Friday, August 19, 2011

Still motoring along the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Water Way)

A typical evening aboard the Knotty Cat.

I'm sitting on our settee in the salon area which is also where we sleep each night. Wilbur may appear to be small in this picture but you wouldn't believe how huge he can become during the night. I swear he triples in size, oozes all over the place, and we wake up with him taking over more than half of our sleeping space.

I mentioned yesterday that we planned on zipping through the Franklin Lock at 9 AM so we could get on our way. But we weren't prepared for the poor man who docked next to us to run aground. Kevin is working solo and trying to get his newly acquired boat from Maryland to Texas, and even though he only draws a bit over three feet, he's already run aground too many times. Until yesterday he's been lucky enough to get himself off, but then his luck ran out and the Lockmaster at Franklin told us he'd hold the opening for us if we'd just give this poor guy a tow.

Well, the Knotty Cat tried her best but she just couldn't free him. We tried to pull him off by using both our port and starboard stern cleats but he never budged a bit. I'm pretty sure TowBoat US could do it but we felt like deserters as we entered the lock without him and went on our merry way.

We ended the day at Tarpon Point Marina. It's a beautiful place to stay and the staff is friendly beyond belief. We were pretty far away from the actual marina but it seemed like someone was always on hand with a golf cart to get Hans to and from the office.

We actually left Wilbur on the boat (with our new A/C) and ventured over to the tiki bar just a stones throw away from us.

It's that little gazebo over yonder.

They had $5.00 appetizers, and buck and a half drafts. We ended up enjoying an hour or so there before we came back to a wonderfully cooled down boat.

Our Knotty Cat at the dock.

We motored a good 37 or so miles today and found ourselves at Palm Island Marina, just in time for a typical Florida thunder storm. And once again we were greeted by a fantastic staff who helped us dock.

Poor Wilbur had a hot day today and finally felt like he could relax with the A/C. Keep in mind this is also our sleeping area.

Can you see why I don't get a good nights sleep? Wilbur tends to spread out and take up far too much room with his pitty dreams (paddling feet mixed with gulping and kerfluffeling noices), and I wake up with yet one more odd and unexplained bruise.

We hope to get another 40 or so miles under our belt tomorrow, but the port engine is having some smoking issues and we also have a ton of bridges to get through.

The cruising life is never boring. Believe me!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Updates and pictures.

Wilbur used to have a doggy bed in our apartment and we called it his lair. It's where he would take any contraband he could pilfer from trash baskets and what not. We knew as soon as we saw him slink into his 'lair' that he was most likely being a bad boy.

Here he is in his new lair (under our settee in the salon area) which is where he likes to go when he gets hot or we give him an empty water bottle to torment.

This is the marina we stayed at in LaBelle. It's not really a marina as much as it is a dock that can hold up to eight boats. By looking behind Hans, you can see how much use it's had recently and why we didn't bother to dock Mediterranean style and just pulled up along side.

BTW, those weeds or lillies or whatever they are make a great place for all the crockigators to hang out! They are freaking scary and even though I've tried to get pictures of them, they rarely do much more than break the surface of the water.

The sign we decided to ignore. For a brief moment we thought we were busted when someone on the dock called out an Ahoy to us. Luckily it was just a very nice man who'd spotted us from the LaBelle Bridge and being a boat lover, he had some questions for us.

Part of the fun of cruising is meeting a lot of nice people.

Although this reminds me. When we were at Labelle Marina yesterday and were in the process of docking, a man came out of no where and caught the dock lines I tossed to him. He asked us where we were from and upon hearing 'Pittsburgh', he turned on his heel, and without a word stalked off not even giving me a chance to tell him how cute his yappy little chihuahua was. Hans didn't help matters the next day when he ran into Mr. Happy and his yappy dog and said, "What a handsome boy he is, what's his name?" Mr. Happy snarled, "She's a girl and her name is Cocoa." "Oh my, isn't she pretty!" Hans exclaimed, but Mr. Happy wasn't having any of it and once again stalked away.
He's literally the first southerner I've met who still hates us Yankees!

Do we pay attention to signs?

Of course not!

We had plenty of time this morning so we left Wilbur on the air conditioned (yet starting to heat up already) boat and walked to the Coffee Shop in Labelle for some breakfast. I didn't take any pictures of the interior but I loved it!! All very chic and espresso-ish! We each had a sausage egg and cheese biscuit sandwich with our coffee and they were delicious! It's far too hot to use the galley right now so it was the first real breakfast we've had in a week. Do I dare tell you that I eat a cold Pop-Tart every morning? And since it's so hot I don't even make coffee. And coffee is something I normally can't do without.

We were going to go through the Franklin Lock at its 4 PM opening today but ended up arriving two hours early. However, right at the lock there is cheap dockage at a campground.
A government run campground, and don't get me started on things that are run by the government!
Oh, what the hell, here goes anyway! A couple of days ago we thought we might want to stay here in order to zip through the 9AM lock opening and Skipper Bob had info that said to call three days in advance in order to get one of these wonderful slips. We called the number and were told to call another number, which we did, and son-of-a-gun we were told to call yet one more number, and the rather rude and stupid sounding woman who answered said she had no idea what we were talking about, and hung up on us.

So today when we realized we'd be stuck for two hours waiting for the lock to open, we called the number again. Of course we were told to call another number, and when we did, we lucked on to someone who must be new and naive, and forgot that she worked for the government, because she was very nice and said, "Take any slip you want and pay at the office."
I won't go into the particulars of how adventurous it is to dock in a storm but we finally got tied up and $24.00 later (that includes electric), here we are for the night.

This squirrel was absolutely furious when Wilbur (on his leash) pranced past it. It chattered up a storm and I've never gotten this close to one in my life. It didn't care one bit when I took its picture and I probably could have gotten closer but there's this thing called rabies that was in the back of my mind.

Wilbur wants to know what all the chatter is about.

"Mama, did you hear what that creatchter said to me?"

Poor Pitty.

Hans and Wilbur enjoying the air conditioning this evening.

Tomorrow we hope to zip through the Franklin Lock and work our way toward Tarpon Point. At that time we'll once again be dealing with currents and tides, something I surely haven't missed here in the Okeechobee Water Way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This is what our air conditioner looks like from the inside. There's a water resistant cover over the top of it and surrounding the hatch from the outside.

The outside view. The down side is we have to remove it every day when we get underway again. It's not latched down and I would sincerely hate to see it take a dive overboard if we were to get waked by a bigger boat.

We have the A/C in the salon area so every night we open up the seating area up into a bunk.

Wilbur loves the idea of a bunk bed.

Unfortunately he only uses the floor during the day. Come bed time and he's right there in bed with us.

So anyway, here are some Lake Okeechobee Waterway observations. There is no way a boat that draws more than us could make this trip with the water as low as it is. We are traveling westward and as we exited the Port Mayaca Lock, the Lock master warned us to stay to port as there is a lot of shoaling in the area. We stayed to port and saw water levels of 2.6 feet. We draw 2.5.

He stayed on the radio with us and assured us that we were right where we should be and that we would soon see three and a half feet. We did and who'd have thought three and a half feet would be a relief?

We went through the Clewiston Lock because we decided to stay at Roland Martin's Marina. Once again we saw shallow depths, this time 2.8 feet. Anyway, you don't have to go through the lock if you just want to continue on the OWW (Okeechobee Water Way) but we wanted to tie up for the night. We lucked out too in that it was Sunday and there was entertainment in the Tiki Bar and we were docked right outside. We enjoyed some good music and our own beer.

Back into the water way the next day we sighted our first alligator and believe it or not, Hans, who graduated from Miami High School and attended the University of South Florida, had never seen an alligator in 'the wild'.

The shores of the waterway are full of the little buggers and Wilbur doesn't like them. He calls them Crockigators and worries that they might like to taste some tender pitty flesh.

Last night we stayed in LaBelle Marina and they only had one 30 Amp hookup. We now need two (or one 30 Amp and a 110V) because we've added A/C. We tried to use the A/C in addition to keeping the fridge running and it should have worked but all of a sudden during yet one more thunderstorm a huge clap of thunder hit and our inverter alarm started screaming at us. It wouldn't stop screaming no matter what we did, and it was raining and storming so hard that it would have been dangerous to try and get on the dock and disconnect the power cord. When things finally calmed down, we got it disconnected, and the inverter calmed down and allowed us to reset her. We found out later on that the marina did suffer a short electrical outage but we finally decided to just use the A/C and turn off the refrigerator.

After crossing under the LaBelle Bridge this morning we docked at the City Marina where they allow you to stay for free for three days. This also includes electric and water!!! Since this is such an off time of the year for cruisers we are the only ones here which is very nice because there are only 8 spaces and you're supposed to anchor Mediterranean style with either your bow or stern into the dock and your anchor out in the water way. We didn't have to bother with this and just docked on our port side.

We were able to walk with Wilbur into town and get a few groceries. This is the one day we decided to just stay put and take a break but it's so stinking hot!

Tomorrow we go through Franklin Lock (the last one) but it's on a schedule of only opening at 9 AM and 4 PM. We'll be taking the 4 PM opening.

Even though it's hot we do like the fact that we aren't having any difficulties in finding places to stay because no one else is stupid enough to cruise at this time of year. Unfortunately though because of the mosquitoes we have to find a dock with power each night or we wouldn't be able to stand it.

I realize this is a rather dull post but I'm too hot to really do a lot of thinking.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Never again!"... what I told Hans last night.

What I meant was, I will never move on or off this boat again without it being a final kind of thing. I've done it way too many times and it's no longer fun.

Note: my computer is on its last legs so I hope I can post this successfully.

We left Pittsburgh on a beautifully sunny day, free of humidity, and I suddenly realized that we were indeed moving.

I cried.

We stayed at a very nice (pet friendly) motel in Winston Salem, NC and for some reason I slept like total crap, I kept waking up with my heart racing, I had nightmares about people using our shower, and I swear I thought the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing a game right outside our door. This had me a bit worried because we had an eleven hour drive ahead of us the next day and I just wanted a good nights sleep. Bear in mind, Hans and I were driving in separate vehicles and I insisted on being the lead vehicle, and commandeered the GPS!

The next night we arrived in the Clearwater, FL area, pulled into our next pet friendly motel, and I knew there was no way I was going to get a good nights sleep. I swear I felt just like a big old dairy cow that had taken a wrong turn in Farmer John's pasture and somehow ended up in a jungle. All three floors of the motel were teeming with slouching, beer drinking, cigarette smoking individuals whom, not unlike vultures, watched Hans and I unload our vehicles with far more interest than was warranted.

And for the first time in my life I was glad that pit bulls have a bad reputation and I wished that Wilbur would quit wagging his tail.

Hans had no sooner exited his vehicle when some very young chick (whom I'd observed slapping her way around the perimeter of the building in her flip flops while Hans was checking us in) approached him and asked if he was alone. When he said no he wasn't alone he was with his wife, she saw me and replied, "Awesome", and then said some odd thing about having been given the wrong room key.

Anyway, it was late, we were hungry, the right rear tire on Hans' vehicle was dangerously low (something I spotted when I actually allowed Hans to lead the way for a spell), and so Hans left me and Wilbur in order to take care of both issues. While Hans was gone I felt quite safe when I traversed the very long and dimly lit hallway to the ice machine because a Florida Highway Patrol Officer had shown up at the room next to ours. By the time Hans came back I felt even safer because there were four Florida Highway Patrol Officers sitting in our parking lot, and guess who was the star?

Miss Flip Flops, that's who!

We ate our Wendy's 'to go' dinners, let Wilbur out for one last break, and the police were still hanging around.

I only wish they'd been hanging around at five o'clock AM when Miss Flip Flops got into a huge fight, right outside our door, with some guy she kept referring to as Crackhead. Hans slept through all of it (Wilbur, however, shot up out of a sound sleep and did some very quiet and tentative boof boof noises, but I shushed him), and just as I was ready to call the police, they finally shut up. That's when Hans decided to start to snore.

At least I didn't cry but I got very little sleep.

Just before we left the next morning Miss Flip Flops, who for some reason didn't get tossed in the slammer, was very offended when Hans wouldn't cough up two dollars so she could do her laundry (yeah right! Laundry!).

The sad part of this is the fact that staying at the Crack Head Resort (and most likely sleeping with bed bugs) would have been absolute heaven compared to what we've put up with the last two days.

After our boat was dumped into the water and tied up at the dock, we had to provision and pick up our air conditioner at West Marine. That's when we discovered that West Marine had stored our air conditioner on its side and it would therefor need time to 'settle'. Not something you want to hear when the temperatures are hovering at around a hundred degrees and then we came back to a very wet boat because we'd left some hatches open and of course a huge storm had blown through.

Sweat was pouring off of us as we unloaded everything and since it was now dusk, the mosquitoes hit us like bomber jets. This time I cried and we said the hell with the warning about the air conditioner and went ahead and installed it. That's when I spotted a tiny little mention in the instructions that it only needed 30 minutes to settle! We cranked that baby up full blast and actually got a good nights sleep. However it does very little to dispel the heat during the day and we had to string our red neck awnings over various parts of the boat as the sun worked its way from east to west.

We had to stay at the marina an extra day in order to get everything done and we left this morning. We already crossed under a bridge that's normally 49 feet high (our mast is 50 feet high) but with the low water levels we ghosted under it, and we've also gone through a lock. Just out of the lock the water was under three feet deep. Very scary.

We now have to work our way through Rocky Reef and with the water being this shallow there are all kinds of warnings about it.

What fun!

Hans at Motel # 1.

Wilbur never travels without his pillows. Here he is at Motel #1.

Back on the boat.

A pretty hot pitty.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A fond yet odd farewell to the 'burgh

This past weekend when Hans' baby brother came from Toronto to visit us for one last time here in the 'burgh (before we move), we decided to do things right and became tourists in our own city. We went on a Ducky Tour and I have to wonder why we waited until now to take one. We had a wonderful time and I highly recommend this tour to anyone even if you don't intend to move away, and c'mon! how many New Yorkers have yet to see the Statue of Liberty

Quack, Quack, Quack! Get used to yelling this if you want to take the tour!!!!

I did and I'm proud of it!!

Once our ducky vehicle hit the water Captain Hans volunteered to operate it and I was so proud of him I nearly had to wipe the tears from my eyes.

It wasn't until he sat back down and three little kids (I swear one was in diapers) took over the captain's seat that we realized maybe adults don't usually volunteer.

Oh well, who cares! Hans can add this tour of duty to his resume.

We were on our way home when we traveled past an ice cream stand that we've driven past about a thousand times before and asked Baby Brother if he'd like to stop. He didn't, but he asked us if we'd ever been.

My reply was, "No, but I've puked in their parking lot."

And thus began an odd series of reminiscences that I never dreamed I'd engage in.

That being, 'Places I've Puked, in Pittsburgh.'

So, let's jump on the way back machine and zip about seven years ago into my past.

I'd only known Hans for a few months and after attending a Christmas party with some of his friends I thought we really needed to go clubbing. It didn't take me very long to realize that after inhaling prime rib, chocolate fudge cake, and more than a few pints of beer, this might not be such a good idea. The effects of throbbing rap music and over exposure to cheap perfume left me feeling like a drill was being directed straight into my brain. I'm just thankful that the parking lot of the ice cream stand loomed on our horizon when it did because the three mile stretch leading up to it was strictly a no pull over zone.

Rest assured this happened in the middle of winter and I'm sure my deposit was gone long before the store opened in the spring.

Fast forward to a future Christmas when Hans and I paid a visit to the home of an old friend of his. Hans' friend's mother was there and offered to make me a drink. Let's just say that Kay is from the 1950's cocktail generation (where knowing how to mix the perfect martini was as important as getting your washing out on the line first). I should have known better. After sucking down a few screwdrivers that were ninety-nine percent vodka, and perhaps Kay waved the orange juice carton over mine I'm just not sure, I found myself walking a crooked line as I attempted to find the facilities. We had a jolly good time but as soon as I got into our car for the trip home, I knew I was in trouble. While Hans drove, I opened my door and proceeded to decorate a few blocks of gutters along Hans' friend's delightful little neighborhood in a pretty much non traditional way. Thank God snow covers a lot of indiscretions and I learned to never ask for anything stronger than a beer during future visits that involved Kay.

Then there was the time we were invited to a graduation party for the daughter of one of Hans' hockey friends. It was a lovely event and not unlike that of a high end wedding reception. Caterers and bartenders abounded the premises and I found myself sucking down appletinis and margaritas as quickly as they were handed to me. Unfortunately, at the end of the evening Hans had to fish me out of their swimming pool, wring out my sundress, assure me that my new sandals were not ruined, and pour me into our car. I swear the only thing that kept me from falling out as I puked our way home, was the fact that the seat belt was wound about my face.

I was happy to hear that my David Yurman ring (anniversary gift) was found at the bottom of their pool the next day but I wasn't surprised when we were never invited back.

For some reason Hans doesn't remember this next incident, possibly because it didn't involve alcohol but I actually threw up two different times during the same night! A couple of years ago I finally gave in to pressure and had an impacted wisdom tooth removed. This procedure involved anaesthesia, which wreaks havoc on my system, but I finally bit the bullet and had it done. I had no sooner awakened from my surgery than we took off for a graduation party about two hours away. Have no fear, I made sure I had my pain pills in hand and thought I was doing quite well until we pulled into a Wendy's parking lot and I announced, "I have to puke." "Where?" asked Hans. "I don't care where, but I have to puke and I'm not going to make it inside." Hans whipped our vehicle to the back part of the lot that had a small square of grass and I barely make it in time.

I hate anaesthesia.

We got to the party and I spent it with an ice pack on my cheek and a diet coke in my hand. I probably would have been okay if I hadn't caved at the sight of a carrot cake, one of my all time favorites. It came back to haunt me on our long journey home and after too many ess curves I ordered Hans to pull over. He protested that it wasn't the best place to do so, but did, after I asked if he'd rather I puked all over his car.

He pulled over, I lost my carrot cake, and the car didn't suffer one bit

This has been an interesting trip down memory lane and maybe it's a good thing we're leaving.

After all, Pittsburgh, thanks to the steel mills, has long struggled to lift itself from suffering the reputation as one of the dirtiest cities in the world, to being one of the cleanest.

Maybe now that I'm leaving it can now realize its dream.

Wilbur only calmed down about an hour before Baby Brother was scheduled to leave.