Monday, September 26, 2011

Let it go!

First of all I started this blog so our family and friends could keep up with us. Eventually other boat owners started reading it. I try to approach life with a sense of humor because if I didn't I would probably go nuts. But I've been on this earth for over 50 years and this much I've learned; I don't have to associate with anyone I don't like.


I don't owe my readers anything and I especially don't owe anyone an explanation about my financial affairs. My own family would never be so nosy as to inquire or assume anything about my personal life, but one of my reader's has made some very strange assertions that I'm going to address in this post. This is the first and last time I will do this.

My most recent post was about the DVM here in Florida and my reaction at the sticker shock we experienced when we found out our registration and license plate would be nearly $500 for each vehicle. Considering we were used to paying $30.00 a year perhaps you can understand this. We also hadn't planned on hanging out at the DVM office for nearly three hours and then leaving without new licenses and only one of two plates.

This is what Anonymous had to say:

So many today do not want to pay taxes. Of any kind. Democrats say, "I don't want to pay for that tank", and republicans say, "I don't want to pay for that school". Both are needed. The governments are responding to that demand with "user" type fees instead. Toll roads, property taxes on vehicles, higher fees for services provided by government entities such as park entrance fees and camping fees and your DMV fees are examples. Florida has no state income tax. Where did you think they were going to get the money to run the DMV? Imagine the poor soul who does not have the kind of money you do being presented with a bill of that amount.

My response:

Anonymous, what kind of money do you think we have? We live on a boat that depreciates every year, and we own no other property. My incredibly rotten health insurance runs me about $300 a month (which is draining any and all savings I've made over the past 30 YEARS!) and basically covers nothing, and the only reason I have it is because I fear becoming a debt to society. Frankly, I'm leaning toward just dropping it and saying the hell with it! Our vehicles are respectively 16 and 12 years old. The blue book value on each are nil. So why the hell should we pay fees that are more than 1/3 of the value of the vehicle?I've paid my way all my life! I worked two jobs at a time while supporting myself and three kids (with no child support) for more than ten years and the fact that my back never stops aching is a testament to that.I may choose to present a lighter side to life but you don't know me and I don't pretend to know you!

And now Anonymous (and I will break down his comments and reply to his statements):

The kind of money I think you have is the kind of money that allows you to take the months off that you have for cruising.

I wasn't aware that we took 'time off' considering that Hans worked the whole time we were away. You see, there's this really neat thing called Computer and Internet access that allowed him to do this. And gee whiz I don't think he's the only person in the world to 'work from home'.

You yourself have said you were shocked my the amounts you are spending on cruising.

Duh! Now there's a shocker! That's certainly never happened to anyone before has it? Yes, we found our savings disappearing very quickly. Why the hell do you think we got rid of our apartment and are now living on our boat? Because if we hadn't, we would have had to sell the boat. It made sense for Hans to accept this job in Florida so we could live on the boat and therefore keep it.

BTW, it would be rather difficult to live on a boat beside a set of railroad tracks in Pittsburgh.

Most could not dream of buying your boat let alone cruising for months at a time. While you live on a boat without owning property, that is recent. Just a few months ago, you owned two houses (at least one).

Now this is news to me. I sold my house over two years ago after owning it for 10 years with a 30 year mortgage (where do all your payments go the first 10 years? Interest!) and I sold it at a time when housing prices plummeted. I was lucky to unload it when I did and believe me I did not come out ahead on that deal. But don't worry, everyone in my home town could figure that out when the newspaper published the gory details in its legal section.

Hans sold his house five years ago and he didn't even get his down payment back. Not that it's any of your stinking business but his wife was a very sick woman (which is why he had to refinance many years ago) and when she died he was left with tremendous debt.

As for dreaming about buying our boat? They don't all cost a half million dollars you know! Ours certainly didn't.

Somebody has got some money.

Yeah, but it ain't us!

The reason you should pay those fees on your vehicle has nothing to do with the vehicle itself. It has to do with the road on which it drives and the salary of the delightful(!) people who run your DMV. Someone has to pay and since they have no state income tax they have less places to get funding from. That leaves you.

Gasoline taxes also pay for road repairs and Hello!!!! Let's talk about the money that tourists bring in to our great Pink Flamingo State (that's what I call it)!

My comment that you have money is based on your profile and blog entries. While that doesn't give me a full picture, you should not be too surprised when people draw some conclusions about you.Also, I made no comment to suggest that you both do not deserve your money. I understand your (Laura's) background and my understanding is that Hans is well educated and his education allows him to command a higher that usual salary. There's no judgment there so I don't understand what seems like defensivness.

FYI, I had more money in the bank than Hans did when I met him, and just because someone is capable of commanding a higher salary doesn't mean they earn one, now does it? If only it were that easy. As it is we hope that we can hang in here for a while and get our heads above water. Pun intended!

Poor Hans. This is mostly my blog but when I made him read these comments he was baffled. "Who is this person?" he laughed. "And does he have any idea he couldn't be further from the truth?"

I told him not to worry, I'd take care of this little matter myself.

So, here it is Anonymous. I've put up with you because you were basically harmless but you are no longer welcome on MY BLOG. You've made way too many assumptions that have only made an ass out of you, but certainly not me! Just like Christina and Joey from Bright Eye's said to you after you called them fat, you can go haunt someone else's blog.

Actually I have to wonder why you would even bother to visit my lowly little blog since you're so smart. Maybe you should be running for president instead.

Wilbur says, "Dude, don't mess with my mama!"

And he means it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A good hair day completely wasted...

A few days ago Hans and I went to get our new driver's licenses and Florida tags for our vehicles.

Three hours later we emerged with no licenses, only one new license plate, and nearly five hundred dollars poorer.

So how does something like this happen?

Even though we tried to be good citizens and went online to research what would be necessary to get everything done, it was a total waste of time and the fact that the government is involved is all the explanation I need.

We drove separately (Hans from work and me from home) walked in with our passports, PA driver's licenses, and smiles on our stupid naive faces.

We weren't there but a few minutes when we shot out the door, ran to our vehicles and sped back to the boat in order to dig up all the other documents that we apparently needed but were not listed on their web site. I dug through my files to see if I could find anything with my new address on it (and I needed at least two), and my social security card (I also took my birth certificate 'just in case', and of course they didn't want it). Since I'm a pack rat and keep most correspondence I was lucky enough to find two letters with my new address. Hans very nearly didn't as he saves nothing. But he did have a copy of our marina lease and a letter from his new bank.

We waved good bye to a very bewildered Wilbur who thought he was going with us, and zipped back to the center, only now in one car.

I was surprised that they let us go in together but I figure that's just because torturing two people at a time is more fun than one.

I barely passed my eye exam because my left contact is purposely weak (for reading) and my right contact is strong (for distance). Even after explaining this (very nicely and with a big smile I might add!), the employee , who shall be known as The Girl who Lost her Smile (I'm sure the government would be very proud of her) suspiciously asked me if I suffered from mono-vision. I wisely bit my tongue and didn't reply, "No, I'm just a blonde." because for some reason I didn't think it would go over very well.

She adjusted the machine, I passed, and then their link to the Social Security site went down. And just like that the whole world ground to a halt.

So this is what I want to know.

If my passport is good enough to get me through any airport in the world, why isn't it (along with my existing driver's license and two documents with my new address) good enough for me to get a new driver's license. Why is a simple piece of cardboard with nine numbers on it so stinking important. And before you all get in my grille about this, let's face it, if I had a fake passport and driver's license don't you think I'd already have a handle on a fake social security card?

Well, jeepers we said, until the Social Security site comes back up why don't we get those pesky license plates taken care of.

"Did you bring both vehicles?"


"We can't issue new tags unless the vehicle is here."

Oh no!! No! Noooooooo!

We explained that we'd originally shown up with both vehicles but since we had to go back to the boat for documents we had no idea were originally needed, we felt it only reasonable that we return in just one car, and why the hell hadn't someone told us this!!!!!!!???????? When Hans asked if he could just do this by mail the clerk in the next cubicle snorted with laughter, and the Girl who Lost her Smile didn't even look up, kept stapling things, and said, "No."

By now Hans (who thought he was taking an hour or so off from his new job but now realized he'd been given a life sentence), had his head in his hands and said, "Okay then, get the car taken care of now and we'll worry about the SUV later."

"Can I bring the SUV in by myself?" I asked hopefully (and again with a huge smile) in an effort to keep Hans from taking any more time away from work.

"Only if he gives you power of attorney," replied The Girl who Lost her Smile as she shuffled through a mountain of paperwork, and let me tell you there is no comedian in the world who can outdo this lady with a deadpan delivery.

After a lot of clacking away at her keyboard we were finally presented with a lovely tin plate artistically adorned with oranges that probably cost all of twenty bucks, and she announced, "That'll be four hundred and eighty three dollars."

I thought Hans was going to have a stroke and by now no one was smiling.

You see, here in Florida, new registrations and plates are quite costly (oh yeah, and your car insurance rates double also).

After forking over his credit card (and let me tell you as a direct result of living in Florida, that baby is smoking!), letting everyone know that he'd never heard of anything so ludicrous, so stupid, and as far as he was concerned this was highway robbery, Hans asked if it would be okay if we sat in the waiting room just in case the Social Security web site came back to life before five PM.

We did.

And it didn't.

At ten minutes to five, The Girl who Lost her Smile called us back, once again gathered up all of our paperwork and clacked away some more at her computer. Then without a word she abandoned ship and left us to fend for ourselves.

I knew by then that we were going to leave without new licenses as it was now five o'clock and the government does not work overtime. Period.

Our girl finally came back and this time she had her supervisor with her. A great big supervisor who kindly apologized to us for the inconvenience and wouldn't we love to come back another time for round two? For some reason The Girl Who Lost her Smile hid behind him.

So now our car gets to sashay around with some over priced bling on her rear end and I wasted a perfectly good hair day for nothing!

All we could do was laugh, and here Hans and I drown our sorrows with a couple of Wilbur Wow Wows.

I dread having to go through that nightmare again.
And believe it or not, getting a library card is just as difficult and I still don't have one!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

New neighbors

But first an update on our water situation.

And let me tell you, it's weird.

Hans got online, found a site that supported our type of hot water tank, and made a phone call. The very nice lady that answered told him that she thought we had an air lock. She told him to simply shut off the water (already done) turn on the nearest faucet to the tank (our sink in the port side head), drain the hot water tank via its pressure valve, then close the faucet, turn the water pressure back on (a nerve wracking thought), and see what happens.

What happened was, we no longer had a leak.

I refilled our water tank and it appears we lost about 50 gallons of water during our siege of terror (at least that's what Wilbur is calling it and he blames his bout of diarrhea as a direct result of this trauma).

Still no leak.

We made sure to run enough water to fill the hot water tank, turned it on, and I was able to wash dishes!

And BTW, I love to wash dishes, I don't know why but I really do.

All that's left to do now is to replace our bilge pump. And no, I'm sorry but, there will be no reprieve for Little Miss Snotty.

So now, let me introduce our new neighbor, Mr. Boots.

Mr. Boots lives on the boat right beside us and he's very social, and very vocal.

What I mean is, he's very social with Hans and me, and he's very vocal with Wilbur. But I can't repeat what he says to Wilbur as this is pretty much a G rated blog.

Actually, he doesn't even have a name but after noticing that it appeared he was wearing hip waders, I dubbed him, Mr. Boots.

Mr. Boots showed up two years ago in the middle of a cold Florida winter (is there really such a thing?), and after a spell of very nasty weather, he moved aboard the boat that resides in the slip next to us. He has since become a marina fixture.

And like all marina cats we've encountered in our travels, he is one tough dude.

Wilbur so wants to be friends but check out Mr. Boots' expression.

"Go ahead and make my day, Sissy Boy!" Mr. Boots laughed at Wilbur's wagging behind. "I'll kick your Pitty Butt now and ask questions later!"

Wilbur's feelings were quite hurt and he went down below to watch Pit Boss on Animal Planet. At least Shorty appreciates the pitty.

Mr. Boots.

Water Update:

This morning before we left for West Marine and Winn-Dixie (I feel so southern just saying Winn-Dixie!) we decided to turn off the water pressure... just in case. And damn if the hot water tank didn't start leaking again. So for the remainder of the day we were again without water. Tonight after we drained the tank and let it cool down we repeated yesterdays procedure and voila we no longer have a leak. Again.

We're not sure what's going on but for now we're going to leave the pressure on until we get some more information.

The bilge pump is another story.

Friday, September 16, 2011

OMG! Why is there water INSIDE the boat when it belongs OUTSIDE the boat?!

What on earth will they subject me to next?

I guess the fact that we haven't suffered a personal or marine disaster within the last 48 hours was more than the Knotty Cat could handle.

Yesterday, after getting the heads pumped out, I swept, cleaned, dusted, rearranged our belongings (in other words tried to find room for my books, sewing machine, sewing supplies, mini ironing board, and Hans' clothing), filled up our water tanks (not one square inch of my body was free from sweat after that fun endeavor and why I wore my good clothes I'll never know!), took Wilbur for a hot sweaty walk, picked up some more groceries, and finally took a shower at the shower house (wasted effort on my part as a few minutes later after boarding the Knotty Cat to find a disaster, I was once again thoroughly soaked in sweat). And BTW,are you keeping count of how many times I type 'sweat'? Because that's what you do when you live in Florida. You sweat!!!!!!!

My reward for all these good deeds? I came back to the boat to find about 3 inches of water sloshing around on the port side cabin floor, and the bilge pump was snotty about the whole thing and refused to pump. I tossed poor Wilbur into the cockpit where he climbed onto a cushion, shot me accusing looks and sarcastically thanked me for leaving his precious pitty self alone on a sinking boat.

I grabbed the metal rod that's needed to manually pump out the bilge and joined Wilbur in the cockpit. I had a rapt audience in Wilbur, who, with all the excitement of watching me pump like a mad woman and hearing water splash overboard, forgot that he was upset with me.

Then it was time to find out where all this water was coming from. I opened the port side engine room and nearly fainted when I saw water all over the floor and it appeared as though water was coming in through the shaft that connects the propeller to the boat. It was way too much like the time we took on water in Charleston.

Then the water pump kicked on and water started streaming down from a leaking hose over my head. I turned off the water pressure and the hot water tank, prayed that it wasn't the head, and zipped back to the engine room. The flow eventually stopped and the water that had leaked in, settled around the propeller shaft so at least I now knew that we hadn't sprung a leak.

Hans called me on his way home and said he noticed I'd left a message on his voice mail, and what's up? He figured it couldn't be good because I never call him at work so two hours later when he realized I'd left a message he didn't bother to listen to it and just called me. Hmmmm...

Very long story short, we think a pressure valve on the hot water tank failed. We had a 'discussion' about the fact that I'd left power to the tank on for a few hours but it really shouldn't have caused a problem (so there!)

We are now without water and for some reason the manual pump at the galley sink won't work either.

We have no idea how much water actually leaked out (we'll find out when we're finally able to refill) and I really hope the hot water tank didn't run dry since it's a big no no to operate it while it's empty!

Today Hans will try to find parts and as for the snotty bilge pump?

It's fired, and we're interviewing new ones today. Just like Fritz the GPS, if you refuse to carry your weight and want to act like a prima donna, you're going to go on a little one way trip to the dumpster.

Unfortunately Hans is putting in very long days and instead of enjoying his few free hours relaxing, he's once again tending to the Knotty Cat's selfish needs. And of course to make things even more fun, Wilbur has decided to have another bout of diarrhea!

This is life as we know it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Together again, finally.

I just realized I have no pictures of our Knotty Cat in her new home so you'll just have to suffer with pictures of Wilbur during his two week stay at Doggy Day Care.

King of the mountain.

Wilbur does this at every park.

Finally after two weeks apart, Hans, Wilbur, and I are together again aboard the Knotty Cat.

I picked Wilbur up the day after I arrived back at the boat, and the both of us picked Hans up at the airport on Saturday.

All I can say is, I'm surprised I'm not still frantically circling the airport in search of Delta Blue # 2 Arrivals in search of Hans, and I hate airports! I think I really hate Tampa International Airport the most.

I have no sense of direction and GPS can only help so much. But when one follows the signs to an airport and arrives at a fork in the road, one should be given more choices at said fork than, 'Short Term Parking' (on the left) and 'Car Rental Returns' on the right.

Like how about 'Departures' and 'Arrivals'??? Where the hell are they???

All I knew was, I wasn't looking to park, and I was not returning a rental car.

Of course I took the wrong fork and before I knew it I was exiting the airport and entering the Twilight Zone. Now, normally the voice on my GPS is that of a very calm English lady but even she became a bit hysterical at this turn of events and in addition to shouting 'Recalculating! Recalculating!' she implored me to 'Turn Left' Turn Left' ! even though that would have had me making a sharp turn into the guard rails of a major highway. Unfortunately our GPS is over four years old and it's very apparent that some major road work has been done in the area since then and our old girl couldn't handle it. I also became a bit hysterical and told her to shut the hell up but she wouldn't. We are no longer speaking to each other

I ended up pulling a very iffy U-Turn and zipped off once again toward the airport only this time I approached from the North instead of the South and I prayed the signage from this direction might be better.

It was not and I ended up in a short term parking garage. By now I had Hans on the phone and even though he was the one who'd suffered through an interminable flight across the pond with no knee room whatsoever, a huge line through customs that caused him to be late for a connecting flight, and then a missed flight in Atlanta because he couldn't print his boarding pass in France (where they'd originally tried to send him to Helsinki!), I was the one having a hissy fit. Poor Wilbur wondered why he had to be yanked out of Doggy Care Care where life is 'all about the pitty' only to find himself trapped in the back seat of a vehicle while his mama screamed at an invisible woman.

Thankfully as I shot out of the short term parking garage an attendant assured me I wasn't the first person this has happened to. She then pointed me in the right direction.

I finally found Hans (who by now probably wished he'd taken that damn flight to Helsinki), and for some reason he insisted on taking over the driver's seat. Little Miss Prissy Voice loved this and in a sweet cooing voice, talked him all the way home without a hitch. Bitch!

Hans was supposed to start work yesterday but the owner of the company, after leaving France for the USA, found herself stuck in Rome and would be arriving a day late. Something about a broken windshield wiper on the plane and there was no mechanic available with the proper training to fix it. I personally think that GPS's are trying to take over the world. I bet somewhere out there, a pilot is still wondering how the hell he ended up in Rome when he thought he had the plane pointed towards Atlanta.

I only hope he doesn't tell anyone that a strange voice told him where to go.

This little voice is begging me to take him back to his little friends at Day Care.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Crazy Lives

A couple of weeks ago we no sooner got our Knotty Cat settled in our marina, than Hans and I fled the state for two weeks; Hans flew to France and I flew back home. Wilbur (that lucky dog and I mean that literally) found himself in Doggy Day Care.

Hans' new job is based in France and he will be the U.S. connection so he had to go over there for two very intensive weeks of training. I had to go back home and take care of some family business.

I guarantee you Wilbur had more fun than either of us.

How do I know this? Because the Day Care called me every two days with updates on Wilbur's state of mind, the state of his sensitive tummy, and how much fun he was having with all the other dogs.

I arrived home (the Knotty Cat is now home) yesterday, picked up a much thinner (thanks to many zoomie sessions at Day Care and they sent home the photos to prove it) Wilbur today, and the little man and I will pick Hans up at the airport tomorrow.

Hans and Wilbur are so smug. We were on the very last leg of our journey.

Hmmm, Wilbur is giving our new stomping grounds the sniff test.

He approves.

Wilbur celebrated our arriving safely and on time by sharing with us, his infamous Frog Pose.

After being in Day Care for two weeks, this is what's been on the boat with me today.

I'm not kidding when I say I don't think he's gone to the bathroom once.

He's either in a coma or just too damned tired to care.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Finally home.

We've had a lot going on these past two weeks so I apologize for being so behind on our progress.

After 11 days in the water we finally pulled into our marina...and right on schedule for the first time in our sailing lives! And also for the first time, we had very few technical difficulties. Admittedly we motored in with some smoke blowing out the port engine exhaust but the Knotty Cat enjoys the attention.

It's been a crazy summer for us, cleaning out our apartment, dealing with continuing family issues back home, lining up everything we need in Florida, trying to figure out the complicated mess of changing our driver's licenses, registration and what have you for our vehicles, getting the unpleasant news that our car insurance is now doubling!, finding suitable day care for our Wilbur, and wondering why the hell the post office can't seem to understand that when you ask for your mail to be forwarded, you want it forwarded!!! We have stacks of mail sitting in Pittsburgh that need to be sent to Florida. We are also trying to deal with the heat. It's an odd feeling to be standing still and realize there's not an inch of your body that isn't sweating. I had no idea my ankles had sweat glands!

Wilbur's tummy isn't too happy either so I ended up spending a agonizing afternoon boiling chicken and rice in hopes that he won't wake us up again in the night with an 'emergency'. Even looking at our stove in this heat makes me sick let alone actually using it. Imagine cooking in a sauna and you'll know what I mean.

Hans is currently training on his new job and he thinks he's going to like it. I sure hope so because I don't feel like moving again anytime soon.

I don't even want to know what he's pondering here!

"Hmmm, now that we've lived on a boat, I wonder how she'd feel if I told her it might be fun to live in a tent?"