25 June 2011


As an addendum to my previous post, GARMIN CHART PLOTTERS, HAVE THEY LOST THEIR WAY, I thought I would post some pictures of exactly how these charts look, what I call the Garmin mystery maps, to illustrate the point I am making. The purpose of this is to bury Garmin with complaints, so maybe they will do something about it. A pity to ignore a great piece of equipment because they seem to have forgot how to make a navigation chart.

Do you recognize any of the names on the chart? I don't. This is the main port of the whole west coast of Florida, Tampa Bay and further south. This is the main cruising area of the west coast of Florida. Here is an example of how a normal map would look.

I am sorry the pictures aren't as large as I thought, but you can still see Tampa Bay plainly marked, and below that Sarasota Bay and further south Charlotte Harbor and Punt Gorda, the places you would be looking for as you plan a cruise of the west coast. I am sure the names Bird Key or Whiskey Kay, or Perico Island, would mean as little to you as they do to me.

Get on the ball people and write to cartography@garmin.com. If you want more illustrations, I have more, just write and ask, but believe me when I say, this same thing is true of any place you look.

24 June 2011

Dolphin Encounter 2

Tom Hethrington, the "shooter" of the dolphins playing under our bow, tells me this is a later edited version.

04 June 2011

Refrigerator for the Cruising Boat

Our refrigerator/freezer on the Cloverleaf, like the Cloverleaf, is 21 years old. We have owned the boat for the past 11 years, and it has been 11 years of constant appreciation for this super piece of boat equipment. It is a Sun Frost, designed and mostly sold to people who live "off the grid", people, like boaters, who must supply their own power to run electrical appliances. It is not the most beautiful of refrigerators, or one full of great gimmicks, so what makes it so perfect? It is its minimal power drain. We run the Sun Frost off our batteries, and it adds no extra time to our generator charging time, which runs from almost nothing on the days we are traveling and our alternator on the engine charges the batteries, to about two to three hours a day, when we are sitting at anchor. The unit is air-cooled and uses between 60 to 90 amps per day, depending on ambient temperature.

It is when another boater comes aboard and complains about the hours and hours a day, sometimes half the day or more, that he must run his generator to keep his refrigerator happy, that we really realize what a gem we have. We have had to replace a few minor items, like the gaskets around the doors, and recently a glass shelf that Dave broke while cleaning. It is not self defrosting, and we had to make our own "drawers" using inexpensive plastic storage boxes, but these are small trade offs for the freedom of not running the generator any more than we would, if we just had an old fashioned ice box.

You can find Sun Frost at www.sunfrost.com or write to them at info@sunfrost.com
Hope this information will help you choose refrigeration you can live with, on your motor boat or sailboat.

14 May 2011



I have owned a Garmin Touch Screen Chart Plotter since late 2007, and thought it was god’s gift to boaters. No more, since my original was switched for a newer version recently, when I had locking up issues. I want everyone who has a Garmin, or everyone considering buying a Garmin to look at the pre-loaded charts and see if you see what I see. If you see what I am going to describe, then be forewarned before you buy, or if you own one, complain vigorously to Garmin, and maybe this once fine product can be turned back into a proper chart plotter. If you are only planning to cruise inside the Intercoastal Water Way, you will have no issue, but for those of you planning offshore hops, or long range planning to islands in the Bahamas, there are serious issues.

Let me describe overall what I mean, and then in some detail. When I look at a map, one that covers anything from the whole coast line of Florida, or from Florida to the Chesapeake, I would expect to see major cities on the coast, and major harbor entrances. For instance, going up the coast of Florida, Key West, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce, Jacksonville, Fernandina, all having first class entrances, should be named. When you zoom in another level, more of the minor entrances, still reasonably safe, should be named. The closer in you go, the more detail it is possible to put on the chart, the more harbor entrances of lesser quality can be detailed, along with smaller towns, bridges and their details, until you get down to the information critical to those traveling the waterways. But lets stick with the major maps, the ones I have issues with.

I will pick just a few places to illustrate the point I am making, starting with Palm Beach and Lake Worth Inlet. Starting at the 30 mile scale, which shows the whole east coast of Florida from Miami to Jacksonville, both on the chart in the smallest letters possible, you are also given, Delray Beach, Pine Island, Kid Creek, Landing Strip. That’s it folks for a whole coast with four more major entrances left unindicated.

At the 20 mile scale, from Miami to 230 NM north you now see, Miami, in small letters, Ojus, large letters, Boca Raton, large letters, Lantana, even larger and in all caps, Everglades I. and Munyon I., in large letters as is Corset I., John’s I., Troust Creek, small, Tortoise I., large, then Cocoa, all caps, and Titusville-Cocoa Airport. Nothing else is indicated from there north to Jacksonville, written in very small letters.

At 12 miles, zeroing in on the Palm Beach area you still have Lantana, in caps, and Munyon I. north to Corset I.

At 8 miles Lantana has disappeared, instead you have Boynton Beach, in caps, Airport, then five miles north of that, Palm Beach International Airport, then on the coast in small letters some details on a red bouy and a red and white marker. North of that is Munyon Island.

At 5 mile scale, Lantana is back on the map, still in caps, Hunters I, Palm Beach Internatinal, and then Little Munyon I.

At 3 mile scale, going 9 miles north and south of Lake Worth Inlet, still unnamed, you have, Bascule Bridge, 33 Ft. at Center, in caps, West Palm Beach, in caps, Tarpon I, , and then small notes, such as Foul, Dump sites anhorage area, Wks PA.

You cannot check on these notes by zooming in since there are more and more of the I signs indicating info, and so often, what is on one scale is omitted on the next. Note the place names, which come and go.

At 2mile scale, going from 5 miles south to 5 miles north, you have Everglades i. , medium size, Royal Park Bascule Bridge, Flagler Memorial Bascule Bridge (at Center), all in caps, Lake Mangonia, small letters, then the notes at sea surrounding the entrance, still unnamed, Wks PA, North Palm Beach Waterway, very small, and Signs.

A mark with LW shows at the 1.2 mile scale, and the name Lake Worth Inlet finally shows in very small letters at the .5 mile scale but not near the inlet. The name shows, right in the inlet, at the .3 mile scale.

If you go to the west coast of Florida it is the same story, islands you never heard of which will come and go at different scales, and the only recognizable name is Sarasota. Tampa Bay, great and mighty Tampa Bay, or Tampa/St. Pete, Naples, Charlotte Harbor Ft. Meyers, Marco island, don’t show up until you are in a very small scale. You have to go to the 2 mile scale to find the names of Tampa and St. Pete, It is worth going in step by step on Tampa Bay to see what I mean.

Even the Bahama islands will leave major islands unnamed, like Long island, Crooked Island or Acklins Island. Pigeon Cay is the only identifier on Long Island at the 30 mile scale. I suspect this wide spot on what looks like was part of the salt pan dyke system was some one’s idea of a joke. The major town, Clarence Town is not named until the 800 feet scale, and Salt Pond, the other major settlement is never named, although Salt Pond Cay is, and Thompson Bay makes it in in small letters at the .5 mile scale.

If someone could make sense of this for me, I would appreciate hearing. Why one area is given multiple names, but not the initial important one you need, I will never understand. Final example, Final example, Port Royal Sound, a major entrance is marked at first Otter Island, then Hunting I on the 30 mile scale. Then it becomes Morgan Island on the 20 mile scale, then Lemon I. and Bay Point on the 12 mile scale, then Morgan, Hunting and Lemon I. are all on the 8 mile scale, Beaufort County Airport shows on the 5 mile scale, so you get a cue of where you are, Port Royal Sound finally shows on the ,8 mile scale.

Please protest to Garmin for me and for your own sake, if you want one of the best, most inexpensive chart plotters, but loaded with proper maps. As cruisers, we don’t need local airports before harbors, or islands reachable only by kayaks or canoes. If you only do the ICW, as I said before, this is not an issue, but if you are a stranger in a strange land or planning off shore jumps, it sure is.

25 January 2011




It took a long time for us to realize that running our boat at normal cruising speed, seven to nine knots, in shallow water, under nine feet, not only caused a distinct rumbling sound, serving as an excellent depth sounder, but caused the back of the boat to sink, so our swim platform submerged. We found it was common knowledge among tug boat captains, but it was a slow learning process for us.

For those of you who bring an anchor into a hawse pipe, and the anchor must be brought up and face the right direction to house it, rather than try to lean over with a long pole poking at it to turn it about, just back up as you bring it aboard, and it will automatically turn facing the way you need it.

Here’s how to clean your anchor quickly, when it wants to bring a big sample of the bottom aboard with it. When it comes off the bottom, and has come up a few feet, give it a quick drop. This assumes you are in clear water where you can see what is happening, and you are not moving. If any thing remains on the anchor, backing will help clean it, without banging it on the hull. Of course you must have a wash down on the chain as it comes aboard, and it still pays to stand by with a hose in hand. Best of all, if your boat didn’t come with an enclosure that keeps the dirty water from running down the deck, you can often build your own, and cut some scuppers in the toe rails at the low point of the blocked area, so the dirty water runs overboard.

Don’t mix metals in your twelve volt wiring, such as using a stainless washer on your battery terminal bolts. Use a copper washer to match the copper wiring. If possible, use copper or bronze bolts on the battery terminal. This is really important with your major twelve volt wiring, not so much with the minor wires, although you may lose some power. Check for the extra heat generated, with your infrared thermometer.

Buy an infrared thermometer, if you don’t have one. Any good hardware store has them. They have multiple uses, such as measuring the changes in temperatures in your water and oil in your engine, and your exhaust temperatures. Remember the water temperature in your engine will change, as you go from area to area with sea temperature changes.

Get all the manuals for all your equipment. Know who made the components. Most equipment you buy, from your engines to your watermakers are assembled of other manufactures equipment, not built by the name of the company on the item. When you need a replacement part, it can be quicker and always cheaper to buy from the manufacturer of it, or a major parts supplier such as Grainger, rather than the company who assembled the item. Be sure you have aboard a Grainger catalog, a West Marine catalog, and a Defender catalog.

With very few exceptions, never anchor with two anchors. The exceptions are anchoring in a tidal sluice way, where you place one anchor upstream and one down stream, or if in a heavy gusting situation where your boat is being batted from one side and then the other, and the motion is miserable. This happened to us just once in thirty two years. Last exception is a very tight anchorage, where those around you have two anchors out. Best is to avoid these places, the risk is too great. Most times when we see someone anchored with two anchors, we know he, or his anchors, are not to be trusted, and we move away.

Get some means of communicating with your partner that is hands free, to be used when anchoring or going into a slip. We bought the combination microphone and ear phone set, the first ones at FAO Schwartz, the second set at an SSCA Gam. The two sets were the same equipment, but the first ones were half the price. Both have proved invaluable. Best part of the second set is the soft case that came with it, which keeps the off switch from being moved to on accidentally. Doesn’t help if we just forget to turn them off

It is important to have your name on your boat so it can be read, by either a boat along side of you or astern, if you want other boats to communicate with you. This is really necessary in passing situations. It doesn’t help if it is on the stern and then you put your dinghy blocking it. It doesn’t help to have these pretty varnished name boards with the lettering in gold, only okay for someone strolling by your boat while it’s tied to a dock. Forget fancy lettering, just get that name big and bold, two places, on the stern and somewhere on the side of your boat. The test is, can it be read by anyone a decent distance off.

Next important thing is to have your radio on and where you can hear it while you are traveling. All this is really vital when you are traveling in close quarters like on the waterway, and it might save your boat someday when someone is trying to warn you of your proximity to danger. This happened years ago off Long island in the Bahamas when John McKie from his perch overlooking an eastward reef could not reach the boat heading for it. There is no excuse these days not to be able to communicate right from the cockpit, but I can’t believe the boats who still do not respond to calls.

Last resort to communicate your intentions in a passing situation is to use the horn. I can almost guarantee that when I do, like give a one toot, meaning I am putting my bow to starboard, the boat in front of me will move to starboard himself. Learn your passing signals and signal back to show you understand. I hate to use horn signals because of that, I hate going past someone at full tilt, but if I cannot get their attention, I have no choice but to pick the side I want, maintain a speed that gets me past as quickly as possible, and hope they don’t do something incredibly stupid. If you want a slow pass, you have to slow down yourself, and you have to be able to hear the request.

I have said this before, but it’s been a number of years. If you want to really sail your sail boat, you must have a downwind pole for those wonderful downwind days. If you can’t wing out your jib, or really effectively pole out that downwind sail, you will be rolling around with just a main or just a jib, not making enough speed to get where you want to go. Sails set on both sides of the boat keep you from rolling and keep you moving. If you want to sail upwind, you must get a well cut sail, use new technology like full battens, and learn how to set your sails. Get some sail boat racer, or a sail maker to go out with you and help you get the maximum potential from your boat, for those lovely light wind days. Know how to reduce sail on those days she’s really honking, so you’ve got the speed but can still be comfortable. You are not just a trawler with a high antenna. if you paid all that extra money for a sailing rig, learn how to use it. Too much effort? Save the money you would spend on a sailing rig, and buy a trawler, more space, more comfort, and the extra money buys you fuel.

If you really lust to live aboard for long stretches, away from marinas, make sure the other part of the crew shares your enthusiasm, and they have what it takes to keep them comfortable. They must be able to go to bed at night knowing their chance of dragging is all but nil. Twice in ten years is once too often. Keep them warm and dry, keep them out of extreme weather unless they are really up to adventure, let the one least comfortable make the decisions of when you go, and where you go. Both people must have the tools they need to make their jobs easier. A well equipped galley for the cook, the latest in navigation tools for the navigator, everything the chief engineer needs to keep things running, ways for everyone to communicate, room for the fun stuff, like books, music, and sports equipment. I’m learning life goes on without TV, since ours died, and maybe even better. The boat must have power, who wants to live without lights, refrigeration, or hot water for long periods of time? Figure out what each person must have or can learn to live without before you commit to long term cruising. Sometimes one person must have their time away from the boat, or they don’t want to make the long passages; you would be surprised how many boats are out there cruising for years, but making the accommodations so each stays within their comfort zone.

We have learned that equipment keeps improving. We all know that it is hard to keep up with the advances in computers and cell phones. The same is true of so much of our major equipment. I wish we had never spent the money we did trying to maintain our old windlass, and having the two years of aggravations we had in the process. At its best the old one was half the tool the new one is. Same was true of our old generator; years of putting up with soot and smell, and repeated failures to find all the money spent trying to keep the old one going might as well have gone immediately into replacing it. The only time we were smart was when we listened to someone older and wiser tell us we didn’t have the time to be messing around with an old main engine, and we replaced it after the first big failure. We’ve had ten years and about 40,000 miles of trouble free running. We are about to replace our autopilot, probably designed 15 to 20 years ago. It’s beginning to have some faults, and we know a new one has got to be so much better. Beside, getting parts for older equipment no longer made only works for antique restorers.

Get rid of everything you aren’t using, or are carrying because someday, you might need it and maybe it will work. Usually it won’t. Nothing makes living easier in tight spaces as getting rid of the clutter. How many small boats do we see carrying a small hard dinghy, the one they never use, and a small inflatable they do use. Better one good inflatable, and one good storage method- out of the water. Unless you really make long offshore passages, you don’t need extra sails. Keep the ones you have well maintained, check them out with a sailmaker every year, treat them right. Give the clothes you haven’t worn in years to someone who needs them. Don’t keep foodstuffs you aren’t using around for long periods of time. It isn’t that they get bad, though some do, but they lose their food value, just like old medicines can lose their efficacy. As Dave always says when asked by someone what their needs, “A dumptser.”

The learning process never ends, I am sure a month from now or a year from now, I could add a host of other things, which I will try to do, if I can remember.