After the recent cold snaps, the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" safety committee decided it was time for a safety refresher course concerning heating a cold boat. The news is full of stories about space heaters being knocked over by animals and careless humans. The old-fashioned type without an automatic shutoff can and does burn up a lot of houses and a few boats, but the cause of the fire that burned two boats recently hadn't been determined at the time I wrote this column.
A quick trip to Bowditch Point, the scene of two boat fires was an unsettling visual lesson because the burned hulls and debris were still there. "Why were they anchored there," asked Toledo Pa., "There is very little protection from the north, south and east?"
"You're right, TP, and it's just inside the 'no wake' zone. Can you imagine anchoring here with a northerly cold-front wind or on a nice day with powerboats flying in around the point," said Boston Bob.
"The news reports said the sailboat caught on fire and when the anchor line parted it got tangled up with the powerboat and they both burned to the waterline," said 'Run-aground Ralph' as he huddled in the cabin of the small trawler.
"Makes my skin crawl," said Toledo Pat. "At least no one was hurt or killed. Let's get out of this cold and warm our insides."
After a short stop at N-nervous Nellie's for a couple hot Irish coffees, we let the soberest club member be our designated driver. The 'Reverend' is a tea drinker of Scottish decent.
At Parrot Key, we ate a late lunch. It was very warm and cozy inside those magnificent clear curtains that keep out the cold but didn't affect the view. While we munched on Chef Venuto's sandwiches and soup, we planned the safety course.
"Maybe we could do another demo with fire extinguishers? I hadn't ever fired one off until the fire safety people let me do it at their demonstration," said the Reverend.
"Good idea Rev! Maybe demonstrate the advantages of modern kerosene heaters that automatically shut off when they are tipped over, too," I added.
"Maybe we should be mad at the local government for forcing transient boaters into unsafe anchorages," said 'hippie John'.
"Always blaming the government, you hippie! The town needed to regulate the anchored boats behind Fort Myers Beach," answered 'Run-aground Ralph.'
"Ralph, a charter member of the 'Tea Baggers' defending a government agency?"
"I think it's time to move on. Matanzas Restaurant or the Big Game Waterfront Grille?," I asked.
"Lets go look at all the empty mooring balls on the way to Matanzas," said 'Hippie John' as he paid his bill with an American Express Platinum card.
"You're the richest mullet-wearing hippie around, and you made your money working for the government, but you bad mouth them all the time. Why?"
"Because the rich condo owners that instituted the mooring fields were manipulating government to get their way. They didn't want to look at poor transient boaters, so they forced them out of well-protected anchorage and into harm's way," answered the hippie as he waved his mullet in 'RAR's' face.
You wouldn't know it but they are really friends, almost like father and son who love to fight. Good neighbors with strong-opposing viewpoints.
We'd hardly finished a hot toddy when the cell phones began to ring. The girls were wondering if we'd been blown offshore and, if not, when we were expected back at the dock. The safety committee planning meeting was cut short by those darned cell phones.
As we huddled in the cabin we passed another favorite place, "I hear they're finally going to put up those clear curtains around the downstairs bars," said Boston Bob.
"Mildred loves sitting there by the water in the summer time, but forget it in the cold spells," said 'RAR'.
"Back to fire safety," I said jokingly, "you can burn all the kerosene you want but unless you get out of the wind it doesn't do any good. I think I'd have picked a different anchorage with a cold front approaching. Hind sight is 20/20, you know!"
Boatguy Ed is an avid boater, past Commodore of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club' and manufacturer of Super Shipbottom Anti-fouling paint, www.supershipbottom.com