January 23 - 26, 2010
Naturally, coming around Key West to get into the busy confusing harbor area, the Ray Marine Chart Plotter failed again BIG TIME and we had to come in totally blind....no depth, no visual channel, no nada no nothing. Piece of crap....and this was a new Ray Marine Chart plotter just installed a few days prior, remember? By a Ray Marine certified technician. So over this piece of junk...never worked since the day we got it - June 2008.
Ah well, we finally made it to the City Mooring Field off Fleming Island and thank god another boater came to help us secure to the mooring ball. There is NO way we could have secured the boat as there is no line by which to grab and secure to your boat, only a little few inch long tab by which to run your line through --- IF you could ever reach it.
|Famous Sloppy Joe's Bar|
Ah, another new experience for Galen and Becky, including all the dink rides back and forth to shore. I know they will remember the night we returned back after dark in the dink, with ice cold waves splashing over us most of the way back. I had the flashlight and could hardly hang on - bouncing along we went. It was hot showers for all quickly as we boarded Finally Fun dripping wet, head to toe! I know Becky and Galen will also remember the dink trip where we RAN OUT OF GAS - the unforgivable......We paddled to a dock on shore (not far, thank goodness) and a couple of workers on shore graciously took Galen and the empty tank to a gas station in their truck and returned to help us get the dink started. Now Galen and Becky HAVE experienced it all!!
|Galen, Sharon, Becky & Andy @ Sloppy Joe's Bar|
Galen and Becky departed and Hal and Jill rejoined us, arriving via the Naples/Ft. Myers Ferry. At least the weather is warmer now and we are sightseeing in shorts -- a huge improvement from the beginning of January!
|End of the road - Mile ZERO of US1|
|Plenty to do & see in Key West|
|Roosters are protected here by law & everywhere!|
Ah, Key West, the southernmost point in the Continental United States, noted for it's laid back attitude and the mix of people who inhabit this place. Only about 2 miles by 4 miles wide and long, it doesn't take long to see it all via foot or bike! There is plenty to do if one likes to eat and to drink - someone told me there are more than 350 bars here.
The Keys are home to whopper game fish such as sailfish, marlin, tarpon and great eating fish such as grouper, mahi-mahi, snapper. Shrimp and lobster are also everywhere....I MUST go fishing here, getting Andy to untie this boat so we can go play!
|Galen & Sharon in Mallory Square|
Sunset takes on the spirit and demeanor of a Baptist tent revival here! Shouting, stomping, and I swear, praying to the sunset god for a good sunset!
|Entertainer in Mallory Square|
|All kinds of entertainers|
AND, the setting sun is a spectacular sight with the backdrop of sailing schooners out on the water with the boatloads of tourist aboard and the vivid red ball slowing making its way to the edge of the water. Weird, eclectic street entertainers abound, all trying to get a buck from the bug eyed tourists. I especially liked the magician and the guy on stilts. The cat man was crazy and scary to be around and his cats did nothing. That man I moved back away from....scary scary scary as he cackled like a witch....
Everywhere one looks is something else going on, including sword swallowers, fire tossing jugglers, street vendors selling junk stuff to good food. It is also legal to walk around with your cocktail or beer, so one can imagine the hooting crowd!!
February 2 - 12, 2010
|Foolishness in Key West|
We've met some great boaters around here, including a couple, Mark & Lee, from Britain, who are anchored just off the mooring field. Given that they are 55' - the city says they are too big to grab a mooring ball - the limit is 50' and we just made it in here.
Sharing a few dinners and cocktails watching the sun set while listening to their tales of life at sea (more of our around the world sailors!!) has renewed my interest in getting to the British Virgin Islands. I now know where the hurricane holes are and how to get into one, etc. so I am on a mission with the goal of getting there in 2011......Once I get a solid plan and find some other boaters to tag along, maybe Andy will agree.
We saved the Brits bacon, as Lee put it. The other night, after dinner aboard their boat and sound asleep aboard our boat, Andy woke up thirsty (must have been the quantity of wine they poured at dinner) about 3:00 AM. Peering out the window, he was shocked to see the Brit's huge trawler just off our starboard side! Clearly, their boat was dragging that anchor and had come about 1,000 yards already through the mooring field and had NOT hit another boat -- YET.
Andy woke me and he hopped into our dink with the flashlight and headed over, shining the light into their cabin bedroom window. Two things: We'd gotten the grand tour of their boat that night during dinner so we knew where they were sleeping AND during the conversation at dinner, learned they had no weapons aboard...a good thing when one is dinking up in the dark at 3:00 AM! Long story short, Andy got them awake and they were able to pull anchor and get reset with three times the amount of chain they had previously put out. Lesson Learned For Us: Given that we dragged one time (see our story upon arrival in the Bahamas last year) after being successful set for 2 days, just like Mark & Lee, the morale of this story is to me is to pull anchor after a couple of days and reset it when one is at anchor for a number of days in the same place. Like ours, Mark's anchor was full of weeds and mud. I think that after a couple of days rolling around and resetting as an anchor is supposed to do -- that it gets full of weeds and mud and then finally cannot reset itself and just drags along. Ah well, we always need some excitement.
We hosted a Super Bowl Party aboard with lots of food and beer and wine and celebrated the New Orleans underdog win! Life aboard is not much different from land! Amazing, our Brits knew more about the game of football that we did!
February 9, 2010
The ongoing Ray Marine Chart Plotter saga continues. Remember, a technician met us at the dock in Ft. Lauderdale on our way down and replaced the E120 replaced upstairs and it, like every other repair we have had done since the things were installed a year and a half ago, DOES NOT WORK. This technician, however, was coming to Key West on vacation with his family so when he got here last week, he came out with another NEW piece of equipment and replaced the unit yet again. He said the first unit he'd put in would not fully turn on - after freezing on/off. There was something wrong with that unit. AND NOW, when we moved the boat to get to a mooring ball closer (the first time we'd had the boat underway since he put in the 2nd new unit), this unit, as soon as the boat moved, would go on/off and when it came on the detailed map would not appear! This equipment is worthless to us without the details -- it would be like looking at a map of the US without any roads, any visuals that tell you whether you are driving up a mountain, over a lake, etc. We have called the technician and after the Miami Boat Show, he'll get back to us....
February 12 & 13, 2010
|Storm on the way|
Big bad weather predicted for Friday night - the marina called us on the cell to warn us to get really secure and the US Coast Guard kept putting out warnings over the VHF radio. As we are as buttoned up as one can get (3 lines on the mooring ball and no loose gear and 2 lines on the dink to the boat), we walked the island early in the day and had lunch in town in anticipation of a couple of days not able to get off the boat.
|Look at the squall line|
Ah, luck - the storm was much ado about nothing from our perspective....mild lighting; never felt the predicted 50 mph winds; rain not so bad, etc. I woke up about midnight to us bouncing about and checked the area out and went back to bed. Our luck will run out one day, I guess, when a storm comes in WORSE than predicted.......
|Some boats drag anchor in these squalls|
February 14, 2010
Woke at midnight to the sound of our water pump cycling off/on - not a good thing as it means water is somewhere it should not be. A quick check revealed nothing so I shut off the circuit breaker and went back to bed. At 5:00 AM another louder pump-like sound woke me. Another unsuccessful search for the culprit until Andy woke and we determined it was our U-Line Refrig/Freezer motor growling at us. Andy spent his morning fixing the water line leak in the water line in the v-berth head while I did two loads of towels that had been soaked from the leak. We are keeping an eye on the refrig/freezer and so far, it has quieted down. Always something - when I wish for excitement - repairs are not on the list of things I find exciting or interesting to do!
We shared a joint project meal of grilled ribs with Mark and Lee, sipping wine and beer as we watched the Winter Olympics. Ah, I so love the mogul runs with knees pumping like pistons up and down. I wonder if these world class athletes will be able to WALK when they are older!! Phew, the alpine runs are just awe inspiring!
It is bitter cold in the Keys right now, with some hope of warmer temps Monday for the one day only before another cold front passes through. This is just like the weather we had last year in the Bahamas and we opted to come to the Keys this year in hopes of slightly warmer weather. Al Gore, go to hell with your cries of Global Warming.
|Even the birds are cold!!|
February 15, 2010
Ah memories. Still too cold to dink to shore to ride our bikes but I got a chuckle out of remembering a recent dink ride from shore to the boat with Jill and Hal aboard a week or so ago. Pitch black, few stars, fairly chilly and off we go to get back to the boat after seeing a play on Key West, which ended about 10:00 PM. I'm hanging onto the front of the dink, big flashlight in hand, shining it back and forth so we don't run over a crab pot or a mooring ball as we bounce our way back. With the light shining on the water, fish jump OUT of the water, flopping everywhere. When we climbed out of the dink at the boat, I saw one of the fish in the dink. When I pointed it out, Jill started laughing, saying she wondered what had been poking her in the leg and fanny on the way in! Did she think it was Andy fooling around with her? grin grin! We successfully returned the flopping flipping hitchhiker to the water and off he swam. Funny.
|Discovered on a bike ride - complete with traveling baptismal font. Amazing!|
|Sharon & Andy wearing the new jackets from Galen & Becky|
February 21, 2010
Where does the time go aboard? Weather has been cold with colder winds. Bah. Still biking and walking about with jackets when it is not TOO cold. Thank God we had just purchased bike helmets the other day as I managed - still don't know what I did - to FALL OFF my bike. I saw the curb looming at my head as I went down and the handle bar went right into my rib cage as I went down....think a rib is cracked as it still hurts a week later...Bah.
We have friends aboard - Jeffrey & Ivonne from our old neighborhood in Atlanta. We are having a great time, walking miles yesterday sightseeing and grazing our way through the various bars and restaurants.
|Ivonne & Jeffrey|
Andy had the water maker and our dink engine worked on this past week - normal maintenance stuff with equipment we'd had some issues with. All is well now and we should be good to go for a long time. Key learning is to use our dink MORE......We'd hardly used it in many many months, esp. not during our canal Canadian trip. Lesson learned....drop the dink more and get out and explore. It's good for the dink and better for the soul.
February 24, 2010
Ivonne and Jeffrey departed for Atlanta, having only about one really semi-nice day. Karen & Donna arrived from NC (staying at a hotel) and 8 makes for a party! We had a great party on board with those 4, plus Mark and Lee and Andy and I. What else, but Key Lime Pie and freshly caught Cobia fish on the grill; majotos for drinks...a great time had by all, in spite of the fact that the 10% chance of rain turned into 100% all afternoon...indoor party and not a deck party! Another cold front, 30 mph winds, higher seas necessitated the cancelling of a dinner party on board Mark & Lee's 55 Choi Lee tonight, with us and Karen and Donna. Another 'raincheck'...Bah
February 28, 2010
Update on the comments above: We cancelled our dinner party aboard the Choi Lee and at 6:00 PM we wondering WHY as weather was great....radar, however, told a different story. Sure enough, by 7:00 ish, we got nailed with very high winds, rolling waves at about 3-4 feet and rocking and rolling. Turning on our VHF radio to listen for any updates by the US Coast Guard, we learned a guy in a dingy flipped over trying to make it from shore to his boat at anchor out here with the rest of the boaters. Fortunately, another boater saw him and was able to throw a line, pulling him onto his boat. His dink was lost. Much conversation between him and the Coast Guard as an empty floating dink is never a good sign! The worst, however, is the fact that a young woman is missing at sea and presumed drowned from that same storm. We heard on the VHF radio a boater in the adjacent anchorage call the Coast Guard saying he saw a dink float by with someone trying to get the engine re-started and was floating out toward Cuba.. After a two day search, the Coast Guard called it off. The woman was reported missing the next day and she and her dink never seen again. So sad. The water was so rough, the winds so strong that she probably flipped as did the other guy...She had no control over her dink as it had no power and she would not have been able to point it into the waves, etc. and probably got broadsided and went over. Another reminder to pay close attention to the weather and not to take chances!!
It is one cold front after another; bah. Tired of it, just like we got tired of it in the Bahamas last year! It is all relative, however, and given the weather north of here, I should just shut up. To put it in perspective, however, I am usually still in short sleeves and capri pants and flip flops and manage to bike nearly every day.....Definitely should quit my bitchin.....
Not too cold for someone to build sand sculptures! Pretty fancy ones at that!!!
AH, STILL LAZY LAZY DAYS IN KEY WEST!!!
March 2, 2010
Wahoooo! Yahoo! Andy HAS AGREED to cruise to the British Virgin Islands!!! Conversations with our Brit friends, Lee and Mark, who keep their boat in Virgin Gorda, BVI, and who cruise the world, have been instrumental in taking the fear factor out of the unknown. I also connected with a fellow DeFever boat owner via the Internet (I sent out emails asking for info/anyone want to go, etc!!! No shame, here) who lives on his boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I spent an hour or so on the phone with him, gathering info, helpful tips, etc. A query is already into our insurance company for quotes, restrictions, etc. and I'm researching books, charts, etc. I just ordered a How To Speak Spanish course on line with CD, etc. We will add stabilizers to this boat in April up in Ft. Lauderdale and once that is completed - there will be NO turning back. Stabilizers, another 150 feet of anchor chain, a few extra spare parts and we should be GOOD TO GO. IF we can get that DAMN RAY MARINE CHART PLOTTER TO WORK.... The technician is returning with yet another fix and replacements on this Wednesday. After that, if no fix, I think it is time to sue as we cannot use this boat as it is supposed to be used!
Only problem is that we will have to wait until 2011 to head Southward! With prior commitments on my part with my former employer, Novartis, in April, taking me off the boat one or two times for potentially several days at a time; a new Granddaughter (Lindsay's) due May 24 this year and wanting to spend some extra time with my Mom in June, AND the need to be OUT of the hurricane zone (June - November 1), we can't get from the U.S. and way south of the BVI's this year....tooo late to travel that far.
So, the grand plan currently is to head out of Key West in early April (depending on family bookings aboard this floating hotel); get the stabilizers added in Ft. Lauderdale and then head back slightly south, crossing Lake Okeechobee, FL to the west coast of FL and then up to Clearwater. We'll stay in Clearwater as long as we can, awaiting baby and helping out with grandson Pickett, who will become a 'big brother'. Again, we must get out of the hurricane zone by early June! Then, off across Gulf of Mexico to Mobile Bay, AL, and upward thru the various river systems, such as the Tenn-Tom, Tennessee, etc. poking around all summer. We can make it to my Mom's hometown of Scottsboro, AL which is near the Guntersville cruising area; will make Nashville, TN a great side trip and on and on. Will be fun to poke around up there all summer..I love the beauty of the rivers and it should be a lazy trip with plenty of time to stay at anchor and swim, learn my Spanish and dream of the upcoming cruise to the BVIs! Then, back south across the Gulf to Clearwater for November and December to spend the holidays with family.
Then, sometime in January 2011, cruise over to the Bahamas, poking around islands we've never seen, slowly getting to the southernmost Bahamian Island, the Exumas for a month or so, then onward to the Turks & Cacaos. From there, downward thru the Caribbean island chain, over to the Dominican Republic, onward to Puerto Rico, poke around in the Spanish Virgin Islands and finally getting to the USVI and BVI. After time there, we will cruise another 500 or so miles further south, all way down to Grenada and Trinidad, arriving there by June (those pesky hurricane insurance requirements again- getting out of potential harm's way). I looked at a map -- ummm, Venezuela is right near there - probably less than 90 miles by water....I see more exploration and even more new experiences!!! After November 1, we will cruise back up to the USVI and BVI for the winter. And so on and so on and so on. Who knows when we will return! There are plenty of flights back to US for family visits for us, so we'll get our 'family fix' fairly often! Ah, one of the most beautiful places to cruise ever with it's green mountain tops poking out of the spectacular acqua waters! Can you tell I am so excited!!!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Maybe maybe maybe the Ray marine Chart Plotter is fixed...How many times have I thought this? Too many to count. The factory tech arrived, replacing the E80 Chart Plotter (the master brain to the E120 on the fly bridge helm station which has been replaced already TWICE). He thinks the E80 was sending data intermittently to the E120 Exactly.....for nearly two years we have been having this intermittent problem..DUH.
He also upgraded our Sirrus radio software to the newest version because our radio would not change channels appropriately. The radio, part of this software/equipment package, would not display the Sirrus channel selection page, so when we went to the MENU we had nothing and would be stuck on what we were already zoomed on....No way to change channels. We won't know until we cruise out of here in April if this repair worked or not. The problems NEVER show up until underway.....Running the engine doesn't do anything...we must be in motion to have it work - or not work as is the case with us!
March 23, 2010
Guess What. No Surprise here. The last fix on the Ray Marine Chart Plotter DID NOT WORK.
We made our trip cruising to Old Island Marina on Stock Island yesterday for repair of our prop that we dinged in Pennecamp on the way down. Guess what? No surprise here, the damn Ray Marine Chart Plotter still does not work, given all these repairs. Underway for the first time since the most recent chart plotter repair mentioned above, it took about 25 minutes before the plotter started it usual OFF stuff. Phone calls to the technician and much discussion. Hands thrown up in the air, now thoughts say it is a cable problem...power problem. Two years and untold techs later and still no fix. Same issues as always.
We will give it one more shot while stabilizers are being installed in Ft. Lauderdale in a few weeks and then off to the lawyers I guess because we cannot use this boat and certainly cannot take our trip southbound to the Caribbean as planned without a working reliable chart plotter. I've long ago lost count of the number of repairs and repair people that have tried to fix this lousy piece of equipment.
It took about about an hour to cruise around Key West to the other side to have the boat hauled and the bent prop repaired.
|Finally Fun about to be hauled|
Funny thing, high up on 'stilts' here in the boatyard awaiting return of our repaired prop, Andy bumped into an electrician working in the yard who, after discussion about our tribulations on this chart plotter, has his own theory. He came over, checked around and believes the problem to be that the chart plotter is in the hole too tight and that underway, being too tight, it gets bumped and sends a 'signal' and confuses the computer. He pushed on the chart plotter and got it to react, solidifying his theory. So, when we head back to the mooring field, we will do some pushing back on the plotter when it goes OFF and see what happens. Stay tuned. I stay in a murderous rage over this entire fiasco.
Up in the air at Old Island Marina for less than 24 hours and we were back at our mooring ball in Garrison Bight. Would you believe, we had our repair done in LESS time than anticipated AND at less money. A first for us--under budget and under time estimate! WOW!
It's been a busy month with cold fronts in and out and the weather good/fairly good. Given the snow elsewhere, I will not complain as most of the time I am still in tshirts and capri pants and barefooted. Add a jacket when in the dink and I'm good to go.
|Adam, Nicole & Aubrey|
We visited the Key West Aquarium, the Butterfly Conservatory and the beach, as well as the obligatory Mallory Square. Andy loved having her here as it gave him every excuse to buy ice cream on every outing!!!
|Adam, Andy, Aubrey & Nicole|
|Bob & Chala at the Southermost Point of the USA|
With time in between to change the sheets and clean up, we then welcomed Andy's high school buddy, Bob and his wife, Chela, aboard for about 5 days. They'd traveled with us down the Hudson River from Albany to their home on the C&D Canal, so they knew full well what to expect and they are always a ball!
|Chala & Bob in Key West|
No wonder Andy fell in love with me. I am like his best friend, Bob. He and Chala have decided that Bob and I are EXACTLY alike, driving them both crazy double time. grin
Much eating and drinking and sightseeing yet again and boom, the days passed and off went Bob and Chala, back to their home on the C&D Canal.
We are grateful for the use of their auto as we replenished groceries (translate that to mucho cases of beer as we can't carry that kind of stuff when we shop via our hiking) and our two empty propane gas tanks.
We had our dink engine worked on several times while here, getting that stubborn engine worked on and cleaned up a bit. We inquired about putting an electric start on it as I cannot pull it to get it started. At over $200, we decided Andy will keep on pulling and if he can't, well, I can row. The problem with the engine boiled to .....Seems we need to use it more....GREAT idea. Goal is to drop it more during our cruising and explore the area while at anchor.We used that dink one time probably from May til we got to Key West in late January!!! No wonder it was gunked up.
Speaking of dink, Andy HATES taking the dink into Old Town, having to go thru a bit of a canal, under a bridge to get there. The current RAGES thru there except at slack tide, being funneled into the more narrow area. The sportfishermen have no regard for smaller boats and dinks and one, yet again, came flying thru the channel, passing us, throwing a wake. That wake then goes back and forth between the walls of this tight canal and throws us a very confused sea of waves, making it even more hazardous to our health and well being.
|Calming down, back on board. The view does lower one's blood pressure!|
We are researching our summer trip up the TennTom and Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. While all of this is interesting and will be very relaxing...translate to perhaps boring compared to Canada, we are game as we want to spend more time in Clearwater on the way up and especially back down to there in November & December. That, coupled with the fact that it is too late to head to the Caribbean this year......... My heart, however, is into planning for the long trip to the US & British Virgin Islands and beyond. My Spanish tapes have arrived and I will get into them on the summer river cruising. I'm doing lots of research and finding a mother lode of information regarding all of the Caribbean Islands, including cruising websites, safety info; cruisers net, etc. etc. etc. I am so ready to take off!
Update Sunday, April 11, 2010
Been a great couple of weeks, with weather improving daily to summer balm, hot and humid. Breeze is great on the water, however, so for the most part, we are very comfortable.
My sister, Anne, her two daughters, Devon and Kellee, along with Devon's 7 year old daughter, Myla, and Kellee, long time significant other, Bryan, arrived April 3 for a week of fun and festivities. They stayed at the Navy vacation spot right next to our dingy dock, Anne having still a military retiree ID card. We had a great time as a group, giving Myla lots of dingy rides and even keeping her overnight on the boat so the grownups could do the Duvall Crawl. Understand there were a lot of headaches the next morning...grin.
|Anne & Family|
|Pick your size - too many bras hanging to count!|
We did the Must Do's While in Key West -- a transvite show which was tasteful and fun; crashed the Clothing Optional bar at midnight, dancing with a bachelor party group and everyone ignored the clothing option issue, except the waitress, who was topless with painted boobs. Believe me, we all would have preferred she cover up. That was a LOT of paint, mostly dripping downward...you get the picture....Not a pretty visual. A final stop at the original place where Hemingway drank - Capt. Tony's, where Anne left her bra...I think she hangs one from the ceiling every time she's in Key West....She swears Mom's is hanging up there too from 55 years ago, when we were here as kids. Mom, now 88 years old, swears NOT....Anne & her family departed on Friday morning.
We then entertained aboard Finally Fun, a colleague of mine from Novartis, Sunny Cade and a friend of hers vacationing here in Key West with her. We had a fun evening, with some 'remember when', but mostly centered on the present and the future. It is always wonderful and special to catch up with friends.
We caught the local bus to and from the Naval Air Station on Boca Chica, a couple of small islands above Key West yesterday to attend the Southernmost Air Spectacular. Wow, what a show, with flying from 10:30 til 3:30. The parashooters coming down, trailing red, white, blue smoke with the American Flag flying from their heels was wonderful, with the American Anthem playing was great.
Wing walkers, (why, I ask would someone want to do that?!), all kinds of stunt planes and finally, The Blue Angels! The very best was when one Blue Angel blew thru the sky barely above the runway and one snuck in behind the crowd, zipping loudly over the crowd, who never saw him coming. I wonder how many people wet their pants at that one! The crowd, almost in unison, us included, jumped a foot off the ground we were all so startled! Simply AWESOME!
Sunburned and melting hot, we finally got back to the boat for cool showers and flaked out for the evening. Loved it! Another Proud To Be An American day!
|Ah, military pride!|
|Saw a female pilot!|
|Always jaw dropping!!|
Lindsay, Walker and Baby Pickett will arrive late today from Clearwater and we can't wait to see them. Lindsay, 8 months pregnant with our granddaughter, promises not to deliver early while on board. Andy hopes she is right!
|Sooo love this little guy!|
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Enjoying the visit with daughter, Lindsay and her family. Baby Pickett loves nothing better than walking to the bow of the boat to look around. He doesn't mind the bright red life jacket and is getting better at picking it up --- his new signal he wants to go outside!
|Can't tell if he is crying because he wants OUT or to go MORE|
|Boat showers every day|
|Lindsay seems to get as wet as Pickett|
|Bob & Andy fondling the art work in Key West|
|Rental cars are fun!|
|Key West Tourist Building|
|Rebarb and tarps & blown foam into the tarp to make it float|
|Old VW type engines to propel them across the Ocean|
|More tarp. This one is one wheels so it would roll to the ocean from inside a home|
|Click on the photo so you can read how the drug runners bring drugs into the USA now|
|Drug runners are bringing drugs to the USA in these small submarines!|