Sunday, July 25, 2010


Home in Port Charlotte
High of 92*

Tropical Storm Bonnie turned out to be a little drizzler.  We were forecast to get 2" of rain and we received 8/10ths of an inch.  We actually get more than that on a normal summer rain day.  Oh well, the important thing is that she caused no damage to life, limb or property.

Friday was spent catching up on all of my reports for the week.  I do enjoy starting a Monday completely caught up.  Saturday I spent 6 hours in the heat and humidity trimming palm trees on our lot.  We have 27 of them and this season I am just doing a few at a time and running the debris to the dump myself, instead of allowing it to accumulate in the front yard while waiting for Waste Management to come pick it up.  Saturday I made 3 runs to the dump, which is really just a waste transfer station that is two miles from home; very convenient.

Sunday I planned on doing some boat projects but I was so beat from the yard work, I just relaxed in the house all day long.  With a short week ahead, they'll be time for projects later.

There are currently no tropical waves in the Atlantic.  The next named storm will be Colin.

Friday, July 23, 2010


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Tropical Storm Bonnie approaches Key Largo on July 22; an unrelated tropical wave is shown near Mexico
The National Hurricane Center shows Bonnie's track, likely to brush our area with 2" of rain or more

A beautiful lighthouse point at the Key Largo Angler's Club overlooks the Atlantic Ocean

Alabama Jacks is a hidden gem on Card Sound Road, near Key Largo

Alambama Jacks is all outdoor seating, very rustic and "old Florida"

You can arrive by car or by boat, as these Customs & Border Patrol agents did

The Feds boats feature four 225hp outboard motors and four point harness to strap the Captain and crew in for what must be an incredible ride

These local fishermen were so still, for a moment I thought they were props.  This picture was shot from the tables at Alabama Jacks.

Home in Port Charlotte
82* with rain on the way

As the second named storm of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season took aim on the Florida Keys, I felt it was a good time to head for our home port.  Although Tropical Storm Bonnie is minor by Florida standards it is expected to bring two to five inches of rain and winds in the 40 MPH range.  I was due to depart on Friday morning but thought better of driving across the Everglades in those conditions so I headed out Thursday evening, after work, arriving back in Port Charlotte at 9PM. 

While in Key Largo this time, a colleague took me to Alabama Jacks for lunch.  This historic hole in the wall sits on Card Sound Road, well off the beaten path of the Overseas Highway.  The joke of their sign (above) is that not only is there no downtown Card Sound, there's no town at all.  Alabama Jacks is a 50 year old, open air, floating bar/restaurant/marina set amongst the mangrove trees in Card Sound, a narrow body of water between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.  I'm told that Alabama Jacks has been featured on the television shows Miami Vice and CSI Miami.  There are pictures of many a celebrity who stopped by for a cold one.  On weekends it is as much a biker bar as it is a boater bar.

Back home, I have discovered some new erosion on the canal bank out back.  In February, 2009 I did some seawall repair using 2 cubic yards of rip rap.  I'm going to have to finish the entire property line along the canal, which will involve about 10 more cubic yards of rip rap and about 5 tons of soil.  I had a contractor come give me a bid for a concrete seawall but it was over $20,000.  That's completely out of the question.  I'm hoping to do the rip rap job for about $1,000 in materials.  I may look into hiring a day laborer to help me moving the materials from the yard, down the sixteen steps of the deck and placing the rocks beneath the dock.  I recall how intense the work was last time and this will be that, 5 times over.  I'm hoping I can wait until fall when the weather cools.  Being able to wait will depend on how many named friends follow Bonnie.

Monday, July 19, 2010


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On the road, Key Largo
82* on arrival at 7PM

Sunday I launched the boat at 4:22AM in order to beat the high tide under the short bridge.  I had no crew aboard but was determined to boat and fish.  It was very dark at that hour and I had a portable spotlight availble at the helm.  I preferred to allow my eyes to adjust to the available ambient light from the stars and the reflection of my navigation lights on the sides of the canal.  The only problems arose when some homes motion detectors blasted spotlights my way.  I piloted my vessel very, very slowly...taking my time to navigate the 2.6 miles of canal toward the harbor.

I entered Charlotte Harbor near 5AM.  My new color Garmin GPSMAP 72Cx was quite helpful in dealing with the darkness.  I trolled a lure back and forth along the Peace River, waiting for the fuel dock to open at Fisherman's Village at 7AM.

For some reason (to be found later) my depth sounder, stereo and marine radio were not working.  Fortunately the new Garmin is battery operated.  I very much enjoyed being the only vessel on the water at that early hour.  Cruising along at idle speed made the peaceful easy sounds of the waves lapping at the hull quite enjoyable.  I thought to myself, this must be what it's like to do a nighttime crossing in a sailboat; slow speed, lots of stars and only the sounds of the water.

When the fuel dock opened I bought 50 gallons of non-ethanol at $3.59 per gallon.  I stayed tied up so I could investigate my latest electrical problems.  My search caused me to open the dashboard panel, removing 10 screws.  Imagine my shock upon finding 5 hornets nests or dirt daubers or whatever you call them.  I used a paper towel to dipose of each and suddenly all of my electronics worked again.  I then spent some time rigging up my own wire leaders, as I figured I'd encounter some toothy species today.

At 8:30 AM I re-embarked to Charlotte Harbor.  The winds were 5-10 mph out of the east and this made for very calm waves.  I decided to head for the Gulf and fish outside.  I exited at Boca Grande Pass and headed north, about 2 miles off shore in 25-30 foot water.  I was trolling two lures for about 10 minutes when the first line went off.  A Spanish Mackeral, with lots of teeth, put up a fun little fight until I brought him aboard.  He measured out 16"...a keeper.  I put him in the box and set my lines out again.  Within 15 minutes it was "fish on" again.  This big daddy measured out at 24".  Before the day was over I would hook one more but not land him.

I overheard a mayday call on channel 16.  I jet ski rider reported his craft was sinking.  His radio signal was so weak, the Coast Guard couldn't make out his transmissions.  I relayed the guy's position to the Coast Guard and I started that direction to assist.  Within 20 minutes the guy radioed that another vessel had reached him and the emergency was over.  Code 4, as we used to say on the PD.

Another hour of trolling produced no further action so I decided it was time to head for port.  Instead of backtracking, I cut in at the Gasparilla Pass and picked up the Intercoastal Waterway.  The waves were so light I was able to run near 40 MPH my whole way home.

I landed at my dock at 2:10 PM.  After cleaning my catch and my ship, I was beat.  What a great day on the water.

Monday I left home to work the rest of the week in the Homestead/Florida Keys area.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


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Home in Port Charlotte

High of 92, afternoon thunderstorms

I finally had a chance to post some 4th of July holiday weekend photos of my trip to the Michigan and the Great Lakes.  I had the chance to stay with my friends Larry and Sue at their home in Commerce Township and also a couple of days with Tom upon his boat on Lake St. Clair.  Larry and Tom are the brothers of my next door neighbor Kathy.  We became fast friends through their visits to Southwest Florida and I was thrilled at the chance to be their guest.

Above photos are of Larry & Sue's house and the fabulous basement bar Larry built at home.
Not to be outdone, brother Tom has his own Tiki Bar in front of his slip at the lake.  Michigan folks refer to boat slips as "wells."  There's some local knowledge for ya.  Tiki Tom and I closed the joint down every night and spent the days cruising the waters. 

The weather in MI was perfect..highs of 80-85 and overnight lows in the mid 60's.  The water temperature was a crisp 78 but we got used to it quickly.  It was so nice to swim in fresh water again.  The entire marina experience left me longing for our good old days on Lake Pleasant in Arizona.  I hope to bring my Kathy with me next year to share in the Great Lakes fun.

I returned home on the 4th in time for fireworks over Charlotte Harbor.  Ronnie, Carol, Rolando and Kathy all brought me along for a terrific show.  We sat on the banks of the Peace River and watched the entire show a short distance from the staging/launch area.  It was the first time I have ever seen fireworks from the ground up.  The finale was like a war zone.  Very cool.

My Kathy spent her 4th in Atlanta visiting her son, Chad, his wife, Tiffany, and our newest grandchild, Ann Marie.  Everyone is doing fine and the baby is an absolute princess.
In news closer to home, my 14 year old son, Billy, is here for a few weeks.  I had hoped to spend lots of time on the water with him but for some reason he doesn't want to venture out on the water.  I may have spooked him with the tough waves we encountered last summer here.  Nonetheless, it is good to see and have him.

The boat is up and running, now problems now.  I recently had a dead spot in the starter but my neighbor, Ronnie, taught me to hit it with a hammer and bring it back to life.  He said it is likely from a lack of use.  I would love to cure that!

My honey recently encouraged me to buy a new GPS for the boat, as the old one has developed many horizontal lines through the display.  I went low budget (as usual) and picked up a portable model, with a small color screen, and loaded it with Garmin's best map chip featuring the entire US coastline charts.  I tried it out in the house and was very pleased to see it finding satelites from indoors!  My old one has trouble finding satelites from the Gulf.

I recently got in touch with my oldest friend in the world, via Facebook.  Mike T. and I became friends as teenagers on the Phoenix Police Explorers.  Mike will celebrate his 20th year with the PD this year.  He and his wife, Jaci, are planning a trip to visit us in Florida this winter.  Mike has a twin brother, Robert, with whom I am also old friends.  I hope to toast a beer with them during my next trip to AZ, in late August.  I have a meeting in California and will stop over in the Valley of the Sun for a few days after my meeting.  I want to see both of my parents, my kids and grandkids.

A word on the weather.  Hurricane Alex had no effect on our area.  The next named storm may be forming as I write this.  There is a tropical wave of low pressure, 400 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands in Africa.  There is another wave that is huge, but less organized, in the central Caribbean.  The next name on the list for this season is Bonnie.  I am scheduled to be in Puerto Rico the first week of August.  Last I checked, there's no Bonnie on the guest list.
(apologies for Blogger's new photo program. It is not user friendly and I am unable to organize or caption my photos to my liking)  Here's a photo legend:

1 - The Edsel Ford Estate on the shores of Lake St. Clair
2 & 3 - Scenes from the Lake
4 - Tiki Tom (open shirt) and the gang from Belle Maer Marina
5 - Homes on the north channel of Lake St Clair remind me of the Intercoastal Waterway
6, 7, 8 - Larry & Sue's gorgeous home, complete with basement bar