February 1-2nd, 2004
Getting The Buggers Fixed.
David and Roseanne, our
Australian mates we met in St. Augustine, were in town getting their
boat ready for their offshore passage to Australia. We
got together with them and Stafford, a man I met at the marina, for
dinner at the Quarterdeck. Staff, his
wife and three children, ages 8, 10 and 12, sailed their 72-foot steel
ketch to New Zealand in the late 80ís. He
said they cruised for four years. He was
full of interesting stories and also provided some helpful information
for David and Roseanne. Roseanne said
when they leave Lauderdale, theyíll visit Cuba and then plan to cross
the Panama Canal in June. I have a
strong desire to see the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia so
when David and Roseanne suggested we travel with them, I was all for it.
We toasted to meeting in Panama; Pierreís toast, lacking somewhat the
commitment of mine. Maybe Iíll be able
to talk him into it.
The Neil Pryde rep dropped
our main sail off. Pierre and I measured
and cut the battenís. Ron and Leslie
have a Windbugger wind generator which also needed some repairs so we
were able to help each other remove them from our respective boats.
Pierre and Ron shared a taxi to take the
wind generators to the Windbugger office. Ours will need new magnets and
balancing and they will ship it to us in about a week.
Once again, the generosity
and helpfulness of everyone we meet is amazing. The
cruising community is a close knit group. There
seems to be a strong help ethic in the cruisers weíve met.
Most sailors are big on karma. Itís
almost like by helping others, you make your own destiny safer and more
February 3rd, 2004
Nearly In The Movies!
It was just before sunrise
when we headed out the Port Everglades channel on our way to the Keys.
We had a nice SE breeze which enabled us
to sail most of the day. We could see
the colorful Art Deco buildings lining South Beach as we sailed past
Miami. The water was striking
blue-green. As we were sailing along, a
sleek cigarette-type racing boat with several bikini clad women roared
past us with a helicopter hovering a few feet above the boat.
Pierre checked the scene out with the
binoculars and noticed the helicopter was filming them.
||Pierre and I found a great form of
entertainment for the boys. We
put them in our trailing dinghy and let them splash and play for
a couple hours. You would think
they would get bored after awhile but they never did. They loved
their new found freedom in their own boat.
The boys spent a lot of
the day searching the crystal clear water for fish. They
love it when I fish, even though I havenít caught anything.
I thought for sure I would catch
something in the Keys. I was at the helm
when Patrick decided to help out and try and reel in the line.
I wasnít paying attention and the next
thing I know he is handing me the handle that is supposed to be attached
to the reel. Iím going to be in big
trouble now if I catch the big one. I
canít seem to reattach the handle so my only choice is to pull the line
in by hand and cut it. So much for
catching a fish in the Keys.
We arrived at Rodriguez
Key, off Key Largo, just after sunset. We
dropped an anchor, ate cheeseburgers, read the boys their bedtime
stories and hit the sack.
February 4th, 2004
Learning Which Stars To Wish Upon.
We couldnít have asked for
better weather with the highs being close to 80 and a nice 10 knot
easterly breeze. Dolphins raced along our bow in the clear turquoise
water. The boys stood on the bow sprit
with a close up view of the large grey mammals while I attempted to
catch them on video.
|Pierre was at the helm most of the
day while I worked on cleaning our stainless and tending to the
boys. By 3 p.m. we had made the
decision to sail through the night to take advantage of good
weather and to make some headway to St. Petersburg.
The wind was forecasted to
increase to 20 knots later this evening so we dropped anchor in Marathon
so we could get the dinghy out of the water and on deck.
Before we did this, I took the dinghy
into a nearby marina and called my parents to give them our itinerary.
At this point, it looked like we would
be arriving into St. Petersburg by Friday morning. The
only way we could get there then would be if we sail straight through
for two nights. A strong cold front was
forecast to roll into the area late Friday so we wanted to be in St.
Petersburg before the 25kt northwest winds arrived.
I took the first night
shift, sailing to the music of John Mayer, Marc Cohen, Enya and a few
others under a near full moon and a 15 knot east wind. Pierre got me an
astronomy book for Christmas so I sat in the cockpit with a flashlight
and read the book while the autopilot kept us on course.
After just an hour of reading, I had
learned how to identify several constellations. What
made it special was being able to look up and practice what I had just
learned. When Pierre took his trick at
the wheel (autopilot) he put his own tunes in the CD changer; Bob Dylan,
Doobies, Rod Stewart, Etta James, Otis Redding and Aaron Copland.
Oh well, guess you canít have everything
February 5th, 2004
Some Quiet Time.
Pierre woke me at 4:30
a.m. for my next shift. The wind had lessened so we were moving along
slowly at 4-5 knots. I sat in the
cockpit and tried to stay awake. The
moon was like a bright spotlight as it shined into the cockpit.
It was a very quiet
night and I didnít see any other boats during the night.
This area of the Gulf of Mexico seems to
have less night traffic than the Atlantic.
I watched the sunrise and
soon the boys were in the cockpit wanting breakfast. Pierre
was fast asleep so I fed the boys a quick breakfast poking my head up
now and then to make sure there werenít any boats nearby.
Once again, dolphins graced our
presence. This time it was a pod of 4 or
5 racing along the side of our boat and playing in the wake for a couple
minutes. It was sunny and close to 80
February 6th, 2004
Arrive In Tampa.
Victoria, with her
three sails full, glided on a broad reach about three miles offshore
under a moonlit sky. Sitting in a
protected corner of the cockpit, listening to CDís and writing the
journal occupies a big part of my four hour shift while the autopilot
does most of the work. Every 10-15 minutes I stand up to get a good 360
degree view to make sure there arenít any boats nearby.
I check the GPS frequently to make sure
we are maintaining our course and then I go down below every hour or so
to plot our position on the chart.
I woke Pierre at 1:30 a.m.
for his shift. The GPS shows we have
about three and a half hours before we reach the SW channel buoy off
Egmont Key. This channel leads under the
Sunshine Skyway Bridge and into Tampa Bay. Our
plan is to anchor off Egmont until it gets light. There
is a chance that my parents will be able to come out and meet us in
their boat since they live nearby. Our
plan is to radio them on channel 68 at 7:30 a.m. since we donít have a
We havenít had a cell
phone for over a month now which has been both a curse and a blessing.
It can be inconvenient at times but
overall weíve enjoyed not being tied down to a phone. Weíve
been using calling cards since our cell phone quit working.
The worst part is not being able to have
someone call you back if you have to leave a message.
Pierre woke me from a
sound sleep around 5:30 a.m. We were off of Egmont and ready to drop
anchor. It wasnít a protected anchorage
as the breeze was out of the south but the winds were light and the
anchorage not too bumpy. Our plan was to
sleep awhile but just when we got in our bunk, Patrick decided to wake
up, hence, neither one of us got to sleep. I
hailed my Dad on the VHF at 7:30 a.m. It
looks like heís not going to be able to make it out because he has a
work appointment this morning. After a
French toast and bacon breakfast, we pulled up the anchor and sailed
towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The
huge bridge and causeway stretches 11 miles across the mouth of Tampa
Bay and is one of the longest bridges and causeways in the world.
|The wind has picked up considerably
and by the time we reach the channel heading into The Harborage
Marina, it is blowing 25 knots. We elect not to try and get into
our tight slip under these conditions and tie up to a T dock.
February 7-18th, 2004
Arrive In Tampa.
The day after our arrival,
we borrowed my parentís car and drove over to Daytona to retrieve our 95
Dodge van. Itís been great being able to
have a vehicle when we are in port for an extended period of time.
The logistics of moving a car around can
get a little complicated but for us is has been fairly painless.
We had our van up in Deltaville,VA when
we there for a month, in Daytona for six weeks, and now that we are in
St. Pete for several months weíll have it here. No
doubt about it, having wheels is a luxury. But
in the three occasions when weíve had a car I think weíve actually saved
money and been able to get more done, as well as having the ability to
visit friends and family and see the country a bit more. Our van is
like a garage. It has our mountain
bikes, bags of clothes, toys, snow skiís and more.
The wind finally died down
after a couple days and we were able to move Victoria into her
slip. Within the first hour, we met
several nice people on our dock, a few who are also liveaboards.
Thomas and Patrick started
at a preschool just a few blocks away, going from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
daily. Pierre and I were almost giddy
after dropping them off on the first day. We
had been with them 24 hours a day for 8 months and now we were free.
Our intent was to be able to work on the
boat without distraction but for the first day or two we toured around
downtown reveling in our new freedom. We
werenít the only ones enjoying ourselves. Patrick
cried when I arrived at 4 p.m. on his first day to pick him up.
He wanted to stay longer and both boys
asked that I pick them up later the next day. No
separation anxiety from these kids.
Pierre and I got down to
business compiling our to do list which was a couple of pages long and
consisted of tasks such as changing engine belts, installing insulation
in the engine room, cleaning fuel tanks, repairing teak bungs and deck
caulking, repairing leaks over the chain
locker, replace main hatch gaskets, whip all dock lines, wax and clean
hull and topsides, varnish teak, and install thermostat for
fridge/freezer. These were just a few of
the items on the list. Now I see why
Pierre said we will be here for at least two months.
Iím excited to be back in
St. Petersburg as this is the town where I grew up and where my family
and several old friends are. Weíve got a
lot of work to do but will also have as much fun as possible while we
are here. In fact, we've
already had our first visitors to the boat. Pierreís
buddy Gerry and his wife Cindy, of Atlanta, were vacationing in a nearby
town and came by to visit and see the boat. Gerry
is an experienced contractor who loves boats and even offered to come
back and help us with some of our boat repairs in the future.
In the small time weíve
been here, we are already feeling at home. We
now have a cell phone, we can connect to the internet at the marina
lounge and we even have cable TV on the boat. All
we need now is a little motivation so we can start tackling our to do
February 19-April 24th 2004
Offshore Preparations In Tampa.
When I left my job a year
ago, I pictured us sailing among tropical Caribbean islands, plunging
off the deck into the clear turquoise water to snorkel among colorful
fish and relaxing on white sand beaches in the warm sun. I never
expected to work as much as I did at my previous job.
Although definitely a
different kind of work, the task of maintaining and preparing a boat for
offshore is never ending. It is said
that ďcruisingĒ is working on your boat in exotic places.
We have been at The Harborage Marina in
St. Petersburg for two and a half months and while we have finished
several jobs on our to-do-list, it seems like new tasks appear almost as
fast as we complete others. On one
occasion, Pierre was cleaning the stainless on deck when he discovered a
significant crack extending through the cranse collar, a six inch long
stainless steel collar on the bowsprit to which several pieces of
rigging attach. If this collar breaks
then down comes our mast and rigging. We
had a new collar fabricated which took a few weeks and then Pierre
installed it. He was the entertainment on the dock that day as he was
covered in the black, gooey 5200 sealant used to attach and seal the
collar to the bowsprit. Anyone who has
ever worked with 5200 knows how frustrating it can be.
It sticks to everything and when Pierre
was done, the black sealant was on his feet, hands, face, clothes and
even his front teeth. It is considered a
semi-permanent sealant so it is very difficult to remove.
Our daily routine involves
getting up around 7 a.m., eating breakfast, getting the boys dressed,
lunches packed and off to preschool by 8:30 a.m. Every
morning, the boys jump onto the dock (lifejackets on) with their Thomas
the Tank Engine lunch boxes in hand and make their daily stops to the
neighboring boats to say hello to anyone who is sitting in their
cockpit. Almost daily, as we walk along
the dock to the van, we see schools of fish, a large blue heron and
occasionally a couple manatees. There
are usually a few small planes or helicopters flying overhead as the
Albert Whitted Airport is just north of our marina. The
shrimp boats come in and unload a couple hundred yards from our dock and
the harbor is also home to a Coast Guard base which has several large CG
ships docked nearby. It is a stimulating
With the boys at school,
it takes a lot of willpower for Pierre and me not to spend the day
playing tennis or riding bikes. Instead
we try to focus on the task at hand that day. It
is overwhelming to think about everything we have to do so we take one
thing at a time. My most recent job has
been working on the teak decks. This
involves replacing bad bungs or exposed screws when necessary and making
sure the caulking between the decks is okay.
When you donít have a lot
of experience maintaining boats, you spend a lot of time researching the
best way to do something, either with books, internet or asking people
for advice. We often will post messages
Their message board has been a great source for us as the sailing
community always seems eager to pass on knowledge. Weíve
posted questions such as: Whatís the best material for replacing hatch
gaskets?; Whatís the best way to clean brass? The other sailors at the
marina are another great source. There
are several liveaboards on our dock and they love to pass on advice
theyíve gained, usually learned from mistakes theyíve made in the past.
Having too many sources can be confusing at times.
Another sailor overheard
me discussing a problem with our refrigeration on the phone and he
volunteered to send a marine refrigeration man over to take a look.
This repairman was working on his boat
and agreed to stop by and assess my problem. We
have a Sea Frost refrigerator and freezer which can be operated on 110V
or with an engine-driven compressor. My
problem was every time I turned the 110V on for any length of time it
would get so cold that it would freeze everything in the refrigerator in
addition to the freezer. Pierre and I
could not find the thermostat. I was
ready to purchase a thermostat when Rick, the repairman, stopped by.
It took him all of five minutes to find
my thermostat which was hiding right behind a set of hanging potholders.
How embarrassing! The
pot holders have been in the same spot since the previous owner so I
never realized there was anything behind them. Needless
to say he didnít charge me for that one. Now
we know why people say it takes a couple of years to really know your
Living aboard at a marina
is a unique experience. Our boat is only
five feet from our neighbors. You are privy to their daily habits
whether you care to know or not; when they awake, go to bed, eat,
entertain, etc. It helps to be social in
this environment as there always seems to be someone with a few feet of
you when you come on deck.
|On our starboard side are Dan and
his wife Pam. They have been living
on and renovating their Ericson 39 for three years.
Dan is a diminutive Vietnam Vet in
his mid-50ís who spends the day working on his boat or fishing,
usually with a stogie in his mouth. He
is quite a character. He claims to
have insomnia and narcolepsy. He is
up all hours of the night, usually fishing. One
night while fishing off the dock, he fell asleep and woke up
without a rod in his hand. He told
some dock buddies who were helping him retrieve his rod that a
large fish pulled the rod out of his hands. Much
to his chagrin, when the rod was pulled from the water, there
was a six inch dogfish on the hook. Dan,
a former Army sergeant, minister and self-proclaimed tea totaler,
will fall asleep anywhere. One minute
heíll be sanding wood in his cockpit and the next heíll be fast
asleep, his head resting on the side rail of the boat. His wife
is a surgical nurse who works six days a week.
I rarely see her. Thanks to
Dan, I tasted my first snook. Good
Friday morning he caught a 14 lb, 35 inch snook and generously
gave us half. Maybe a few fishing
lessons from Dan are in order.
On our port side are Tim
and his girlfriend Holly. Tim arrived on
his sailboat a few months before we did. He
bought the boat from his Dad and sailed it here from the Chesapeake.
He is a 40 yr
Californian who gave up working as a news video cameraman to do
freelance documentaries. He sounds
exactly like Tom Hanks and is very social. Holly
works downtown as an architect. They love Thomas and Patrick and invite
them aboard often. Timís father loved
cruising and they sailed many times together to Mexico.
His father died last month of cancer and Tim plans to put
his ashes in a small container mounted in his cockpit.
He said that way his father will
continue to sail with him.
Kyle and Margaret are
another couple on the dock who have opted for the cruising lifestyle.
They are from Iowa and own a hobby shop.
They said they have good people running
the store while they take care of the business end from here.
They bought a catamaran with hopes of
cruising the Bahamas but Margaret is not quite ready to leave the dock
yet. They took a few sailing classes
before they bought their boat in hopes of getting her more comfortable
with sailing but she still is a bit anxious. Kyle
is a mechanical engineer and is very patient with Margaret.
He told her when they left Iowa that he
wouldnít push her. Kyle is so
enthusiastic about sailing. In fact, he
just left last week to crew on a boat sailing down to the Dry Tortugas,
Key West and back to St. Petersburg. Lucky
for us, they love kids. Thomas and
Patrick visit their boat on their way to and from school everyday.
Margaret had two Thomas the Tank Engine
trains sent here from their shop for the boys. No
wonder the twins wonít leave them alone.
I must admit that although
we are up to our necks in boat chores, Pierre and I did manage to sneak
away for 12 days last month to go snow skiing in Utah.
Thanks to my brave parents, who offered
to watch the twins, we were able to take our first trip together without
the boys. What a treat.
||We have had several visitors come
by the boat. One in particular
was Dave Crumbley owner of the Windsong
Sailing Academy in Atlanta. Dave and Tom Broome, one of
his instructors, were returning from Captiva after test sailing
a new boat he was purchasing.
Dave came bearing gifts for the boys but the candy was the most
treasured! Dave maintains the
travel journal on the Windsong
web site. We
were so happy he got to see our boat in
met Pierre when he first crewed
with him on a
Moorings Tampa to Tortola delivery
in the late 80ís. Pierre is
eternally grateful for all the students
Dave has recruited for him as crew
over the years since.
|A few weeks
later we made a run to Atlanta to take care of some
business. We were able to have dinner with
Dave and his wife Patti who Pierre first met when she joined a
delivery with them from St Lucia to Tortola in the early 90's.
Dinner was filled with old salt stories from the trips Dave and
Pierre had done together. Dave and I worked on my laptop
configuring software until nearly everyone else collapsed.
When we finally rejoined everyone else it was too late for the
boys despite their favorite video that was still playing on the
Thomas and Patrick are
taking swim lessons three days a week. We are amazed at how well they
are progressing. This will give us a little better piece of mind even
though they arenít great swimmers yet.
Being back in St.
Petersburg has been a lot of fun for me. I
grew up here but left in 1989 to attend graduate school in Atlanta.
Iím constantly running into people I havenít seen in years.
Pierre used to deliver boats for the
Moorings so he also has several old buddies in the area.
My parents live 15 minutes from the
marina so it has been nice to be able to see them and also my sister
Debbie and her husband Scott who are only an hour away.
Thomas and Patrick are getting to spend
some quality time with their cousins Forrest and Jackson.
As of now, we still donít
know where we are headed next. Our
original plan was to cruise Mexico and Belize or the Eastern Caribbean
and spend the hurricane season in Tobago or Trinidad. We
still have at least another six weeks of preparation which would put us
too close to Hurricane season (June 1-Nov. 1) to spend much time in the
Caribbean. My dream cruise would be to
spend some time in Panama and then sail to the South Pacific and end up
in Australia and New Zealand. We may
leave Florida and head north again to wait out the hurricane season
before continuing our journey. Our
renters in Atlanta will leave in July so we are currently trying to rent
our house for at least another year. This
is pretty crucial as the rent pays the mortgage.
There are many factors
involved in our decision making. Stay tuned.