Weatherwise, summer started August 1 this year. This meant that May, June and July were pleasant for working on my boat – except when it was raining, which was about one third of the time.
Richard helped me get started on painting My Detour’s deck when we got home mid-May, and it’s all finished now except for a few little details. But it has been three months. There are almost weekly inquiries and /or viewings of the boat, but so far, no offers.
At the Sloan Reunion, Dad’s elderly siblings and an assortment of us cousins and spouses and kids and their kids gathered. I know most of my cousins and their spouses, but have mostly lost track of the next 2 generations down.
Mom couldn’t remember who anyone was, but remembered and belted out all three verses of “What a friend we have in Jesus” at the special service for the Sloans in the Anglican Church in West Lorne, built by one of our ancestors. Dad hobbled from the van to his wheelchair and back several times, and enjoyed seeing everyone one his first day out of Beattie Haven since he tripped and broke his leg in March.
Grand-niece and nephew Hannah and Julian came for sleepovers, brother Bill and wife Connie brought their twin grand-girls to visit, and Richard and I went camping and canoeing.
We also had an art sale of Mom’s paintings, and there was a lot of work to prepare for it. We didn’t make a lot of money, but many more of Mom’s paintings are in homes where they will be loved.
Richard and I went to our first tractor/truck pull in Florence, and agreed it would be our only one. Grand-niece Hannah spent the whole thing with her hands tightly over her ears. Women and boys and girls competed as well as men, and it was impressive when the mighty machines came roaring down the track.But it was noisy and smelly.
Of course, Mom and Dad and sister Virginia also require lots of attention and care, and Richard likes a little now and then too. And there are many other family members and friends I like to spend time with. So no painting or book-writing right now. But it is a good retirement, just not what I had expected.
We left Boot Key Harbor for the final time this year on March 28. Before that, while waiting for Elizabethann to come, we took a short trip up the Spanish Channel, and tucked in behind Porpoise Key for a few days.
We picked up a lobster pot on the way, and I was on the wheel when we realized why we were going so slowly. But another day, it was Richard who picked up a pot, so we were even. He gets upset because he has to go under the boat to get the float off the prop, and the water is only in the low 70s.
Our chosen key was quiet and protected from the wind, and we explored the area in our dinghy. Porpoise Key is surrounded by mangroves and inaccessible by foot, as we suspect most of the little keys in sight were.
We found a little fishing port on Big Pine Key, and a landing at the end of a road, where permanent live-aboards keep their bicycles and go ashore with their dinghies. But it is miles from anywhere by foot, so we went back to our boat, and watched the birds and fish go by. We saw a dozen dolphins herding fish into the shallows for their supper some nights.
Back in Marathon, we waited for the wind to die down so Elizabethann could come sailing with us. I read a murder mystery to Richard to take his mind off his sore back.
A potential buyer for My Detour offered to wire me money for my boat, but backed off when I offered to drive over to his place in Ocala to get the money instead of sending him the detailed information about my account that he requested.
On March 27, Elizabethann arrived, and sister Sandy called to tell me Dad had broken his leg and I should fly home right away. I stalled, and now, two weeks later, he seems to be doing fine, and is getting good care at our little local hospital. He says I can make up for neglecting him now when I get home. Sandy is terse and hangs up.
The southeast wind was still high on March 28, and we sailed through five-foot waves to get over to Moser Channel, and surfed under the Seven Mile Bridge. After that, we flew up the inside of the Keys on just the genoa. We picked up a free mooring off Shell Key the first night. Richard was tired, having steered all day through the floats from pots, and two ounces of rum put him first into a jovial talkative mood, then into a sound sleep after supper.
The next two days were easier – less pots with the end of lobster season.
EA ands I found a place to go ashore in Tarpon Basin, and had it approved by the county commissioner, who was eating lunch in the little park behind the county building when we tied up. She even showed us where the washrooms were and told us all about the artwork in the lobby. She told us about the python problem in southern Florida too. Peoples’ pet pythons have escaped and multiplied, and can hide very well in the Everglades.
It gives Tarpon Basin a whole new feel.
We anchored in the cove past Jewfish Creek. This time, instead of being empty, it had five big trawlers lined up in it. Richard says I told too many people about it, but I say anyone can look at a chart.
We than anchored off Sands Key, which has beautiful clear water, and a little keyhole lake to dinghy to. Tiffany Rose followed us in, much to our delight, and had Richard’s crêpe breakfast with us the next morning. We visited Boca Chita, but were attacked by very aggressive mosquitoes. The crew of Tiffany Rose was driven off the shore of the keyhole lake by the bloodsuckers too, and at dusk we had to have screens and netting up. It was almost the only time this winter it was warm enough for mosquitoes. Other than that, the anchorage was lovely. We saw rays, turtles, dolphins, many water birds, and, in one spot, dozens of lobsters peering out at us, taunting us, I thought, because lobster season was over.
We sailed to Dinner Key to anchor among the wrecks (both boat and human) there. Elizabethann left us in Coconut Grove to take the Metrorail /bus back to Key West, after we saw Dave and Christopher on shore. Christopher ran full-tilt into our arms to welcome us.
Then back to Hurricane Hole with Tiffany Rose, where we swam, and taught them to play Farkle.
Going back into No Name Sunday evening, we went around the shoal, which must have had 200 boats on it. Music played, kids splashed around in the water, and the really cool people stood around in groups in the water, drinking and visiting. It’s a party that happens there every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting.
Kika, on Different Drummer, hailed us on our way in to NO Name. Dennis and Kika, Richard’s friends from Alaska, were anchored out by Stiltsville. Later, we all went for dinner at the Sailors’Grill, overlooking the harbour. It was a chance meeting, they going south and we north.
That night, the wind let up for a while, and I woke up at midnight, breathing the fumes and listening to the noise of three generators being run all night upwind of us. I decided that, instead of just lying there being annoyed, I would do what I could to improve the situation.
I crept out without waking Richard, dressed, and paddled to the first boat, a large sailboat. I knocked on the hull and when the skipper, a young man came out, I explained the problem and asked him to turn the generator off. He did. I repeated the procedure at the next boat, a very large new powerboat. A young couple came out, and the man was not apologetic. He said he had to run his generator all night so his motor would start in the morning. I suggested he should go to a dock or a larger anchorage with a setup like that, and he hustled his apologetic wife inside and shut the door.
The third boat was a very large sailboat, Therapy, tied to the dock. Her owner said no one had ever complained to him before, and suggested I had a problem, if I couldn’t tolerate the noise and CO fumes from his boat. He had been tied to the dock for several nights, which is not permitted, and the next morning police kicked him off the dock. His wife gave us a very dirty look when they motored by us to anchor, and they didn’t wave good-bye when we left later.
In the morning, Richard thought I was telling him about one of my dreams.
Now we are in Lake Oleta, at Baker’s Haulover, between Miami ant Fort Lauderdale, and will stay here for two weeks, before going north to Indiantown and driving home.
Potluck tonight on Tiffany Rose, with Newfoundlanders Marilyn and Victor from Whisper.
The bilge remains bone-dry, so our 5200 fix has worked.
Rebecca Lewis, who has often sailed with me, arrived Feb. 9 at Florida International University, and we called Richard on the hand-held and he picked us up.
Life was a little easier for us while she was on board. Richard showed her how to fill the dinghy with gas and start it. She lifted it on to the back deck and back. He showed her the proper way to do dishes to save on salt water and she was a good student. She hauled sails up and down. She played Scrabble with me, and 3-way cards. She slept out in the cockpit every night.
We sailed to Key Biscayne (to No Name Harbour and back to Crandon Park for water and fresh fish). What started as a day sail in Biscayne Bay turned into a trip, and we headed south into the Keys.
We stopped in the most isolated anchorages we could find, where we could swim and snorkel around the boat, or dragging behind it. With the Chartplotter, we can edge into places we wouldn’t dare go before. We also got good at finding places to go ashore, which are few and far between.
It got windy, so we went to Tarpon Basin, still at Key Largo. It has all-round protection from wind. After a day spent searching the shore, we found a place where I could let Rebecca off at a resort dock where she could walk up to highway 1 and catch a bus. (We had learned not to ask if it was permissible, as everyone said no, which would really make you a trespasser if you then did it.) After Rebecca left, the boat seemed really quiet, and now we are looking forward to a visit from Elizabethann, an old friend that I met the first year I was sailing and stayed docked in Snug Harbour on Stock Island for a month. She has come sailing a few times since.
We sailed south to Tavernier Creek, and dinghied in to see Alan of Sinbad and his girlfriend at their dock. He lets us bring our garbage and get water, one of the nicest things someone with a toehold on land can do for a cruiser.
It made me happy to be able to connect with sister Sandy and her husband Gerry, who had driven south for a big ship cruise out of Miami. They came down early and spent a couple of days with us at Islamorada. Lunch and Happy Hour at Lorelei’s, $100. I ordered a bushwhacker and both Richard and I were very silly after he helped me finish it. Gerry picked up the larger half of the tab.
They came out to see the boat but declined sleeping on it, even though we offered them the v-berth. Could it be the cold showers on the swim platform, or the contortions one must go through just to get into the v-berth and lie down? Or the fact that everyone can hear the most intimate details of everyone else’s toilette, even though they try not to listen?
They opted for the $159 room in a quaint hotel that overlooked our anchorage and had a dock we could land at. We brought in our garbage and water jugs, and enjoyed hot showers in their room, so we feel they got their money’s worth.
The next day we all went to the big marine flea market on Plantation key in Sandy’s and Gerry’s van. I felt sorry for them when they took us back to the boat and we saw the traffic into the flea market backed up for many miles on the other side of the road. It must have taken them hours to get back to Miami!
After that, we had good sailing and more anchoring in isolated spots, away from traffic noise, and other peoples’ generator noise and exhaust.
But now we are in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon, where all boats in the Keys seem to end up and get stuck. We’ve been here almost a month!
There is a cruisers’ net in the mornings, a great dinghy dock, yoga in the park, a weekly potluck at the city marina, a pay phone, Scrabble, a nice laundromat, hot showers, water, trash disposal, and free pumpouts.
It comes at a price – $46 a week for those of us who spurn the moorings and anchor. But we have been able to connect with friends not seen in a long while, like Chris and Divya on Maggie M and Bryan on Omami, and Matt and Sue on SueSeaQ. Not as much socializing as I like, but Richard prefers a more solitary style, and it is his boat. But he loves to teach people to play Farkle.
We had some electrical power issues, but went to Battery Shack and got two new regulators for the alternators, and had them connected correctly, and everything is ok now.
I broke down and bought a cell phone, #305-304-6593. And we leave the VHF on more, so I don’t feel so disconnected. And I go on the net every few days and call the Scrabble players together for games. I painted a picture yesterday of a boat sitting in the mud off Boot Key.
Richard twisted his back lifting groceries from me on the dinghy, and he’s been in a lot of pain and can’t move much. The wind is supposed to get up to maybe 30 knots tonight and stay up for the week, so we’ll stay in Boot Key a few days more as we are anchored in a good spot. It’s been a good winter so far.
On Tuesday, January 6, after noon, Lucky was finally put into the water, and we stayed at a dock in Indiantown while we filled the tanks, folded on the sails, finished grocery shopping, and so on. Then we motored the quarter mile to Richard Brook’s dock, and started to relax for a couple of days.
We neatened up the boat and got everything put away, and had Richard B and Renita out to the boat by dinghy for dinner one night, our first real entertaining. Richard had hurt himself again lifting water jugs, and was trying to not do things.
We headed down the St. Lucie Canal the same day as Blue Pelican, but they go 6 knots to our 5, and we lost them until we got to North Lake Worth.
The canal has lots of water this year, and the locks opened on request.
We anchored in Peck Lake, North Lake Worth (where Vonny and I anchored on Wishbone in 2000), at the Lantana Bridge, in Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale (where a policeman warned us we could only stay 24 hours), and here in Lake Oleta at Baker’s Haulover (where we met up with the trawler Searcher, friends from last year). We have been to all of these places before and enjoy the anchorages. But all the bridges in between, with restricted opening times, get really tedious. We were planning to stay in the Bahamas or farther south this winter, and see more new places.
After sitting out a cold front (with actual freezing, wind chills, and dire warning of hypothermia and even death predicted by NOAA), we headed south to No Name Harbour on Key Biscayne and rafted off Blue Pelican, who were still waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas.
More Scrabble, laundry and happy hours with other cruisers.
Jenny and I often compare notes on our German boyfriends, who tend to micromanage and overinstruct us. But we felt a little better about them after meeting Maria, who had connected up with an American sailor on the internet and had come down to cruise to the Bahamas with him. She came with one small bag, and he said, “Where do you expect to put all that?” All the cupboards and lockers were full of tools and spares, and the food was piled in a couple of plastic bins, not handy for cooking. Initially she was supposed to pee into a funnel in a jar, until she persuaded him to let her use a bucket. But she was instructed to only use three squares of toilet paper. (I don’t know how that was enforced.) He was mystified when the 30-gallon water tank was empty in a week. He called it “operator error on the part of Maria”, when he explained over the radio that she had jumped ship in Fort Lauderdale. I say, good for Maria. Some internet connections work, some don’t.
Klaus and Jenny left for the Bahamas Jan. 23, and we followed the next day. The wind was stronger than predicted, and north, not north-east, but we were passing other boats, and Richard was pulling lines as I struggled with the wheel. (Richard insists that I mention that we were sailing 9 knots.) But then Richard checked the bilges. We had more water in the bilges than last year.
So back we went, again. We chilled a couple of days at anchor off Ellis Key and looked at our options, including selling the boat, or stripping and sinking the damned thing.
But we kept poring over the cause. No water in the bilges at anchor, or when motoring in flat water, only when motoring or sailing in waves. The only thing that is in that position is the base of the support for the bowsprit.
Richard was hurting again, so we went back to Lake Oleta, north of Miami. He put 5200 all around the bowsprit base, and it has stayed dry. But we have yet to really test it.
And Richard was hurting again. So we got the message. No Bahamas and No Work This Winter. Well, Richard did one more job; he put in a deck pumpout for the Keys. And he was hurting again.But he’s feeling better now.
And Rebecca Lewis is coming to visit tonight. It’s going to be a peaceful winter in the Keys. And we hope it will get warmer.
We have changed from working to get there to being here. Today I painted a picture of Lucky, and will touch it up with the Skipper’s technical advice tomorrow.
I hope it is warming up where you are.