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 

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 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 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.