Saturday, May 27, 2006


Well, it finally happened. Gracie has stayed high and dry since we left on June 12 '05. Two days ago however either jumping to the dock or back to the boat she must have come up a half a cat short. We heard some horrible howling and when we jumped up we realized it was coming from under the pier. This pier is supported along its center by piles. Gracie had her back feet (with claws) dug in to the barnacles on the pile and her front legs wrapped around the pile. I could just reach the scruff of her neck by laying on the pier and thereby rescue the old girl. Needless to say she was NOT happy. After drying her a little we stuck her into the shower to get the saltwater off of her knowing that she would begin to lick herself. Nothing kills this old girl though but we hope she learned her lesson about this dock.

Still reading "Breaking the Spell" (see the left side of screen). He quoted the old comedian, Emo Phillips, who once said that when he was a kid he prayed to God for a bike. Then he realized that God didn't work that way so he stole a bike and prayed for forgivness. Buy the book...I get points with Amazon!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thirty Hours to Clearwater

Made it! We left Marco Island at 9 in the morning on Saturday morning. NOAA website showed light west winds (~5 kts) for the next 24 hours along Florida's west coast. Perfect. This is why we stayed in Marco wait for helpful winds.

We started out with enough wind enough a-beam to motor sail with all sails up. About an hour into it the wind had spun back to the north west! By afternoon it was right on our nose and had piped up to 15 kts. This is what we DIDN'T want to do. I don't understand how consistently wrong NOAA can be. During the late afternoon we were bouncing in 4 foot seas. We had to bear off our rumb line (~340 degrees) and head more and more to the north and then north-east to keep some pressure on the sails, our speed up and avoid going straight into those seas. A couple of times we had to hike out to the west to get another angle. Our speed was down to under 4 knots at some points. We considered going into Charlotte Harbor since we were making little head-way. However by the time we were at the mouth of the harbor it was dark and we both decided that we didn't need to navigate a new channel with following seas in the dark. It was safer out in the wide open spaces.

After sundown we sailed over toward shore south of Venice hoping to catch an offshore wind. That worked. During the dark hours we motor sailed along the coast and just navigated with the depth sounder. Kept the boat in about 25 feet of water and we kept that off shore breeze. By morning the wind was down to nothing which is better than having it on our nose. We made the rest of the trek to Clearwater motor sailing in either no wind or, later, more wind on our nose. The wind NEVER blew west. It was North or northwest for 30 hours. Why do I even listen to the weather radio?

We found our way easily to our slip next to the Clearwater Yacht Club and tied up around 3 pm. A thirty hour run. Our friends Ange and Wendy were waiting for us there aboard their 44' Hunter - Big Kahuna. Now for some sleep! While making a long run we only sleep in 2-3 hour hunks and when it was rough we didn't sleep at all.

Good news is that the Perkins engine ran 30 hours non-stop. It's good to have some confidence in the iron genny!

Friday, May 19, 2006


Scott says...

Ah, sailing…or NOT! After a wonderful 18 hour sail/motor to Marco Island we have been stuck for the past 4 days. From here you have to sail to the NW to make it around Sanibel Island and, sure enough, the wind has been exactly NW ever since. We tried to get out yesterday and the 3-4 foot waves coupled with the wind being right on our nose sent us back to our anchorage. I know, why not just be a sailor and tack back and forth in to this wind. We could but…we choose not to! With an open ended schedule like ours we can choose our days. This boat is not very weatherly (doesn’t sail very close to the wind) as we have known all along. You sail this boat ‘full and by’ as they say. I wonder what that means? I think it means you’re looking to go on reaches but not beat hard to the wind to actually get anywhere. So another day on the anchor today…gets a little hard after spending more than a month in Key West. I’m really itching to travel again. But there’s books and boat projects…and books.

I like to keep a cheap trashy novel around. A page turner hopefully about serial killers or vampires or, if possible, both. With that I also like to have something of quality working. I’ve recently finished ‘Godel, Esher, Bach’ by Douglas Hofstader - a book I’ve tried to read ever since I bought it in 1979! I’d tell you what it’s about but I’m still not sure. Maybe artificial intelligence. Maybe Godel’s imcompleteness theorm. Both? It is not an easy read but it certainly got my attention! Now I’m reading ‘Breaking the Spell’ by Daniel Dennett. In this book he asks the question, “Why are we so committed to religion on this planet? To what gain? Is it really good for us?” Big questions like that. Interesting. He makes the point that no matter to what religious belief you adhere (94% of the planet believes in something) your religion is a minority. How do people stick with the idea that THEY and THEIR religion is THE one in the face of that sort of thing? Things like that have also puzzled me and so I find this book very interesting. Dennett is a smart guy and although an atheist does not attack religion (although a theist reading this book may feel attacked he’s really just asking reasonable questions) but asks questions about how things got this way. I highly recommend it especially for the religious among you. He is pretty much preaching to the choir with me to use a backwards metaphor!

Boat projects. You know, I’m more fond of saying that there is always something to work on than I am actually working on it! Something about the sun, blue sky, gently rocking of the boat, and music that doesn’t make me want to jump up and crawl around in the engine room! Maybe I’ll attack some more of the bright work…that is ALWAYS there for me.

Sue says……

Stuck? What’s stuck? I’m not stuck. Why would I feel stuck? I suppose one could say I’m ‘stuck’ with the captain, with this boat, with this cat, with this weather, with this place (Marco Polo Island). But I actually don’t feel stuck. I chose to be with all of the above except of course for the weather. I can’t choose the weather. Weather happens. What I can do is choose when to sail in it and when not to. I like having that choice.

We’ve been here since Monday late afternoon and originally planned to leave the next day. What have I done in the meantime? Lots of soduko. Lots of reading (currently “The Plot Against America” by Phillip Roth). Lots of looking and photo taking. I’m still on the mission to get a video of dolphins. There are plenty of them here. Some boat projects such as cleaning, groceries, laundry. It was kind of fun washing clothes in the rain water we collected. The clothes dried quickly in the brisk NW wind and the bright sunshine. I just like living on my boat, breathing the fresh air, traveling to new places, meeting new people, and having good conversations and fun times with the captain. So I don’t feel stuck.

Gracie says...
Hey, it's all the same to me. Get up, eat, poop, sleep. Stuck? Yeah, I'm stuck. I'm stuck with these two losers who think they're Captain Blood and Maureen O'hara! Yawn...time for another nap!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Key West to Marco Island Sunday May 14 (Scott and Sue’s 18th!)

We begin our trek north with the ultimate goal being Clearwater Fl. by making a run to Marco (Polo) Island. This is a run of about 90 miles from Key West at a heading of about 10 degrees. We always figure on averaging about 5 knots so this run will take us about 18 hours. We like to arrive to new places in daylight so we decide to leave good old Key West at 6 pm and sail through the night. The day of our departure we go to the Conch Marina for diesel, gas and water. A new problem crops up then…Back when we had the fuel ‘scrubbed’ we opened the tank at the fuel gauge port. This port has a rubber gasket and the (non working ) mechanical fuel gauge above it screwed to the tank with 5 machine screws. We noticed at the time that some of these screws were stripped. I tried to put in sheet metal screws and a new gasket at the time and thought I had things down tight. Upon filling the fuel right up to the deck level (no working gauges so I have to do it by sound…what?) I then noticed diesel on top of the fuel tank and into the bilge! Apparently the gasket is not down tight and with about 3 feet of hydrostatic pressure (dieselstatic?) it oozed out of the tank. We cleaned that up with absorb pads and decided that the bigger problem would be if water got on top of the tank and oozed IN. When I get to Clearwater I’ll drill out all 5 holes and move up one screw size and re-tap. Anyway, I love the smell of diesel in the morning!
We then moved over to the east side of Christmas Tree Island and hung out for the afternoon and prepared the boat and ourselves for a night sale. This means rigging jacklines on both sides of the boat, making sure our tethers are ready, checking flashlights, laying in a course on the GPS and so forth. At 6pm, after a spaghetti dinner for our long run, we headed out the northwest channel out of the Key West area. This is very wide and well marked. Once you get to bell buoy #1 you can turn and head direct to Capri Pass 80 miles almost due north by Marco (Polo) Island.

We were able to set sail around that buoy and sail our course on a broad reach in about 10 knots of south east wind. We were making between 4 and 5 knots. The sun set was spectacular in a perfectly blue sky followed by even more spectacular sail under the stars. We love sailing at night. We tried to set the autohelm so the helmsperson could sit back at the helm and enjoy the ride and the stars. It ain’t working! I thought I had fixed this some time ago but now it is not getting any signals from the compass at all. Nothing. Hand steering through a long night can get tedious especially for one with a short attention span. Scott! He’s all over the map when he steers. However, sailing north is easy on a clear night because rather than stare down at the compass you can stare at the north star! We found we could position ourselves with respect to the mast so that when the north star was just to the right of the mast we were on our plotted course. Well of course you can do this….this is how most of the planet was discovered! At one point Scott saw a shooting star that looked like the ones they draw in cartoons. It looked like a fiery snow ball and it covered about half the sky.

We took 2-3 hour hunks at the helm depending on how we felt. Around midnight the wind pooped out and we began to motor sail with just the reefed main up. (We always reef the main at night no matter what!) The nearly full moon had come up and as it got high in the sky, washed out many of the stars but we could still see the north star and use it to sail by. It is so good to be on the move again! We love the sound of the boat moving through the water. We love the feeling of aloneness when you look all the way around and only see the horizon. No lights, no boats, no shore. It is a weird and wonderful feeling and we never (yet) tire of it.

Sleep happens in 2-3 hour hunks and is not as sound as when you are on the anchor. Around 7 am we spotted the southern tip of Marco Island…Land HO! We’re a little tired and ready to put the hook down. Around noon we were finding our way into Capri Pass at the north end of the island (see photo at left). This leads up the Marco (Polo) river to a place to anchor in Factory Bay. But wait…it doesn’t look like the chart at all! There is supposed to be a center channel buoy AFTER you pass Coconut Island but we encounter that buoy (or is it?) before we even get to land. Go on? We turn back and go out the channel while working the charts, binoculars, and computer charts. We encounter a sailboat coming out and ask them, “Which way in?” I can see the river and I can see red markers up in the river but the center channel buoy has me thrown. These guys wave there hands and seem to say that you can just head up the river. We try. When the depth sounder went down to 2 feet under the keel Scott rammed it (the boat) into reverse and back out we went. Scott is for continuing north at this point and Sue wants to try again. Sue wins. This time we call Sea Tow (note: we’ve learned earlier that the Coast Guard will NOT give you any navigation help or info on water depths. They are afraid of being sued.) Sea Tow guy was very helpful and told me yes I DID have to take that center channel to port and yes buoyage has changed since last hurricane season and yes, well, the hurricanes pretty much took Coconut Island with them! The lesson: Have up to date charts. Mine are brand new! If you’re not sure get some local knowledge. We also called a local marina for help coming in and they were also helpful. Nobody likes to look like a fool by asking for help but believe us: There is NOTHING more foolish looking than a sailboat sitting sideways on a shoal. ASK!

We came easily up the river now and made our way to the anchorage area. The little Factory bay is surrounded by homes and tall condos. There is room for about 3 boats in the anchorage and we’re number 3.

AHHHHHH…the hook is down. Nothing broke and nobody died. Well nothing new broke anyway. Another great sail and now for a well deserved Budweiser. If only it were Old Style! We also celebrated our anniversary by dingying over to the ‘world famous Snook Inn’ restaurant. Sue called to see if we could park the dingy while eating. The guy said they have plenty of boat slips available. Sue said our dingy isn’t very big. He said their slips weren’t very big either. We had a good dinner but had to endure a karaoke like performer who abused every song he sang. Anyway we still enjoyed our celebration. Getting back into the dingy we found that as the tide went down (about 2 ½ feet) our motor stuck in the mud. So the valiant Captain jumped into the water to free the motor as the princess, or should that be maiden Sue (oh, please) climbed down the steep pier into the boat.

We were definitely ready for a long sleep. But wait. What’s that at 12:30 a.m.? Of course, thunderstorms! Back to our 2 to 3 hour sleep schedule. It turned out not to be very violent storms but Sue kept close watch anyway. Our new hatch covers (remember Ft. Lauderdale?) held out most of the rain but the v-berth hatch does have a leak so no sleeping there. Yet another project for Clearwater. Today is Tuesday. We woke up very sleepy and the NOAA weather predicted several storms all day so we stayed tucked in Factory Bay. Tomorrow evening we plan to head out again sailing 90-100 miles up to Egmont Key just in the mouth of Tampa Bay. We are almost there!

Post Note: Well the winds are still strong from the northwest so the current plan is to leave Thursday morning as the wind shifts to the west and sail on through to Clearwater, about a 26 hour sail. Today we'll reprovision a bit in the town of Marco Island and wash clothes with the fresh rain water collected during Tuesday's day long rain.

Monday, May 15, 2006

San Marco Island

Scott and Sue have successfully made it to San Marco Island. They were able to sail all the up untill midnight and Scott said that it was a really beautiful & amazing sail. Although I have finally updated the map and you readers on time for once, they will be leaving San Marco tomorrow already to continue their journy north.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Turn Right!

The adventure has taken a bit of a surprising turn. A couple of incidents have conspired to make it interesting to sail to.....

Clearwater Beach!

This is where we will probably spend hurricane season. The events leading up to this are 1. being able to help my dad who lives in Tampa and 2. finding an affordable slip in Clearwater Beach thanks to our 'new best friends', Ange and Wendy.

While in that area we hope to take care of some largish unfinished projects using my dad's woodworking shop. Also we can use the time to get the SSB working (yeah, it's still NOT), get a ham license, work a little maybe, and, of course, explore the waters in and around that Tampa/St. Pete area. Didn't plan to go there but it looks interesting. We already are poring over new charts of Florida's west coast.

We will probably sail to Marco Island from Key West and then maybe Venice or a long jump all the way to Clearwater. We'll see.

Oh boy! More dirt to follow!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Our newest 'best friends'

We've spent the last two evenings with our new best friends, Wendy and Ange, the wacky Canadians. They have a beautiful, new 44 foot hunter sailboat and are moored right by us in Garrison Bight. They were the ones that found our blog and used it to figure out these damn mooring balls.

As we watched them dingy back to their boat the other night something didn't look right. Really not right! Just as they reached the stern of their boat we see their dingy apparently try to climb aboard under full power! It tipped up, dumped them in the water and then proceeded to do full throttle donuts with Ange clinging to the side. He was afraid to let go because where would the prop go next? He couldn't climb in. Finally we see him let go and swim to his boat while the dingy continued its nutty dance by itself. I jumped in our dingy and rushed over to see if they were ok. they were fine (though wet) and as luck (or fate, Wendy!) would have it, in trying to climb aboard Ange had grabbed the fuel line so when he let go he pulled it off of the engine and the tank. The dingy only raced around until the fuel in the engine was used up. I was able to tow their dingy back to their boat then. Those crazy Canadians!

It's funny now but not so much at the time. Now we both ALWAYS hook that little kill switch to our belts like you're supposed to! This also shows how useless it is to simply have lifejackets on board. Those were instantly left behind. Now big deal in this case but you could get dumped by a big wake and be miles from the mother ship. Food for thought!