Saturday, May 31, 2014

Because...

My grandson Julian's language skills are developing at a pretty intense rate. Yesterday he introduced into his repertoire the concept of "This - because - that" and might have had just a tiny bit of trouble with fully integrating it. Wanting to go outside the cockpit with Papa, he realized he needed his life jacket and said, "I need my jacket because.....because I need my jacket!" He knew there was a reason, was unable to grab it just yet, and simply repeated his need.

I wonder how many very early perspective cruisers need to be more like Julian? I need to go cruising because.... Maybe there's a benefit in looking at the situation through the eyes of a two-year-old, not over thinking the reasons, just tending to the most basic of needs. Freedom. Peace. Fulfillment. Happiness.

This afternoon it rained and two toddlers danced naked in the cockpit. Just...because.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Destinations

I am still not used to traffic. Every trip seems more like a ride through a shooting gallery. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes switching lanes, dodging in and out, pushing lights, and getting as close to other vehicles as possible. It is as if the drivers think filling up every available inch will somehow get them to their destination a fraction of a second sooner. "Trust me," I want to tell them, "it doesn't". Then I want to add, "And your destination isn't that important anyway."

This morning, waiting to turn left, the buzz of a sport bike pulled up and filled the spot just off my starboard side. It was a cute little baby Ninja (maybe the 250 R) piloted by an equally cute (from what I could see – she was wearing a helmet and full armored gear) young lady. A moment later and the picture in my mind shifted to that of Deb astride her fully grown Ninja 1400Z. Thousands upon thousands of miles passed under our wheels, with me usually off her port side and a bike length or so in trail. It is the part of my old life that I miss the most, though truth to tell our go-blinding-fast-and-scare-the-snot-out-of-the-cage-drivers days are fading ever further into the past.


Between us we clocked maybe a half a million miles on two wheels; mountains, deserts, forests; rain, snow and heat. We wore out a list of bikes too long to remember. For all of those miles the destination wasn't that important. It was only an excuse to go. What mattered was that we were moving, seeing new things, having an adventure, doing something not everyone does in a way not everyone does it.

Our new life on the boat is the very essence of moving with little care of the destination. Each place is temporary anyway. We will be there for a while. Then we will be off to someplace else.

I think things like that living, as I am, this in-between life. This destination is important, important enough to keep me in one place for weeks. This is a place I have to be, and having to be in a place changes the color of everything. In this place, first I do what I have to do, then I do what I should do, then I do what I can do.  There is never a time when I am doing what I want to do.

Living on the boat I might be cold, might be a hungry or seasick, might be hot and sticky. There are times when I wish we were at the destination, temporary as it might be. But on some level too deep to think about very often, I am almost always doing what I want to do.

And I wondered, sitting at that light, if a destination IS a destination because it is a place we have to go to do a thing we have to do.  Maybe that's why land dwellers have such a hard time. They are always at a destination doing what they have to do. Then they hurry to the next destination to do what they have to do again.  Maybe the mad rush is nothing more than a vain hope that the next destination will be different, a place where they can do what they want to do.

A place where they can live as they want to live.

The green turn arrow flashed while I gazed at the baby Ninja. The guy behind me hit the horn a microsecond later.

I am a visitor in his world now, an outsider who has forgotten the rules. It never even occurred to me to flash him the single digit of estimated IQ.  Even if it had I hope I wouldn't have.  Guests should be polite. I moved along to this place I need to be. But soon I will leave destinations behind once again.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A letter to Julian

(Ed Note: Julian is my grandson who is now living aboard near us in FL)
 
Dear Julian,

This morning you were sitting on the cockpit cushion of our Tartan 42 sailboat which is moored in Dinner Key South of Miami, FL, and I snapped this picture.



When I looked at the picture, I wanted to write this letter to you because some day you are going to be 42 years old and you will be feeling the pressure of whatever corporate conglomerate you have become a part of, the pressure to produce, the pressure to comply, the pressure to succumb.

I wanted to tell you that at age two, you already had it figured out. You had your cup of tea, your cockpit view of all the corporate conglomerate buildings, lit by the rising sun. You heard a dolphin surface for air last night, the water rippling out from his motion to rock the boat gently. You saw the crescent moon rise as deep an orange as I've ever seen. You've laughed at the spray in your face from the dinghy rides in the waves. You've fed the fish by the boat.

So when you feel the pull to be a part of the corporate ladder, when you begin to accept someone else's definition of the American Dream as your own, just pull out this picture and remember that your choices are your own, you don't have to live somebody else's life and, yes, it's ok to be happy.

Love you,
Dema

Life is Short...

. . . eat dessert first.

Going cruising revealed that I am not the go-far, off-shore, adventuresome sailor envisioned while plying the fearsome waters of Carlyle Lake. Overnight runs to places not much further than 100 nm miles away are more my speed. One hundred nautical miles is far enough to be out of sight of land for much of a day, or night, and I have had the rare privileged of helming a small boat over the horizon in the deep watches of the dark. It is a magic place out there. What matters and what doesn't is different than on land. On the sea, names mean nothing, neither does history or background, race or religion. All that really matters is that one manage to keep on sailing.

All truly magic places have monsters and demons, things that can challenge and test and frighten those bold enough to venture that way.  For sailors there are storms and waves and falling masts.  It is part and parcel, these things that can stop the sailing.  Magic and monsters go hand in hand.

Where I travel now, magic is hard to come by.  Much of my day is spent in a place most sailors dread more than any creature hiding in the deepest ocean, a nursing home. As is my need, I was was there today like most days. Lunch was being served in the common room and the room was pretty full. The only person sitting who was not wheelchair-bound was me. At every table were struggles to control utensils and dishes; shaking hands splashed drinks. Bibs were required dress. It was every bit as sad and depressing as it sounds. But as I looked I noticed nearly every person in the room was reaching for the ice cream that came with the meal.

They were eating dessert first.

Just like that, the room was transformed. Instead of tragic, sad old folks struggling to feed themselves, I saw people who have traveled so far over the horizon that names no longer matter, nor history, background, race or religion. All that matters is that they manage to sail just a little bit farther. For some of them, lifting a cup is as physically challenging as getting on deck to reef the main in a sudden blow. For others, walking down a hall is as fraught with danger as climbing a mast in a rolling sea. These may be frail bodies barley holding onto fragile minds, but somewhere at the helm is a will of steel, a courage so deep as to be unfathomable.

Some have gotten so far away that the lines of communication are stretched to the breaking point. They can't tell us of the monsters they face or the demons that haunt their travels. We have no idea how hard it is for them to keep going. Sometimes our courage is no match for theirs, and we fail them by discounting the scale of their journey.  

But not all. As I watched some more, I noticed the aids working the room. They knew each patron by name, were unconcerned with spills and stains and shaking hands. Touch was their common language, and smiles, small encouragements and gentle voices spoken loudly. Nursing homes and nursing home workers are often the monsters of our urban tales. But not here, and not in the places I have visited looking for a home for my parents. Sure the monsters lurk, but they are the exception and not the rule. There are Helen and Michael and scores of others who stand their watch without complaint, people who carry part of the burden for those who have traveled so deeply into the night, who see them safely to their final port of call.

Today I had lunch with some of them.  And though they will never know it, they served up just enough magic to help me along as well.





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Understanding

 It has been a bit surprising, the reactions people have when they find out they are talking with someone who lives full time on a sailboat. About half exclaim that they could never do such a thing, and then go on about how cool it must be. The other half go on about how cool it must be, and then get a bit whimsical about doing it themselves. If the situation allows, it will take a while to get away as each will want to hear all about storms and pirates on the one hand, beaches and resorts on the other.

Which usually leads to them being a tiny bit disappointed. Cruisers are pretty good at avoiding storms and pirates, don't have as much time for beaches as non-cruisers imagine, and don't often care much about visiting resorts. Somehow people who live in houses with a thousand square feet of living space imagine that a 42-foot sailboat is large, that life on the ocean is easy, filled with cold drinks, fantastic food, and beautiful people. All-day excursions to go shopping, humping water on and trash off, munching soggy crackers to fend off motion sickness on a bumpy night passage, and all the other joys of this life that cruisers know so well, come as a huge surprise to those who live in big boxes with yards. Yet almost all still think it is cool when the conversation ends.

Another near-universal question is what our plans are, where are we going next? Trying to give an honest answer goes something like this;

"Well, for the rest of the summer it looks like South Carolina will be home base for some boat work. Come fall, Biscayne Bay until the New Year, then probably over to the Islands again. The Abacos are fantastic, but friends have talked up the Exumas and it sounds like they shouldn't be missed. The goal come next Spring will be heading to the Northern Chesapeake to park the boat for a while; overland to St. Louis to try and sell the condo in June. By the end of 2015 Kintala could be back in southern FL looking forward to a third winter in the Islands. Spring 2016 she might be heading farther south, instead of north, to hide from hurricanes. Maybe we will make Central America for the summer of 2016; live in another country for a while. After that, who knows?"

To a cruiser's ear this is a perfectly normal sounding response. But to those living the American Dream it sounds like the ravings of the demented. "Looks like," "should," "could," South Carolina, Biscayne Bay, Exumas, Abaco, Chesapeake, 2015, 2016, Central America . . . The stark difference between the old life on land and the new one on the water is plain as their eyes glaze over and the wheels turn trying to figure out where some of those places are. "Planning" years into the future to be in locations we have never seen, while not really knowing where we will be in a week or a month?

This is a very odd way to live, and I have about given up on the idea of getting those who haven't done it to understand. Not a big surprise. After 7 years of preparing, shedding nearly everything we knew, and now having almost a year and 2000 nm in our log, I am just beginning to understand it myself.

This is also a very tenuous way to live. The ocean environment is what it is with complete disregard to anything else. We see it as beautiful, challenging, compelling; as well as uncaring, uncomfortable, and quite easily deadly. But that is only land-living unmasked. For example, I have two grand kids now living on a sailboat. Many have commented on how dangerous that is. Really? In a society of cars, guns, and gangs just how dangerous is the ocean by comparison? And those cars, guns, and gangs are nearly as hazardous to adults as they are to children. Living on the ocean means admitting life is fleeting and capricious instead of living on land and pretending life is permanent and predictable.

For many of us, getting here means dumping most of the material things that make up American life. Houses, cars, furniture, yards, gardens, swimming pools, monster grills that fill the patio, the patio itself . . . none of that stuff fits on the common cruising boat. We cut the ties to stuff, and many of us are surprised to discover the idealism of our youth was more righteous then we thought. We should have stuck with it from the very beginning. Sadly, we missed the chance to teach this old / new idea to our kids. They are already buried under mountains of student loans and struggling to survive the class warfare of corporate America. But we have grand kids . . . 

From the back yards of suburbia and through the eye of the TV tube, America is a big place and the world is kind of small. From the deck of a sailboat and through the eyes that nature gave us, the world is a big place and America is kind of small. And I mean "small" in more ways than just geography. Once upon a time a collection of Americans brought out the best in each. Now, collectively, we are mean spirited and narrow minded. Dreams of greatness have been replaced by delusions of grandeur. Once we had hope. Now we just hope for the best.

Literally yards off shore that starts to fade. People keep an eye out for trouble, step in and help when they can. There are lots of smiles, waves, and greetings. Complete strangers-soon-to-be-friends will stop by in a dink to ask about the boat or comment on the home port listed on the stern.  Stories of places far away will be shared, and the idea of visiting them will be encouraged.  Before we left, a lot of people said we shouldn't go, that we weren't ready.  Once we did go, the cruiser community encouraged us to keep going.  This is a life of bold people doing a different thing.

There is a sometimes cruiser custom that I love.  As the sun touches the horizon in the west, conch horns sound to herald the close of another day . . . "We are with the tribe, riding safe to anchor or mooring, thankful for the challenges of the day, and content with the peace that comes with the night."

Hard to explain to those who haven't been here.




Monday, May 19, 2014

The Floating Bear crew has arrived

Yesterday afternoon, after a very long day and a broken airplane delay, the kids and grand kids arrived to their new home in Coconut Grove. Since the shuttle was down due to the high winds, it took multiple trips to the boat in the dink to transfer their things, in the middle of which a bystander commented, "Wow that's a lot of stuff!" I thought about it for only a minute and then said, "Not when you consider that it's everything they own in the world." Three large duffle bags, three backpacks, 2 car seats and a stroller. Not bad light living for 4 people.

In the cockpit having their morning "coffee"


The next 4 weeks until Tim returns will be filled with boat maintenance, preparing their boat for full time living and the trek up the ICW to Ladies Island for the summer, but these first few days will be saved for soaking up the views and enjoying the breezes, running and playing in the park, and getting their sea legs. For the past three years of graduate school their lives have been ruled by deadlines and demands on their time, and it will take a few days of tending to only life's simple, immediate needs to decompress. So if you happen by our boat in the Dinner Key Mooring Field you just might hear this collective <sigh> coming from it as they slowly acclimate to living aboard.


Oh, and if you're wondering about how the new name The Floating Bear came about, you can read the excerpt from the book. We will be having a proper renaming ceremony this summer at Ladies Island.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Forgotten Beauty

As many of you already know, our eldest daughter and family have bought a boat to live on here in Coconut Grove.  It seems that among the many other undesirable qualities of our decaying society, support for the arts has been deemed unnecessary. As a result, anyone like my son-in-law Brian who is driven to produce art is cast aside and trampled on by the money machine. Graduating from one of the top MFA programs in the country with a 4+ GPA, excellent recommendations, an exhibition history, and community involvement did still not yield an opportunity for employment. There were 26 jobs nationwide and over 400 applicants for them. "Emerging Artist" residencies were applied for, only to be told that they are for artists with more experience, more kind of "Established Emerging" artists. So, since Mom and Dad are on a boat in one of the premier art communities in the country, the kids decided to follow suit and live cheaply on the water while they try to establish themselves in the art community here in Coconut Grove and Miami.

This trend of dissing the arts is pretty disturbing to me. One of the most remarkable differences between our lives land bound and our lives cruising is the nearly constant exposure to beauty, color, sounds, and sensory experience. It is one of the biggest reasons I have come to love this life. When I think back about what life was like when I was working in a cubicle in an office with no windows and only varying shades of gray furniture, I literally become ill. So if you're land bound, be sure to take in some beauty around you every day. Not only will your mind thank you, but your body will as well.

Here's a start for you today.




 




Ed Note: You can see some of Brian's recent work on his site.
He was also chosen for the Artist A Day site and has a dialogue about some of his recent work there.

The Perfect Boat

There's a saying amongst cruisers that there is no perfect boat, that all boats are a compromise. I beg to differ.

You see I have a multitude of budding artists in my cadre of grandchildren, and they happen to like to send me pictures of our boat. They are developing in intricacy at an astonishing rate, and I thought you might like to see what the Perfect Boat is all about.

This one is from Mary, who deems the perfect boat to have extra large windows (Grampy T agrees), and a striped sail. Oh, and lots of sunshine (Dema agrees).


And this one, from Catherine, has a level deck with lots of space (Grampy T is now drooling), a personalized sail, lots of lifelines and stachions for Grampy T to re-bed (oops sorry T), and even a large yellow fin tuna for Dema to catch and cook. So what do you think? Are they future boat designers?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night...


Yes, I was growing up in the Snoopy days and that was my favorite comic, with Snoopy perched atop his doghouse with his favorite hunt and peck typewriter, writing his great American novel.  It was all I could think about today.

The Miami area was peppered with storms, some of them severe, so I wasn't sure if our scheduled diver was going to be able to come this morning to replace the zincs on our boat and the kids' boat, to clean the dinghy bottom, and to clean the bottom of the kids' boat. He had to cancel on Tuesday because the waves were so high in the anchorage that there was no way to safely do it. Having a 23,000# bucking bronco crashing about right over your head is not exactly the best way to live long and prosper.

This morning he made it out to the boat on the shuttle and was able to get started before the first storm (which he cleaned right through, oblivious to the pounding rain), and 2-1/2 hours and two other squalls later was finished. At $2 a foot I may never do a bottom cleaning again. We used a company called A-1  Boat Care LLC out of Miami. Freddy is from Colombia and I had the additional pleasure of being able to practice my Spanish while he was here. He was thorough, polite, fast, and very reasonably priced. I highly recommend him if you're in the area and are looking for a bottom cleaning or zinc replacement.

I was going to take some pictures of Freddy and his equipment but it rained so hard the whole time that he was here and I still don't have a waterproof camera so I hid under the dodger. I did manage to snap this pic of the rain and the flattened waves. Just 30 minutes prior, the waves had been 2 feet high. After the storms the dinghy was half full of water and I had to pump for over 15 minutes to get it dry again.




At least for the moment, for the first time since Tim left 8 days ago, there is no wind at all. None. Zero. Zilch. We're bobbing around hitting the mooring ball and the dinghy alternately, the full moon is shining brightly on the water, and I believe I just might be able to sleep. Which is good, because tomorrow the wind is supposed to be right back up there 15-20. The trials and travails of cruising...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Far from home

I am back in the "normal" world for a while; suburbia, cars, traffic jams, sirens, guns, noise, and news. I have put more miles in driving the last 4 days than I had in the last 7 months, and I'm having trouble remembering why I used to enjoy it as much as I did. On the other hand there is ice cream in the fridge, cold milk, (that doesn't cost $12 / gal) and pretty good and consistent Internet access. Not sure the balance comes out in favor of "normal," but it isn't all bad.

Being 1000 miles away from Deb and the ocean? That is pretty much all bad.

Being away is also giving me a chance to take a look at our new life from a little different perspective, an opportunity to think about where we were, where we are, and how it looks like we are doing.


One thing that stands out is that full time living aboard and cruising is a far, far different endeavor than sailing, chartering, or living on a boat as an alternate to having a house or an apartment. It is its own, completely unique, thing. Even more, it is different for every person who is "out there" doing it.

As much as I loved sailing on Carlyle and appreciate the things we did learn about handling and living on a boat there, it really wasn't much preparation for what we are doing now. Having a boat as our one and only home is a far cry from visiting the lake on weekends. Mostly those years allowed us to get a lot of work done on our soon-to-be ocean going house, and make some life long friends.

I'm not sure chartering is much like living aboard either. We did take three week-plus training / cruising trips that might be counted as charters. Truth to tell they were not much of a hint as to what living aboard full time is like. Provisioning, watering, finding pump outs, 24 / 7, 365-days-a-year weather watch, these are our constant companions now. For many of us full time cruising means going "all in." There is no alternative, no plan B, no place to fall back to if it all goes bad. Virtually everything we own floats with Kintala. Every weather decision, every day under way, every harbor entered or Current Cut attempted, is an all or nothing deal. Flub it badly and we are homeless . . . at best.


As valuable as those trips were for us choosing a boat, the fact is both Deb and I are pretty sure the Tartan 42 wasn't the best choice. It is too much the racing boat and not enough the living-on boat. Romping across the Gulf Stream was great. The total time required to go both ways was less than two full days of sailing. (Biscayne Bay to West End + Bimini to Biscayne Bay.)

Living on a Tartan 42 is often a trial, and we do that all the time. For us, a boat just has to be as stable as possible riding to its anchor or a mooring, has to have sufficient storage, and has to have a cockpit comfortable for near full-time occupancy. An island bed would be nice and, contrary to what I had been told, would not be a problem on a passage. Neither of us sleeps in a bed on passage; short handed crews don't often get that far apart.

Once upon a time I claimed a center cockpit boat was a better idea than an aft cockpit, low free board boat because, "I didn't want the ocean that close to my ass." Now I would take an open transom boat without a second thought, so long as the cockpit was big, roomy, and comfortable. It would also make getting on and off the boat from a dink a lot easier. Yet a center cockpit ketch rig would be an excellent basic platform for a live-a-board cruiser. Not because the ocean isn't that close to my ass, but because the sail plan is easy to manage, the aft cabin can be a great place to live, two heads are pretty standard, engine access is likely acceptable, and storage is better.

The cruising community is not much like America. These are people with different motivations, different ideas of what it means to be responsible, with a close and personal relationship with the natural world. Many are from Canada and Europe and are not nearly as impressed with Americans as Americans tend to be with themselves. Most know well their turn will come to need a little help, and so they offer the same with little hesitation.

It isn't that religion and politics are left on the beach, but even among American cruisers no one wears them on their sleeve. There are a few gun nuts, some religious fundamentalists, but none have been offensive or overbearing. Not once have I been told I am going to hell and no one has waved a gun around. Individual political leanings deemed important on land haven't disappeared. But they don't mean as much as they once did. Maybe it's because the ocean will drown Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Tea-partiers, Socialists, people who like their universal health care, and even Texans, with equal enthusiasm. Being capable on the water is the measure that matters once any nation and its politics fall below the horizon.


Even for us Americans who have only accomplished a single "ocean crossing" to the Islands and have managed to live there for just a couple of months, the world appears bigger and the center of the map isn't - automatically - the US-of-A. There are whole other societies doing things in a whole other way, with a history completely different from this country. There is a whole planet where people screw things up in new and unique ways, not just American ways. (The Democratic and Republican ways of screwing things up are getting repetitive. We need to come up with some new material.) Being arrogant about "being an American" works inside these borders, where boasting counts more than doing. Outside these borders it makes you look like a wanker.

As much work as living on the water might be, no matter that a different boat might make that life a lot easier, being back for a visit has made it clear that I really don't want to be living anything but a cruising life. Most mornings on Kintala I take a cup of coffee out to the cockpit, sit back, and start my day slow and easy. I actually look up to see if it looks like the forecasts are reasonable. The sky and the sea fill my senses. Sometimes we are in the middle of a city, sometimes surrounded by other boats . . . and sometimes not. Any way I look at it, it is a good way to start a day. Most days end in pretty much the same way except the drink is cold and has a bit more horsepower.

My new world feels far, far, away at the moment, and I long to be home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Bahamas Get More Expensive

We belong to the Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club which offers a lot of benefits to cruisers traveling in the Abacos and the Bahamas in general. I received this email today which explains the pending VAT and thought you might like to take a look-see. I've posted it here in its complete form.



On 17 June last year, we posted a heads up that the Bahamas were on track to introduce a Value Added Tax (VAT) 1 July 2014.
Well, that's just a few weeks away. Be prepared for everything in the Bahamas to cost up to 15% more (or more) than it does now. For many, it just means cruising there 15% less time, or shortening marina stays or eating out less because they have a fixed budget for visiting the Bahamas. The not so obvious part is if these reactions occur, merchants and service providers will have to increase prices even further to offset the receipts they lose. That 15% has to come from somewhere.
 
From the Bahamas' VAT Site
 
To Government's credit, they have built an excellent website dealing with the issue. Give it a look. There is nothing in the site that leads one to believe that there will be a VAT for citizens and a different VAT for visitors [along the lines of the GST refund for tourists in Canada], but one complexity for visitors to deal with is: there will be businesses that can collect VAT and those that can't. The former will add VAT to the price, and the latter will include it in the cost [and passed on in the price]. Good luck sorting it out.
 
As expected and predicted by many, it appears the VAT is no longer even principally about offsetting reduced Customs revenue (zero-balance). It is about collecting more revenue. The underlying mechanism for this is to add the taxation of services to the taxation of goods. It's their country; it just pays to know what's going on before you get there.

600 Yards

Tim and I have been having long discussions about quality of life this week since he's in Pittsburgh dealing with the transition of his parents from their lifelong home to some type of assisted living facility. Quality of life is the main reason that we made the transition from land-based living to the boat. Life on land had become untenable with the loss of our jobs, and continuing to work to support a system that we no longer believed in seemed less and less desirable. The system which we had worked so hard to support for the 40 years of our career had, in fact, dumped us unceremoniously on the front doorstep of homelessness and had we not already had the plan in place to move onto the boat, we could have ended up living under a bridge. Not exactly the quality of life we'd been looking for.

Quality of life has improved dramatically since we moved onto the boat, and not just because we're retired and don't have to punch a time card any longer. Probably the number one improvement is our exposure to nature on a daily basis. I believe that human beings were meant to be intimate with nature, something that we've lost in our air-conditioned, TV-based society, and intimacy with nature is something you most certainly gain back by living on a boat that adds deeply to your quality of life. The visual stimulation of the colors in the sky and sea and sunsets and reefs, the healing warmth of the sun, the subtle changes of the smells of the water and air as you travel through different areas, the breeze through the hatch at night while you drift off to sleep, the endless stars in an inky sky unmarred by city lights, the feel of soft sand through your toes, the playful interaction of dolphins off the bow as we slice through the waves, all are serious contributors to quality of life.

Sometimes, a little too serious. The past week the wind has been howling anywhere from 18-40 kts. and sustained at around 23, the high end of which we just experienced at 3:00am this morning in a squall. The waves here in the Dinner Key Mooring Facility have been upwards of 2 feet and at less than a two second period. The noise from the wind and the waves is constant and loud enough to make it difficult to Skype with grandchildren. Uncomfortable to say the least.

Last evening, as I dinghied past the breakwater island into the dock to meet friends for dinner, I was amazed at how different the picture was in the Dinner Key Marina. The wind was a tolerable light breeze and the waves were small ripples. 600 yards and it was another world.

As cruisers, we have the luxury of changing our environment when it displeases us. It may not be right this immediate moment, as I'm experiencing here with Tim gone, but with very little delay we are once again under way and moving to a place more pleasant. For those in their late years with multiple physical limitations like Tim's parents, changing environments can be a painful and challenging venture. The change is sometimes forced, not always welcome and, even more frequently, is not pleasant.  As I've been trying to live with the challenges of the weather this week I've been moved to hope they find protection from their storms of change in a safe, protected harbor. It may be much farther than 600 yards away, but I wish for them the same peace, quiet, and comfort.

Love you Mom and Pops

Monday, May 12, 2014

A different kind of sound

For the last 7 days the wind here has been howling 15-25 day and night, enough to keep you from taking the dink anywhere, enough to keep the pumpout boat firmly tied to the dock, enough to wake you up at night with the wave and rigging noise. Enough already!! So it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to go to dinner and an orchestra presentation with our friends Katrina and Keith Greenwood of Happy Dance for an evening of beautiful, not grating or annoying sound.

The free concert was put on by the Alhambra Orchestra, a community orchestra located in the Miami area that is committed to encouraging the love of music. Their mission statement from their website reads:

To present live classical music in Miami-Dade County at little or no cost to our patrons, to promote music education, and to provide the opportunity for amateur and professional musicians to continue a lifelong study and performance of classical music.

The conductor, Zoe Zeniodi was one of the most engaged conductors I've had the pleasure of watching in a long time. The evening was one of obscure composers with a strong German theme, along with a few numbers accompanying a soloist, Hubert Wild, a baritone who flew in from Germany specifically for this concert. 

It was a wonderful evening, a respite from the boat sounds which I usually love but not quite in the concentration I've been receiving lately.

Here is one of the more unusual numbers for your listening pleasure. Keep in mind that this was taken with a Droil Razr Maxx HD so even though it's better than most phone videos, it's still not a good quality video.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Loving Coconut Grove

I haven't quite decided if I like this place so much because it reminds me of the Central West End where we lived in St. Louis, or if I just like this place on its own merit. Either way, the result is the same. I really like this place more each day I'm here.


This morning on the cruiser's net they announced the Farmers Market which happens to be just 4 blocks from the dinghy dock. Since it was still howling outside and it was way too windy to risk hauling the generator over to our kids' boat to work on it, I decided to take the shuttle in to town and go to the farmers market and do laundry. I expected the type of market that we had in St. Louis, a bunch of different vendor stalls that you perused, choosing the best from each as you went along, but this farmers market is just a bit different. The entire market is set up in a parking lot under a tent and is run by Glaser Organic Farms, which is a certified organic farm located in Miami. There are tables of vegetables, fruit and herbs, and there are tables of boxed and bagged vegan raw nuts, seeds, various mixes, spices, sprouting seeds and grains. On the other end they have prepared food and some amazing milk-free ice cream based on cashew milk and coconut milk and almond milk as well as some fruit-based sorbets like berries and mangoes. The prices were a little higher than non-organic food at a grocery store, but way lower than prices at the nearby Fresh Market and substantially lower than places like Whole Foods. Everything was wonderfully fresh, colorful, and plentiful. It was sensory overload for me after just returning from the produce-starved Bahamas.


All along the outside of the farmers market there was also individual vendor booths with various health food and sustainable living products. There was a booth for organic cotton clothing, one for fermented fizzy drinks for good digestion, one for organic coffee, and many many more. The market is open 10-7 each Saturday all year round and I'm so looking forward to making it a regular part of my week.
















 







































Friday, May 9, 2014

A day at the beach

A friend of mine that we met since we began cruising in October started a Facebook page, one.plastic.hour. The goal of the page was to get 1000 Facebook friends to dedicate one hour to picking up plastic somewhere and to post pictures of what was picked up. Keith has a passion for the plastic problem, one I happen to share.

On Wednesday, Keith posted a picture of the beach here at Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, FL. They recently added a fantastic new dinghy dock on the island where the beach is in an attempt to get more people to use the picnic areas and hiking trails. Nice try, but the beach is so disgusting with plastic trash that nobody wants to use it. So Keith and I decided to spread the word on the cruiser net in the mornings that we were going to have a plastic pickup day today at noon, for just an hour. A group of us showed up, trash bags and rubber gloves in tow, and worked for the hour only to discover that it's going to take us many more hours to even make an appreciable dent. The big problem is that there are very few large sized items on the beach. Most of it is the size of water bottle caps, lighters, pens, etc., and requires pulling up a log to sit on while you sift through with your rubber-gloved hands. The sheer amount of it is shocking. And depressing. And overwhelming. And sad.

All this clearly washed up on the beach with the tide and storms. Ten feet farther inland there is no trash.




Six people gathered all this in less than an hour.

Keith found this statue in the trash. We decided to keep it and call it the patron saint of beach cleanup.
So what can you do to help? For starters, you can find a place that needs cleaned up in your area, and spend just one hour picking up. Then you can like the one.plastic.hour Facebook page and post the pics of your cleanup. It's an easy to commit to limited time of one hour.

For the long term, stop buying bottled water in plastic bottles and begin carrying a reusable water bottle with you. Don't have one? I'll shamelessly plug my daughter's Ecococoon distributorship here where you can get first-rate reusable bottles. When you're enjoying outside activities like hiking, boating, camping, etc., please be sure to contain your plastic trash. A lot of the trash that we were dealing with is simple escaped trash that flew off boats in the wind. And finally, try to buy paper or glass when possible which at least decomposes in a nature-friendly way. You might actually make some beach comber happy in 25 years because they found your sea-glass.

Everyone always says they want to do something about the problem "some day" when they have time. So can you give up one sit-com TV hour and make a better place for your kids and grand kids?

A Few More pictures

The whole time that Kacey was visiting us I was using his fantastic camera and completely forgot about some pictures I still had on mine. It's a disconnected group, some of which are older, so I've added captions to each for you.

While we were on the dock in Bimini, one afternoon a seagull ended up floating by that had recently died. I'm not sure how he died, but I suspect he flew into a mast or something. The whole time he drifted by our dock, a few of his fellow seagulls kept dipping down to the water, clearly upset by their tone, and attempting to wake him up. They followed him as he floated all the way out to the bay. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen.







This was from the Dolphin House. This plant was growing out of the wall.

The Dolphin House

Kacey discovers it takes two Dramamine on Gulfstream crossings...

So long to the Bahamian flag till next Winter

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Guest Picture Post #2

Before Kacey left the boat I had a chance to nab his camera card and download the pics. With his permission, here are a few more of his awesome camera pics.



Our friends Bill and Ann's boat, Driftwood, a Vagabond 42 cutter ketch, leaving Bimini



Driftwood under way from Bimini to Miami


The lighthouse in the state park at No-Name Harbor

Stiltsville




I found this picture fascinating. It looks a bit like looking out a window. Nice job, Kacey!

The Dinner Key dinghy dock mascot


Dinner Key mooring field at sunset with Coconut Grove in the background





Our friend Bill with his blown out main, prior to repair.

Our friend Ann. Kacey's camera has a color isolator, ergo the blue shoes.

Dinner Key dock 7
One of the monster yachts at Dinner Key Marina

The path from the dinghy dock to the mooring field.



Miami

The mooring field provides a front row view of all kinds of boats and some pretty skilled sailors

Thank you Kacey for the great pictures of your trip. Come back soon!