Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving in Florida.

I love Thanksgiving and I believe it may be my favorite holiday of all since the only thing that's ever been expected of me during this time is a healthy appetite. This will be the first Thanksgiving in over 50 years that will not be spent at my parents' home in western Pennsylvania.

I have to admit that if I'd been given the option of living anywhere in the US, Florida would have been at the very bottom of my list. And arriving here during a horribly sweltering August only reinforced my opinion.

But now that we've been here for a few months I've found my opinion has changed. I really don't need six months of lead gray skies, endlessly cold dreary dark days, and worrying about whether I'm going to have to dig my car out from under three feet of snow that playfully fell during the night.

Instead, I wake up to sunny blue skies, take Wilbur to the dog park nearly every day during the week where we've met tons of wonderful people and playful poochies, go on bike rides with Hans to the beach on the weekend, sit barefoot in my cockpit every evening reading a book until it's dark, and then grill our dinner.

Now, I'm not bragging here, it's just that I've found myself adjusting very well to our new surroundings and for that I'm very grateful. However that could very well change when hurricane season rolls around again.

And I think I've figured out something very interesting. I've always associated Thanksgiving and Christmas with wintry type weather (like I said, over 50 years! Really?!) and perhaps if we'd moved to a different city in the north, I'd be feeling homesick, but since I'm so far removed from all that, reality just hasn't kicked in.

It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving here at all and in my opinion it could very well be July right now.

After having my Halloween display vandalized I was unsure of what to do for Thanksgiving.

I still haven't bought any new plants but I did cover our dock box with a fall themed plastic table cloth and adorned my tacky pink flamingo with an Indian headdress.

I found some feathers at Michael's and fused them to a scrap of fabric with Wonder Under. I then hand sewed it to Pinky's head.

A bit of a closeup.

Maybe I'll be more creative at Christmas but only if I can figure out a vandal proof idea for my decorations.

I'm very happy to announce that this year Hans and I received an invitation to a Thanksgiving get together with a friend of Hans' from his college days at CMU in Pittsburgh. It's been several years (and possibly decades) since Hans has seen Mark but we're very much looking forward to celebrating this holiday with an old friend and his family, and tons of their friends.

Poor Wilbur. Visions of Sugar Plums may be dancing in his head but he will not be stealing and eating pumpkin pie, shrimp, or butterscotch creme pie this Thanksgiving.

But don't worry about the little man, I have a feeling he'll be treated to a big peanut butter and biscuit stuffed kong.

And as always we'll leave the NFL station on for him so he can keep track of the games while we're gone.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More liveaboard stuff

It's kind of funny how when people find out we live on a boat in a marina, you just know they get the impression that we're living a glamorous kind of life style, when in reality, we basically live in a trailer park.

For the most part almost everyone in our marina is middle aged or older and God only knows how truly seaworthy a lot of these vessels are, but for now they are home. A lot of the men have jobs and head off to work everyday and those who don't have jobs, tinker. There's an outside workshop area and I have no idea what they're doing but I've never seen or heard so much sawing and sanding and hammering in my life. Some men work on their cars for hours at a time, and some seem obsessed with keeping their boats clean.

I appear to be a bit of an oddity as I'm one of the only people here who actually walks all the way from our boat to the main office for our mail, ice, and to do laundry.
Everyone else drives.

Needless to say Wilbur always accompanies me on these jaunts and even though he's a pistol in that he needs to sniff every blade of grass and prove to all that he's a big boy now by marking everything in his way, he stoically ignores all the yappers that live on the other boats.
Wilbur is the only pit bull in the marina. And also the quietest dog.

On one side of us is a disabled veteran who adores his cats and parrots (who sleep in the same big cage by the way!). When he cleans his birds' cages they sit in the cockpit and cheerfully call out hello when they aren't wolf whistling at everyone who walks by.
On our other side is a charter fishing boat and I met the original owner shortly after we arrived here. Bob (also a veteran) was dying of cancer and knew he only had a couple of months to live. I was struck by how pleasant and cheerful Bob was despite his prognosis and his brother would bring him to his boat daily so he could sit in the cockpit and enjoy the day. When he found out I liked to read he gave me an old paperback book (actually a Pulitzer Prize winner) from his home and I was moved that he would even think to do this.
Bob died a couple of weeks ago but his boat is still in operation. He gave it to a friend and it's now back in business.
A couple of days ago I awoke to a loud engine, diesel smoke, and shouts of laughter right outside my berth hatch. Did the fact that it was 7AM bother me?
Not at all. Hearing people having a good time just can't upset me.
Before they set out, I managed to get a look at the charter group which consisted of four well over 7o something men. They had to be friends of long standing because they were so easy with each other, talking, laughing, interrupting, and even though they were in no way spring chickens I felt like I was watching a bunch of little boys lined up on a bench and getting ready for a big day at sea.
I have a feeling that if they hadn't been able to go out, they still would have had a blast just sitting in the slip all day.
In the end they came back with some good sized fish and over 60 snapper.

I told Hans I was having a hard time finding a retractable clothes line and he told me to just use Wilbur's retractable leash.

What a smart guy.

I was a bit concerned that I might get in trouble for airing our laundry in public and looking like we live in a tenement (some snobby subdivisions forbid clothes lines you know) but I soon realized we were probably safe when I noticed that a newly arrived live aboard couple were airing out their port a potty on their foredeck (I would have taken a picture, but remember? we live here!).

I made a huge mistake today when I left the boat to go shopping and forgot to remove our garbage.
I arrived home to find chewed up foil, coffee grounds, filthy paper towels, and a very guilty pitty. What bothered me the most is that I've been doing a tremendous amount of sewing these days and in that very same garbage was discarded needles and a rotary cutting blade.

Bad Dog!! I told Wilbur it's time he started pulling his own weight on this boat and he can just start planning some menus.

"Awe!! C'mon Mom! Do I have to?"

"Wow! I had no idea there were so many tasty recipes out there!"

"Mmmmm, bird poop, smelly clam shell, and rotten conch broth!! I love it! May I please have the keys to the car? I need to go shopping at the beach."

I think I need to come up with a better form of punishment.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Who would want to live on a boat?

And I don't mean some kind of mega yacht, I'm talking about your average sail boat (or trawler). It's not like there's all kinds of room or a lot of floor space with tantalizing promises of chances to redecorate with different styles of furniture over the coming years. Because let's face it, on a boat everything is very stationary. We have our galley area and I'm sorry but no matter how 'in' stainless steel appliances are right now (and have you ever tried to keep those big stinkers clean?), you'll have to remain happy with your chest type refrigerator/freezer, and happy indeed you'll be to even have refrigeration.

Our propane stove consists of two burners and an oven (which is actually more than we had in our old apartment), and sorry, we won't be replacing yards of pine cupboards with cherry cupboards or installing acres of corian counter tops in hopes that this will enable me to suddenly conjour up gourmet dinners (otherwise known as pizza delivery) ala todays suburban housewives.

Our salon area consists of a small 'L' shaped stationary 'sofa' that can be converted into another sleeping area if need be. This area is where we do most of our living while on our boat and I decided early on to make slip covers in order to preserve the cushions. I used some old king sized sheets that are already showing wear and since we are now truly live aboards I plan on making some new covers that are more durable and attractive.

Even though we're on a boat, we are very lucky to have two full heads (bathrooms) complete with separate stand up showers. We also have a hot water tank and for us this is a big plus.

Our berth is queen size (as is the guest berth) and I thank God for this as Wilbur is a very restless pitty and isn't happy unless he's stomping all over us all night long!

But anyway, Hans and I were talking about living aboard the other day and I reminded him about a family reunion trip we took to Trier, Germany a couple of years ago.

We had gone for a walk and I was curious about what lie behind a long line of hedges we were walking beside. And just like that a gate appeared. Of course we couldn't resist and walked right in. I immediately got goose bumps and felt an incredible thrill of excitement when I found ourselves in the midst of Munchkinland.

Check out this tiny little house. A child's dream come true.

At least mine!

Compared to Hans, do you see what I mean when I say tiny?

I was fascinated to find that in Germany, if you live in an apartment or condo but would still like to garden, you can rent/own/sublet a small piece of property and do just this.

Some of these lots have been handed down from generation to generation. There are boards who can decide if your family may inherit or not, and if you don't keep up with the Jones' you stand a chance to lose your very coveted plot of land.

Stumbling onto these properties was one of the bright spots of this particular trip (right up there with finding out some of Hans' distant relatives own a vineyard), and even though I don't live in one of these adorable little cottages, I live in the next best thing.

A boat.

And the nice thing is, we can pick up and move any time we want.

That's who would want to live on a boat.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Last weekend we finally used our boat in the way it was intended to be used.
We went sailing.
The weather was perfect with a bit of wind and we managed to spend a few pleasant hours putting around in the bay. I'm also thrilled that we exited and entered our slip without any problems.

Along for the ride was Annie.
Is she sweet or what?!
A very dear friend of Hans' from his 'paying his way through college book selling days' passed away last summer and his friend's wife (who also sold books door to door) lives down here and was able to go out with us. Yvonne brought their daughter Tessa and the lovely Annie with her. Wilbur was fascinated with Annie and was actually on his best behavior. One time Wilbur approached Annie while she was taking a sun bath and all she did was lift a warning lip (with nary a sound) and Wilbur immediately scooted over to the other side of the cockpit and left her alone.
We all had to laugh at the end of the evening though when Annie fled the parking lot in a very dramatic manner and ran back to the boat where her long lost love Wilbur was anxiously awaiting her return.

Check out my solar powered clothes dryer. I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised that after hanging our laundry out like we live in a tenement, we'd receive a visit from the police that very night.
We were fast asleep and still can't quite remember what woke us up but we immediately knew it was the police. I pushed and shoved my way past Hans (not an easy task in a very narrow area let me tell you!), who was struggling to make himself decent, and advised our visitors that I was letting our dog into the cockpit first. They stayed on the dock and shortly thereafter Wilbur (who'd gone from barking like a madman to wiggling with glee like a madman) and I (in my blue flannel nighty sporting cute little penguins) were ensconced in the cockpit while Hans (who never did get decent) stayed inside and talked to all of us via the cockpit door.
It would appear that a 911 call was placed from our slip and we swore it hadn't come from us.
No, we didn't roll over on our phone while we were sleeping.
No, Wilbur doesn't have opposable thumbs.
No, we were absolutely certain we did not call 911 and I invited them two times to come aboard and check things out, and both times they refused.
After asking for our phone numbers (which they immediately dismissed with a waving of hands) they said the only thing that came over the line had been static.
After they left (and I have a feeling they didn't believe us) Hans asked me what time it was assuming it was something like 3 AM. It was 11:20 PM. Talk about feeling like a couple of old farts.
The next morning I felt obliged to tell the owner of the marina what had gone on and instead of feeling like we might get kicked out I was very happy to find out that this was nothing new. It would appear that one of the boats in the marina used to have a land line on his boat (how bizarre is that?) and it just happened to be in our slip. Somehow or other the line used to short out and send emergency calls to 911. That particular boat is now several slips down and uninhabited but it's obvious that the problem has yet to be solved.
The phone company and the police were notified.
Yesterday, Wilbur was the only disappointed body when I happily hung out our wash and didn't receive a visit from our boys in blue.

Life with Wilbur on the Knotty Cat. He's a cuddle-butt!

Who needs the stinkin' police when you have pit bull to guard the beer cooler?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Good Intentions

After being dockbound for the past two months, Hans and I decided it was time to do a bit of sailing (and now we don't need to drive 5 hours to get to our boat because sonofagun! we live on it!). So, Saturday morning, even after hearing a pretty questionable weather report and sleeping in way too long we took down the air conditioner, disconnected our power cords and water hose, rearranged the interior of the boat so things wouldn't go flying about and either break or hit Wilbur on his poor pitty head (I'm talking about the objects breaking, not Wilbur's head which is apparently unbreakable and you'd believe me if you ever saw him in action at the dog park. His head is just fine but I'm not sure I can say the same thing for the picnic tables or other pooches he's collided with). And even though we performed this very same song and dance every single day during our nearly two week trip from the east to the west coast of Florida through Lake Okeechobee, it suddenly seemed like a whole lot of work.

We were finally ship shape and then Hans tried to fire up our engines. Only they didn't fire up. They didn't even sputter. Our starting battery, battery number one, was dead. In the end this wasn't such a bad thing because the wind had really picked up and was easily blowing 20-25 within our very protected marina and the current forecast was saying something about eight foot waves and since I don't do much over three foot waves without either puking or complaining, I knew we weren't going anywhere. So, off Hans went to the local hardware store and we now own a new and hopefully strong battery.

Maybe this coming weekend will be better.

Remember my Halloween display? I found out that pumpkins don't last nearly as long here in Florida as they do in Pennsylvania and after two weeks mine were very definitely starting to rot. But before I could get rid of them someone took matters into their own hands.

Hans and I awoke one night when we both heard a lot of splashing around our boat. We agreed it must be the very same fish that have hysterics now and then around the marina and fling themselves about with wild abandon, and we went back to sleep. The next day we woke up to no more pumpkins and both of the beautiful potted plants that I just bought and never had a chance to take a picture of, gone.

I was still puzzling over who the hell would want to steal rotting pumpkins when the mystery was solved. My plants may have been taken but my poor pumpkins had been tossed into the drink and now appeared to be trick or treating as they bobbed their way from boat to boat. They were later fished out and disposed of by a marina employee. Not embarrassing at all!

I'm so loving the cooler temperatures!!! Hans took this picture of me last evening while I was sitting in the cockpit reading.

Yes, I'm wrapped up in a blanket!

I'm still trying to get used to the local creatures. Normally I'm pretty squeamish but I love the lizards that scurry about ever so busily, and I didn't even mind sharing my chaise lounge with one the other day. I wasn't so thrilled though when I spotted a snake sticking its nasty little face out of a hedge (way up at the top no less!) just inches away from where Wilbur was doing his business. And I was horrified the day Wilbur found this crab hiding under our beer cooler. I nearly had a heart attack because I thought it was a spider (and a huge one at that!).

I finally broke down and bought Wilbur a new 'hedgehog'. He'd already performed squeakerectomies on his first two and we actually sailed for months with just the husk of his second one. But I couldn't stand having its slimy little body around any longer and finally disposed of it.

So far Hedgy number 3 has lasted nearly a week and is still fully intact. I'm pretty sure this is a temporary situation.

The weather here has been extremely pleasant and I no longer feel like I'm going to melt every time I leave the boat. As a matter of fact I've actually ridden my bike to the beach the last two days.

And after talking with friends and family back home in Pennsylvania where it's been spitting snow, I asked Hans why the hell he took so long in moving us to Florida!

I love it here!