04/22/2013, Biscayne Bay, FL
While cruising the high seas on the Fille I figured I should take up fishing. I have cast out a few lines over the years, but with very little success and no knowledge of how to correct my misfortune. Since I currently have both time and a boat at my disposal, my fish slaying fantasies seem plausible. So I headed over to our preferred marine store, Crook and Crook, where a super knowledgeable associate helped me rig up a good beginner's setup. I ended up with a spinner, a conventional, a gaff, a pair of pole holders and an assortment of lures. It appears to be an adequate start for my modest angling abilities.
Our first couple of trips out proved to be pretty uneventful, on the fishing front. I lost one of my dolphin lures to what I am presuming was a barracuda bite. I consoled myself in the fact that even though I didn't land a fish on the boat, at least one was paying attention to my lures below the surface. The experience did, however, illuminate the fact that I was going to have to get proficient in rigging some tackle.
Fortunately for me, our marina, like most, is full of interesting characters. Our good friend Dave had just introduced me to a fishing captain buddy of his by the name of Sig. He turns out to be an ex-NHL player from Indiana turned sport fisherman, who is now running a charter outfit off of Pier 7. He told me he'd teach me how to rig up some lures in exchange for a 6-pack of bud light. It seemed like a fair trade. Now this guy has an ego bigger than most, which is not my usual cup of tea, but was willing to share enough insight to justify spending an afternoon gleaning some info out of him. He taught me my namesake knot, the nail knot, for attaching hooks and the miracle loop for attaching my lures to the steel leaders rigged on my line. All in all I learned quite a bit about fishing and also how not to behave.
Because we were approaching the weekend and work on the boat was coming to a momentary halt, we decided to head south for a couple of days. That's when I landed my first two fish of the trip. We were trolling at about 6-7 knots with roughly 150-200ft of line out and a spoon lure on the end. Both fish I got appeared to be small jacks, not worth keeping unless starving to death, but nonetheless good for my morale. I guess you got to crawl be fore you can ball! I look forward to the blog post I write when I start landing some fish worth eating.
04/15/2013, Padre Island, TX & Miami, FL
We've been in Miami for a little over 2 weeks now; outfitting the boat and patiently waiting for the final touches to be completed by the Florida Yacht Group crew. There have been a number of hang ups, both frustrating and time consuming, but Miami has treated us well and the Cuban workers on the boat are awesome. While they're working we spend our time shopping, eating, drinking and trolling for friends. And it all pays off in the end. Our to do lists are dwindling and we've met some amazing people in this town. Props to Christine, a Miami native we met at Burning Man who has really showed us a good time! We've also got an amazing neighbor in the marina on pier 7, "Handsome Dave" as Mom likes to call him. He's great and mixes the best dark & stormy with frozen mango...delicious. I wasn't sure I'd like Miami, to be honest, but I was completely wrong! This town is so diverse and interesting. Every night I go out saying, "Really guys, I want to make it an early night." Only to come home way after midnight with a whole new collection of phone numbers. I love Miami!!!
Having grown accustomed to our little place in Coconut Grove, my heart sunk a few days ago when we received some terrible family news. My grandpa Tom, who just celebrated his 80th birthday last December 18, was diagnosed with a truly invasive stage four carcinoma that has taken over his entire body. Fearing both chemo and surgery would only kill him faster, they've decided to try to make him as comfortable as possible and live out his last days at home surrounded by his family. So Mom and I jumped on a plane, and headed down to Padre Island, TX to bid farewell to a man we both love tremendously. Who knows how long he'll stick around, all I know is that we have to see him before we set off on this journey. To say hello, and good bye, and give him a huge hug so he knows how much he truly means to us. When planning an trip like this, everyone is aware of the possibility that something tragic might happen while we're gone. So, on a positive note, at least we still had the chance to go see him. But no matter how hard one tries to prepare emotionally, it still hurts. Sitting on the plane, I thought I was composed; at least strong enough to be there for my mom and sister who flew back from London. But as I let the tears slide down my cheek, I began realizing how hard the trip was going to be.
We spent three nights on Padre Island, in the condo my grandparents bought in 1978. It still feels like home, in a strange way, and as I watched the waves rolling into the beach, a realization dawned on me. This was the first place I truly fell in love with the sea and island life. Growing up in Colorado, we were as far away from the ocean as one could get. That being said, my first memories of that salt water smell and the sand between my toes came from the Gulf Coast. I visited every summer as a kid and absolutely loved it! So as I spent the last three days watching a sweet old man slowly slip away from us, I was comforted by the fact that he was at home,in bed, with a view of the beach he loved so much. We returned to Miami Sun April 14. Grandpa still hasn't let go, but we know he's close and are so grateful for the opportunity to make peace with his departure. The fact that this all transpired so quickly is difficult to cope with, but also a relief that we didn't miss our last chance to say goodbye. Had he fallen ill one month from now, we would be out to sea, and too far away to return. Though it was difficult to leave before he did, I know that Mom, Jacque and I gained the closure and acceptance that we were searching for. Both he and my grandma loved to travel and see the world. I like to think they'd be proud of us for setting out on this adventure. And I'll always see their faces in the stars and moon at night...
4/16/13 Dad finally did pass right before midnight on 4/15/13 (he always hated tax day...) We're so glad we got to see him. tell him how much we love him, and hear him tell us he loved us one last time. Thanks for all you've done for us Dad - you will always be with us. We love you (debs)
04/09/2013, Dinner Key Marina, Elliot Key
Wow! So much has happened since we last checked in. Where to start? Jacque joined the motley crew last friday for a week of outfitting and intermittent debauchery.
Her first day in town we took the dinghy out for the maiden cruise. The twenty ponies on the outboard made for swift travel. After opening her up a bit in Biscayne Bay we decided to maroon her on a little key outside the marina for some Coronas and sunshine. All of our pale body parts appreciated a little sun kissing and more importantly, our heads needed a break from shopping.
The following morning things got interesting. With nobody scheduled to work on the boat, we decided to do some food provisioning and take the Fille de Joie out on a sail just the five of us. Needless to say, Murfy's Law began to come into play. With Debs at the helm we made our way out of the marina and into the channel leading into the open bay. We assumed that the dinghy was mounted high enough to clear the water passing beneath the bridge deck. Boy were we wrong! As the dinghy filled with water it turned into a sea anchor behind our boat that really wanted to flip over. Everyone stayed calm and we were able to get the dinghy in the water and back behind the boat on a line called a painter. The trouble then became an amateur mistake as we used a polypropylene line, instead of nylon, to tether her to the boat. Polypropylene is rather slippery when new and quickly unworked the knots we made, unleashing our dinghy into the open water. This forced us into a man over board drill to rescue our boat. A small powerboat started approaching the brand new dinghy and, fearing the maritime rules of "finders keepers," we kindly asked them to back off. We approached perfectly and Clavo hopped into the dinghy as we decided to bring the boat back to the dock to reassess our game plan.
Docking is when things got truly exciting! As we were heading into the slip the wind began to blow big easterly gusts throwing us off course. Tom made his first approace (which was right on point) and the boat got blown down wind. We realized we were in need of a little help when the boat actually hit the pylons downwind of us. I guess it was a matter of time before she got her first scratch, so why not get it out of the way early on?!? Fortunately we had a few passer-bys who were willing to help us out by taking some of our dock lines and helping us walk the boat to her proper slip. With nerves frazzled we broke into the wine rations early and spent the rest of the afternoon retracing our steps and planning our next attack to avoid a repeat offense. The most impressive and telling part of the whole experience was that everyone kept their cool. In this sport, having your wits about you and your composure calm is half the battle.
The next few days were spent running errands by day and hitting the town by night. It may have not been the most ideal way to spend a vacation for Jacque, but in order to get to the Bahamas in a punctual manner, there are a number of things we need to have dialed in before casting off.
After an exhausting 48 hours in shopping mode we figured we'd get back out on the water again. The weather looked good for the next couple of days before with a front approaching into the weekend, so we decided to make our way down to Elliot Key. It is situated about 16 nautical miles south of Dinner Key marina and looked like it would make for a great overnight trip. We got going mid-day and had great easterly winds allowing us to beam reach almost all the way down to our destination. With Debs at the helm we were even able to sail through our only major navigational obstacle, the small channel through Featherbed Bank. Once we arrived, we tested the windless anchoring system in 8 ft of water and settled in for the night.
The following morning was beautiful! Perfect temperatures and a nice breeze. The kids and Deb jumped in the dinghy to go submerge themselves by a beautiful beach just down the way from our anchorage. The water was refreshing, after staring at the polluted and murky waters surrounding Miami for weeks with no desire to jump in. After our soak we leisurely made lunch and headed back home to Dinner Key marina. The winds had shifted further south which gave us some practice "running" or sailing down wind. With these large cats, jibing can be dangerous so we have to make 270 degree tacks. It is a little counterintuitive, but at the very least it hones our sailing skills. The sail was relaxing, the other cat was up on deck and most of the crew drifted off to sleep in the shade. We were back to the dock a couple of hours before sunset, so we had ample light for our second attempt at docking. This time around we made a couple of approaches and finally nailed it on the third try. A good sailor friend had reminded us that the two rules to docking are: never come in hotter than your willing to hit the dock and never be afraid to re-approach, multiple times if necessary. In retrospect we all agree that its very sound advice.
The weather turned to shit on Friday 4/5, so the Becker's and Jacque decided to get a room at the Hyatt downtown. It gave everyone a little breathing room and allowed Jacque to get freshened up for her red-eye back to London. We dined on the 15th floor of a neighboring hotel with a beautiful view overlooking the bay. With bellys full of delicious food and libations we all decided to retire early. Tom, Deb and Jax to their hotel rooms; Liz, Clavo and Isabel to the boat.
Things moved nice and slowly on Saturday. We had a nice Argentinian lunch as a family and took Jacque to the airport. We were all sad to see her go, but her life in the UK was a beckoning her home. She'll certainly have to join us when she has some extra vacation and the Fille is cruising the Eastern Caribbean. Until then she will be missed.
Whew! I think i got it all out. We'll check back in soon.
Took Fille out Thursday with Paul from Florida Yacht Group to learn how to use all the bells & whistles. She did great! When we returned, there was a small party waiting for us - Frank (our FYG dealer), Phil (head of sales at FYG), two of Frank's friends - Janet & Bob, and Dave (our neighbor). They brought some neat gifts along with rum and coke and the mandatory bubbly for a proper christening. Frank wanted to break a bottle, but Debs said that was a waste of good alcohol so she poured some into the water to earn Neptune's blessings. The night ended up much later than it probably should have, but a fun time was had by all. The reality has finally sunk in. And Bella didn't even get sick from the rocking & rolling - truly a cat meant to live on the cat :
03/27/2013, Miami, FL
I arrived on the boat March 25, terrified from the TSA travel experience. So many humans hustling about, stressed beyond belief. "What the fuck is going on?" I thought to myself while stuffed in a bag, humiliated & under the seat. My life is pretty cush, but the humans I keep have the wander lust & insist on bringing me along for the ride. So here I am, on a boat they call a cat, adjusting to my new environment. Ha! Tail of 2 cats...you know what they say, a big cat can be dangerous, a little pussy never hurt anyone. I'll tred lightly & keep you posted on how everything unfolds. Needless to say, I'm sure it will be a grand adventure.
03/25/2013, Dinner Cay Marina
We've been here since Friday, great marina, good people every where here in Coconut Grove. Outfitting/ stocking the boat is exhausting but fun. Lots of work yet to be done. Today we pick up the other cat, hope she like boat living,only time will tell.