Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Huckins came into our life

     It should have been liberating. It should have been a sense of freedom. It should have been a month of having care free living....but it wasn't.  It was a sense  not of loss, but of something missing.   Surely it wasn't the labour and toil. No, that in a way was the drudgery that fueled something more ethereal.... It was the dream....It was the fantasy...It was the wish that we could not just dream our dream...we could live it!  It was the feeling that we could continue, at least for a few more years, the adventure....BUT....we needed another boat!
     Hours of searching the internet, and several visits to view possible boats that would meet our criteria of smaller, less suites and bathrooms to clean, accessible engine room to work in, and classic style were fruitless until I stumbled into the Huckins boat yard in Jacksonville, Fl. I was there to view a Hatteras yacht in a nearby yard and as we walked through the Huckins boat yard I saw an absolutely beautiful freshly painted yacht sitting up on jack stands.  Timeless classic lines with a robust running gear.
"Man, this boat looks like it can take some water!" I exclaimed to the salesman.
"These boats are all custom made for their owners. They got started during the war.  Mr. Huckins designed the unique hull used in PT boats. They are sturdy and kept lightweight for fast and economical cruising." he replied.
     Thus began my research and review of the Huckins line.  It quickly became apparent to me that these boats (unlike the Hinckley's known to me from living in Maine) had maintained their heritage; had not become a production boat. ( the Hinckley's are built 24 hours a day all year long and although you can alter some features per your request....they basically all look the same!)  Not so with the Huckins! They build one boat at a time with direct and constant input from the owner. No two Huckins are alike except for their time proven "quadraconic hull".
     Searching the internet and the Huckins website, I found the Nena 11.  A 1985 50 ft Huckins that had new Cummins diesel motors and  Northern Lights generator installed in 2002 and now had only 380 hours on them.   The average recreational boater puts about 100 to 150 hours a year on a boat, so even with average use this boat should have had about 1500 hours of use.  The motors weren't really even broken in yet!  It had two state rooms with their adjoining showers and heads, an engine room that was accessible, and per my promise to Beth, was smaller than Doc's Holiday...by 1 foot!  Hee! Hee! Hee!
    To top it off, the Huckins manufacturer have maintained a following and nurtured a family image that they honestly and truly support. Cindy Purcell (Huckins granddaughter ) and her husband Buddy Purcell even took the time a couple of years ago to tour the country and visit all the Huckins yachts that they could access.  They have all the original blueprints of their boats and records of all the upgrades that they have done to their boats.  They encourage owners to call them with any concerns or questions and give freely of their expertise and advise.  They even took supplies to help some of the do-it-yourself owners continue their maintenance of their boats. ...they want all of their boats to function well, be up to date with new designs and look good. Needless to say Huckins has a committed owners group.
     I hired a surveyor who was formerly a yard manager at Huckins. He was not only knowledgeable about the production of these boats but new the Nena 11 personally.  This boat was commissioned by a retired Naval officer who in 1985 asked Huckins to power the boat with outboard motors. Unheard of in that day and age.  Huckins with their can do attitude consulted with the top outboard manufacturer at the time (OMC) and after several redesigns produced this 50 foot motor yacht powered with four outboard OMC motors. I have been told that "the admirals boat" was a head turner all along the intercostal and cruised (with Buddy Purcell) to the Bahamas and Caribbean.
     We can hardly wait to meet Buddy and Cindy to get a recap of that trip and further history on the Nena 11 (which of course you know I am going to change the name to Doc's Holiday 11)
     Currently Beth has teamed up with our good friends Terry and Cathy Lee Winchester from Beaumont, Texas to take the boat up to the Huckins yard in Jacksonville, Florida. They left Punta Gorda two days ago and as of last night had not even made it to Lake Ochechobee!  It appears that the boat is running just fine but the celebrations (read uninhibited partying!) is slowing them down! Terry says they aren't going to be able to get there by their expected time of 8:30 Monday morning...in fact they might just swing by Bimini (in the Bahamas ) to refuel! Damn I have got to retire!!! You can follow their progress by clicking on spot at the top of the blog.  I will probably have to wait for Beth to get back to have pictures of the boat uploaded to the blog but you might try to google 1985 50 ft Huckins for sale...I think there are still pictures up on the internet.
     In the meantime,  I'm going to sit on the upper deck, stare at the "Guff" of Mexico,  listen to the waves and Pout!
   


Saturday, August 19, 2017

A New Adventure Begins

     Time passes quickly. 
     Since returning to Port St. Joe, Fl Beth  has remodeled a beach town house which has direct access to the "Guff" (the way locals pronounce it!) of Mexico,  and I began updates and preparation for my plan to take Docs Holiday to the Bahamas, when I retire (again!)  However, like the best laid plans of mice and men, the gods thwarted our plans and our lives changed suddenly when our boat broker called to say" we have an offer on the boat!"
     "What!" I exclaimed,  " The contract to sell the boat expired months ago.  Were going to the Bahamas.  She's not for sale."
"It's a pretty good offer." he responded. "You might want to take a look at it."
     It was a reasonable offer and considering that Beth and I had been talking about downsizing to a two state room boat that would be easier to maintain with two less bedrooms bathrooms and showers to keep clean, we tentatively accepted the offer. 
     After 15 years of living, traveling and pouring our time and money into keeping Doc's Holiday up to date and well maintained, Beth and I agreed, we were not going to pass along the care of our boat to someone who was likely to abuse her.  I know "Money is money! Just take your money and run!" but a boat that you have loved and cared for is more like a partner than an inanimate object. At times you get frustrated because they won't behave the way you think they should ; you cajole them trying to get them to perform the way you think they should; and yes, at times curse them because they didn't, but you love and care for them just the same!
     No we weren't going to hand our baby over to just anybody!
     Dustin Kidd, is a handsome young man with an endearing personality who won our hearts when he was touring the boat and exuberantly proclaimed., "This is way better than the pictures! I couldn't figure exactly how it was laid out, but I love it!" It turned out that he had been viewing and fantasizing about being able to own a motor yacht like this for over two years! 
     "I didn't think I would ever be able to afford it but I desperately needed a change in my life and this is it!" he exclaimed. When pressed about this comment he solemnly told us that  he had just sold his 44 foot Hatteras because he needed a change.  He bought his Hatteras and spent several years with his girlfriend enjoying many good times traveling around Louisville, Kentucky.  When they parted company he became somewhat morose and after a couple of years decided to break out and move on with his life.  This boat would be the start of a new adventure for him and his best friend....his dog.
     As we sat in the lounge, sharing a cold beer.  He looked over at me and said, "Where is the good stereo." I responded, "Oh, this stereo is good. See we have large speakers built into the cabinet and the bar.  We have surround sound."
     "No" he smiled,  "I mean the stereo where you can hear the saliva dripping from the french horns."
      My mouth fell agape. "How do you know about that!" I sputtered.  "That was a comment made to me by my now deceased best friend,  Jay Hinson.  Fighting to keep my eyes from tearing up, I softly repeated, "How do you know about that!"
      Dustin smiled and said, " I read it in your book. I have read your book cover to cover and truly hope that I can have the same thrilling adventures on Doc's Holiday that you have had."
     Deal sealed. The boat is now being lived on and cared for by Dustin in Louisville, Kentucky.
     We have kept in touch with Dustin, who kindly sent us text messages and pictures of his journey back to Kentucky and an invite to come and spend time with him on the boat during the Kentucky derby. Thanks Dustin. We may take you up on that.  
     As we watched Dustin and his crew (including his Mother) navigate the boat out by the Panama City fuel dock,  I turned around to see Beth standing behind me with tears in her eyes. I held her hand as we walked silently back down the dock .

     

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Final Leg

     We planned on staying in Carrabelle for a few days to clean up the boat but when Beth pointed out the impending thunderstorms for the weekend and that Friday was the best weather we would have for several days, the decision to get to Doc's Holidays new home port was made.  We filled up the forward tanks with fuel and took off for the 6 hour ride across Appalachicola Bay into the Intercoastal Waterway, and around the end of the canal into Port St. Joe Marina.
                                                                             

                                                          Leaving Carrabelle

     Stopping when we saw a fellow in a small boat waving his arms in distress we quickly determined that he had a problem that we couldn't fix and called Sea Tow for him.  We made sure he and the two girls aboard were safe and had water then continued towards our destination.
                                                                           
  
                                                                                   

                                                                                   
                                                                 Apalachicola                                                                                      

                           Oyster beds our starboard prop met when we were here in 2012

     The wind came up and thunderclouds threatened as we entered and navigated  through Apalachicola and the ICW but we only had to go to the lower helm  for a brief period of rain. The cruise was easy and relaxing, allowing us to talk about the good times, good anchorages, nice towns and museums, our favorite islands and ....the difficult times. It seemed like such a long time ago that we left Eastport . Both of us were relieved the traveling was coming to an end and we could have a rest from our vacation. Indeed, we had experienced a lot, and no doubt learned a lot about cruising on our boat... The bottom line was,"Our experience continues to grow."
     However, our experience was not over! As we entered St. Joseph's Bay I could see  the wind had increased producing white caps and some rollers coming into the canal.  Beth quickly went forward and closed the forward hatch just in time to prevent a huge wave from filling up the front state room.  We had to turn side to the waves to get to the marina and the boat began to roll.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Beth squat down and hang on.  When the boat righted itself she went into the main lounge, sat on the floor and hugged her knees.
      "Oh! This is the motion I hate." she moaned
      " Are you going to be able to get by the rocks at the entrance to the marina?  I guess the weather gods are giving us a reminder that they are the ones truly in control!" she said in a low nervous voice.
       "Please just relax. I have to concentrate on getting through the entrance. I am going to have to power in through the turbulence." I responded.
        We flushed in with a swell and as I maintained control of the boat Beth said with a glee, "Oh my Ralph. Look! The have a Doc's Holiday Welcome home banner strung up!" When I looked up boat horns were blaring, people were waving and I could see the smiling faces of our friends and club members. It was heartwarming.

                                                                         

                                                      Click on picture to enlarge.

     We managed to turn the boat around the very narrow fairway and glide into Doc's Holidays new slip.  We were greeted by more smiling faces; Vicki and Danny-Dale Hellemn; our club commodore Dave and his wife Margo; and holding a bottle of wine and the biggest smile of them all, Huin.
     Thank you all for being so kind and making us feel so much at home. 
                                                                           


                                                                                   

  
                                                                                 




                                                                                 


                           
                                                                                 




                                                                                
Bittersweet!!!......until the next adventure.
 

 We celebrated by opening the bottle of champagne Beth had on chill for when we reached our final destination.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Crossing

     As discussed in a previous blog, there are many suggestions of how to safely cross from the panhandle of Florida to the west coast of Florida. At trawler speed most people will make a night crossing, leaving in the afternoon to travel the 150 miles so that they can arrive at daylight on the other side,  enabling them to see and avoid the numerous crab pots. I hate traveling at night. My imagination contrives all kinds of things that could be just under the water that we might hit and sink the boat. On top of that, with no definite horizon to focus on,  mal de mer sets in quickly and I am pretty much bedridden trying to hold my cookies down.
     Running at top speed didn't appear to be an option for two reasons.  One, I didn't want to travel a further 90 miles north to Steinhatchee, since it would add another 2 days to the trip and I would miss this weather window. Two,  I really didn't want to push the motors that hard for that long. I have babied this boat since the day I got her and I just don't like traveling that fast.
     I came up with a plan. If we left before daylight, we would have only a few hours of darkness and would be able to see not only what is in the water but when and where any storms were threatening. Pushing the boat a little to a 10 knot cruise, we would be across in about 15 hours.
     We were up and off the dock by 4:30 a.m. and passing by the Clearwater entrance marker by 5:00.  The waves were less than 2 feet and  only a moderate ocean swell which did increase when the 10 to 15 knot wind was on our nose but we passed by Dog Island just as it was getting dark. Beth met us at our assigned dock and we were securely tied up by 8:30p.m.
      We watched on our weather XM as storms passed behind and ahead of us, and laughed as we saw the one waiting over Apalachicola Bay move on out towards Tallahassee about an hour before we got to Dog Island.  The ride over was no doubt tolerable for most, but I remained supine in the lazy-boy chair or on the bed for most of the trip, relieving Mike at the helm when he needed a break. Hiring him was a good move.  He is used to being out in heavy weather and high seas and sea-sickness is just not a problem for him.
     My apologies to all who were following this part of the journey... I did not know that SPOT, the signal that shows our boat position at all times, automatically shuts down after 24 hours.  Since I did not shut it off the night before we left it looks as though Doc's Holiday went out into the Gulf Of Mexico and just disappears @ 1005AM! Beth was especially upset since she was following a storm that looked like it passed over us when spot stopped working! It wasn't until we were almost all the way across that I discovered the problem and got SPOT working again.  I guess that explains the 140 hits on the blog for that crossing.....sorry...but .....I'm BACK!!
     
     p.s. Beth and the dogs were still grinning when we arrived!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fort Myers to Venice to Clearwater

     Waking up on Aug. 31, I  poured a cup of coffee for Beth and handing it to her said, "Happy Birthday, sweetheart.  What do you want for a birthday present?"  Laughing she replied, "I want off this boat!"
"What!"
     She added, "Seriously, we have been working on this boat since June and have been traveling daily since we left Eastport, Maine in July. Except for the days when we couldn't, because of the weather we have been moving.  I absolutely do not want to make the crossing across the gulf and besides the dogs want off the boat!"
    " Well, the dogs didn't tell me that", I quipped.
     I understood. It really has been a hectic trip, more like a delivery than a vacation and the most stressful part would be ahead of us.  We have been agonizing about crossing the gulf since we left the east coast. Several times a day we would watch the thunderstorms across the northern gulf, trying to see a pattern so we could time our crossing. On the east coast the storms had been fairly predictable. We could travel in the morning and be anchored or in a marina by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and safely watch the thunderstorms pass. The pattern on the west coast was different. The storms were occurring not only in the mornings but also overnight.  We discussed several scenarios such as going 90 miles further north to Steinhatchee to easily cross the 60 miles to Carrabelle, or running at top speed to make it across as quickly as possible or leaving the boat on the west coast of Florida until winter brought more settled weather, etc. etc.
                                                                       

              Our pass time during storms. Of course the Admiral had the large glass.
                                                                                                                       
                                                      Storm brewing in Fort Myers

     "OK, You got it. I will hire a captain and you can meet us in Carrabelle." A look of relief crossed Beth's face and I swear, both dogs grinned!
     I made the arrangements. Mike Chapman is married to Jaimie Chapman, our circulating nurse in the operating room at the hospital. He also has his captain's license.  He captained crew boats to the gulf oil rigs and now works for Sea Tow in Port St. Joe.  He agreed, drove down to Ft. Myers and gave Beth his truck so she and the grinning dogs could wait for us in Carrabelle.
    Tom  Delouche, the diver recommended by Coastal Props in Fort Myers, put the props back on and the next morning we headed on the outside to Venice.  As I throttled up the Detroit's to see if the motors were going to handle running on the top end we heard and felt a vibration. I immediately pulled the throttles back. The vibration was not so bad at cruising speed but the vibration was still there.
     " Damn! Did they do the props wrong? Did something come loose? Did we pick up a crab line? Are we doing any damage to the running gear?" rapidly shot through my mind.
     We eased into our dock in Venice and as soon as we were secure Mike donned a bathing suit and jumped into the water to take a look at the running gear. I expected him to come up with a handful of line. He came up with a surprised look on his face.
     "Your prop nuts are loose!" he exclaimed. "I can turn the locking nuts and the main nuts by hand!"
Immediately, I called Coastal Prop and they had the diver call me.  I explained the situation to him and asked him to come to Venice and correct the problem. He gave me some bullshit story about how the vibration was probably from a line that must have come off when we reversed gears to dock the boat and the props wouldn't come off because the were constantly pushing the boat forward and there was a cotter key preventing the nuts from coming off, blah! blah! blah!
"We see loose prop nuts all the time." he said.
"You need to come up here and fix this." I replied.
"I'm not coming to Venice. Get a diver to go down and tighten them up." he replied.
     That ended the conversation. There was no way I would have another diver go down and replace a prop again. They just can't put them on securely underwater.  To do so is a temporary fix, at best.
     We eased out off the dock in the morning and headed for Clearwater and I started working the phone to find a marina that could do a quick haul on the boat to check the running gear and tighten the props.
     Francisco Costa, (Yacht Solutions) at Cortez Cove Marina could handle us as soon as we could get there.  It was a tight squeeze to get in but they had 4 men helping and within an hour had the boat pulled, the running gear checked, and the prop nuts securely tightened down.  I took pictures of the nuts as soon as the boat came out and they weren't even touching the props.  I immediately called Coastal Props and the Fort Myers Marina to inform them of this divers shoddy work and lack of professional customer service.

                                                                             



      It turns out that the loose nuts were probably not responsible for the vibration. There is a computer relay that controls the stabilizers that had come loose. We had no further problem once I pushed the relay back in.
     We headed back out and enjoyed a smooth ride all the way up the coast to Clearwater.  No waves, just a slow undulating swell and the deep throbbing hum of the big Detroits.  Mike pointed out a number of sea turtles and flying fish.   It was interesting how these fish seemed to tail walk across the surface of the water. Since my photographer had jumped ship, I had no way to capture the images.
     Pulling into the fuel dock at Clearwater Municipal Marina was straight forward. I  filled the aft tanks to make sure we had enough fuel to get across the gulf.  Jumping in to fire up the port motor.....no go!  Depleting every curse word in my vocabulary, I used the starboard motor to coax the boat to our assigned slip.
     "Where was Beth and her magic finger"?  I thought silently. She was always able to get this motor going when I couldn't. This is a problem that has plagued us intermittently for the trip to and from Maine. Mike and I wiggled pushed and poked everything we could  thinking a wire or something must be loose...no luck. I tried to call a mechanic....no luck. All I could think of was the weather window we were about to lose if we couldn't get away in the morning.  Once we maneuvered on one engine and got all the power and water hooked up I passed by the lower helm and out of frustration jabbed at the start button one more time.....VROOM!  I still don't know what is wrong but it appears that given time to cool what ever is wrong is made right. We would be leaving in the morning.
    

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sitting in the Cross Hairs

     Agonizing! Simply agonizing! Tropical storm Erika has altered paths and the prediction is now for it to head up the west coast possibly centering on Fort Myers. Crap! So much for my prediction.  Here we sit side tied to a fixed dock with no props!  We can't run back in land for protection. We can't even move the boat other than by hand. This doesn't leave a lot of options.
    The wind may not be as big a problem as the storm surge. Currently they predict Erika will not reach hurricane status (winds over 75 m.p.h) but if there is a storm surge someone (meaning me!) will have to be here to adjust the dock lines to accommodate the storm surge since it is not a floating dock.
     Doc's Holiday has been through 4 hurricanes and sustained only minor damage such as scratches, rub marks and ( in Hurricane Ike) damage to the props and teak rail when the 20 foot storm surge lifted her off the stands and she settled back down on the keel and stabilizers up against another boat. During one of the unpredicted storms Beth and I worked all night to adjust lines to keep the boat out from under the slip roof so she wouldn't get crushed like many of the other boats did because there was no one to help adjust lines.
     Well, I guess I will slow down now!
     Beth is able to get some reading, cleaning and most importantly cooking done.  Hmm! I see brownies in my future and her roast beef is delicious. I am able to get a few more maintenance issues addressed.
     Getting a good recommendation from the Hatteras Owners Forum about a straight forward, honest air conditioning tech named Bruce Weld located in Fort Myers, I contacted him to come have a look. The $3,000 estimate I got to replace the air conditioner was fixed for $150.00 and he replaced my holding tank filter while he was here.
      No, I don't think the people in St. Augustine intentionally tried to sell me a new install. Here is what I think happened.  Remember Danny Kennedy and I found two burnt wires on the air conditioner condenser. We rewired them with screw on caps.  One of the wires came off but couldn't be seen without removing the cap. The cover on the relay for this air conditioner had at some time in the past been mixed up with the state room air conditioner which was a 6000 BTU . The failed air conditioner is a 12,000 BTU so the readings on the coil were much higher and the tech interpreted that to mean the unit was failing. Being an old unit it was reasonable to suggest an entire new unit.  Bottom line a very experienced and honest tech solved the problem and the boat is very comfortably cool.....even for a Canadian! Great we will be comfortable when we get blown away!!
     In the mean time we will explore Fort Myers. The Edison mansion and enclave is nearby and there are lots of pubs within walking distance. They even have an entire store called "Naples Soaps" filled with wonderfully fragrant smells.  You know the kind that arouses your senses when your wife gets out of the bath and crawls in bed beside you.  I wanted to buy a bushel basket full but Beth declined. Ha...I will sneak back and get some!
    

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fort Myers

                                                                               
                         
                                                                              
                                 Spencer and Sophie loved all the grass at River Forest.                                                                                   




                                                                                    
                                                   Waiting to lift Doc's Holiday.
                                                     

  John, the manager at River Forest Yachting Center in LaBelle is prompt. As promised he pulled Doc's Holiday at 08:30 and within 45 minutes the crew had the bottom of Doc's Holiday pressure washed. It wasn't really dirty and our loss of 1 knot at cruising rpm was most likely due to the damaged props. Not only was their a piece curled over (Beth can claim it!) but it was obvious that we had touched bottom a couple of times with the tips of the props shining from the abrasive sand shoals.
                                                                               


                                                                               





                                                                               
                                                                                      




 Our prop damage is minor compared to this boat. He happened to be beside a boat that caught fire that spread to his.

     Floating the boat, we waved good by and headed for Fort Myers wanting to get their before the afternoon thundershowers.  We thought the delay at the Ortono lock was no longer in effect.....wrong! We took 2 hours of idling the motors and holding position in the middle of the river, waiting for the lock to open.
     Lightning with rolling thunder started just as we entered the Fort Myers basin so we throttled up and made it into the marina, just as the lightning storm passed behind us. As we tied up and finished filling the forward fuel tanks the rain started as another storm passed near. The Internet radar showed MUCH more headed our way, but we were secure.
     Beth contacted our daughter Jennifer in Naples.  She and our grandson Cameron drove up to see us and join us for dinner.  They arrived just as the heavens let loose. For the next 2 hours we couldn't leave the boat as the 40 mile an hour wind swept the rain sideways into a torrent of water pounding the windows. Finally, we were hungry enough to brave the downpour and the boat bouncing off the dock. We jumped off and got soaked running for the car.
     Stopping at Mel's Diner, chilled from the drenching and the air conditioning, we were still able to laugh and joke at our predicament and enjoy a filling meal. Still, I was surprised when Cameron and Nami ordered ice cream for dessert! Now they were really cold!
      With unsettled weather predicted for the next few days, we elected to stay in Fort Myers to get the props repaired. Hurricane Erica is predicted to be near by Monday morning so we may have to stay put until things settle down next week. Maybe the atmospheric turmoil from Erica will settle down the thunderstorms long enough for us to get the boat  across to Port St. Joe.
                                                                           

                                                 Tom the diver removing props.

                                                                              





                                                                               



     With the props off we can't move the boat which presented us with an opportune time to work on the boat. I started on getting the motors in optimal condition for the crossing. This meant addressing the issue of the port motor heating up at full throttle. It is strongly advised that the temperatures do not exceed 200 degrees  They should run between 185 and 195 degrees.  I struggled to get the intake and output hoses off the heat exchanger and finally hooked up a 12 volt bilge pump to push phosphoric acid through to clean up any rust or debris that might be impeding flow and heat transfer through the coils.  I guess I underestimated the capacity of the chambers because the 5 gallon pail kept emptying....Not sure of just where the acid  was all going, I let the acid sit in the system for 45 minutes than flushed it all out.  It is supposed to circulate via the pump for 2 hours, but time will tell if  my technique worked.  First chance I get. we will throttle up and see where the temps stabilize.
 The prop repair shop initially indicated that they might be able to have the props back on in 2 days. Just got word that they won't be ready until Monday....oops!