Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making friends

Being snug as a bug is kind of nice. Being a bug hanging onto the end of a horse's tail, while the horse runs at a full gallop while herding cows, is less nice. Which is what it feels like in the Dinner Key mooring field.

Not really sure why I like this place so much, though I suspect being out on ball number 148 means getting much less for my $25 per night than being in on ball, say, 48. Either way, we are here to see friends not seen in a while, pick up some provisions, and make ready to head to places south we haven't been before. (Note to the Dinner Key mooring field bosses – anyone out past ball 100 deserves a price break. After ball 125 you should be paying us.)

It is nearly a mile from Kintala's bow to the Dink Dock. The wind is out of the west, but we are so far from land that it makes little difference in the waves. Go-fast, small commercial fishing, and big Sport Fishing boats pass by generating a never ending parade of wake hits. For some reason, though the entire channel is a “NO WAKE” zone, most power boat drivers seem to get impatient about half way. Those going in get about half way before slowing down. Those coming out make it about half way before hitting the gas. It doesn't seem very considerate.

(This evening we took a hit so robust that it tossed my beer bottle out of its holder and onto the cockpit floor. Fortunately, I had finished that one off already, so no alcohol abuse was involved.) 
No Name Harbor on a calm day in the middle of the week in 2014

Which got me to thinking about some of the things going on in No Name Harbor. No Name has a rule prohibiting staying on the wall overnight which, in our experience, has been pretty well enforced. But this last time in we noticed a whole string of boats tied up over several nights in a row. Asked around, and the rumor is that there is a new Park Manager, and he doesn't have the budget or manpower to enforce that rule. Good deal, right? Tying to land in a protected place, with rest rooms, laundry, and a pump out. A cruising dream come true. But I got to wondering.

No Name is a party spot, with a nice restaurant right on the harbor. Big power boats come in for the weekend, meet with friends, and often have lunch or dinner. Cruising sailboats, for the most part, used to be anchored pretty much out of the way. The power boats don't often carry dinks, so tying to the wall is the only way they can meet with their friends. Now though, they will pull in and find the wall lined with boats, mostly sail, with some boats that were there the weekend before, and the weekend before that.

While cruising powerboats look pretty much like the non-cruising variety, cruising sailboats are usually easy to spot. The rails are lined with water, diesel, and fuel jugs. Many sport a collection of wind vanes, solar panels, and wind generators. The vast assembly of hardware that makes a sailboat a sailboat, corrodes and stains hulls and decks. Life lines often sport a collection of tightie whiteies and towels drying in the sun. And, let us be honest, a lot of our cruising boats look like they have been ridden hard and never put away at all because, well, that is exactly how we use them. They are things of beauty to us, but to someone looking from the flying bridge of a mega-buck power yacht?

Now I admit that I am a cruiser, and am of the opinion that the rest of the world should look upon us, see nothing but the vanguard of human kind's future, and thus grant us free reign over the waters we live on. We travel light on the planet, leaving little behind for our explorations. We point-produce most of our power and use it very carefully. We don't need thousands of miles of concrete poured over Mother Earth to get where we want to go. Generally we are friendly and helpful, not very full of ourselves because we have seen a bigger picture than many of our American compatriots know. We like other countries and cultures, are not afraid of people with skin tones different that ours, who worship gods we haven't met, and who speak languages we don't understand. (Nearly any collection of cruisers will include more bi, tri, and multi-lingual people than nearly any group of land dwellers.) We have married couples sailing together, un-married couples sailing together, solo sailors meeting and spending “quality” time on the other boat; “live and let live” could well be the official motto of our gypsy tribe of wanderers.

But, sometimes, I think we are our own worst enemy. Here in Florida the cruising news is full of the law being passed that will close down some popular anchorages. Closings prompted solely by rich people who think they own the view outside of their McMansion, and don't like cruising boats intruding on their space. It is ugly and offensive and pure corruption of a most blatant kind, politicians and police departments being bought and sold on the open market for all to see. And yet...

It seems likely that, with mega-boat owners finding No Name's wall blocked by cruising boats tied-to for days or weeks at a time, it will not be long before a law banning overnight stays there will soon be in the offering as well. No Name is a State Park, a common area, a place shared by everyone in the community, land dwellers and power boat party goers included. If we in the cruising tribe forget that, if we act with the same lack of consideration that the power boats show in the channel here in Dinner Key, I'm not sure we can complain if the rest of the community moves to force us out.

This is not to say Kintala will never be on the wall in No Name. There is a pump out that we use often. The store is a long walk away, and loading provisions is much easier if on the wall than it is hauling stuff in the dink. When the weather goes down the tubes using the wall to get as many boats into the harbor and safe is certainly a good idea, one that the old rule dismissed unnecessarily. (Though even with the old rule, the powers-that-be seemed willing to bend it for weather and to give broken boats a chance to get fixed.) But I think we would do ourselves a big favor to remember that No Name has lots of uses for many people, and we need to make sure they have access to a space that belongs to them as much as it does to us. One night on the wall and gone, off the wall on weekends, make room for people who don't live like we do; it might make us some friends in Florida.

We could use some.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What a Great Day for a Sail

Miscellaneous Pics Underway

Just a few miscellaneous pics I had on my camera for your enjoyment this Saturday evening.

Our friends' Bristol 38.8 Skimmer leaving the anchorage at Middle River

Sunrise at Middle River as we left the anchorage to head for No Name Harbor
A section of the almost continuous skyline between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami

We were heeling so hard that I was looking way up in the sky from the low side of the boat.

One of several races along the coast. This one was just north of the lighthouse by No Name Harbor in the background.

Miami skyline from our mooring ball at Dinner Key

A Different Perspective

If there is any one thing that I have taken away from two and a half years of cruising, it's that cruising is different for every cruiser that's out here. There is no single right way to live this life, no single thing that works for everyone attempting it, no method or means that is universal.

You might not believe the aforementioned is true if you read the glossies that tell you the list of equipment that everyone simply must have prior to pushing off. You also might not believe that's true if you even use a valuable tool like Active Captain reviews (like we avidly do) to plan your stops and stays.

I've been thinking a lot about this because we're sitting on a ball at the Dinner Key Mooring Field in Coconut Grove, FL. We've been here multiple times in the last two years and it has become a home base of sorts. Great people at the mooring office, brand new marina office with beautiful showers and laundry, free shuttle, stores close by, fantastic public transportation all abound. If you've never been here before, the mooring field is a long, thin piece of marginally deep water that snakes out from the Dinner Key Marina into Biscayne Bay. Way out into the bay. There are a little over 200 mooring balls, and the larger and deeper your boat, the farther out into the field they will place you. In the past, we've occupied balls in the 40's, 50's and 80's. This time we're on 148.

We're .7 miles from the dinghy dock, about a 20 minute ride in dead calm water, which the mooring field is exactly never. In rough water it's at least a 30 minute slog with our small motor, and a very wet one at that, rough enough and long enough that we decided not to deploy the dinghy at all this stay, but to utilize the free shuttle that operates on the hour from 8-5 each day. The moorings are very exposed to all but wind out of the west, and even that is no protection for boats on balls above 100. If you happen to be on a ball positioned right next to the channel (like we are this time), the wake from passing boats will rock and roll you mercilessly. If we had been assigned this mooring the very first time we came here, we might feel entirely different about this place. Since we know and have experienced the gem that is Coconut Grove, even these inconveniences are not enough to deter us from enjoying our stay here. But I couldn't blame someone from writing a bad review, if they chose to do so, based on their experience with the exposed moorings.

My point in telling you all of these details is that you should take reviews and opinions of fellow cruisers with a grain of salt, us included. What one cruiser finds annoying, another might find a small inconvenience to pay for great rewards. We recently ran into a gentleman at Vero Beach who was ranting about this mooring field and the people here. I was surprised and caught off guard since we've loved the place so much in previous visits. His experience clearly was different, his expectations not met, and his comfort level exceeded. Gather all the information you can, determine your comfort level and assess your desires, then make up your own mind. Be willing to stop in a place more than once to see if your experiences are consistent. Be willing to forge a new path if there are no reviews. You just might find a hidden gem like the Coconut Grove Drum Circle, one of the best experiences we've had since we left to go cruising. Oh, and even with all of it's rolly issues, the Dinner Key mooring field has some of the best sunsets anywhere in Florida. Hands down. But, really, you have to come decide for yourself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Second thoughts

So here we sit, as snug as the proverbial bug, nestled into the proverbial rug. Off our bow is 65 pounds worth of Mantus set hard in the bottom mud. Between it and the boat lay 80 feet of chain, snubbed by two 15 foot lengths of 5/8s 3 strand, properly protected from chafe. With a cold front in the offering we would have laid out 100 feet of chain, but No Name is a tight and crowded anchorage where thought must be given to swing room, with several other members of the cruising tribe sitting nearby.

This afternoon, while the crew of Kintala enjoyed some time on shore with friends from Skimmer, and visited new friends who showed us around their trawler, a really new looking Island Packet dropped anchor just off our port side and slightly behind us. We didn't see them come in, didn't talk to them, and never really thought much about them. They were big boys on their big boat and not upwind of us. The only concern was that they had given us enough room to swing past their bow. The front would pass with the winds clocking from south to north-north-west, twisting every boat in the harbor clockwise. Watching the radar this afternoon I expected a rather easy passage, but a pretty quick swinging of the winds. It would bear watching.

And so it was. Late evening the rains started and we closed up the boat. The rains got harder, the wind moaned in the stays, and the boat started to swing and sway as the confused gusts that come with a front swirled around. Looking out the port side ports it wasn't at all clear that we had the room we needed to have our stern clear the Packet's bow. Grabbing foulies I headed outside in the driving rain in case we needed to motor ahead a bit. Kintala swayed some more and started to swing quickly in a text-book frontal passage wind shift; fully 180 degrees in about a minute. I couldn't have turned her that fast using the engine.

As we swung it was clear that we were going to have plenty of room forward of the Island Packet. In fact there was way more room than expected. Indeed, there was way more room than there should have been. It was a bit confusing. (For those of you who haven't ridden out a cold front passage in a crowded anchorage, confusing is often the name of the game. Visibility is poor in heavy rain, it is normally dark, boat lights and background shore lights easily lead to illusions of motion that are not really there, and distances can be near impossible to judge. All it all it can add up to a few moments of shear excitement.)

As every other boat in the anchorage started the swing to the west and then north, the Island Packet stayed facing south. And that is when I realized they had drug away from us and fetched up against the mangroves and shallow water at the edge of No Name Harbor. No wonder there was so much room.

The rain faded away quickly. The maximum winds were probably less than 40 knots. Just about a non-event compared to what we have come to expect. Yet, somehow, that big old boat had dragged merrily away. A couple of us shone spotlights at the ports trying to get the crew's attention. Two from a nearby boat launched their dink and rowed over to tap on the hull. After a minute or two the Island Packet crew came up from below, having been totally unaware of their short drift into the trees. A couple of minutes later enthusiastic use of the bow thruster pivoted them off the shallow spot, they motored close past our starboard side.

Any damage?” Deb asked as they went by.

No,” came the reply, which was good to hear.

How much scope did you have out?”

(Here I must digress for a moment. Deb is the scope scoping-out master. 5:1 makes her very unhappy. Less than 4:1 will simply never do. 8:1 is fine, 10:1 is better.)

I don't understand what happened. We had 30 feet out”.

Thirty feet! That is less than a boat length. We use more than 30 feet of line to tie Kintala to a dock. How in the name of all that is wet and salty does the crew of a Island Packet 40+ footer think that 30 feet of scope will hold in anything more than a gentle breeze? It can't be possible that they knew nothing of the impending weather. It is even less possible that they knew of the impending weather and thought 30 feet of scope would do. That they were alongside and slightly behind us, and not upwind, is our good luck break of the month; maybe the year so far.

They stopped about a boat length off our bow, where I gently informed them that was no place to drop a hook. I suggested they move out by the inlet, set the anchor, and let out about 100 feet of chain. (Several boats left this morning to head to the Islands. We had moved Kintala well into the harbor in deference to the coming weather, leaving plenty of room at the far end for wayward Island Packets.)

The Island Packet is gone and hopefully set secure, far away from us. But we have learned via the grape vine that the sailboat now upwind of us, a monstrous looking thing with a massive amount of freeboard and a giant pilot house, has a broken windlass...and is riding to 60 feet of rode.

I sure hope the wind doesn't blow very hard tonight. And I am having second thoughts about some of the members of the tribe.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Full Moon and Tunes

I posted this video on our Facebook page and it got such a good response that I decided to include it here as a post for those of you who don't do the Facebook thing. Enjoy!

Bare feet and short sleeves

A few posts ago I mused about bare feet and short sleeves still being off in the distance. Kintala has covered a bit of distance since then. Well, a bit of distance at sailboat speeds anyway, and has settled into No Name Harbor for a couple of days. My feet are bare. My sleeves are short. We have even retired the heavy quilt, taking it off the the v-berth and storing it away. The rising temperatures, mostly blue skies, and definitely clearer water, have done much to lift the mood on our old Tartan. Sometimes it is hard to tell just how deep the hole is until one has climbed much of the way to the top.

We are, as has become the routine on this journey south, waiting out the passing of another cold front. There are hopes this one will slip by without the drama of tornado warnings and 60 knot wind gusts. The last one caught the weather gurus so flat-footed that they are being very careful with the forecasts. The Deep Weather discussions are full of debate, it is kind of fun to read. Here are experts, people as deeply steeped in the discipline of weather as anyone has ever been, who are smarting a bit from having be slapped around by their own hubris. Something that should happen to everyone once in a while.
It is a regular occurrence for sailors and pilots. Both routinely see their plans fade away in the face of oncoming weather. It is hard to boast that “I am the master of my fate” when one sits for a couple of days waiting to get across Biscayne Bay, or a couple of weeks before getting a good window for crossing the Gulf Stream. (We could cross Biscayne Bay, but would rather sit out the weather in the protection of No Name than riding it out in the exposed Dinner Key mooring field.) A touch of humility and a dash of humor goes a long way toward making life easier. Both are gifts that kind of go together, ones we can enjoy ourselves and share with those around us at the same time. They are the opposites of arrogance and sarcasm, which also kind of go together, and are the more likely to be shared for those of us who live in the US of A.

Bare feet and short sleeves, humility and humor...they all seem to go together pretty well in the world of blue sky, clear water, and warm temperatures.

It is good to be back in Biscayne Bay.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

1000 sailors a day …

manage to put up a whisker pole without bending it in half. I would not be one of them.

The day started out pretty well. Instead of enduring 2 more days of ICW / opening bridges travel to get from Lake Worth to Ft. Lauderdale, we took advantage of a weather window to jump outside. One day. Only 2 bridges. No debate. Kintala scooted out the channel on the ebb tide, doing better than 7 knots. Once turning south there was enough wind to fill the jib, but not enough to give the WesterBeast a rest.

A couple of hours in we came upon a small gaggle of sport fishing boats spread out over a couple of square miles of ocean. There are several reasons to give sport fishing boats a lot of room. People who take a million dollars worth of equipment out and burn a couple of hundred gallons of fuel just to catch a few dollars worth of fish, look at the world in a way that is beyond me. I'm never sure what they are going to do. It also seems that sport fishers, so long as they have a line in the water, are considered “commercial fishers” and thus are the “stand to” boat. It doesn't matter if they are actually charter boats who make money by taking people out to catch fish that are never going to make it to market, or if they are just rich people out playing for a day. They will still act like “commercial fishers” and drive anywhere they like with little regard for anyone else in the area. They also drag hundreds of feet of line behind their boats, line that is impossible to see. And, as we experienced a few weeks ago in Stuart, when a fisher person has something on the line pretty much nothing else that might be going on in the universe matters to them because they are catching a fish!

So, when one of the gaggle appeared off our port bow, heading north to our south, I turned to starboard just to give him room. A minute later he turned to port, and started closing in on our track again. Okay then. I turned further to starboard, now getting really close to the wind and risking back winding the jib. It was enough though, we had plenty of room, except he turned toward us once more and was now closing rapidly. Not okay then. Maybe he had caught a fish and wasn't paying any attention to where his million dollar boat was going? In any case he had put us in a bit of a bind. Just before I turned again to let the sail do what it may, he fell off to turn parallel to us. He was close enough that I could see the captain holding a phone in one hand. With the other he was waving toward shore and shouting something that sounded like “Go away, go away.” Which, in hindsight, seems kind of funny. I was making every effort to "go away" as he tried to run us down.

At least, I think that is what he said. At that moment I was sharing my own view of the last few minutes, along the lines of, “Please gentle fisher man, would you consider putting down your phone and steering your boat in such a way as to keep us from crashing into each other?” (Okay, maybe not exactly along those lines.)

Anyway, if you happen to be a couple of miles off shore and a few miles south of Lake Worth, and happen to see a sport fishing boat named Great Day, you might consider giving it an extra wide pass. Its captain is apparently a bit of a wanker. If you happen to be a person who enjoys chartering a million dollars worth of equipment and burning a couple hundred gallons of fuel to catch a fish, maybe there are better places to patronize than Great Day Charters? Surely there are companies who employ captains who are much more professional.

About the time Great Day disappeared over the horizon the winds faded to the point where the jib started to flog. We have been working out some new rigging to make poling out the jib less dramatic. This looked like a good day to test it out, but the deck monkey failed the test and managed to trash the pole. The test that came next was getting the bent pole back on deck. While struggling to get that done, a pod of dolphins showed up. I think they were getting a laugh from the deck monkey antics on the good ship Kintala. But here is the thing about dolphins. Even when they are laughing at you they bring along some magic. Even better, Deb had sent a float plan to Daughter Middle. Daughter Middle sent a message back stating that Grand Kids 5 wanted dolphin videos. The dolphins, including at least a half dozen mother / baby pairs, might have heard them and so came by to make some kids smile, staying with us for hours. And yes, we got videos.

In spite of it all the day turned out to be a really good day. Thanks to the magic of dolphins.

ps: As it turns out the deck monkey made less of a mistake than originally thought. According to Forespar (who made our pole) the one we had was several sizes too light for a boat Kintala's size. It is a bit of a surprise that it lasted this long.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Go south old man...

Though we were set to leave Vero Beach on Saturday, word of a free concert kept us on the mooring ball for an extra night. I am a sucker for live music, and we have caught some pretty good bands in these last couple of years. Alas, the one in Vero was not one of them. It may have been that they were just having an off night. It may have been that is was just too cold for anyone to get in the mood. (The keyboard player took every chance he had to rub his hands in front of the heat lamp set up near his spot on the stage.) Maybe a drummer with wooden hands, a back-up singer who didn't really have the voice for it, and the aforementioned key board player were just doing the best they could, though the lead singer / guitar player was better than average. I think I'll stick with them just having an off night. Come to think of it, I was having an off night of my own; distracted, pensive, and feeling the bruises of these last couple of days. Maybe it wasn't the band at all?

We headed back to the boat after the first set, with a stop at the marina for a long, hot shower. We also took a few minutes to chat with friends staying in Vero until spring, and muse over the news. It isn't every day that a Supreme Court judge as controversial as Antonin Scalia departs this life unexpectedly, and in the midst of a Presidential Campaign as weird as the current circus. Me thinks the land dwellers are going to add another ring. Barnum & Bailey would be proud.

The plan was to stop at the fuel dock in Vero for diesel, water, and a pump-out before leaving this morning. But the dock has been mostly blocked since yesterday by a big sport fishing boat. A call to the marina office right at 0800 revealed that he was a seriously malfunctioning big sport fishing boat and would not be going anywhere soon. Hmm, happens to them too?

Instead of testing the wind and current (and my boating skills) trying to shoehorn Kintala into the bit of space that was left, we elected to head south and stop at the Harbortown Marina in Ft. Pierce. It turned out to be a good choice with easy access. With barely a half hour lost, Kintala was back on the ICW, sailing (yes sailing) south once again. We haven't found the Ditch to be very accommodating when it comes to moving under canvas, but east winds had Kintala romping along at 7 knots under just the jib for much of the day. Her crew is still wearing multiple layers with hats, hoods, and gloves, but there is a forecast of near 80 degrees in the not too distant distance.

But not yet. Rain fell upon the deck monkey as the hook was prepped to go into the mud along the east side of the St. Lucie river. Though we have been sitting secure for nearly two and a half hours, with dinner done and the dishes washed and put away, my fingers and toes are still tingling a bit as they warm up.

South. Must go south.

A couple interesting power boats seen on the ICW this afternoon


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cold winds

The crew of Kintala is still reeling from losing Greg. The world is muffled, and there is a general feeling of being distracted and distant. A day was lost hiding behind Chicken Island. The run to Titusville was a good sail on a cold day, but all good thoughts about the day got washed away with the news from PA.

A second day was lost in Titusville. We bounced and shivered at anchor while the winds blew and the temperatures dropped. Nights were near unbearable with the snubber line groaning under the strain of the moaning winds. Just about the worst noises that can be imagined for a pair of heavy hearts lying in a dark v-berth. Finally, in the wee hours of this morning the winds faded, the boat quieted down, and the dark became a place of refuge rather than a background for grief. Sleep finally crept in just before the dawn.

Deb was up first, checking the weather. There were all kinds of warnings out for more wind coming to stir up the water. There was even a small craft advisory for the ICW. But, for all that, the morning was quiet and cold. She rousted me out of the berth with the smell of fresh coffee and the idea that we should get while the getting was good. A run to an anchorage about half way to Vero could be finished before the worst of the weather moved in. It sounded like a good plan to me. Titusville, through no fault of its own, was a place I dearly wanted to put behind us.

We dressed with all the layers we could find, shook the WesterBeast to life, dragged the hook out of the mud, and motored off in flat water. For the first couple of hours it seemed like the forecast was likely wrong. Around 1200 there was enough wind to spin the little head sail out to help the Beast along. The GPS speed jumped to 7. A bit later we stowed the staysail and let fly the working jib. GPS speed jumped to 8+ and we literally blew past a nice looking ketch rig that had taken to the ICW ahead of us. A bit after that and it seemed wise to give in to the still building winds, stow the jib and put the staysail back to work. The little sail and a loafing Beast still had us moving along at a steady 7 plus. 

(The only speed reference we have is the GPS. Boat speed is a guess as that thing stopped working after we left Stuart. It has been way too cold to jump in the water to fix it. Wind speed is also a guess as that thing apparently got tweaked by a bird in Stuart as well. We haven't seen the kind of weather needed to go up the mast. The tachometer is toast too so, right now, we are “old school” sailors. We set the RPM based on tone and feel. Sail choice comes from looking at the water, facing the wind, and feeling the boat. If it “feels” wrong we do something different. I guess we have learned a little bit about doing this. One of these days though, Deb really should do something about getting the deck monkey into gear to get some of this stuff working.)

Seven knots is roughly twice as fast as what we saw going north a couple of weeks ago. Eight knots is flat galloping. We blew past our intended stopping point at 1400 and pressed on for Vero Beach. With nearly an hour to spare before the sun went down we picked up a mooring ball, having covered just over 64 nm in just under 10 hours. On the ICW, with sails flying.

The world is never going to be the same as it was when we set out south after this last summer's boat work in Oak Harbor. Death has visited our family twice since then. We have struggled with bitter winds and endless rains. The Island are out of reach. But the cold run on this day got us to Vero. There was a long hot shower waiting on shore. It will still be cold tonight, but not as cold. The boat sits quiet, secure, and still. There are friends nearby, and words of encouragement over the internet. Pictures from the week in Daytona with Daughter Middle and Family bring smiles and warm hearts that have been touched by cold winds.

It will be good to sail in short sleeves and bare feet again, but that is still some distance away. Right now Vero feels like a good port in a storm, being here again is a relief.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Carpe Diem

You hear it all the time. Carpe Diem. Probably more in the sailing world because it's such an excessively abused boat name. You're told it means to get the most out of each day and, like  most clich├ęs, it just rolls off your consciousness.  But humor me a moment and close your eyes and really think about what it means. Seize the day. Seize the day. Grab it by the balls and don't let go. Wring out of it every drop of life that's available. All the rich colors, flavors, textures, tantalizing smells, the look, the smile, the voice or the touch of a loved one. Because - and you hear it all the time again - you may only have today. This minute.

My oldest brother died yesterday. He was 67 and was expecting to go home from the hospital on Sunday after a heart valve repair surgery that went very well. He sounded great when I spoke to him on Saturday. He spoke of stopping on the way home to buy a new flat screen TV so he could watch some good movies while he rested. A blood infection downed him in less than 24 hours and yesterday he was gone.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "We are always getting ready to live but never living it."  Life is fragile and fleeting, so whatever your dream is, whether it's selling everything and going cruising, or hiking the Appalachian trail, or climbing Mount Everest, or opening your cafe, or writing your novel, stop preparing and start doing. Because looking back on the last couple years of cruising and knowing that if something happened we at least dared to tackle our dream - and realized it - is much better than finding suddenly that the time we thought we had was gone.

Bon voyage, bro, and happy sailing in the land beyond. We love you and miss you terribly already.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Always good...

Departing Daytona Marina's fuel dock
There is something unnerving about easing Kintala around multi-million dollar mega yachts. Like most older sailboats she is cumbersome in tight places, doesn't back very well, and is easily pushed around by the wind. One doesn't really helm the boat so much as give it suggestions. Sometimes she listens. Sometimes she doesn't. Fortunately this morning the boat and I were reading from the same page. We backed off the dock with stern swinging toward a big dollar sport fishing boat and the bow tracking past the bow of the mega-mega yacht that acted as our wind break for the last week. As we cleared the end of the dock shifting to neutral allowed the wind to push the bow exactly as I had hoped while we slowed. A bump of forward with a touch of rudder, and Kintala burbled out of the alley, tracked the length of her mega dock mate, and then settled with little ado at the diesel / gas / water / pump out dock.

It is always a delight when things work out just like they were planned.

With all the consumables topped off it came time to head south, for real this time. Turning onto the ICW the jib rolled out into the north wind while the hull rode the ebb tide. For the first time in so long that neither Deb nor I can remember the last time, the Beast was reduced to being nothing but a chunk of silent ballast hiding under the companionway steps. Ye 'ol Tartan wafted quietly downwind, dolphins gliding by both port and starboard now and again to nod their approval. The only downer on the day was the short distance we needed to cover, just 13 nm to anchor up behind Chicken Island.

Titusville would be the normal first day's stop out of Daytona but, as has become the norm, weather is the concern. The professional weather gurus are not sure what the low spinning up south and west of us has in mind. It could get pretty ugly, or not. Chicken Island (the perfect name for what we are doing) is a much better place to sit out big north and north-west winds than is Titusville. We may move tomorrow, we may not. But we are feeling pretty good about the day's choices since, less than an hour after the hook went down, the rains came.

It is always a delight when things work out.

Though the Islands are out of our reach this year, the feeling on board, amplified by a most excellent couple of hours of sailing, is that we are “on our way” once again. Our next “need to be someplace” is months away. All planning is being done without an immediate goal in mind. Move when it is good to move. Sit when it is good to sit. Live. Enjoy, Repeat.

It is always ...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rainbow spaghetti

Coloring books are not what I remembered. Grand Daughters M and C, Grand Son M, and I were trading markers back and forth, putting color to the intricate design of swooping and overlapping lines that filled the page. Faces pinched in concentration gave display to the challenge of tracing the twisting paths, each of us laughing when one of us “got lost”. The normal routine for the last few days would have seen us all in the pool or on the beach. But pale mid-western winter complexions needed a break from the Florida sun, so we were spending a few hours playing indoors.

Outdoors lay Ocean, beach, heated pool, hot tub, and shuffle board, all amenities put to good use as the week unfolded. It was the first time Kintala's crew had been consistently off the boat since...well, its been a few months anyway. Though we did return to our v-berth each evening for sleeping, each day saw us joining the family at the beach, morning coffee still in hand. The Ocean was the main draw, but the chilly water temperature and surf reduced ocean play to mostly wading. Grand Daughter EB (youngest at just over a year old) was fearless, doing the toddler stomp due east until the wavelets broke over her knees. Mom was always at hand to make sure all was well, since the usual result of such boldness was landing on hands and knees, little face close to the Atlantic waters. As soon as she was on her feet she would set out for Europe once again. 
Wrestling with grandkids makes a great day
We also spent hours in the pool where Grand Son G went from barely getting wet on the steps on day one, to clinging hard to the sides on day two, to paddling happily across the pool by day four. Grand Daughter C (the oldest) was shy about getting her head wet, at first. By week's end she was jumping into the deep end and staying under water as long as she could manage. Each of the kids, in the way that kids do, got a little bolder as they pushed their fears back, making their way in the world. I try not to think about how many more little one's fears they will have bested by the time we see them again.

The temporary intersection of being boat gypsies and resort vacationers was interesting. I think it fair to say that we live a bit “raw” as boat gypsies. Sleep is often interrupted. (Last night we were on deck at 0400 resetting the fenders as the winds shifted.) We adjust for the temperature by adding or shedding sweat shirts, long sleeves, and shoes. Weather discussions are frequent and often detailed, getting it wrong means more than just not having the umbrella at hand should it rain. Now that the much anticipated time with family is over, nearly 700 miles lie between us and where we need to be by early spring. A good many of those miles are waters Kintala has never passed through before. By any comparison with resort vacationing, it is sure to be an adventure. Not all that different from toddler stomping eastbound into the waves.

A fog bow over the beach
When we do see family again, all of the kids will have learned new skills, found new places to explore, and learned some new lessons. Each will have experienced the tangled up, interwoven ribbons of living, will have pushed some back fears, and managed to overcome challenges unexpected. There will have been moments when they felt lost, but eventually picked up the trail and sorted things out. They will have stories of rainbow spaghetti.

And so will we.

Kintala on the dock at Daytona Marina