Monthly Archives: March 2012

Yes, we still have no boat

You cannot be serious! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again. Have you ever seen a tennis player glare at his racket after netting another shot? We’re beginning to glare at our brokers. The tennis player bolts to the nearest emporium for a new racket, and maybe new sneaks just in case. We’re collecting brokers.

I should say, we’re not intentionally adding brokers, we run into them when we’re inquiring about a boat. They say sure but why do you want that tub? I can show you boats! Then he produces a list, most of which we’ve been on already, and the scary thing is that each time the list gets smaller. The new guy is definitely a failed used car salesman who figured it was easier to sell yachts. How hard could it be? You betcha it’s hard!

The pattern is they show great energy and enthusiasm at having motivated buyers, they use the shotgun approach and when they find we won’t buy the usual suspects they realize they’re going to have to dig up something special so they stop returning our calls.

To compound the problem our ace researcher, Marce, hasn’t been able to get on WiFi in our felt-lined cement box, better known as Boca West. Why yes, it’s gated, moated and guarded with armed Gestapo! They even have alligators in the moat. At this point you have to ask yourself the question are they trying to keep undesirables (like us) out or are they trying to keep us from leaving? What a creepy but comfortable place. A felt lined cell.

With Marce unable to connect to the interwebs we’ve had to depend on said brokers. The results have not been stellar. The newbie came up with three boats, two were sold already, and the last smelled like a large well-used cat box.

In the meantime our crack tech team in consultation with Drew, our Guru, came up with a solution to the WiFi problem and Marce is now in communion with the ether. Well, someone’s ether. With our new long distance WiFi antenna suction-cupped to the glass sliding door we are back in business. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Now where are you hiding Escape Velocity?


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The joys of boat shopping


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by | March 16, 2012 · 10:30 am

Hammock to scrub

We go on nature walks whenever we pass a park with a trail. After a while they all start to look alike because they’re mostly either a tropical hardwood hammock, characterized by stands of live oak, gumbo limbo and palm trees, or the more recognizable mangrove. Yesterday we wandered through a different kind of ecosystem at the Hobe Sound Nature Center. This is sand pine scrub, one of the smallest ecoregions in the US. It’s a somewhat hilly, very dry, open area with loose sandy soil supporting palmettos, rosemary and bay, and absolutely covered in the kind of lichens we used to use as bushes on the HO train platform.
There were few trees in this particular area, but we did spot a very large nest in the tallest tree.
With the binoculars we could clearly see the giant osprey on a branch below and a little head poking out of the nest. Sadly, there’s no giant zoom lens on the iPhone.


Last night we heard shrieks coming from a tree across the water from us. It was dusk so we couldn’t see the bird but this morning a pair of limpkins walked by and after we looked them up we learned they were likely the source of the unusual calls we heard.



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Bird of the day

This afternoon we used our new wildlife reference card to identify a green heron. He’s a little guy but I managed to get a photo with my phone. Sorry for the quality. I guess I should get the actual camera out of the car.

Holy cow, you can’t even see him in the photo. Try this:

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Wildlife on the golf course

Our sublet looks out over a manicured golf course with a stream just below our balcony. There are so many birds that we took a trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday to buy a Florida Wildlife pocket guide. This morning we used it for the first time and managed to identify the huge white bird taking a stately walk along the edge of the stream. Once he took flight and we saw the black wing feathers we could confirm it as a wood stork.


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We choose to go to the moon

We chose to go to the Kennedy Space Center. As children of the Sixties our worldview was formed by the combined and often competing realities of Viet Nam and the space program. Space has been so much a part of our culture that the cancellation of the space shuttle marks the absolute end of a long and proud era, and makes me feel old and sad.

The Space Center was wonderful. I researched online about how to plan our day and many sources recommended two days. I couldn’t imagine what you would do in two days, but we actually started to feel rushed by about 3:30 and had to miss quite a few things.

One of our favorite attractions was the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Like all giant tourist attractions it started in a holding room with a multimedia presentation that set the stage for the exhibits about the Apollo program. As a warm up the screens displayed all of the touchstones of our childhood: the news soundbites, advertising, fashions, music, TV shows and movies that instantly transport you to another time and place. By the time the actual presentation started I was 11 years old again and, like all Americans, looking up at the moon and seeing hope, honor and pride. We were on a mission. Everyone knew the goal. Scientists and engineers were heroes. We drank Tang.

Then we saw President Kennedy’s challenge to America. It was about 10:30 am and I welled up with sadness at what has happened to my country since we landed on the moon. Endless wars, fear-mongering, racism, xenophobia, the celebration of ignorance and most of all, the mockery of science. In 40 years we went from being a nation on a quest for knowlege to a nation with a distrust of progress. For the rest of the day I had a lump in my throat.

We’ve seen the NASA footage of the various rockets and capsules and landers, but when the doors finally opened and we were face to face with a Saturn V rocket, we gasped. Awe doesn’t come close to describing the feeling. Even after being told how big it is, you just can’t comprehend the size until you walk the length of it, and we both tried to imagine being strapped into a tin can, riding that beast into space.
On the other end of the size scale, the Mercury capsule is so small, Jack wondered how you could scratch your nose without accidentally hitting 10 or 15 toggle switches.
We opted for a special bus tour that took us out to the causeway leading to Cape Canaveral (off limits) so we could see the various launch pads, then to the amazing Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Saturn V was built, and the space shuttle was assembled.

We lucked out in that the space vehicle Atlantis is tucked away in one of the bays while it’s being prepared for permanent display at KSC. Jack took one look and said, “It’s a beater!”
Our other big stroke of luck was that there was a launch scheduled for two days away. We spent the next day asking everyone we met where to watch, and in the end found ourselves a fantastic spot on the causeway just south of where we were on our tour. We had a straight-shot view of the launch pad. Strike one off the bucket list!


If you can, take the time to read the full text of Kennedy’s speech.

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say the we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”


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Where we are now

We haven’t posted much lately about what’s happening on the escape velocity front, so i thought i’d bring you up to date with where we are.

We don’t have a boat. We don’t have any prospects for a boat. And that’s the biggest frustration at the moment but there are many other challenges we need to deal with in the next month.

First, we lived in cheap motels for the entire month of February, which was not only expensive but also depressing. We wandered all over the state trying to find a place that felt homey and walkable so we could park ourselves somewhere comfy, but just couldn’t come up with anything. As far as we can tell Florida requires a car to do anything and really makes us miss our old walkable, bikeable life. Finally, in the waning hours of February, some friends hooked us up with a sublet in a country club community for the month of March so we can unpack the car, cook some meals and take walks without first driving somewhere, but it’s only a temporary solution and not really our style.

The larger issue is that we have no home. And by that I mean not that we don’t have a place to live — a boat — or a place to receive mail — my sister’s address — but that we literally don’t have residency anywhere, which is necessary for the purposes of voting, filing taxes, health insurance, licensing, car registration and insurance and eventually, boat registration.

Our driver’s licenses are from Pennsylvania but we no longer have a residence there. Same for all those other things. I’m in the process of preparing our tax returns and I need to establish our residency somewhere because I’d prefer not to have to file the gazillion forms required for Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania when tax time rolls around next year.

Why not Florida, you ask? It makes sense except for the fact that we haven’t bought a boat yet, and Florida charges a whopping 6% sales tax for residents buying a boat here. Yikes! If we’re not Florida residents and we don’t plan to keep the boat here, then we won’t owe the tax. But we do need to be residents of someplace.

Then there’s the issue of income tax. If we can pick a state to be residents of, then why not pick a state with no income tax? And for that matter, a state with no sales tax, too. But wait, you need to prove residency in a state to, you know, be a resident. Oy. It’s a dilemma, and one we need to resolve pretty quickly. There are full-time RVers and cruisers who face these problems, but darned if I can find any definitive answers anywhere.

Our next challenge is our stuff. It’s in Pittsburgh. Most of it is packed into a storage locker that we got a good deal on but that starts to get expensive once the introductory offer expires, which is next month. Our dinghy is in our ex-neighbors’ garage. Our bikes and our diesel jerry cans are in another neighbor’s garage. We have a large painting at a friend’s house that needs to move to New Jersey. We assume that when we find a boat it’s going to be here in Florida, so it makes sense, since we’re not doing anything else, to head up to Pittsburgh, load everything in a big truck and move it all down here to another storage locker. But where? We don’t have any idea where a boat might show up.

And finally, our beloved little Izzy needs to move. None of us thought we’d be this long without a new home, and her foster home was supposed to be very temporary. It’s going on four months now and she needs to move on. Try finding a temporary home for a cat. It ain’t easy!

We’re open to any and all suggestions on these challenges. We’re having a hard enough time nurturing zenlike patience.




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A taste of the old life

We learned that Florida got its first Trader Joe’s recently and I was determined to pay a visit. We were delighted when Trader Joe’s opened their first store in Pittsburgh right around the corner from our house. It became our convenience store, our go-to for quick meals and an invaluable resource for appetizers and company treats, not to mention an almost daily destination on our cafe and shopping crawl.

The Florida Joe’s is the only one south of South Carolina, so many of the shoppers weren’t familiar with the concept and the offerings. I, on the other hand, felt right at home. So much so, in fact, that I stood in the first aisle and slowly turned, taking it all in, and wishing I could get back to what I think of as our life. It nearly brought me to tears.

Food is a big part of our life. Planning it, shopping for it, cooking it and eating it, and I make no apologies for that. As a vegetarian, I’ve become much more thoughtful through the years about what I eat and how it’s prepared. Maybe it comes from living in the Meat Belt, but eating out is rarely the enjoyable experience for me that it is for carnivores. At most restaurants I generally have the choice of a bland and heavy pasta dish or a bland salad. I always want to ask the chef, “Does this look good to you? No? Well, me neither!” I don’t know what they think we eat. And finding healthy and delicious meals as we travel, especially in the meaty South, is a constant challenge.

I worked hard for many years to learn to cook vegetarian food that’s full of flavor, yet healthy. It’s definitely harder than frying up a pork chop or roasting a chicken. Trader Joe’s was a big help when I needed to make quick meals, or had unexpected dinner guests. Even for day-to-day menus I kept the pantry stocked with various basic broths, grains, sauces, dressings, and nuts. We made fresh sugar-free sorbet by blending frozen fruits with a little plain yogurt. And I stopped spending half a day making hummus from dried chickpeas because Joe’s Mediterranean is way better than mine.

But sadly, we have no kitchen, no pantry and no refrigerator, so we filled up a shopping bag with our favorite treats to take to our hosts in Miami. And when we finally get a boat, wherever we are you can bet we’ll stock it from Joe’s.

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