Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sugar Daddies

Content warning; yes, I am going there again...

We have a friend who works in the “service industry”. We wanted to visit so called to see if we could meet for lunch. Turns out she was working that day, 12 hours, and didn't get a lunch break. Really? I though that was illegal. And it is, sort of. Turns out she wasn't really working a 12 hour shift, rather she was working a double; two six hours shifts stacked end to end. Six hour shifts don't required a lunch break. Nor, I suppose, ever qualify as overtime.

Two thoughts occurred to me. The first was that is is shameful for a country that claims to be a first world society, indeed the leader of the free world, to let such a subterfuge be legal. The second was that anyone who demands (or even allows) such from those who actually perform the work from which they take a living, is a miserable excuse for a human being who should be publicly shamed. Publicly shamed, since they are clearly not moral enough to be ashamed without help. (Actually, about the only people who think we are the leaders of the free world anymore are, frankly, us. And shame is a concept that we haven't dared countenance for years, least we collectively die from it.)

Of course there will be a chorus of voices claiming that, “If she doesn't like it she should just quit.” If you are one of those voices, think about it for a minute, then please be quiet. For you are assuming that there are other, better jobs around. An assumption that is completely false. (Or, as delusional thinking is labeled these days, an “alt-fact”.) More to the point, treating anyone that way is simply unconscionable.

Mind you, I don't have a problem with long shifts, having worked and managed more than my share over the years. The problem is demanding people work those shifts without even getting a break to get something to eat. Oddly, treating an animal that way can get you thrown in jail, so it would seem fair for the owner of that store to face a little jail time. To make room for him we could let free a person who is locked up for doing nothing more harmful than smoking a little weed.

It would, of course, be somewhat less shameful if this was something unusual in America today. But it isn't, and we all know it. The middle class in this country wasn't sacrificed to “outsourcing”, The good jobs haven't gone to undocumented workers. (Unless you count automated machines that are out of warranty.) We didn't all suddenly turn lazy, taking to demanding welfare checks so we can spend our days sitting around smoking crack and having babies. The middle class went away because we gave up on honoring labor. We took to worshiping greed instead, and have been for administrations going back decades. It seems that many of us thought we would, somehow, be the beneficiaries of that greed, and thus become rich ourselves; another of those “alt-facts”.

We are so enamored with money and greed that we went and found ourselves a Sugar Daddy to be President. He promises to dress us up pretty, buying us the most expensive of nuclear weapons to hang in our cleavage, making us the envy of the world. He is going to build a giant wall around the mansion to keep the lower classes away, and to remind us how special we really are. He will surround us with armies of special ops "security" to make sure no one, anywhere, ever says anything bad about us again. That mean little Muslim who dared call us a "whore" is definitely going to get his.

In exchange he gets to tell us what to wear, where to live, what parties to attend, what we are allowed to say, and who our friends are going to be. He does expect us to keep telling him, and the whole neighborhood, just how much we adore him, and how great and wonderful it is that we get to be with him. In fact we are never allowed to criticize him in any way about any thing. After all, since he is perfect, any criticism would have to be a lie.  And yes, he gets to screw us silly anytime he feels the urge. From his point of view that is pretty much the whole reason for the arrangement in the first place. But those who take up with a Sugar Daddy know that as well. 

Unfortunately it was a kind of shot-gun wedding. Only about one out of four of us said "I do", but find ourselves with his ring on our finger anyway. So this is likely to get awkward.

Those of us who don't need, don't want, and think that both sides of a Sugar Daddy arrangement are repugnant, are going to react in various ways. Many have already taken to the streets in protest. (The fact that the women of the country are leading on that score makes me smile.) President Sugar Daddy is apparently upset by that, and getting new rules made to stop us from being so disobedient.

Some, this being America, are likely to take a more confrontational, and potentially violent, stand. After all, it was Candidate Sugar Daddy who brought up the "Second Amendment Solution" during the campaign. Bad idea really, but then he seems to be full of them. I hope it doesn't unfold that way. There is too much potential for collateral damage, windows get busted, the good china gets smashed, everyone in the neighborhood is embarrassed, and stray rounds can find their way across the yard and into the kid's bedroom next door. 

A divorce of some kind would be the best route out of this mess, but there are the lawyers, prenuptial agreements, who gets to keep the big jet, which of the houses get sold, and how to untangle the bank accounts. A divorce is likely to take a while, and in the mean time we can still get hauled off into the bedroom. (Sugar Daddies, and this one in particular, have strange ideas of what a marriage allows.)

I fall into the camp of those who are simply going to be "unfaithful."  Not really protesting...much. A lot of people (not near a majority but a lot) elected to move in with the Sugar Daddy. They are already getting what they bargained for, and have no complaints coming when repeatedly summed to the boudoir for a “romp”. Who am I to tell them they can't live that way? But rolling over and joining them isn't particularly attractive either.

I think I'll just slip out the kitchen door and hang out in places where the Sugar Daddy doesn't go and doesn't care enough to bother. There are many places were self reliance, honesty, and true compassion are still the norm. There are many places where no cares about race, where they believe in true freedom of religion, and don't mind pitching in to help a neighbor. A little caution is necessary. Our Sugar Daddy appears to be a touchy, easily angered, little man. Best to move quietly and stay below the RADAR as much as possible.

Off the grid
A small boat, mobile and independent of the grid, makes a really good kitchen door. We can't let our infrastructure (boats) crumble, can't pretend things are working when, in fact, they are not. We rely on each other to pass true information, lies and alt-facts will get us hurt or worse. Most of us will help someone out if we can. Partly because that is simply the right thing to do, and partly because we know we are going to need some help someday. We meet all kinds of people who don't live exactly like we do, look exactly like we do, worship the same god we do, and have a different history. Yet we know they are not our enemies, just fellow travelers. 

Sugar Daddies often have a short self life, spend themselves bankrupt, and even their kept lovers get tired of them. President Sugar Daddy looks to be a particularly flagrant, vain, childish, and manipulative example of the breed. Simple facts seem beyond his grasp, and the idea that some people don't really care for him and his Sugar Daddy ways looks to drive him to near distraction. America may tire of him pretty quickly.

Or not. America can be flagrant, vain, childish, and manipulative herself. Facts are not really important, and anyone who doesn't care for the American ways of doing things? Well, they don't get a Christmas card. After all, those who take up with a Sugar Daddy are not shining examples of humanity either. 

Maybe, someday, a really astonishing thing might happen. America might shed her love of money and quit looking for the next Sugar Daddy to protect her from the real world. Should that ever come to pass, she will find herself  in the good company of the honest, the capable, the mature, and the likable. 

It is a much better way to live then shacking up with a Sugar Daddy.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


Airplane drivers are regulars at “debriefings”. After every sim session during recurrent training the crew and instructor retire to a briefing room. There, every decision made during the session will be rehashed, along with a diagram of the flight paths just flown. Such discussions are particularly enlightening when the flight path diagram ends up in a simulated smoking hole in a field somewhere. Just like in racing, you can't really know just where the line is until you bin a couple. That's why all good pilots love simulators. You get to try things you would never try for real, and crashing doesn't hurt anything but the ego.

Kintala left Boot Key and motored sailed to Rodriguez Key for a beautiful night in a nice anchorage. The next morning she headed for No Name Harbor. The forecast suggested there would be enough wind to let the Beast take most of the day off. And so it was. The only real challenge was that the Hawk Channel isn't particularly wide and the wind was directly off the stern. Normally we would have just spun out the head sail, and we tried that. But there wasn't enough wind to get to Biscayne Bay before nightfall. So we got bold and flew the main as well, setting the sails wing on wing; head sail flying off the port side, the main on a preventer, flying off the starboard side.

We haven't done much wing on wing in Kintala. Usually the head sail is all we need and, well, wing on wing sailing is (for my money) a lot of work and some risk. Getting the wind on the wrong side of the main sail and having it slam across the boat is a nightmare thought for any sailor. Rigs come down that way, booms get bent, and to do it right one also needs to use a jib pole on the head sail.

I have never made friends with the jib pole. With a back still a little stiff from hauling the anchor out of the clay of Boot Key, after it was set by days of 30 knot winds, I wasn't enthusiastic about dancing on the foredeck with that unwieldy and cantankerous thing. But it was the sailorly thing to do and, someday, I hope to be a sailor.

After my normal amount of fumbling around the jib pole was set and the preventer secure. For a couple of glorious hours Kintala flew up the Hawk Channel with her wings spread wide. Deb even tamed the wind vane and it was working like a champ. A great point of sail, vane working, following seas, flying does it get any better than that?

But the channel bends a little, and the winds were shifting a little, and the fun had to end. It did, with two fingers of my left hand tangled in the preventer and jammed against a cleat just as the line picked up the load from an accidental jibe cased by a passing powerboat wake. It was an interesting (and painful) couple of seconds before Deb cut me free with her knife. (Mine, of course, was down in the cabin where I always put it at night so I don't forget it the next morning.)

Hand now free and still functioning to a degree, we managed to get things back under control and sailed on. Me pretty embarrassed at such a bone-headed move. Deb still a little buzzed by the adrenaline hit. A few hours later things got really interesting.

By time we made the markers for the channel into Biscayne Bay the wind was a solid 25 knots. Kintala was humming along at better than 7 knots, with a lot of sail up for that kind of wind in a narrow channel. Too much, actually, which is why I had considered dropping the main while still out in the Hawk channel and easing our way into No Name at a less frantic pace. Considered, but didn't mention. Later the effort to reduce the head sail without being able to turn much in the narrow channel just off the light house point proved...unfortunate. The furling line back-lashed and froze, there was no rolling that sail in. Believe me, I tried. In fact I tried so hard that the lazy sheet got away from me, spun out into the wind, whipped around the forestay, and ended up in the water on the other side of the boat. With the wind behind us there was no way of getting the main sail down either.

With the line trailing in the water all the way back to the prop, any thought of waking up the Beast, turning into the wind, and getting things under control went away.

We blew past the entrance to No Name at better than six knots, head sail flogging, sheets flying, and Deb working hard at the helm just trying to keep everything together. I scrambled madly around the deck not accomplishing much of anything though, eventually, I did get the wayward sheet under control and back on the boat. Deb woke up the Beast and sailed us into the bay proper, where we had enough room to actually turn up into the wind. I dumped the mainsail into the lazy jacks and tried to un-jam the furler, which was a no-go. Deb saw me getting ready to drop the jib to the deck but, at that moment, I was trying to remember which halyard was which. The stay sail is on a furler as well and it has been a couple of months since we put those back on the boat. Finally I just picked one and let it free. It was the right one, the first break of the day.

As the jib started down Deb swung the bow just enough to put the flogging clew inside the life lines. I wrestled the wayward sail down onto the deck, a rope burn on my left arm and the loss of part of the fingernail on one of the fingers already mashed was the only toll required.

I was glad to pay up. Sails down and Beast rumbling, I tried not to think about the anchor still tied, pinned, and cabled. Should the Beast join in the fumbling of the day it would be questionable if the hook could be dropped before we were blown into shallow water. But sometimes the very worst doesn't actually happen, and we limped into No Name.

We had planed on using the pump out station there, then anchoring for a couple of days. It turned out that pump out station is out of service. That would be five out of five. We tried to get pumped out before leaving Boot Key. Not a single marina had a pump out in service, and the pump out boat was booked full for the next couple of days. We couldn't get on the list before the weather window north closed.

So we are tied to the wall near the inoperative pump out in No Name. Our tank is full so the bathrooms here are the only option until we figure out what to do next. The Park Ranger, being told that the boat was broke, I was hurt, and the holding tank was full, was kind and understanding. He told us to say tied-to as long as we need to figure out our next move and get the boat back in sailing shape. The jib is flaked and stored on deck, the main sail is flaked, tied, and covered, halyards are secured, and Kintala and her crew safe and secure.

We did so many things wrong today, yet did everything right we needed to do to keep from hurting the boat or getting hurt too badly ourselves. (I'm a mechanic, smashed fingers and burns are pretty much a regular occurrence. The minor bang ups of today hardly count.) Oh, and just to add insult to injury; while flaking the jib I managed to put my bare foot deep into an ant hill. It still feels like it is on fire.

We are still not exactly sure how to characterize today. Back in my old life I actually knew what I was doing. Today, more than three years into my new life, I don't seem to have a clue. Tomorrow we will start fixing things, re-assembling things, and try to find a pump out somewhere in Florida that actually works. I am all for not pooping in the ocean, letting the land dwellers add my small contribution to their overwhelming flood of sewage. But if they are going to pass “no discharge” laws, the least they can do is give a person a chance to comply.

And that's the debriefing for today.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Riding the storm out...again.

In the wee hours of the morning the line of thunderstorms passed over Kintala, announcing its arrival with winds of 58 knots, slightly more than the one in Fox Town. There were tornado watches, tornado warnings, and spectacularly vivid lightning. Rain was so intense that the visibility was reduced to mere feet, making it impossible to see if anyone had pulled an anchor loose or dropped off a mooring ball. The good news was that the deluge lasted for just a few minutes, replaced by a more normal driving rain. The bad news was someone had indeed pulled an anchor loose. As the visibility improved, Deb spotted a rapidly flashing light off our port side, clearly a warning signal of some type. Sure enough, just off our bow a boat loomed out of the night and, just like in Fox Town, appeared to be dragging directly for our anchor, and our bow.

Out on deck, soaked in the driving rain, we started to untie fenders, having prepped the cockpit before the weather arrived in case we needed to wake the Beast for just such a contingency. The dragging boat started to weave back and forth across our bow, her own engine at work while the crew struggled to get the hook back into the mud. They were close, got no closer, and eventually – as the storm passed to our east – managed to get settled back in.

The waves inside the protected anchorage at Boot Key

The storms have passed but the wind hasn't eased much. It blew constantly in the 40's throughout the night, and is forecast to do so until midnight tonight. Tomorrow it should ease into the high teens, then finally fade away. It is uncomfortable. The boat is making a slalom run on its rode, heeling and lurching at each turn. Coffee cups tumble and fall if inadvertently set aside and forgotten, anything that can roll and slide, will. Coffee and cereal may well make up most of our diet today. We are around 36 hours into this slice of weather, all sleep caught in bits and snatches that are not really sleep, just burning minimum energy until the next lurch, gust, or noise demands attention. Cooking is not much of an option.

Though the wind is slightly worse than it was in Fox Town, Boot Key Harbor is much better protected from building waves. Here in the anchorage waves break at two feet or so, and there are people sitting in their dinks pumping out the rain from last night. Kintala's Ding is lashed to her foredeck, our normal procedure for a storm. The boat that broke free was trailing her dink as she motored back and forth, and it had me worried. This morning I can see that they tied it high on a bridle, making it impossible to snag the line in the prop. But I couldn't see that last night. Most of the boats around us, though, are trailing dinks with lines in the water. Drag in a storm, catch the dink rode in the over.

Today will likely pass much as yesterday, though winds of 30 to 40+ are harder to live with than those of 20 to 30. (And there are a few more storms starting to pop up on the RADAR. Small, but this may not be over yet.) We will read, do a little writing, watch a video. Videos are good because they come with sound, and earplugs help dampen out the constant moan of the wind. For me that is a trying sound, making conditions feel much more uncomfortable than they really are. The longer it goes on, the more trying it becomes.

Maybe we can be on our way by Wednesday.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ups and Downs...and ups.

Kintala is safely holed up in Boot Key, riding out a blow expected to include wind gusts up to 35 knots. There are a lot of boats crowded into the safe spot, all on short rodes, so the next 36 hours should prove interesting. Protected or not, boats have been known to saw through their mooring lines or drag an anchor to rampage through the rest of the fleet. Yet we are very content to be where we are.
The anchorage at Boot Key Harbor

Just a few nights ago Kintala was not a happy boat. Lying to a poorly set anchor while trying to figure out a place to ride out the upcoming blow looms as a pretty big deal when everything one owns is at the end of the decision making list. Boot Key was the only real option within a reasonable reach, but it was rumored to be full with boats anchored outside waiting for a spot. And “outside” would be a terrible place to ride out this weather. The original thought that it wouldn't be that big a deal had disappeared. To quote Marine Weather for the area of Boot Key, “Monday: West to Northwest winds 25 to 30 knots. Seas 9 to 11 feet...building to 10 to 13 feet.”

One of the worst beating we have taken was in Fox Town, where the seas were every bit of 6 feet, maybe a bit more, lasted nearly 6 hours, broke over the bow...and we broke the boat. Winds gusted to 50 knots, blew steady at 40, but we did have a little protection. Waves twice as high and lasting twice as long while sitting out in the Florida Straights? That's the kind of thing that can bring an end to cruises.

Had Boot Key proved to be full, we would have anchored north of Marathon, which would leave us bare faced to the weather when the front passed and the winds swung to the west-north-west. Marine Weather again, this time for the bay north of Marathon.“Monday; West to Northwest winds 25 to 30 knots. Bay Water extremely rough.” Not sure what “extremely rough” means, but it sounds better than “10 to 13 feet.” Not a good time, but perhaps no worse than Oriental, Charleston, or Fox Town. Still, 3 days of little sleep, little food, and seriously uncomfortable motions (aka; taking a beating) is not a happy thought. That became our last, and not very good, option. You know some bad calls have been made when the options list is reduced to one.

A Marina stay could have been an option, the cruising kitty somewhat flush from the summer's work. A four night stay could be had for a little more than a week's worth of after taxes pay. But marinas in this part of the world are pretty full this time of year, and many have approaches that will snag a 5 foot keel. Calling around made it clear that a slip for our Tartan just couldn't be had. Even if one could be found in Boot Key, the transient slips are pretty exposed, lying right at the inlet. Those folks are going to have an ugly weekend, dock or no.

Back in Factory Bay I had pulled up the latest Prog Charts and saw what could be a bad-looking possibility playing out. Marine Weather and the GRIB files didn't go out enough days to offer details on the coming cold front, but it looked like a lot of isobars were fixing to gather over Florida, and the winds were going to be fierce. Deep in the reptilian part of my brain, that bit mostly tasked with self preservation, I wondered if staying in Marco Island for a few days to see how things panned out might be wise. And it would have been. But, clearly, I am not that wise.

Now the do-do was getting deeper, with options being reduced to Boot Key or taking a thrashing.

So we left Little Spanish Key just after dawn, picked our way through an absolute nightmare of crab (or maybe lobster) pots hiding in the rising sun, and made the Moser Channel well before noon. That gave us enough time to backtrack through the Channel and head to the north side of Marathon should Boot Key be stuffed.

It wasn't. Tight? Yes. Stuffed? No, or at least not when we got here Friday. It is Sunday now, the blow arrived last night, and the place is pretty stuffed now. (Why do these things always arrive at night? This one forecast to last through today, tonight, tomorrow, and into tomorrow night. So last night was night one of three.)

Before the weather arrived we had a chance to visit with friends from Carlyle lake. Dennis and Petra own the marina where we started this little adventure. They spend part of every winter living in a picturesque spot at one of the nearby keys. After getting settled in, we dumped the Ding into the water and putted down near the channel entrance for a happy hour meet.

Riding back through the bridge into the anchorage after our happy hour visit with Dennis and Petra

So I wasn't concerned when I should have been, got concerned when it was too late to do anything but came up against poor options, and ended up sitting pretty safe with only minor concerns after all.

Ups, and downs...and ups.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Real life

Kintala and her crew have been on the move, trying to escape the confines of the shallow waters and crab pot mine fields of the Gulf of Mexico and the west coast of Florida, though it has had its charms. A day out of Factory Bay we set the anchor just outside of Shark River. There was no need to venture further inland as the winds were light and variable. It was the first time since getting to Snead Island months ago that we enjoyed a place dark and quiet, far away from the light and noises of modern society. Venus and Mars were glowing bright enough to leave their own reflections in the placid water while the silence was so complete that one's ears hurt, trying to find a purchase in the unfamiliar quiet. I couldn't help but wonder. With nearly half of America's population now living in cities and suburbs, just how many of my fellow citizens ever experience a place where human kind is so obviously unnecessary to the workings of the world or the history of the cosmos? And if more of us did, would that make us a different kind of people than we have turned out to be?

The sun reflected in the water off Kitala's side in a rare moment without crab traps

It was a special evening set in the middle of some not-so-special days. Truth to tell, if I were a full time live-a-board cruiser whose only cruising choices were the west coast of Florida and the eastern Gulf, Kintala would have a “FOR SALE” sign hung on her bow and we would be looking for an RV. Two full days of picking our way through crab pot haven, and finally getting out of the Gulf, have left us anchored up near Big Spanish Key with poor holding, little protection, and nowhere else to get to before night fell. Crawl Key was the anchorage we had been aiming for after coasting over the shallows of the Big Spanish Channel (even at near high tide the depth gauge read “0” at places). But it was completely covered in crab pot markers. With some daylight left, we moved on and ended up here, a place with a bit more swing room. Which is good. Even the Mantus couldn't find a purchase in the few inches of sand covering coral, and we are lying to its 65 pounds of weight and more than 100 feet of chain. It will likely be enough to keep us in place, but it will also be a night of restless and troubled sleep. The night's forecast of light winds has already proven to be in error, and we are currently bouncing and bumping against the anchor chain. Two different anchor alarms are set and, should it turn out that we need to move and attempt a re-hook, picking out the crab traps will be nigh on impossible in the darkness.

Pulling into the anchorage at Shark River on the very last of the sunlight after 10 hours and 40 minutes and 59.7 nm

This is only my second time sailing through this part of the world, but I am failing to understand other people's enthusiasm for the place. Still...

Dolphins have been nearly hourly visitors, rather than a rare treat. We have seen more big turtles in the last two days than we have seen in the last two years. We even saw what we think was the fin and wake of a large shark, off the port side, doing whatever it is large sharks do in the Gulf of Mexico. (I know, pretty much anything they want to do.) That makes a kind of sense since we were heading for Shark River at the time.

Tomorrow we hope to gain Boot Key, though it may be too full for us to find a place to hind from the cold front due Sunday / Monday. Winds of 35 knots are forecast, along with thunderstorms. Should there be no room for us in the inn, at least the anchorage outside has good holding. After riding out a 50+ knot storm in Fox Town a couple of years ago, and with an additional 50+ feet of chain to lay down if necessary, the front should offer nothing more than a couple of days of discomfort and another night or two of little sleep. While in (or near) Boot Key, we hope to address a couple of minor mechanical issues. The brand new remote oil filter we installed last summer has an oil leak. And the
brand new water pump we also installed last summer, (which has less than 50 hours of run time on it) has developed a water leak at the front seal. (The same issue that caused us to replace the old one.)

Welcome to the real life of a full time cruiser.

Of course, another part of the real life of a full time cruiser is the Abaco Islands. With any luck we will see them again before too many more weeks have passed.

As daylight waned, the horizon became indistinct
Backing down on the anchor as the last light fades
The sunset at Little Pine Key

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On the move, slowly.

This morning Kintala nodded to the rising sun from Factory Bay, Marco Island. We stopped here on the way north and, except for bumping the ground on our first attempt to gain the anchorage, liked the place. There were no such dramatics getting in this time, “previous tracks” are a marvel of modern navigation.

Leaving Charlotte Harbor
Where we did bump the ground was exiting the canal in Punta Gorda two days ago. “Bump” isn't really the right word, “stuck fast” is a better description. Trying to get away early in the morning on a falling tide maybe wasn't the best choice. But there was a long day's sail ahead and, well, stuff happens. So after paying four years' worth of premiums to Tow Boat US, we finally got the opportunity to try out their service. Barely an hour after fudging to a stop in the soft and sticky mud (and providing the morning entertainment for those walking and fishing in the park), Kyle had pulled us free and out into deep(er) water. No harm, no foul, and excellent service all around.

If you sail the ICW, don't leave home without it.

We had been giving longer, outside runs to the Keys serious consideration. Two or three nights worth of passage making would have had us there already. Assuming, of course, one didn't get tangled up in one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of crab pots polluting the water even miles off shore. I know, crab fisherman need to make a living, and people like eating crab. But the crabbers have effectively confiscated the west coast of Florida for their own use. Picking one's way through in the day is possible, though in bigger waves than the ones we have seen so far it would be difficult. Trying it at night is a pure crap shoot. Maybe next year we will try the “sail 50 miles west during the day then turn north or south as appropriate and be on your way” approach. For, truth to tell, the combination of crab pots and shallow water is getting rather tedious.

Great Blue Heron in the Venice Inlet
Still, we are in Factory Bay, on the hook, and it is sure good to be back to our chosen way of living. We even had sundowners with newly met friends, who are also new to cruising. We met on Rascal, their 42 foot Jeanneau DS. Good folks on a sweet boat. Reasons to come this way.

There hasn't been a lot of sailing going on yet. Yesterday, just after leaving the channel off Sanibel Island, we saw a glorious hour of reaching, starting out with the two reefs in main left over from the last romp with Daughter Eldest and Family. (Yep, its been that long since the main was put to serious use.) We had to heave-to for a few minutes at first to reconfigure the auto pilot from “tiller pilot” to “wind vane” mode. That is every bit as much of a pain as it sounds, but that's what happens when one layers back-yard engineering onto marginal-in-the-first-place equipment. It all works and we have learned to live with it. In fact, I am a bit proud of how well it seems to work most of the time.

As the winds faded, we shook out first one reef, then the other, hanging onto the sailing as long as we could. Eventually though, it was clear that night would fall on the lurking crab traps long before we would gain the entrance to Marco Island. No need to heave-to for the auto pilot reconfiguration this time. Kintala was effectively drifting in placid water.

Figuring it out as we go. Stumbling a bit once in a while. But still making progress. Not too bad. Not too bad.

Thanks, Dave for teaching me that this was an Aninga not a cormorant.
The duplicate of the Vietnam Vet Wall located in Punta Gorda, FL

The Captain is happy to be on the move again.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hard Starting...

Not the Merc on the Ding, that starts pretty easily. It is getting it to idle that is difficult. What proved hard was getting back to cruising, getting off the pier.

A manatee showing us how to relax
Friday was the initial start day. Daughter Eldest and Family departed before sunrise. The plan was to have Kintala underway shortly thereafter. A blustering cold front made leaving the dock problematic, and the oven was having ideas of its own. Ideas that included fluttering, popping and puffing flame balls. Ditch the idea of leaving the dock. Heading out with an oven that was threatening to turn into a hand grenade would be pure lunacy. There is enough of that in the world without my contribution.

There were other small tasks that needed done as well. Good thing, since the oven gremlin was elusive and persistent. It took until Sunday to root him out and send him on his way, with many thanks to Todd at Sure Marine for his troubleshooting help.

Sunday. Oven was fixed. Water tanks were filled. But man was it cold. Monday would be good. We could leave early in the morning. And with that thought in mind Deb went out to check all of the boat's exterior lights. All of which worked except for the bow navigation lights. I am a boat spark chaser, we are sitting in a boat yard that has, and can get, parts. It seemed kind of silly to head off with something like the navigation lights not working. Still being hooked to shore power meant we could at least fend off some of the cold with our little space heater. Monday was planned as a work day. Departure day to be determined.

Monday. Monday morning a water leak was evident by the regular cycling of the pump. Deb found it in less than five minutes. I went to work on the navigation lights. It was just a burned out bulb. Snead Island had the right one in stock. Fixed.

The now properly repaired jib pole didn't fit in its improperly installed brackets any more (thank you previous owner). Since we were (still) in the boatyard I pulled the aft bracket and remounted it to the deck in a place so the pole would fit. It is better than lashing said pole to a stanchion. And the missing battery voltage at the helm charging plug wasn't missing after all. The adapter(s) we kept trying were shot. Get a new adapter and all is well with the world.

Monday afternoon. The days of delay have left us a little short on provisions. Deb borrowed a car to make a run (thank you Nice Man at the Marina). Our bikes went north with the kids, better than leaving them down here to slowly rust into a pile of dust. When she got back it was still just early afternoon. The winds had faded, the sun was out and warming the air, and there didn't seem to be any reason to stay any longer.

While Deb sorted the last of the provisions I topped all the water tanks and started undoing the snarl of lines and power cords that had become Kintala's nest. It all became a bit surreal, but finally, after 285 days of sitting at a dock, we gathered in the lines (instead of leaving them attached to land) and motored out of the basin.

We didn't go far, just out to the anchorage in the Manatee river. Barely a quarter of a mile off of the beach and maybe a mile from the dock, the anchor went over and took a good set. Yet, somehow, the little distance traveled was enough to find an entirely different universe. How can that be?

The sky is clear. The air is cool but the setting sun warms my sweatshirt and reflects off of blue water. Cold front winds have settled down to a gentle breeze, though Kintala swings to the incoming tide. And I am a bit stunned. How could I have forgotten how good it is to be swinging to the hook, with so little care as to what the rest of the world is doing?

A new view out the galley window
There is no telling what the next few hours will bring, let along the next few days or months. But at this moment, though there may be people in the world as content as I am, there is no one more so. Kintala is free of her restraints and on her way once again.

And so am I.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Quiet morning

One of the best parts of this cruising life is the (normally) quiet start to a day. Alarms, the blaring of TV news, traffic, and the bustle to make a schedule are not a part of most cruising days. Some time spent sitting in the cockpit sipping from a warm cup and easing into another day is more our speed. 

Kintala lies quiet to her mooring this morning; really, really quiet. Most of her crew for the last month caught the pre-dawn ebb tide of traffic and motored off into the fog for places north. And though one would think that being back to her normal crew of two would make the boat feel bigger, it just feels empty.

At least some of the empty will get filled with final preparations for finally getting off the dock. The romping Bird-Day sail sprung a fuel leak and showcased the need to tighten up the side stays a little. While cleaning the bilge of fuel we discovered that the bilge pump “auto” function wasn't working. Part of the work just passed included installing a new, high tech, “field sensor” equipped, low profile, pump that would suck the bilge nearly dry. Which it does, so long as the high tech “field sensor” part of the pump is squeaky a bilge. Add a regular cleaning of the bilge pump to the routine maintenance list, and take that pump off the “good idea” list. A really good idea would be a bullet proof pump and a simple float switch that works, slimed up and smelly, after weeks of sitting in a dark, damp, and dirty place rarely visited. (The fuel leak turned out to be the gasket under the tank sending unit. An easy fix, and now we know about the weak link in our bilge pump system. Not a bad deal.)  

There is a fan that needs changed, the oven is acting up, and we need to change the filter on the holding tank vent before the tank starts getting filled up once again. Stores need stored and some needed general clean up of the deck and cockpit testify to having had seven people living on the boat for the past month.

It looks like a passing cold front will keep us on the dock for the weekend, bringing storms, wind, and much cooler temperatures starting this afternoon. There will be plenty of work to keep us busy while we wait for a break in the weather. And though I freely admit that the relentless effort needed to keep a boat safe and operating is not one of the things I enjoy about cruising it will, for this weekend anyway, make it easier to get used to quiet mornings again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Bird-day

Grandson eldest turned eight yesterday. His little sister talked about his “Bird-day” from start to finish. The start was kind of early since the main thing the Bird-day Boy wanted for a present was to go sailing. The rest of us were glad to oblige.

Winds were forecast in the 10 to 20 knot range. Since there were no plans to set speed records nor anywhere in particular we needed to go, two reefs were set in the main with the plan to fly the staysail most of the day, should the wind forecast prove accurate. The crew hurried a bit to get Kintala off the dock while the morning doldrums lasted, which also gave us a chance to try and reset the wind indicator in mostly calm conditions. It was the second effort. Deb took over the button pushing part while I just steered the boat as instructed. As usual when a woman is doing something, the nearest man (me) kept offering completely useless advice. And, again as usual, tactfully ignoring said advice was the only way to get the job done. In this case finishing the job resulted in our wind indicator actually working for the first time in over a year.

“Mostly calm” still meant 10 knots or so of wind being available to get down the river and out into Tampa bay. It was easy sailing mostly off the wind. With just the jib flying, Kintala nearly steered herself, so the “Bird-day” boy was given the helm and tasked with us down the channel safely. Our eight year old Captain did an excellent job, making Grampy T a proud Grampy indeed.

Gaining the bay, young Captain and the rest of the crew wanted to sail under the Skyway Bridge. Being tighter on the wind, the main went up to help balance the helm, though I'm sure we looked a bit odd with a double reefed main flying behind a fully deployed jib. It worked out okay and we headed for the bridged doing close to 5 knots, Grandson Eldest reluctantly giving up the helm in the more challenging conditions.

Nearing the bridge the winds started to falter, requiring some tacking to manage the clearing. On the far side of the bridge there was a bit more wind, making for an easy turn to start the sail back to Snead Island. Going under the bridge for a second time it became clear there was more wind everywhere. A lot more wind. Kintala heeled up on her “go fast” lines and we romped off, still flying the big jib. It would take a couple of long tacks to make the river, which was okay with everyone. Daughter Eldest used the heel to settle under the dodger, Granddaughter Youngest snuggled in her lap, both of them nodding off for a much needed nap. Yes, we were heeled hard over and bashing our way down the Bay, but Mothers of two-year-olds everywhere will understand.

The next tack saw us rolling in the big jib and flying just the staysail, the thought being to settle the ride just a little. That didn't really work so well. Without the power of the big jib we bounced over the waves instead of blowing through them. The jib went back out, along with the staysail, and off we romped once again. Now I'm sure we looked really odd, both head sails flying full with two reefs in the main. But ye ol' Tartan was happy and the helm was only moderately loaded, so we let it be.

Besides, we were running comfortably at well over six knots. If it works, don't fix it.

The next tack would have us gaining the river, so the big jib was rolled in. Hard on the wind we where showing nearly 30 knots of breeze flowing over the deck. Even falling off didn't completely unload the sail. The Deck Monkey struggled a bit at the furling line, but the jib rolled in so tight it looked like a toothpick on the forestay. I wish I could get it to look like that every time.

Working the wind, taking advantage of every lift and occasionally pinching up a bit, Son-in-Law (wanting his own time at the helm) worked us through the narrow part of the channel and into the open part of the river out from the Snead Island inlet. The staysail rolled up (not looking as good as the jib) while the shorted main fell into the lazy jacks with little effort.

We gained the dock with just a little bit of a stumble, caused by (you can guess) who thought he was grabbing the upwind stern dock line when, in fact, it was the leeward line in his hand. Kind of useless for keeping the wind from blowing the stern askew. The rest of the crew stepped up to keep things from getting ugly.

All in all Kintala covered more than 34 nm in 8 and a half hours of raucous sailing. Afterward the “Bird-day” Boy got his pizza dinner and chocolate cake, (complete with a matchstick for a candle) and opened a couple of presents.

I'm pretty sure my eighth “Bird-day” wasn't anywhere near that cool. I suspect Grandson Eldest and the rest of the family will remember it for many a year.

It was likely the last sail we will take with Daughter Eldest and Family before they come back for the summer. The rest of the week will be taken up with provisioning runs and errands, the last minute details for getting them back to St. Louis for the next semester of school, and us back to cruising.

Happy Bird-day indeed!