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 bar near me 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… 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.

Closer To Getting Nowhere

Thursday January 10, 2013

Just as we had rolled out of bed this morning, we got a text from Rode Trip saying that we better be up and ready because they were on their way over to visit.  We had mentioned to them that the keel was coming off today and we all wanted to watch it, and maybe open a bottle of wine to celebrate.  We weren’t given an exact time from the marina, they had only said sometime in the afternoon, so we assumed it would take place between one and four.  Since they had come in late morning and there isn’t much to do while hanging around in a boatyard we thought we’d make the trip up to Sailor’s Exchange (not the bathroom one) since it was on their list of things to check out while in town.  Walking down the dirt road the marina is on, that apparently has been under construction for over a year, we passed the boat yard where Frank and Yu are, and saw them climbing down the ladder from their boat.  We waived and continued on our way until their car pulled up behind us and they offered us a ride.  Piling four people into the backseat of a hatchback was a little crowded, plus it was a very bumpy ride, but we all got there in one piece and tumbled out the doors once they were opened.

Instead of flocking to my normal area of books and magazines once inside, Stephanie and I poked around the antique are for a little while and looked through all the country’s flags that were for sale.    They still haven’t picked up a Bahamian courtesy flag yet, but for the price of $13 they were asking here, they weren’t going home today with one either.  Doing a sweep of the aisles I tried to get interested in all the little blocks and water pumps and things that might be useful to the boat, but they could only hold my attention so long and soon I was in the book corner, flipping through magazines of places we still hope to travel one day.  Stephanie soon joined me and we talked about jumping off points to the Bahamas while looking at maps and where we’d like to check in.  They have a tentative plan to jump out from St. Augustine if the right weather window comes, otherwise, just like us, they’ll probably go over from Lake Worth to West End.  After we got that out of the way and wondered what our guys were up to, or how much money they were spending, we went in search and found them at the check-out counter.  Brian was leaving empty handed, but Matt had found a block with an attached cam cleat for us, and also a casting net for catching shrimp and small fish to be used as bait.  From what we hear they’re supposed to be great, and even Brian has brought in handfuls of shrimp with his already.

Making the long walk back to the boat yard we walked up just in time to see Serendipity hanging in the lift.  Punching the code into the gate and running in we found out that we were too late to catch the full show, the rudder and keel had already been removed.  We missed the big show, but we were still able to watch them set the boat on a new set of blocks just ahead of where the keel remained and then drive off with the lift.  From what we could gather from the workers, the rudder would be shipped off the next day for repairs as it was definitely now obvious that it was bent.  We’re not sure what method they’re going to choose to fix it, but Matt thinks it will involve them splitting it down the middle, making a cast with the good side, molding a new half, and then piecing it back together with foam and fiberglass.  We don’t know how long that will take, but it’s not looking like we’ll be put back together tomorrow as we’d hoped.  Since Serendip will have to be lifted regardless just to get the rudder back on, the keel will stay off as well until everything is ready.  The only good news is they assured us we’d still be stable enough for us to continue to live on the boat on the hard, even without the keel attached.  Music to our ears since we thought we’d be spending that time in a hotel or forced (willingly) to the other side of the state to stay with family.

While Matt went through the details with the yard workers and wallowed in pity that we wouldn’t be put back together right away, Brian and Stephanie and I decided to take up an empty part of the yard to try out the new casting net.  Since Brian already had some experience with his and I’m terrible at learning from books, I need to see it to learn it, we figured it was a great opportunity for me to become a casting pro.  Unraveling it from all the line it was bound in, he showed me the different parts and the steps to get it ready to throw.  Not that I knew anything about casting nets before this, except it was a great opportunity to provide us with some shrimp cocktails, I honestly thought it would be as easy as picking it up and throwing it in the water.  Oh no.  There are many more steps to it than that.  Letting Brain take a few practice runs himself so I could see how it was done he showed me how to loop the rope in my hand and then gather the top half of the net in it.  The next step was to separate half the net from itself by wrapping it across your leg, and then gathering that half to then wrap over your arm holding the rope.  Here’s where it starts to get tricky.  After that part have to look down where the bottom and weighted part is starting to run up and cause two different heights between the net still sitting by your legs (Still with me?  Confusing, I know) and then grab that part and put it between your teeth.  When that’s done you take the net that was draped over your arm and let it fall back down, causing a triangle shape that I can still never make out.  Now you’re ready to toss.  Standing with your back to the area you want it to end up you do some kind of discus toss, letting it release from your arms and mouth, and it should open up and drape over the water.  Theoretically pretending there was water there and not dirt, you’d let it sink for a few minutes and then yank all the line in which closes the bottom and secures your catch.  I did a few practice rounds myself which weren’t as terrible as I thought, but one thing I wasn’t expecting is how heavy the weights on the bottom were and the net did not go very far from where I tossed it.  Looks like if we’re going to be having shrimp cocktails soon, I need to work on my upper body strength.

Why don’t we have this on the boat?

50 Cent Wednesday

Wednesday January 9, 2012

Last week when Frank and Yu had introduced us to Scarlett O’Hara’s here in the historic part of town, we were so enamored with the Wednesday happy hour special that we had decided right there that we’d be back the next week.  Hoping a ride into town in their Subaru we even found a parking spot in the exact lot as last time, although it looked like there must have been an event going on in town because the area was packed.  Even when we walked up to the patio at Scarlett’s every table outside was full and the outside bar was full with plenty of college kids.  It looked like spring break had started, but about two months early.  Walking inside we could see it was just as packed and after doing a lap of the restaurant and going upstairs and down we thought we’d be out of luck finding a table, but just as we were about to leave I spotted a table that had just been vacated.  It was on the other side of a set of stairs that we needed to walk around to get there, but so paranoid that someone would scoop it up before we could get there I threw my purse on the table, almost hitting the waitress that had just walked up to buss it.  Throwing out a quick apology we all rushed around and sat down before anything could happen to our newly reserved spot.

Taking menus even though we already knew what we wanted, the question then became: wings, shrimp, or oysters, and how many of each?  Yu had verified that the oysters she had last week, although delicious, were not very filling, especially in quantities of five or ten.  Craving them since I had seen her sipping on them last week I had been smart enough to throw back a granola bar before we left, but I was still starving.  I knew I could do a combo of wings & oysters, but for some reason in my mind the numbers of the combination seemed very important and it wasn’t until our drinks arrived at the table I was finally able to come to a decision.  Probably because I had just finished updating our cost for the year, and even $0.50 appetizers were throwing me into a frenzy with the budget.  Even a combination of 15 total would only come to a bill of $7.50, but I couldn’t bring myself to go that high.  So I went with thirteen to save myself a dollar.  Yes, I am a little crazy.  Welcome to the world of non-retired cruisers.

Sipping our 2-4-1 margaritas I commented on how many young people were out that night.  “Lots of college kids”, I observed.  “Right”, Yu responded, “They’re all back from Christmas break now”.  Duh.  I had completely forgotten that we were in the heart of a college town.  I don’t know how it didn’t dawn on me since we were planning a tour of Flagler College over the weekend with Rode Trip, who just got down from St. Mary’s.  I didn’t have too much time to dwell on my slowness for long since the food came out and soon my fingers and mouth were stained orange in buffalo sauce.  Between bites of food we talked about what it was like to be a cruising couple, how you’re together all the time, and how the boat is now like a child between the two of you.  We got to hear about some of the stupid things they argue about now that would never have come up on land and I mentioned that when you’re together all day every day it gets hard to find chances to miss each other like what used to happen, even if we were just going off to work.  It definitely is a different lifestyle, but between the four of us, none of us would take our old lives back over what we have now.  And it’s becoming much more rare now that I hear this statement from Matt:  “But we could have had a condo in the heart of downtown overlooking the river!”.

Before we could get into it much further though, we got a text from Brian and Stephanie (on Rode Trip) who said they were on their way to meet us.  After a few minutes of staring outside at street signs and correctly give directions, they were walking in the door and we tried to throw a few chairs at the end of our booth to accommodate them.  They also joined in on the wing special even though the rest of us had finished, and once they had finished we were going to find another bar.  Just before they had gotten there though, and just before the 2-4-1 drink special ended, Matt, Yu, and I put in orders for one more round of margaritas.  Which in our minds meant that he would get one, I would get one, and that would be our 2-4-1.  The margaritas came out and we hadn’t even gotten five sips in when our server comes back with another round on top of that saying “Sorry, I couldn’t hold these behind the bar any longer”.  Apparently 2-4-1 in her eyes meant that we were each going to get two for the price of one.  Specifics.  Gotta remember those next time.  So even though all of us wanted to get out and explore new parts of the town, half of the group was trying to chug down two margaritas each just to get our money’s worth.  I think the good news was that we’d have our fill of alcohol for the rest of the night and could therefore spend less any place we went after.

Relying on Frank and Yu for local knowledge again, we let Yu pick the next bar based on cheap beer prices and the fact they had a pool table.  This next place happened to be the American Legion and had just a little bit different of a crowd than Scarlett’s.    Seating ourselves at a round table off to the side we could tell that for most people inside the bar it wasn’t a place to be lively and upbeat, but a place to drown sorrows.  Hopefully all of our happy chatter wasn’t going to be a buzzkill for their solitude and time spent reflecting.  That thought only lasted a half a second though, and then we went back to enjoying ourselves and enjoying the $1 jello shots they had to offer.  Only one though, I still had four margaritas in me to keep down.  For the next few hours we just spent time hanging out, enjoying old friends and introducing them to new friends.  Yu showed off her pool skills and I tried to find all the techno songs I could on the jukebox.  We didn’t end up closing the legion down, but it was a great night out and I hope we can drag ourselves out of bed in the morning to get in as much time as possible with Brian and Stephanie while they’re here.

The old gang is back together again!

Street acrobatics.

Picturesque St. Augustine

Monday January 7, 2012

We have gone back to sitting around the boat the past few days, but the good news is, we got word from our insurance company on Thursday that they are going to proceed with the claim and would be sending a check right out.  Over the weekend we did a few small jobs on the boat that we could, removing a few things that we had the ability to do ourselves and save on the labor.  Things such as remove the rudder, max prop, shaft and strut.  It was all done pretty quickly and easily, so there’s not much to report on it.  Real work should be starting later in the week though, and then I can start reporting on Serendipity’s recovery. So until then, here is a gallery of photos of the beautiful city we’ve been stuck in for the past five weeks.

You, Me and Manatee

Friday January 4, 2013

Ever since we shipwrecked our sorry little butts here in St. Augustine we have been in touch with one of the locals, Chris, who heard our distress call on the radio and through the magic of Google our website right away online and has been giving us helpful hints on the town and even dropped by a few weeks ago to introduce himself and drop of the most delicious chocolate chip cookies we’ve ever had. Through his helpful hints on the best places to visit in town and help us in any way we could need, he also hinted that he’d like to take us to a natural spring just outside of town to see manatees that would gather there in the winter, if we had the time and the want to do something like that.  Not only was it a very generous offer on his part, but perfectly timed since from the moment we arrived in St. Augustine we’ve had our eyes out for them in the water since they are supposed to frequent the area. So an offer to be taken to a place where we knew they’d be seen was enough to get me as excited as if we were going to Disney World.* After the holidays had passed and schedules were slowing down we set a date and planned to make the drive to Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, about a 90 minute drive from St. Augustine.

 Picking us up from the marine center in the late morning we spent the drive over catching up on how the holidays went and the new potential of progress on Serendipity. As we were getting close to the springs, Chris had another treat up his sleeve, he wanted to treat us to lunch at a local BBQ place that was supposed to be a great southern experience. He warned that it may be a little bit of a hole in the wall, but from our past experiences, those usually tend to be the best. Being the neurotic person that I sometimes am, I had already viewed the online menu before we ever set foot in the place, already sure of what I was going to order. Maybe it was because I had skipped breakfast in my rush to get out the companion way in the morning, but suddenly everything was looking good and I was back to square one. Luckily Chris was there to save me as he mentioned that between Matt and I, someone needed to get the steak and rib combo. Strangely having had a conversation on the ride down about how much I was craving a nice, juicy, medium-rare steak, I immediately volunteered myself for the meal while promising to give little pieces to Matt.

When the food came out I was faced with two choices of meat, a perfectly baked sweet potato, coleslaw and garlic bread. Usually enough food to last me for three meals but I didn’t hesitate one second to dig right in. True to his claims of it being an extraordinary barbeque experience, the food did not disappoint and most conversation halted while we all savored what was on our plates. Eating much more than I should have I eventually began forcing pieces of steak and ribs onto Matt’s plate before I could fall into a food coma and never leave the table. He was only too happy to pick up my slack before falling victim to overeating as well and swearing off any more food for the rest of the day. Not before getting a 32 oz Coke to-go for the road though. That boy and his pop. I fear if I ever get between him and his addiction.

Rolling ourselves back into the van we made the short drive the rest of the way to Blue Springs, getting more excited with each mile that passed. The day was cool and overcast, and even as we stepped out into the parking lot there was a light mist that settled on our faces, but nothing could bring down our excitement as we walked toward the boardwalk  with views of the water. Stopping just before the overlook on the spring run we began to read the plaque on the area being a habitat for the manatees in the winter months. Still being close enough to the water to see it from where we were standing, Chris nonchalantly goes, “Oh, I see one right there”. Granted he has been here before so the occurrence wasn’t as new for him, but it was enough to stop both our eyes from scrolling the rest of the way down the plaque and dart to the water’s edge.

Since Chris had sent a link to our Facebook page of the area that I scanned before coming, I knew they tried to keep a daily count of the manatees in the spring, which was hovering just over 100, but Matt had come expecting to really seek them out so he was dumbfounded when we got to the wooden deck perched over the water and there were herds of them in the sprawled out below us. Knowing they’d be easy to spot I was just as thrilled to see them and we turned into those six year olds on a field trip to the zoo, feet bouncing on the ground as I looked below. The sight really was breathtaking though, and not what either of us had been expecting to see. The water was emerald green in color and crystal clear. Looking down there were easily twenty manatees below us, some just hovering in one spot, and others slowly made their way through the water. We stood over one as it moved about directly below us, very interested in the pole that housed the camera for live internet feed.

Although I had seen a few years ago (half a life ago, now that I come to think of it), for anyone who has not seen a manatee or does not know much about them, here is a brief history. What we were standing over watching were West Indie Manatees, or the Florida Manatee to be more specific. These are mammals with front flippers and no hind limbs. Adults are approximately 9-11 feet long and weigh from 450-1,300 lbs. They are sometimes called sea cows, and the name fits pretty aptly. They are large grazers of the sea that move at a slow pace without much agenda. One thing none of us knew was their large geographic range, with the West Indies species ranging all through the Caribbean and even over to the east coast of Central America. Should we finally spot them in the wild we may be seeing them for quite awhile on our journeys.

In addition to the many manatees in front of us were huge schools of fish swimming through the water. My initial thought was, ‘I wish we had brought the fishing poles, these things look like a sure catch‘, but of course it was a no fishing zone so we settled for watching them pass by as we tried to guess the species. Using any basic knowledge we had, and eavesdropping on other’s conversations, we gathered a few names of what we thought was treading below us. Turning my back to the water for the first time I was smack dab in front of a very large and colorful sign that listed photos of the most common fish in these waters and what they were. Quickly we were able to go back to pointing them out in the water and calling them out by name. An added bonus is other people who hadn’t yet seen the sign but eavesdropping on our conversation actually thought we were much more knowledgeable than we actually were. Score one for appearances.

 Making our way up the run we continuously got closer to the spring, but also lost sight of the manatees the closer we got. Once upon the spring there was no vegetation and only a few gar fish. The spring itself looked like a gash in the water just a few shades darker than the water around it. There was a large branch resting across the top of it and you couldn’t see very far down, but from images on posters in the area the spring was a popular diving area that went down close to 150 ft and ran at an angle ending 130 ft to the side of the entrance. Not that I’ve ever even been diving before, but it looked a little narrow in some areas and probably would have made me a little claustrophobic, but I have a few friends that probably would have enjoyed it. The area is open to swimming in general in the summer months which looks fun, take a quick dive down and come right back to the surface. Another fun fact about the spring is that it pushes out over a million gallons of water a day. That’s incredible!

Going back to where we had originally started and where 98% of the manatees were gathered. We watched them float around for a little longer before heading to other viewing areas closer to the river, and supposedly where alligators could be seen at times. Yet another thing on the list of animals we have not managed to see yet on this trip. Keeping our eyes peeled in the much darker waters of the river there were no beady eyes hovering at the surface. Just as we looked the other direction there was a thrashing in the water that was quite violent and more than a splash. It was most likely a manatee having a little fun in the river, but none of us saw, and we can’t quite be sure. So to satisfy my imagination and happiness I’ll pretend that it was an alligator wrestling something, other than a manatee, in hopes for a late afternoon snack. What we were able to get visual confirmation on though was a bald eagle resting in a tree top, the second one we’ve seen in Florida now thanks to Chris’ help (who knew there was one that hangs around near the boat yard?) With chances of an actual alligator sighting growing slimmer we headed back to the park grounds.

Just before leaving we took a quick tour of the Thursby house, a plantation built in the mid 1850’s from the first people to settle at the springs. Only the first of three floors was open for viewing and while most rooms were empty of furnishings but housed photos and information of the homes history. Based on other homes of the era that we had toured on our travels south this one seemed to have much larger room, hallways, and even higher doors than what we had been used to seeing. Something comperable to if it were just built in the past 20 years. I think I smell some remodeling? After having covered every inch this park had to offer us we climbed back in the van for the drive home, tired but completely fulfilled. It was such a special and thoughtful trip, and we’re so lucky to have met Chris take us under his wing and share experiences we’d never be able to have on our own. It sounds like it’s going to be the first of many though, so stay tuned as we may actually have other adventures coming up while we’re stuck on the hard.

*He also gave us tickets to Disney World since he gets them for volunteering there.  How nice is this guy?!