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04 December 2010 @ 06:25 pm
first "cold" days, first equipment failure, switch to Verizon  
First, let me talk about the nicer things that have occurred in the last twelve days or so...

Just after I wrote the last entry, I saw a manatee for the first time in my life -as big as a car and friendly. He (or she) came right up to my Porta-Bote that I was rowing right near the State Park and stuck his huge head out a few inches as if to say hello, then went back to munching on water plants. I was delighted and very amazed.

I can't imagine how scary it would be if I was not already expecting these huge animals and was surprised by one.

I was anchored between Tedders and the State Park for all Thanksgiving week, so I rowed over to the park several times -twice to swim, and once to hike the trails in the woods for the first time now that it's cool enough to enjoy hiking.

I took some nice pictures:

pictures -November 23rd to December 3rd, 2010

There are shots of a golden-orange sunset, of a sunrise made steamy by the 72-degree spring water flowing past under chilly air, of the entrance to the hiking trail, and of my boat out in Spring Garden Run across the pool as viewed from the picnic area.

I also added one more feature to the boat, which there is one picture of -the shades in the greenhouse porch to keep it from getting too hot on very warm winter days.

As for Thanksgiving, I enjoyed oranges picked from the trees near Tedders while I watched "water turkeys" (Anhingas) which have migrated here in large numbers. They spread their wings out to dry after they dive under water like they are posing for some kind of emblem. I also saw a beautiful large Osprey, white except for its dark gray wings.

Then on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Bob Costa and Bob Reed boated over and gave me some turkey which I ate the last of on Tuesday.

On Monday and Tuesday, the last two days of November, I was out where the Spring Garden Run narrows and heads toward the Saint Johns River. There is the end of the long-abandoned canal there that tempts me because it would be such a safe harbor from storms if only I could hack into the forty-plus years of water weeds that clog it. I got in a considerable distance after extremely hard work, but I don't think it is really practical to get all the way in there. It would take a shovel on a crane attached to a barge to pull all that vegetation out of there.

But then I came back to Tedders where I took two pictures of the cold front coming in, and two pictures of my boat from the shore, including this one:

The cold front made Wednesday the first day that I've felt like wearing a jacket all day, and every night since has been really cold by Florida standards (well down into the thirties). This pattern is going to persist for at least a week or more, too. Of course, two kerosene lamps and a few blasts of propane heat at dawn are all it takes to keep the boat warm.

Tuesday morning the remote-control steering on the Minn-Kota motor died, and I took it into town (Deland) to be fixed under warranty by Bob's Marine where I bought it. I could hear the motor activating, but there must be a broken gear in the little gearbox because the motor did not engage the shaft to turn it.

Finally, yesterday (Friday, December 3rd), I decided to resolve several things that are not right with my phone and data and service plan. First, I need to get off the $40 per month phone plan that I begun when I needed the phone minutes because of all the condo board work I was doing. Now it is a complete waste. Also, the additional $30 per month I am paying for unlimited wireless internet is going to waste because I can't get a decent broadband signal from the AT&T towers when I get near the shores. (The trees block the signal which is not a problem out o the water.)

To make a long story short, I found a fantastic solution by switching to Verizon for the internet, and by deciding to let my AT&T phone revert to a prepaid account where I will never have any costs at all except on days when I use the phone for $2 per day. I will need to ask everyone to use e-mail to contact me to really avoid these $2 days, because even checking my voice mail involves using the phone service for the $2.

I went to the Verizon store in Daytona Beach yesterday and got the dedicated hotspot device for free because I signed up for a 2-year contract. I am very pleased with how it works, and with the speed and strength, which are due to the fact that Verizon has new towers close to these parks and refuges unlike AT&T. I can even still use the internet on my AT&T phone too because the device just makes a WiFi hotspot, which the phone as well as the notebook computer can access. Best of all, the plan is only $35 for 3-gigs per month, which just happens to be about my maximum use anyway. So, if I avoid using the phone except for important things, my total communications costs should average just under $40 per month instead of just under $80. Plus, as I indicated, I now have reliable internet out here. I checked the most extreme power consumption I could cause by heavy data streaming (video loading and playing through the amplified speakers). This is still well under 25 watts, just like before!

Yesterday, since I was in Daytona Beach anyway, I decided to take Ghost for a walk in this pretty little park next to the Intracoastal Waterway. The view is toward the south end of Ormond Beach and the buildings are on the long barrier island between the Intracoastal Waterway in the foreground and the Atlantic Ocean: