29 June 2012

Municipal Chickens: 5 Things That Make it Key West

San Francisco's got it.  So does New Orleans.  Boulder has its own version of it. Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo have glimmers of it. New York doesn't need it; ditto L.A., they've got other things going for them.  Chicago tries to get it, but can't quite. Milwaukee just tries to be Chicago. There are others, but you get the idea. I call it "ititude." It's that je ne sais quoi, that singular, yet still not quite definable character of a place that makes it a destination. There's an ethos about places with ititude that makes you want to go back, rather than go somewhere new, vacation after vacation. You start to think of yourself as a part-time resident. Gradually, you begin to patronizing the bars and restaurants the locals frequent. You half-seriously consider retiring there. You get homesick when you get back home.

25 June 2012

Parts 3, 4, & 5: (Still) Planning Our Escape, Managing Risk in a Small Sailboat

Quick recap.  Part 1 discussed the hurricane box and our plan to depart wherefrom.  In Part 2, I wrote that we were planning to head for Cartagena.  Now a month has passed, between that post and this one.  If I would have written a Part 3, I would have explained that we changed our minds and decided to go west of Cuba, instead of east.  We planned, then, to hit Isla Mujeres (an island off Cancun), go south to the Bay Islands off Honduras, and then back north a bit and into the Rio Dulce (Guatamala).  In Part 4, I would have said, "Guess what, we changed our minds again!" Our new new plan, then, was to give Rio Dulce a miss, but still take a route west of Cuba: Isla Mujeres, Bay Islands off Honduras, islands off Nicaragua that belong to Columbia, and then the San Blas Islands of Panama (more properly referred to as Guna Yala). 

So that brings us up to date and ready for Part 5.  Yep, you guessed it, we're going back to our original plan: Cartagena here we come. 

As Threatened

I said I would do it and I've decided to keep my word. Fair warning to all you aspiring cruisers: This be your fate as well should ye fancy a life before the mast. ..Just sayin'.

(The key to successful cruising is the ability to fix things.  Failing that, the key to successful cruising is the ability to adapt.)

21 June 2012

Will Leap for Lattes

Taken outside of a Starbucks on Duval St. in Key West, just another example of the interesting animals that people train here.  (If you can't see the video, you can find it on our Facebook page

19 June 2012

But wait. There's More!

Every so often, when my self esteem is in danger of reaching a psychologically healthy level, I threaten to start a "broke log." Similar in function to the maintenance log I will probably never get around to making, the purpose of my broke log is twofold. Primarily it is to help me plan my days. Variety, as we all know, is the spice of life and that, I have discovered, is also the secret to rewarding boat repair work. So rather than tackle similar types of repairs in succession, I like to mix it up a bit. If I fix (OK, fail to fix) a plumbing issue one day, I'll usually opt for, say, a carpentry or electrical problem to fail to fix the next.

16 June 2012

I Am Shocked by How Little I Understand Electricity

As ardent followers of this blog well know, we now have lots of power on JOY. You know this because I've said so repeatedly. We know this because the guys at SALT said so repeatedly. Our solar panels generate 654 watts, our house battery bank has or is or is rated at or generates or stores over 1500 amp hours...of something. On top of that, we have (had) a 5 kilowatt diesel generator. Doubtless, it will be a generator again someday. It currently serves as a 392 pound stern weight, handy in the event a whale or some other leviathan runs up JOY's butt.

12 June 2012

Top This (A Travesty in Two Acts)

                                                                                                                                                        ACT I
Scene 1

Place: Hawk Channel, Florida Keys
Time: Early Sunday afternoon

Cap'n Jane and her trusty XO, Ean, are approaching Looe Key Reef where they plan to pick up a mooring ball for a couple of hours so Jane can put on her snorkeling gear and try out her new
underwater camera.

Cap'n Jane
OK, Let's put the sails down.

XO Ean

Cap'n Jane
What's wrong?

XO Ean
The topping lift just came undone!
(They both look aloft.)

Cap'n Jane
Oh, yeah, there it is.  I see it.  Good thing you stopped winching when you did.  We'll deal with that tomorrow.  OK, I'm into the wind.  Drop the main.  

11 June 2012

A Meditation on Saying Goodbye

You're sitting in some dive tiki bar on one of a thousand Caribbean islands.  The sun is setting; the air smells like sea.  There's a medium sized crowd; all locals, except for you and the over dressed woman at the end of the bar near the exit.  You get the feeling she's there out of guilt, as though she'd gotten lost, needed directions and the bathroom, and felt obliged to stay for a drink.  The bartender guesses this and considers her pathetic, and because of that amusing.   You can tell by the way he nods over his shoulder, pointing her out to a few of his regulars on the opposite end of the bar.  There, with them, he's safe.  He can laugh at her and they'll keep his secret.  Not that he makes a habit of laughing at his customers, not even the wealthy, nearly always there-by-accident ones.  Hell, if he did that... Well, he knows word would get out.  Cruising communities are small and tight like that.  It would affect things.  Maybe not forever, but who needs the hassle?  Whatever.  You know, you can almost feel him hoping that she'll finish her drink, pin her hat on her head and go back to her yacht, the kind that on the inside is indistinguishable from a house.  If you're right, the bartender won't have to think about her much longer.  She'll take a few more sips of her umbrella drink and run for cover.

On some signal that you don't catch, conversations start to die out.  The whole bar quiets down.  A guy walks over to the mic, taps it, straps on his guitar.

10 June 2012

Final Status Report - Marathon

Marathon: the drive-thru key
At last our last night in Marathon (please, God, please, God)!  When we first came back to The States, we were moored at the Garrison Bight Marina in Key West.  Our hope (and therefore my plan) was to spend a few days there before making our way over to Marathon for our many and much needed repairs.  We were there not more than 36 hours when The Good Captain Jane noted that we had but a brief, one-day window of favorable weather by which to sail to Marathon.  As of the following day, and for something in the neighborhood of six days thereafter, the wind would be right on our nose.  Our abiding commitment to sailing when at all possible induced us to leave Key West early the next morning and make for Marathon.  I was not happy about this in the least.  I knew with the deepest possible intuitive certainty that a--wait for it--month in unscenic Marathon with technicians crawling all over our boat would catapult me into a state of serious antijoy and I was not at all amenable to starting especially before getting a few more days of the therapeutic benefits of Key West.  "But," offered our skipper, "the sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave."

...Oh, really?

04 June 2012

Salt, Salt Everywhere

Our days are numbered here at the marina.  They number 6 as of today.  By God, that's our story.  That's the plan and come hellish weather and high water we're outta here...well, at least to Boot Key Harbor around the corner.  We utter this as a declaration now to all who, with unnerving smirks, ask when we'll be leaving.  Our slip lease expires on the 10th and if we do not leave as planned there is only one explanation.  We died and didn't notice.  If that's the case, you can probably guess to which eternal plane of existence we'd believe that we'd been relegated.

Easy peasy
All this pondering of being bewitched, falling victim to a conspiracy, facing doom, suffering eternal damnation and whatnot has been brought about by the freak circumstances that surround the demise of our generator.  The generator, mind you, that energetically supports our brand spankin' new air conditioner and the old one as well and that without which we will surely wilt whilst in the tropics.

03 June 2012

any HOBBIES anywhere?

Yup, there's an
app for this.
Impellers need to be changed periodically, as do fuel and oil filters.  Winches need lubricating, raw water strainers need to be cleaned.  Every sheet and line needs to be inspected for chafe; every exposed wire and hose for wear.  Routes need to be planned, weather monitored, safety equipment checked and rechecked.  There are the usual chores that everyone has to do:  grocery shopping (a.k.a. "provisioning"), cleaning, laundry, bills, blah, blah, and blah.  (Insert whole additional section here if you have kids.) It is also statistically true that, be they major or minor, on a boat three things will break every day.  And since sailing/cruising is brand new to both of us there is the incredibly steep learning curve inherent in adopting a very different way of life in a very short space of time.  This pleasure boating thing is the most demanding job I've ever had.  Jane says it's ONE of the most demanding jobs she's ever had: right up there with being a woman at the Naval Academy and being a principal in the Milwaukee Public Schools.  Yarrrrh, what's a pirate to do!?

02 June 2012

Real (Virtual) Friends and a Virtual Raft-Up

Generally speaking, I don't appreciate blogs that talk about blogging or facebook posts that talk about facebooking.  It's a bit too self-referential.  It's not the medium, dude, it's the message.  But if you would indulge me, gentle reader, I need to tell you how much fun we're having with our "online presence."  When we started with this blog thing, and the facebook thing, I honestly did not understand the effect of these mediums on friend-making and friend-keeping.  So let me tell you about some old friends, and some new ones.

This is not facebook.