Saturday, April 30, 2022

On the move!

We are under way in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore of Longboat Key and headed for Venice, Florida as I begin typing. It feels good to be under way after over two months tied in one place, but now we are making a mad scramble to get across the lake before it's too shallow for us to cross.

This church was just two miles from us at Fusion. Made famous by Internet memes as the "church of the stunned chicken" and many other monikers.

Getting the organ recital out of the way, my MRI was completely clean. On my follow-up visit with the cardiologist, she basically cleared us to depart at our leisure and suggested that we need not schedule a follow-up, but rather message her through the patient portal if I needed to discuss anything or if anything else came up.

Their logo, shown here on the sign on Gulf Boulevard, suggests they know what they're famous for. A century ago when the church was built, the windows did not resemble eyes as they do today.

With the lake dropping rapidly, it might have been a smart move to wrap things up at that point and get under way at a more leisurely pace toward the lake. But with a potential two-month stop, we had scheduled several other medical visits, including eye and dental exams for both of us, teeth cleaning, and and even my five-year repeat of those plumbing inspections that are the bane of anyone over 50. I also needed to get the lesions that were found on my liver during the last ER visit diagnosed, by CT scan with contrast (they were benign). Those were already scheduled out to the 26th, the end of our second month at Fusion, and we decided to just linger the extra two weeks and finish what we started.

New settee cushions, in blue tweed Sunbrella to match the pillows Louise made years ago.

Things are seldom that easy, and our dental work dragged out until yesterday afternoon. Actually, beyond, since they removed an old crown a week ago and I need to return in two weeks to have the replacement installed; we'll rent a car somewhere on the east coast and drive the four hours or so back to Largo, adding a couple hundred to the cost, but still better than being stuck on the wrong side of the lake, or having to repeat the whole process somewhere further north.

Matching cushions for the upper helm chairs.

You may recall that we could not offload our scooters at the dock at Fusion because of a flight of steps leading down to the finger piers, and likewise we could not board them there, either. We made arrangements to spend our last few nights at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club's Pass-a-Grille location (map), and to avoid conflicting with any appointments, we moved the boat there Wednesday, making it just a day over two full months at Fusion. Even though we had a diver clean the hull at the beginning of the month, we developed enough new growth there that he had to come again yesterday.

Fortunately, the Pass-a-Grille club was just six miles from Fusion, and we were able to leap-frog the two scooters to get the boat and both scooters in the same location. In between errands I enjoyed their nice salt water pool, and we had our final dinner at the club last night with our friends Steph and Martin, who drove out from downtown.

The mast after removing the sat dome and adding the sat compass, on the starboard side of the "wing."

It's been a very busy month since last I posted. In addition to all the medical appointments, we had several lunches and dinners with various friends in the area. Good friends Karen and Ben were kind enough to lend us her very sporty Mini Cooper for my two trips out to Tampa, and we had the car for nearly two weeks, allowing us to get a bunch of old coolant to recycling, $80 worth of copper (old battery cables) cashed in, and several other errands that were too bulky or distant for the scooters.

New brushes (outer pair) for the thruster. Old brushes (inner pair) were definitely past done. Each brush is fifty bucks, and there are eight total in the motor.

On the project front and in no particular order, here's what got done;
  • Received the new flybridge cushions from the canvas place (stuffed into the back of the Mini!) and installed them, which involved adding new snaps to both the cushions and the seating.
  • Removed the KVH satellite TV dome and all its cabling, which I gave away on Craigslist.
  • Relocated the satellite compass from the flybridge coaming to the mast, displacing a GPS receiver.
  • Mounted the displaced GPS receiver to the flybridge console in place of the stubby VHF antenna that was obsoleted by our lightning strike.
  • Removed old, diesel-saturated insulation from under the generator platform, remediated rust on the hull, and painted.
  • Installed a small pump and pickup to remove rainwater from the tiller flat.
  • Installed new Class-A AIS transponder, after first repairing the defunct unit we received, in place of the older Furuno unit.
  • Installed seven new "cordless" cellular blinds in the saloon, replacing the older Bali corded models I installed eight years ago.
  • Removed, inspected, weighed, and re-installed the engine room fire bottle.
  • Finished the generator service including replacing the primary fuel filter.
  • Reinstalled the thruster motor for testing, then ordered and replaced the motor brushes for it.
  • Re-mounted the weather station on a taller mount for more accurate wind readings.
  • Made a more permanent mount for the emergency steering crossover valves in the tiller flat.
  • Cleaned up the engine room and relocated some spares to the tiller flat.
  • Replaced the aft deck chairs and rug, and one of the saloon ottomans.
  • Louise made tops, backs, and batting for 21 quilts.
  • Numerous projects too small to mention.
New "cordless" double-cell blinds in the saloon.

We also got rid of tons of stuff. Some went to various donation centers, but the bigger stuff or things too weird for Goodwill went on Craigslist or Freecycle, including all the old fluorescent fixtures from the engine room that I removed last month, a spare seat for Louise's scooter, an old marine cellular antenna, the old cellular shades, and a curtain rod Louise used for quilt photos. I sold a few things on eBay as well, including some of our larger All-Clad pieces that we bought when we first switched to induction but we never really used.

Weighing the fire bottle with the crane scale, to assure that no agent or propellant has been lost.

All told, and including the things I listed last month, it's been a very productive couple of months. Between the medical visits and the project work, I'm exhausted, so it was not the relaxing beach vacation one might imagine from the surroundings. To be fair, we did take some time off, and we enjoyed the company of friends. While piloting the boat can be, at times, hard work, it's actually a welcome change to have many uninterrupted days of cruising ahead of us.

Right on the money, reading, actually, a tad higher than on installation day (margin of error on the scale).

One of the numerous projects I mentioned above bears further discussion, to wit, the replacement of the AIS transponder. You may recall from my last post that the unit they sent me was DOA. It booted a couple of times to an all-black or all-white screen, and once I got it to stay running long enough to get it partly configured before it hung again permanently. Considering I bought it from a major marine retailer, West Marine, I thought it would be a simple matter to return it for a replacement.

New transponder installed and operational.

Ha. It turns out that West Marine's policy on all electronics, unless you buy their extended warranty plan, is that they are not returnable no matter what, and your recourse is to contact the manufacturer for warranty service. West Marine's web site showed the product had a one-year manufacturer's warranty, and the manufacturer's site claims it is three years. OK, not perfect, but I sent them a message.

Louise was thrilled to learn that this quilt she made ended up in the hands of this Ukrainian refugee in Croatia.

The manufacturer told me the units were discontinued in 2019 and seemed incredulous that West Marine was still selling them. They told me the unit had no warranty left at all and that I would have to get resolution from West Marine. West Marine then told me they would "reach out" to their contacts at the manufacturer to resolve the issue, and that's the last I ever heard from anyone. I disputed the charge on my AmEx, who promptly credited me the full amount and told me that things might change if the retailer could prove their case. I checked back with them yesterday; the case is closed and the refund is permanent.

New transponder (right) and the one it replaced.

In the meantime, faced with a piece of gear that no one wanted to take back or fix, and potentially being out over five hundred bucks, I decided I had nothing to lose by opening it up and seeing if I could fix it. Of course, there are "no user-serviceable parts" inside, and in this case, it was clearly never intended to be opened back up after leaving the factory; the case is a snap-together affair and I needed spudgers and guitar picks and a great deal of nervousness to get it apart. Inside were a mere three circuit boards, a stark contrast to our previous unit with a half dozen FRU's all encased in their own RF shielding.

Another perspective on the size difference. The older one also weighed several times what the new one does.

Knowing the symptoms (dark, blank, or scrambled screen) I zeroed in on the ribbon cable connecting the display/control board to the main board, and immediately found corrosion and/or oxidation inside the ZIF connector on the display board. Some fine sandpaper, a pencil eraser, and contact cleaner spray cleaned up the connector and the cable, and it's been working fine ever since. Not bad for a "free" unit that cost me only a couple of hours of work and a lot of agita with customer non-support. I've stowed the old Furuno as a backup, and connected it to power to keep its backup battery from dying.

The guts of the new transponder. ZIF socket at upper right was corroded.

As long as I am ranting about electronics, somewhere in all of this the keyboard on the laptop I bought just a year ago crapped out. By which I mean several keys just stopped working one day. Fortunately this was a couple of weeks before, rather than a couple of weeks after, the one-year warranty ran out. I bought it on Amazon, the "Chuwi" brand from China, and unsurprisingly they wanted me to ship the whole thing to Hong Kong at my expense, where they would repair it and return it to me.

Goodbye, Fusion Resort.

Faced with being without my laptop for perhaps two months or more, plus paying lots of shipping, I was able to persuade Chuwi to just ship me a replacement keyboard (at my shipping expense, $15) and I will replace it myself. It's anyone's guess when that might arrive (June?), so in the meantime I found a compact, backlit bluetooth keyboard on Amazon for six bucks (really). It's meant for iPads and thus lacks an Escape key, but that one's still working on the laptop, so I can get by.

Final sunset from our deck at Fusion.

Tonight we'll be on the fuel dock at the Venice Yacht Club, where perhaps we'll also have dinner, and in the morning we'll come right back out to the gulf for the run to Boca Grande inlet and then south on the ICW past Sanibel Island. Today's minimum navigation depth across Lake Okeechobee is 6.92', and we have our fingers crossed that it will still be above 6.5' by Tuesday, the day we actually cross. Once we clear the Port Mayaca lock on the other side of the lake, we can relax a little and stop pressing so hard.

Vector on the dock at Pass-a-Grille.

My dental work is scheduled mid-month, and I've booked rental cars in both Daytona and St. Augustine so we have options. Friends have offered us their guest room so we don't need to make a whirlwind day trip. We're on track to be out of FL well before our insurance deadline of June 1, and if we get some good windows, we might even be all the way to New York before our scheduled visits with family and friends toward the end of June (if not, we'll be docking someplace and taking Amtrak).

Update: We are docked at the familiar Venice Yacht Club, on the fuel dock (map). We arrived late enough to avoid messing with their operations and will be off the dock when they open at 8am. Now that we are back under way, I will be posting here more regularly, every few days when I get enough autopilot time to type. I promise it will not be another full month before the next update.


  1. I wish you two good sailing weather. George

  2. Great post, and glad the health report is good. I've read your whole list of projects, many of which should have been done by the previous owner. I'm curious about the crossover valves for steering. Did the boat have them or did you add later? My last boat did not have them at all, as Steve D pointed out, and I never got around to adding them. Two different boatyards had no idea what I was talking about.

    1. Hi John. The boat did not have a crossover when some dude sold it to me. I can't recall whether it was in SteveD's report or not, but it was on my own list from day 1. I put it off until I had to drain the system anyway to rebuild the rams. I described that project as well as the crossover in the post linked below; it appears you even commented on it as you were contemplating the same for DB. Your comment there reminds me that just a year and a half ago, I was paying a buck sixty for diesel. What a change.


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