Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Good-bye, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehn, Adieu

19 May 2015

Packing up the boat to survive the summer without us is a little more involved than we had anticipated.  We have covered up windows, stained the toe rail yet again, cleaned out the bilge only to discover one of the pumps was not working, (bought a replacement this morning), changed out the borrowed alternator for a new one (just arrived this morning), filled up the fuel and water tanks, made sure that everything is tied down on deck or tucked in down below, defrosted the freezer and cleaned out the fridge, cleaned cupboards etc, shut thru hulls, hired a caretaker and in general just wondered where all the stuff came from that we are trying to pack up and take home.  

But the hard part is leaving this lifestyle which we have enjoyed so much; leaving people whom we have come to care about and knowing that it will be different when we return in the fall.  There will be a new cast of characters and we will only be passing through as we start our journey southward.  We have read many blogs in which cruisers talk about how quickly they make friends with other like-minded cruisers, how they buddy boat with them and then move on.  Very few have pointed out the resulting feelings of loss, nostalgia and sadness.    We can only wish everyone "fairwinds" and hope we will meet up again somewhere, some time.

Leaving "Well, Why Not? for the summer

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Disappearing Glasses

17 May 2015

Remember the 9th of February blog, "The Case of the Disappearing Glasses"??

We now have the answer to the mystery.  Yesterday, in the process of cleaning out the bilges before leaving the boat for the summer, Jim decided to make one last effort to find his missing glasses. Performing great feats to rival the best contortionists, with half his body in the forward cabin, half in the head and arms bent in all sorts of odd angles trying to access the various nooks and crannies, he touched what felt like a dry shelf above the bottom of one section of the bilge.  And on it - rested the glasses!  He couldn't see anything, but he managed to get a hold of them without knocking them down lower into the bilge.

Searching for glasses 1

Searching for glasses 2

When he got them out into the light of day, they were dry, unscratched and seemingly no worse for wear. However, they got a bleach and water cleaning....just in case.  He is now a happy camper AND he can see better!

Jim wearing the "stowaway-in-the-bilge" glasses

Saturday, May 16, 2015

What an Experience!

16 May 2015

We are back at Regatta Pointe Marina after our trial cruise which expanded from 3 weeks to 6.  The mixture of experiences, adventures, frustrations, and successes are swirling around in our heads.  It would be safe to say that we are no longer cruising virgins, but it would be equally safe to say we are not yet experienced cruisers. At least we are no longer doing everything for the first time.  And that is a relief.  

Here are a few sights from our Marathon to Palmetto sail:

A visiting egret, Ft. Myers

He took off
But came back again

The canal leading into Smokehouse Bay, Marco Island

Sails are actually up!

 Gulf of Mexico - our 360 degree view!

Sunset on the Gulf
A few accomplishments are tucked under our belts, and a tiny bit of confidence has crept into our psyche.  Much of sailing "plays" to Jim's strengths.  He likes to dig in and solve problems and he has had  opportunities to do that with most of the major systems:  the roller furling, the generator, the engine (alternator), the 200 amp fuses that kept blowing (operator error which took a long time to figure out) .... Not sure sailing is for someone who doesn't enjoy being "Mr. Fixit".  We also gained confidence in what most people would consider the basics.  But if you have never done them before they don't seem quite so basic the first time around!

Using the VHF radio with confidence
Calling to have bridges opened
Picking up mooring balls
Starting the outboard motor on the dinghy (not always so easy)
Using our dinghy
Venturing into unknown territory assisted only by GPS and charts
Getting used to the constant motion of the boat
Rough seas and flat seas, with and without wind
Sailing overnight (turns out I rather liked it)
Learning how to ferret out entertaining activities in new places
Meeting interesting people along the way and learning from them

Staying an extra 2 weeks at Marathon to have the electric stove and the electric cold plate refrigerator and freezer replaced were absolutely worth it!!  Every time I light the stove and make a cup of coffee or reach into the refrigerator and pull out something cold, or get ice from the freezer I thank Alex at SeaTek.  And that is all possible now without relying on the noisy generator!! 

We arrived back at the marina after an overnight sail from Marathon to Ft. Myers, a day sail to Marco Island and another overnight sail to Palmetto.  We were met at our slip by friends who helped us dock and tie up.  So nice to see familiar faces and get a helping hand!!  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Playing Tourist in Key West and Marathon

05 May 2015

During the past three weeks plus, we have spent 5 days at Key West and almost 3 weeks at Marathon.  Here are a few pictures that will give a bit of flavor of both those places. 

Key West:

Bo's Fish Shack interior decor

Bo's Fish Shack "mascot"

Bo's Fish Shack  from the street side
Bo’s Fish Shack: an eatery with personality and really good shrimp tacos and the messiest cheeseburgers around. 

Sloppy Joe’s Bar:  So you want to follow in the footsteps of Hemingway? then come here to write.  

Bar where Hemingway wrote several of his novels

Chris from Annie C writing her great American novel!

Farewell Key West

Marathon, Boot Key Harbor:

Harbor Hillbillies – a charming floating eatery serves up great Southern breakfasts.  Dinghy up and either eat there or go back to the boat or to the park..

Harbor Hillbillies

Mike and Betty from "C" dock joining 3 other "C" dockers for a Hillbilly breakfast

Dinghy "Parking Lot"
The Tree of Knowledge

Boot Key Harbor has a Tree of Knowledge.  (As opposed to the Circle of Wisdom at Regatta Pointe Marina.)  The taxi and shuttle drivers all know where it is. Apparently it is the favorite spot to pick up and drop off clients.  There are lounge chairs, a swing and couches, but so far I have never seen anyone there - not sure what that means!

We have been at Boot Key Harbor for almost 3 weeks, 2 weeks longer than planned. However, we have had some significant work done on the boat so the delay was well worth it, but at the same time, we didn't manage to get out much. One day at the beach, a little kayaking, time up at the lounge using the internet, visiting with other boaters, walking to West Marine and the grocery store ... that about covers it.   

But...NO Dramatic Episodes! 

So now we wait for a weather window to head back to Regatta Pointe Marina.  

Dramatic Episode #4

 03 May 2015

One of the few concerns we had about "Well, Why Not?"  when we bought her was the extensive dependency on 110 v power.  The generator produces the electricity which in turn powers the stove top, the coffee pot, the microwave, the freezer, the refrigerator, the air conditioner and heater, and small appliances, though not all at once.   Imagine our frustration when the generator quit working!!  Fixing meals became rather challenging, keeping things cold became impossible where ice was unavailable.   For over a week we limped along with no generator.  Trying to keep everything cold with ice did not do much more than fill the fridge with water.  Gross, but remember we couldn’t use the shop vac because.. guess what? no generator and we don’t have a manual pump!   We do have an Igloo type cooler permanently attached to the aft deck (not sure why it was originally installed there) and in a moment of desperation (brilliance?) we removed the contents and added bags of ice.   Despite sitting in full sun, it worked amazingly well as long as we didn't put too much in it, remembered to open the plug and drain the water and bought ice everyday. It was way too much like camping and when we arrived in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon we were slightly grumpy.  Alex Miller of SeaTek to the rescue!!  He fixed the generator, but we realized that we needed a longer term solution.  

Alex working on the generator
Alex is a young man (from Minnesota, no less) and has built quite a reputation for excellent work, reasonable prices and sensible solutions.  So... we opted to have him and his cohort, Darren, remove our electric stove top and replace it with a propane stove and best of all, convert our freezer and refrigerator to 12 volt battery power. 
Darren cutting insulation for refrigerator
In the process Darren put in extra insulation to raise the bottom of the refrigerator and the freezer so that I can actually reach everything. No more sending Jim head first into the fridge! (See Post "Getting to Know You...." on Feb. 3, 2015.)

Darren relaxing after a hard day's work!

It is a relief that our galley is no longer 110v dependent.  The generator's only job now is to power the air conditioner/heater, recharge the batteries and provide the 110v power for charging laptops, phones, etc.  Any of that we can live without in case the generator gets cranky again.  

Alex surveying the finished project!!

So now we wait for a weather window to head back to Regatta Pointe Marina.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dramatic interlude of the non cruising variety

27 April 2015

Thursday morning while paying our electric bill - for our house, not the boat - I noticed that it had doubled.   Suspicious of problems, we asked our "farm buddies" (as opposed to our boat buddies) to check our house and sure enough we had water spewing from two burst pipes in our basement.  Both of these pipes went through outer walls to outside faucets.  They had been spewing for a long time and had I paid the bill when first received, I would have caught the problem sooner!  (Is there a moral to that?)  Anyhow our "buddies" turned off the circuit breaker to the well pump and stopped the waterfalls.
Sign of Spring

The next morning at 6:30 I headed home to Minnesota.  Talk about culture shock.  First of all Spring is definitely here - fruit trees in bloom, geese nesting on our pond, cropland turning green, grass growing, daffodils blooming.  It is cool and sunny, admittedly a relief from the 85-90 degree heat of Florida!  Our son Josh picked me up at the airport and came home with me as moral support, physical labor, and the keeper of a sense of humor!  

View that first greeted us
This is what I arrived home to.  Ceiling tiles, soggy and crumbling, covered the floor and the furniture.  Puddles of water were standing in low spots, lots of paintings, cardboard boxes with letters, family papers, photos, kids toys, etc. were soaked. You get the picture. Mold and mildew thriving.  After four hours, this is what the space looked like.
Progress, but still pretty awful
And this is what our front yard looks like!
Doesn't look as impressive as it should

Nothing that 3 or 4 loads to the dump won't cure
A few treasures were found and saved.  One of them was a deck of "Old Maid" playing cards from the early 1900's.  Totally politically incorrect and irreverent.  The cardboard box had disintegrated, but Josh was intrigued and dried out the individual cards.
Josh and the "Old Maid" cards
The furnace room where the second leak occurred is a project for another day.  It was much better suited for handling the influx of water and is not nearly in such dire condition as the rest of the basement.

I think we have a pretty good idea what we will be doing this summer!  In the meantime, back to cruising!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Dramatic Episode #3

24 April 2015

After four days at Key West we were planning to leave for Marathon the next morning.  That evening while running the engine to charge the batteries, a red light appeared on our instrument panel.  During the night Jim’s subconscious mind was obviously stewing and analyzing what it might mean.  So at 5:00 am he got up early to work on the engine and ultimately determined that the alternator was not working properly.    A quick call to Kevin, our engine guru who had worked on the engine back at Regatta Pointe, confirmed that it certainly sounded like an alternator problem.  He agreed to call back with some recommendations of where we might find a new one and within minutes called back having remembered that Fiesta, of Dramatic Episode 2, actually had one on board as a spare that he might loan us.  They were anchored right next to us!  A call to them at an unsociably early hour and Tim on Fiesta dug through his spares, climbed into his dinghy and brought over a spare alternator!  Jim installed it and within an hour we were on our way!  

A beautiful example of cruisers helping cruisers!  And do we ever need and appreciate each other – for many reasons!

Sunset at Marathon celebrating a safe arrival

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dramatic Episode #2

23  April 2015

Shortly after leaving the Dry Tortugas for the Marquesas a VHF call from Fiesta sounded rather dire.  Fuel was spurting from a fuel line.  It took us all (Fiesta, Annie C and us) a moment to digest this information and think about the ramifications and options.  Here we are all out in very choppy water 4-6 ft seas, Fiesta bobbing around with no engine and no winds for sailing. Jim had some “Rescue Tape” which is designed for just this kind of thing and so we offered to get it to them.  They were hesitant to have us delay our departure because our timing was tight for getting to the Marquesas before dark.  However, we were not comfortable leaving them with no engine and a terrible wind situation (not much and from the wrong direction) So Fiesta hove to (a method of adjusting sails to stabilize the boat and minimize any forward movement).   Jim found the tape, put it in a waterproof bag and tied that and a crab buoy together on the end of a long line.  While he stood on the deck, I maneuvered the boat as close as I thought safe so he could throw his package. (hard to guess the distance, but it was probably 15-20 ft between the boats - maybe a little less) The seas were rather confused and at first I didn’t think about tall masts rocking back and forth and the potential of them meeting at the top.  (Luckily they didn’t!)

Admittedly a reenactment photo
The first pass, Jim’s throw was short.  The second, the line got tangled.  But the third was video worthy, Jim threw, they hooked the line in the water and pulled it all aboard.  We went on our way with the understanding that they would try to catch up with us.  Fifteen minutes later we got that wonderful call that it was all fixed, no leaking and they were on their way.  And catch up with us they did in time to anchor together at the Marquesas!  

For another perspective on this event, check out Fiesta's blog at www.reevesontherun.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dramatic Episode #1

April 21, 2015

This is the beginning of a series of posts.  Call it a dramatic mini series of the unexpected, the scary, the frustrating and maybe even the dangerous that have challenged us on our maiden voyage.

En route to Pelican Bay, somewhere out in the Gulf, we had the jib out to gain help from what little bit of wind was available.  When it came time to roll it in, the roller furling mechanism froze up with the sail part way out.  We could neither roll the sail in nor out.  Eventually Jim had to manually wrap the sail around the furler.  Once we were at anchor in Pelican Bay while we sat aground (another and totally separate and minor problem) Jim contemplated the various possible causes:  broken furler, twisted line in the furling drum, furling line too large??   The next morning after the tide came in and we had moved the boat to deeper water, Linn from Annie C who was now anchored next to us noticed that as Jim tried to move the sail, the top part of the furler did not swivel, something he could easily see from the vantage of his boat.   Having the problem at the top of the mast made for a challenging work area.  Jim wanted to go up the mast so thanks to Linn and his bosun’s chair and 250 feet of new, sturdy, line plus some added line from our supply Jim headed up.  Armed with his hammer, WD40, a few miscellaneous other tools and his camera up he went.  

Jim half way up the mast, bag of tools trailing behind

 Despite the 5 to 1 ratio provided by the pulley system and Linn’s help from the deck, Jim arrived at the top totally winded and said it felt like he had done way too many sets of pull ups!  

Jim working at the top of the mast

Amazingly with a little tapping here and there and a squirt of WD 40 here and there the two parts of the furling mechanism suddenly came unstuck with the result that the sail immediately unfurled and started whipping around the deck with lines a-flailing!!  Linn, Chris and I could barely manage to get them under control without being flung overboard until it dawned on me to activate the furler and reel the line in.  The sail wound around the furler – as it was designed to do: mission accomplished.  Rather pleased Jim lowered himself down, and about 1 ½ feet off the deck the connecting knot between the two lines came undone and he dropped down to the deck.  Rather startling.  It would not have been pretty had it happened when he was higher up!!

Jim said the view from up top was spectacular, particularly because of the variations in water color.  Unfortunately the camera was set to black and white…wouldn’t you know?  So the pictures of the water didn’t turn out, but I loved the one from the top of the mast!!

Jim's view from the top of the mast

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dry Tortugas

 April 17, 2015

The Dry Tortugas are a cluster of seven islands in beautiful, clear, turquoise water 70 miles west of Key West, FL.  After a 29 hour slog overnight in 2-6 foot rolly seas, we finally arrived and anchored just off Garden Key, the home of Ft. Jefferson, a large masonry fort which was built over the course of 30 years but never finished.   During the Civil War it served as a Union military prison for deserters and after the assassination of President Lincoln, 4 men convicted of aiding and abetting were imprisoned there.  It was abandoned in 1874 and became a wildlife refuge in 1908.

Arriving at Ft. Jefferson, Garden Key, Dry Tortugas
Moat as seen from inside the fort on the second floor

Can you see the crocodile in the corner?
Ft. Jefferson is surrounded by a moat in which an American crocodile now lives.   No one seems to know exactly how he arrived at the Fort, but he appears to be gentle, non-threatening and pretty much ignores everyone.  Outside the moat, snorkeling is good.  Fish in varying sizes and colors, several reefs, and a shipwreck or two enhance the underwater venue.  Green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles nest on the islands. 

Four of the islands are permanently closed to visitors and a fifth one is closed during the nesting season of the sooty terns.  A number of others birds inhabit the islands, but most impressive are the Magnificent Frigate birds that sore over the Fort throughout the day.

Nice snorkeling reef outside the moat

View of the interior from atop the wall
Walking on top of the fort

Visitors come to the island via sea planes or ferry and have the option of camping for up to 3 days.  However, they must pack everything in (including water) and everything out. (It’s not called “dry” for nothing.) Except for composting toilets, there are no services or amenities.  Cruisers are allowed to anchor out in the small bay with virtually no time restrictions.  

Cruisers from Fiesta, Well, Why Not?, Annie C, and Rest A Shore
If nightlife is your thing, this would not be the place to visit, but for a sense of history, appreciation of history, unusual architecture, coral reefs, wildlife – both underwater and above ground, and stimulation of one’s imagination the Dry Tortugas are most intriguing.

See www.nps.gov/drto for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who said they wanted to get outside their comfort zone?

April 15, 2015

OK...we have been well and truly out of our comfort zone.  And I mean, REALLY out of our comfort zone – or maybe I should say “my” comfort zone. (Sometimes I think Jim is way too laid back to even know what a comfort zone is or isn’t.)   Just imagine trying to follow the narrow and shallow channels of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and controlling 44 feet of boat where you have to keep track of what is beside you, under you and above you!  
Linn and Chris on Annie C going through a swing bridge

 How about the trauma and drama of trying to get into fuel docks, anchorages and moorings and doing it with some sort of dignity and without hitting anyone or providing great entertainment for those watching. Then, there are the challenges of running aground, having to set the anchor more than once to get it set, and the unexpected such as a stuck roller furling which necessitated Jim’s climbing up our 60 foot mast. The generator quit working which caused problems keeping food cold, let alone frozen.  And navigating: trying to translate what we see on the paper charts and chart plotter to what we actually see in front of us (especially at night) is no simple task.  Fighting through 2-6 foot rolly seas for over 29 hours en route from Ft. Myers to the Dry Tortugas with winds pretty much on our nose meant that we motored most of the way only to find that our anchorage was no restful haven...it was also rolly.  I guess this has been the official rite of passage out of our comfort zone - literally and figuratively!

On the otherhand:  the ICW is beautiful, and flows through small towns, green countryside, under bridges and through large cities.  We ate the traditional “Hamburger in Paradise” of Jimmy Buffet fame at Cabbage Key and can now think of ourselves as “cruisers”.  
Proof that we put our dollar on the wall at Cabbage Key

Gently rocking at anchor or on a mooring is peaceful and makes one privy to amazing sunrises and sunsets.  The Dry Tortugas were a great destination (more about them later) although the afternoon we arrived I felt a tiny bit envious of those tourists who were heading back home on the sea planes.  (Another 29 hours of rolling and bouncing was not appealing.)
Four buddy boats at anchor at the Dry Tortugas
 Above all, travelling with friends from our marina enriched and enlivened the adventure.  Not only did they provide knowledge and expertise, but they also helped us laugh at things that might not have been amusing at all without their perspective!   

Note:  We have a sailboat.  We want to sail.  We have not yet sailed one day due to contrary winds:  too light or coming directly at us from the direction towards which we are travelling – never helpful in a sailboat.  As one of our group groaned…”if I had wanted to motor everywhere I would have bought a power boat”. 

So … there you have it…the beginning.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Terrified vs Excited??

March 31, 2015

Adrenalin rushing, the stomach churning, brain switching from one subject to another, no chance of sleeping....... So am I terrified or excited?    According to my younger son, Josh, the only difference between terror and excitement is attitude.    So at the moment I am working on my attitude. Tomorrow morning we head south for 3 weeks. Admittedly we will have access to land, humanity, restaurants and marine stores (ie Help!); however, the whole idea is to get the feel of cruising in out-of -the-way places and being as self sufficient as possible.  Even though we will be traveling with a couple of buddy boats, I still think it sounds scary...no, no I mean fun and challenging.  Right?  
First round of provisioning
The provisioning part of it has been fun and challenging.  Really! It has been an interesting exercise trying to calculate everything we will need for 3 weeks, sorting out how to store it so we can find it (not as easy as it sounds) and deciding just how we can prepare it.(also not as easy as it sounds).  We hope to be anchored or on a mooring ball most of the time, not at a marina with all of the "conveniences" of home.  Therefore, because our boat is almost totally dependent on electricity for cooking, we have to determine our power source:  the inverter, the generator, or power from the engine.  If those fail, we have a small propane grill that we can attach to a lifeline stanchion.  If that, too, fails, we'll just eat cold hot dogs and beans!

In any case, we are almost fully provisioned.  We carry 215 gallons of water in our tanks and 95 gallons of diesel.  But, just in case something quite unforeseen happens we are carrying a small emergency supply of both water and diesel on deck.  

So just when we think we are pretty well prepared, "Murphy" strikes.  I woke up in the middle of the night last night listening to a hum; a hum that I had heard the night before but one that Jim and I both sort of ignored.  (First mistake of sailing!)  But in the middle of the night it was much louder and much more ominous and sounded slightly different and seemed to involve some sort of slurping.  I lifted up the bilge cover and there was the source of the noise!  Not much water in the bilge, but it appeared that the pump was trying to pump it out anyhow.  Time to wake Jim!!  After fiddling around for awhile, he disconnected a wire, the noise stopped and he decided it was quite safe to go back to bed and deal with it in the morning!  What??  He, of course, slept.  I didn't.
See the blue (non working) box that says "sure bail"?
Jim replacing the blue with the white (new) !
Turned out that the problem was the float switch - a little piece of equipment that tells the bilge pump to start pumping.  And, it is also supposed to tell it to stop pumping.  Only this switch didn't do that and the pump just kept on pumping.   Jim figured it out, bought a new part, and installed it.  All is well ..... until the next thing!

Ok, so I am not terrified, just a little nervous.  But I'm sure my "attitude" will improve as we have some successes under our belts and we are no longer doing everything for the "first" time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Flying Trapeze - Almost!

"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, 
The daring young man on the flying trapeze."

This song has been running through my mind for the last week, prompted by 3 boaters making trips up their masts.  Some did it with enthusiasm, some with fear and trepidation, some with the resignation that it just had to be done.  Jim was just curious.  While the climbers are not exactly flying through the air, neither are they stable and stationary.  Boats rock, the mast swings, and the "climbers" swing from side to side. And, they are anywhere from 40 - 60 ft up in the air.  It seemed very high looking up, but I imagine it seemed even higher looking down.
Jim helping Linn ascend the mast.
That was as far as he went

There are different ways of rigging the whole process, but basically it involves a bosun's chair, a 5 to 1 ratio on a pulley system, a spotter, a helper to pull and generally wives or girlfriends standing around anxiously until the procedure is over.
Jim getting ready to go up
Jim coming down

Steve, who is among other things a rock climber, uses a bosun's chair but also uses a climbing harness with stirrups and ascenders.
He made it all look very easy - hard to believe it was his first time up!   
Steve climbing

Up at the top

A different perspective