Friday, January 30, 2009

January 29, 2009.

As you all know we’ve been sitting here, with our plans up in the air for a few weeks, but we’ve made a decision and we are once again, Bahamas bound!

So, the first order of business was to take an inventory of exactly what we have on board. This year we will have to provision for the trip in a week, as opposed to last year where we had months to prepare. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as we have supplies crammed everywhere. The V berth looked as if someone put everything from your garage into a clothes dryer and ran it for an hour. So we spent this afternoon removing everything from the V berth.

Christy had a brainstorm and called Jay from Far Niente to see if we could leave our bicycles in their garage while we’re overseas. Jay said “no problem”, so I put the bikes up in the cockpit so we could really see what kind of room we’d have available. Once everything was cataloged and restowed things looked much better. We try really hard to keep a running inventory of all the spaces that we have for storage. We keep an ever changing list of what’s where. Each locker, shelf, cubby, bin, hanging hammock, bilge and various nooks & crannies (which are not much bigger than an English Muffins) has a list of contents. You wouldn’t think that it would be that hard to locate anything on a 42ft boat, but let me tell you……

Christy spent the better part of the day emptying every locker. She inventoried canned goods, paper towels, tooth paste, engine oil, pretty much everything. While she was busy at that, I ran to West Marine to pick up a few last minute items. We also received a few of the things that we’ve ordered through the mail.

On my way back from the store I stopped to take a few pictures of these pelicans chasing some dolphins. When I went up to the marina to catch the bus I saw them and they were still at it when I got back an hour later. The dolphins were swimming in lazy circles and it seemed that they were antagonizing the pelicans who reacted by chasing after them. They even took off and flew just a dozen feet or so and plunged into the water in an attempt to “get” them. The dolphins would in turn circle back under the pelicans and “goose” them into the air again and again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24, 2009.

It seems that we’ve survived another Florida cold snap. Thank god because I don’t know if I could take another night sleeping with the dogs. Its like sleeping in a running clothes dryer full of hammers. Little feet and elbows everywhere.

We’ve had some questions about what we eat while we’re living on the boat. Living on a boat doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make big sacrifices in the food department. Well, I guess it would depend on the boat, but we enjoy most of the modern conveniences that land folk do. We have a refrigerator and freezer, a microwave, a 3 burner stove and oven, a toaster oven and a BBQ grill. The biggest difference is that all our “conveniences” are pretty much dollhouse size. It takes a little getting used to but really, we eat the same types of meals as we did on land.

The weather was warm enough today that while we were walking to the open air Farmers market we were down to shorts and T shirts again. The vegetable market is about a 1 mile walk out towards the ocean. The selection was great and we picked up corn on the cob, green peppers, green beans, lemons, snow peas, broccoli, limes, scallions, mangoes and a cucumber. Evidently, at one of the stands they let one of the Mexican guys write the signs.

Speaking of food, the other night when Christy was going to grill some chicken breasts it was so cold she decided to bake them in the oven to help heat the boat. Dinner made both my tummy and my toes happy.

Tonight we had some grilled salmon with rice and a vegetable medley after a first course of steamers. So we’re once again warm and as always, eating well. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 22, 2009.

The last time I wrote I mentioned that we were also being affected by this cold air mass hovering over much of the country. Last night the temperature plummeted to about 32° outside. The temperature inside the enclosure seems to stay several degrees warmer than that even at night. The lowest temp I saw inside the enclosure was about 38°.

So, with this round of low temps that meant that everyone on board would be spending the night below decks. Molly and Tucker usually spend the night topside unless the temperature is going to drop below 55°. So along with Molly and Tucker, boat plant Bob and the Five Spices were brought below for the night.

We lit the Candle of Warmth along with the Lantern of Incredible Balminess and watched in horror as the thermometer continued to drop. In a last ditch effort to keep from getting frostbite, I put on my pair of socks. I only have one pair of socks on the boat so when Christy saw them come out of the drawer she knew it was serious. Sock Time, it’s a lot like Hammer Time but without the entourage and the ridiculous pants. (<~obscure MC Hammer reference)

Since we’re not on a dock, connected to shore power, that means that we have no heat. We could run the generator to run an electrical heater but running the generator all night is out of the question. We did have a portable heater that ran on a one pound bottle of propane. A lot of boats have them and swear by them. The bottle only lasts for about 4 hours but it’s good enough to heat up the boat and get you through the night. We HAD one. I happened to walk past ours and spotted flames shooting up from the adjustment knob so we returned it to Home Depot the next day. Having a small uninvited fire breaking out on the boat was enough to cure us of wanting another Mr. Heater, Lil’ Buddy portable boat heater on board.

We knew that it would be really cold so we let the dogs sleep with us in the aft cabin instead of on their bed in the salon. In the past we’ve tried to cover them up but they end up with no covers, shivering uncontrollably. They can’t seem to grasp the whole concept of “covers good, cold bad”. So we tucked em’ in with us and they stayed warm all night in spite of the temperature dropping to 46° inside the boat.

The sun was brilliant once daybreak arrived. Immediately the temperature inside the cockpit started to climb, eventually making it into the seventies. Boat Plant Bob and the Five Spices spent the day basking in the sun along with the rest of us.

We have one more night of cold temperatures and then were supposed to have a warming trend. So I guess tonight will be a lot like last night but maybe just a bit warmer, maybe?

We were treated to a glorious sunset looking out over the mooring field.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 20, 2009.

Yes, we’re still here in Vero Beach. We got the last of the results back from our various doctor’s examinations this morning. Everything looks good so now we can reexamine our itinerary for the immediate future. We were beginning to feel as if we might become permanent residents here.

I called Barrack today to congratulate him on the whole inauguration thing. He was pleased to hear from me and made sure to tell me that he would see to it personally that my retirement funds would stop shrinking and once again become the pillow of comfort that I had grown accustomed too. I just hope it happens before I turn 90. He had to get off the phone rather quickly as he said he had to help Joe get Mrs. Biden out of the punchbowl before she starts blabbing to Oprah again.

The brutal cold snap that has enveloped most of the country has reached us here in Vero as well. The sun was out today and it was warm enough but the temperature is supposed to dip to about 32 degrees for the next few nights.

Last night we attended a party held at Jay and Di’s house. It seems that Nancy has a knack for putting together themed parties and The Far Nientes offered to host. It was a Key West theme party. Everyone who attended had been sent an email invitation with a list of ingredients to bring.

Upon arrival you picked from a hat to determine what job was yours for each course. The job choices were Host, this job seemed to be the best as you got to sit on your ass and pretty much schmooze with everyone. Another job was Bartender, which meant that you made any and all drinks and made sure nobody went dry. Next was Wait Staff, you set the table, filled the plates, served the food and washed the dishes. The fourth job of course was Chef, that’s right, if you drew Chef, you were cookin’.

So for the appetizer course, I drew Chef while Christy drew Bartender. Fortunately, for all involved the teams were set up to be boy / girl. Tessa drew the job as my co Chef. That worked out pretty well because she’s actually cooked a meal before so that gave us a huge momentum boost in the kitchen.

The appetizer on the night’s menu was Cajun Jerked Shrimp. When you pulled your job from the hat the recipe for your entrée was provided along with instructions. So, I dumped the seasoning into a large bag of shrimp, shook it up and then placed the shrimp on skewers, then I took the skewers out to the grill while Tessa started to make the “goo” for dipping. While we were slaving away in the kitchen everyone else really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Once the shrimp were grilled and the goo was ready, the food was served. No, not by Tessa or I, we had staff for that. The Wait Staff took over and served up the shrimp, the Bartender kept the glasses full and things went great and the Hosts seemed happy.

While the Wait Staff cleaned up the dishes, jobs were drawn for the main course. This time I drew Chef, again, damn. Luckily, along with the job assignment we were provided with the recipe once again. This time Christy was the fortunate one who drew the job as co Chef. The entrée was baked Mahi Mahi smothered in lemons, oranges and onions served on a bed of rice.

Simultaneously the Salad Chefs prepared a large mixed green salad that was a huge hit. In spite of the crowd in the kitchen, as the Wait Staff washed dishes and the Bartenders worked furiously the meal was perfection personified.

After dinner was completed, the dessert jobs were drawn. This time I drew Bartender, YES, a job I feel comfortable in. It was pretty easy too as it seemed that while I’d been slaving away in the kitchen the rest of them had been hittin’ the bottle pretty good. Just top up this, refill that, it was smooth sailing. I might have hit it a bit myself because for the life of me I can’t remember who the dessert Chefs were. The dessert on the other hand, I’ll never forget. A wedge of Angel food cake surrounded by coconut sorbet, lemon sherbet, fresh papaya, fresh mango, fresh kiwi and pineapple slices.

It turned out to be a great night full of laughter, food, friends and fun.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12, 2009.

I spent the morning jugging some water back to the boat. Then we went down to the local pub so I could watch the Giants throw the season away. It wasn’t as disappointing as I thought it might be, and now I have next Sunday open. Stupid football.

As I’m sure you know, we do an awful lot of reading here on the boat. I’ve been reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. The eldest girlchild gave it to me for Christmas and I’ve just gotten to it. The title sounded interesting so I was looking forward to it. It turns out that by the History of Everything the guy is talking about the freaking universe, including our planet, the stars, galaxies and all the space in between. Don’t let me get started on quarks and the fabric of time. It’s a damn science book that’s evidently been written by the king of the nerds.

The first thirty pages of this book almost killed me. It might be the driest, dullest thing I’ve ever attempted to read. It’s as painful to read as if I had sand in my eyes. By the time I got to page 60 I was hoping for an aneurism.

Then a funny thing happened, I can’t put it down. No, I didn’t have a stroke. It’s actually been pretty thought provoking. It’s the first book that I’ve ever read that I’ve stopped reading to interrupt Christy in whatever she’s doing and said “Did you know…….?” It’s turning out to be a great book and I highly recommend it. You’ll love it, as long as you don’t kill yourself trying to get through the first few chapters.

On a much lighter note. There’s a guy down at the far end of the anchorage that rows his dinghy back and forth every day. Today there was a light breeze from a favorable direction so he popped open an umbrella. He used one of his oars as a rudder and sailed the length of the anchorage with surprising speed. Kinda Mary Poppins goes cruising.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January 7, 2009.

Its been a few days of routine maintenance for us among other things.

The other day Jay asked if I would mind being hauled to the top of his mast to reinstall his anemometer (wind speed thingy). Its kinda funny but when I was a kid I hated heights. I worked as a carpenter for a few years and my feet used to ache when I got down off a roof. My feet actually had cramps from my toes trying to dig through my boots in an effort to get a better grip on the roof.

Anyway, now it doesn’t bother me anymore so up I went. The reinstallation was straight forward and was over quickly so I used the opportunity to take some pictures of the anchorage from the top of the mast.
As you can see from the photos most of the boats really rely on solar power to keep things running.

Today while Christy went to shore and did laundry I went about the business of changing fluids. I changed the engine oil, the transmission fluid and the oil in the generator. After I was done I picked Christy and the clean laundry up. After a quick lunch we were going to hop on the bus to take care of a quick errand but something came up.

The weather. Luckily we checked the weather radar before we left the boat. There was a really nasty line squall headed our way. It looked ominous on the radar and the text forecast was babbling on about possible 50 knot winds. Since we’re rafted up to two other boats on a single mooring we thought that we should stick around just to make sure things went okay.

When the wind first hit the boats were all facing southwest. In an instant we were all facing northwest. The initial gusts were so violent that all three boats heeled so far to port that our fenders popped out from between the boats. I had just enough time to reset all the fenders before the rain came.

The wind and rain only lasted a half hour or so and after that the sun popped back out and things went back to normal. We did see a gust of 45 knots but for the most part the wind was between 20 to 25 knots so all in all it wasn’t so bad.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

January 2, 2009.

First off, Happy New Year everyone. Things are going along nicely here in Vero Beach.

Jay and Di picked us up and we all went down to a huge marine salvage shop. It was mostly geared towards powerboats but a lot of the items they had crossed over and were of interest to us sailors.

The place was comprised of 2 huge warehouse like buildings connected together with another acre of larger parts located outside. We’ve been to a couple of really cool places like this before but this place put them all to shame.

There was aisle after aisle of gauges, water and fuel tanks, hatches, hardware, bimini frames and sunbrella. There was just so much to look at we spent at least an hour wandering around.

We decided to celebrate our News Years Eve in a little bit of an unorthodox fashion. We met up with Jay & Di from Far Niente and Jeff & Tessa from Inamorata at the Riverside at 1800 hours. The Riverside Café is a great waterfront pub that we can easily dinghy to, but the whole staying up until midnight thing was going to be a problem though. We’re just never up that late so we decided to do things a little differently. Instead of celebrating midnight Eastern Standard Time we opted to have our toast at Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that midnight was at 1900 hours EST, perfect. Celebrating New Years on Zulu time had us on our way home just after 2100 hours. Personally I think it’s a habit that all sailors should adopt.

Once back on the boat I settled in to do a little reading and Christy headed off to bed. Just as I was about to turn in the VHF came to life. A vessel broadcast a Pan Pan. A pan pan (Pronounced Pon Pon) is the second most serious of the three safety notices that you might hear on the VHF.

The first and least serious is a Security call. (pronounced securi-tay) You might broadcast a Security Call if you were in a narrow area with a bad current and you wanted to tell other boats that you were about to transit the area. This way if there was a tug and barge about to enter this tight spot from the other direction then he would be aware of your presence. That way he could speed up and get there while you’re still in the tight spot and scare the hell out of you. At least that’s the way it often seems.

The third and most serious call is the Mayday call. (pronounced helppp!!!) You only use mayday if you’re in imminent danger such as fire, sinking, heart attack onboard, etc. You need help….NOW. You broadcast a mayday and everything stops and everyone listens in case they’re in a position to help. We’ve heard mayday calls that have mobilized Navy and multiple Coast Guard assets.

On this night however I heard the following. “Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan…. hello all stations this is the good ship Carnival Sensations starting man overboard maneuvers at position yada, yada, yada.” That was it, just one time and the guy was calm as hell. The guy didn’t say it was a drill or practice he just said that they were starting man overboard maneuvers. About 3 minutes later the Coast Guard called him and asked him if it was a drill or did they really have somebody fall in the water. The guy answered that they did indeed have a crew member fall off the boat and it was not a drill.

The Coast Guard asked a bunch of questions and learned that a 26 year old member of the ships entertainment had fallen off the boat. There were a half dozen people that saw him fall and one had the brains to throw a life ring over the side. The radio exchange was agonizingly slow and was on the verge of putting me to sleep.

I finally went to bed and found the incident on the internet the next morning. The Coast Guard had sent a small plane, a helicopter and at least one boat to search the area. Since the incident had happened 21 miles offshore they were looking north of where he had fallen because the edge of the Gulf Stream was right there.

I read somewhere that this was the seventh person to fall off a cruise ship this year. Kind of hard to believe that so many people fall off those big ships. This guy fell over 80 feet to the water. Hitting the water from that height would be pretty violent so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t drown even before the ship turned back for him. They Coast Guard looked all the following day and nothing was found.