Passing the time in Boot Key Harbor

Ah, protected Boot Key Harbor, the home of so many for varying durations throughout the year. The Municipal Marina controls 229 mooring balls, all hurricane rated. The balls are regularly inspected and repaired as needed. A handout describes the three approved ways to attach your lines to the pennant. Picking up a mooring has become, dare I jinx things, a piece of cake for us ever since we acquired our super-duper stainless hook during our long stay here last Feb/March. After using the boat hook to pick up the pennant, being sure to reach through the dolphin strikers properly, I just clip the hook to the hard plastic eye of the pennant. The hook is attached to our anchor bridle which is attached to the cleats on the bows. Marinas don’t want you to use anything metal to attach yourself to the pennant, so we trade the bridle with the hook for lines that are fastened at the cleats and out to the eye of the pennant.

From the time we arrived until Tuesday morning, the wind kept up its 15-22kts (never saw 30 though) and Russ was in regular communications with The Hearth, the hospital and then the convalescent/rehab facility, his brother, brother-in-law, the movers and no doubt a few others. Good thing we weren’t on the move. We hiked the mile to Publix a couple of times, picking up On Stranger Tides from the Blockbuster box. By Tuesday afternoon all our packages had arrived and Russ re-installed the port A/C circuit board to be sure it worked. All kinds of progress, except the reason we were here in the first place; the sail drive seal issue. No word.

The view from Ortolan

Crappy way to begin your day

The other night I lamented the lack of photo opps. Well you know the saying, “be careful what you wish for”… the next morning we woke up to a 45ft monohull aground off the channel less than ½ a football field away. Am ashamed to say, I jumped right up to get a look and soon after, a photo. After trying to figure out how he got into that predicament we checked the tide to see that the grounding occurred near high tide. Several helpful boaters- or maybe they were just curious, went over to offer assistance, then left. I thought for sure I’d be taking another photo later on showing this guy way, way heeled over. But no, TowBoat U.S. showed up and got him free- not completely free- you can bet it cost-ed; oh, maybe like most monohulls he had unlimited towing!

The dolphins have stayed away, although I saw an amazing sight about 80 ft off our stern; a stingray jumped out of the water, twice. I don’t think anything was chasing him, so perhaps he was after a tasty lunch. The water is 8 ft deep and a milky green. At best you can see down about 3 ft but the sun was at an angle such that I could see him in the water; nothing was chasing this guy.

With life a bit boring right now, we’ve resorted to  dinghy watching. I think most people know that the most common color for inflatable dinghies is dull and boring gray, gray or even gray. Imagine seeing a bright yellow one! We’d just gotten out of ours at the dock when the owner of Sunshine Yellow comes along, “nice dinghy chaps.”  I have to confess that all the work was worth it for those things because they are a great conversation piece. Decent job in sun protection too. Will they protect the dinghy itself from the dangers of a crazy driver or a marine bivalve-covered pier remains to be seen; or not.

Bunting snuggles up to Sunshine Yellow

We chat about his and ours. His being an Alaska model with a special gray material along the rub rail and covering the underside. The elements being a tad tougher in Alaska gives companies a reason to develop better materials and construction methods. This particular dinghy was the owner’s second one, the first came apart. Why ? I’ll give you a clue. Heat. The glue that worked so well in chilly Alaska fell apart in Florida. The replacement is a test model of sorts to see if the re-formulated glue holds up.

Read some bummer news on the CruisersForum the other day that Bob Bitchin’ has sold Lats & Atts to SFO (whatever that is); Stocks, Futures and Options came up on Google, but how about San Francisco Offshore? or Sailing Fun Obsession. The sale was announced at the recent St. Pete Boat Show.  Bob is a one-of-a kind guy with a life many adventurous folk would envy.  May he remain involved with the mag for at least three more years… until our just renewed subscription runs out!

Vero Beach Gets Sticky

Early cat catches the 'coon

Scanning the water for breakfast

Once again we gently swing on a mooring in the mangrove surrounded mini harbor that is Vel- I mean Vero Beach marina. We’ve been here since Wed. Nov 16, enjoying the beautiful weather and access to a car even more! Thursday brings the annual cruisers’ Thanksgiving potluck dinner beginning at 2pm with music for your listening and dancing pleasure afterward. The morning will be busy: the women will be cooking and baking while the men check out the wares at the boaters’ flea market.

Now for the sticky part.  In St. Augustine we met John on m/v Vulcan, a Mainship, oh about 36-38’. He’s a never-married Brit, flying solo – no accent though –  with interesting stories of all the places he’s been. Retired 11 years, Vulcan is his third? boat, his first a fishing trawler, second a monohull and recently he’s taken a liking to catamarans. That’s where we come in; moored close together in the St. Augustine mooring field John was checking out the nearby cats and stopped to visit us. Gave him the tour and the guys talked boats, cats and Maine cat technical details.  The day after we arrive in Vero, Vulcan comes along. Friendly folk we are, we dinghy by later to say hello and see what’s up. Oh those Mantas, several here and a decent cruising cat. More eye candy. John mentions that he expects to stay two nights. Russ and I look at one another and provide John with all the reasons to stay awhile; Thanksgiving dinner, free local bus to all the shopping you could want, an easy walk to a hardware store, laundry- with more dryers than washers!- not to mention the price is right. Plus a ton of cruisers, most who love to talk boats!

Several days later and guess who’s still here? Hee, hee- told him so.

We have a comfy, although sorta buggy (sand fleas are nasty) spot next to the mangroves. Benefits are the wildlife: raccoons one morning, osprey the next, augmented by the regular appearance of dolphins, egrets, herons and a dead fish.  I am getting over my dinghy driving fear- call it extreme reluctance –  and am building arm muscles trying to pull that darn string on the outboard.  Isn’t this 2011? I mean who still thinks a string on a pulley thingy will effectively start an outboard motor? Yes, I get it- men can do it and women who work out – on their boats?  Anyway, I am having some luck at getting the beast to start; now if I can only remember which way to move the stick thing that makes the outboard move in the opposite direction from the direction I want to go!!!

Wednesday, I rose to the challenge. After a boat visit and tour of Vulcan, someone commented “let’s see if she can start it on the first pull.”  Wouldn’t you know; I did. Have yet to repeat that feat.

Now, on to the getting our mail ritual. A week ago we contacted the UPS Store to send our mail to the marina.  Last year we gnashed our teeth again and again as each mail receiving event turned into an ordeal. Over the summer we confirmed that we could email our request along with the address as that might work better than calling (often bad timing on our part). We email the store and ask if we have any packages or bulky mail; not expecting any, but sure don’t want to pay to have it sent to Florida. Nothing heard. Next day I call; already this isn’t going well. No, no packages. I explain I had emailed; only the owner deals with emails- ok. I email the marina address requesting no catalogs and send everything else via UPS (we’d prefer Priority but decided since this was a UPS store…).  Please confirm. Confirming email arrives; mail going out Tuesday- UPS.

A week later, no mail. We already have a lost package- another sob story- not another one- please. I call the UPS Store. No record of a package to us. Ends up that it was removed from our spot, but never sent. Fortunately they did the right thing; sent all our mail, less the catalogs, UPS next day free of charge. Nice. I was very delighted to get two pieces of mail from Lats & Atts; the Nov/Dec issue and a check for $75 for my Tale of Two Pirates. They also used two photos; one of Fort Matanzas and at the end, one of Russ & I in our pirate outfits.  No doubt the start of a highly lucrative writing career; ahem, right.  I’m OK being published in a magazine with a worldwide readership.

We pose with John of m/y Vulcan on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Thursday brought heaps of delicious food, interesting dinner companions, more Bahamas intel gathering and enough breeze to blow away most of the annoying sand fleas. Our ankles and calves are covered with itchy bites. Not as bad as a mosquito bite thank goodness.

Friday, our mooring companion, Polar Pacer broke loose; we’ll be a day behind. Also bid farewell to one of our inflatable kayaks. It was beyond repair and we salvaged a few parts to use on the other.