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.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Shake Up Cruise (Day 6 and 7) Wilbur's Ruff Life


The private little anchorage we hated to leave.


While we really enjoyed the quiet and peaceful anchorage of Day 5 on our Shake Up Cruise, we didn't want to wear out our welcome and decided we should leave.

But where to go? Our original destination for this week of cruising had been Caya Costa. However, after motoring the entire way (we did put up the main which was basically ornamental) when we reached Sarasota we realized we'd have to motor like crazy to get to Caya Costa and would then need to turn right around and head back. If we've learned anything after living aboard these past few years it's that trying to keep a schedule usually means nothing but trouble.

So we stopped.

We left our little anchorage and headed back toward Marina Jack's. We'd been of the mind that we'd anchor outside the mooring field but after checking it out and seeing pretty slim pickings we went ahead and rented a mooring once again.

I really wanted Wilbur to get a little excercise (at least something other than diving off the boat in an attempt to save Hans) so we loaded him into the dinghy and headed ashore. Poor Wilbur. He's really the worst dog in the world to try to walk. He's been like this since he was a pup and let's face it, that's never going to change. Every blade of grass must be sniffed, every light post needs to be marked, and heavenly days!! who pissed on that hedge? Wilbur's nose goes into overdrive and it literally drips like a leaky faucet while he jerks me this way and that. I know some training would probably take care of that but I'm ashamed to admit we've not gone that route.

This time we left our dinghy at the marina and walked on over to O'Leary's (where we'd eaten a couple of days before). It took a bit of time since we were dragging Wilbur but we finally got there. After passing a woman talking a blue streak into her cell phone, complete with crazy arm waving, we found a spot at the bar. Wilbur was surprisingly good and after lapping up a bowl full of water he settled down under our bar stools. We decided to order a late lunch (which meant I wouldn't have to cook dinner! Yaaaay!) and of course it was just after our food arrived that I realized Wilbur had puked. Gross, foamy, green puke right under our stools. While reading the 'rules for dogs' sign hanging up for all to see, I yanked a bunch of napkins out of the dispenser and tried desperately to mop up the mess hoping no one would notice what I was doing. And then the hand sanitizer machine was on the fritz and I since my hands hadn't really touched anything I thought 'Oh the hell with it', and ate my quesadilla anyway.

In the middle of all this, the crazy arm waving cell phone talker we'd walked past earlier, yanked out the stool on the other sided of Hans, climbed up and never missing a beat continued talking up a storm about who had witnessed to her, who she had witnessed to, and who might witness to whomever in the future, while we witnessed her sucking down one of many drink specials of the day (at $7.50 a pop I hope they were special!).


Trying to keep Wilbur from jumping off the sea wall.


Outside of O'Leary's, that's our mooring field behind me.


We walked back to the dinghy with Wilbur sniffing and marking the whole way and then headed on out to our boat. Everything went well, the dinghy motor only stalled once, and then we were there. Wilbur always has to be the first one off and I've quit fighting him over this and out he jumped to get on board but the dinghy bounced on a wave and one of his front feet slipped. He caught himself and then as he tried to jump the rest of the way his back feet missed and Wham! he was in the water. We had him clipped to his leash at his collar so the poor thing spun around by his neck as he frantically pawed and flailed at the water trying to get back into the dinghy. Somehow between the two of us we dragged him back on and then he didn't waste any time hustling onto the boat where he shook salt water all over the place.


Yet one more afternoon storm started to work it's way through but we were lucky this time. The storm skirted our mooring field and as we sat in the cockpit enjoying the cool breezes it brought, we watched a rainbow off in the distance as it struggled to form. First we saw one one end of it start off to the east and it was surprisingly intense, and then way off to the west we saw the other end try to take shape. It was huge. Then way up in the sky the middle part got going and it was also very intense. By the time it was fully formed it had faded quite a bit but rainbows are always exciting to see.

Wilbur, however, after his exhausting day wanted nothing to do with all this nonsense and had long since gone off to bed. Wilbur is truly the most mature being on the Knotty Cat and on most nights he heaves a huge sigh before shooting us his most disgusted look before thumping and bumping his way down into our berth.

Hours after the rainbow faded away we finally joined Wilbur who was snoring heavily in our berth. We'd just climbed in when I asked why everything seemed so wet because smack dab in the middle of our bed (and right below the open hatch) the sheet had a huge wet circle, and then I found my pillow was saturated. On came the lights and as Hans and I poked around and tried to figure out what happened (we were pretty sure it hadn't rained) I felt a third being between us. It was Wilbur, and in addition to our noses sniffing at the sheets, he was right there sniffing along with us. What was really strange was; Wilbur seemed just as perplexed as us and had none of that hang dog 'Dear God You Found Me Out' guilt complex going on. I finally tossed the pillow out into the cockpit, threw the sheet into the laundry basket, and called it a day.

Honestly, I think that poor dog wet the bed and I believe it happened once before. Wilbur would prefer if we don't dwell upon it.

Wilbur's favorite roost when he's tired; our pillows


Perhaps he was having dreams of the good old days on the hard when his mama brought him home soup bones


We finally turned around to come home and once again after getting into the gulf we had no wind and motored the entire way home. We managed to get back into our slip with no major trauma and with that our Shake Up Cruise was over.

Now that we're back our major concern will be getting our air conditioners installed and monitoring this season's hurricanes.