Thursday, February 27, 2014

Food chains

Looking across the inlet to Old Bahama Bay
The gust front blasted into Old Bahama Bay around 0530 this morning. Rigging sang, wind generators howled, and boats heeled over. Those on the lee side of a dock strained lines trying to get away, those on the windward side ground against their fenders. Kintala lay to the lee, kept in place by a total of seven dock lines, of which five were on the windward side keeping her within jumping distance of the dock.

Five is a good number. A boat near us had five on that side as well, but somehow the bow line got loose from the piling. The other four kept her corralled. Friend John tried to get the crew's attention and instead ran afoul of the aluminum boat's Captain (tied next in line) who gave him a line of lip for tapping on their boat. (Better John than me, else someone might have gone swimming this morning.) Later Deb, John, and I fished the line up with a boat hook hauled the bow back in place, and retied the line. We would appreciate it if someone did the same for us, and it only took a couple of minutes. (Fortunately the aluminum boat's Captain didn't make a second appearance and thus avoided an early morning swim.)

We all thought the wayward boat's crew had departed for places unknown but it turns out they were aboard throughout. Having completed a 36 hour passage and arriving with the winds late yesterday, they slept right through the morning excitement. I completely understand.

The channel to the anchorage north of Old Bahama Bay

With our neighbor secure Deb and I walked out to the point to check out the ocean. In the Bahamas, when deep ocean waves plow into shallow bottoms and make for seriously lumpy waters, they call it a "rage sea". White caps, breaking waves, passing shadows, and the stunning colors of this water all mixed together make for stunning viewing. My guess is it may be a bit less stunning if out in the middle of it all, either anchored or trying to make way. I was content to have made the weather decision we did, and get our first glimpse of a "rage sea" from a marina.

Later in the day Deb and I did a little snorkeling. The water was a bit murky though not bad enough to prevent us from spotting a ray, about as long as I am tall, buried in the bottom. Honestly, there was no intent to disturb him, but he flushed up and flew away with the sand flowing behind him like a contrail. That kind of made our day. We also spotted some kind of fat and sassy looking eel snug in his hole. There was no intent to disturb him either and this time he stayed snug in his hole, which was fine with me.

It has been a long, long time since we did any serious swimming in tropic waters, and I'm pretty sure there are some creatures (like fire coral, big fat and sassy eels, sting rays, and Man-O-Wars) that we really don't want to bother. So we are approaching the in-the-water exploring with the same kind of take-it-easy attitude that we are with the on-the-water exploring. I didn't know a Man-O-War looks a bit like a little plastic bag when it is sailing with the wind. (Really, they do that? Who knew?) The water taxi driver pointed one out while we were in Dinner Key. I'm not sure it was a sting ray we saw today, but I do know one was the bane of the somewhat famous Crocodile Hunter of a decade ago or so. And anyone who ever watched "The Deep" knows eels can be bad news. It pays to be careful when one is someplace were humans are not at the top of the food chain.

The anchorage

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

'Doing it right in the midwest

Well, the plan was to move further east today with the intent of making Green Turtle Cay in a few days. But part of our prep for departing (assuming we have access) is to pull down fresh weather information. A new GRIB file appeared on the iPad and with it came some second thoughts. Winds gusting in the 20 to 25 knot range were forecast to crank up this afternoon, build through the night, usher in some thunderstorms tomorrow, and finally fade to gentle northerlies come Friday. All we know about the anchorages around here comes from charts and Active Captain, and all seem to have at least one direction from which they are completely exposed. With the wind cranking up and clocking around, and with us being completely new to these parts, we decided to stay put. (Mind you, a $2 / ft / night + water + electric fees, that is not as easy a decision as it sounds. This is a very nice but expensive place to wait out some weather.)

Pretty much everyone else here decided the same with a local waterman saying the wind would be worse than the forecast. Right now the winds are a pretty constant 25 with gusts to 30 and still building. Always trust the local talent when it comes to weather.

This afternoon several boats came in looking for shelter. The first one stormed into a windward slip next to Kintala without a single line set on deck and no fenders out. I guess that's how the captain of a custom aluminum boat with massive rub rails does it. He told me later he expected the wind to pin him to the dock. It didn't work out that way since the wind was mostly trying to push him back onto the rocks. Getting him corralled and into place was a circus. John and I had gone out to help and it was a good thing we did.

A little while later another boat headed for a leeward slip near us. Once again John and I wandered over to help, joined by the Captain of the custom boat. This crew had fenders hung and lines ready to go, and it was still a bit of a circus. Warping them into place wasn't easy against the wind, but we managed. It turns out they are from England. The custom boat was from Germany. Both were surprised that John and I had walked over to help them get in.

All I could think to say was, where we come from, a little lake in central IL, marinas Boulder and Tradewinds, lending a hand when the winds start howling is done without a second thought. It seems the rest of the sailing world could borrow a little etiquette from some lake sailors doing it right in the American Midwest.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Off the Grid?

One of the things that most cruisers dream about is being off the grid. Being non-conformist types and former hippies for the most part, the idea that one can buy a boat and take off into the sunset over turquoise waters is a powerful one. The reality, while not unpleasant, is just a bit different. We are, these days, technology based humans whether we like it or not. Certainly technology has some drawbacks like the stifling quantity of reality shows that sweep every creative thought from your brain, and the plethora of news shows that fill you with fear and doom, but for the sailor technology is a welcome addition to safety. GPS, weather faxes, Gribs, cruising guides, and electronic charts have all added tremendously to our ability to succeed as cruisers. All this without even beginning the list of personal technology in the form of email and the ubiquitous sailing blogs <ahem> that proliferate the web. Unfortunately they all use power and a good many of them demand internet connections.

Before we left we had plans to install solar panels, a wind generator, and a wifi extender, but the loss of our jobs meant that some things had to be left undone, and since we were the proud owners of a new Honda 2000i companion model generator to fill our power needs, we decided to take off and go cruising and leave the wind and solar to follow when the house sells finally. Little by little we're finding ways of making it work. It turns out that the Abacos have a fairly strong wifi system which we'll be able to take advantage of when we're near the bigger islands, but between Old Bahama Bay where we are now, and the next available wifi may be some time. All of this leads up to the most obnoxious and impossible land anchor to rid yourself of: taxes. You see, the government of the good ol' USA doesn't give a rat's behind whether you're off in the Abacos trying to learn how to live with a light footprint. They want your money, and they want it by April 15, 2014. For me, the tax chore has been made much easier by H&R Block's Best of Both program online. I've used it for years quite successfully, but was a little concerned about the complexity of our situation this year. So today, while planning our next leg, I realized that I probably ought to at least take an initial stab at it since we had really strong wifi. So today I took my laptop to the beach and did taxes. I guess if you have to do them, then doing them with this view at least makes the job somewhat palatable. So f you're dreaming of cruising, do your best to disentangle yourselves from all the things that tie you down unnecessarily, but on the tax front I'm afraid I have bad news for you. Uncle Sam knows where the Bahamas are.

Water spouts in paradise.

Not too long before we pulled Kintala from Lake Carlyle, and when our plan was still to get to the Keys this year, the Islands maybe next year, I ran across an experienced cruiser who agreed that was a good idea. Not because jumping across the Gulf Stream was too big a task for a neophyte. In fact, he seemed of the opinion that almost every new East Coast cruiser pretty much headed to the Islands right away: it's why they became cruisers in the first place. He also kind of scoffed at the idea that we didn't have enough experience to try such a thing.

"You already did it twice" he said, "how much practice do you need to make a 90 mile sail? Just ask around a bit, and don't go when no one else seems to be going."

No, he felt that going to the Keys first was a good idea simply because, once people get to the Islands, they don't really think much of going anywhere else. In fact, according to him, people get to the Islands, never get any further, never go back, and live a long and happy life.

Just one full day here living on my own boat and I am beginning to understand. And that on a day that saw two thunderstorms roll overhead, each laying down a waterspout within sight of the marina. I didn't see either one, being down in the boat working on a project. Deb saw both, and even managed to get a picture as the second one was starting to peter out. Yet in spite of that introduction this place has me completely charmed.

Part of it is just being here. It is almost like everything that has gone before, all the years in Carlyle, the broken boat challenges, logistics, the endless slog down the ICW, cold front after cold front hammering us at piers and on anchor, the endless effort of living day to day on a sailboat; all of it just melted into the cool, indigo waters of the deep ocean that lay between this place and the States. John (who crossed when we did) and I spent most of the day just smiling, kind of stunned (in the best possible way) that we are no longer working on making the dream come true. The dream is true, we made it happen. That is some pretty strong stuff.

Part of it is that "here" is already feeling different from the States, even if just 90 miles away. The officials in the Customs / Immigration office were dressed in white shirts, boards on their shoulders speaking of some kind of rank (like an airline pilot), and there wasn't a gun in sight. The ambiance of the office was that there was some official papers that had to be completed, but no big deal. Sign here, sign there, you are more than welcome to visit our country.

Compare that to the Office Of Homeland Security. Every single official in that office was dressed in Ninja Black from Hat to Combat Boots. Each was sporting a side arm and hand cuffs. There was no doubt you were in a military area and that, somehow, the ENEMY was close at hand. Indeed, we were there for the sole purpose of proving that we are not, in fact, one of them. In the back of your mind you just knew that if something flagged on their computer screen you would be in some very, very deep kimchi, with little hope of extracting yourself before the turn of the next century.

A country that is not perpetually at war with itself and everyone else on the planet. Novel idea, that. Could it really be true?

The pace of things here is clearly slower. Where I come from 12 hours of work is expected from 8 hours worth of effort, with 4 hours of pay offered in exchange (and grudgingly, at that). So far, I haven't gotten the impression that is the way things work here.

I admit this is only our second day, with yesterday kind of floating by in
a sleep deprived fog. Tomorrow we hope to start moving further east, with a stop planned at a place called Mangrove Key. It should be a few days before Kintala is near a marina again as we start exploring this place where the dream became our life. I'm sure it will turn out to be less than a perfect dream, but so far I don't have any complaints.

Monday, February 24, 2014

To go or not to go ...

When we were getting ready to cut the dock lines and head out everyone wanted to know where we were going. Our answer was always the same. Since this was our first year and the boat and I don't really like each other all that much yet, staying in the Keys while we figured things out just seemed like a good thing to do. We shipped the boat to Oak Harbor, got going, transversed the Chesapeake, found Norfolk, managed the ICW, did a couple of outside jumps including 2 overnight passages, and made it to the Keys. My very conservative approach to learning the cruising life-style was a success. We are "out here".

Once in FL we started getting suggestions about what to do next. Key West was on the list, obviously, along with the Dry Tortugas. And, we were reminded, the water in the northern Gulf in Florida's Big Bend are "almost as good as the Bahamas". We started making plans. And in the process discovered a pretty interesting fact. It is better than 400nm from Key West to Pensacola. A three to five day straight shot sail, pretty far off shore, with very few places to bail out and hide should things go hinky with boat or weather. From No Name Harbor to Old Bahama Marina at the West End is about 87nm. An easy overnight, less distance than either of our two previous jumps, and when done one isn't in water "just like in the Bahamas, one is actually in Bahamian waters.

So much for the conservative approach. We switched plans, stuffed the boat full of stuff, and here we sit. There is a real sense of balance to being here. Where we sit is the slip next to the one we sat in on Quetzal while sailing a Bahamas Bash with Friend John. That trip cemented the idea that this was something we were going to do. We did, only this time we are here on our own boat, having made the crossing with just the two of us doing our own planning, provisioning, and weather guessing. (Yep, I made the call on the weather using a lifetime of weather planning experience as a pilot. I am much happier trusting me to me than trusting me to someone who isn't going to be sitting on the boat in whatever weather shows, forecast or not.)

No all was cruiser paradise. Having mis-timed putting on my patch, or perhaps having a drink (okay 2 drinks) the night before we left, or going up on the bow to strap down the anchor with the boat pitching in 5 foot swells at the mouth of the Biscayne Bay channel, whatever it was I could barely hold onto my lunch for the first hour or so into the trip. Deb carried me along inert and mumbling expletives at being felled so on such an easy ocean. But I recovered before the sun set and we went on.

Next up was an unforecast batch of really active thunderstorms. It has been a while since I have seen that much lightning flash continuously for that long and I will have to admit to being very cautious around Thor's fireworks. I am used to having RADAR, lightning detectors, uplinked weather in the cockpit, and moving at 400 knots 8 miles in the sky when playing tag with bumpers. Open ocean with little in the way of technical support, unable to move very fast, and somewhat restricted in the directions available for a slow bailout switched me from "Ho-hum just another day in the office" jet driver mode to "If I screw this up and stumble into the path of these storms, we are going to take a serious beating, long out of sight of land, and in the middle of a moonless and cloudy night" mode.

We talked with two Cruise Ships, asking them what they were seeing on their bridge RADAR, and which way the storms were heading. Both assured us the weather was moving ENE ... something I found hard to believe. It turns out that maybe cruise ship officers working the late shift may not be the ACE radar gurus to match most professional pilots. The storms were moving in a much more likely direction, east with a slight drift south, and not moving very fast. We tacked away to the east, reduced sail to slow down, and gave the storms the rest of the night to figure out were they wanted to go. As the sun rose we tacked back north, now passing behind the worst of the fading weather, and making West End with just one brief and very light shower dropping cold water on my bald head.

All in all we are very pleased at having changed our minds. "Cautious" and "conservative" are still the words of the day, and I think we made some good decisions in getter here. In my mind the 90 mile jump across the Gulf Stream was an easier and better choice than a 400 mile jump across the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Which isn't to say we will not be doing that very thing a year from now, but for this year "you is in de Islands, Mon - relax and have some fun".

Bahamas crossing pics

Uh Oh...Captain tried to do too much too fast...

I thought this cloud looked like some mythological wind god. Do you see it?

This was the beginning of the thunderstorm that would plague us the rest of the trip.

Weird weird cloud formations last night

We're here!

Bye bye No-Name Harbor
S/V Ellida
After 4-1/2 months of cruising which followed nearly 7 years of prep, we are sitting in a slip at Old Bahama Bay in the Bahamas. We crossed last night from No-Name Harbor to West End, a straightline distance of 88 miles, or 110 miles if you're sailing and have to tack to miss a giant cruise ship and the most actively electric thunderstorm we've seen in a long while. It was a good crossing. The Gulfstream was calmer than usual since it was only traveling at 3 knots and the wind had been behind it for most of a week giving us waves less than 2 feet and still a speed over ground of 3 knots faster than this boat can possibly go. We buddy boated with our friend John but after a very short time we got separated, John motor sailing and us just sailing. We could still contact each other on the radio, but for the most part we were alone. We saw a half dozen cruise ships, some of which had to be dodged, but not a single other sailboat. I suppose after thinking about it that most of the people who are going to cross have already done so. Just like so many other parts of this trip, we are the last ones in the line.

Tomorrow we'll pretend we're rich like the folks who keep their mega yachts here year round and we'll swim in the freshwater pool, enjoy the views, and plan for the next leg of our travels. It won't be much of a stretch, because even though we don't have much money, we are indeed the richest of the people on this planet - those who get to dream a dream and make it a reality.

Friday, February 21, 2014


If you're planning on going cruising, provisioning is one of those things you will need to become proficient at. It is a) a lot of work b) expensive c) a pain in the behind d) exhausting e) all of the above
My four foot long Publix receipt!

This morning our friend John from Ellida was kind enough to rent a car and share it with us, and while Tim dug into the innards of the Westerbeast to change fluids in preparation for our Bahamas venture, John and I explored the innards of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, ticking off our lists as the day wore on. First stop was the Post Office where a kind young woman had managed to find my lost package. The box was severely damaged but nothing appeared to be missing due to my daughter's excellent packing.  Stops at the propane refill place, West Marine, Crook & Crook, Shell lumber, Grove Scuba, and at last Publix left us with only 2 errands to do tomorrow, laundry quarters and the bank. Unfortunately, getting all the things bought is less than half the work of provisioning. When you get it lugged to the dinghy, dinghied to the boat, loaded onto the boat, you still have to get it stowed and that takes almost as long as the rest of it. Everything has to be removed from the boxes in order to fit, and the resulting trash fills an entire 30 gallon trash bag. Fitting it all into the space allotted takes some magic, and multiple tries on some things. It will be interesting to see how well I did on my planning. We rarely eat out so nearly every meal is prepared on the boat, making my portion of the trunk space much larger than John's.  It was a highly productive day made so much easier by the kindness of friends. Thanks John for your patience and Kirsi for the dinghy load back to the boat!

Just to be sure

As Deb mentioned we spent the other day working though the Department of Homeland Security's Local Boater application process. With it, getting Kintala and her crew back into the US will be considerably less of a hassle. Basically it works by making sure we are "in the system", identified, finger printed, photographed, and issued another I.D. Number. This new number has been added to my Social Security number, Passport number, pilot's license number, and aircraft mechanic license number, all already stored in government files somewhere. I'm sure my new number, along with all the other numbers, will be cross-referenced (somewhere in the NSA's super computers – did you know they will probably get the very first quantum computer?) to my bank account numbers, cell phone number, cell phone numbers of people I have called and who have called me, user names and passwords, this blog, e-mail accounts, Internet browsing records, my training records for the years I flew (particularly after 9/11), the Coast Guard's paperwork on Kintala, all of my 1040s over the years, and probably a list of my High School detentions. (Long list, that one.)

Such effort on the part of the history's most powerful military / security apparatus, spender of literally trillions of dollars a year, and all to keep an eye on a middle-aged White Anglo Saxon ex-Protestant (WASeP?) who hasn't hurt anything bigger than a fly in several decades. Sometimes I wonder just who it was that sat in those committee meetings and decided that retired people living on sailboats were such a security risk. Then again, my guess is the powers-that-be have become so paranoid that every single person on the planet is now considered a security risk. It seems a lot of Americans have joined them in that delusion.

I'm glad I don't live that way.

Those that do can rest easy tonight; secure in the knowledge that S/V Kintala and her crew will not be bothering anyone. The Department of Homeland Security is keeping a close eye on us just to be sure.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles...

...well, not exactly. It was actually Buses, Trolleys and Metrorail. It was the day for us to go to the Port of Miami for our DHS (Department of Homeland Security) interview for the SVRS (Small Vessel Reporting System) so we can check in over the phone when we come back into the US instead of having to show our smiling faces at the DHS office each time. We thought we went well prepared, me being the detail-oriented OCD type that I am, but it turns out that I made more mistakes than not. Fortunately, DHS in Miami has one of the most awesome customer service agents I've ever had the privilege of working with. He was smiling, pleasant, courteous, informative, and freaking fast. Yes, all this in a government office, I kid you not.

A beautiful fountain on the DHS property

OK so here's my mistake confessions:

You must apply for the SVRS number online. They only do it online. Period. No problem, I went into the system and filled out the application for Tim as the captain but when I got to the vessel information it wouldn't let me hit "Add vessel". In fact, none of the buttons at the bottom of the screen worked and the only way to proceed was to hit cancel. On the left there was a "for more information and assistance contact us" link which opened up a mail window. I sent the mail indicating that I was having difficulties. No response for 3 days. I finally figured out I could do the boater part without doing the add vessel form and later put the boat info in the remarks section which I did. We got our appointment for today whereupon the agent informed me that I had done it wrong (no kidding) and that there had been a button labeled "master" that I was supposed to have clicked to indicate Tim was the captain and that after that I would have been able to add the vessel. I admitted I had not seen the button and he said no problem and proceeded to process Tim's application.

After Tim's was processed he returned for my confirmation number. Oops. I thought that only Tim had to have an application since he was the captain. Not. Every crew has to have a separate application and confirmation number. He said no problem, just get online on my phone and fill it out and he would go ahead and process it after I had my confirmation number.  Note: we got there one hour and 15 minutes early for our appointment because we were using unfamiliar public transportation and allowed a lot of extra time. He started processing us early, even though right after we got there about 38 Swedish young people came in to be processed prior to leaving on a flight back home after a 2 month school cruise on a three-masted barque named Gunilla.

OK. Deep breath. I had my iPad and my hotspot so I got online only  to discover that Homeland Security is in a large concrete building that challenged even Verizon's excellent signal, so I had to collect my iPad and hotspot and go outside and sit on a bench to fill out my app. I kid you not, even knowing that the "master" button was supposedly there I did not find it as I filled out my own app. After 20 frustrating moments (the DHS site is not as efficient as their customer service agent), I had my confirmation  number and traipsed back up the stairs, through the throng of Swedish-speaking students and within 5 minutes had my SVRS card.I am more computer literate than the average person, having worked in computers for a good many years and having designed websites on occasion, but this one challenged my patience. The agent said not to worry, a lot of people miss the button.

All in all it was a productive day. We got our SVRS numbers done, and even had it complete before our actual appointment was supposed to start. We learned our way around Miami's truly impressive public transit system. We had a delicious and reasonably priced meal at the Miami Culinary Institute, and we got to meet what I believe to be the only pleasant government official I've ever met in 57 years. Not bad for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pizza! Pizza!

We have 7 blue plates on the boat, you know the non-skid kind of non-breakable plates that everyone has. Seven, not a set of eight, because West Marine had them on their mark-down display for $.50 each once upon a time but they didn't have eight. Fortunately, we only have five friends here at Dinner Key Mooring Field so everyone got a plate tonight for pizza night. At 6:00, dinghies started arriving to the amidships step on Kintala, met by Tim who helped them aboard and stowed their dinghy at the stern. By 6:15 Kintala looked like a mama hen with a brood of chicks trailing. In attendance were our friend John on Ellida from our home lake in Illinois, Kirsi that we met through the Women Who Sail group on facebook, Katrina, who we also met through the same group, and her husband Keith and their guest from Taiwan, Roderick. We ate pizza from Cruising Comforts fame, drank our chosen beverages and chatted the evening away. It was a most pleasant evening made more enjoyable by culture and language comparisons with Roderick and the fact that it was Katrina's first sundowner since taking off cruising all the way back in October. Without a doubt that lack had to be remedied. Roderick fit right in, having found Kristina and Keith through a site called Couch Surfing, a site that pairs travelers with people who will host them. He was pretty pleased that his surfing took him to the couch on a boat, not exactly what he had envisioned. I, on the other hand, found it pretty amazing that this 20 year old traveled all the way around the world to spend a week on someone's settee who he'd never met. Cruisers being cruisers, he was a perfect fit and we had a wonderful time talking to him. This evening was another one of those, "When you dreamed of cruising, is this what you imagined?"

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ordinary days

One of the things people talk about when discussing cruising is the fact that it is a life of highs and lows, and that the highs are really high and the lows are really low. There are those high days when the sunsets aren't your normal run-of-the-mill sunsets, they are strikingly beautiful take your breath away kind of sunsets. The water colors are colors that you just simply can't imagine anywhere outside of a graphic art program, and then there's that grinning from ear to ear when you manage to sail perfectly off the anchor or the wind is a perfect 15 knots and you have the sails perfectly balanced, or you just kiss the dock with the fenders and step off like you really meant to do it. Not to mention the days you see dolphins and turtles and manatees and cormorants and pelicans and eagles...

On the other side there are those low days when you get to clean mold out of the back of your cupboards, your coffee gets spilled when you get waked by some idiot power boater who can't read the NO WAKE sign, you have to look for 3 hours for the tool you know you brought, and your head gets plugged by some NBP's (non-boating person's) kid who thought it would be perfectly alright to put his rubber alligator in the bowl and give it a swirly.

Today was neither. Today was one of those rarely experienced on a boat, The Ordinary Day. It was cool enough this morning to enjoy our coffee which, by the way, we got to finish all the way to the bottom before a boat project started. We had a nice dinghy ride past some friends' boats to invite them to have pizza with us tomorrow. Tim took a nap. We caught up on some computer work. I made cookies. And we read.  After all of those days of working our tails off to get the boat ready and all of those days steaming like mad men to get south of the cold, I rather cherish these ordinary days. I hope yours was as pleasant today.

Map 12-16-14 No Name Harbor to Dinner Key

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Thunder Gods

Back in Dinner Key for a few days. There are some things being shipped to us here and we have some paperwork to catch up on. (Like taxes.) Also, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival is in full swing and Deb wanted to check it out. When we got here someone told us the price was $15 each per day, which seemed a bit much. Ah, but residents of Coconut Grove (host of the fair) get in for $5. We live on a boat. The boat is moored in Coconut Grove. Ergo, we are residents of Coconut Grove. How cool is that?

The Arts Festival was huge, packed with people and booths displaying every kind of art imaginable. Some was pretty hokey. Some was pretty good. But the photography of Lisa Kristine touched my heart. She takes pictures of slaves; modern day men, women, and children whose lives have been stolen. Mostly forgotten and with no hope; but she tells their stories in haunting images of faces and people trapped in places that should never be. True art opens our eyes and teaches us things we may not want to learn. Lisa Kristine's pictures are true art.

Then, in the weirdness that is life, our $5 included a concert by the ex-lead singer of Bad Company, Brian Howe. Every generation (so I have read) clings to the music of their coming of age. For many of my generation that was the music of the thunder gods of drums, bass guitar lines that shook the lungs, lead guitar riffs that blurred fingers, and lead singers who shredded vocal cords. Rock-n-Roll loud and fast and best served up live.

There may never be another generation whose music is, at its core, unbridled fury.  But with Lisa Kristine's images still haunting my mind and music thundering off the stage as it did when I was young and angry at a world that desperately needed changed, I couldn't help but think there should be.

Night view at the Dinner Key mooring field

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Party Time!

We were in No Name Harbor last Friday night and I decided that its reputation as a party spot was severely over stated. We left Saturday morning for Elliott key, came back a couple of days ago to wait out the weather, and ended up staying long enough to be here for a Saturday. Maybe the reputation wasn't so over stated after all. By mid-morning the sea wall was nose to stern power boats with more still flowing through the inlet. These picked every available spot between the cruising sailboats to drop hooks, jump in the water, and crank up the barbie. It's a big time party after all, Latin music, dogs splashing around, Spanish flowing over the water, (really – none of the boats near us have English being spoken) pretty young women showing skin and young men flexing 6 packs in response, (some things are the same in any language), and little kids doing little kid arm waiving dances to the music. There is some good living going on in these parts.

Blue boat wants pumpout, white boat refuses to move. He actually
got a beer and proceeded to sit there and ignore the young lady.

In the early afternoon a small pod of dolphins dropped in to see what all the hubbub was about. Boat loads of revelers clapped and cheered with every sounding and small jump. Videos were shot, pictures were taken, and everyone was thrilled when they swam within a few feet of one of the guys in the water. You would think none of these people had ever seen a dolphin in the wild before. Oh wait. Until a few weeks ago I'd never ever seen a dolphin in the wild before either. And yes, I stood on the deck and watched as well.

My Lake Carlyle days made for me being a bit concerned whenever this many power boaters are this close, but today has been a fun day with very little stupid on display. Only once did someone drive in throwing a noticeable wake. Words of scorn flew from boats power and sail, and the guilty slowed down immediately. The only other incident involved the sea wall being so crowded that access to the pump out was a problem. No one would move until the Park Ranger showed up, and that was that. Of course, just about any of the larger powerboats here today probably costs as much as every pontoon and sport boat on all of Lake Carlyle, so maybe the relative calm isn't that surprising. Put a dent in one of these things and some one's insurance company is going to be very unhappy.

Really cool boat that pulled in today

Though the party raged all around us today (and still goes on as I type) the crew of Kintala was hard at work. Karma (actually Tony of s/v Petrofella) gifted us with a 50W solar panel. He has a whole rack of new ones on his boat and so he didn't need this one anymore. When he saw we lived by Honda Generator alone he dropped by to see if we wanted to give the 21st century a try. Fifty watts isn't much, but every little bit can help. It will certainly be enough to keep the instruments running when we are under sail and, seeing as it is basically just a trickle charger, installing the thing was pretty straight forward, though still taking all day. (Including breaks to watch people watching dolphins.) The sun was set by the time I was in the battery box hooking up wires, so we will have to wait until tomorrow to see some solar magic.

There were so many boats it took two panoramas to get half of them in.

Friday, February 14, 2014

No-Name Lanes

One of the disadvantages of having a true bluewater boat is that the ports are smaller and higher up, limiting your vision while sitting on the settees. This evening we were hanging out in the salon with the ports open when we heard the distinctive chain rattle of a boat dropping his anchor at what sounded awfully close. "That sounds pretty close," I said and Tim agreed while hurrying up the companionway to find that indeed the boat was very close. Tim proceeded to make a few loud comments to the skipper about how maybe he was too close and it turns out that the skipper had no engine because he had run over someone's rode and had it wrapped around his prop. Having no steerage and having the wind climbing well into the high teens again, he was dropping his anchor in an attempt to stop the drift which, of course, caused it to head directly toward our boat as it swung. We grabbed the fenders we keep on deck just for that purpose, but this was a Hunter 45 and it was too fast and too heavy so Kintala has a new scratch down the port side that will need to be buffed out. Meanwhile, the Hunter continued down the lane and became hopelessly tangled up in the boat whose anchor he had snagged, leaving that boat with no option but letting the anchor go and moving to a new spot with their spare anchor, hoping to retrieve theirs in the morning. He is now to our stern and is crosswise to everyone else in the harbor because he has the other boat's anchor holding his stern into the wind, and his own anchor holding his bow downwind. He also happens to be pointed directly at our new friends in their Mainship trawler. This is a beautiful harbor, but it's very small and very tight.  It's going to be a long night waiting for the next ball down the alley.

No-Name Harbor this morning when it was empty

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up...

We're trying to get the hang of opening and eating fresh coconut since there is such an abundance of it completely free around here. Everywhere you walk they lay on the ground, just waiting for you. I've been doing a bit of studying on them since we're such newbs, having only bought the pre-processed stuff on the shelves until now. I did once or twice open a whole coconut in the shell but it was bought at the store and quite frankly lacked in the flavor department.

A few days ago when we went to Boca Chita with our new friend Bill, we picked up a green coconut and with his handy cockpit knife we opened it up and had a refreshing drink of coconut water. It turns out that you can eat a coconut at nearly any stage of its development, with varying results. A green coconut will have lots of clear water in it and nothing else. When you find one on the ground you shake it and if it sloshes then you have water. For these, all you need is a sharp knife to cut the top off and a straw. At this point there is no outer husk or inner shell, just a tough green outer shell filled with water.

As they begin to ripen, the green will begin to turn brown from one end to the other. At this point if you cut it open it will have milky white opaque water and some jelly-like substance. I haven't had one at this point but I'm told that the jelly is to die for.

As they mature, there is less water and more coconut on the developing shell. Once the whole outer husk is brown, there will continue to be less liquid inside and it will be thicker. The coconut meat continues to build up on the inner shell and becomes harder. Eventually the liquid will all disappear. The one we picked up to bring home was fully brown but still had sloshing when we shook it. To be honest when I looked at it all I could think of was Tom Hanks opening coconuts on the deserted island so the coconut became "Wilson". Sorry but I forgot to get a pic before we started mutilating him.

Opening the fully ripe ones is a pretty involved process for beginners. After a good bit of searching on the internet we learned that you must cut slits from one end to the other through the outer husk and peel that husk off in strips. The husk is a fibrous, woody type of material that it turns out they use in making potting soil. It was incredibly tough to get off, as Tim will tell you. I'm sure that somewhere someone invented a nifty machine that does it, but for free ones you have to work.

After you have the inner nut, the one you see in grocery stores, you poke or drill 2 holes in the end of the coconut with the three eyes and invert it onto a glass. When the liquid is all drained, use it to mix a tropical rum drink of some sort to reward yourself for getting this far and for the energy to continue. You can add coconut rum, lime, orange juice, cranberry juice or spiced rum, or any combination of those in any quantity. Take long drinks and remind yourself that this coconut was free.

Take a hammer and begin to whack the shell about a quarter of the way down from the top, hitting it hard and in a line around the circumference. Before long, the whole top section will crack off. I found that the rounded end of a ball peen hammer seemed to work best. Repeat the process a couple inches down and you will crack off a ring. You should have 3-4 sections when you're done depending on the size of the coconut. Carefully use a knife tip to pry the meat off the shell. Once you have it all removed, use a vegetable peeler to remove the hard

brown coating on the back. Keep the coconut in the fridge once you've removed it from the shell. You can peel off strips to add to fruit salad or curry, you can grate it to add to cookies, it's great slivered into ice cream with dark chocolate chips. Use your imagination, because if you have any dreams of cruising you will become very adept at cleaning and eating free coconuts.

Here is a picture of the amount of water and meat that we got from one relatively small coconut. My grandkids eat a lot of coconut due to food allergies to wheat, and I remember it wasn't cheap. Now I know why!


It is pleasantly cool on Kintala this morning. A vigorous cold front lit up the sky last night with a lightning display the likes of which I haven't seen for months. Even the front that hammered us in Charleston didn't toss as much forked energy around, which made it kind of sporting when it became necessary to go out to the mast to secure a wildly flogging mainsail cover. The Charleston storm still sets the bar for wind, though last night's sustained mid-30s blowing for hours got close. We sat on and off anchor watches until after mid-night since the boats are packed in here pretty tight, depending on which way the wind is blowing we are about ½ a boat length from our nearest neighbor.

The wind is supposed to blow hard all day and a small craft advisory covers the Bay outside of No Name Harbor. Getting in here to ride out this blow was one of my better weather decisions. It wasn't until early yesterday afternoon that the weather gurus started issuing warnings. Anyone not in or near a protected place by then had a very interesting night. Still, though Kintala will stay put for a while yet, I saw one boat out on the Bay flying a reefed head sail and making tracks to the south. A big Lagoon motored into the harbor and started practicing touch-n-goes on the sea wall in the wind. A smaller mono-hull and his obvious buddy-boat Leopard 40 (they spent the night rafted up in the back of the harbor) headed out a little while ago and turned north into the teeth of the wind and waves.

Clearly, in the hierarchy of the sailing / cruising world, I dwell (quite contentedly I might add) among the wx-weenies. Instead of going anywhere, Kintala will get a little routine maintenance today. Deb is changing water filters and cleaning pump filters. I have been taking the itty-bitty little set screws out of tubing connectors on the Bimini and replacing them with rivets. It works so well me thinks the same should be done to the lifeline stanchions.

The weather should be pretty good for a few days once, that is, this wind finally blows itself out.  Kintala will put a few more miles of Biscayne Bay water past her hull when it does.  Then we will decide where to go next.     

Our morning guest