Category Archives: 2012

Update, July 16, 2012 We get back to Indiantown and home to Ontario

Update from Sharon and Richard on Lucky, July 16, 2012

It’s a long time since the last update, on May 14. We are home in Ontario now, caught up in the usual business of land life, and this will be the last update until we get sailing again.

On Monday, May 14, we left Bakers Haulover at 6:30 a.m., followed by Vonny and Ray on Wishbone. We got to Lantana at 5:30 p.m. We had passed through nineteen bridges! Most were restricted, and I called them all on the VHF and figured out our timing and did the countdowns to the openings. I am really tired of doing that.

The day afterwards, we got to Peanut Island before noon, after five or six bridges, and Richard dropped Vonny, Ray and me on the beach to go to Customs, as we had been instructed to do in Key West. The young woman there stamped the paper from Key West, wrote Indiantown on it, and we were done, in less than a minute. A far cry from both Cuba and Key West. If you have to check in or get a cruising permit, West Palm is the place to go. Richard saw Mark’s little boat, on a dock at a large marina in Riviera Beach. I was sorry to see it there, still on this side of the Gulf Stream.

We rafted in Peck the next afternoon, after another five or six bridges. It was hot and muggy, and Vonny and I paddled around the sterns of our boats for a long time. It would be so nice to get back to the cool north, I thought.

We woke up at 3:30 a.m. There had continued to be thunderstorms every night, and the one that woke us was another doozy. Richard went out in the driving rain to fend off a sailboat that was dragging down on us.  It seemed to be caught on our anchor. The skipper would motor away, and then be pulled back down alongside Wishbone, which was rafted to us. He hadn’t had time to put any clothes on, and the driving rain was very cold. At one point, while he and Vonny were trying to keep the two boats apart, his lifeline broke, and he fell overboard between the two boats. Vonny saw the upper half of his body go underwater. Then somehow, he swung up out of the water and hoisted himself back on board. Eventually he got his boat untangled, the storm blew over, and we all went back to sleep.

The next night, Vonny and Ray tied up to the dock in Indiantown, and we anchored outside, in the St. Lucy Canal. Wishbone was hauled the next day and put in the work yard, to be assessed for damage and have repairs done. As of the date of this update, the yard has done an estimate, and a local surveyor went over the estimate and pared it down. Vonny and Ray are still waiting for Commandeur, the broker in Holland who sold them the insurance, to agree to cover the work that needs doing. Meanwhile, the boat is incurring work yard costs of $25 per day, instead of the much lower storage area costs. You really only know how good an insurance company is when you have a claim.

Then followed a week of hot days of work, thunderstorms most evenings and delicious communal meals made from our leftover stores.

I gave the bags of things I had collected for Cubans to Andy, the tall skinny Polish Canadian who sails to Varadero every winter. In doing this, I was also giving up the dream of ever going there on our boat. I knew that, after hearing Vonny and Ray’s account of their travels in Cuba, Richard had made up his mind that he would never ever sail there. Maybe someday we will fly there, as tourists, but it isn’t really as rich an experience.

We borrowed a car from Richard Brooks and delivered Richard’s Mercedes to the paint shop. Three or four days later it was done, and now looks like a brand-new 1983 car.

On Friday, May 25, our boat was put in storage, and we loaded up the Mercedes. We had to put some stuff back on the boat, as there just wasn’t enough room for the four of us and all of the stuff that we wanted to take home in the car.

We all took turns driving, and stopped at night to sleep. It was a companionable, stress-free trip home. We dropped Vonny and Ray off at their condo in Toronto, and got home in time to see Richard’s family before they went to bed. Hugs all around. I can never break up with Richard, no matter how annoying he gets. I would miss his family too much. He says the kids feel the same way about me.

I drove home to my place the next day. I got the house opened and got back into all of the usual summer stuff. The six weeks from then until now have flown by. Mom is much diminished since I saw her in January. She survived two bouts with pneumonia over the winter, and is weaker.

After visiting her for a few days, I got pneumonia and was not very functional for two weeks. Sandy and Connie brought me food and kept an eye on me.

My new computer is working now, but it’s so complicated! And seems to be cheap, but when you have to buy all new programmes, and the stuff you use doesn’t work with them, and the router has to be changed, and more gigabytes are needed from Bell and the old printer doesn’t work with the new laptop….well, you get the drift. The process sucks up a lot of time.

Replacing the old car and disposing of it wasn’t as complicated, but it was still a more complex procedure than I was expecting. Now I’m happily driving Bill and Connie’s 2006 Freestyle, and even used the full seven-seat capacity when Richard and I went to nephew Tom’s art show in Toronto. He is painting constantly now, and has some wonderful paintings to show for it. He has a website, and I believe you can find it if you google his name, Tim or Thomas Brioux.

The draft of Book II is being read and marked for editing by the book club and Vonny and Bill.  I am re-editing Book I for a reprint, since there are only thirty copies left from the first printing of 200. I am going to check out a different binding process, and get the pre-publication cataloguing from the National Library this time.

The process of getting a book printed and marketed is a wonderful learning experience, and it’s good to avoid vanity presses, which are a huge rip off. I have only used the internet to tell people I already know about the books, and for taking orders. The full text of the book is not available online. That is too much to get my head around.

It has been very helpful to have my brother Bill and Nicole and Travis, in his office, giving me technical assistance. Having a real publisher would seem to be the best option, of course, but I don’t think my writing is of general enough interest or literary merit to make that a possibility.

An unexpected bonus of selling the book directly is the feedback I get. Almost all of it has been extremely positive, and that which has been critical has made me be a better writer. It’s a journey.

Virginia has coaxed me into taking four-day visit to Hamilton next week to visit old friends. Of course I will bring copies of Idiot Afloat with me. Let me know if you would like one.

So, until the trip begins again, good-bye from Sharon and Richard, not on Lucky for a while.

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.