Monday, March 30, 2015

Highs and Lows

Another sunset in Marathon


I'm talking about the highs and lows of living aboard a boat (although 'highs and lows' could also be a weather reference which as we all know is extremely important when cruising).

I'm beginning to find a strange rhythm to the whole 'I love living on a boat-I hate living on a boat' thing. And it's almost cruel.

It never fails that after we experience a spate of good tidings and begin to relax about our life at sea and exclaim, "Wow, are we lucky or what?", fate turns around and smacks us right upside the head. Every single time.

If you follow our blog at all you'll know what I mean.


Just short of two months into our re-entry of the cruising life we've had to have our dinghy's carburetor rebuilt, we've ran aground (but got off on our own) a few times, dragged anchor several times, woke up to and also sailed into pea soup a couple of times, discovered a fresh water leak (our starboard water tank's overflow valve has joined the same troublesome union the rest of our working systems belong to) underneath the mattress in our berth, beat our brains out trying to discern why our batteries couldn't hold a charge, and ended up replacing both engines' alternators.


In between these trials, we've had friends join us for a week, met up with friends from years past, actually got to the Dry Tortuga's (Hans can scratch this off his bucket list), enjoyed some beautiful achorages along with beautiful sunsets (sunrises don't come easy to us), unexpectedly ran into friends from our home port of South Pasadena while we were in fabulous Key West, and lastly, after a horribly long day of enduring a 'washing machine' passage (my opinion, while Hans feels it was one of the best sails we've ever experienced) we found ourselves moored in Boot Key Harbor here in Marathon.

When we first went past Boot Key Harbor on our way to the Tortuga's, the mooring field was full with a thirty boat waiting list. This time, on our way back, we were immediately assigned a mooring and we considered ourselves lucky as a weather front was moving in from the north with threats of strong winds and we wanted to be nice and secure. Things were looking up; we were a short distance from the dinghy dock, there is an excellent library exchange here (we had 11 books to trade), and shopping is within walking distance.

A while back I received an email from a blog follower, and she and her husband were going to be in the Marathon/Key West area kinda sorta around the time we were, and perhaps we just might meet up.

Oddly enough, in Marathon, we did.

We made arrangements to meet our new friends on their boat for drinks and appetizers and they even invited Wilbur (honestly, they really did). We normally close down shop on the Knotty Cat by late afternoon, meaning we usually stay put before sundown. I remember the time we were anchored in the Potomac back in 2010 when Hans and I went to a spaghetti dinner at the Capital Yacht Club and we left a young Wilbur on board with all the hatches open. We had barely finished eating when a storm rolled in complete with winds that knocked over a nearby restaurant's umbrella tables, blinding lightning, and slashing rain. Panic set in because we could not see our boat and we were terrified it would drag and our baby was on board. As soon as the rain let up a bit and even though the sky was still alive with lightning we jumped into our dinghy (which was already ankle deep in water) and headed for the Knotty Cat. It was with total relief we found out boat still in place even though the interior was soaked. We were also relieved to find Wilbur none the worse for his experience and as he sat in his crate with water dripping all over him from above, his tail wagged furiously, and we both got big pitty kisses when we let him out. That was the last time we went anywhere in the evening.

This time we weren't worried. We were on a mooring ball and our friends' boat was a short distance away. We had a great time, Wilbur was thoroughly excited to be included and even managed to sneak in a few stinky pitty kisses, and before we knew it it was time to leave. Actually, we should have left sooner because the wind was really kicking up and dark clouds were rolling in. We jumped into the dinghy and as we sped away, all of a sudden it was like someone pulled the shades down and turned out the lights. The wind kicked into full gear and started screaming mournfully through the mooring field. We were so amazed we actually went in the wrong direction (very surprising since I'm pretty sure Hans has a compass built into his brain) and we found ourselves at the wrong end of the mooring field. We got turned around just as lightning began to flash and sharp drops of rain started pelting us. We bounced through the waves and of course most of them washed over the bow and straight into Wilbur's face, and Wilbur, who just lives for dinghy rides, decided this was no fun at all and tried to escape. I forced him down at my feet and then the waves crashed into my face. Normally, this totally pisses me off and Hans kept apologizing over the screaming wind but I told him I didn't care and to please just get us home. He did, and with the stern of our boat blocking some of the wind we managed to get safely aboard.

It didn't end there though. Even with the wind generator working overtime, our batteries didn't look as strong as they should (not a lot of sun earlier so the solar panels hadn't helped) and Hans decided to start up the Honda generator. During a slight lull in the storm he got it up and running and we plugged in all our electronics. But within minutes the oil alarm light on the Honda lit up and it promptly died. Oh my, I wish I'd taken a video of Hans in the cockpit trying to get that big stinker started again. He was already soaked to the skin, and after (over) filling the generator with oil (and please don't get Hans started on how inaccessible the oil filling thingy is) he started ripping the pull cord in a maniacal fashion again and again and again. I bit my tongue (for once) and didn't say anything about how at least he was getting an upper body workout. The generator never did start (although in the bright light of the next day she was quite happy to fire up) but with Windy doing the job she'd been hired to do, the batteries finally leveled off at an acceptable level.


We rinsed out our saturated clothing in the shower (clothes soaked in salt water do.not.dry!) and assured our friends via cell phone that we had arrived home safe and sound and it wouldn't be necessary to send Flipper (the aquatic version of Lassie) out to rescue us.

The day after? It was gorgeous with zero humidity and life was good once again.

Wilbur at sunset

I guess this means the shit's gonna hit the fan again and I'm not looking forward to it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

At Sea with Miss Grumpy Pants

Yesterday I discovered I'm a poor sport and a crappy first mate. At least this is my observation and if Hans feels the same way about it he's wisely keeping it to himself.

I think maybe we just got off on the wrong foot first thing in the morning and it just went straight downhill from there.

We left Conch Harbor Marina in Key West on a high note and after motoring a couple of smooth hours we anchored in Saddlebunch Key. We arrived on a high tide yet saw depths as low as 4 feet. Hmmm. But it was a peaceful anchorage and we could see the huge tarpons surfacing all around us which explained the flat bottom fishing boats flitting about. Our plan for the next day was a short sail to Bohia Honda (we stayed there on our way to Key West and even though we dragged anchor we figured we'd be okay this time) so I stayed up later that night than usual.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I woke up around 8 AM because Hans had fired up our engines. "Hurry up." he told me, "we're leaving." Wilbur was lying beside me and gave me his 'here we go again look'.

I will say right now it's not my fault I ran us aground. Why the hell we left at low tide is beyond me but luckily all we did was churn up a bunch of mud and anyway I'm pretty sure the people in the fishing boat next to us were thoroughly entertained. And off we went.

It was windier than forecast and as we bumped and rolled along in the lumpy seas, stuff I hadn't had a chance to stow away started falling off shelves and counters (including the glass-top lid to my sauce pan). I asked Hans when it was going to smooth out since he'd promised me a 'wonderful day of sailing!' He gave me a blank look and said, "Well, this is it." And then he informed me we were shooting straight for Marathon with no stop along the way which meant about eight hours of this nonsense. I flounced down below to try and make coffee and was furious to discover Hans had finished up the last of my 'Wilbur Wow-Wow' cranberry juice even though he has his own bottle of grape juice. Grape juice in a Wow-Wow? Yuck! Oh, and someone shut off the refrigerator for an entire day thus defrosting it (it was just defrosted a week ago). We are both denying it but I think we each secretly blame the other.

After the first hour we let out the jib and since the seas were so rolly, when Hans expressed a desire to put up the main, I insisted on being the one to guide it up the mast and not him. With the engines shut down and by powering with sail only, it was a bit smoother but not enough to make me happy (by now I had my 'grump' on and didn't want to be happy anyway).

Throughout the day Hans was very excited to announce our speed which was usually 6 plus knots and then he wondered why all of a sudden we'd slowed down to four and a half knots. The boat sailing behind us started catching up quickly so we knew the problem must be with us (of course). There were crab pots everywhere and we were being very careful so surely it couldn't be that. I ended up stepping down behind our stern and when I tried to peer under the boat I saw a thick red line running under water directly from our starboard side.

Damn! Honest to god I swear we have a crab trap magnet on the Knotty Cat.

We've been through this drill before and once again I told Hans we would have to lay off the wind if he wanted me to try and snag the damn thing. He decided to heave to and even though the waves were sloshing over the bottom stern steps at least we didn't have forward momentum. I swiped at the water under our stern with our boat hook several times and just as I was ready to give up I snagged the line. I had my left hand wrapped around the main sheet so I wouldn't fall in and as I hauled it up (not easy let me tell you, remember there was a crab or lobster trap on the other end), Hans left the cockpit and laid down on the top step and started sawing at the line with his rigging knife (Wilbur was very interested in this particular activity and I noticed with great alarm how far over the side he was leaning). When Hans announced it was like trying to cut a steel wire and that he was going to go get our wire cutters I yelled, "You're not going anywhere! Just keep sawing the sonofabitch!" And he did. Once we were free of the trap we managed to get turned back around and all of a sudden there was the severed crab pot floating behind us. At least we didn't have to worry about starting our starboard engine when the time came to fire it back up.

The next time this happens (and it will) I fully intend to hang onto the trap. I only hope it's full because as far as I'm concerned we should get a reward for our troubles (sarcasm here, we don't steal crab traps!).

Please note; we have all the respect in the world for crabbing folk, and when the traps are in a line it's very easy to avoid them. However, there are areas where the traps are thickly scattered like buckshot and therefore not so easy to miss.

We ended up reefing the main and rolling the jib in a bit but for me it was still a crappy ride. At one point we had a wave wash over the starboard side and soak an astonished Wilbur. The strange thing is; the winds never went over 22 knots and the waves were only about 3-4 feet.

When we passed the Bohia Honda anchorage Hans was kind enough to ask if I just wanted to go ahead on in and anchor for the night. But since we now only had two more hours to go I figured we may as well sail on.

My stomach was churning, I was sticky with clammy sweat, and covered in a film of salt water spray from when I had to go up to the the bow and clear a line Hans had left there when we weighed anchor (this involved my crab-walking to the front while the bow continually plunged into the water and then shot back up), when I noticed that a fender had rolled off and was dangling over the side up toward the bow. I didn't care that we didn't look ship-shape, said the hell with it, and laid down in the cockpit.

Poor Hans had been stuck in the captain's seat for nearly the whole trip and I had no idea that during last two hours of our voyage he had to go to the bathroom. But, by that time I'm pretty sure he was regarding me with the same respect one gives a junk yard dog and the fear of disturbing me far outweighed the pressure on his bladder.

I'm pretty sure this is what I looked like. Scary!

Finally, after eight long hours we arrived in Marathon and picked up a mooring ball, Hans got to go to the bathroom, and I got to put the inside of our topsy turvy boat back together.

Our berth. This is the first time in seven years this has happened to us.


A different angle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

And yet one more unexpected pit stop


Celebrating a boat with working systems. Finally!


Roosters and chickens everywhere in Key West. Wilbur was puzzled about these very strange creatures



Actually I should say 'expected' pit stop because when you live on a sail boat these things are going to happen. Maybe some day I'll go with the flow and just accept this way of life.

My last few posts have mentioned our issues with power, voltage, alarms, etc... And I'm happy (HAPPY!!!!!) to say we think the Knotty Cat is fixed (until her next melt down anyway).

A brief rundown here (this will also serve as a diary I can refer to when Hans and I discuss this in the future, and believe me we will):

The morning we left the Marquesas on our way back to Key West we noticed our batteries were very low. Even with the engines running, when I started the coffee the batteries did a nose dive and I had to shut the coffee maker off.

We blamed our problem on a completely calm night where our wind generator did nothing. Of course solar panels don't work at night either, right?

Later that afternoon we anchored in Boca Grande and after shutting down the engines an alarm (a very piercing alarm) at the helm went off. Hans thought this over and said it only made sense to sever the wire to the speaker (like when I turn up the radio in the car when I hear noises I don't like) and all was quiet. It was once again calm with no wind and our batteries still drained quickly. Well, crap! I inspected the solar panel connectors at the bow and realized they really were shot so Hans went ahead and cut them off and hard wired them.


We still weren't happy so we ran the generator.


On to Key West where we picked up a mooring ball. Still no wind and we just knew the solar panels should be doing better so we started the laborous process of trying to find out if the solar panel control box was working. Of course it's in a horribly tight spot in the engine room and Hans had all kinds of fun bypassing it and hard-wiring the panels straight to our batteries.

We both could have sworn it helped but then by nightfall we had to run the generator again. I don't know how long this would have gone on if Hans hadn't stepped into the cockpit during the night and saw alarm lights lit up on the helm. That's when he went down into the starboard engine room and found one very hot alternator and ripped a bunch of wires off of it.

And of course the next day was Friday and when we got ahold of a mechanic he told us he'd try to fit us in on Monday if there were no emergencies.

By now we'd not been on shore for quite a few days and poor Wilbur was starting to get depressed and looked like a Mr. Droopy Drawers. At one point he went below to our berth and curled up into a tight ball with his back to us. I told him I was sorry and he heaved a huge sobbing pit bull sigh and I'm pretty sure I heard him say, "You just don't understand." That's when I told Hans we were going ashore.

Getting our dinghy off the deck and into the water along with lowering the motor onto it takes about forty five minutes and it's a lot more pleasant doing this on a calm day. We zipped Wilbur ashore and surprised him even further with a visit to an off leash dog park! He had a wonderful time sniffing and running and we knew it was time to go when the local dog walkers showed up with their yapping charges and Wilbur latched onto one of them for a hump-a-thon (he may be fixed but he still gives it a go when he can).

At the park getting a drink from his personal water bottle

Wilbur and Jordon the boxer ignored each other after introductory sniffies.

Finally a worn out and happy pit bull. We had lunch at a cuban restaurant.


We arrived back to the boat with a happy dog and when the mechanic showed up on Monday, we too were happy. At least we were until he slapped a new alternator on our engine and it spit out some sparks and died. Just like that. Then he told us what we really needed was an electrician.


And this is where our unexpected pit stop became a very pleasant one. We agreed to meet the electrician at a dock the next day and we chose Conch Harbor Marina since we'd already been there twice for fuel and we knew it was an easy place to dock. We were thrilled to get a slip and even more thrilled when we saw how wide it was and within seconds Hans had us docked. We were still getting our lines secured when I spotted a friend from the South Pasadena marina we'd lived at for over three years standing on the dock behind us. What a surprise! An even bigger surprise was the boat right beside us; a couple from the very same marina. There are so many marinas here in Key West I still can't believe we all ended up right beside each other.

Our electrician promptly showed up and a couple of hours later we were fixed. It all boiled down to a bad alternator (and apparently the new one that died was defective out of the box). When ours went bad (although the engine can run without it) it allowed the batteries to drain back into it when it wasn't running. And our solar panel control box was just fine and has been put back into action. It's just that it's hot down here in Key West and since our refrigerator has to run more than usual, this challenges our solar panels. We've come to realize our wind generator does a great job (when it's windy!) and this has been an unusually calm week (weather wise anyway).

So many interesting things to see

Our stay at Conch Marina was wonderful and it killed me to only be able to stay one day. Wilbur got tons of walks and came back to the boat exhausted each time. He met other dogs on these walks and was a perfect gentleman. This morning a tiny pekinese type dog lunged and barked at Wilbur and he immediately turned the other way while Pancho's owner apologized for scaring our pit bull.

The marina pool

Pelicans and huge tarpon behind a charter fishing boat that had just came in

If you ever get to Key West you've got to go to the Boat House. Their 4-6:30 happy hour consists of half off appetizers, some beers, wines, and well drinks. We went there twice and if we'd stayed today we'd be there tonight. We shared three appetizers, several draft beers and our bill came to $20.00. Honestly!!

But all good things come to an end and after just one day we left on our trip as we head back toward Marathon.

Sitting at the dock, Wilbur says, "Welcome aboard."


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dead in the Water

Well, it's not quite that drastic but we really are at a standstill.

An extremely bored pit bull (and don't think the guilt isn't killing me)

We may have cast off our lines at the end of January this year, say six or seven weeks ago, yet we both agree that it seems more like six or seven months ago. We've dragged anchor too many times, motored more than we've cared to, sailed way less than intended, spent more money than we'd hoped (our budget went out the window during our first week and that trend shows no sign of abating), endured freezing temperatures, and unexpected high winds caused damage to our solar panel connections which then started a whole domino effect of problems here on the Knotty Cat.

We were thrilled to get to the Dry Tortuga's on a high note; we actually sailed for four of the eight hours it took to get there from the Marquesas. The winds were brisk while we were there, and Windy, our generator, pumped all kinds of amps into our batteries along with the solar panels, and thankfully our anchor played fair for a change and stayed put.


A side note here about anchoring in the Tortuga's. The water there is a beautiful shade of aqua and appears to be very clear. We were anchored in fifteen feet of water and had read about several boats dragging so Hans dove on the anchor. He was happy to report we were dug in nicely and wouldn't Wilbur like to go for a swim? So while I held his retractable leash Wilbur swam around with Hans on two separate occasions. In the meantime I'd read about Goliath Grouper fish taking up residence underneath anchored boats there and I pretty much pooh-poohed this legend along with the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot. On our second night at anchor we endured super high winds and the next morning Hans dove on the anchor again. Now, Hans is a plodder; he's a methodical thinker, and at times he moves at a glacial pace while his brain makes deliberate calculations (unlike me who runs in two directions at once while never really accomplishing anything). So while I sat in the cockpit with my morning coffee I watched Hans slowly snorkel over the anchor, dive, and swim back to the boat. As he approached the stern I heard him call out to me. I didn't hear quite what he said but I did notice that he'd picked up the pace a bit and I was stunned to see him scamper with some alacrity up the swim ladder complete with his big flippers. "There's a huge fish under the boat!" he sputtered. I carefully leaned over the stern and sure enough in the relatively clear water I could see a huge (and I mean like over 6 feet long and nearly as big around) fish hanging in suspended animation under the Knotty Cat. This fish had a grumpy, brooding look about him (for some reason I envisioned him smoking a cigar) and I named him Maury. Needless to say, Wilbur (and Hans) never got in the water again, and getting in and out of the dinghy each day gave me a horrible thrill.

Maury continued to use the Knotty Cat as a rent free garage until we departed.


On our way back to civilization we noticed some oddities in our power supplies. The wind was dying down so Windy was pretty much on vacation and our solar panels didn't seem to be holding a charge like they had been. Boca Grande (the final stop before Key West) is where Hans ended up cutting that pesky alarm wire at the helm that wouldn't stop shrieking. We continued to Key West where the wind disappeared, the sun hid behind the clouds, our batteries died, and we came up with all kinds of excuses. After many readings with our meter and taking panels on and off which is time consuming in itself but then add me having to play 'Operation' with tiny tweezers while I dig through spaghetti-like wires in order to rescue yet one more screw Hans always drops, we ended up bypassing the solar panel control box and hard wired the solar panels to the battery.

Eureka! Problem solved. But it was cloudy again, and totally windless, and our batteries were still struggling. No problem! run the generator! That is until Hans went out into the cockpit and discovered alarm lights were lit up like Christmas on the helm pod. He ran below and found the starboard engine alternator was hotter than hell. Once again he moved faster than usual and yanked a bunch of wires off the alternator and we were both relieved when it finally cooled down.

Long story short; apparently our starboard alternator is shot (at least that's what the electrician we called told us), and on Monday if there are no emergencies and the weather cooperates, he'll motor out to us and replace both the offending starboard alternator along with the most-likely-to-fail-next, port alternator.

Even though we're stuck here, it could certainly be worse.

Next up, we need to get our little hot house flower (otherwise known as Wilbur) off the boat and get some much needed laundry done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shakedown Cruise # ?


The entrance to Fort Jefferson. This is where Dr. Mudd spent four years (all he served) of his life sentence.


I'm way behind on posting because we ended up in the Twilight Zone that is otherwise known as the Dry Tortuga's where there is no wi-fi or telephone coverage.

Up to that point we anchored in Bahia Honda (where we dragged anchor. Again), and at Stock Island (where we didn't drag because we were literally sitting on the bottom). We finally got to Key West where I was able to walk Wilbur to a vet and where he then collapsed on the way back to the dinghy dock because he just can't take the heat. We were meeting friends in Key West that day and thank god Hans was with them because he and Bob and Rose were able to find me and Wilbur with their air conditioned vehicle and we all ended up going to lunch. They also took us on a quick provisioning run. You gotta love these friends from the 'burgh (Pittsburgh for those who don't know what I'm talking about)!

At anchor in Stock Island. Actually, no anchor necessary.


There was a tri-maran anchored next to us in the Dry Tortuga's and its owners response to our question as to where he was headed to next was, "I'm not sure yet, I just bought this boat and I'm on a shakedown cruise." I made the mistake of laughing and said that as far as I was concerned, every day on the water is a shakedown cruise.

The fort is surrounded by a moat even on the gulf. This was to keep enemy vessels at bay.


From inside the fort. Hans is in silhouette while you can just see our Knotty Cat at anchor in the distance.

Wilbur was able to romp about on the beach here (on his leash of course).


Aother view of the moat.


We departed the Tortuga's the next day hoping that the forecasted N-NE winds would give us a smooth ride back to the Marquesas. The first two hours were rolly beyond belief. At my seat in the cockpit I'd find myself nearly lying on my back one moment and the next second almost standing upright (and remember we're on a catamaran!). Poor Wilbur (who refuses to go below while we're underway) really put his sea legs to use and swayed like a little hula dancer everytime he tried to walk and I actually had to hold onto him while he ate his breakfast in order to keep him in one place. If I'd had my camera on hand, the video I could've taken of him using his potty patch would surely have gone viral. As he hunched up to do his business, his rear end dramatically sashayed from side to side while little turds spilled and rolled about. What a dog though! everything stayed on the patch and he even managed to quick-step over his output without stomping in it.

I gave him a 10 and a gold medal.

This is just a random pic of Wilbur doing his business with a very noisy generator blasting in his face. He's 'da bomb!"


We picked up this poor little castaway in the Marquesas. Can you see the fishing line emerging from his beak?

I swear he's asking us to help him.

The seas finally calmed down enough to throw out a fishing line (no success) and after eight hours of motor sailing we were anchored. Yaaay! Shower time! and right in the middle of rinsing my hair I lost water pressure. I thought my shower head was acting up again but then Hans suffered the same problem in his shower (not that he cares what his hair looks like) and we figured our water pump had crapped out on us. This very same issue happened in 2010 during our first attempt at living aboard and I remember nearly coming unglued and I may have even cried and said I couldn't live this way. This time around I simply asked Hans if he remembered where our spare water pump was and then we discovered we'd drained our water tank. We switched over to the other tank and everything was fine. I have to admit I was a bit surprised that we'd used up 70 gallons of water (I'm quite the miser when it comes to water consumption on the Knotty Cat), but at the end of the day; after a week of washing dishes, rinsing salt water off of us and a very sandy pit bull after every single dinghy ride, etc... took its toll on our reserves.

The next day we decided we would motor (no wind what-so-ever) two whole hours (snore) to Boca Grande Key (we passed it by on our trip to the Tortuga's) where we would do absolutely nothing but relax. Then we woke up to nearly dead batteries and figured out our badly damaged solar panel connections had bought the farm and were actually draining our batteries. We decided as soon as we got to Boca Grande, Hans would hard wire the solar panels until we could get new connectors.

In Boca Grande when we dropped the hook and shut down the engines a piercing alarm from the helm went off. This is something that has never happened to us and no matter how much Hans jiggled the ignition key that damn thing kept screaming at us. After restarting and then shutting down the port engine it finally stopped.

And then it started again.

We shut absolutely everything down and with the solar panels taking a back seat to the shrieking alarm, Hans ripped the helm apart while I defrosted the refrigerator, again (I'd defrosted it just 2 weeks prior while at sail). At one point I was upside down inside the refrigerator when I heard Hans say, "I always thought this wheel could come off." I didn't even bother to come up for air to look.

This is a first for me.

Hans finally decided to sever the wire that leads to the 'speaker' for the alarm. He explained why this was an okay thing to do and I said "fine" and would he "please hardwire those damn solar panel connectors so all the meat in the freezer doesn't melt!"

So this is what we did on what we'd thought was going to be a relaxing day. We're still not sure if our batteries are okay or not, whether the job he did on the solar panels worked, or if disabling the alarm was a smart thing to do. I will say that I'm very glad we bought that Honda 2000 generator as it's been a life (if not a sanity) saver.

Friends of ours who were in the Bahamas recently, posted on Facebook. The caption under their pictures read:

"Cruising means fixing your boat in exotic places."

Not a new saying by any means but for those of us living it, that says it all.



Update: the solar panels still don't work. We know the panels are sending juice to the controller but it seems to stop there. Maybe. It's all too confusing. And I've also noticed the refrigerator doesn't seem to ever cycle off. And the water pump? Hmmm, it's working but it doesn't seem to have the oomph it used to.


After a long sweaty day of digging around a hot engine room and tracing wires into the tiniest of places, we called it a day. I went down below after clearing up the cockpit and came to a dead stop. "Who the hell stinks?" I exclaimed in an accusing tone and suddenly realized Hans had just emerged from his head where he'd taken a shower. I then took my own personal sniff test and marched myself off for a shower. It may just drizzle but at least I can now stand myself.

So, yeah boy, we're livin' the dream alright.

Possibly the first sun'rise' picture I've ever taken.

In the Tortuga's.

I couldn't sleep.











Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Knowing When to Stop


A very pretty view at the marina. I was there long enough to take a couple of pictures.

A few days ago, after our guests departed from Marathon Marina very early in the morning, Hans and I quickly got to work as we needed to leave by 11 AM. Staying at a marina is similar to staying at a hotel (except of course we bring our home with us) and you have a check out time.

I gathered up our laundry and since I didn't know when we might have this opportunity again, I ended up with a huge load. I think the only thing I didn't stuff into the bag was Wilbur who thankfully keeps himself pretty clean. And even though I thought I was quite the early bird (my idea of early is before noon) I was dismayed to find only one washing machine available and I had three loads. While I got the first load going I ended up talking with a lady (note: I will strike up a conversation with anybody, anytime. I think I was vaccinated with a phonograph needle) who was just as glad to talk/vent (she's new to sailing) to me. I spent more time talking than I should have but at least another two machines opened up. After cramming them full I ran back to the boat, dug the shop vac out of a lazarette and swept up the inside of the boat. I also scrubbed the filth from the bow where the anchor chain makes a mess, mopped the cockpit again (a waste of time as it gets dirty within seconds), and washed some dishes. Back to the laundromat I went where I threw most everything into driers and then went in search of ice. After filling two coolers with the ice, beer, and club soda it was back to the laundromat again. By now I was hot and sweaty but I got everything folded and when I got back to the boat it was time to shove off. Hans had topped off the water tanks, checked the engines, and took a bath house shower (I never did get one). We headed to the fuel dock and then we were on our way.

Pippa, a pit mix at the marina who let Wilbur know she didn't think he was cute. Wilbur reciprocated by telling her her mother wears army boots.


Where to go? We had several options but it became obvious that the closest ones weren't going to work out for us. We already knew the mooring field had a waiting list and the anchorage right beside it was packed full and actually looked like a tent city where the homeless hang out together. A bit further on we thought we could anchor in Sister Creek but once there we noted that every single boat was anchored bahamian style (bow anchored out in the river with a stern line tied up in the mangroves). We've never implemented this style of anchoring and I wasn't about to start now. Of course Hans thought it might be interesting and right about then I started feeling the effects of way too many late nights and early mornings. A small 'discussion' took place (perhaps a mini-meltdown on my part) and we moved on. Out in the open water we found wind and very rolly conditions which did nothing for all the crap lying about in the cockpit: dock lines hadn't been stowed, cushions were all over the place along with a bag of my wet laundry that should have been hung to dry in the head, and a dog that feels the need to be comforted when we first get underway (every single time). There was one more place to try to drop the hook and that was in the lee of Boot Key Island. But since we were underway Hans suggested we continue to Bahia Honda Key and would I mind sailing in the rolly seas for a few miles. Another 'discussion' (and a not so 'mini' meltdown) took place and we hurriedly anchored near Boot Key. I was tired and snappy and trying to put things in order when we realized we were dragging.


Honestly, we've never dragged anchor as many times as we have during this cruise.

We were finally set when I realized we were missing a lot of laundry including Hans' Knotty Cat shirt (a present from me and not cheap), my quick-dry towel (which actually takes longer to dry than regular ones), and my favorite sweat shirt (15 years old from when my son played high school hockey). I swore I'd checked the laundry area before I left and it was obvious we'd allowed ourselves to be rushed and it was now biting us in the butt. Trying to rush on a boat is usually a recipe for disaster (big or small). Hans did agree that it made sense to anchor quickly and take a day off and we have to remember we're no longer on a strict schedule. When you're overly tired you really do make stupid mistakes.

The next morning we felt much better and after contacting the marina we motored to the fuel dock where we didn't even have to tie up. They just heaved our bag of laundry into the Knotty Cat as we slid past and we were off once again.

This time the seas were less rolly and we actually sailed to our next anchorage.

One last picture of Marathon Marina. Some day I may get to enjoy it.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Conch at Sunset


A successful Conch attempt. Hans did a good job!





The first attempt. Hans on the conch. 'Commentary' by Laura.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our Friends' Three Hour Tour Ends in Marathon


We ended up docking at a marina in Marathon thus bringing an end to our northern friends' visit. We did not get them to Key West as we'd originally hoped but considering the weather we started out with (crazy cold temps and winds), and a couple of unexpected stops, I think we did pretty good.

All kinds of stuff then had to take place and get put into effect. A car rental reservation had to be made (and on a weekend in Marathon during the height of snow bird season it's not that easy), should I thaw something for dinner or were we going to go out to eat, did we have time to get laundry done or should we wait until the next day, did we want to sight see or not, and if our guests were able to snag a car when should we try to provision? During this decision making I hurried up and re-filled our water tanks, scrubbed the bloody remains of mosquito corpses from the cockpit (a surprisingly tough job), dumped garbage, and walked the dog a couple of times (Wilbur was suffering from serious sniffy withdrawal).

On day two at the marina Dave and Kathy obtained their rental car and it was decided we'd go out to dinner before their next day's departure. Hans went with them to pick up the car and get our mail and I was very excited to find the dry bag I'd ordered, along with my new bluetooth keyboard, had arrived (the letter 't' on my old keyboard went on an illegal strike so I fired it).

So here's how we ended up eating at the Sunset Grill. Normally, one might Google local restaurants and perhaps read some reviews and go from there. But, you haven't met Kathy. We were on our way to eat when Dave and Hans told me how exactly they'd chosen this particular venue.

Kathy had taken note of how friendly and helpful the lady at the very busy car rental agency was and decided once they'd departed that she would give her a call. Nice Lady didn't answer so Kathy then left a detailed voice mail. Nice Lady (who really was nice after all) returned Kathy's call and they had a lively discussion and not only did Nice Lady recommend the Sunset Grill, she told Kathy where she could shop for a couple of nice summer tops. By now Dave and Hans were laughing and said only a woman would do something like that. But that's how women are; Nice Lady probably could have told Kathy where a good shoe sale was going on or where the best place to shop for fresh produce was. Even Google can't do that in just one quick visit!

By the way, the Sunset Grill was the perfect place to go. It was a snow-bird's dream of an evening in Florida; wide open seating with a warm breeze drifting through, a sandy beach just a few steps away, a huge lit swimming pool where kids swam around while their parents sat close by at their table. Oh, and the food and service were great too.

After dinner, Hans, and Kathy and Dave, got the better of me with a mini surprise party. Hans bought me a pretty shark tooth necklace from a lady in the marina gift store who finds her shark teeth at the Don Pedro State Park where Hans had no luck finding any. Now I have one.

Dave and Kathy really surprised me with a conch shell. We've been wanting one for a long time and I had hoped we could snag one in the Bahamas and drill it out ourselves. But this is much better; it's a perfect petite size for the boat and it's been drilled correctly and works beautifully, plus it was a gift from very special friends.

Check out that adorable conch shell.

We've since blown our conch at sundown several times. It takes a couple of efforts each time but we've both managed to do pretty well.

I now have a whole new appreciation for trumpet players.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Everglades City and Little Shark River



We reluctantly left our five star marina and motored (you notice we have yet to say we sailed with our guests) south for twenty miles and set the hook in a nice fat anchorage at Indian Key Pass. While we really wanted to continue south in order to get our guests to Key West we also hated to miss the chance to see Everglades City. So the next morning we weighed anchor, motored up the river, and tied up at the sea wall of the historical Rod and Gun Club.

The lobby

Front desk

If you look closely you'll see who was not invited to lunch

I love historical buildings and this one didn't disappoint. It really reminded me of a southern version of the Riverside Inn in Pennsylvania where I was a waitress for over ten years. We had lunch at the club and let me tell you they do a booming business. Dave and Kathy went off in search of an Airboat ride (it didn't happen) and I went off in search of ice (I'm glad to report, that did happen). Dave did however return with frozen shrimp bait and on that note we departed the dock an hour earlier than we'd intended which ended up being a good thing as we found ourselves motoring straight into a dense fog. We were so concentrated on finding our markers that we nearly motored past the anchorage and had to double back. And then just like that the fog lifted. Dave put his shrimp bait to the test and caught several small catfish which were immediately released, and we spent the remainder of the evening playing Hearts. I'm not a huge fan of card games but Hearts became our regular evening entertainment and I found myself looking forward to it every night. Now that Kathy and Dave are gone, I miss those games.

We think Dave caught this very same fish several times.

We intended to leave Indian Key in the morning with New Turkey Key as our next destination. And then JR, one of the hosts during our dream pit stop sent us a message that he'd like to raft up with us there. So off we went with visions of another mini reunion. We'd been motoring (again, not sailing) for a good bit when all of a sudden we found ourselves enveloped in pea soup. It was so thick we could see it rolling into our cockpit so we closed up the hatches in a effort to keep things dry. Hans turned on the radar and figured out it was indeed working as it should and since it appeared there was not another soul on the water (and it was as calm as could be) I decided to try not to be scared to death.


We were actually making such good time we decided to skip New Turkey and head for Little Shark River instead. In the meantime we were surprised to find despite the fog JR was on our trail. This pleased Hans no end especially when, via our VHF radios, they could relay their coordinants to each other. This went on for some time and then Hans announced our radar had picked them up and they were closing in on our stern.

Out of the fog and into the light
The only two boats on the water that day


All of a sudden out of the fog burst JR and his wife on their power boat and just like that the fog lifted. It was so magical I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been surrounded by rainbows and unicorns. They stayed parallel with us for a while but since Little Shark River was much further away from home than Turkey Key they opted to go back. We had hoped they could raft up and invited them to stay aboard for the night but they passed on that. And it's a good thing they did because our next hosts, who also warmly greeted us, turned out to be the biggest and hungriest mosquitoes we've ever met. Little Shark River is surrounded by mangroves ("worst anchorage ever! we were eaten alive!", "best anchorage ever! No bugs until April!" were the ambiguous claims from Active Captain), and as soon as the sun set they were on us in droves. We spent a very stuffy evening playing Hearts and squishing very well fed skeeters. The next morning it looked like a massacre had taken place on board it was that bad.


Just a few of the bloody smears in the cockpit. Inside the boat was just as bad.

The next morning it was obvious that heading south would be uncomfortable no matter what and Dave asked if couldn't we just sail around for awhile so we did. Back to our buggy anchorage we went only this time we closed up before the welcoming committee, this time with a contingent of no-see-ums (obviously word got out about us), could descend upon us.


It was a relief the next morning to be able to leave the jungle and we then motored (sail? what's that?) to Marathon and tied up to a marina. This was the last stop for Kathy and Dave and we felt badly that we didn't get them to Key West as we'd hoped. They were able to rent a car and drive over for there for a couple of days before flying home to some serious minus temperatures up north.

Mother Nature and Poseidon ruled our trip and perhaps they have a wicked sense of humor because a couple of days later Hans and I sailed a full 32 miles to Hawk Channel.