01/17/2011, Ft. Pierce, Florida
January 17, 2011
We think nothing about slipping our dock lines or weighing anchor and knocking off a sixty mile day to some anchorage for the evening. We have done it many times since leaving Port Aransas a year ago. Why is it that perhaps the next such sail, or perhaps the next, will be so different? For many years we have dreamed of doing this and now that we are underway, one segment of the dream works on the mind a bit. The actual Gulf Stream crossing is a relatively short hop, only 52.8 nautical miles yet it is something about which first time cruisers view as the challenge of a lifetime. Those of experience and those ocean crossers view it as nothing more than stepping over a crack in the sidewalk. It would seem that the prospect of doing so in the near future bears as much imagination as our voyage to Veracruz a few years ago. That little adventure was 10 times the distance each way. We are provisioned, perhaps way more than we need for what we think will be a ninety day stay in the islands. The new future came into clearer view when I was speaking with a friend while we were shopping. I said that we were trying to decide what we would be eating for the next ninety days. Have you ever thought about that? We hear the stories of beautiful anchorages and places to see yet even with all who have gone before and the stories they tell, we can only imagine what awaits us. The guides are full of photos of the places we want to visit. Now all we have to do is step over dead center.
January 15, 2011
It appears that we will embark on Phase III almost a year after having left Port A. We are close, very close to pointing Why Knot 120 degrees and hoisting sails for the Islands. We have some parts coming which should arrive early next week. They are not critical to the boat but are what we might call, luxury items for the dinghy. We rented a car this weekend which will allow us to provision for the 90 days in the land of limited stores. Fueling, provisioning and those parts are all that we need to do to sit on the curb, bag in hand waiting for a weather window to cross the Stream. Oh yeah, there is one other chore and that is to stow all the stuff we have taken out of the toy box during our stay here at the slip. In other words, put all the stuff in proper places so they don't have a meeting in the middle of the sole during the crossing. I am up early, as I have been for the past several days listening to some fellow named Chris Parker. He is the weather guru around these parts and folks seem to depend on his wise weather words of wisdom above the NOAA, US Weather Service and others. I am thinking we are playing the averages here since no one can get it right all the time.
Today is a recreation day due to the activities in this community. There is the Farmer's Market this morning, the Nautical Flea Market this afternoon and the Marina Chili Cook-off tonight. Wow, the challenges will be great on the crew of Why Knot to keep the unnecessary junk procurement to a minimum and don't acquire too many tangerines so that we have to chunk them when they get fuzzy.
There are at least five manatees in this harbor now. They are well over six feet and they cruise the fairways every day. Way cool to watch them glide along, each with a growth on their backs resembling carpet. For lumps of fat they are graceful. Will try to get a shot of them to post before we go.
01/13/2011, Still Ft. Pierce but no much longer
Tuff E Nuff
January 13, 2011
Well, those lifelines so close to the deck that most seriously doubt they actually work actually do. We replaced all of Why Knot's lifelines in Charleston due to corrosion. It is a good thing because I tested the new one on port side yesterday. Good also that I was using the "one hand on the boat at all times rule". We have embarked and disembarked a zillion times since starting the cruise with no event. One look in the wrong direction as one steps over dead center can spell disaster or at least gross embarrassment. While leaving the boat yesterday I failed to do one critical thing: keep from tangling a foot on the shroud. The old lead foot did not make the dock (about half way was more like it) and I was able to confirm gravity is still with us. One leg caught the lifeline and I did a horizontal pirouette down on the dock. Did not even spill the trash but the first reaction was to see who saw me do it. Seeing no one, I was hanging between the dock and the boat with shoulders on dock and leg over the lifeline, looking at the sky. With the cat-like reaction of a manatee, I extracted myself from the situation and took the trash out. Result: one sore old dawg this morning. Even breathing hurts. But hey, I did not get wet.
The title of this little note is the name of an extraordinary little tug. She was built in 1895 and served commercially until 2007. Yup, that is right. One hundred and twelve years in commercial service. I first saw her yesterday tied to the long dock here. She was sitting there with all her gear removed, her decks cleaned of the century's worth of hard labor and her deck plates were removed. She appeared to be clean enough to scuttle. It turned out that is exactly what is planned for her today or tomorrow. There is more to the story. There were people aboard her writing on here deck house with markers. A few folks were standing on the dock observing. I spoke to one fellow about my age and he told me she will be scuttled in the name of his son, recently deceased. Those scribbling were the last gestures of the family prior to her becoming an artificial reef and dive destination. His son was an avid diver thus this is a permanent tribute to him.
The tug that is to move her had a crew who expressed regret that such a treasure was to be sunk. Looking at her, there is not much to save except the extraordinary story of service. She was commissioned the Thomas Cunningham Sr. She worked the Atlantic Coast and it is here she will live on as a new home for the critters of the sea. Here is a link to the story: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuff-E-Nuff_(tugboat)
Close to Phase III
January 11, 2011
By the end of this week, we will have been in Fort Pierce for three weeks. We have met several cruisers that are headed to the same areas we may visit. We have made some last minute adjustments to the Why Knot but the outward appearance is that of a messy boat. We still have stuff on deck that must be stowed before further movement. Some parts are headed our way that won't arrive until early next week and that in combination with a closing weather window is keeping us here. We won't be slaves to the "weather window" below a certain wind speed, frontal passage and Gulf Stream sea state. We already know that we seem to be able to tolerate more motion to the ocean than many of the crews we have encountered thus far. As mentioned before, most boaters in this area seem to think there be dragons above 15 knots of wind. As the crew of Querencia will tell you, comfort is relative. They saw over 50 knots of wind on a recent passage from Port A to Isla Mujeres. Now, that is about 25 knots above our comfort zone and I suspect theirs too.
We had dinner last evening with two crews from the Washington State area. No, they did not sail their boats here but procured them here. Other than Oregon/Auburn football, we discussed plans. We thought originally, they were heading to the Abacos. They changed plans and are heading to the Exumas first. Their jump off point will be Miami to Bimini. Our idea is to stay with the Abacos thus our departure point will be Lake Worth. While we may sail from this place together, we will part company around the Lake Worth Inlet. Perhaps we will cross paths in the islands in the spring.
I sat in on a training session aboard another boat yesterday. It covered SSB radios. While ours is a different model, methinks I can at least operate it now. We have decided also to acquire a Pactor modem to work with the SSB and will be able to send e-mail and pictures without depending on internet cafes along the way. Here's the situation, communications wise: VHF is limited to about 20 miles or so. Cell coverage is very expensive with AT&T using the BATELCO system. So, one has to acquire a BATELCO cell phone to use the sparse system. Access to our normal e-mail account in Texas will be very limited. The SSB with a range of half a world, when fitted with the Pactor, will reach out. Coupled with a SSB type e-mail account, we can have e-mail. The added advantage is that we can also receive weather information, even faxes. The communications thing is what will occupy my time until we leave, except of course the continuing effort to locate that pesky water leak, install a second cabin fan, complete the dinghy thingy (boarding hand rail), hoist and stow the dinghy and motor, fill the water and fuel tanks, dump the holding tanks and lay on provisions and, making Why Knot ready for sea. Other than that, the week should be on deck soaking up sun, if there is some. Be good to each other.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
As we continue the final preparations for our trip across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, we are mindful of the tentative nature of life. Not only did we lose a friend to an air crash this week, we almost lost a high school classmate to illness. Hopefully, she will recover quickly. These events so close to our lives bring home the necessity to live every day to the fullest. We are part of maritime migration of crews chasing dreams of many years. Some are sailing for the first time and others are quite experienced. All look toward to the horizon with expectations that there is something out there worth the effort.
Farmer's Markets are everywhere in this area, usually on Saturdays. We went to the one here in Fort Pierce yesterday with some fellow cruisers. People watching is a major reason we go. It turned out that the dog watching was also rich. We saw few dogs we recognized but my personal favorite was the huge Sheep Dog looking solid brown animal with dreadlocks. Way cool.
We are still looking for the water leak but will not let that scrub the trip to the islands. We have a SSB long range radio that I just don't get. Methinks I have a mental block. With all the technical manuals I have read over the years, I thought a simple radio manual would be a walk in the park. I am thinking my noodle just does not get Japanese logic (Made in Japan). Guess that explains why we drive Fords when we drive. We are not alone in the feeling. There are three crews on this dock that are in the same frame of mind (ok , the same boat so to speak). We are hiring a Sparky to come over Monday and check the radios and attempt to train the auld dawgs of which I am the oldest. We will let you know if it works - or not.
Remember to smell the roses and be good to each other and yer schipp.
Death of a friend, pilot and sailor
January 6, 2011
I first met James Polewchak on the docks at Port Aransas City Marina a few years ago when he was the proud new owner of an older motor vessel. Jim was an amazing young man. He was a person that grabbed life by the throat and rode it for all it was worth. He owned two boats, two airplanes, and two motor cycles. He met and married the US equivalent of Princess Di and they together lived to the fullest. With no experience, he took a crew position aboard a sailing vessel to help take her across the Gulf to Isla Mujeres. It was at about that time, I learned he was in the plastics industry as was I. He was a rep for another segment of the industry and I thought that he would be an excellent person to take over my lines when I retired. Over the next year or so, Bear and I met and enjoyed Kelly and Jim's company. While we did not spend much time socially, Jim and I did make many sales calls together in Mexico and the US. Last August, I called Jim while we were mid way across Mobile Bay and told him I officially retired about two minutes ago and I wanted him to take my lines. He did so with much grace and enthusiasm.
Jim was bright, alert and engaged in business and in life. He was one of the finest manufacturer's agents I ever met, maybe the best. His customers regarded him in the highest levels. He approached every business opportunity with the gusto of child on Christmas morning. I always enjoyed watching him work. I flew with him a few times and he was most professional and diligent. He made it look easy and I always wondered why, during my pilot days, I was not that smooth. I felt good about turning over my manufacturers to him thinking they were in good hands.
I will miss Jim and cannot imagine the pain of his mate, his family and his close customers. Farewell friend.