11/25/2007, On a mooring Vero Beach FL
I arrived back aboard Christa this morning after spending a few days at Mom and Dads. Christa was in fine shape and was being watched over by the nice folks aboard S/V Mariah. Mariah's skipper has back problems and they have been stuck here in Vero for a couple of weeks. If you all want your backs to stay in good working order, stay away from me as I seem to induce back problems. Anyway it is great to be back aboard ship.
I would like to give some commentary on the large retirement communities for "active seniors" here in Florida. My folks live in one of them called Del Webb Spruce Creek. For the first timer they can be overwhelming due to the scope, number of homes and the amenities offered. For some reason I find them awfully entertaining, not because I'm making fun of the concept, just the thought of all the drama that must take place when 50,000 retired people, all set in there ways come together in the Florida sun just makes me chuckle. I'm not the first however to realize this as Seinfeld had some pretty good episodes based on Boca Del Vista. All those golf carts whizzing around.
ln particular, The Villages is just gigantic. It really is a self contained state within a state. We went to The Square one night where they have a DJ and line dancing. It was just mobbed. All kinds of people getting groovy. And again many drive around in there custom golf carts with 36 pieces of flare. Apparently they even have a golf cart tow truck......thats a golf cart. I don't want to belabor the story. Truth be told, these communities are awesome and have provided a whole new spin on retirement years. Many, my parents included, really enjoy the opportunity to meet others and live in a tight community and enjoy the hundreds of activities that are offered. And apparently the singles scene is very hot, with mens tendency to take the dirt nap first, many eligible ladies are waiting to be scooped up. Shuffle board anyone?
I had a great lunch with Mike from s/v Two Lazy Dogs at a restaurant in The Villages. It was great to catch up with Mike who winters at his place in Florida. I met Mike briefly at the Navy Base in Newport this summer on my last day at the Marina before I took off on the big trip. Mike spends the summer on his sailboat with Bella, a yellow lab with an enormous head at the Navy Base on C- dock. I was living on A- dock and during a going away shindig Mike hands me his card which had The Villages listed as his winter hibernation spot. So we kept in touch via the blog and with my folks living so close to Mike we were able to grab some food. Mike spent 30 years serving our country in the Army and we all owe him a debt of gratitude especially me as he paid for lunch. Thanks Mike!
Allaire's social life did not end with the buffet with Mike. My grandfather and his wife made the drive from Vero Beach and my Mom rustled up a full Thanksgiving Day spread. In fact I think all I have done this passed two weeks is eat. Saturday night found me back in The Villages at my Aunt Diane's doing.......you guessed it. Woofing on some great food again. My cousin Scott and his wife journeyed in from northern Michigan to stay with Aunt Diane in The Villages. I haven't seen Scott in a very long time and it was great to see him. Scott is a commercial fisherman on Lake Huron.
During my stay Medical Mom gathered up all kinds of first aid items, including Immodium AD, advanced formula. Not sure what this portends but at least I'm prepared. We also were able to track down the tome known as "The Merck Manual." This is a reference for all kinds of ailments with symptoms, background scientific info and potential treatments. Everybody seems to rank on drug companies, but during my reading I found out that the Merck Manual has been published, not for profit since 1895. Thank you Merck.
Looks like the weather is going to be pretty stellar for my next 3 legs that will take me to Miami. Tomorrow I will motor down the ICW and anchor near Port St. Lucie and then push on to West Palm Beach. The wind should then be east 5-10 knots which should be an easy outside run to Ft Lauderdale. I hope to be in Miami by this weekend. I'll keep all hands in the loop.
11/21/2007, Vero Beach FL
Yesterday I departed Cracker Boy Boat Works without incident in beautiful weather. I had to backtrack north to Vero Beach City Marina where I had a mooring reserved for the T-Day holiday.
I arrived at the marina, which is just beautiful and viola, I think half the cruisers heading south had planted ships flags. I'm safely rafted up to S/V Morning Star which has not moved for some time and shows no sign of life. It is so crowded with boats that the marina is stacking 3 boats to each mooring. The above photo was not shot in Vero, but Cocoa and is pre-stainless bowsprit.
I slepted ashore at grandpops again last night. This morning I picked up a rental car that resembles a Tic Tack and will be off to Mom and Dads until Sunday. All is well and I hope all hands enjoy the T-Day holiday and I hope I remember how to drive as I haven't piloted a vehicle since I left!
11/19/2007, Fort Pierce Florida
Many cruisers have an HF radio that is a very capable piece of communications gear. I've never used one, but it is what Ham Radio operators use to communicate. Generally I think it depends on high frequency waves that bounce off the lower atmosphere that can literally bounce all the way around the planet given decent conditions. So sailors can chit chat at long distances and with the invention of sailmail, it can be used in conjunction with a modem and laptop to receive email. To me the most important feature is the ability to receive voice weather broadcasts that are transmitted and again can be received at great distances.
During my preparations I chose to go with a sat phone (see my 7/24/07 entry) for my email and in a pinch I can just make a phone call. Thus far I don't regret the sat phone, although it is pricey. I have become convinced that having some HF capability could be important. So I bought an HF receiver. Now, as soon as I learn how to use the dern thing I can listen to weather broadcast and eves drop on other folks conversation. Cost was $300 big ones. You know what Boat stands for don't you? "Break out another thousand."
11/19/2007, Fort Pierce Florida
After a morning of rain, a condition that would have prevented any kind of welding, the sun broke free and ushered in a pretty nice day. I had a full briefing with Rick the welder this morning concerning the the fluid situation. He is decidedly less enthusiastic than I about everything but one hell of a welder and true to his word. He showed up at 1:30 pm ready for action. In the pic you can get a view of my new wigwamers (right foot) my new shiny bowsprit and the plate that the windlass sits on. Rick layed down some bead fore and aft and then fashioned two gussets (another great word) to provide stability starboard side. It occurred to me that maybe some folks don't even know what a windlass is. Well it is the gizmo that hauls in the anchor chain and anchor. You can see the chain lays into the wildcat and then drops down 90 degrees into the chain locker. It is a powerful winch that has a max pull of 1,000lbs and runs on its own battery. So with that much of a load, not to mention the incredible forces that develop when at anchor during a blow, you can see why the weld is so important.
This morning instead of fretting about the weather and its potential impact on my schedule, I grabbed my strap wrench and two new fuel filters and changed out the old filters. It is such a messy job, but since leaving in September I've done it several times now and am getting better. Since I was in filter mode and close to the next due for the oil filter and lube oil, I changed it out as well. Might as well since I can dispose of the used oil right here at Cracker Boy. I also tuned up the rig, checked and re-checked the lifelines and standing rigging to ensure I didn't forget to put cotter pins in anywhere.
Future plans and intentions are as follows: I'll leave Fort Pierce tomorrow morning and backtrack 15 miles to Vero Beach and snag a mooring at the Vero Beach City Marina. Weds I'll pick up a rental car and head up to mom and pops near Ocala to spend the T-Day holiday. I also hope to meet up with Mike, from Two Lazy Dogs, a neighbor from Newport who winters in the Villages near my folks. Monday I'll be back aboard and heading back to Fort Pierce. I'll anchor up and wait for a weather window to head offshore further south. Generally I'll hit West Palm Beach then FT Lauderdale and then Miami. I hope to be in Miami by December 1st and spend a week. I'll make the jump across the Gulf Stream from Miami to the Bahamas as conditions permit. Jazzed? You bet!
11/18/2007, Fort Pierce Florida
I sent in a Letter to the Editor of the west coast sailing magazine Latitude38. Hands down the best sailing rag available. You can click the link to the magazine to the right and make you way to the letter section to see it in the electronic version of the magazine. Or just read below!
MAN, AM I JACKED TO START CRUISING!
Back in '99, Latitude did a little story on me when I was an active duty Coast Guardsman on Yerba Buena Island. In the article, I indicated that I was just treading water for my last seven years of service so I could take my pension, retire, and go sailing. Well, it's happening this month ??" although I did have a bit of a bump in the road when, in July of '05, the Coast Guard decided to ship me back to Woods Hole on Cape Cod. If only the service had the patience to let me sail Christa, my 1975 Westsail 32 and home for the past nine years, to the East Coast via the Panama Canal. Of course, I probably would have failed to report for duty, as I would have already been out sailing, and that's all I really give a crap about.
It was also in July of '05 that, with a heavy heart and waves of jealousy, I watched my true amigo and fellow Coast Guardsman Tom Larson retire after 20 years. He and his lovely wife, First Mate Amy, bugged out on the '05 Ha-Ha aboard their Yorktown 35 Sandpiper, and now are in Indonesia. I've had the mental struggle of checking in on their blog for the past couple of years. I was very excited for them, but it made my daily rising and heading to work that much more challenging. I'm not sure which was more traumatizing: knowing I was two years behind Tom and Amy, or watching my much-loved Westsail leave KKMI shipyard on the bed of a tractor trailer. Like a nervous Nelly I called the driver daily for position and GPS reports. The thought of my boat transiting Donner Pass was almost too much.
Christa safely 'sailed' across our beautiful country, and landed safely at Silver Springs Marina in Wakefield, Rhode Island. Since then, I've sailed her up to Woods Hole, lived aboard her, and worked on her while biding my time until retirement. I endured two New England winters aboard at Woods Hole, but who am I to complain? And this summer I had the privilege of living aboard at the Navy Base in Newport, Rhode Island, making last minute preparations for my upcoming circumnavigation.
This summer I took some leave and sailed Christa from Newport to the Rappahannock River in the Chesapeake Bay, via New York City, Delaware Bay, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Now I'm back in New England for my last 10 days in the Coast Guard. My retirement ceremony will have been on October 10, and October 11 will find me on Christa making tracks south toward the tropical latitudes. Man, am I jacked! I'm 40 years old, healthy as can be, my boat is paid off, I have money in the bank, and a life-long pension to boot. Now all I need is a first mate in a flowery sundress. But I couldn't be more grateful to the American public ??" and especially our troops in combat, past and present ??" for giving me this freedom. I certainly got the better end of this deal.
On the horizon, I see myself sailing (motoring actually) the ICW until Charleston, where I'll make the jump to Florida. Hopefully, I'll be celebrating Christmas in the Bahamas. I intend to spend the winter of '07/'08 in the Caribbean, and lay up in Cartagena for the '08 Atlantic hurricane season. Then it's onward to the western Caribbean for another season of bliss before transiting the Canal into the South Pacific. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
My connections to San Francisco Bay remain strong. I was stationed in the Bay at the Command Center on YBI, aboard the Cutters Morgenthau and Point Brower, both of which are homeported in the Bay. I even endured a tour at Lake Tahoe, where I purchased my first sailboat. Let's not forget that I lived aboard Christa in Horseshoe Cove and at the Sausalito Yacht Harbor for several years. I used to sail to work, anchor up in Clipper Cove, and take the dink the rest of the way in. What a life I have led thus far, and I'm just getting started. To solidify my Northern California connections, I even own a home in Sonoma that I intend to return to someday.
Christa, Westsail 32
Formerly of Sausalito / Heading to the Caribbean