draft it is best to navigate these waters at high tide and stay in the channels. Now, the south side of the keys is deeper but there are not too many passes and channels that are readily navigable until you get out closer to the south end of chain. Now once you get out to Key West, especially the southwest end of things the water opens up pretty easily.

It was a pretty funny sight. Here we are rolling down US1 with an 18" by 2 foot book (18" by 4 feet open) laid out across our car's passenger compartment. But it was fun!

We got into Key West about noon and drove to the party zone, or as they like to call it, "downtown". We found a parking place pretty easily (surprisingly) and had a very nice lunch at an outdoor restaurant called Caroline's on Duval street. Very pleasant. Now, during this time that we had been there (actually since the previous Wednesday) Key West was holding the big time national offshore power boating world championship. As we had been eating I thought I had heard the sounds of very loud engines.

It was race week.

After we ate we walked north on Duval, around a couple of street corners, and just like that we were on a very crowded deck of a hotel restaurant/bar staring out over the waters off Key West. We were able to get to within about three people's deep of the rail and could see the home straight away pretty well. There was a very nice man near us that obviously followed this stuff and he gladly shared information with us.

And our timing was perfect. This was the final race of the big boats, the Unlimiteds. They all have two 1000+ hp engines and can go 100+ miles per hours. They were loud and they were very, very fast. They run a six mile course six laps. We were not too far from the innermost marker that they come screaming down make a 180 degree turn and then haul ass out to the open see about 3 miles, make another 180 degree turn and scream back. There were thousands of people lining the shore and a whole bunch of boats along the course. There was even a navy ship out near the far marker. These race boats put up so much water that you could see their rooster tails all the way out and all the way back. It was very exciting.

Now, it should be noted that this is also a VERY dangerous sport. Three racers were killed during this race, including two from Missouri.

The Purple Porpoise Pub

We left Key West about 6 pm or so. It was a 90 mile drive back to our hotel and we were pretty pooped. Leaving Key West you go over several small bridges over small cuts in the land. Right on the north side of one of these bridges a small run down bar on the north side of the highway caught my attention. It was called the Purple Porpoise Pub. It was a dump but the name had me in stitches. I have no idea why (sleep deprivation?) I started free associating a dialog between a conversation that might occur with a drunk patron of the bar and the local cab company. It went along these lines...

"Hello, Key West Cabs."
(drunkenly) "Hello Key West Cabs? I need a cab to pick me up."
"Yes Sir, where are you?"
"At the Puppy Purpose Plub. I mean the Purple Poopy Pup..."
"You mean the Purple Purpoise Pub."
"Thas right. Gosh, you're good."
"And you name sir?"
"So it's Paul at the Purple Porpoise Pub?"
"Thas right."
"Anyone with you?"
"My wife."
"Your wife?"
"Yep. Paula."
"So we're picking up Paul and Paula at the Purple Porpoise Pub?"
"Wow, ur good. We have two friends with us."
"And they are...?"
"Patty and Perry."
"So its Paul, Paula, Patty and Perry at the Purple Porpoise Pub?"
"Thas right. Man, ur good."

and so on. As you know how my mind works you could probably guess that this went on waaaaay long. And so here is the final summation of this entire affair...

The cab was to pick up Paul, Paula, Patty and Perry at the Purple Porpoise Pub. They're from Pittsburgh and on their way to Poughkeepsie. Paul is a professional plumber. Paula is a peridondist and part time piano teacher at the Presbyterian church. The have two children, Penny and Fred (Fred is Paula's kid from a previous marriage to Pierre from Portugal who was a putz.) They requested to be picked up in a Pontiac. Paul drives a Porshe but is leaving that at the Purple Porpoise Pub. They're plastered. They ate pizza and drank pina coladas.

And quite frankly I have forgotten about 75% of it. This kept us thoroughly amused for almost the entire trip back to the bed and breakfast.

("Wow. ur good.")

btw, there was no alcohol involved in this at all. But then when did I ever need booze to come up with this kind of stuff?

Key West- The first visit

As we had arrived at the bed and breakfast about 1 in the afternoon, and after our quick swim we decided that there was a whole chain of islands to explore. We got in the car and headed south on Highway One. Our destination was Key West, some 60 miles away.

Heading south on the highway there are several things that I realized. First, as far as the land goes you are really driving at just one to five feet above sea level and everything is very flat. There is high vegetation on either side so you really can't see anything of any real interest until you get to the bridges that go out over the channels connecting the keys (islands). Second, it is very obvious that tourism is by far the primary industry of the keys. There are gobs of hotels, restaurants, gift shops and all kinds of attractions all designed to get some of your money. So be it. That's how they roll down here and that's ok with me.

Driving down the keys is actually quite beautiful. Whenever you get to one of the channel cuts that connect the keys you are able to look out over the seas without much obstruction. There are always fishermen out on the piers and the abandoned older bridges that line the newer bridges that carry US1 traffic. The waters are pretty shallow all around the keys and there is surprisingly little boat traffic as the chance of shoaling is pretty high, except for runabouts and fishing boats with very shallow drafts. There are marinas all along the way at the cuts but the channels to reach them are very narrow and still not too deep.

Our first stop was at the Keys Fisheries and Restaurant in the town of Marathon which is at about the 65 mile marker. Charlie Pendergrass, our boat broker, told us that we had to stop there to eat. Their claim to fame is a fresh lobster reuben sandwich. It was to die for. Really tasty. Very fresh. Terrific.

After we ate we continued down the keys. One of the interesting sights is that about half way between Marathon and Key West there is a wildlife preserve with the sole purpose of protecting a species of indigenous deer called the Key Deer (We later found out it is related to the White Tail deer common to the midwest.) The speed limits all went from 55 mph down to 45 in the daylight and 35 at night. On this first trip to Key West we did not see any of the deer.

We arrived at Key West around dusk. What a town. Crazy. Very crowded and noisy, US1 cuts along the north side of the island as Roosevelt Road, cruising right along the shore. Very nice. Key West Island is a fairly large island and is the most highly populated. Lots of traffic, stores, restaurants...all of the kind that you would see anywhere else. There were Pizza Huts, Kmarts, Home Depots (no Walmarts though), anything and everything. And there are scooters: Lots and lots of scooters. You can rent a scooter from a stand on just about every block, and frankly it is a sensible way to get around. They do have to follow traffic laws but do so just barely. Roosevelt Road becomes Truman Avenue. You stay on Truman a short distance (still US1 at this point) make a right on Whitehead and after a couple of blocks you see a very ordinary highway marker sign that says "END US 1"...literally. That is the end of the highway.

Staying on Whitehead (or you could turn on any other parallel street such as Simonton) and you would end up in downtown Key West, and if you could give a name to this area it would be "Partytown, Florida". The center of it all, I guess, is the old Customs House which is now a museum. But from there, on Whitehead, Simonton, Front, Caroline and especially Duval, there are dozens and dozens of bars, restaurants, shops, small hotels of just about every kind. It is the prototypical American tourist trap party zone with accommodations for every taste: gay, straight, leisurely, hopped up, sidewalk cafes, mega restaurants, small tiki bars, big music clubs, G-rated, R-rated, name it, it's there.

As we were kind of getting pooped at this point so we just meandered around in the traffic and took it all in. It was Saturday night and everyone was downtown writing their own stories to tell to their friends back home in Toledo.

Next, the Purple Porpoise Pub.

The Keys - Getting There

(This is the start of entries about our trip to the Florida Keys)

We left Sarasota early Saturday morning driving straight south to Naples where I-75 takes a big left turn and heads due east to Miami. From there you head down the coast by a series of highways until you get to US Highway 1. Yes, that's right - Highway One. US1 is the main drag of the entire Florida Keys and it's mile markers are the primary locator system on the islands as the islands are for the most part very narrow without much land area on either side of US1. When you ask directions to anywhere or are looking for where something is the first direction mentioned is what mile marker is it at. If you asked where a Walgreens was the person you were asking would likely say that its south on 1 at the 65 mile marker. (South = away from the mainland. North = toward the mainland. Even though the islands themselves run northeast to southwest it is said they run north and south.)

When you enter the islands the first large island right off the coast is Key Largo. All the Key islands are in a single county, Monroe County. I thing there is a tad of Monroe County on the mainland but pretty much when you enter Key Largo you are officially in the Keys and Monroe C0unty. Now, The distance from the north entrance of the Keys to the end in Key West is something like 120 miles.

We had arranged to stay in a bed and breakfast in a town called Islamorada, about a third of the way down into the keys. We found the place without too much trouble. I posted a review on TripAdvisor that it was comfortable, clean, present and eclectic bordering in eccentric. I think that that is a very accurate way of describing it. The food was strictly vegetarian but very tasty. We enjoyed our two night stay there.

Ahh, swimming in November.

Next, Key West.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Sarasota

I am sitting in the hotel room of the Quality Inn in Sarasota Florida and I think I am at the point of no return boredom-wise. Here are some of the things that I have been doing these last several days that has occupied our time as we wait for the survey of the Dunwurkin to arrive so that we can proceed with the negotiations for repairs and then hopefully on to the sale and acquisition.

I have discoverd my new favorite song...Red Solo Cup by Toby Keith. This song has firmly imprinted itself into my mind. The other day we were driving around the area at about 4:30 in the morning. It seems that I have not yet been able to break my early-to-bed-early-to-rise habits so our first effort of each day is to head out around 4:30 or 5:00 to get some real coffee because the coffee available on the little magic single cup size brewers in the room kind of stinks. So we were driving and we heard that song. It is a musical homage to the red plastic cups made by Solo that are omnipresent at almost any function that involves beer. Its a jaunty little tune...the kind of tune that burrows into your brain like a parasite. Watch the video. Very funny.

I almost got a ticket by the Longboat Key police department. On this same drive we drove along the main road of on of the long barrier islands, Longboat Key. I was driving 55 miles per hour minding my own business drinking 7-11 coffee when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the spinning red lights of a police car that I immediately connected to the thought, "Oh, I guess the speed limit is not 55 mph. Oops." I pulled over and the policeman walked up and asked for license and registration which I provided to him. He went back to his car to perform the necessary investigation. A few minutes went by when he came back to my car with a warning. Whew! He then commented that he sees I am from St. Louis and that he recently moved down there from Philadelphia. So we ended up talking baseball. Go Cards!

The cable television in the hotel room is horrid unless you are really into business and stock market reports, ESPN Classic or local talk programs, of which all of these I am not.

We played miniature golf at the Smugglers Cove establishment right down the road from the hotel. We tied 48 each. That burned up a total of 45 minutes. Though I will say that it is a very nice establishment - very clean and kept up well. And they have live alligators in a pond. They were all lying on a platform in the middle. They looked bored, too. Oh, they do have an albino alligator in a display tank. Her hame is Pearl. She looked bored too.

I think tomorrow we will break out the Scrabble game and have a go at that.

Gosh, it would be swell if Charlie Pendergrass could borrow a boat and take us for a ride.

All is well. We're excited about the possibilities of the endeavor that we have set out to accomplish. We are looking forward to making progress.

Sarasota is a black hole

FYI, If you ever come to Sarasota with the hopes of doing blazing internet work, using your ipad or phone as your main connection to the ether-world or having uninterrupted links to the digital world you need to modify your thinking. It is our experience that overall internet connectivity is sorely lacking.

Just a word of warning.

Thoughts on Sarasota

It's November 9th 2011 and the forecast for today in Sarasota is sunny with a high temperature of around 78 or 79. Yesterday it was 82. So, how's the weather where you are?

Sarasota, Florida is a very beautiful area. The architecture is a mix of post-WW2 concrete block construction with stucco, lots of classic restorations, neo-classic Mediterranean, glass modern and just plain garish frivolities. But it all seems to work. In my travels I have observed that many communities are economically and demographically zoned in what turns out to be a mish-mash of different conditions... Jaguar dealerships next to tattoo parlors next to strip clubs next to high end hotels next to country clubs next to office buildings that have been for lease for years. (not so much like St. Louis which has what I think are very fixed community personalities, ie. the Mercedez Benz dealers are where people who buy those cars live, strip clubs are in east side, low income people live amongst other low income people - NOTE: I am not endorsing this kind of segregation, just noting it exists.) As you drive up and down Highway 41 aka The Tamiami Trail you see all the mixes of a diverse community. There are two colleges, expensive car dealerships, a very stylish downtown area, and then as you cruise north into Bradenton which is contiguous to Sarasota and just a very short distance away you come across the strip clubs and massage parlors, not to mention seeing the occasional hooker looking for a party, and then big classic resorts and the expensive car dealerships again.

Food - Ok, I am going to try to be politically correct here.........the food sucks! We have eaten at several restaurants ranging from pizza to sandwiches to proper dinners and frankly, the food is bland and lifeless. I think it has to do with the very sizable retired population here. (bland food = safe food) To be frank the only really good food we have found at the local restaurants here are the blueberry cake donuts at Bradenton Donut AND THEY ARE FREAKING AWESOME!!! The first evening here we ate at a local pizzeria. The parking lot was full so we figured that if the locals ate there so should we. Well, we have learned an important lesson...the locals may not know what they are doing either. It was really quite tasteless with very little tomato sauce, the cheese was bland, not a hint of any aromatic ingredients such as garlic or onions...or salt for that matter. It wasn't even good cold the next morning. It is easy and justifiable to accuse restaurants of loading up their food with salt and that it would just as good if they backed it off a little but restaurants here go totally the other way. As I said bland and lifeless. Sorry Sarasota. A grade of A+ for locale and natural beauty. D- for food.

Monday, November 7, 2011

How to buy a boat in Sarasota Florida

It really isn't that hard. First thing you do is research what kind of boating life you want (live-aboard, coastal cruising, Great Loop, done over 6 years), find a good crew (Lisa), research what kind of boat you want to have (single engine diesel trawler), find the boat online (36 foot Chien Wha Sundeck Trawler located in Sarasota Florida) and GO!

During my search I literally looked at at least 100 different boats of most configurations. Ours is a boat built in Taiwan by the Chien Wha Shipyards. The main features that I was looking for were it to have a single inboard diesel engine, have a center berth main cabin (that means that the bed is centered in the cabin rather than offset to either the port or starboard side of the boat), that there is plenty of deckspace for enjoyment and that it not be a "handy-man special". I first found this boat, named "Dunwurkin", about two months ago.

Heading to Sarasota

We left St. Louis about 5 am on the first of November 2011. It was a clear crisp mornin and we quickly made our way out of St. Louis south on Interstate 55. Once we got past Sikeston the highway opened up infront of us fast and smooth. There was a segment that I had the RX-8 cranked up to 115 mph. When we got to Mississippi I knew that we were going to be able to open her up but I did not think that Missouri would be so fast.

Interstate 55 runs south directly from Memphis TN and in a few miles south of Graceland we entered Mississippi and almost instantly every driver on the road pushed their pedals down hard and we were flying. Cruise control at 80 to 85 mph. Sweet. The weather was absolutely wonderful and the RX-8 handled the speed and the highway wonderfully. Lisa and I had a blast. We'd listen to some music sometimes but most of the time we would talk and laugh. Wonderful. When we got down to Jackson Mississippi we cut southeast to Hattiesburg MS, then on to Mobile for the night.

The next morning we blasted of east on I-10 and were once again in the fast track perpetually pushing it at 80 mph. There was a point that we were following a lady in a 5 series BMW. We trailed here for 30 miles or so. At one point she pulled over to a rest stop. We followed here. We introduced ourselves to her. She was on her way all the way to Jacksonville. She told us that going 80 was normal in that everyone, including the police, accepted the fact that there were great distances between waypoints on the intersate and that 70 mph was waaaaay too slow.

and more about Sarasota in the next post.