Simple and Inexpensive Air Conditioning

The heat is already upon us in northern Florida and summer has not yet arrived. Already, the air conditioner is running daily, and day and night most of the time. On our previous boat, we did not have the luxury of a built-in air-conditioning system, and early on, we decided not to install a central system. It would be another piece of equipment to maintain and would also require a generator installation for use when we were cruising. We opted for an inverter system to run the 110 appliances and tools, and to take a little different approach to the AC problem. Of course, on our current trawler Beach House, we have a built in heat/AC system and a generator. Living aboard in the Chesapeake in the summer, then many years in south Florida did require that we cool the interior of the boat if we wanted to be comfortable. While we were cruising through the Bahamas and Caribbean, we never felt the need for an air conditioner. But at the docks for periods of time, to replenish the cruising kitty, we decided on a less traditional setup.

Anchors Aweigh

What Type of Anchor to Use?

There really is no definitive answer to that question and it's one of the most debated subjects among boaters. The fact is that there is no one anchor that is ideal for every bottom type and in every kind of condition a boater might encounter. Like all things boating, it's a compromise. There are some anchors that work better in a variety of bottoms and others that have very specific uses. Choose the one you will use based on your cruising area.

Wifi On The Boat - Part 4

Our current WiFi set-up has been functioning almost full-time on two boats for about seven years. The progress of our WiFi system has been recorded in previous blog posts, Simple And Inexpensive WiFi and WiFi On The Boat-Part 3 that details the progression to our current equipment. This blog post is possible via that same set-up. We're not ones that have to have the latest and greatest, and we have one hard and fast rule, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But change is inevitable, and we have made a few additions to our WiFi arsenal to improve our ability to get online as needed. This is very important since we run our anchorage guide business online and everything from the publishing to shipping and receiving is done exclusively from the boat. Changes to the availability of free or open WiFi signals made these additions a necessity for us.

The Ultimate Tribulation

By Chuck Baier

Today's blog post will be more of a personal nature rather than another boat related post. I hope you'll bear with me as I get my thoughts down to let everyone know what's going on, and for my own therapeutic value. The big story is near the end if you want to skip right to it. I will bring you up to date first on where we are and how Beach House and crew finally arrived after a long and difficult struggle to make our current destination. If you have been following our recent posts, you know that we had been in Carrabelle for a couple of months trying to cross the Florida Big Bend to get over to the west coast of Florida. Beach House finally made the crossing, albeit short one of her regular crewmembers.

Can I Take My Boat to Cuba?

Can we go now? That's the question every American Skipper has been asking since the President announced talks on normalization with Cuba on December 17th, and the internet is abuzz. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there. That announcement stated that talks were to begin on the normalization process, and although the idea of formal talks between the two countries in itself is historic, we still have a long way to go before we top off our fuel tanks in Key West and point the bow south. So the short answer to the main question is, NO. The original announcement was only for formal talks and nothing more. In the following weeks, there were more announcements and some changes, and suddenly everyone was getting more excited and the rumors began flying throughout the boating community. There is a but. You have always been able to take your boat to Cuba, IF you apply for and are granted a license by the Treasury Department. This is still the case.

Trials and Tribulations

The mechanic at Dockside Marina in Carrabelle did an excellent job getting Beach House back in operation. After our 4-hour tow back to the marina from the Gulf of Mexico, and a quick phone call to the mechanic, Eric arrived early the next morning. We were concerned with letting the engine sit, even overnight, with water in the cylinders and oil pan. There wasn't much that could be done about it on such short notice and just getting someone on board by the next day was better than we expected. Not knowing how serious the problem was made for a fitful sleep that evening. Whenever something like this happens, you always expect the absolute worse and have expectations of major expense and delay. When you live on your boat full time and don't have a place to go ashore when these things happen, it makes the anxiety even stronger.

The Third Time Isn't Always a Charm

We have been delayed so long that our friends that were way behind us finally caught up. Our next weather window looked so perfect it was scary. The two previous attempts to cross the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to the Steinhatchee River had met with failure. Once because the weather forecast was not what it was supposed to be and the second time due to engine problems. So it was with a certain amount of anxiety that we began attempt number three. What is it that is said about the third time being a charm? Our friends would be accompanying us along with another boat and couple we had met along the way. How perfect could it get? Well, not so much.

Holiday Wishes From Us To You

To all of our friends, followers, customers and fellow boaters. We wish you all a happy holiday season. May you have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous New Year. Enjoy this time with family and friends as we will, and let's look forward to a great 2015. Chuck and Susan

Boardings On The Water. What Are My Rights?

Keep in mind that we are not attorneys nor do we have any expertise in the laws regarding these actions. Every Skipper must make their own decsions when they find themselves in a boarding situation. The following are only our thoughts and opinions. Boardings by law enforcement officers on the water have always been a touchy subject for many boaters. It’s often heard that such actions are considered anywhere from a minor inconvenience to a violation of our Constitutional rights. The truth and reality lies somewhere in between. There are still many misconceptions and misinformation in the boating community as to what can and can’t be done when you hear the dreaded command, “prepare to be boarded.” What are our options?  Can we refuse? Are our rights being violated? The answers are simple yet complicated and may not be what many want to hear or to believe. 

The Best Laid Plans

After 10 days in Apalachicola and a great Thanksgiving celebration with all of the other boaters, the break we had all been waiting for finally came. The gale force winds in the Gulf subsided, the waves returned to manageable levels, the rain stopped and the sun finally came back. On Friday morning there was a mass exodus as the parade of vessels made their way under the highrise bridge and out into St. George Sound. The faster boats quickly disappeared on the horizon and the more conservative boats stayed in the marked channel, avoiding any shortcuts. Beach House has never been known for rigidly following every channel unless there is no other choice. While some boats added miles by transiting all the way out the Apalachicola approach channel, we turned off and headed across the Bay, shaving several miles off the day's run. If there is enough depth for our draft, we will take any shortcut available.

Thanksgiving, Boater Style

About the only negative of our lifestyle, living on our boat and the freedom to travel wherever we want, is that occasionally we're away from our family on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Such was the case this Thanksgiving. We have been sitting at the dock in Apalachicola, Florida for almost two weeks waiting for the right weather window to cross the Gulf of Mexico and the Big Bend region of Florida. We had hoped to be farther along and be able to spend this holiday with family. It was not to be, but just because we aren't able to spend the time with our first family, doesn't mean we can't enjoy the holiday with our boating family. For this Thanksgiving, the traditional dinner turned out to be a rather large gathering.

Happy Thanksgiving

Susan and I would like to wish all of our friends and the many followers of our Blogs, and their friends and family, a happy Thanksgiving. To all of you out there cruising, we wish you safe travels and hope to see you on the water. Please enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving post. Chuck and Susan

George Washington's Proclamation


The George Washington 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

A Chilly Florida

Whoda thunkit. Here we sit in Apalachicola, Florida, waking up to temps in the 30s and overnight freeze warnings. The winds have been howling out on the Gulf of Mexico and the seas have been way up, keeping us sitting at the dock for over a week. It only seems like a few days since we left Demopolis, Alabama and retraced our steps back to the Gulf Coast. The reality is that it has been 18 days and we have only covered 465 miles. Under normal circumstances, we could easily do twice that many miles in the same amount of time. To get where we are today required us to transit two locks, visit nine anchorages and free town docks, spend three nights at a marina in Alabama, one night at a friend's dock in Panama City, three nights waiting for weather at the docks at White City and spending a week here in Apalachicola. And it looks like we may be here for another week.

Aqualarm Flow Alarm Failure And More Problems With Moeller Marine Products

In preparation for our current cruise, one piece of safety equipment we installed was a raw water flow alarm made by Aqualarm. The alarm is attached to the intake for the raw water to the engine and, in theory, will sound an alarm when the flow stops to the raw water pump. We wanted this installed to give us a heads up that there is a restriction in the water line or some other problem BEFORE the engine overheats, causing possible severe issues and major expense should there be an overheating problem. In a little more than 12 months we noticed that the alarm was no longer working. It generally sounds when turning on the ignition key at start up. The sensitivity is adjusted by sliding a sensor back and forth along a plastic tube plumbed into the water intake. There are no moving parts involved. After trying to do some adjusting, it was apparent the sensor had failed. We contacted Aqualarm and noticed first of all that they have totally redesigned the flow alarm and it now has a paddle wheel instead of a sensor. Their response to me was that they redesigned the unit because of problems like the one we are now having. But the rest of the response was pretty much, "that's too bad, buy another one." I doubt seriously that I will buy another piece of equipment from a company that made an inferior product and when it fails, tells customers that it's tough luck, we're not going to help. So we'll be looking for a replacement from another manufacturer that builds a better quality product and is more responsive to customer problems.

In a previous post we did a review of some products we had purchased made by Moeller Marine Products. That review can be found here, . Unfortunately we had to buy a couple of 5 gallon gas tanks so that we could carry additional gasoline for the dinghy and these were all that was available at the time. In a matter of months, both of these gas tanks developed a serious split in the plastic near the top of the tank. This wasn't near any seams, so it was a surprise to us. The spit allowed gas to leak out of the tank onto our deck. Had we not been around the boat, this could have been disastrous. After our experience and that of other boaters we have talked to, we urge everyone to avoid Moeller Marine Products, especially those that carry fuel. Consider the consequences. These products are carried at almost every marine supply store, including large chains like West Marine. It's our hope that these reviews will help others avoid the problems we have encountered.

Part 2 - Anchoring in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway – Cape Sable, FL to Mobile, AL

Taken from The Great Book Of Anchorages, Cape Sable, Fl to Mobile, Al, including the Okeechobee Waterway..

The Big Bend–Crystal River to Carrabelle (Mile 46 to Mile 164)
Many boats, especially those with deeper drafts, use Anclote Key as their jump off or arrival point from the Carrabelle area. Even we used to be under the impression that the Big Bend region was only for shoal-draft boats, but it really isn’t. The main thing you have to contend with is the distances in from deeper water to the river entrances, usually about 10 miles. Then add another 10 miles or so to the anchorages.

Part 1 - Anchoring in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway – Cape Sable, FL to Mobile, AL

Taken from The Great Book Of Anchorages, Cape Sable, Fl to Mobile, Al, including the Okeechobee Waterway...

A very different kind of cruising awaits the boater traveling on the Gulf Coast. For starters, there is no one system for keeping track of the mileage for the various legs of the journey. Each section, the Southwest Florida Coast, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), the Big Bend and the GIWW East of Harvey Lock (EHL–the distance east of Harvey Lock in New Orleans), has their own method–the Statute Mile is given in two of the sections and the other two use distances between waypoints/markers, leaving you to calculate the miles (which we have done for you). The biggest difference for us on the Gulf Coast is the beaches. With a few exceptions, you are generally traveling right along the coast, either just inside barrier islands or hopping from one island or river entrance to the next. And what could be more wonderful than always being close to the beach?

We begin coverage of Gulf Coast anchorages in Cape Sable, FL mainly because the major guide books and chart kits do this as well and you will be using them together. Although some of you will be Loopers using the book, you’ll simply need to work your way from back to front.

Checked Your Boat Zincs Lately? By Mike Dickens

For the first time, we present a guest blogger here at Trawler Beach House. Mike and Mary Dickens are our guest bloggers for today’s post. Mike and Mary are the owners of Paradise Yachts in Florida where they assist boaters in selling and buying of luxury trawlers, motor yachts and sailboats. They are also trawler owners and full-time liveaboards. You can visit their website at

We all hear talk about the docks regarding boat zincs at haul out, but what do they really do?

Another Boating Equipment Update

We like to take some time at the end of a cruise or during a pause in a cruise to report on the equipment we have installed in preparation for traveling the waterways. If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you know we post each installation, upgrade and repair we do to Beach House in hopes that other boaters will find the information useful. These Project Posts are the most read and most popular on the Blog, so it only makes sense to let you know how things are holding up, what works and what was an absolute failure. Finding quality equipment and parts for a boat is getting more and more difficult as manufacturers look for ways to cut costs, and as a result, the quality declines. It's also the trend to add more and more bells and whistles to everything, and to use the latest and greatest in technology to justify the increasingly higher costs for equipment. This makes many of our electronics more difficult to understand and also adds to the possibility of failure as new features are added. We're still of the KISS mind set (keep it simple, stupid), but we also appreciate advancements that actually serve a purpose and make our boating experience safer and more enjoyable. So let's do an update of our equipment.

If Your Mate Has a Stroke Can You Help?

I know that's a scary question and not a subject you usually find here on our blog. One of the big "What if" questions that often goes through our mind when cruising revolves around what we would do if a medical emergency arises. First and foremost, would we recognize the signs, and then, would we know what to do. As our fellow boaters, us included, approach our golden years, the potential issues change in our minds. Early on, our concern was getting injured, but in these later years, it turns more to potential serious health problems. The real possibility was brought to mind by a recent article written by Keith Murray and published online at . It is with their permission that we re-post the article here for your thoughts and consideration. We hope you find it as informative as we did...

I have written about this topic before, but it’s all I can think about today. When I conduct onboard CPR, AED and first aid classes, we always review the signs and symptoms of a stroke. It’s important to recognize those signs so you can help someone having a stroke.

My father just had a stroke last weekend. Fortunately, it looks like he is going to make a full recovery.

When reading this column today, please ask yourself if you would know what to do if someone you loved were having a stroke, heart attack or other medical emergency. Could you help them? Could you recognize the signs of a stroke? Do you know how to treat a stroke victim? What would you do if a crew mate began to slur his words, appeared confused or not walking well?

A stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that can cause paralysis, coma and death. It is the brain's version of a heart attack. A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain (ischemic stroke) or an artery bursts and blood leaks into brain tissue (hemorrhagic stroke).

Think of a stroke as a plumbing problem at home or onboard. Either your pipes are blocked with rust (plaque) or the pipe is leaking.

When either of these occurs, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. Where the damage to the brain occurs and how much of the brain is damaged will determine which symptoms the person will display.

Here are some typical symptoms that you may observe:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

It should be noted that women may experience symptoms that are different from men. Those may include sudden face and limb pain, sudden hiccups, sudden nausea, sudden general weakness, sudden chest pain, sudden shortness of breath, and sudden palpitations.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:

F -- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A -- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S -- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

T -- Time: If you observe any of these signs, get medical attention immediately.

Though it is not part of the test, note the time when the symptoms first began. There is only about a three-hour window for a clot-busting medication to be given at the hospital. It is very important that the stroke victim get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is called a "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke". This type of stroke produces stroke-like symptoms but generally has no lasting damage. Recognizing and treating TIAs may reduce the risk of a major stroke. Often TIA symptoms are the same as those of a stroke, only temporary. The short duration of these symptoms and lack of permanent brain injury is the main difference between TIA and stroke.

The best way to help someone having a stroke is to recognize that they are indeed having a medical emergency and getting them to a hospital as quickly as possible. Stay with the victim, place them in a position of comfort, and monitor their breathing and consciousness.

To learn more about stroke warning signs and other medical emergencies, take a CPR, AED and first aid class. Ideally, everyone should take a refresher class at least every two years. Often classes can be conducted at your location, on your boat, or at your business.

Shipboard classes are helpful because they allow the crew to develop plans, review first aid supplies, and talk about medical emergencies as they relate to their surroundings, crew, passengers and the various ports of call.

The American Heart Association has a good 60-second video that everyone reading this should watch. And send the link to a friend. It may help someone save a life. Visit, click on the FAST box on the right side, then scroll down to the FAST Body Language PSA box.

Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at 877-6-AED-CPR, 877-623-3277 or Comments on this column are welcome at

Is Facebook Really for Boaters?

We think so. There are several very active boating groups on Facebook with a lot of knowledgeable people who can provide answers, insights and even some humor when answering many boat related questions. There's something for everyone, from the novice to the old salts. If you haven't visited our Facebook page lately, or not at all, we've posted lots of great information, news and, we think, wonderful photos to enjoy. Just some of what you will find there...
  • Our Gulf Coast Photos for the Florida west coast and Panhandle (more coming)
  • The latest on the Florida anchoring issue
  • News and reports from the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Navigation reports
  • Articles of interest to boaters
  • Wildlife on the waterways
  • Current boating news
  • Lots More
  • Links to our videos
If you do Facebook, come and visit our page here and if you like what you see, click the Like Button. If you don't have a Facebook page, start one, they're fun. We already have hundreds of followers, so come and join our group. Here are a few photos from our page.

Give us your thoughts on Facebook. Post in Comments.