Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rv Toilet Install-Part One, Plan B, and Part Two


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 78, low 68)



We were happy to see the new RV toilet arrive right on time Friday the 13th. 

Al has installed a few residential toilets over the years, and never had any problem, but of course Rv toilets are not the same.

We removed our Aria Classic. No problems there.  I did the lifting to spare Al’s shoulder. 

We soon noticed the closet flange on the motor home floor, wasn’t quite right as far as the bolts matching up to where they needed to be on the new toilet.

This is a picture of a similar product, however the one on the floor is apparently cemented in. You can’t remove it, and you can’t turn it so that the openings for the bolts are where you need them to be.


As it turned out,  the OEM toilet Monaco used doesn’t attach to the closet flange at all.  The seal fits into it, and that is all.  It’s attached with two lag bolts, which are much further apart than the bolts on the closet flange.

What was Monaco thinking?   Why didn’t they install the closet flange so that if you ever needed to replace the toilet, it would match up to other toilets. 

One good thing is that our Monaco motor home has a wonderful feature in which you can turn off the water for each individual item. It’s extremely handy to be able to turn the water off  just for the toilet, and still have water elsewhere in the coach.  It was nice to be able to wash our hands while working on the toilet.

We were extremely frustrated and after a lot of research and head scratching, we came to the conclusion that the new toilet was not going to work for our motor home.  We considered drilling new holes into our closet flange and using lag bolts to mount the new toilet, but the base wasn’t as wide as the old toilet and it would have been wobbly anyway.




By this time, we were tired and frustrated.    We decided to go with Plan B, although we weren’t exactly sure what that was at the moment.  Shortly afterwards got an email saying part for the old toilet was now available.  They had been on back order and no one knew when it would be available.

At that point, we decided to re-install the old toilet and wait for the parts.  At least we would have a toilet, even though it had to be flushed manually.  At this point we were thankful for that much.

There may be a way to make the new toilet fit without a major ordeal, but since the parts were on the way, we decided to stay with the old toilet.  It’s actually a much nicer toilet and is a solid one piece of porcelain, instead of the cheap plastic base like the new one.


So… looks like we have made an expensive mistake, and learned an expensive lesson.  Anybody want to buy a brand new porcelain Thetford Style Plus toilet?  We’ll give you a good deal!

Aqua Magic Style Plus


The new parts arrived, but we were dreading it and  procrastinated a few days.

We finally got brave enough and tried again.  There are a lot more parts on an Rv toilet than a residential toilet and the instructions weren’t very clear on how to replace the foot pedal, but al figured it out.  As it turns out, the original toilet had some parts that weren’t attached quite on center, which causes the foot pedal mechanism to rub against the side of the toilet. He tried to remove that part, to see if he could center it correctly, but it was tightly bolted down and he was afraid he would break the porcelain if he kept at it.  We would really be in trouble if he broke the porcelain base. He decided to file away the porcelain area that rubs and hope for the best.

Next step was to reinstall the toilet.  It’s much heavier than the one we had ordered and it’s a lot harder putting it back in than it was to remove, but I managed.  Al couldn’t even help me because there is no room in our tiny bathroom.  Al screwed it back into the floor with the lag bolts.

The next step was to reattach the water line, and this is where we had the problem.  For some reason the heavy duty blue water line had shifted a little and didn’t match up to the back of the toilet, although by feel it felt like it was in line.  It doesn’t bend much and only goes up and down a half inch or so.  We both tried and tried and couldn’t get the darned waterline attached.  Of course you’re doing it blind because it’s behind the toilet and only one hand will fit behind the toilet.

Again, we were happy to have the separate water disconnects in the motor home. We had water to the sink in the bathroom, and could turn off the supply to the toilet.  We now had a working foot pedal, just no water supply, but we were better off than we were before!

So, that work around worked for about a week with us both trying again and again to get the waterline to attach.

Finally, Al suggested I try to take a picture to see if we could see why it wouldn’t screw on.  I did, and then he saw the water line was a little high.  He managed to shove it back down a little and was finally able to attach the water line to the toilet! 


So….my advice for you all is to buy spare parts for your toilet, because if/when they break, you’ll be very glad to have them on hand.

What an ordeal!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Meet Mr. Barracuda


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low 75)


We’re expecting a cold front in a few days bringing a little wind, so we may not get on the boat for a few days.  It’s predicted to get down to 75 for the high and mid to low 60’s at night.   burrrr

We try to take advantage of each day where there are light winds, sunny skies and calm seas,and that  is exactly what we did yesterday.

We headed back out to the Atlantic side and did a little fishing.   We don’t need to worry about Al hurting his shoulder with the size of the fish he was catching.  :)



This pelican flew in and waited nearby, hoping for some fish cleaning scraps.  Sorry Pelican.


We were being watched by the ever present blimp known as Fat Albert.


We heard the sound of freedom all afternoon as the Navy fighter jets flew overhead. They always give me goose bumps and we love watching them.  No pictures though, they are just too fast.

After fishing for an hour or two, Al wanted to head back out to Looe Key Reef.  The water is always so beautiful, we love just being there.

In a previous post, I mentioned our fish finder and some of you wondered what it was.  It’s an electronic device that is mounted to your boat which tells you the depth and water temperature, as well as a view of the bottom, and any fish who happen to be swimming by. They have improved greatly over the years.

You can see on this next photo there were some larger fish below.

The ocean mostly consists of flat sandy bottom, which is not where most fish live.  Fish like some sort of  structure on the bottom, whether its a reef, rocks or a shipwreck. You can see from the fish finder that this bottom was not flat.  The old fish finders used paper which had to be changed when the roll ran out.  The new ones are just like a computer screen, much nicer unless you want to rewind and see what just swam by.


We got to the reef and headed towards one of the mooring buoys in the shallower water.  8.3 feet to be exact, as you can see from the fish finder.

This colorful sailboat passed right in front of us.


I was trying to get a picture of the beard Al is trying to grow.  Can you see his furry face?   I think he may be about to give up on it, but he really hates shaving, so we’ll see.


The water has warmed up to the point we’re ready to get wet.  Almost 82 degrees.  Sherry would have been in 10 degrees cooler, but not us!

I sat on the dive platform with my feet in the water to test the water temp.  This barracuda came up so say hi.  I think he is the same one who swam all over the reef right beside us last year.  I think he may have grown a little though. 


I have a long handled camera mount that can attach to my underwater camera and go in the water.  I stuck my camera in the water and photographed Mr. Barracuda.   I was a little worried that he might try to take a bite out of it, but he didn’t seem interested.



He is a pretty big boy.  It was hard to tell for sure from the surface but probably between 4-5 feet long.


He has quite a toothy smile.



There were actually 2 other barracuda but he chased a smaller one away and the bigger one only came for a short visit.

We had the usual school of Yellowtail Snapper.


They seem to know you can’t catch them on the reef since it’s a marine sanctuary.  They come right up to you, but you go outside of the sanctuary and you can’t find them.  Darn…they are very good eating.


Mr. Barracuda had plenty to eat if he was hungry.


All too soon, it was time to go, so we disconnected from the mooring buoy and headed to shore.  It’s only about a 20 minute run back to Venture Out.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sell Your Stuff, Keep the Dog, Live on an Island


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low 72)


Here in the Florida Keys, everybody “lives on and island.”   The Florida Keys consist of a string of many islands starting in Key Largo and ending about 100 miles down in Key West.  We are on the island called Cudjoe Key, which is in the lower Keys.  There are hundreds of unnamed and uninhabited islands, as well as  hundreds of islands which are being started every day with just a single drifting piece of a mangrove bush.

There is a popular local musician here by the name of Howard Livingston.    He came down here to retire, but was inspired to start writing music.  His music is kind of the Jimmy Buffet style. 

His favorite saying is “sell your stuff, keep the dog, and live on an island.”  Which he does.  A few months back the Tv show “Buy the Beach” featured him and his wife looking to purchase an island.   They have two Golden Retrievers which they apparently he and his wife dearly love. Golden Retrievers are our favorite dogs ( as well as Shelties, thanks to sweet little Finney and Binney)

Every time Howard and his band play,  the crowds are crazy and we have a difficult time getting a place to park or a seat at the bar.

He was playing last Saturday at the Koa RV park on Sugarloaf Key, where our friends Kathy and Rick are staying.  After dinner at the Square Grouper and a visit here to Venture Out, we all drove back to their place with hopes of finding a place to park.  Fortunately, we were able to park on their site, but a seat in the bar was not available.   We enjoyed listening to the band and watching a 96 year old woman dancing and enjoying her birthday celebration.  He puts on a great show with songs like “Magic in Key West” and “Blame it on the Margaritas.”

Howard always does a thing where he makes a margarita in an old Johnson boat motor.  He rigged it up with a blender on top that’s powered by the motor.  The highest bidder gets the margarita, and the proceeds go to Care Camp, for kids with cancer.  The highest bidder was $5500.  I neglected to bring my camera, so you’ll have to check out Ricks blog for pictures of our evening.


Speaking of Golden Retrievers, this is who we came across the other night while waiting for sunset.


She was enjoying playing fetch while waiting for the sun to set.


A couple nights before, we arrived a little late, but got a few interesting pictures.


Sunsets are popular in the Keys.   :)


The weather has been perfect for boating, so yesterday decided to head out for a little fishing.  The Overseas Highway or Highway 1, divide the waters into what’s called the Atlantic side,  and the back country side.  Venture out is on the Atlantic side, so when we leave here we can turn right for the channel leading to the reefs, or left and cross under the bridge leading us through Kemp Channel, and out to deep water.  It starts out being fairly shallow, the visibility is not as good, but its a good place to fish and lobster.

We went back to a spot we found last year, but unfortunately another boat was sitting there, so we had to pick a different spot.   We anchored, I read,  Al fished, we ate our vegan eggless “egg” salad sandwiches.


Al got a few bites and one big bite which bent his rod.  Unfortunately, he lost that fish so we never knew what monster he had briefly hooked.

The fish finder was showing some big fish right below the boat, but he never hooked one of them.

The only thing he got was a baby  grunt, and quite a bit of sea grass.


We had a good time anyway.  

Today is therapy day and then a board meeting at the clubhouse, so no boating today.   He is changing his PT to twice a week, down from three times, so we’ll have more boating days.   :)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Two Rescues


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low 70)

On Thursday we enjoyed another beautiful day out at Looe Key Reef.   The seas were calm, the water clear, and the breezes gentle. 

We didn’t get in the water, but were happy sitting in the boat watching the fish, snorkelers and reading our books.   I tried out my new underwater camera (Christmas present) and watched the activity below water.


This boat appeared to be sitting pretty low in the water, so I  used my “stalker zoom” to see what was going on.  The boat had a low freeboard (sides) and 4 people and one dog were all sitting on one side.   Not too smart, do you think?


Friday was physical therapy day for Al and a block party here at Venture Out.

A while back,  during a run up to Marathon for boat supplies,we drove over to Sombrero Beach, and found a little excitement there.

They have a beautiful walkway on the back side of the beach.

Sombrero Beach

The pavement has special “Keysie” type designs of crabs and hatchling turtles.

Sombrero Beach


People seem to be trying to aggravate me lately.  Many people seem to think they are the only people around and pay absolutely no attention to their surroundings, other people or vehicles. Everywhere we go we see clueless and rude people! 

We walked along the narrow walkway to the beach behind 4 very clueless and rude people.  This is what the walkway looked like so you can how narrow it was.

Sombrero Beach

They spread out, slowed down, stopped, chatted, then moved a few steps, all the while blocking our path to get around them. They were oblivious to the fact that there were any other people in the world.  I was patient and didn’t say anything, but I sure wanted to!  We finally got past them and I was stopped with my camera aimed, ready to take a picture when one of those same women walked right in front of me as I was snapping the picture.   grrrrr.  Now, you’ve ticked me off all the way!  Again, I kept my mouth shut.

Sombrero Beach

I got my revenge a minute later when her friend was trying to take a picture.  I decided to “photo bomb” her.     She got a lovely picture of me too!   Not very nice, but it sure felt good.  :) 

anyway…back to the excitement we found on the beach.

The beach was beautiful and there were lots of people enjoying themselves.

Sombrero Beach

Sombrero Beach

All was well until we came upon this pelican.

Sombrero Beach injured pelican

Something didn’t look right, so I zoomed in to get a better look with my camera.   I couldn’t see anything wrong, but I worried that he may have had a slashed pouch.  Some cruel person  around here is intentionally slashing the pouches on pelicans.  The pouch below their bill is where they put the fish before they swallow them.  A slashed pouch will cause them to starve to death. It turned out the problem with this bird was a fish hook and fishing line.

Some good Samaritans had already noticed the bird and called the Wildlife Rescue, but they were delayed in traffic due the annual Seafood Festival in Marathon.

Sombrero Beach injured pelican

The wildlife rescue guy finally arrived. That’s him in the turquoise shirt.  He examined the bird, and determined he would be okay, but that he needed a few days rehab at their facility.

Sombrero Beach injured pelican

It was a happy ending.

Sombrero Beach injured pelican


Later that same day, we stopped in at the grocery store and came upon this.   See what I mean about oblivious people?

Notice the yellow line showing where the parking space was? 

There was plenty of room for the truck, he just didn’t bother to worry about the car already occupying the other space.


It was obvious the red Cadillac had been parked when the truck decided to squeeze in and it was obvious who was at fault. 

Apparently, the truck had previous parking issues because  the left fender was also damaged in about the same place.


I grabbed a store employee and asked him to call the manager, police and page the driver of the red Cadillac.  I was concerned the truck drive would come out and just drive away.  My ex claim adjuster background made me want to see that this guy caught.  I paid way too many claims for this type of accident where no one was caught. We waited around for the police to arrive and to see if the truck driver ever came out.  The police finally came, but we had to leave before the truck driver came.  I really wanted to see what that idiot looked like.

I hope it turned out well for the lady with the Cadillac.

Today, it’s dinner with friends and tomorrow out on the boat to the “back country.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Looe Key Reef National Marine Sanctuary


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 82, low 72)

The typical March winds died down and everyone with a boat is heading offshore.   Including us.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are physical therapy days for Al.  Now that the weather is nicer for boating, these physical therapy sessions are getting a little bothersome.  :)

Yesterday, since the winds were calm and there was no therapy, so we decided to take the boat out.

It took us a while to load our stuff on the boat, and remember to do all the regular things that were no longer second nature to us.  We also had to remember all the important things we like to have onboard like paper towels, hand wipes, sunscreen and things like that. We always keep those things in the boat when we’re using it, but over summer storage everything was removed, so we’re starting from scratch.

Al assured me that we could launch and re-load the boat without  him injuring his shoulder, but I was a little worried.

Al made sure to wear good shoes with a lot of tread, so that he wouldn’t slip on the wet algae covered ramp, and we had no trouble launching.

The next step was to decide where to go.  Atlantic or back country, which is basically the Gulf of Mexico. The boat cranked up immediately, seemed to be running great, so we decided to head out to the Atlantic.   It was flat calm and we could be to the reef in minutes.

We wound our way through the maze of navigational buoys and out to deeper water.  The shallower water has a lot of sea grass on the bottom, so it appears a bit green, as you can see in the next pictures.


That is Venture Out in the background.

boating towards Looe Key Reef

Once we passed buoy #1, we were in deeper water and the water became a beautiful blue.


It was flat calm. 

boating towards Looe Key Reef


Looe Key Reef is one the nicest places in the Keys to snorkel and dive.  Luckily for us, it’s only about 8 miles away.

The reef has the typical spur and groove pattern like most Keys reefs.  You can see this in the next picture which I borrowed from the internet.   The water is deeper than it looks.  Most of those boats are probably in 20-30 feet of water, but there are shallower areas as well.

The dark blue is deep water.  You can see how easily a ship could run aground. They are in 100 feet of water one minute and the next minute there is a shallow reef, some of which is only 2 feet deep.


No fishing is allowed, and since it’s a marine sanctuary, you are not allowed to drop an anchor.  Mooring balls are placed throughout the reef and you hook your boat up to them.

The reef was named after the HMS Looe, which ran aground and burned in 1794.  It’s an interesting place and you can read about it HERE.   Apparently they are still finding some relics from a few ships that have struck the reef. 

We didn’t bring our snorkeling or diving gear, so we didn’t get into the water, which was nearly 80 degrees.

We’re not sure exactly how Al will be able to get back into the boat without using/hurting his shoulder.  Any ideas?   We have a three step ladder attached to a platform on the back of the boat.  There is a grab rail on one side and a big cleat on the other side.  Normally, we grab those to pull ourselves out of the water and then walk up the steps.  I’m thinking about tying a heavy kayak strap around under Al’s arms and pulling him up.  The problem with that, is if it doesn’t work, we’re screwed.  I’d have to tow him home behind the boat, which is commonly known as “chumming.”    :)  The sharks might like that.

We have never seen so many turtles, and one in particular seemed to be messing with us.  He would pop his head up, look right at us and then go back down before we could snap a decent picture.  They normally don’t come up for air as often as this one did, so we’re thinking he was teasing us.

This is about the best picture we could get.


There are always a lot of sharks on the reef.  We managed to get a good shot of one of them.


There were also a lot of barracuda and more seemed to arrive all the time.



A gigantic eagle ray  swam by several times, but he stayed down a few feet, making it hard to get a decent photo.  He must have had a 6-8 foot wing span.

Eagle Ray

Remember I said you aren’t allowed to anchor on here?  Evidently someone didn’t tell this guy, because he was definitely anchored.  The anchor was in the sand, but he would have gotten a big fine if someone caught him.

illegally anchoring

We hung out a few hours, read our books, took a short nap, watched the fish, took pictures and had our lunch.  We decided to head in early so that we could load the boat before there were too many other boats coming in at the same time.

We were more worried about getting the boat back on to the trailer than taking it off, but it turned out just fine.  I  planned on doing the winch cranking, but we had the trailer in deep enough water, so there was very little cranking and Al got it done before I had a chance to help. 

Today is PT again.   Sigh… boating today.


Stay tuned for our story of a rescue of an injured pelican…..

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Interesting Scenes from Around the Florida Keys


Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low 75)


Al is at physical therapy, and I am home waiting for the truck to deliver the new toilet.  We are hoping the installation won’t be a big problem, but with Al’s bad shoulder, and the tight space in our bathroom, we’re not looking forward to the job.  Rick has offered his assistance for the installation, but we sure hate to have to take him up on his very kind offer.   Replacing your own toilet is bad enough, but to do it for someone else?   Ewwww.

I have been taking some photos here and there in our travels and I wanted to post a few.


Key West is an interesting town with interesting people and places to photograph.

This is houseboat row.  I think it might be fun to live on a houseboat, don’t you?

houseboats in Key West

The drive around the Keys is always scenic.  I have no idea how many bridges there are.


I believe these are Mimosa.  We had them in south Georgia and I never knew they grew here.


This is a shot from our rv site of the full moon last week.  It was huge and orange when it first appeared.  I never quite captured exactly how beautiful it was.

moon over VO




We got some pretty good rains yesterday, as you can see from our view from the window. 



The March winds are blowing.  According to our Weatherbug App, we have 32 mph gusts.  I believe it.  We don’t mind, since we can’t take the boat out anyway.

After the rain, we decided to take a drive over to the Sugarloaf resort tiki bar for happy hour.  It was an interesting place, with a nice waterfront view, which I neglected to photograph.

We started seeing iguanas as soon as we drove up.


This guy was eating something in the grass.


As we walked out towards the water, we noticed this popular pelican roosting area.

pelican roost

pelican roost

pelican roost

Notice the blimp behind the pelicans?  That’s Fat Albert, which is used to monitor drug smuggling.  I think they also keep an eye on the illegal boats coming here from Cuba.  If you missed yesterdays blog about that, check it HERE to see an actual boat that arrived in the Keys with 17 Cubans onboard and learn about the wet foot/dry foot policy on Cuban immigrants.

pelican roost with blimp

Along the pier, we noticed a small nurse shark peacefully swimming by.

nurse shark

It was an interesting area.  When we walked back towards the tiki bar, we had to cross this bridge.  Uh oh….there were two iguanas resting on the bridge and I wasn’t going to walk there unless they moved.  Fortunately, as soon as we approached, they jumped off the bridge and onto the mangrove shrub, and away from my path.


As we walked further, we noticed two larger ones on the rock embankment.  Our approach scared them away.  One made a running dive into the water and swam underwater all the way to the other side.

I missed the jump, but here he is swimming.


The next picture shows how far he swam underwater.


Here he is, safe in a mangrove shrub.


Here are a few larger ones.



The iguanas are not native to the Keys are are causing trouble with the native species, but they are definitely interesting creatures, especially the large ones.



The new toilet arrived right on time, but it was Friday the 13th, so things went downhill from there.  I’m not ready to post about our issues now.  More later.   grrrrrr       We’re off to the Seafood Festival in Marathon today, so it should be a better day.