Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande and Cabbage Key

29 March 2017

Are we ever bored?  NO!  What do we do at anchor?

Begin the day with a cup of coffee in the cockpit while enjoying the beautiful views

Work on boat chores – Jim is still trying to solve an electrical problem with the autopilot and to learn the intricacies of the SSB.  

Itemize smaller projects – the infamous project list never seems to get any shorter

Research the millions of things we need to learn

Strategize what we need/want to do to improve life aboard

Mend – I would never choose to mend jeans by hand at home, but not many other choices exist on the boat – duct tape? stapler?

Mending Jim's jeans
Keep up with the normal household chores which don’t seem to disappear just because we are on a boat: laundry, cleaning, cooking, doing dishes etc. 

Washing machine a la Well, why not?

Clothesline a la Well, why not?

Plan trips off the boat for fun activities or picking up supplies

Play games or read in the evenings

Our last day anchored off of Gasparilla Island, we played tourist.  Having never driven a golf cart, I thoroughly enjoyed mastering the finer art there of.  The island, also referred to as Boca Grande, has a bike/golf cart/walking trail from one end to the other.  We opted to head south to see one of the two lighthouses that currentlly are on the island.  The newer one, known as the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse, was originally erected in 1927.  It is a steel "skeletal" light house which was in the final stages of restoration. 

No accidents or close calls

Jim in front of restored lighthouse

Original lighthouse at Boca Grande, now a museum
Sadly it was not yet open to the public.  So we headed further south to the original light house, now known as the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse.  It was erected in 1890 and has gone through a number of restorations thanks to sand erosion, weather etc.  It has been converted to a delightful small museum, showcasing the lighthouse history, its keepers and families, drawings of the Calusa Indians, early maps, and displays of many shells and sharks’ teeth, including a jawbone full of hundreds of teeth. Lose a tooth?  No problem, a new one takes over - thousands in the course of a lifetime! 

Jim and his key lime pie - a recurring theme!
After a fun lunch at one of the many outdoor cafes which included a key lime pie for Jim, we returned to the boat amid increasingly rambunctious winds and waves. It turned into our roughest night…so far.  Lots of bouncing, rolling and banging!  I, for one, was happy to get underway the next morning.

It was a short jaunt over to the south end of Charlotte Harbor without sails.  Since our episode a few days earlier, the winds have not calmed down enough to try out the sails while at anchor so we opted to motor rather than risk another furler failure in 20 kt winds! Once we arrived at the Intracoastal Waterway we had to motor anyhow.  The waterway itself is well protected from winds and waves and it was a very peaceful ride down to our anchorage between Cabbage Key and Useppa Island. 

Sunrise at Cabbage Key looking eastward toward Useppa

Sunrise, same day, just a few minutes later
For the first time on this trip, we had neighbors!! The fishermen race up and down in their noisy, powerful fishing boats during the day, but they left us alone at night and it became a charming quiet anchorage.

Well, why not? as seen from Cabbage Key - trust me, it's there
Well, why not? seen a little closer up!
Cabbage Key Restaurant is theoretically the inspiration of Jimmy Buffett’s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. But part of the restaurant’s claim to fame is the compulsion of every visitor to stick a signed dollar bill onto one of the walls.  One write-up from several years ago boasts there were over $50,000 worth.  I put my dollar bill up last time we were there – I didn’t feel like I needed to do it again and in fact I didn’t even look to see if I could find mine.  The island which is accessible only by boat is very popular with the big tour boats as well as smaller boats going up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. The island itself has a number of walking trails with slight changes in elevation due to shell mounds.  The water tower is climbable and gives an expansive view of the island from 60 feet above ground. Jim pointed out to me that he was that that high when up our mast!

We spent much time riding around in our dinghy looking for the fabled “tunnel of love”, a narrow tunnel created by overhanging mangroves. 

Picnic lunch among the mangroves
Never did find it, but we had a lovely ride in a beautiful area dotted by small islands and little inlets and tucked in at a little mangrove cove for a picnic lunch. Of course, afterwards we had to treat ourselves to ice tea and frozen key lime pie at the restaurant. Apparently Jim is doing a "scientific" survey of various versions of key lime pies.

Frozen key lime pie
If we could eat, so could the osprey - right above our table

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Herein lies the tale.

20 March 2017

We left Hog Island on a beautiful day – sunny, windy, 10-15 kts and fairly smooth seas.  It was a very comfortable broad reach with the jib partially out and no mainsail.  The winds dropped slightly after we had been out an hour so we decided to let a little more of our jib out. To our dismay, the furler mechanism at the top of the mast froze up and we could neither let more line out or take any in.  Since we were going along so well, we decided to wait until we needed to tack – in roughly 2 hours and then we would see if by some miracle we could free it up. Unfortunately by then the winds had freshened up significantly increasing to the 20’s with gusts up to 24 – 25kts.  This was getting a little too dramatic, but at that point there was not anything to do except proceed.  As we tacked and began motoring into the wind, the jib began flapping like crazy and the lines were whipping around the deck. They were still attached at the cockpit, but the lines between there and where they attached to the tip of the sail were free to whip around dangerously.   I pulled them in as much as possible.  Jim was up front but could not grab them until he was able to throw another line around them, and pull the lines down to the deck using the power of the anchor windlass. After cleating them off at the bow, the tip of the sail was tied down as was the top that was stuck in the furler.  It was the middle of the sail that was now flapping and snapping and the deck was bouncing like a bucking bronco.  He tried to wrap the sail around the forestay, but was just not tall enough.  Using a boat hook he managed to get a few wraps on. 

Meanwhile, at the helm, I was reviewing everything I ever knew about Man Overboard drills and mentally yelling at the winds to cease and desist. By this time, they were consistently between 24 - 25 kts with gusts up to 27 - 29kts.  Jim was crouched on the deck and then lay down on his back and just stared up at the mast, the jib and the furler.  It was incredibly noisy between the wind and the sails flapping so that we could not talk to each other and I wondered if he was OK.  

Finally he crawled back to the cockpit and said he had an idea.  He could not wrap the sail around the furler so he decided we could drive the boat in a tight circle which would effectively force the sail to wind around the forestay. We  had enough depth and enough room that we could do that.  Even at 2200 rpm the boat had a hard time when we were turned into the wind which tended to just blow us back the other way.  After a number of tries I got the boat moving in a tight turn and amazingly the sail began to wrap around the forestay!!   Once I got some momentum going, the turning became easier and the free part of the sail smaller.  I should have kept track of how many times we went around because after a few times, the cookies from the GPS gave up and just showed 3 or 4 circles.  It was probably closer to 20 times.  Under normal circumstances I am not good on merry-go-rounds, but adrenalin was high and dizziness was the last thing on my mind.

While circling, we were passed by a Coast Guard Patrol going very slowly – if he tried hailing us, we don’t know because between the sound of the wind, the waves and the slapping of the sail and lines we could hear nothing on the radio!  But since we didn’t hail him, he probably figured all was well, if not a little strange!

Once the sail was as wrapped up as it was going to get, Jim went back forward with a line and a boat hook.  He made a loop around the forestay and with the boat hook was able to lift the loop to the lower part of the mostly wrapped sail and then pulled it tight and voila, the bottom of the flapping jib was under control. 
Jib partially controlled with one line
The upper part was still flapping and very noisy but at least we could continue to our anchorage spot.  It was a very relieved crew when we anchored. Even the loss of our anchor buoy seemed like a mere trifle.  Once anchored, we were able to work together to get another loop around the sail, this time a little higher up.  Things quieted down considerably.  
Two tie downs to control jib
After a quick dinner we both crashed – didn’t even have the energy for a beer!  A little too much excitement for one day or as Jeff from Two Can Sail might have said – it was an “interesting day”!

The next day was too windy to work on the jib so we took the dinghy to Boca Grande, enjoyed walking around and treated ourselves to Key Lime Pie and iced tea at the Pink Elephant.  By the next day the winds had subsided so we could work with the jib furling line but had no success. With no other alternative, Jim decided it was time to go up the mast.  Out came his climbing gear and two hours later he was ready to ascend.  Amazing how much paraphernalia it takes but it gives me some comfort that he pays a lot of attention to safety redundancy, checks and rechecks.

Getting all his gear in order

Part way up

Even further up

Waving from the top
We communicated via cell phone (Jim handsfree with a blue tooth – which he kept in his ear thanks to a stocking cap).  When he reached the top, he lubricated the furling mechanism with WD-40, was able to twist it by hand and almost immediately I was able to reel in the jib!!  It didn’t take any blows with a hammer or any other severe measures.  We are now waiting for another low wind day to “exercise” the jib and make sure it is repaired at least for the moment.  Turns out there is a better lubricant than WD-40 which as soon as we can find it will require another trip up the mast.  

We are leaving Boca Grande tomorrow and I, for one, am looking forward to an undramatic day. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Back on the Water

18 March 2017

“Well,Why Not?” splashed after three weeks “on the hard”.  Then it spent a week tied to the dock in the canal outside Safe Cove Boatyard.  The best part was that we no longer had to go up and down the blasted ladder.  We were getting rather sore and even tho our quads might have become marvelously toned, we were happy to be done with it.  Being on the water also meant we could do different types of projects: washing the exterior, running the engine (which purred to life on the first turn of the key!!), running the dinghy motor (started on the 3rd try), checking the instruments etc.  Most of the things are not interesting enough to write about. 

Staining the toe rail

Carrying "stuff" up to the boat

Rudy finishing the bottom paint

Rudy doing final touch up to keel
Boat is on lift and ready for the ride to the water
Update on the cockroaches.  It’s hard to tell the score.  The positive side is that we have not seen any more altho we have seen a few little tracks in the boric acid powder we have left out and about. No one is waving a white flag yet.

In between boat work, we have been surprisingly social. Jeff and Jean from Two Can Sail organized a lunch at Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda with 3 other couples who had also gone through the boat buying and training process with them.  All three couples have sold everything and are living permanently on their boats.  We just can’t seem to bring ourselves to that ….yet.

We also had a reunion with some of the boaters from “C” dock at Regatta Point Marina.  Seth won the prize for coming from the farthest (Guadalupe in the Caribbean).  We had such a fun group at the marina, but they have since dispersed to other lifestyles or other marinas so it was great to reconnect, even if only for supper. Clive who was part of the “C” dock group (altho technically his boat was on “E” dock) has been down at Safe Cove where our boats were neighbors and he also joined us.  He is here from Canada with a friend working on his boat in preparation for some long term cruising next winter.

"C" dock reunion supper
Ready to be let down into the water
While on the dock we had one gigantic storm roll through – thunder, lightning, and a tornado north of us!  The “silver lining” was that it was the perfect opportunity to see which of our windows leaked.  Sadly the worst were the two over our bed in the aft cabin.   Water poured in and despite Jim’s cleverest and most MacGyveresque solutions he could not stop the final few drips.  So we pulled out every towel in the boat, removed all of the bed mattresses – yes for some reason the bed had 3 mattresses and one thick mattress pad – and strategically placed towels and buckets to catch the leaks.  We escaped to sleep in the dry salon!  Armed with silicone caulk the next morning, Jim went to work on the windows with a vengeance.  Theoretically they are now sealed, can’t be opened and will keep the water out until we can fix them!  

Jim filling the forward water tank
On my final provisioning for the trip, I was rushed.  I particularly wanted to buy a six-pack of beer because friends were coming over to help with a technical question and I wanted to have something to offer them.  When I arrived at the boatyard and unloaded the truck and started walking to the boat I realized I didn’t have my purse.  I looked in the truck – nothing.  I knew I had had it in my cart at the grocery store, so not wanting to take time to drag the groceries to the boat, I reloaded them into the truck and headed back to the store probably breaking every speed limit within a 100 mile radius. My mind was overwhelmed thinking about everything that was in the purse and how I was going to replace it all.  I parked next to the cart rack and there were no carts there.  As I hurried into the store to ask if someone had turned a purse in, I heard a young guy yell out, “Lady, you forgot your purse”.  I answered “I know I left it in the cart”.  He looked at me strangely and then pointed to the tonneau cover over the truck bed and there sat my purse, right behind the cab of the truck.  As my blood pressure returned to normal and my embarrassment and adrenalin faded I could not believe that the purse had stayed on despite my speeding, quick turns etc.  Dare I mention that Jim has often lectured me about putting my purse there.  If anything he has told me to put it on the hood while I unload stuff.  If I had done that, I would have seen it. To his credit, he did not say, “I told you so”.  I needed one of those beers myself and I ended up with a good story with a happy ending!

Well, Why Not? is ready to take off

Sunrise at Safe Cove the morning of our departure
In the meantime the weather had been cold (41 degrees at night) and more importantly the winds had been blowing out of the north at 15-20 plus knots, blowing the water out of Charlotte Harbor leaving depths lower than normal. Things were not expected to change for a week or more so we finally decided to leave and take our chances. Several boats had made it out a few days earlier. The nine mile canal which winds its way from Safe Cove to the Charlotte Harbor is shallow and we bumped a few times but not disastrously so. There is a hand operated lock system between the canal and the harbor and under normal conditions it is 6 feet deep on the harbor side.  But as we left the lock and stopped to pull the closing chain we ran hard aground.  The depth gauge showed 4’2” and we draw 5’6”!! We coulldn’t go forward or backward. The winds had done their damage. Fortunately there were no other boats coming through.The tide was still rising – ever so slowly and we finally got loose from the lock.  We headed toward the channel marker and within 50 feet we ran aground again.  We could move a little, but basicallly we stayed in one place for about a half hour until high tide and maneuvering the wheel set us free! We had no more problems after that and easily found our first night's anchorage at Hog Island. It was isolated, peaceful, and protected from the winds.  And there was no waiting for dinner thanks to the crockpot!!  So began the adventure…..

Sunset at Hog Island