The Florida Keys Reef is the only living coral reef in the continental United States and the third largest barrier reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef. It runs along the seaward side of the Florida Keys and is typically about 3-4 miles from the islands. Sombrero Reef lies just 4 miles from Boot Key Harbor. There is a cool lighthouse (one of six along the Florida Keys Reef) sitting on top of the reef and lots of mooring buoys surrounding it. We can sail right up to the reef and hook onto a buoy for an afternoon of snorkeling right off the boat.
An interesting tidbit is that the government has decided these lighthouses are no longer necessary and will be donating them for free to interested non-profits. If there are no takers, they will sell them at auction to the general public. Anyone want to own a lighthouse?
Terrapin tied to a mooring buoy at Sombrero Reef.
Like last year, I plan on flying down to Punta Gorda mid-summer to check on Terrapin and do a few maintenance items so we won’t have as much to do in November when we want to go sailing. The number one priority before splashing Terrapin in November is to remove all traces of barnacles on the bottom, the prop shaft and propellers. Then put on another coat of bottom paint. Bottom paint on boats is a whole science/art in itself. Most boats in warm tropical waters have some sort of soft ablative paint. The ablative material is usually copper suspended in the paint. I’m talking a lot of copper! The copper is supposed to retard growth of marine organisms on the bottom, but it is only a partial solution. The other property is the fact that the paint is soft, particularly when it is wet. This allows the paint to slowly sluff off over the season when the boat is sailed or when scrubbed with a pad. So, bottom line is that there will be some bare spots on the leading edge of the hulls and keels that will need touching up. So, I plan to spend a few days scraping barnacles and touching up the bottom paint. It’s also a good opportunity to check that there is no water leaking inside or bugs. Last year, we had a few ants in the cockpit and some wasps making a home in the boom, but nothing terrible.
I will also be checking on the batteries. Terrapin has four deep cycle golf cart type batteries to serve as the house bank, and two starting batteries for starting the diesels. Lead acid batteries do not like to sit for long periods of time without being charged as they will self –discharge and go dead after a while. Terrapin has a 145W solar panel and a charge controller that monitors battery voltage and delivers the proper charge from the solar panel. Last year, this worked perfectly and kept the house bank fully charged. However, the solar was not hooked up to the starting batteries and they had lost quite a bit of charge over the summer. This summer, I hooked up jumper cables to the start batteries so they should also be charged by the solar panel. We will see how they look. I will have another separate post about battery charging.
It is now the beginning of August, 2018 and our commuter cruiser lifestyle is going according to plan. Terrapin is once again tied down on the hard in Safe Cove Boat Storage in Charlotte Harbor, FL. Laura and I are back in Lexington and enjoying our work, knowing that we will be back sailing in November. We had Terrapin hauled in mid-April and then lived aboard on the hard while we got her ready to weather the six months in the southern Florida heat, sun and rain. The first step after hauling was to have the yard guys pressure wash the bottom. Terrapin had been in the water for 6 months and we had been sailing for about 3 months during that time. The more you sail, the cleaner the bottom stays. But a month sitting in the marina is plenty of time for all kinds of marine growth to accumulate on the bottom, from easy to remove algae/fuzz to PITA to remove barnacles. I had the bottom cleaned by a diver twice, but there were still quite a bit of barnacles on the bottom and the props. Most were removed by pressure washing and scraping, but there are still plenty remaining on the boat.
For those who are interested in commuter cruising, here is our checklist for prepping Terrapin for storage. Unless you want to pay someone to do everything, you can’t just drop the boat off and wave goodbye. If you want to protect your investment and have a boat that will be ready to sail in the fall, there is a substantial amount of work prepping the boat for storage. For some, this could be a deal-killer. For us, it was a labor of love.