Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #101 Plans Are Meant To Be Broken

Okay, so now I once again recognize why we like boat life. I wasn’t sure there for a while. The allure was definitely escaping me. Florida is HOT in the summer, especially in a marina, and the first few days we were here all I could think about was the air conditioning in our apartment—the one in Indianapolis that we left to return to our non-air conditioned boat in Florida. I was seriously considering the possibility of heading back north while Jim stayed to oversee the autopilot repair that was, of course, stretching out from one day to three—or maybe more.

But today the autopilot seems to be working, and I think I’ll stay on board. The turning point for me was the sea trial for the new autopilot. Getting out of Gulfport Marina onto some open water on Boca Ciega Bay was exhilaratingly refreshing. The anemic zephyr that would only occasionally waft across our cockpit in the marina turned out to be a robust 10-12 knot westerly out on the bay. What a lovely surprise! “So THIS is why we’re boaters!” I exclaimed to myself. I’ve always been aware that marina living isn’t for us, but I had all but forgotten just why. Upon returning to the marina once the sea trial was done, I had a new lease on living aboard. It’s still HOT in the marina, but now that I’ve had a taste of what’s out there beyond the channel, I’ll make it through.

Boca Ciega Bay
Boca Ciega Bay

I guess I should explain about the autopilot. Here’s the short version. We had lightning damage in 2006 (yes, it has taken THREE years to get this fixed!) while the boat was in a marina in Clearwater. We didn’t discover the damage until we got back to the boat a few months later, then it was several more months until we were back on board long enough to get the repairs done. Several of our electronics were damaged, and all were replaced with our insurance company’s (BOAT/US) blessing. The new autopilot never seemed as capable as our old one, though. When it wouldn’t hold a course with any dependability or accuracy, it became frustrating and frightening to use. We kept trying to cope with it, making several attempts to recalibrate the darn thing—even sending it back to the factory for assessment and upgrade—but nothing made the sluggish new “Otto” work as diligently as the old “Otto” had. We missed him. More time off the boat over the last couple of years kept us from finding a way to make Otto behave more responsibly, and we really weren’t sure what that way would be, anyway. We thought we might be stuck with the second-rate autopilot for the indefinite future.

Then one day last November we happened to be at an open-house for S.A.L.T., a local marine business in Marathon, when Jim just happened to talk with one of their techs about our autopilot snafu. One thing led to another, and we eventually walked away with a pretty good idea of where the problem might be. As suggested, Jim checked the model numbers of the various components of the autopilot system, and—lo and behold—the parts were not all compatible! When the repair was made after the lightning strike, one of the components was replaced with a lighter-duty part—one that would have been appropriate for our boat had Caloosa Spirit not been fitted out with heartier equipment for charter service. So, in a nut shell, Otto was sluggish and slovenly because he was getting bad information from his course computer. Feeling giddy at the thought of once again having a dependable autopilot, we were prepared to get the problem taken care of upon returning to Marathon in January (again with BOAT/US’s blessing), which, of course, didn’t happen. Since December, amid our numerous reasons for not getting back on board, this repair has been hanging in the balance. Now it’s finally done, courtesy of HWH Electronics here in St. Pete.

So that’s the short version (aren’t you glad I didn’t relate the looonngg version?) of why it’s taken three years to get our autopilot fixed. We hope to get to use it in the next couple of weeks. Incidentally, our wind indicator was also replaced after the lightning, and it’s not been working correctly, either. The tech that worked on the autopilot managed to tune it up today with the help of an over-the-phone factory reset. We’re on a roll.

We started off the morning with a visit to Lakewood UCC here in St. Petersburg. We’ve been there several times in the past, but we hadn’t been back in at least a couple of years. Even so, the pastor remembered us, even our boat’s name. We were impressed, and glad that we made the effort to go today.

This afternoon we drove down to Sarasota to spend some time with Mike, our son. He has just moved into a different house, so we thought we might be helpful with some unpacking. To his credit, he wanted to do most of the unpacking himself so that he could make his own decisions about where-and-what. But we did have a fun day with him.

A brisk rainstorm this morning has turned the air somewhat dryer and cooler, so we took the opportunity to spend a while walking in the nature park that adjoins the marina. We discovered that just a few steps away from here lies a mangrove and live oak haven that can calm the soul. We’d like to make visiting the park a regular activity as long as we’re in the marina.

Nature Park
Clam Bayou Nature Park

After another visit to Lakewood UCC, we spent the rest of the day packing. Yes, packing, as in getting ready to leave again. The heat is just too intolerable. The other factors are the dinghy and the refrigerator. Our trusty old 11’10” AB dinghy appears to be ready for the great eternal dinghy reward. After having it repaired last fall (to the tune of $600—but what’s a few boat bucks?), it has developed other mysterious leaks that just seem to be signaling its demise. So we’re really not comfortable taking the boat out of the slip and fussing with the dinghy again, when we can just as easily wait to sort out our options and make a decision when the weather is more conducive to being aboard. Plus the refrigerator seems rather anemic. It seems to be more than just the excessive heat that’s impacting it, and Tom, our refrigerator guy, will come to take a look. But again, we decided to put off that fix-it until fall.

So we packed our stuff and started loading the car. It will take a few more days to get the boat hurricane-prepped, but we should be back in Indy by week’s end.

Well, it’s been two days and it’s not done yet. Did I mention that it’s HOT here? Oh, I did, didn’t I. The heat has kept us from working as quickly on the boat prep as we thought we would. We think one more day will do it.

Of course, a day trip to Burnt Store for a visit with Greg and Carla of Spellbound had to take precedence over working. We always enjoy our time with them. This was actually our first time to see Spellbound. For the last few years she has been berthed and cruised in the Caribbean. Carla and Greg sailed her to Burnt Store for the first time just this spring, enjoying every minute of their voyage. We hope to spend time cruising with them in the Bahamas in the future.

What would we do without our cruiser friends? Gail and Paul graciously offered to let us bunk at their home (in the air-conditioning) until we get Caloosa Spirit fully readied for leaving. The food, companionship, and comfort (not necessarily in that order) are all delicious.

Indeed, one more day was what it took, and Caloosa Spirit is now ready for anything Mother Nature might throw at her. We hope, anyway. Paul and Gail helped us to get her situated and tied well in her slip—the first time since charter service that Jim has gone into a slip stern-to. We think we got as much as possible wrapped, tied, or stowed, and we feel comfortable leaving her tucked in for the next few months. We hope to be back for a few weeks in October.

Home, sweet apartment. It’s good to be back. The temperature is a pleasant 80 degrees, and all seems to be in order. Unpacking may take a few days, though.

We got to have a special treat on our way north. Jay and Nancy on Serendipity have been berthed for the last couple of years at Blue Springs Marina on the Tennessee River, not far from Knoxville. A slight detour gave us the opportunity to visit with them and catch up on our friendship. They are presently readying the boat for another cruise this fall. Perhaps we’ll get to buddy-boat with them at some point. Incidentally, as we approached Blue Springs Marina over several miles of country roads, we were just sure that we would find Serendipity as the only sailboat of any size in what we were expecting to be a backwater of East Podunk. How wrong we were. Blue Springs Marina is a first-class operation with approximately 400 slips, most of which are occupied by cruiser-size sail craft. Jay and Nancy are some of a number of live-aboards, several of whom are planning extended cruises through the winter. With the surrounding hills, numerous coves, and covered slips on several docks, we couldn’t help but be reminded of Four Winds Marina on Lake Monroe. The primary difference, though, is that one can actually travel away from Blue Springs, as the Tennessee River is fully navigable. Access to the Gulf of Mexico, some 800 miles away, is achieved through a series of locks and waterways. We envy Nancy and Jay their portability.

With Mom’s estate almost fully settled, I took the opportunity to splurge on a Toshiba Netbook for myself. Now Jim and I can both surf the web at our leisure. I especially like the size (a 10-inch screen), weight (3 lbs.), and the battery life (up to 9 hours) that the netbook offers. Now for the drudgery of loading programs to make it useable.

I’m now on Facebook. It appears that Facebook has become the networking website of choice, so I decided to take the plunge. Mainly, it has become a medium of communication often used by our church. I’m quickly learning, though, that one can quickly eat up hours looking at and responding to pages of friends and acquaintances, interesting though they may be. I don’t want this to take over my life.

I know by now some folks may be wondering where and how we are. When I didn’t get this log posted before the first of August, I purposely put off posting it until after my CT scan and pulmonologist appointment scheduled for this morning. Once again, there’s good news and bad news. Most of the spots and infected areas of concern have disappeared, but there is another new one. It seems that this one may have grown since the scan my infectious disease doctor ordered six weeks ago—the one that looked quite good. The pulmonologist is concerned that our visit to Caloosa Spirit may be the reason. We need to do more to investigate the possible presence of the mycobacterium abscessus in our water supply. Apparently, the bacterium is more prevalent in the southeast than elsewhere, so the boat’s water supply may not be the culprit. Or perhaps the bleach we’ve used to treat the water tanks hasn’t been sufficient. Or perhaps the oral antibiotics I’m presently on are not up to the task. Too many questions and not enough answers.

I really hate to keep dwelling on this health issue, but that’s our life right now. I’ll continue to periodically post updates as we know them, but for now we’re still on indefinite hiatus from cruising. Maybe after Christmas… I’d love to start writing again about interesting and exotic places—not to mention the wonderful people we meet in them.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Wednesday August 12, 2009

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  1. Hello Alice and Jim,

    We, too, are still on a hiatus from cruising – that is, still in a slip in Hampton, Virginia – medical issues, but mostly, cannot break ourselves away from our beautiful little grandaughter. However, we CANNOT deal with another winter here, so, if we are heading south, we need to be gone in the next two months. I WANT to go, but I don’t want to go. I cry when I think about it, which s everyday! Also, we don’t want our cruising life to pass us by. We have, however, been renewed, as you so stated of yourselves, by a trip aboard MORADA up the Chesapeake to D.C. and various other points of interest – actually a few trips that we took. Air conditioning in a slip in the summer is a must and a blessing!

    We miss you and wish you well and will see you on the water, hopefully in the near future.

    Your friends,
    Sherri and Clyde
    Aboard M/S MORADA
    Lying Hampton, Virginia
    — Sherri & Clyde Leatherwood    08/13/2009 11:14 AM    #
  2. Hi Alice and Jim!
    As always we were interested in your adventures, particularly wrt Catalina 42 woes! Glad Otto is behaving now. Our latest equipment failures include a broken gear shift set screw and battery charger breakdown. Fortunately the gear shift lever came off in David’s hand just moments after I had cleated the line to the mooring we picked up. The stainless steel screw broke off cleanly with half the screw firmly screwed in. That situation was remedied at the machine shop at the yard nearby. The charger needs to be replaced though, and that is on order. Meanwhile the batteries can only be charged by the engine. We are now in Narragansett Bay, hiding out from Danny (which thankfully turned out to be a non-event). We begin our trip south today.
    Hope to see you in FL or the Bahamas this winter!
    Good luck with the health issues, Alice.
    Ginger & David Kauppi
    Aboard Avalon

    PS to Sherri on Morada:
    I know how you feel about leaving grandchildren! It breaks my heart to leave our little ones…
    — Ginger and David Kauppi    08/30/2009 05:50 AM    #
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