Washed up dreams

Cuban Key of Hope: Marquesa

Today’s trip was a couple hours west of Key West, to a mangrovey (is that a word?) key called Marquesa. On the way, Lindsay mentioned that we would mostly see Cuban refugee detritus. I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder what it was like to make landfall in the USA, knowing you are saved.” Then I saw this cloud. Imagine being a Cuban, seasick and scared that the US Coast Guard can intercept you and send you back to Cuba. Imagine seeing these rainbows and knowing your dream of being washed up on land was going to come true.

Double Rainbow Cloud

It’s about 90 miles to Cuba from here. Obviously, these folks made it.


We only visited about 25% of the Marquesa Key. Lindsay shot these photos as I drove the dinghy around in about two feet of water. It was high tide.


We noticed a trend in the Cuban vessel construction.


Although they were made from different materials…..


They all had enough “feedback” from others who made it to add a ring of flotation around the outside of their boats.


Although this one did not have signs of a float ring, it was most definitely a horrible ride with that flat bottom.


This one looks pretty recent, and you can see the canvas tarp they used to hold anything that floats to the outside of the boat, just in case they took on water.


Here are the new owners of a wooden hull. One Laughing Gull and some terns. I forget what kind they are. Peter? Will you tell me again? Okay, Peter told me the one on the left is a Royal Tern, and the others look like Least Terns.


This one shows the US Coast Guard tagged it with a sign that was dated. The ink was completely gone, so we can’t tell how long ago this brought new people to our country. We were suprised the boats were just left to degrade here, in a nature preserve.


Just imagine what it must have felt like to have your dream to be washed up in America. I can. Can you?

Accepting The Fear

I think this is a well written article that describes the fear of electrical storms that I have.

There are some powerful statement that Emma’s father makes it here, and although I am not quite to the level of sailing zen he seems to embody, I believe I’ll get there eventually.

Accepting The Fear

Watch how fast a monohull sailboat sinks

Another monohull sailboat sinks.

The beautiful Dubols half-tonner “The Alchemist” was owned by the commodore of the Island Sailing Club of Cowes, UK.  During the “Round the Island” race, the skipper hit the wreck of the SS Varvassi, leading to a rescue operation by the RNLI. Watch as this sailboat sinks with the White Cliffs of Dover in the background.

Trying to make ends meet in Key West

We’re making this up as we go along…

Makara in Key West

As you know, we are done with the major repairs on the boat. We have moved into a marina at great expense so that we can enjoy lots of water and air conditioning onboard. The credit card bills for all of the upgrade equipment have come due. The reality of the cost of living here in such a popular and beautiful place is currently upon us. We recently discovered that our original plan of renting rooms on AirBnB to pay for everything had a major flaw in it.

no airbnb

Since we are technically in a slip that is deemed by the city-owned marina as “transient” and not “commercial” it is a violation of city code to accept any payment for use of the boat while in this location. We were reported by another charter boat in the area for having an AirBnB listing. We are lucky that we didn’t get kicked out of the marina or fined for it. We had a discussion with the Marina Manager and have come to an understanding. No more earning money from this slip, which is fair. So, we have removed the boat’s listing. So much for making extra money that way. The Mexican vacation rentals are doing well, however, it is going to be slow season from September through November down there.

pile of paperworkGetting a commercial slip and trying to pay for it with charters requires a business license and a captain’s license. We don’t have either right now. We heard there is a very long waiting list (as much as 10 years and possibly longer) for those coveted commercial slips here in the Historic Seaport. We weren’t planning to stay in the area past January anyway. We don’t want to leave Key West in order to find a commercial slip in some other part of the Keys or Florida, so that’s not going to happen either.

It’s time to find a job around here.


Lindsay has been hired by Diver’s Direct in a retail position. That will definitely help her with something to do during the day, but it’s not going to pay her very much. In fact, if all we had was here paycheck, it wouldn’t even pay for the monthly slip rent. It would take about three weeks worth of pay to have your own apartment down here, but that’s another story. Being employed is a move in the right direction and will open her up to new contacts and opportunities around town. It also comes with free scuba diving trips. That’s a nice perk. She is also volunteering with the SPCA, which might help with networking, but it’s more about being around dogs, which makes her happy!

USCG Master Expired

I want to work as an “on-call” Captain on a local charter boat, but my USCG license expired. I missed the chance of an easy renewal process when that happened. I am in the process of taking the required classroom courses all over again. Luckily I can do that online. The next examination date was June 18th, so I got that out of the way. I had over 60 hours of study to get through before I could take the exams. So now it’s another situation of waiting.  The application process is supposed to take about a month before I get my document, so hopefully it will show up soon. I need that document before I can even ask to be hired to drive a boat around here. I should have started months ago!

waterfront brewery

My other idea to make money was to find a way into the Waterfront Brewery and prove my worth somehow. I have been networking for a couple weeks to carefully and ask the right people about volunteering there. The commute would be easy, since It is located at the head of our dock, a couple hundred feet away. It sounded like a fun idea and certainly would be convenient.

A couple of months ago, at a bar, my friend Mary Jo pointed out one of the partners of the brewery, Chris. I introduced myself to him and chatted back and forth with him for a couple of minutes. After emailing him and pitching the idea of volunteering, he immediately forwarded my info to the head Brewmaster, Justin, which was very cool of him. Unfortunately, Justin told me that volunteers are not allowed for liability reasons. He did tell me that he wasn’t busy today and to stop by to meet him. I just got back from that meeting. He mentioned that they are getting ready to expand the brewery with some more fermentation tanks in about 3 months. He recommended that I apply for work in the brewery / restaurant so that when the tanks come, he might need help in the brewery. The transition into the brewery would be easier if I was already employed there. I just filled out my first job application in many, many years. That was weird. We’ll see what happens!

So for us, it’s all about networking and persistently seeking out new opportunities. Staying positive also helps!

Liveaboards don’t get holidays.

When sailors live on their boat, they are called “liveaboards.” A more fitting term would be “full time live-in engineer.” If we have something break or leak, we are completely on our own. We can’t call a serviceman and go about our business. Our business is finding the problem ourselves so our boat won’t sink or catch on fire. Why are we on our own, you ask? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Besides, a boat handyman will charge you 50 to 125 bucks an hour to learn your about your boat, and maybe fix it the first time but probably not, and that is if you can reach him and if he can show up in the next couple of days. We are forced to learn our boat’s systems whether we like it or not.

Today is the 4th of July. Last night, when I got home from a pool party, Lindsay let me know that the gas at the stove wasn’t workin (ummm, the tank is half full…) and there is a small pool of water in one of the cabinets (that’s a mystery). Okay, so that’s me for tomorrow. So as a liveaboard, there is no calling anyone, just dig in and fix it asap, which luckily in this case I got is all done in a morning.

I woke up and put on my work clothes, which are stained shorts with lots of pockets and a light colored t-shirt. I then ate a cold breakfast and made coffee. I started cleaning the stove parts.

This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove.
This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove. The front burners have always been weak, Today it just quit.

I cleaned all of the parts where the gas comes out, soaked the nozzles in vinegar and ran some wire strands through the tiny orifices to see if that helped.

These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. Note the wire strands used to gently clean the orifices.
These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. That is a black electrical wire, marine grade.

I lit the stove and fiddled with the knobs. It didn’t help, the flames were very weak and then went out. I suspect the cheap regulator I bought from Amazon has failed. I pull out all of the tools necessary and remove my custom-made wall-mounted regulator and shut off valve manifold and start disassembling it.

Tools in Makara cockpit

I notice the water pressure pump cycle a few times, which usually means someone is showering. Lindsay opened the door to our cabin and stepped into a pool of water and water running down the steps. She was not showering, which means the small leak just went full force and is pouring water into the bilge. Why did that happen just now? Man, I’m glad that didn’t happen in the middle of the night! Now the gas problem is on the “back burner” so to speak.

We shut off the water pump and started with removing seat cushions and everything we have stored in the lockers and cupboards to get closer to where we think the water is coming from. I had to find the leak right now, no matter if it’s a holiday or not. We shut off the air conditioning, radio, fans, ice maker, etc. and turn on the water pump. The leak can be heard under this storage locker floor. I have to cut a hole.

Here’s where livaboard experience counts. I need to cut a hole to see what’s going on under the floor panel. It would be best to know how what size of hole to cut for an access cover plate thing before I started hacking up the floor, even though it’s in a locker. Luckily, West Marine is three blocks away and I go and buy a deck plate for an access hole cover, I also buy a new LP regulator as well. I trace the outline and use my roto-zip to cut a hole in the floor, being careful to not cut through the bottom of the boat. (Yeah, we’ve all done that once.)

I stick my camera in the hole and see this….

Find the leak

I can’t see the leak. This hole I just cut is now useless, except for pictures. I cut another hole in an area that is behind panels, so I don’t need for it to be any special shape. I stuck a light in there and shot a video towards the light, this is what I saw.

See the spray from the pinhole? There’s your sign.

I cut another access hole directly on top of the pipe with the leak. I cut the tubing and inserted shut offs that I had in my inventory. Yeah, experience coming in handy again, especially because my tubing is metric. I go to West Marine and buy another deck plate for this hole.

plumbing in access panel

I wait, here’s the good part. So why was there a hole in the tubing right there and nowhere else? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Remember that? Oh yeah, and in this case because someone dropped a utility knife blade where there is pressurized water tubing and electrical wires, and didn’t bother to find it. So the vibrations of the boat rubbed the water tubing against this piece of sharp steel until eventually it made a pinhole, on July 4th, 2016.

Thanks, buddy, whoever you are. You are sloppy and you ruined my holiday. Get bent.

Okay so that’s the plumbing fixed. Back to the gas problem. I watch a You Tube video and then fiddle with trying to raise the pressure by turning the thing that holds the spring. It doesn’t change anything. I decide it’s just best to replace the regulator. I re-customize the mounting bracket, yes re-customize is a word, and install the entire manifold again. Mind you, this is a couple of hours later.

That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.
That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.

So this new regulator has a pressure gauge that shows the pressure coming into the regulator. It’s on top on the left. I notice the pressure is kind of low, like 50, when the gauge goes up to 300. The stovetop burners light, but the flames are very low. So I switch tanks, still 50. I remove the hose that I bought from Amazon and use the hose that came with the new regulator, the gauge goes to 150. Crap, it was the hose. I light the stove and it goes wild with tall blue flames. Huh, the hose, go figure.

Happy Independance day, everyone. I’m feeling quite independant and alone in my liveaboard debacle today, but I have water and gas again, and it’s 5:30pm. That would have cost me like, I don’t know, 500 bucks. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Who cares, I’m going to see the fireworks tonight!