Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

My first memory of New Year's Eve is of me and my sister spending the night with our great-grandmother (my mother's grandmother). We would ring in the New Year with Grandma Mabel, Jackie Gleason, Lawrence Welk, and Grandma's tuna macaroni salad with Ritz crackers.

My favorite New Year's Eve memories are the years my son (who will be 28 this April) and I spent watching Nickelodeon's Count Down while we held night long Yahtzee marathons.

This New Year's Eve finds Hans, Wilbur, and me in our little apartment along with my youngest daughter, who, while on Christmas break, is apparently suffering from a nasty bout of food poisoning (I'm not sure if she'll ever order a grilled chicken sandwich from a mini mart again). So far today, all she's been able to ingest is: one bite of toast, some Gatorade, and a half can of coke. Wilbur has been full of sympathy and has spent far too much of his time with his head deep in the toilet with my baby girl who could really do without his concern.

Maybe not the best way to start off a new year but hopefully things will get better.

This Thursday, Hans, Wilbur, and I will drive to Charleston, South Carolina where our Knotty Cat has been languishing since the beginning of November. We will then restart our journey south to Florida, and hopefully the Bahamas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

I found one big roll of wrapping paper at Target (can you tell!) and still have a ton left over.

One of the only safe places to keep everyone's gifts was on top of Wilbur's crate (a place he avoids at all costs but still ended up spending some time out on Christmas Eve**).

**where bad little pitties go who eat things they aren't allowed to.

Hans is a Leo so I was very happy to find a cute little lion ornament that I taped to one of his gifts.

Wilbur was very happy too (STUFFY!).


We caught him with Hans' lion before he did too much damage.

Monopoly! For the boat!

When I first met Hans a few years ago he reminisced about the time he and his two brothers nearly came to blows over a game of Monopoly. Insults (Socialist! Greedy Pig!...) flew and the game only ended when the board, tokens, motels, and money went flying in all directions.

Of course I thought this was terribly endearing and asked, "How old were you?" expecting to hear they were perhaps ten or twelve.

"Oh, it was just a couple of years ago," was the answer.

Last year when I mentioned to Hans' younger brother that we like to play Scrabble and that I hate to lose he said, "Whatever you do don't ever play Monopoly with him, a few years ago he actually made me cry."

So here I am with my present and Hans insisted on taking pictures.

If I'd know pictures were involved I would have done something with my hair.

Wow! A box full of newspaper!

Oops! Here's another present.

I remember doing this very same thing to my grandmother years ago.

Uh-oh, a VistaPrint box.

Please tell me he didn't get me dirty business cards.

Sonofagun another present.

I wondered why the hell I could hear Hans cutting and taping for so long when I knew he only had a couple of presents to wrap.

And finally the last box.

A dolphin pendant for my necklace.

In years past, Hans has given me a sailboat and a light house, and I'm hoping dolphins really are good luck because I'll be wearing this when we get back on the boat.

Wilbur loves the holidays.

At Labor Day he (stole) ate most of a pumpkin pie.

At Thanksgiving he (stole) ate most of a butterscotch creme pie.

And last night on Christmas Eve he ate (stole) a whole bowl of shrimp.

Ahhh! Visions of thirty shrimp tails are dancing and hopefully digesting in his head!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season

We're still tying up loose ends of things that need to be taken care of before getting back on the boat (and we're really hoping that Hans' new Canadian passport gets here on time!) but instead of boring you with those details I'll post about the holiday season instead.

Christmas has come to mean many things to me over the years.

When I was in the first grade it was the sheer excitement of making paper chains for our Christmas tree out of green and red construction paper, watching The Grinch and Rudolph on TV, fighting with my sister over who got to hang what on the tree, Santa Claus, and of course all those wonderful presents.

When I had kids of my own, and it was all about waiting until they were asleep (which seemed to take forever) so I could try to quietly sneak all their presents under the tree, and I can still remember how thrilled they were when I (with a lot of drama) complained that Rudolph and his cronies had left chomped up bits of carrots all over our deck, and did anyone happen to see Santa's sleigh tracks (made at around 3 AM with a broom handle) on the deck?

Then I was suddenly single with two jobs, and three kids who didn't care if I put up a tree or not as long as they got presents. Honestly, I tried to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but it's tough when December was the month the township snowplow knocked over my mail box and when I called my dad for help, I had to first get past my mother (who doesn't have a job but wants to tell me about what a bad day she's had and how my father is driving her crazy). It's the December where it snowed every single day and I found myself shoveling the driveway (in between my two jobs) at both 7 AM and midnight thus leaving me feeling like a wrung out dishrag, or the infamous December when the muffler fell off my car and the starter on my daughter's car died, and the only time I had left to shop for presents was Christmas Eve.

And finally, December is the month of the company Christmas party. The entire month.

Oh sure, Christmas parties are just peachy keen and tons of fun when you're an attendee of one or perhaps two, but just try being a waitress for an entire month times ten years of them and then see how you feel.

Putting up with beer deaf drunks, bossy wives who envision themselves as Mistress of the Manor, discovering the freezer is broke when it comes time to serve 48 scoops of liquid ice cream, struggling with fifty pound trays of dirty dishes on your shoulder all night long because for some reason everyone wants to congregate in the only narrow doorway to the room... I did this for over ten years and I'll never forget the weekend I clocked in over 32 hours (in addition to my full time job) from Friday night to Sunday evening at a beautiful private club.

I still remember how tired I was on Friday night (and was already wondering how the hell I would make it through Sunday) after the first party ended at around 2 AM and we still had to tear down the banquet tables and put up round ones for Saturday's brunch. After Saturday's brunch we tore down those tables, completely rearranged the dining room, ordered pizza, and folded about a thousand napkins in preparation for The Big Party.

The Big Party was thrown by a wealthy local contractor who was a good customer, employed a lot of townspeople, and we were to be on our best behavior.

I knew it would be an interesting night when I saw men arriving in everything from filthy jeans and flannel shirts to leisure suits and cowboy boots, to women in ball gowns and homemade tattoos to flannel shirts and cowboy boots.

At these parties the waitstaff is usually given three to four tables of eight to ten people each. The menu is set; meaning everyone gets the same soup and salad, and a choice of three entrees (beef, fish, chicken, and the occasional vegetarian dish). This allows everything to run smoothly (for the most part) and hopefully a good time is had by all.

I immediately knew I was in trouble when I discovered that one of the men I had to wait on had such tremendous BO that it made my eyes smart and I felt like I had my nose jammed deep in his armpits all night long. He exacerbated the problem by dousing himself with an entire bottle of Aqua Velva and I then spent the rest of the night taking a deep breath before launching myself at his table, expelling it after I left, and ended up feeling like a Japanese pearl diver for the remainder of the evening. I felt very bad for the man at my next table who had a terrible speech impediment and I acted like I didn't notice it at all and was very patient even though we were expected to get our orders to the kitchen 'yesterday'!

No one understood that their Prime Rib would be 'medium' (and no I can not turn medium into rare!) and all the men ordered an end piece. Just how many end pieces do you think a prime rib has I wanted to ask.

As I was madly clearing soup cups, dropping off salads, refilling water goblets, and serving drinks, a man from a neighboring table (not mine) flagged me down, and since I had to be polite and couldn't say "Sorry you're not my station," I was forced to acknowledge him.

He was of the 'filthy jeans' club and he and his cronies were having quite the wild time. He was laughing so hard he could barely speak but unfortunately he did. "I want you (by now he was doubled over with laughter), I want you (snicker, snicker) to take this ( he held up his cup of untouched french onion soup) to that table ( he pointed to a table clear across the room) and tell them (snicker, snicker, and by now his friends were guffawing with laughter too) that it's from me."

I was stunned, decided to take my chances (after all it was my word against his), said, "No," and walked away.

In the middle of trying to serve the main entree one of my customers stopped me and instructed me to watch him. He then went through a very dramatic demonstration wherein he performed a magic trick and bent a spoon. By now I was numb with disbelief as I'd realized earlier in the evening that this particular group of construction workers were the very ones responsible for building the elementary school that all of my children had attended. I still thank God that I never possessed that nugget of information when my kids were younger or I probably would have ended up with ulcers because I surely would not have been able to afford send them to private school.

Anyway, the magician waited with bated breath for my praise.

"Wow!" I exclaimed, and he glowed with pride. "Honest to God!" and here I placed my hand over my heart and he sat up even straighter. "I haven't seen that trick since the sixth grade, and I wasn't impressed with it then either!" As I walked away his friends howled with laughter and punched him in the arm.

I did feel horrible though when the man with the speech impediment gave me hell on one of my trips to his table. He had been shut off at the bar for being drunk, was very upset, and implied that I was the one responsible. I'd only served him one beer and having no idea what he was talking about I assured him I'd done no such thing, but he never did believe or forgive me.

After dinner, along with clearing tables, we were required to continue running drinks for everyone. I was standing at the bar waiting to place an order when the bartender, without missing a beat, and while shaking a whiskey sour said to me, "Laura, would you please go into the kitchen and see if you can find the remainder of this gentleman's tie? He seems to have misplaced it." It took me a moment but I looked at the man next to me and nearly died when I saw that his necktie did indeed stop short about three quarters of the way up his shirt front. I felt my face burn and I waited in horror for the 'gentleman' in question to raise hell about being insulted. Instead, he gave me a big smile and after he left I realized he was same man who'd been ordering CC & gingerale from me all night long (and lucky for me I hadn't noticed the tie issue since he'd been sitting down) but was really getting 'well' whiskey and 7UP because the bartender said he'd never notice.

An executive and his wife got into huge fight and she retaliated by jerking all over the dance floor in her very low cut gown with one of the construction workers, who having no idea he was being used, turned beet red with the unexpected pleasure of being chosen, and the exertion of trying to keep up with her.

The last of the guests left at around 2 AM and once again we had to rearrange the whole dining room for Sunday's brunch. Only then were we finally able to sink our exhausted bodies into the comfortable sofas of the darkened bar and enjoy the moon sitting low over the frozen lake. With beers in hand we gossiped about the single 'sequined evening gown' who seemed to spend quite a bit of time with the married 'Fu Manchu mustache', found out some of the guests had taken bets on which would happen first; the executives wife's dress would 'fail' or her dance partner would drop dead, and tried to figure out a remedy for getting the smell of sour sweat out of my nostrils.

We got through Sunday's brunch, and re-set for a late afternoon company party which I'm sorry to say was very staid and therefor very boring (ie: no sequins, magic tricks, cowboy boots, or dirty dancing), and finally after cleaning up the dining room from that party I went home.

I'm still not overly fond of Christmas, mostly because I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of futility I endured for so many years, so it shouldn't be a huge surprise to hear that I still don't put up a tree or decorate (but I'm not a complete Scrooge and have stored all my treasured ornaments in a box in my sister's basement). But Hans is a whole different story.

You can see Hans has put up not just one, but three trees!!

I just shook my head and said, "Fine, but you're the one who gets to take them down after Christmas!"

Merry Christmas, Happy: Holidays, Hanukkah, and Festivus, or just plain old Bah Humbug to one and all from Laura, Hans, and Wilbur!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing Going On.

This has been a very cold December and no one knows it better than our Wilbur. When we try to get him to go outside to do his business, he does what I call an illegal U-Turn which means he whips around and heads back inside before his hindquarters even get near the frigid cold air.

Today he was terrified and tried to get away from the snow flakes that were falling around him and ended up looking like someone trying to dodge acid rain.

Actually it was kind of sad because he's such a sweet dog and I hate to see him afraid of anything.

I spent today condensing a bunch of food provisions from their cardboard boxes to zip lock bags.

Since Wilbur will be sailing with us, he felt the need to supervise.

I had quite a few Hamburger/Tuna Helper dinners and I was surprised to discover that each and every one of them requires a different amount of water/milk/and butter.

And since I packed more than one type of dinner in each gallon zip lock bag, in addition to including an identifying part of the cardboard front of the box, I also had to cut out the directions. Dear God, this is getting complicated!

Here are the gutted boxes sans their identifying fronts and directions.

Two storage boxes have now been condensed into one!

Now for the mystery of the missing fitted sheet! I mentioned quite awhile back that I'd misplaced one of the custom made fitted sheets for our boat. I had literally gone through the entire apartment and even though I never throw anything away I still couldn't find it.

And then today I finally decided to either finish the backpack I started to make this summer from scratch (meaning no pattern) or just throw it out. Anyway, I unzipped my bag and discovered that in an attempt to see how it would look with something in it, I'd stuffed our sheet into it!!! I'm thrilled to pieces because only yesterday I'd checked eBay for queen size fitted sheets and the only one I could find started at around $20.00 and I would still need to alter it.

This is my still unfinished back pack complete with raw edges.

Here it is!!!

The missing fitted sheet!!

And since a back pack is great for taking provisions to the boat, I'm going to go ahead and finish this one. At least I'll have something to carry our sheets in.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

And just leave it to the Knotty Cat to find a way to take advantage of it.

When we left our girl in Charleston, SC this fall we debated about whether to winterize her or not. And since we were (and still are) going to return to her at the end of December, before it really gets cold, we were advised not to.

Well guess what? Not only is it going to get cold this weekend, the temperatures are expected to plummet into the teens.

In South Carolina!

So not only did we suffer through the hottest summer on record this year, we are now experiencing the coldest it's not even winter yet on record.

After receiving a concerned call from the boat yard (where the Knotty Cat has been drying out) that they were expecting temperatures in the teens this weekend, we needed to make a decision. Should we just pay them to winterize her, or should we rent a vehicle (which we would need for at least three days) and drive down there and do it ourselves.

We would also need to decide whether Wilbur would made the trip with us or spend a few expensive days at Doggy Day Care where we've discovered he's hugely popular and always welcome.

In the end it was cheaper to have the yard do the work but what kills me is that it's only going to be needed for a total of three weeks!

Honest to God, three weeks!

Today we were informed that the Knotty Cat has been successfully winterized and I swear I can hear her purring all the way up here because yet once again, she's gotten her own way.

What a Prima Donna. She should give lessons!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Even more boat stuff!

Last week after my little rant about how difficult it is to get accurate information about sailing to the Bahamas, I received an email. It was from the Bahamas and I immediately got the same sinking stomach feeling I got the time I was sent to the Principal's office in the second grade and lived in fear for months afterward that my parents would find out.

Only after remembering that the Bahamas aren't exactly in my back yard, and anyway I just dare them to find Hans and me in a city that even after two years I still haven't fully learned to navigate, I opened the message.

Tremendous relief flooded through me when I realized it was not from an unhappy Bahamian government agency but from a friend of Hans' brother, and she lives in Elbow Cay. Michaela was very kind and offered to help us in any way she can and suggested we purchase The Dodge Guide to Abaco.

We've already bought quite a few navigational guides and Hans felt this was a bit redundant but since I've elected myself as the 'Queen of Everything to do with The Knotty Cat' I vetoed Hans and bought Mr. Dodge's book anyway. It arrived today.

Every time I turn around there's another package at the door and it's always something for the boat. In the last week alone we received a spot light (obviously used but we're going to keep it anyway), a propane detector (which I hope is not a reflection on my cooking), and just today....

The Abaco Guide!!

Hans also went to our local Verizon store and bought a FiveSpot Global Ready 3G Mobile HotSpot (say that 3 times fast after a couple of bourbons!).

Here is Hans proudly holding some of our latest acquisitions.

Supposedly, this 3G Mobile HotSpot will allow us to pick up a Verizon signal while we're in the Bahamas thus allowing us to use our computers! If it works we won't need the horribly expensive SSB radio system that a lot of sailors have had installed on their boats.
If it works.

So on the creative front I made a Beach Bag from some beautifully (and very heavily) embroidered fabric I bought in Ireland a few years ago.

This can be used for anything from shopping to shower room duty.

I also transferred some nautical charts to fabric.

And here is a wristlet I made from one of them.

I think my next project with the rest of them will be a tote bag of some kind that we can use to haul provisions.

Don't let it be said that the Knotty Cat isn't stylish!

Tomorrow we have to head on over to West Marine in order to pick up even more things that we've ordered.

I believe in my next life I want to come back as a tremendously needy boat!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Red tape and loop holes...

...and why all the limits?

Now just read that over again only this time using the music to My Favorite Things, because that's the only way I could find these particular lyrics charming.

And I don't know if anyone out there realizes it but there really is no such animal as 'freedom' anymore. And I have to laugh now at the books I've read about people fleeing from the bad guys while using forged documents, fake passports etc... All I know is I'm finding it nearly impossible to travel while using the real deal!

Honest to God, all Hans and I want to do is sail our little boat over to the Bahamas this winter but you'd think we were trying to infiltrate deep into the bowels of a high security nation in an attempt to steal their special recipe for crystal clear water. But even if we did have evil doing on our minds, how far would we get with their secrets while sailing away on a boat that on its best day (and only with a hell of a lot of wind!) moves along at 10 knots?

After a less than auspicious start to our trip this fall via the Intracoastal Waterway, we were stunned to find that in addition to way too many draw bridges, and way too few anchorages, we actually had to navigate a lock.

You see; Hans is the educated one, the one with multiple degrees in things I can't even pronounce, the one who became a sailing instructor at 14, the one who while in college sailed up the Atlantic coast (on the outside!) in the boat of a friend's father, the one who way back in the day sailed to the Bahamas using dead reckoning, and finally, the one who lived on his boat while working in New York City. And because of this I just assumed he knew about the bridges, the locks, and that it would take a month and not two weeks to get to Florida!

So bearing this in mind I decided to take matters into my own hands and research this whole Bahamas thing. And yes Hans has been to the Bahamas but this was back when life was a bit simpler and I've discovered that Hans Jr. holds the same disdain for rules that Hans Sr. did. "Why should I stop?" stated Hans Sr. one day as they blew past a Coast Guard checkpoint. "I'm not a smuggler!" The Coast Guard wasn't impressed but I bet Hans' neighbors were, when as they were docking the boat at their Miami Beach home, a Coast Guard helicopter landed in their yard.

So far:

We have to have paperwork filled out by a vet that certifies Wilbur has all the proper inoculations, but we had to send a $10.00 money order to the Bahamas first. They, in turn, sent us the form that the vet needs to fill out. This form needs to be presented to the Bahamian authorities within 48 hours of arrival.

Upon arriving in the Bahamas we have to have a yellow quarantine flag waving (we'll use a starboard shroud). After clearing customs we must now fly the Bahamian courtesy flag. We should also proudly display the flag of our country. We chose the US (since Hans has lived here since high school) and fear if we add Canada we'll just confuse everyone.

I did a bit of googling about this and was puzzled that everyone else seemed to know about this 'quarantine flag' warning thing which left me feeling slightly wanting and wondering if in addition to a little black dress, the chic twenty first century lady also just happens to have a quarantine flag tucked into her purse.

I finally found a full set of flags (Yellow, Bahamas, and USA) on EBay for something like $24.00. And while we do have a very worn USA flag on our boat, it unfortunately sacrificed its flag pole for our leaking starboard cutlass bearing during one of the last legs of our journey this fall.

Boats up to 35 feet in length (us!) will need to pay (in cash) $150.00 for the right to sail around the Bahamas and this includes a fishing license (not too bad, really). Boats over 35 feet will pay $300.00.

Now for more fun stuff. Hans is a green card carrying Canadian citizen (and has been for over 30 years), who bought a boat while living in the USA.

United States citizens should have their boats registered with the US Coast Guard. Canadian Citizens are not permitted to do so.

Then what is a Canadian Citizen to do?

As a last resort, I made a foray into the Cruiser's Forum. And while I know the people in these forums really want to help I finally fled after a bunch of them ganged up on a poor soul who had questions similar to mine. This particular soul was threatened with having his boat taken from him, and RIGHTFULLY SO (in capital letters!), said the forum for not being a team player and trying to get one over on the government, and just why the hell wasn't he a US citizen anyway? I found it kind of interesting that those who had the most vehement opinions were neither from the US or Canada and therefor didn't know what they were talking about anyway.

Finally, after calling the Bahamian embassy who had no idea what we were talking about, but was kind enough to provide us with a telephone number that either went unanswered or rang busy, we called our boat broker who gave us the number of a woman who lives in the Bahamas and is reputed to be an expert on Bahamian customs.

We have been assured that as long as our boat is registered in the United States (it is) and we have a notarized bill of sale (we do) we are good to go!!!! Remember, we only want to go to the Bahamas and no where else at this time. And I'm going to let you all be witnesses to this; we have an official email from the Bahamian chick that confirms this.
We also have the decal necessary to come back into the United States. For $27.50 you get this numbered decal and supposedly you can call Customs, read them the number and be cleared. I only hope they don't have Hans' family name flagged as a trouble maker (like stores who post the names of people who write bad checks).

Here are some of my latest acquisitions.

Our C-Maps for Florida and the Bahamas are in the upper part of this picture, as is a snoozing Wilbur the Wonder Dog!!

Skipper Bob's publications (which I dearly wished we'd had at the beginning of our trip) are in the middle. These are chock full of information about the Intracoastal that would have made my life a lot easier had I known about them. But that's okay, I plan on giving them a good workout in years to come.
And by all means please notice that damned yellow quarantine flag at the bottom along with the US and Bahamian ones!!!!

During our last trip I was thrilled that the bins I bought at a Dollar Tree worked so well so I bought 8 more (on the right).

The blue and white bins in the back will fit nicely on our berth shelves, and the small white trash can will fit in the bottom of our refrigerator in the back beside the freezer.

Food will be removed from space sucking cardboard boxes and placed in those zip lock storage bags.

"What food?" Wilbur will just have to wait until we're back on the boat.

Now let's finish the song.

When the dog bites (and he absolutely does not!).

When the bee stings (substitute jelly fish here).

When I'm feeling sad (and wondering how the hell I let Hans talk me into this).

I simply remember my favorite things (or get out the bourbon).

And then I don't feel so bad (just wonderfully numb).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat Part III

This installment is about fixing the many things that go wrong on a a couple. And if you think that boat you just bought won't need repairs in the near future, we have some swampland in Florida for sale (actually we really do!!!)

(Note the band-aid in this picture. I'm thinking of buying stock in the company)

But, the big question is, even if the boat survives, can the same thing be said for the couple?

Once again, I'm very thankful that Hans MacGyver is a very calm and rational man who actually enjoys a challenge. And after each and every disaster we've encountered with this boat; instead of throwing every tool he owns at me and cursing all Gods known to man, he has actually been heard to say, "I think I learned a lot from that."

And for any ladies out there who find this to be a very desirable trait in a man; Hands off! I saw him first!

However, I do remember the time the muffler fell off my car, and after I reattached it with a wire hanger and Duct tape (while flat on my back on my cold garage floor at 7 o'clock in the morning so I could get to work on time), Hans, who was still in his robe, inspected my work and commented that perhaps he would have done it differently.

Obviously, I didn't kill him.

When we found our port locker full of water and ended up replacing this hose ourselves, we were told not to use an elbow. Most likely because this particular hose 'bends' as a result of the wire that's spiralled around its whole.

Here are the leaky hoses we ripped out of the locker and replaced in October.

We threw them into the cockpit and even though they were already dead and rendered useless I thought they looked slightly evil, and was very happy to toss them into a dumpster.

We found out the starboard side locker hoses had already been replaced, and just this week we dug out our original survey and discovered that the work was completed shortly after we bought the boat.

Honestly, we don't even remember having it done!

Notice here that they used an elbow.

Together, Hans and I have discovered a lot of interesting things on the Knotty Cat and I'm not kidding when I say it took us two years to figure out the how the two water tanks worked as the original owners had them re-routed, and left no information behind.

But this fall found us performing our biggest repair yet as a couple and it involved our GPS antenna.

'Fritz' the GPS, decided to act up on a fairly nasty voyage in the Chesapeake and insisted upon showing us on shore a good bit of the time. Fritz became rather emboldened with his brazen ways and threatened to start up a union amongst our other electronics. I, however, who once belonged to a union, knew that if we didn't nip Fritz in the bud right now, he'd become a boil on our backside forever!

I want it on record to all union members that we gave Fritz many opportunities to mend his ways but he chose to ignore us.

So it gave me great pleasure the day West Marine personally delivered a new GPS antenna to us while we were on the hard at the Charleston City Marina.

"Well, this should be easy." Hans and I said to each other after examining the directions, and then after about eight hours of rewiring that big stinker we realized why boat yards charge so much for their work

We still have no idea why the many, many wires, deemed necessary to keep a boat running, need to be secured every three inches or so with tightly cinched tie wraps and then run deep into the bowels of the boat. After trying to fish our new antenna wire (taped to the old wire) through this myriad of craziness, we finally said the hell with it and bypassed most of them.

This was only after we realized that we forgot to thread the wire through the nut on the outside of the boat first, and then had to pull it out and start all over again.

Another problem was the fact that a running fan in the engine room (where all the fun wiring stuff was taking place) made it necessary for me (in the cockpit) to shout very loudly to Hans (in the engine room) in order to be heard.

After yanking (and swearing), pulling (and swearing), ripping (and swearing), we lost the new antenna wire in a very tight conduit (and yes there was a lot of swearing).

We figured out a way to bypass most of the tie wraps, along with the nasty conduit, and finally got the new wire through. Our joy was short lived however when we realized it still wouldn't work and an hour later found that a blown fuse was the culprit.

We walked into the boat yard's part's store at closing time, just as all the employees were getting ready to quit for the day. While they found a fuse for us I proudly explained that we'd spent the day replacing the antenna to our GPS. "Yeah, we know." remarked one of the mechanics who'd been working on our boat, and everyone laughed. "Really? How'd you know that?" I asked.

And he happily answered, "Oh, we all heard you."

Never let it be said I don't exercise my vocabulary any chance I can.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bags for Sale

A little winery in Maryland had been selling some of the bags I make and when I realized that we no longer had a need to stop there (now that the Knotty Cat resides elsewhere), I picked up the remainders.

I have a total of 5 bags left and if anyone wants one, they are $25.00 each. Shipping within the lower 48 states is free. Everywhere else, add $5.00.

Just send me an email (my email address is located in my profile) if you're interested.

I have one of this particular bag.

It has three pockets on the outside front and three on the outside back.

These are slip pockets, therefor there are no snaps or Velcro to secure them. They're good for stowing your sunglasses, crossword puzzles, maps, etc...

The handles are knotted rope that have been run through grommets.

Each bag closes with a magnetic snap and has an inside zippered pocket with a cork zipper pull.

The bottom.

I have 4 bags featuring wine cork fabric for the body, and wine cask fabric for the outside pockets.

These bags have two pockets in front and two in back.

Three have gold handles.

One has a cream and white handle.

This one has gold handles.

The outside pockets.

Again, a magnetic snap closure with an inside zippered pocket.

This is the only bag that has cream and white handles.

This much I know; if these don't get sold, everyone in my family is getting one for Christmas and will be sporting about with wine themed bags whether they like it or not.

I'm just not sure which one Hans would like!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat, Part II

One of the things I like about the Chesapeake are the many anchorages that can be found just about anywhere.

But, I've discovered that the ever popular St. Michael's, Maryland, might just possibly be the Bermuda Triangle of anchoring.

We found this out for ourselves a few years ago. After hanging lazily on the hook for a whole weekend, our Knotty Cat waited until 3 AM and then quietly lifted her anchor and innocently drifted into a sexy french catamaran that Hans and I had gushed over earlier in the day. Using her swim platform, the Knotty Cat neatly punched two holes into her rival, just above the water line. The owner was extremely nice about it and thankfully our insurance company made everything all better.

Then a couple of years ago we decided that it would be uber fun to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from the bay of St. Michael's. I have no idea why, since this is tantamount to being in Times Square on New Year's Eve when idiots who otherwise never get out, do, and create mayhem for everyone in their vicinity.

We weren't disappointed.

The above picture shows just a few of the boats that anchored that weekend. Anyway it was a dark and stormy night (I've always wanted to write that!), and a powerful storm complete with wild bolts of lightning and slashing rain ripped through the bay long before the fireworks were due to start. Suddenly, like a bunch of earthquake evacuees, everyone (except us) frantically tried to weigh anchor and beat feet out of the harbor (I'm not sure why, as all this meant was they'd be underway in some pretty crappy weather). We immediately noticed that a boat had drifted uncomfortably close to us and was having some difficulties. The captain was running fore and aft in a wild attempt to unfoul his anchor, and I couldn't help but notice that his female counterpart sat on the sidelines and did absolutely nothing, leaving me to ponder the intelligence of women who wear hot pink velour sweatsuits in public.

An anchored yet unoccupied boat on our port side suffered two separate assaults from renegade escapee vessels gone wild, and the offenders didn't even bother to leave polite notes of apology under the windshield wiper of the victim! I've often wondered how long it took the couple of that particular boat, who rowed back after the storm, to discover the damage that had been inflicted upon them.

A motor boat full of drunks just scraped past us and I swear I saw the nasty tonsils of the chick who leaned over and screamed, "You need to have more lights on!" And I screamed back, "We have our anchor light on you idiot! Maybe you need to read Boating for Dummies again!"

And as suddenly as the storm started, it ended and we enjoyed an incredible firework display.

For some sick reason we went back the following year only this time with my youngest college age daughter and a couple of her friends. The only irritation we suffered that night was the party boat that anchored right beside us. Complete with bad '80's music, pulsating disco lights, and hysterical drunks, they were kind enough to leave us in peace at midnight.

Other than that, Hans and I have spent many peaceful nights at anchor and we have our system pretty much down pat. With some simple signals from Hans, I maneuver the boat to port, starboard, or straight ahead, and before you know it we're on our way.
Or at least I thought so.
How well I remember the weekend when some of Hans' hockey friends sailed with us, and with Hans at the bow and me at the wheel, I was smugly explaining our system to them when Hans made a signal I'd never seen before and unfortunately, I'm one of those people who speak before thinking and everyone was treated to, "What the F#*@ was that!?"

One of the funniest (and saddest) anchorings I've ever witnessed was during our last weekend on the boat this summer, and yet once again St. Michael's played a starring role. It was late in the evening when we heard what was obviously a domestic squabble aboard a boat quite close by, and I was immediately jerked back in time to my bartending days where I was often forced to witness abusive behavior between couples thus leaving me very grateful to be poor and single, yet not stuck with an idiot!

I also sincerely hoped I wouldn't hear a splash in the night and wind up being a witness in court.

Come morning, I informed Hans that one of the nearby boats was a lot closer than it'd been the night before, and it only took one bellow from the captain to realize this was the domestic squabble boat.

Then the fun began.

The captain went up to the bow and the little woman (surely his wife because no man would ever treat a date in such a nasty manner) sat at the helm. He then screamed out signals complete with intense fist punches and the poor woman reciprocated by flooring the engine. The boat responded by flying in reverse thus yanking the anchor line tight and I felt myself holding my breath because I just knew what was coming. I wasn't disappointed and the captain started bellowing again. This time the boat shot forward causing the anchor line to stretch in an alarming fashion along the starboard side. This went on again and again, and all the while the captain continued to scream and punch the air.

Finally (and most likely out of sympathy), the anchor gave way and the (un)happy couple sailed off into the wild blue yonder.

I'm just glad I didn't have to testify in court because I'm afraid I would have been tempted to show that idiot some real punching!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Living as a Couple on a Boat. Part I

I realize a lot of people believe that living aboard a boat is the epitome of the romantic dream. Bloody Mary's at sunrise, cocktails as sunset, feeling like you could reach out and touch the fat whip cream clouds that glide on by during the day, or snag one of the zillions of stars that hang over your boat each night. Days are spent lazily adjusting sails as you silently cut through the water.
And I'm sure anyone reading this and who's spent any amount of time on a sail boat is splitting a gut right now.

But let's talk about about docking the boat, lifting the anchor on the boat, and (gasp) attempting to make repairs on the boat, as a couple!

This particular post will address docking the boat which is very much at the bottom of my 'let's have fun' list. Winds, currents, and narrow slips have created many heart thumping moments for me.

Actually, my issues with fenders (while docking) are something new. In the first two years we owned this boat we almost always tied up at the same docks so of course I knew exactly where to place the fenders. The thing is though, that no dock is ever the same. Some are floating and therefor the fenders have to hang way over the side nearly at water level, while some docks are fixed and depending on the tide, the fenders might need to be just over our deck. This means that each fender needs to be retied to the rails which isn't a big deal but when you only catch sight of your dock moments before tying up it can be quite a race.

A few days into our trek on the Intracoastal we were quickly approaching a dock when Hans told me to toss the fenders over the side. I realized that it was a floating dock and that our fender lines needed to be lowered but I hadn't had a chance to touch even one when he yelled, "What are you doing up there?"

Me (quite incredulous): "Getting the fenders!"

Hans: "What the hell's taking so long, just drop them!"

Me (wondering if he could possibly be serious): "They need to be retied, they're too short!"

Hans: "Just throw them over and get that bow line ready!"

Me (not sticking my tongue out and retying a couple of fenders anyway): "I'm going, I'm going!"

Afterward, Hans was very puzzled and once again asked me what the hell I'd been doing up there.

Me (quite angry by then): "I was doing my hair, that's what!"

Hans (genuinely puzzled): "Really?"

The only reason I didn't throw him overboard is because he knows how to parallel park the Knotty Cat and I don't.

A similar event occurred in Swansboro, North Carolina when, during a rain storm complete with gusting winds and strong currents, we shot into Dudley's Marina like an Indy Five Hundred race car. One second Hans was telling me to drop the fenders and the next second he was yelling, "What are you doing? Don't worry about the fenders! Throw them the bow line!" But we had swooped in so fast that one of the guys on the dock actually reached out and snagged the line leaving me to run as fast as I could to the stern where I'm embarrassed to admit that that line promptly got hung up on an old GPS antenna (BTW, that antenna is going to get ripped out as soon as we get back on board after Christmas). With Hans putting our girl into reverse the helpers were finally able to secure us.

If I ever win the lottery I'm going to buy a ton of fenders and tie them at every possible level they'll ever be needed.

That should give me plenty of time to do my hair while docking.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Idiots on the Water (and for once, I don't mean us!)

I've been thinking about it and have come to the realization that traversing the Intracoastal via boat is a lot like driving your RV off the Interstate and taking a back road instead.

Gone are the wide open spaces in which to sail and all of a sudden you're motoring along in single file among a variety of other boats you might otherwise never see, along a very narrow strip of water, leaving no room for error.

Given the close proximity of your fellow travelers, you really need to make an effort at being polite, and after applying your deodorant for the day you should also respect each other's space.

This brings me to AquaMan.

I have a feeling that years from now many a sailor will reminisce about the legendary autumn of 2010 when AquaMan wreaked all kinds of havoc while roaring down the Intracoastal and leaving many a damaged vessel in his wake (and I mean that literally!).

My first hint that something odd was afoot came one morning from a few random radio transmissions. And I have to tell you right now that travelling along the Intracoastal really isn't very relaxing. When we were out in the Chesapeake and Potomac this summer we hardly ever had to listen to our VHF and instead, enjoyed a variety of radio stations. But in the Intracoastal you constantly have to listen for the captains of boats who want to overtake you, and also get updates on what's ahead of you.

Anyway, I started hearing some odd chatter on the radio. "Hey! Cruiser who just passed marker twenty, this is a no wake zone!" Then a diesel dock shouted out the same concern. One woman came across loud and clear with, "Hey Dirt Bag! What's wrong with you? Slow down! I hope you never need help from anyone because you'll never get it." This marauder of the water was finally identified and I hoped that AquaMan (whom I envisioned wearing a blue Anti Super Hero costume) was heading away from us and not toward us.

But then I heard a captain warn, "Attention everyone in the vicinity of fixed bridge Such and Such, AquaMan just went past me and refuses to comply with the no wake rule." We had just passed a fixed bridge and I got that Uh-Oh feeling and when I looked behind Hans I saw a huge Cruiser bearing down on us. I watched the captain of the monohull who'd made the broadcast try to steer into the huge wake that AquaMan had created and his mast whipped back and forth like a metronome.

"Holy crap! He's not slowing down!" I shouted and watched in horror as AquaMan roared straight for our stern. I grabbed our air horn and while standing on a seat in the cockpit I gave it five short blasts. AquaMan didn't slow down so I blasted it five more times. By now he was just off our starboard side and I added huge, slow down gestures with my arms and since I was wearing my foul weather gear I probably looked like a giant Tweety Bird flapping hysterically around the cockpit. I was so pissed off by then that when he finally roared past us at about 20 knots of speed, I turned the air horn on him full blast.

My ears were ringing but AquaMan and his Boy Wonder never even glanced at us giving us the impression that they were either completely deaf or just totally rude. They didn't even have the decency to wear blue Anti Super Hero costumes either!

I jumped down off the cockpit seat, hurried down below, and spread eagled myself all over the galley in an attempt to keep everything (including my computer) from flying all over the place when the resulting wake hit us.

The Coast Guard had been informed of AquaMan's behavior and radioed everyone that they needed to know the type of boat and registration number if possible and that a picture would be of great help. I'm just mad that my camera battery was dead because I could have gotten a really good video! Shortly thereafter AquaMan's registration number was broadcast for anyone who might need to file an insurance claim.

We didn't suffer any damage and I was finally able to locate my coffee cup in the garbage can where it had been tossed during the wake.

Here I am at the helm with my trusty binoculars as I keep a sharp look out for markers and future trouble makers.

I almost look like I know what I'm doing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boats, Planes, and Automobiles...

... instead of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Hans and I took a slightly, yet equally adventurous, detour.

Let me show you what MapQuest looks like on my computer.

That little red figure is our Knotty Cat!

Isn't she cute (Please say yes!! She's quite vain and every little bit helps)!

Here's a close up of her just as we were crossing the Maryland/Virginia border.

This disc and GPS is what I used to navigate our way through the Intracoastal the night we couldn't see a thing, and it was a life saver!

When we entered the Charleston Harbor, Tuesday afternoon, we only had about eight miles to go in order to get to the boat yard, but the current was so strong it took us three hours to get there. We tried to take advantage of the small amount of wind we had and put up the jib.

I swear we cheered when we hit 3 knots of speed!

This is the 186 foot bridge we passed under on our way up the Wando River.

Once the Knotty Cat was hauled out and we realized she had some missing and loose bolts on the plates that held her prop shafts in place, we had hoped things could be tightened up and we'd be on our way.

Well, it wasn't to be.

Wires that should have helped stop corrosion had been cut by the previous owner (which explains some of the problems we've been having), our propellers (lying in pieces on that cardboard) are no longer manufactured so the mechanic will have to be creative for the couple of parts we need, our engine mounts should have been replaced 500 hours ago, and the forever leaking stuffing boxes are going to be replaced with Dripless Shaft Seals.

This shaft was ripped out the next day. It was corroded and needs to be cleaned up.

Since the estimated time for all this to be done will take a week or so we decided to come home. We'll head back down after Christmas and resume our trip at that time.

Friday we ended up renting a car and then drove to Florida where we spent the night with some friends. Off to the airport the next morning for our flight to BWI, and then an airport shuttle to Kent Narrows where our car was parked. Five hours later we walked into the apartment and I realized I'd left a bunch of paperwork on the boat. Nothing valuable, but I wanted to file a health insurance claim and now I don't have any of my forms! We also had very little food in the cupboards and ended up eating cheese and crackers for dinner.

The good news is, we get to pick up Wilbur this afternoon and I only hope he remembers us!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An unexpected stop and a decision to make.

Beware, this is a long post.

So if we're supposed to be sailing, why is our Knotty Cat out of the water?

Because two nights ago we discovered a leak in our starboard engine room.

A big leak.

And of course we found it only after dropping our anchor in a very remote part of the Intracoastal about 15 miles past Georgetown.

We had made such good progress, and for once the currents worked with us and we actually motored along at 8-9 knots for quite a while.

The anchorage was beautiful and the sky had gone pink as the sun was just setting. I was going to use the grill and make dinner and we were looking forward to a relaxing evening when we realized the starboard bilge pump was dumping out water about every 30 seconds.

One look in the engine room and we knew we had to weigh anchor and get the hell out of there. Water was streaming steadily from where the propeller shaft enters/exits the boat and our batteries would never be able to handle the load of the bilge pump running all night and we don't have a generator.

I wanted to head back to Georgetown but Hans wanted to forge ahead. We called Leland's Marina in McClellanville (15 miles south of us) and he said we could tie up there for the night.

Thus began one of the most nerve wracking three hours I have ever endured.

The sun set shortly after we got underway and even though we had clear skies and a crescent moon we had to rely almost totally on the MapQuest disc on my computer (remember Fritz our GPS has been surly lately and would prefer to show us on land half the time).

Why this couldn't have happened on one of those stretches of water with all the houses and a lot of light is beyond me and we found ourselves navigating through the most desolate swampland you can imagine. The water was completely still which caused the tree line to reflect in a mirror like fashion from the shore and made us feel like we were going to run aground at any second.

Markers were few and far between and the unlit ones were a bear to spot. I would run up front and frantically wave a flashlight and feel immense relief when I would finally find it.

We knew from my computer that we were approaching a green marker but I couldn't see it at all. I was leaning over the bow with my light when I finally spotted a stick in the water just in front of us. It was my marker but the green reflective square was missing.

Everything became one dimensional and distance was impossible to judge. We would see flashing red lights ahead of us that would scare the bejeebers out of us because we were supposed to see flashing green. Then we would realize that the red lights were from towers miles away from us.

Three hours later we arrived at the creek to the marina and then came part two of our adventure. Jutting out from both sides were many unlit docks, my flashlight couldn't pick them out at the same time, and there was a bend in the creek. I was literally screaming PORT! and STARBOARD! back to Hans and he still couldn't hear me over our engines.

After barely missing a couple of docks we finally arrived at the marina only to find someone had tied a boat up to our spot and there was no space available anywhere.

That's when I almost started crying.

We got lucky though when we spotted a couple of guys sitting in a shrimping boat and they went up to a building that looked like a speak easy from the twenties, rousted the owner of the squatter and made him move his boat.

They also helped tie us up and then even came on board to have a look at our problem. Two hours later Mike and Eric left. They ended up stuffing tea towels, one of my cute pot holders, and a piece of our flag pole into the shaft area and slowed the leak to the point where our bilge only went of every few minutes.

I guess Fritz finally got his wish because The Knotty Cat is now on the hard at the Charleston City Boat Yard way up in the Wando River and we're wondering how the hell bolts on the plate that hold the propeller to the boat are loose and/or missing. Also a couple of bolts that hold the cutters in place were sheared off.

I'm not really smiling, I'm just insane.

You can see where a bolt is missing at the bottom of that plate and the loose bolt at the top.

The bolt on the bottom of the port side plate is loose.

Also, after two weeks in the water our zincs were ready to fall off. The problem was not corrosion (we had a galvanic isolator installed this summer) but the fact that they were improperly installed.

A lot of work needs to be done (parts ordered or retooled) and if it's going to take too long, we'll be calling this trip quits and going home. That means the Knotty Cat would winter in Charleston. I think she's always wanted to be a southern belle.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Move Over!

After leaving Harbor Village Marina near Topsail, we were able to give our engines a break and sail quite a ways through the Cape Fear River as we headed to Southport, NC. Once in Southport we ended up anchoring for the night with two other boats right in front of the Provision House Restaurant . A strong NW wind blew all night long and our anchor dug itself deep into the muck, and was very difficult to lift the next morning.

We then rejoined the wagon train heading south, with Myrtle Beach being our next goal. We were in a rather narrow stretch of water when we realized a barge with a large load was coming up behind us and sure enough the captain hailed us. What was disconcerting was that he asked us to identify ourselves and then wanted to know just where we were as he couldn't see us (I bet he has cataracts and drives a Buick on his days off!). We provided him with our location and then slid over to starboard as much as we could and watched him run over a big green can as he plowed on by.

We listened as he radioed other boats ahead and gave them directions on what he wanted them to do. Upon being told to please move over and let the barge go through a bridge opening first (at 65 feet it's a fixed bridge and doesn't raise but the channel was very narrow right there), one captain radioed back that he was certain he didn't need to move as he was traveling along quickly at 5 knots. The tug boat operator said too bad; he was going 7 knots and to please move over. The other captain once more said he was just fine and then the barge operator told him to KINDLY MOVE ASIDE OR I'LL RUN YOU OVER. He moved.

We ended up seeing the barge again as we approached the Swan Creek Bridge (a swinging pontoon that opens hourly unless you're a barge and then it opens up period!). We're not sure what happened but we could see all kinds of mayhem going on. The barge was almost sideways and big plumes of diesel exhaust belched from its innards as it tried to reverse, and the boats hovering around it looked like a bunch of rubber-neckers at a wreck. Someone even had the nerve to radio the bridge and ask if they could pass behind the barge. I don't think anyone even bothered to answer him.

Unfortunately we hung back too far and with the current working against us we were unable to reach the bridge in time to get through. But luck was with us because since it was an hourly bridge it had to open in ten minutes anyway.

This got me to thinking about the three mile stretch of waterway just ahead called The Rock Pile. Our cruising guide says to monitor the radio and make sure no barge traffic is coming towards you as there is not enough room to maneuver. I hope no one was heading north when that barge went through because it really is narrow with big flat rocks jutting into the water from the shore and I was very relieved to get through it with very little boat traffic.

Last night we ended up docking at Bare Foot Landing in Myrtle Beach, SC, and for the first time in a week we went out to eat because Hans wanted to watch the Raiders. The Raiders won, the wrap I ate was really good but made me sick, and we were up at 6 this morning and on our way again.

Today we are headed for Georgetown, SC, and our guide says there are some good anchorages there. If all the good spots are taken maybe we'll pretend to be a barge and tell everyone to move over.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hurry Up and Wait

We left Dudley's Marina in Swansboro this morning and even though it's a beautiful sunny day, we're not going to get very far. That's because we're back to dealing with bridges and a lack of anywhere to anchor or dock once nightfall approaches. We'd love to get into Wrightsville Beach today and maybe we would have if we'd have gotten out of our slip before 7 AM. But it was dark and it's too easy to keep on sleeping...
By the way, if you ever want to be thoroughly entertained; find your nearest drawbridge, make some popcorn, pull up a chair, and be prepared to enjoy yourself.

Why the big rush to get to a drawbridge that you know won't open for another 15 minutes to half hour, or even an hour (we once missed an hourly bridge by 5 minutes)? Is it a need to be the first in line? Is there a prize waiting for the 'winner'?

All I know is that after being passed by lots of boats (the Knotty Cat likes to take her time or maybe all those cases of beer she's hauling really do weigh her down) we all eventually end up in one big snarled mess in front of a bridge.

Today was a classic.

Two small sailboats who were obviously traveling together and refused to be separated were sucked right up to a swing bridge. Some bigger motor boats also crowded in and even though we hung back the next thing we knew, the bigger boats were revving up in reverse and the little sail boats were bobbing around like ninnies and one nearly ran into the bridge support. The bridge operator kept trying to hail the out of control sailboat and tell it to please start through as soon as the bridge swung open (in the opposite direction thank God) but they never answered.

Then the radio chatter started, "Doesn't he have a radio?" "I know he has a radio." "Why is he sitting there? Does he want us to go first?"

I got out my trusty binoculars and saw that the captain and his 'woman' were standing in the cockpit and apparently weren't taking calls. Just when it seemed like the big boats were going to charge through, the two little sailboats got into the act and like two little old jaywalking women, crippled their way through the opening.

Hans calls this Dancing with the Stars.

As of 3:00 we are now waiting at another bridge that opens on the hour and the sad thing is, we could have been here at 2:00. But clear back at Swansboro we had 2-3 knot currents working against us and were only doing 4 knots across the bottom while motoring at 6 knots through the water. When we realized we wouldn't make the bridge we dropped to one engine and slowed down. Of course the current changed completely and started pushing us like crazy and when we were two miles away from it, the bridge opened. We ended up waiting 45 minutes.

In the end it doesn't really matter because we're going to dock at Harbor Village Marina as there are no more docks until Wrightsville, and I don't see any good anchorage areas. Wrightsville is over 20 miles away with yet one more hourly bridge (they all stop opening at 7 PM) and with the current acting like a woman who can't make up her mind I don't want to get stuck in the middle.

In addition to all that, our GPS is still giving us fits and takes a nap (we call it a union break) every day. Fritz (as we've named him) usually wakes up just as we're anchoring or docking and acts like nothing is wrong what so ever.

Won't Fritz be surprised to find that his replacement antenna is awaiting us in Charleston, SC?

No one sleeps while on watch!

A very quiet docking at Harbor Village.