Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thanksgiving on the hook. With a spin.

I realize Thanksgiving is long gone (wow, it was over a week ago; an eon these days I daresay). But regardless of how much time has passed I'm going to post now or forever hold my peace (like that's ever happened!).
Two years ago we anchored out for the holiday (I still refer to it as the Turkey Tour) but last year Mother Nature put the nix to a repeat performance so were stuck here in the marina (Oh, the humanity!).
This year, with the weather acting up, we figured if we wanted to spend the holiday at anchor this was only going to happen if we left our slip on Thanksgiving Day in order to zip over to Boca Ciega (a whole 45 minutes away), drop the anchor, and get to cooking. Luckily, I baked our apple pie on Wednesday and was trusting my pressure cooker/fabulously new fun toy, to allow me to get a full Thanksgiving meal on the table in a timely manner.
Even though it was pretty windy here in the marina I managed to get us out of the slip without mishap (this is an important detail considering what happened later). While we were motoring over to our trusty achorage we were a bit surprised at how slowly the Knotty Cat was slogging along. Hmmm, the tide must be working against us (a favorite excuse of ours) we thought (even though the wind really should have been giving us a boost). As for me, I didn't care about the wind or the tide dammit! I had a turkey breast to cook.

Honestly, I'm really looking at the chartplotter! And I got all kinds of crafty with my photoshop stuff here.

It was extremely windy when we anchored and Hans tried to convince me that our wind generator would supply our batteries with ample juice until the next day and that I should start cooking 'right now'! I knew that no way was 'Windy' going to keep up with our activities and insisted that we unfurl our portable solar panels. The only problem with that plan is that in all the years we've had these solar panels we've never really come up with any kind of permanent solution for keeping them from blowing overboard. And so we put dinner off for an hour or so while we came up with a solution. I dug out some sailcloth, brass grommets, duct tape, and got to work. We completed one panel (we have two) and I deemed this enough to get through at least one night because dammit! I had a turkey breast to cook!

Sail cloth glued underneath each panel with brass grommets at the corners. We tied the panels to whatever was handy; cleats, life lines... We had a lot of wind but thankfully these guys stayed put.


I started dinner much later than I'd intended but luckily my pressure cooker saved the day (oh, don't think there isn't a huge pressure cooker post a'comin' because there is!!).

My new toy is on the left. It's magical.


Mashed potatoes. The real deal.


Hans is happy, dinner is finally on the table.


From start to finish I had dinner on the table in two hours. It included: turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and crescent rolls. As I've already mentioned, I'd baked our pie the day before.


We ended up enjoying a rather cold and windy yet nonetheless wonderful holiday at anchor, and instead of venturing out into the gulf, we decided the next day, and the day after that to just stay put. For the first time in my life, being lazy turned out to be a wise decision.


After a relaxing Sunday morning in the cockpit with our coffee with all the fixin's (I'll never tire of this term for coffee laced with Irish liqueur and whipped creme. And btw, Wilbur won't eat his breakfast on these particular days unless it's also topped with whipped creme; wow imagine that) we decided it was time to head on home so we started the engines.


Wilbur and his whipped creme topped breakfast.


We weighed anchor the way we always do; Hans on the electric windlass and me at the helm.

"Away!" Hans shouted, so I spun on a dime to starboard in order to head into the channel.

"Let's go that way instead," Hans pointed in the opposite direction. So I throttled the Knotty Cat full speed ahead and cranked the wheel hard to port but the Knotty Cat kept spinning on a dime to starboard as if I'd never changed course.

Hans asked me what the hell I was doing and in order to prove I wasn't nuts I gladly handed over the helm. I watched him (and not without a little satisfaction) struggle with the Knotty Cat's nonsense as she continued to pirouette about the anchorage. Hans wondered if perhaps we'd lost our transmission. He finally figured out that our port engine was working properly but the starboard engine; not so much, so he shut it down.


At this point my stomach was in knots but Hans was very calm. We were so busy discussing what might be wrong that we motored right into the middle of what we discovered was a sail boat race (I cringed in horror as Hans calmly crossed astern of a few of them but, once again he was quite calm) and headed for our marina. Wilbur must have sensed my unease and got into the act by pacing and panting in the cockpit. Luckily, he's docked with us so many times he knows when it's time to go below and he couldn't get down there fast enough when we approached our marina.

I'm just incredibly thankful that we came back on a day when the wind was basically non-existent (compared to the day we left!) because otherwise I'm not sure how we would have backed into our (tight) slip on one engine. We were also fortunate that our neighbor was working on his boat and was able to hail the neighbor on his other side to give us a hand. I have to admit, Hans did a calm and admirable job of docking us.


The next day as soon as I left the boat to run errands, Hans started up the engines. I'm pretty sure he finds that he can concentrate on the job at hand much better without my yipping at him the whole time. Anyway, when I got home he was quite excited to share this discovery with me; apparently our Knotty Cat is quite the prankster, because the starboard engine now goes forward when shifting in reverse, and in reverse when shifting forward.

Our trusty diver getting into the water to check the propellors.


It turns out, our propellors are old, and tired, and need to be replaced. We have feathering props and the one on the starboard side was solidly froze up in a contorted angle (probably like me when I attempt yoga). New propellors have been ordered and they will be of the boring 'standard' kind as opposed to the fancy schmancy feathering kind. Feathering props run around $3,000 each. Not happening here!


Once the new propellors arrive, a diver is supposedly going to replace those big stinkers here at our slip as opposed to being hauled out at a boat yard.


Why do I feel like that sounds too easy? Probably because I've been there, done that, way too many times.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Leave the Slip, Have an Adventure


In October we removed our air conditioners but it wasn't until mid-November that we finally took the Knotty Cat for a spin. We hadn't had her out since our week long cruise way back at the end of May. Once we decided to head on out we realized we had a hell of a lot of clean up work to do since we've basically allowed ourselves to become a cluttered house on the water. We weeded out some junk including a pile of clothes I haven't worn in three years, horribly torn jeans Hans hasn't worn in three years, plastic party trays, plastic champagne glasses... We also unloaded all our air conditioners on Craigs List (if I could only find a way to get Hans to let go of his hockey equipment which currently takes up nearly all of our dock box space), as there is nowhere on the boat to store these once we start cruising again. We then directed our attention to all the crap sitting around the inside of the boat that had the potential of becoming dangerous projectiles should we get waked by clueless powerboats zooming past us in narrow channels or while we are at anchor.

For me, it was almost like learning to walk again. I did manage to get the boat out of the slip without a problem but it took awhile for me to remember all the particulars about our batteries, solar panels, etc... Wilbur was equally puzzled and he literally trembled for the first couple of hours which resulted in me stuffing him into his winter coat.


Huh? What's that? It's been awhile since we've used the Chartplotter.


And even though we were only out for three days and hardly more than a few miles from home we still had to have one small adventure. Once we entered the gulf we put up both our main and jib and then wondered why with a decent wind we were only going about four and a half knots. Hans kept mentioning this issue but since I don't care how fast/slow the Knotty Cat sails and anyway I was in the middle of reading The Caine Mutiny, I just kept saying "Uh-huh, Uh-huh," everytime he brought it up. We must have been sailing for a few hours when I stood up, stretched, looked back toward the stern, and thought I saw something following in our wake. Hans happened to look back at about the same time and asked, "What the hell is that?"

About thirty or so feet behind us (the same distance we trail our fishing lines) we noticed something breaking just under the surface. But as we continued to watch, it would disappear, reappear, and then disappear again. Hans thought maybe we'd snagged something which therefore explained our sluggish progress while I dismissed that idea as wishful thinking. And then all of a sudden 'it' was back. Something for sure was trailing us, and I, with my Creature from the Black Lagoon imagination, nearly had a fit. Whatever it was, it never quite broke the surface but as we continued to watch, we could see a big dark scary presence under the surface. Completely abandoning the Caine Mutiny (after all, they only had to deal with an insane captain and a typhoon) I couldn't take my eyes off our predator.


Hans was positive we'd snagged a crab trap and had been dragging it for hours. Somehow, I was elected to climb down the stern platform with a boat hook in order to swipe at the water behind us in hopes that I'd snag whatever monster might be trailing us. This job wasn't made any easier due to the fact that we'd lashed our dinghy (on its side) flush to our stern thus using up any really good foot holds.

Once in place, I hung on tightly to a back stay and made some very ineffectual stabs at the water with the hook. I told Hans to please steer the boat more into the wind so we'd slow down (we had continued to sail and didn't start the engines in case a crab line might be wrapped around a propellor), and then all of a sudden (and definitely without any help from me) a crab float popped up right beside me and quick as a wink it disappeared behind us most likely in search of the next hapless sailor to stumble upon it.

While I struggled to climb back up into the boat (oh, what fun it is to grind my bare knees on the deck while I try to crawl past our dinghy, Hans was joyfully calling out our new speed which was a good two knots faster than we'd been moving all day.

And on that cheerful note we sailed back into Boca Ciega Bay and anchored for the night.

We could grow roots in a marina for months (which we do) and Wilbur never bothers to sit here. However, as soon as we move he flips up that seat and squishes himself into that small space. This is where he spent the first few months of his life over 4 years ago and it means 'comfort' to him.


Wilbur had been fast asleep until we sailed past DeSoto Beach. And for those of you who aren't in the know; it's a doggy beach. Check out his nose, it nearly quivered off his face.


Kite surfing? Kite boarding? I don't feel like looking it up, but we sailed past a ton of them.


Messing around with the panorama setting on my phone. This was after we'd gone under that bridge.


Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and we'd love to spend it at anchor like we did two years ago (last year the weather was miserable and we didn't get out), but in the end it really doesn't matter; we're just thankful that we can celebrate the holiday together as a happy fambly.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Water, water, everywhere


I once posted about things I'd prefer not to experience while living on a boat. Unfortunately we had one (or two) of those experiences occur recently.

This past weekend we noticed a discoloration on our salon carpet (19 year old indoor/outdoor stuff that's still in pretty good condition) and immediately blamed the dog (don't tell me pets don't serve a purpose on a boat). Poor Wilbur, we said, he must have puked and cleaned it up by himself. And as we bent over the spot and squinted at it, Wilbur got into the act and gave it a good sniff too so as to throw us off the trail because surely a guilty dog would absent himself from such evidence. I assured Hans I'd clean it; someday; and we went about our business.

The next day I noticed the 'spot' was still moist but decided to ignore it.

Let me interject here that we've lived through more rain this past week than we ever have since moving aboard three years ago. Tropical Storm Debby dumped tons of water on us but she ditched us after a couple of days. Same thing for some other storms. But this week we've been dumped on every night and as we watch water gush through the parking lot and cascade over the sea wall, we've dubbed our marina, Pasadena Falls.

The next night I stole Wilbur's spot on the settee since he was sleeping in our berth ('sensible pitties know it's bedtime', we laugh everytime he thumps and bumps his way down below) and was enjoying the fact that I could lounge about with my feet up. Then I stood up to get a drink and 'Yuck'! my feet sank into waterlogged carpeting. What the hell? We immediately looked up at our hatches (because where else would water come in from?) and they were dry. I got down on my hands and knees (something I should have done when I thought Wilbur puked) and oh my god! water was everywhere. It was actually pooling between the salon and galley area.

There's nothing like a boat full of water to get one going, and we were moving. Hans immediately checked our bilges but they were dry and full of cobwebs.

As I felt about the carpet with my hands I realized it was especially soupy around our compression post (this post is the inside support for our mast, much like a support post in a house) which strongly resembles a dance pole. After drilling out the screws that hold the carpet in place I lifted a couple of planks from the base of the pole and found a space we'd never seen before. It contained a small well, and it was full of wires. And water.

A few years ago our electrician did some work in this area but when he started digging into the guts of the Knotty Cat I knew I wanted to watch this perhaps as much as I might want to observe surgery, and so I went shopping for provisions.

But now I had no idea what to do and couldn't imagine where this water was coming from as the ceiling above was completely dry. I dug out the shop-vac I'd used to vacuum a few days earlier which of course was full of dog hair and dust, and therefore needed to be emptied and cleaned first. Out into the cockpit (in my nighty) I went, where the wind was slashing water sideways and most of the dust and dog hair ended up stuck to me instead of in the garbage bag.


With the carpet pulled back you can see all the wires (and a washcloth jammed into the lower corner) sitting in a shallow well. Off to the right is a conduit where those wires continue on under the boat and it was completely full of water.


This had been slowly overflowing for a couple of days and since we didn't know it, we blamed Wilbur. I sucked over a gallon of water from here which included the water that had entered through the conduit that continued under the boat.


After sucking up a ton of water we could see new water flowing into the well and finally realized the water had to be coming down through the compression post. The rain had slowed down and the best we could do until the next morning was to stuff the well with paper towels and a wash cloth.


The next day I inspected the mast and about 6 feet off the deck I discovered that a rubber seal on the opening to the mast that our main halyard exits is starting to fall apart. Aha! I was sure I'd found the problem but just to be sure, I sprayed our hose all over the base of the mast and when nothing leaked through I was very happy. And after I sprayed the halyard opening and water gushed down the compression post into the boat, I thought I was brilliant. I immediately stuck a piece of duct tape over the opening and announced to Hans that until we got a new seal we were just peachy keen.

And then that night it rained buckets, and we watched the well under the compression post fill with water. Again.


I spent yesterday googling like a crazy woman and learned new 'boat' words like baffle (oh, I was baffled all right) and weep hole (I wanted to weep but was too damn mad). So for future reference for anyone else who experiences this problem with a boat, this is what I learned.

We have a deck stepped mast (I can't help you with a keel stepped mast). This means the mast sits atop the boat and a compression post supports it from inside the boat. The deck is sandwiched in between. Inside the mast, conduits run from the top to the bottom and these conduits carry all kinds of wiring; radar, vhf, anchor light, steaming lights etc... They then feed into another conduit that enters the compression post inside the boat where all those wires exit through the bottom and go their merry way to wherever it is boat wires go.

Since the mast has several openings for halyards, electric wires, etc... water is obviously going to get in, but how does it get out? This is something I never even thought about until the other night. I found out that the mast is supposed to have a 'weep' hole at the bottom. I went out and crawled all around the mast but for the life of me I couldn't find one. I asked for help on a couple of forums and called Island Packet. IP referred me to a couple of boat yards that are familiar with this model but until they called back I kept searching. The forums were very informative and I appreciated their help but I still couldn't find the hole.

On our ice run/dog walk we ran into Mike, one of our neighbors, and he offered to come and take a look. Luckily he knew exactly what I was talking about.

The base of the mast. I couldn't find a drainage hole and I wondered what that screw (off set on the left side) was for. I thought maybe someone at a boat yard had plugged it up.

Mike took one look and said he was sure that the tiny rectangular opening at the very bottom of the black part was our weep hole. I just thought a hunk had been broken off over the years. I had been inspecting the mast only.
So now that we found what we thought was the weep hole, we discovered it was completely blocked with sealant. We spent a bit of time poking at it with a Swiss Army knife and one of my BBQ skewers but got no where.

Aha! Mike asked why we didn't just take the 'inspection plate' off. So we did. I did find that the screw on the mast (off to the right in this picture) I had been wondering about, holds a conduit in place that runs down the mast.

I was very hesitant to touch any of the screws until someone actually confirmed to me that it would be okay. So when Mike told us an inspection plate is just that; a place to inspect the mast, we opened it up. We had no sooner loosened the bottom screw than water started trickling out. Once it was open we saw that the water was up to the bottom of the hole. Out came the shop-vac again.

Now that the mast was empty we got a good look inside. The conduit that runs down into the compression post sticks up about 4 inches and once the water in the mast rose higher than that, it of course, ran down into the boat. Needless to say if it had drained properly this never would have happened.

What I hate knowing is, water has most likely been sitting in the mast and never fully drying out for a long time. My first line of attack is going to be trying to clean out that hole. However, I've already tried and it feels suspiciously like 5200.


If that doesn't work we're going to drill a small hole as close to the base of the mast as we can. This is what several people have recommended.


I'm pretty sure that makes more sense than Hans' idea which was to drill hole in the compression post well and out the bottom of the boat. Really.


I would bet there are a lot of people out there who are either highly entertained by our antics (as in 'Did you hear what those idiots did this week? You won't believe it!), or wonder how the hell we survive on a boat. I sometimes wonder myself.












Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Now Officially Own the 'Terlet Queen' Sash...

...For Life; and I dare anyone to take that one small and smelly accomplishment away from me. The fact that it's all my fault is beside the point.

All those white hoses belong to the Knotty Cat's 'septic system', and what a joy they are to work with. NOT!

Honestly, I never thought that only two years after replacing most of the hoses to our head that I'd be right back at ground zero.

But, I was.

First of all, I have to tell you, I've revised this particular post so many times during the past week I've literally lost count.

Initially, when we first noticed that the head we use most often (the one adjacent to our berth) wasn't flushing in the same friendly manner we'd become accustomed to, I was puzzled. You see, in May when we yanked our holding tank out of its new home (we needed access to the space beneath it), the hose that fed into it was perfectly clear. And don't think I wasn't feeling just a bit smug. "I bet we have years before we need to worry about replacing these hoses again." I stated.

Four months later, while everyone else was enjoying their Labor Day Weekend, I was eating (and smelling) my words because once again I was at work in the bowels of the Knotty Cat.

I was a little surprised at how long it took me to get the hoses apart, even when I took a heat gun to them

Oh, man! The hose was full of water which meant something was blocking it

As a lifelong fan of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, I dearly love a mystery, but I'm pretty sure Nancy never had stinky potty water spew over her feet, and Agatha used much prettier smelling poisons than the odors emanating from our hoses.

This much I knew; either there was a huge blockage in the hose I thought was the culprit, or else the Joker Valve (who comes up with these names?) right beside the toilet was coated with calcium deposits. Well, bless my stupid soul; it was neither one.

In the end, I tried to use the process of elimination (honest to god, I should give a prize to the person who can point out all of the unintended puns I've interjected in this post), and just like I did two years ago, I wasted too many days trying to clear hoses, when instead, I should have concentrated on replacing them from the get go. This time around I decided to forego using muriatic acid (which scares the crap out of me) and opted instead for a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice (which, I find, cleans stainless fixtures better than any leading cleanser on the market).

Labor Day weekend rolled around and eager to spend some time at the pool, I reconnected the one hose I'd focused on, bolted everthing back in place, threw the lever on our salt water intake, and bending over the toilet so I could see if water was leaving the bowl, I pumped the flush lever like crazy. For a few wonderful seconds I thought I was home free and then I felt that damn 'spongy' resistance you get with a blockage.... and WHAM! the toilet retaliated by erupting like a volcano. Directly in my face. How I didn't get whiplash I'll never know and I swear it was like I'd channelled the Seinfeld episode The Pothole .

I guess I should be happy Hans will still kiss me.

The hose I thought was going to be okay and clog free, was not


Even worse, these two connections are where the hoses connect to either pump into the holding tank or overboard. No wonder I couldn't flush

Scraping that crap out was all kinds of fun

Prior to yanking the hose off this sucker, I put paper towels underneath because I didn't know what might run out

So on Monday afternoon after a full week of messing around, we finally finished installing new hoses and once again I bolted and clamped everthing in place. I poured some fresh water into the toilet bowl and even without a drum roll I felt very dramatic when I started pumping the handle (although I leaned away this time). And; SUCCESS!! I was so happy I kept repeating the process of dumping cups of water in just so I could flush without any resistance or volcanic eruptions. Even Wilbur did a little happy dance.

Lesson learned. Fresh water flushing from now on.


Poor Wilbur didn't know what to think about the whole thing.

While I was working in the engine room Wilbur would lie on the floor in the doorway to the head, and when that got old he'd climb into our berth and nap. That way he could still keep an eye on me.

Actually I should add here that when I say all hoses have been replaced, I'm talking about the head on our starboard side. This is the one we use the most.

The port side head is another story. It's the one we used while ours was incommunicado and there are two major hoses I haven't replaced yet. Why? Because I just don't want to. They're heavy black hoses, they stink, and one of them goes behind the shower wall and will need to be 'fished' through. 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' is my motto, and I keep my blinders firmly in place.

But right after we pronounced our head to be cured of its ills, we peeked at the hoses on the port side and once again I said let's leave them be. Just as I was closing the door I noticed something though; a spongy bulge right at the top of a hose and directly under a hose clamp. An aneurysm. In a toilet hose. I can't even imagine the nightmare mess we'd have if that thing blows.

I guess Dr. Laura's job is never done.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Happened to July?

I mean, really; where did a whole month go. Or more like a whole month and a half.

Well, at the beginning of July, Hans left his desk job and is now selling insurance (health, life, etc...) via the internet. Hans has always been in sales (he put himself through college selling books door to door) and many years ago he sold insurance when he lived in PA. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, you no longer have to give up an entire evening while you meet with your insurance man; you can now have an online meeting, get some quotes, make a decision, and be on your way. But let me be the first to tell you, getting a license involves passing many tests and more than a bit of financial investment. At this time he's licensed to sell to Florida residents only but at least he can do it from the boat.

On the 18th we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the day we met (which for some reason is more important to me than our wedding anniversary). Our celebration involved walking a few hundred feet to the steakhouse behind us where you can get a really great prime rib dinner as one of the early bird specials. I guess we've finally reached genuine geezer status if the term 'early bird special' gets me all excited.

Then at the end of the month Hans turned 59.

How does time fly by so fast?


On a more important note; Wilbur, and 'the cat next door', have become reluctant friends (more like fast friends but c'mon! a guy has a reputation to keep ya know!). This has been about a two year long endeavor and I no longer worry that Wilbur will be torn to shreds as Neighbor tends to leave right around the time Wilbur starts shoving his nose up her butt.

Sssshhhhh, don't tell anyone

And I finally dug out the Knotty Cat's original main sail where it had been sitting (and obviously fermenting) in a sail bag for far too long and even though it's hotter than hell here in Florida right now I decided it was time to do something with it. But, when I unfolded it, I was shocked at how dirty it was. I finally just cut off a big hunk and then spent the better part of two days cleaning it. I soaked it in Borax for hours, scrubbed it with Soft Scrub, and finally hung it up to dry. Needless to say I was very relieved to find that it cleaned up so nicely.


I had to weigh the sail down with water jugs to keep it submerged in a Borax solution

All nice and clean and hanging up to dry

After a nightmare time of splicing the handle; finally a finished bag

6 big pockets inside and also a small secure pocket for a wallet or cell phone

This leash is sewn to the top of the bag and drops down inside. That S hook works slicker than snot and attaches to a key ring in a snap.


Trying to splice an aesthetically pleasing splice for a bag handle is not as easy as I thought it would be. We both spent an entire day attempting such a feat and still weren't happy. Hans actually got up at 5:30 AM on Sunday and when I woke up he surprised me with a finished product that made us both happy.

Future bag handles will be knotted.


Hans takes his splicing seriously


Wilbur tries once again to look humble as he models his Knotty Cat Sail dog collar. It's made of sail cloth and has red and blue nylon accents.

Wilbur has worn his new collar at the dog park where he's rolled in dirt and so far I'm happy with it. I hit it with a shot of Krud Kutter and it seems good to go.

Now that we're half way through the dog days of August and we really do enjoy the pool I'm looking forward to cooler weather.


Friday, June 27, 2014

My MacGyver Crab Trap


I realize my title here is a bit misleading as, no, this is not a post about how to trap wonderfully edible crabs while living on a boat.

It's about how one might capture a fiddler crab that falls through a hatch in one's head in the middle of the night because one's spouse insists that a hatch must remain open in order to release shower steam. Of course the head is mine while a certain spouse's head remains crab free. Go figure.

Hans had no sooner left for work yesterday morning when I discovered a fiddler crab hiding in my head. If they didn't totally creep me out it may have been humorous as the poor thing thought it was being quite clever in a 'I can't see you so I know you can't see me' kind of way. Unfortunately for him, his spidery legs, wrapped around the hose (within inches of the potty) he was hiding behind, gave him away.

I shuddered, gave thanks that he wasn't hiding in my face towel, and shut the door.

I then spent hours hating the poor thing for upsetting my day and feeling horribly guilty about leaving it to die.


But imagine my horror when later in the day I opened the door and discovered.... it was gone. I blindly backed up and then nearly jumped out of my skin when I stepped on something slithery only to realize it was a shoe lace. I slammed the door once more and after fortifying myself with a Frosty from Wendy's (the short walk to Wendy's always makes things better) I gave it another go. This time I moved my bath mat and by god there he was.


I had to remind myself that during the many years I was single, I successfully dealt with things like bats and mice although it certainly didn't hurt that I had three cats at the time.

But sans cats, I came up with a plan.

Here's poor Chester without the cover of my bathmat (Hans is the one who names these creatures, not me). It would appear I need to scrub the floors of our heads sometime soon.


A rubbermaid container is the 'trap', the flexible cutting board slides under the crab, and the trimmed paper plate will add stability underneath the flimsy cutting board so I can carry it off the boat.



Of course Wilbur was fascinated

"What is that creature trapped underneath my mama's elegant cookware?"

Cue in the "Jaws' music; someone is very, very afraid



It's Chester the Curious Crab.




Just try to convince me they don't have faces!!!

I took a deep breath and knowing I had only one chance at this, I slammed my rubbermaid container over Chester. I'm sure if he hadn't been dehydrated he wouldn't have allowed this humiliation.

Then I slid my flexible plastic cutting board underneath him as he scuttled about with creepy clicking noises and giving me some major heebee-jebees. My final move was sliding a sturdy paper plate (with one curved edge cut away leaving me with a flat surface) under the whole thing for stability.

With Chester held out in front of me as far as possible and Wilbur hot on my heels we paraded through the Knotty Cat and then out into the cockpit where I dumped Chester back into the murky marina water. He landed on his back and for one brief second lay there stunned, and then with a burst of energy he waved a frantic goodbye to me with all his little legs and then disappeared under the boat.

I breathed a sigh of relief and then had a scary thought. What if Chester hadn't been alone? What if he'd brought a friend with him?

This is why I don't get out of bed at night if I can help it. Unless of course Chester or one of his ilk decides to drop into the hatch over our berth. This also might be why I don't sleep well at night. And if crabs can get in so easily what about snakes...



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summarizing our Summerizing


Wilbur has to burrow under his pillows if his clueless parents don't cover him up when he's obviously quite chilly


When we arrived back at our marina after our Shake Up Cruise we knew we'd better get a start on readying the Knotty Cat for another brutal Florida summer. This will be our third full summer here and we're finally getting a grip on ways to survive the tropical heat. And I just want you to know, I'm not the one who came up with the term 'tropical' for Florida. I read somewhere that the 'South' ends somewhere in Georgia; after that it's tropical all the way.

Now that we have many systems in place to combat the heat I cringe when I remember how unequipped we were our first year here.

We now have:

A phifertex sunscreen around our dead lights (or wind shield if you think of us as a car) which faces east. It's snapped in place and doesn't have to be removed when we sail.

A phifertex sunscreen dead astern (at our rear end and it can be unzipped and put away when we set sail) which faces west and keeps us from baking during the afternoon.

We can now sit in the cockpit (back porch) in the afternoon without getting fried.


A close up picture of Phifertex. Look at all the colors!!

(this picture is from Sailmaker's Supply)


Home Depot patio curtains (they are very porous and allow the wind to blow through without trouble) tented over our boom and the bow. While they look pretty feeble, they keep out a lot of UV rays and also deflect some of the heavier rains we get during the summer.


What a mishmash of crap. But it works!


Air conditioners. I could write a thesis on this particular subject. Well, maybe not, but almost.

We don't have built in air conditioners and most likely never will so while we sit here in our slip we use A/C window units. Back in August of 2011 we set sail from Indiantown (in central Florida) where the Knotty Cat had sat on the hard since May of the same year. We were going to transit the Okeechobee and there was no way we could do this without A/C. This was because we were going to have to dock every night. I can't even remember if there are any anchorages in this waterway but it was August and unless you've experienced it you wouldn't believe the size and volume of mosquitos there. They arrive like angry B-52 bombers as soon as the sun sets.

So we went and bought a horribly expensive (and we found out horribly inefficient) West Marine air conditioner. Each evening after docking we had to heave that sucker atop the Knotty Cat since it wasn't stable enough to stay in place while we moved during the day. We then had to sleep in the salon since it only (slightly) cooled this area. After we arrived at our Marina here on the gulf coast we were able to leave the air conditioner in place. However, we were still sweating 24/7. We finally draped tarps over the windshield (anchoring them with our fenders) and since we lacked hatch covers I would lay our cockpit cushions over them during the day to keep out the sun.

First summer. Tarp covered windows and up on top and to the right; the West Marine air conditioner. Pretty!


Luckily we paid for the extended warranty because our deluxe air conditioner broke down within about 3 months. Its replacement and its replacement's replacement also broke down within 3 months. We finally got smart, sold the last unit on Craigslist before it could break down, and the following summer bought 2 window units for about a 10th of the cost. BTW, we made sure the new owner knew about the extended warranty should anything go wrong with it. We've never heard anything from him so maybe he finally got a good unit.

Summer number two is when we bought two 5,000 BTU units and with one over the salon and one over our berth we were a lot more comfortable and I was quite happy that I no longer had to re-convert the salon from a berth back to a settee every day. Also that second summer we had the sunscreen for the windshield made and I sewed some hatch covers. We tried several methods at the stern where the western sun drilled its rays through our cockpit door. This included some straw-like roll up curtains we salvaged from the dumpster but they just didn't do the job. We ended up having that sunscreen made too and it made a huge difference. Some marina friends had draped their boat in Home Depot patio curtains so of course we hustled off to buy some for ourselves.

From the stern looking toward the bow: on the left you can see our phifertex windshield cover; it wraps all the way around to the other side. Straight ahead is the box that covers our berth air conditioner. Over head are our Home Depot curtains.


Every additional layer of systems helped but guess what? During the hottest part of the day our poor Knotty Cat was still uncomfortable. Trying to do anything; sewing, cleaning... would bring on a sweat storm.

So now, in this our third summer, we replaced the 5,000 BTU unit over the salon with an 8,000 unit and kept a 5,000 BTU for our berth.

Wilbur is the true barometer of whether the Knotty Cat is now set for summer. When he does 'the tuck', which involves lying on his pillows with his paws all drawn up under his body and gives us his poor-me-winky-blinky-eye look, we know to grab his blanket and cover him up. Only then does he relax, stretch out, heave a huge sigh, and go to sleep.

The fact that has happened now that summer is here...

Dare I say, "By jove I think we've got it!" ? Because I think we do.


Is that a blanket on Wilbur? Is this June in Florida?



I don't even want to think about having to take all this stuff down when we get our first hurricane threat.