Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hoppy Easter!!

 

This week I discovered I have the biggest refrigerator, the biggest oven, and apparently the biggest mouth here in our marina because for today's Easter get together I'm in charge of cooking the 12 pound ham.

 

Maybe I should have mentioned with that big mouth that I've never cooked a ham in my life.

 

That little heart sticker on Wilbur's head signifies he was a good boy and took his heart worm medicine.

 

 

Wilbur thinks I'm a fabulous cook and has volunteered to be the official taste tester. As long as it's covered in whipped creme, he says, life is good.

 

 

 

 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let the bitching continue...

 

... since that's all I seem to do these days.

Last weekend we motored out into the bay so we could spend the night at anchor. Everything went very well in that I got the boat out of the slip without scaring the bejusus out of our neighbors, our anchor dug in solidly, we enjoyed a peaceful breezy evening, played a few games of Yahtzee, slept like logs, had a huge breakfast including coffee with all the fixin's (a weekend tradition that involves hazelnut creamer, knock off Bailey's, and a lot of whipped cream), and executed a successful re-docking at our slip minus the drama of sucking trailing lines from our pilings into either one of our propellers.

 

For longer than I care to admit, we've used this green hulk as a one of our waypoints when anchoring in the bay. Only recently has it been brought to our attention that it's known for its frequent dragging.

 

Our systems played fair for a change; our solar panels soaked up the sunlight and our wind generator hummed in the breeze. We woke up to find our batteries still fully charged and Hans was then able to make our coffee thanks to our new (and cheap) RV inverter (remember, our marine inverter died awhile back).

So, what went wrong? Well, I hate to admit it, but I bragged on FaceBook about how much fun we'd had. Honest to God, I did. It was kind of like sending out that obnoxious annual Christmas Card letting everyone know our life is better than theirs. That's why I take full responsibility for the fact that when the electrician shows up at our boat tomorrow we will have been without electric for a week (but we did rig up a solution, explanation to follow).

What happened was, once we were back in our slip and fully hooked back up to shore power, I was down below taking a much needed shower when I heard an alarm go off. Of course this happened right when I had my hair completely full of shampoo. "Tell me I can rinse my hair!" I screamed out to Hans while keeping my eyes tightly closed. He told me I could and I did, but needless to say, we've been showering at the bath house ever since.


On a side note; Hans, who is first and foremost a scientist and believes if you can't see it, smell it, or touch it, it doesn't exist, is finally coming over to my side and is beginning to believe that there might just be something to my theory about an 'appliance union' wherein all the inner workings of the Knotty Cat are continually conspiring against us. Because (and this just blows my mind), our battery charger died on us. This was the remaining half of our inverter/charger that I posted about awhile back. When the inverter side died (it supplied us with AC power while at anchor) we were just thankful that the charger was still working.


And then it wasn't.


We (with my wet hair dripping down my back) sat it the cockpit and debated about what to do and decided to roll out our portable solar panels in hope that they could keep up with our daily demand. We didn't count on unseasonably cloudy and rainy weather moving in and the next day found me nervously monitoring our batteries like a mother hen and when they dipped down to 11.9 volts I ended up starting and idling our port engine two times. So we dragged our shore power cord into the boat and luckily we have an adapter and when Hans bought a battery charger on his way home from work we plugged it into our adapter and so far so good. And when I expressed my concern about what we would do if we were at anchor with no sun or wind, Hans reminded me that we have the Honda 2000 and it has an outlet we could plug the charger into.


However, on a positive note, our adapter has three outlets so we added a power strip and voila!! we have TV, a fan, and since it was ugly outside I was able to use my sewing machine all week long.


Our new battery charger fits perfectly under our companion way steps. A temporary fix until we get the boat repaired.
 

But even with all these wonderful solutions, I still don't have hot water. The only way to heat it is by running the engines and we're not going there. I now heat water on the stove for washing dishes and like I said before we have the bath house for showers.

 

Shore power cord on the left, adapter on the right.



Getting full use of the three outlets on the adapter.



And even more use thanks to this power strip. This all looks like something out of 'A Christmas Story' when Ralphie's dad overloaded the living room outlet with the tree lights.



An overview. Yes, that's our TV in the background.

 

Time to wash dishes.

 

And rinse them. I used our garden hose on day one because our water pump was draining the batteries. Now that we have the battery chargers I just rinse them with cold water.


Wilbur supervises from the stern while I repair our dodger.



Hanging up behind Wilbur is the quilt top I worked on all week. He thinks it's for him. It's not.


We originally replaced our inverter charger when we first moved on board in 2010 and I told Hans I feel like we've come full circle. Just when we felt like we had our ducks in a row, we're starting all over again. I'm just hoping and praying that our heads don't buy into the whole appliance union thing because I've spent more time on them than I ever dreamed I would.

 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Try not to be too quick to judge.

 

 

Last week I got caught up with the blog 'Rebel Heart' written by Charlotte Kaufman. I ran across Charlotte's blog a long time ago when I was googling boat type sewing information. Thanks to her I found a YouTube tutorial that shows how to sew a pillowcase that has no raw seams. I loved it and after a $40.00 visit to the fabric store I soon had four completed (and very pricey) pillowcases. I realize this has nothing to do with maritime sewing but it made me feel good (and it also dressed up our berth). Charlotte sewed tons of stuff for her family's boat and last night when I watched the dramatic NBC news broadcast of their rescue at sea, I was shocked, when amid all the drama, I recognized the beautiful salon cushions Charlotte sewed.

 

I can't imagine there are very many people out there who haven't heard this story and I hope those that do, don't rush to judgement too soon without knowing the specifics. But for those who haven't, here's a brief rundown. Charlotte and her husband Eric (a certified captain) have been liveaboard cruisers for several years and last month they set off on an around the world cruise. They left Mexico with their two daughters (3 years old and 1 year old) on a heavily provisioned (and I mean something like 4 months worth) blue water boat. This is nothing new in the cruising world and over the years many families have safely completed this voyage.

It can be a tedious journey and Charlotte's posts are brutally honest (which most likely explains the vicious nature of many comments on many forums). The newscast stated that the baby had suffered from salmonella poisoning that had been diagnosed before the family left port, but they also reported that doctors had cleared them for departure. This wasn't news for those who follow the blog because Charlotte wrote about delaying the trip while she and her girls had to take rounds of antibiotics after a check up revealed problems. It was after the doctor declared them okay to go they left Mexico on the first leg of their journey to Australia. Charlotte and Eric updated their blog frequently and then a couple of days after the last post and nearly two weeks into their jouney there they were on the news. Of course most of the early reports were conjecture and the first report I heard on TV was that a couple who are sailing around the world were on a disabled boat with an infant that has heart problems. I immediately knew they were talking about the Kaufmans but I also knew Lyra did not suffer from heart problems. If I hadn't known who they were referring to I, too, would have wondered who the hell goes out to sea under those circumstances. And I believe that's about all it takes to bring the haters out of the woodwork. It kind of makes me wonder how many other news stories start out wrong because the media feels the need to 'fill in' the blanks.

 

This much we know: A call for help was sent from Rebel Heart. The baby was sick and the boat disabled. Rescue crews were dispatched and upon arriving on the scene were able to stabilize the baby. Unfortunately, they could not get the boat restarted and once the family was evacuated, it was scuttled (purposely sunk). Personally I feel the situation was handled well. The Kaufmans had the proper equipment to call for help and did. I know a lot of people are upset about the cost of the operation, but that's what rescue squads are trained to do. Wouldn't it be a perfect world if they were never needed.

 

So here's a true story I read a few years ago. A cruising couple (mom was pregnant) and their two year old set out on a known to be very dangerous passage (I can't remember the exact piece of water). Among other problems, they knowingly left on a boat with bilge pump issues. For crew they brought along an exotic dancer they'd just met who had no sailing experience. The passage was every bit as bad as it had been described and in addition to a couple of knockdowns they took on an alarming amount of water. Of course the automatic bilge pumps quit working and had to be manually operated. The wife was down below in a berth with the two year old and the husband had to man the pumps with the dancer at the helm. There were a couple of times they nearly did sink when huge waves crashed over them and the husband couldn't keep up with the manual pumps (after all, he could only handle one pump at a time). But somehow they survived and later on wrote a rather light hearted article about it. Of course the world didn't weigh in on this couples questionable decision to take off on an un-seaworthy boat because, lucky for them, nothing happened.

 

The point of my story? We can prepare and take precautions and try to always do the right thing, but then life happens. Because honestly, Rebel Heart should have had a typical sailing adventure; not always pleasant and easy but certainly manageable. And that other boat? There are a lot of vessels like that sailing around and somehow they manage to stay afloat.

 

We make decisions every day to drive on highways, fly on airplanes, and sail the seas. And sometimes bad things just happen.

 

I'm relieved that Lyra appears to be doing well and I can't imagine what it was like for Charlotte and Eric when they were told their home had to be destroyed. If you read any of the links I provided you can see how hard they worked to make that boat a real home.

 

I do know they have a huge support group among the sailing community and I hope only the best for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Trying to Maintain a Blog on Blogsy

 

I've never been a whiz on the computer but I'm amazed how over time, instead of becoming more proficient at all things electronic, I seem to be sliding downhill far too quickly.

My laptop died last year and I've been relying on my iPad 2 for everything. So, for posting on my blog I can't just jump onto Blogger because it's not supported on my iPad which means I have to use an app called Blogsy. I read the reviews and people (computer savvy people I should add) looooooove it! Oh, it's the best! I watched many youtube videos and yes it did look easy. Until I tried to use it. I'm a person who learns from repetition and it's difficult to use a program that updates itself frequently. I swear everytime I try to post, something has changed; from my choice of font, how to link, to posting pictures, and I can't believe it doesn't have spell check.

Yesterday was a fine (or rather excruciating) example of my attempt at Blogsy. I had a post all written, edited, and saved. When I posted it, half my text was gone and none of my pictures had captions. I jumped back onto Blogsy and sure enough half my post was gone. So I tried to rewrite it and post again. By the time I was done I discovered my blog now had three posts reflecting various drafts (one of them completely in italics!). I was able to delete one of them and then I gave up for fear I'd lose everything.

 

Wilbur expresses his opinion of Blogsy

So here I am giving it one more go. Oh, and a few days ago I bought the goWriter app (because the reviews said people looooove it! It's the best!). Well, you should have seen me try to use it. I'm seriously thinking I need to find a cave wall and buy a chisel.

 

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Boat Stuff

This has possibly turned into the most boring blog in, well, in the whole blogosphere.

It's not such a big deal since I obviously don't get paid for this thing and I know very few people read it, and it's not like it was ever very exciting but it still bugs the hell out of me how stale it's gotten. However, one of the reasons I post here is to keep track of the stuff we've done to the boat and it's also helped us settle some minor disputes like, "That's not at all what happened, don't you remember...?" "That happened the day before Wilbur jumped overboard" or "Before you fell overboard!" or "Before the sun pad flew overboard."

Dear god, a lot of stuff has gone overboard the Knotty Cat. Maybe I better shut up before...

Well anyway, on to yet one more boring blog post.

Our inverter died right around the time we installed our wind generator. This inverter both charged our batteries and allowed us to use our outlets while motoring with our Diesel engines. Luckily, the battery charging part works but without shore power or our Honda generator we could no longer use our outlets for charging phones, computers, etc... Damn, it's always something.

A new inverter would cost us around $1,000 so we decided we really didn't need one because at anchor we could always hook up the Honda on an as needed basis. And then Hans got the bright idea of buying an RV inverter (the outside of the box states: not designed for marine use, but since when do we follow the rules?) Actually, he bought two of them. A small DC one that can charge phones, computers, etc... and a bigger AC one that can actually allow us to make coffee and still keep our refrigerator running. Along with battery cables the bill came to around $140.00. We tested this system the other morning after disconnecting from shore power. After unfurling and connecting the solar panels we then accidently touched the inverter cables together resulting in a shocking and brilliant display in the galley. The fact that Hans' scheme worked almost paled in comparison.

The inverter mounted under the companionway steps.

 
A view from afar.

I forgot to take a picture before mounting it so here's a picture of the box.

This is the smaller DC unit. It can charge our computers and even (be-still my heart) run our TV. Talk about getting away from it all.

I put a pen beside it so you can see how small it is.

 

It has a USB outlet and an AC outlet for regular plugs.

 
Here are our solar panels, at the bow, atop our tarp covered dinghy (and, no, I don't need to be reminded that the tarp is wrong side out!).

Since they're portable, we can disconnect them, roll them up...


...and store them in a locker.

Of course these little gizmos will only work if we have 8 or more MPH of wind (wind generator) or sunshine (solar panels), but at least they now keep our batteries topped off so we can run our refrigerator and anchor light all night long.

We could continue to add layers of systems to the Knotty Cat but I think (except for regular maintenance required gy those who own boats) we're pretty much done.

Unless of course I talk Hans into a 'so easy even your wife can install it' water-maker.

New Boat Stuff

This has possibly turned into the most boring blog in, well, in the whole blogosphere.

It's not such a big deal since I obviously don't get paid for this thing and I know very few people read it, and it's not like it was ever very exciting but it still bugs the hell out of me how stale it's gotten. However, one of the reasons I post here is to keep track of the stuff we've done to the boat and it's also helped us settle some minor disputes like, "That's not at all what happened, don't you remember...?" "That happened the day before Wilbur jumped overboard" or "Before you fell overboard!" or "Before the sun pad flew overboard."

Dear god, a lot of stuff has gone overboard the Knotty Cat. Maybe I better shut up before...

Well anyway, on to yet one more boring blog post.

Our inverter died right around the time we installed our wind generator. This inverter both charged our batteries and allowed us to use our outlets while motoring with our Diesel engines. Luckily, the battery charging part works but without shore power or our Honda generator we could no longer use our outlets for charging phones, computers, etc... Damn, it's always something.

A new inverter would cost us around $1,000 so we decided we really didn't need one because at anchor we could always hook up the Honda on an as needed basis. And then Hans got the bright idea of buying an RV inverter (the outside of the box states: not designed for marine use, but since when do we follow the rules?) Actually, he bought two of them. A small DC one that can charge phones, computers, etc... and a bigger AC one that can actually allow us to make coffee and still keep our refrigerator running. Along with battery cables the bill came to around $140.00. We tested this system the other morning after disconnecting from shore power. After unfurling and connecting the solar panels we then accidently touched the inverter cables together and were treated to a shocking and brilliant display in the galley. We were so relieved that the batteries and inverter weren't fried, the fact that Hans' scheme worked almost paled in comparison.

The inverter mounted under the companionway steps.

A view from afar.

I forgot to take a picture before mounting it so here's a picture of the box.

This is the smaller DC unit. It can charge our computers and even (be-still my heart) run our TV. Talk about getting away from it all.

I put a pen beside it so you can see how small it is.

It has a USB outlet and an AC outlet for regular plugs.

Here are our solar panels at the bow atop our tarp covered dinghy (and, no, I don't need to be reminded that the tarp is wrong side out!)

Since they're portable, we can disconnect them, roll them up...


...and store them in a locker.

Of course these little gizmos will only work if we have 8 or more MPH of wind (wind generator) or sunshine (solar panels), but at least they now keep our batteries topped off so we can run our refrigerator and anchor light all night long.

We could continue to add layers of systems to the Knotty Cat but I think (except for regular maintenance required by those who own boats) we're pretty much done.

Unless of course I talk Hans into a 'so easy even your wife can install it' water-maker.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Good Weekend or a Bad One?

Normally, winter here in Florida equates to really great sailing weather. Last year we enjoyed a great week during Thanksgiving when we sailed to Tarpon Springs and then on New Year's Eve we anchored out with friends for the holiday. Needless to say, none of that happened this year as it's been one of the worst winters on record as if anyone needs me to remind them.
But, since summer will be here before we know it, we're trying to anchor out as often as we can before we become 'marina bound' yet once again. And now that I think about it I realize I've forgotten how lucky we are that the Gulf is easily accessable and that we have many anchorages nearby. We can go out sailing for the day, come in to the bay to anchor for the night, and then spend as much time on the hook as we want the next day as we can motor home within an hour.
Lately we've been anchoring out in an attempt to test our solar panels and wind generator and a couple of weeks ago we finally had success. So this past weekend we headed back out knowing we would have a totally relaxing and peachy keen time.
 

You can't go wrong with breakfast mimosas in the cockpit.

along with sausage, eggs, toast, and french press coffee.

We spent the evening in the cockpit since it was so calm and we also had a full moon. During the night the wind kicked in and by morning Windy our wind generator was hard at work keeping our batteries charged.

Here our gauge reads 15 amps. We saw it hit 18 several times. Wow! Our batteries were charging at over 14 volts, more than we get on shore power.

So, yes, it was a beautiful evening but if you know Hans and me you know something surely had to go wrong. We towed the dinghy behind us because I wanted to use it at the anchorage so I could scrub the port side of the Knotty Cat. I can't do this in the marina since there's a boat right beside us. About the only thing I managed to accomplish with this little plan was to pull more muscles in my arms than I knew I had. Even though it was a calm day the water was very choppy due to all the weekend/St. Patty's Day traffic (I love power boats that roar through anchorages zipping past boats and totally oblivious to our pesky anchor chains) and I tried very hard to balance in the dinghy in order to scrape some old tape residue left over from last year. One moment I'd be poised above the sticky mess and the next I'd find myself far below it. I slammed up and down, up and down all the while clutching the deck in order to balance myself. I actually felt myself getting sea sick and finally gave up. We then hoisted the dinghy onto our foredeck so we wouldn't have to tow it back to the marina the next day which was probably the smartest thing we did all week end.

Why do propane tanks always seem to kick when you're especially starved and in the middle of cooking dinner (of course you don't realize this until you open the oven door an hour later and dinner is still raw)? I'm happy to report we have a spare tank and I had remembered to buy potato chips. We finally sat down to dinner at our little cockpit table and I was starting to feel really good about being at anchor when WHAM! something hit me square in the face. I was soaked and when I opened my eyes I saw the cockpit covered in purplish/red splashes and my wine glass rolling all over the floor. My hair, shirt, and only pair of good shorts (cream colored and why I wore them to anchor out I have no idea) were soaked. WTF! Hans looked stunned and then said the wrong thing, "That's not a proper holder for that wine glass." because in the process of standing up he'd swept his big German arm over the helm pod which happens to have cup holders which happened to be holding my very full plastic wine glass, and while I know nothing about physics, his hand caught my glass in such a way we had ourselves a perfect storm. It looked like a massacre had taken place. Thank God for Krud Kutter and I mean really, since every time we turned around we were finding dried red wine stains, and one squirt of that stuff took care of it. Later that night I discovered even the back of my head hadn't escaped and my hair was matted with dried wine. I said the hell with it and went to bed.

When I woke up on Sunday morning I found I ached all the way to my armpits thanks to my boat cleaning efforts, but hey, that's what mimosas are for. Shortly after breakfast when it became very apparent that the 25 knot winds ripping through the anchorage had indeed arrived about 8 hours sooner than predicted and were not going to go away, we decided we may as well head back to the marina.

We probably should've gone in as soon as we woke up but I'm the one who resisted and kinda hoped the wind would die down. All I wanted to do was sit in the cockpit, listen to 'Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me' on NPR, and read my latest library book. But there's something about relentless wind (even though the wind generator was doing its thing) that gets on my nerves and I agreed we may as well head back in.

We bounced through the bay that by now had white caps and I sincerely hoped that it wasn't blowing too badly in our marina. But it was and I was really glad the dinghy was out of the way and we wouldn't have to deal with it in the water. Normally as soon as we get to the entrance of our marina and start down the alley (as I call it) the wind seems to disappear as we're very protected here. But even though it wasn't as windy as it was out in the bay it was still blowing something like 16 knots and my heart started to race when I saw a line of boat masts tick-tocking in their slips. Hans warned me we needed to get this right the first time as once he started backing into our slip I would need to snag and hold tight to the line on our starboard side piling or we'd slam into the boat to port. I had the line in hand but I had to work my way around our dinghy's outboard which is secured at the stern of the Knotty Cat. No way could I keep enough tension with just one hand and for the moment it took me to get around the motor we were hard on the port side piling. Not such a bad thing as this kept us off the boat next to us and Hans used it to pivot on while I got both hands back on the piling line. Even with putting everything I had into it while walking the boat back into the slip, Hans had to hit our engines hard to keep her from sliding sideways in the wind. Luckily a couple from down the way showed up just then and while I was still pulling for all I was worth up front Hans was able to toss them a stern line and they helped fend us off. And just like that we were in.

And if I thought my arms hurt earlier... when we were finally all tied up I realized my fingers felt like someone had tried to pull each one out of its socket.


Wilbur loves to go sailing but it seriously wears him out. And please, no more bouncy seas!

Of course there's always the work involved getting things back in order after being out. Reconnecting to shore power, running all the hoses, cables, etc... that we use in the slip, hosing off the anchor (which had more gunk on it than I've ever seen, we were really dug in), rehanging our sun shade, and getting things back out that we store while underway. Finally, and not until all that was done, I got my shower. I walked into the salon feeling very clean and happy that my hair wasn't dyed red from the wine when I saw Wilbur crouched in that all too familiar puking pose. On our tiny piece of carpet. Of course I didn't get to him in time so instead of one huge pile of gross puke to clean up, I now had a huge pile plus the trail he left when I tried to get him off the carpet. Hans had been sitting just a foot or so away from him and never saw this coming and I was just waiting for him to say that carpet is not a proper place for a dog to puke.

But when you think about it, our solar panels soaked up the sun, our wind generator hummed in the wind, our anchor light glowed all night and didn't drain our batteries, the refrigerator never had to be turned off, we enjoyed a beautiful night complete with a full moon, we didn't drag at anchor, the cockpit didn't suffer permanent wine stains (nor my hair), we got back into the slip under pretty crappy circumstances without any damage, and Wilbur got a thorough cleansing.

At the end of the day I guess you could say we did have a peachy keen time!