Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday Updates

The Barco Sin Vela was scheduled for a trip to Black Creek this weekend, but plans were changed in the last day due to a family member passing away in Michigan. Even if someone's passing was sort of predicted, it still does not make it easy on a family to lose that loved one. Especially when that loved one has always been there, since 1914. The funeral will be very crowded, this is due to there being at least 1500 close relatives. I am not making that number up.

The Spousal Unit has departed for Muskegon this morning and will be there for tomorrow's funeral while I remain home and complete scheduled maintenance on the boat. Those batteries won't just get miracled into place!

She Who Will be Obeyed thought about my needs for this weekend, she actually went to the store and got me a pack of hot dogs, buns, and some spicy chicken wings from Publix. This is because I tend to eat sparsely whenever I am alone, not wanting to bother with making a mess. There are plenty of steaks, and other fine foods in the freezer, I just get lazy if I am cooking for one and actually prefer to have sandwiches, hot dogs and PBR for my daily victuals. Heavy on the PBR.

PBR is not just for breakfast, anymore.

Call me a hermit, or better yet; Call me a Pizza!

By the way, my keg of London Pride is almost floated. There was a phone call for a replacement, but I cannot plan if one will be positively available. This may call for drastic measures, like Grolsch or Sierra Nevada. The billiards table requires a proper beer accompaniment. That's how I roll.

Don't forget to watch the USA Hockey game today, the Ladies' Team is scheduled for a 1700 Hockey Clinic, in which they will teach the Canadian Ladies the finer points of how the game is really played. The Men's Hockey team had a victory over the Swiss, yesterday. I have a feeling the Canadian Men's Team is hoping for a Gold Medal rematch with Team USA in order to regain some lost pride. It would be doubleplus good if the USA gives them a reprise of last week's game.

Good thing I have a flat screen HD tv in the billiards room to go along with the kegerator. I shan't be lonely with all of that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekend AAR 1-10

I took off a bit early on Friday to ready the Barco for our weekend trip. I got to the boat about 1430 and noticed immediately the smell of rotten eggs was back. There was a note from our boat fixer, Nick, which explained that he trouble shot the the holding tank system and found no discrepancies.


Oh well, I started putting food supplies in their appropriate bins and decided to check fluid levels. This is where I messed up.

It had been about three months since the batteries had been looked at, so I retrieved the distilled water to add to the cells. The second I lifted the cover I smelled rotten eggs.

Damn, there must be a leak from the holding tank (Which is situated below the battery compartment). Pulled off the little caps on the first battery and noticed some of the cells were bone dry.

"No problem", thought I, and I proceeded to fill. Again and again. I used an entire gallon of water in that battery, "I hope this battery will hold power to get through the weekend..."

A thought came to my mind, it was lonely, but it was still a thought.

"When a battery goes bad, it sulfates. This means a substance will form and clog the lead mesh in the acid solution. Sulfate... Sulfur... Rotten eggs."

Well, at least my brain still worked. Our batteries had boiled water away and had self destructed. And it was 1600. On a Friday.

No problem, We have dealt with this before, just add water, run the charger and we can get this through the weekend and not delay the trip.

The trip home was a worried one, the motors started but I was worried that the battery system was going to bite me in the butt, especially with a departure of 0700 looming ahead.

Some good headwork started to emerge when I called Battery Distributers Southeast at 1630, and asked for a quote on 4D batteries. The response was $139 less tax. The lady asked if I wanted to pick them up right away...? They close at 1700.

Bad Headwork popped up and I said jauntily, "Why no, I'm sure I can get through the weekend and I will see you on Monday."

Dinner was calling at 1800 and we went to the Yacht Club and dined well on beef tenderloin in the formal dining room. We went back to the Barco Sin Vela at 2030 for nightcap and early bed.

I thought I would check the batteries and when I popped up the cover I noticed excessive heat coming from the number one (The one that I poured a gallon of distilled water in earlier). The sides were bowing out and I was witnessing a thermal runaway. Instead of progressing on from "Worried" to "Panic", I jumped right to "Freaking the F%$*# Out".

The time was 2100, I had a bottle of red wine in me and a weekend that was ruined. I called my good buddy Elmer and asked him to go buy some 4D batteries from Walmart, and that I would pay him back.

Walmart does not carry 4D truck batteries.

I went to bed at 2230 completely upset that my poor planning was going to destroy this fun weekend. 0500 came early and we departed the Barco to see if we could find a battery supplier and do a last minute check for anything else. This included a drive by of Wally world on 103rd Street.

Nothing open there, we passed Auto zone and NAPA and noticed all were closed. We returned to the Barco at 0650 and found Elmer and Lisa waiting patiently for us breakfasting on fast foods.

I helped grab the luggage and we discussed options. Elmer, being the calm and collected one suggested we pull the starting battery out of the borrowed car and bring jumper cables. My thought was that little battery could never start the 200 Horse Perkins tractor motors, but we may as well try, since nothing would be open until 1000.

Darn, Elmer came through! He attached the little battery direct to the cables and the number one diesel fired right off. We used jumper cable on the second battery from the little starter and got the number two diesel fired right up. Underway three minutes later, we arrived at the Metropolitan Park marina three minutes before the planned time.

Elmer and Charlie helped us tie up to the dock;

I actually started to relax. Barco Sin Vela was backed into a primo boat berth and we secured our selves for the weekend. Oh, did I mention that the sun was rising in a beautiful blue, cloudless sky? I gotta lighten up, huh?

Now the challenge was to figure a way to acquire batteries when a store opened, have them delivered to the Barco while at Metro Park. My first inclination was to check out one of my friends near home, But then I remembered that Phil was on his boat at NAS Jax probably having coffee and a cigar on the waterfront. I called his cell and mentioned that Elmer and myself were at Metro Park, and that Phil might want to come by since fun was on our event horizon.

Could you bring a couple of boat batteries, too?

That's the way I roll, baby. Passive aggressive procurement.

Phil indicated that he would be happy to, just give him a few hours to get organized.

I was finally relaxing, there was no reason to imagine that the day was going to hell in a handbasket.

There were some boats approaching the dock and I watched the docking show. On nice looking Wellcraft cuddy cabin boat was flying an orange "T" flag on the aerial. A blond haired lady was on the bow with a line in hand. I motioned to the boat and asked the Spousal Unit if that was a certain "Missy" we once knew.

We exchanged looks and said together, "No way".

She Who will be Obeyed said, "It might be, wouldn't that be funny if..."

I just shot off with my mouth, "George!"

The driver looked over at me and said in a familiar voice, "What?"

The last time I had been to a Buffett concert was in 1995 at the then "Jacksonville Auditorium" (Same location as the new Veteran's Memorial Auditorium). George was a squadron mate at HSL-44 Mayport, He and Missy bought the tickets and a group of us went to the concert and had the best time tailgating before and after the concert. We last saw George and Missy in 2000 at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico on our way back to the United States.

What are the odds of this happening?

At the same time another boater pointed at me and said, "I know you...!"

It was "Rob", another HSL-44 Aircrewman who I had served with from 1990-1995. Rob and George were still friends who cruised their boats together to the local coastal funspots. They both pulled their boats behind Barco and we spent the next few hours reconnecting and talking of the past twenty years. Over beer and daiquiris.

Rob boat (Middle), George boat (Right)

George and Rob, former HSL-44 mates;


George onboard Wildebeest III in Puerto Rico;

This was turning out to be the best weekend, ever.

Around noon, I called Phil to check on status. Phil told me that a rescue trawler would be getting underway with four batteries and a crew of Navy retirees would be inbound from Navy Jax Yacht Club. Sure enough, an hour later a boat of Pirates pulled promptly to our Port side, proffering powercells.

A full blown party had broken out on the end of the dock, and it was only 1430. The Barco Sin Vela had full twelve volt power restored on board and we joined the revelry.

Our Rescue Trawler from NAS Jax;

The Happy Spousal Unit;

End of dock, lovely Florida Yacht Club Ladies;

The Spousal Unit proposed a walk through the big stadium parking lot to watch the Parrot Heads, which I happily enjoined.

This is the flag from the Conch Republic, it is seen wherever particular Parrotheads Congregate;

Crazy Hats were the uniform of the day;

The parties were in full swing;

Very nice folks who offered us shots;

Here is a Parrothead Weirdo being funny casting a different kind of lure;

We returned to the Barco and began dinner prep. Barbecues are not allowed on the dock but everyone did it anyway. I lit our barbecue and the Fire Marshal happened along to yell at some other boats about the open flame business. So I secured our barbecue and cooked the burgers and dogs down below in the galley. The party moved inside.

Mike from "Arial", one of the rescue crew from NAS Jax;

More inside Barco;


More pirates onboard Barco;

The Charming Lisa;

We departed for the concert at 1915 and walked to the auditorium. It was a full house but everyone was fairly well behaved. Jimmy played 29 songs and we enjoyed the concert although it will probably be our last. $300.00 is an awful lot to pay for the music, and I had a better time at the dock party.

We returned to the Barco Sin Vela near 2300, we chatted with our crew for another two hours and called it a night.

The next morning we were up with the sun at 0700, I cooked some sausage and waffles for all. The Barco was underway at 1030 to drop off Elmer and Lisa. The rest of us went to Ortega river for fuel and holding tank pump out. We stooged about the St Johns River until 1500 when we dropped Phil off at the base. Full stop return to the Pirates Cove was a half hour later.

It was a grand weekend, I cannot wait to return to Metro Park for more boat partying.

I went over to this place and purchased two 4d Batteries yesterday. West Marine sells them for $280.00, each.

Call this a plug for the good people at this place;

I acquired two batteries for $280.00. Hoorah!

Second Epilogue: I need to lighten up when doing short weekend trips. We were always within a few miles of home so there is nothing worth spooling up about. It was all going to work out whether it was 0900 or 1400. Time and credit cards heal most boating problems.

My gratitude to all who helped make this a most memorable weekend!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Uh oh; This just in on the teletype. Boat looks like this right now. This mission has not been planned but we shall comply to the best of our abilities;

o 02202010Z 0700Z







I haven't been to one of these concerts in 15 years. I have video tape of the tailgate party back then (Wish I knew how to transfer to blog!). We had the best time ever, before and after the concert. It has always been a dream to have our boat there.

This may get quite ugly.

Cover me; I'M GOING IN!!!!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More on St Croix

This is just an update of the last post, but it stands alone.

Here is the entrance to the marina, note that it isn't a straight approach in.

We got situated in our dock and I took the opportunity to snap a photo of my favorite person, right before we left for Cheeseburger's. In the background you can see the open hatch representing some warm temperatures. The music playing was Mongoose FM. It was soooo cool to listen to American accents on there radio.

We went over to the Deep End Bar and restaurant that evening. We were kinda loopy from lack of rest but we were too excited to spend a quiet evening on the boat.

Oh no.

Got to the crowded bar in time for sunset G&T's, I muscled up to the bar and asked for a beer and chardonnay. The nice bartender did not recognize us so she asked where we were staying.

"Oh, we are the boat at the end of the dock, the one with the blue top."

"Where are you coming in from?"


That got a few people to turn around and acknowledge us.

An English gent and his younger, extremely attractive American spouse came over and introduced themselves.

"Say, were you a member of the 'Little Ship Club'? He asked.

"Why sure. Since 1996."

"I served in the Army with a member, perhaps you know Roy..."

We didn't let him finish.

"Oh, you mean Uncle Roy Aspinall!" She and I interrupted with excited relish.

Uncle Roy is infamous in the Little Ship Club. Very well known in the East Coast sailing circles of the UK. Oh yes, we knew Uncle Roy.

Well. That gave us the bona fides for full inclusion of the Deep End Bar and entrance into the sacred brotherhood of the "Get Drunk For Lunch Bunch".

There were Uncle Roy stories to be told and sea tales of our own little junket across the Atlantic. Before we knew it it was 11:00 PM, time for the bar to close. I weaved my way to the bar to pay my tab and was told that there was no tab. So I insisted on knowing how much I owed...

"There is no tab."


What a great time!

There were recuperative mimosas the next day as we endeavored to find a ride to the rental car place. Seems that St Croix has a... (wait for it...) K-Mart. Oh dear. After suffering with high prices and no stock from Basingstoke to Castries, we were officially in the land of the sorta big PX. Be still, my beating heart.

We got to K-Mart and began a 400 dollar spending spree that included such diverse goodies like a Blender, tee-shirts, food of all kinds (This was a "Super K-Mart") and a six pack of Cruzan Rum. Two bucks a fifth! We also got all sorts of fun nick-knacks like new plates, etc.

Did you know the speed limit over much of St Croix is 20 mph? They drive on the left side because the island residents are so laid back, they will stop on a dime to chat with a pedestrian! Driver side on the left facilitates chatting with your sidewalk friends.

There is about five miles of freeway, from Cane Garden Bay and the huge Hess refinery to Fredrikstad. Or something like that. My mind is addled from way too many Cruzan's and Coke.

One fine thing I noticed in St Croix; Very proud to be U.S. citizens. There were flags on most of the front yards and buildings. Even the radio station from Christianstad, 104.9 WMNG gave their FCC required call letters with "This is WMNG, Mongoose FM, Christianstad UNITED STATES Virgin Islands..."

View of Buck Island National Park

There were plenty of bored fellow sailors lurking around the Marina who were glad to help or give directions. We turned in the rental car because one nice fellow would carry us around the island any time we wanted. I think he was hoping we would stay. The Wife had been working for the NHS in London and I still held a current TS/SCI clearance with the government. It would not have taken much to keep us there, just jobs with real pay, and not any of that volunteer nonsense.

Anyway, we were regulars at the Deep End bar and we met quite a few of the locals who were very kind and welcoming to us. One night had us closing down the bar and we wound up getting a ride to "Cheeseburgers" for the after hours party. Man, we were there until 0400!

A nice acquaintance offered us a ride home (the taxi was missing...) I tried to wave off, this fella had been drinking with us since 10:00 PM at Deep End. I said we would pay for all of us to get a cab since I didn't want him to catch a DUI on our behalf.

He p'shawwed and led us to his car. We went back to the Wildebeest and offered him a night cap beer before sun-up. As we chatted about the island and he was definitely trying to talk us into staying.

I asked about why people insisted on driving after drinking, it is after all illegal.

"Well, of course, I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea. We don't like lawbreakers, but the speed limit is mostly under 25 mph on the small roads. A person who has been drinking will mostly get a ticket if they don't have the seatbelt on."

We were both blown away. They really do things a bit differently out there away from the prying eyes of the local and federal gubmint. You could have knocked us over with a feather when he gave us a business card upon his departure for the night. He was somebody important in the Territorial Government.

The next day, Our driver buddy took us out to the local rain forest and introduced us to Cheech. Cheech was a California surfer who had come to St Croix in the Seventies and found a niche as a master carpenter. He had a little place where he carved mahogany trees into beautiful pieces of home furniture. For instance; a Dining Room set of Mahogany would only set you back about $12K. Wow. But this furniture would last two hundred years. He only used the best logs of aged wood. He called the really nice logs, "Boss".

"This is a really 'Boss' log..."

We had to reluctantly decline the purchase of his beautiful wares. I will try to get back someday to order some tables.

Among the various adventures we enjoyed was meeting people from around the world, especially Americans. Finally, a last interesting thing about our visit was the feller who ran/owned the marina. His last name was Corvinus, a rare name for sure. My father's aunt has the same surname and they were related by marriage. My father's aunt was born in 1904, and I think our host was acquainted with her, but maybe back in the thirties or forties when he was a youngster. Talk about a small world. If only I could have convinced this nice owner to give us a small break on the marina fees, we were in a transient slip and the price was set. If someone was to leave their slip, well we could get a rate half of the transient rate. We were paying about $600. for two weeks, so the time was upon us to be moving along towards home and jobs. Our credit card bill was heading for a place in orbit.

Again, wonderful new friends and the best time!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

St Croix bound! Cruzan...

Ok, it's been awhile. Again.

We have been busy this week and it will get busier.

So, back off the coast of Guadeloupe, we were in a misty almost foggy air, but the temperatures were above 70 degrees. We turned on a course of 300 degrees True in a light rain.

Looking to our right a few hours later, you could see Montserrat in the distance. I almost felt a little sad we weren't making a stop on the island mentioned in the Buffett song, "Volcano". But the word was that there was virtually no one there, due to the recent volcano activity.

Whatever. I was tired of the begging I had seen in St Vincent and St Lucia, beautiful islands in paradise, but an impoverished population with no hope. At least the French still controlled their islands and had a reasonable social security scheme.

Look below, and be sure to enlarge the Google Map and you can follow along with our short trip.

View Basse Terre Guadeloupe to St Croix in a larger map

Mostly rain as the hours passed and the winds were mainly out of the East/Southeast. At 0100 we had slowed to 5 knots and were kind of rolly with the sloppy ocean and lightening breeze. We kept the motor on so we could ensure that we arrived when planned in the morning of the next day.

1220 found us at the halfway point, I had awoken from a really decent five hour sleep. The Spousal Unit was always good to me for letting me sleep while the sun climbed in the sky. Morning is the best time to be sailing, but I rather had the snooze. About 1300 she went to the right settee and began her well deserved slumber. The water was relatively smooth as we motorsailed to the Northwest.

1500 I noticed a squall to the right, about a mile or two which included a really bitchin' waterspout. I could acutally hear the wind spinning and sucking up water vapor. This was not a time to awaken sleeping beauty, I was pretty nervous myself, and the last thing I needed was for her to start spooling up about the little threat to our starboard. I may start to resonate and get upset, too. Besides, I was sterring us clear.

Note; Water spouts are something to be avoided, but they are not nearly as dangerous as the land based version (Tornado). But still, I prefer to watch rather than be directly involved.

The sun finally chased the squalls away about an hour or so later, so I broke the normal rule of "no alcohol" underway. I cracked open a cold Lorraine beer, a tall boy. Mmmm, Good. I had acquired a case of the 16 oz cans just because of the label. I mean, who wouldn't want a beer with the Cross of Lorraine on it?

The symbol of the French Resistance in WWII on a can is all the excuse I need to have two beers. Oh, and a great day at sea.

It was a beautiful sunset and we had some canned chacroute (Saurkraut, ham, sausage and pork in white wine) Outstanding dinner.

The winds began to switch to the North, so the waves began to get confused and the motion became a bit bumpy. This lasted through the night but we were unaffected; We are heading for American waters, home of cheeseburgers and 110 volt ac power.

Sunrise came as usual, early in the morning and we could make out St Croix in the near distance. We came around Point Udall about 0830, perfect for observing the coral heads as we passed Buck Island National Underwater park.

The Spousal Unit took her position up on the bow to observe the shallow waters. She gave a shout to avoid a coral head which turned out to be a eight foot wide turtle. The turtle ignored us as he went his way and we continued for Green Cay Marina, in Southgate Pond.

View Larger Map

You can see the coral along the North coast and the saddleback we had to cut through at Cheney Bay.

The Wildebeest had been away from United States territory since August of 1996, and the crew had been away since September 1995. Channel fever was definitely a concern, so we tried to keep professional about our approach to Green Cay. The left turn into a narrow cut was made and we called the Marina on VHF 16. They directed us to this dock and we tied up without difficulty.

Wildebeest III tied up to the second dock from the top right pier.

View Larger Map

I plugged into the shore power without having to use a transformer or plug adapter. Things were in control and we had no runs, no hits and no errors.

We went to the Marina office, checked in and helped ourselves to long showers. Next stop was "Cheeseburgers in Paradise", a cafe about two miles up the road.


Cheeseburgers in Paradise
Estate Southgate

Located on St. Croix’s East End- Cheeseburgers in Paradise feels like you are at a friend’s backyard bar-b-que. The open-air restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week starting at 11am and Sunday Brunch from 11am to 2pm with live music Thursday through Sunday nights. Enjoy tropical frozen beverages, soda, tea or anything from their full bar to go along with- what else- your cheeseburger! But there is so much more to this menu- chicken sandwich, burritos, steaks, salads plus daily specials that include fresh fish and pastas. And for dessert? The finest Soft Serve ice cream on island made with whole milk, as well as, homemade rum cake, key lime pie and brownie ala mode. Truly a St. Croix family tradition- don’t miss out on this one! Be sure to check out the calendar to see who is playing this week. Safe, secure parking.

After a great burger with a rum and coke, we stumbled back to the boat for a quick nap before dinner.

Ahh, paradise! Just a hundred feet from the boat, as a crow flies.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Back to Guadeloupe

After returning to the Basse Terre Marina with newly caught tuna, we tied up, cleaned fish and prepared to head over to our friend's place to cook and eat. It was a brutal evening where we piled on a couple of bottles of Champagne on top of all the beers and wines from the afternoon.

The next day we got back to the business of cruising the shopping centers for food wine and a visit to the local pharmacy for a prescription refill. It seems in other countries, the pharmaceutical industry is not so shrouded in controls and paranoia. We needed some birth control pills since the previous six month supply had run out. The Navy/Air Force hospitals would not let us have more than a six month supply at any time. I'm sure this was for our own good, we might want to sell Ortho Novum 150 on the black market. We really tried to get a year supply, but no.

You might wonder why this is so important, after all, many women go without their daily pill and nothing comes of it.
Not so fast, with us. There are other reasons for having this pill and they aren't all to keep from having children. Oddly enough, this type of pill has other effects that are beneficial and contribute to daily good health. We really needed these pills.

Pierre-Louis takes us to a large pharmacy where they fixed us up with a six month supply with no hassle at all! In fact, a prescription was not needed and the Pharmacist wanted to know if we needed any antibiotics to stock on our boat.

I could really take life on that island!

Funny thing about antibiotics; They are treated with the same security here in America as if they were an addictive pain killer, like oxycontin.

Our country has asshole drug laws. Sorry for the cussing.

Shopping then led to a case of French wine and a case of local beer. We also went down thw wonderful canned food aisles and got a diverse selection of foods like Duck Wings (Canards), Chacroute (Sour Kraut with Roast Pork, Sausages and Ham in a white wine sauce) and a few others. It was a large car load of supplies all at very reasonable prices.

Dinner that evening was at the Marina Restaurant where we started with a Rhum Ponch, and went into entrecote beef.

Just then we noticed a mast and sailboat anchor light indicating a visiting boat had just anchored outside of the marina. Four large, loud Texans came in apparently after a day's run from Dominica. I know they were from Texas because they mentioned it several times to the wait staff.

We cringed over our meals as these louts began berating the waiter for not bringing rum punches. A French Rum Punch is a small whiskey glass, a bowl of ice and a bowl of cut up limes is placed on your table. There is also a small dish of brown demitasse sugar and a bottle of local rum.

You pour a healthy dose of rum in your glass, squeeze in about one lime (be sure to get some pulp in there!) and add a teaspoon of the brown crystallized sugar. Add a little water to keep all this liquid.

Drink and enjoy.

Well, these four nice tourists did not get the memo so there was a bit of loud complaining. The staff (Who spoke no Anglais) were pushing back. Finally a manager came up and explained; "Eyooow wanntted the Ponche Planteur.. No?"

Ahhh, Bach. Why didn't they just say so, no?

Every one was happy and the Spouse and I ate faster to get clear of the sociological rubble that the restaurant was now becoming. We wrapped up and using phrase book Francais, we thanked our hosts for a most enjoyable meal and bid them Au Revoir and Adieu.

The Texans took notice of our mangling of the language and we ducked out of the room before we were obliged to speak politely to them. I felt the eye burning on us as we walked the dock to the Wildebeest and I could hear this through the air, "How the hell did they get a berth in the Marina..."


By the way; I like Texas. Great place to be and live. Just that some folks don't feel comfortable in foreign places and act loutishly.

All good things must come to an end, so the Marina management asked us to leave in the next day or so. We did last checks and prepared for our departure. Next stop was definitely not going to be Montserrat or St Kitts and Nevis.

St Croix, United States Virgin Islands! It would be a two day journey, but it would be America, complete with Wally Worlds, Kmart and 110 volt AC power.

We had a sad farewell lunch with Pierre-Louis and filled up with diesel, water and made a last minute stop at the charcuterie for some fine French Sausages. We also bought two cooked chickens for the road.

It was a strange almost foggy day as we made our way to the West to clear the island.

While these photos were being taken, I was both driving the boat and tearing into some awesome rotisserie chicken and had very greasy fingers.

Four hours later the weather cleared and we had fair winds and sunny skies. We were on a heading of about 310 degrees and had a full headsail of wind; After five years we were finally heading to American waters.

Life was exceedingly good on Wildebeest III.


Today, 12 February 2010

It is the time that we celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary. Gosh, time flies way too fast when we are having fun, no?

Here is the guest of honor for tonight's celebratory dinner;

A 1985 Dow's VIntage Port which will be served up as dessert to a fine Chateaubriand that will be personally served to our table by Chef Stephen at the Yacht Club. Last year's celebration dinner was so fine that we decided to repeat the experience.

(I am typing this one handed because Malli is currently in "right shoulder-cat" mode.)

Once again I commend my lovely Lady for enduring the past nineteen years with me. Our life has been such a real joy and my only sorrow is that there may only be another forty to go. No doubt that measure of time will fly as fast as the past two decades have.

I am grateful that I get to enjoy my every day living with the sweetest gal from Kalamazoo.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slacking again

The perceived coldness of Florida winter brings a hesitance to do anything, especially outside. This has nothing to do with writing and updating this blog, I am just getting started on the excuses for my laziness. But I am still walking outside at 0600, even though there was a supposed wind chill of 28° F. It felt cold, but I have no idea how they come up with those figures, I saw the temp as 40° F, period.

The photo's I had of Guadeloupe are hiding, but I am sure when I look for beach pictures I will find Guadeloupe instead. Such is the luck I have.

Lately, I have been reading other sailing blogs in order to enjoy super stories of better boating. I feel hopelessly underqualified to even go out on the water, the other stories are so well written and presented. Cruising with Prudence is my latest read, the writing is almost impeccable and the stories are close to what mine were/are for the early years of sailing. A main advantage to the new blogs is that technology (Digital Photography) aids the presentation with hundreds of photographs that were not available when I was learning about boating. Film was to be rationed and had a short lifetime out on the water. Our digital camera can hold thousands of pictures. Ya shoot and edit later.

Highlight of today is that the Yard Guy, (Jerry) and our Boat Maintainer (Nick) came by for their checks. Lucky thing is that today, we have an equal number of checks and money to match in the account. Glory!

I will return later with more substance. Have a good afternoon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday, I fear...

Friday is upon us and I look forward to three nights and two days of not having to deal with other people's problems and having to figure ways of helping them. Two whole days where I get to enjoy the illusion of freedom and living the good life.

Configure Rant Mode and begin in 3... 2... 1:

I mention the word 'fear'. I read an interesting thread on the Cruisers Forum in which the F-word was thoroughly dissected where fear concerns sailors. One menacing angle of fear is how prevalent fear is constantly in our daily lives and how the government and the litigation industry keeps agitating us, keeping fear on the forefront of our minds and lives.

One example most of us remember is the old Tuck and Duck disaster drills we all grew up with in the 60's and 70's. Now, I thought it all made sense when I was a kid, especially since World War Two was not a too distant memory to my teachers, most of whom had experienced real terror in a combat sense. I have no problem with teaching young people to tuck and cover, since it is quite useful if the tornado shows up one afternoon, or the local dynamite plant decides to have an industrial accident. But my issue is how the gubmint has used fear to increase local controls over our lives. Constant, like the sixty hertz hum of your gubmint approved florescent lights.

Next, it was fear of drugs and the rash of almost draconian laws seeking to limit the citizenry from seeking the benefits of amateur pharmacology. Only the gubmint authorized purveyors of pharmaceuticals can be authorized to experiment on you and yours with coca extracts and erectile function improvers.

By the way, I hate illegal drugs as much as the next person. Seriously. But it seems that the gubmint be locking up competing pushers, rather than the real players in the illicit drug trade. (Read 'Bankers and Developers' who launder the drug money) More fear, right? Nasty Narco-Dealers looking to whack taxpayers wherever the twain meet. Fear of drug crazed youth taking up vagrancy as a way of life.

Kids riding bicycles in helmets? Hah! Another fear. Nothing against prudence, here. I just don't remember anyone getting hurt on their noggins from riding their Schwinn's. I would suggest this is the private sector litigation specialists getting involved in selling more fear. For your own good. I feel better, don't you?

Did you know that 40,000 Americans die on the roads each year? Bet you don't fear driving to the Wal-Mart, do ya? If Muslim Terrorists got the drop on us and killed half that many Americans, there would be a giant cry to use nuclear weapons until the danger went away.

But the gubmint ain't innersted in heppin' us maroons stop drivin' do they? Other than forming a new revenue stream from No-Seatbelt Tickets. For your own good!

A Benevolent and caring Gubmint we has. Umm-hmm!

There is the personal fear that Americans now have about embarking on any kind of adventure, and how we have all become so risk-averse that we all stay indoors and play computer simulations rather actually do anything. The Lawyers and the Safety Council (A fine Gubmint agency) have Americans so afraid of their own shadows with fear of Global Warming, Rising Seas, Ozone Depletion and water pollution. And bad luck, even. (Snaggle Puss said that last bit)

Nowadays, we go to the airport and fear causes us to stand in a line where we meet up with a few nice citizens working for an entire gubmint security apparatus that sprang up overnight after the dastardly sneak attacks of 9/11. TSA has no authority to arrest, just pat you down. And remove your shampoo and cork screws and any other no-no's we try to smuggle to Lost Wages, Nevada.

I presume proctologists and amateur procto-assistants will soon be on the gubmint dime, working with TSA to keep us all safe from Rectally Obscured IED's which will soon threaten our airline industry. The benefit that will be sold to us is all the prostate cancer that will be discovered and treated as a result of the Gubmint keeping you safe.

Fear+Gubmint= Mild Discomfort and increased healthiness as a result of Congressionally approved search methods. We all benefit! All this while the tax payer will get to smell the glove of gubmint care. Don't ask. Don't tell!

I fear we have lost our national gumption. We are all literally numb from 24/7 coverage of news that someone else feels you should know about. Most Americans feel that you cannot go walk across a desert unless there are Gubmint Trails and signs (and disabled accessable restrooms) pointing out the way to the other side. So some entrepreneurial person will form a company which will submit a bid to put in trails, markers, fences and portapotties, all to keep desert trekkers feeling safe and comfortable. The benefit is that there will be jobs. The negative is that the population of American trekkers will be unable know how to navigate or make a bathroom break without being told where. All at great expense.

Twenty Five years ago, people began to purchase water in bottles. Water was indeed polluted back in the forties and fifties, but America came a long way in cleaning up our water sources and aquifers. That didn't stop the re-retailers to sell us tap water packaged up in plastic bottles. At prices that make Oil Refiners envious. Don't believe me? Read closely the labels on your bottled water. One popular Florida water is "filtered city water, source Lake City Municipal".

People fear the nasties that must exist in our plumbing, better to buy from a vendor who is subject to litigation.

Don't get me started on mold in the home. Mold is something that has been with us since the Sumerians made mud brick homes in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Fear goes on and on in our scary little lives.

Back to my inspiration; Sailing. One question I get is, "Aren't you scared out in the ocean?" "It must be dangerous." "Where do you get sleep? Do you pull into a safe place?"

I'm sure that people traveling to California in 1849 got the same grilling. "Was it dangerous?" "What about the Indians?" "Did you have clean restrooms to stop and use along the Oregon trail?"

We Americans have much to be thankful of, concerning our pioneering past. We must try to be more sceptical about any new fears that our government and well intentioned people introduce to us. Otherwise, we will all be indoors watching rated "G" (for gubmint approved) films, playing World of Peacecraft on our Peta/Gubmint censored computers.

By the way, I do get sorta scared at times on the ocean. But it is the hard bits that surround the oceans that really give me the nerves. A person could get hurt on a coast. The middle of an ocean may be loud and obnoxious in a storm, but storms are here and gone in a matter of days. The rocks on the shore remain.

Rant off. Back to regular programming.

Have a care free weekend; You deserve it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thursday, looking for Friday

Temperatures are getting back to normal, this morning was a balmy 52°F, and we had a most enjoyable walk. I only needed a sailing jacket, the sweat shirt was left behind.

Today should be about 70° and sunny, so we look forward to Friday and a fun weekend.

Five pounds worth of holiday flab has been removed and there will be a savage push towards dropping another ten pounds of tonnage/ballast by March. I have been using the gym the past three weeks to good result, and I can feel the dormant muscle(s) responding to my weak effort.

I know, I just need to quit drinking beer. But I don't want to...

The Jacksonville Boat Show is scheduled for the weekend, our Boat Broker, Mark Zeigler is quoted in the story. Maybe we should go, but then again, we could also do something useful. Cleaning out the garage or scrub the diesel exaust stain off the stern of the Barco.

Boat shows can be fun! I remember going religiously to every show, looking at boats I could never afford and equally expensive aftermarket goodies that make boating better. There is never any real price incentives to buying at the boat shows. Just like flea markets and swap meets; There are retailers who count on customers thinking that there are lower prices because overhead is reduced. Not. It costs a lot to be at the show and the show's promoters clip both the seller and the customer via admission fees.

Never mind the five dollar hot dogs and five dollar bud lite.

I was at the Miami boat show a few years ago, intending to stop by and leave that afternoon. Our favorite musician, Eric Stone happened to be doing a gig. What great fun! We had acquired his first CD back in 2001, and we really enjoyed his sailboat centric songs. We enjoyed chatting with his lovely bride, who is described in the song Sailing Life; "I've got a magnetic fix on my compass, a true Northern Girl on my starboard..." His bride is from the Northeast with the accent to prove. OKELEMELUNA?

This gets us an introduction to the singer himself, and we shared a couple of beers between sets. That's when the Owner/Publisher of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine shows up and begins to buy us all drinks. He had quite the roll of bills burning a hole in his pocket, so we just did the right thing by helping drink all the libations Latitudes and Attitudes was buying. Yes, I got hammered with Bob. What a great life, huh?

The sun began to set and I realized that I was now unable to make the drive home. We were going to need to find a hotel room in order to camp for the night, since there was no way I wanted to negotiate South Florida traffic in my condition. There was a hotel across the street called the "Everglades Hotel". I walked in and boldly walked up to the desk clerk.

"Hi. I am needing a room for the night, it seems I have had too much to drink at the boat show and want to do the right thing by not driving. I hope you can help out a Navy Sailor by finding me a small room at the best price possible... We don't need me driving tonight."

The nice lady asked to see my id card, mentioned something about being full of Boat Show participants, and in a few moments said, "Sure. Got a small room. $75.00?"

I whipped out my trusty credit card and was soon up in the room taking a break from the warm day.

Later on, our friend Jeff called and asked where we were staying and we told him. While we were at dinner, he blanched when we told him the price.

"What? I'm paying $140.00 a night!"

Heh. I was willing to pay whatever price for the room, just having a room was enough for me. By the way, I pull that too much to drink stunt all the time. Generally, I find that hoteliers are really trying to keep our roads clear of idiot drinkers. It is much cheaper to pay $200.00 for a cheap motel room than get arrested for DUI or killing some innocent person. Most of the time there are some very deep discounts provided which should incentivise all persons of the drinking class to do the right thing.

Maybe we should go to the boat show this weekend. Never know who we will meet.

(Thanks, Eric and Bob! You made a great memory for the Barco Crew.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jump to the wayback machine and return to Guadeloupe

The first evening with Pierre Louis was wine and cheese with a bit of Saucisse Sec (Dry Salami) with a heavy emphasis on wine.

The next morning we had cloudy heads and we prepared for a trip to the Isle des Saints as we were invited by our generous neighbor.

At first, I was not too keen to do any sailing, but the combination of warm breeze, sunshine and a fine boat brought me into a fine sailing mood.

The only thing making it sort of unwieldy was that Pierre-Louis spoke the best version of Anglais, where the other couple he brought weren't so good at english as a second language. No problem; We couldn't speak Francais, so we were on level ground.

We started for the big island where another friend had his sailboat anchored and we would tie up to them and have a bit of lunch. And wine. Mostly wine, with snacks.


Still, there was an ocean journey so I took the helm while Pierre Louis did the hard work of trimming sails. Our main sheet let go with a pop, and the boom swung to the starboard, it seems the sheet traveler had come apart.

Moments before the mainsheet faliure;

The fiddle had come apart from the traveler and we lost control of the Main Sail. No big deal, I asked Pierre-Louis where his hardware box was and we quickly made repairs and were on our way in about five minutes. Pierre-Louis acted like it was a big deal that we identified the malfunction and had a repair quicker than it took to describe and translate into two languages. It made me feel pretty welcomed to have been actually useful to our host. Since I had been thinking and doing nothing but sailing for the previous six months, it really was an instinctive reflex.

We continued to the island and soon we were approaching the small lagoon and identified our destinations, near the cliff. It was a 38 foot sailboat anchored and the two occupants were waving a welcome to us and we made the approach from the stern to tie up.

After we were secure the beer and wine flowed as everyone began swim call. Even thought the main conversation was in French, we still felt very much a part of the fun. Everyone seemed very happy to have us at the party and I definitely felt relaxed. Especially after three or four 1664's.

The photo's from this journey have been posted before, but I will repost because they were pretty cool. There are more pictures, particularly concerning the tuna we caught and the feast that followed, but I have no idea where I put them.

The sailing voyage was really becoming a very pleasant adventure, we were not enduring any kind of hardships and the people were super fun.

We pulled away for the return at about 1500 (3:00 PM) and we headed back to Basse Terre. There was a tuna lure being towed behind, just like on the outbound journey, but on the late afternoon, the fish bit! We caught a fine five pound tuna which we dispatched with a capful of rum to the gills. Soon, we were approaching our marina and it was a bit frantic as we put away the fishing pole and secured our sails for the lannding approach. We pulled in next to Wildebeest III like professional sailors and congratulated ourselves for a fine day done.

Only now we were invited to another home to dine on fresh tuna. Turns out our host is/was a Supreme Court Justice for the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. This Judge really liked having Americans visiting, so he broke out many bottles of Champagne and had his cook put out a fine spread.

I'll try to locate the pictures from the rest of the day.