Monday, February 27, 2017

Wandering and wondering

After just 2 nights in Manjack we made a nice little sail to take a mooring ball in the Black Sound side of Green Turtle Cay. A forecast for just a little bit of weather bringing west winds prodded us to bail. When the inbound weather turned up carrying more wind and rain than expected, we decided it was a pretty good move.

Gillum Bay on the Atlantic side of Green Turtle Cay

Green Turtle Cay is another one of our favorite places, the little town of New Plymouth being the quintessential Bahamian burgh. There are a couple of little stores that are well stocked. (We found milk, veggies, and ice-cream all in one store!) It is also a better place to be than on anchor if a boat project doesn't go as planned. A nice “plan B” since we had a couple of small issues to address.

A walk on the beach with our friends Lesley and Hartley from S/V ATSA
A pin hole leak has appeared in the engine exhaust, a patch and clamp should see us back to the States without a hitch. The old GPS that gives our AIS its position information refused to power up. Taking it apart uncovered a spot of corrosion on the power switch inside. It seems to be working now, which is a good thing. Night runs without the AIS can get spooky. The big concern was the water pump leak, which was definitely getting worse. A new seal in the old pump and the old pump installed in place of the new looks to have that problem solved. It appeared that the drive pulley was brushing against the front seal just enough to cause the leak, so please forget everything I said about Jabsco pumps and water leaks. We also tightened up the staysail halyard and life lines, and cleaned at least two layers of grime off the hull.

The ever present single flip flop
When not working on the boat we spend time in town. As is our normal experience in the Abaco Islands the people are open, friendly, and curious. Much to my surprise I discovered they are having their own election, but no one seems to talk about it much. Government here, it seems, has no need to be the center of attention of every news cycle. They don't tweet, spend a lot of money on TV advertising, and don't seem to stoop to the gutter politics that Americans respond to with such enthusiasm. Virtually every Bahamian national we have talked with finds that to be both a puzzle and a disappointment. They want to think better of us, but we are not making it easy. The Customs Agent who checked us in put it this way, "You guys are really embarrassing yourselves."

Beautiful plants and pine needle carpet on the path to another bay
We Americans like to think of ourselves as a good people, better even, than pretty much everyone else on the planet. But we flock to the atrocious, deeply flawed, and petty for leadership; as if the quality of someone's character is utterly irrelevant to the kind of leadership they will provide. This calls into question the quality of our own character, since we find these people acceptable. Well, some of us anyway. There is good reason to think that most of us know better, and tried to avoid having the current resident move into the White House.

Unfortunately the “some” who went the other way may be too many. After all, sometimes, when a person dies, most of their body's functions are still working fine. Its just the lungs that fail, or the kidneys, one little valve in the heart goes bad, or a tiny bit of blood leaks into the brain. Perhaps a few bacteria invade through a minuscule cut  on a finger or toe. In any case something small starts a cascade of failures, and brings about the demise of an otherwise healthy being.

From woods to brilliant turquoise water
It might be that America's body politic will survive this current fever, and I find it easier to be a bit more optimistic from this side of the Gulf Stream. We are among some of the most beautiful islands on the planet, islands filled with folks just going about their business without drama queen theatrics. Most days the sun sparkles on clean water. Both sunrises (of which I see few) and sun sets (those I normally catch) are spectacular reminders of just how much wonder fills this little corner of the cosmos. This is a place that overwhelms huge egos without effort, marking American's latest dalliance with authoritarianism and hubris as childish, petty, and (frankly) pathetic. But there is some hope that this current disease will not overwhelm all of our systems. If we are lucky our body politic will heal and, in the process, pick up a few anti-bodies to help fight off  future infections with similar DNA.

Just in case you get lost on your walk...
In the mean time Kintala pokes her bow in here and there, stops for a few days to hide from some weather or to hang out in a pretty place for a few extra days. Jumping through the Whale will be next, making our way into the southern part of the Abaco Islands. It has been a while since we visited Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbor, and it will be good, healthy even, to see them again.

While not a spectacular photo, it's an important one. It's the last photo that my Fuji S1500 will ever take (after many years of faithful service in the harsh marine environment). I tripped coming into the cockpit after taking it and dropped the camera on the cockpit floor. It was old and needed replaced, it had glue and screws holding it together, but I've lost a good friend.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Miscellaneous Picture Catch Up

Just some photos that didn't get processed before the last post.

Going up the creek (with a paddle) in the Munjack/Crab anchorage with our friends Lesley and Hartley

The creek at the Manjack/Crab anchorage. We went before high tide and it was only 10" deep in most places.

One of the beaches on Crab Cay near the anchorage.

A feral pig from Crab Cay. She had a litter of 10 babies so we were trying not to agitate her. She was looking for food
but we didn't bring any because we didn't know they were on this cay. She was extremely skinny.

She wasn't sure what to think about Tim

Checking each other out.

Ive decided to be prudent about how many large shells I bring back so I've taken to doing photos of the big ones.

Are you tired of Bahamian sunsets yet??

Enjoying the sunset through our screen house. Boy are we glad to have it here in Green Turtle with the noseeums.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wandering on

As I peck out these words, Kintala is anchored at Manjack Cay. It was three days of sailing to get here. The first, from West End to Great Sale, was a straight up motor. The main went aloft mostly for show. The little zephyrs were just enough to keep some shape in the sail, maybe shaving 10 minutes off the total transit time. We anchored an hour after dark (not Deb's favorite thing, that), south of a small gaggle of boats that had departed West End while we waited on a higher tide to get through Indian Cut.

The next day it was on to Fox Town. The zephyrs had grown into solid winds in the 10 to 18 knot range to start the day. Sailing off the anchor was easy and fun with the breeze aft of our north bound heading to get around the end of Great Sail. Turning the corner toward Fox Town, however, had the winds directly out of the direction we needed to go. So we tacked hard and sailed close. It was a good day of work, though we put in 41.5 nm to cover the 17 or so as-the-crow-flies miles. Still, my guess was it was nearly as fast a way to go as asking the Beast to pound directly into the wind and the waves. We would have barely made 4 knots, as opposed to the near 7 Kintala managed with her sails up. For the record, we flew the jib and staysail to get up as tight on the wind as we could, while the main was held to two reefs, since the wind over the deck was in the high 20s for much of the day. Hard on the wind and bashing away...Yee-Haw!

The original plan was to purchase phone sim cards once in Fox Town. But it was Sunday, and the weather forecast suggested that Fox Town was not the place to be in the next couple of days. Instead of heading into town to knock on the closed BTC office door, it seemed a good idea to take advantage of the now west winds and make sail to Manjack. We knew there was rain on the way, riding the edge of a small cold front but, having taken the worst beating of our cruising life in Fox Town, getting someplace better protected was a siren call that could not be ignored.

After clearing the anchorage, we flew just the jib, and really flew. The GPS had us at near eight knots, Kintala hissing happily along in the quartering seas, the wind vane working well. The wind, however, kept building. After a couple of hours the wind vane just couldn't react fast enough to hold our point of sail. Taking the helm was a bit of a workout until we made the bend that masked some of the wind behind Abaco Island. By that time the small cold front was closing in, and didn't look so small. When the thunder started to roll we traded speed for expediency, pulling in the jib, flying the staysail, and still making 5 knots. Even though we were off the wind, wind over the deck was still in the mid 30s. Yee-Haw!

With the thunder close and the rain curtain gaining rapidly, we woke the Beast and rolled in everything. Real sailors sail through storms, but I keep getting caught with my pants down and too much sail up. This time the caution was unnecessary. The front rolled over us with little ado and a bit of heavy rain. Things settled a little and we tossed the jib back out, once again doing close to 7 knots in the following seas. Yee-Haw!

Ah, but this little front was more like two fronts, neither one all that little. A second rampart of clouds started to build and, sure enough, I got caught with my pants down and too much sail up. Not near the disaster as the jammed roller in Biscayne Bay, but the jib flogged itself into some kind of overwrap part way up the stay and jammed, no more in, no more out. It looked ugly, but it was good enough. There wasn't anything I could do about it anyway, not on the pitching and rolling deck. Later, new friends we have been tag boating with since West End pulled in to anchor near-by. He asked what had happened to our jib. (It really did look ugly.) He is a retired pilot as well, so I answered that our Deck Monkey needs some recurrent training.

We hope to hang out here for a couple of days. Since we have been in the Islands the weather has been iffy, at best. Several of the boats coming into West End while we were there really took a beating getting across the Gulf Stream. One had its Bimini shredded in a storm. Others came in with seriously rattled crews, all glad to be in one piece and on a dock. One boat left West End heading for the States and was literally driven back by the waves and winds, making a night run through the narrow and breaker filled inlet to find the safety of the harbor. Not something I would have cared to do. Nearly all of us sat in West End until last Friday, waiting for some kind of reasonable weather to keep going.  (The exception was a 100+ foot mega yacht that headed out through the breakers without a care in the world. Even then, an even bigger yacht stayed put, leaving with the rest of us a day later.)

Forecasts now suggest Wednesday as the day to be tucked in someplace, and we hope to be in Green Turtle then. The timing will work for us. There is a BTC office that we might find open, we can top the water tanks, and pick up a little food.

Life in the Islands.

West End Bahamas

West End Bahamas
West End Bahamas

West End Bahamas

West End Bahamas

West End Bahamas

West End Bahamas

Much better view out the galley port!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Miss Mabel

Kintala is settled into a West End slip for a few days. Normally, we would be shy about paying to stay in West End for a few days. We like it here, but they are normally priced to the higher end of our cruiser budget, which makes hanging out in these parts a bit of an indulgence. Right now it is half of an indulgence. They took a pretty good hit from a hurricane a few months ago, and it shows. The beach is torn up, all of the hobie-cats and play boats were lost, buildings were damaged and the electric infrastructure was devastated. Power to most of the buildings has been restored but there is no laundry, limited hot water, and no power on the docks. They are offering slips at $1/ foot to make up for the inconvenience which, for a cruiser boat equipped for laying to an anchor and making its own power anyway, isn't an inconvenience at all.

Yesterday we borrowed a couple of bicycles and headed toward town. The bikes are always free here, but one needs to check the brakes before getting too far. I found a good one but it needed a bolt to hold the seat at the right height. No problem as we have lots of extra bolts on board. With my knees no longer bumping my chin, we peddled off. We got looks from passing drivers until we remembered they drive on the other side of the road here. It is a good thing we didn't rent a car, not that there is one available.

The Star Hotel cir 2017 after hurricane Matthew
As we got closer to the town, it was clear it had taken a real beating in the storm. Roofs were gone, walls caved in, and entire houses had been blown off their foundations. An old hotel/bar/rooming house, once famous in these parts when known at the Star Hotel, leaned precariously on crumbling pilings, its back broken. It looked like all it would take to knock it completely over was a heavy pelican misjudging a landing and giving it a solid thump. There were piles of trees ripped from the earth, bare branches covered with shredded insulation and plastic. It was disheartening to see. And yet...
Watercolor painting of the Star Hotel by Phil Brinkman 1962

Nearly everyone we passed waved an called out a greeting, including two gentlemen sitting along the sea wall, so we stopped to chat. Both had lost their homes in the storm, along with pretty much everything else they owned. Both talked of their love for this place, their respect for the sea, and neither offered a single complaint about the turn their lives had taken. Across the street a team of younger men were working on rebuilding a foundation, up the shore a backhoe worked, but the overall effort seemed small for the amount of damage done.

We rode on for a couple more miles, then turned back toward the marina. A man sitting in what was left of his shattered house waved and encouraged us to enjoy “this beautiful day of sunshine”. Another, sitting on the front stoop of a house with part of its roof missing and no windows, wanted to make sure we appreciated just how fabulous was the view out over the water. And then we happened across Miss Mabel.

There is no telling how old Miss Mabel might be. She talked of children and grand children, of how many of them lived in the states as US citizens, since her husband was an American. (That was all the mention he got.) She could have been near our age, but an aura of ancient wisdom graced her smile and sparkled in her dancing eyes. The proprietor of a small restaurant and video game room, I got the impression she took more damage than she would admit. Across the street from her place, along the shore, she had a table set up so people could sit and admire the sea. Though much of her family lived in the US (she had been with them when the storm hit) and she is, herself, a citizen, it was clear that her home is here. She talked, encouraged us to enjoy ourselves, and made sure we knew how welcome we were to sit at her table and enjoy the view.

Miss Mabel, and all of the people we ran across on our little bike ride, were a gift to me. Ever since landing in Snead Island I have been struggling a bit. I didn't take to this life to spend months punching a time clock, nearly a thousand miles away from many of the people I love most in the world. I didn't come this way knowing I would never learn to trust this boat. Months and months of working on the thing over the summer, including getting the alternator overhauled, and the engine doesn't start anchored to a lee shore with 20 knots worth of wind blowing.

Since leaving Snead Island, I have made a series of mistakes, running aground, getting caught in the preventer line, carrying too much sail into the channel and loosing control of the jib, and my constant struggle with just handling the boat in any tight place. The once-capable and self-assured pilot / mechanic surrounded by people he knew and trusted had become a tentative, half-assed sailor. And the people around? Like handling old dynamite.

I didn't come this way to tangle with people who think fascism, racism, greed, and hate are the hallmarks of a great people living in a great country. Make a simple statement of an obvious fact and some “true believer” is likely to go off. Living this life means constantly meeting new people, but “new” now means “unknown”. A Canadian cruising couple, just minutes into introductions, allowed that they were big supporters of the new “Muslim ban”. Fortunately Daughter Eldest called at just that moment, giving me an excuse to bail out of that conversation without having to explain. I used to enjoy the clash of ideas, it is how we winnow out the bad from the good. But figuring out what works and what doesn't isn't the goal anymore. Now it is just an issue of power, making everyone toe the line.

Miss Mabel and the others here have reminded me that this is not the “new normal” for most of the world. Boats break, hurricanes come, and no human being can control either one. Things rarely go as planned. Working months to refill a cruising kitty is a far easier task than working months (or years) to rebuild a shattered community or home. There is no cause to abandon joy in doing either one. Life happens to everyone. Miss Mabel also reminded me that only the wise can make claim to actually living well. Any claims otherwise are fantasy, illusion, or delusion, depending on just how twisted the mind has become.

So, hopefully, the next few weeks here will be a bit of a “re-set”.  News isn't something to bother with much, unless it is weather news. It is an effort to get to an internet connection, as our post log shows, so there are no hourly updates on the latest of powerful idiots doing stupid things. What they do will not affect the state of the seas or the winds today.

Sailing the Abaco Islands is a good way to brush up on basic sailing skills. No offense intended, but there is a reason for big charter companies being located in places like this. Even a klutz of a sailor has to work pretty hard to get in too much trouble out here. And we will spend a lot of time around people who are not “American Normal." Here in the Islands, I am around a whole bunch of people who are, quite simply, better people than me. Some are cruisers from various countries, some are natives, and all are helping me to get my sea legs back again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Here we are...

What seemed to be a better weather window looked to be opening up for a Sunday overnight, Monday morning arrival to West End in the Bahamas. With another cold front looking to arrive Wednesday / Thursday, and time slowly ticking away until we need to be back in the States, we decided to go.

All in all it went okay, we just finished checking in at West End and are nicely tucked away against the wall. The Dock Master wants us off the wall, but the wind is blowing about 20 knots out of the west and directly across the slips. I am just shy of dog tired and not that great a boat driver, so everyone agreed that we can sit just where we are until the winds fade.

There wasn't supposed to be 20 knots worth of wind. And there wasn't 20 knots worth of wind, particularly 20 knots worth of west wind, for the first 14 hours of the trip. What wind there was came due out of the east, directly on Kintala's bow. The main went up to catch what we could and to help steady the ride in the small but steady rollers coming from the north. (My guess is they were thrown off the big low up that way.) After a few false starts, the auto pilot decided to play nice, the Beast thumped happily along, and Kintala and crew motored happily into the sunset.

The rolling was enough to make it uncomfortable below, particularly for sea legs grown weak and unsteady by too many months on a dock. Even with the boat helm in auto, we took to spending off watch hours huddled on the floor of the cockpit; just like old times. We had departed No Name a bit early thinking that our planned 5 knot SOG might be optimistic given the lack of breeze and waves. Instead we spent much of the night at near 7 knots, unplanned help from the Gulf Stream. We did slow up once trying to pick our way through the line of cruise ships that parade out of Miami every Sunday night. I like to see at least a mile between me and one of those things going near 20 knots, even if it means going 2 or more miles out of my way.

One weird thing: 30 miles SW of West End, around 2130, we got buzzed by a low flying turbo prop. Not as big as a 'Hurk but bigger than a King Air. It was showing no lights. A few minutes later, a completely blacked out hull moved off of our line. We would never have seen him but he chose to head south to avoid us and was back lit by the recently risen, near-full moon. I managed to get a pair of binoculars on him as he moved away - big thing, but not really military looking. It looked like a shadow sketch of a mega yacht, but it also showed not a single light of any kind. My guess is we stumbled across a lurking security force, though what they expected to find on a direct line between Biscayne Bay and West End Bahama this time of year, other than a cruiser boat heading for the Islands, would be a mystery. It was all a bit menacing which, I suspect, is the intent.

With the early start and boost from the Stream, we raised West End by 0430 in the morning. The unexpected west wind blowing directly against the still outgoing tide made a night entry into the West End turning basin sound like a bad idea. We chose to anchor out instead, even knowing the anchorage is completely exposed to west winds, the holding can be poor, and we would be on a lee shore. The hook went down, as did the bow, with waves just washing over the deck and getting my feet wet as I worked at not falling off the boat. Even with 150 feet of chain out, there was no sleep to be found. Kintala didn't drag which, as it turned out, was a very good thing. At some point during the night the alternator apparently quit charging the batteries. Come morning, there was no juice to wake the Beast so we could move into the marina.

The little Honda proved its worth once again, and here we are.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Red Beast in the boat...

Not the Orange Beast in the White House...

After three nights on a Dinner Key mooring ball, two bumpy and one quiet, Kintala is back in No Name Harbor, provisioned up and ready to go. The original plan was to be in West End in the Bahamas early Thursday morning and, had we made the crossing on schedule, it would have worked out fine. If we had been slowed down for any reason though, say the WesterBeast went on strike and the winds stayed calm, we would have still been bobbing around out there come the afternoon. By which time the winds had ramped up to the 25 knot rage with seas approaching 10 feet soon thereafter. That was cutting things bit too fine for this rusty crew. We like weather windows that look more like garage doors.

I feel a bit bad about mistrusting the Beast as much as I do. After all, it was the v-drive that exploded right after we bought the boat, not the Beast's fault. Our struggles with water leaks is a Jabsco pump problem, attached to the Beast only by a drive belt. The poorly mounted, aftermarket alternator also hangs on the side, attached mostly by belt, and fails independently of anything the Beast might do.

The fact that the Beast is often hard to service is Tartan's fault, them having put the engine in backwards with the access panel on the wrong side. (The remote oil filter helped.) Indeed the only real failures that can be directly related to the Beast was the high pressure fuel pump fiasco in Oriental our first year out, and the heat exchange overhaul needed to cool its fevered brow. Those, and incessant minor oil leaks. (Maybe the Beast has a Harley Davidson somewhere it its lineage?) In fact the Beast thumped along happily for years with its prop shaft way, way out of true. All in all, the WesterBeast has been a prince.

Yet every time I reach for the start switch I expect nothing but mayhem and misery. I've driven 30 year old cars and flown 30 year old airplanes without having incessant heart burn over those engines letting me down. (Literally with the airplanes.) Really, I should trust the Beast more. I just don't know how, nor am I sure it would be wise. My suspicion is the instant I do start trusting that thing it will puke buckets of oil, toss pistons hither and yon, snap rods, swallow valves; and will do so just when an enthusiastic cold front is bearing down on my badly exposed hide.

For now I will keep making decisions taking into account that the Beast is old, tired, and not particularly well put together. It isn't really out to get me, but it isn't to be trusted either.

Now that is like the Orange one in the White House.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship with Dinner Key

Coconut Grove, FL is one of my very favorite places. There are beautiful parks to walk in, shops and restaurants set in landscaped nooks and crannies, loads of free or extremely inexpensive transportation options, a fantastic dinghy dock, a brand new marina complex with very nice and also very clean bathrooms, and a skyline view that is second to none, complete with awe-inspiring sunsets.

Unfortunately for us, it means being in the Dinner Key Mooring field to access it.

Don't get me wrong. There are many things to like about Dinner Key. The marina staff is great (especially Susan on the shuttle), and it's like cruiser central for meeting people, sharing ideas, and happy get-togethers. But the mooring field is horribly exposed and every time we come here I'm queasy half the time. Unless it's one of those very rare Biscayne Bay calm days, I can't do much of anything but lay around on the settee and read or play solitaire but, if it's like today, and if I have to put a huge load of provisions away while Kintala is bouncing around in 2 foot waves and creaking and groaning on her mooring lines, I'm going to have a vicious headache in less than 10 minutes and be down for the count in half an hour. It also makes for a very wet ride into the dinghy dock in the dink. Every time we dink into the marina, I look with envy at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club moorings in their protected harbor, all sitting calmly in flat water. We're excluded from those moorings because of our length, but one can dream.

Tomorrow we meet up with a bunch of fellow cruisers for breakfast, run our propane tank to get filled, get our pumpout from the pumpout boat, and get ready to head back over to No-Name Harbor to stage for a crossing to the Bahamas. I'm torn, because I really, really love this place, but the calm, protected waters of No-Name are calling me.

Lesser American

Kintala stayed anchored in No Name long enough to enjoy another weekend party. The harbor was as empty as we have ever seen it on Thursday morning, with just five boats scattered here and there. Friday was quiet, even Friday night. But by mid-afternoon on Saturday the harbor was full and the wall boasted boats rafted two deep for most of its length. America having a good time. Except...

According to current American mythology most of the people around me were not “real” Americans, certainly not “real” when compared to someone like, well, me. Admittedly Spanish was the language of choice, with much of the music echoing across the harbor being Spanish as well. In spite of that, everyone I stopped to talk with spoke English as well as I do, with many of the younger people chatting happily away in English as well. The music switched back and forth between the two languages, and people sang along with the tunes either way. It was clear that the vast majority of the people around were bi-lingual. That would make them both better educated, and likely smarter, than I am. How does that make them the lesser American?

Deb speaks Spanish, as do two of my daughters. I would like to speak Spanish. Are they lesser Americans than I? Will I be a lesser American if I ever master the skill?

Many of the people around had slightly different physical characteristics than mine. Some sported slightly darker skin, others had a different cast to their facial features, with darker hair and darker eyes. That wasn't much of a surprise. I am pretty much the whitest of white bread, with most of my ancestors hailing from places like Germany, France and Ireland. Indeed, so far as I know all of my ancestors more than three generations past were born on a different continent than the one I claim. Clearly many of those at the party were of a different lineage. Their ancestors lived on this continent a thousand generations before my ancestors even knew this continent existed. Their genealogy has its roots buried deep in this land, back into the ancient mists of time and history. How does that make them less American than me?

What ever else Kintala might be, she is a modest kind of sailboat. More than thirty years old, pinched at the stern, with a generous amount of tumblehome and low freeboard. To anyone who knows much about boats she is either a “classic” (if one is generous) or a “tired old boat” (if one is tasked with keeping her in ship shape). In No Name on a party weekend, she is also akin to a partially restored VW Van surrounded by Corvettes and Porches, with the occasional Lamborghini rumbling by to turn heads. When it comes to consumerism, the American Dream, and making it big, the party goers in No Name are clearly more dedicated to the cause than the crew of Kintala. They likely pay more in taxes than I spend in a year to eat and buy boat parts. How does that make them the lesser American?

Most of the gatherings in No Name on a weekend are obvious family groups. Kids play like kids do everywhere, teenagers play coy like teenagers everywhere, parents watch, grand parents dote, grills grill and dogs bark. The dynamic is the same as that in any back yard in Kansas or any park in Iowa. According to the demographics the people in No Name for a weekend party are less likely to divorce than those in Kansas or Iowa, while being more likely to take their religion seriously. They are family-oriented and god-fearing.

Yet, somehow, many believe that those from Kansas and Iowa are, like me, more the American.

A myth they share with the the President of the United Sates of America.

My guess is none of them will ever be American enough to realize just how wrong they are.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hanging on a hook

Hanging out in No Name Harbor over a weekend means just one thing, watching the party. We like this  place, though I'm not sure I can explain why. Power boats apparently have a lot of wattage in their electrical systems to spare. They can drive massive sound systems capable of many decibels. When four of them raft together, each crowded with enthusiastic young people, things can get near to being out of hand, and very loud. But that can be kind of fun. Around 2300 hours last Saturday one such raft up started pumping out “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights” of Meat Loaf's “Bat out of Hell” album. It is an okay song, I didn't usually reach to turn it off when it popped up on the radio in the Z car. (Unlike anything from Ted Nugget, which immediately got the ax.) But I have to say, when a boat load of young people starting singing the lyrics back and forth, guys v gals, it was just hilarious. This old guy sat on his old boat, smiling at the energy and just pure fun that was radiating across the harbor.

It was good to hear a bunch of younger people just having a raucous good time. Life on Kintala is not normally raucous. When it is, when sails are flapping and the boat is pounding away while we try to figure out what to do next, we don't normally think of it as “good”. Nor are we (more me than Deb) much for bigger groups. I can take a crowd at some kind of event, but a “gathering” of more than eight or ten isn't much my thing. The impromptu mini musical echoing across No Name was pretty unique in my experience.

No Name has changed a little in the year since we were here last. There are new garbage bins to keep the raccoons from trashing the place every night, a nice touch. They installed an outside faucet just so boaters could have access to water. Another nice touch.

The latches and locks on the bathroom doors don't work. In fact the guts are completely missing. Who steals the guts out of latches and locks on bathroom doors? (Apparently someone does.) We bumped into some park employees fixing things in the laundry this morning, and they assure us the new parts are on the way. When asked about the inoperative pump out they assured us that new parts were on the way for that as well. It seems that someone broke the fitting off of the hose so they could use the pump out to vacuum their boat. That is one seriously deranged person there. No wonder land dwellers have a somewhat negative view of full time cruisers. It seems a few real twitches in our tribe are giving all of us a bad name.

Not that such things deter people from coming to No Name, but that group seems to have changed a little. Though there are a couple of cruiser type sail boats nearby, Kintala is surrounded by more big power yachts than I ever remember seeing in here. There was always one or two, but now they are the majority of the boats along the wall and anchored off either side. There was also an Antares 44i anchored nearby for a few days. We haven't seen one of those things “in the wild” for ages. I had forgotten how much I liked them even though they are multiples of times outside our price range.
Boats that draw approval from Kintala's crew share one characteristic that always draw the comment, “We could fit a lot of grand babies on that one.”

Frankly, such musing on the boats in No Name are simply based on the thrashing we took getting here the other day. Kintala is an old IROC racing boat with a tiny cockpit. No matter how hard we try she will always be potential hand-full under sail; easy to over canvas, cockpit always full of running rigging, and heeled pretty hard in anything but light, or off the stern, winds. Her auto pilot will always be far less capable than even the most basic units now available. She will always be a salad bowl sitting at anchor and storage is always going to be a problem.

And we will never be able to fit very many grand babies on board.

There are boats shorter than this one with two usable cabins, two heads, and much more space below. They also have much more room to work the sails, and a big cockpit, and an auto pilot that is a true "third crew member." It probably can't happen. We are, after all, pretty deep into “budget cruiser” territory when in comes to money we have to spend just living, let alone buying another boat. Hence the need to work. (A quick look uncovered a 44i for sale at ¾ of a million dollars. Yikes!)

But it is a nice thought.

In the mean time we are working toward launching for the Islands. There is no hurry. In some ways I am still getting back to my “normal” after the summer of work. Reading is a big part of the day. “Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness” and “Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon that Reimagines Space and Time” have been thought provoking and enjoyable. Heidegger's “Being and Time (recommended by my Philosophy Major Daughter Eldest) is proving to be slow going.

That's okay though, “slow going” fits life on a sailboat.

So we are still in No Name. The furling system is fixed; the head sail restitched in a couple of places. No real damage was done to the boat, or to me. We did some work on the auto pilot, attempts to smooth out the rough edges on its backyard engineering. I suspect it will get tested out in a day, or two, or maybe three. Coconut grove is next, a mooring ball in Dinner Key. For now we are on the hook, in a pretty place, with no time pressure to do anything, and even spent an evening having sundowners with two other full time gypsy couples. (Including the crew of the 44i.) All some of the best parts of cruising, and we are just enjoying being back, while not pressing too hard to move on.