Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Couple of Loose Screws

 

And, no, I don't mean Hans and me. If I'd been referring to us I would have used the phrase 'a couple of screws loose', which everyone knows pretty much describes us.


But, before I explain the title of this post, let me back-track a bit.


After a 12 hour crossing from Florida we arrived in the Bahamas a week ago Saturday. We then stayed in a marina in Bimini for three days (2 more than we'd planned but it felt so good to just plain sit and enjoy the fact that we were finally there), before departing for the Exumas. For us this meant we had to cross over the 'banks'; about an 80 mile passage. The banks are basically flooded land with depths averaging around 10 feet or so. "No problem", we said, "all we have to do is drop the hook on the banks for the night and then continue on the next morning." Of course it wasn't quite that easy as we've discovered that even though the water isn't deep, if you aren't protected by a shoal or a land mass, you'll get bounced around by the tide and current. We did luck out though and anchored with another couple we met in Bimini, first near Cat Cay on day one, and then just before the Northwest Channel on day two. Luckily, both nights were very comfortable.

From there we had a decision to make. Our friends, who are trying to cover as much ground water as possible opted to take on the entire Northwest Passage (another full day) which ends up in Nassau, while Hans and I opted to head to Frasier's Hog Cay, just a half day away instead.

At Frasier's Hog Cay we ended up anchoring next to a different set of friends from Bimini (we met them in Marathon and they, too, made the crossing with us from Florida. Even though our cruising guides boasted that Frasier's Hog had a marina and restaurant; they didn't so we spent a quiet night on the hook. This is pretty much the norm here in the Bahamas, some businesses make a go of it and some don't.

The next day it was our turn to take on the Northwest Passage and even though we'd read tons of warnings about it (it's thousands of feet deep and I pointedly told Hans I did not want updates as to our depth), we, along with our friends from Frasier's, found ourselves safely anchored at Rose Island in Nassau a few hours later. We ended up staying another night while our friends moved on.

Getting out of there the next day was very interesting though and with the wind rushing against the tide we hobby horsed through the churning seas around Porgie's Rocks and headed on to Allen's Cay,which to us, is the first real island in the Exumas.

 

Which brings me back to 'loose screws'.


I'm not kidding when I say we've pounded through more seas during this past week than we have during the entire time we've owned the Knotty Cat. And I mean hours upon hours. We thought once we got here we would be able to primarily use our sails, yet every stinking trip we've made since we've been here has seen us pounding staight into the wind. Just imagine taking off on an extended road trip and then finding yourself hitting a pothole about every 5 seconds and you'll then see what we've been putting up with for over a week now. One-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM-one-two-three-four-SLAM! Twelve hour bouts of this crap might piss me off but imagine what the Knotty Cat thinks. A few days ago we heard a loud ping somewhere in the vicinity of the base of the mast and we just knew something had fallen from above and bounced overboard. And then it happened again. And when it happened for a third time we were pretty worried. The last time, however, we actually found a loose screw lying atop the boat and I immediately recognized it as a one of the screws that holds our radar mount in place (up near the spreaders). Now that I knew what to look for I was alarmed to note that while there were 5 screws visible on the starboard side of the mount, there was only one screw remaining on the port side and it was sticking out which meant it was ready to let loose at any time. Of course I discovered this while we were smashing and bouncing our way toward Allen's Cay. Once we arrived in the incredibly full anchorage at Allen's, Hans hoisted me up the mast lickety-split where I managed to get a total of three screws (all we could find out of the mish mash of hardware we keep on board) into the port side, I then covered them in 5200.

The water was crystal clear and even though I'm afraid of heights I forgot this fear as from atop my perch I watched a fat shark make its way slowly through the anchorage. I also noted that it seemed to be particularly fond of the boat right beside us. No surprise there, as it turns out the people on that boat were divers and they cleaned their catch there every evening. Needless to say that put the kabosh on any swimming off our boat.

We left Allen's Cay two days later only to find ourselves smashing and rolling once again as we headed toward Highbourne Cay. After dropping the hook off of a rocky shore in twelve feet of water and finding ourselves hobby horsing to such a degree we couldn't stand up without hanging on, we gave up and went into Highbourne Marina. We had already planned on coming here for fuel and water so in the end it all worked out. We took on 40 gallons of diesel along with 35 gallons in Bimini so you can see we really are motoring all the time.


I honestly can't even imagine how many other things have been jarred loose during this absolutely smashing trip but I'm sure we'll find out.


Still no pictures. They're all on my iPhone. Don't ask.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Bahamas

Yes, the water really looks like this

We arrived in Bimini yesterday and after I heaved one final time into my trusty bucket I told Hans this will be the last time I cross to the Bahamas.

We woke up at 4 AM, left Rodriguez Key at 5 AM, and I was puking by 8 AM.

Oddly, even though we left our anchorage in the dark which is creepy, that turned out to be a piece of cake. The seas were just ripples for about the first hour but when the sky started to lighten, the waves continued to build and then the wind, which had been forecast to be under 10 knots and going SE, kicked up to 20 knots E and showed no inclination of heading S. We started chop-chop-chopping along with roooooooolling from side to side and my stomach said the hell with this nonsense and, after losing my coffee and orange juice, I had nothing to eat or drink until we docked.

I did manage to help Hans get the jib out (which would hopefully steady the boat and help push us a little faster) before my stomach took over.

Wilbur was a champ though. He spent the entire day in the cockpit and when he wasn't circling the helm pod and passing under Hans' legs like a cat, he licked Hans' face, arms, and legs while sitting tightly against him. I couldn't stand being in the cockpit and went below to the salon with my bucket and every time I would start to throw up Wilbur would rush to the companion way door and stare down at me. This was something he'd never witnessed before and with his head tilted to the side and ears pointed up, he watched with amazement like maybe I'd turned Pentecostal and was speaking to him in tongues. I begged him to come down and keep me company but he must have decided his captain was the lesser of two evils and remained staunchly by Hans' side.

I never did see the sun rise although Hans assured me it was beautiful, I didn't get to witness the phenomenon of watching the gulf's water turn from brown to navy blue as we entered the stream, and I didn't come above when Hans shouted 'Land Ho!' upon spotting Bimini. I did manage to set my bucket aside in order to help furl the jib which unfortunately put me far too close to the proximity of Wilbur's potty patch (which stinks no matter how often we rinse it), and I was off and heaving again.

And then we were in calmer water that suddenly went from navy blue to emerald green, which I did get to see since I'd come above to get our dock lines ready. The channel into Bimini has been re-dredged since our last time here and getting in was easy. And just like that our salt encrusted boat, stinky selves, and an exhausted pit bull, were docked at Blue Water Marina.


The water here is crystal clear and last night as we walked around the docks Hans commented that you don't even need to snorkel to see all the fish below the surface, just look down and they're there. I was looking at little striped fish zipping about, glass bottles lying on the bottom, pieces of old anchor chain covered with sea growth... when all of a sudden a giant ray accompanied by a baby ray glided just under the surface right in front of us. Even Wilbur saw it.


Our day did end on a really high note though. Right after we arrived some kids on the fishing boat next to us needed a drill and some drill bits to fix something on their boat. We lent them ours and after they'd returned them I was down below putting stuff in order while Hans went to check us in at Customs and Immigration. I heard someone call me and when I came out into the cockpit one the kids was standing on the dock. I thought he needed the drill again and then I saw that he had a bag in his hand which he presented to me. It contained two huge Mahi fillets! Wow, fresh Mahi for dinner on our first night here in Bimini almost made that crappy crossing worth it.


Mahi!!


Today, after a good night's sleep (I was in bed by 8:30), the sun is shining, I'm walking around barefoot in a sundress while Wilbur snoozes in the cockpit, and Hans is attempting to put new connectors on our solar panels.


It's beautiful but I still say it's the last time I'll sail here.

 

I'm having a hard time downloading pictures from my phone to my iPad and I have to admit that I took these pictures 4 years ago. But that's okay because nothing here has really changed anyway.

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The push is on.


And that push being; our decision to cruise to the Bahamas.

We spent our Easter Sunday with Hans sweating in the engine room, and me sorting through my stash of dog collar hardware (I do admit to sneaking in some selfish time perusing all the new-to-us books I picked up at the exchange library and I'm absolutely giddy over some of my finds). At the end of the day Hans managed to replace a lot of ground wire connections along with two new transmission oil dip-sticks, and I had a bag full of sewing stuff to take ashore today where I fashioned a new leash and harness for Wilbur in between doing a couple of loads of laundry. Alas, the harness is a tad too big but can be easily fixed.

When we decided to spend an additional week here in Boot Key Harbor we thought we had tons of time to get some loose ends tied up. Every night we'd discuss what we would need to accomplish the next day and then for some reason the next morning those very tasks didn't seem to get done because some other matter would take precedence. But, all of a sudden we are down to a couple of days and even more stuff has cropped up. One thing I hadn't counted on was the propane tank to my stove crapping out on me. When we were living in a marina I could get one of those suckers to last me over six months. This one lasted two. This is a direct result of constant heavy winds making it impossible for me to use our grill and therefore relying solely on our stove. We are very thankful to have a place to fill our propane here and this morning, in addition to a much needed liquor run, we got that out of the way (and don't think crossing a four lane highway with a full tank of propane sans a traffic light isn't exciting).

First and foremost: every day Wilbur needs to go ashore for some much needed sniffies. This dog has been in his glory here, and as soon as our sun screen and my orange dry bag make their appearance Wilbur becomes unglued and starts snorting, huffing, and pacing. Surely some other dog on some other boat has dared to piss where he's pissed and he. will. not. stand. for. it. So, ashore we go with him because he's our baby and that's how it is.

And then there was the morning I knew if I didn't do something about my hair the world just might as well end. Hans and I spent an hour and a half of sweaty labor pulling my hair through one of those bleach caps with a crochet hook (if Hans ever wanted to exact some revenge upon me, that would have been the time), and after all that fun I took a pair of rusty scissors to the whole mess. Actually, the result wasn't all that bad and I saved us about $90.00 (the going rate here in this area).

One day I boldly made the slightly over one mile trip to Winn-Dixie by myself. I discovered, via my trusty luggage cart, that my duffle bag full of groceries, two 24 packs of beer and four 12 packs of soda, weigh a lot more than the 8 rolls of paper towels and the 4 rolls of toilet paper I'd hauled the day before. Yesterday, as a couple, Hans and I made a huge provisioning run to Winn-Dixie and filled two carts to the absolute max. We then ended up in line behind a couple who tried to pay for their purchases with an out of state check. With her french manicure, the cashier clacked and clacked at the touch screen, but the transaction wouldn't go through. After much more clacking, she got on the horn and called for help. When another call for help went out Hans very politely informed me that he'd been in line ahead of this out-of-state-check couple but had lost his place when he had to rescue me from floundering down the wrong aisle in search of more sun-screen.

My very first 'easy' run

 

Hans had departed the dinghy dock and took the first half of our haul to the Knotty Cat while I waited for him to come back and pick me up along with the remainder of our groceries (from our taxi run)



Even though we were waiting in line with refrigerated items and knew our taxi was due to arrive any second, I wasn't nearly as distraught as the young lady rushing about and hysterically waving her arms around with her mini-cart of groceries and wailing, "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I only have a half hour before I need to get back to work!" Unfortunately for her; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph never did arrive to help, but, Jesus (pronounced Haysoose), Maria, and Jose, did arrive at our checkout and even after more collective clacking they could not resolve the out-of-state-check issue. In the meantime the out-of-state-check couple continued to stand placidly by without ever seeming to understand that what they were trying to achieve just wasn't going to happen. It was just about the time the holy trinity was ready to cry uncle and call in the Federal Reserve that the out-of-state-check couple got with it and the wife grudgingly unlocked her purse and produced a credit card.

The damn finally broke and we all flowed with relief from the Winn-Dixie. And on this particular wave we hope to push on to the Bahamas.

Our cockpit with a miniscule amount of the crap we hope to haul to the Bahamas

Friday, April 3, 2015

Yeah, that thing I mentioned about highs and lows?

"At least oars don't break down!" a fellow boater called to us as we rowed past him in our dinghy here in the Boot Key Harbor mooring field a couple of days ago.


And why were we rowing? Because our newly repaired dinghy motor refused to start, that's why.

 

One of our neighbors checking things out


I guess this is the low I was worrying about after experiencing the high of surviving the nasty front that blew in the night before.

What a confluence of events we've experienced in the last couple of days.

When we arrived in Boot Key Harbor I was thrilled that Hans signed us up for a week long stay. I'm a bit of a wet blanket and I like the feeling of stability one gets with putting down roots for more than one day. After that I'm usually ready to leave and move on to our next adventure.

The day before our week long commitment here was to end, we made huge plans to finish up some loose ends. We would get up early and walk to Publix and Winn-Dixie for a huge provisioning run and then hire a taxi (it's like 5 dollars) back to the dock. I would get a load of laundry done along with both of us getting much needed showers, Hans would clean up our engine rooms, we would hoist the dinghy and motor into their respective resting places aboard the Knotty Cat, and the next day we would be off to the next anchorage before we blasted off to the Bahamas.


I woke up on Wednesday morning to Hans saying, "I've decided we're going to stay another week." I was thrilled as I love it here in Marathon, and then I thought maybe he was playing a cruel April Fool's joke on me. But he wasn't. He'd been following the weather and realized the week ahead weather forecast wasn't favorable at all for crossing to the Bahamas and all we'd do was sit in an anchorage using up all our water and food stores. And that's not fun.


After listening to the morning cruiser's net on channel 68 we decided to take Wilbur to the Hillbilly Diner (a new floating breakfast enterprise) where the owner promised bacon flavored treats to all furry friends. "Yaaaay!" Wilbur exclaimed, and we jumped into the dinghy. Only the outboard wouldn't start.

 

Even though we gave the motor several rests just in case we'd flooded it, it never did start and our plans quickly eroded. Wilbur did not get a bacony treat, laundry didn't get done (it's still piling up), a provisioning run was out of the question, but Phil, who happens to be on the boat right beside us, heard me complaining about our problem after we'd rowed* ashore, and offered his expertise. C'mon over! we exclaimed. And he did. BTW, Wilbur is not a fan of rowing; he wants to get to shore 'now' and half way through our slog to the dock he tried to get out and tow us.

*I realize there are a lot of cruisers who don't have outboards and they row everywhere (and they're in fantastic shape too!) but as long as we have an outboard we'd like for it to work.


Over the next few hours Phil and Hans systematically tore that bugger to pieces. Hoses, spark plugs, wires, you name it, that motor got the deluxe spa treatment (In my 50 plus years on this earth I've yet to receive this kind of attention). To me, the motor was starting to take on a smug kind of aura and she still refused to start. The next day on the cruiser's net our problem was made public and we received a lot of good info, yet our motor continued to remain mute. Hans finally gave up and started calling various enterprises and we were dismayed to find their repair schedules were over a week out. And then we found Alex from Sea Tek (who lives not far from us in the mooring field). Within a half hour of our S.O.S., Alex arrived and promptly got down to business. It was obvious that he knew what he was doing and after a few ministrations to our outboard, it fired up like it hadn't a problem in the world.


We were stunned as Alex really did nothing more than point out that a couple of wires Hans had cut had been unnecessary and then he scrubbed the spark plugs with a wire brush. That's it.

 

So, I think we have a bit of sibling rivalry going on here. The Knotty Cat has been gifted with all kinds of bling lately and even though the outboard (the Knotty Dog) did get her carburetor rebuilt back in January, this wasn't good enough. And while I'm sure it gave her a heady feeling to hold all of us hostage for a couple of days she knew she couldn't pull a fast one over on Alex.

 

Alex takes care of business


We were quite happy (Wilbur even more so) to finally motor over to the dinghy dock and Hans hiked to West Marine and bought even more stuff for her highness.


I only hope she's satisfied for the time being.

 

Just as I went to hit the publish button on this, Hans emerged from the starboard engine room and reported to me that the transmission oil plug fell apart in his hand and the dip stick is now stuck in place.

 

 

Daddy, will we ever get to the Bahamas?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Highs and Lows

Another sunset in Marathon

 

I'm talking about the highs and lows of living aboard a boat (although 'highs and lows' could also be a weather reference which as we all know is extremely important when cruising).

I'm beginning to find a strange rhythm to the whole 'I love living on a boat-I hate living on a boat' thing. And it's almost cruel.

It never fails that after we experience a spate of good tidings and begin to relax about our life at sea and exclaim, "Wow, are we lucky or what?", fate turns around and smacks us right upside the head. Every single time.

If you follow our blog at all you'll know what I mean.

 

Just short of two months into our re-entry of the cruising life we've had to have our dinghy's carburetor rebuilt, we've ran aground (but got off on our own) a few times, dragged anchor several times, woke up to and also sailed into pea soup a couple of times, discovered a fresh water leak (our starboard water tank's overflow valve has joined the same troublesome union the rest of our working systems belong to) underneath the mattress in our berth, beat our brains out trying to discern why our batteries couldn't hold a charge, and ended up replacing both engines' alternators.

 

In between these trials, we've had friends join us for a week, met up with friends from years past, actually got to the Dry Tortuga's (Hans can scratch this off his bucket list), enjoyed some beautiful achorages along with beautiful sunsets (sunrises don't come easy to us), unexpectedly ran into friends from our home port of South Pasadena while we were in fabulous Key West, and lastly, after a horribly long day of enduring a 'washing machine' passage (my opinion, while Hans feels it was one of the best sails we've ever experienced) we found ourselves moored in Boot Key Harbor here in Marathon.

When we first went past Boot Key Harbor on our way to the Tortuga's, the mooring field was full with a thirty boat waiting list. This time, on our way back, we were immediately assigned a mooring and we considered ourselves lucky as a weather front was moving in from the north with threats of strong winds and we wanted to be nice and secure. Things were looking up; we were a short distance from the dinghy dock, there is an excellent library exchange here (we had 11 books to trade), and shopping is within walking distance.


A while back I received an email from a blog follower, and she and her husband were going to be in the Marathon/Key West area kinda sorta around the time we were, and perhaps we just might meet up.

Oddly enough, in Marathon, we did.

We made arrangements to meet our new friends on their boat for drinks and appetizers and they even invited Wilbur (honestly, they really did). We normally close down shop on the Knotty Cat by late afternoon, meaning we usually stay put before sundown. I remember the time we were anchored in the Potomac back in 2010 when Hans and I went to a spaghetti dinner at the Capital Yacht Club and we left a young Wilbur on board with all the hatches open. We had barely finished eating when a storm rolled in complete with winds that knocked over a nearby restaurant's umbrella tables, blinding lightning, and slashing rain. Panic set in because we could not see our boat and we were terrified it would drag and our baby was on board. As soon as the rain let up a bit and even though the sky was still alive with lightning we jumped into our dinghy (which was already ankle deep in water) and headed for the Knotty Cat. It was with total relief we found out boat still in place even though the interior was soaked. We were also relieved to find Wilbur none the worse for his experience and as he sat in his crate with water dripping all over him from above, his tail wagged furiously, and we both got big pitty kisses when we let him out. That was the last time we went anywhere in the evening.

This time we weren't worried. We were on a mooring ball and our friends' boat was a short distance away. We had a great time, Wilbur was thoroughly excited to be included and even managed to sneak in a few stinky pitty kisses, and before we knew it it was time to leave. Actually, we should have left sooner because the wind was really kicking up and dark clouds were rolling in. We jumped into the dinghy and as we sped away, all of a sudden it was like someone pulled the shades down and turned out the lights. The wind kicked into full gear and started screaming mournfully through the mooring field. We were so amazed we actually went in the wrong direction (very surprising since I'm pretty sure Hans has a compass built into his brain) and we found ourselves at the wrong end of the mooring field. We got turned around just as lightning began to flash and sharp drops of rain started pelting us. We bounced through the waves and of course most of them washed over the bow and straight into Wilbur's face, and Wilbur, who just lives for dinghy rides, decided this was no fun at all and tried to escape. I forced him down at my feet and then the waves crashed into my face. Normally, this totally pisses me off and Hans kept apologizing over the screaming wind but I told him I didn't care and to please just get us home. He did, and with the stern of our boat blocking some of the wind we managed to get safely aboard.

It didn't end there though. Even with the wind generator working overtime, our batteries didn't look as strong as they should (not a lot of sun earlier so the solar panels hadn't helped) and Hans decided to start up the Honda generator. During a slight lull in the storm he got it up and running and we plugged in all our electronics. But within minutes the oil alarm light on the Honda lit up and it promptly died. Oh my, I wish I'd taken a video of Hans in the cockpit trying to get that big stinker started again. He was already soaked to the skin, and after (over) filling the generator with oil (and please don't get Hans started on how inaccessible the oil filling thingy is) he started ripping the pull cord in a maniacal fashion again and again and again. I bit my tongue (for once) and didn't say anything about how at least he was getting an upper body workout. The generator never did start (although in the bright light of the next day she was quite happy to fire up) but with Windy doing the job she'd been hired to do, the batteries finally leveled off at an acceptable level.

 

We rinsed out our saturated clothing in the shower (clothes soaked in salt water do.not.dry!) and assured our friends via cell phone that we had arrived home safe and sound and it wouldn't be necessary to send Flipper (the aquatic version of Lassie) out to rescue us.


The day after? It was gorgeous with zero humidity and life was good once again.

Wilbur at sunset


I guess this means the shit's gonna hit the fan again and I'm not looking forward to it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

At Sea with Miss Grumpy Pants


Yesterday I discovered I'm a poor sport and a crappy first mate. At least this is my observation and if Hans feels the same way about it he's wisely keeping it to himself.

I think maybe we just got off on the wrong foot first thing in the morning and it just went straight downhill from there.

We left Conch Harbor Marina in Key West on a high note and after motoring a couple of smooth hours we anchored in Saddlebunch Key. We arrived on a high tide yet saw depths as low as 4 feet. Hmmm. But it was a peaceful anchorage and we could see the huge tarpons surfacing all around us which explained the flat bottom fishing boats flitting about. Our plan for the next day was a short sail to Bohia Honda (we stayed there on our way to Key West and even though we dragged anchor we figured we'd be okay this time) so I stayed up later that night than usual.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I woke up around 8 AM because Hans had fired up our engines. "Hurry up." he told me, "we're leaving." Wilbur was lying beside me and gave me his 'here we go again look'.

I will say right now it's not my fault I ran us aground. Why the hell we left at low tide is beyond me but luckily all we did was churn up a bunch of mud and anyway I'm pretty sure the people in the fishing boat next to us were thoroughly entertained. And off we went.

It was windier than forecast and as we bumped and rolled along in the lumpy seas, stuff I hadn't had a chance to stow away started falling off shelves and counters (including the glass-top lid to my sauce pan). I asked Hans when it was going to smooth out since he'd promised me a 'wonderful day of sailing!' He gave me a blank look and said, "Well, this is it." And then he informed me we were shooting straight for Marathon with no stop along the way which meant about eight hours of this nonsense. I flounced down below to try and make coffee and was furious to discover Hans had finished up the last of my 'Wilbur Wow-Wow' cranberry juice even though he has his own bottle of grape juice. Grape juice in a Wow-Wow? Yuck! Oh, and someone shut off the refrigerator for an entire day thus defrosting it (it was just defrosted a week ago). We are both denying it but I think we each secretly blame the other.

After the first hour we let out the jib and since the seas were so rolly, when Hans expressed a desire to put up the main, I insisted on being the one to guide it up the mast and not him. With the engines shut down and by powering with sail only, it was a bit smoother but not enough to make me happy (by now I had my 'grump' on and didn't want to be happy anyway).

Throughout the day Hans was very excited to announce our speed which was usually 6 plus knots and then he wondered why all of a sudden we'd slowed down to four and a half knots. The boat sailing behind us started catching up quickly so we knew the problem must be with us (of course). There were crab pots everywhere and we were being very careful so surely it couldn't be that. I ended up stepping down behind our stern and when I tried to peer under the boat I saw a thick red line running under water directly from our starboard side.

Damn! Honest to god I swear we have a crab trap magnet on the Knotty Cat.

We've been through this drill before and once again I told Hans we would have to lay off the wind if he wanted me to try and snag the damn thing. He decided to heave to and even though the waves were sloshing over the bottom stern steps at least we didn't have forward momentum. I swiped at the water under our stern with our boat hook several times and just as I was ready to give up I snagged the line. I had my left hand wrapped around the main sheet so I wouldn't fall in and as I hauled it up (not easy let me tell you, remember there was a crab or lobster trap on the other end), Hans left the cockpit and laid down on the top step and started sawing at the line with his rigging knife (Wilbur was very interested in this particular activity and I noticed with great alarm how far over the side he was leaning). When Hans announced it was like trying to cut a steel wire and that he was going to go get our wire cutters I yelled, "You're not going anywhere! Just keep sawing the sonofabitch!" And he did. Once we were free of the trap we managed to get turned back around and all of a sudden there was the severed crab pot floating behind us. At least we didn't have to worry about starting our starboard engine when the time came to fire it back up.


The next time this happens (and it will) I fully intend to hang onto the trap. I only hope it's full because as far as I'm concerned we should get a reward for our troubles (sarcasm here, we don't steal crab traps!).

Please note; we have all the respect in the world for crabbing folk, and when the traps are in a line it's very easy to avoid them. However, there are areas where the traps are thickly scattered like buckshot and therefore not so easy to miss.


We ended up reefing the main and rolling the jib in a bit but for me it was still a crappy ride. At one point we had a wave wash over the starboard side and soak an astonished Wilbur. The strange thing is; the winds never went over 22 knots and the waves were only about 3-4 feet.

When we passed the Bohia Honda anchorage Hans was kind enough to ask if I just wanted to go ahead on in and anchor for the night. But since we now only had two more hours to go I figured we may as well sail on.


My stomach was churning, I was sticky with clammy sweat, and covered in a film of salt water spray from when I had to go up to the the bow and clear a line Hans had left there when we weighed anchor (this involved my crab-walking to the front while the bow continually plunged into the water and then shot back up), when I noticed that a fender had rolled off and was dangling over the side up toward the bow. I didn't care that we didn't look ship-shape, said the hell with it, and laid down in the cockpit.


Poor Hans had been stuck in the captain's seat for nearly the whole trip and I had no idea that during last two hours of our voyage he had to go to the bathroom. But, by that time I'm pretty sure he was regarding me with the same respect one gives a junk yard dog and the fear of disturbing me far outweighed the pressure on his bladder.

I'm pretty sure this is what I looked like. Scary!



Finally, after eight long hours we arrived in Marathon and picked up a mooring ball, Hans got to go to the bathroom, and I got to put the inside of our topsy turvy boat back together.



Our berth. This is the first time in seven years this has happened to us.

 

A different angle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And yet one more unexpected pit stop

 

Celebrating a boat with working systems. Finally!

 

Roosters and chickens everywhere in Key West. Wilbur was puzzled about these very strange creatures

 

 

Actually I should say 'expected' pit stop because when you live on a sail boat these things are going to happen. Maybe some day I'll go with the flow and just accept this way of life.


My last few posts have mentioned our issues with power, voltage, alarms, etc... And I'm happy (HAPPY!!!!!) to say we think the Knotty Cat is fixed (until her next melt down anyway).

A brief rundown here (this will also serve as a diary I can refer to when Hans and I discuss this in the future, and believe me we will):

The morning we left the Marquesas on our way back to Key West we noticed our batteries were very low. Even with the engines running, when I started the coffee the batteries did a nose dive and I had to shut the coffee maker off.

We blamed our problem on a completely calm night where our wind generator did nothing. Of course solar panels don't work at night either, right?


Later that afternoon we anchored in Boca Grande and after shutting down the engines an alarm (a very piercing alarm) at the helm went off. Hans thought this over and said it only made sense to sever the wire to the speaker (like when I turn up the radio in the car when I hear noises I don't like) and all was quiet. It was once again calm with no wind and our batteries still drained quickly. Well, crap! I inspected the solar panel connectors at the bow and realized they really were shot so Hans went ahead and cut them off and hard wired them.

 

We still weren't happy so we ran the generator.

 

On to Key West where we picked up a mooring ball. Still no wind and we just knew the solar panels should be doing better so we started the laborous process of trying to find out if the solar panel control box was working. Of course it's in a horribly tight spot in the engine room and Hans had all kinds of fun bypassing it and hard-wiring the panels straight to our batteries.


We both could have sworn it helped but then by nightfall we had to run the generator again. I don't know how long this would have gone on if Hans hadn't stepped into the cockpit during the night and saw alarm lights lit up on the helm. That's when he went down into the starboard engine room and found one very hot alternator and ripped a bunch of wires off of it.


And of course the next day was Friday and when we got ahold of a mechanic he told us he'd try to fit us in on Monday if there were no emergencies.


By now we'd not been on shore for quite a few days and poor Wilbur was starting to get depressed and looked like a Mr. Droopy Drawers. At one point he went below to our berth and curled up into a tight ball with his back to us. I told him I was sorry and he heaved a huge sobbing pit bull sigh and I'm pretty sure I heard him say, "You just don't understand." That's when I told Hans we were going ashore.


Getting our dinghy off the deck and into the water along with lowering the motor onto it takes about forty five minutes and it's a lot more pleasant doing this on a calm day. We zipped Wilbur ashore and surprised him even further with a visit to an off leash dog park! He had a wonderful time sniffing and running and we knew it was time to go when the local dog walkers showed up with their yapping charges and Wilbur latched onto one of them for a hump-a-thon (he may be fixed but he still gives it a go when he can).


At the park getting a drink from his personal water bottle

Wilbur and Jordon the boxer ignored each other after introductory sniffies.


Finally a worn out and happy pit bull. We had lunch at a cuban restaurant.

 

We arrived back to the boat with a happy dog and when the mechanic showed up on Monday, we too were happy. At least we were until he slapped a new alternator on our engine and it spit out some sparks and died. Just like that. Then he told us what we really needed was an electrician.

 

And this is where our unexpected pit stop became a very pleasant one. We agreed to meet the electrician at a dock the next day and we chose Conch Harbor Marina since we'd already been there twice for fuel and we knew it was an easy place to dock. We were thrilled to get a slip and even more thrilled when we saw how wide it was and within seconds Hans had us docked. We were still getting our lines secured when I spotted a friend from the South Pasadena marina we'd lived at for over three years standing on the dock behind us. What a surprise! An even bigger surprise was the boat right beside us; a couple from the very same marina. There are so many marinas here in Key West I still can't believe we all ended up right beside each other.


Our electrician promptly showed up and a couple of hours later we were fixed. It all boiled down to a bad alternator (and apparently the new one that died was defective out of the box). When ours went bad (although the engine can run without it) it allowed the batteries to drain back into it when it wasn't running. And our solar panel control box was just fine and has been put back into action. It's just that it's hot down here in Key West and since our refrigerator has to run more than usual, this challenges our solar panels. We've come to realize our wind generator does a great job (when it's windy!) and this has been an unusually calm week (weather wise anyway).


So many interesting things to see


Our stay at Conch Marina was wonderful and it killed me to only be able to stay one day. Wilbur got tons of walks and came back to the boat exhausted each time. He met other dogs on these walks and was a perfect gentleman. This morning a tiny pekinese type dog lunged and barked at Wilbur and he immediately turned the other way while Pancho's owner apologized for scaring our pit bull.


The marina pool

Pelicans and huge tarpon behind a charter fishing boat that had just came in


If you ever get to Key West you've got to go to the Boat House. Their 4-6:30 happy hour consists of half off appetizers, some beers, wines, and well drinks. We went there twice and if we'd stayed today we'd be there tonight. We shared three appetizers, several draft beers and our bill came to $20.00. Honestly!!



But all good things come to an end and after just one day we left on our trip as we head back toward Marathon.

Sitting at the dock, Wilbur says, "Welcome aboard."