Archive for the ‘Florida Keys’ Category

For all of our fanfare about finally getting out of Boot Key after a several month stay, we actually didn’t get very far.  Shortly before our departure, we learned that some dear friends Paul and Dawn were starting their journey back from the Berry Islands in the Bahamas and would be in the FL Keys on their way to Cuba.  After an exchange of messages, we decided that with cooperative weather for both, our paths would cross in Key Biscayne, near Miami.  We had a blast hanging out together for a few days while BuBu3 and Cheshire enjoyed the protection of No Name Harbor.  We’d been in the harbor once before (see Exploring Key Biscayne), and Dawn and I certainly enjoyed our daily walks about the state park grounds;  there was plenty of wildlife to entertain us nearby.  This pause was a bit longer though, and we’ve been able to dig a little deeper.

Wildlife of Bill Baggs State Park…

Key Biscayne is an island at the top of Biscayne Bay, a causeway away from Miami proper.  Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which includes No Name Harbor, sits at the south end of the island.  North of the park in the center section of the island is the uber-developed village of Key Biscayne.  It’s a fairly bike-friendly stretch full of useful things… a Winn-Dixie, a CVS, some interesting restaurants.  La Boulangerie and Oasis Cafe were our favorite finds of this stop.

The real find however was beyond the village to the north, an 800-acre county park known as Crandon Park.  Once a coconut plantation, in the 1940’s the land that now makes up the park was donated to Miami-Dade county by the family of William John Matheson, yet another American industrialist, on the condition that it be forever a park.  Another bit of land saved from the rampage of south Florida development.  In my humble opinion (and apparently at least one of the Matheson family concur), the county’s  concept of “park” is a bit stretched… i.e. it includes a golf course and a massive tennis center, but also a couple of miles of beach, a marina, a nature center and more than 3,000 parking spaces to accommodate visitors.  We checked out the nature center, and stretched our legs with some short hikes at the park’s Bear Cut Preserve on the north end, eventually working our way south to what would be our favorite section…the Gardens at Crandon Park.

From Bear Cut Preserve… a really cool beehive in a tree, a Green Anole and one of my favorite wading birds, a Reddish Egret.

The Garden is tucked away in the southeast corner of the park.  It’s not well marked, nor is it well advertised.  In fact it was a little tricky to figure out how to access it, but our persistence paid off.  It’s a quirky place, and apparently a well-kept secret.  At our visit, I’m certain there was more wildlife than people, visitors and park staff included.

This bit of the park apparently started life as a small zoo.  Rumor has is that in about 1948, a few animals… monkeys, a goat, a couple of black bear depending on the version of the story you’re reading, were purchased from a circus that was stranded near Miami.  The Crandon Zoo was born, and during the following years, grew its menagerie through purchase and donation.  Hurricane Betsy wreaked some havoc in 1965, flooding much of the zoo and killing many of its residents.  Eventually, in 1980 or so, the zoo moved to the mainland, and became what is now Zoo Miami.  The Crandon location apparently sat vacant and neglected for a long while.  The Gardens of Crandon Park Foundation was formed and initiated the restoration, which was eventually picked up by Miami-Dade County who is responsible for the park anyway.  I’m not sure what the grand plans are, but it’s got some character.

Many of the  old zoo structures and cages remain, although with some of the fencing removed and much mural painting added.  As in most of south Florida’s natural areas, iguana were plentiful, but there were plenty of unusual birds as well.  Indian Peafowl were everywhere, roaming free.  Mostly peacocks (male), but a few peahens (female) as well.  The peahens tended to be a bit more elusive, and consequently more challenging to photograph.  I had no idea that peacocks were so noisy.

A couple of geese (species I’ve not yet nailed down) were pretty annoying, following us around hoping to be fed.  At one point a pair appeared to be holding my bike hostage.  A pair of Sandhill Cranes was another highlight.  Rumor has it that one of the ponds is home to a crocodile; friends who visited earlier in the week got to see it.  Mike saw a snout peeking up while I was otherwise occupied trying to capture (a photo) a Spiny-tailed Iguana.  Several other bird species seem to be successfully avoiding the croc.

As fascinating as the creatures were, I was also captivated by the ruins of the zoo structures.  It was a bit difficult to imagine the conditions the animals were kept in, though an internet search yielded some interesting old photographs.  Meanwhile, today…


So, today was a day of preparation as we get ready to depart for destinations north.  We’ve topped off provisioning, gotten the bikes back on board and stowed and wrapped up some small projects.  Tonight we’ll have a potluck dinner along with some other fellow cruisers who are also heading north tomorrow.  In the morning,  we’ll stop by the Crandon Park Marina to top off fuel and water, then weather permitting, we’ll jump offshore for a run around Miami and Ft Lauderdale and see how it goes.


s/v True North in a No Name Harbor sunset


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Fun with Impellers

I had a realization few days ago, while talking with another cruising couple we’d just met. I was recalling  how stupid I felt during our early weeks of learning to live aboard a boat. In a house, I generally knew how things worked, but then things were a bit simpler on the surface. Consider water and power for example. Water spigots, faucets… you turned them on and out came water. Electric outlets and light switches… plug in, switch it on, voila, let there be light, or power or whatever. All in all, pretty simple to operate. I was proud of myself for knowing where the water main was located in our condo and how to turn it off in the event of a problem. Even our gas fireplace was on a wall switch.  And I had no earthly idea what an impeller was.

On a boat, even simple things aren’t so simple. I’ve posted a bit about our water and power systems, but where I’ve been stretched the most is trying to understand the mechanical heart of our Cheshire, her diesel engine.



I’ll confess that I have no ambition of becoming a diesel mechanic, but I do feel more comfortable when I have at least some understanding of how these systems work. Mostly I learn bits and pieces as we muddle our way through routine maintenance chores and fix things that break. As I’ve said before, we can afford to live this life only because we have a willingness to tackle most of these things ourselves. I’ll also say again how lucky we are that Mike is so scary smart about how things work. And I’m learning a bit.

Many readers of this blog know that in our lives on dirt, Mike worked for Honda of America. He was a computer geek, but one of the perks of his position is that we got relatively cheap lease cars, with insurance paid and all maintenance done by the Service Center on site at the plant. We kept them gassed up, ran them through a car wash occasionally, and when the little dash light came on that indicated a service due, we scheduled an appointment to drop it off.  Mike dropped it off in the morning, and picked it up again at the end of business.  That was it. Awesome perk. Needless to say, the care and feeding of our Cheshire’s Westerbeke 30B3 diesel engine has been a big learning curve for us.  We’re committed to it though.  I figure if we take good care of it, it’ll take good care of us.

A few years back, after some offshore excitement (more here),  we learned that de-gooping our fuel tanks periodically also keeps the engine happier.  During one stay in St Augustine, we actually pulled both fuel tanks out and “deep cleaned” them.  Mike also added two additional fuel separators in parallel, ahead of the original one.  These filter goop from the fuel before it gets to the engine, and are in a cockpit locker much easier to access for regular maintenance and can be switched and drained while underway in the event of a problem.  Still, goop settles in the bottom of the flat fuel tanks, below the fuel pick-ups, and pulling the tanks out to clean them is more than a small project.  Mike’s ingenuity to the rescue.  He designed a “tipping” system where we can tip the tanks a bit without fully removing them, and use a cheap and cheesy fuel pump system he also put together to suck from the lowest parts of the tanks where the goop settles.  He’d rigged this system for the port tank a while back, but had never gotten around to doing it for the starboard side, until this week.  Except that when we pulled out said cheap and cheesy fuel pump for the de-gooping, it wouldn’t pump.  Apparently a single-use item.  We now have a pricier but more reliable 12-volt fuel transfer pump that worked beautifully for us, as well as for a neighboring boat in the harbor.  It was a several day project to “install” the tipping mechanism, but it should make for much easier work down the road.

Fuel tanks de-gooped… Check.  Next up, an oil change.

While routine oil changes aren’t our favorite boat chore, we’ve done them enough that they’ve become, well, routine.  Every other time we do what we refer to as a “full service” oil change, which involves changing a couple of extra filters.  Spread the tarp out in the cockpit, dig out the bits and bottles we need from various storage locations go at it. If all goes well, it takes a couple of hours, start to finish.  Except for this last time…

While changing the zinc (a bit that corrodes via electrolysis  instead of having other important bits corrode), we discovered that we had a broken impeller (a whirligig bit that moves water through the raw water pump on the engine).  It happens occasionally, which is why it’s something we carry spares of.  Except that we were not aware that when we replaced our raw water pump a couple of years ago, that the old pump had been redesigned and no longer used the same impeller.  So we had two spares, neither of which was compatible with the new pump.  Fortunately, by day’s end, we’d located a couple of the correct ones from a local supplier.  Even better, we were able to sell the “old” spares the next morning to another boater in the harbor who has the older pump.

The following day, our trusty oil transfer pump failed us… the hose just split, like it had been cut with a knife.  Fortunately, a couple of turns of RescueTape had us back in business.

The final step in our routine oil change is to clean the seawater strainer. On our Gemini, this strainer is underneath the starboard aft bunk.  It’s a basket of sorts that’s inline in the seawater intake system, that filters out mud, seagrass, and other bits of muck that get sucked in, before it gets to the engine.  Open it up, rinse out the grass and muck, replace.  Except that when Mike went to replace it this time, it leaked… salt water, leaking inside of the boat.  OK, it was more like a drip than a leak, but still.   Apparently an O-ring decided it’s life was over.  Fortunately we carry spares.


Full service oil change complete… Check.

All in all, none of the above was major.  It’s just that we’re really really really done with boat projects, even minor maintenance projects.  The Captain is done with having to sit on the floor in awkward spaces.  The Admiral is especially done with having the entire boat in a state of disarray to accomplish said projects.  It’s time to relax, play a bit… talk about where we want to explore next instead of what the next step in the project du jour is.

Now, to see about getting out of here before something else happens. Oh wait, we did that, this morning in fact.  Greetings from Tavernier, FL where Cheshire sits on the hook for the first time in months.  Kind of weird looking out the windows and not seeing our mooring neighbors though.  Another chapter in our adventure begins…





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We’ve Got Rain!

…which is ordinarily not an exciting occurrence, but today it’s very exciting.  It rained buckets in January, but as soon as we finished our solar project in mid-February, it stopped.  We’ve barely gotten a drop since.  After near perfect weather over the recent week-end for the Key West air show, this morning we woke to cloudy skies and mid-morning the rain started falling.  Seriously, our neighbors in the harbor have been crediting us with the nice weather of late.  But today we have rain, and the Admiral is doing a happy dance!

One reason for the excitement is that it’s been a long time since our Cheshire has been dockside with access to a water hose, so she was desperately in need of a fresh water rinse.  The other is that it’s the first chance we’ve had since installation to test our rain water catchment system.  Some will remember that the new solar array has some added bits for just this purpose… an aluminum channel across the forward edge and for a short run around the corners with nipples  on the underneath side of the forward corners which allow for slipping a hose onto.  Find details in an earlier post here.

The Captain’s design allows for the option of running the hose to either one of the 6-gallon jerry cans we have on board or directly to the tank fills which are on either end of the mainsheet traveler on the back of the cockpit.  At the tank fill, we use an elbow to attach to another short length of hose that bypasses the vent that’s located a couple of inches down the fill tube.  The vent allows air to escape the water tank as it fills with water, which is a great thing, but I’m not sure whose idea its placement was.  When we first moved aboard, it was a bit awkward, not to mention wet, until we figured out how to bypass the vent.

In any event, we filled the jerry can that was empty and topped off the tank that was low.  We figure we collected about 15 – 20 gallons of water in a fairly short period of time, at which point we were full, but the rain continued.  The Captain is happy with the design, so we’re considering it another project completed and tested.  Check!

Coming up later this week… we’ve decided our Cheshire is needing some serious blood work done before our journey north.  Stay tuned.


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… which is Key West’s fancy way of saying “air show”.  I must admit though, it was in fact pretty spectacular.

When cruising friends and neighbors in the harbor, Russ and Jennifer aboard s/v No Ka Oi, invited us to join them for a road trip to the airshow this weekend, we jumped at the invitation.  Not only did it let us blow off another day of boat projects, the show was also free.  Free is a good thing given our winter of never ending and not inexpensive projects.

This Southernmost Air Spectacular took place at Boca Chica Field at Naval Air Station Key West.  NAS Key West has been around since 1917 in some form, but has served primarily as a training facility since 1945.  It was a great day for the show, clear and sunny with a steady breeze.  There were plenty of static displays… including a C-17 that was visiting from McGuire AFB in New Jersey.  These are monster-sized military transport planes.    The boys checked out the seats… deploying with their camp chairs?  I think not.  We skipped the line for the cockpit tour, and most of the other static displays as well in favor of watching the planes in the sky.

While it was a beautiful day for the show, it was a little bright for good photography.  I also found it more difficult to capture photos of mechanical birds than of the feathered variety.   Finally I’ll  admit that shooting (photographically speaking) moving targets is not my strong suit.  In retrospect, I should have experimented a bit with some camera settings before hand.  Mostly I was determined to watch the show, not just photograph it.  Thanks too, to Jennifer for sharing several of her shots, including some of Mike and I.   (You’re welcome, Mom.)  Here are the highlights…

There were several civilian acts, including this Twin Beech 18 flown by Matt Younkin.

A Stearman did a solo flight earlier in the day, and reappeared later with a wing walker.  Yes, that black smudge in both photos… a wing walker, and for the record, she’s way braver than I’d ever be.  (Click on any of the photos for a closer look.)

Mike’s favorite of the day were the Firebirds.  Impressive indeed.  Jack Knutson in his Extra 300/s and Rob Holland in his MXS-RH.

Last but definitely not least were the infamous Blue Angels.  First came Fat Albert (a Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules) , followed by six Boeing F/A-18 Hornets.  These guys were particularly fast and hard to capture.


A stop in Big Pine Key at No Name Pub for dinner on our way back to Marathon was a perfect ending to a great day.

LSB_20160402 No Name Pub w:Russ & Jennifer

@ No Name Pub with Jennifer and Russ

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Despite recent blog posts, our time in Boot Key Harbor this winter hasn’t been all work. OK, so it’s been a lot of work, some planned, some not planned, but as I’ve mentioned before, Boot Key/Marathon is a great place for projects. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss if I didn’t capture some of our play time here as well.

Unchanged from our first visit to Boot Key Harbor three years ago is the morning vhf net. Charles, my personal favorite of the moderators describes it as “our own version of pirate radio”. Every morning we can tune in to hear who’s arrived, who’s leaving, announcements about what’s happening in the area. There’s an opportunity to ask for help/info, a buy/sell/trade/give-a-way section and trivia. It’s hands-down the most active net we’ve encountered in our cruising to date, and full of all kinds of characters.

Some things are unchanged from our last visit… a list of weekly activities enough to keep anyone from getting bored, everything from various sports and yoga to dominos and  arts and crafts. Occasionally there’s an outdoor movie night at the Tiki Hut; this year we caught “The Martian”, which was excellent by the way.

I mentioned Captain Jack in a blog post from our visit a few years ago.  Jack is still out and about, still lives on his boat in one of the few dock spaces at the marina.  As before, he picks flowers from the hibiscus bush on site each day, and spends the rest of the day pushing his Home Depot walker around the property, passing flowers out to the ladies.  He  celebrated his 94th birthday back in February, complete with a party at the Tiki.

New since our first visit, there are now NOSE-pickers in the harbor, which is a good thing. Nautical Obstruction Salvage Experts. The marina sponsors a friendly competition to encourage trash clean up around the harbor, volunteers log what’s collected, and prizes are given out monthly for those who collect the most. It’s amazing to me what ends up in the mangroves around here.

There’s a Second Sunday Brunch (potluck) which we’ve caught a couple of times which is a nice change of pace.

One evening a few weeks ago we participated in our first Dinghy Drift.  Think of it as a floating potluck happy hour.  Thirty-three dinghies participated and it was great fun.

The Captain likes nothing more at the end of a project day “trapped on the boat”, than to head ashore for bar food, draft beer and some live music. We’ve been in luck this trip to have several places within dinghy distance of the mooring field that meet most criteria.  At one end of the harbor is Dockside (recently closed amidst much drama).  We weren’t big fans of their food, but they had some good live music going on.  At a Sunday night open mic night a while back, we met Mickey.  Mickey is 98 years old and apparently was a weekly fixture, telling hysterical jokes, singing and playing a mean trumpet.  He’s got some serious dementia going on (confirmed when I spoke with him 1:1 later in the evening), but you’d never know it to watch him on stage.  I wonder how he’ll be impacted by the closing.

More recently we finally caught Fiddle Rock, a famous-in-the-Keys duo that were pretty impressive.


Burdine’s is hands down our favorite spot though, with good food and a good selection of interesting (bottled) beers. Cory and Ty play there every Wednesday and I confess we’ve become groupies.  Cory just had an album released shortly after we arrived.  Info here for those who may be interested.

We’ve also caught a couple of local festivals, including the Pigeon Key Art Festival for which we volunteered, as well as the popular Marathon Seafood Festival.  The Crane Point Museum and Nature Center is a well kept secret in the area; blog post to follow.  So, you see, we have done our share of playing.




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Aka, the refrigerator replacement project that went on and on and on…

… as does this particular blog post.  Consider yourself warned.

We’ve decided that this has been one of our most unpleasant projects to date, and we’ve undertaken more than a few in our nearly 5 years aboard. There has been much swearing and sighing involved, much doing, undoing, redoing. The good news is that it’s done, and that we’re still married.

In a house, on dirt, if one needs a new refrigerator, one does a bit of research, buys the new appliance, has it delivered and installed, or for the DIYers, plugs it in and it’s done. A couple of days, tops.

Not so on a boat.  When our previous, original-to-the-boat Dometic AC/propane fridge started misbehaving, Mike did some research and we spent the better part of a couple of days debating the options for a replacement.  After much testing of our new capabilities, we decided we now have enough watts (we hope) coming off the new solar array to consider an electric fridge.  (Away from the dock, our Dometic, while a solid fridge, would have us running through a 20# tank of propane every 2 weeks; doable, but not convenient.)  Our stove and grill also use propane, but nothing compared to what the Dometic did.

Criteria 2, we wanted something with a similar footprint so as not to be undertaking a complicated cabinetry project as well.  On our Gemini, the primary fridge is located inside the companionway immediately to starboard, in front of the helm,  in a floating fiberglass box.  Not sure why the box, but it’s there, and short of cutting out large pieces of fiberglass and rebuilding something else entirely, it’s what we have to work with.

LS_20160317_113603 running DC wire

running wires

After copious research, measuring and debating the options, we settled on a Vitrifrigo model C115IB4-F.  I posted previously about our back and forth with Sure Marine Service in Seattle about trying to order it. When we finally got notification that it had shipped, we started our preparations.  Mike ran new wire for the DC power to an existing spare breaker.      The AC was already available from the previous set up.  Then things got interesting.  By the way, this project required  many hours of sitting on the floor, of the cockpit, the salon, as well as crawling into small spaces.

Day 1, Sunday: A day in advance of the new fridge actually being delivered, we took the old one out… which took all day, no exaggeration.

  • Dinghy ashore, buy 10# of ice, return to the boat, unload the fridge contents into the cooler.  Decide there’s too much for one cooler.  Swear.  Purge some more.  Swear some more.  Borrow a second cooler from friends on a neighboring boat.
  • Remove the door frame/trim from the companionway door, anticipating it necessary both to get the old fridge out and the new one aboard.
  • Pull the old fridge out of its box, disconnecting carefully so as not to have ammonia squirting about.  Decide that it’s too big to go through the companionway, even with the door frame removed.  Lay it face down on the salon floor and spend several hours cutting and chipping foam insulation out of the back so as to be able to remove the tank, condensing coils and other bits off the back of the box.  Do this together , in tandem, sitting on the salon floor, without jamming screwdrivers and box cutters into your partner’s hands.
  • Load some of the  detritus into the dinghy, haul it ashore, drag it to the dumpster.
  • Buy more ice, 20#.

Day 2, Monday: Delivery day

  • Stare into the empty cavity.
  • Put out a request for help on the morning net… looking for someone with a big flat bottomed dinghy to help transfer the new fridge from the marina to Cheshire in the mooring field.  Get a prompt response; Steve, standing by.
  • Take more detritus ashore to the dumpster.
  • Buy more ice.
  • Meet delivery guy late afternoon, get new fridge loaded into Steve’s dinghy, out to Cheshire then transferred into the cockpit.  Did I mention that it’s blowing a stink this day?  Just to keep it interesting. (Note: this was the part that I was most concerned about… little did I know!)
  • Unwrap, measure, start designing…
LS_20160320_174806 staring into the box

staring into the box



Day 3, Tuesday: The Design phase

So, the new fridge, while having exactly the same interior space as the old one, has outside dimensions significantly different, that is smaller in the front, but slightly deeper, and the compressor unit is more compact than the ammonia gas expansion coils.  In this case, different is not a bad thing.  This allows for some additional insulation to be built in around the box, and even a small, shallow shelf to be added above.  More insulation is good and we’ll take all the bits of storage space we can get.

The complicating factor though is that occasionally one has to pull the fridge out to access the back of the helm.  We’ve needed to do this exactly once, several years ago, to replace the steering cables, but it was an important once.  So, the challenge is to install the fridge, with additional insulation, plus a shelf, plus pretty teak trim bits, all removable or at least allowing for reasonable access to the steering box, etc.  Little of which could be done until Mike had the actual unit to look at, measure, sketch…

Along with the fridge, on a recommendation from our friend Paul, we also bought a Stainless Lobster Fridge Optimizer.  It’s too complicated for me to describe, but if it works as advertised, this thing is scary smart and does just about everything except wash the dishes. Unfortunately the information provided was a bit unclear as to how to make it play nice with the new Vitrifrigo.

  • Start another round of calls and e-mails with Sure Marine Services (see above).
  • Measure, plan, sketch, compile list of needed materials.
  • Dinghy ashore, walk to Home Depot.  Purchase a 2×4′ piece of 3/4″ plywood, halved in store, and 2×2′ foam board x 9 pieces, along with some other misc bits including some spray adhesive.  Figure out how to carry all of the above back to the marina.
  • In the marina parking lot, mark and cut foam board to size, apply spray adhesive, assemble to desired thickness.  Did I mention that the wind is still blowing? No photos of this step as I was actively assisting.
  • Buy more ice.
  • Dinghy ice, wood, assembled foam pieces, etc., back to Cheshire.
LS_20160322_155104 Home Depot, 1st trip

Home Depot, 1st trip, magic things with twine and plastic wrap

Day 4, Wednesday: The fun begins…

  • Successfully move new fridge from the cockpit through the companionway, into the salon.
  • Place it into the fiberglass box, then remove, back in, then out, lots of measuring, more measuring, more staring into the box.
  • Call Buck Woodcraft about cutting some teak trim bits.  Dinghy in later to pick-up said teak bits… same day service, awesome, but then we’ve been pretty regular customers this season.
  • Buy more ice.

Day 5, Thursday:  More fun…

  • Notch and fit plywood base.  Shim/level/shim/level, realize once again that nothing on this boat is level/straight/square.  Very frustrating for the Captain who has some perfectionistic tendencies.
  • Stare into the box… for a long time…
  • Decide you need more foam board.  Make another trip to Home Depot.  In the marina parking lot, cut/spray/assemble as before.
  • Buy more ice.

Day 6, Friday:  The fun continues…

  • Stare into the hole some more.
  • Begin fitting foam insulation.  Swear some more about things not being level/straight/square. Take a box cutter to much of the foam to make it fit.  Messy.
  • Finally get return communication  from “the technical guy” regarding the lobster, which was not at all helpful.
  • Drill a hole in the back of the brand new fridge (the Captain) while the Admiral looks on with concern.

Day 7, Saturday:  This is not fun anymore…

  • Get fed up the cooler situation (the Admiral).  Having not been to the grocery in a week, consolidate down to one cooler, though a bit tight.  I should mention that it’s started to get warm here… mid-80’s during the day, mid-70’s at night, which has made keeping ice in the coolers more than a little challenging.
  • Spend the morning online (again, the Admiral) searching and ordering some baskets and bottles to organize this new, deeper main shelved, shallower door shelved fridge.
  • Stare into the hole some more (the Captain).
  • Continue fitting foam.
  • Start fitting teak for the shelf.
  • Change your mind (the Admiral) and decided you will keep feeding the Captain after all despite the swearing fit that happens at each approach to the cooler and vowing not to grocery shop again until the installation is complete.   Dinghy ashore, bike to Publix.
  • Buy more ice.

I should also mention what Mike refers to as the numerous “cleaning opportunities”.  In this case, that means my end-of-each-day clean up of the cockpit/workshop that looks like a bomb went off in a Barbie house, with bits of sawdust and pink foam insulation everywhere.

Day 8, Sunday: The turning point…

  • Finish assembly/taping of foam box and install teak shelf above.  I love that this shelf is assembled using a sheet of teak salvaged from the front of the old fridge.
  • Set the fridge in place one more time and turn it on… woo hoo!!
  • Transfer contents of cooler to the new fridge.  It’s a good thing I know what I’ve got, because after a solid week in a mostly water-filled cooler(s), all paper labels are history, and the jar of pesto looks an awful lot like the jar of salsa verde.
  • Obsessively watch amps and play with the scary smart Lobster which  monitors/measures fridge temperatures, humidity levels, etc. (the Captain).

Fourteen bags later, that’s 140 pounds of ice… we have real refrigeration!  There’s some finish work to do, but we’re getting there.

Day 9, Monday

  • Wake up, climb out of bed, start making coffee and realize that for the first time in more than a week, you don’t have to go out to the cockpit to retrieve half and half for your coffee (the Admiral).  This day is off to a good start.
  • Dinghy ashore for a 3rd trip to Home Depot for a longer cat 6 ethernet cable to connect the Lobster connection block at the back of the fridge to the head unit on the front as the one provided wouldn’t reach for our installation.
  • Back aboard Cheshire, finish sanding, oiling and fitting most of the teak trim bits.

Day 10, Tuesday

  • Plug screw holes in the teak trim with bungs, sand and oil.
  • Find another salvaged-from-another-project bit to finish the teak trim… and apply a coat of stripper.  Have flashbacks to the last messy stripping project.  (the Admiral… thankfully this one is small and the flashbacks were short lived.)
  • Secure the black metal flange around the fridge.  Realize that despite a couple of options, the bottom horizontal piece doesn’t fit with this  installation.  Take a hacksaw to to this piece to modify it (the Captain) while the Admiral looks on in horror.  (What is it about having to modify/cut up perfectly good brand new bits to make them work?  It seems like we do this regularly.)
  • With the installation complete, remove the protective tape and film on the fridge door.  Realize that the protective film on the removable front panel runs underneath the panel trim.  Read the online manual to find that in order to remove the panel, one first must remove the whole door.  Spend an hour or so doing same.
  • Sit on the floor of the cockpit for a while longer stuffing a bit more silver bubble wrap behind the helm, the last of the insulation.  Reinstall the vent panel.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour (the Admiral), leaving the Captain up playing with his Lobster.

Day 11, Wednesday

  • Stir at 5:00 am, a bit warm, reach up to turn on a fan (the Admiral).  Listen to the Captain, who has apparently been awake much of the night pondering the info provided by the Lobster and sensed said stir, launch into a very technical explanation of why we have to  empty and pull the fridge out, again!  Did I mention that it’s 5:00am?  Apparently after great efforts to insulate, the compressor at the rear base of the fridge doesn’t have proper air circulation… the heat generated has no where to go.  Which is apparently not good.
  • Make coffee, review options, wait for daylight.
  • Empty fridge contents to cooler, remove fridge with most of the flange still attached.
  • Perform surgery  on the pink-lined box to allow for better air flow to rear vent.  (the Captain)
  • Clean up after yet another Barbie House explosion (the Admiral).
  • Reassemble.
  • Continue obsessively playing with the Lobster (the Captain).
  • Replace companionway door trim previously removed, do general clean-up, have lunch.
  • While obsessively playing with the Lobster (the Captain), notice that the fridge temp is higher than expected, and not dropping/cooling. Not good. (Silently think about removing the fridge one more time and dropping it overboard into the harbor (the Captain… admitted to the Admiral later in the day.).  Spend significant time stressing, doing online research and lying on the cockpit floor staring into the back of the fridge.
  • Several hours later, discover that the fridge door is ajar?  Close it. Obssessively play with Lobster while watching the temp readings drop.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief. Feel stupid. Debate about whether to confess said stupidity in blog post.

Project complete!


Current plan: to get out of Boot Key Harbor/Marathon before something else breaks/needs replaced.  Where are we headed?  North….  Stay tuned.

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Refinishing teak…

It took a solid week and was a royal mess, but we’ve completed another phase of teak stripping/refinishing and it looks pretty great if I do say so myself.  One of the more challenging things about boat projects is having to live in the small space where the projects are taking place.  In our case, in addition to the actual work and daily clean-up, we had to move piles of things around twice a day.  Each morning, the settee cushions, old and new, and misc things had to be moved into our forward bunk to make room to work.  Every evening, we had to move everything back out to the salon to clear the bed so we had someplace to sleep.  The next morning… back to the forward cabin…  You get the idea.  We did this little dance twice a day for most of a week.

This particular phase had us stripping the bulkhead wall behind the settee, including the frames around the “portholes” to the forward cabin and a handhold on each side at the steps down into the hulls.  We also did the inboard door frames, wrapping from the bulkhead wall into both our head and forward/master cabin.  That meant spending a lot of time stepping carefully sideways through doorways and intentionally not using the handholds (more challenging than it sounds) while several coats of stripper were applied, dried (which took most of 24 hours each coat) and then removed.  Applying the stripper was a bit like trying to paint with something resembling a cross between peanut butter and jello.  Pause while it dries.  Removing it was messy, scraping it off then washing away the residue with water, a nail brush and lots of changes of water.  Pause again to let it all dry completely.  Finally, the sanding…  which imho made the worst mess.  We even have teak dust topsides where it blew out of the hatches!  Mike did the sanding and I did the cleaning up behind him, though I suspect I’ll be cleaning up bits of teak dust for a while to come.  I also find myself hoping for a good downpour of rain, which unfortunately is not in the forecast.

As I type though, the messy stuff is complete, the artwork rehung, though I’ll apply several more passes of teak oil this week.  We’ve reassembled the settee cushions using the original covers for now so that the settee is at least useable.  The new cushions are very comfy, even with the old covers.  The next step is to recover them with the fabric we already have, but we didn’t want to be in the middle of that project when the new refrigerator shows up.  Mike spent this morning doing his homework, and is at West Marine as we speak buying some new wire for the fridge installation.  Removing the old one promises to be interesting; we hope to not have to do too much dismantling of the companionway doorway to get it off the boat.  Then there’s getting the new one aboard, through the companionway and installed.  In the meantime I’m meal-planning to purge the fridge/freezer to minimize what will have to live in a cooler indefinitely, allowing for a couple of draft beer/chicken wing nights off the boat which will most certainly be required to keep the Captain happy during this project.

As always, stay tuned.



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