Saturday, August 30, 2008

Recalling the fleet

I debated even posting more information about Gustav, because I'm sure you all know about him by now. As I write this, Gustav is a Category 4 with sustained winds of 150 MPH. It is predicted to achieve Cat 5 (156+) status by tomorrow. As you can see above, 27L and 28L are still alive.

Here in Port Charlotte, we are receiving periodic downpours from Gustav's outer bands. We don't expect any real wind danger here, given the current projected path of the hurricane, however there is a small craft advisory issued for Monday and this will cancel my fishing trip. They are calling for the seas to have a heavy chop, with 6-8 foot waves possible in the Gulf. Bottom line; the fish will be safe, as we have recalled the fleet.

We continue to keep our eyes on Hanna, because she is forecast to take some sort of a boomerang track, giving her a chance to get into the Gulf. If that happens, all bets are off.

I don't think I have mentioned on here, one of my hobbies is playing fantasy football online. My two sons, two of Kathy's brothers, Kathy's daughter and a variety of our friends make up our league. This is my 6th year playing. It works like this: Fantasy owners hold a player draft, each real player can only be chosen once in our league, keeps track of the real player's stats in the games every week and gives fantasy owners points based on the real performance. Each week, fantasy owners compete head to head with one other owner. The four best fantasy teams face each other in the playoffs and one is crowned fantasy champion. The champ even gets a certificate from the NFL. It's only for bragging rights, but it is a lot of fun. We had the fantasy draft today and I look forward to the season. Fantasy football is a hobby, but NFL football is a passion to me.

My 30 year old nephew, Chris, lost 55 pounds this year. He and I share body types, so I am having him mentor me in how I can lose 75 pounds. I will update my progress on here. It's not a diet or some crazy plan. The formula is simple; cut down on portions, do regular exercise. I started aerobic walking. I did 1.7 miles Thursday and again on Friday. My goal will be to do it 6 days a week. I'm already being challenged because my rib injury from last week has gotten worse but I've gotten a good start on this new plan. I have increased my water intake dramatically and that's a really good thing.

Storms are back; lots of thunder and lightening.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Storms lining up deeper than Hilliary protesters in Denver

click to enlarge
Above: Gustav, Hanna, L26, L27 and L28.
Working in Sarasota (getting tires)
Partly cloudy, chance of afternoon showers

Gustav has been bounced between hurricane status and tropical storm status, depending on his current position. All expectations are that after clearning Haiti and Jamaica, he will hit the open warm waters of the Gulf and strengthen to a Category 3 or higher. It is believed Gustav will make landfall somewhere between Texas and the Florida
panhandle, with New Orleans being the best odds.

As of 5AM eastern time today, Gustav is not alone. The system formerly known as L25 is now called Tropical Storm Hanna. The photo above shows her current position. She is expected to gain hurricane status by this weekend and head north up the Atlantic coastline. If both of these scenarios play out as scripted, we will be unaffected in Port Charlotte. Expand the above photograph and you will see new low pressure tropical waves, as well. We have L26, L27 and over near the Mexico Gulf coast, L28.
My neighbor, Rolando, and I are planning on spending Monday fishing for snook on Charlotte Harbor. Snook is one of the most popular sportfish on the Gulf coast. They are protected by having limited harvesting seasons (opens 9/1) and slot limits. You can't keep a snook that is less than 28" or more than 33". That's a pretty narrow slot. Anglers are also limited to keeping one snook per person, per day. It is illegal to buy or sell snook. This must be SOME fish! Rolando says they are great eating. We will try to land them using live pin fish as bait, although I'm told they will also hit live or dead shrimp and select plastics. They also chase and eat mullet. Snook are rumored to be all over the canal behind my house but I haven't caught anything back there in the few times I've fished it. I know the fish are there, because we see and hear them jumping day and night. Snook feed on mullet fish and there are tons of mullet fish jumping in my canal.

Check back often for weather updates and of couse, I will update the fishing results next week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A storm, by any other name . . .

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The big orange circle is a wave of tropical pressure called L25.

click to enlarge, all systems are tagged

Tuesday at 5 Am est.
I awoke to find Gustav is now a Category 1 Hurricane. His position hasn't changed much from my blog below. Daily updates will follow this storm.
Home in Port Charlotte

The system formerly known as L24 (for those who have been following along) now has a real name. Today the National Hurricane Center in Miami officially dubbed Tropical Storm Gustav.

This is the 7th named storm of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Gustav is presently south of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A hurricane warning is in effect for that region. As if Gustav wasn't enough, L25 trails the same path by about a 500 mile lag. The above photo shows Fay, still hanging on in the area of Alabama/Louisiana; Gustav on deck; and L25 in the hole waiting it's turn.

If you haven't checked this blog lately, I encourage you to click at the bottom where it says Older Posts and you can see what you've missed. I have been updating quite often during this active storm season.

And for everyone who reads, I would appreciate regular comments from you by clicking on the link that says Comments. You can be anonymous or even leave your name but I want to know if you are reading and what you think. I am getting 30-50 hits a day and sure would like to know who you are. Thanks and enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Home in Port Charlotte (mostly sunny, occassional downpours)

Weather system 94L continues to gather strength and is currently located between Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles. A USAF hurricane hunter is scheduled to investigate tomorrow to determine if 94L is, in fact, a tropical depression. 95L has formed halfway between Florida and Africa but it is very unorganized and not expected to do anything.

All this week, I will work the Gulf Coast and sleep in my own bed each night. This past weekend was spent doing boat projects. We had a automatic bilge pump that would not shut off and it killed both of our boat batteries. I got the batteries recharged but had to cure the root cause. The big challenge was finding the exact location of the bilge pump, as we don't have any diagrams or blue prints on the boat. I traced the sound of the running motor to somewhere inside the cabin. As it turned out I had to nearly disassemble the cabin to find it. Beneath a floor plate that holds the dining table, a compartment inside the hull was found to be holding standing water. I traced the source to be from my anchor rode locker, in the forward bulkhead. I used my wet vac to suck out a gallon and a half of water. It seems the anchor rode (rope) sponges up water while at anchor and gravity sends that water from the rode to where I found it.

The suspect bilge pump was finally located behind the refridgerator (which had to come out), at the lowest part of the hull. After removing the fridge, I had to climb waist deep inside a hole that was like crawling into a file drawer. I slipped at one point and bruised a rib but I found the culprit and got it out. There was a mass of sludge/fibers/dirt the size of a small mouse blocking the intake of that bilge impeller. The automatic float valve was stuck in the up position, so it was a good expense of $69 to replace it. While I was in the bowels of the boat I found a pump and sea strainer for my forward live wells. I pulled this sea strainer and found a similar mass of gunk in there, so my bruised rib turned out to be worth my while.

What I've just described is an example of what it means to be "messing about."

"There is nothing half so much worthy as simply messing about in boats. Simply Messing. Whether you get away or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else; or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you much better not."

  • The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pump Out the Volume, Pump Out the Volume . . .

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This image from today at 1:45PM shows Fay's tail still dumping rain on our house.

Click to enlarge
Here is the latest position of 94L

Scattered downpours; partly sunny

Fay just won't die. While she turns northeast Florida neighborhoods into raging rivers, her reaches into our neighborhood, 200 miles away from her center, continue to leave us drenched. We suffered no damage, except for having both batteries on the boat die out from constant running of our bilge pumps. We bought a $50 charger and cured both batteries. Today, we are pumping out volumes of water like crazy. We will look into having a shore power station installed in the future to keep our batteries charged. Cost analysis says since batteries cost $65 each, one time shore power cost would save not only batteries but potentially save the boat from bilge failure.

The tropical wave known as 94L has weakened somewhat but continues a northwesterly track. It's threat of becoming a named storm has been downgraded from medium to low, due to losing some organization, however there was a time that Fay received those same grades when she was but a wave of pressure. I wonder how that forecast turned out?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That Fay is one stubborn _ _ _ _ _

4PM est. satellite shows Fay's center over Lake Okeechobee.
Click on this picture to enlarge and notice the eye beginning to form.

click to enlarge
As TS Fay stalls over Lake Okeechobee, a new tropical wave called 94L has formed 2500 miles into the Atlantic.

4:45PM est.
I just took half of the window boards off the house to let some sunshine in. It's sure nice to see outside again! We have been getting steady rain for much of the afternoon but the threat of Fay is no longer our problem. All weather watches and warnings have been removed from the Gulf Coast of Florida. The top photograph shows Fay's present position (actually gaining strength overland while moving toward the Atlantic) and a new system tagged 94L. There is a 50% chance that 94L doesn't become a tropical cyclone. Don't you love optimism? I don't know if we will meet Gustav by week's end but I have a feeling that Fay will reach Category 1 Hurricane status when she hits the open water again. By the way, for those of you looking to fill in the blanks in this chapter's title. It's S T O R M. What were you thinking?

11:30AM est.
The storm continues to move further away from our location. The severe weather warnings and watches on our coast have all expired, but remain in effect for the Atlantic coastline. Looks like we have dodged this bullet but don't breath a sigh of relief too soon. There is a new tropical wave of pressure being tracked off the coast of Africa. The next named storm will be Gustav.

8:45AM est.
Morning is upon us and the wind is picking up slightly. We are under a tornado watch until 12:30PM. Some areas of Fort Myers received 5" of rain and experienced street flooding. The above picture gives you an idea of the current storm track and where we are. It is raining very lightly in Port Charlotte. The worst part of the system is on the right hand side of it and we stayed on the left.

5:45AM est.
I awoke to the sweet sounds of silence. It appears the storm stayed south of us, making landfall at Marco Island and then heading east, northeast. We remain under a tropical storm warning but the hurricane warning has expired. As far as I can tell we didn't even get heavy rain yet. But I don't know...I may have slept through it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rest while we can

Monday night:
At 10:15PM, the storm has slowed in its movement. We are getting mild winds here in Port Charlotte, maybe 10MPH sustained. We are going to go to bed and get some rest while we can. We are still anticipating declining weather throughout the night and into the morning. I normally wake up at 6AM est. and will post an update as long as I can get WiFi. Feel free to click the comment button at the bottom of this page and let us know you are following along. Goodnight from South Florida.

At 8PM eastern time, the center of the storm is approximately 105 miles south of Naples, which puts her about 160 miles south of us. All preparation is complete. One thing we learned today was about parking my truck sideways in my driveway, directly in front of the garage door. This is supposed to help deflect wind away from the garage, which can be a weak point.

I just mowed the lawn so I won't have to worry about it later in the week.
The skies are grey but calm. Wind is only occasional at this time. There has not been any rain since early this morning. The boat is very ready. I raised the lift to max point to reduce swinging and installed 2x8x16 boards along the frame work to further reduce swinging. There are docklines at all four points, with enough room for a storm surge that would bring Noah out. I think we are good.

The storm is still at Tropical Storm status and is not expected to gain hurricane strength before making landfall. The danger now is possible tornados following the storm. All windows in our house are boarded up. Our neighbors have done the same. I will try to post another update later this evening.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not Tempting Fay

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Updated track Monday, 8/18/08 4:30 PM est
Our location is right above the H in this track line

We expect peak weather about 8AM Tue

Boarding up the shack

There were more than 76 cars in line for gas at Sams Club on Sunday.

Sunday, 8/17/08
Home in Port Charlotte

Last weekend I wrote about some tropical weather systems off the coast of Africa. Well, we now have our first official Hurricane Watch since moving to Florida. Tropical Storm Fay is currently near south central Cuba, moving northwest at about 15 MPH. Her winds are presently sustained at only 50 MPH but once she hits the warm open waters of the Gulf of Mexico it is expected to strengthen to hurricane status. The Florida Keys are already under a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors. Good thing we got our Key Largo fix last week. The Governor of Florida, Charlie Christ, has already declared a state of emergency in anticipation of what may come. We have decided to put our plan into action. Even if its a false alarm this will be a good drill. Here's what we have done:

Fuel up both of our vehicles (line at Sams club was 6 cars deep at each of the 12 pumps)
Have 20 gallons extra fuel on hand for emergency
Have 2 full bottles of propane for bbq grill
Obtain cash from ATM
Have bottled water on hand (we bought 24 gallons in May)
Have 5 day supply of non perishable food on hand
Get important personal papers into the safe room (our master closet)
Put flashlights, first aid kit in safe room
Have extra batteries for flashlights and NOAA radio
Charge all cell phones, keep 12v chargers handy
Install plywood on windows (can't afford the $10k hurricane screens this year)
Remove landscape lighting and hanging plants from yard
Batton down the hatches on the boat, secure it to the lift, raise the lift to max height
Take dated photos of house inside and out

All indications are that this storm will not exceed Category 1 but we won't tempt fate . . . or Fay.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Day in Paradise

We have a friend in our tiki bartender in Key Largo. Her name is Iris and to hear her tell the story, she came to Key Largo, from New York City, on a 4 day weekend and never left. That was 11 years ago and she hopes the Big Apple has quit looking for her. I say she's hiding in plain sight.

I have had the pleasure of being served by Iris, regularly, since I came to Key Largo in March. Every restaurant we have explored in the Keys came off a recommendation from Iris and every place has been first rate. We hit a new high tonight and Iris joined us.

Snooks Bayside is a beautiful waterside gem that we will absolutely share with any of our friends/family who come to visit. First off, like the best places in the Keys it's strictly "come as you are." Swim trunks, tank tops and crocs meets the standard of being dressed to dine. The indoor dining room is quite upscale with tablecloths and gorgeous centerpieces. They host many seaside weddings here, with photos of many nuptiuals proudly posted inside.

The bayside patio is where we were seated, with the Gulf waters to one side and the live music of Jimmy Ray on stage to the other side. We haven't enjoyed live music since leaving Pleasant Harbor and this was terrific. Jimmy Ray, who could easily be mistaken for Eddie Murphy, plays an electric guitar and is accompanied by digitally recorded band instruments as he covers everything from Elton John to John Legend. He was born in Guyana and brings a distinct island flare to the vocals. It's sort of where smooth jazz meets reggae rock. He did a fabulous adaptation of Phil Collins "Another Day in Paradise." It was AWESOME!!! A google search shows he had a disco hit under the stage name Kat Mandu. He really looks like Eddie Murphy when he smiles.

Dinner, like the music, was super. Iris had hooked us up with some free drinks since she is known and loved by many in the Keys. As we were finishing dinner, an amazing thunderstorm moved in about a mile off shore. The winds picked up to about 25 mph when suddenly we were treated to a blast of cold air. The temperature must have plummeted 20 degrees in an instant. I became slightly concerned because I know that cold air over warm water can trigger waterspouts or tornados, but not to worry everything was fine and the rain passed us by without a drop.
During the stageshow Jimmy Ray called out to us and asked where we were from. I told him we had moved here from Phoenix and he announced we were officially members of "The Rock." I'm not sure what that meant, but I think he was welcoming us as locals and that made us feel good. The people in the Keys are so happy you think they're hiding something.

Whatever it is, I think we found it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Key Lime Pie

We're off to Key Largo on Monday, August 11 through Friday the 15th. I will teach a substance abuse detection class on Tuesday and conduct field audits on Wednesday/Thursday. Kathy will will be forced to lounge around on the beach at Manatee Bay, waiting for me to take her out at night for Key Lime Pie.

My bride and I will be returning to Phoenix for a brief visit in early September. We will fly in on Friday, September 5. I will go on to California for business from Monday the 8th through Wednesday the 10th. We will stay in Phoenix through that week, departing for SOFL Saturday the 13th.

The last couple of weeks have been really hot and humid. It still hasn't hit 100 in Southwest Florida but the yard work has become quite unpleasant of late.

There are three new tropical waves off the coast of Africa. We will watch these from 3000 miles away, with interest, as the hurricane season is expected to really get going this month. The next named storm will be called Faye. If you would like to monitor the Atlantic Hurricane Watch, click on the link below. Hold your mouse over the colored circles and a window will pop up and explain what you are looking at. The website is updated 4 times each day.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hammer Time

Home in Port Charlotte
High of 90; rain returning Sunday

I spent the day with my neightbor, Rolando, fishing Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. The most interesting catch of the day is featured in these photographs. Yeah, that's a Hammerhead Shark! It was my first and it was pretty cool. Those eyes being placed on the flat front part of the head is just too weird. Our friend Doni will be happy to hear that the little fella was released alive. After that shark, we caught several other variety of salt water fish but none over 12". We caught red snapper and grouper and saw more dolphins playing than you'd find at Sea World. I put the best dolphin picture on here. Now don't confuse these flippers with mahi . . .these were the dolphins you all know.

The weather on the water was gorgeous. We launched at 9 AM and got home at 8 PM. It was log day but that's what happens when you have to play the tides and the bridges. The boat ran great. We ran 73 miles on the day. Ending hour meter: 345.
click on pictures for full screen view