Playing in Tampa Bay
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The ChimineaRe Metau - Playing in Tampa BayUnder the Weather
January 2009
 
It’s raining in the bathroom!  I know we will get no sympathy about the cold from the folks up north, but what they’re overlooking is that when I say it’s 50 degrees today, I’m talking about the temperature inside the boat.  We’re floating on a hook, and running a space heater would kill our batteries in about 4 hours.  The propane cabin heater did an ok job of keeping the inside tolerable, but drained our little 5 lbs tanks in a matter of days.

The starter battery had begun acting flaky while we were at anchor over the Thanksgiving holiday, and after checking voltages, we concluded it would be best to hang around Clearwater until our marine electrician, Charlie could come check things over.  But our 30 day notice had already been turned into the dock master, so on January 3rd, we pulled away from the slip and dropped anchor about 100’ away.

I really didn’t mind watching the days slip away as the phone calls with Charlie went back and forth to check this and verify that.  We both brought some hearty Ohio viruses back from our Christmas visit.  I was the first to succumb, and felt in no shape to be hauling sails.  Don at first denied the reality of the virus (he can be so existential at times), then tried to tough it out before finally raising the proverbial white flag up the pole.  We were both feeling high pressure systems in our sinuses and experiencing heavy precipitation from our noses.

Then back to back cold fronts blew through. The winds raised and temperatures plummeted. Layers became the fashion statement; sweatshirts, socks and slippers that were recently stowed in deep recesses were begrudgingly dug back out. Day in and day out we were stuck below trying to keep warm and restrain our gloomy dispositions. Don wanted to conserve propane, but with both of us already under the weather, I told him I would pay the $15 to get the cabin temperature above 60. We compromised with heat between the wee hours of 10 PM and 7 AM.

Monday night’s barometer showed no signs of improvement. Even though my health appeared to be returning, the heeling caused by the strong gusts and constant howling prevented me from getting any sleep. No matter how tightly tied the gear on deck is, the wind always finds something with which to play an annoying percussion concerto. At 2:30 in the morning, she completed the composition with a “WHACK” that forced me to go topside.

For her grand finale to her composition, the wind found some debris to pitch into the propellers of the wind generator. One of the blades was gone! Upon discovering this, my explicative remark (the specifics of which I will exclude here to keep things wholesome) brought Don out from under the covers. This was just perfect – now two of our power sources were out of commission!

Tuesday morning showed only a minor weakening in the blow. Although we could have removed the solar panels and hauled the whole stick out of its socket, Don decided it would be easier to climb on top of the stern rail, balance from his tippy-toes (in socks no less) and reach up the 10’ pole to spin the hub off. Of course it would take two hands to remove the blade component, leaving none with which to hold on. We decided to wait for calmer weather.

Rare as it is in Florida, the clouds continued to cover the sky and the solar panels just were not able to provide enough juice. By the afternoon, we needed to run the engine to recharge the battery banks. Like a champ she roared to life and settled into her nice little purr. I sniffed something odd, but didn’t see any reaction from Don so opted to ignore it. Eventually, the smell of burning rubber registered on his olfactory senses, so he opened up the compartment to have a look. Ahhh – heat! It was Don’s turn to express an indecent explicative. The alternator belt had slipped off and needed to be replaced.

Don prepared to make a mad dash to the auto parts store, via dinghy. With the 52 degree water whipped up into a nice chop by the still blustery wind, I opted to stay behind. Don layered up even more and headed out. I turned off everything I could think of to conserve electricity, and decided sitting in the dark was just cause for lighting the propane heater a little early. I reasoned Don would want to thaw out when he got back anyway.

Clearwater Turtle AngelI pushed the knob in the cabin heater, set the grill lighter to the burner (the automatic ignition never worked) and poof - that nice little sound that promised warmth. I let the button out to adjust the flame and poof – it went out. “Ok” I thought “I didn’t let that thingy [thermocouple] heat up enough.” Click, click, click with the lighter. “These things never last very long!” Click, click, click 10 more times to get the lighter lit, push the knob in, poof with the flame, hold the knob in longer, let it go and poof, the flame goes out. I did this five more times before I gave up. The thingy had gone bad, and the explicative remarks coming out of my mouth were even worse. Dinner was going to be baked tonight, and the cook was grateful to be stationed in front of the stove for a very long time.

Don got back and slipped the alternator belt on easily. I hesitated informing him about the propane heater until the engine issue was dealt with. He verified my lighting method was correct and confirmed the situation. He set to taking the burner unit apart, but the evening’s feast heated the cabin up nicely. We closed up the forward portion of the boat, and opted to sleep in the salon. By morning, it was raining in the bathroom. In fact, there was a nice little shower going on all the way to amid-ship. There were gallons of condensation covering every bulkhead. If I could figure out how to catch it, we’d have more fresh water available!

We were lucky to have purchased the wind generator from Hot Wire, a local vendor.  I was even more pleased to hear that I could immediately pick up a new set of blades, under warrantee. Charlie showed up on Wednesday and confirmed one of the cells in the starter battery was dead. He was surprised, stating that only .001% of these batteries have been reported as going bad. The good news was it was also under warrantee, and a new battery was put on order. The weather finally began to turn in a positive direction.

This series of unfortunate events was as close as I’ve come thus far to having any negative thoughts about this life. At one point, for a nanosecond, the idea of blissfully living a traditional life on land raced through my mind. And then it was replaced by ten thousand glorious memories of the past few years. By Friday, the cold front had passed and the sun came out once again. On Saturday we hauled the anchor and headed south.

Whether the weather be hot, or whether the weather be not, we'll weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not!

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“Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life.” ~ John Amatt