03/30/2008, 24 34.458N 81 47.334W
Just a note to check in and let you know I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have gotten that question from a couple of you lately. I have not written because there hasn't been much to write about. I am still in the Key West mooring field. Since Bob and Dave have left, I have been mostly just working on small projects on the boat and relaxing in the warm weather.
I have been thinking a lot about getting the solar and wind power generation thing going. Joe and Deb know a lot about this and they have been invaluable in helping me determine a reasonable approach and then finding the equipment. They found a source in Miami and I was planning to drive up there yesterday to pick it all up but these people don't seem to want my business. Wouldn't call back to confirm availability. So I lost the weekend to work on this. Hopefully they will get back to me tomorrow and then I will get the stuff. I also found a machine shop that isn't very busy and they are going to build a stainless steel arch (sort of) that hangs off the back of the transom and then I can install the panels, wind generator and dinghy davits on the arch. I have seen this on other boats (Joe and Deb also have this setup) and it is by far a superior arrangement. It would be nice to get this done in the next couple of weeks.
Jenni and Kristin arrive Thursday. I can't wait to see them, and see how they like Key West, but more importantly to see how they like sailing and snorkeling down here. It should be a blast!
By the way, I did finally get my GPS and most of my other stuff back that was still in the car when Dollar rented it out before I could get everything out. It took a week and finally me calling the police to report it as a possible theft before they took me seriously. Surprise, surprise, I never saw the beer again ...
As luck would have it, I couldn't sleep the other day and was surfing the Internet looking for any kind of deals for air travel. Found a $200 ticket to Burlington, so I am going back for a quick visit with Nikki. Leaving the same day Jenni and Kristin fly back (the 10th), return here the 15th, and then Nikki comes back to me, Kristinly and Key West the 18th. I hope to have cooperating weather so that we can head to the Dry Tortugas for a few days while she is here. I am planning to start the trek north to Maine (eventually) after Nikki leaves and then the updates will be more frequent and substantive.
I almost forgot - I saw my first manatee in the wild today! HUGE!! He had a big scar on his back - I suppose from getting hit by a boat or something. They are called sea cows, and they are about that fast, which is why there are a lot of restricted areas for speed around manatee habitat. Anyway, that was a real treat.
So Key West has been a fun place to visit, and the weather, while a bit stormy at times, has been really nice. But this is definitely one of the places I can scratch off my list of potential places to call home someday. Very touristy (not all bad) and just not my kind of place. But a great party town!
03/24/2008, 24 34.458N 81 47.334W
After a great day of sailing and snorkeling yesterday, Bob, Dave and I returned to the mooring field in Key West last night around 1900. Friends Joe and Deb were right behind us in their sailboat, pulling into KW for the first time this season. Gave them a hand setting up their mooring and then returned to the boat for dinner.
We spent over 11 hours on the water yesterday. There was almost no wind when we left at 0830 so we motored to Cottrell Key and tied up to a mooring at N24° 37.088' W81° 54.773'. A guide book had indicated this was a good place to snorkel in bad weather, and since we have had a lot of wind and no luck finding clear water with fish to see, we thought we would give this a try. Beautiful weather but no luck finding much to look at. After a great swim anyway, we decided to try the living reef southwest of Key West once again (we had hit rough seas several days before and abandoned that effort) and what a treat. We went to a part of the reef called Eastern Dry Rocks N24° 27.521' W81° 50.673' and found lots of different kinds of fish and living coral. We wanted to stay longer but were running out of time as Dave and Bob were leaving Monday and needed to get back for dinner and they also needed to pack. We had sailed out to the reef on SW winds, and the winds shifted NW for the return trip back to the mooring field, and at 10 - 15 kts. we had a lot of fun sailing close hauled both ways. Dave was at the helm on the return trip and deftly guided Kristinly around the SW point of KW and around Flemming Key and sailed her all the way back.
I had such a great time with these guys. The old adage of fish and company starting to smell after 3 days did not apply here. We laughed a lot and everyone chipped in and got along so well. Having them with me reminded me of how important good friends are to have and I feel blessed they chose to be with me for part of this adventure. Time to clean up the boat and do some laundry. I may be heading up to Marathon towards the end of the week to have some work done on the boat if I can find the right people and they have the equipment I am looking for. It is time for me to augment the electrical system with things like solar and wind generation. I have been trying to avoid it, but running the engine to recharge the batteries twice a day is impractical.
03/20/2008, 24 39.512N 81 22.720W
After a day of about 1/3 motoring, 1/3 motor/sailing, and 1/3 sailing, (not much wind after days of sustained 20 - 30 kt winds round-the-clock) we arrived here after stopping off at Looe Key to do some snorkeling. I had read an article about what a fabulous place Looe Key would be to explore underwater. Unfortunately, there were some good sized rollers coming in from offshore and the water was murky and we could not see much. I let Dave and Bob swim over to the reef while I waited in the boat just in case they needed help from the dinghy. They were fine, but one of the two goals of today (sailing and snorkeling) was missed. The weather was still fabulous and we had a great day. We pulled into this place to anchor for the evening and plan to sail back south tomorrow to Key West in the hopes of snorkeling off Sand Key which is part of the only living reef in North America. We will need some help from the weather to do that. The winds have already shifted from the SE to the NW after a cold front moved through so the sailing ought to be good anyway. Cold front - it is still 70 at 2345.
Time to hit the sack.
03/18/2008, 24 34.458N 81 47.334W
The Rental Car Company
Anyone thinking of renting a car from Dollar, think again. I would hope this is only a local experience, but some of this would make you think. I did not return the rental car yesterday I had picked up the day before in Ft. Lauderdale to drive back to Key West due to the weather I wrote about yesterday. So I took the car back this afternoon and waited for them to give me a ride back to the dinghy. And waited, and waited, and waited ... Most of you know me and my lack of patience, but I think I am getting better at it - part of this trip, one of the side benefits. But after 30 minutes, I went back to see how much longer it would be. "Excuse me sir, but who are you?" is what I got back in pigeon English. OK, so now this is going to be interesting. I reminded him I am the guy who told him I left my stuff in the car (1st mistake - foreshadowing here) and was waiting for a ride back to the dinghy dock (2nd mistake, as the locals all have a disdain for lowlife in the city mooring field). "Well, I am very busy right now." His first mistake. I launched into a fairly controlled, "What makes you think your time is more precious than mine?" retort. That got his attention, and he started calling Jose, who was no where to be found. 10 minutes later, still no ride. Now I am standing next to all of his customers who want to rent his cars and I am calm, but not quiet, and reminding him that they not only have I been waiting for 45 minutes for a ride, but they also charged me double what was quoted when I reserved the car and the other nut behind the counter said "Sorry". Rather than argue much about that one I figured I would just call "corporate" later and get that sorted out.
Anyway, they finally pull someone from outback to give me a ride. A very nice lady, and we drive around to where the car used to be. It didn't take them long to rent it out to someone else - with my stuff in it. It's gone, along with my $800 GPS, a case of beer (now I am really concerned), chips, paper plates and other assorted bachelor type items. It turns out they rented the car out to some local doctor who is off having an affair with someone at mile 55, according to the local. With there being nothing else I could do at that point, they took me back to the dinghy and said they would be in touch. "You bet your ass you will." An interesting day.
I just got off the phone with Dave and the eagle has landed in Ft. Lauderdale. I figure we'll get them on the boat somewhere around midnight. The good news is the winds have shifted more to the east and cover wise, that's a good thing. We shouldn't have the rollers tonight like last night. This isn't going to be dangerous, but they are going to get wet. Like Dave said, it's warm and they'll dry off.
Time for some dinner.
03/17/2008, 24 34.458N 81 47.334W
Arrived back in KW last night around 2230. By the time I loaded all my stuff into the dinghy and drove out to Kristinly, it was 2300. Left Nikki's at 0900. Needless to say, it was along day. It is nice to be back and enjoying the warm weather, but it would be much nicer if Nikki was here with me. As Nikki said when I left, only 32 more days (now 31) before she flies back to KW and joins me again.
It was a good trip back. I spent 3 days with the folks at VCS, and I think we accomplished a lot. I have so much admiration for these people and will follow their journey without me now with keen interest. Nikki and I spent a couple of days together on each end of the trip. It never seems like enough time, and I guess that is both good (love to be with each other) and bad (hate being apart).
Until then, I have company coming! My friends Bob (my former boss at VCS) and Dave (we met when he was a board member at VCS, sailed some last summer, and now he is crazy enough to join me) arrive tomorrow night. They land in Ft. Lauderdale and will drive down from there - same routine as mine last night. The only difference is the wind is really up today. So much so that when I was returning from a trip to town this afternoon I got soaked, and it was a challenge managing the 10' dinghy through the waves and then getting everything up to the boat from the dinghy (way down there). I got it done, but it would be very difficult at night. So if the same conditions exist tomorrow night when they arrive, we will likely have them spend the night ashore and bring them out in the morning. I am sure they can find plenty on Duval St. to keep them occupied, and I know the beach the homeless people spend their nights so they won't feel alone.
More systems issues last night. The refrigeration unit seems to not be working correctly. I suspect it is low on refrigerant. Can't seem to find anyone around here interested in looking at it, so we will make do, perhaps augmenting the cooling system with some block ice, until I can get up to Marathon or somewhere else - probably after Bob and Dave leave. The warmer weather may be exposing a system that is either temporarily weak or inadequate for the warmer climes.
Jenni and Kristin arrive April 3 and we will celebrate their birthdays while they are here. We are all very exited! I got to see Jenni and Matt while I was back in VT, but haven't seen Kristin since mid-December. It will be great to be back together again, albeit briefly. I would imagine I will have to take them to Duval St. and turn them loose on the local establishments. God help them (the local establishments).
I should be back to fairly regular updates for a while, with the exception of a possible trip 70 miles west to the Dry Tortuga's, which has nothing in the way of provisions like water or fuel, let alone cell service (I suspect). Just an old fort that was once a prison and hopefully some good snorkeling.
A quick note to let you know I am heading north to Ft. Lauderdale via car Thursday and then VT Friday by plane, returning to Kristinly in Key West the 16th. Call my cell if you need to reach me. The updates will be taking a break for the duration.