Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in Key West. . . and the weather is lousy!

Happy Holidays to all!

Our Christmas 'surprise' was that my dad and step mom's cruise ship arrived in Key West on Christmas Eve! (Can you tell which one is me and which on is my dad?) We rented one of those 4 person golf carts that are everywhere on the island and took them on a little tour of the island ending up at Pepe's for lunch. Pepe's has been there since 1909. . . and it looks it! It was great seeing them and getting a chance to visit at
Christmas time!

Yes, Christmas day in Key West was a bit of an adventure. The day started out just fine and we had decided to have a pleasant 'boat day' for Christmas (Newton's Birthday) and not go to shore. Storms were predicted for late afternoon/evening and boy were they right on this time!

We had pulled up dingy, messed with the anchor lines (2 down), and generally prepared for storm conditions. It was getting darker and darker in the west-north-west and we could hear the rumbling of far off thunder. At one point Sue said, "What's that noise"? I thought it was my wind generator but no. . . maybe the neighbor's. . . but no and then we saw the wall of rain coming our way. We were hearing the rain before feeling the rain. We had to hustle to get hatches and ports closed.

Then the rain REALLY came and so did the wind. It was raining sidways in buckets and blowing about 35 knots. The seas turned that ugly color and got mighty confused. Our anchors held just fine though and the boat stayed mainly dry except for one leak that came oozing from between the two shelves that form one of the double beds in the salon. All dry above that area. Must be some sort of leak around the toe rail.

As we huddled in the companion way watching the storm and listening to the nearly continuous thunder, our neighbor on a big Beneteau was out scrubbing his decks! Of course. Fresh water is at a premium and here's the chance to give the boat a good scrubbing and continuous rinsing. . . as long as you don't get a kabillion volts on your head! He finished up by giving himself a good scrubbing although not with the deck brush.

It calmed down after about an hour and seas were very calm when we went to bed. I got up at around 1:00 AM as I heard the wind begin up again with a little rain. Glad I did. When I looked forward there was a little trawler about 6 feet off our bow! I thought maybe they'd just swing away but, no, they were getting even closer. I felt bad but I had to let them have two blasts from the old air horn. I hollered a couple of times as well and they came out and saw the situation. In a few minutes they were underway and off my bow. We watched them re-anchor, thankfully, far from us. The rest of the night was pretty rolly but without further incident.

So merry damn Christmas!

In optical phenomena news. . . A few days ago we were preparing to launch the dingy to go into town when I looked up and saw the rainbow pictured here. I hollered at Sue, "Look, look, look"! To which she replied, "Where, where, where"? I couldn't believe she couldn't see it and then realized she had her polarizing sunglasses on. Light from a rainbow, like glare off of the sea, is polarized and so her glasses were making the rainbow invisible! I hollered, "Take your sunglasses off"! She said, "Wow".

The other neat thing about this rainbow is how low to the horizon it is. Usually you see rainbows in the evening when the sun can shine under the clouds and reflect off the rain. Rainbows are always viewed 42 degrees up from the tip of your own shadow (yes we each see our own personal rainbow!). So at noon (which it nearly was) shadows are short and 42 degrees up is not very high in the sky. This will certainly make it into the book!

We plan to keep writing and living in Key West through New Years and then work our way up to Marathon to stage for crossing over to the Bahamas. Onward!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Key West and Life is Good

As planned we are making a little stand here in good old Key West while I try to write the bulk of the book. Mornings are usually spent at the keyboard followed by a trip ashore. We check our email at Coffee Plantation and maybe do a little research for the book. A walk along the wharf or a stroll along Duval street in the late afternoon. In the early evening we’re back on board. Some cheese, snacks and a cocktail drink. We note the comings and goings of new boats and boats that had been here when we arrived. Almost everybody in Key West is from somewhere else and they’re all going somewhere else. What a crazy place!

We’ve made a friend (or a pet) of our nearest neighbor, Jeff. He lives aboard a 26 foot sloop with no sails and comes and goes on about a 16 foot dingy off of which he has only fallen once but we are still counting. He’s a good guy and maybe a ‘typical’ Conch if there is such a thing. He’s younger that us by 20 years (who isn’t) and came aboard via his own invitation one night. He was married and running a construction company up in Rhode Island. The part about Rhode Island is believable based on accent. Got divorced, sold the business and is now living and NOT working in Key West. He does a great Capt. Ron impersonation and I fear there may be more Capt. Ron in him than is good for anybody! Such are the characters that we meet on occasion.

We’ve also befriended another Canadian couple who are here for the first time. As we can help them find things in Key West they have lots to tell us about the Bahamas, our next destination. We look forward to going over charts with them and taking lots of notes. Cruising guides are great but you really like to talk to someone who has been there recently. We’re especially interested in making our way through the reefs at night when we leave Rodriguez Key. Doesn’t look all that tough on the charts but you do need to do it at night so as to arrive at Gun Key or Bimini in daylight. Another sphincter squeezer!

We’ve found a boat yard in Marathon that will haul us out and let us paint our bottom ourselves. This apparently is becoming rare. Two out of three yards wouldn’t let us do the work ourselves. We’re anxious to get a couple of coats of bottom paint on before heading to the Bahamas where we will probably scrape it all off again! We should be up that way in early January.

It rained for just about three solid days through Saturday recently. Got a little cabin fever but not too bad. Endeavour Enee is big enough for us to comfortably write, work, read, and relax without going to shore for some time. Sue’s new awnings on the bimini make the cockpit still useable even in a steady rain.

We have been enjoying the freedom of NOT having refrigeration for some time now. After working my butt off to get it installed last February it is now not working. But, we buy ice every few days and only buy fresh meat when we intend to eat it and this is turning out to be more easy going than constantly checking battery levels and running engine twice a day which is what was required to keep up with the refrigerator. They have 25 lb blocks of ice at the market by the wharf and one of those lasts us nearly a week! Better than the deisel I’d have to burn to keep up with the refrigerator. With the refrigerator off line and the nice breezes here to spin our wind generator we are hardly running any diesal at all. Nice. Well, live and learn. Anyone want a slightly used Cold Machine (may need some work)?

We still miss Gracie the sailing cat but hesitate to adopt another. They’re great but can become a real puzzle when we leave the boat for extended periods of time. We’ll see what the future brings. Maybe I can find a six-toed kitten. . .

That’s about it from Key West. Happy holidays and happy Issac Newton’s birthday which we all celebrate (December 25).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hurry Up and Stop!

Scott Says:

This time of year there is a regular progression of fronts that descend upon Florida. When they come they bring stiff northern winds and cool temps. Just such a front was due to come late Thursday or early Friday to the Keys. So, we decided that we could safely leave Marco Island on Wednesday afternoon to arrive in Key West Thursday morning (Oh boy...a night sail!) before the front could stir up the waters. So off we went at 3:00 pm on Wednesday. We were a little worried that there might already be rolly conditions and a wind at our back but no. We had a little east breeze on our beam but not enough to make our desired 5 knots. So back to motor sailing which we’ve learned is not that uncommon. There was enough wind to keep both sails mostly filled and we gained some speed by leaving them up. Still, it was a beautiful night. When the moon got high in the sky it had a perfect, giant circle around it. Hmmm...we also had a very nice sun dog to look at right before sun down. Related? Must research this. I think they are but stay tuna! Sue and I broke the night up into 3 hour hunks. I did 6-9 and 12-3 while Sue did 9-12 and 3-6. Three hours is a long time to stare at the compass/GPS. Our autohelm is on the fritz and we are saving for a new one rather than repair the Autohelm 4000. I’ve now had 3 of these things and I’ve never had one work well. Well, that’s another story.

One of the tricky parts about sailing at night is trying to dodge the crab pots! As we left Marco Island they were pretty thick. We hoped that they would thin out as we progressed south and they did but they never did really go away. I didn’t want to imagine me in the dark water trying to cut loose a crab pot in the middle of the ocean. I could imagine Sue doing it though. She must have imagined it as well since she spent over an hour laying on the bow sweeping a beam light across the dark horizon hoping to spot the pots before our propeller did! She finally returned to the cockpit when the moon rose high enough to shed some light on the problem. We couldn’t believe that we were still seeing (thought barely) crab pots in over 50 feet of water.

As we had planned we reached G1, the green bell marking the entrance to the north west channel that leads to Key West, at 0730 on Thursday. All night there had been a light on the western horizon that we had been keeping our eye on. (In fact it was the only thing to look at on the entire horizon. Love those night sails.) As we approached G1 so did he and he was a tug pulling 2 barges like a two car train. It looked like we were going to arrive together so we jibed and more or less fell in behind him. Once in the channel proper we actually got some real wind so we FINALLY got to turn off the engine for a very nice arrival into Key West under pure sail as it should be.

Once we rounded sunset key there was the usual busy harbor of Key West. A giant cruise ship was docking, the coast guard was out in force, boats coming and going. Neat. Now’s a good time to drop the sails. Start the engine! Nothing...no whine no chug no nothing. This engine just ran all night...16 hours! Well, we are almost used to this sort of thing. We did roll up the Genoa and Sue sailed us up and back a bit on the main only while I crawled into the engine room. Just have to jump the starter motor with a pair of pliers. I hate this because even though you don’t want to you always jump when you make that sparky connection (and sometimes yelp like a lady . . . but not me.). Once I jumped and put my knee into the fins of the alternator. That was bad. Well, she started right up and this is a real puzzle.

The puzzle... If you follow the wires away from the starter motor you find an external solenoid, key switch, and push button start. All of those things have been replaced so I’m at a loss (for now) as to why jumping around these things even helps. I can’t even make it be bad...it just does this sometimes which is always the hardest problem to track down. Any hints/ideas would be appreciated.

Back underway we dropped the main and headed for Conch Marina. Usually after a long sail we are tired and just want to get the hook down and take naps. What happens then is a couple of days later you find yourself saying things like, “Boy we should have stopped for fuel or water or pump out or all of those. . . “ and then you don’t feel like hauling up the anchor and going through all the gyrations of docking the boat. Remembering this sort of thing we took care of business before anchoring. So, after taking on fuel (24 gallons) and fresh water we turned north to the anchor field just west of Flemming Key. Fairly crowded but always room for one more boat.

Knowing that the wind was going to come ripping out of the north I wanted to set my all chain anchor, the CQR, to windward. It’s is tricky here because the wind was north but the tidal current was flowing from the south. This means that as we backed downwind the boat would try to turn to point up current! Well, with a couple of tries, a little swearing, and a promised lashing, we finally got her set. Because of the reversing current we wanted to anchor “Bahamian style”. This means you put two anchors out 180 degrees apart with the boat in the middle. This way as the current reverses the boat only swings in a little circle instead of a big circle. I tie a ribbon to the chain so I can tell where I was. The idea is to let out more chain as we back further down wind. I don’t want to disturb the anchor I’ve already set. Ideally I’d double the amount of chain out and then drop the second hook. Then when I go back upwind and reel in this chain to the ribbon I’ll know the boat is in the middle of the two anchors. This worked pretty well. I probably have 160 degrees (180 is an ideal) and both anchors set well.

As the wind came up on our first night I thought I would have been smarter to set both anchors to windward in a V shape. The current is not able to dominate the wind right now so we are not making any circles. If the wind gets real strong I’d feel better having that second anchor holding me in place rather then trailing off down wind. Upon watching the two rodes though I think this is ok. They both stay tight and we are basically rock still in this position.

We could hear and feel the wind start to come up that first night. In the morning it was blowing a good 20 knots and gusting to 25. Anchors are holding well but we neglected to launch the dingy and mount the motor when things were calm. Now we are in 2-3 foot seas and no way am I going to head down the ladder with the motor in those conditions. Looks like we’ll be aboard for awhile. . .

Sue Says:

Still aboard in Key West

Yes we are still aboard in Key West. Not a bad place to be at all. But there is nothing still about the Key West anchorage we’re on. Today is Saturday. The winds are still in the mid-20’s gusting to 30s and the waves are too high and rolly to launch the dingy much less to lower the motor onto it. We wouldn’t be comfortable leaving the boat in these conditions anyway. Yesterday we noticed a nearby sailboat was slipping from its anchorage. There is nobody aboard and luckily the anchor reset itself though far away from the anchorage field avoiding going out to sea. Go ashore and worry about our boat dragging anchor? No Thank You.

So we are still aboard in Key West. Although we haven’t set foot ashore since arriving Thursday morning (not counting Scott paying for our fuel at the marina and picking up a much deserved 6 pack to go). So why did we leave Marco Island 3 days ago knowing that a cold front was coming through and would last several days? Hmmmmm. Well it was a trade off. Scott has been champing at the bit ever since leaving Ft. Myers Beach (this was the most recent champing anyway) and I don’t think he or I would have survived sitting on anchor in Marco Island for another week waiting for weather to change.

So we both decided that moving on to Key West was the best. We were excited to get here again. What’s not to like about Key West. We are Still aboard in Key West although most likely it will be 2 more days until we are able to comfortably go ashore. (I haven’t been off this boat since Tuesday afternoon. If we don’t get ashore until Monday it will be a full week of only 40’ Enee for me.) But I’m okay with waiting. I spend much time in the cockpit watching the dolphins (you can actually see them under water here) reading, writing, sodukoing. And listening to the next new sound that these intense winds and waves bring to our boat. So far everything has been identifiable and nothing has broken.

Still in Key West and Duvall street is calling our names. Watch out when shore leave arrives!

A final note from Scott

A book deal has finally come through with a publisher out east. We’ll be staying in Key West for about a month while I (hopefully) finish the book. The working title is “Sailing Through Physics” but that will probably change. The book is about all the interesting (really!) connections between sailing, maintaining a boat and just being on the ocean with the basic physical laws of nature. I hope it is interesting, entertaining and speled corectly and that all of you buy a copy (or two!) when it comes out next fall! Look for it right here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sailing Again

Good news...the boat still floats and we can still make the pointy part go forward! On Saturday we finally threw off that mooring line and chugged out of Ft. Myers Beach at first light (of course). Wind was south east or south west when there was any so we just motored with the main up for the 30+ mile run south to Marco Island. Interesting, this is the first anchorage we have returned to since the trip began. Of course we've sat still for some significant time in there but still...

So great to be at sea again. While we were under way we lucked out and both saw a dolphin leap at least 6 feet clear of the water...and then do it
again! Wow, what a lucky camera shot we got this time!

We also spotted birds on top of the sea. There must have been 500 birds - a mix of gulls and pelicans sitting and feeding on top of the water. We don't know what was there but suspect that maybe a fisherman had discarded some bait.

Now that we are anchored by Marco Island there is a bit of north wind blowing and making seas a little rough down by Key West (our next stop). We will probably have to wait for Tuesday or Wednesday to leave. As we did on the way north, we will leave in the afternoon to arrive in daylight in Key West. It is a little over 80 miles and should take about 16 hours. Wind on those days is supposed to be 10 knots or so and from the north east. Could make for a very pleasant night indeed.

In the meantime, we finished the long awaited awnings for the bimini. Thanks Kay for the use of your sewing machine back in Chicago. With much banging and swearing we finally got all the snaps installed yesterday and attached the awninings for more shade and protection from rain.

Left picture shows the awning being installed. At the right, Sue is swinging the hammer to no avail. Imagine some real sailor type swearing right here....

As a bonus we find that we can detach these flaps from the rail and fold them up on top of the bimini when they are not needed.

Well, on to Key West - one of our favorite places in the solar system! We'll probably spend a few days there and then head up the Keys to meet our friends Joe and Peg in Boot Key and then look for a window to sail to the Bahamas! Yes! New places are just down the road.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Up North and Back

We are now back on board good old Enee Marie after a perfectly wonderful 5 weeks in Chicago!
How strange it was to be on land for so long. What is perfectly normal for 99% of the population seems somehow just a little off. A little confining. A little complicated. We truly enjoyed spending much quality time with our many friends and family in the Chicago area while at the same time have longed for our simple days aboard our boat.

The boat was fine upon our return on Monday. Engine started right up. Batteries were at about 60%. We did learn while we were away that the mooring field in Ft. Myers Beach is no longer operated by Salty Sam’s Marina. That was a bit of a shocker as we had come to know them well and felt ok leaving the boat more or less under their watchful eye. Now it turns out that the city of Ft. Myers Beach as taken over the operation! One always worries when a government tries to run anything but we’ll see. Many of the fine marinas we’ve seen over the years are municiple marinas and they are typically cheap and well run. Today I went down and re-registered with the new operators. They seem friendly enough but are perhaps not prepared for this endeavor. Not many boats in the mooring field anyway so they probably have time to get better organized. It is being run out of Mantanzas Inn right by the Mantanzas pass bridge. Their "facilities" consist of an emptied out motel room for bathroom and shower. That means there is ONE. Well, like I said maybe it will be better when they get going more. I do miss our friend Dale who used to cruise the mooring field everyday just to check on boats, perform pumpouts and say hi. Everything changes.

Anyway, while we were up north we especially enjoyed having large hunks of time to enjoy my daughter and her husband and knock around their Chicago neighborhood with them. We never ran away from Chicago...we love that town but, rather, we are running toward other lands and adventures. Win. Win. My daughter lives in Ukrainian Village neighborhood in Chicago which if you don’t know is quite the city for neighborhoods. This one is in transition from the truly old world Ukraiinian motiff to the upscale, young, artsy crowd. Most interesting in its transition. There is a very nice little cyber cafe up the street along with a Ukraining Deli nearby where one can read NONE of the lables on the food. Buy by pointing. Sue and I took some long walks down Division Street and were amazed by the new and the old and the ever interesting. My kind of town!

The talk of the town of course is DA BEARS! We were lucky enough to get some tickets from my nephew and then were forced to watch the Bears completely fall apart against Miami. Damn! I also discovered at the game that I’m no longer so good with large crowds. Who knew! No big thing but just an answer to my frequent question as to how the adventure might be slowly changing Sue and I. The press of humanity was a little off putting for me and I don’t remember it being so before. I'm reminded of the Michael Smith song, "How does the Sea Change the Sailor".

Of course the highlight of the trip was watching the Chicago Marathon as reported here earlier. Just about Chicago’s biggest party. The run goes through many of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods and everyone turns out to line the streets along the entire 26 mile route.

Back in Florida I find that the outboard that I left with the yard to fix is still dying. We thought it was running fine and went to get groceries yesterday only to find ourselves paddling back! Good thing it was slack tide because there is no paddling the inflatable against it. Tried that. They are working on it now and think maybe the oil sensor (4 stroke) may be sending false information and shutting down the spark. We'll see.

Winds are to be south east for a few days so we'll wait for something a little more in our favor for sailing down toward either Marco Island, Everglades City or maybe all the way to Key West. We'll see.

A final sad note, we learned that while we were away Gracie the Cat that Sails checked out of this mortal coil. I'm glad she got to have a little AC before that. She was fun and we do kind of miss her.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October Notes...

The weather has finally changed! After surviving repetitious days of low to mid 90’s, thunderstorms every afternoon and still, muggy nights in the low 80’s we slowly switched to warm days, less humidity and nights in the 60’s! Wheeeee! Florida is not the place to be in July, August, and most of September! I think our wind scoop was the best thing we ever bought for the boat.

Barnacle issues continue. We have a deal with a local diver to scrape the bottom of the boat once a month. Each month the hull is pretty much re-covered with the little critters. We took the dingy over to a little beach near our mooring to clean off its bottom. The barnacles were about 3-4 barnacles deep and this dingy is mostly NOT in the water as we raise it up on davits at night. We gotta get out of this place....

Big News: We finally sold Catalina Enee! Yes. Let me tell you, it is no fun owning two boats. We left Catalina Enee up in Baltimore when we bought the Endeavour Enee (All boats are named Enee Marie for us). The brokers up there said, “Oh we’ll have no problem selling a fresh water Catalina 30”. That was a year ago and I ended up firing them and selling it myself. Boat Brokers/Pirates? Any difference? Discuss.

We made it to the Chicago Marathon on Sunday 10/22 (no, not by sail) to watch my daughter and son-in-law run their second Chicago Marathon. Last year they ran together in 4:20. This year their goal was to beat 4 hours and they DID! Jason ran in 3:57 and Leah in 3:45! Nice job. A bunch of family and friends had fun watching them and then jumping on the El and trying to find them again. This actually worked as we had two teams of fans so that the kids could see and hear their cheers about every 5 miles. Read more about the exciting marathon by reading Jason's report and Leah's report

Thank you to the Catalina Fleet 21 in Chicago for inviting us to speak about our first year experience as cruising sailors. It was fun to share our route and some memorable moments along the way. It was great to see so many friends, old and new, and to meet Stan from San Diego! Thanks for coming one and all!!

Plans are afoot for returning to the Keys and from there across to the Bahamas. The boat is in good shape and the crew is getting pretty antsy. Once under way, expect more frequent and, hopefully, more interesting blog updates. In the meantime Sue is working on making ‘awnings’ for our bimini top. It is barely as wide than the cockpit so when it rains the bimini actually funnels the rain into the cockpit. Sue is making 30” snap on extensions for those rainy days at anchor. Scott is trying to get a publisher for a book he is working on called Sailing Through Physics. He has one positive response from a publisher and looking for more responses in a few days.

Thanks to all our faithful readers and like your standing rigging.... STAY TUNED!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Outboards, Barnacles, Vectors, and Why the Blind Cat Crossed the Road

First off...happy (belated) autumnal equinox to one and all. Life continues at a liesurely pace in Ft. Myers Beach with some moments of hard work and sweat.

We spent Saturday working on the outboard for the dingy. It had been running great but on this day it would start but not idle. I took it all apart (my favorite thing to do) and put it all back together. Four times. At one point cleaning out the little hole in the carburator where fuel passes seemed to help but it didn't last. That's me and my carburator below. Amazing...I wonder how it works? Everyone kept telling us that we probably had "bad gas". Now I'm as guilty as any other beer drinking guy of having bad gas but I still don't see how that could affect my engine. But what the hell? I took a couple of antacid tablets and got back to work. While I was at it I went and bought some new gasoline as well. Neither had any effect and now the engine won't start either. What else is there? How about a nice, shiny, new spark plug. Put that in, with the new gas and with the cleaned out carburator and that seemed to do it. Runs fine now and I have the confidence to dissasemble the engine in the future. I didn't even drop any parts into the sea...this time.

While we were at it we hauled the engine up on deck to scrape barnacles. YUCK! Man these things are nasty! We took the prop off to make sure we could get the barnacles that were sneaking up the water intake. From now on we ALWAYS haul the boat up on the davits at night and always tip the motor up when we are at the dingy dock.
I imagine the underside of the dingy looks bad as well but that's a job for another day.

Look...Sue gets all the fun jobs!

Today we decided to put the fins back on the wind generator. We took them off in preparation for Ernesto which probably wasn't necessary but oh well. It was a real pain taking them off as each of three fins has 3 bolts and by standing on the rail and wrapping one arm around the pole that holds up the generator I can just reach with the socket wrench and work the bolts. Takes forever.

OK, I'll tell you...the other problem is that when you take one fin off the whole thing is top heavy and free to rotate and it could happen that some hard working physicist who just didn't happen to be thinking about that right then could get a fin right in the forehead. It could happen.

So we decided to lower the whole pole and wind generator. This would allow me to do three things. Re-tap one of the holes where the threads got ruined, take the generator off the pole and grease that bearing, and easily put the fins back on. Good. Of course we're talking an 8 foot pole with about a 30 pound piece of machinery on top. There are two struts that hold this up. One is angled forward and the other goes across the stern making a 90 degree angle with the other strut. The pole itself sits in a little bracket that is free to pivot the pole for and aft. We tied the main halyard near the top of the pole and removed the struts. We planned to lower the assembly so the generator ended up in the dingy where I could then work on it. OK, lower away. Of course as it starts down there is nothing to keep the darn thing from swinging all over the place side to side. We took care of that with much swearing and sweating and grunting and swearing. Finally got the thing to sit in the dingy. Whew.

No problem re-tapping the bad hole (thanks Dad!) and putting the fins back on (not counting that it is now 93 degrees, bright sun, and NO wind). Now we realize that raising it is going to be a bit of an adventure. The main problem is that the pole sits in the very aft, starboard corner of the boat. I can put a line over to port to keep the pole from swinging to starboard but there is nothing to tie a line to to keep it from swinging to port. Hmmm...

After some test runs we arrived at a nice solution. I put another line on the pole and took it into the dingy. I kept the bow line on the dingy and put the engine in reverse while holding on the the line that went to the pole. I then motored out until the bow line was taut, kept the engine in reverse and tightened the line to the pole. Now I can (maybe) control things from the dingy (steer, rpms, tension on the line) while Sue hoists on the main halyard. It worked! Once the pole was vertical Sue could cleat her line and come aft and just hold the pole in place while I came back aboard. We put one strut back on but the other will have to wait as the collar that connects it to the pole ended up in the sea. Another 1 hour job that took all morning.

Finally, a report on Gracie. She is settling in nicely with Pete, her new owner. The other day Gracie and Mr. Butters (Pete's other cat) were outside in the little patio area at Pete's house. Pete says he looked away for about 30 seconds to talk to a neighbor and when he looked back...no Gracie. He looked high and low! An HOUR later he went out front and there, ACROSS BUSY ESTERO BULEVARD Gracie was trotting south with her tail straight up in the air. Why did the blind cat cross the busy road? More importantly...HOW? Well, she's back and Pete will have to watch her. She still likes to go adventuring I guess.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Walk About Town

I took a walk along Estero Boulevard which runs the length of Ft. Myers Beach. I walked from the library to the northwest tip of the island at Bowditch Park. Not many people hanging out at the bars or on the beach this time of year but a few families and couples were enjoying themselves in the hot sun.

I was trying to remember how I felt when I first visited Florida from the north. I couldn't wait to sit in the sun and walk along the beach. Today I just walked mostly along the beach and it was hot but very enjoyable. After 2 1/2 hours I felt like I earned the cold Yeungling I consumed at the bar. Yum.

Here are a few photos from my walk......

This view above is from the bridge (Mantanzaz Pass) leading to the beach. The close water is the back bay and the further water is the Gulf of Mexico.

The view to the right is of the mooring field taken from the bridge as well. In the far view Enee is the 1st sailboat on the left. You may want to enlarge to see it.

The photo at left is one of about 40 beach access points. There are several hotels and resorts on the beach but the public is very welcome to enjoy the beachfront all along Estero Boulevard.

I love the bright white sand along this beach. And today the sky was clear and the sun was high and the colors were crisp. If I were to live on a beach I would choose a house something like this one at the right. A nice little beach house on stilts (space for a car to park underneath) with a deck facing the water. Not a bad way to spend the evening watching the sun set as you sit in the hot tub. Although I'd wait for December or January before entering the 'hot tub.'

I continued along the shore and spotted a house for sale, similar to the one in the photo. The asking price was $1,400,000.00 - a bit out of our range but not ridiculous for beach front property I think.

I spotted 3 different types of palm trees. At least they looked distinctively different enough to me. For example, the tree below: both photos are of the same tree.

Maybe because it's a young palm, I'm not sure, but notice how short and 'barky' the trunk is and how full and pointy the palm leaves are. The right photo is a close up of the bark.

This palm at the left is not only much taller but the trunk is much much smoother and very bulbous at its base. Is this perhaps a mature tree and the tree pictured above will look like this in a few years? Hmmmm. Some research needs to be done here.

But wait, there's one more:
the palm at the right has flowers! Well they look more like berries that I think bloom at a certain time of year. And...the bark is yet of a different variety - not extra 'barky' and not very smooth - something inbetween.

So, there you have it. My observations of palm trees in Florida. And where are the coconuts you ask. Missing in action. I didn't see a one.

I of course also spotted quite a variety of birds:

Toward the end of the island near Bowditch Park there were quite a number of different birds nestled in their own groups all facing southeast and basking in the sun. I was able to get fairly close before they would pop up from their roosting and scurry away from me waiting for me to pass so they could settle in again and gaze toward the sun. Even more research needed here.

At the very end of the island is a clear view of the channel markers (left) showing the way around the island toward Matanzaz Pass. Doesn't seem like a sail boat much less a large commercial boat would fit, yet this is our way in and out of the back bay area.

And finally.....
a picture of a sailboat sailing off into the sunset. Well, not really, it was only about 1:30 p.m. and definitely time to find that Beach bar to meet Scott and have that cold brew.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

To Bee or not To Bee.......

It seems the obnoxiously boiling summer days are on their way out. Mornings and evenings are cooler longer with a nice breeze throughout the day. We are very ready for the change.

Scott struggles with being bored when we sit in one place for awhile. I understand it. Being on the move is the lifestyle we both seek. Studying the charts, planning where to go next, watching the weather, hoisting the sails, cruising to a new place and arriving by sea......it’s a wonderful way to travel. I miss it when we sit in one place for awhile. Come December we’ll be on the move again.

In the meantime I’m enjoying living in the back bay of Ft. Myers Beach. Everyday is unique even though the heat has been very predictable. It’s a challenge to make shade on the boat since we turn with the current and swing with the breeze but it’s worth the effort to be able to sit in the cockpit to watch the day unfold. We were able to put an awning over the boom since we took the sails off which provides significant shade as long as we’re facing the sun. So far this morning the current has been in our favor.

The sky is ever so slightly overcast which is unusual. Maybe we won’t get the 95 degree heat that’s the constant forecast. No building clouds are visible on the horizon yet. These usually arrive mid day and it’s a crap shoot decision whether or not to close up the boat when going ashore for happy hour.

No sign of dolphins as yet although the black dog that lives at the turquoise house was barking and running along the shore which usually means that he’s spotted a few. I hear them before I see them - the dolphins that is. A distinct “blphew” swish of air noise - sounding something like breathing air in and blowing your nose at the same time - let’s you know they’re nearby. I used to screech “AH!” as if I was shot or falling off the boat when I’d spot one. “What! What’s wrong!?!” “Look!.......aaaaaa Dolphin!” “Oh. I thought you were shot or falling off the boat.” I get just as excited to watch them swimming by but I’m able to control my exclamation to......”Dolphin!” which is better for the marital relationship.

This morning as I’m reading “I Sailed With Magellan” (a fantastic book, by the way, by author Stuart Dybek who is a Chicago writer) I notice a bee flying around the stern of the boat. I think, ‘Oh great now we’re going to get inundated with these critters.’ I remember how pesky they can be in the mid-west at the end of summer when you’re trying to spend as much time outside as you can possibly fit in but the damn bees are everywhere, especially in your pop or beer cans!

After a few minutes the bee leaves. As I finish up the chapter called “Breasts” (now you really do want to read this book, don’t you?) he’s back. Well a bee is buzzing around the stern above the traveler and around the main sheet. No way to tell if it’s the same one. He lands on the traveler and crawls into one hole then another. These holes are functional holes in that these are places to set the locks for the main sheet. In other words the main sheet which helps position the boom can travel the length of this track (thus the term traveler). When it’s in the desired position you lock it in place by positioning these tab like things. They work similar to a bolt on a door except they go down not sideways. As you can imagine this traveler hasn’t been moved much since we’ve arrived in Ft. Myers Beach.

The bee doesn’t stay long but now I’m watching for him to return. I’m not disappointed but surprised when he does return with a small piece of green that looks like a leaf in his legs. (Click on bee pictures for close up views.) He heads straight for a hole, climbs in and stays for several moments. When he leaves there are no leaves with him. Hmmmmmm. Apparently he’s found a new home or at least nesting place. Hmmmmmm. What to do - what to do. Everybody needs to be someplace but I decide that letting this bee do all this work of building a nest just to cover it up or throw it away isn’t fair. I cover the holes in the traveler with a screen after the bee leaves and wait for his return hoping that he’ll get discouraged and fly off to find another hidey hole for his needs.

He does return and is flying above the screen, landing on the screen, flying above the screen. He moves to the other side of the mainsheet where there are other holes and tries them out but these are not the ones (actually the one) he’s looking for. Then he starts flying around the cockpit buzzing near the canopy, looking as if he will head down into the cabin.

Ok. That’s it. Where’s the fly swatter. I guess my experiences with bees flying into my pop and beer cans has made me a bee killer. Who knew. And it’s not even noon yet!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What ever happened to Ken Kesey?

A notice was published the Ft. Myers Beach Island Sand Paper. The name of the local paper is really Sand Paper. Listed among the notices for garage sales, apartments for rent, etc. was this quote. We added one of our photos.

If you click on the image at left you will see a larger version. The quote is also listed below:

“The answer is never the answer.
What’s really interesting is the mystery.
If you seek the mystery instead of the answer,
you’ll always be seeking.
I’ve never seen anybody really find the answer --
they think they have, so they stop thinking.
But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery,
plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom.
The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.”
--Ken Kesey

What ever happend to Ken Kesey, author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion" among others. Well he died in 2001 but apparently he has at least one fan here in FMB.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gracie's New Home!

She wasn't too happy being packed up into her carrying case, lowered into the dingy and taking the short ride to shore. She also wasn't too happy with the hot car ride to the beach. But once we arrived and Pete welcomed us into his airconditioned apartment, Gracie quickly made herself at home sniffing and exploring and finding her way as she lightly bumped into things. When Mr. Butters walked through the door Gracie didn't even notice. Well, she's blind so she didn't see him. She was also too busy trying to figure out the new smells and where she was. Mr. Butters positioned himself under a chair and held his ground there. Gracie walked into him at one point and he gave her a 'love tap' on the nose. She quickly turned around and walked back toward Pete. She then continued with exploring finding new rooms and spaces to bump into.

Pete invited us to visit anytime. It turns out that he's also an 'old salt' sailor although Gracie is happy to hear that he doesn't have any plans to live on a boat. He will take good care of her. I think she will enjoy this home on the beach for her retirement!

Friday, September 08, 2006

So Long Gracie...

Good news - Gracie has found a new home and it's not six feet under! A very nice man here at the marina has agreed to take her in so she can live out her remaining years in air conditioned comfort. Gracie will join Mr. Butters at Pete's apartment. Pete says that Mr. Butters is very docile and will probably not attack Gracie which would be easy to do as she is real blind. Pete promises to keep us updated as to how she is doing over the coming months. So it will be different aboard Enee Marie without our faithful four legged crew member but she will hopefully be a little happier kitty with a land based home. So, let's reminice with a look through Gracie's photo album...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Staying On Board With Ernesto

Let the pictures tell the story........

It was Tuesday, August 29th - the one year anniversary of Katrina. What would the next 24 hours bring?

The morning was beautiful. Bad stuff wasn't expected to happen until later in the afternoon. And even then the top winds were predicted to be 45 mph. We both decided to stay on board. We took a quick dingy ride to the library to drop off our due movies then walked to Topps and topped off a few groceries plus a few bottles at the liquor store. We were ready!

By mid-day the dingy was extra secured on the davits, motor off and tied down on the motor mount, boom secured, dodger off, all preparations complete for Ernesto.

The afternoon was cloudy with a few drizzles of rain.....not even enough to close the campanionway.

Gracie the cat found a secure spot in her usual spot under our v-berth next to her fan and now the added anchor light which we removed from the halyard for when the storms came.

We spent the evening playing chess. Sue won one game!!! One out of 50! Well we didn't play 50 games that night but overall, 1 out of 50. Amazingly we were able to get a signal so chatting on the internet and answering emails was possible. Also keeping track of Ernesto via noaa website was also nice. The rest of the evening was very calm. No wind and just enough drizzly rain to be annoying. Open the hatch for some breeze.....hurry close the hatch because it's raining again......oh god i can't breath....open the hatch......ahhhhh....hurry! close the hatch, it's raining again!
That was our evening.

It was after 7 a.m. when Sue finally got up to put the coffee on. Though cloudy, it was still rather calm and quiet out. There was a little breeze but hardly enough to move the palm trees. Were we going to miss this Ernesto weather entirely? Maybe.

We put the dodger back up and were able to sit outside admist the drizzle and read. It was a nice cool morning with a breeze but not the tropical winds predicted.

And then things began to change........
The wind picked up and the rain came in droves sometimes making visibility almost nil. Our wind-o-meter doesn't work so we don't know for sure just how high the winds got but it didn't seem to be much more than 25 knots. Maybe a few gusts up to 30. One of us could have jumped out and used the hand-held windometer, but we didn't.

There were moments of calm and then more high winds and rain. One lightening bolt looked and felt like it hit Parrot Key...oh no! But it didn't. During one lull Gracie was even brave enough to take a quick stroll above. The photo on the right is of her paws on the campanionway slide. Maybe not so brave as desparate for air. It gets very stuffy in here with no ports or hatches open.

The above photos show how the rest of the day after Ernesto went. It constantly rained off and on.....on and off. Looks like we'll be playing the open hatch--close hatch game again. And indeed we have been ever since.
Oh wait.....is that the sun I see peeking through the clouds?!? Inconcievable!!