Monthly Archives: June 2012

Northern exposure

We got up early Saturday with every intention of leaving the dock and heading north. But when I listened to the NOAA weather I knew we wouldn’t be able to go. The forecast was for winds from the NNE at 20 knots and gusting to 35. That meant not only couldn’t we go out in the ocean to sail up the coast, but that in the ditch it would be choppy and uncomfortable motoring into the wind. So ok, let’s do some projects.

Midmorning Craig from Anything Goes, who still has a car, asked if we wanted to make the rounds of the various chandleries and Home Depot with him. Like little kids, we jumped at the chance for a car ride. We didn’t really need anything, but managed to pick up this and that along the way. We also watched Charlie at Marine Supply splice a new outhaul for Craig. While we watched another customer entertained us with tales of his experiences as a diver for the police.

“Mostly recovery. Not much rescue,” he said.

“You mean dead bodies?” I asked. “Murders?”

“Some. Car accidents, off the bridges.”

He retired from that job and hires out on his own now, diving for lost anchors, keys, eyeglasses, watches, all the various things people accidentally drop overboard and can’t live without.

We got back to Escape Velocity and Jack installed the new folding cup holder that will improve life at the helm, while I crawled up under the dodger once again to try out yet another miracle product that’s supposed to make our vinyl windows transparent again. Hope springs eternal.

Suddenly, Jack said, “Hey, there’s another Manta coming in!” Amazing. There aren’t that many of these things and here we have three on the same dock. We ran down the dock to help with lines, but halfway there I turned and went back to our boat. We had the littlest Boyer girl on board entertaining Izzy and I didn’t want to leave her alone so I left Jack and Craig to assist Synchronicity.

Later we had more visitors, a father and son who admired our boat. We welcomed them aboard and spent some time showing them around. Rick, the father, is in love with Mantas and would love to own one. Joe, the son, is in the process of rebuilding a steel sailboat. We had a lot to talk about with both of them and enjoyed the impromptu visit, even if it did keep us from our chores. Plus, Rick and Joe helped us troubleshoot our non-working floodlight. Turns out it was a blown fuse and a burnt-out bulb. So now the remote control works; we just have to get a bulb.

Saturday evening we thought about going out for pizza but in the end decided to stay home and listen to the US Open Golf tournament online.

We got up early again Sunday and decided this is the day. After an early light rain we had a beautiful run up the ICW and nearly made it out of Florida. We anchored near Amelia Island in yet another wacky wind-against-current situation where EV spins around her anchor. Jack feels like he’s on permanent anchor watch and I have an insatiable desire to bake but we don’t have most ingredients. We’re hoping the wind dies down so we can get some sleep. Tomorrow, Georgia!


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View from the back porch

Finally, a change in scene!

Not that St. Augustine was annoying. Pete, Andrew, and the guys were great, and having three Mantas there at the same time was fun. It was just time to move on.

So we’re anchored just off Amelia Island at the mouth of Alligator Creek and EV is doing her evil dervish. Gusty conditions with a contrary current. What else is new?

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Waiting isn’t just waiting in a boat

It’s been an interesting day. Our friends’ Manta 42 was splashed today and we made arrangements to reupholster the cockpit seats. We took one last tour through Historic St Augustine.


Both rudders have been repaired, two coats of bottom paint, both engine exhaust hoses replaced, one screen in the master cabin repaired and installed, two teak steps installed, and a complete reorganization of the forward starboard berth, better known as the hardware supply room.
Marce is trying to get to the bottom of the SSB/Pactor III and I’m having another go at the Raymarine C80 chart plotter, while we wait for at least semi-decent weather.

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Still with the waiting

We’re stuck at the dock here at St. Augustine Marine Center with nothing but NE winds and rain. We had hoped to be on our way today and loaded up the bikes, filled the water tank and generally got ourselves set to go, then the rain came again. If we were out in the ocean it really wouldn’t be a problem to be in the rain. But in the ditch (the Intercoastal Waterway) sometimes the channel is very narrow, the markers are hard to pick up in the rain, and if we get hit with extended gusty winds, we’re not always in a place to tie up or drop anchor. So we’d like to have a window of at least 6-8 hours where we can make some headway and be safe before weather hits us again.

That said, we’re going to try again tomorrow. Since all we have to do is unplug and go, we’ll get up early and get out of here, with a couple of optional stops lined up just in case. Unfortunately, Florida has become quite unfriendly to boats — especially liveaboard boats — in recent years, and there are fewer and fewer safe places to legally anchor. We’re loathe to spend the money on marinas, since their nightly rates can be as high as a nice hotel.

So here we sit again today. Jack is installing a teak step at the back of the cockpit to make climbing up to our “stadium seat” a little safer. He also went up on the bimini and caulked a few leaks and replaced some screws.

Meanwhile I’m trying to understand the SSB/Ham radio and get it to play nice with my computer, a job I’ve been attempting every few days for weeks with no success. Every so often I get so frustrated I’m near tears, but I know I’ll figure it out. It’s funny, I have the highest level Ham license you can get and yet I have no clue how to work this radio. I can turn it on. That’s it. I feel like an idiot and I wish I had someone here to sit with me and explain how it works. I go to manuals and FAQs and I don’t even understand half the words they use.

After that I have to figure out the satphone, so there’s no end to this off-grid communications learning curve. I will SO miss the convenience of broadband internet.

The Marine Center shares a land parcel with the Homeland Security Border Patrol training center. That means every 15 minutes one of these boats goes by, all day long, back and forth. I don’t know whether to feel threatened or safer. In any case, they don’t pay much attention to us.


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In again Finnegan

We got up Tuesday morning thinking all we had to do was take a leisurely ride to Target for household supplies, but we got instead a knock on the hull from Andrew from the boatyard.

“I’ve been thinking about your rudders all night and I just want to make sure they’re right,” he said. And he checked and rechecked, climbing from a tight squeeze in one hull to a tighter squeeze in the other, asking us to turn the wheel back and forth while he adjusted and tweaked until he felt confident that our steering was exactly as it should be.

He spent so much time in the hull that he noticed one end of one of the engine exhaust hoses was cracked, and he suggested we replace it before too long. That was one of the items the surveyor pointed out, and we had all looked and thought it was fine. “You have to get close to see it, but it’s definitely cracking,” said Andrew, and once we knew what we were looking for we saw it too. We checked the other side and it was also cracking.

Andrew directed us to a chandlery right down the road that would probably have the right size in stock and we jumped on the bikes and headed out. Fifteen feet of heavy exhaust hose is pretty hard to carry on a bike, but the store clerk told us he was leaving on his lunch hour and he’d drive it up the road for us. Jack met him at the boatyard gate for the handoff. Nice!

No sooner did we get back than the Travelift crew came over to ask if we were ready to go back in the water. Yikes! It was only 2:00 and we thought we were scheduled for 5:00. We scrambled to get organized and when the Travelift drove over I picked up Izzy to get her off the boat.

Meanwhile we finally met the Boyer family whom we’d met online because we were both shopping for Mantas at the same time. They have a blog too, and it was so great to meet them all in person, especially since we will more than likely be tailing each other for the next several months as we’re on more or less the same route.

I knew from the Boyers’ blog that they had a cat, and that the cat would be on vacation with Grandma while the family was on their sailing adventure. I carried Izzy to their boat, Anything Goes, to meet the girls and she immediately had three very attentive cat sitters while Escape Velocity was carried back to the water.

And of course, as soon as we were in the water again, a massive storm hit us with another soaking downpour, but it felt so good to be floating again.

When the rain stopped Jack started on the exhaust hose on the side we thought would be easier. Not. After several frustrating hours with both of us taking turns climbing down into an impossible space, we got the new hose on.

Wednesday morning Andrew stopped by to see it we wanted help, but we told him we managed. He looked at what we’d done and gave us a thumbs up. But of course that’s only half the job.


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Working and touring

It’s been a crazy couple of days. Our main purpose for being here was to get the rudder bearings fixed and it’s been a big job. Paul, who did most of the work, filled the line of corrosion on each rudder post and even if they don’t look brand new, they at least look like they could do another lap around the world, which is all we ask.

Paul had the rudders reinstalled and adjusted early on Monday morning. Jack finished the second coat of bottom paint on Sunday, so the only thing holding us up was the new zincs for the saildrives. Luckily they arrived Monday morning and Jack got right to work installing them.

The props are another dramatic change after this trip to the yard. Jack spent a lot of time cleaning them up, greasing the gears and coating them with Lanocote. There are as many opinions on how to prevent marine growth on props as there are sailors. They were previously coated in bottom paint, so we’ll see if the Lanocote does as well or better than the paint.

Here are the before and after photos of the props.

By noon on Monday we had everything pretty much done, so we took another bike ride into town to do some touring. We visited the National Cemetery, a very small but peaceful one. Many of the graves dated from the “Indian War” of 1835.

Then we rode to the old City Gate and the 17th century Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in North America and we got there just in time for the firearms demonstration.

Moments later, the historic weapon they were shooting exploded prematurely, injuring the park ranger.

We couldn’t tell from a distance what the injury was but we couldn’t see any blood so we suspect a burn. Eventually the paramedics came and he seemed to be in good hands. Never saw that one before.

We passed on going into the fort and instead just walked the perimeter.

Then we moseyed back home up and down the lovely streets of old St. Augustine.

We feel pretty good about the day, and just plan to take a trip to Target before our launch Tuesday.


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Lincoln log

Boatyards are not generally in the posh side of town but here in St. Augustine we find ourselves in a nationally significant historic district. Lincolnville was established by freed slaves in about 1866 and was originally called Little Africa. It was soon a vibrant community with a large business district, and later played an important role in the civil rights movement, when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. came to the aid of local activists campaigning against the segregation of public facilities. Marches, rallies and acts of civil disobedience, many resulting in violence and most in arrests, continued for months. The publicity on the demonstrations in Lincolnville focused national attention on the struggle and helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in June 1964.

Everywhere you go in Lincolnville there are plaques describing the significance of a resident or a house or a church in the Civil Rights Movement. You can’t help but be humbled by the day-to-day heroism of so many people in the face of entrenched beliefs. Each person made a difference, and together they changed the country.

Today, Lincolnville is still charming if a little seedy, with beauty at every turn. The National Park Service claims it holds the largest concentration of Victorian era buildings in St. Augustine, and This Old House says it’s a good place to find an older home to fix up. There are certainly enough that could use it.

For me it’s a treat to see big trees, a rarity in most of Florida, and they are obviously respected and well cared for. This one is noted to be as old as the Constitution.

 Some have elaborate constructions to protect the roots from wayward drivers.

It’s impossible — at least with an old iphone — to captured the size and form of these giants.

We found Oneida Street to be particularly beautiful.

On one side of the street is a huge mansion with a lot of lawn sculpture:

…and directly across the street is this artfully decorated charmer:

Even the front walkway is beautifully paved with recycled brick.

Every day we see a little piece of the neighborhood and feel like we’ve become part of the street life. No matter where we go, our route takes us the length of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. We go at least once a day, sometimes twice, and every time, any time of the day, there’s a group of men on the sidewalk doing this and that, hanging out, sometimes tuning up bicycles. The first time we passed they stared at us, even after we waved. The second time they acknowledged us with a nod. Now, after a week they wave as soon as they see us coming up the street and we feel like we belong.

St. Augustine is a tourist destination, and one of the attractions is carriage rides through the historic districts. We haven’t done this, but every day we see the drivers making their way through Lincolnville toward downtown, heading for work.

We’ve been to St. Augustine twice before, by car, and we completely missed this incredible neighborhood. Thank goodness for boatyards being at the backdoor of the city.



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Rainy weekend

This morning we got up early, wiped down the boat and put the first coat of bottom paint on. It’s a messy, stinky job and we were happy the rain stayed away long enough to get it done.

After the first coat of paint we showered and pedaled to West Marine for a new dinghy plug, an additional length of water hose and some holding tank enzyme treatment. We also stopped at the grocery store for essentials and rode back to the boat with loaded panniers.

When we got back we took Izzy to the park again and she’s definitely getting used to the leash.

We connected our new length of water hose and reached across the boatyard to fill our water tank again.

We had planned to get the second coat of bottom paint on the same day. You have to wait six hours to recoat but just as we were about to start the rains came again and we had to retreat inside. That means a busy day on Sunday — recoat the bottom paint, listen to the French Open final online, run across the street to the farmers market for produce, then bike to a sports bar to watch the Canadian Formula 1 race. And it’s supposed to rain again in the afternoon, so we’ll probably have a wet ride home.



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The flipside of cruising

Boats are meant to be in the water but every now and then you have to do something to them that requires sitting on land for a period. Our home is suddenly up in the air and rather than hear the water lapping at the hulls we hear the Travelift, all the other yard vehicles, power tools and endless cell phone ringtones. Instead of a distant horizon, the view from the cockpit is of the waste fuel shed two feet away with a tin roof that rumbles in the wind.

Despite the fact that we spent ten years in a boatyard with our last boat, this is a completely new experience. We’re not here for the long haul. We’re not building a boat. We’re just here to get our rudders fixed and do some normal maintenance. And while this too is part of the liveaboard experience, we’re anxious to get going.

The rudder repair started well enough. One rudder came out quickly and made us feel we’d have an easy time of it. But oh, the second one! It took nearly a whole day to get that one out and ended up needing some persuasion from a torch. Then we were presented with a conundrum when we saw that both rudders have a line of corrosion at the point of the upper seal.

No one was sure what to do, but after some consultation within the yard and with the Manta owners group we all agreed that doing a cleanout and epoxy filling and polishing would do the trick. So that will happen tomorrow.

Meanwhile we decided that we ought to paint the bottom while we’re out of the water, but as neophytes we had to find out what kind of paint to use, how much we needed and how to prep for it. We also need new sacrificial zincs for the saildrives, and that involved its own research, sourcing and ordering. Everything we do has its own learning curve. I know that in a year or two much of this will be second nature but right now every day is the very beginning of something and even when it’s frustrating, I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Late this morning we heard that Sea-Tow was bringing in a motor cruiser that had run aground and had an injured person aboard. A rescue wagon and ambulance drove into the yard as the boat was brought in but happily the injury wasn’t serious and the man was able to leave the boat under his own steam.

Jack spent much of the afternoon sanding the hulls in preparation for the bottom paint. He was nearly finished when a huge thunderstorm came rolling in with the hardest rain I can ever remember experiencing. Jack stood under the boat waiting for the storm to pass but soon it became clear that this one was staying for a while. When he climbed the ladder to the boat he was covered in black toxic sanding dust so I sent him straight to the showers. Meanwhile I discovered that I hadn’t completely latched a couple of portholes and we had water streaming in on the port hull. We no sooner got that taken care of when we remembered we hadn’t pulled the plug on the dinghy. It was nearly full of water and hanging off the end of the boat almost out of reach. I crawled over the cockpit lockers and bailed in a full layout position until I got the water level low enough to reach the line on the plug. Jack handed me a boat hook and I managed to finagle it on the line and pull the plug and the water came gushing out.

OK, now what?

Some days it goes like that, one thing after another.

The rain finally moderated a little and we ventured out on the bow to take a look. The boatyard is nearly flooded. The rain continues. And so does the work.



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Izzy’s big adventure

As soon as the big Travelift drove into the slip toward EV we realized the noise and commotion would send Izzy over the edge. I considered putting her into the car carrier, but at the last minute I just picked her up, grabbed her leash and leapt off the boat. And even though I would have prefered to watch the lifting of our home I left that to Jack and carried Izzy through the gravel boatyard to the park across the street.

It’s hot here. Really hot. I found a bench in the shade, sat down and put Izzy on the ground, leash attached. As always, she hunkered down, sad and fearful. No amount of sweet-talking could get her to appreciate that she was on land and that there were bugs and birds around. She cried and wanted to be picked up and reassured.

While the crew powerwashed the boat Jack came over and added his words of encouragement. No dice. The most Izzy has ever done while tethered is to slither toward something to hide under. Jack went back to the boat and I tried picking Iz up to follow and watch the proceedings. Suddenly she didn’t want to be picked up, but rather walked toward the nearby community center. I followed. She circled the small building, smelling all the strange smells, examining the strange plants and sandy soil. It was like walking with a 2-year-old, which of course she is. I couldn’t persuade her to come along with me; I had to go at her pace, where she wanted. It was an exercise in patience.

With each side of the building she seemed to gain confidence, or maybe found things that looked or smelled familiar. We made it almost around the building when we came to a glass entry door and Izzy perked up. This was definitely familiar! She had a similar door at our house in Pittsburgh. And one just like it at her foster home with the Schulzes. And again, the same kind of glass door at the Strife’s in New Jersey. On the other side of that door must be food and water and cool places to sleep and to hide and toys to play with! All she had to do it sit there and someone inside would let her in. And so she sat. And waited.

When no one came, Izzy peered inside, walking back and forth to get a better view. I think she’d be there still if I hadn’t got curious about the state of Escape Velocity and ended the stakeout.

I  think we made real progress today. We got to the boat and Izzy was pleased to be back in familiar surroundings. She didn’t even freak out when the mechanic came aboard to assess the rudder access. It helped that he’s a cat person and did his best to woo her.

Good Izzy. She might be an adventure kitty after all.


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