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.

 

Leaving Crystal River

Our itinerary for this next leg is as follows:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017: Leave Crystal River, FL traveling to anchorage near Tarpon Springs, FL (which is near Clearwater, FL).

Thursday, March 9, 2017: Travel from Tarpon Springs, FL to Long Boat Key, FL (near Sarasota, FL) to anchor overnight.

Friday, March 10, 2017: Leave Long Boat Key to Ft. Myers, FL. Here we plan to stay for about a month to get some work done on the boat.

 

When You Need Some Food But You Don’t Want to Exercise

I was told today that I have been remiss in keeping up properly with my blog. I have yet to give the gruesome details of our first real bike errand. I’m not an exercising kind of gal. In fact, I go waaaay beyond hatred. It just doesn’t even show up on my radar. So perhaps, writing a story revolving around what is, in essence, exercise disguised as survival (getting food) is merely an extension of that. But we all have our crosses to bear. Besides, my doctors tell me exercise is important. Sigh.

The Panama City Marina, while close to some things are at a little distance to much more. We took bikes on several errands that were each several miles. Our first ride was all Rick’s fault. Doing some work on the Aft Deck, he stabbed himself with a rusty nail. We’ve been married for going on 25 years and I don’t ever remember him getting a tetanus shot. The nearest doc-in-a-box was about three miles. The few times we had gone out for test run bike rides, Rick had been adjusting my seat afterwards. It just wasn’t comfortable. On the advice of a friend, we had gone to a bike shop and I’d been “fitted” for the correct seat. This is the seat I used for this trek. Incidentally, I always insist we wear helmets. Rick thinks I’m worried about an accident. Really, it’s just because I hate to exercise. I’m hoping he will decide against bikes because he hates the helmet so much. Hasn’t worked yet. Bummer.

Besides, I knew we had to do this. He really did need that shot. I knew there was no such thing as Uber here, the cabs were inconsistent, and the bus route was published nowhere. So off we went. We alternated between sidewalk, bike lane, and hoping not to get hit on the side of the road. The worst was having to cross into a left turn lane. I know people don’t pay attention to motorcycles, I could only imagine what happens to bikes.

I need to stop here for a minute and explain the “Neilson calves.” Rick’s family has the most massive calves on the face of the planet. He is now an old man that rarely exercises, but his legs. His legs look like he works out twice a day. It’s not just smoke and mirrors either. He can pedal that bike, I tell ‘ya.

So, Rick is in the lead because he knows where he’s going. I’m putzing behind, because I don’t exercise and I’m a slow loser. He’s casually pedaling like he’s sauntering through the park. Meanwhile, the music that plays when Mrs. Gulch from the Wizard of Oz rides her bike past Dorothy’s house after she takes Toto away is running through my head and my little legs are pedaling as fast as they can. Rick’s not winded. He gets to rest at each stoplight while he waits for me. Meanwhile, I arrive at the light and it immediately changes, so no rest for me. We do make it and he does get his shot. But my butt. My butt was ON FIRE. I’m in so much pain. I can’t believe I spent that money on the special seat. Or maybe it was the fact that I have no ass. It certainly didn’t help that I felt like I was sliding forward the whole time. At any rate, the thought of getting back on and traveling another three miles was about as inviting as getting liposuction. We stopped a couple times at my insistence so I could rest my butt cheeks. But we did make it back. And yes, that incessant song played in my head the entire way back.

Our next bike excursion was to the Farmer’s Market. Rick installed the saddlebags on the bikes and adjusted my seat to try to make it more comfortable. While the ride was less harrowing with less crowded streets and more sidewalks, I felt like my backside was one giant bruise. I was no longer sliding forward but that didn’t help the butt pain.

Being the handsome, gallant, gentleman that he is, Rick offered to swap seats to see if his seat would work better for me. The time came when we had to grocery shop. While I made the list, Rick swapped seats. I was inside when I heard “LINDA!! LINDA!!”

I made my way to the door. “What?”

“Argh. Forget it. I set the bolt down and it rolled away. It fell in the water.”

My heart leapt. Perhaps we’d have to walk into town for dinner and shop another day. He quickly found another bolt (damn it) and got the seat installed. We did a test run and it seemed better. We started our journey, again dealing with traffic. We hadn’t gotten very far when the seat began to loosen. We stopped to retighten the bolt but found it was bent. Although I have a nonexistent looking ass, it was big enough to bend a big ass bolt. He had luckily brought a second one just in case. The seat did feel better and the adjustment kept the seat tilted so that I wasn’t sliding forward. We ended up stopping to tighten the seat a couple times and Rick told me not to move around much. Well. How do you do that? He also conceded that my old seat (now on his bike) was awful.

We successfully reached the Publix and locked up the bikes. We had a long list. I mean a LONG list. I was doubtful we’d fit it into our saddlebags. But my husband isn’t known as “Master Packer” for nothing. Everything made it into the bags and we even had a backpack to spare. My seat was adjusted again. I had noticed that, although my butt didn’t hurt, the pain had shifted forward. The seat was now angled back too far. (Can I just say that THIS alone is a good reason for my distaste for exercise.)

We had to get all these groceries into our saddlebags. Oh no!
We had to get all these groceries into our saddlebags. Oh no!
Mission Accomplished!
Mission Accomplished!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a little squirrely when we started riding back with all that weight in the bags. Once we both got used to it and adjusted ourselves, it was fine. When we reached the road leading to the marina, a feeling of exhilaration hit me. We were back. I had made it. I was still alive. ALIVE! And this trip seemed easier than the last one. Rick said it was because I’m getting in shape. I’m not so sure about that. At any rate, I was more proud of the accomplishment than I had a right to be. And maybe exercise isn’t so crappy after all.

*FOOTNOTE: We got a proper bolt for my seat (formerly Rick’s seat) and it is now adjusted properly. My old seat was donated to charity and Rick got himself a new seat. Our asses are thankful.

 

 

Can We Please Cool It On the Country Music??

The most frustrating thing about our lives is the waiting. Because we aren’t stupid and we aren’t in a hurry and we are novices, we wait out any and all bad weather unless it’s absolutely impossible to do so.

So when we glided into the low docks at the Sea Hag Marina on Monday afternoon amid a brewing storm, we knew we’d be waiting awhile for fairer conditions. (Incidentally, at dinner the other night we bantered around our best guess of the term “sea hag” but didn’t get very far. I finally looked it up today and I’m just as confused as I was at dinner. Apparently a “sea hag” can be defined alternately as: a fictional witch character created for King Features Syndicate; a specific type of women with bleached blond hair and blue/green eye shadow you see on the California beaches; an American rock band; and something from Dungeons & Dragons that made me leery. So I don’t know.)

At any rate, today is Thursday. So this is our fourth day in Steinhatchee, Florida. It’s a nice enough town, but the little marina Tiki Bar plays country music via a local radio station. They apparently have a dozen CDs in their collection and several obnoxious DJs. Now I admit I dislike country music. I grew up on big band and swing from my parents, 60s music from my sisters, and what is now deemed “classic rock.” I also loved jazz growing up and beach music (the Beach Boys!). I particularly enjoy blues nowadays. In other words, I pride myself on being able to listen to just about anything for a significant amount of time, even that which I have little knowledge. Hard rock? No biggie. Classical? Sure, why not? Hip Hop? It gets old because its so repetitive, but okay. I admit opera grates on me, but even that I can tune out for awhile. There is something about country, though, that just bores into my skull the minute it starts. I despise it. I loathe it. I’ve walked out of places playing county and refused to return. But here I was. Stuck on the dock. It started every morning at around 10 and ran until dinner. I swear it was the same damned song over and over again. I mentioned this to Rick who assured me there were different song playing but that, yes, there were repeats throughout the day. I think there were about five songs in heavy rotation and that’s about it.

But I digress. Today is Thursday, which means we leave at 6 a.m. tomorrow. We are headed for Crystal River, Florida where we will visit with the manatees and then rent a car to go see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So excited! I have been re-reading the books so I can get the most from my experience. I bought the tickets today on-line. Yippee! I’m making the most of it since I was informed today it is, apparently, my birthday present.

For those of you who are following, here is our itinerary for this next leg:

Friday, February 24: Leave Steinhatchee, FL and travel about 70 miles to Crystal River, Florida. We are still traveling with two other boats. During the week, we will visit Harry, leaving the boat in the capable hands of the Crystal River marina.

Friday, March 3: Leave Crystal River, FL and travel to Clearwater, FL.

Sunday, March 5: Travel from Clearwater, FL, anchoring out near Sarasota, FL.

Monday, March 6: Continuing to Ft. Myers, FL. We plan to stay in Ft. Myers to work on some boat projects we’ve started but not completed.

As always, this schedule is “weather permitting.”