All posts by sharon

Update, April 18, 2012 Winter in the Keys

At the end of the last update, we had decided to go to the Bahamas and store the boat there, no matter how late in the season the next window came.

We missed seeing Richard’s family at March Break, as they already had a full schedule before we knew we would still be here.

The wind kept blowing, so it wasn’t possible to cross the Gulf Stream.

I was worried that we hadn’t heard from Vonny and Ray in a while. We went to Tarpon Basin, where it is easier to get to shore and get groceries and water, do laundry and dump the garbage.

Alan from Sinbad had his boat in a channel next to his house, and continued to be our “shore crew”, going to West Marine to pick up stuff for us, as well as helping in many other ways. We feel very lucky to have this kind of a friend in the neighbourhood.

Most evenings, we sit outside and watch the sunset, and look at the dark sweeping in around us. Sometimes, it is all the entertainment we need. Sometimes we run the generator and watch a movie.

I called Vonny and Ray’s son Jesse and he said Vonny and Ray and their friends Sue and Bill had been caught in a gale on the way to Cuba from Mexico. Finally, on March 18, Vonny called to say that she and Ray planned to come back to the States and store their boat in Indiantown. When I asked her where they would go next year, she said, “We’ll keep going north. We won’t be cruising anymore.”

After a lot of thought, I suggested to Richard that perhaps we should go to Marathon and cruise north with Vonny and Ray. It could be our last chance to cruise with them. We agreed we would forego the Bahamas this year.

So the past month has been spent in the Keys, trying to anchor as far off the beaten path as we can – especially that noisy beaten path known as Highway One, or the Overseas Highway – while we wait for Wishbone to arrive from Cuba.

Mark, Richard’s friend from Toronto area, is new to cruising, and has stayed in Tarpon Basin for three months. We feared his 25-foot Volkboat had put out roots, and we were happy when he sailed here with us. He is planning to cross to the Bahamas while we continue south to meet Vonny and Ray on Wishbone.

When we made our unsuccessful foray towards the Bahamas, the prop started making a racket, another reason for turning back. Alan took Richard to Mother Ocean, a consignment store for boaters. They found a bigger prop there, which we sent out to Frank and Jimmy’s Prop Shop in Fort Lauderdale. It came back in less than a week, completely reconditioned. Alan fitted Richard up with a small air tank and a hose and regulator. Richard went under the boat, removed the old prop and put the new one on. It wasn’t easy, and he came up for frequent breaks. The pin on the old prop had completely sheered off, lengthwise. The new prop is a better size for the boat, and is working well, so we are happy.

Travelling with Chris and Divya of Maggie M was a real treat. I met them in late 2003, just after Zlatko came to Fort Lauderdale to sail with me. They were part of the 12 people and a dog (everyone in the Los Olas mooring field at the time) who came for dinner on My Detour one night. Chris happened to be sitting by the BBQ, so he cooked the meat that everyone had bought with them for the event.

This year, they met us in the anchorage off Lorelei Restaurant in Isla Morada. We went to Happy Hour together and watched the magic show. We dinghied about three miles to Lignum Vitae Key, using both dinghies, and picnicked and took the guided tour. We learned much about the history and flora of that area, while swatting and dancing around to avoid the very small and hungry fauna. Most of the keys are well-sprayed to keep the tourists comfortable, but not the areas that are natural preserves. Another day, we stopped at the Elliot Key park headquarters, expecting a tour. But the tour was self-guided, with information boards along the way. I couldn’t do the walk because I had missed the bottom step in the boat the day before and could barely walk. Chris, soaked in a camp staffer’s Deet, made it all the way around. Divya and Richard turned around after a short walk and ran back, waving their arms around and brushing off mosquitoes.

One night, anchored off Sand Key, we were hit by a thunderstorm that had our boat heeled over and dragging. I ran forward in the dark and the driving rain to let the anchor out ore so it would reset, while Richard held us in position with the motor running. Maggie M didn’t move, but they were up, and it was comforting to check on each other on the VHF radio.

Almost every day, we swam in the crystal blue-green water around our boats, and most of the days here are sunny and beautiful.

In Sponge Boat Harbor, we went over to the resort with the happy hour in the sky-high tiki huts, and sipped our drinks while taking in the view of the ocean and getting blasted by the wind. We shared our meals on one boat or the other, and happy hours were quite religiously observed.

We parted after enjoying Happy Hour in Coconut Grove, and a night on the ill-placed moorings at Dinner Key Marina in Miami. (They are out in Biscayne Bay.) Maggie M went to a symphony concert in South Beach, Miami, and we headed over to No Name Harbour to get out of the wind and do our laundry januvia online. No Name keeps getting crazier and crazier on the weekends. When we entered on Friday there were five other sailboats anchored. By Sunday morning when we headed south again, four or five hundred power boats had come and some had gone. The people on them had swam, drank and partied. None of the people in the water had been run over, and no one had drowned, although a little boy whose parents weren’t paying attention came close.

Then we went slowly south to Tarpon Basin, where we persuaded Mark to come with us to Sponge Boat Harbour again, where the wind blew 20 knots and more in the gusts. Now we are anchored off Lorelei, which is at Islamorada, and looking forward to great chicken wings tonight.

Maybe one more update, when we meet up with Vonny and Ray and get to Indiantown.

Pinned in the Keys by Wind, March 12, 2012

Update, March 12, 2012          In Tarpon Basin

The ending of my last update was so optimistic. We were going to Cuba! But a weather window did not open up for Cuba, and after a week or so, Alan got a job delivering a boat from Marathon to Fort Pierce, and was no longer available to go with us. It was also obvious that we would never make it around the west end of Cuba to meet with Vonny and Ray by March 23, and have time to travel along the south side to get to the Bahamas before Hurricane season.

We did the usual Marathon things, and, because the cost of dinghy dockage has been upped to $280, not much less than a mooring, we took the mooring. But the moorings are close together, most people run generators (some 24-7), and there are lots of yappy dogs.

I bought a new hand-held GPS, since the one I had since 2004 ran out of almanac for the tides, and the computer connection to update it is now obsolete. It can still be used for other GPS functions, but our chart plotter doesn’t have tides, and I had gotten used to that convenience. When our week was up, we moved to the anchorage.

I got up early and listened to Chris Parker on the shortwave receiver for weather, first for Cuba, and then the Bahamas. Lynda and I went to yoga a few times. Jim and Lynda invited us to Morningstar for a wonderful going-away dinner.

I felt bad about giving up on Cuba, because I had promised Vonny we would meet up with them, but the weather really wasn’t cooperating, and I felt that Richard would always find a reason not to go. He is getting to an age where physical problems are limiting what he used to be able to do. I’m not as strong as I used to be either. And my balance isn’t as good as it used to be. We both forget things a lot, too. Fortunately, we usually forget different things. Richard says that, together, we make one fully capable person.

I haven’t heard from Vonny since Feb. 23, when she and Ray were two day’s sail from Cuba. The wind got worse after that, and I hope they stayed in or got to a sheltered spot.

On Thursday, March 1, Richard and I headed out of Boot Key Harbor, towards the Bahamas. We got the sails up and turned into Hawks’ Channel. It was a beautiful day, and the boat heeled over and moved along briskly. We went out to the edge of the reef to avoid the crab pots, into waves that were about four feet or less. I was elated to be really sailing. The water was that wonderful turquoise blue.

Richard was unhappy, saying it would get very bad before we got to the other side. He had one of his weather-turning-bad headaches, and nausea from the drugs he takes for his heart. He couldn’t eat. Nothing was right. He was really feeling bad when we got to Channel Five and we turned back, then out again, then back, before I turned the wheel to the channel, giving up that window. We picked up the same mooring ball we were on two weeks ago. I was not speaking to anyone.

Late that night, the wind picked up a little, and in the morning, we sailed into a brisk wind towards the harbor where the sponge boats anchor. The sails had to come down quickly because of the sand we were pushing off the bottom with the bulb keel. We stayed there for a full week, in high winds. The mangroves gave protection all the way around. We looked out onto the same view that is on the cover of the book. One day, we went to shore, and, while I checked email, Richard fended off the advances of two women in their 40s or 50s who chatted him up. Alan from Sinbad, who lives in Tavernier, picked up stuff we needed and even took us to the Ocean View, a local restaurant, where we met his friends. Janet had read my book and wanted to meet the person who had screwed up more than they did when they were cruising.

After a week, the wind let up, and we motored into it, to Tarpon Basin.

Mark, a friend of Rick, Richard’s son is here on a small sailboat. He rowed over for a Steak BBQ on Saturday night. He had bicycled to Publix to get the groceries. In the morning, Richard made his great crepes.

Last night we dinghied over to Shockwave, and visited with Jerry and Bonnie. They told us about how they lost a big, well-equipped boat Traveler in Hurricane Hugo, when they were in Puerto Rico. Listening to what they went through made me realize how petty my complaints are.

I shouldn’t be discontented. We swim around the boat and have hot showers from sun-heated water. I have a good internet connection on the boat. I can work on my next book. Richard’s family might connect with us. It is March Break and they are in Florida.

The Keys are a beautiful place to spend the winter. But it is our third winter in the Keys. I want to go to a more exotic place before we get too old to do it. Richard is more careful, he says, about picking weather to travel in.

He says we will get to the Bahamas before we go home, and leave the boat there. He says the weather will calm down. I believe him.

-til we get there, Sharon and Richard.

Indiantown to Marathon, Feb. 25/2012

Update from Richard and Sharon on Lucky, Feb 25, 2012

 

Our last update was Jan. 18, and a lot of water has flowed under Lucky since then.

For the rest of January, we continued to work on the hard, climbing up and down ladders all day. I was usually the gofer, and drove to the hardware store and into Stuart many times to pick up and return things, and finish the grocery shopping.

Richard installed a new macerator pump to replace the one that burned out last year, and a bigger bilge pump. I cleaned up the work areas when he was done, and scrubbed the deck and topsides. I packed all of the groceries and made lists of what was where.

We had a big fight when Richard started moving the groceries around, as it is very hard for me to keep track of what is where, when it is where I put it! A month later, neither of us can find some of the things he moved.

It took us several days to get the blue and white delineation stripes repainted. I cleaned out the big deck box that Richard built over the coach roof several years ago, and painted the inside. Then I attached everything that had been in the deck box or on the deck (and was now on the ground) to lines, and Richard hauled it back up to the deck and packed it away. This job took three days.

In the meantime, I sold a few copies of Idiot Afloat and made trips to the post office to mail some, and pick up money orders.

At night, we ate with friend or watched part of a movie and fell asleep before it finished. Friends Bill and Diane Restivo, who were cruising in the Bahamas when Vonny and I first went there, stopped by to visit. They now live in a condo in Stuart in the winter. When I asked if they would like a book, Diane said, “No thanks. I’ve been there and done that, and I don’t want to read about it.” Oh, well.

Richard pumped up my eleven-year-old Caribe hard-bottomed dinghy and flipped it over. When he hosed it down and squirted it with soap, little streams of bubbles came from all over the bottom of the pontoons. It was worn out. That day we went into Stuart and bought a nice 9.5 foot AB hard-bottomed dinghy. No more patching! I painted the numbers onto the sides.

Vince, of Finn MacCool showed up one night to store his Westfalia van, and we drove them back to Stuart in our Mercedes. They took us out to dinner. The next day, they headed for the Abacos.

 

Finally, on Feb. 2, Lucky went into the water. On Sunday, Feb. 7, we were on our way, cruising at last. We love the route west – lots of alligators spotted, but no sounds of traffic most of the way. We anchored in the Rim, surrounded by patches of lilly pads, the first night, just north of the Moorehaven Lock. The next night we tied up on the fuel dock at Port LaBelle. In the morning, the attendant looked unhappy when I told him we hadn’t just pulled up, but had spent the night. More paperwork for him when he had to collect the money. Seven miles later, we anchored in the channel, at the foot of Dennis and Kika’s  lawn. I had, by chance, called in the morning to see where they were now, expecting to hear that they were in Honduras, on the boat. A pleasant delay.

 

On Feb. 9, we got to Fort Meyers Beach and hooked up with Lynda and Jim, on Morningstar. We took a mooring ball near them, a bargain at $13.78 a night. Laurel and Murray Thompson, now land cruisers, drove over from Bonita Springs and brought steak for the BBQ.

 

Monday, Feb. 13, we escaped from the mooring, and had a perfect sunny broad-reached sail in the Gulf of Mexico to Gordon Pass. And no microburst this year to soak and scare us. We laid over for a day in Rookery Channel, and rafted together, where Jim and Linda caught fish and I painted a picture. The next day was a work day, as Morningstar’s sail had torn and fallen down just before Gordon Pass, and our head was leaking. The sail and head got fixed. That night we saw an unusually brilliant falling star, with a bright orange fan of a tail. Then on through the inside channel from Marco Island to Goodlands, where there was a big anchorage with hardly anyone in it, except some old friends of Richard, Frank and Debrah, on Debrah Dawn. We met them last year when they sailed across our path in Blackwater Sound. Small world. We had worried about this part of the voyage, because the chart showed several spots with depths of 3 to 4 feet. But we must have hit the tide right, because the depth sounder showed lots of water, and we saw more beautiful everglades scenery, all mangroves, water, birds and fish. We celebrated at supper in the Marker 8 Restaurant, located just off –yes- marker 8.

 

The next day we travelled on to Russell Pass, and anchored in a rushing current, where we caught enough fish for supper. Jim put the entrails in his chum bag and hung it off the stern, hoping to attract more fish. He did – three sharks. One swished past the bag. Gone wer the entrails and the chum bag was in tatters. Later, the stars were thick and bright. Then we moved on down the gulf to Little Shark River. The next morning the half-dozen boats that had been anchored in the river the night before all left, early, swatting at noseeums as they went past. But we had our coils burning, and were not bothered very much. I made bread, Richard went exploring, and Lynda and Jim fished. They were disappointed. No fish. Just a long scummy string of oil that stretched in from the Gulf of Mexico, though the beauty of these rivers, in the largest and highest mangrove forest in the world.

 

As we were leaving, I screwed up really badly. I instructed Lynda to let off the bow line from our rafted boats before Richard and Jim were ready to release the stern line. The strong current pushed the boats together at the back, driving Morningstar’s stern into ours. Only quick action with sharp knives to the lines by Jim and Richard saved us from disaster. Morningstar motored safely away, but stopped a short way out the river, the dropped bowline tangled in the prop. Jim had to dive and hack it off before they could continue.

 

The rest of the trip was uneventful, except for the stop at the Lorelei Restaurant, where we danced the night away and hobbled home – after nine p.m.! When we stumbled into the dinghy in the dark, Richard, with his usually unerring sense of direction, took off in a wide arc around the anchorage, and only found our boat when the crew of Morningstar kindly shone their flashlight on it.

 

Now we are in Marathon, on a mooring ball. Captain Alan overimbibed on O’Doules (sp?) at the Lorelei and has agreed to sail to Cuba with us. We are just waiting for the right wind now. Chris and Divya on Maggie M are here, and tonight we’ll teach Jim and Lynda to play Farkle. They are so lucky to have us teaching them all we know about cruising. – Sharon and Richard on Lucky

Update from Lucky, Jan. 18, 2012

Idiot Afloat: Book I , the book about my first three years of cruising, is flying out the door.

Much to my surprise, people have reported that they have finished reading it and are looking forward to Book II. Several people even said they couldn’t put it down. (But they are friends and might say that anyway.) My sister Sandy told sister Vonny that she enjoyed it more than she thought she would. If you know Sandy, and what she thinks about Vonny and I disappearing every winter to live on boats, you will understand that that is high praise indeed!

If you’d like to buy a copy of the book, it is $14 either US or CDN.

There are five ways you can get it now.

1. Send a cheque for $17, either currency, (includes $3 for shipping) to me at: Box 468, Bothwell, Ontario, Canada, N0P 1C0. Email your mailing address to me so the book can be snail-mailed to you. (My brother has some books to mail to Canadian addresses and I have some to mail to U.S. addresses.)

2. Pick a copy at Nautical Mind, on Queen’s Quay in Toronto.

3. Google Nautical Mind and order the book from them.

4. Pick up a copy at the drug store in Bothwell.

5. I will take some south for book signings where sailors gather. We are in Indiantown now and plan to make our way west to Marathon, and then to Cuba.

 

Where and how we are now:

Richard came through the colonoscopy with flying colours, and we loaded up the old Mercedes the next day and headed south. We just got far enough south the first day to miss a major snowstorm that swept in behind us. When we compared notes late in the day we realized we might have missed a surprise goodbye dinner as well. Richard noticed special food in the fridge just before we left the Villmanns, and, when eight-year-old Dylan hugged me goodbye, he said, “This isn’t good.” If our hunch is right, we’re very sorry, Rick, Rebecca, Colin, Dylan and Owen, and hope you enjoyed the food anyway.

Richard got a case of food poisoning, probably from the pannini sandwich I got him instead of the McDonald’s hamburger he asked for at the Angola Service Plaza, just after we went though customs in Buffalo. He had a rough two or three days, and we made frequent stops.

But he’s better now, and we are unpacked and moved into Lucky. We have been sleeping on board in the storage yard at Indiantown Marina, and now in the work yard, under an Arctic sleeping bag.

A week to ten days of work await us before we head to points south of here. We hurt from climbing up and down the ladder, and Richard really hurts from crawling around in cupboards and lockers to put in a new radio with a remote, a new bilge pump and a new macerator pump. My butt has a ring around it from sitting on an old plastic putty pail with sharp edges to pee at night, and I usually get tagged to haul the darned thing to the washroom in the morning. (Sorry, probably too much information.)

But it was 80°F today, and will be in the 70s tomorrow, nice for working. We have met some old friends, made some new ones, and I’ve moved a half-dozen copies of Idiot Afloat out of my side of the V-berth. We can’t complain.

Idiot Afloat Book One is finally printed

The summer and fall have flown by, and it is almost time to go south again.

Richard has a couple more doctors’ appointments, a nd then we are off.

I would especially like to tell everyone that the book about the first three years of cruising is printed. You may get a copy by mailing me a cheque or money order (in either Canadian or U.S. funds) for $14. My mailing address is Box 468, Bothwell Ontario, Canada, N0P 1C0.  Click on The Books page on this website for more information.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sharon and Richard, of  svLucky