Friday, March 30, 2012

The Eagle and the Osprey

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.86 W 080 15.46

Osprey are marvelous at fishing.  I've blogged about that before.   When the Osprey decides that it is time for dinner, it seldom take him or her more than 15 minutes to catch one big enough to feed the whole family.  

Then they have the problem of flying back to the nest carrying that heavy load of fish.  Sometimes, they have to take it in several legs, stopping to rest.  Sometimes, the fish proves to be too big and too heavy and the bird is forced to drop the fish to avoid crashing.    Their skill is remarkable.  Last year I blogged about an osprey in the Neuse River near New Bern.  He was able to fly two feet above the water and then climb 10 feet just as he approached the nest high on a piling.  The eight foot climb bled off airspeed so that the bird stalled his flight just inches above the nest, and dropped gently on target.  Awesome skill.

Eagles too catch fish, and among them the bald eagle is most spectacular.  However, I don't think the eagle's skill matches that of the osprey.  A couple of weeks ago in Boot Key Harbor we witnessed a real life nature drama.   Another boater first spotted it and he cried out for others to watch.

An osprey caught a fish and he was flying back to his nest with it.  A bald eagle spotted this and decided to rob the osprey's fish rather than catch his own.   They flew past us with the osprey doing evasive maneuvers with the eagle about 40 feet behind.    For a few seconds it seemed that the osprey outsmarted the eagle.   He dove down to a level below the mast heights of the numerous sailboats in the mooring field.  The eagle was unwilling to do that so he backed off.   But it didn't last.  Soon they were past the mooring field, and the osprey lost its cover.  The eagle pressed the attack.  When the eagle closed to within 15 feet of the osprey, the osprey dropped the fish.  The eagle dove and retrieved the fish from the water before it sank.

We felt privileged to witness the little drama.  Now my awe of the osprey's skills is even more.  In addition to it's flying and fishing skills, it must have been able to look over its shoulder to see what the eagle was doing behind.  That is truly amazing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Okeechobee at Night

Port Mayaca
26 59.17 N 080 37.85 W

It is fun to think out of the box once in a while. We were planning on getting to Clewiston around 17 00 and anchoring for the night.

Instead we got the idea to keep going. One more hour of motoring and we made a turn into open water with 15 knots of wind 40 degrees off the bow. It made a very nice sail close hauled. After an hour, the sun went down. The moon and planets and stars are spectacular.

Now around 2200 we arrived totally mellowed. The wind is gone and we are anchored out in the lake. In the morning we can navigate into the water way.

Life is good. Opportunities like this must be seized. Carpe Diem.
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Dick & Libbys List of Great Places To Live

En Route, Caloosahatchee River
26 47.52 N 081 08.D

Our stay in LaBelle was thoroughly enjoyable.  In fact, we went back to that BBQ restaurant last night and I had the best fish I've ever tasted.  It was breaded and fried, and it has a marvelously delicate taste.  I have no idea what kind of fish it was.  I think the real point is that Southern Cooking at its best is delicious.  Anyhow, all that enjoyment started Libby and I talking about places we like and inspired this blog post.

After discussion, Libby and I narrowed our list of favorite places to live.  Note that many places are fun to visit,  Burlington, Whitehall, Waterford, Elizabeth City, Oriental, New Bern, Fernandina, Vero Beach and Marathon just to name a few.  But a smaller list of places strike us as ideal places to live.  Here's our short list, all dating to our 7 years of cruising.

  1. Belfast, Maine
  2. Vergennes, Vermont
  3. Newark, New York
  4. LaBelle, Florida

At first, these places seem to have little in common.  But in our view the common thread is strong -- the people.  In  each of those places we felt that we would fit right in with the townspeople.  That we would be welcomed, and that we would enjoy the town and our neighbors.  It is the people more than the location that motivated our choices.

Don't jump to the conclusion that this talk is a precursor to us wanting to settle down.  In our discussion, Libby and I agreed on two major hindrances to that.  First, after 7 years on the go, we are veteran nomads.  We have the nomadic life style in our blood.

Second, we are thoroughly spoiled about ambient temperatures.  Every fall we go slowly south, following the pleasant temperatures.  We stop at 25 degrees North latitude.  Every spring, we go slowly north, following the pleasant temperatures, stopping at 45 degrees North.  We live year round with no heat, no air conditioning and with the windows and doors open in ambient temperatures 60-80F (16-27C) 90% of the time. and (45-85F) 99% of the time.  We know of no place in the Eastern USA, where we could live year round without heat or AC.  Perhaps San Diego is the closest such place, and I'm not sure about that.  Maybe readers can suggest places we don't know about.

p.s. Tomorrow we plan to cross Lake Okechobee.  Then we will be on the Eastern side of Florida.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Carnivore Heaven

LaBelle, FL
26 46.13 N 081 26.29 W

Several friends and family have in recent years become totally or partially vegetarian. We too eat much less meat than we used to. It just isn't attractive as it once was. Well, that outcome may have been totally different if we lived in the South within reach of a top BBQ restaurant.

We went to that restaurant I mentioned.  The name has changed, now it is Honest John's Log Cabin BBQ.  Boy were we glad.   I had pulled pork and Libby got Prime Ribs, both were absolutely delicious.  If that weren't enough, the ambiance of the place was great.  We did people watching.  We bantered with people at nearby tables.  We marveled at the pictures of local color on the walls.  A farmer came in with his family.  His face, turned to leather by the sun, was a dead giveaway -- it was the most stereotypical farmer's face I recall seeing.  He and his family were in a great mood anticipating the good food.

If that weren't enough, the new owners of this restaurant offered us complimentary Brunswick Stew before the meal and complimentary ice cream after the meal.   Wow, what a great time.  I'd like to return there tonight to try their fish.  Last night others were raving about how good the fish was.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Jewel of Florida

Caloosahatchee River, Florida
26 45.55 N 081 27.56 W

We haven't been *everyplace* on Florida's waterways and rivers yet. For example, much of the Saint John's River we have yet to see. However, among the things we *have* seen, Libby and I agree that this Caloosahatchee River between Fort Myers and Lake Okechobee is the best Florida has to offer.

Florida's coasts are populated by northerners and retirees. There are too many people, too much money, far too many cars, and too little culture. Here, we are in the interior of Florida. It is predominantly agricultural. Lemon trees line the river banks on both sides. The culture here is closer to the traditional Florida Cracker. Even the waterfront homes we see seem to be from another era in the 1950s or older.

The natural scenery and the wildlife along this river are wonderful. My best comparison is Otter Creek in Vermont. Long time readers of this blow know how Otter Creek sends us into wild excursions of euphoria.

We're coming soon to Labelle. On our first visit there, we found the town to be charming a prosperous. It was like a transplanted Mexican city, filled with Mexican farm workers. On our second visit, it was depressed, because the 2008 recession had wiped out the jobs for those workers. We hope that this visit will find Labelle restored. At the very least, I hope to have dinner at Skeet & Sara's Log Cabin BBQ. Years ago we had the best BBQ meat we ever tasted at that place. I still fantasize about that BBQ meal I ate there years ago. I blogged about it here. I'm not online right now so I can't look up the link for you.

By the way, we want to give bad reviews to Fort Myers aa an anchorage. We took a mooring there from the city marina so that we could have shower and WIFI privileges. But the weather turned nasty and the river became unbelievably rough. I can't remember a less comfortable night and day spend on the boat before. We almost needed seasickness remedies. My advice, continue up the Caloosahacthee past the Franklin Lock, and stay at the Franklin campground. That place is well sheltered and tranquil.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Look At the Sky

Fort Myers

We just looked out at the sky. Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent Moon form a spectacular triangle. If you haven't seen it, rush outside.

We're glad, until now the weather since yesterday has been rotten.
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Day With Edison

Fort Meyers, Florida
26 39.09 N  081 52.49 W

Mission accomplished!  Libby and I both spent the day at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates.  It was great fun.  We're glad we did it, and sorry that we missed it before.

It was especially meaningful for me, because I'm a disciple of Thomas Edison.  You see, Edison hired Nikola Tesla to invent electric dynamos for him.  Tesla said that Edison offered to pay him a $50,000 bonus for key patents.  When the patents were won, Tesla went to collect his bonus but Edison reneged.  An angry  Tesla stormed out, and later worked with George Westinghouse to pioneer AC electric power.  After a long struggle, AC beat DC.   Edison and his GE company were forced to switch to DC to meet the competition.   Edison hired Steinmetz to be his chief engineer in Schenectady.  Steinmetz was the first to understand and document the mathematical basis of AC power.  After that, engineers could analyze designs analytically.  From  Steinmetz  , to R H Park, to C Concordia, to G Kron, to FP deMello, the tradition of analytical engineers continued in Building 2 of the Schenectady Works. From 1900 until the 1970s, those guys in Schenectady produced more than 50% of the whole world's patents. It was the Mecca of engineering. In 1966, I started in the Schenectady Works in Building 2, under FP deMello.  I took the desk of Gabriel Kron who retired the day I started, and I learned from Concordia.  I was a very privileged young engineer.

Below is a slide show of today's expedition.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nice & Easy

Fort Meyers, Florida
26 39.09 N  081 52.49 W

That was a nice and easy outside passage.  Moderate winds, almost no waves, no becalmed periods, not too hot, not cold, no rain, no threatening traffic.  That leaves little to complain about.  It was just plain nice out there.   Besides, at three times during the passage we picked up a dolphin pod escort.  With good luck like that, what could go bad?

The distance from Marathon to the Fort Meyers inlet is about 120 nm.  We allowed 24 hours. As it turned out, we had to take down sails to slow ourselves down to avoid arrriving at the inlet before dawn.  Navigating at sea in the dark is fine, but it is not nice on the ICW or similar waterways; especially those we aren't totally familiar with.

We arrived at Fort Meyers, just after noon and picked up a mooring.  Then we took a well earned nap.

Tomorrow, we aim to fulfill our real mission here.  Two years ago we came t o Fort Meyers, but did not go to the Edison house/museum because the admission price of $20 each was too high.  Blog readers let us know that we made a bid mistake -- it is well worth the $40.  Tomorrow we'll rectify that.

p.s. Trouble with the new propeller.  Oh no!  I'll write more about that later.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Northward Ho

At Sea
25 04.82 N 081 18.37 N

We finally managed to depart from Marathon. It wasn't without incident. Just before raising anchor, there was a short, very intense, rain squall. Then it seemed to clear and we slipped our lines. Then, of course, another squall came through.

We passed under that sagging wire with much trepidation. It seems that yesterday's report of a 61 foot mast making it safely under was doubted by many. There was still a bunch or boats afraid to leave. We were the first. We got under OK.

Another boat hailed us on the VHF. Did we make it OK? Yes. How tall is our mast? 47' Disappointment. They wanted me to report that I made it with a 65 foot mast. Could we estimate the clearance? I asked Libby. She said we cleared by several feet. That could mean anything from 2 to 20 feet clearance. Sorry people, I can't help more.

But now we're flying. Out in the Gulf of Florida. Winds at 20 just behind the beam. Tarwathie is doing 7 knots and she's very happy. The sun is bright. The water is a lovely lime green. We have an escort from a pod of dolphins. Seas in Florida Bay are very small when winds are easterly, so the sailing is fast and comfortable. It doesn't get much better than that.

Our plan is to sail overnight and to arrive in Fort Meyers in the morning.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The prop nut

Here is a picture of the special prop nut and zinc. I would think that it should come pre-drilled for a safety pin, but no.



Not Quite Farewell To Marathon

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

This morning, with help from Brian and neighbors, I went up the mast and replaced the anchor light with a new one.  It does not appear to be working, but now the cause must be below, not aloft.  Sigh.

Next item, the safety pin on the prop nut.  I studied the nut carefully, and it would be very difficult to drill a hole where I need it.  That's because of a flange that changes the diameter.  The hole would have to span both diameters, making it impossible to drill.  I'll take the chance without it.  There is Locktite on the threads, and the nut is very tight.  Sigh.

Next item.  Remember the blog post from a few days ago about the catamaran that did a "wheelie" when his 75 foot mast struck the 65 foot power line?  Well, now that power line sagged down to less than 60 feet.  Rumor was that it sagged to less than 40 feet.  Boats trying to get in or out of the harbor were damaged as they too hit the sagging line.  The news traveled up and down the East Coast, and soon everyone heard abou tit.  I think it was that catamaran that did tht damage.   Flash update -- a boat with a 61 foot mast made it under the wire this afternoon; the sag must have been corrected.

We have the dinghy on deck and secured.  The bicycle is on deck and secured.  The generator and wires are stowed and secured.  The Monitor self steering is rigged and ready.  We're pretty much prepared to go.  So we could leave right now.  But I'm feeling beat.  I need a nap more than a sea voyage.  Therefore we'll try at first light tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wrapping Up

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

We're preparing to leave for the year.  Some open items remain.  The new anchor light we ordered hasn't arrived yet.  Also, I have gone diving to handle the problem of the prop-nut-safety-pin.  I also have to mail off the copies of the latest Windblown newsletter (I'm the editor of the Westail newsletter).  We have some provisioning to do, and right now Libby is teaching her last pine needle basket course of the season.

On Sunday we went to a party for the library staff and volunteers.   It was a great party packed with intellectually stimulating people.  Glad we went.  Just to show how small this world is, we met Roger and Betsy at the party.  It turns out that they cruise on the Krogen 42 Molly Blossom.  We've never met them before, but we've seen Molly Blossom up and down the ICW dozens of times; perhaps more often than any other boat.

Libby's Last Pine Needle Basket Class this Season
Libby shows her baskets and Sandra's baskets at the Marathon Seafood Festival

Libby & Mark at the Library Party
Libby & Bob at the Library Party

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Every day on the Cruiser's Net, they have some trivia questions.  It's hard to do trivia in today's world when so many people have Google in their palm.  My trivia question for readers is too hard for the harbor, but too easy if you use Google.  Google 104.45 and you'll have the answer at the top of the page.  Try is without Google.

What is the significance of 104.45.  Hint, it is highly technical and of special interest to mariners.

On another subject, can a big boat do a "wheelie?"   Today I was going to Burdines to buy some gasoline.  As I approached the old Boot Key Bridge, I saw a startling sight.  A very big catamaran entering the harbor suddenly reared up like a motorcycle doing a wheelie.  Then it backed down and the bow came back down to water level.   What the heck?  They had forgotten that there is an overhead power line near the bridge with 65 feet clearance.  The catamaran's rig was at least 75 feet high.  Darn, if I had only been taking video pictures.

What Can You Do with A Sunken Sailboat?

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I met a boater at the library today who had a story to tell.  He lived on his 24 foot sailboat anchored on the Florida Bay side of the island.  One night recently, his boat sank underneath him.   He said it was a night when the wind was blowing at 30 knots, and he hit a rock and holed the hull.

Now, the FWC officer found him.  He gave him an appearance ticket and said that he had 30 days to remove his boat or go to jail.   When I met the boater, he was asking for advice on what to do.  He doesn't have any money but he doesn't want to go to jail.  He did have a job until the boat sank, but now he doesn't have clean clothes or a clean body and lost his job.  I suggested that he broadcast his appeal on the VHF cruisers net.  Maybe someone could offer help.

He said that the boat is sunk in water only 4 feet deep and only 50 feet from shore.  The best approach would seem to be to drag it out of the water and onto a flatbed trailer, and then take it to the dump.  That needs either a friend with the right equipment or some money.

You can draw all kinds of lessons from this man's story.  He could be a sympathetic person, struggling to maintain self-sufficiency.  He could also be an example of a person whose resources are too marginal to be out there on a boat.  When a contingency happens, he has too few resources to take care of himself or his boat.  It seems certain that his boat would wind up derelict or abandoned some day, and that would cause environmental damage, and substantial cost to the government.

We are about to leave Boot Key Harbor next week, so this is a bad time to start something.   Still, I'm moved by the plight of the disadvantaged boaters in the area.   We boaters are a community, some rich, some poor, most in the middle, but we have a tradition of friendliness and mutual aid.   A major activity here every year is the charitable work that raises money for cancer research, under the banner Relay For Life. People in the harbor, including Libby and I,  are energetic in that charitable work.  Why couldn't we do similar stuff for a charity that would assist local boaters?  Maybe next time we come to Marathon I'll look into that.

p.s. I had interesting comments regarding my mention of Occupy Wall Street  (OWS) a few days ago.  Actually, I paid little attention to OWS in last year's news.  I mentioned OWS in the blog post in the sense of a vicious dog that one could worry on a troublesome neighbor.  Whatever else OWS are, they could fill that role.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Technology Marches Past

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

It is hard to fathom how fast technology changes nowadays, or how hard it is for people like me to keep up.

In 2006, we got a Sirius satellite radio for Tarwathie.  It was our primary source of news and entertainment for more than 5 years.  It offered excellent static-free sound quality.  It offered consistent programming regardless of our location on the USA coast or Bahamas.  When we travel, conventional radio stations are constantly fading in and out.

Two week ago, Sirius juggled their offerings of NPR programs.  The programs that I like to listen to were no longer offered at the times of day convenient to me.  That NPR station was what I listened to 90% of the time.  We are not big music fans, and we never listen to sports.  Therefore, the Sirius service became less valuable to me.   In addition, we heard in the cruiser's gossip that Sirius had tightened their signal so that it can not be received in the Bahamas.

Another factor, I recently found an excellent app for my Droid called Beyondpod.  It makes it easy for me to suscribe to my favorite shows, download their podcasts, and then listen to them at my convenience.  I've been listening to podcasts on my Droid all along, but this new app makes it easier and more reliable.   Before going offshore, I can download heaps of podcasts in advance to listen to in the coming days and weeks.

I also have a public radio app for the Droid and the NPR app.  Those let me listen to the news of the day, easily and on my own schedule.  I like to follow the local news in Vermont and Albany, NY even when we are elsewhere.

Anyhow, I realized that I could get everything I want to hear easier, more reliable, and more convenient to me on the Droid as compared to the Sirius.   I cancelled the Sirius service, thus saving $7 per month (for the first 4 years we had to pay $12.95/month).   I must confess, I owned a smart phone for two years before realizing that it could eliminate the need for satellite radio too.

I'm shifting the $7/month expenditure from Sirius to Netflix.  That will allow us to see streaming video entertainment on the phone and on the laptop screen using 3G, while in the USA.  If we had a flat screen TV on board, my Droid has a HDMI interface that would drive HD TV directly from the phone.

Oh, by the way, I hardly ever need to take out our WIFI booster antenna any more.  That technology too has become obsolete for much of our use. The relentless march of technology is amazing.

p.s. The Droid will also act as a mobile WIFI hotspot.  However if I click that icon, Verizon will charge me an extra $20 or $30 per month for using that feature.  I choose instead the free tethering app that gives me a wired connection to my laptop.

Friday, March 16, 2012

They Odyssey

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Yesterday, I announced on the Cruiser's Net that I had a Force 10, two burner stove to give away free.  No takers.   Today, I announced it a second time.  The reaction today was very different.

Within minutes, a young man came by.  He said that he and his wife were remodelling their boat and had no stove at all.  I was glad to give it to him.   As he and I were lowering it into his dinghy, a second man came by also looking for the stove.  After they left, two more boats showed up looking for the stove.  It was popular.

But that's not the end of the story.  A while later, one of those men came back a second time.  He said that the man who took the stove found that it was too big to fit in his galley.  The second man wanted to know what was wrong with it.  I said, the oven. "Darn," he said that's the part that interested me.  So now, the stove was an orphan again.  I had no way to contact the third and fourth boats, but it was no longer my problem, the man who took it away would have to dispose of it.

Still not the end of the story.  Another hour passed, and I spotted our stove in a dinghy on the boat anchored next to us.  The man on that boat is a year round resident, and we never met him.  How he heard about the stove and how it got transferred so quickly, is a mystery to me.  Perhaps the stove will continue on its own Odyssey throughout the harbor.

On a slightly related subject, one of the boaters told of a conversation he had with the Marathon city manager about the anchoring, and marina fee issues.  He said that the city manager told him that it is not the business of the city to provide affordable housing and that the city does not want people to live year round in the harbor.   If that's true, it confirms my most cynical suspicions.  The real agenda is to drive away the lower class people.   The rich people who own the waterfront properties don't want poor people as neighbors. Many of those poor people live on the fringe of self sufficiency.  They have local jobs but they can not afford conventional housing.  The practical consequence of those ordinances would be to force a number of those people into homelessness and unemployment.  I think that is unconscionable, shameless, and deliberately callous.  Where are the Occupy Wall Street people when you need them?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big Ticket

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Below, is our big ticket purchase for the year (I hope).  We had a Force 10 stove, but the oven stopped working and I couldn't get parts to repair it from Force 10.  Twice they sold me repair parts that proved to be incompatible.  Then they said, "Sorry, can't help you."   That soured me on doing business with them.

So, next task, select a new stove to buy.   There are three manufacturers serving the USA market, Force 10, Eno, and Seaward.   I researched their offerings.  I was surprised that each of them sell a dozen or so models.  Some models differ on features, but mostly they differed in size.  

I was very eager to get a replacement the exact size of our old stove so that I would not have to do carpentry.  With carpentry, a small installation job could become a major project making it impossible to live aboard the boat until complete.   That made me lean toward the Force 10 "American Standard" model, which is an exact replacement for our old stove, despite not wanting to buy Force 10.

I also checked the online reviews and comments of other boat owners.  I read examples of praise for all three brands, and also extreme dissatisfaction from all three brands.  That doesn't give much guidance.  I gather that Force 10 used to be the Cadillac brand, but since changing hands, their reputation and the quality of their products plunged.

Finally, after carefully studying the detailed drawings of dozens of stoves, we chose the Seaward Products Princess.  You see it below during installation.  I had to move the gimbal mounts by 3cm, and I had to stretch the LPG supply hose 1/2" to fit, but other than that it slipped in.  I have only `1/4 inch to spare on all edges.  It is a very tight fit.

The new stove has a broiler, the old one didn't.  It also appears to be much easier to clean and that's welcome.   Total cost to me, $907 plus tax at the local West Marine store.  West Marine's list price was $1149, but I brought in a printout from another source with the $907 price and West Marine gladly matched their price.  By doing it that way, I also avoided a $150 shipping charge but I did have to pay $68 sales tax.

It took me about 3 hours to remove the old stove and install the new one.  It works great.  Even the top burners boil water for tea 4 times faster than our old stove did.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Togetherness is a common word, so I presume that apartness must also be a word.  Right?  M dictionary doesn't have it.

Libby and I both volunteer at the library.  Today, as Libby was leaving, I was arriving.  Bob, another volunteer, remarked that he never sees the two of us together.  He said, "Are you really married?"  

It's true.  When we go ashore, we tend to do it separately.  When on the boat, we have the ultimate of togetherness, when on shore we live separate lives.   It's not something we planned, it just happens that way.

Actually it makes sense.  One of the riddles of the cruising life for many people is the forced confinement in close quarters.  On the boat, while at anchor, there is really no place to escape, no place to find solitude.  That would drive some people crazy.  We like it.   However, our apartness in shore life may well be an unconscious compensation.   That way we do have opportunities to be apart, or alone for some periods.  Libby has time to spend with the gals, and I have time with the guys.

When under way, either at sea or on the ICW, we almost always have one person on the helm and the other below.  That's the other extreme, and actually feel lonely after several days at sea.  On the ICW, we are together again as soon as we set the anchor.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Signs of Spring

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Having grown up in northern climates, we are used to looking to nature for the signs that spring has arrived.  Down here in the keys, there are little or no clues from nature.  Late in April the wind patterns will change, but not much more than that.

However, if you live in the harbor and listen to the cruiser's net on VHF there's a very noticeable sign.  This morning alone, there were more than 10 cruising boats departing to start their northward migration.  A week or so ago, there was a similar exodus.  The departures come in spurts because of favorable/unfavorable weather.  When you're ready, and you get a window, you go.

We too are getting ready to leave.  Tentatively, one week from today.   I would like to go up the west coast to Little Shark River, Everglades City, Naples, Fort Meyers, Labelle, Lake Okechoobe, and Stuart.  If we do that, it will take about 10 days to get to Vero.  An alternative is to go out in the Gulf Stream and head up the east coast.  Then we could be in Vero in 48 hours.  A week is far to long to forecast weather, so until next Sunday, Tuesday's departure could be east, or west, or cancelled.

It's going to be fun.  Our friend Sten-Orjan just let us know that he's coming from Sweden in April and want's to sail with us for a week.  Hooray!  He will be most welcome.   Also, I just signed up this morning for a month at the New Bern Grand Marina.   We'll be able to visit Dave and Cathy, and also be able to go up on the hard to have her bottom painted.

p.s.  Maybe you can help with a vexing problem.  Just two weeks ago I climbed the mast to fix the anchor light.  It was just that the bulb had come loose in the socket.  Well, less than a week later it came loose again.  How annoying.  Before climbing up again, I'd welcome suggestions for how to prevent that from happening ever again.  It is a bayonet type base; push in and twist.  See the picture.  My only ideas are (1) wrap some tinfoil around the base to increase friction, or (2) to paint one side of the base with Loctite.  Maybe you have another suggestion.  Remember that at the masthead, I can only access the fixture from below.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reminiscing Is Fun

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

What a fun day yesterday. We had a visit from old friends Eduardo and Alejandra from Argentina. They were dear old friends from the 1980s. In fact, Libby did day care for their son David in David's first year. Of course they know all our children and we theirs.

Libby hasn't seen them since 1987, and I haven't seen then since 1994. A very long time. Anyhow, they now own a condo near Miami and were visiting Florida for two weeks.

From Drop Box
The four of us had a great time catching up on news of family and common friends. Reminiscing is the word, and it is lots of fun.

In the afternoon, we drove down to Key West. It was their first time in Key West, so Libby and I acted as tour guides. That was fun too.

The weather yesterday was perfect for the outing.  I can't say it too often, the weather here in the Florida Keys is about as good as it gets.

Poor Eduardo.   He had a new phone and he tried using it to take pictures with it.  All day long he took pictures, but near the end of the day he discovered that he did it wrong.  His phone has cameras on both the front and the back.   Instead of taking pictures of scenes, he was taking pictures of his own face while trying to take pictures of scenes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Political Progress

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

This week has seen several blows to my political cynicism.

  • The local newspaper contacted the City about Captain Jack.  They city promptly agreed to drop the 32 foot minimum length for fee purposes, returning Jack's monthly fee to the previous value.  (Previous attempts by me and others to intercede for Jack were met by silence.)
  • Another source agreed to cover Jack's shortage on fees for at least a year into the future.
  • Libby convinced a local store to carry Jack's paintings as a regular item, featuring the local colorful painter.  Also, today at booth at the Marathon Seafood Festival is selling Jack's paintings, as well as Libby's and Sandra's pine needle baskets.
  • On Thursday, another local paper carried a nearly full-page length op-ed on the anchoring rights issue written by Dick on Endeavor.
  • On Friday city agreed to reconsider the alternate fee schedule proposed by Dave on Orion Jr.  They further agreed to hold a meeting on the subject at the city marina.  It's not clear if "the subject" means only the fees, excluding the larger issue of anchoring rights.  Still, that's progress.
So, I'll have to swallow some cynicism.  However, I also note the power of the press.  I wonder if we shouldn't have started by lobbying the press instead of the government.    

There has been much hand wringing in the journalism industry in recent years.  They fear that the Internet is making them obsolete.  They fear for their business models.   I've read dozens of articles, and listened to dozens of radio programs on the topic.  Never once did I hear mentioned the role of the press in acting as an ombudsman for the public and lobbying government on our behalf.   If we don't like to subscribe to their publications, perhaps we should send them donations in lieu of giving money to political parties.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Virgin Cruising

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

Writing yesterday about our 7th anniversary makes me retrospective.  I remember how different, fresh and exciting everything seemed in 2005, our first year.

Of course we didn't know much about cruising our first year.  We made some colossal mistakes, all documented in this archives of this blog.  Luckily, none of them caused serious injury to us or the boat, nor did they discourage us from learning.  Just off the top of my head, here's some of our first year mistakes.
  • Our very first time sailing on Tarwathie, we hit a channel marker and dug a gouge in the hull that's still visible.
  • We ran aground twice in 2 minutes.
  • We got caught in a fierce lightning storm off Jacksonville, anchored offshore in 80 feet of water (big mistake) and broke the anchor roller.
  • At the Charleston City Dock I let the boat get away from me while adjusting lines and did $750 damage to their docks that I had to pay for.
  • We missed North Carolina entirely and naively sailed around Cape Hatteras instead.
  • We departed Norfolk for New York on the outside without understanding the weather.
  • We didn't believe the crazy buoys at the entrance to Jackson Creek, Deltaville, VA.  
  • I dropped my laptop overboard.
  • We departed Beaufort NC on the way south, again unaware of approaching weather and unaware of Frying Pan Shoals until we were too far out to turn back.
  • We were so late in the year heading south that we froze from the cold weather.  We didn't find warm until Hollywood FL on New Year's eve.
  • We missed Vero Beach, skipping it on the way north, and stopping overnight only on Christmas Day on the way south.

 [Yeah yeah I know, just can all those sexual interpretations of the following paragraph.] On the other hand, we were awed and amazed at all the good things we saw for the first time.   Nothing can compare than exploration and discovery of new places. Repeat performances are never he same.
  • The Indian River in Florida
  • The Chesapeake Bay for the first time.
  • The Hudson River, the Erie Canal, the Champlain Canal, and Lake Champlain in summer.
  • The anchorage behind the Statue of Liberty
  • Norfolk and the battleship Wisconsin. 
  • The Dismal Swamp Canal
  • Elizabeth City, NC and the Rose Buddies
  • Oriental, NC
  • Southport, NC
  • Wilmington, NC and the battleship NC
  • Fernandina Beach, Saint Augustine, Daytona, Titusville, Cocoa, Melborne
  • Mosquito Lagoon, Peck's Lake, Lake Worth, Miami, Key Biscayne, and Marathon. 
Of course now we are more experienced.  With experience comes caution, a bit of wisdom, and greater safety.  On the other hand, we're somewhat jaded.  We marvel less at places now familiar, and we skip perfectly nice places, such as the entire Chesapeake, to gain faster passages.  We re-visit our A list of favorite places, and neglect the B, and C ones.

Our first year, we were constantly awed by experienced cruisers, and we would pepper them with questions.  Now, it is we who get peppered more often.  That has its own charm but being the virgin is most fun.

Yet, the East Coast and the ICW are vast places.  We could spend a lifetime going up and down, still discovering new places that we missed before.  That way we still get to spend a few days every year being virgin cruisers once again.

I was thinking a lot about Rio Dulce, Guatamala next year.  It sounds like a great place to expand our horizons and spend a summer.  But, Libby overheard a story about some cruisers getting robbed and shot near that river.  She mentions it every time Rio Dulce comes up.  That's her indirect way of saying, she doesn't like the idea at all, so I'm going to forget it.   In a very real sense, I'm the Captain but she's the Admiral.  I do the tactics, but she does the strategy maybe 3/4 of the time.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

7 Years and Counting

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

This is the week for milestones.  On Monday, I posted the 2000th article on this blog.  Now, seven years ago today we took possession of Tarwathie.

Our first day on Tarwathie, (my God, I've lost weight since then!, Libby looks unchanged)
Boy oh boy, that was one of the best decisions in our lives (the others being marrying Libby and having kids --- how boring and conventional but that's the truth).  After taking possession, we sailed to Jacksonville, and left the boat for two months while we returned to New York to prepare our house for sale.  After that two months, we have been cruising full time.  We now stand at 2,495 consecutive days cruising.
Our starting location, Venetian Causeway, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
What have we done?  Well, we average 5,000 miles per year, so we have sailed (or motored) about 35,000 miles so far.  That is roughly the same distance as 1.5 times around the world.  Here was our itinerary year by year
  1. 2005-2006 Jacksonville - Albany, NY (open house on the boat for friends) - Lake Champlain, Marathon Florida - Yucatan Mexico, back to Marathon.
  2. 2006-2007  Marathon - Maine - Vero Beach - New engine project - Marathon
  3. 2007-2008  Marathon - Oswego - Montreal - Sorel - Champlain - Vero Beach - Bahamas 
  4. 2008-2009 Bahamas - Washington, DC, Maine - Vero Beach - Stuart - Marathon 
  5. 2009-2010 Marathon - Bahamas -  Champlain - Vero Beach - Stuart - Fort Meyers
  6. 2010-2011 Fort Meyers - Champlain - Vero Beach - Marathon
  7. 2011-2012  Marathon - Champlain - Marathon 

As you see, Lake Champlain and Marathon are our two favorite destinations.  We hope they continue to be so in the future.  As I'm fond of saying, our sandbox is 25-45 degrees North.

So far, we have managed to extend our envelope each year to visit some places we've never been before.  The only remaining major East Coast place unexplored by us is Long Island Sound and Connecticut.  Many people tell us that the cruising there is great.  We'll try it someday.  This spring I think we'll head up Florida's West Coast to areas we haven't been before.
We love this cruising life.  We have no plans to cease cruising anytime.  We think that life in a condo watching TV would be dull, boring, and much less healthy for us.  Besides, I suspect that if we were not cruising we would still be working full-time and being unable to afford to retire.

We think the idea of taking a summer off from cruising by water to tour the USA by car is growing on us.  No plans yet, just a growing seed of an idea.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Better Way To Cruise

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

p.s. Check out the comments on yesterday's blog.  Interesting.

I know we love our W32, but I got to admit, the ISS is really the very best way to cruise.  Watch this 2 minute video, it's mind blowing.

Flying Over the Earth at Night 
Video Credit: Gateway to Astronaut PhotographyNASA ; Compilation: Bitmeizer (YouTube); 
Music: Freedom Fighters (Two Steps from Hell)

Monday, March 05, 2012


Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

It seems like just yesterday when wrote a post called Kilopost to mark the 1000th article published on this blog.  Now, here we are at the 2000th article.  Wow, some things go fast.

Since the Kilopost , much has changed.   Notably, Facebook grew from a minor site for college kids to a monster with nearly 1 billion members.   Twitter didn't even exist back then, but now it is well established.  I feel pressure every day to use Facebook and Twitter instead of this blog.  Blogging is seen as quaint and old fashioned by the technical elite.   All things considered, I like what I'm doing.  The frequency and length of my writings on this suit me well.  To the extent that you're still reading this blog, evidence suggests that you like this format too.

Why do I do it?  Because I enjoy it.   Where do I get the ideas for thousands of articles?  Simply by observing life around me and nature around me.  A second motive is to keep my family and friends informed about what we do.  In rough numbers, about 2/3 of my articles are observations, and 1/3 are status updates and travel journals.

I continue to have the mental model that, aside from family, my blog readers enjoy it because it describes the daily life of cruising.  My posts are not just highlights.  They include low and mid excitement days too.  Reading it contemporaneously (whew, heck of a word) makes one feel almost part of our crew.  It is our daily soap opera on the water.

A few times I toyed with the idea of turning this material into a book.  I've been stymied by that.  On one hand, the volume is too big. In book form, this blog generates about 500 pages per year, or 3500 pages per 7 years.   Too much.  On the other hand, I think much of the appeal of my writings is that the posts are more than just highlights and summaries.  As I just said, the day-by-day narrative conveys what life is really like for a cruiser.   Therefore, a "best-of" extraction of articles runs counter the the whole theme.

I do wonder if I might make a few bucks by making the blog archives a Kindle, Android, iPhone, and iPod app.  People would pay a monthly subscription and the app would make it easy for readers to start at the beginning and read as many posts as they like at one session.  No doubt they would take a year or two to read all 2000, and thus generate more monthly subscription fees.   So far, my musings have not motivated action.

How many of you have read all 2000 posts?  I'm sure that Pete and Dean have, maybe Chuck too. Jenny and Rich read almost all of them. If you too read all the posts, I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

View From The Masthead

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

I just came down from the top of the mast.  The view from up there was lovely.  It occurs to me that I never wrote about that cruising chore before.  It is something every cruiser needs to do once or twice per year.  Like everything else on the boat, things up there need maintenance.

My mast sits 42 feet above the deck, 47 feet above the water.  That's pretty modest.    Many cruising boats have masts approaching the ICW maximum of 65 feet.   A few of the biggest sailboats have 100 to 200 foot masts.  It doesn't really matter.  All of them are an effort to climb and a fall from any of those heights is likely to be fatal.

On Tarwathie, our standard procedure for climbing the mast is to get out our boatswain's (also spelled bos'n or busun and pronounced bosun) chair.  Ours is a standard design, and it is extremely uncomfortable.   I always wear an athletic cup when using that chair, but still it manages to make me want to come down before even reaching the top.  The picture on the right shows a similar chair.

Today, my friend Don let me borrow a rig of the type rock climbers use.  It was much more comfortable.  In that, I could have stayed up there 30 minutes or more without discomfort.   However, I did not climb it like the man in the video here, we use a winch.

Once before I borrowed a climbing rig from Jeff & Wendy.  It was much nicer than my bosun chair, but not as nice as this topclimber.  I'll ask Santa for a topclimber rig.

Next steps -- very important.  Inspect your halyard.  If it is old or frayed, replace it before climbing.  Then, tie a halyard onto your rig using a bowline.  DO NOT USE ANY OTHER KNOT AND DO NOT USE A SHACKLE.  Security of the knot is life critical, and being able to untie it when done is handy.   A bowline offers an important type of security that no other knot offers --- you can look at it and reliably verify visually that it is tied correctly.

Next, I need two or three helpers.  Onc or two to crank on the winch to haul me up.  The third is usually Libby.  She tails the line, and watches out for my safety in general.  Once, when I had three men to help me, I told Libby that her help wasn't needed.  Boy was that a mistake.  She takes my safety very personally and she was very offended that I would trust someone else.

We have a #30 halyard winch on the mast with high gear and low gear.  Low gear makes it much easier to crank.  No points are scored for speed.   Some people use an electric winch or the electric anchor windlass to hoist people up the mast.  They just shoot up there at elevator speed.  I'm opposed to that.  I think it is a safety hazard.

So, what was my mission today?  Our anchor light began to flicker a week or so ago, then it stopped working.  I suspected either that the fancy LED bulb with built-in photocell, was broken, or that the wiring had gone bad.  I brought with me all the tools needed to diagnose the problem and to rewire it if necessary.  I carry my tools in a canvas bag that can be lowered onto the deck.  Then, if I forget something (which is nearly 100% of the time) I can lower the bag to fetch the missing thing without asking my helpers to lower me and crank me up multiple times.  

Did I succeed in the mission?  Yes.  It was a minor repair today.  The push-then-twist bulb had simply come loose in the socket.  The bulb and the wiring were find.  Total time feet off the deck, 10 minutes.
Thanks Don and Libby for the help.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Sun & Moon Dances

Marathon, Florida
24 42.40 081 N 05.68 W

No, I'm not talking about aboriginal ritual dances.  I'm talking about the way the sunlight and moonlight play on a boat swinging at anchor.     If you live in a house for a while, you get used to the daily patterns of light.  Morning light comes in window A, and in late afternoon through window B.  You may have some pretty dramatic seasonal shifts, but they change so slowly you hardly notice.

Now think instead of a boat lying at anchor.  She swings with the wind and the tides.  It is very unusual for her to actually sit still for very long.  That means that each window and each hatch has a moving view of the outside world.

In the early morning and late afternoon, sunlight through the portholes can be annoying.  As I sit using my computer, perhaps writing a blog, I'm suddenly blinded by bright sunlight aimed right at my eyes.  I shift position.  A few sconds later, it comes in via a different porthole.  I shift again, then again, then it starts all over as the boat swings back the other way.  Eventually I get tired and put up our window shades.  On Tarwathie, those are shower caps that fit nicely over the circular portholes.

Mid-day it is the sunlight coming through the overhead transparent hatch that disturbs my nap.  Sometimes I have to put a towel over it to block the light and the heat.

Most charming though are the night scenes.   From my bunk, I can see up through the hatch, and out through the open companionway door.   I watch the stars pan back and forth across my view.   Almost all the time, I see other masts dividing my view.  My favorite is when I see the moon out through the door.  It doesn't need to be a full moon to make bright light.  1/4 moon is enough as long as it is a clear, and dry night.

When the late afteroon sun comes in the door or the ports, I just love watching the bright areas and shadowed areas lazily shift left and right around objects in the cabin.  It is very soothing.

The other night we had a particularly nice 3/8 crescent moon doing its dance outside the companionway door.  I could see it drifting in from the starboard side.  It disappeared briefly behind a mast, then drifted to port and out of sight.  After a minute or so out of sight, it reappeared drifting back the other way.   As it passed each time I marveled at the strong shadows it makes inside the boat.   Unlike the shadows in your house and yard, these shadows are constantly in motion.

Need I say it?  Libby also looks very beautiful in the moonlight laying there beside me.

Only 2-3 times in the past seven years have we slept out on deck.  Either lack of privacy from nearby boats, or mosquitoes are the usual hinderances.   Nevertheless, sleeping in the boat given the views we have from the bunks is a semi-outdoor experience.  We love it.