Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year's Eve (I Hope)!!

Wilbur does his sniffy thing at our anchorage
I'm attemping to use Blogsy from my iPad and I'm not feeling too good about it. Here's keeping my fingers crossed that I can actually post.
After a quick trip to Publix this morning I have to tell you I feel far safer here at anchor than on land. Something I've learned since moving to the land of Newly Wed's and Nearly Dead's is this; keep clear of all Cadillacs. This is because whether parked or in motion, those that are parked may soon leap into motion and those that are already in motion don't have a clue as to where they are going and often mistake the accelerator for the brake. But let's not discriminate here. The occupants of all the other vehicles are either on their cell phones, texting, and the true multi-taskers are texting in addition to swooshing their fingers over their iPads (and you can't blame them as concentrating on the road must be so boring).

So after dodging a couple of Cadillacs in Publix's parking lot alone and then wading my way through a myriad of people just to get a couple of very necessary items (bourbon and beer) I was hugely relieved to arrive back at the boat where Hans had everything ready for a quick getaway.

Now, I've taken the boat out of the slip quite successfully a few times now and I had no doubt I'd be able to do it again today. But I didn't count on the fact that the Knotty Cat loves an audience and she hates to be taken for granted. And after today's launching I have a feeling that our new neighbors on our port side with their beautiful Beneteau, and the captain on the boat directly across from us (and right in our forward path) whose huge frightened eyes still burn in my brain, are telling everyone in our marina to stay clear of the crazy blond on the Island Packet Cat.

So yes, I do feel safer at anchor right now but imagine how the poor folks at our marina feel knowing that we'll be coming back in tomorrow.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Hectic Holiday Week

We celebrated our Christmas on the Knotty Cat the day before Christmas Eve. 

On Christmas Eve itself we flew north to Pennsylvania in order to visit family and friends. We literally hotel hopped the whole time we were there in order to take advantage of points, miles, etc... and we scored free hotel rooms for three of the nights we were there.

But, we were very lucky.  All of our flights were on time, and we only had one day of really crappy weather we had to drive through in our Mustang Convertible.
Yes, I said Mustang Convertible.  I thought the lady at the car rental place was joking when she told us what they were giving us but I found out very quickly that she had no sense of humor whatsoever.  And after telling her that we had no desire to drive through blizzard like conditions in a rear wheel drive sports vehicle she nastily informed us that, for a price, we could up-grade. 

We (Hans) didn't.  But apparently the convertible caught wind of our dissatisfaction and after we deposited all our belongings into its trunk it decided to treat us to its little bag of tricks.
While trying to familiarize ourselves with the working systems of the car we turned on the dome light. When we tried to turn out the light we inadvertently activated the 'convertible' feature.  While it hummed and whined, our windows started going up and down, up and down...
...and up and down (although the top remained firmly in place).

An attendant tried to help us but the Mustang just laughed in his face. 

I'm sorry to say that even after I got out and refused to go any further in this beast and Hans stated that we had already voiced our dissatisfaction with this particular make of vehicle, we ended up exiting the airport in a stinking white Mustang Convertible!

It didn't make me feel any better a day later when we were filling it up at a gas station and a local asked us why the hell we didn't have our car 'garaged' for the winter.  

But we soldiered on and were quite relieved to finally drop off our convertible (unscathed) at the air port, and last night we finally arrived back to our Knotty Cat.
In a driving rain storm.

The week must have caught up with us and we didn't wake up until 10:40 this morning!  I made a mad dash to Doggy Day Care where Wilbur was to be picked up by 11:00. He's been comatose in our salon ever since he got back and has yet to go potty.

Wilbur helps us unwrap our presents.  He's a peach.

One of Hans' co-workers thinks we're disgusting so Hans couldn't resist  writing this on my gift tag.

I got Hans a 'head lamp' for when he checks out our engines.  He uses it here to open his other presents.

Wilbur:  "Oh, Crap, it's just a picture book of their wedding and they made me be the ring bearer when I wanted to be the flower girl."

First Mate and Captain glasses from Tervis.  So where's the Salty Dog glass?

But, best of all (and I do mean best of all!!!!) I managed to put one over on Hans.

Wilbur helps Hans open his 'mystery present'.
The week before Christmas, Hans told one of our live-a-board friends about a keyboard he'd had back in the 80's and how much he'd loved it. It was a Casio CZ-101 and even though it was small it did all kinds of fun things.  Unfortunately, it mysteriously disappeared a few years ago and if he only had it now he just knew he'd be able to have all kinds of fun with it.

That's all I needed to hear and I jumped onto EBay, bought one, and prayed it would get to us before Christmas Eve.

It arrived on Saturday while Hans was home and I felt like an agent from Mission Impossible. I ended up hiding it under a palm tree before moving it to the back of our vehicle (where I wrapped it and Hans never had a clue!), and then when Hans took a trip to the bath house I threw it into our guest berth (the garage) where he never goes but of course that day he did.  Thank God I'd thrown a blanket over it and he never saw it.

After all our presents had been opened I brought this one out and proceeded to bluff him as best I could. I said I hoped our refrigeration wouldn't fail while we were away. Hans looked puzzled and said his present didn't feel cold.  I mentioned this thing called dry ice.  He wondered if I'd bought him Omaha Steaks.  I rolled my eyes and said after all we live on the coast and there's this stuff called seafood, and I could tell he wasn't too thrilled, and then he finally got the box open and saw his keyboard.

Hans was truly surprised and I doubt I'll ever be able to pull off something like this again.

Ta-Da!!!  A Casio CZ-101 keyboard from the 1980's.  And it works!

Wilbur performed his famous squeakerectomy within seconds of opening his present from Sandy Paws.

This morning after I picked up Wilbur I heard a car crunch through the gravel behind our boat so of course I looked out.  I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a white Mustang Convertible slink past us and I swear its headlights were shifting back and forth while it took in its surroundings .  "Oh My God!!"  I hissed to Hans, "It's our convertible and it knows where we live!!!"  It turned around and left and I'm going to try not to worry about it as we intend to head out into the Gulf tomorrow in order to spend New Year's Eve on the hook.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

You mean it's almost Christmas?

And just like every other year in my life I left my Christmas shopping until the last minute. 
In past years I blamed the fact that I had two jobs and no time.  
Now that I don't have a job I blame the fact that living in Florida, where I don't shovel snow everyday and I'm still wearing shorts and flip-flops, has skewed my sense of seasons. I should be embarrassed (but I'm not) to admit that I thought Christmas was next week.
Actually, I have no excuse beyond the fact that I'm simply lazy.

So anyway, UPS delivered a package to our boat a few days ago, and since it had both our names on it I decided it must be a Christmas present and therefore waited for Hans to come home before opening it (a damn hard thing for me to do).
And it was indeed a Christmas present from my Baby Girl.  She sent us a two inch thick Queen size Memory Foam Mattress Pad. 
I swear, that girl will do anything to ensure being remembered in our will (and I fear she'll be severely disappointed). 

Someone loves our new Memory Foam Pad.  I'll give you two guesses. 

Wrapping paper, wrapped presents, and presents awaiting to be wrapped.
Isn't this what Nav Stations were designed for?
My HUGE wrapping area. Please don't envy me.
A few humble gifts for Hans and Wilbur.
Last year I waited until we had landed and were in our hotel room before I even started wrapping presents.
I swore I wouldn't do that this year, so today I got all my wrapping done and only then did I stop to ponder whether I was going to be able to take wrapped gifts in my carry-on luggage and risk a brouhaha at airport security.
It's too late now and all I can do is keep my fingers crossed.

I ended up having to make another run to the Dollar Tree for more wrapping paper and scotch tape, and finally I was done!! All that remained was one small square of paper and don't think I wasn't a little bit insulted when Hans informed me that it was more than enough for his gift for me.
I smell trouble.

It's now the night before the night before Christmas Eve and we are watching Mr. MaGoo's Christmas Carol.  I had completely forgotten about this old cartoon and I'm shocked at how many memories have flooded back to me from my childhood.  My sister and I were huge fans of anything that smacked of Christmas animation and I'm having a good time.
I just saw an ad for 'It's a Wonderful Life' and it's going to be aired at 8 PM on Christmas Eve. I've already warned Hans that we (or at least I) will be watching it as it is my all time favorite movie.

Tomorrow night we'll be watching The Grinch who Stole Christmas thanks to a DVD my son gave me a few years ago.

It just doesn't get much better than this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Fun Family Weekend

Hans' baby brother came all the way down from Canada this past weekend to celebrate his 45th birthday with us.  

We were thankful for two things; the first being that I was able to get our boat out of the slip without smacking into our new neighbor (a very impressive Beneteau), and that we were able to sail in the Gulf all day long before anchoring for the night.  

The only problem that perhaps slightly overshadowed our wonderful weekend was my horribly-gone-wrong haircut. In all my years on this earth I've never been as stunned as I was this past week with what I'm calling the hair cut from hell (dirty dishwater blond, dutch boy bowl cut might give you an idea) which explains why I'm not in any of our pictures and why I'm sure Hans is thanking any and all  Gods that I got it re-cut today.  
A man should only have to put up with so many tears.

PS, I'm still not completely happy but thank God my hair grows fast. 

Holy Crap!!! We actually put up the main!!!

Wilbur loves the birthday boy, Uncle #1

Wilbur suffers so in these cold Florida temps. Brrrrrrr

Wilbur's Uncle #2 enjoys our new anchorage

The Knotty Cat after a fun weekend.  Look at all the dishes (which I actually enjoy washing)!

Baby Brother, Hans, and Wilbur's best side.
(Check out my holiday dock box)
We ended up anchoring in the same place we did on day one of our Turkey Tour.  Something was noticeably different this time though and that was the giant influx of Angry Birds. As evening approached and we sat in the cockpit we couldn't help but notice thick clouds of noisy black birds (crows?),  ala  Alfred Hitchcock, noisily flying overhead.
I remember being awakened in the early morning hours the next day by the noise of these birds and I swear I thought they were sitting right outside our hatch (which I eventually found out they were). "CAW CAW CAW!"  uh oh uh oh uh oh"  "HA HA HA!"  "warble warble warble", went their conversation just over my head.
Wilbur's Uncle #2  happened to be up early and was sitting in the cockpit at that time and he told us we had at least 50 birds perched on our mast, boom, forestay, backstays, and jib.

I'm just thankful that they didn't use us as a port-a-potty and we only had a few poopy bird messes to clean up.

Wilbur had a wonderful time too, but after our guests left it would appear he slid into a slight depression.
Thus the conversation overheard in our berth around 3 AM last night:

Hans:  What the hell? Why are our sheets wet? Did someone piss the bed?
Me: Huh?
Hans: Someone pissed the bed!
Me: Well, it wasn't me!
Hans: It wasn't me either!
Wilbur: Snoooooooooooooooore.


If Wilbur starts ripping the wings off flies and starting fires, I fear we may have a future serial killer on our hands.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We be Lovin' our Florida Winter

After our wonderful week of vacation (ala our Thanksgiving Turkey Tour) we are now truly enjoying the Florida weather here in, uuuhhhm, well, Florida.

And let me tell you, it's been absolute heaven.  

For me it's kind of like giving birth; even though I've somehow managed to live through 2 beyond hellishly hot summers here in the Sunshine State (on a boat!!!!!!!), I've forgotten the bad stuff and only want to embrace the good.

Our days are full of sunshine, our evenings and mornings are now cool, and all we need in addition to a hot blooded pit bull for warmth at night is a blanket.  And we always have a hatch or two open for fresh air.

However, if Wilbur had any say in the matter, I'm pretty sure he'd have a complaint.  Our poor pittie truly has a problem with the cold. He shivers and trembles and burrows under blankets in even the most tepid of temperatures and has shown no desire to venture into our cockpit to 'take care of business' if it's even remotely chilly out.  
Actually, as far as Wilbur is concerned, 'taking care of business' is much more satisfying in a comfy warm berth.  

But we'll say no more on that matter.

Wilbur with his portable heater. Only 72 degrees?? Stop the Abuse!!!!
A 'crackling' Yankee Candle.
A former classmate of mine, knowing that I'm missing my fireplace, sent us this candle for the holidays.  Next summer we hope to attend my 35 year (how is that possible?) high school reunion and take a tour of her and her husband's working dairy farm. This farm is now on its eighth generation of family ownership.
And for those of you unfamiliar with farming; they operate 24/7.
All year long.
I grew up in farm land but Hans didn't so he's really looking forward to next summers visit.  I know he'll get a kick out of how far science has come to impact the farming community over the years.


Since I detest sweating for no reason at all; during the summer I now fully understand the need for siestas.

But now that it's fall and I have my sweating down to a minimum, I'm thrilled that the light bulb on my sewing machine isn't adding unwanted heat to our boat and I can actually plug in my iron without fear of melting.

Some actual sewing going on here
Nautical potholders made for a going 'aweigh' (I'm so clever) present 
A little more sewing.  Christmas potholders
And even more sewing!!!  Some wallets (these are only the beginning).
In addition to sewing, I've swabbed our decks more than once (just because I can!!!), biked to the library, walked a very naughty dog, and have actually enjoyed sitting in the cockpit during the evening.

What's not to love about a Florida Winter?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Tour (Day Six). Digesting.

After celebrating a successful Thanksgiving Day at anchor we thought we'd actually sail instead of motor back to our marina (No God Awful Black Friday Shopping for us).  And since NOAA (remember my interpretation of that particular acronym; Not On At All) predicted strong continuing North winds for the next three days we were all het up!!! That is until the North winds died during the night and we awoke to no wind at all and the water surrounding us was glassy smooth.
So we decided we may as well enjoy another day at anchor and OH MY GOD deploy our dinghy which has been languishing on our foredeck for over a year, in order to go ashore.  The only reason we haven't used our dinghy before this is because of how much fun it isn't for us to drop our horribly heavy 8 HP motor onto it.  
Remember that we're basically middle aged old farts. 

Hans fills our generator with gas so we have 4 more hours of power.
Sunset at anchor
Our dinghy hasn't been in the water in over a year
After many discussions and remembrances of how we got our dinghy and dinghy motor going during our stay in the Bahamas we actually managed to get ashore without any casualties.

Wilbur has a zoomy

Just watching Wilbur run with such exuberance was well worth our efforts.  I was hesitant about taking him ashore but since the whole shore was empty and I didn't see any signs prohibiting dogs on the particular shoreline we landed on, we threw caution to the wind.

Wilbur went bonkers and ran about like a wild man.  The only downside was his finding a dead bird that he felt the need to gnaw on (completely gross and I told him there'd be no pitty kisses for at least two hours).

We were back on our boat before noon which happened to be good timing.  After that many motor boats beached for a day on the bar and I'm not sure they  would have been thrilled to encounter our very happy pit bull.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Tour (Day Five), the Grand Finale

We were very fortunate that there was a restaurant at our marina that was open today otherwise we would have left the dock with no ice. I have an ice maker on board but it certainly doesn't churn out enough in a few hours to fill our coolers for two days.  One of the waitresses told us they had more than they needed and I think we ended up with about 20 pounds.

Once underway Hans started playing the 'I wonder if we should anchor somewhere else' game. This went on for awhile and then I reminded him that I had a Thanksgiving dinner to prepare and he'd better get us to Three Rooker Bar like we'd planned.

Or else.

He got us there.

So here's a confession.  I've never cooked a turkey in my life. All of the 'turkey' holidays of my past have been spent at my parents' house and last year at a friend's house. Wouldn't you know I'd wait until I'm living on a boat with a 2 burner stove to try to pull off my first Thanksgiving dinner.  

And just so you know, Wilbur gave our holiday dinner his seal of approval.  
How do I know this?
I'd unwrapped, rinsed, and dried our 5 pound turkey breast and placed it atop our refrigerator (which just happens to be right beside the companionway steps to the cockpit).  I should have known better.  I'd only turned away for a moment and when I turned back, Wilbur (who's known these days as Wilbur GetOffTheRefrigerator instead of Wilbur GetOutOfTheGarbage) had one fore paw on the steps, one on the fridge, and was wildly running his tongue a mile a minute over the turkey skin.
I jerked it away from him and rinsed it again. Since I'm not one to worry about dog germs (or I'd be dead by now) I'm pretty sure a hot oven will kill even the most nasty ones.

A watched turkey never cooks

Hans (through the to-go window) relaxing while SOMEONE ELSE slaves over the stove

Wilbur is in danger of fading away if that damn turkey doesn't get done soon

Let's eat!!

All is good
I nearly placed a Rest In Peace wreath on that turkey before I stuck it in the oven because I surely knew there was no way it was going to be able to cook it all the way through.
But it did!
And my mashed potatoes were great. Not gummy or pasty at all.

But best of all, Wilbur got to lick out all kinds of pots, pans, dishes (a huge aid to me when it comes to dish washing), and had his own helping of turkey. He disappeared into our berth right after dinner and is now fast asleep under our quilt.

I called home and talked to my family and made sure everyone got enough to eat (family joke as my mother is the best cook in the world and could feed a small nation with her leftovers), and to brag that we didn't have to grill hot dogs for dinner.

We are very fortunate and this has been a great Thanksgiving. What a wonderful world it would be if everyone else could say the same.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey Tour (Day Four)

We were quite happy to leave our anchorage and head north for Tarpon Springs.  We've decided to spend the night at a marina as we're not really finding an ideal place to anchor.  Anyway, the day before Thanksgiving is usually pretty festive and we'd like to enjoy walking around.

A chilly Wilbur thanks God that my hoodie isn't pink.

This particular waterway isn't called The Narrows for nothing. Look how close these markers are.

Going past some charming sights in Tarpon Springs on the way to our marina.

You can't see it but I'm holding a real alligator head (yuck) and asking Hans which of us has bigger teeth.

Poor Hans
Hmmmmm, I wonder if he went out of the channel?

I love a pet friendly restaurant and Wilbur does too!
We had no idea Tarpon Springs had a Greek origin and I didn't feel like I was in Florida at all; it felt very European most likely because we aren't sweltering in the heat anymore.  We also didn't realize that a huge sponge industry got its start here back in the early 1900's.  And let me tell you I've never seen so many sponges in my life. Thousands. From the tiniest that would fit into the palm of your hand to the largest that could fill a bushel basket. We had a nice time wandering around and I ended up buying some heavenly smelling goat milk soaps (from Bath Etc) for Christmas presents. What's really great to know is that if I ever want to go back it's less than an hour car drive away!!

We finally decided we're going to spend Thanksgiving at anchor at Three Rooker Bar.  We motored past it on our way to Tarpon Springs and it has a pretty view of white sandy beaches and promises of a good holding in everything but east winds (and it's been north winds this whole week).

While we were motoring along today I peeled and cut up a bag of Macintosh apples.  Hans told me we had two hours before we were due to arrive at our marina so I popped my apple pie into the oven (I use my loaf pan for pies).  A couple of minutes later we made a turn, the current gave us a huge push and Hans informed me we would now arrive in about 40 minutes.  

All ended well though because the pie finished cooking shortly after we docked.

A heart is a lot easier to cut into a pie crust than a turkey. This is my pie in its pre-cooked stage.

I still use my nearly 35 year old Betty Crocker Cook Book and needless to say, the pie chapter pages have the most stains.

Turkey Tour (Day Three)

Once we finally got to our Anchorage in Mandalay Channel and dropped the hook we decided instead of getting up early the next day and heading on to the next anchorage all of 2 hours away, we'd just stay put and enjoy the day.
For anyone wishing to go to Mandalay, go at high tide (we went in 2 hours after low tide and left 3 hours before low tide). Where our charts showed 13 feet we saw 5,  where they showed 7 we saw less than 3. Steer very clear of red markers 10 and 12, and follow the narrow channel on your chart plotter.

This trimaran was having a blast in the 15 or so knots of wind whipping around the anchorage.
Enjoying the strong winds

Captain Hans takes it easy

Wilbur and I relaxing in the cockpit

My new best friend sitting at the stern. A GENERATOR!!!
We played rummy (I won!), Scrabble (I won!), drank some very good coffee (with Bailey's of course), napped, and then ran our new generator for a while so I could make ice (anyone who knows me knows I need coffee and ice) and just generally get to use power while anchored.

We were worried that Wilbur might not like where we placed the generator since it's right behind his potty patch .  We were happy to find that need over rode fear and I have to admit I laughed when from where I stood in the companionway it would appear that Wilbur was literally kissing the generator as he hunched up to do his business (always with his back to us, he likes his privacy!).

Next stop, Tarpon Springs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turkey Tour (Day Two)

Part II of our Thanksgiving Day Sojourn.

Hans comforts Wilbur after our running aground.
After spending the night at anchor thanks to our 'unexpected' (though who ever expects it especially when you draw but 2 1/2 feet?) running aground,  we motored a whole 4 more hours before we dropped the hook in Mandalay Channel.
And don't think it wasn't fraught without anxiety yet ONCE AGAIN!!!  

Honest to God, I'd like to know how anyone manages to navigate about the ICW or the GIWW these days.  After having consulted our Cruising the Gulf Coast Skipper Bob Guide Book, I told Hans that the Mandalay Channel would be an ideal anchorage for us. 
We had no sooner left the GIWW channel toward this fantastic spot than we passed another sail boat.  The captain frantically waved at us so we hailed him on our radio.  He was very obviously nervous and confessed that this was his first time (on a boat? as a boat owner? in this waterway?) and could he follow us?   He told us he drew about 4 1/2 feet.
"But of course!" we enthusiastically answered and we told him we'd let him know if we saw anything less than 5 feet.
After serpentining our way through the channel we started to register depths of 5 feet, then 4 feet, and Holy Crap! less than 3 feet!  We radioed these crazy depths back to our new friend and he profusely thanked us.  "He's gonna wish he'd never met us," I remarked as I knew we were sure to run aground yet once again.  He called back and let us know he was going to hang back until the tide started to come in.

We never did see him again.

When we dropped anchor without running aground we were so thankful we said 'the hell with leaving here tomorrow, we'll just stay put for a day." 

And we did.
This always gives me the hee-bee-gee-bees!!
When we passed this particular hulk we were in 2 1/2 feet of water. 

Who needs a boat when you can walk?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turkey Tour (Day One)

Not guilty.

We want to spend Thanksgiving in Anclote Key.  We would love to sail but Anclote is north of us and guess where the wind is coming from. Yep, the north.  We wanted to get a few hours in before dropping anchor but after motoring a whole 2 hours (yes, 2 hours!) yesterday, we stopped.

Just like that.

Later on we were playing our usual at anchor Scrabble game and hoping the molar Hans broke earlier while scarfing down peanuts won't give him a problem for the rest of this voyage:

Hans:  I think we should let everyone think you were at the helm when we ran aground.

Me:  Too late, I've already posted on Facebook.

Not guilty