Monthly Archives: February 2013

We are so pathetic

Jack and I have been a bit preoccupied with planning our second trip in a week to the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida. We had to rent a car from Enterprise, of course, because they pick you up. Jack needs to be at the hospital at 8 am Thursday so we decided to stay in a hotel tonight. This will be the first night we spend off the boat since we moved aboard last April.

After we booked the hotel and the car we had to figure out how to get to a place where Enterprise could pick us up. We’re anchored in a lake surrounded by private homes with no place to land a dinghy. We called a city marina that’s not too far but they want $20/ day to park the dinghy there, and since it would be there overnight they want $40. What a rip! The only other option was the Raw Bar and we weren’t too comfortable leaving the dinghy at the back of a restaurant on a busy street overnight. True Colors to the rescue! Marty graciously offered to dinghy us ashore to a convenient pickup spot, and with that our plans were in place and we spent the morning straightening up the boat, making water and trying to convince Izzy that we’d be back tomorrow.

About 45 minutes before we were due to leave it started to rain, just a nice gentle rain that makes us happy to have a covered cockpit. But instead of tapering off, the rain came harder and harder, and with five minutes to go I realized we’d have to dig out plastic bags and our foul weather gear.

Marty pulled alongside with Lily the chocolate lab and we piled in for the wet ride down the canal to our drop off point. By the time we walked to the street we were well and truly soaked and bedraggled carrying our overnight belongings in garbage bags. We apologized repeatedly to the Enterprise driver for getting his car wet, and then we got our rental wet, too, on the drive to Weston.

We got checked in a little after three o’clock and Jack reverted to form by claiming the full length of the sofa and the TV remote.


He was in heaven, surfing up and down the channel listings, watching five minutes of this, two minutes of that. Eventually he found his way to Bravo and Top Chef. What’s this? A Top Chef Marathon? Leading up to the finale tonight? Whoopee! You landlubbers can’t imagine how exciting this is for us. We’re in for the duration, except for the 8-9 slot, when we will watch Survivor.

Poor Izzy, holding down the fort while we indulge in pop culture. We told her “No parties!”


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The view from the front porch


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It was bound to happen

Izzy “Adventure Kitty” Katzenbaum finally fulfills the promise of her name. It was bound to happen sooner rather than later. The story begins with the first thing we bought for Escape Velocity nine months ago.


We’ve noticed a change in the little duffer. She is less enamored of shrubs and foliage on land, not that she gets many opportunities to try it out, but given the chance she’ll head right back to EV.

We’d promised her a bit of a romp on terra firma but first we had to make sure that Deezel, our hosts’ cute dog, wasn’t around. Izzy isn’t partial to dogs and she’s quite nervous in new situations. Marce sent me back to EV for Izzy, then went into the house for Internet.

Now, dear readers, I feel I should explain that our setup for the 10 foot dinghy ride from our hosts’ sport fishing boat to EV, tied to their outer pilings, is less than ideal. It involves clambering over their transom, untying our dink’s painter and pulling on the stern line which is attached to EV, until one can hop onto the sugar scoop steps. So far so good. Izzy was not as enthusiastic as we were for her to discover new horizons. Based on her last few dinghy rides I eschewed her cat carrier deeming her an experienced yachtsman who would sit quietly in the bottom of the dink while I fiddled with the various lines and pulled us across the great divide. In hindsight this may have been a mistake. For extra insurance I clipped her leash on her collar.

It was quite a balancing act, climbing over the dink’s oversized inflatable tubes while holding her and we ended up sitting down abruptly, but any landing you can walk away from is copacetic with me. I deployed Izzy at the bottom of the dink and started the ferrying process. Sometime while tying and untying the various lines, Izzy decided that she had seen enough new horizons and she wasn’t having any of it! In one desperate leap she was heading home.

You know I’m convinced that she would have made it to EV if it weren’t for that leash. There was a surprisingly big splash for such a small cat. As she swam away from me, her little head bobbing with each stroke and her leash trailing behind her, I thought that could be the last thing I see of Izzy.

I leaped into action, nixing a fleeting notion of diving in after her. That rarely turns out well. It was the “Izzy net” I was after. In my panic I had a rough time getting the net down off the roof. I ran along the side of the boat peering down into the water but I couldn’t see her. I was convinced that she must have gone under.

As I was developing a plan B I noticed a dark object at the bottom of the front piling. It turned out to be Izzy clinging to the wooden piling near the bow, over 40 feet from where she went in. I was afraid that she wouldn’t let go of the post even if I was able to scoop her up with the net. After positioning the net under her I started to push her up the pole and she was so exhausted she just tumbled into the net, which was suddenly so heavy I was afraid it would snap. I deposited her on deck and wrapped her in a towel. She started to shake uncontrollably and I knew the only person that could comfort her was Marce.


I stuffed her into a boat bag and whisked her into Marce’s arms as fast as I could.

I guess it was only a matter of time but Izzy showed pluck, strength, and resourcefulness in dire circumstances. Of course her ordeal wasn’t over. We had to hose her down with fresh water to try get the saltwater off. She may never forgive me, two dunkings in one day, but she survived.

Izzy “Adventure Kitty” Katzenbaum. Yeah that works.


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Odds & Ends

First, adventure seekers, I would ask you all to pause in your busy daily tasks to send positive vibrations to our good friend Alan to lift his boat Snow White off the rocks at the entrance to Ponce, Puerto Rico. There are limits to human endurance and I’m afraid when the body has had enough it does what it wants. Good luck, Alan.


Here in Miami much work has been done on Escape Velocity while tied to the outer pilings of our good friends’ dock. The long anticipated arrival of Capt. Joe Hanko on EV saw the day dawn cold and rainy and he had boat show traffic to fight through. With the late start I wondered how much we could accomplish but we just put our heads down and pressed on.


A sailor on our boat with an umbrella; you saw it here first.

We started with the generator which was rewired with waterproof circuit breakers and scary household wire thrown away.


That’s Joe down in the port hull. I’ve spent some serious time down there and I can unequivocally say it’s not fun. Every time we opened up a compartment we heard, “What in the world were they thinking?” He straightened out a lot of problems, mostly electrical, which I feel good about because I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the wiring the way it was.


By the time we finished the electrical system it was dark and very late so Marce made dinner for us.

With our new battery monitor we can now run the LED TV on the inverter and know exactly how the batteries are doing.


We caught up with Downton Abbey by watching the PBS app on an iphone on 3G, fed into the TV with an HDMI cable! Amazing. I’m sure AT&T never envisioned this when they offered an unlimited data plan.


At the Miami boat show we found an AIS unit that has WIFI and got a “boat show price.” More on that project later.

So it’s back up to Fort Lauderdale because the Julia Tuttle Bridge in Miami has only 56 feet of clearance and we need at least 62. We’ve really enjoyed hanging with our friends Jeff & Nancy and the tranquil Indian Creek Canal.



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The view from the back porch


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Why are we still here?

I know it seems like we get anchor/mooring glue a little too often, but really, we do want to be on the move again. This time our holdups are bureaucratic and medical.

Top of my to-do list since we arrived back in Florida has been to become official Florida residents. This requires that we get Florida driver’s licenses and register to vote. Voter registration was easy online but the DMV wants proof of new address. Most people use utility bills, a lease or a property deed but as liveaboards we have none of that, and we get all our bills and bank statements electronically. I called both of our financial institutions and requested statements mailed to our new official Florida address. And with that, the fun began. We received statements in New Jersey and Pennsylvania but not Florida. I called again. We got one statement in Florida, the rest in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I called again and got another statement in Florida, the rest in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, we opened a new bank account, gave our new address and received new ATM cards — one in Florida, one in New Jersey. Apparently the corporate forces of nature will fight a change of address to the bitter end. I sat on the phone with each institution and asked them to please go through all the account records and excise the old addresses but still they linger on.

Eventually we cobbled together enough proofs of address to take to the driver’s license office and as of yesterday we are finally officially Floridians. It’s a victory of sorts but my ATM card is still in New Jersey.

Last weekend we ordered an AIS transponder at the Miami boat show. AIS overlays information on our chartplotter about ships near us and broadcasts our location and course to other vessels. It’s the new generation of collision avoidance and the last big purchase on our list. I got an order confirmation yesterday and saw that in our shipping address “Bay Drive” was entered as “Bag Drive.” Jack called right away but part of the order had already shipped so we don’t know if it will find us or cause yet another delay. I’ve been in this clerical hell for weeks now and I’d like to spend a day happily doing something fun on the boat (nothing involving the heads, please) instead of working the phone and chasing an Internet connection. I keep telling myself that will come, but we’re learning how difficult it is to live the nomadic life.

For me the most important item on the list is a checkup for Jack. He had cancer six and a half years ago, and while we’re pretty confident he’s ok, we wanted one last official reassurance before we cancel our health insurance and head out. His surgeon recommended a couple of doctors nearby and we rented a car for the appointment, big folder of records in hand. The visit went well, we liked the doc, he ordered a few last tests which we’ll take care of next week, and best of all, he gave us confidence that we have very little to worry about. I’ll breathe my sigh of relief after next week.

Otherwise life aboard Escape Velocity is still a dream come true. I’m starting to worry, though. I need to do some serious provisioning and as I look around there aren’t too many places left to put things. For all the things we’ve brought aboard, I only managed to remove two towels and a coffee pot. I need to work on that.


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You can’t get there from here

Roland looked up at me with a big grin and said, “You can’t get there from here.” His T-shirt was already soaked through, he was holding up the seventy-nine cent 0-ring that should have cost five cents, shaking his head because he knew that most of the front of the motor would have to be removed to expose the throttle shaft so he can slip the little 0-ring on, so it stops leaking oil on the engine which drips into the bilge making a big, and I’m told stinky, mess.

You can’t get there from here without a lifetime of experience working on every type of engine there is. He knew several tricks used to avoid tearing apart the guts of the fuel system, but nothing worked. He also knew when it didn’t work that it wasn’t going to work and he smiled and said, “it is what it is.”

Parts came flying off that stubborn engine so fast it made my head spin. At one point he held up a little circlip and said, “Do you know why they call this the Jesus clip? No? Because if you drop it that’s the first thing everybody says. You’re going to need this, and that and this little cotter key. You can buy them and they’ll look like they fit but they won’t work right.”


The first mate made noises about how the skipper just might be able to change out a little O-ring. Changing an 0-ring is nothing, getting to the 0-ring is everything.


Everything was back together in minutes and with the engine cranking over we waited with bated breath for the Volvo to catch, as Roland bled the fuel system. Finally after 45 minutes of turn it on, turn it off, turn it on, turn it off, accompanied by horrible noises and no small amount of SPARKS finally traced to a bolt that didn’t get the full Roland treatment, our Volvo was purring again and not leaking.


It wasn’t cheap but it was the right call.

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The view from the back porch

It’s an unusually still morning here in Surfside.


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Full ownership

I don’t set these words down with any sort of pride, but with a simple desire to demonstrate the concept that the skipper of any craft is fully invested in the heads and related plumbing. This has had me worried for some time now because both of our pumpout macerators have demonstrated a fondness for mischief. When one throws the innocently labeled Macerator switch one never knows what will happen and even if it’s working perfectly how would one know? You flip the switch, it makes a racket, did it work? I don’t know. From the sound I think it might have. This is the kind of conversation we have every time. Things like “can you smell anything?” come up a lot too.

Well dear reader, “Fix macerator leak” has been on the list for some time now. There are many reasons why it hasn’t been seen to, I dare say some of which you’ve already thought of. The starboard macerator has been, up till now, my star pump unlike her evil twin the port macerator pump which has leaked, made unholy noises, eaten impeller blades, and simply not done anything at all since we bought Escape Velocity. Other than a small leak the starboard macerator has worked as advertised. Fix macerator leak…it sounds so simple. On inspection I could see that it was loose and missing two studs and fasteners. It’ll have to come out. Four hose clamps, two hoses, two wires, and four mounting screws and its all mine. I can take it out of the impossibly tight confines under the bathroom sink and operate out on the cockpit table. I got as far as the second hose.

The instant that 1-1/2″ hose slipped off the macerator shit was flying everywhere. Walls, ceiling, face, hair, clothes — and I’d like to offer this small piece of advice — if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re holding a big hose gushing shit never open your mouth to say, “oh shit.”

I’m told that my second mistake was taking my dripping sorry butt through the boat to show Marce how hard I was working. She was initially bemused until she noticed the vile trail of holding tank product behind me. And the smell.

Well, thrill seekers, the Skipper was unceremoniously marched out of the living quarters onto the curiously named sugar scoop to de-poop. This gives Escape Velocity a whole new meaning!


After near retching the 1st mate cheerfully came to grips with what was left of the starboard hull.


I quickly formed a plan that would involve an old macerator that I knew was buried in the back of a cockpit locker. Maybe between the two I could make one worthy of the name.


With bits from this and bits from that your humble servant was able to fashion a macerator that leaked in new and unusual places.

But that’s not the bad news. The bad news was that I had to unplug that python of a hose and get it back on the macerator. A few words to St Jude, patron saint of lost causes and within minutes I was squirting down the guest bathroom again. Not quite as bad this time, after all the holding tank only holds 20 gallons, filled to the brim because the 1st mate thought the holding tanks were starting to smell a little so she topped them up with chemicals and water. I guess I fixed that. Now there’s no doubt about the smell.

Marce spent another hour or two scrubbing up again and sniffing every nook and cranny. It’ll take a few days to get back to normal. And the pump still leaks.


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OK, just one more Boat Show!

Well, we find ourselves near Miami at Boat Show time and it doesn’t take a brain scientist to guess where we’ll be this Saturday. The Miami show is a good one. It’s not Annapolis, especially for sailboats, but there are deals and venders all in one place.

That’s downtown Miami over Izzy “Adventure Kitty’s” shoulder. We could dinghy to it.

It’s very different going to a boat show when you’re refitting or updating your own boat than when you’re just dreaming. It tends to focus the mind, especially when a boat show is set up to distract. We still need a few things but the intangibles like official address change, driver license change, and vaccinations are driving us to distraction. Sometimes it’s a major victory just to get a vender to show up.

So we work the phones while Escape Velocity tugs at her dock lines, floating
here in the lap of luxury, and we plan. Ok, one last boat show.


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