This update may reach you a bit too quickly after the one I just sent about the summer. But here I am, sitting in the beautiful clean quiet air-conditioned library at Florida International University, connected to the library internet by the smart young man at the front desk. Richard is working on the boat.
First, a little more detail on computer help for oldsters. Fourteen-year-olds seem to be the best. They are young enough to not be too openly scornful of your lack of skills (especially if they are related to you) and they seem to know everything about computers. Best of all, they don’t have a lot of access to money and can be bought for a reasonable price. Disadvantages are that they have homework, have to study for tests and are often busy with sports and other school activities. And they are too young to drive so you must provide transportation unless their parents are happy to get them out of the house and deliver them to you.
The trip south was the fastest ever for my old car. It performed well. We left Caledon, Ontario at 10 a.m. Saturday Dec. 2 and arrived in Indiantown Marina at 4 p.m. Sunday Dec. 4. Rick did most of the driving and we only stopped the car to snooze from 1 to 3 a.m. for two hours.
But when we opened up Lucky, we were shocked. Hurricane Irma had been fairly kind, but, when combined with incessant rain for three weeks, had made the storage yard impassable for the travel lift. And I guess the rats had been looking for higher ground too. They found it in boats that were not completely sealed. They can scamper up hurricane straps attached to all of the boats. We had not sealed the Dorado vents. What we saw inside was demoralizing. I had stored left-over flour, rice, beans and vegetable oil in large plastic and glass jars with metal or plastic tops. Only the few glass jars with metal tops were unscathed. Everything else had been consumed or transformed into a thick rock-hard paste where the dry goods had mixed with cooking oil, urine and rat poop. And every open surface was covered with rat poop and urine. Thirty plus rolls of toilet paper had been chewed away on one side. But time to work, not cry. I remade the v-berth with bedding that had been in a drawer inaccessible to the rats and we vacuumed and washed and cleaned. Our worst boat opening ever. That night, a couple of rats scampered over the v-berth and woke us up. We caught one in the traps we had set.
We gradually learned about other boats in similar condition. To Richard’s knowledge, it had never happened before. We caught two rats in traps and six on sticky pads. The six on sticky pads had to be drowned in the toilet or whacked with the winch handle. We caught the last one Jan. 20, when we were anchored in Manatee Pocket. It was a treat to not be awakened by rustling paper and the sound of gnawing any more. You can bet we will be very careful when we store the boat this coming April.
On December 7, Lucky was put in the water and life was more comfortable and pleasant. Richard had been coughing a lot ever since he started taking new blood pressure pills his doctor had prescribed for him. He quit taking them and checks his blood pressure every day. So far, it is better than before.
We kept finding cupboards that had been invaded by rats and needed cleaning. Unpleasant, but we got rid of things we hadn’t been using, and I think the boat is now cleaner than it has ever been. We found a used mainsail to replace the one the rats had chewed on. I shopped for groceries several times. Richard kept working with Rick on Downstream. The Perkins motor overheated all the time and needed a lot of work. Rick joined us for meals.
Sailing buddies Mick and Sue arrived from Wales and I invited them for supper since they had no groceries yet. We reconnected with old Indiantown friends Richard and Renita. We met other sailing friends at late afternoon Happy Hours. I found someone to play Scrabble with. I ran errands.
On Dec. 15, Downstream was put in the water, but leaked, so had to be lifted out. The next day it was moved to a dock near us, at the west end of the marina, where a large alligator snoozes on the small beach in the sun every morning, as it did last year.
On Dec. 17, Rebecca, Owen and Dylan arrived and we hosted them for supper. Later, Colin, his girlfriend Eve and Granny Barbara arrived, and we often had dinner on Downstream with the family.
I painted a picture of the entrance to the marina and gave it to Renita for Christmas. She and her Richard hosted all of us for a beautiful Christmas dinner.
When, you might ask, do we get to the actual cruising part of the trip? We did, eventually. It would be the coldest January in Florida in many years, so Richard and I were not eager to head out.
It has been a good year for visitors. Old friends that I have not seen for years have turned up. Sharon Wilken, from Pickering, Ontario, came with three friends and provided a fantastic dinner for us and the rest of the Villmanns, served in the patio area. She is an event planner, so it went off without a hitch. She and a friend slept on our boat, and when she heard the rats scampering over the deck above her head she put in her earplugs and went to sleep. Great crew!
Finally, Downstream 1 and her crew of seven headed out. But they had forgotten their coffee bodum. We had to pick up some things in Stewart, so stopped at the St. Lucie Lock. As Downstream went through with their happy crew on board, the lock tender kindly passed the bodum to Rebecca. Everyone looked like they were having fun and Granny Barbara was sitting cozily in the cockpit enclosure.
Rainy, cold weather continued. Our electric heater ran non-stop most nights. Several boats that had set out optimistically returned with dirty fuel problems, from sitting too long in the yard.
Downstream returned to Indiantown on Jan.3. They had gone out to sea but had to turn back because Owen and Eve got seasick. Soon after that, they all headed north. Back to school and work.
It would turn out to be one of the coldest Florida Januarys on record, going down to 2˚C. It would also be the winter with the most visitors. Rebecca Lewis arrived and endeared herself to everybody she met with her warmth and enthusiasm. We walked a lot, did laundry, and played Scrabble.
On Jan.9, we delivered her back the airport, stored the car and left the marina, finally on our cruise. We stopped at the Four Rivers anchorage, just below the St. Lucie lock. It was quiet and the sunset was beautiful and we were away from the marina, with no glitches. Three powerboats came by, very slowly, with no wake, bless them.
The next day we anchored in Manatee Pocket, just past Stewart. No wakes allowed because of the manatees, and strictly enforced. We discovered that we could do laundry and take showers for $15 – a real treat. There was a public dinghy dock with fresh water, small stores nearby and great restaurants. I walked to Walmart and got more rat-killing stuff. Last rast caught Jan. 16.
Sandy Turney, who helped me with my boat years ago and now runs a home repair business called Handy Sandy on Vancouver Island, came to visit with her husband Lee.
We finished the rerigging job (no wake) and Richard got out his ancient Pfaff sewing machine and sewed new settee cushions. Still cold. Two gas burners with a fan over them for heat.
We moved around to Peck Lake and walked the ocean beach and made friends with Christmas tree farmers from Bowmanville who know my brothers. Small world. A little green boat pulled up to the beach one day and Richard was quite excited. I was the third boat he and Rick had built in their Caledon Boat Works company many years ago, and still looked like new.
On Feb. 1, we stopped in West Palm Beach and Richard got his cruising permit. The next day we went through twelve bridges, with very little waiting. Sailing outside was not an option, as the ocean was extremely rough. We anchored in Lake Boca Raton that night, and Lake Santa Barbara in Fort Lauderdale the next. I had been having trouble communicating with the bridges, and we finally discovered that I had failed to connect the aerial properly when Richard had asked me to.
We caught up to Sue and Mick in the lake in front of the university at Baker’s Haulover and that’s where we are now – very quiet and relaxing. We will stay here until after the Miami Boat Show and President’s day, when the guys with the big powerboats park the damned things and go back to work.
We are very near to the school where 16 teenagers and three teachers were killed. PERHAPS THERE WILL BE SOME MOVEMENT ON GUN CONTROL?
Sorry for the length of this, but caught up now.
Sharon and Richard