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.