Built Rocna Tough

Friday February 1, 2013

It’s official, we have our first sponsor!  The very kind people at Rocna Anchors have collaborated to work with us after we lost our original Rocna during our grounding in the St. Augustine Inlet.  It was a big blow to us to lose our trusty Rocna, and before we hauled out and found out what the damage was, at the time, it was to us the worst part of the whole incident.  After we got back that night after some much needed dinner and drinks with our friends on Hideaway, I kid you not, Rocna Anchors were the first people we contacted.  Not family, not friends, but a thank you note to Rocna for saving our boat from certain demise.

Let me explain a little.  When you live on a boat and you’re anchored out all of the time, you anchor is a HUGE part of keeping you and your boat safe.  When we left, we went big with our anchor.  It was 55 lbs of peace of mind attached to our bow.  The one we purchased was rated for a boat ten feet larger than ours, but in the case of our anchor, we really wanted to oversize.  When the size and brand of your anchor can determine whether or not you might drag through an anchorage in bad conditions and crash into shore, or worse, other boats, you want to go with the one that’s going to give you the least chance of that happening.

We had heard great things about Rocna from other sailors, and while getting all the last necessary bits to start cruising, it was enough to make us switch over from our Manson Supreme this spring.  And I have to tell you, we could not be happier with it.  I’m not kidding when I say this, it sets on the first try every time.  There have been so many times where we’ve been sitting at anchor when another boat comes in and they go through a routine of dropping and upping their anchor multiple times because they just can’t seem to get their anchor to set.  Not only do I feel bad for their extra hassle, but I worry that they may not stay set and might go bump with us in the night.  We on the other hand, drop, back-down, and relax.  It has never failed us once.  During Hurricane Sandy we were relying solely on our Rocna to keep us safe while settled up a creek, and any worrying was for naught.   We never even straightened out our chain.  It has been magnificent, and certainly the most trusted part on our boat.

The biggest test for our Rocna so far though, was when we had our grounding mentioned above in the St. Augustine Inlet.   Our prop was fouled leaving us dead in the water with no engine power, and the wind was right on our nose giving us no way to sail out.  Although we were eventually rescued by US Tow Boat and a local Search and Rescue team, they were nowhere in sight while we were quickly drifting back towards shore.  With his quick thinking, Matt dropped our anchor to keep us from drifting any further back than we already had.  And guess what?  It set right away.  No positioning, no backing down, just solid and secure.*  If our anchor had not held right away like it did, there is no question that Serendipity would have rolled over in the breaking waves of the shore and our boat would have been a true shipwreck, completely totaled out.

So do we love our anchor?  Yes.  Do we love it even more knowing that it’s a Rocna and built Rock Solid?  You bet.  Would we trust our boat and our lives to it?  Already have.   And it has passed with flying colors.

To check out our testimonial on Rocna’s website, including pieces of the letter we sent to them thanking them for saving our boat, check it out here.  And if you’re at all interested in buying a Rocna, please do.  We’ll feel much better if you’re ever anchored next to us.

*Not that I’m suggesting you shouldn’t always anchor properly.  I’m just stating that in this emergency, it did what it was made to do without any help from us.

Lights Out

Thursday January 31, 2013

My last few days in Arizona were very nice and relaxing.  I did attend a Jazzercise class with my mom on Tuesday morning though, and I’m still having trouble sitting down!  I’ve been bending my knees a little bit and letting myself fall the rest of the way.  Those women really know how to make you sweat!  Now don’t think I’m too out of shape, I was doing all the advanced moves, but there were a lot of women in their 50’s and 60’s keeping right up with me.  My legs were jell-o as I walked out the door, but not weak enough that I couldn’t jump behind the wheel and drive us home.  It had been almost six months since I’ve driven any kind of vehicle, and I think I did pretty well at it.  I’m sure it fit right in with the rest of the snow birds, running a few lights, and suddenly slamming on the breaks.  (I’m just kidding, I only did that once)

Getting ourselves cleaned up it was another day of shopping, where I think I can say I’m successfully stocked up for the next few months to come, getting everything I need that I may not be able to outside of the country.  It may have been more clothes and make up, but the way I see it, this will hopefully be my last girly shopping spree I get for the next four years or so.  If the boat gets back in the water and things go according to plan.  So I see it as necessary and won’t even worry about where I’m going to fit all of this new stuff once I get back.  But that day I didn’t go crazy, it was just a few small things that are replacing old things I already own.

The next day was spent around the house relaxing, and doing a faux packing to make sure I could bring back all my new things.  Even with a newer, bigger bag from my mom, it of course did not fit.  But that’s what UPS is for, and the rest of my belongings should be arriving a few days after me.  Then it was off to a wonderful day of electronics where nothing was behaving as it should.  I tried to make a spreadsheet to print boat cards on, and after the three hours, literally, it took me to get up our name, boat name, and website, my mom and I found out we couldn’t print the cards.  My laptop wouldn’t connect with her printer, and her computer couldn’t open the ‘Open Office’ document I had used to make the spreadsheet.  That’s ok, I can live with that kind of hassle.

The real kicker came that night when I was trying to do work on my new laptop and my password wasn’t working to log in.  Truth be told, I had been having that issue for a few days, but just dismissed it since I still had my other laptop which has all my photo editing tools, so I was on that 90% of the time anyway.  But yesterday we really wanted to get to the bottom of it, and dedicated four hours to trying to solve the problem.  This included a call to Best Buy where they stated that if we didn’t buy their plan, they couldn’t do anything to help me, and a call to my uncle who’s in IT, but not familiar yet with Windows 8.  Finally and thankfully my dad was messing around with different options of the password I thought it should be and was able to get in.  Why did I ever add a 2 to the end of my password?, I never do that!  But once it was fixed and the stress was gone, I was able to enjoy the last few hours of my vacation sitting around and unwinding with my parents.  Can it really get any better than watching Mrs. Doubtfire with a bowl of popcorn in you lap and an ice cold Pepsi next to you?

Then it was back to the grind today, two flights and two thousand miles to get back home.  It was much more fun getting through security this time though, with two laptops to take out, and when they ran my bag through the scanner three times I thought I might not be getting on my flight at all.  I still have no clue what they thought I was carrying with me that my things needed to be inspected that closely.  But all was well and after holding the line up for only about five minutes, my bag came through and I was on my way again.  In the sky and ready for electronics to come out I happily grabbed my now fully charged Nook, woo hoo!, only to find….it wouldn’t turn on.  WTF?!  Really, electronics?  Still?!  Luckily for me, the guy in the seat next to me was watching Limitless on his touch pad, and must have known I was peeking over his shoulder because he left the captions on.  Thanks airplane guy!

Landing in Jacksonville, I was greeted by Matt, who looked exhausted from his hard day of labor on the boat.  He told me he had completely lost track of time and thought it was much earlier than it was when Chris came knocking on the hull to bring him to the airport.  His clothes and hair still had a little bit of dust on them, but after a week away, it was the best thing I could have ever seen.  We met Chris at the van, and then in a total surprise to me, we went to dinner to a place just up the road called Sticky Fingers.  It was a BBQ restaurant, and between the three of us we split the ‘Ribs for Two’ meal, coming with more food than we could all put away.  Our platter came with four slabs of ribs, each with a different sauce, and even one dry rub.  It was all delicious, and as usual when we go out with Chris, I was ready to fall into a food coma when we left.

Back on the road and coming into St. Augustine, we drove around town for a little as it was the last night before the ‘Nights of Lights’ are shut off until November.  It was actually really sad as we drove past, my face pressed up against the glass, knowing that the next time we’re out everything is going to look a little less magical.  Part of me wanted to get back to the boat, grab the camera, and run back out to capture all the beauty that we had admired, but taken for granted for the past two months.  As we pulled into the little side streets of the Lincolnville Historic District where our marina is, it hit me that I really felt like I was coming home.  This wasn’t just some random city that we were passing through anymore.  All the streets and buildings were comforting and familiar, and as much as I still want to get out, I am really going to miss it when we leave here.

Punching in the code for the gate and walking into the yard, it felt really good to be back.  Climbing up the ladder and expecting to immediately be bombarded by my furry little friend, Georgie, in true cat fashion, completely ignored me as soon as I walked through the door.  Then I saw what Matt was talking about in the email yesterday.  He was not lying about the mess.  The last step of the companionway was missing, all of our belongings lay out across the floor, and there was only one small spot to sit.  I didn’t even know what to do with my bags I had just brought back, there was no place to put them.  But this has to mean progress, right?  That something was actually done in my absence.  It may be an extra cramped space to get used to, but if I close my eyes hard enough, maybe I can pretend I’m back at my parent’s house, sprawled out in the queen size bed that I have all to myself.

“And kick, ….. and sweat…..”

Three hours to make this?  I don’t even know how that happened.

In St. Augustine News

Wednesday January 30, 2013

 

Since I’ve been a little lax on what Matt has been up to in St. Augustine, here is the report I received from him tonight.

The boat is trashed!  I’ll try to straighten it out before you come tomorrow.  I don’t even have a place to sit inside the boat right now.  I’ll be sleeping on the floor tonight…. It is that bad.

I just finished grinding the fiberglass. I used tarps to block the dust, but I still spent over two hours wiping the entire boat down.  There is dust everywhere, and it is really itchy!  I had to empty the vacuum three times just to get all of it.

I only got the tabs ground on the area where the fridge compressor is, the water tank area, bilge by the mast, and the settee by the bulkhead to the v berth ( where the tv is). I still have to do under the stove and sink, but may save that for another day.  Today was miserable!   It was so hot under the tarp I thought I was going to pass out.  I couldn’t see half the time because of the dust, and the grinder couldn’t reach in some spots do I had to use the dremel… Which isn’t large enough to do much.  I also cut through the fiberglass by the bilge pump into the cabin floor.  Its a small spot, but still noticeable, and I’m not sure how I’m going to fix it.

The microwave is 90% in.  I still need to do trim work (which i will have to make by hand)  mount a new 110v plug in that area, and mount bumpers to prevent the microwave from sliding back into the cabinet when the door is shut.  Because of the slope The worst it looks crooked in the cabinet.  It 100% level and perfect 90 degree corners, but with the slope of the cabin top, it looks really twisted.  Ugh!

The engine bay is about 3/4 of the way painted.  I can’t get into the aft cabin to paint the back area yet, but at least the front is done.  The steps will still be out when you get back… It’s a small jump to get down.*

I talked to the keel bolt guy from California and let him know that we wouldn’t be needing him anymore.  The costs were just jumping up too much, and he (building keels and knowing all about them) didn’t really think that him coming all the way out here was necessary anyway.  He gave me some really great tips though on how we should be able to work with the yard to do the job ourselves.

What do you think about keeping the hot water heater?  We haven’t used it yet and it takes up a 3x3x3 space that could be used for other items.  I’m not sure if we will ever use it, but I also don’t want to wish we still had it either.   We could always get one of those solar showers that everyone uses the time we want hot water, and that works without running the engine.

Also, what about the sink in the v berth?  If we got rid of that I think we could get much better use out of that space.

So it looks like Matt has been pretty busy while I’ve been away.  Things are finally progressing, and with any luck, we might actually be out of here in a few weeks!

*I found out from Matt that it was absolutely necessary for the engine to come out with the transmission.  The yard knew what they were talking about, and we were lucky we listened to them.

(Also, when I talked before about the fiberglasser, he was not part of the yard, just a vendor.  Everyone here at the yard has been very helpful and quick with their work)

Un-health Food Heaven

Tuesday January 22, 2013

I don’t know how many of you know this, but for as much time and money as Matt has put into getting fishing poles, lines, lures, basically anything for us to catch fish while we’re out on the boat…he does not like fresh fish.  A few summers ago when I’d make these delicious fish tacos made with tilapia and a to-die-for mango salsa, he would turn up his nose at it.  While I was trying to get into a healthier diet around the same time and would serve fish and vegetables for dinner, he’d make a peanut butter and jelly.  There is only one way to get this boy to eat fish, and that to deep-fry it.  Turn it around like that, and he loves fish.  Any restaurant we go to, he’ll search the menu for fish and chips.  Drown it in tartar sauce and he’s in heaven.  If you ever ask him the question “If you were stranded on a deserted island with only three different foods, what would they be?”, his first answer would be tartar sauce.  (And then Ranch dressing.  Apparently he thinks he can live off condiments)  So to help Matt out with his fried fish fetish, in steps our friend Chris.  While bringing us out to see the manatees a few weeks ago he was giving us a rundown on all the great places in St. Augustine to visit (a few among dozens), he told us about a seafood restaurant called Schooners which is a favorite to locals and is rated for having some of the best fried fish in town.  Wanting to make sure we experienced it, we set up tentative plans in the future and Matt and I were more than happy to take him up on the offer to try it out.

So this week, when we all had free time in our schedules, Chris picked Matt and I up from the boat yard to take us the few mile drive to the restaurant.  As soon as we stepped in the van we were greeted with a smile and a plate of his famous chocolate chip cookies.  If he hadn’t raved about this restaurant so much the last time we were together I would have been ready to call off dinner and dig into the cookies instead.  But knowing that I might still get a chance to eat one back at the boat that night before Matt scarfed them all down (They are seriously his favorite thing in the world, I think they could now be added to his list of three foods to be deserted on an island with), we continued on to the restaurant.  Walking in at 6:30 on a Tuesday night, the place was packed.  Always a sign there must be good food if it’s hard to get a table so early in the week.  After being seated with a menu in front of me I browsed through and could see why the place was so popular.  Scrolling down my eyes landed on items like fried shrimp, fried scallops, fried oysters, and fried crab cakes.  They also offered all of those items, non-fried, but that’s not the reason we were there, was it?  Everything looked amazing, and I wanted all of it.

Chris wasn’t going to let us off easy either, he also wanted us to try all of it.  I couldn’t decide which one of the entrees I wanted, so when the server came I ended up doing a combo platter with stuffed fried shrimp and fried scallops.  Even that was a tough choice because the gator tail looked very interesting, and where else would we get a chance to try something like that? Chris was already one step ahead and put in an order of gator tail for an appetizers, but not before he said that I had to try the Minorcan Clam Chowder, so an order of that went in as well.  Soon the food began coming out and while we discussed all the repairs on our boat (or the current lack thereof), I started sipping on the soup that did live up to it’s recommendation.  It’s a slightly spicy soup and very specific to the region because of the Minorcans that originally inahabited the area back in the mid to late 18th century and used it on almost all of their food.  It’s made up of fresh Seville orange and Datil pepper season and gives a nice little kick, but wasn’t too overwhelmingly spicy.  So far, score one for Schooners.  Next to come out were the fried gator tails.  Neither Matt and I had any idea what to expect of these as we had never come across them before.  Breaded and seasoned, they were served with a slice of lemon and sauce for dipping.  Taking a bite the texture was a mix in between chicken and lobster.  I’m pretty sure this place has their recipe for this dish down to a T, because these little bite size pieces of meat were perfection.  I’m serious, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better piece of fried food.

I must have forgotten somewhere along the way of eating soup, gator tails, and salad that there was actually a main dish on it’s way and never slowed down to save room for my  entree.  When it was set down in front of me my eyes grew as big as dinner plates, it looked extremely appetizing, but there was so much food!  Did I mention that it came with two sides and two hush puppies?!  I don’t think my eyes had quite caught up with my stomach yet though and I was still ready to tear into this plate of un-health food heaven.  Picking up the first piece of fried food goodness, I took a bite of my stuffed shrimp, which was fried shrimp stuffed with crabmeat.  Omg, it was so tasty.  The breading was very light and flaky, and would start to crumble in my hands as I ate.  Picking up the fallen pieces I’d just dip them back in the sauce and jam it into my mouth.

This is about the point where my stomach started to beat out my will to keep eating.  Not ready to throw in the towel just yet though, I forced myself on like a food challenge champion and also went after the fried scallops and hush puppies.  I don’t even know if I can describe how good this meal was.  I’m pretty sure I’ve already used every word out there.  It was savory, delectable, heavenly.  I didn’t get very far though, before having to stop and request a doggy bag.  Looking over at Matt, his plate was clean.  Looks like he enjoyed it just as much as I did.  When the option for dessert came, even though we had been planning on sharing a slice peanut butter pie, Matt and I were at the point where we could not put one more bite of food in our mouths and didn’t want to ruin what would otherwise be a good experience by making ourselves literally sick.  Although among Chris’ many recommendations among St. Augustine there is another place, The Gypsy Cab Co, that is also supposed to serve a sublime peanut butter pie as well, and it just might give us all an excuse to have to go out again.  I think I can manage to pencil that in.

 

*And in case you think I give glowing reviews to everything, it’s only because most everything we’ve had deserves it.   But I will say that if you’re in St. Augustine, don’t bother going to O.C. White’s.  We’ve been there twice, and in our opinion, the food is overpriced and bland, especially when there are so many better options just up the road.  (Ok, their crab sandwich wasn’t that bad)

Fried gator tails.   I could eat these all night.

Bliss in the form of sugar.

 

Shot-a-holic

Monday January 21, 2013

Bet you thought I was referring to Purple Hooters or Lemon Drops, didn’t you?  Although those are among my favorite shots to drink, I am referring to being a shot-a-holic with my camera.  I can’t seem to go out without taking 100 photos of this, that, or whatever.   And even though 100% of them aren’t fantastic, there’s still a good number that I wish could make it on the blog but don’t.  Because even though photos are a ton of fun, I have a feeling I might lose a few viewers if every post had 30 photos of things from beautiful building facades down to the spokes on my bike.  I try to edit the photos on the blog down as much as I can.  You’re welcome.  With that being said though, I think some of those photos do still have a place, and a want to be seen by some people.  So over the past few days I’ve started going back through the thousands of photos I’ve taken over this trip (2,918 so far, to be exact) and selecting some through those to go into albums on our Facebook account.  I haven’t gotten that far yet, just through photos of the Great Lakes, but with the constant internet connection I’ll be having for the next few weeks there’s a small chance I may get caught all the way up to St. Augustine.  So check us out on Facebook to see all the photos and get a full sense of all the places we’ve visited.  Go ahead and like us while you’re there, and get real time updates of everything we’re up to.

In the meantime, here are a few gems that never made their way up on the site the first time around.

Happy Birthday to Yu

Saturday January 18, 2013

We never seem to find a shortage of reasons to go out here.  This weekend we were given one more excuse to go out as it was Yu’s birthday.  Not wanting to give up one of her best money making nights of the week, she still worked her cocktail shift and the three of us came to pick her up when she was finished.  Walking into the posh hotel that she works at I felt severely underdressed until I found out there was a wedding going on, and that’s why where were men in suits and women in gowns.  After having been there only one other time on NYE when there was a black tie masquerade ball going on across the street, I was beginning to think this was the norm.  Frank assured me that he’s gone into this swanky hotel to get her after a long day of work on the boat, covered in grease and wearing flip flops, so I had no need to feel out of place.   After just a few moments though, Yu was grabbing her purse and we all walked out the door, in search for something a little more our style.

Picking our regular spot we began the walk to Scarlett’s, and if I thought it was busy the last time we went on $0.50 wing night, I was sorely underestimating the bars in this college town on a Saturday night.  Standing in line and paying cover for the opportunity to listen to the band playing inside, we walked through the crowded porch and into the even more clustered restaurant.  Grabbing the first table we saw, as it was also the only available one, we sent the guys to the bar to pick up beers and struggled to have a conversation over the deafening music we had just paid to hear.  Watching the other tables we sprang up and got one on the other side of the stairs, where the staircase was blocking the sound, as soon as it vacated.  While drinking our beers in now relative peace and quiet, Frank made Yu promise that even though it was her birthday, she wouldn’t go overboard that night.  Even though I’m sure we all have intoxicated alter egos, Yu’s is so destinctive that they’ve even given it a name, Me.  I like to see alter egos, so my new goal was  to keep her glass full all night.   But since none of Yu’s other friend’s had shown up to Scarlett’s yet and drinks were still a little overpriced relative to other bars in the area, we paid the tab and hit the street again, in search of a cheaper watering hole.

I feel we might be becoming too predictable in our old age now, as the next place we hit up was the White Lion, the place we went the first time we met Frank and Yu.  Again, having initially gone there on a weeknight during Christmas break, the scene when we walked up this time was completely different than the last time we left it.  There was music blaring, strobe lights flashing, and not enough room to even walk without squeezing between piles of people.  Once more we managed to find the one empty table in the restaurant and grabbed it, although we had to move about 15 beer bottles and plastic cups out of the way first.  Matt and I sat while Frank and Yu disappeared.  When we didn’t see either of them again for ten minutes I was beginning to think they had been abducted by crazy kids with glow sticks, but soon after he returned with a pitcher of beer, and Yu came back bringing a few guests to add to the table.

While Yu was talking to her friends, Frank and I were chatting about college kids now versus when we were in college ten years ago.  This bar seemed to have a pretty wide diversity of girls dressed up like they were about to head to five star restaurants, and others that looked like they rolled out of bed and grabbed clothes off the floor.  In that mix were two girls wearing black dresses that had great detailing on the back, and I instantly fell in love with.  Even though I would have no use for them I desperately wanted one or something like it, so after a little encouragement from Frank I actually got up from the table and walked over to them.  Tapping one of the girls on the shoulder I fumbled out “Hi, I just want to tell you I love your dresses.  My friend over there is a fashion designer (not false), and I’d love for her to make me something like this.  Would you mind turning around so I could get a photo?”.  I don’t know if this happens to them often, but the girl was not phased.  Nudging her friend she goes, “Turn around, this girl wants a picture of our dresses”, to which they both stood with their backs to me until I got the photo.  Now I just need to make sure I actually do get one of these dresses made and sneak it on the boat without Matt knowing.

Through one more pitcher of beer we sat around the White Lion and joked about how it would be fun to get dressed up one night and go around town.  I don’t even know how the conversation ended up here, but the dress up we were talking about turned out to be more Halloween like.  Each of us would pick some kind of character completely different from each other, and completely mismatched we’d wander around town to see how many strange looks we could get.  Already beginning to form our characters it was decided that Frank would grow a nice mustache, plop on a sombrero, and go out as Pedro.  Matt would be going back to his French-Canadian roots by also growing a nice mustache, a curlycue one, wearing a beret and calling himself Jacques.   I was rooting for Francois, but he didn’t seem to want to budge on that one.  Yu and I thought very hard about who we could be, and almost peed our pants with the results of some of our ideas.  Should this ever come to fruition, I think it will be one of the best nights ever.

Getting away from the crowds after our second pitcher we walked next door to No Name Bar.  They had a nice outdoor patio where we gathered with our beers, me trying out a new Killer Whale Cream Ale, and getting to see a little glimpse of Me.  I knew shoving all that beer in her face would eventually pay off.  I don’t know if my alter ego or just my business side was popping out for a minute, but I grabbed a magic marker from the bar and desecrated the table next to us with our logo.  To be fair, I was far from the first person to do it.  Through only one beer and lots of laughter, we closed the place down and took to the cobblestone streets on the way back to the car, still planning our dress-up party.  As other patrons were also making their way home the only sounds they could hear ringing from the street were shouts of “Jacques..”,  “Francois..”,  “Jacques..”, “Francois…”.

Alright Yu, get to work

Uh oh, here comes Me!

Does Frank have an alter ego emerging?

Free advertising.

 

The Day That Keeps On Giving

Wednesday January 16, 2013

So I guess I can finally talk about it on the blog now.  We didn’t want to say anything until we knew for sure how we were going to go about fixing it, but now we do.  If you’re sly on boats or read between the lines, you may have picked up that even though work has been progressing I keep complaining that we’re going to be here for awhile still.  That is because we originally thought the keel would be dropped, put back on the next day, and after a few more small things we’d finally be on our way.  But as anyone who’s done extensive work on a boat will know, one project always leads to another and another.  And it’s not until you start taking apart your boat that you realize how many more things need to be done to it.  We’re finding plenty, sure, but we’re at the point now where if it’s not dire we plan on working on it later, hopefully while traveling.  But when the keel came off, we were hit with the news that 6 of our 8 bolts are suffering from crevice corrosion and need to be replaced. This is bad news for us for two very big reasons.  1.  It has nothing to do with the accident of coming in the inlet, it’s just due to the old age of the boat, so this fix has to come from our pockets and not from insurance.  2.  Somehow, even though we’re only a few hundred miles from the boating capital of the world, there is no one in this area that can do the repair.  So what we were left with is the option to ship the 5,000 lb keel up to Rhode Island or Toronto at $2,000 round trip just to get it there and back, or to find someone that could fly to St. Augustine to do the work.

After having the yard search high and low for anyone in the area that could do the repairs, and then putting a thread up on the forums, we got information that there is a guy in L.A.  that is capable of fixing it and flies wherever you need him.  Doing a little more research and finding he comes highly recommended, we secured him to come out and replace our bolts.  It will be half the cost of shipping it to Toronto, but will still come in somewhere near $3,000.  So that’s one kicker, another two months of cruising budget coming out of our pocket, but the other is that this guy is not available to come out until February 12th.*  Best case scenario is that after he’s finished we get dropped back in the water in late February and have just over three months to make it down the 2,000 miles or so to Grenada/Trinidad.  We’re not even sure if that’s possible, and that’s if everything goes smoothly and there are no more delays.  It can be done, sure.  But we will be running.  A lot of the islands will need to be skipped and hopefully visited at another time.  If things don’t go well and we get held up even longer, we may be stuck in the States for hurricane season yet again.  We’ve even been toying with the idea of leaving the boat in Florida and going back to Michigan for the summer to get jobs if it comes down to it.  We’ve cruised the States and we’re over it.  If we’re going to be sitting around for months in a place we’re not absolutely in love with (although this is a lovely town), we’d rather be putting money back in our pockets.  Besides, we have a few friends with sailboats back home that we can bum rides off of.

If that news isn’t bad enough, the day just kept on getting better.  We were excited for any kind of progress to commence, so we were very happy that while strolling through the yard today we were stopped by one of the workers that told us he had time right then and would like to swing by and get the transmission pulled.  We bound back up the ladder and sat there while he went to work in the aft cabin, expecting to have the job done in 20-40 minutes.  That’s how long it’s taken Matt to do it in the past and now we had a pro doing it.  After an hour he pops his head out and says that he can’t reach some bolts because the engine is in the way and what other kind of access to we have to the engine?  We lift up a few steps to show him the access and he shakes his head at us.  “I’m not going to be able to get in there.  These are going to have to come off.”  After a few grunts from Matt, he pulls out his screwdriver and begins disassembling the steps.  The guy goes back to work and after another thirty minutes pass he comes back out.  “I still can’t get to the bolts I need.  We’re going to have to completely remove the engine for me to get the transmission out.”  We were dumbfounded.  How can Matt do this project so easily and someone that works on boats for a living wants to basically tear our boat apart.  Holding our politeness for as long as we could we told him to get a quote started and we’d talk about it more.

Having an engine pulled is a big deal.  It’s a very heavy object, and in our boat, situated in a very tight space.  It’s going to mean taking a lot of things apart just to make a space big enough for it to get out, and then some pretty heft equipment to lift it from where it sits.  The only positive is that while it’s out we can check/replace/fix any small things on it while it’s easily accessible, and replacing the motor mounts, another job that has to be done, will be much more simple with the engine out of the way.  Plus, insurance would once again be picking up the tab.  Here’s the thing though.  Matt took a look at the engine/transmission after the guy left and found out that he was going about it completely wrong.  Should Matt have the desire, he could still go in there and 20 minutes later have the transmission removed.  (In all fairness though, the bolts the guy was trying to remove are impossible to get to.  It’s just that there are a different set of bolts that will still get the transmission off)  The motor mounts can still be replaced with the engine in, it just makes it a little more difficult and time consuming.  (But we have…plenty of time)  Lastly, by having the engine removed it will make our insurance claim even higher.  And when you’re in a situation where you need to get a new insurance carrier (ours will only cover us through the Bahamas), you want to keep the claim as low as possible.  So we’re still debating what to do.  I think we’ll wait for the quote to come back before making a final decision.**

But that’s not all.  The day kept on giving.  Walking up to the boat shed to grab our bikes for a ride up to the grocery store we found that the men’s bike was missing.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before, but these are the yard’s bikes that we use.  Since we’re basically the only people that ever use them, the office has been nice enough to let us keep the keys to the locks full time and if anyone else asks for them, they send them over to our boat and we happily hand them over.  That happened yesterday, but I had gone back to the office this morning to see if the keys were back, which they were.  Somehow we had both keys, and only one bike.  Searching the grounds near the boat that had borrowed the bikes yesterday we did not see it and were completely clueless to where it has gone.***  See, this is what happens when people lend away things that don’t belong to us.  We’re really hoping it pops back up soon since that is our main mode of transportation and Walmart is much to far too visit on foot.

Then the cherry on top.  Going back to Serendipity to hang out for the rest of the afternoon now that we had no place to go, we walked down the companionway to a foul smell.  Both of us started sniffing around and asking “Did it smell like this when we left?”.  Sometimes Georgie has some really nasty farts, or her litter box will smell for just a minute right after she goes, so we thought that might be it.  And then we realized that to make room for the transmission guy we stuck her litter box in the head to get it out of the way and had not put it back.  Uh oh.  Moving around other things that had been taken out of the aft cabin and were now sitting in the salon we picked up the engine cover and found a nice little treat waiting for us.  On the quick soaking, fibrous rug no less.  And it was m-e-s-s-y.  Gagging while wiping it up, I had to quickly rush it outside and take the hose to it.  It’s not her fault, we know.  It’s ours for taking away her bathroom for half the day.  It was still the last thing I wanted to find waiting for me when I came back.  But now I think I’m getting to the part of the day where I’m almost jaded for bad news.  Got something else for me?  Bring it on!

 

* 1/18/13.  Just got a call from the keel bolt guy in L.A.  He can move his trip up from February 12th to February 2nd.  Finally some good news!

**We’re also a little weary to pull the transmission ourselves because we’re then liable for any issues connected to it.  It may be something best left to the pros.  And if they say ‘pull the engine’, we just might have to trust them on that.

***We found the bike the next day.  It turns out there is more than one set of keys, and the people that borrowed it the other day somehow scored the other set.  So while it was gone during our first yard sweep, we later found it chained to their boat.  Apparently they thought it was their’s to use exclusively.  They’ve been splashed and are gone now, and we’re pretty happy about that.

The End of The Buddy Boat Road

Monday January 14, 2013

The day that I have been dreading for quite awhile now has come.  Our good friends on Rode Trip will be leaving tomorrow to continue on their way south while we continue to sit here waiting for boat repairs to finish.  We’re very happy for them at the same time, since they’ve gone through just as much heartache as us getting to this point, and now we’ll be able to live vicariously through them as they get into the islands.  Before we could say good-bye though, there had to be at least one more night out on the town.

Planning to meet at a little pub on the waterfront that was supposed to be famous for having over 100 different kinds of beer on tap, Matt and I biked over to find that this is the one day they were closed to host their annual holiday party.  Texting Brian and Stephanie we found them in the park across the street and tried to plan a new location.  The night was fairly warm with barely any wind, and I had remembered a nice outdoor patio that we had passed a few times as soon as we got to St. Augustine, and I really wanted to go back and check it out.  Having Matt be the one between the two of us that knew the directions for once, we found the place on a little cobblestone street behind the main drag.

Saddling up to a table and ordering some Irish beers we went through Rode Trip’s game plan, probably more excited about it than they were.  If weather window held up, they’d be hitting the Gulf Stream 24 hours from that moment, and after a few days of heading south, checking into the Bahamas.  We were so jealous.  But while speaking on topics of customs and crew lists, we were interrupted by a guy at the bar that had just an eensy bit too much to drink.  After everyone sitting at the bar had gone and there was no one left to talk to, he started making his rounds at the tables.  If you want a mental picture, think of Larry the Cable Guy, redneck accent and all, with so much to drink that he could barely stand up.  He actually ended up staying so long talking to us, I’m not sure if everyone else at the table found him entertaining or was too afraid to tell him to leave, that the bartender eventually had to come over, cut him off, and close down the bar.

So our last night out with Brian and Stephanie happened be cut short by a drunken hillbilly that kept ranting about the bar he owned down in Ormond Beach (I’ll give you a hint, it’s named after a fuzzy creature that likes to build damns), and slinging around the N-word even though there was someone at the table behind us that should have been even more offended by it than we were (and we were).  But on the flip side, it will be a great story to bring up the next time we all meet up, hopefully while grilling fresh caught fish from our cockpits while floating in kool-aid blue waters.  We’re hoping we can get back in the water soon enough to catch up, although it will probably mean a much shorter trip to the Bahamas than we were originally planning.  Back at the docks it was very hard to say good-bye to friends that we had traveled nearly 1,000 miles of the same coastline with, but I have to believe that even if things don’t go as planned this season,  somewhere on this big blue marble, we’ll meet up again someday.

 

*Editor’s Note:  Rode Trip did leave out the St. Augustine inlet on 1/15/13 (with no issues, yay!), but after a change in the weather window they did not make the Gulf crossing but instead followed the Florida coast and ended up in Lake Worth after 2.5 days of sailing.

Curry Up With That Wine

Sunday January 13, 2012

While sitting aboard Rode Trip yesterday where we quickly stopped off before other adventures, I turned to Stephanie and noted, “We really need to have a sundowner on here”.  This random thought while hanging out comes somewhat from our first week on the hard when we were invited by fellow boaters to join them for one, but while on our way we ran into and started up a conversation with a completely different set of people in the yard and lost track of time (in actuality, Matt couldn’t stop talking boat), and we missed our sundowner invitation.  They actually had to come find us in the yard and let us know they couldn’t hold off on dinner any longer, and could we do it another time?  Very embarrassing.  Anyhow, knowing we wouldn’t blow off Brian and Stephanie  for random people on the street, I still wanted my chance at that sunset drink before we ever leave this town (which is probably never).  Even better than our last opportunity, they are in the harbor with beautiful views instead of up a creek where we sit.  Plans were made and they even promised to cook us chicken curry, something we’ve surprisingly never had before.

On the way we stopped at a local gas station to provide some libations for the evening.  I don’t know how strange I must have looked to people filling up their tanks as I’m trying to shove a six pack of cans and a six pack of bottles into a backpack that’s already containing a bottle of wine and my fuzzy slippers.  (What?, my feet get cold)  The thing barely zipped up, and the whole bike ride over I was expecting it to burst open.  Brain was at the dock ready to dinghy us over and within seconds of stepping onto Rode Trip we had each cracked a beer  and were enjoying the sun going down and casting golden rays on the homes sitting on shore.  Before we could get ourselves too far into relaxation mode though, there was work to be done.  Stephanie had graciously offered to cut Matt’s hair, something that hadn’t been done in four months, since our Delaware Bay crossing.

 It’s not a hard job, just buzzing the clippers across at one length, but after the last cutting we were finding hair in the cockpit for two weeks and I was not looking forward to that kind of mess again.  So this time, before the sun could get too low for us to be able to see,  situated at the bow with the wind to their backs, Matt was shorn and clipped and I just sat back enjoying my beer.  The clean-up was surprisingly easy, but I’m pretty sure that had something to do with the fact that his hair had grown so long that it gained enough weight not to be blown around in the breeze.  Instead of enjoying the show with me, Brian was down in the galley preparing dinner.  Once there was not a trace of a haircut up at the bow the rest of us moved back to the cockpit while starting our second round, and watching the sky turn from pink to a blazing red.

Food was soon placed in our laps and right away we began to dig in.  I have no idea why we never thought to make chicken curry before, it was delicious!  It seemed relatively simple too, comparative to lots of other meals I’ve been making.  It must be that elusive curry powder that’s sold in every single store but has never made it’s way into our spice cabinet.  The sauce on top of the rice was thick and creamy, and the raisins and cashews added were amazing.  I think we may have a new staple in our meals from now on.  When we finished there was no blueberry cobbler or ice cream to follow this meal, but we did have a fruity blush wine that I had been saving for our bon voyage with Rode Trip ever since they were originally supposed to make a break for the Bahamas back in Beaufort, NC.  We have certain wines aboard given to us by family or friends before leaving, and all of them have been saved for special occasions.  It was a nice chance to finally break one out again, even if the reason was bitter-sweet.

Keeping ourselves occupied in the salon now to get out of the wind, we talked long after the bottle of wine had run out, enjoying our remaining time together, since who knows when we’ll have the chance to meet up again.  There will be of course one more good-bye outing tomorrow night before Rode Trip heads back into the big blue on Tuesday, but since fate has thrown us a (very large) curve ball, this may be the last time the four of us ever sit together on this boat.  Tentative plans are for all of us to make it to or near Grenada for hurricane season, but plans can change in an instant and we could end up in completely different spots on the globe.  But as to quote one of my favorite movies, “I can’t think about that right now.  I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

I’ve Had An Affair…..With A House

Saturday January 12, 2013

* Be forewarned, this is going to be a long post with a lot of photos, but we did so much today, and none of it was worth leaving out.

 

We knew Brian and Stephanie were going to pick us up at the boat yard at 9:30 in the morning to go to the farmers market on Anastasia Island, so I had set the alarm for 8:30 an figured that would be enough time for a nice shower, breakfast, and a chance to wish a happy 30th birthday to my best friend Jackie, someone who, had we not shipwrecked the boat, would be with us right now in the Bahamas.  I had been awake enough in the morning to know the sun had been up for what felt like too long, so when Georgie began stirring and rubbing against me I thought it was time to get up, even if I was a little early for the alarm.  Jumping down out of the v-berth and stretching my legs I walked up to the phone which we always keep at the nav station (to force ourselves out of bed to turn it off) and found it was reading 9:20.  Crap!  My utter of shock did not escape Matt, who was already half roused out of his sleep, and within seconds he was out of bed as well, pulling any clothes that were laying around over his head.  Within that ten minutes we were both able to get clothes on, feed Georgie, and rush out the companionway.  Slipping on a brand new pair of Sperry’s I had just gotten (thanks mom!) I didn’t think anything about the fact that they hadn’t been broken in yet, but I figured we’d only be walking around the market and a tour of the college later and they wouldn’t be an issue.

Getting picked up by a family friend of Brian’s, someone we’d be spending the evening with at their house, we were dropped off at the market and free to wander around.  There are surprisingly three weekly markets around St. Augustine, on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  We’ve heard this is the one to hit, and as soon as we walked up it did not look like it was going to disappoint.  Matt and I had our sights set on finding the guy with the maple bacon doughnuts, but couldn’t go five feet without stopping at one booth or another to look or sample.  A few of the things we stumbled upon were tables full of dips, handmade coconut creations, and a band with about seventeen members, almost all of them on some form of guitar or banjo.

While Matt and I will usually quick browse a booth, smile, and walk away, Stephanie loves to get to know people and will stop and talk to them for ages.  The two of us just feel bad if we strike up a conversation with someone, admire all their goods, and then walk away without buying anything.  Or maybe we just haven’t come up with enough excuses of why we don’t need a sea shell wind catcher or or a tie-dye sarong.  There were a few times the three of us had drifted down five booths and found Stephanie behind us still chatting and exclaiming things like, “You made a plant holder carved from a coconut husk in the shape of a duck?  That’s amazing!”.  Come to think of it now, she’s the perfect distraction  to use while walking away without buying anything because the owners will be so engaged with her they won’t even know we left.  It ended up working out pretty well for us since the only thing we did buy were a batch of mini doughnuts  since our guy from the Lincolnville Market wasn’t there.  Not that there weren’t a million things I didn’t have my eye on though.  I even found the perfect tote for a child that I was tempted to buy and save for if/when the day should ever happen we’d have one to give it to.

Next came the long walk back to town, something I wasn’t expecting.  After the first mile the canvas started to wear and tear on my bare feet, but I continued to hobble along, keeping pace with Stephanie, although the boys had long gotten ahead of us.  We did catch back up just before the bridge when a few out of town college kids, already drunk even before noon, stopped us to see ‘what was happening’ that night.  “You guys go to Flagler, right?”, they asked as they stepped into pace with us.  I don’t know if it was the large amounts of vodka in their water bottle talking, or all of us could pass for under 25, but we had to let them know that “Sorry, we don’t know what’s happening because we’re planning on having a quiet night at home with some friends”.  They told us they’d probably end up in Orlando anyway, which if that is the case, I really hope they have a sober friend driving their asses there.

Now walking on tip toes (literally) by the time we crossed over the Bridge of Lions, I pleaded with Stephanie to take us to Rode Trip where I could be fixed up with some bandages.  What I was actually hoping would happen is she would tell me there wasn’t time and I’d have to pop into the store attached to the marina where upon purchasing bandages I could sneak in a 20 oz Pepsi (or Lime-a-Rita), but she’s too darn helpful and soon we were walking down the dock towards their dinghy.  As we climbed in it hit me that we hadn’t been for a dinghy ride in six weeks, but the motions were still fluid, such as me crawling in so I didn’t fall over the side.  I’ve never been cool enough to just step in one unless it’s starting out on land.  Moments later we were climbing on Rode Trip and I had to give her a big hug since it had been a long time since I’d seen her and there was actually a sense of loss.

While I was choosing which Disney Princess bandage to cover my wounds with, Brian popped off the cover on the floor of the cockpit to show Matt the engine and all the work that had been done to it.  We saw the shiny new paint job, and got a thorough explanation of what had been done since the last time we had been aboard.  Enjoying the sunshine and divinely warm weather hitting us over the weekend, we sat on deck with mugs of cider in our hands and thought “Why wasn’t any of our trip down the ICW like this?”.  It was the cruiser’s dream and it took us four months to experience together.  A bluebird sky with nary a could in it.  Real warmth where it felt great to be in shorts and a t-shirt and have a slight breeze blowing over you.  Just enough movement in the water to let you know you were on it, but not enough to make it uncomfortable.  It was perfect.  It reminded me what was in store for us and that all the hassles we’re having now with be worth it once we’re set free again.  I could have enjoyed it all day, but still on the docket was a tour of Flagler College and none of us wanted to miss it since it was the 125th anniversary and they were offering free admission.  (Thanks again for the tip, Chris!)

I’ve missed you Rode Trip!!

Disney Princesses make everything better.

 

Getting to the college, the long lines that had been wrapping around the block that morning were now gone.  Stepping through the archway entrance we were handed pamphlets and told that a few areas that were normally closed to the public, even during regular tours, would be open today in celebration of the anniversary.  A little history of the place is that it was originally opened as a hotel back in 1888 by Henry Flagler, co-founder of Standard Oil.  Back when it opened the only way you could get a reservation was to book a room for 3 months, and you had to pay for it up front whether or not you used all that time.  It has the largest collection of Tiffany stained glass coming in at 79 windows.  Through extensive restoration, almost everything is original.  From the paintings to the furniture to the Tiffany chandeliers that hang from the women’s wing.  In 1968 the hotel was turned into a college where  students get to keep this piece of history going by attending classes, living on campus in the old hotel rooms (female dorms only), and even eating in the great dining hall.

The first thing we did upon entering was walk down the hall housing the office of the College’s president, something that’s normally closed even for regular tours.  We learned this used to be the men’s hall and and contained things such as a billiard’s room and a barber shop.  Next we climbed the stairs to another area that’s also usually closed to tours, the Rotunda.  Taking in the beauty that the student’s get to enjoy everyday we then made our way to the dining hall.  It’s at this point that Stephanie blurted out, “This is like being at Hogwarts!”.  And honestly, it kind of was.  Just the history and the opulence of the place.  They may not offer Defense Against The Dark Arts, but throw on a knit scarf over a robe and while wandering around in your free time you may not know otherwise.

We had one more stop before Rode Trip’s family friend was to come back and pick us up, the Memorial Presbyterian Church.  But before we could get there I needed food in my stomach.  Three mini doughnuts was not going to be enough to last this girl until dinner.  We wandered aimlessly toward St. George St. hoping to find some kind of bakery or snack shop when Stephanie had the great idea to hit up French Fry Heaven.  We drooled over it the last time they were here, why not stop in and see what all the fuss was about? As we searched through the menu of Angels vs Saints (steak fries vs sweet potato) Matt shook his head about ordering any kind of Saints.  Not as much of a sweet potato lover as I am.  We settled on a bacon/cheese/ranch combo and after they loaded up our cone we went outside to eat.  They were delicious, but if I had known how much melted cheese was going to be on them I think I would have asked for one scoop instead of two.  Everything was drenched in cheese and it was almost hard to taste the french fry.  Brian was sweet enough to let me taste a few of their cinnamon sugar sweet potato fries though, and then going back to help Matt finish ours we were sufficently stuffed.  At $9 for a large fry and soda though, the prices reflected that we were in the heart of a tourist hub.

Making the jog a few blocks over to the church we walked up the front steps and in through the door.  Everything again was so ornate, another building commissioned by Henry Flagler, in memory of his daughter and granddaughter that died during childbirth.  Right after their passing he began building and had it finished in just under 365 days, with the grand opening celebrating the anniversary of their death.  The church was also full of beautiful stained glass windows, all of which had just been restored in the last ten years.  Talking to one of the local college kids that was a volunteer there, he gave us all the facts and history on the church and pointed us to the mausoleum where Henry Flagler, his first wife, daughter and granddaughter have been laid to rest.  Peeking through the bars we viewed the beautiful glass ceiling of the dome and then made our way outdoors to wait to be picked up.  While waiting we were treated to the church bells ringing, something that normally only happens during services.  This time it was to announce the closing of the tours at the college next door.  What was even better, is the bell ringer was never told how many times to ring, so he kept going.  Matt and Brian suggested he go all the way up to 125 to celebrate the anniversary.  He did try to make his way there, but eventually had to give up somewhere around 110 when his arms gave out.

Different styles to order the heavenly fries.

Om nom nom nom.

Someone needs to clean up the bums on these streets.

 

For the final event of the night we were picked up and driven about 20 minutes north of St. Augustine to the home of Bob and Susan, Rode Trip’s family friends that they had been spending the past few days with.  Two things dawned on me as we walked inside their home.  1.  It was our five month cruising anniversary.  Hooray, a reason to celebrate!  2.  This is the first time in five months that we had been in any kind of house or home.  Walking into the hallway and seeing the regular staples of a home, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen…..it felt like a life I vaguely remember but was light-years away.  We were led right to a three season’s porch where a yummy mango salsa was laid out with chips.  Beers and wine were offered and the six of us sat around talking about boats, sailing, and the four of us travelers, about our travel so far.

A few hours later we moved to the formal dining room where we were treated to a delicious homemade meal that even rivaled Brian and Stephanie’s cooking.  After the meal had been cleared away and I already felt like I couldn’t fit anything else in my stomach, dessert was placed in front of me and I couldn’t turn it down.  Not only did it look way too tempting (it had ice cream, we never get ice cream!), the blueberries used to make it had been brought down from their hometown in Pennsylvania and saved for a special occasion.  Which apparently we were.  How can you turn down an offer like that?  So we continued eating until even the freshly opened bottle of wine at the table became unappetizing and I could not have another bite to eat or drink.  Then the strangest part of the whole day happened.  The six of us situated ourselves back in the living room where an NFL game was playing on the tv.  Somehow Matt and I went from just glancing at the game, to watching plays, and then even slightly understanding them and rooting for a team.  What was happening to us?!  (We are usually interested in zero sports).  Five hours back in a house and we were already becoming domesticated.  Before it could go any further we were taken back to the boat where we could pick up our vagabond life.