Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Home in Port Charlotte
Under the weather

Puerto Rico was great, as usual, but heavy rains on Saturday kept us from touring the rain forest and the beaches.  Instead we toured a bunch of back roads and small towns, stopping at roadside cafes for cocktails and sampling local foods.  My colleague, David, who is from PR, has a sister who is the administrative assistant to a Puerto Rico Senator.  She arranged a tour of the capitol builing.  It was not only beautiful, it was a great lesson in world history.  We came back to the mainland late Saturday night and stayed one more night in Miami.  By the time we got home on Sunday I was feeling poorly with a sore throat, sinus thing and terrible body aches.  I slept 11 hours Sunday night and awoke fully sick on Monday.  Two of the people we flew home with also came down sick on Sunday.  Gotta love that air travel.  I cancelled my Tuesday and Wednesday schedules but hope to feel better enough on Wednesday afternoon to head east to Fort Pierce.  I am scheduled to teach an excavation class there on Thursday and I think I can make it.

I checked the power steering unit on the boat again today but it still leaks.  I called Boaters World, where Ronnie and Carol have had their boat serviced.  They don't have on the water facilities but I finally got a good referral to a mobile mechanic.  He came out today and gave me an estimate of 3 to 4 hours labor to remove the old unit, 2 hours to put the new one in.  His rate is 75 per but that's better than the 92.50 from the retail shops.  I told him to do it.  He should have it out by next week.

Weather here is heating up.  Afternoon highs have been in the mid 80s and they're telling us to get ready for our first 90 next week.  Gulf water temperature is currently at 76.  I really want to go fishing.  Tides are noticeably higher, which is normal as we go into summer.  Sunday night our NOAA weather radio alert sounded at midnight with a tornado watch (warning would be worse) for Charlotte County.  I told Kathy a watch just meant conditions were right for forming a tornado but none has been seen.  We went back to bed with confidence in our NOAA radio.  Twenty minutes later the siren bolted me out of bed, thinking this would send us into the closet (our shelter room).  Fortunately this alert was just a severe thunderstorm warning for Sarasota County.  I have the radio programmed to inform me on our county plus those adjacent counties that border ours; Sarasota, Lee and Desoto.  We went back to bed and heard thunder and rain all night long.  It didn't stop me from sleeping great though.  The really exciting months for weather are coming right around the corner.

Our yard is coming together decently.  Bermuda out front by the street is about a B-.  Sod we laid down near the house has taken hold and is already sending some runners out.  The backyard turf is still at a D + .  Kathy's hibiscus are blooming like crazy.  Her roses are popping now and then.  The topsy turvy tomato plant she put up has taken off.   It has 6 tomatoes growing.  Citrus leaves have finally stopped falling and we've got hundreds of little buds for next season.  We get pretty excited about our gardening here!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Home in Port Charlotte
Raining but pleasant temps in the low 70s

Before leaving for California last week I put the boat steering system back together.  I concluded the clevis pin was fused to the steering arm to the point that I cannot remove it.  Without being able to seperate the hydraulic ram from the steering arm, I cannot take the ram out to repair the leak.  If I cannot get it repaired I will try the band-aid approach.  I will use Lucas Oil Powersteering Stop Leak fluid to try and fix it.  If it doesn't fix it, it will slow it down enough for me to drive the boat to a repair marina, where they will have a method for removing the clevis pin.

Friday I bought the stop leak and put in two bottles.  I followed the directions which called for having the wheel turned full port, fill to the cold level on the dipstick, start motor and let run momentarily, repeat until level stays full.  After filling system and lines, start motor and turn wheel from stop to stop, port to starboard, checking levels frequently.  Once full, leave overnight and check for leaks.

On Saturday the dipstick showed the system still full.  I wrapped shop towels around the ram and did the wheel check again.  The wheel turns as smooth as new but checking the shop towels found a small amount of leakage coming through.  My neighbor Rolando said this could be normal as the Stop Leak fluid penetrates the breach in the gasket/seals and fills the minute holes.  He recommended we leave it overnight and check again on Sunday.

I spent the remainder of Saturday cleaning and detailing the boat for the first time in about two months.  The new lift cover does an amazing job of keeping the boat clean.  I get about 10% of the green mold growth I did from before having the lift/boat covered.  I used my shop vac to pump the old spilled hydraulic fluid out of the engine bilge.  Between the three quarts of fluid I had used and the normal accumulation of water in the bilge I pumped out about 2.5 gallons of contaminated fluid.  I poured this into a Homer bucket and drove it to the Charlotte County Recycling/Waste transfer station where they took it off my hands for free.

The rest of the day was spent washing, scrubbing and cleaning the boat.  I began to wax the port side and got about 20% done before dinner was ready.  There is some "tea staining" near the water line that I can't get off with the 3M polish/wax.  I will have to carefully use murratic acid to remove that.  I'm not in a hurry to do that job.  I will get the top half of the waxing done as time allows.

It's 10:45 AM and the rain is slowing down some.  I'm going outside to check the steering ram for leaks again. 

Raining heavier at 11:45 - no, it's still got a slight leak.  Nothing compared to how it was, but it's not right.  I've spent the last hour continuing another ongoing project.  I'm trying to run a dedicated 12v line from the radio box (which is affixed to the hard top above my head at the helm) to the AC/DC panel inside the cabin.  My neighbor Ron drilled a hole in the support tubes (that hold the hard top in place, look like roll bars) and I fed the new 12v line through the tubes back in February.  I was never able to find where the line enters the gunwales so I could pull it through to the cabin.  These ongoing projects show you how long it's been since I've boated.

Anyway, I had to remove a wall from the bulkhead behind the helm/dashboard.  This opened up the gunwales to my limited view but I'm still looking for the new line amidst a field of dozens of electrical lines leading to the helm and panel.  Now the battery powered spotlight is giving me fits.  I took a break to come blog this.  I leave tonight to work Stuart on Monday.  I'll return Monday night, spend Tuesday in my office and take Kathy with me on the road Tuesday night.  Wednesday I work Miami and Thursday we will both fly to Puerto Rico to stay three days.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Home in Port Charlotte
Rain and 72

I don't think I've ever gone two weeks without blogging until now.

My sister, her husband and their grandson were here for a few days last week, visiting from California.  We always enjoy visiting them in Murrietta but this was their first time seeing our home in Florida.  With our boat down for repairs, we took them out on a Peace River boat eco-tour.  I was more fun than I hoped for.  We saw lots of different bird species and a few gators.  We wrapped up that day with a bayside dinner at Benedetos in Punta Gorda.  While here my sister joined me for daily 5.1 mile walks each morning.

Today I did 6.8 miles of walking/running.  I'm down a total of 19.5 pounds since the doctor visit a month ago.  My current weight is 245.5.  I'm feeling sore but otherwise okay.  My blood pressure has been in check everyday so I've concluded that it's not something to be concerned with.  I took it morning and night for 2 weeks and sporatically since then.  It has consistently been in the good range.  This morning it was 112/74, with a resting pulse of 54.  I know I need to continue to loose weight and get my cholesterol down but I think the Dr. was wrong when he told me I was facing hypertension.  My goal weight remains 195 so there's a long road to go.

Kathy and I replaced all of the plants that had died during the 100 year freeze we suffered this winter.  We put in 9 new hibiscus, 4 shefelera, transplanted the two remaining coconut trees from the canal beach to the yard, installed a cubic yard of new rock around the house and laid a pallet of burmuda sod to help bring the grass back to acceptable condition soon.  We have a good start of Burmuda growing from the street side of the yard, so we soded the house perimeter.  Hopefully the two will meet in the middle.  Other than the grass, the place is looking very nice.  All of the surviving plants, palms and citrus trees got a healthy dose of fertilizer.

Weather has been in 80's for about ten days now and it's felt great.  My travel week sends me to meetings in California this week.  Next week it's Miami and Puerto Rico.  Kathy will be joining me in the Caribbean for her first time.

Finally, after more than a month of waiting, I received the entire library of shop repair manuals for my boat.  I found the section on removing the leaky steering cylinder.  The steps to do so are quite different than what's had me stumped all these weeks.  I'm heading out today to give it another go before leaving town tomorrow.