Monday, September 30, 2013

Doing well in Florida


I’d like to tell you we’ve been tracking across islands, swimming in clear blue water and sailing the deep blue sea, but I cannot. Rather, we’ve been tied to a mooring ball in Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor. We’ve taken advantage of the amenities that came with the mooring ball like use of the marina rooms, day time internet, showers and the laundry facilities. We’ve met several people we buddy with on occasion, have attended potlucks, borrowed bikes to ride to the grocery store and have eaten out a few times. We may not be out and about exploring the world, but we are still having fun and making the best of things.

I’ve kept myself quite busy spending much of my time in the marina day room on the internet. Our boat neighbor, Nancy, and I have gone to lunch a couple of times, to the library and rummaging through the Salvation Army. I found several new (just out of the package), brand name shirts perfect for this lifestyle: sleeveless and airy. None were exactly my size, but we’ll tailor them. Having showers on shore has been a luxury we cherish and the laundry facilities, while expensive, have been wonderful. Our first community potluck was a Caribbean theme. We decided to take Hawaiian sweet bread ,changing the name to Caribbean Sweet Bread (wink, wink). We hoofed it to the grocery store getting back to the boat in enough time to make the bread, or so I thought. I read the recipe wrong and I didn’t have the time I needed for the bread to rise. I tried cutting the rise time in half and baked the bread. Already twenty minutes late, I pulled the bread out of the oven and cut it open. The outside was done, but the inside was an ooey gooey mess. No potluck for us, however, we waited half an hour, took our beverages and headed for shore joining in on the socializing portion of the evening. Our second potluck was an appetizer theme. This time we wanted to be ready and went to the grocery store the day prior for our ingredients. We took bacon wrapped bananas and to everyone, except the vegetarians, we were a hit; we were the appetizer stars of the potluck. Our boat neighbor, Nancy, graciously gave us the combinations to her bicycle locks. We have had three bikes at our disposal anytime we need them. The two mile walk to and from the grocery store has been cut from a couple of hours to twenty minutes round trip.

Jimi has tried to keep busy, but mostly he is bored stiff; antsy and ready to sail some more. He has fixed an ole’ teak ladder we have on board, scraped the bottom of the dinghy and Sanibel. Emerging himself in the harbor water is a nasty job. Miniature shrimp quickly attach themselves to anything including humans. They especially like the interior of the ear. Jimi said he could feel them biting his flesh when he got out; an irritating tingly feeling all over. A shower was quickly necessary when the job was finished. This is probably the reason most cruiser hire the job out. The dinghy wasn’t so bad, but Sanibel’s bottom was a fuzzy furry sheet of carpet. He’s done maintenance work on the outboard motor, changed the oil in the diesel engine and found other miscellaneous projects around Sanibel to do.

We’ve met two people in the harbor who have the exact boat we have, an Allied Mistress. The Allied company produced only sixty Mistresses in the seventies. We have hull #4, our neighbor has hull #6 and our new friend, Harald, has hull #8. To add to it, two Allied Seawinds, Sanibel’s grandmother boat, are also in the harbor. It’s impressive to have so many (5%) Allied boats in one place at one time. That says a lot about the company, though they are no longer in business, they made a pretty good product.

There is never any shortage of interesting people in the cruising world. It doesn’t matter if they are stay-put live-a-boards, part time cruisers or full time cruisers, everyone has a story. One fella we’ve recently been acquainted with is Bobby the Viking. That’s what they call him and for good reason. I’m guessing he is in his fifties, a dark complexion (probably from the sun) and bleach blond hair just past his shoulders. We are told we will probably never see him with a shirt on. He always wears cut off blue-jean shorts, a belt, leather wraps on each forearm and a grin on his face from ear to ear. He lives on his sailboat anchored in the harbor. For $2.50 a foot he will dive the harbor scraping growth off the bottom of your boat. The thing that really sets Bobby aside is his dinghy. It is a small boat from the Viking era, or looks like it at least. I haven’t snapped a photo of it yet, but I’ll try to before we leave the area permanently.

Molly and I will fly to Nebraska on October 1st. For me, it will be a seven week visit with my family and friends. For Molly, Nebraska will be her new home. Though she’s been great on the boat, we’ve decided the passages are too rough for her, given her age, and we worry about her safety and the longevity of her life. We are convinced she will do better and live longer on land. I can’t imagine her not being with me. She keeps me on schedule waking me up at precisely 6:30 every morning by touching her nose to my nose, her whiskers tickling my face. When I turn over, she’ll try to walk over me to get to my face. When I bury my face in my pillow, she’ll rub the side of her face on my ear with meows in between until finally I get up and get her breakfast. You may think it’s annoying and some mornings it is, but not always. Her subtle touches and soft meows are comforting. Even though I know she wants breakfast, I feel as if she is giving me a little bit of kitty love, because she goes about it so sweetly. After I feed her, I can peacefully go back to bed, but usually I stay up. She meows precisely at noon and 5:30 pm for dinner. And often would meow leading me to the bedroom between 9 and 10 pm every night. On Sanibel, though, she usually just falls asleep in the galley and I take her to bed with me when I go. She’s like a dog: taking nightly walks around the perimeter of the boat, often following me around and always wanting to know what we are eating and if she likes it, she wants some. I could go on with many more cutesy things she does, but I won’t bore you anymore. Jimi and I will miss her a great deal.

Jimi is going to sail to Charlotte Harbor meeting up with friends and re-provisioning at Sam’s Club. His friend, Matt, is flying in to the Fort Meyers airport on October 15th (Jimi’s birthday). Matt will help Jimi sail Sanibel 130 nautical miles from Fort Meyers to Key West. It just so happens they will be arriving in Key West just before the annual Fantasy Fest party begins (Key West’s version of Mardi Gras). I fly in to Key West on November 19th.

We are planning to be in Boot Key Harbor for Thanksgiving. And after Thanksgiving we’ll begin watching for a weather window to the next leg of our journey. Our plan is to sail west across the north coast of Cuba, then south hitting designated spots along the Mexican coast, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. We will remain south during next year’s hurricane season and then make a reverse trip back to the U.S.A.

Monday, September 2, 2013

There’s no place like home!


We are in the United States. We paid for a thirty day mooring ball at the City Marina in Boot Key harbor of Marathon, Florida. I am so happy to be home. Read a few stories from the last two months below.

The day had been a hot and sunny, lazy afternoon on Sanibel. We were anchored in the absolute middle of nowhere in the Bahamas. Old coral heads, now just large rocks protruding from the ocean were in front of us and more were off to one side. A large ship wreck sticking out of the ocean in twenty six feet of water was off to the other side of us. I was baking bread while engrossed in my latest novel. Jimi told me he was going for a swim. Since we’ve been in secluded paradise, He swims naked when no one is around to avoid getting his swim trucks dripping with salt water and messing up the cockpit as they dry. As I was removing the first loaf of bread from the oven, I heard Jimi whistle. I hollered “Just a minute” and removed the second loaf. I turned off the oven and climbed the companionway stairs into the cockpit. I expected Jimi would be on the side of the boat either wanting to hand me something he found or take of picture of something he found. I hollered “I’m here”. But there was no response. I looked over the side but he was nowhere to be seen. Then I heard the whistle again and again. I looked all around. It sounded like the whistles were coming from the rocks to my left, but I couldn’t see him.

Then I heard a faint yell “Can you hear me?” After looking around some more, I spotted a naked Jimi standing on the rocks to my right about an eighth of a mile away.

I responded “yes”.

Again I heard “Can you hear me?”

Louder I yelled “YES”.

“Can you hear me?”

Annoyed “Yeeesssss!” He couldn’t hear me and I didn’t know what to do.

Then he yelled “I can’t hear you because of the wind and surf. I need you to do something for me.” O.k. I thought and signaled with a wave. He also said “I can’t see you very well because the sun is right behind you” Great, I thought. Then he began telling me what he needed me to do. “Remove the stern line”

For a few seconds all that registered in my head was What? Why? And how does that help you way over there? and then it hit me. He was stuck on the rock and unable swim back. I assumed it was because of the current or something similar and I was going to have to go get him.

“Aw hell, aw hell, aw hell!” I walked to the stern and released the bridal line. I let it fall in to the water as he instructed me to and made my way to the cockpit.

“Turn on the windlass” he said. I went below deck removed the windlass cable from its storage, turned on the breaker and headed for the bow. Since Jimi couldn’t hear me he instructed me to wave my right arm high in the air if I understood his instructions. I responded accordingly. I began to pull in the anchor, removed the snubbing line when it approached and then slowly brought in more chain, as to not strain the windlass motor. Normally the engine would be running giving us forward motion as the anchor chain is being lifted on to the boat, but this day was different. I needed to be able to hear Jimi and wouldn’t be able to over a noisy engine. After a few minutes the other end of the bridal line came up. I untied it and continued to reel in the anchor until Sanibel was unleashed. I went back to the cockpit. Jimi instructed me to put the port side of the boat to him. He would need the ladder to climb aboard and it was on the port side. I started the engine and turned on the chart plotter so I could watch for reefs and the depth. I put her in forward and gave her some throttle. I turned to my starboard (away from Jimi) making a circle, so I would bring the port side right up to him and wouldn’t have to try to turn around so close to the rocks. Jimi watched me intently and at times he guided me as if I were an airplane on a runway. I was almost there.

“slow down” he hollered as I approached just fifty feet away. Now twenty feet from the rocks “put it in reverse” I did and then seconds later “neutral” I did. I had a line ready to throw him, as I still assumed the rescue had something to do with the current. He jumped in the water and swam to me. I did not need to throw the line. He climbed aboard, praised me for doing a perfect job and took over the helm. I went below deck to check on things in the galley. Once we were safely anchored again he told me he couldn’t swim back because he was being harassed by two black finned reef sharks. He had swam all through the reefs and around the rocks when a shark approached him. Jimi instinctively growled at the shark. The shark turned around going the other way. Just as soon as Jimi also turned to go about his business Jimi was face to face with a second shark. He began to swim towards Sanibel, but felt too nervous about the splashing he was causing. Jimi headed for the rocks and climbed ashore. And that’s where I came in. When I picked him up, he said he was still nervous to even swim the fifteen to twenty feet to the boat, but had to do it.

Over a month ago I woke up one morning not feeling so great. My belly was rumbling; I felt tired and drained. I laid around on the bed most of the morning not doing much of anything. As the afternoon approached, I began feeling worse. Jimi noticed and asked me about it. I explained all my diagnose me because we don’t have medical insurance). For the next two days I laid on my bed in severe agony. The pain was worse than anything I had ever felt before; even worse than labor pains during child birth. My temperature spiked to 102°. I was freezing cold in ninety degree weather and ten minutes later I was so hot I couldn’t stand it. Jimi tried to get me to drink water, but I refused. I would only take a sip with some ibuprophen to control my fever. If I drank any more than that, within minutes, I would get gut wrenching intestinal cramps and then spend the next twenty or more minutes in the bathroom. I refused to ingest anything. As if the intestinal cramps were not enough, I experienced all over body aches I can only describe as the body flu. My entire body was extremely sensitive to any sort of touch. No matter how I laid I hurt, so I did the only thing I could do that gave me any sort of relief, I moaned and cried. I was in and out of dream land, but I was not dreaming. On shore, a Doctor was standing by to examine me, but I refused. I didn’t want anyone to see me in the condition I was in. Jimi said he would give me a couple of days and if I showed no signs of improvement he would have to bring the Doctor to see me. On the third day the body aches were nearly gone, my fever broke and the cramping had improved. I agreed to eat a little here and there (applesauce, cream of wheat and Progresso soup) and drink more water. Jimi determined I had giardia with dysentery. It’s been over a month and I still have some symptoms, but nothing as they were. I would not wish this on anyone.

We’ve inherited some guests aboard Sanibel. We’ve brought back with us a gecko who lives under the lines on the bow, a tree frog (the last time we saw him, he was on the dinghy), a gazillion itty bitty ants barely visible unless you know they are there and some weird flying nat things. How these stow-a-ways managed to get on the boat is beyond us. We have no beef with the gecko or the frog and the nats are disappearing slowly, but the tiny ants are annoying and we will take evasive action to rid them of our lives. Prior to our stow away gecko, Jimi boarded a gecko we named Lao. He lived in the navigation station eventually moving to the tool bench. We thought he would scurry around the boat eating the unwanted bugs. We’ve heard of other cruisers having geckos aboard just for that reason. However, Lao never left the tool area. We would check on him and talk to him every time we passed. Often times it was like “Finding Waldo”; he would become camouflaged in the mess of tools as he moved about the shelf. We gave him water in a bottle cap and bits of food, but he never seemed interested in any of it. We began to wonder if the poor guy would survive and knew we would feel guilty if he died, so Jimi released him. At least now Jimi can grab a tool for the work bench without worrying about Lao.

We went two months without seeing another cruiser or a grocery store to speak of. Our provisioning was low in some areas and we learned to get even more creative than we already had been. We had mixed macaroni and cheese with canned chicken, with tuna, sometimes Rotel tomatoes and even with corned beef. None of that seems out of the ordinary, right?. When we ran out of butter, I substituted olive oil. It worked great on our grilled cheese sandwiches. I created my own version of a tuna melt sandwich. I spread a mixture of mayo, tuna, and garlic topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese between two pieces of fried bread. We experimented enough with fresh conch to come up with a mouth watering recipe, battered and fried. We had planned to grill conch on the barbeque, but our conch collecting came to an end with the shark sightings. We tried to make hamburger patties out of corned beef by mixing it with a meatloaf mixture (eggs and bread crumbs), but the corned beef fell apart anyhow. We weren’t starving but we didn’t have all the ingredients for one recipe or even a complete meal unless we are talking about peanut butter and jelly. We were definitely lacking in the meat department, however; we had unknowingly overstocked on canned vegetables, including canned asparagus, which we avoided due to its canned mushiness. Our last concoction consisted of rice, alfredo sauce, sautéed onions, canned asparagus (chopped) and our last can of chicken. Once we added salt and pepper, it’s wasn’t too bad. Jimi and I have spent months dreaming of eating the biggest most all American hamburger imaginable with all the fixings and we have. We didn’t take the meal for granted. We enjoyed every thankful bite.

We arrived in Marathon with so much to do. We needed showers, were desperate to do laundry, needed groceries and wanted to make contact with the world via phones and the internet. Somehow we got through the demanding list and are pleasantly settled. I am so excited to be home in the United States of America where things are familiar. We will remain in the U.S. until hurricane season is over. We may stay in Boot Key harbor the entire two months or we may go north to Charlotte Harbor for the second month.

It’s good to be back!

Love Everybody,

Lorie & Jimi