Sunday, April 19, 2015

mystical memories

After leaving Gulf Port, we went back to the mooring field in Sarasota and stayed several days. We took advantage of Enterprise’s weekend special and drove to check out 3 possible homes for “Submit”. Saturday was laundry day. Note to self, make sure the lid is tightly secured on the liquid laundry detergent before putting it in the bag with the clean clothes.

We enjoyed lunch at a Columbian restaurant. Reggie’s pulled port was very good. My chicken in mushroom cream sauce was ‘to die for’.  A fun place to eat, I believe we were the only ones there who claim English as our first language.

The next stop was Marietta’s Museum of Whimsy and Arts. We had to run through, as we only had 30 minutes before they closed.  It is perfectly named. All the art belongs to Marietta and it is certainly whimsical. There were bathrooms for men and women. I know, not really unusual. We were encouraged to visit both bathrooms, as they were also filled with fun art. There were chairs and benches made from drift wood  painted with animals, made from horse shoes in animal shapes and just painted with whimsical colors and designs. “Please feel free to sit in any of the chairs.” Most of the figurines made us giggle or at least smile. The second room featured a light show, as well as paintings, furniture and figurines. Room lights were dimmed and tiny multicolored lights danced on the ceiling. We were then told to clap and make noise, which excited the lights and caused them to glow brighter, multiply and pick up the speed. When those lights disappeared, three life sized wire dancers filled with LED lights twirled from the ceiling. Quite beautiful.  Out the backdoor was a beautiful garden filled with a wide variety of flowers and of course, more fun sculptures. I’m sure we missed some, as they were often tucked in some obscure places. Marie, you would have loved it. I’m sorry we forgot our camera!

Today we are motoring into a strong wind. There are tons of people boating. The osprey with their chicks don’t seem to mind.

We were traveling along through red mangroves, palm trees and varieties of southern pines.  Pelicans were flying over in formation or diving for fish or perching on pilings and docks.  Rays were leaping out of the water.  Dolphins raised by the boat. We passed by osprey nests almost close enough to touch, with parents feeding their young.  Dinner at anchor, at sunset, in the cockpit, lightning flashing from thunderstorms in-shore.

It occurred to us that, on this gorgeous, sunny day , were sere seeing and enjoying our surroundings, but what was once spectacular and unusual has become commonplace.  Folks have asked us to include pictures, but we think of pictures as having to be of something special and the familiar does not seem special. We forget the awe we experienced in our early visits. 

Perhaps because the scenery has become familiar, the highlights of this trip have been the people. Friends from visits past.  New acquaintances who feel like old friends.  New memories created and old ones shared. 

As we wind down this trip, we are thinking of  tasks necessary for putting “Submit” to bed for the next 9 months or so.  We are thinking about projects at home, re-launching “Knot Ready” for the summer, splitting and stacking fire wood, repairs and excursions for the old motor home, a granddaughter’s graduation, visits to family moving farther away, friends to visit, grandchildren to squeeze and children to hug. 

Reservations have been made for a place to stay in Miami before catching our flight.  A car must be rented to take us from Port Charlotte to Miami.  Some hapless sole must be corralled into picking us up from the airport near midnight.  We hope to reciprocate someday with an early morning delivery or late night retrieval but never seem to pay back as much as received.

We are also beginning to think about and make tentative plans for our next visit to ”Submit”.  Bahamas?  Mexico?  The Florida Keys?  Cuba?  By ourselves?  Buddy boating with friends?  Arrive a little earlier and stay a little longer?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

time in Gulfport 7 Apr 2015

Every year our time on Submit is different. It is really important to not have expectations. This year we have been much more relaxed and have spent more time just being here, where ever that is.  And it has been good. The main reason is the people: Tom and Bobbie, Johnny and Cindy, Betty and CA, Craig and Beth, Tex and Gloria, Janet, Terry, Pete, and most recently, Katy and Charlie, Sean and Jeannie.  If I forgot someone, blame the short term memory, not your importance.  

We have been here in Gulf Port since Friday. Sean and Jeannie cruised by and took us in for a delightful dinner. Saturday we used their car to pick up some wanted items and visit the Florida fruit winery.  We sampled grapefruit, blackberry, blueberry, guava, mango, and more. I think if they didn’t call it wine, I would have liked it better. It is fruit juice with a kick. My favorite were the orange smoothie and coffee smoothie.  There was also a fun gift shop. All in all a fun day.

The next day was Easter Sunday and we were invited to Katie and Charlie’s for dinner. Oh, my! Huge ham.  Carrots and mashed sweet potatoes Katie’s garden.  An asparagus dish to die for. Pickled okra that everyone will like.  The best pumpkin pie Reggie’s eaten in a very long time.  After dinner we learned a new card game. We came home with a belly full of food and laughs. Also a big bag of Australian spinach and couple bags of fresh herbs, a jar of pickled okra and stone crab claws.

Monday Sean and Jeannie picked us up for a day of fishing, crabbing, relaxing, laughing, and just plain enjoying the day. Reggie and I each caught a little shark and hooked some lady fish, which we encouraged to go away before even getting on the boat.  They apparently are not really lady like. Reggie brought in some trout.  They were a little small so they went back to the sea, but fun to catch.  I caught a little flounder, but it was legal, so Sean filleted it and it was dinner tonight along with the spinach, left over shrimp from last night’s dinner, potatoes with fresh rosemary. Oh, and pickled okra.

Our time is drawing to an end, so today Reggie did boat storage research and I did…aa…. whatever, but I’m sure it was important. Oh, yeah, I orchestrated that fabulous dinner and directed Reggie how to finish it.  

It gets harder to pay it forward!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"What's it like out there?" 4 April 2015

Make a passage.  Do a crossing.  Head out there.  No matter what it is called, people are always curious about it.

Most of us have spent at least a little time on a boat.  It may have been a small row boat or a little fishing boat or a canoe or you name it.  Kayaks and paddle boards are popular these days.  At first, you are nervous, not venturing far from shore.  What if something happens?  Stay within easy swimming distance of solid ground.  Stay in shallow water.  Remember the feeling?  You look at those who have ventured farther out and ask “How do they do that?  Aren’t they scared?  I could never do that.  What if ‘something’ happens?”  Is this how it was or perhaps still is for you?  Close your eyes for a moment and remember back when.

With time and experience, you venture a little farther out.  You begin to trust your water craft and yourself.  In a lake, you wouldn’t have gone beyond your little swimming area at first.   Then you begin to cruise a little distance along the shore, always staying close to it.  You look at the boats out in the middle and still can’t imagine going there.

Slowly you venture farther from shore and out to deeper water.  One day, you cross a little bay rather than hugging the shoreline.  Eventually it happens.  You are talking with someone and the possibility comes to mind or is presented.  Go across to someplace on the other side.  At first perhaps you go with someone who has been there before, trusting in their knowledge, skills, equipment and experience.
You are out there!  In the middle.  In deep water.  A long way from shore. As far or farther to go back than it is to go ahead.  You arrive at your destination and do what was planned.  You cross back to home.  Nothing bad happened. It was ok, enjoyable, fun. 

What about the first time by yourself or in your own craft?  One person will plan and think and consider and provision and equip and prepare, on and on sometimes to the point of never going at all.  The next person takes reasonable precautions and makes reasonable preparations and heads out.  Another throws a few things in the boat and goes.  Another, perhaps foolishly, just jumps in and takes off, with little consideration about how to handle any problems nor any thought about the potential cost to family, friends or others who might be called upon to deal with the consequences of his poor choices.

You learn more.  Your travel horizon stretches.  You think back to those first ventures with others and perhaps realize the knowledge, skills, equipment and experience you trusted wasn’t as great as you thought and are perhaps even glad you did not know it at the time. 

And someone is now asking you “What’s it like out there?”

Our latest crossing was relatively uneventful.  We had been watching the weather and saw about 3 days of modest or no wind before the next system passed through and decided to go.  We could tell we would have to motor much of the way. This is not our preferred option, but boils down to: wait for the perfect sailing weather window and perhaps not have enough time to wait that long; sail as much as you can and motor as much as you need; or don’t go at all.

We had a leisurely breakfast while listening to the weather channel again.  The decision was made.  Go today.  Prepare the boat.  Dock lines are removed from their cleats and stowed.  There will be nothing out there to which we could tie.  Anything which could tip over, fall down or move is stored or immobilized.  You never know from which direction a wave could come and pitch or roll the boat.  Install the jack line.  This line runs most of the length of the boat.  You clip your harness to it with a tether while on deck so you are hooked to the boat and can’t fall off and drift away.  The gybe preventer is installed to keep the boom from accidentally flying from one side to the other at speeds which could break the boat, knock you out of the boat if not tethered, or hit you hard enough to do serious bodily damage.  The full startup checkout is done, but perhaps a little more carefully, taking a little extra time to look around at control cables, lines, hoses, etc.  “Raw” sea water inlet for cooling the engine and transmission is checked.  Its ball valve is turned off, the strainer is opened, the screen is checked for debris, the valve is opened momentarily to confirm water flows freely, the strainer is closed and the valve is turned back open.  Fuel level is checked and deemed adequate.  Oil level in the V drive is checked.  The bilge is checked to see that it is virtually empty.  The propeller shaft, drive shaft and packing gland are looked over and it is confirmed that nothing is touching the spinning shafts.  Transmission oil, engine oil and antifreeze are checked.  Fuel filters and water separators are checked.  Wind generator off.  Start battery on.  GPS on.  VHF on.  Handheld VHF, water bottle, sun glasses, watch, etc. go to the helm.  Start the engine and confirm cooling water is being pumped out the exhaust and that the alternators are producing power and no red lights are on.  We are ready to go. 

Barbara goes to the bow to monitor and clean the anchor chain as the windlass brings it in.  Mud is washed  and scrubbed off it as it raises from the bottom.  The anchor is secured in place and the chain locked so the anchor will not come loose if we have bad seas.  We are on the move.

Other preparations include washing and cutting up celery, moving carrots and other refrigerated snacks to the top.  Some meals have been cooked in advance, usually one pot meals which can easily be heated and served.  Eggs are hard boiled and chilled.  It could be too rough out there to want to cook and we’ve learned we need to eat something.  Granola bars are at hand.

It is 10:30 AM when we begin motoring away from the anchorage.  It takes us about two hours to get through the harbor and out into open water.  We are finishing our lunch sandwiches as we pass through the entrance.  We turn to the heading for our first waypoint outside the shallow waters of San Blas Shoals.  We expect to arrive there after midnight.

Wind is modest but favorable so we hoist the main and roll out the genoa and shut down the engine.  Seas are running 1-3 feet with the occasional 4.  They get a little more calm as we move into deeper water.  I look back occasionally.  Near shore fishing boats shrink to nothingness.  Soon only buildings on the shoreline are distinguishable and then they also disappear.  Water, water everywhere, and sunshine and partly cloudy skies and birds and the occasional tortoise and porpoise and small fish.

Our watch system begins.  There are all sorts of systems for deciding how long a person must stand watch and be off duty.  We have come to prefer two hour shifts.  When we are tired, standing a two hour shift seems like it lasts forever and making it longer is unthinkable.  The first 24 hours are the toughest.  My worst are midnight to 2 and 4-6.  Barbara’s seems to be 6-8 AM.  When the shift ends, you do any needed chores and collapse onto the berth, hoping to fall asleep instantly and knowing your rest time will be too short.  You become attuned to sounds.  New, different or changing sounds will wake you.  What do they mean?  Is there a problem?  A sudden change in engine RPMs brings you instantly awake.  It has become our alarm clock for shift change or a signal to come on deck to help with whatever needs done.  The off shift person is always on call.

The wind dies as night approaches.  We keep sailing until our average speed drops below 3 miles per hour.  Then the genoa is furled and the engine started.  We motor along with the mainsail still up and pulled in to centerline of the boat.  It helps dampen the rolling.  Seas lay down as the sun sets and the moon rises.  We motor through the night, reach our first mark and turn towards the next.  Our passage length this time will be about 280 miles.  If we average 5 miles per hour, we’ll arrive mid day two days from starting.  If we travel too slowly, we could arrive in the dark which is usually inadvisable.  If we are exceptionally slow, we could be caught by foul weather predicted for 3.5 days out. 
By morning the sea is calm, the sky bright and sunny.  Last night’s full moon was great.  One large fishing vessel was fishing near our first mark.  They shined a spotlight on us as we passed in front of them.  They were the only boat seen all night.  We saw no boats at all next day or night.

When I leave shift, I check the bilge area and the engine compartment.  About half way through the trip I see signs of a fluid leak.  The engine is shut down and all fluids are checked.  This is done every 4 hours for the rest of the trip.  No serious problems develop.

There is very little radio traffic at sea.  VHF range is limited.  We don’t hear much until nearing shore again.  We hear of an overturned and partially submerged 40ish foot vessel near one of the major port entrances.  Another boat with 4 persons out fishing has lost all power.  We cannot hear him.  He is talking on a small hand held radio to the coast guard and his battery is running out on it also.  The coastguard contacts TowBoatUS for him.  It takes about 4 hours for the help to reach him.

Another boat is taking on water and has called the coast guard.  We don’t hear how that one turns out.  When we finally get service, I see a man has been rescued after being lost at sea for 66 days.

As we approach land mid morning, boats begin appearing everywhere.  Many of them advertise their rental source on the sides.  This is a holiday weekend and the weather is beautiful and everyone and his dog is out on the water.  Some must be first timers.  Some act like they know what they are doing but clearly do not.

We pass through the Johns Pass bascule bridge and tie up at Dons Docks for fuel.  A novice kayaker runs into our boat as I’m pumping diesel. 

We motor several miles to our chosen anchorage.  Anchor down, engine off, collapse for a nap.  Arise.  Sponge bath.  Catch up on business and personal email.  Have a fun evening and dinner with friends.  Back to the boat.  Consider possibilities for the next few days before we crash to sleep. 

“What’s it like out there?”  This time it was very benign.  We’ve been on passages lasting many days with no problems or foul weather.  We’ve been on shorter passages and were caught in storms.  We’ve seen bigger 15 ft seas and the occasional 20 footer.  When being in the trough between waves, the trough has been so deep that we could only see something besides water by looking up and had you been watching, it would have looked like we had sank and only our mast was showing.  This has been rare.

“What’s it like out there?”  Usually pleasant and somewhat boring.   I commented to Barbara that this last passage would have been more fun if we had another person or couple along.  Rests during time off shift would have been longer.  Sharing the experience through someone else’s eyes would have been interesting.

“What’s it like out there?”  Go out and see.  Want to ride along?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chatty Cathy 3 April 2015

We are now at anchor in Boca Siega Bay by Gulfport, Fl, after enduring around 51 hours of passage across the Gulf of Mexico. The weather prediction held for us this time and the bad weather did not come early. We had to motor most of the way, but that is better than stormy weather as far as I’m concerned. I’ll take boredom over being really uncomfortable any day. Once we are over 25 miles from land, we see more turtles than boats (maybe 4 boats the entire two days). There were a few dolphins and lots of birds. This post is about one in particular.

We had a guest at our B&B. She arrived on my 4-6pm watch second day out. She was a cute little thing with an orange breast, bright black eyes and a swallow tail. This gave me a little concern since past arrivals of birds on our boat signaled a storm coming. As mentioned above, she brought no foul weather. 

Other than being cute, she had some rather annoying habits. She was flighty and had no regard  for personal space. I tried to be a gracious host, but found myself turning away and even ducking when she invaded my comfort zone.  She introduced herself as Cathy Sparrow. I called her Chatty Cathy.  Did I mention that she was rather persnickety? She would try out one room after another.  “Too windy,” was a common complaint. She seemed to want a small cozy room. “This might work, but what else do you have?” The bimini support definitely was too slippery. At one point she sat down on the GPS at the helm and told me many little stories. It was pleasant to have her sitting quietly and not flitting about my head, but her stories seemed to have no plot or even any point.  She was lovely to behold so close, but never disclosed her reasons for dropping in. Then she spoiled it by trying to give me a kiss. I’m just not that sort of person. She then resumed her search for the perfect place to spend the night. We have had some experience with her sort, so I casually placed some barriers on the door to our personal cabin. She did not take the hint. Reggie had to show her the door back out. At that point, she flew off in a huff. Is she royalty or something?  However, she didn’t go far and returned. We closed the door to our inner sanctuary. Why? You may ask, are we unwilling to admit a guest into our personal living quarters? Please don’t think too harshly of us. Her personal hygiene habits leave much to be desired and far be it from her to clean up after herself.

Here she is in her chosen room. After a “This will work.  See you in the morning.  I’m really very tired. Good night,” she went to sleep.  At some point in the night she soiled her bed and moved across the hall. That was NOT to her liking and she didn’t stay long. She then settled into a more spacious room on a cockpit seat and spent the rest of the night. When I came back on watch at 6 AM, I placed some water next to her bed, assuming she would be up and singing at sun rise as others of her kind are want to do. She had not been doing well and we hoped fresh water might have been lacking in her travels.  She, however, stayed snuggly tucked into her wing. She would occasionally peek around and then snuggle back down. No worm for this bird.  Chatty Cathy continued to sleep and we are now even more concerned. As we enter the harbor, she breaths her last breathe. We respectfully burry her at sea. I am sorry for my intolerance. RIP on this Good Friday. B

R.  We did a little sailing early and late in the trip and it was nice.  The best sailing was the day before we headed out.  We were crossing Chocktawhatchee Bay and West Bay. 
For my sailing friends, we were on a beam reach under genoa only and saw 7.5 knots several times before finding a sheltered spot to anchor.

For my non-sailing friends, it was rollicking fast fun!