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April 2015

Where Did This Week Go?

IMG_0108I used to say that a lot back when we lived in Maine, worked 50-60 hours and had an active life and a boat to live on. I bet many of you dirt dwellers say it a lot. “Oh my god, it’s Friday? Really? Where did this week go?”

We still have an active life and a boat to live on, but we aren’t working 50-60 hours in jobs, nor are we spending 50-60 hours doing boat work. Even so, one of the challenges of staying in one spot for a period of weeks or months is that you lose track of time. Well, you may not, but we certainly do. 

IMG_0056The cruising life: sunny skies, teal green water, sandy beaches … the days just run together in an endless loop of chillin’ and drinking rum. No. In fact, when we are stopped for a while – such as in Grenada during hurricane season, or here in St. Thomas where we are waiting for the new jib --  we get caught up in boat projects, reading, watching movies, and just hanging on the boat. EW plays music, I write, and poof another week has passed.

Sometimes, we are the cruisers who have to remind ourselves to go do something fun. That happened this week. I knuckled down completing the on-line stuff as though I’d lose Wi-Fi on Saturday. I won’t, but do need to move on to other things, write more and sew a bit.  On Wednesday, EW decided at the last minute to go in to Tickles for Open Mike night. I was tired and cranky, and opted out – and of course it was an outstanding night, EW played three songs, and I missed seeing cruisers we had met in the Canaries. (That will teach me.) Frankly until he mentioned Tickles, I thought it was Tuesday, and I’d already psyched myself up for a quiet night on board. What was I thinking? I was thinking, “It’s Wednesday already?”

IMG_9935We’ve been cruising since 2010, that’s five years of lost weeks. Somewhere in our second year, we decided that our commerial log book didn’t work for us, and I designed a custom one. The beauty -- when we use it – is that there are two sections, one for at sea and one for at rest, whether on anchor, mooring, on the dock, or on the hard. No kidding, but earlier this week I was thinking that we hadn’t been writing in the log book and we would forget much of our time here and not know where the days went.

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In fact, my fall back “log” are the photos. Thank goodness for them – except they don’t include normal log info, such as weather, when we filled up with water and fuel, when we defrosted the freezer, and when we dined with Rosanne and Dan on s/v Strategy. (And yes, when you meet them they tell you the easy way to remember their names is … wait for it .. “Rosanna Danna”. It works.)

Actually, I do know when we enjoyed our visit with them and Rosanne's Jambalaya followed by pecan pie – it was Sunset Sunday, and my contribution was taken from the stern of their boat.

 

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So, even though I realized that time was moving more quickly than I anticipated, I didn’t get the logbook out until today, when I discovered that it’s Friday, April 24th!  We are nearing the end of April, and while it’s apparently still snowing in the northeast (sorry, people) down here we are staring summer and hurricane season directly in the eye. It will soon be time to move on, and what will we have to show for it?

Evidently a few things:

  • A new jib
  • New salon cushions
  • Fabric to cover them
  • Varnished teak trim in heads
  • Varnished hatch trim
  • Varnished winch boxes in cockpit
  • New laptop up and running with all programs working
  • New articles started
  • New book started
  • Reorganized Galley
  • New blog design
  • Improved cooking skills
  • Weight loss (planned and hard fought)
  • New laptop station
  • Repaired bilge pumps
  • Repaired mid-stay
  • New songs learned
  • EW also is learning something called “shaping”. It’s a guitar thing
  • New audiences have heard him play
  • New friends met
  • Old friends renewed

There are more, but I didn’t write them down in the log.

And yes, we have enjoyed the sunsets, the play of light upon the water, the feel of sand between our toes, and the views from the hills on Water and Hassel Islands. On Saturday, we’ll go to a pot-luck beach party, with food, guitar, and plenty of bug dope in the dinghy. It’s been quite the week. We deserve a break. Next week will be one for the log book.

 

Here’s the At Anchor Log Page.

Capture

 

Photos from the top down:

  • View of Charlotte Amalie from Hassel Island
  • EW and Peter on Peter Bonta’s really last Caribbean performance as a cruiser
  • EW, Peter, the Tim West Band, an others on Open Mike Night on March 4th (what we thought would be Peter’s last Caribbean performance as a cruiser
  • Two more from Hassel Island
  • Somebody’s big baby getting lifted up onto a big ship
  • Sunset

Updating the Chart Table

IMG_1041Chart tables are beautiful things. Ours is teak with a heavy lid and amazing hinges. Of course our chart table was created for La Luna when she was built 30 years ago. Before we bought her in 2002, various accoutrements had been installed that made it difficult to raise the lid past coiled microphone cords. In addition – well, charts.

Chart tables of yore (and maybe of today) are designed to hold charts for storage, and to allow space for working with charts and plotters and dividers and parallel rules on the slightly angled top. When EW and I took the Power Squadron’s Advanced Navigation Class, we more often spread the charts on the table because it’s bigger. The charts in storage were kept under the table with the tools mentioned above, and all were difficult to retrieve due to the cords mentioned above above. When we sailed in Maine, and all the way down the coast, through the Bahamas and to the Caribbean we used both electronic navigation and charts. The chart in use is usually on deck in a plastic cover, not on the chart table. The laptop, running navigation software, is on the chart table.

A chart table isn’t usually an optimum place for a laptop. In our case, it was a bit  too high to be ergonomically correct when seating and much too low for standing. When we lived aboard in Maine and I worked from home, my “office” was my seat at the dinette, because it was just too uncomfortable to use the laptop at the chart table. In addition, the large top and 1.5” fiddles caused us to worry that the laptop wasn’t secure in rough seas.

IMG_0545On our way to the Azores last spring, I had one of those epiphanies EW has come to dread: the kind that means A New Project! A New Project he had never considered! Knowing that he would have to do most of the actual work for this project, I presented it softly (for me), but I sold it very well. While we were on the dock in Horta, our first port of call, I convinced him to remove the heavy teak lid. (Sometimes I surprise myself with my powers.) We had no idea how marvelous the hinges were until we had to remove them. One of us held the lid, while the other worked on un-screwing many tiny-headed, long screws. Part way through the process we wondered if we’d be able to actually remove the table without destroying something.

So, now that we had removed this lovely, heavy piece of teak? What to do?  We knew that this project would not be completed for months, and we wanted to field test it, so the lid and hinges, charts, and tools were stored in a safe place, and I went in search of something about 2” tall that would serve as an interim base for the laptop. I found a cheap ugly green silverware drawer liner. Hey, it worked.

Here’s what I knew from the start:

  1. if we doubled the height of the seat cushion, we could sit comfortably and be at the right height for the laptop…
  2. if we  set the laptop inside the table, but raised 2 inches so that it was almost even with the front edge of the table everything would be at an ergonomically correct and comfortable height;
  3. plus the laptop would be set down inside the table, which would reduce it’s propensity to slide off the table top.

It worked great, and gave us an accessible place to store all the power cords for charging two cameras, a Kindle, an iPad, and an iPod.

Sweet!

So, that brings us to this time of puttering and “fun” boat projects in St. Thomas. (DEFINITION: “Fun” projects may not actually be fun to do, but are projects mainly dealing with the beautification of the boat, or to enhance our enjoyment of the living space. The person or persons undertaking the projects may not consider them fun in process.) I’ve been constructing cardboard models of laptop bases – ones that would allow us to raise it up 2 inches, have a place for a mouse pad, and provide the ability to tie the laptop down for really rough seas (seas that I never want to experience, but still).  I also wanted better storage for that charging gear, and other things frequently used in this location.

And note, we had to work around big honkin’ bolts that hold the Pactor Modem in place under the chart table. (Fortunately placed far enough outboard to still allow room for our legs under the table.) My first prototype (after the ugly green silverware compartment) was a bit elaborate, including the construction of multiple boxes. I knew he’d never go for it, so I set the idea aside and moved on to thinking of other projects, particularly one I’m contemplating using material from the old jib in order to make various open top fabric “boxes for open storage.

Image result for free light bulb clip artBrilliant Idea! Instead of asking EW to make wooden boxes or have me go from store to store to find bins or baskets to exactly fit the space, I could make small sail cloth boxes, to corral the stuff. On a passage, most of the stuff will be moved to a cupboard, so I don’t have to worry about it flying around. But cruising sailors spend more time at anchor than at sea, so that’s no biggie. This week, I planned the laptop pad, and presented the finished idea to EW, who promptly improved it. IMG_0502-001

Instead of a strong shelf supported by three braces running along the length, EW took two sheets of 1” PVC board, cut a rectangular hole out of one to allow the bolts from the modem, and  screwed them together from the bottom. At my suggestion, the top board is 1” wider than the bottom with the overhang at the back to allow for the cords to run to that side of the laptop. (One power, one USB for AIS.) One of the challenges I’d discovered during 9 months of using the prototype is that we had to protect the cords going into the laptop. The wide shelf will prevent the baskets from pushing onto the cords and memory sticks.

IMG_0530And the piece de resistance for the whole project: a little bridge to go over the USB connection on the starboard side of the laptop. It protects that port from damage, and provides an excellent rest for one’s wrist. Double Sweet!

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IMG_0542This is still a work in progress.

  • Before our next passage, EW will screw the laptop support to the bottom of the chart table. He’ll be inserting the screws up from underneath the table just so he doesn’t hit the Pactor Modem. That would be a bad thing. Very bad.
  • I will make the sail cloth open boxes.
  • EW wants to replace the rough teak surrounding the instruments just behind the laptop with a piece of black starboard. When he does that, the far end (now an ugly hole) will also be covered in black but with an access port to the important wires back there.
  • At some point in time, we’ll install a little LED light, because the only illumination here is one of the high-powered 30-year old lights still on-board.
  • We’ll varnish the teak.

But in the meantime this works much better than it did when we had a chart table and lid, and it looks much better than it did with an ugly green silverware holder under the laptop.

AND! I love writing here. I’m writing more and now I can work without moving the laptop to the table, and we can eat dinner without moving everything back to the navigation zone.

I am a happy sailor. We are an outstanding team. Seriously. We each have different areas of expertise, and we each come up with ideas for all areas of the boat. He will have a sewing project for me, and I’ll have a power tool project for EW. It all works. And it looks wicked good!

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Spring Cleaning

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The act of … I don’t know, cleaning spring? I’ve never understood “spring cleaning”, though my parents certainly did. My dad used to clean the barn and attics twice a year, meticulously moving every box in both attics, from one side to the other, sweeping and discarding six months of dust, debris, the occasional animal droppings, and any items finally deemed to be unworthy or unneeded.

When I moved in with EW, Daddy saw it as his opportunity to finally get rid of my stuff. Of course, he had found and tagged every item and box before we arrived. Two tightly taped boxes were particularly heavy, and I questioned their provenance. “Say’s Barb’s Box,” said my dad. And they did, in large clear letters. I borrowed his knife and opened one to find that for the last ten year or so he had been dusting and moving – from one side of the barn attic to the other --- two hefty boxes containing my eighth grade rock collection. Trust me, the collection wasn’t worth it. He could have tossed both boxes with the spring or fall cleaning at any time and I’d never have missed it. Dad looked at EW and said, “She’s all yours now.” I was never really sure whether he meant me or the boxes of rocks. (Mainahs tend assign gender to inanimate objects in strange and wondrous ways.) He did make EW take both me and the rocks back to Portland.

To me, “spring cleaning” is the time for opening up the home, taking off the storm windows and putting on the screens; or for taking the winter cover off the boat and putting the dodger back on it. Sure, cleaning is involved but only as part of a greater process. So I was a bit flip in answer to a question posed by one of my Facebook friends back home in Maine:

FB MM

Of course I offered a comment:

my comment

That isn’t precisely true, and it implies some disrespect of the friend and her post. In truth, I have a great deal of respect for her. She’s talented, very nice, cooks unbelievable meals and shares recipes, and even cooks interesting meals for herself when her husband is away. She’s impressive, and I am in awe of her, so I was  sorry for being flip, but I will probably never look at spring cleaning as she does, nor will my abode, whether on sea or land, ever meet the standards she sets for herself.

IMG_0482That’s OK. But it occurred to me that perhaps “spring cleaning” is a natural human instinct, more finely honed in some than in others, but still present. Because, really, I have been spring cleaning. In the past week, I’ve cleaned the oven and stove top, “deep cleaned” the galley counters, sink, and cupboards, created new containers for flavored salts we had purchased in the Canaries, designed a new configuration for our chart table to make it laptop friendly, and completed all of my regular weekly cleaning.

IMG_0504Furthermore, I’ve been happy about it. Joyful. I’ve been cleaning with glee, gazing up on the newly organized spice rack with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Face it, this is a psych. I don’t do “spring cleaning”, I do projects. I do projects in the spring. I do projects in the spring that require me to clean. I don’t like “spring cleaning, but I do like projects.

EW got caught up in the ritual, He is so delighted with how his varnish work is turning out that he decided to polish our old  light fixtures and the Cheoy Lee sign. He does the sign every few months or so whether it needs it or not. (Of course it does.) But we figured the lights hadn’t been polished for eight years. That’s what I meant by saying “I don’t do spring cleaning.” Over the past eight years I’ve dusted and cleaned those lights, but it never occurred to me to polish them. “M” would have done that at least once a year during her spring cleaning with a special non-toxic metal polish. I have a lot of respect for that.

We are delighted with how the lights look. So much so that EW said, “Note to Self and Spousal Unit: we should polish these again in five years or so.”

That’s probably tongue in cheek and we (he) will probably clean them again in three years.  I love the way they look and would like to say that I’ll keep them in Bristol condition, with regular seasonal cleaning. We all know that isn’t going to happen  Daddy would not be proud of this, nor would he be surprised. Sometimes I want to be more like my parents, my cousins, and “M”.

Ah well. as that great sailor, Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam”.

Toot-Toot!


The Rest of the Story (About the Endurance Crossing)

IMG_8705There are still folks who are surprised to hear we didn’t head south to Brazil and Argentina, and others who have commented that I seemed to have finally rediscovered my sense of humor.

Thank the universe for both things. So far, the Rest of the Story has only been shared with a few special friends. (Weren’t they lucky to get dumped on? They all unfailingly provided love and support and that is why they are special friends.)

I had mentioned to someone that “Seventeen things went wrong or broke during the crossing.”  A curious person, (or sadistic) he wanted the list. I may or may not provide it, but let’s start with Number One:

When we left Sint Maarten the second time, we had a few uninvited guests. Many of their progeny remained on board for the entire trip, across the Atlantic, through the Azores, into the Canaries, and back across to Guadeloupe. At first we weren’t sure what we had. Well, at first I was in denial, because our guests were invisible and only bothered EW. “Sure, Honey, I understand,” she says with an eye roll. The short version of the story is we (probably EW) brought sand fleas on board. In addition to being invisible, they are stealth biters, we never saw them and we never felt them. EW is allergic to them. EW had been allergic to them for years and he is even more sensitive now. The tasty and rare and fragile flower known as EW can be brought low by sand fleas and it isn’t funny. (Well, again, it was kind of funny on the way to the Azores, before we harbored colonies and when EW was only getting bit every so often. (I received two bites. All year. Just two.)

In the Azores, we relied on a pharmacist who spoke English to read the labels on pesticides to help us chose the best one. (In the Azores, fleas are “pulgas” One is “pulga” No one ever has one flea.) Since we had no sand on the boat, our guests burrowed down in the bed. Since we slept in the main salon underway and moved the bedding to the master stateroom once we arrived in the Azores, we had colonies in both cabins. Oh joy.

We would spray the boat down, close the boat, take the bedding to shore to launder it, spend the day seeing the sites and go back to scrub the counters and restore the bed. Every couple of weeks. This kept them to a manageable level, but we knew we weren’t killing the eggs. EW’s reaction got worse, I was still persona non grata to the beasts, and he was supplying sustenance to more and more of them, which all happily copulated (or whatever it is that fleas do) and produced still more. Still, it was uncomfortable and a pain in the neck, but not horrible ------- until we crossed back to the Caribbean.

IMG_8692On the crossing, someone is always sleeping or resting in the bed, or on his or her way to the bed after dining or completing a few chores. And we certainly couldn’t get off the boat to let the poison do it’s thing. So, we grew more fleas on EW’s blood. And EW developed greater allergies to the bites, and some bites got infected. I nipped that problem in the bud by using my Mom’s tried and true remedy: soaking affected area in salted water so hot you cry for your Mommy. Works every time with shallow infected scrapes, cuts, and bites. This is not a remedy promoted by EW’s mom, so he therefore thinks I’m a sadistic B!$#h. Tough S^&t. When bites in his ears prevented him from hearing, a hot wash cloth reduced the swelling. When he couldn’t see out of one eye, a hot wash cloth returned his vision. (See the swelling in his right hand, above.) IMG_8690

As you may imagine, this was not fun. We’ve always enjoyed that line, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This is also true about captains who are miserable with real pain, discomfort, swelling, and itching. EW wasn’t happy, we had other issues (remember 17 things) and it was not a fun crossing. (To be fair, remember that I had an infected tooth and was battling galley issues. We were not examples of favorite crew, and this was not a happy boat.) Once we arrived in Guadeloupe, our first order of business was to get EW medical treatment and to find an exterminator. I had worried about the second part all the way across the Atlantic.

  1. Would the exterminator come to us on anchor?
  2. If not, what would happen if we are in a slip and an exterminator came down the dock to our boat? (I wouldn’t want to be tied next to a boat that was getting rid of something nasty.)
  3. How many applications would it take? I knew we’d need at least three if not four treatments over the course of weeks.
  4. How much would this cost? We had 15 other issues to fix. (One of those 17 items was a family issue and beyond our control.)

Fortunately, I found the French word for exterminator, looked them up in the Yellow Pages, and found one who spoke English. On New Year’s Eve, Thiery met us in the parking lot and discussed the issue. After phone conversations and texts he had already decided that, because of those four questions, we should tackle the project ourselves. He sold us the product, directed me to their American website so I would know and understand it’s use and the safety procedures, and drove us to his favorite hardware store where he helped us purchase a pump sprayer, suits, goggles, and gloves. For the next two weeks, we would stow hard stuff, tape the cupboards in the galley, don our gear and spray the whole boat: cushions, mattress, under the bunks, and the storage areas under them down to the bilge. Afterward, we’d go on deck, strip off the jumpsuits and shower on deck. (Though we were in France, we opted for old swimsuits under the Tivek.) Then we would dress in the cockpit (France) and head off for a full day of sightseeing or shopping in Jarry.  After which we would return and clean the boat. (Jarry, an “industrial park” outside of Pointe au Pitre had a store for everything. The first day, we took the dinghy through the canal. The photo at the top shows the canal.) 

We didn’t feel we could take a slip, visit other boaters, or have the refrigeration guy on board until the guests were under control. So, for the first two weeks in Guadeloupe we were isolated, and still using a small cooler for refrigeration. (It was shortly after the worst of this was over that good friends Lynn and Ken from Silverheels III sailed into town to rescue us from ourselves.)We found an excellent physician, who examined and tested EW and confirmed that we had sand fleas and that he was allergic. Medicine helped. I replaced the pillows, and ultimately we ditched the salon cushions. EW was no longer getting bitten in bed, but would get chewed up while dining or reading or watching a movie in the main salon. Still, while in Guadeloupe we treated the boat every two to three weeks to kill all fleas and eggs. We were successful.

How’s he doing? Well, there’s good news and bad news. For the good, he never gets bit on the boat, but we are still in the Caribbean and there are sand fleas. Whenever he leaves the boat he sprays repellent on his body, and a travel can of the stuff goes with us for long trips, swimming, etc. On the bad side of the equation, for EW, Fleas Happen, and when they do, he is very harshly affected. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he had to visit a doctor and learned that bites on his legs will cause allergic reactions (like hives) on other parts of his body (such as the top of his head). We will not be leaving here without an Epi pen. 

And that, Boys and Girls, is the rest of the story of our Endurance Crossing, and one of the reasons we elected not to travel farther south. We needed to be closer to friends, family, and help. If we put those 17 things in order of occurrence, enough of them caused problems in the Azores or happened in the Canaries so that we knew we had to head for the Caribbean. The flea situation was just Number One in our early warning system. The other 10 or so things that happened during the crossing let us know we had made the right decision.

We've decided that making a crossing or undertaking a long passage is like reefing. Just as good sailors reef early and often, good sailors also must be sure of the boat and the crew before undertaking a rigorous trip. We don’t regret going at all, and would do it again. Nor do we regret making it a much smaller Atlantic Circle. Good decisions will keep us sailing and looking forward to the next adventure.


Rockin' the Boat Projects

Since we arrived in the Caribbean, EW and I have been either working on boat projects that are both Urgent and Important or worrying about boat projects that are both Urgent and Important. If you remember the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey, then you may remember the difference between “Important” tasks and “Urgent” tasks.

On a boat, “Urgent and Important” tasks are those that jump up and down and say, “Fix me! Fix me! Or you won’t be able to sail/run the engine/pump the head/keep yourself from sinking.” “Important” but not Urgent  tasks may nor may not be more fun/creative/satisfying, but they need to be done, sometimes only so they don’t become Urgent. Important tasks can be ugly such as servicing the head or the engine, or creative like making new cushion covers or curtains, or both ugly and creative such as varnishing teak or cleaning the oven.  

This month, EW and I have taken the time to set aside some of the Urgent and Important items to work on those that are Important. I’m still working on getting the laptop up and running, and I still had to submit our taxes to the IRS, but it was time to take a break from the corner office; similarly, EW is somewhat patiently waiting for the new jib, and will have to go up the mast soon to attach the new mid-stay, and his Urgent and Important things are still calling, “Me! Me! Me!”– but this past weekend, we started moving away from Urgent and Important, to the Important.

And we found that working on Important is much more empowering. Even if it’s drudgery, such as cleaning the oven. (Cleaning the oven is only urgent if it lights on fire due to the mess. That hasn't happened to me in a long time.)

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IMG_0460EW chose to start The Varnish Job. This will be a Big Important Job as pretty much the whole interior needs to be brought to life. La Luna will be 30 years old this year; she deserves to be babied. I’ve been dreading this job, thinking we’d have to move off in order to sand and strip the wood, but EW has been thinking about it, evaluating the wood, and identifying the problem areas. He wisely opted to work on problems areas first, in little bites. A week ago he began his first project: the forward head, with just a bit of Project Creep to include the hatch surround just outside the head, and he has since expanded the job to include the dining table and a small shelf along the back of the dinette.

There will be more discussion about some aspects of this job as we go along, but let me pause to reveal his superior project segmenting idea. Some teak areas, such as the hatch surrounds, and the dining table, will need to be varnished with poly that provides UV protection. Other areas, such as interior trim and the teak cabinets will not need to be stripped and will receive satin varnish. (This may change as EW learned of and found a satin poly that has UV – something he didn’t know existed.) In any case, the special areas that will need stripping and UV poly can each be easily tackled in a few days. The plan is to identify such areas and work on a few at a time at a time, sandwiching in Urgent and Important tasks, such as moving the boat to the San Blas before hurricane season, and saving the cabinetry for later.

I have  a lot of writing to do, and need to tackle a number of on-line Urgent and Important tasks while we have Wi-Fi, so while sewing is on my list, I’m waiting until we are settled for hurricane season to begin major projects. Still, I have a long list of Important To-Do’s and this weekend I opted to clean the stove and oven. We each assembled our tools and protected the surrounding areas, and EW put on some tunes, choosing to play our rather extensive “60’s Mix.” 

As EW stripped and sanded the teak, and as I disassembled the stove top and began to clean, we listened to Chuck Berry, Patsy Cline, Duane Eddy, the Everly Brothers, a IMG_0325number of Motown acts, Elvis, and the IMG_0309early Beatles. The Beatles were followed by early Dylan, then more Beatles, who were followed by Peter Paul and Mary. And then I was delighted to hear The Monkees. It should surprise no one that I could sing along with the Beatles and the Monkees, while EW knows nearly every Bob Dylan Song.

And that’s how it went: the scritch of sand paper, the scrub of a good brush on stainless steel, and our off-key rendition of “When I’m 64”; or me dancing and singing, “Then I saw her face. Now I’m a believer.”  Peter Bonta, our friend, EW’s guitar mentor, and excellent musician, has said that he has a lot of respect for Michael Nesmith, and I reminded EW of this as I sang along with the Monkees. Of course, I didn’t remember every song, and a couple of lines surprised me. In particular one segment from “She” (written by Michael Dewolf, David Gavurin, Stephen Richards, Jarrod Montague, Philip Lipscomb, and Harriet Wheeler.)

And now I know just why she
Keeps me hangin' 'round.
She needs someone to walk on,
So her feet don't touch the ground.

Ouch.

So we worked and we sang along with more of the Beatles, and a lot more Dylan, and Tom Rush, and Booker T and the MGs, and Joni Mitchell; and we laughed and he made fun of “Bubblegum music” and I told him Dylan couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but that his lyrics were poetry; and we did good work. Important work. Work that wasn’t required because something broke, but because we love the boat.

It was a good day.


Why La Luna Doesn't Have a Composting Head (And Why I Want One)

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This post has been “stopped up” for over a year. Seriously, I felt that it had to be written for the edification of other boaters and because … well because s*!t happens. But I didn’t want to relive the moment and I hesitated to actually post this front and center on the blog. 

So, today’s actual post “Barbara Does Do Gooky” can be found on a page in the column at right. If you want a frank discussion about a head disaster aboard a cruising vessel, then click on the link above, or simply go to the page and open it. However this extra post is not recommend for the following readers

· Those who are eating

· Those who are squeamish

· Those who do not need to know how a marine toilet works

· Those who do not want to know what happens if a marine toilet doesn’t work

· Anyone who has never changed a diaper and gets sick thinking about it

You have been warned. Read, cringe and learn at your own risk. For the rest of you, the information below is much easier to take.

Why La Luna Still Doesn’t Have a Composting Head

If you choose not to head to the dark or gooky side, let’s discuss heads in a more oblique fashion. When we purchased La Luna 2002 there was a tiny, old holding tank under the chart table. We don’t think anyone had used it. More importantly, the boat wasn’t in compliance with Maine and US laws. EW liked Lectra San electronic marine sanitation devices, and had installed one in our SeaFarer-26 in 1987. Neither of us like holding tanks, and while in 2002 composting heads were presented at the local boat show, neither of us wanted to be the first on our block to try one. They were still a novelty among cruising sailors in Maine.

So we bought and installed a Lectra San in the aft head. A few years later, use of these devices was (we believe unfairly) made illegal in our location and we once again were not in compliance. By then, composting heads were more prominent and I suggested we look into it. EW was not interested and, since I don’t like “gooky” and didn’t know anyone who had a compositing head I didn’t press and I’ve regretted it. Instead, we kept the Lectra San in the aft head, and installed a holding tank in former storage space in the forward cabin, connecting that to the forward head. We should have purchased a composting head.

The Lectra San gave us problems every other year or so and  fixing it was messy and expensive. (Think a box of ick with electronics in it.) When it died in the Bahamas I vetoed spending more money on it, and we eventually pulled it, later using the at space for the new inverter.

As for my aversion to “gooky” I talked with a lot of people who have composting heads -- both Air Head and Nature's Head --  and knew that I can handle it – even if the inevitable issuess. I came this close (holds thumb and pointing figure ½ inch apart)] to buying one from a friend who had purchased a new cruising boat and found a brand new composting head in a box in the forward cabin. She would have sold it for a song. To me. I said yes, but then I had to ruin it by being honest. “Are you really sure you don’t want this?” “Oh yes. I think it would be gross!” And I replied (dammit) “You better talk with Boater A and to Boater B before you sell it to me. You may want to keep it.” She thanked me later. She was delighted with her composting head. I like being right, but that’s only a small consolation.

And that is why La Luna still doesn’t have a composting head, despite the universe giving me three opportunities to get one. So here we are with a hated holding tank, and two working marine heads, requiring four thru hulls and a deck port. (For a blast from the past about emptying the holding tank in Fort Lauderdale, check out this post.) While EW will continue to undertake necessary maintenance on both heads, when one of these goes, we will finally install a composting head and get rid of the hated holding tank.

This completes today’s normal blog post. For the informative yet gooky post, go to the link for the page. If you can handle the truth. No shame if you can’t (I couldn’t for years.)

The only time I’ve envied Cruise Ship Passengers: They visit Sint Maarten and get to play. I dealt with Gooky.

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And that sunset at top? That's today's "pretty" and my apology for posting about heads and gooky. Sunset on April 12th at Honeymoon Beach, Water Island, St. Thomas.


The Schooner Mystic

It’s nice to know the right people. Friends on shore pointed out a lovely three-masted schooner and asked, “Do you know what boat that is?”

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Hell, yes. Tom, Captain of the Schooner Mystic used to keep his own boat at the same marina that was La Luna’s home for eight years. Not being fools, we took advantage of that friendship and showed up one morning while Mystic was at anchor in St. Thomas.clip_image002

Captain Tom and crew helped us aboard, but neither we nor the captain and crew were as elegant as this photo from their site. (This photo and the one of the interior came from their website. The sailing photos are mine.)

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The Schooner Mystic is a new boat, built in 2007, and is beautifully appointed. The crew we met are all knowledgeable, and number at least two women skippers. The kitchen, not open to the public, is a restaurant style kitchen on a boat, and we were told the food is outstanding.

And yes, I know it's a galley. But this galley is a professional kitchen, so I'm calling it a kitchen. So there.

 

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We were delighted with the opportunity to see how The Schooner Mystic was appointed, how much work it took to keep her in Bristol shape, and how much fun it would be to haul those sails. (As long as it wasn’t in our job description.) It was great to talk with Tom. After one or two more charters in the BVI’s they are headed back to New England where she will be available for charters during the summer.

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Look for her on the water. She’s a beauty under sail.

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Another Post From Guadeloupe Because ---Toilettes

IMG_8878NOTE: Some of you are easily confused. We are still in St. Thomas and will remain here until later in April. I just didn’t get the opportunity to tell you much about our stay in Guadeloupe and want to fill you in on a few interesting facts.

Like their public toilets, which have a certain je ne sais quoi.

IMG_8851IMG_8856One day, while we were anchored in Islet du Gosier, we opted to join cruising friends from S/V Silverheels III, Lynn Kaak and Ken Gooding, on a bus trip to Saint-Francois . It was lovely to relax and see a new-to-us part of Guadeloupe, and to check out prospective new anchorages and marinas. Saint-Francois is a beautiful town and I happily took photos of boats at anchor or on the hard, interesting buildings, birds, and …. a toilet.

IMG_8844A really, really, cool public toilette. It takes an act of some god (or a four-hour parade and two beers) to convince me to use a porta-potti, but I wanted to try this beauty out and was thankful that the bottle of water a while back and provided the necessity to spend 50 euro cents.

This exact change only, necessity stall was pristine, because the whole unit is sprayed and disinfected after each use. It’s just big enough for a parent and child, if that’s what must occur, but tight for two people who want to save time and 50 cents. You insert your coin and the door opens automatically. Inside is a hook for your bag, and a toilet with the tiny hand washing sink beyond the toilet.

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Hold your hands over the tiny sink, first comes soap, then water, then – after a bit of time for scrubbing --- hot air all from the same nozzle. How cool is that? Once you are done, and exit the facility, the door closes much too quickly for someone to enter on your four euro-bits, and if they did (or if you decided to stay in) they’d be sprayed with disinfectant and water. Hence, always clean public toilets, and a slight delay between uses.

Special thanks to Lynn “Vanna White” Kaak for her so ably modeling this facility.

IMG_8848I later heard that there is a 15 minute limit and wonder if the door just opens when time is up. This brings about a number of disturbing situations to my disturbed mind. Still, these public toilets are one of a number of areas (like brie, and champagne, and pan du chocolat, and free busses for Carnival) in which the French are well ahead of us.

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The "All is Lost" La Luna Review

Way back, back when we were dirt dwellers and had cable, there was a show on the Sci-Fi channel that MST3K-logo.pngseemed to be a guy and two puppets watching old horror movies. The guy and his little buddies would talk through the movie, making fun or … well, frankly I never sat through more than five minutes of this so I don’t know what they did.

I was reminded of this while watching “All is Lost” with EW on our Friday Pizza and a Movie Night. Since we are in St. Thomas with Choice wireless, we signed up for Netflix so we can watch movies not in our on-board stash. We didn’t watch “All is Lost” before we went on our Atlantic circle, but had heard from other sailors enough to know that non-sailors would definitely be on the edge of their seats, while the cruising sailors would scoff at many of the events on the screen. EW and I scoffed. A good movie will transport me into the characters on the screen. I can’t count the times I’ve growled at EW for making a joke or comment when I’m enthralled with a movie. People in movie theaters who talk through the film drive me crazy.

On Movie Night, I was one of those people and it’s IMG_0675OK because EW was a willing participant. We talked through the whole thing; we laughed at some things and were disgusted with others. It’s probably unfortunate that we had heard about the inaccuracies before watching the movie because we didn’t give it a chance. We were watching Robert Redford, a great actor in a performance that was highly praised, and I just couldn’t get past the fact that he had never prepared a ditch bag before crossing the Indian Ocean. EW couldn’t figure out how he hanked on the storm jib when there wasn’t a mid-stay or forestay available for the hanks.

This after he deliberately sailed his boat back into the offending container (oh yeah, like that would happen) and waited for-absolutely-ever before closing the hole and pumping the bilge. By the way, there is no possibility that amount of water would pour in that hole under those conditions, or to back up a step, that he would have slept through the initial impact. The first scene confused us because we couldn’t figure out what was behind him when he wrote his note as the container was long gone, but the movie didn’t lose us until “Our Man”, as he is named in the credits, woke up with water over the floorboards. Essentially, the movie lost us in the second scene. That was quick.

(At right, the orange, blue and yellow blobs under the companionway are two ditch bags attached to large life jackets to help them float. They were prepared prior to leaving the dock. Now there’s an idea.)

When one is cruising, one becomes intimately familiar with the normal sounds and one comes to immediate attention when something is different. That container did not sneak up silently like a second story man and cut a careful hole above the chart table. That container hit his boat and made a strange noise while doing so. Just ask EW how many times he made a minor sail change or the wind picked up and I would bounce up and ask, “Everything OK?” And that’s when I had an excellent sailor in the cockpit. To provide an analogy for non-sailors, once one has a baby, the soundest sleeper will awake at the softest cry; and once a sailor is at sea, the soundest sleeper will wake at some new noise or lack of noise. (EW was able to sleep through minor noises or changes and only woke up when something was really different and when I might need his help. Points and more sleep to EW for that.)

When the movie first came out, our dear friends, fellow cruisers, and live-aboards, John and Dora, went to see it. John couldn’t get past how quickly “Our Man” cut the only stay holding the mast to the boat. EW wants a knife like that. John wants to make sure his stays are stronger than “Our Man’s” were. Both keep the bolt cutters where they are easily accessible in emergencies. After viewing the film, I Googled “All at Sea Sailing Mistakes” and found this fun and very detailed post on Sailfeed. While I have no quibble with “Our Man’s” background and motivation (or lack thereof), I also had no idea how he had made it so far without mishap.

Every time he went up the companionway in a huge storm, he lifted the kick boards---and he didn’t put them back or slide the hatch closed! I yelled at him for this. (Quietly, because I knew he couldn’t hear me.) I also had trouble with how messy the boat was before the impact. We lived aboard for 8 years in Maine and in the summer our living space was more clutter-free at the dock than “Our Man’s space was while crossing an ocean. Things happen at sea, and even little things can knock stuff over. You bring something out, use it and put it away immediately. His cluttered counters drove me crazy.

When the movie was first out, the Portland Press Herald, our home paper, invited six sailors to the theater for a sailors’ review. These guys may have a combined sailing experience of 242 years, but they aren’t snarky enough to review this movie properly. They seemed to critique what “Our Man” (or Robert Redford) had done, and ignored what “Our Sailing Consultant” didn’t do. “Our Sailing Consultant” is a figment of my imagination. Evidently they didn’t use one. It shows. At the very least I want “Our Man” to have packed a ditch bag as I just can’t get over that.

We had advised our non-sailing family not to watch the movie before we crossed, so they wouldn’t worry more about us. I’m not sure it would have drawn them to the theaters anyway. Certainly the danger is real; my two biggest fears are 1. EW falling overboard, and 2. La Luna hitting a container. We know of at least one Caribbean cruising couple who lost their boat in that fashion, and I do not want to make light of what happened to them and to “Our Man”. You cannot see a container on a dark night in a dark sea. Along those lines, I chuckled at the “reverse” product placement showing a loaded Maresk container ship passing very close to the shipwrecked sailor, with those on watch oblivious to numerous emergency flares. Bet Maresk really loved that. Not.

So we watched the movie, talked and ridiculed the writer, ate our pizza and didn’t let ourselves get caught up in the acting or the drama. Which is probably unfortunate. We knew “Our Man” lived at least until he could write the good-bye note, so we knew he’d live when he fell overboard – (twice!), experienced a 360 the wrong way, and endured yet another storm while in the life raft. That 360 – when the boat capsized and righted itself – was cool to watch. Unfortunately, I had already dis-engaged to the point that I didn’t even care about him or the boat. It was just a cool special effect.

It’s a shame, really. Robert Redford is an excellent actor, deserving of awards and accolades, and of working with expert sailing consultant. Too bad he didn’t have one.

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Artisan Bread

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And now, for "Cook It" Friday ....

To continue with “Facebook Recipes”, as you may have noticed if you read the post about general cleaners, I have an aversion to reposting recipes on Facebook when I or my friends haven’t first tried them. If I like the look of a recipe, I’ll save it as a Word document to try (or not) later. The challenge with that is by the time I’ve tried a recipe, I have no patience to find the source in order to re-post it. 

My experience with artisan bread was a bit different. In the French islands, we eat baguettes – lots of baguettes; in the Azores we purchased the local artisan bread; during crossings and passages and in many anchorages, I make bread. For years I used the “Easy White Bread” from Kay Pastorious “Cruising Cuisine”. We liked it. It was easy. It was fine.

But we loved the artisan bread in the Azores and “Easy White Bread” no longer did it for us. Lo and behold, during one of my very infrequent times on Facebook while in the Azores, someone re-posted a recipe for Artisan Bread that could be “made” in only five minutes. (Turns out there are many versions of this recipe on line. Here’s the one I found for this post.)

Five minutes? Yeah, right. And, the recipe showed wonderful enameled Dutch oven unlike anything I have on board. But it looked interesting, so I copied an saved the recipe for future consideration. A while after that, I remembered another bread recipe, posted on a cruising blog by someone who I know and who actually made the bread. Like my mother and sister, I save recipes, though more and more are saved in a Word document on the laptop than in my three (yes, three!) three ring binders on board.

So I went back to the laptop, and easily found my copy of a recipe shared by Mike of  S/V Happy Times.  We met Mike, his wife Cheryl, and their daughter Mikayla in Isles des Saintes, Guadeloupe, and later spent time with them in Grenada. Cheryl said that bread was very good, and Mike said it was easy. Maybe this Facebook recipe has something going for it.

So I tried it.

Oh. My. Goodness! Cheryl was right. (Cheryl is pretty much always right.)  While folks on the web will all say “5 Minute” bread recipe, Mike makes no such untruthful claim. Active time takes maybe 15 minutes, spread out over 9 hours, so this is not a time consuming process. It does require a hot oven and therefore quite a bit of propane, but I get around that by making two loaves at the same time. The second loaf will certainly last better than an extra French baguette.

Now, it’s interesting to note (for me, anyway) that I didn’t have the kind of dish Mike used, either. I have a Revere Ware copper bottomed Dutch Oven and I have Fagor nesting cookware that we purchased at a boat show in 2002. At first, I made one loaf at a time in the Dutch oven. That worked great, except for the propane issue. So I experimented with making two loaves at a time with my largest and second largest Fagor pots. Since those pots have holes to vent steam, I cover the lids with aluminum foil to keep the heat in. Mike says to oil the pans, the other recipe I got off Facebook said not to oil the pans. Two recipes I found when researching for this post, suggested using parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.

Here’s Mike’s recipe:

No-Knead Bread

Mix:

3 1/2 cups of flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1 package of yeast (1/4 oz)

Add:

1 1/2 cups of warm water (120 degrees F)

Cover bowl with towel and let rise for 12 to 24 hours.

IMG_0220IMG_0232Fold dough over itself a few times.

Let rise for 2 more hours (optional, for more fluffy bread).

Spray/lightly oil baking dish. I use round 2 quart Corning baking dish.

Pre-heat baking dish in oven at 450 degree F. for 10 minutes.

Pour dough into heated dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover dish and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Bread should get to 190-200 degrees F.

I tend to make this after supper, and let it sit overnight. I found that the “fold dough over itself a few times” can be a bit sticky, but the results are worth it. The blue soft kitchen scraper is perfect for this job. Finally, I haven’t willingly purchased a “package of yeast” in the Caribbean as I much prefer the large foil wrapped packages found on shelves in the islands. Once on board, I put the whole package into an airtight container in the fridge, and use 1 tablespoon for the “package” called for.