Sunday, November 1, 2015

Life Continues to be Interesting

A beautiful fall day in Pennsylvania

When we put the Knotty Cat on the hard in June and came back to Pennsylvania, it was with the intention of staying a few months and then heading back to Florida (actually today marks the day we planned on being on our way). But if there's anything I've learned in my lifetime, it's that most plans are written in sand and subject to change.

Yes, our plans have changed and in a weird twist we've somehow experienced a bit of role reversal too.

For the four years we lived in a marina in Florida, Hans had a full time job while I held down the fort on our boat taking care of the dog, the laundry, the cooking, the beer management... I guess you could say we had a typical 1950's kind of lifestyle.

But even though Hans was gainfully employed, we both agreed that neither of us was getting any younger and so Hans quit his job, we went cruising, and blew through about a years worth of savings in six months. At the beginning of this year we left the St. Petersburg area and headed south. We were lucky to get to the Dry Tortuga's and Key West before jumping over to the Bahamas. We pounded across the banks to the Exumas but of course this had to be the worst weather the Bahamas had experienced in the last thirty years and because of this we failed to reach Georgetown. At the end of the day I really don't care because we ended up sitting in Blackpoint Settlement for nearly two weeks, and as far as I'm concerned, it just didn't get much better than that. Our cruising friends even named our happy hour sight, 'Wilbur Beach', after our lovable pit bull.

Unfortunately, at one point during our time in the Exumas, we were out of GPS range (no internet or phone) for nearly two weeks and upon calling home I learned that my dad had been in the hospital. When we returned to the states Hans and I decided to put our girl on the hard and 'head home' for a couple of months. And this is where it got interesting.

How to get around (we had no car), where to live (we had no house), what to live on (we had no jobs). But we forged ahead anyway. It was during a conversation with a friend from whom I'd previously purchased three Corollas (and soon ended up with my fourth) that we miraculously found a place to stay. A couple of days after arriving here I was sadly informed of the death of a former coworker. Upon attending her memorial service I met up with many of my former coworkers and they asked me if I was coming back to work with them. "Oh, no, it's thirty miles away from where we're living," I said. The following week I hit the floor, stumbling running. So just like that, we had a car (thanks to a 3% transfer fee, interest free, credit card loan), a wonderful basement apartment (you have a pit bull? No problem!), and my old waitressing job at an historic inn.

But, time was flying by quickly and then we realized that since open enrollment takes place during the month of November, Hans, being an insurance agent, couldn't possibly do his job and navigate our boat down the Intracoastal Waterway at the same time. So we said, "What the heck, let's stay through the end of the month." But then what about Christmas? This year we can't afford to turn around and fly back for just a few days and anyway that's also when things get super busy at the inn. But wait! It will also be time for us to move out of the place we're currently living. And then another miracle occurred; we were offered a place to stay in the town where I have my job and as an added bonus, Hans is the now the dining room pianist on Friday and Saturday nights! The family that works together.... (I just hope we don't have a knock-down-drag-out-fight in the middle of the dining room some evening).

The other night Hans remarked, "You got us a car, a place to live, and you've found work for both of us."

"That's okay sweetie," I said. "And after you walk the dog, be a dear and fix me a drink."

Is there nothing we won't do for a buck?

Never underestimate a Northwestern, Pennsylvania woman.

Wilbur's happy as long as he's with his fambly!


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A great reason to come home

On 7/11, Hans and I attended my son's wedding.

It started on a Thursday when the parents of the groom met the parents of the bride for the very first time, and I realize in this day and age of helicopter parents this is a bit unusual. But, we live many states away, my son is 32 years old, and we'd already met his future bride (a fabulous girl) and loved her, but I do realize her parents might have been wondering about us.

I have to admit we had to do a bit of scrambling to prepare for the big event. After putting the boat on the hard, we drove a rental car to Pennsylvania where we then found a place to stay for the summer, ditched the rental and bought a car (that we'll sell after we go back to Florida this fall), and I fell into a job. We then had two weeks to get ready. I'd already buzzed Hans' head with clippers I purchased at Walmart (no more Christopher Lloyd look for him), and I, who had been cutting my own hair with rusty scissors for three months, was now sporting a style I can only refer to as a Bahamian mullet with gray roots. However, I was very careful and didn't cut it so short that it couldn't be fixed before the big day.

So, in addition to a good cut and color, I needed some clothes that weren't sweat stained and full of holes. After visiting a local upscale department store, along with the Salvation Army and having no luck (I've found some of my greatest buys at 'Sally's'), I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to drive over an hour away to a mall, and I hate malls. As it happened, I found myself in the vicinity of a consignment store that I'd shopped at many times in the past and not only did I find a dress for the rehearsal dinner, I found one for the wedding. Add a pair of Payless shoes ordered blindly online, I was good to go.

I love this dress!

Hans and the groom

Friday, the rehearsal dinner was very wisely held at the hotel so no driving was involved, and I was looking forward to a hot bath as I had to be up bright and early in the morning for make-up and hair with the girls. However, Hans' brother and his partner arrived very late from Toronto and of course we invited them to our suite for a get together and didn't end up getting to bed until around 1AM. We had a great time but needless to say, late night hours don't sit quite as well on my mid-fifty self the way they did years ago and I'm afraid I created quite a challenge to the make-over team the next morning. And after years of living on the boat I'm not used to wearing a lot of makeup and when I looked in the mirror I couldn't help but think of Baby Jane, so when I got back to my room I rubbed a good bit of it off.
Hans and his baby brother

Selfie Stick fun during the hair and makeup session. A super nice group of girls

The ceremony was performed by the same priest who married the bride's parents thirty-two years ago (actually, their wedding was his first). He's well into his 80's now and we all held our breath when his feet got tangled in the aisle runner and it looked like he was gonna take a header right into the bride and groom but, thankfully, he stayed on his feet. This very same priest (who was so sweet and had a wonderful sense of humor) also performed the bride's brother's wedding last year and I was told he inadvertently had them repeat their vows twice. Now that's a marriage that should surely stick.

The reception venue was incredible (and as a veteran waitress I should know). The weather cooperated beyond belief which meant guests could mingle and enjoy drinks and appetizers both inside and outside before the actual reception began. Thanks to the DJ (and believe me a DJ can make or break a reception), the dance floor was never empty and if the guests weren't dancing, they were in the photo booth. Now, the last time I saw a photo booth was way back when I was a teenager and 50 cents would buy you 4 black and white pictures (of such poor quality they would fade within weeks of their development) of you and your weird friends. Well, times have changed and in this new digital age we were offered all kinds of props and masks like Super Heroes etc... so Hans and I opted for the police line up theme. All I can say is, I really hope to never be arrested as I'd hate for that picture to be blasted over the Internet, it was that bad.

As a waitress, I know hours went into setting this up. Inside those envelopes were scratch off lottery tickets. We didn't win anything but someone at the next table won $50.00

And I guess no wedding is complete without the horribly uncomfortable guest known as the Drunk Uncle. However, in our case it was the Drunk Usher.

Drunk Usher gave the toast at the rehearsal dinner. Actually, it was an oddly satyrical, yet nice toast, in that he pointed out the typical teenage and college obstacles our son faced and over came through the years, culminating in a successful career and marriage to such a wonderful girl. And like a ticking time bomb Drunk Usher then proceeded to socialize with many friends and family members from both sides. While some of his questions and comments could have been taken the wrong way by a few (he was later escorted to his room after falling asleep face down at the hotel bar) they really weren't, and luckily no explosions occurred. I didn't realize the extent of all this until early the next morning when the bridal party and I, while waiting in the lobby before departing for our makeup, were laughing ourselves silly over Drunk Usher's antics.

My son called me in a panic and my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law was mortified.

The bridesmaids and I assured one and all that Drunk Usher said absolutely nothing to offend any of us. However, don't think my son wasn't sweating bullets when it came time for the wedding toast, but by that time Drunk Usher was on his best behavior, and most likely fearing for his life, didn't speak. The rest of the evening flew by and I felt sorry for my son who seemed to constantly be on the run chasing down people at the behest of their three photographers. He later compared it to herding cats and also said he intended to sleep for the solid week of his honeymoon.

Another wise move on the bridal couples' part was to provide a shuttle service from the reception to the hotel, so when the evening ended somewhere around 2 AM, everyone was safely delivered back to their room.

Like I said before; for me, this was the wedding of the century. And while I've never desired to step back in time for even a second, I would re-live that weekend over in a heartbeat. It was just that great.

However, one thing I would change; I would not attempt to read a brand new library book in the bathtub after such an exhausting day. I may not have drowned but that stupid book ended up setting me back $28.95.










Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Adjusting to Life on the Hard

I'm woefully behind on my posts. I've yet to write about our return crossing from the Bahamas, our bizarre trip up the ICW where we put the Knotty Cat on the hard, and our road trip home. Since we've arrived here I've been busy beyond belief, but if only for my own reference I will surely get those posts written. Someday.

So, after living aboard our Knotty Cat for nearly four years at a marina in Florida (with a few small sailing excursions tossed in), and then actively cruising for 5 months, we've become northern landlubbers.

It's a temporary thing as we hope to get our girl back in the water this November and spend the winter, sans snow, in Florida, but in the meantime my son is getting married this weekend and we've neglected family for far too long. I love our boat and it is our real home, but I'm also excited to be back north where we have more than a couple of days to catch up with friends and family.

I discovered that after using a VHF radio for so long, it took a few days to get used to talking on a telephone. I found myself wanting to say, "Copy that," instead of, "Uh-huh," and, "Stand by," instead of, "Wait a second." It was also strange to not ask, upon awakening, "What's the weather like?" Many times during our drive north in our rental vehicle we commented on what we thought might be storm clouds and Hans would check the local weather info now that we had cell phone coverage.

We've both found ourselves still utilizing 'boat style' water consumption. Tooth brushing, dish washing, showering etc... water is turned on long enough to get whatever it is we're washing wet, turned off during the lathering process, then back on again for the final rinse. I'm able to take a full shower complete with washing my hair with a single gallon of water. And when we crossed back to the states and had no idea how much water was remaining in our tanks I took a shower with two cups of water. I certainly don't want to do this all the time but it does show how much water we can conserve if we really try.

One of the strangest adjustments we've dealt with has concerned Wilbur. Gone are the days where we sit below in the salon reading or watching TV with the companionway door open and Wilbur zips out into the cockpit, relieves himself on his potty patch, and then hops down below and puts himself to bed. We now have to leash him several times a day in order to take him out, and also just before bedtime (pajamas be damned). And if it's been raining... well, we have a little hot house flower on our hands and he doesn't like to get wet. We also make a point of wiping his paws every time he comes back in the house whether they need it or not. One downside though that I need to mention is the lack of doggy day care and boarding facilities here. We've traveled up and down the east coast with Wilbur and have stayed in many marinas and hotels along with taking him to parks and day care centers. He's always been welcome and he's never caused a problem. So you can imagine how stunned I was when Wilbur was turned down at a nearby day care center. They didn't like the expression on his face. I lucked out though when I found a kennel that doesn't mind pit bulls and I now have a place for him to stay during the wedding since for some reason he wasn't invited.

Yeah, that's a scary face.

Last night I took Wilbur out into the damp late evening and marveled at the sight of lightning bugs (or fire flies), and listened to the loud chirping of the tree peepers. How many times as a kid did I collect lightning bugs in a jar (only to find them all dead the next day)? And how could I have forgotten falling asleep to the sound of those little tree frogs? It's been a long time. When I told Hans about the hummingbird that flitted around Wilbur and me tonight, he was jealous. Hans has never seen a hummingbird 'in the wild' as he puts it. I hope that changes this summer.


We've landed in a small town with one stop light, houses with porch swings, sidewalks, and complete within walking distance; locally owned hardware and grocery stores, a library converted from a church, a dairy isle (our first local purchase took place here), a post office, a (really good) pizza place , a very clean laundromat, a family restaurant, a couple of bars, an excellent Chinese take out (set incongruously in a beautiful Victorian home), a thrift store, and be still our hearts; a liquor store and beer distributor. And there's even a lake close by where Hans has crewed a couple of times in some sailing races. I swear I'm gonna run into Beaver Cleaver and Eddie Haskell any time now.

Sailing dinghies

I consider ourselves fortunate that we're able to do this. It's nice to get off the boat for a while, explore a new town, and enjoy a summer away from the heat of Florida. I know when fall arrives and it starts to get cold here we'll be more than happy to move back aboard, but for now this is our life.


I guess Hans and I are officially snow birds.

A very common sight


Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm With Stupid.


Poor Wilbur lies atop my foul weather gear. It was used far too often during this trip.

When we reached the end of our voyage and reversed our route to head home from the Bahamas, we suffered a disastrous re-crossing of the Exumas Banks from Nassau to Cat Cay, and 'I'm With Stupid' is what I truly feel our boat should be named. I'm not kidding when I say we experienced a text book Sail Magazine 'what we did wrong' with very little of 'what we did right' kind of experience.

We departed Palm Cay Marina (where we performed a successful surgery on Windy), anchored in West Bay for a night, and then crossed the Northwest Channel (with a touch of the Tongue of the Ocean) the next day. Along with a cruising couple who'd left us in Blackpoint in order to reach Georgetown and then actually caught back up with us, we dropped the hook together at the Northwest Shoal anchorage for the night. We were feeling pretty darn good about everything and early the next morning we both hoisted our mains at anchor and beat it for the long trek to Cat Cay just south of Bimini.

The wind was perfect, we put out the jib, shut the engines down and exalted in a beautiful day at full sail, until the wind died at noon. So we furled the jib and let the main do its thing.

At one point we noticed a line dangling in front of our dodger and were shocked to find it was the topping lift from our boom. Hans had tied it with a bowline knot and a couple of half-hitches several years ago and I guess after all the slamming and banging we endured over the last couple of months it finally gave way. The fully raised mast is what kept the boom from swinging around like a billy club (or smashing down on our on bimini). So while under sail Hans was able to tie it back to the boom.

Not long after that I remarked that I didn't like the look of the clouds way off to our port side and shouldn't we drop the main? Since we now had next to no wind and about seven hours to go (we'd already been underway for five) Hans agreed. Why I didn't say something, I don't know, but when we started furling the main into the boom I thought it sounded strange. Damn! The topping lift Hans had tied off earlier had too much slack in it and was now caught in the boom furling mechanism tight as a drum. And there was no releasing it. We had no choice but to drop the main onto the boom and try to secure it. Our main is new and crackly and stiff, so dropping it was a chore. We ended up with each of us standing on either side of the boat while we tossed a long dock line back and forth over and under the boom and cinched it tight. In that short amount of time we got pretty soaked because those pesky clouds I'd spotted earlier had moved in and it had started raining.

Our main lashed to the boom.

Whew! we said, aren't we glad that's out of the way and cranked up the engines just as the shit hit the fan. The non-existent wind kicked up and we were suddenly seeing 20 plus knots on the beam and it kept getting worse. Poseidon then pulled a filthy shower curtain around the Knotty Cat and let loose with all kinds of mayhem. The wind continued to build, and our boom, thanks to our lashed down yet billowing main sail, started swinging back and forth with a vengeance. We ended up utilizing yet one more dock line and this time we tied it around our main sheet and yanked it tight to a rail. I leaned out and ventured a peek at the main, shuddered, and staggered back to helm where I stood for the next five hours in the wind and rain. Wilbur, who normally stays with us in the cockpit, hustled his little pitty butt down below when the rain started slashing through the cockpit.

That black line tied to the main sheet kept the boom in place

We slalomed and slid up and down the waves that had built quickly and they were pretty sizable considering we were only in 12 feet of water. I'd hate to think what we would have experienced if we'd still been in the Tongue of the Ocean which is thousands of feet deep. The wind settled in at a steady 30+knots, the gray clouds continued to empty buckets of water on top of us, and while Hans sat in the captain's seat, I found I was most comfortable standing and grasping the handles of the helm and companion way with each hand (the next day I wondered why all my knuckles ached). I ventured down below in an attempt to use the head and even though I did my usual crab walk I still managed to get body slammed into a couple of walls.

Every time I slid the companion way door open to check on Wilbur, I was apprised of yet one more horror taking place down below. Stuff was falling all over the place, and when Wilbur expressed interest in coming up top, he immediately lost his footing and fell heavily on his side. He turned tail and shot back down below where he panted heavily even though he had plenty of water. At one point he stood with his front legs on the companion way steps and it wasn't until later that I figured out why. The settee where he would usually lie now contained along with various miscellany, our heavy road rocker, and our berth (I didn't get down there until we anchored) where he likes to nap, was covered with tons of books. These books reside on a shelf in the center-most part of the boat and I'm still amazed that they fell. I finally quit looking down below when I saw the garbage can had tipped over and my 'First Mate' Tervis Tumbler was in pieces on the floor.

And once again we forgot to roll up our portable solar panels but I'd tied them down pretty securely on top of our upside down dinghy stowed on the bow. Except; Dear God! I'd forgotten to secure the dinghy itself to the deck and a couple of hours into our little adventure I was horrified, when we fell hard to starboard, to see the dinghy slide in an alarming fashion across the deck and come to rest on the lifelines. Hans forbade me to go up front and try to fix the situation I'd put us into but I was afraid the dinghy would become airborne and take out our fore stay. This also put a huge strain on the solar panel connectors because they were now stretched to the limit and we'd already ripped those connections apart in Ft. Myers.

I guess there's something to be said for wishful thinking because for the next few hours (and I mean hours!) I stood there clutching the helm and willed that damn dinghy to stay in place. It did. Finally, the wind and rain started to ebb and at around 7PM we finally motored into Cat Cay and dropped the hook in surprisingly calm water. We stripped off our foul weather gear and after comparing our pruny fingers and toes we set about straightening up the boat. I was totally beat and after our friends expressed their intention to cross the Gulf Stream to the USA the next morning I told Hans no way was I up for that. We didn't have enough weather information and I also felt that after such a long strenuous day we shouldn't push ourselves.

Of course the next day turned out to be a perfect 'crossing' day and the Atlantic resembled a huge mirror; absolutely calm with zero waves. By the time we realized this, it was too late.

If this were that Sail Magazine article I'd list what we did wrong along with what we did right, but you can already see what we did wrong along with basically nothing done right.

Thank goodness for Lady Luck.


At the end of the day; our friends from Island Bound heeling nicely.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Welcome back, Windy!


Windy, trying to appear humble, but actually looks quite smug


We found it slightly ironic that as soon as our wind generator died, we finally began to experience wonderful windy days. This of course, did us no good, and we discovered our solar panels really can't keep up with our refrigerator system. Each morning Hans would wake up to find our batteries seriously drained so he'd fire up the Honda for an hour, and then for another hour before bed. This, however, started to put a serious strain on our gasoline supply and Blackpoint doesn't sell fuel.

Each day we would go ashore and Hans would check the shipping status of the new generator. In the meantime he'd been in contact with Watermaker's Air in Ft. Lauderdale who had assured us it would indeed arrive in Blackpoint. Watermaker's flies into Blackpoint twice a day and our generator arrived promptly on a Tuesday morning. It was then immediately placed on a boat (that probably zipped right past us in the anchorage) and sent straight to Staniel Cay where Watermaker's Air is based. We found this out after walking all the way to the airstrip in the blistering sun. Of course this was at noon, everyone was at lunch, and we didn't see any packages sitting around the empty and unlocked, tiny airport building.

Just try communicating with businesses in the Bahamas. It's not like in the states, where even though you may get put on hold, at least someone answers the damn phone (or in this case the radio). Staniel Cay is an extremely busy and extremely understaffed place. No one ever answers the radio and when you get to the office and tell them this, they will point to their radio (which is squawking with some other poor sap desperately trying to get through), and with big innocent Bahamian eyes, assure you that your radio must not be working.

While still in Blackpoint we tried to radio Staniel Yacht Club in order to find out the status of our package because we really feared it may have been sent back to the states. No one answered so Hans called Ft. Lauderdale where we were assured it would be waiting for us in Staniel. This is when we parted company with our friends and headed back north.

Hans was just itching to get that wind generator up and working and had hatched one of his ingenious 'in theory that should have worked' plans he's talked me into far too many times over the years. Initially he'd wanted to lower the whole top heavy tower into a dinghy where surgery would then be performed. Did I mention he wanted to do this at anchor, with bouncing waves and wakes from passing boats? With visions of nuts and bolts flying overboard (and perhaps a huge scream fest on my part for the whole anchorage to witness), I firmly put the kibosh to that little plan. But, Hans is a manager and therefore likes to manage and so he came up with Plan B.

We approached the Staniel Cay Yacht Club with the desire to pick up our generator, top off our diesel, buy some gas, and get a slip for Hans' brilliant new plan. I don't know why we even bothered to try hailing them on the radio but we did and of course there was no answer. We noticed that the fuel dock is very small, and a little run-about boat was tied smack dab in the middle of it leaving no room for anyone else. We kept trying to radio the club in an effort to get a slip and with still no response we headed for a long dock with an open space. It wasn't easy, especially with little boats crossing right in our path, and the wind and current were pushing us off, but we finally got tied up to the dock.

A good while later Hans arrived back at the boat with our generator and was quite happy to report that the paperwork had been processed properly and we only had to pay for Watermaker's Air fare from the states plus a $10.00 stamp tax and *no duty fees since this was a warranty replacement!

Then he informed me that the slip we were assigned to was exactly on the other side of the dock were sitting at. This meant, in addition to all the bouncy wake we were experiencing in this very busy marina, instead of being pushed off the dock, we would now get pushed onto the dock. Staniel Cay Yacht Club is unprotected and when the wind blows from the west everyone gets kicked out. We were there in moderate east winds and I thought it was awful. Even Hans thought it was less than ideal and had asked if someone could please help us move. Help arrived in the form of an elderly man with one arm. This much I knew; it had taken all of the strength from both of my much younger arms to secure our dock lines. We asked if it were possible to please just stay where we were. No. Two huge yachts were due to arrive and we were in the way. In the meantime a young couple in a power boat sped into our allotted slip, tied up, and hied it to the bar.

The hell with it, Hans said, and decided now was the time to put his new plan into action. This involved waiting for low tide where Hans would then stand on the dock and with the boat sitting low in the water, the top of the wind generator would now be within easy reach. Except it wasn't. The current kept the boat too far off the dock, and the constant chop bounced it around like a cork. With every move Hans made I interjected with, "I don't like this," "I want the hell our of here," "This is crazy." Hans finally agreed that Plan B wasn't going to work and when I told him let's just walk our gas cans to the fuel dock he informed me that he'd been told by the little one armed man that they were out of gas and the fuel boat wouldn't arrive until Friday.

So we anchored out, used almost the last of our gas for the Honda and found out the next day they had plenty of gas and why did we think they didn't? We also noted that the long dock we'd been told we needed to vacate for the two huge yachts, remained empty until the next day.

We dinghied ashore the next morning, got that damned gas, walked to Isles' General Store for some provisions, and purchased a much needed bottle of vodka at the laundromat (the Bahamians definitely got something right, there).

Once again we headed north with Palm Cay Marina in Nassau as our next destination. We'd heard that diesel was cheap, water and laundry were free, and Hans still wanted to give Plan B a shot. We found diesel to be a little more reasonable and water was free but it's bad, and laundry involved walking to a condo and using the one washing machine available and then taking your wet laundry back to the marina to use the one dryer. Since we have no idea how much water we have (and I fear it's very little) Hans drove a courtesy car to the store (and you have to remember to drive on the left side) and bought 10 gallons. I took Wilbur for a walk where he almost had a heat stroke and kept collapsing in the shade.

We'd only intended to stay one day but since we needed a low tide for Hans' plan, we stayed for two. Finally, it was time for operation wind generator. After pulling the boat in as tightly as we could and argued over how this was going to work (I was accused of overthinking, and I asked Hans if he'd even bothered to look at the manual), we actually got the generator off the pole and then lowered the whole thing onto the dock. Hans cut old wires, crimped new wires, tested the unit to make sure it was good (and verified that the old one was indeed fried), and then we pushed it back up into place. After a minor discussion on exactly how the supporting struts were previously placed (I found a picture on my phone to prove I was right), we tightened all the screws and waited for some wind.

Finally after a month we were able to accomplish something

New generator ready to go

A huge shout of joy was heard from the Knotty Cat when we witnessed Windy point her delicate nose into the wind and purr like a kitten while in the nav station the gauge showed her putting juice into the batteries.

The only downside to this successful maneuver is the fact that one of Hans' many hairbrained schemes has finally paid off and I fear just what he may come up with in the future.



*If you need parts sent to you in the Bahamas; make sure you send the freight provider (whoever is getting this part from the USA to the Bahamas, in our case it was Watermaker's Air) a copy of your cruising permit. We also sent a copy to the company in Montreal and told them to staple it to our invoice with the notation 'Warranty Replacement'. There should be no duty charged to warranty parts.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Schedules, plans, and reality


I don't wanna go home yet!


Just as one should never work a New York Times crossword puzzle in ink (although we do. That Hans is a wild and crazy guy), one should never expect plans and schedules to go off without a hitch while cruising. We just call it 'writing our plans in the sand'.

When we set out on this journey it was with the intention of working our way down to Georgetown, staying there for a couple of weeks or more, and then on our way back up the Exumas chain we would visit the cays that we previously missed.

Thanks to the worst weather the Bahamas has experienced in the last 30 years and the fact that our wind generator blew out in a huge storm, we never did reach Georgetown. It was in Staniel Cay, on Cinco de Mayo Wednesday, that Windy screamed her final breath. We arrived in Blackpoint on Thursday, and were so excited to be there and take advantage off all the good things Blackpoint has to offer that it wasn't until Saturday that we realized we hadn't called the wind generator company for a replacement. Hans dinghied ashore bright and early (something like noon) on Monday, skyped the company and just like that a new generator was on its way to us at no charge since it was still under warranty.

The replacement would be sent to Ft. Lauderdale and then flown via Watermaker's straight to Blackpoint. Normally, Watermaker's flies into Staniel but their air strip was being repaired so this was perfect for us. It would take about a week to get there and Hans decided we'd go ahead and jump down to Georgetown and pick it up on our way back. We waved goodbye to our friends, weighed anchor, and set out into choppy seas.

An hour later we waved hello to these same, but very puzzled friends when we re-anchored in nearly the same spot we'd been in that morning. The seas had been choppy and we would've had to motor the whole way to the next stop which was Farmer's Cay but we decided we didn't have to go and we really did like Blackpoint anyway so why not just wait there for the generator to be delivered. (A week later the generator arrived as promised but since we weren't personally at the air strip to receive it, it was sent by boat to Staniel!). During our remaining time in Blackpoint we discovered that Wilbur Beach, at low tide, was an absolute Sand Dollar Extravaganza. Finding a whole sand dollar and not just a piece of one, to me, is like winning the lottery. Wilbur and I both spotted the first one at the same time and we actually fought over it. "It's mine!" I shouted as I rudely shoved him aside. "It's mine! It's mine!" Wilbur snorted as he frantically dug his big pit bull nails into the sand. I won and immediately hid my prize behind my back. Wilbur loves anything that reeks of fish. Hans found the second one, and I was hooked. We spent our last two days on the beach at low tide and found a total of 15 sand dollars and a star fish. I gave a few of them away to our cruising friends before we departed to head back to Staniel and hopefully find our wind generator waiting for us.



Blackpoint became the final stopping point before parting ways for all of us who'd traveled together from Florida. Most of us were turning back but one couple continued on as they have a three year plan to sail the Caribbean.

We could have squeezed Georgetown in if we'd really wanted to. Originally, we'd intended to spend up to a month there but as it was we would have only had a few days. If I'd really liked it I would have hated to leave it so soon.

I do believe I said I'll never sail back to the Bahamas again but if we do then we'll have to leave earlier in the year and I'll have Georgetown to look forward to.

Wilbur, our VPR guide

(Visual Pilot Rules)





Thursday, June 4, 2015

Entertainment at Sea.

Watching greedy pigs being fed on a beach. Very entertaining.

Back when Hans and I were land based in the good old U.S. of A., we were easily entertained thanks to things like; Direct-TV, internet, and cell phone service. But, since we have virtually none of those particular amenities in the pretty much off the beaten path of the Exumas, we've had to find other sources of entertainment.

When we were in Staniel Cay and Blackpoint Cay, we would dinghy ashore daily and meet our fellow cruising friends. When we're anchored near a sandy beach we can take Wilbur ashore and let him burn off some steam.

There are some areas in the Exuma Park Cays with mooring balls scattered in the anchorages. The nice thing about this is, the holding is pretty good so we choose to anchor instead of paying the $20.00 per day fee. However, not everyone wants to anchor and so they choose a mooring ball instead. And that's when things can get pretty entertaining.

A couple of days ago, I witnessed possibly the most bizarre mooring ever attempted, and also discovered that holding a pair of binoculars to your face for over an hour will give you a headache.

This particular crew, after hooking the mooring pennant with their boat hook several times and then dropping it because they had no idea what to do with it, finally figured out they needed lines on the bow of their boat with which to tie it to. But instead of tying a line to a cleat and threading it through the eye of the pennant, one of the men (Man #1) jumped into their dinghy, zoomed around to the bow, tied a line to the mooring and then attempted to toss it up to another man (Man #2) on the deck. For some reason Man #2 on the deck decided to forego using the boat hook and the line kept falling back into the water where it then managed to get wrapped around the propellor of their dinghy motor. Since the dinghy was now rendered useless it got tied to the mooring ball. "What are they doing now?" Hans asked. With my elbows propped on the coaming because my arms were getting tired from holding the binoculars up for so long, I commented that Man #2 was dropping a couple of items down to Man #1. "Oh, my god," I laughed. "He's throwing swim fins down to him." The big boat was still not secure, and now Man #1, who'd been in the dinghy was now in the water. "You won't believe this!" I told Hans, but since I refused to give up the binoculars I had to describe the situation. "The guy in the water is still trying to toss a line up to the guy on the boat, and the guy on the boat is just standing there." "Still no boat hook?" Hans asked. "No boat hook," I confirmed. Of course the big boat drifted away and my heart was in my throat when Man #2 charged back toward the mooring while Man #1 had to fend himself off the hull. Miraculously, Man #2 finally caught the tossed line and secured it to the bow. For awhile we were afraid they were only going to use one line but then Man #2 dropped another line down to Man #1 who then tied it to the mooring and once again went through the agonizing procedure of throwing the other end back up to Man #2.

It's hard to believe these guys were on a motor yacht that's probably worth close to a million dollars. Some people have more money than sense.

The next morning when we went for a dinghy ride I made Hans take us past their boat so I could see exactly what they'd done. They used lines that have a loop in one end. On each line they ran the loop through the eye of the pennant and then ran the line through the loop to the boat so no way in hell could they release it from the mooring without doing it from the water. And as the boat moved with the wind and the current, one line would bear the whole weight of the boat while the other line went slack. They did absolutely nothing right and I felt sorry for the people anchored directly behind them (and earlier those people had moved far away from the rest of us because they thought we were all too close), because if those lines had chafed through, that huge boat would have drifted right down on them.

On to other forms of entertainment.

Even though they may not admit it, all cruisers listen in on other peoples conversations on the VHF. Unfortunately the conversations aren't always interesting but sometimes you can pick up a weather forecast or some good local navigation information.

We used to play a lot of Scrabble but since our games usually tend to run into the wee hours (like 8 PM or so) we would just go to bed expecting to pick up the game the next day. Normally, this would be okay if we lived in a house that didn't move. So until we invest in an expensive 'boat safe' version (meaning it can withstand the resulting wakes from inconsiderate motor-heads), or we delight in figuring out the hieroglyphics of the previous night's game with our morning coffee, we've given that up for now. We did find a backgammon game at a cruiser's library (boat speak for 'the head') at a transient marina and we've played several games during lazy afternoons.

Back when we had TV, Hans and I occasionally enjoyed a movie night on the Knotty Cat. We'd settle down with our drinks and popcorn and spend the evening laughing until we cried while we watched free DVD's from our local library; Spinal Tap (the Stonehenge scene nearly did me in), Waiting for Guffman, Victor Borgia (believe it or not, our generation did not invent humor and Mr. Borgia was a comedic genius), and anything we could find that starred Ben Stiller. But we don't use our TV now and have accidentally rediscovered the ancient art of 'reading aloud'. It happened the other night in the cockpit when Hans felt the need to share a passage from Dave Barry's newest book. Once again we got to laughing and finally had to stop so we could blow our noses. I have a feeling we'll continue this pastime until we get back to the states.

And last but not least. If you find yourself at anchor and have no neighbors to spy upon, you can always take candid cheesecake photos of your dog or cat and then come up with what you believe are hysterically brilliant memes (your Facebook friends may think otherwise). This can be highly entertaining, for a little while anyway, although probably not so much for your pets who would actually prefer you go read to each other in the cockpit and leave them the hell alone.






Thursday, May 21, 2015

Making Friends and Helping Others


Blackpoint Settlement as seen from the Laundromat


Something we often hear about in our travels is how friendly and helpful the sailing community is. And it's true.

Back when we were in Warderick Wells, a couple we met in Marathon and crossed with over to the Bahamas, experienced a problem that left them without an engine. They really wanted to get south to Blackpoint Settlement (where there were more services available) which wasn't all that far away but, in order to get there they would need to be towed off their mooring and out of the Exuma Park. So, Hans and three other captains volunteered for duty and the next morning during an outgoing tide, Operation Dinghy Tow was a success. The biggest thing I regret about this trip (and I will kick myself forever) is that I chose the most inopportune moment to go below and wash my face. I came above deck with my iPhone in hand all ready to video this particular adventure and realized with dismay that they'd already passed (within feet) of the Knotty Cat and were way out to the red and green channel markers and also out of camera range. A total of four dinghies, two on each side, had lashed onto the engine-less boat and after a breath taking moment when one of the mooring lines got stuck, they were on their way. Once past the markers I could see the dinghies falling off as the crippled boat unfurled its jib and was on its way.

Maybe it's a good thing I didn't see what was taking place because Hans arrived back to our boat with the dinghy ankle deep with water. Being lashed to the big boat meant that the waves of water that slapped up between it and our dinghy ended up in, well... our dinghy.

Our friends sailed into and achored at Blackpoint and later in the week during the big blow, where we saw 46 knot winds in Staniel Cay; they saw 70 knots of sustained winds. While stuck in Blackpoint, the captain, with a portable generator donated by another one of our 'crossing friends' worked on his engine issue while his wife volunteered at the local school. In Blackpoint (the Staniel Cay landing strip is closed) he had parts flown in, we had a new wind generator flown in (a drama unto itself and a future post), and we just heard another one of our friends needs to get a new raw water pump flown in.

Also, back when we were in Warderick Wells, a call went out on the VHF for anyone with veterinarian experience and we all tuned in. A yorkie (the most fearsome creature Wilbur has ever encountered) had exhibited some unusual tummy troubles to the point of throwing up bile. The VHF crackled with excitement as we all jumped in. A fellow cruiser (who had just had his wife flown back to the states due to a severe kidney infection and was awaiting a weather-window to sail his boat back to the states to join her) zipped about the mooring field collecting donations, with ours being canned pumpkin. But alas, the little shit yorkie turned up its nose to everything donated (except for some coconut yogurt) and while it ate some boiled chicken, it spit out the rice that had been cooked with it.

When we later departed the mooring field and passed the boat with the yorkie in distress, I was not surprised for one moment when the little stinker (looking suspiciously healthy) erupted from below deck, ran to the bow, and nearly turned inside out barking at Wilbur. I've no doubt it then went into acute distress and another emergency run of the mooring field in search of more tasty treats ensued.

We were in Warderick Wells for barely a week but it surely seems like most of the help meted out during this trip occurred there. And Wilbur, too, did his best to be a good canine citizen.

The day we entered Warderick I was amazed when we slid past a boat that had a dog that was approximately the same size as Wilbur. I was even more amazed when I realized it looked like a pit bull. This dog was playing a polite game of fetch off a dinghy lashed behind its boat and Wilbur was quite vocal upon witnessing this wonderful event.

Ryder, with what is now Wilbur's toy.

At the shelter, Ryder's breed was vaguely referred to as a lab/boxer mix but his family, as well as anyone with two bad eyes, can see that Ryder is definitely a pit bull (heavy on the pit) mix. After a couple of days we finally arranged for Wilbur and Ryder to meet at the beach. I'd warned Ryder's people that Wilbur is maybe just a little greedy when it comes to toys. No problem they assured me, Ryder is a generous soul. Hans and I let Wilbur tow us ashore in our dinghy where he skidded to a stop beside an astonished Ryder, stood stock still while Ryder sniffed his nether regions, and then leaped like a mountain goat up onto some very unforgiving coral. Dare I mention Wilbur did all of this in his pink polka dot life jacket? As per Wilbur's usual behavior, he insisted on first marking his territory before socializing and then promptly set forth to terrorize Ryder and his people. Ryder had brought a tantalizingly bright red, squeaky football to this play date and was happily chomping it in his jaws when Wilbur, sensing trouble, came to the rescue, snatched the football away, and immediately performed an emergency sqeakerectomy right there on the beach. In a further effort to be a hero, Wilbur clung to the now silent but possibly still dangerous football and ran away every time Ryder approached to ask if he couldn't please have his toy back.

Long story short, Wilbur now has a non-squeaking red football on board, and surprisingly Ryder's people are still in touch with us.

Wilbur tries to keep the squeaker-less football from hurting us.

In a spirit of continued generosity, Wilbur donated his very well used potty patch to Ryder who apparently has potty issues and prefers to 'go' ashore. We've been informed that so far even though the patch stinks of Wilbur, Ryder has shown no desire to mark it for himself.





Sunday, May 17, 2015

Blackpoint Settlement, Bahamas. My new hometown.


If I couldn't claim Mayberry, North Carolina, as my home town, then Blackpoint Settlement in the Exumas would be my next choice, and the parallels are numerous.

Right at the end of the dock is this sign.


Mayberry always boasted of being a 'friendly town', and Blackpoint is certainly that. We were stuck in Staniel Cay for a few days due to weather (gee, what's new?) and we'd heard that Blackpoint (a mere 10 miles south) was a cruiser's dream. Why this was, we didn't know, but since that was our next scheduled stop we decided to see for ourselves what everyone was talking about.

It's hard to describe how clear the water is

When we sailed into and anchored in the crystal clear swimming pool of Blackpoint Settlement we were both surprised. The water was so clear we felt like we were suspended in mid-air. As soon as we could, we lowered the dinghy motor onto the dinghy and went ashore. Almost all of the cruisers we'd leap frogged with along this journey south were here and it was like a family reunion. Here in Blackpoint you can dispose of your garbage right behind the government dinghy dock (there's a box for you to leave a donation) R/O water? You can fill your jugs just up the street. Wi-Fi? Free at all the local eateries. There's also free Wi-Fi at Rockside Laundromat and I don't think there's a laundromat in the world that can compete with the view from this one. We weren't in Blackpoint but a few minutes than we'd already signed up for an evening buffet at Lorraine's with a bunch of other cruisers. If you give Lorraine enough notice and can promise at least a 10 person attendance (I believe we ended up with over 20 people) for $20.00 each she'll put on a buffet. Since it appears some of us will be parting ways soon, we're planning a farewell buffet in a day or so.

Lorraines Café

Filling our jugs with R/O water

Lorraine's is one of the local hangouts for cruisers and citizens alike. It's also where you can leave a donation for all the free services that are offered here and you just can't beat that. And like Mayberry it's very relaxed. You won't find anyone playing checkers in front of the courthouse but you will find everyone using their iPhones at Lorraine's or Scorpio's. The first afternoon we walked in with all our electronic stuff in order to reconnect with the real world (which appears to be in a very sorry state) and sat down at a table. Our cruising friends were already there and gave us the lowdown. If no one's around, go get your own drink (beer, soda, or water) out of the cooler from behind the counter and keep track for when it's time to settle up. If you want something to eat let one of Lorraine's daughters or nieces know and they'll take your order. If internet's the only thing you want, fine, help yourself. Considering the whole way down the Exumas where even if we can find it, and have paid $15.00 per day per device for pretty bad internet, this is a dream.

Lorraine's motto is, "I want everyone to feel at home here." And we do.

Lorraine's Mother (she has a name but told us everyone simply calls her Lorraine's Mother) preaches at the church on Sunday and bakes bread in her home everyday. Place your order the day before and and while you wait in her kitchen the next morning she'll wrap it up for you. I've found Bahamian bread to be sweeter than I like (how picky can I get?) but she'll also make French bread if you ask and that's what we used for our cheese sandwiches at lunch, with our left over pressure cooker lasagna at dinner, and for French Toast the next day.

One of our friends is a teacher and she ended up volunteering at the school here for two weeks. The other day they were holding a lunch time hot dog and hamburger fundraiser so the kids can go to Disney World this summer. We got there too late but one of the ladies said, "No problem," and tossed a couple of hot dogs in some hot water for about ten seconds, stuck them in a bun, and then to Hans' horror started slapping every condiment under the sun on them. If you think I'm picky about bread, Hans is even pickier about his hot dogs. Luckily, I like a loaded dog and Hans was able to stop her in time and enjoyed his plain. The kids had been amazed when our friend told them she lived on a boat so after I finished my lunch she invited me to talk to them about how we also live on a boat. This was a small group of first and second graders but what really amazed them was the fact we have a dog on board. One little guy piped up with, "I hate dogs!" which earned him a stern look from Teacher. We've found for the most part that people here fear dogs (of any size) and when I showed the kids a picture of Wilbur on my iPad, another little boy suspiciously asked, "Is that a pit bowl?" (that's how he pronounced it). But when I showed them a video of Wilbur towing us ashore in our dinghy and then a picture of him wearing a baby bonnet, they couldn't get enough. I found myself cornered by a group of energetic kids and everytime the video ended a little finger would dart out and jab the start button again. Wilbur has never swam to shore so many times in his life.

I think I can I think I can

Wilbur, the little pit bull that could

The school

I'm very grateful for the beach that's just a short dinghy ride away, and so as not to torment the citizenry of Blackpoint with our pit bull, we take Wilbur there in hopes of emptying and wearing him out. This way we can then go to town by ourselves without Junior, and be assured of returning to a boat that hasn't been used as an indoor potty patch. Depending on low or high tide it can be an interesting jaunt. At high tide we can dinghy ashore with Wilbur happily towing us the last hundred yards. At low tide we have to anchor way out and walk 'the flats' those last hundred yards and of course Wilbur rejoices in rolling in the heavy cement-like sand that remains. We much prefer high tide, especially in the evening, when we can enjoy happy hour with our friends on Wilbur's Beach (its new official name).

I really hate to leave this place, even after being boarded by the Bahamian Defence Force (their spelling) yesterday during breakfast while I was still in my pajamas. They were just as friendly as Andy and Barney (although I'm pretty sure they have more than one bullet in their guns) and were just doing their job. Wilbur was anxious to dispense some smelly pitty kisses but one of the officers was afraid allergic to dogs and we had to shut Wilbur down below. The other officer, a fellow pit bull owner, was elected to do the below deck inspection and Wilbur finally got some well deserved behind the ear scratches.

Barney and Andy


The police station



Leaving here is gonna be tough.











Monday, May 11, 2015

A Happy Crew


Flashback, March 2007:

We flew to the BVI's with two other couples in order to charter a boat for a week. The other couples were friends of Hans' and I'd only met them once during a 'planning' meeting. The day we were to arrive at the charter boat, Hans and I missed a puddle jumper flight and we ended up spending the night in Puerto Rico instead. This cut out a full day on the boat and since this was a much deserved vacation for both of us (I was holding down two jobs at the time), the stress level was beginning to mount. But we finally got there and after a very quick briefing, we were off.

I don't know where the break down in communication occurred but somewhere along the line I'd been given the impression that coffee (my life's blood at that time) would be hot and ready on board early the next morning. So upon arising, I took my time getting a shower, washing my hair, and applying makeup (an obvious charterer!). But, alas, I found the galley lacking not only crew, but coffee. "No problem," I said. I found a large aluminum percolator and immediately set to work. I'd filled its huge basket with coffee, poured nearly a gallon of bottled water into its reservoir, and only then did I discover that the glass percolating bulb was missing and was nowhere to be found. That's just about the time my brain told me if it didn't get a caffeine infusion pretty soon there might be a problem. Poor Hans stepped in and tried to help. His engineering brain so wanted to solve this unsolvable problem and then the wife who'd promised early morning coffee came tripping aboard holding a single steaming cup of carry-out. While I zeroed in on exactly where she'd come upon such goodness, Hans was still scratching his head and trying to come up with some kind of McGyver-like fix. I then told him where ready-made coffee could be had and would he please go get me some (I honestly can't remember why I didn't make this trek myself). His answer was to continue to try to re-engineer the percolator and that's when I came unglued and screamed (yes, I admit, I screamed) "Just go get me a cup of f*cking coffee!"

He did, and luckily we later found a jar of instant coffee on board and I did my best to behave for the rest of the trip. Except for the morning Hans took a huge gulp from my orange juice and loudly exclaimed in amazement for everyone to hear, "There's vodka in this!"

That was the first and last time we sailed with those people.

May, 2015:

Crazy weather, a severe lack of internet service, and a pit bull who in addition to adopting a nation of ticks and (if we dare go ashore without him) thinks our guest berth is potty central, has made this particular trip to the Bahamas a bit more challenging than expected. I had just finished mentioning this to Hans when I realized I was missing a vital piece to my AeroPress Coffee Maker. Well, that was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

I love my AeroPress. All it requires is hot water, a paper filter, and any grind coffee you choose. What I especially like is that clean up is a breeze. Gone are the days of using way too much water to clean our French Press (I know I can use sea water for the initial rinse but maybe I don't feel like it). Every morning I fire up our propane stove, heat water in my ancient percolator which takes very little time and its then poured into the AeroPress and voila, Coffee! Except for yesterday morning when I realized my little hockey-puck-size sieve which houses the tiny paper filter had gone missing. I don't know why but I just knew it had to have ended up in the previous day's garbage which was happily fermenting in the Blackpoint Settlement dumpster.

I'm pretty sure the charter cruise of 2007 resonated deeply in Hans' psyche and in fear of reliving it, he set out to make things right.

After a breakfast with French Press coffee and a trip to the beach in order to exhaust and empty the dog (whom we then left on the boat), we headed ashore. While I hooked up to the internet Hans headed over to the dumpster (I was kind enough to provide rubber gloves). A good while later I was sitting on a broken plastic lawn chair at a lopsided table when Hans finally showed up where he then gallantly placed my missing AeroPress piece on the table.

Hans the Hero


Yes, it was indeed a Happy Mother's Day for both of us.