Saturday, February 28, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Chris here with a brief entry... We spent Thursday relaxing and taking in some of the sights. Kristen spent almost the whole day with the kids at the Science Museum which is a few blocks away from our slip. I spent a few hours there, but my back started to hurt a lot a couple of weeks ago and has been getting progressively worse, so I took off early. I'm hoping it's just muscles. We started in on "The List" yesterday. What's the list? Every boatowner has one - it's everything that needs to get done.

In our case, the list was comprised of: Sand and paint the handrails/caprails/rubrails; Sew a lee cloth for the kid's pillows; Sew bumper covers; Pull apart, fix and lube our winches; Put new sealant on our deck (HUGE job); Resew dodger cover; Mark all gauges at normal levels; Investigate why our fridge temp reading is wrong; Make curtains; Replace halyard; Add new lines for third reef; Install batteries; Install new inverter/charger; Install cockpit shower; Provision for two months; Buy engine spare parts; Buy beef jerky (yes, yes, I know, but it's on the list!); Buy snorkeling stuff; Order satellite phone; Get weather router; Install padeye on dinghy for lock; Replace broken studs on enclosure; Sew sail cover for lazy jack access; Install Sirius weather on chartplotter; Fix cabinet where we installed new vented loop; Install water filter; Plan Bahamas section of cruise.

A few days ago we installed the water filter (cheap whole house filter from Home Depot along with a carbon insert for taste - now we can drink the water from our water tanks!), and then we started on the rest of the list yesterday.

I rebuilt the winches (yes, I did it, which for those of you that know me is amazing and weird at the same time - my strongest ability is finding someone else to do this stuff for me!), put a coat of stain on the grabrails and did a couple of other odds and ends.

Kristen sewed the kid's lee cloth for their pillows (using the sunbrella we found in the trash at Vero Beach, cleaned up of course!).

Today, I ran to the Fort Lauderdale West Marine Superstore (the largest West in the country) for a bunch of stuff while Kristen put a coat of stain on all the wood and sewed the new bumper covers. I'm not sure what we're going to do tomorrow yet.

Tomorrow evening we're going to rent a car to have all day Monday, and we're going to pick up our new Xantrex charger/inverter, buy the beef jerky, get snorkeling gear and do all of the other errands we need a car for.

Tuesday afternoon we have a contractor coming over to help install the batteries and inverter (we need a bunch of new, really big cables put together), and also to help run the cables for the weather hardware. By the way, for those of you that care, we bought 4 Mastervolt AGM batteries. Each one is half the size of an 8D battery, weighs 115lbs and has 200AH of power. We'll have 800AH of power on Pelican. For those of you that have no idea what I just said, basically we're doubling the amount of power on the boat but not using up any additional space.

We're hoping to be done with this by Wednesday, and to be able to head to Noname Harbor in the keys on Thursday to be positioned to head to the Bahamas!

I'll post more in depth stuff soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Phew... we're in Ft. Lauderdale

Chris here - We made it Ft. Lauderdale, and we made it to the marina we'll be staying in for the next week.

Last night we pulled into a Pompano Beach marina to stay the night. Because our batteries won't hold a charge for more than a few hours we've been hesitant to anchor out. The marina was OK - it was right on the ICW, so we didn't have to travel anywhere for it, and since it was part of a hotel we had access to the pool. Yesterday was Mardi Gras, so we celebrated by having a meal at a nice Italian Restaurant.

We only had about 10 miles to go today, so we took it easy this morning. The kids swam for a while in the pool at the hotel/marina we were at and then had school for a couple of hours. The bridge by the marina opened on the hour and half-hour, so we got prepped and left at the 1pm opening. Right after the first bridge we put our genoa up and, once again, sailed down the ICW. You get a lot of strange looks when you sail down the ICW - people just aren't used to seeing that. We heard someone on shore comment, as we passed them, "You can sail on the ICW? I don't think I've ever seen that before!" The houses along the way were amazing, and we saw megayacht after megayacht after megayacht.

Kristen here - Chris forgot to mention the delicious gourmet breakfast at the hotel this morning! They had a *beautiful* and varied display of apples, oranges and prepackaged sara lee danishes. The kids had danishes, and we took as many apples as we could without looking suspicious. I like to bring them back to the boat and use them for apple pie. Hay, we're cruisers now and every penny counts!

Sailing down the ICW was quite a nice experience. It seems that we haven't been sailing much during this trip, and today made me realize how much I've missed it. It's so quiet and peaceful. Nothing matches the feeling of turning off your motor and letting the wind gently pull your living space gracefully through the water. Well, at least until the motor yachts and cigarette boats zoom by and throw wakes that bring you to a screeching halt!


Things got a bit interesting today when we left the ICW and went up a side river to our marina. The river was quite twisty and turney with a lot of 90 degree bends that you couldn't see around. On top of that it wasn't heavily laden with marking buoys (floating marks that let you know where the channel or deep water is). Chris was driving and we were all a bit nervous about hitting bottom. Kaitlin was calling out readings from the depth meter, so Chris could watch for boat traffic. I was navigating using the paper chart, and Casey was commenting on the scenery.


As were were rounding one of those bends we came face to face with a three story paddleboat. Nothing scares your pants off like being face to face with a mammoth paddleboat going at full speed! We had a red buoy to our right and just on the other side of it were waves crashing up on a rocky shore, hmmm no wiggle room there. Kaitlin, what was that depth? Nine feet daddy! Then we hear the paddleboats engines roar into reverse. It immediately came to a dead stop. Phew, now we have a whole 20 seconds instead of 4 seconds to figure out what to do. As usual, the answer is go forward and pray.


Someone must be listening, because we squeezed by with rocks 10 feet to our right and a paddleboat 10 feet to our left. Then Kaitlin says, am I done now, can I go back below and watch a movie? Sure sweety, and toss up the rum.

But as usual the fun didn't end there. I took the wheel so Chris could push his pulsing heart back into its rightful cavity. I felt like we were in Venecian canals with beautiful houses on either side, and megayachts lining the waters edge. Then it was around another bend. This time we had Kaitlin on the bow watching for oncoming boats. The waterway was so narrow that if another boat was coming in the opposite direction, there wouldn't be room to pass. Luckily there were no oncoming boats, but as soon as I rounded the bend we were faced with a bridge. Normally this is no big deal. You radio the bridge and ask them to open it. Then the bridge operator sounds a horn, lowers the road gates, stops the road traffic and then lifts the bridge. All of this takes about 5 minutes or so. This is not a problem on the ICW where there is a bit of room to hold your position, or spin the boat around while you wait. It becomes a big problem when you have mega motor yachts 20 feet off of either side of you! Hmmm...40 foot boat, 40 feet of wiggle room. Lets hope the wind doesn't pick up! Oh, and did I mention the current? It was only about .3 knots at this point in time, but that will come into play later.

So to calm my nerves I yelled over to a crew member standing on one of the mega motor yachts. "Oh dear, I really hope I don't crash into one of these yachts!". I don't think he liked my humor. So I jockeyed the boat between forward and reverse and prayed that I didn't drift into a yacht or the bridge. Finally the bridge opened and I could commence with that sweet sweet forward motion that keeps us in a straight line and lets the rudder steer the boat. Phew! Oh, what's that I see about 500 feet ahead? Its another bridge. Grrrrr Stupid bridges. This one was a bit less congested though and we had much more time to do a slow and gradual approach.

Now it was time to call the marina and get directions. The plan was to go to a holding marina until we could get into the regular marina. It seems that the regular marina is quite a bear to get into when there is a current. The next slack current wasn't going to be until tomorrow. I gave the wheel back to Chris and got on the phone. The marina promptly informed us that we had just passed the holding marina. "Don't tell me I have to go back through those bridges!" I told him. So now our options were go back through the bridges, or go straight to the regular marina. The current was still at .3 knots so we decided once again to push forward and pray.

We had three dock spaces open to us. They were all in a row and next to each other. They all faced perpendicular to the river, so it's kind of like pulling into a parking space at the mall. It's just that the last space ended with the bridge running parallel to it. So, if you messed up your parking, you couldn't just pull out and try again. You would smash into a bridge! I kept flashing back to the time we were trying to dock the boat in Annapolis with a current and it took 5 tries. No worries I kept telling myself, that time we were trying to back in, and the wind and current were much much stronger. This time would be fine.

The marina guy on the phone told us to be careful because the current often got a bit stronger right next to the bridge. We told him that it was only .3 knots and we were going for it. Well, by the time we made the turn to pull into the slip, the current was up to 1.3 knots! Quite a difference in just 500 feet! Chris got us into the slip like a pro, but then the current grabbed us and we started drifting away from the dock. Thank goodness there was Joe the marina guy there to grab our lines and hold on for dear life.

Then the struggle began. We had a dock in front, a dock to the left, and a piling (long telephone pole like thing sticking out of the water) behind and to the right of us. We were drifting away from the dock on the left, and tug-of-warring between going way too far forward and starting to hit our bow on the dock in front of us, and rubbing the outboard engine stored on our aft lifelines on the piling behind us. Kaitlin rushed to the rescue and started to push us off the piling. Upon seeing this I immediately screamed for her to get away from there. The golden rule of boating is to never never never ever put any part of your body between the boat and any other surface. Chris rushed to put the boat into forward to save Kaitlin. All the while our amazing helper, Joe the marina guy, was holding the lines and trying to keep us from destroying our boat.

Kaitlin was unharmed, and later Casey informed me that she had not put her hand anywhere dangerous. After the dust cleared, we got the boat pulled in closer to the right side dock, and farther away from the forward dock and rear piling. I guess the guy was right about the current picking up!

Feeling lucky to have gotten away without majorly damaging anything, I had some adrenaline to burn. Chris went off to check us in, and the kids and I cleaned up the boat. Then I got out my trusty sewing machine. It seems like most of the clutter on the boat consists of sewing projects that I still need to get done. There is the kids leecloth (a piece of fabric that is tied up to keep you from falling off the bunk in heavy seas, but in this case it is to keep the kids pillow from falling off the end of their bed), the bumper covers, and the velcro on the life sling (a throwable floatation device). I want to get these done because everything piles up in the kids room, and they don't have much space as it is. I decided to tackle the life sling first.

That went very well and after some scrubbing, we had an almost new looking life sling up on the back of the boat. Now we have two throwable floatation devices available for use. Then after a diner of stir fry chicken, broccoli and rice we headed out for a evening walk. We immediately found the science museum which will be visiting tomorrow. We also found a beautiful brick path lining the water with many different trees labeled with a name and description. My Mom said that researching the trees would be a good school science project. Good idea Mom!

I'm very excited to finally be here. The Bahamas are so close I can almost taste them! My provisioning list is ready to go. There is a lot of work to be done, but the water just keeps getting clearer and clearer. It's a sign of what awaits us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Almost, almost...

Chris here... Well, we left North Palm Beach this morning at about ten til' eight. It was blowing about 10-15kts and we were looking forward to a nice brisk sail down the coast to Ft. Lauderdale. If you followed our SPOT track, you may have noticed that we tried to go outside and then ducked back in.

Our first sign that we should probably skip going outside was the fact that I missed the turn to the inlet. I was a quarter mile past the turn off the ICW when all of a sudden I said to Kristen - "Oops! I think we were supposed to turn back there!" We pulled a quick U-Turn (which was kind of fitting since we were in the Lake Worth Inlet Turning Basin) and headed out.

As we approached the inlet itself we could see a lot of surf crashing into the seawalls. We've seen this plenty of times before, and it's not necessarily indicative of the actual sea conditions. In this case, however, it was. They predicted 2-4ft seas, and as usual, they were double the size, steep and frequent. I wish I got some video. They were definitely not the largest seas we've been in - not even close to our fun at Cape Fear - but, all the same, they were not small. We were taking frequent greenies (large, thick, heavy waves) over the bow every 15-20 seconds and we had barely left the inlet. My assumption was that the farther out you went from the inlet, the better they sea state would be. We couldn't go too far out, though, since the Gulf Stream runs real close to shore here. The size of the seas was sign number two regarding the fact that it might not be a chubby day to go outside.

So we're bumping around in some big seas and Pelican is going back and forth on her side about 30 degrees in each direction. Once again, that's OK. We knew that once we got the sails up we'd be far more stable. Of course, once we turned on course the seas would be right on our beam (our side), so they would be even rougher to go through. Once again, not a problem - we knew that Pelican would be fine and we'd just have to clean up the cabin a bunch once we got to Ft. Lauderdale. It was sometime after we had been crashing through the waves for a few minutes and kept remembering things we hadn't done (pull the dorades [big vents on deck] off and cap them, duct tape the anchor locker to minimize water intrusion, get the mainsail ready so we didn't have to go forward as long in heavier seas, etc.) that we realized we had better put a pre-departure checklist together. If their good enough for an airline, they must be good enough for us.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes - sails for stabilization. Because of the size of the seas, Kristen got her tether on before she went forward to raise the mainsail (I always take the wheel when we're raising the main, especially in more technical seas). We put a couple of wraps of the main halyard (the rope that raises the mainsail) around the halyard winch and gave the line a little tug, just as we always do. At this point, our whole mast dropped off the boat!!! Just kidding, it wasn't quite that exciting. The problem that did happen, however, is that our halyard winch didn't rotate. Just in case you think that this is OK, it's not. We need the halyard winch in order to get the sail up the last foot or two all the way to the top of the mast. It provides the leverage needed in order to do this. No halyard winch, no mainsail. No mainsail, no stabilization. No stabilization, no going outside. Yes, we could have just put our genoa out (our forward sail), but it provides more power than stability.

It was at this point that the "Three strikes, you're out" rule came into effect. Kristen was on the fence, and I really wanted to have a nice run on the outside (20-25kts of wind - we would have been in Ft. Lauderdale in no time!), but I made the executive decision that we should head back inside and take the ICW down. When the wind is blowing hard and the waves are following suit, you need to have all your equipment functioning at 100%. We were down a pretty major piece of hardware, so it was better to be safe. We turned tail (which was interesting with the largish seas) and literally surfed at 8kts back into the safety of the ICW.

So, today, we ended up motoring most of the way to Ft. Lauderdale on the ICW. For a while we did put our genoa out and ghosted along the narrow river-ish ICW at 3-4kts with complete silence from below. We had a number of people yelling at us from shore - "You're not in a hurry, are you?!" and we actually got a couple of thumb ups from passing powerboaters. I don't think they see sailboats under sail on the ICW all that often. Boy did it ever feel great!!!!!!!! We didn't care how far we got today, because we could just get to Ft. Lauderdale whenever. The freedom of being able to sail towards a destination without having a timetable is an experience like no other. Normally, we're always pushing to get from point A to point B, and before we were cruising this was an even stronger urge. If you only have a weekend to have fun, you want to maximize the opportunity. In this case, we have another 18 months, so who cares if we get to Lauderdale in 2 days or 3 days. I'm always jealous of those people who leave one job to take another, and have a week off in between - no responsibility, nobody bugging you, and the knowledge that you have something to go to. I can only guess that today was a similar feeling to that.

So, we did our miles today and we've ended up at a marina in Pompano Beach about 8 or 9 miles north of the Los Olas Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale. Tomorrow we'll swim a little at the marina, and then take a leisurly sail or motor the rest of the way. There's going to be a lot of work when we get there - new batteries, new charger, provisioning, etc., so we're enjoying ourselves along the way.

We'll let you know how the rest of the ride goes once it's done, and I just don't know when exactly that will be :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Heading to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow

We're heading out of North Palm Beach tomorrow for Fort Lauderdale. There are 24 or 25 bridges on the ICW between here and there, and 15 of them only open on certain schedules, so we'll be going on the outside. We'll be going to the New River Municipal Marina for a night and then moving to Cooley's Landing Marina. It's about a 52 mile trip, door to door, and the weather forecast is OK (not bad, not good) for tomorrow - 15-20kt breeze from the Northeast with 2-4 foot (read: 4-8ft) seas on the way down. Hopefully they won't be too bumpy and we'll be able to sail. We'll have the SPOT going as usual!

It's picture day!!!

It's picture day! We have a lot of them, from Vero Beach, to Disney, to our trip to North Palm Beach (Lake Worth) to what we've been doing the past few days.

Pffffft


I'm not sure that braces will be enough!


I NEED RUM!!!!


Vero Beach Mooring Field at night


The pelicans are everywhere!


The beach at Vero Beach


Well, we tried to get a shot of our family at
Epcot, but this Disney employee didn't seem
to get the idea of a "family picture".


You pick the scarier look!


Beam us up!


Can you identify this bird? Let's call it bird one.


What about this bird? Anyone know the type? Bird two.


Help?


A great shot with Mickey and Minnie


Ummm... what exactly is Noni (Kristen's Mom) doing?


At the castle


Making cookie dough underway


Can you say grounded?


I'm not sure what the chartplotter is
trying to tell us about our location (click
on the picture to make it larger)



A couple of people had talked about this anchorage. It's located at
approximately 27°06.84'N 080°08.55'W. The chart shows
2 feet of water, but if you follow the directions, you head due east
from Green 19 in Peck Lake towards a danger sign, and you'll find
8 feet of water. I guess this picture proves it exists!


Our next house


Tiger Wood's yacht "Privacy" (yes, we're taking a picture
of a yacht named "Privacy")


Privacy's tender - a 20ft power boat with a huge engine.


We visited with Paul (CardiacPaul from SailNet) while here at
the Old North Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach. Here's a picture
of us with Pelican (looking rather like a cruising boat) in the
background


We also visited with my (Chris) second cousins while here
in North Palm Beach


Carol and Murray took us to a Street Art Fair in Lake Worth.
Cool stuff!!


An awesome performer we listened to for a while - Nicholas Marks


Kaitlin opening a coconut


Kaitlin's got nuts!


When you're done peeling them, you drive a nail
into the soft end and you can then drink
the sweet liquid from the inside.


"Have you seen someone who looks like this?"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Food Sealer

Chris here... We've had numerous people ask us about our food sealer. We are using a Rival Seal-A-Meal and it seems to be working well, but time will tell. It was the cheapest one at Target. We looked at all of them there, and since we couldn’t really tell whether the $150 sealer and the $50 sealer would actually work differently, we went with the cheaper one. The bags were also half the price of the other units. The only thing we’ve had poor luck sealing is pasta. We put the pasta in the bag and hit the vacuum button, and proceeded to watch all of our pasta crack and crumble. Then, to top off the destruction of all of our pasta, the sharp corners of what was left poked pinholes in the bags and let all the air in. Long story short, pasta doesn’t seem to work so well in a food sealer if it's single bagged. Non-toasted coconut that was still damp was an issue - it wouldn't seal - maybe the oils? Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies got completely squished into a large cookie mass, but that could be chubby to eat.

We also have found that it's easier as a two person operation with this unit - one to hold the bag, and one to push on the sealing lid. We don't know if the other units are any better, but we can't see them being that much better. You can do it by yourself, but it's easier with two people. It takes a little practice to learn how large to make the bags.

As I typed this, I learned something. Some vacuum sealers have the ability to stop the vacuum portion of the process before it's finished. This would enable you to move right to sealing the bag if you start crushing something. We'd recommend finding a sealer with this feature.

We'll keep you informed as we continue to seal items.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm shocked!

Chris here. Don't ask me how it happened... nobody else here seems to know either, but we made it to Lake Worth in a single day. Normally a two day trip due to the numerous lift bridges, we seemed to time everything right and we arrived in Lake Worth at around 5pm. There were 8 lift bridges, 4 of which only opened on the half or quarter hour. The longest we had to wait was 30 minutes for the first of the timed bridges, and we made it to every other bridge about 90 seconds before their scheduled opening. The waterway was pretty empty today - we saw, passed and were passed by about 20 other boats. I guess this number is usually in the hundreds, and you usually end up waiting at the bridges for enough boats to catch up to make it worth the bridge's while to raise. Well, we were pretty much on our own, so the bridges (except for the times ones) went up as we approached, and off we went. Add to this a 15kt following breeze, and a 2kt or so current that was with us as we approached the Fort Pierce Inlet, and it all added up to a rather chubby day. This means we'll get a whole extra day of rest here. I have numerous passage notes, plus we actually took a few pictures, so when I get up tomorrow I'll start working on an new blog entry.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Projects the night before...

Who needs an electric pump? We've got Kristen!
(By the way - this is not a glamor shot)

Chris here... I just thought I'd share with you what Kristen decided to do the night before we're about to head to Lake Worth... Our old water pump died after 20 years of service, so we got a new one - the same kind. A week after we got it (not an easy task to have something shipped to you when you have a floating address), the new pump died. We had the new pump replaced with a new new pump, once again, the same kind. That pump died of the same problem. At the Miami Boat Show (which I still have to write an entry about), we talked to Jabsco and they recommended a different pump. We returned the bad pump, got the new pump, and Kristen decided to do the work tonight. It required new hoses, barbs, mounting, etc., and she decides to do it the night before we head out. For revenge for her grumpiness level, I posted the picture above :). By the way, the reason she gave for doing it is that "Casey wanted to hear how it sounds." What a Mom!

Tomorrow is move day!

Chris here!

First of all, kudos to Jim Malkin for the appropriate use of "Chubs" in a comment on our blog. That was very chubby of you!

Wow... weather permitting, we're moving tomorrow! Headin' down south.. takin' the ditch... goin' on our merry way. Well, we're moving as long as we can get out of our slip.

We like to get a slip for a day or two before we leave for a leg of our journey, and we kept up this tradition here in Vero Beach. It allows us to finish projects, fill up our water tanks and just relax a bit more since we don't have to dinghy back and forth. Since it was supposed to rain today, we moved over to a slip yesterday. They assigned us a slip on the north side of the docks - perfect since there was a 15-20kt breeze from the south blowing. When there's lots of wind, it's helpful to head into it in order to dock dock. If it gets behind you or on your side it will push you all around, usually right towards big expensive brand new boats with shiny painted bullseyes on the side of them.

We called in to check on our slip. "Sorry - the boat that's supposed to be leaving the slip today decided to stay another day. We have a different slip for you on the south side of the dock." Great - wind from our stern that will push us really hard into the slip. "Do you have any other slips?" "Nope - that's it." Guess that's our only choice.

We loaded our dinghy onto the foredeck of Pelican. The bottom was covered with slime and the start of some barnacles. I know that the bottom of Pelican probably looks worse since we haven't moved her for quite some time. When we started the diesel, a huge whoosh of water and silt was ejected our of our wet exhaust. Yeah - remind me to run our engine every few days in the future. At least the water intake wasn't blocked, which is what I was concerned about. We dropped our mooring line and headed in. Forward seemed to work well, but reverse was a bit sluggish - we didn't see the normal turbulence in the water when I tried to go hard astern. While Pelican did slow, we probably have a few barnacles on the prop that are keeping it from switching into its reverse position. Oh well, at least we can slow down some.

We've been running our generator a lot lately so we needed to fill up on diesel. We headed to the fuel dock. As I said, it was blowing 15-20, sometimes with stronger gusts, and there was another boat tied up at the dock. It's been a couple of weeks since I last piloted Pelican, so I was a bit nervous about tying up to a dock in heavy winds when there wasn't much room to spare. Kristen said I'd do fine - it's like riding a bike. I can see the similarities between a pedal powered 25lb transport and a 27,000lb boat, diesel driven, steered from the back and with a mind of its own as to where it wants to go. Anyway...

I motored up to the fuel dock. As usual, Kristen is freaking out as I come close to the dock. She likes to second guess whether I know what I'm doing, and usually tries to yell out directions as I'm 6 feet off. That's OK - I'm the same way about a lot of her stuff. I won't tell her my docking mantra that I continuously repeat to myself as I close in on where I'm going - "Please don't let me damage anything! Please don't let me damage anything!" My landing was actually one of the most perfect landings I've ever done. I felt like taking a bow afterwards. The bow got close, my stern tucked right in ahead of the boat already at the dock, and Kristen could gently step off of Pelican to tie us off - all in 20kts of wind. That was the pinnacle of my career. We should just stop cruising now.

I don't know if we can afford a sailboat any longer. Our fuel bill came out to a ridiculously high $34 from the 17 gallons of fuel we took. Oh well, I'll just have to go for one less steak dinner at Denny's.

We cast off from the fuel dock, did a couple of circles so that Kristen and the kids had time to switch our lines and fenders from one side to the other, and then headed to the narrow fairway leading to our slip. Has anyone ever heard of something called momentum? Think about trying to park your car in a parking spot surrounded by concrete pillars. You drive down a really narrow street - twice the width of your car - and then have to make a sharp left turn, while still moving forward, into the pillar lined spot, almost the exact width of your car, only being to slow down a little bit while making your turn. While you are doing this, 12 burly guys are pushing your car from behind trying to keep you from slowing down to the speed you want. That's what docking a boat in wind is like.

We approached our slip. I, once again, managed to execute the perfect turn, get lined up for our slip and pull in straight. Then we stopped. Unfortunately, we didn't stop because I reversed us. We stopped because we were grounded. Apparently, the new slip they assigned to us only had 5 1/3 ft of water in it at low tide, and we draw close to 6 feet. We were 2/3rds the way into the slip, and now we were about 2 feet off the finger pier you walk on. Great, but whatcha gonna do? We put some lines on and just went with it. Unfortunately, since we're grounded we can't fill our water tanks. If we do, we add another 800lbs to our weight and we'll sink into the mud even more. We'll have to let Vero Beach keep the 110gals of water we were going to take with us.

We spent today finishing up some projects. We bought a bunch of jerrycans, but we hadn't finished up the boards on the side of the boat to hold them. We bought a new waterpump, but we still didn't have a water filter. We bought a freshwater shower for our cockpit, but we still didn't have the hose or fittings. Today was spent buying all of the stuff we needed, mounting things, cutting boards, and generally getting things ready.

Tomorrow morning, hopefully around 7am, but more realistically at 8 or 9, we'll attempt to unground ourselves and head south. Our first destination is Lake Worth, about 55nm from here. I think it will be too far to make in one day, so we'll anchor somewhere and take a couple of days to get there. We'll be visiting with my 2nd cousins there (I have to call them tonight to let them know!) and then we'll head down to Ft. Lauderdale on Monday.

We'll be running the SPOT so you can track our short passage. You can click on the link at the right to follow along. We'll talk to y'all soon!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Just in case you're wondering...

Chris here. Yes, we will be leaving Velcro Beach at some point! Actually, that point is Friday, weather permitting. We put together our final to-do list today and are trying to get through it. You wouldn't believe all the slime on the bottom of Pelican from being at a mooring for 3 weeks, so I'm happy to be moving a short distance to a slip for tomorrow and Thursday night. Once there, we'll be able to fill up our water tanks, our new water, diesel and gas jerrycans, and do other random projects in anticipation of leaving. We'll be heading down the ICW to Lake Worth on Friday - a two day trip due to all of the lift bridges on the way. We'll stay over on Saturday and Sunday night, and then head to Ft. Lauderdale on Monday.

We've been having some significant issues with our batteries and charging for the past few days (I'll leave that for another blog entry), so we're planning on getting new batteries and a new charger in Ft. Lauderdale. We'll also finish our provisioning. Moorings are a bit more expensive there - $30/night vs. the $12/night we pay in Vero Beach - so we'll be heading out a lot quicker. From Ft. Lauderdale we'll probably head to No Name Harbor on the southern end of Key Biscayne (click here). From No Name, we're heading to the Bahamas - hopefully within the next two weeks! We'll just have to get to No Name, and then wait for a weather window. Just. By the way, the kids want to know how No Name Harbor could be called No Name Harbor when it has No Name Harbor for a name. No Name Harbor is very chubby.

Food Sealing Rules!

Casey here-Oh my gosh! This food sealing thing rules! This morning after a very short day of school, (only one hour) I raced to the food sealer. That thing is so cool. You just put the bag in, press down the top, and it sucks all of the air out. Then, you can take your hands off the cover and it seals the bag! Its as easy 1, 2, 3! Then we all went out to Wal-Mart and got about a 1/4 of our provisioning list done. We bought 20 boxes of mac'n'cheese! We came back to the marina, and microwaved the flour. You apparently do that to keep the weevils out. Then we dinghied back to the boat and became food sealing maniacs! We set up a system where my mom cut the bags and filled them, and I worked the food sealer. Together we were a very efficient and well oiled machine. Together we sealed 6 bags of 6 cps of flour, 3 bags of dried fruit, 15 1/3 cups of bran, 10 bags of 2 cups of rice, 8 bags of 1 cup of red rice, 20 bags of 1 cup of sugar and there is still more to come! We'll be at this from 2:30 untill 6:30 to 7:00 tonight! We felt so bad for the machine we've decided to give it a break, so I decided to tell y'all about it!

Getting ready for the Bahamas

Kristen here - While we are in the land of relatively cheap grocery stores, I've decided to provision for the Bahamas. Since I am the master of lists and organization, I have planned everything out to a tee. First came the list. It is a thing of beauty. I listed each type of meat, then the food categories such as grains, vegetables, drinks, baking items, condiments, cheeses, spices, and toiletries. The I listed meal types such as Chinese, Indian, Italian, and Japanese. Have you ever gone to the grocery store and come home forgetting an item or two? Now imagine not being able to go back to the grocery store for two months! Hopefully my list will be complete and comprehensive. It includes 50 pounds of meat that hopefully will fit into our freezer. There may be complex volume calculations involved in this!

The next step was to make room for the food. So far the list includes about 80 canned items (not including soda), 5 bags of flour, 20 boxes of mac and cheese, 10 sleeves of coke, and as much beer as humanly possible. Did I mention that beer runs upwards of $40 a case in the Bahamas! The good news is that rum is cheaper than water, so I may have to switch my drink of choice.

So I looked around the boat to find places to store food. Casey and I were sitting up a couple of nights ago and pondering food storage areas. I told him that we needed someplace forward and on the starboard side in order to balance the weight of our generator on the aft port side. He immediately suggested the linen closet. Genius! We currently have comforters, blankets, and extra pillows there, which can be compressed and stored elsewhere or mailed back home. I don't think we'll need blankets in the Bahamas. Of course Casey also suggested that we could store everything in his chubs too.

Ok, now as a sidebar, I have to explain chubs. Chubs is our boat word. It can mean pretty much anything. The most common use of chubs is, "Why's you bein' so chubby?". To which the reply can be " I'm feeling too chubby to answer that". You can also say, "Man, that was a really chubby dinner Mom!", or "How are your chubs feeling today?". When my Dad came to visit, he got the hang of chubs right away. He coined the phrases "left chubs", and "right chubs". He would say, "Man, my right chubs aren't feeling too good today, but my left chubs are feeling all perked up!". One night Casey told Poppi that he hoped his chubs had a good night sleep. Poppi replied, "My chubs never sleep, they are always watching you." I'm sure you get the idea by now. So feel free to incorporate chubs into your every day conversations and spread the chubs!

Back to provisioning. Yesterday I emptied most of our linnen closet. I now have space beyond my wildest dreams! We're talking six whole square feet or so! Amazing. We will never go hungry again. Now the next step is to actually purchase the groceries. This is when I realized my mistake. How in the world am I going to get all these heavy and bulky groceries to our boat? Wal Mart is two bus rides away, and each of us can carry 5-6 bags. This is my quandry for the day. I'm thinking of begging someone to use their car. Otherwise we'll have to make several trips to purchase the whole list. We'll see how that goes.

Another thing we did to get ready was purchase a food sealer. This thing is so cool! It sucks the air out of the bag and seals it. This ensures freshness and dryness, and things will take up less space when sealed this way. Everything we purchase will be portioned out and sealed. For example flour will be sealed in 5 cup amounts for making bread, and two cup amounts for cookies. Sugar will be sealed in 1 cup portions, and rice will be sealed in 2 cup portions. I looked up many recipies to see what the most common usage amounts will be. When you put the bags into the sealer, it sounds like a race car leaving the starting line...vrrrrrrr, mmmrrrrrrr. When it shifts from vacuming to sealing it sounds like a car shifting down.

Casey has taken contol of the sealer, and as soon as school is done he races to start sealing. So far he's done all of the mac and cheese, and one container of bran. Just wait till he sees the mountain of groceries he'll need to do after the shopping is done!

Oh, I've also started running and exercising again. Yesterday I ran about three miles. I met a couple of gentlemen on the run and we chatted for a while. It made the run much more pleasant. On the way I found a coconut tree that had shedded a ton of coconuts. FREE COCONUTS!!! I've been looking for more ever since we found the first one. So on my way back to the boat, I scooped up three of them. We peeled the hull off and found that one coconut was rotten, but the other two were just fine. When I have some free time, I will peel, shred, and freeze them. Fresh coconut milk is simply amazing. This morning I was pleased to have no pain from yesterdays run. I would have thought that with the past 2 months of no running, I would have lost much more muscle. This morning I did some stretching and weight lifting (I use industrial rubber bands as weights) and found that other muscles did loose mass. Oh well, it was nice to take a break for a little while.

Now I must get to the chores. So much to do and so little time!

Monday, February 16, 2009

3 Hour Tour

This actually happened the morning my mom left (Feb. 10th). We took video of what happened and have been trying to upload it ever since. It still hasn't worked so thats why this post is so late. Sorry for the delay!

Casey here- The last time I did a post was January, 1st so my dad forced me to do one today. Lucky for me some interesting things happened today. This morning my mom took off for Albany at 6:00 in the morning and we all woke up to dinghy her in. As she left we all tried different methods to get into the car to go with her. We tried everything from jumping into the open window to climbing onto the roof! Since it was still only 6:15 in the morning, my dad went back to sleep and Kaitlin and I watched “Meet the Robinsons” on the computer. We brought all of our old movies (approx. 70) from home so we decided to watch it.

Towards the end of the movie my dad woke up and did hid morning “dock walk” or as Kaitlin mom and I like to call it his “talk walk”. When he got back he did a blog entry (see below entry) and Kaitlin and I watched Nims island. Apparently the blog entry took 110 minutes to write since the movie finished just as he was done. Then the adventure started.

We decided to go to this ocean science museum of science in the ocean museum of science (at least that’s what we called it) for school today. Mom had the rental car so our choices were either walk or dinghy. Since it was 8-9 miles we went for the latter choice. 15 knot winds had been predicted for Vero Beach so we knew we were in for a bumpy ride. On goes the dinghy engine and out we go. On the engine there is a little red light that shoes if there is a problem. Usually when you turn the engine on that light turns on and then off after a few seconds. This time it stayed on. We tried revving the engine and it did NOT sound right at all. Back to the boat and off goes the engine. The most common problem is low oil. Since we hadn’t filled the oil since we got the engine we figured it was that. Dad almost got off the dinghy to tear apart the boat to find oil when I vented he gas tank and heard “sssssssssssssssssssss.” “Good call bud!” “Thanks dad.” On went the engine one more time and no more weird sputtering noises were heard.

We went into the dinghy dock where we went to the bathroom and dropped off garbage. While they were doing that I pumped up the dinghy pontoons because they were getting a bit deflated. Boy do I regret doing that. Dad got back when I was done and we went out on the marina and into the ICW channel. There you can plane so we did. There were 3 foot waves out there which are like nothing on Pelican but on the 10 foot inflatable, it did not make for a soothing ride. Did I mention the rock hard pontoons we were sitting on? It went on like that for a half hour until we finally got there.

At the beginning of the channel in there was a big sign that read “restricted area do not enter” We decided to ignore it and continue on our way. When we got halfway in we decided to call them, just in case. We called them and they said: Sorry, you can only reach us by land. WHAT!?!?!?!? Dads words were”oh. Well, my kids’ and I just dinghied 9 miles to get here and I was really hoping to be able to show them the museum.” “Sorry sir but you can only access us by land.””Oh. Ok. Thank you. Bye.” I turned around the dinghy and slowly motored out. Dad got out the handheld GPS and tried to find a place where we could get to land. Everything was completely marshy except for a tiny channel consisting of one to two foot depths. The dinghy only draws around 8 inches so we could do it! We went back to the ICW channel where the waves were a good 3-4 feet now and we were going with them so we were jumping them. We decided this wasn’t worth it so we headed back another half hour of jumping waves and we were back at the boat. Now we are all safely back here and I am writing this blog entry.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Out of Town

Kristen here – I’m baaaaaaaack! I left early on Tuesday morning to drive to the Orlando airport. It is a quite rare occasion that I end up traveling alone and this was one of them. We were all going to go back home together, but after finding out that it was close to spring break, and airline prices were through the roof, we decided that I would go alone. I had the clothes on my back and a canvas tote bag to my name. I was heading back north to attend a meeting at work. The thought of entering into sub zero temperatures was quite daunting. I was afraid that my Florida climatized body would go into shock!

Actually, I’ll backtrack a bit because we picked up the rental car on Monday morning. Since you can only rent for a minimum of 24 hours we made the best use of that time. There was a laundry list of errands to be run. We had to go to Macy’s to get Chris some new shorts. For some reason he has gone down a pant size, and I think he gave it to me! You should see him though, Rowwwrrrr, he’s a whole new man! The Bahama mamas will be all over him. We also had to find a water purifying system. We would like to be able to drink the water out of our tanks. Right now we drink bottled water, and just use our tank water for cooking and washing dishes. It is rather unpalatable to drink. Everyone has told us that a charcoal filter and a bit of bleach in the tanks will do the trick. We’re probably going to go for a full house purifier installed just after our water pump. Of course there was the hardware store list of supplies for mounting a cover for a thru hull, and supplies for mounting our new jerry cans. I believe there were other errands, but that was Monday and my brain is a sieve!

The whole family got up at 7AM to dinghy me to shore and see me off. You would think I was leaving for a month because of all the hugs and kisses going around! I pulled away from the marina with them running after the car and waving. It’s really hard to go, but at the same time, I think I needed a bit of down time. Ha, that’s funny; I’m going to work to get some down time.

The flight to Albany was uneventful, and when we arrived at 1:00PM I thanked God that the temperature was a balmy 40 degrees! Forty was still a bit of a shock, but not as bad as it’s been up there lately. Chad from the office was meeting me at the airport and letting me use his car for the afternoon. I had to run and check on the house, go to two different banks, and try to register the dinghy before returning to the office for a briefing on the next day’s meeting.

The DMV was my first stop because I didn’t know when they were closing. They told me that the dinghy was purchased in Chris’s name, and therefore he had to be present to register it. I informed the gentleman that Chris was in Florida and I was only here for a day and was there any way I, his wife, could take care of this? He gave me the forms and said I could fill them out and mail them in with a copy of Chris’s driver’s license. It was at this time that I kicked myself for saying Chris was in Florida! I walked away and started shuffling through the forms. Then I went back to the guy and asked if I could have *ahem* “Chris” sign the forms and bring in the copy of his driver’s license and the rest of the paperwork tomorrow. He said that would be fine. Darn, now I have to come back tomorrow.

The second errand was to my bank in East Greenbush. I had a handful of checks to cash, and I had to close out that account. We found out the hard way that there was no way to remotely move money from that account and therefore decided to close it. I have to say I was sad to say goodbye to Citizens bank and teller Seth Fowler. He was one of the best examples of customer service that I have ever seen. Every time I went there, it was always a pleasant experience. When I went there on Tuesday, I cashed the checks first, and then informed him I needed to close the account. Dumb move on my part. Since the checks had to clear first, I wouldn’t be able to close the account until the next day. Darn, strike out number two. I would have to go back there tomorrow as well!

While in East Greenbush, I checked on our house. Everything was fine, and it even still smelled nice. Kudos to Noni for thinking to use plug in air fresheners before we left. I then visited with all of our neighbors. It was great to see everyone and meet all of the new puppies in our neighborhood. The universal greeting seemed to be, “What are you doing here?!?!?!” We miss our friends a lot, and are grateful to them for keeping an eye on the house. Thanks everyone!

After spending way too much time talking I was late returning to the office. Also Noni was waiting at home with dinner. That was a new experience for me. Someone was actually waiting for *ME* to come home so they could serve me dinner. I was feeling like a queen.

I was supposed to have a meeting with all of the D&D executives and go over any questions that would pop up at the next day’s appointment. At least that is what Chris told me. The appointment was at 2 the next day, and our all hands meeting was going to be from 11 till 1PM, so I wasn’t sure when we were going to fit this preparation session in. And don’t forget that I still had more errands to run the next morning! They gave me a packet of information to review and I was happy with that. Who needs another boring meeting anyway?

I rode home with Chad, and Poppi picked me up from his house. Mom, Dad, my brother and his family were all at Mom and Dad’s for dinner. It was just awesome to see everyone. They were full of questions about our trip, and I was full of answers. It was amazing how much Jack and David had grown in just two months! And even though I just saw my parents a couple of days ago, it was still good to see them again. I spent the rest of the night reviewing information for the next day’s meeting.

*Beep* *Beep* *Beep* *Beep* Wow, it’s been a long time since an alarm has woke me up. Six fifteen and time to shower and face the day. Mom and Dad let me borrow the car for the day. They would meet me at the airport later to pick up the car and see me off. I outfitted myself in proper office attire and got ready for work. Weird!

Coffee was waiting for me and Poppi poured out his special cereal concoction. Again I felt like a princess being waited on. Thanks Mom and Dad, you are the best! Then I was off to my errands all over again.

The DMV was first. I explained to the teller that I needed to register my dinghy. It seemed simple enough. Well, nothing is ever simple when you live on a boat. “What will be the location of this boat?” “Well, that’s a funny story. We live on a boat, so the location constantly changes” “Your mailing address says Florida” the teller said. “Yes, that is a location that receives our mail, and sends it to wherever we are currently located” I told her. “The address on your drivers license says you live in NY”, the teller replied. “We own property in NY, but we don’t live there”. It went on like this for a while, and I could tell the teller was getting angry. So I gave in and said that we have a house in NY that we don’t live in and are trying to rent, but for now we could just use that address as long as they didn’t send any mail to it. Then she got nasty. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say that I will be trying to register the dinghy in Florida. People just don’t get it. I didn’t do anything to deserve her harsh words. Is it jealousy? You know anyone can do what we did. Work your butt off, live simply and save. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Don’t be mad at us because we did it. I left there and was proud for not crying. I hate it when people accuse me of being a bad person when I am not, which is exactly what she did.

Now that I was good and steamed I headed to the bank. My good buddy Seth the Citizens Bank teller saw me coming and had the account closure forms ready and waiting. That’s service!! Again I will sing his praises. I unloaded my DMV trials on him and the teller next to him and they listened. Thanks for being a shoulder to cry on. It made it even tougher to close my account. Out that door, and off to the next bank. No problems there, so I was on to the office.

At the office I went over some information with Jan and we chatted for a bit. Jan is the best. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Also one of the scariest, and she’ll be the first one to tell you that! The all hands meeting was at 11. It was just like old times. I was pleased to hear that things were looking up and business was doing well. After the all hands meeting I went back to the bank to pick up a checkbook that I had left behind.

*Phew* This is way more activity than I’m used to. Now it’s back to the office for my meeting. We were in the final stage of receiving our Woman Owned Business status, and a representative was coming for the onsite interview. She arrived at 2PM, and I gave her the grand tour. It was nice to show off D&D. We’re quite proud of what we have done as a company. She had a bunch of questions and I was more than happy to answer them. When all was said and done, she said we would be receiving our welcome packet in a few days. YAY!

No time to celebrate though. It was off to the airport to fly back home. Again I spent too much time talking and was running late. I still had to stop and put gas in my parents car. They do so much, and I try to repay them every chance I get. It was a good thing too, because when I was pumping gas, I reached into my pocket and found Jan’s keys. *SHOOT!* Back to the office I go. Now I was really late. My flight leaves at 5:14 and it was now 4:20. Once at the airport, I dashed in, got my ticket, said goodbye to Mom and Dad, and booked to the gate. They were already boarding!

Out of Albany I sat next an interesting man. He sat down and started carrying two conversations on two separate cell phones. I eavesdropped and discovered he owned a tech firm and he was a bit frustrated with all his traveling. Hmmm…this sounded familiar. He ordered a series of wines, and after his second I asked him if he was coming or going. He said neither. As it turns out he owns a bunch of tech firms and has to travel between each. I told him that I owned a tech firm as well. This took him by surprise. Hehehehe, weren’t expecting that were ya?!?!

I listened to his story and told him how it sounded just like us, lots of stress and no time for family. Then I dropped the bombshell. Yea, we just decided to leave it all and live on a boat. After that shock wore off, he said, “Maybe it’s the wine talking, but my wife and I look at my Uncles modest home with a porch out front and a pool in the back and think about how nice it would be to get away from it all.” I didn’t want to push, but it seemed like fate that we were put together. I honestly believe that this man needed to hear our story. I told him that we were in bliss and that this time was so important.

After a stopover in Washington D.C., I was on my way back to Orlando. I was in seat 7E for this flight. Upon boarding the plane I was immediately asked to switch by a dad and his son. “No problem” I said. Then I noticed that two friends split up and one sat next to me. I immediately jumped up and offered my seat to the second friend. “You guys are friends, please sit together.” “We’re mother and daughter” the woman replied. “Well then, now you have a compliment and my seat”. She asked me 3 times if I was sure, because her seat was at the rear of the plane. I didn’t care, and was alone anyway. I just wanted to sit and have the chocolates I bought and order a wine. The smell of the wine from the last flight was giving me quite a craving. So in 24E I was quite happy. Half way through the flight, the attendant came over and asked if I had paid for my drink. Oh great, now I was going to have to pay double! When I informed him that I had already paid, he said that the women up front told him that I gave up my seat and he would refund my money for doing such a service. That’s karma for ya!

Okay, so I’m long winded. There is just always so much going on! Once in Orlando I rented a car and sleepily drove home. It was good to be back on the boat. Life is not easy on the boat, but it moves at a much slower pace. That constant state of rushing is just not present. There is always something to be done, but there always seems to be time to enjoy each other as well. I know someday this adventure will end, and I pray that we will be able to retain this state of being.

Today we still had the car until 6PM, so it was off to run more errands that didn’t get accomplished on Monday. Shorts for Casey, fill the propane tanks and run back to the hardware store. Did I mention that I can’t wait till the Bahamas where life will hopefully get a bit slower?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Always something...

Chris here... Sunday was a day of rest. Kristen woke up in the morning and stated that she didn't want to work at all, and neither did I, so we pretty much had a lazy day. We dinghied all around the area and checked out a lot of the big houses (I don't know what we'd do with all that space!), fished a little and just kind of hung out.

The highlight of the day was when Kristen saw what looked like a disturbance across the top of the water, so we slowed down. What popped up? A manatee head! We were thrilled to finally see a manatee for real, even if it was just the top of its head. I had originally suggested that we just keep going, so I had to listen to Kristen tell me 100 times on the trip back "I sure am glad we slowed down and didn't listen to YOU!"

Monday morning we turned the generator on to charge the batteries and a huge puff of white smoke came out! Normally, white smoke means you either have some unburned diesel fuel in your exhaust or that you've blown a head gasket. When it kept going for 15 seconds I had the kids turn it off. We have a water separator on our exhaust. Normally, the "smoke" exhaust is mixed with the engine cooling water and ejected through a single exhaust outlet. This creates a lot of noise as the water splashes out, so I elected to get a separator for the two exhaust types. As a result, our dry exhaust comes out above the waterline, and the cooling water comes out below the waterline. I had the kids turn the generator back on and noticed that very little water was coming through the underwater exhaust.

We thought the through hull for the water intake was in the kid's closet, so out comes everything from their closet! Nope - no through hull. On the other hand, we did find our hammock which we've been looking for for a couple of weeks, along with our anchoring ball and a couple of other things we forgot about. Now, if I could just find the tip of my electric shaver which I haven't seen since Charleston! We tracked the through hull to another point in the boat, and it was fully open so that wasn't causing the water slowdown. There is a strainer for the water intake to prevent things like leaves, seaweed and other nasties from clogging the generator, but it too was fairly empty, containing only a couple of leaves and a feather (hopefully we didn't suck up a Pelican!). We figured something must be clogging the through hull and realized that we'd have to dive under the boat to check.

Now, Kristen wasn't so keen on diving. She swims much better than I do, so she's the one that does this stuff. People in the marina had been talking about the marine life, such as small sharks and alligators that are sometimes seen in the area, and others talked about rats and raccoons swimming to their mooring balls and climbing on. With all this in mind, we decided to hold off on diving for the day and to go get the rental car for Kristen's trip to the Orlando airport.

We got our car from the rental facility and proceeded to run lots of errands. We went to Macy's to get new shorts for me (I've lost close to 40lbs so far and am down almost two pant sizes - gotta love the cruiser's diet!). We also went to Sears to look for a vacuum food sealer. Apparently, bugs like weevils and roaches are common on cruising boats, so it's suggested that you microwave any grains you bring on board and then vacuum seal as much food as possible. Sears only had an expensive unit, so we headed to Loews to pick up boards and U-Bolts for securing our water and fuel jerrycans to the side of our boat. They didn't have the right U-Bolts, so we then headed to Home Depot, who also didn't have the right ones. From there we headed to Walmart to look for the food sealer, but they only had the expensive ones too. I then called West Marine to see if they had the U-Bolts, and they did, so we drove 12 miles to West where I found that they had exactly one bolt left. While I was searching around, Kristen did some grocery shopping, and then we headed to dinner at a great Japanese/Thai restaurant. We got back to the boat at around 8:30pm, at which point we had to load all of our stuff on our dinghy (25 shopping bags, 3 8' long boards and a bunch of other assorted items), go to Pelican, unload everything and put it away. Phew!!!! Yes, it was an exhausting day.

We then realized that we still had to fix the generator and Kristen had to get ready to head to New York. Someone at the marina suggested hooking our dinghy hand pump to the through hull hose and blowing air out of it. Hopefully this would dislodge anything caught in there. Kristen spent 20 minutes hooking everything up while I spent the time printing out DMV forms and filling them out in anticipation of her trip north (we still have to register our new dinghy). We then pumped and pumped and pumped the dinghy pump, hooked everything back up, turned on the generator, and voila - it worked! Thank goodness! I was a bit concerned about battery charging - we only have 3 alternative methods (Pelican's primary engine, a Honda 1000 generator and some solar panels). Well, the generator is the fastest method and uses the least fuel.

We went to sleep and everyone woke up early this morning to take Kristen to shore for her trip to Orlando and then on to New York. We missed her terribly already, even while we were still watching her pull away. As I write this, she's in the air and will hopefully land safely in an hour or so.

By the way, does anyone know the answer to this question... In order to register our dinghy in New York, we have to pay many hundreds of dollars of sales tax on it. We never plan on bringing it to New York, so there is no requirement to register it there. We need registration numbers for it though. Can we register it, as a non-resident, here in FL, pay very little sales tax on it and then get our registration numbers here? Any suggestions? We want to stay within the law, but we want to reduce our costs as much as possible.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

To give you an idea of our plans...

Chris here... I know, I know, we've been at Velcro...errr... Vero Beach forever. It's hard to give up these $12/day moorings, nice showers and free shuttle! But at some point soon we will, and our voyage will continue.

Right now we're waiting for two things. First, Kristen is heading home to New York on Tuesday and Wednesday for bizzzness. Yes, we still have to work some. She has a meeting on Wednesday afternoon she has to attend, so she'll be flying up Tuesday afternoon, running a bunch of errands, doing the meeting on Wednesday and then flying back Wednesday night. I'll be hanging out here on Pelican with the kiddos. I'm looking forward to it! We'll see what I say after :).

The second thing we're waiting for is Provence, one of the boats we met in Charleston. They finally were able to leave Charleston today after fixing a bunch of issues, and we're so happy for them since they've been trying to get started on their cruise for three years! They plan to work their way down the ICW, and we hope to see them in 5 or 6 days.

After that, we figure we'll give them a day or two to enjoy Vero Beach before we head to Lake Worth (not to be confused with Fort Worth TX - we're not going that far in a day or two!) to visit some relatives. We may or may not then go to the Miami boat show for a day, and we may or may not go to Ft. Lauderdale. Evolution is planning to leave for Cuba sometime after Wednesday to take advantage of a weather window, but we have to wait until Obama HOPEFULLY lifts the Cuban embargo to visit that neat country.

Once in Lake Worth or Ft. Lauderdale, we plan to look for a weather window to head over to the Bahamas. Basically, we'll be looking for light to medium winds (5-15kts) coming from the South, Southwest or West. We have to cross the Gulf Stream, which heads from South to North, and if the wind is pushing against it from the North you get some serious seas developing. We've had enough of serious seas after Cape Fear! Since we're heading East, it would be bad if the winds were directly in our face, so that leaves the choices above. Apparently the appropriate winds show themselves for a few days every three weeks, but we're hoping they show up sooner.

Where are we going in the Bahamas? I have no idea. I'll probably look at the charts next week to figure that out. We have to be someplace out of the hurricane zone by the end of May, so we have to leave the Bahamas with enough time to get south or north. We'd love some suggestions on where we can go after the Bahamas based on our timeframes. We'd like to get to Georgetown and spend at least a couple of weeks there, so base your recommendations on where we go after on us being there.

What are we going to do between now and when we leave Vero Beach? Kristen definitely wants to relax. She finished the cushions today and was ecstatic! I'll take a picture soon to show y'all. We have several other projects that need doing - covers for our cockpit cushions, sanding a lot of the wood topsides and refinishing it, new thyocol for our teak decks, replacing a few bungs that popped off, and many other projects. Perhaps we'll even find time to do one or two! We'll see.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience and continued blog reading while we hang here in Vero Beach. Pass the word around about our blog - the more people we have reading it, the more we seem to post. We're up to about 200 readers every day and are amazed that people find this stuff so interesting! Also, feel free to e-mail us - we love hearing from everyone, and we're happy to answer any questions people have.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The wonderous coconut

Kristen here - The other day when the kids and I dingied to the beach, we found a coconut floating in the water. Being the resourceful woman I am, I took the coconut back to shore and proceeded to shell it. The kids and I had a ton of fun peeling the outside shell. Two separate people walking their dogs came up to us and said that their pooches also enjoyed peeling coconuts. Our plan was to peel and then drill the coconut for the liquid inside.

I didn't expect much from the found coconut. I was pretty sure they had to be at just the right ripeness to taste good. As we were carrying our treasure back to the dinghy, it dropped on the ground and cracked. Not wanting to miss out on the liquid, we all immediately took turns sipping coconut juice. To my suprise, it actually tasted good. The few times I had tasted coconut juice before, from a store bought coconut, it had always been bitter. This one was kind of sweet.

Enticed by the possibility of a truely fresh and ripe coconut, we dingied back to the boat. I proceeded to seperate the meat from the hard shell. If you have ever tried this before, you would know that it is not an easy task. But again, I was suprised. Instead of small peices, the meat came off in large chunks. I stored it all in a ziplock bag for future use.

When I had some free time, I started looking up whole coconut recipes. There weren't many out there. I found out how to make coconut milk (soak shredded coconut in boiling water and squeeze), and one chicken recipe that used fresh shredded coconut. So I shredded the coconut and used half to make coconut milk, and the other half for the chicken recipe. After making the coconut milk, I still had the leftover squeezed out coconut. So, I used that to make some bannana coconut cookies. The chicken was coated with a mixture of fresh coconut, sugar and curry powder. Everything was a hit.

It was quite a bit of work to get to that coconut, but now I know its worth the effort! The kids and I went yesterday to look for another coconut with no luck. Rest assured that we will be keeping our eyes out for more from now on!

Work, Work, Work!

Kristen here – I’m sorry, Chris is no longer able to make blog entries until his wounds heal after I read his previous entry.

It seems that since we’ve arrived at Vero Beach it’s been nothing but work, work, and more work. I thought this was supposed to be fun. I laugh my tush off whenever people call this a vacation. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t sew for 8 hours straight and trace leaks when I’m on vacation!

Our first night after passage was spent tied up to the fuel dock. I was excited for my first full night’s sleep. At around 2AM, I woke up with a start. I felt next to me and discovered to my surprise that Chris was sleeping there. I immediately woke him up and said, “Dear, wake up! Who’s on watch!”

The next day was Monday, Noni’s arrival day!!!! Everyone was super excited to see my mom. We moved onto a mooring. The moorings are great here. They’re only $12 a night, and you share the mooring with up to two other boats. In our old life, that would seem like an invasion of privacy, but now we relish the chance to meet new people. Our assigned mooring already had a boat from Buffalo, NY on it. We knew they were nice when they asked how much wine we had on board as we pulled up at 8:00 in the morning!

The kids and I were eager to get off the boat and explore. Our new neighbors informed us that if you dinghy down the river a bit there was an area to tie up, cross a road and get to the beach. We decided to check it out. We dropped Poppi off on shore with a radio and our tangled fish line which was barely hanging on to a tattered, homemade cardboard spool. He was going to wait for Noni to arrive. We told him to radio us as soon as Noni arrived.

We found the beach access spot and gingerly pulled the dinghy up to shore. I’m still quite gun shy after the dinghy slicing oyster incident. This oyster free spot looked safe. The beach was amazing, and the water was, surprisingly, not that cold. I wouldn’t call it warm, but it didn’t stop us from jumping in. The surf seemed pretty big, and I was very afraid for the kids and myself. I am unfamiliar with big waves, and when we stood in them, the undertow was strong, even for me. After an hour or so of me yelling at the kids to come further in or they would be swept out to sea and of them filling every crevice of their clothes and themselves with sand, we decided to head back to the boat.

We pulled up to the dinghy dock and headed straight for the showers. I won’t go into details, but the ride back proved that sand in every crevice needs to be showered off immediately! We were greeted by Poppi who found an old plastic spool in the garbage, and filled it with our now untangled fishing line! Yay, thanks Poppi! No Noni yet though. I was hesitant to take my shower because Noni’s arrival time was any minute, but the chafing sand couldn’t wait. Kaitlin, Casey and I all headed off. Kaitlin and I were half way through our shower when Poppi came on the radio, “Guess who’s here? (Poppi’s voice) Hi everyone (Noni’s voice).” I jumped out of the shower, and radioed back that we’d be right out. We rinsed off, got dressed and ran out of the shower, to be greeted by Noni sitting in the shower next to us! Big hugs went all around. It was just awesome to see her.

We all went out to dinner, and the kids decided to go back with Mom and Dad to sleep with them in their hotel room. They were unsure about going at first, but the draw of TV and a bed was just too much.

Tonight, I thought would definitely be my post passage good night’s sleep. I turned in early and snuggled into bed. At about 11:00 Chris woke me up and said that the leak was back.

When we were in Annapolis, MD a strange leak appeared. As you look into the bilge you could see a stream of water pouring out from under the metal bar supporting the engine. A stream of water anywhere at all inside your boat is a really bad thing that must be investigated and found immediately. We started tearing the boat apart. Maybe it’s a leak in the water tank? Out come cushions, tank covers and everything around the tank. Nope, no wetness there. Maybe it’s the air conditioner? Up goes our sheets, pillows, memory foam, cushions, storage covers and everything under the bed that surrounds the air conditioner. Nope, nothing amiss there. Maybe it’s the water pump? Up goes the couch cushions, and the liquor bottles (now you know where my secret stash is). Hmmmm…where could this leak be coming from? Then, at about midnight the leak suddenly stopped. What the..??? This is exactly what happened in Annapolis the first time the leak appeared!

Being exhausted and extremely (to say the least) frustrated at still not having my post passage night’s sleep I dropped back into bed. Well, at least tomorrow I can start on finishing up those new couch cushions.

When we arrived here, I was excited to finish up our couch cushions. We’ve been living with half of our sitting area taken up by the foam for the new cushions. In an already cramped area, that much volume makes quite a difference in the claustrophobia factor! I woke at around 7:30 feeling surprisingly rested and excited. I walked to the galley to get the morning cup of coffee. As I’m walking past the cabinet that leads to the bilge, my heart sinks. No, not again!!! Bzzzzmmmmmmmm , that oh too familiar hum of the bilge pump.

This is serious now. When it happened in Annapolis, it was one episode, and then it stopped. Now it was happening twice in a 10 hour period. I started tearing apart even more of the boat. Chris woke up and I gave him the bad news.

Noni and Poppi arrived to a boat that looked much like when we first saw it in Annapolis. Everything out of cabinets and piled high everywhere. I explained the problem to Poppi, and we got to work on finding the leak. As is usual with Poppi, he found the solution almost right away. I must say, that it stumped even him for a bit though.

The leak was coming from a small black tube that ended just out of sight behind the metal engine support. That explains why we couldn’t find the stream of water anywhere else! The tube originated at the top of the antisiphon valve for the bilge pump. The bilge pump sits at the bottom of our bilge and pumps water out of the boat via a thru hull just below the water line (meaning the exit is under water). To keep the boat from sinking the hose must first be routed above the waterline. So the hose goes from the bilge pump, above the water line through an antisiphon valve, back down below the water line, and out of the boat. Poppi also explained that that funny metal thing connecting two hoses before the antisiphon valve was a check valve. This contraption allowed water to flow in only one direction, or so we thought. It turned out that the check valve was the problem. It was letting water flow backwards. Also, the antisiphon valve was malfunctioning. Therefore the water was flowing backwards back through the small black line in the antisiphon valve and through the bilge discharge line as well. So every time the bilge pumped out, the water left in the line spilled right back into the bilge.

Hallelujah!!!! And we even had a car to go get parts. The rest of that day was spent getting parts and groceries. We also stopped for lunch at this awesome Jewish deli. It was called TwoJays. I must say we went a little berserk there! We got the most delicious pastrami sandwiches for lunch, and we took home a black and white cookie, an ├ęclair, and a loaf of challah bread. As we were dragging Noni and Poppi around town running errands, we found a dive shop. Remembering that the kids had no snorkeling or beach supplies, we decided to check it out. Oh, and it just happened to be right next to a West Marine as well! The kids walked out with their Christmas present from Noni and Poppi, a new wake board.

As soon as we got back to the boat, Casey, Kaitlin, Noni and I drove to the beach to test it out. It was tons of fun, and I have to admit that I used it just as much as the kids. We all need a bit more practice to really get the hang of it. And, after spending a bit more time in the surf, we were getting used to the undertow. I discovered that as you go farther out, the pull is less than when you are right next to shore. I still get very nervous when Casey is out there up to his chest, but I’m sure that will lessen as we’re at beaches more often. While wakeboarding, both kids got tumbled over in the surf at least once. They popped right back up, sputtering saltwater and with a new respect for waves. I’m a bit less nervous knowing that they have a healthy respect for the power of the surf. Noni was all smiles watching the kids play.

We spent most of the next few days running errands with Noni and Poppi’s rental car. We also were planning our trip to Disney. I was very excited for a break from boat work and a mindless, worry free time at Disney. Did I mention worry free? As in wake up, go to Disney, have fun, and back to sleep. No tension about missing out on Disney fun and no more talking about antisiphon and check valves. I won’t go into that while Chris is still healing… ummm… I mean taking a blog writing break.

Disney was simply amazing. I was excited to see the kids enjoy themselves. I was also eager to see what I remembered from when I was there about 29 years ago. The first day we went to Epcot, and the second day we went to the Magic Kingdom. We saw everything, and went on every ride. I couldn’t believe we did it all! The kids even held up for the full two days. I was worried at first that two days wasn’t much, but there is no way you could do more. Well, not without taking a break.

We drove home on Tuesday night after our second park day. I can’t believe I stayed awake to drive back to the boat. While driving, I discovered that I really miss listening to music. Before cruising, I listened to music when driving, and when I exercised. Since neither of those things happen anymore, I don’t have much opportunity to listen to music. So, for the whole ride back I sang along with the local pop station and had quite a blast!

The next day was Wednesday and *drum roll please*, the arrival of our new antisiphon valve! It was also the day Noni and Poppi were heading off to visit with the their friends the Beebes. They arrived at the marina in the morning and immediately had their car stolen by Chris to finish up some errands. We all hung out in the marina lounge and waited for Chris to return. When he did, we said our goodbyes and returned to the boat.

As always happens, the new antisiphon valve for the bilge line (West Marine didn’t have the right size, so we had to order one) was much larger than the old one. It *just* fit, with a little persuasion and movement of the engine muffler, shortening of the bilge discharge lines, and cutting away a small portion of the neighboring cabinet wall (LOVE the new rotozip cutter tool!) No big deal, that portion of the cabinet wall will be covered anyway, and now we will have much better access to the new valve. Gotta always think positive!

*PHEW* Now can I start on those couch cushions? It was almost like a smack in the face when I had to move the waiting couch foam each time I had to access the bilge line. But alas, today, Tuesday, I could start the cushions. I had already cut out the material. Don’t ask me when I did it, I don’t remember. It was some time in the whirlwind of activity after reaching Vero Beach.

I was amazed at how fast the cushion making went. Now that I’ve done the bottom cushions and have the experience, the back cushions are going extremely fast. By evening I was almost half done with six covers. I think I will finish those six by tomorrow, and that will leave only two more! I am going to have such a celebration when they are all completely finished.

Well, that pretty much covers everything I can remember since arriving here. We had an awesome time with Noni and Poppi, and we miss them already. Now I must see to Chris’s wounds (from giving me a hard time about buying the Disney tix in his blog entry) and make sure nothing gets infected!