I’m Going Down; Save the Pee!

The orange light was lit. Crap. I wasn’t sure what a lit orange light meant, really, but I knew it wasn’t good. Crap, crap, crap! Rick abruptly stood up. Shit! “What’s wrong?” I asked a little too loudly.

“One of the engine’s is overheating.” Holy, mother of… He throttled back; then shut it off.

I stood up dumping the dog onto the floor. His look went from curiosity to alarm as I shrilly asked, “Why did it overheat?” The dog started hopping from one foot to the other, mimicking my anxiety.

“I don’t know until I can go down and look. We can run on one engine.”

“That’s not good.” I continued.

“Must need fluids.”

I persisted. “But you checked all the fluids before we left.”

“I know.”

And so began the four-day trial of our latest journey.

Once the engine had time to cool, Rick broached the subject of my taking the wheel while he checked out the engine. Now, I’ve made it perfectly clear I was not at all comfortable with driving the beast. Heck, just starting the engines leads to a nervous bathroom bout, so I sure and shit didn’t want to take the wheel. I, however, knew nothing about engines except how to check the oil, which I was pretty sure was useless knowledge here.

We reached a straightaway with no boats in sight. Before I could protest, Rick reminded me I just needed to keep it between the channel markers. We were merely creeping along, but I felt like we were flying. I barely touched the wheel. I guess I was subconsciously thinking if I don’t touch it I’m not culpable when a tragedy occurs. Through my sniffles and prayers, I diligently watched behind me for crazed sports fishermen that might try to swamp us as they streamed by. I checked ahead of us for fishing skiffs I might run over. If anything moved but us, I would scream holy-hell until Rick ran up to see what was going on.

Luckily, he quickly added fluid and came back to the helm. He pulled me into a bear hug and told me I did great. I cried giant tears of relief. (I’m such a baby.) He could find no leak, but we had lost all the fluid. We discussed turning back but decided to forge ahead. We traveled the rest of the day on one engine, starting the other only to dock.

That night, we landed at a marina we had used the last time we took a boat (sailboat) that direction. It hadn’t fared well in the 10+ years since we’d been there, but we at least had electricity and water and Banjo could go potty on grass. He had yet to allow himself the luxury of going on the “poop deck” we’d created for him at the bow of the boat. Instead he stubbornly waited hours until we could walk him. This meant we couldn’t yet anchor out.

Our last piddle walk was around 10:00. As we sauntered down the dock, cockroaches scuttled around us and I scooped Banjo up to keep him safe. Upon returning to the boat, Rick had to kill one that had reached the deck. As he kicked it to its watery grave, he wondered how it got up there since we had to climb four steps to reach the deck. I was sure it just scurried up the lines leading to the dock. Rick used bug spray on each of the lines and I added peppermint oil to cotton and placed it around the doors as a deterrent. Okay, I had no cotton balls. In reality, I used cotton swabs. It looked silly, but I hoped it was just as effective.

I was exhausted that night, but slept little. Each time I closed my eyes I pictured the scene in “Pirates of the Caribbean” when the dead pirates climb up ropes to the ship to rein their holy terror. Only, instead of the pirates, it was cockroaches. As of this writing, I have not seen any more, so I think we lucked out.

We left at first light and had a pretty non-descript day. That night’s marina was pleasant and even had a loaner car so we could get more antifreeze and a few fresh veggies. There were no bugs.

The next night, we landed at a marina that was basically one long pier behind a gas station. They had beautiful grass all around the place, but it was all marked “No Dogs.” I had to walk Banjo through the gas station to a tiny plot that bumped up to the road and coax him to “go” while semis roared by.

At first light, we headed out again. Right before pushing off, I took our garbage to the dumpster at the end of the dock. It was quite dark and I, of course, fell as I slipped down an incline I couldn’t see. I banged up my knee. The good news is that it was the opposite knee from my other falls, so now I have a matched set.

Again, we used the ailing engine when necessary and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, it did overheat and we needed to add fluid again. This time, Rick gave me the choice of adding fluid or steering. I chose to add the fluid. How difficult could that be? I’d never done it; not even on a car, but come on. Rick explained it was the port engine. He told me where to find the antifreeze and the water jug. He suggested I use a funnel and where to find that. He also said the space was too tight to pour directly from the jugs. I would need to use a jar he had down there. He said the radiator was right by the jar and the cap was on top. I need to push down, unscrew, and unscrew again to get the cap off. I was ready.

I went down, hoisted open the hatch and locked it in place. It took me two tries to determine the best way to get down into the area where the engines were located. I couldn’t crawl on my knees with the injury from earlier in the day, so I sort of scooted on my butt in a modified crab walk. I saw the jar and headed to it. There was a cap of sorts, but it looked more like a dipstick than an actual cap. I tried turning it but didn’t get very far. I crawled out and returned to the aft deck to describe what I was seeing. I’d rather be cautious than accidentally add antifreeze to the oil. Rick confirmed I was in the wrong spot. He was getting a little agitated as he again described what it looked like, what the surroundings looked like, and asked if I had seen the jar. I confirmed the jar was where I had been. He suggested it must have slid and told me that, yes, I had been looking at the dipstick.

I tried again, but this time, I took a photo of what I thought was now the correct spot. Rick confirmed my photo and I got to work. Man! It was a sauna down there. I sat between the two engines and had to twist my body in a weird way to complete the task. In the end, I felt triumphant; I only dribbled a little water outside the hole where I was aiming and I only burned myself on the working engine once. I told Rick I much preferred doing that to driving. Not sure how he felt about that.

The ride was rugged all day. Partway through, Rick pointed out three large boats headed towards us. We had several Navy vessels going full boar earlier in the day streak by. We guessed these might be the same. I grabbed the binoculars. They were just jerky rich dudes who didn’t think they needed to slow down when passing another boat. “Hang on! Grab the dog!” Rick shouted as he grabbed the radio mic shouting, “Slow down!” as the first raced by kicking up a 4 or 5-foot wake. We recovered just as the second repeated its predecessor’s actions. The third quickly followed. Banjo stuck like glue to me for the rest of the day. I didn’t really blame him.

I was glad when we stopped for the night. It had been overcast and cold and I was looking forward to a warm shower because my body ached from the engine work (yes, I am out of shape; what’s it to you?) My night routine now includes emptying the “pee” container on the composting toilet prior to showering for the night. It can hold a couple days’ worth but I empty it every night so I don’t forget. (I forgot once and lord help me, it was awful. You don’t wanna know.) There is some question about the legality of dumping pee overboard, so our compromise is to empty it into the other toilet, which goes into a holding tank for pump out. We found no odor if we use the holding tank for fluid only, so this allows us to be sure we aren’t violating any environmental laws while still being able to use the composting toilet for the solids.

I bring all this up, because that night I was exhausted when I started my nightly routine. I removed the liquids container from the toilet, carrying it in one hand while holding a paper towel in the other to be mindful of drips as I drained the container. I stepped up three steps into the main cabin, walked through it and down the two steps into the galley. I cross to the doorway leading to the forward head and stepped down. How did I lose my footing? Got me, but I did. Missed a step or tripped over my own two feet. In my head, I remember thinking, “I’m going down again. Save the pee! For the love of God, save the pee!”

I fell. HARD! I remember stretching my arms out to place the container onto the bathroom floor so it would be easier to clean if it spilled. Kinda of like how a football player stretches to get the ball over the line.  Thinking of it in this way makes me feel sort of like a hero, in a way.

In focusing on the bottle, I paid little attention to my body. My toes bent awkwardly and I smashed my knee (above that morning’s injury) and wrists.  Rick came running to see what happened. I was so done with the day that I burst into tears and couldn’t stop. He tried to help me up and I told him I couldn’t get up. He asked if I was okay and when I didn’t answer, he said he needed to know if he should call an ambulance. That snapped me out of it enough to get to my feet and hobble to a chair. Amazingly, there was zero drippage from the pee bottle. I HAD saved the pee! So, in the end, I suppose I triumphed on the day. An early night and ibuprofen led to a good night sleep.

Our final day, we had to navigate an abundance of bridges, but only three of which needed to be raised for us, with a few more that were only closed when trains came through. Two of the three opened on the hour and half hour and one only opened on the hour. We set out timing the first on the hour, second on the half hour to wind up at the third when it opened only on the hour.

We arrived at the first bridge late and had to wait for the next opening. That was throwing off our chances to make the others as quickly as we’d hoped. Then a stroke of luck as the second one opened on demand, so we breezed through it. We thought our luck was changing. Alas, luck is cruel. When we arrived at the third one we found a few obstacles. We were too early by a long shot. I called to see if perchance they might open on demand. They didn’t so we had to “hold” in place until opening. With only one engine, that was tough. Rick wrestled with it continuously for at least 40 minutes. While we waited, I reflected on the call. He referred to it as a lock, rather than a bridge. Huh. I mentioned it to Rick. He looked at the charts again. No lock shown. Huh.

A crackle came on the radio, followed by an announcement that southbound traffic would be sent through the lock at ten to the hour. Once all southbound traffic had cleared the bridge, northbound traffic could enter. Tie up may be on either side and extra-long rope was required. We hadn’t set up for a lock, so I raced out to get lines on both sides of the boat and tie on additional fenders. Rick called the lock to ask a few questions and we waited.

A bridge further north had mechanical trouble earlier in the day, so the southbound traffic was tremendous. A dozen or so boats of all sizes swarmed around us on both sides as they exited. We finally had the ability to move into the lock along with one other small boat. The lock tender was a nice old southern dude who gave Banjo a treat when he saw he had his life jacket on. We literally lowered only a foot in the lock and were on our way.

However, the wait for entrance, the wait for the southbound boats to move, and the wait for the lock led us to be about an hour later than planned. That only got worse as the day went on. Our next obstacle was a railroad bridge that remained open unless there was a train. Well, they were waiting on a train when we arrived. Again, Rick did the waiting game on one engine. The binoculars got us close enough to the signs to read that they closed the bridge up to 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after the train comes through. We were hoping this was the 10 minutes after. It was almost 5:00. We were worried no one would be at the marina to catch our lines. I pondered how I would get out and down to the low dock with the boat in motion, given my inability to walk or take stairs without tripping. Rick suggested calling the marina to let them know we were running late and try to convince them to stay for us. I was told that while they closed at 5:00, the folks in the repair shop were there until 6:00 and they would catch our lines. Whew!

Chatter on the radio confirmed our worst fears. We were waiting in the 10 minutes prior to the train coming through. It was already closed when we approached, so it shouldn’t be long, we thought as the 20-minute mark slowly crossed us. After 30 minutes, Rick called the bridge. “Just waiting on a train and then it will open,” came the reply. After 45 minutes, one of the other boats hanging out with us asked the bridge height and asked approval to drop their overhead gear and scuttle under the bridge. We tried to raise the marina on the radio to tell them we’d be after six, but received no answer. After an hour, we finally saw the train. It was going at a fair clip. Then it slowed down. We couldn’t see the end and worried it would stop on the bridge.

“There’s the end!” Rick exclaimed as the caboose tugged across the bridge. Yay! Then we waited some more. We heard a boater call for a time of opening. The bridge tender explained he was not on site; opening the bridge remotely. He had to wait for the all clear from the railroad prior to the bridge opening. It was after six when we finally puttered under the bridge. The sun was starting to set and I worried about the predicted weather change that had high winds and waves in the forecast.

Our final bridge was high enough we did not need it raised. We thought we were home free. However, it turned out we did need an “opening” of sorts. As we approached, we saw the nose of a huge tanker peeking under the bridge. It was guided by three tugs and moving very slowly. We could not fit past him even if it had been safe to do so. So, we waited some more while he lumbered through like a black bear wandering through the woods in search of berries.

Eventually we skirted past the ship and headed toward our destination for the next six months: Portsmouth, VA. Being so late, we had no assistance. But as we inched closer, we noticed a foursome on a sailboat next to our slip having wine on their deck. I hollered for assistance and the two fellows came ‘round to grab our lines. They were lifesavers!

That was five days ago. Five days to reflect and rest. Five days to call a repair service. Five days to give my injuries a rest. Whew!

Poop Deck Peril

Recently I checked my Facebook feed and noticed this memory.

This popped up on my Facebook feed recently.
This popped up on my Facebook feed recently.

The past 12 months have been phenomenal and so jam packed, it’s difficult to remember it all. When we tied up in Wilmington, NC, it was like coming home again. We chose this as our hailing port when we renamed the boat, as we have many happy memories from here.

Of course, after each extended stay in a port, we get antsy. We harbored here for little over four months, out of necessity. With the blessing of Rick’s physical therapist, we are moving on tomorrow (Monday).  As happens anytime we settle in for a time, we got virtually nothing completed on our to-do list. In our defense, this time around the cause was Rick’s shoulder. It permeated every aspect of our life. We needed to be sure it was in as tip-top shape as it could prior to heading out. The therapist strongly suggested we wait longer than planned before losing a few therapy days to travel. Now, with her blessing, a new therapist in Portsmouth, VA, has been contacted and appointments made for next week.

There are certain things we always complete before traveling: checking fluids in the engine room, stocking up, securing TVs and the like for any bumpy weather, food prep for ease while traveling. This time around, Rick also washed all the windows so that we can cover them in salt spray tomorrow. Go figure.

We have a recent addition to the family with Banjo, our neurotic, exceptionally sweet, Yorkie mix rescue dog.

Our sweet pup, Banjo.
Our sweet pup, Banjo.

With that addition came a few new preps. We went through a fitting for a PFD at West Marine. (Incidentally, he adores wearing his PFD. He knows that means he can run loose on the decks.)

Banjo sporting his PFD. Isn't he adorable?
Banjo sporting his PFD. Isn’t he adorable?

We also installed netting around the rails in case he lost footing while en route and he loves the freedom that allows him.

Our new netting is attractive and practical.
Our new netting is attractive and practical.

Lastly, we installed a puppy park on the bow of the boat for him to do his business.

OK, this hasn’t gone as well as we’d been led to believe. Prior to Banjo gracing us with his presence, I had to convince Rick a dog on a boat was a good idea. Since we were planning to anchor out for a large amount of time, the dog wouldn’t necessarily have access to land to complete his “duties,” if you know what I mean. During our travels, we met many, many liveaboards with dogs. They all said getting the dog to use the “poop deck” was a non-issue. Well, they were wrong. Or perhaps pulling a cruel joke on us. (I can hear the laughter echoing through the bowels of the boat as I write this.) I ordered very life like grass which Rick framed out in wood (more to be sure it didn’t blow away that for aesthetics). We hooked him to his leash and took him up there. Rick sprayed some crap designed to attract a puppy to pee on the spot. We gave the magic word (pee) we’d been working on since day one. Not only was he disinterested; he was repulsed. Honestly. A quick sniff, an incredulous look thrown in my direction, and he bolted back toward the front door. We didn’t walk him that day. He held everything. Eventually, after 15 hours, we blinked first and took him for a walk.

We threw out the bottle of pee incentive, washed the grass and tried again. People say you will do anything for your children. That is true. I think it’s also true for your pets. Look at the amount of money we spend on our pets. I’m not proud; but I was desperate. I did what had to be done (and what I’d read as a solution). The dixie cup of “fluid,” shall we say, was easy to procure, and we headed to the boat’s bow with the pup in tow (he follows us where ever we go). He eyed me from a distance as Rick poured the contents onto the grass. I snatched him up and set him firmly on the grass. Then we noticed it. The grass was peeing (at least something was). With the slight curve of the boat (for water run-off), the fluid went through the grass and was draining away and over the side. Banjo decided he’d had enough and jumped off the grass into the river of pee. Sigh. In essence I had peed on my dog’s feet. Rick hosed down again and I cleaned off the dog.

We noodled the issue for a few days and decided a pee pad under the grass would help with run off. We also felt the grass needed to smell either like another dog or himself. We mounted a two-pronged front. Our neighbor promised to get some of her dog’s pee on a pad for us and I started following Banjo around with a pad on our walks.

Think about that a moment. It’s the crack of dawn.  I’m essentially still in my pajamas (albeit a pair of sweats and a t-shirt). Hair in a weirdly freakish ponytail and sleep in my eyes. I take the dog for a walk. We are currently on the very accessible Riverwalk. There are joggers, bikers, and folks heading to work on foot. There are also other dog walkers and I flash on the idea of asking if I can stick the pee pad under their dog, but immediately decide that just might land me in jail because it’s just too weird. No one asked but the sideways glances said it all. I was given a wide berth as I attempted time and again to capture some genuine Banjo urine. He did not make it easy. I started by staying away until he was in progress and then raced at him. He considered that frightening and would initiate the flight option in a fight or flight situation. Next, I tried standing closer than normal so I’d have better access. He eyed me suspiciously and had, I believe, performance anxiety.

After several days, I was successful, however, and we placed the pad on top of the grass. He was quite interested but did not contribute anything. The morning dew watered down the pad and we started all over again. Each time, he was intrigued, but non-committal in its use. We became convinced we needed a post or fire hydrant in the center as a lure. We scoured the pet shops and briefly considered a cat scratching post. Eventually, we wound up at Lowe’s Home Improvement and found some lawn art (an anchor welcome sign) that seemed heavy enough to stay put and tall enough for a dog with good leg extension.

It seems like a nice little plot to me.
It seems like a nice little plot to me.

As of this writing, he is still interested in the smells there, but has yet to use it to his advantage. Our neighbor has been unable to capture any dog piddle and we have decided for our journey to Virginia we will have to stop each night in a marina or city dock so our dog doesn’t explode. Our lives haven’t changed at all because of this dog. Really.

At any rate, those interested in the travel logistics probably would like to know this:

  • Monday, October 9, 2017: depart at 7 a.m. reaching Swan Point Marina just past Jacksonville, NC. This sets us up to get through Camp Lejune the next day (you are required to call and get permission to pass through).
  • Tuesday, October 10, 2017: depart at 6:30 a.m. to Whittaker Point Marina in Oriental, NC.
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017: leave at dawn to travel through Alligator River, stopping in Columbia, NC.
  • Thursday, October 12, 2017: leaving at dawn and completing this leg at Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, VA, which will be our home for several months while we visit grandkids and steal labor from son, Christopher, to rewire some electrical issues.

 

 

Updates Galore

So, it’s been “awhile,” eh? We’ve been holed up in Wilmington, NC, for MONTHS and will remain for a few more. I had multiple maintenance doctor appointments and Rick needed rotator cuff surgery. So, we were prepared to hang out, but we both have the itch already, with two months to go while he completes physical therapy. Even though we aren’t on the move, we have been busy.

Prior to the surgery, we wanted to get as much work done on the boat as we could. The aft deck ceiling was nearing completion, but we had to get the light-embedded cross beams installed, which meant electrical. I grew up with a healthy fear of electrical work. My dad would tackle just about anything around the house. He built and installed a gas fireplace, created a built-in fish tank/TV/stereo/storage unit, and even sided the house on his own.

WARNING: Approaching Side Track. In fact, one of my most traumatic life events happened after the house was re-sided. While driving home with Mom’s car, and upset about some boy (eye roll), I missed the garage opening (yes, the big ass two car opening) and hit the side instead, totally mangling the new aluminum siding. In my defense, the driveway was curved into the garage, I was still a new driver, and downshifting was not my forte. I was terrified to tell my parents and was sure I would never be allowed to drive again. As I inconsolably cried to my grandma, she offered to take the fall for me. Tempting, but I copped to it anyway. As it turned out, they were just concerned I was okay; still, it was traumatic.

Now, where was I? Ah, so my dad did good work and was pretty fearless. Except when it came to electrical. He would not attempt ANY electrical. Jump to present day and Rick’s attitude is “no problem.” He’d say things like, “as long as the electric is shut off” or “as long as I don’t cross these two wires…” everything will be fine. So it was, as I held up the cross beam so he could connect the wires that would allow the electricity to flow to the lights. The moment of truth never arrived. Let’s just say if he hadn’t been so angry about it, it might have been funny. The aft deck originally had three lines of lights that were controlled by four switch boxes, one of which was a dimmer. He had tested prior to taking out the old overheads and knew which switches controlled which lights. Should have been an easy swap. Well, they didn’t work. We tried every combination of wires and switches to no avail. He had tested the lights prior to installing them in the cross beams. He had tested the old lights. We now tested each line to be sure there was electricity there; there was.  Phone calls went out. Heads were scratched. Things were discussed. It was decided among all that Rick was correct in action, but it wasn’t producing any results. Sigh.

As often happens on this boat, it was time to set that aside and work on another project. The hope was to finish the aft deck and install the tile and composting toilet in the aft head prior to leaving for our anniversary trip (which was prior to the surgery). The aft deck lighting took longer than expected, so the tile needed to wait. We did want the new toilet in so we could stop using the tank for waste, and alleviate the stench.

Rick ripped out the old toilet and hoses leading to it. Nasty business. Or so I’m told. As is typical of this type of thing, I stayed as far away as possible from the worst of it. I think at one point I may have had to hold a garbage bag open, but I’ve blocked it from my memory. As he read the instructions, he found this excerpt on how to properly use our new AirHead. Apparently, you have to be a certain kind of wacky to work in toilets.

Instruction for the AirHead.
Instruction for the AirHead.

The new toilet was quite lightweight and from my perspective went in easily. Using it is a little…different. (It occurs to me that, once again, I am talking about toilets. How does this keep happening to me? I’m a nice girl. I was brought up proper. Well okay, Dad was obsessed with fart jokes, so who am I kidding?) Let’s see, where to start? The paper doily? The crank? The no-flush system? The brick of coconut bark?

So, you have two types of uses for the toilet, as everyone is aware. As you saw in the photo, you use the toilet like any other for your fluids, but then you walk away. No flushing. The silence was deafening for the first few days. Then, I kind of learned to appreciate it. No more “announcing” what I’d been doing with a flush.

The “solid” use is a little more complex. A stash of doilies was included.  Actually, they are commercial sized coffee filters, but that image is too much for me to bear, so I deemed them doilies. You place a doily at the drop point and proceed. Once you have provided the “donation,” (their word not mine), you press a handle down and the whole shebang drops into the composting chamber. Next, you turn the crank on the opposite side of the toilet once. Its best, I’ve found, to close the lid prior to leaning over to crank. In fact, this is one of the upsides to this toilet, as women have no fear the men have left the seat up.

I was a definite skeptic when it came to the “no smell” claim. But it’s true. At least so far. It’s been a few weeks already. The compost tank holds about a month’s worth of deposits along with the accompanying compost block. Once it’s full the idea is that it may be used as fertilizer for gardens. As we have no yard, I’ve offered it up to friends and family. Their blank stares tell me all I need to know. Contact me if you have an interest.

Sure, it sounds bizarre to live with a composting toilet, but I actually appreciate having it. No smell is a beautiful thing.

Our sweet smelling new toilet
Our sweet smelling new toilet

After the toilet installation, it was time for our anniversary trip. 25 years, people; 25 years. Since we live on a boat, it makes sense that we would take a cruise, right? We got a screaming deal on a Royal Caribbean trip out of NY to Bermuda, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, and their private island in Haiti. We’d traveled on many cruise lines but never Royal Caribbean. I’m here to say, we will never travel on them again.

Our first mistake was going on the second largest cruise ship in the world. 4,800 passengers. Ugh. Sure, it was cool they had bumper cars, rock climbing, roller skating, blah, blah, blah. But try getting a chance to do those things. They also had fees to try the surfing pool (several hundred dollars), several of the additional restaurants, and even certain foods on the main dining room’s menu. It stunk. Even though there was an “adults only” pool area, there were 4,800 passengers. We had to claim a lounge chair at 5 a.m.

Although they had two beautiful, state-of-the-art theaters with truly fantastic casts, the shows were horrendous. I spent my time looking around for an escape. My “favorite” was a time-travel piece (took half the show to realize this, however), where an old man learns from some time-travel dude, his son has resented him ever since he didn’t fix his bike when he was ten. So, he gives him a new bike and we get to see the son do tricks on it. Yay woo. Best I could gather, the guy who was the musical director on that beauty did double duty in one of the bars playing piano. He did all the songs in double time. If you’ve never heard “Tears in Heaven” at a tempo you could fast dance to, perhaps you’d like to book a cabin. I yearned to request Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, the Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” or even Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” just to see how he’d handle it. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long as there were no seats, because…4,800 passengers. Did I mention that already? This was all amplified by the fact that half of the nine days were at sea, so we were surrounded by it most every day.

I don’t want to forget to give a shout out to the hand washing Nazis. Any area with food was guarded by staff that would force you to either wash your hands at the hand-washing station or use sanitizer. I understand why, but when I’ve just come out of the bathroom (where I washed my hands) and am just getting water, do I really need to soap up again? I witnessed one guy finally lose it, ranting at the Nazi that he refused to wash his hands and she couldn’t make him. Oh, and one last negative. All other ships we’d been on had stations for getting water, lemonade, and perhaps iced tea. The second largest ship in the world had none. To get water at any time, you had to either sit down to eat in a restaurant or walk all the way to the one location where they had a water spigot. Oh, or purchase the “water package.”

The ports were terrific, however with just a few hours in each, we barely scratched the surface. The shore excursions we chose were loads of fun, though. Normally we don’t do excursions, but these were out of the norm. Since we’d been to St. Martin a few times, we signed up to do a version of the Amazing Race through Tri-Sport Eco Tours. We had to partner with another couple to form our team. She was an assistant superintendent at a small school district so we bonded over bottled water. She became our leader. We elected her even though she said she was “bossy.” Yeah, boy, she was.

Our first challenge was to fill the cup with ocean water. I took the easy route, rather than running to get water.
Our first challenge was to fill the cup with ocean water. I took the easy route, rather than running to get water.

But it worked for us. We won the race and had a blast.

The winning team!
The winning team!

The other standout was the world’s longest over water zip line in Haiti. Although Rick had a jolt to his still injured shoulder on the trial run, the actual zip line was exhilarating!

Back in NC, we used Uber to get to the surgery center. I wanted to rent a car, but Rick thought I was being silly. We were able to get the prescription ahead of time, so I went along with the Uber idea. Rick debated over shorts or pants but ultimately decided they’d make him remove them anyway, so it wouldn’t matter. Or so he thought. When I finally was allowed back to see him pre-op, he was a sight. The gown. The shower cap. But mostly the support hose. Now, he had had support socks with his other shoulder surgery. They went to his knees. These went all the way up to his crotch. Bright white support hose. He had to wear them non-stop for 48-hours. Everywhere. Doing everything. On top of them were those sucky surgery socks with the “no slip” tread on the bottom and no heel so they spin around your feet placing the tread on the top of your feet. They were a grey-blue.

Needless to say, we were a sight for the Uber driver that brought us home. I had my beach bag filled with books, computer, and various snack items to keep me entertained while waiting. Plus, I had my purse, Rick’s shoes (he wasn’t allowed to wear them), the case for the tins device that hooked him up to electrodes to help with pain, and a big honking foot by foot cube with attachments for cold therapy. Rick just had himself, but he was still on pain meds and had his support hose and socks still on. Walking from the car to the boat, we ran into a few people, to which Rick announced “I look ridiculous in these socks.” I’d explain he just came from surgery. They’d smile and say something to him that sounded like they were talking to a kid. Then we’d move on. I was quite worried about getting him up the stairs and aboard, but he handled it like a trooper. The only issue he had was the following day when he took a header down the stairs. Apparently, the support hose slipped inside the tread socks and he flew down the stairs. Luckily only three. Luckily landing on his back rather than his arm. Pretty purple and yellow bruise there now. Sigh.

For now, he is convalescing in between PT appointments and I’m trying to keep up with aiding his washing and dressing while making sure I feed us both and clean up afterward. Now I know why I never had a baby. Too exhausting! Or maybe I’m just ancient—I sure feel like it. How pathetic is that? I’ll end on that note—I need a nap.

 

Blow the Man Down

  • Come all ye young fellows that follows the sea
    • To me, way hey, blow the man down
  • Now please pay attention and listen to me
    • Give me some time to blow the man down

This is the start of a song that I learned, I guess, in elementary school. Why we would learn a Sea Shanty, I don’t know. It’s possible I learned it somewhere else, but I also remember singing a song about Noah’s Ark at a “choral concert” in elementary school, so I’m thinking that’s where you learn weird songs. It’s not lost on me that I can remember all the words to “Blow the Man Down” but still am unable to determine miles per gallon on a car. Thank goodness, I don’t own one anymore. Sure, it’s embarrassing to admit, but as I often told my students’ parents, everyone has their strengths. Mine is NOT math.

But I digress. This sea shanty has been flowing freely through my head for a few days now, oddly corresponding to our arrival on Jekyll Island, GA. We were to stay for two days because of a pending storm, but had to extend two additional days due to high winds (sustained at 30 mph) and waves (average 3-4 feet). I enjoy the gentle rocking of living on a boat, but it has become an act of survival to get to the bathroom lately. Have you ever attempted to shower in those conditions?

That reminds me, when I was a kid and still took baths, my mom used to wash my hair in the utility sink in our basement. I never thought about it much back then, but really, what was that all about?

But I digress. Nautical Dreamer has two showers. One is small, the other is only useful if you are a body builder with baby feet. The base of the shower is so small you would not be able to turn around and the top is quite wide. It’s so wide, in fact, that you wouldn’t be able to reach the shower head to wash and would need to hold it in your hand the whole time. Forget trying to wash your feet, you can’t bend over. Forget about changing your mind. You’d have to step outside the shower to do that. (I got a million of ‘em, folks.) I tell you this, because although by “normal” standards our master shower is tiny, compared to the other shower, its luxurious. You can bend over and wash between your toes. You can also get your hair washed and shave your legs. There is a nice new shower head that allows for adjusting of the water pressure and our soap dispenser hangs on the wall to allow for more room. Sounds like a five-star hotel, right? I admit that you do have a noise, though. For the water to go down the drain, the drain  pump must be on. It’s quite noisy, but it’s a necessity.

Being that it was difficult to walk on the boat with the wind, waves, and what not, you would think we might skip a day in the shower. Especially since we weren’t sweating or anything. Heck, it was cold enough to have the heat on this morning. The boat’s almost airtight, but this morning when I opened the cabinet where the coffee mugs were, the wind just blew right through. The other cabinets were okay. I don’t know what it is about that coffee mug cabinet. Maybe it’s a poltergeist.

But I digress. I felt the need to shower today because we were heading out for several days of anchoring. As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post (I don’t remember which one and am too lazy to check, so you’ll have to scroll through them if you missed that one), we have had problems with our water tank before. Mostly through our own stupidity, but well, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. So, I wanted to shower just in case it was my last for a few days. Also, when in a marina, I tend to take longer showers because I know I have unlimited water, and who wouldn’t like that?

We are on a long dock that is exposed to the wakes of any boat flying by. We aren’t sheltered at all here.

The pier in a quieter time.
The pier in a quieter time.

Add to that the wind pushing us against the dock so forcefully that it deflated one of our fenders

Those fenders are normally 10 inches in diameter.
Those fenders are normally 10 inches in diameter.

and the waves so strong that foam was flying up onto the dock and you can see what a challenge it was going to be just to get in a good shower. The compactness of the shower did come in handy, allowing me to brace one foot on the outside wall and the other at the base of the built-in seat. (Yes! We have a built-in teak seat!) You would think I would use the seat for easy access to shaving my legs. And I did. But did I think to sit down and shave? Why, no. No I didn’t. I put my foot on the seat and proceeded. Luckily, I did not cut myself as the boat, and me and my razor, shifted backward. Most of the time, though, I did alright in there. I did have some trouble with drainage, however. The boat was more apt to lean toward the port side as it slammed into the dock. This meant that the water was not getting to the drain as readily as it should. I didn’t realize it until halfway in. By then water had escaped onto the bath mat outside the shower. Once I realized it, I took to pushing the water toward the drain with my foot while I was soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing. As klutzy as I am, I’m shocked I didn’t lose my balance and flip right out the shower door.  Things turned out okay. I’m clean head to toe and since I showered before Rick did I didn’t have to wring out the bath mat. I’m a lucky gal.

All this leads me to our revised itinerary.

  • Sunday, May 7, 2017: Leave Jekyll Harbor Marina for an anchorage at Tom Creek, GA.
  • Monday, May 8, 2017: Anchor out at Beaufort, SC.
  • Tuesday, May 9, 2017: We will stay at the St. Johns Yacht Harbor in Charleston, SC.
  • Wednesday, May 10, 2017: Anchor at Sugar Mill near Georgetown, SC.
  • Thursday, May 11, 2017: Stay at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club in Myrtle Beach, SC.
  • Friday, May 12, 2017: Arrive at Port City Marina in Wilmington, NC.
  • Now, come on! Join in!

Come all ye young fellows that follows the sea…no? Oh, alright.

 

Hanging Out in Jacksonville Another Day

We were supposed to leave today. But here’s the thing. Rick was worried about shoaling through the waterway. We thought we might just suck it up and go offshore, but the waves were predicted to be 5-6 feet. As our friend, Charlie Campbell, always says, “whatever the weather service says, double it.” So that wasn’t happening for us.

Shoaling isn’t necessarily an issue provided you keep an eye out and go slowly. But storms were coming and we were worried we get caught before we reached our first destination. So here we sit. It gave Rick time to research the shoaling. So maybe he will sleep tonight. It gave me time to nurse a sinus headache that won’t go away. I’d like to thank the Wizard of Oz winds we had yesterday for that.

At any rate, here is our itinerary through to Wilmington, NC (subject to change, of course). It will take us longer than originally expected, since we will need to slow it down some.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017: We have a short day. We will anchor in Cumberland Sound, five miles north of Fernandina Beach, FL.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017: Continue on to Jekyll Island, GA. Predicted bad weather will force us to stay for two nights.

Friday, May 5, 2017: We will head to Dolbow Island, GA, where we will anchor.

Saturday, May 6, 2017: Our anchor stop will be Tom Creek, GA.

Sunday, May 7, 2017: Heading to a marina in Savannah, GA for the night.

Monday, May 8, 2017: We are sooo close, anchoring at Beaufort, SC.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017: This will be an overnight marina stop at Charleston, SC.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017: Another anchorage at Sugar Mill, near Georgetown, SC.

Thursday, May 11, 2017: Our final night before our destination for this leg of our trek, we will head into a marina at Myrtle Beach, SC.

Friday, May 12, 2017: Arrive in Wilmington, NC, just in time for some appointments on Monday. We will stay here for a few months, getting more work completed, attending to some doctor appointments, and relaxing.

I’ll update as necessary.

Head Trauma

There really isn’t something quite so disturbing as using the bathroom, then going back a little while later to see the water has risen in the toilet two-fold, and again a few more inches on another trip. Extra water in a boat anywhere seems to me to be a bad thing, but especially in a toilet. So it was, as we set out last week.

Maybe I should start closer to the beginning. We had been in Ft. Myers for a little over a month doing some work and hiring out additional work that we couldn’t or didn’t want to do. One of the things we hired someone to fix was our forward head and holding tank. Well, really, the whole shebang of a waste system. Adjustments were made in the aft head so the waste flushed more effectively (it has the whole length of the boat to travel into the holding tank). My biggest concern was a lingering smell. We weren’t sure if it was a crack or leak in the holding tank, a leaky toilet/hose/clamp, or an issue with the ventilation system. Whatever it was, it held a noxious scent to it. Rick, of course, didn’t smell anything. I don’t know if that’s a guy thing or if it’s his perpetual allergies. What I do know is there was a definite smell. It was an embarrassment for a delicate flower, such as myself, to be living in the middle of what I could only surmise to be a cesspool.

Kevin, the hired hand, was a diligent worker. I could tell he didn’t relish the work, but did what needed to be done. He determined the actual forward head needed to be replaced. So, we checked out toilets on-line. I was appalled to learn that a duplicate of our current toilet (which was new with the build of the boat in 1982 so had certainly lasted), would set us back about $1,200. For a toilet. A TOILET. It didn’t sing. It didn’t wipe my ass. It was just a regular old marine toilet. Anything disgusting you want out of your body is dropped into this thing and it was going to cost more than my entire wedding had been. I did a little more research and found a smaller toilet that was only $350. Still excessive if you ask me, but comparatively much easier to wrap my head around.

I showed it to Rick who pointed out it was shorter than the other one by two inches. I argued that I’d read it’s better for your bowels if you squat and that us westerners are doing ourselves a disservice by having toilets that don’t allow for this. Rick inwardly rolled his eyes, I’m sure, said he could always build a stand for it if we needed it, and ordered the toilet. The fictitious stand, by the way, would probably start out costing ten bucks but we’d end up spending the balance of the cost of the other toilet.

Once it arrived via Amazon Prime and Kevin installed it, we realized it was more than two inches shorter. Plus, the bowl and seat are smaller. Basically, we now have a special grandchildren’s toilet. Sigh. (They’d better visit us at least once. That’s all I’m saying.)

Note the height of this toilet as compared to the height of Rick's knees.
Note the height of this toilet as compared to the height of Rick’s knees.

But it didn’t leak and it didn’t smell. So, I think it’s fine, since we also have the big boy toilet aft. Kevin added a special charcoal filter at the holding tank and sealed a leak on the holding tank that he found while rooting around down there. And can I say, not having to do these things ourselves (and by “ourselves” I as usual mean Rick) was worth every. Single. Penny.

So back to the original topic, I was quite alarmed when I noticed the water level consistently rising in our new baby toilet. After all, it didn’t have far to go to get to flooding stage. I also noticed a smell. At first, I merely flushed. I was hoping it was an anomaly and it wouldn’t repeat itself. When I went down the second time, the smell seemed worse and the toilet water was higher. It was also brown. So, was the toilet backing up? The toilet pulls in lake/ocean/river water to flush, so it could be the water was just dirty lake water as we crossed Lake Okeechobee. That lake water was pretty dingy looking.

I clued Rick in on these developments and became obsessed with checking the water level. I also opened all the windows to air things out. About every 20 minutes I went down and flushed. This meant I was filling up the holding tank faster than normal. I flooded (poor choice of words) Rick with questions and scenarios.

  • Do I need to start bailing that water instead and throwing it overboard?
  • What if it continues overnight? We will wake to flooding! Won’t we sink?
  • If we’re sinking, can we really fit through the escape hatch above the bed?
  • I was totally freaked out (basically a normal occurrence for me).

He suggested I find the shut off valve and we’d just use the other toilet (which did not have a rising tide in its bowl). Now, I’m not mechanically inclined, I don’t like to exercise because I hate to sweat, and I don’t do stinky things. But I went down there and crawled around the toilet to find the shut off valve. There was none. Apparently for $350, you get the toilet only. I reported in. Rick suggested removing the hatch to see if it’s under the floor closer to the waste tank.

At this point you might be asking yourself why I didn’t have him do this stinky work. Look, I never thought I would stick my head where the sun don’t shine, but I’m still terrified at the prospect of driving the beast. Down I went. I checked all the tubing. I shined the flashlight into crevices. I felt sticky substances all along the way. But I did not find a shut off valve. Since I failed in my mission, I did not earn my plumber’s crack. I did, however, wash my hands repeatedly.

Rick suggested if I left it alone, it would only rise so high and then stop. I tested that theory and, of course, he was right. About an inch below the rim, it stopped. This gave me little piece of mind, however, simply because I’m a worrier. I continued to check it until we pulled into the marina at Stuart and headed straight to the pump out station.

That night we noticed the water was at normal levels. By morning our theory was based on our speed. If we went our normal lumbering speed, the water didn’t rise. The more we sped up, the higher the water rose. By the time we reached Vero Beach we had lost the smell (we were out of the lake and into the clearer waterway). Staying for the weekend we made a Home Depot run and installed a valve. If we notice the water level rising we can always close the valve and use the other head. So, I’m feeling confident enough to get a good night sleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s travels.

Speaking of which, here is our itinerary for the week:

  • Monday, April 24: Leave Vero Beach to anchor out by Cocoa Village
  • Tuesday, April 25: Head to an anchorage at New Smyrna Beach
  • Wednesday, April 26: Another anchorage off St. Augustine
  • Thursday, April 27: Land in a marina in the Jacksonville area and stay through the weekend.

WARNING LABEL:

Incidentally, if you visit, we will secretly take side bets on whether you will be able to get up from the baby toilet.

Heading Out of Ft. Myers

When we left Ft. Myers this morning, the sun was blinding and our hearts were heavy. Coming into a marina, you hope you will get along with your “neighbors” while you are there. The folks at Paradise Marina were very welcoming. Even an introvert like me couldn’t help but be won over. And here we were, leaving. I love being on the water and love visiting a different place regularly, but it is awfully difficult to leave so often.

As the engines were warming and my intestines were doing their usual disco dance prior to traveling in the beast, I started thinking about the lock we would be going through. It was a new type for us. Of course it was off-putting for me.

I had calmed myself by the time we made our approach. We waited while the lock gates slowly opened and the water rushed out. We were finally given the go ahead to enter. Lines of rope were draped down the lock walls and I knew I had to use the pole to snag a line. My abilities with grabbing lines with the pole are notorious poor and yet, I had no issues today. It was not a particularly long line. We were to hold our lines as the boat rose with the water. Rick stepped out and snagged a line at the back. The wind was pushing us a bit and my line was slipping out of my hand. I shouted to Rick, who couldn’t help since he had hold of his line. He told me to let go, but I knew that would lead to a host of different issues. The line was barely long enough for me to wrap it once around the cleat at my feet. Rick followed suit and we were able to hold the boat fairly easily although I ended up channeling Quasimodo staying bent the entire time.

The next lock was interested in that we ended up behind an older couple who were less experienced than me (if there is such an animal). The woman was on the front of the boat with a line and the man at the back with a line. She was not keeping the front toward the wall which forced the back end into the wall. She was SCREAMING at the poor guy that he was letting the back end hit the wall; confusing him. Then, she lets go of her line and screeched to the guy to drop his rope and DRIVE. He glanced, bewilderingly, up at a couple watching from above, who explained to the man that she wanted him to drop his line and start driving the boat. Now, the gates are not open so we aren’t sure where they were going to drive and we were getting nervous they might turn completely around and head into us. The guy gets the boat in gear and starts driving SIDEWAYS to the other wall, hitting the wall head on. The woman is at the very tip of the bow of the boat still screaming her head off. She had no PFD and, I’ll be honest, I was half hoping she’d fall in. They bounce off that wall and turn towards the gates just as they were opening. We were still holding steady waiting for the all clear. They snaked their way through the gates just as the all clear comes. They puttered and puttered as we followed them out.

We ended up going farther than we expected, making our way to Moore Haven. By then the wind had picked up and we slammed into the dock rather than sidling up to it. Luckily another boat owner was there and grabbed our lines tying us off quickly.

Any way, here is our the plan for the week:

Thursday: Leave Moore Haven and head across Lake Okeechobee, to Indiantown, FL

Friday: Leave Indiantown and travel to Stuart, FL where we will stay through the weekend.

Updates to come.

 

 

Dining Area Re-do

When we started shopping for our new home, we knew we couldn’t afford exactly what we wanted. We also had a lower comfort level for spending than what we technically could afford. So we needed a “fixer-upper.” We were looking for an older boat partially because of cost but also because we just liked the look of older boats over the flashy new type. We liked the wood inside versus an all white interior. We knew we needed good engines. We knew we needed, basically, a “like new” below decks area. We could handle basic household electric, plumbing, construction, and design. By we, I of course mean Rick. He handled all that stuff. The exception being design–we both contribute on that front. I also “hold,” “let go,” and “fetch tools” when asked and have been doing a lot of grunt work like waxing the exterior and stripping/varnishing the handrails. So I certainly do my share of work, just not the “sexy” stuff.

Which leads me to the topic of this post: our dining area. Each time we saw a boat, I immediately made mental notes on what needed to be changed so we could truly know the overall cost of that boat. I should have written them down because I “lost” quite a few of those mental notes. Actually, I didn’t lose them, I just put them somewhere “safe.” I have no idea where that might be. Anyway, virtually every boat we saw had nasty carpet. Why would you have carpet on a boat? Those sailors I’ve talked flooring with agree that carpet is stupid but almost always done. The carpet is always covering the hatches and stapled with a billion and five staples, which makes no sense either. Apparently boat carpet layers, if that’s what you call them, get paid by the staple. I’m guessing the one that did our boat was able to retire at the ripe old age of 25. His six-year-old retired at the same time.

The other things I noticed in most boats were mirrors everywhere and a dining area much like a camper. A permanently fixed Formica table with a built in bench covered in a hideous patterned material. Durable? Yes. Functional? Perhaps. Stylish? Nope. Not even a little bit. Take a look.

The dinette.
The dinette.

In the PB days (pre-boat), I was full of ideas. But I knew Rick could only do so much at one time and we couldn’t afford to hire anyone. So I had to choose wisely. The carpet stank, so that had to go immediately. Besides, I didn’t relish dying in my bed because I had to escape through the carpeted-over hatches above me. The salon and aft deck carpet were replaced with a beautiful wood floor that took an exceptional amount of time. (Framing a dozen hatches takes time.) They turned out gorgeous. All that time, we lived with the dining area. Even though I’d never seen any, I was convinced the seats were infested with bugs. I never saw any, but I think it was a fair assessment simply based on its ugliness. So in my mind, the seats, in particular, had to go ASAP. In those early days, Rick would sit at the table on the bench during dinner and I would pull up a fold-able camping chair. I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting on that bench.

A closer look at the awful seat cushions.
A closer look at the awful seat cushions.

I decided a breakfast bar would be a good choice to replace the dinette. You get storage underneath and with a couple bar stools, you get a place to eat. Having taken off the mirror, Rick wanted to build shelves to give us more storage. I was also determined to use a live-edge chunk of wood for the bar top.

Because the floor had to go under the dinette, the benches came out quickly. We kept the table for awhile. It was, after all, utilitarian, but I was not saddened when it, too, was removed. The massive mirror on the wall above the dining area went at that time as well. (It was glued down. Breaking it was inevitable. Perhaps this is where our bad luck started. But, truly, I’m not superstitious any more than I believe bugs were going to crawl up my ass if I sat on those dinette seats. Really.) We bought unfinished cabinets, placed with a fairly easy install. Keep in mind, though, that nothing is level or square, so “fairly easy” is relative. Next, we found affordable bar stools after an extensive search. Why are bar stools so crazy expensive? Most were priced for boat carpet layers’ wallets, not retired teachers.

In progress.
In progress.

Because we had a limited budget, I scoured the internet for weeks to find the perfect live-edge hunk of wood. They were pricey. If the wood was reasonable, the shipping wasn’t. Eventually, I settled on an eight foot chuck of black walnut. Shipping from Florida to Oklahoma was free. I maxed my budget, but it was worth it.

I was WAY too excited anticipating the arrival of that wood. When the truck holding it pulled up, it was like Christmas morning! Unfortunately, it took months before we were able to actually complete the build. While in Ft. Meyers to get some below decks work done by a pro, we targeted the breakfast bar for completion. Rick sanded the slab and coated it in polyurethane. We had many discussions on whether to paint or stain the shelving unit and cabinets. Once we determined paint, we struggled with black, brown, or cream. We eventually settled on cream so the slab would pop more. It was the star of the piece and I didn’t want it lost in the overall picture. We added pull handles to tie things together. Even though there are a few additional things to complete, I  had to share. I am completely over the moon with the results!

The full front on view.
The full front on view.

Here are a few close ups as well.

You can see how purdy the grain is with this picture.
You can see how purdy the grain is with this picture.
This shows off the live edge and some of the hardware we installed.
This shows off the live edge and some of the hardware we installed.
The lovely shelves. I wanted floating shelves, but there was no way to secure them properly. I'm glad we went with this instead.
The lovely shelves. I wanted floating shelves, but there was no way to secure them properly. I’m glad we went with this instead.
We added a spice cabinet on the end. It is handily within reach of the kitchen.
We added a spice cabinet on the end. It is handily within reach of the kitchen.

 

Why Do These Things Always Happen to Us?

I hadn’t planned a post since we are holed up in Ft. Myers, Florida, for about a month taking care of a few projects. But then we attempted to rent a car.

Before I tell the tale, I have two things I want to share. First, while we were traveling, we had a group of dolphins join us. I just kept snapping photos. It was magical! Rick had to drive so he missed out. (I think that’s the real reason we are apparently getting an autopilot now.)

We had a couple of visitors off the stern!
We had a couple of visitors off the stern!

I also want to take a moment to tout Rick’s captaining abilities. Nautical Dreamer is 47-feet long, but with the bow pulpit and the swim platform, it’s more like 50. The space the marina held for us was along a dock, in between two other boats. We were told on the phone that it was “tight.” Coming in, we could see it was very tight. Luckily there were several guys on the dock that were willing to help us. Rick nosed into the space and I attempted to throw the line. It fell into the water. I moved a little ways back to try another line and I commented the wind was taking us. We were about to hit the boat behind us, so Rick threw it in reverse to pull out and try again. I, of course, was ready to give up immediately. I suggested we anchor out another night and deal with it the next day when we might not have any wind. Rick ignored me. The guy I was talking with about the wind was the owner of the boat we almost smacked. He decided to get ON his boat to help guide us away from the side of his boat in an attempt at self-preservation. We headed back into the space and I managed to throw the ropes in front and back to the remaining guys on the dock. They pulled us in, Rick killed the motor, and got off to help.

Check out this park job! No bow thrusters; just good captaining.
Check out this park job! No bow thrusters; just good captaining.

Initially, our bow pulpit was literally sticking into the aft deck of the boat in front of us. They adjusted as needed until we were equal distant between the two other boats. Success!  I felt the need to share this, because I often write about our troubles in maneuvering the beast. So there you have it–we can and are successful at times.  Now back to the actual topic of this post: car rentals.

First off, let me say that it’s spring break around these parts, so renting a car is on the expensive side. But we needed to get the lay of the land. We also needed supplies from Home Depot, which was a little too far out of our comfort zone for biking.

We have been using Enterprise on and off since selling our car. Yes, its true, they “pick you up” which is perfect for us. There are some irritating and inconsistent things about Enterprise, however. The first thing we noticed at each location is that their cars are never full of fuel. So you have to bring the car back with the same amount of gas you started with. In theory, not a big deal, but you try to fill up to 3/8th of a tank. So you always end up filling it more than you started with. Its just seems petty of them to do this rather than starting and ending with a full tank. We’ve also noticed they are wildly inconsistent with the abilities of their personnel. We’ve been in highly professional locations where we were picked up in a timely manner and processed with ease. We’ve also had many phone calls saying the driver is lost and asking US (the visitors) how to get to our location. Okay, how would I know? I’m new here. Besides, the entire world uses GPS for directions. In fact cars now come with it. Figure it out, dude.

On the upside, they have a weekend special. Friday to Monday for $9.99 per day. Perfect for us. Unfortunately, this was not available for the weekend we decided to rent, due to Spring Break. So we rented for two days, at $50 per day (ouch!), and crammed all our errands into that time frame.

Having anchored out for the three nights it took to get to Ft. Myers, we decided to walk to Enterprise so we could stretch our legs. It was about a mile and a half. We set the GPS (see Enterprise, it really does work if you use it) and headed out. Rick put his phone in his pocket and we began discussing politics as we are want to do lately. (How could you not?) We started wondering why the GPS lady kept talking. Usually she tells where to turn and is silent until you have to turn again. But she was talking every few seconds. So Rick pulled out his phone. There was a roundabout a ways back and we had ended up passing where we should have headed. Now, I realize this looks really bad after I just berated Enterprise for getting lost, but its not our JOB to get it right like it is for Enterprise. The only people we inconvenienced were ourselves. Plus, I think its quite gutsy of me to admit the mistake.

What should have taken about an hour was more like and hour and a half. But it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed getting out in it. Once there, we saw that there was a fairly long line. The staff handled it expertly and we didn’t have to wait long. But once up to the counter, we learned they had run out of cars. We had a reservation but they had no car for us. Our choice was to wait two hours when one was supposed to come in or accept a panel van with their logo emblazoned on the side. It was quite obvious we weren’t amused, but they did offer to comp the gas, so we took the van.

The first issue I had with the van was that there was no step to help get into the thing. I’m not THAT old, but my legs don’t go that way. There was a hand hold but it was impossibly high and back so I basically had to hurtle myself into the van each time we completed a stop on our errand odyssey. I was not happy. Since it was quite tall I was sure we would flip over every time we took a corner. There were windows on the sides of the front seats and on the back door, but none on the sides. So parallel parking was a bear. Then there was the fact that it was a cargo van. If it wasn’t for the logo on the side I would have worried any nearby kids might run from us shouting “stranger danger!”

Our rental car.
Our rental car.

By far however, the biggest irritant was the fact that there were no passenger seats. It was a true cargo van. Just a giant open abyss behind our bucket seats. Handy if you want to transport a dozen illegals across the border, say, or more likely panels of plywood. But we had empty five gallon jugs of water to exchange and plastic bags of produce from the farmer’s market. We gathered all the produce and kept it at my feet. The water bottles, however, were behind me. We took a corner and, even though Rick was exceptionally cautious, the bottles went flying backwards, smacking into the back door. Then they just rattled around, bouncing off one wall, then the other. I tried turning up the radio to drown out the noise (it always worked when I heard unwelcome rattles in my cars), but to no avail.

Finally, Rick said, “Get ready to catch them,” and hit the brakes particularly hard. The bottles rolled towards me. I grabbed one and placed it between us. Then I reached behind my seat to coax the other to me and placed it behind the first. Now I needed to hold onto the back one and we’d be okay. I forgot a couple times, though, and took my hand off for a minute (it was a long day). I patiently waited for it to roll towards me and retrieved it once again. Eventually, we replaced them with full bottles and the problem took care of itself.

We headed to Home Depot. Ft. Myers residential streets tend to be dead ends at a waterway. I tell you this because the Google lady took us off the main roads into a residential area that wound us everywhere but where we needed to be. We found our own way out eventually and got onto an expressway, at which point she was able to direct us again. (Yes, I see the irony of my previous words.) We finished our shopping and made sure all the bags were tied in a knot so we wouldn’t see a watermelon or cans polyurethane go flying around back there.

When returning the brute, Rick made his displeasure known. The manager overheard and reduced our cost in half. I will say, the next weekend when we needed another car, they redeemed themselves, giving us a brand new truck to haul our plywood. We even used our points, making our out of pocket cost ten bucks! So all in all, not such a bad thing.

Added Bonus Photo: This guy decided to run with us for awhile.
Added Bonus Photo: This guy decided to run with us for awhile.

Voyage Into the Crystal River Abyss

What comes to mind when I say “Crystal River?” Sounds like a nice place, yes? Sounds like clear waters to me. I imagined sunshine, blue skies, the sound of birds. I was going to see manatees as I kayaked around the area. I was so looking forward to Crystal River. I’ve decided, however, that it might be bewitched.

We knew we’d have a long day the day we headed out to Crystal River. We knew as we headed into the inlet to the marina that it could be quite shallow. Rick had done all the calculations and was sure we’d be able to get in. And we did. (Bet you were expecting something else altogether. Go ahead. You can admit it. You had no faith in us.)

We did get in fine, but we had to go very slowly because it was so shallow. Speed up and the back end drops a little, leaving the possibility of the props touching bottom. We hit the inlet at about 5:00 and estimated it would take about an hour further. The sun was setting and as I have reiterated more than once, we don’t operate in the dark. We had until 6:15 or so before the sun would be down and a little while longer before we’d really hit black.

I checked the map. Our marina was the farthest in from the mouth of the inlet. The buoy lines kept us in a narrow channel and the local boats were zipping around us. We passed several marinas, but none were deep enough for our boat. I felt obligated to remind Rick that the sun was dropping (because he couldn’t possibly know, himself).  In fact, I felt it my duty to do so about every ten minutes. God, he’s a patient man. We were following another boat, but they were quite a bit ahead of us and with the twisting and turning of the waterway, we had no visual most of the time.

It took us until about 6:30 before we saw the marina. We had been assigned a specific slip, but couldn’t read any slip numbers. Our friends stopped at the fuel dock to investigate while we hung back. Finally, they waved us to a pier and grabbed our lines as we slipped in. We grabbed their lines as they moved around the corner from us. They explained our designated slip was just wide enough for us, but there was a piling towards the front of the slip that was angled enough to make it impossible for us to fully enter it. We were on a pier again. There was no one in the office this late, so we parked and figured we talk to them in the morning.

Rick and I went about setting up the boat. Rick retied the lines (as he always does). We hooked up the water line but found we couldn’t use the electric; it wasn’t the right amperage. We decided to use the generator for that night and then see what the office said. I was not pleased about paying for a slip and then having to use the generator.

The next day we learned our designated slip was the only spot available for the electric hook-up we needed. We would stay on the pier. In the meantime, we walked to West Marine to see about an pigtail, but none were in stock. We settled for an adapter that would allow us to plug an extension cord into the available electric socket. We plugged it into a power strip for the fridge, coffeemaker and phone cords. That night, we pulled out our camping lantern, but the batteries were dead. We had no other batteries. We had no candles. We used flashlights and the few lights on the 12-volt system that always work regardless of electricity availability. We went to bed early. The next day we were driving to Orlando for a trip to Universal Studios and once back, we would be leaving. So, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been. Or so I thought. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

Upon our return, the waves were at 4-6 feet offshore, which was more than we wanted to battle. So, we stayed another day. Then, the bottom dropped out. The wind switched to the Northeast and pushed the water out of the basin. We were literally sitting on the bottom in mud. The keel kept our props safe and being tied to the dock kept us upright in just a few feet of water. But here’s the thing. To run the generator AND TO FLUSH THE TOILET, we needed to draw water in. So, no more generator and no toilet flushing until the tide came up. Unfortunately, we realized this the hard way by flushing the toilet and having mud fill the toilet bowl. Sigh. Talking with people from Crystal River, we learned this periodically happened, but that this was the worst they’d ever seen. Lucky us. When the tide did come up, it wasn’t enough to safely navigate out. For six days, we waited for the wind to shift. Six days of waking up and having to walk to the communal bathroom, or wait until the tide rose to “go.” (As an aside, I don’t understand why so many of my posts revolve around bathrooms.)

We did order an adapter that allowed us to plug in and have some power (30 amps instead of 100 amps), giving us the ability to cook, watch TV, and take hot showers. We just couldn’t do everything at once. It took planning. If I wanted to shower at night, I needed to turn on the water heater. To do that, I needed to be done with the oven and wait about a half hour. Argh! It was a pain. Still, we got into a routine.

Then the toilets stopped flushing properly even at high tide. Was the mud clogging it up? Nope. One of the house batteries was almost dead. Rick charged it, but it lost that charge overnight. We weren’t sure if it was the battery or the on-board charger reading it wrong. After much deliberation, we decided we needed to suck it up and buy a new battery. West Marine didn’t stock it. The marina parts store didn’t stock it. Rick found one at Napa Auto Parts.

Friends offered to help remove the old one. This was no easy task. The battery weighed, I’m guessing, about 100 pounds. It was under the floors in the engine room. To gain access, Rick crawled to it and dragged it to the open hatch. He took one side, Joe took the other, and they hoisted it onto a step and then to the floor of the main salon onto a furniture pad. They dragged the pad/battery across the floor to the stair that lead to the aft deck. Again, each took a side and they hoisted it up each step and onto a furniture pad on the aft deck. They dragged it to the door and hoisted it off the boat. When you need low tide it’s not there, so the drop from the deck to the pier gave them pause. Eventually, it was off the boat and on a borrowed dolly. Only a few injuries; Rick cut himself and Joe pulled something in his leg.

It was off to Napa, followed by the reverse to place the new one. I did not witness this, as I went to the laundromat where I was treated to the sights of a barefoot man hauling six jumbo garbage bags of clothes through the place. When I returned, we had a new battery in place and all was right in toilet land (except, of course, for the unresolved low tide issue).

Shortly after that, the communal bathroom ran out of TP. And some jackass missed the toilet bowl. And our refrigerator went out. Dead.  At first, I was a little giddy. I get a new refrigerator! I HATED the old one. It was some off brand. It was tiny. And white. We measured our space. I just had to find one that fit into the space. Sigh. Irritatingly difficult. It would still be an “apartment” size, but I could get a black or stainless one. I found a Fridgidare (name brand—score!). Home Depot’s website said it was in stock (double score!). We hitched a ride with our friends.

Here’s the thing: Home Depot LIES on their website. They didn’t have that refrigerator. They didn’t have ANY refrigerator that fit our space. (This happened once before when I tried to buy a convection oven that was on sale. It may have been on sale, but it wasn’t in stock.). They couldn’t get it in time for us.

We knew in two days we’d have the winds we needed to get out of the hellishness that Crystal River had turned into for us. We weren’t waiting for a delivery on a refrigerator. We’d have one delivered when we got to Ft. Myers. Our friends came to the rescue once again, loaning us several heavy-duty coolers for storage.

We had been checking weather, wind, and tides for days and saw our opportunity open for Wednesday. Tuesday night we double-checked and were disturbed to note the possibility of fog (now that the wind was gone). But we couldn’t leave until nine or so anyway, because it would be normal low tide until then making the channel inaccessible to us. We went to bed, hoping for the best.

Wednesday morning was bright and windless. We were sucking mud, but were hoping to leave on time. We finally left at 10:20, which meant we’d make Shell Island (a very shallow area) in time for high tide and our destination before sunset. Perfect. Things were looking up.