Monthly Archives: January 2013

The view from the back porch

The sunrises are as pretty as the sunsets here.


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Not a day of rest

Sunday was inordinately busy for a day that’s supposed to be a rest day. We took our laundry in to the marina washers, showered then walked over to the farmers market on the waterfront. We were in dire need of produce and picked up some home grown cukes, red peppers, tomatoes, chard, radicchio, corn and radishes.



We took the veg back to the boat, picked up our bike bags and helmets and rode over the bridge to Sports Authority and the mall trying to find Jack a pair of Crocs. He wants a pair of shoes he can just slip on in a hurry and all of his other boaty shoes require tying. In any case, we couldn’t come up with a pair that would fit the bill so we high-tailed it back to the marina to pick up our laundry and take it back to the boat.


We had just enough time to apologize to Izzy for leaving her alone all day before heading over to True Colors for the first playoff game.


We watched the second game in the marina lounge but to tell the truth, we don’t have a dog in this fight so we didn’t really care who won. It did keep us up past our bedtime, though.

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Order, order in the field!

We humans crave order. Eons of our history were spent trying to prove that the earth was the center of the universe and that God wouldn’t allow an imperfect orbit of a planet. Ok, much of that time was spent trying to figure out what that rock in the mud was for, when we now know that you put it in a box and sell it as a pet.

A mooring field is normally an orderly thing with carefully worked out geometry giving each yacht it’s own space but cramming as many paying customers as possible into a given area. Many times I have come out on deck and said,” We are going to swing over and hit that boat.” Haven’t yet.

It’s well known that catamarans, monohulls, and motor yachts all swing to different drummers when anchored, but it’s total chaos when the tide changes and the wind can’t swing with the change.

20130119-083934.jpgIt seems to upset Izzy even more than us.

20130119-084437.jpg Some cats just swing that way.

We’re happily back on our mooring after being battered by 30kt winds that bounced us into the dock at the repair shop all night. The repair seems to have gone well and our shabby cockpit table has been replaced with a brand new white starboard table top. The new cockpit cushions are another story. I’m reminded of the old adage concerning dentures. You have to have them fitted right in the office. Mail order just doesn’t cut it. Scheduling conflicts during the holidays caused us to move on while our cushions were being made. We drove up to St. Augustine in a rental to pick up all the stuff but discovered that you really do have to fit them in the office. Two cushions had to go back to St. Augustine, not too bad, but still a pain. They’re not back yet.

While in St. Augustine Marce found a consignment center that had canvas in the same color, Tuscan Orange, that we are using on EV. This however requires a large working area.


We found such an area but a French Canadian woman decided to take up residence and Skype nonstop for hours on her computer so we repaired to the clubhouse patio where we got lots of free advice from fellow yachtsmen. How Marce turns this into a sail cover is beyond me.

With all of Escape Velocity’s improvements we invited fellow Manta owners Lisa & Marty for sundowners on the Lido Deck. They did the same thing we all do when visiting a fellow Manta. Check out how you have her set up. Every time you go on one you pickup great ideas. A good time was had by all. And that’s life on the water.


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Things are looking up

I feel much better today. We had the guys come in this morning and explain how they did the repair. While it wasn’t exactly how we would have done it, or how we expected it to be done, they convinced us that what they did was kosher to restore the strength of the original beam and would keep us worry free for the duration of our journey.

While we were still at the marina Jack got the guy to make us a new cockpit table. The old one was laminated plywood that probably used to have a teak edge on it but that was long gone. The new one is from a material called King Starboard, a durable plastic material that we have beside our built in barbecue and should last a long time and be easy to clean.


The new cockpit cushions look great, shown here with a couple of the indoor throw pillows because I haven’t had a chance to source the material for the outdoor ones yet. As I said before, redecorating will be an evolution rather than revolution.


We know this is a departure from the usual boat decor, which generally favors variations on the blue and white theme with occasional hunter green or white canvas. Looking around the anchorage here nearly every boat has blue canvas. I like that ours is the only one with yellow, but Jack and I aren’t in love with yellow. Plus, we don’t think everything has to match so we’re going to mix it up a bit.

In any case, these cockpit cushions are the first step towards Schulzifying Escape Velocity. Jack says they remind him of the classic Danish Modern style of the 50s, which seems to go with our 50s diner turquoise laminate countertops. I guess you gotta run with what you have.

Now that we’re past this messy fiberglass repair we’re just waiting for our mainsail to be done so we can make the next jump south, probably to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami for our final push on upgrades and personal business before we say goodbye to the US for a while. One foot in front of the other.


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Get me out of here

We’re having a bad week. Month, even. We came to Stuart because we thought we could get the bulk of our pre-Pacific work done and things are just dragging along. I keep hearing the refrain from National Lampoon’s “Deteriorata” on an endless loop on the great tape recorder:

….whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back

We got a call that our new cushions were done. It was going to cost close to $200 to ship them here and since we love road trips we rented a car and drove the 210 miles each way to pick them up.


The manager of the car rental place is a Steelers fan, although she declined to be in the photo of her office.


In St. Augustine our first stop was to Sailor’s Exchange, a marine consignment shop that I knew had some canvas listed on eBay for a good price.


I got a nice length of Sunbrella to do the mainsail cover for $8/yard, and also picked up four squares of Dri-Dek, snap-together grid flooring, to use on the bottom of our shoe cupboard so any future condensation will drain away without getting our shoes wet.

We picked up our beautiful new cockpit cushions and thanked the crew at Canvas & Upholstery Center for doing such a good job.


On our way home we stopped at Carmelo’s Pizza and got to watch Serena bagel her opponent at the Australian Open. We used to watch a lot of tennis and it was a treat to be able to see part of a match, even if it wasn’t a very competitive one.


It was a long slog home and we couldn’t make it in time to get our cushions installed before dark. The next morning we borrowed a snap setter to install the final snaps on the big stadium seat at the back of the cockpit. This is the one we are so excited about because the old ones were soaked in salt water and nearly always soggy. The new cushions are dri-fast foam; water drains right through. Unfortunately, we discovered the snaps on the boat and the places on the cushions where the other half of the snaps go didn’t line up. Rats! I called the Canvas & Upholstery Center and brainstormed with Darrell. He told me to take the foam out and send him the covers and he’ll fix them. We figured that the goof came because the original cushions were 2″ foam, and with the thicker 3″ foam the geometry was a little different so the measurements were slightly off. We boxed up the covers and biked to UPS.

This morning we moved to a boatyard across the river to have the hole in our support beam repaired. This involved grinding fiberglass, a messy and noisy job. We evacuated with Izzy for a long dinghy ride back to our marina to spend the day and wait out the repair.



While we were ashore we borrowed the jib cover from True Colors and cut out the new canvas. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to sew it up, but at least it’s patterned.



We got back to the boat about four and took advantage of the dock hose to do some much needed deck scrubbing. It’s been so long since we’ve been at a dock that it’ll take more than one go-around to get the decks cleaned up. Finally we got back into the boat and got a good look at the repair. Horrors! It was not done the way it should have been. I might have known better than to leave the boat during such an important repair. First of all, the person we hired to do it, who we thought understood what we wanted, ended up not being the person actually doing the work. Apparently something was lost in the translation and the actual workman didn’t do it right. Now I question whether the first guy actually did understand or if he just explained it badly to guy #2. We will speak to them tomorrow and decide whether we want to stay at this high-priced marina another day to have them do it over again — with more mess and another day off the boat with Izzy — or pay these two what we owe them and get it done right by someone who gets it.

So twice in as many days we have some long-awaited move forward set us back in time and money. This happens a lot to us and used to even when we lived in a house. We always seem to have to do things twice, first the wrong way, then the right way. It didn’t bother me too much when it was us doing the work because at least we learned from our mistakes and rarely made the same ones twice. But when we hire the pros we expect it to be done right the first time.

To top off our very bad day a front moved in with 30 knot wind. Out in the anchorage we’d be fine, but we are tied to a dock with the wind on our quarter. We have to run outside every hour or so to adjust the fenders so we don’t get shredded on the pilings.

I’m going to have trouble sleeping, what with the howling wind and the constant kicking of myself for not staying aboard and supervising the work. I definitely learned from this mistake.


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Long range planning

Izzy ponders the Pacific crossing and thinks, “This is where Uncle Dave picks me up.”



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The life aquatic

We had another package arrive the other day, the new canvas to replace the sail covers. We have come to appreciate the high visibility and distinctiveness of the yellow cushions, canvas and sun awnings that were on the boat when we bought it, but it matched the former boat name and is an expression of Danielle and Roger instead of us. The “redecorating” will be a gradual process because of cost, so there will be a time when we’ll look like the Crayola boat with too many different colors going on at once. Bear with us.

We had a surprise email from our Miami friends Jeff and Nancy asking if we wanted company Saturday. Heck, yeah! We do miss our friends and unless we have something booked or the boat is torn up we welcome all comers. J & N arrived with Jocelyn and Lenny for a beautiful late afternoon cocktail hour on EV. After sunset we went out for a Thai dinner and enjoyed conversation that didn’t focus entirely on where to buy boat parts or how many spares we should lay in before a long passage.

After dinner they dropped us off at the marina and as we dinghied slowly back to Escape Velocity in the dark, I looked up at the starry sky and thought this is a beautiful way to live, close to nature, aware of the world around us, peaceful.

The morning sun drew me out on the foredeck again for some wakeup yoga. There were a lot of boats passing by out in the channel so we were waked a lot making balance a bit more challenging than normal.



We took advantage of the block of our beloved Tilset cheese that we got in the shipment from Penn Mac to have what we call a German breakfast, soft-boiled eggs with strong cheese and rye crisp. Jack was distracted by a P-51 Mustang flying overhead.


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A real sleep

All those months of cold weather disturbed my sleep pattern. Because it was so cold, we got in the habit of going to bed ridiculously early just so we could warm up swaddled in every blanket on the boat. Even though we both lay awake reading for a while, it still meant that I woke up before dawn every morning because my body had enough sleep.

Now that we’re in warmer weather you’d think we’d enjoy sitting in the cockpit until late in the evening, but not so much. I still start to get droopy by eight o’clock and still wake up around four in the morning. It’s crazy, and not so good for socializing. Last night I was determined to stay up until at least ten, hoping I could sleep until sunrise. I made it until 9:30 before I really had to go lie down, but I did sleep straight through until 6:30 this morning, just as the sky was lightening.


For the first time in recent memory I made coffee in natural light, then dragged my yoga mat onto the dewy foredeck for a few sun salutations and other stretching. Jack got up around eight and he and Izzy took the sun in the cockpit. It’s a lovely morning.

I think I’ll be able to make it past ten o’clock tonight.


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The view from the back porch


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Slow and steady

Once again I’m incredibly antsy to get going, especially since I’m hyper-aware of the limitations of the Pacific cruising season. You have to be out of the cyclone area from November to April, which means the later we get to the Pacific the faster we have to cruise through it to get to a cyclone-safe place by November. One thing we don’t want is to race through Paradise.

But we’re dealing with boat people. They do not move quickly. We did finally get three people to look at our support beam repair job. Two of them gave us a number; the third, whom we liked and who seemed to understand the stresses on the boat, couldn’t come up with a cost estimate, just his hourly rate. We chose a different guy who has a can-do, no-nonsense attitude and comes highly recommended. He just can’t start until next Thursday, which locks us into Stuart for another week.

We’re also still waiting for Manta Man Joe Hanko to come back to us with estimates for the electrical and rig work, and for a new battery charger and AIS. And our mainsail is still at Mack Sails.

Meanwhile, we continue with what we can accomplish here. Jack whipped the lines that attach the mainsail to the boom. They were excessively long and we trimmed them last time we bent the sail back on, but didn’t have time to properly seal the ends.


We took an errand bike ride to Home Depot, Joann, West Marine, Target and Marshall’s to pick up this and that and got reprimanded by a petty mall security guard for riding our bikes on the mall plaza. There was nary a pedestrian in sight at the mall, and with no marked bike lanes and limited visibility for motorists — and no posted signs prohibiting it — we thought it safer for us to ride the mall sidewalk. But no, this guy was convinced that two Q-tips on hybrid bikes were a menace to society. We were so annoyed we took our business elsewhere, which put the kibosh on this Philly girl getting an Aunt Annie’s soft pretzel. That’ll teach him, Jack said.

Stuart has bike lanes on most roadways, a plus, but they are between the traffic lanes and the turning lanes, a big scary minus. Like most of coastal Florida there are usually no parallel streets to ride to avoid the fast traffic on the main roads. We try to ride sidewalks here as much as we can, and if a real cop ever stops us, he’ll get an earful on bike safety from me. That’ll teach him, Jack will say, while I post bail.

We took advantage of being in one place for a while to place an order for a few hard-to-find food items from our favorite Pittsburgh food emporium, the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. When we lived in Pittsburgh we did much of our food shopping there, and we miss the quality, variety and prices.


I never want to be a cruiser who has to have specific foods from home and I’m eager to explore the markets wherever we travel and cook the local fare, but I’ve learned over the past nine months that having a couple of basic tried and true ingredients on hand helps a lot. In all the stores we’ve shopped in up and down the east coast we couldn’t find French lentils, black fig vinegar, Hawaiian black salt or sundried tomatoes that weren’t either soaked in oil or shriveled up and flavorless. We also ordered our favorite five peppercorn mix, some olives and a couple of hard-to-find cheeses. Cheese, in fact, has been the biggest change to our diet. We just don’t have access to a variety of good cheeses except for the grossly overpriced offerings at Whole Foods or similar upscale groceries. The cheesemonger at Penn Mac is known as Dear Heart, and she is amazing. She remembers what each of her customers likes, listens thoughtfully to what you’re looking for, and always suggests the perfect cheese for the dish or occasion. One year for Christmas dinner I made three different filled pastas to be served with three different sauces and I consulted Dear Heart for the cheeses to serve with them. Her recommendations were all spot on. We miss you, Dear Heart! And we miss the reasonable prices, too.

The shipment from Penn Mac gave me an opportunity to justify the vacuum packer I keep stashed on Jack’s t-shirt shelf.


In the same delivery we got a small but heavy package from Maxwell. It was the new chain wheel for our balky anchor windlass, and Jack set about figuring out how to install it.


While I was vacuum-bagging the sundried tomatoes he called me out on deck for a consultation.



We puzzled it out and Jack got the new gypsy on, taking advantage of the disassembly to do a complete cleaning and servicing job. When he was finished we gave it a go. Anchor down, anchor up. No drama. Hallelujah! Life is good!




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