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Free Range Human, Sailor, Writer, Artist, Videographer  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

We had Gator for Lunch on Lake Tarpon Florida

Living in a small space with almost a million of our closest friends it's easy to forget that crowded Pinellas County Florida  has creatures that would love to have you over for lunch. With you being the main dish on the menu. 

It's really not the animal's fault though.  Ignorant humans like to feed wildlife. When these people feed a Great Blue Heron or the beautiful Snowy Egret a hot dog it is the bird that will suffer, usually a great deal, before they die.  If their ignorance runs more to larger game, in this case alligators, it very well could be the feeder or a child that perish.   You can probably guess my preference.

Through our long association with sailing we are more aware of our environment than most.  On a recent outing with our grand kids we stopped for a picnic lunch along the shores of Lake Tarpon near Tarpon Springs.  Some of the picnic tables are more in the water than near it.  We found one that jutted out into the lake a bit encased in huge Cypress trees .  A perfect place on a beautiful spring day. 

What didn't happen next can be directly attributed to our outdoor experiences.  If this scene had happened when we were new to Florida the result could have been tragic. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mud Dauber Hatch Boards

Mud Daubers are sailors too. At least they seem to enjoy HideAway as much as we do building their mud tunnel homes anywhere they please. We’ve found them under shelves, in plain sight on cabin walls, and in our sail cover. Once they see a companion way open they have no qualms crowding in ahead of you to reach their home. Although they are not aggressive, a very painful sting can result if you happen to hit one during an angry swat fest.

Mud Dauber Defense System 1

Until recently the HideAways defense has been to shove rag, OK, old socks, into the extreme ends where the hatch boards do not meet the companionway cover. While you can usually shoo a Mud Dauber away, Yellow Jackets are another matter best dealt with using some sort of chemical attack.

As HideAway approaches her 33rd birthday her hatch boards have succumbed to the Florida marine environment to the extent of needing replacement. The need actually occurred a few years ago but their life was extended with infusions of Cetol into their weaker areas. Eventually the bottom board lost its edge and would slide to the deck creating an unacceptable gap between the two boards otherwise known as the Gateway to Mud Dauberville. Clearly a new design was called for.

Gateway to Mud Dauberville

It was a simple trip to the Home Depot and the discovery of Sande Handy Panel, a pre cut hardwood plywood with a no knots or patches on the finish sides. I did notice a couple of small voids on the edges when I cut it but they were easily filled. I began by adding one inch to the bottom board and with a helper I cut both panels into a rough-in shape scribing the top board to match the contours of the companion way hatch cover. How simple it sounds.

I added the height to the bottom panel because we usually dock stern in and if we are spending the night on board we leave the lower panel installed for privacy. I also use a solar panel set on top of the boom with the wire running through the gap between the hatch board and companionway top. I cut one of the new tabs a bit smaller to allow for the solar charger wire. While I’d have had to purchase a larger panel it may have been better to make one large panel then cut the 45 degree bevel between them. By the way this is no job for hand held power tools. A band saw and table saw were essential while the bench sander made sanding and final shaping a snap.

It’s too early to tell if I’ve solved the Mud Dauber problem but at least now they will have to work harder to gain entry and the buzzing in my ears is mine alone.