Wood exposed to the Florida sun requires protection if it is to look good and stand up to the heat and UV exposure. Since our exterior wood is varnished, that means applying several additional coats every year. In addition to the maintenance coats on the existing wood, Cathy prepared the new board that we purchased at Shell Lumber for installation on the port side of the companionway. Installing something new like this is a joint effort. Cathy typically sands and varnishes. We both measure and mark for any cuts or holes that need drilling. And Dave drills and cuts the board, installing it on the boat. Although the port rail wasn't in terrible shape, it no longer matched the new board we had installed on the starboard side last year. So, replacing it this year made sense.
One rainy day, Cathy took to her sewing machine again and made a couple more shades for the cockpit. These will fit in the openings to either side of the companionway, which will help when we are facing due east or west to keep the sun out.
And then there is the trailer. In a short span of time, Dave learned a lot about boat trailers. By the time he was ready to order, he knew what he wanted and what he didn't. Here are some of the things on his list:
- Aluminum I-beam construction, with stainless steel hardware or welded joints – The aluminum gives strength without too much weight. The stainless steel hardware minimizes concerns about rust.
- Electric brakes – These give the driver much more control over the trailer and, with a controller already installed in the truck, some of the installation costs were eliminated.
- Not too big and not too small – The problems of having a trailer that is too small are pretty obvious. However, having one too big could cause the trailer to transfer too much of the road motion to the boat and damage it. We finally settled on one that could carry 6000 lbs over the weight of the trailer.
- Sailboat modifications – There are a lot of trailer manufacturers, but only a few make the modifications to support a sailboat – even one without a fin keel like ours.
- Tongue extension – Sailboats are deeper draft and need to go further down the ramp to launch. To avoid getting the truck's rear tires in the water, a tongue extension increases the distance between the truck and the boat for this critical exercise.
- Oil bearings – When trailer wheels are immersed in water, the pressure causes the grease in traditional bearings to ooze out. Without careful attention, the bearings can seize. The trailer we ordered has sealed bearings in oil that require no maintenance. We invested in an upgrade which will give them a 10-year warranty.
- LED lights – Conventional incandescent lights run hot and when immersed in water at the boat ramp can be easily damaged. LED lights don't get hot so this is not a problem.
- Torsion Axle – This will give the boat a smoother ride on the trailer.
We've definitely been taking some breaks between chores. With some amazingly warm and settled weather, the conditions at nearby Sombrero Reef were good enough to snorkel. We took Orion Jr out to the reef for the first time, exiting the harbor via Sisters Creek, also a first. There is a lot of misinformation about the depths at the entrance to the creek. When we heard the City Marina say it was only 4.6ft at high tide, which would mean we would be passing through 3 ft of water as we traversed it at low tide, we took a step back – and turned around. But then we talked to some other cruisers on the morning net who said they saw 8 ft at high tide. So, we should see 6ft at low? Another cruiser said no boat with a draft of 5 ft or more should try it. Well, we did. The bottom line was that at MLW it showed 4ft. We were fine. And so was the reef. We picked up a mooring directly over a coral head and the fish were all around us. Yellow-tails, damsels, tangs, parrotfish. It was great. A beautiful day.
We've started learning about the Great Loop trip from other cruisers, most significantly at the America's Great Loop Cruisers Association at the Marathon Yacht Club. A week later we returned to the yacht club for a nautical flea market that was so crowded you could hardly move. We've attended a few talks by local experts: a dinghy/outboard expert, the BoatUS local operator, and 2 officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. And the month ended with a bang at the National Pig Day races over at the Stuffed Pig. Its lots of fun and all for a good cause.
Then there are some familiar activities, the Ham lunch on Wednesdays, jam sessions at the Tiki Hut on Saturdays, and of course the morning Cruisers Net. It hasn't even been a month since we arrived, but it sure feels like it.