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


Sunday, November 18, 2012

A New Marina Friend

 Of the animal variety anyway. 

In addition to manatees, dolphins, and various Silly Walkers (our name for herons and their ilk), we now have a furry, land bound creature to add to our list of neighbors.

Maggie the Squirrel fell out of her nest at a tender young age but luckily for her we have a live-aboard couple here who happen to know a thing or two about squirrel rescue and Maggie was saved. During the heat of the summer while I was Kravitzing about fetching ice, picking up mail, and perhaps purchasing a Frosty or two (damn that Wendy's for being within walking distance), I'd heard some vague comments about a daring squirrel rescue.

And then a couple of weeks ago we had our Quarterly Marina Barbecue get together and Maggie quickly became the star. I (who as a child had a skunk for a pet) was still stunned to find a squirrel zipping about quite fearlessly and running up and down people as if they were trees.

Later on I remembered that during one of my walks the day before the picnic, I'd noticed a squirrel hanging on to a tree just a couple of feet from me.  I stood still and watched it and it stood still and watched me. 'How cute,' I thought before going on my way.  I now realize that it was Maggie and can you imagine what would have happened if she'd jumped on me????

The scream heard round the world I'm sure!

"Maggie wanna radish?"

"No thank you, I'd rather make a nest in your hair."
"Or sit on Hans' shoulder."

"Cute, Schmute!!!!! No creature can compete with me!!"

Just in case anyone is worried about Maggie's well being; the people who rescued her have done this before.  Maggie has been doing very well with being reintroduced back into her real world, has built her own nests in a couple of trees and sometimes she stays out all night long with her new squirrel friends. She also has pajama parties on the boat and brings these squirrel friends (all female so far) back to the boat for sleep overs in her cage.
Eventually she'll probably stop visiting her boat house but I hope I'll still spot her running around like I did yesterday with a big acorn stuffed in her mouth.


Hans finally got a whole week of vacation so we are going to spend this week 'out' on the water instead of 'in a marina' in the water.
This will be our first Thanksgiving at anchor.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cooler Weather = Outside Boat Cleaning

Right around November the first someone threw a switch on the weather here in Florida and we went from what I refer to as 'ankle sweating weather' to 'the most fantastic weather ever'!!  We now have breezy mornings, hot sunny days, cool comfortable evenings, and no need for air conditioning!!

Every day.  And it's fantastic!

The only downside is Wilbur and I can no longer hide out below board eating bon-bons, watching old movies, and napping, all the while blaming the intense Florida heat for the fact that the outside of our Knotty Cat is just plain filthy.

But now that the weather is cooperating I can't use the heat as an excuse for my slovenly ways. I can't whine to Hans that just navigating my way through a day means sweating through the lightest of clothes and even while sitting still sweat rolls down my back unless I sit right in front of a fan. And I'm not kidding when I tell you that just standing at the bow for the half hour it takes me to fill our water tanks once a week during the summer is beyond excruciating.

Honestly, the summer here is that bad.

So I've actually (almost) enjoyed these past two weeks as I've mopped and scrubbed the decks and have used about a gallon or so of mineral spirits to remove the inky black tar left behind from the oozing edges of our roll up solar panels (I've since wrapped those edges with UV resistant foil tape). And you just haven't lived until you've used an entire box of Q-Tips to clean just one locker. I've also skinned my knuckles scrubbing out too many lazarettes and lockers of their summers worth of dog hair, grit, and grime.

Gross indeed, but I did it mostly sweat free and that works for me.

Unloading the lazarettes in the cockpit.

Wilbur stands guard over our belongings.

Wilbur's swimming pool put to a whole different use.

"Phooey on all this boat cleaning! Where are my bon-bons and  DVD of The Return of Lassie?"

Next week is Thanksgiving already and Hans finally has a weeks vacation due him.  We are going to spend it  cruising up the coast and will celebrate the holiday at anchor with Wilbur.
I've never cooked a turkey (actually I bought a turkey breast)  in my life and I'm hoping as Wilbur is so smart he'll be able to lend me a paw with it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Life in these Great United States (or aboard our boat here in Florida)

We've now lived in Florida for just a bit over a year but it somehow seems like much longer.

Today I voted.

And last week I had jury duty.

My voting experience went quite smoothly although for some reason there's a notation in the records that I 'need assistance'(?). This same thing happened to me last year when I voted in the primaries and I thought the situation had been resolved. So I filled out the necessary paperwork again and please note; one must leave one's sense of humor at home when voting. My, "Well, I'm a blond" response as a reason for needing assistance was met with stony silence.
They probably threw out my ballot.

Jury duty was a tiny bit more entertaining.  After watching a video and learning the rules of how to be a good juror we were given a small break before court commenced. Of course there was an immediate line outside the ladies room and at the head of it was a very large woman sitting importantly on her little rascal scooter. Turning to us she announced that she was going to check out the availability of stalls.  We all watched as she dismounted and on the tiniest feet (encased in little elfin slippers) I've ever seen on an adult she tottered to the door, opened it, took a gander and then boomed back to us, "STANDING ROOM ONLY! STANDING ROOM ONLY!"  Once she was re-seated she took her role as Potty Police to heart. While leaning dangerously far from her perch in order to get a better look, she yelled "CLOSE THE DOOR!" towards the men's room.
Potential jurors continued milling about and she scared the living daylights out of one gentleman when she shouted at him, "DO YOU NEED TO USE THE RESTROOM?  SIR! I SAID DO YOU NEED TO USE THE RESTROOM?  I CAN SEE AN EMPTY SPOT IN THERE!"   "Um, no?" was his timid response. "WELL YOU LOOKED LIKE YOU NEEDED TO." she harrumphed. "CLOSE THE DOOR!" she demanded again as she swiveled around.  That door never did close and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who could see who washed his hands and who didn't.
By now I, and the lady in front of me were shaking from trying not to laugh. "Oh God, I know she'll end up on my panel." the lady groaned. "And guess who'll be the foreman." I answered.
Just then a woman exiting the bathroom informed us via raised eyebrows and a look of confusion that there were many stalls available.
Shortly thereafter my number was called and as I left the room I had to pass by the Potty Police.  She was busy scanning the room and clutched in her hands were a # 2 pencil (I haven't seen one of those in a long time) and a pad of paper.
No doubt keeping detailed accounts of indiscretion's and toilet habits.

Here in Florida only 6 jurors are needed per trial and needless to say as one of the twenty-two chosen to start, I was not picked or my day would have been a whole lot more interesting.

But in the mean time between messing around with refrigeration, replacing yet one more hose to our head (and this time we didn't mess around with dangerous chemicals and just ripped that sucker out), and trying to stay cool (which is finally happening), I made new slip covers for our settee.  Originally I made covers from old bed sheets but they were already pretty thin and it wasn't long before they were stained and torn.  I lucked into a sale on upholstery fabric and for about $35.00 I ended up with this. For now I'm pretty happy.

Of course the final vote (how appropriate on this election day!) goes to Wilbur.