Tag Archives: Emily Strife

The enduring soul of Chocobo

We knew when we bought our boat that we had big shoes to fill. The previous owners, Danielle and Roger not only sailed around the world but were famous in cruising circles for leading a convoy of boats that dared to sail through the pirate infested waters off Somalia and into the Red Sea, a passage that used to be commonplace but is now rare because of the danger of boarding, kidnapping or worse. You can read about the passage here and here.

Chocobo was a distinctly recognizable boat, with yellow canvas and cushions and a Chocobo, a big yellow bird, on each bow. We worked hard to make her our boat, removing the bird and most of the yellow, and of course, renaming her Escape Velocity. Despite the changes, our 1998 Manta catamaran is still recognized as Chocobo and we still run into people who know Danielle and Roger.

Not long ago we looked up a brunch companion’s blog as we sat enjoying a late morning chat in Prickly Bay. I bookmarked the site and glanced at the “blogs I follow” column.

“Hey, Chocobo!” I blurted. “That’s our boat!”

“You used to own that boat?” He asked.

“No! It’s our boat now; it’s Escape Velocity!”

It turns out he had crossed the Pacific in company with Chocobo and knew Danielle and Roger well. Small world, we were thinking.

Then just last week we were about to raise anchor in Carriacou when I noticed a boat that was heading out of the harbor suddenly turn around and come right towards us.

“Jack, I think this guy’s going to hit us!” Jack ran upstairs and we both watched anxiously as the boat pulled alongside.

“I’ve known that boat since it was Chocobo!” Jack and I stood there agape, wondering how anyone could recognize Escape Velocity as Chocobo. Turns out he’s one of the readers of Chocobo’s blog that continue to follow the adventures of the boat, even when the name and the owners have changed.

We’re proud to be the caretakers of this fine vessel, and we’re happy to know that Danielle and Roger left happy memories with so many people along their path. We think that means we’ll be welcome wherever we go because the spirit of Chocobo will pave the way.


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EV gets a facelift

We wrote previously about the gawdawful Poliglow that was used on our boat and how sad it made her look. Plus, after 15 years and a trip around the world there were plenty of bumps and bruises all over. Our general rule is to spend our maintenance and upgrade dollars first on repairs and such that keep us from sailing but we both felt the need to spruce up the old girl. A normal compound and wax just wouldn’t do the trick; we were starting from -10 and we wanted to get to +8 or thereabouts. That’s a long way to go. All of our scrubbing and stripping failed to remove the offending Poliglow and after several trips around the boat with our fiberglass guy and a lot of testing of various toxic brews the conclusion was: it’ll have to be sanded off. This concurred with our own Internet research, and reluctantly we agreed to the estimate.

The work happens in fits and starts, which is apparently how it is here in Trinidad. Between rainstorms and road closings and our guys getting pulled onto other jobs, we eventually had to make a little noise in the office to get things going. Luckily Brian and our main man Ryan take great pride in what they do, and we’re delighted with the results so far. This includes — besides the big job of sanding all the Poliglow off and compounding the hulls and deck — a fiberglass wrap of our hull-to-deck joint around the port trampoline, filling and gel coating of various chips and cracks, dinghy dings at the back steps, and a couple of amateur patch jobs that bothered us.






After the compounding but before the waxing Jason of Signlab applied new striping, logo, boat name and hailing port. EV is looking good!






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Spectator sport

Just like in the movie The Money Pit ask anyone at haul out how long they plan to be on the hard and you’ll hear, “two weeks.” Ha! It never happens. But as each boat finally makes the journey on wheels toward the water, friends and neighbors gather to watch, to cheer, and to bemoan whatever delays keep them on the dusty gravel.


Last week Moana Roa launched. They held pretty close to schedule despite equipment delivery delays and other setbacks because they had been selected by a visiting camera crew to be the star tourists in a promotional video for Trinidad. They’re a young, energetic, photogenic family and will be enthusiastic spokespeople for the island.


The video crew wanted to shoot the launch but Moana Roa was still waiting for an important part before they could install their propellor. No worries, the yard just hauled the boat to the ramp and the propellor was installed at the last minute with the camera rolling.



We spectators stayed out of camera range but cheered Moana Roa to the anchorage. 20131110-090705.jpg

But first, they did a driveby so the camera could capture them afloat. Note the second cameraman on the rooftop on the left. 20131110-090733.jpg

We learned shortly afterwards that only one engine had started and they were somewhat limited in their maneuverability. We also discovered Sonia had left her cap on the grass by the ramp. Again, no worries. The boys dove into the dinghy and motored ashore to retrieve it, giving one of the cameramen an added opportunity for an action shot.


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Shell game

You’ll remember we bought new chain in July and once it was onboard we promptly dropped a large part of it (and our anchor) into the bay where it’s been for the past three months. We’ve stayed put at first because we couldn’t use the mainsail while we waited for the replacement universal joint for the folder furling gear, and then because Jack was recovering from unexpected surgery on our Miami trip. It’s been a safe and secure hook but oh my! the mess on our chain and anchor bridle was the laughing stock of the anchorage. We’d had a few recommendations to let out 20 feet or so of chain once a week and let it drag back and forth on the bottom, then reel it back in. Supposedly that scrubs up the part that’s closest to the surface and the sunlight where the marine growth adheres. Did we do it? No. Lesson learned.

We finally steeled ourselves and attacked the mess. It was so bad we had to go link by link to dislodge the shells and weeds, pulling the chain on deck two feet at a time. We got the chain up and cleaned as far as where the anchor bridle attaches by a chain hook. It was a particularly big mess at the chain hook and Jack leaned over the bow with his giant screwdriver hoping to break off chunks of shells and muck. He dug the blade in and pushed and the chain hook came off the chain and we watched as the hook, the bridle and Jack’s favorite defensive weapon flew through the air and into the sea. Damn! Jack ran to the stern and came back with the boat hook.

“What are you doing?” I asked. I couldn’t imagine he thought he could retrieve a screwdriver lying on the bottom 25 feet below with a 10-foot boat hook..

“I think it might still be stuck on the bridle!” And with that he carefully hooked the line and eased it up, slowly so as not to dislodge the blade of the screwdriver if it was still there. I leaned over the bow and we watched as the line came into view. Yes! We could see the screwdriver, the point still stuck in the ball of muck, the handle hanging down precariously. Jack continued to coax the line up and I reached down as far as I could until finally I could snag the handle. Success! And teamwork!

It took a few hours to finish up the job and today our hands are sore with a gazillion tiny little cuts from the razor-sharp shells but the chain is all clean and ready for us to weigh anchor. Except for the anchor, of course, which we fully expect to be the beginnings of an artificial reef when we haul it up.

So maybe we shouldn’t stay in one place so long. We’ll take that under advisement.





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Sticky wicket

We made the long trek to Budget Marine at the head of Prickly Bay for what was billed as a massive tent sale that opened at 8am. There’s no easy way to get there by bus so we dinghy to the next bay over and walk up and down over steep hills to get there. As we came through the hole in the fence at the end of one of the shortcut paths a woman was just leaving her house to walk in our direction. We said our good mornings and talked about the weather, slowing down as we climbed up Lover’s Lane to the main road. “It’s my country,” she wheezed, “but I hate these hills.”

We asked her name and she told us Louise and that she had been to the US many times, mostly to Cape Cod and New York. She asked where we were from and Jack said, “Pittsburgh,” adding, as he always does, “Go Steelers.”

I wasn’t sure if Louise knew where Pittsburgh is but Jack went on to explain that Pittsburgh’s baseball team did very well this season. Louise furrowed her brow and said she didn’t understand baseball at all.

“For example,” she said, “they hit the ball, run around once and then stop!”

“You’re a cricket fan, right?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she said, “I love cricket.”

“See, we don’t understand cricket either” I said. “But we’re trying.”

Louise launched into a detailed explanation of the game, and almost instantly my eyes glazed over. I could see Jack was as befuddled as I was. Crease, bowl, pitch, stump. Cricket terms are words we already know but mean something else entirely in the context of the game. And then there are the cricket-specific words: googly, nurdle, dilscoop, mullygrubber, hoik. Trying to learn cricket involves a new language as well.

“– and if the ball is caught out of the air it’s an out –” Louise was patiently explaining, sensing our confusion.

“Wait a minute!” I perked up. “It’s the same in baseball!”

Louise stopped her lesson and turned to us in surprise. “It is?”


And the three of us smiled that we had found a point of connection across the great sports divide between baseball- and football-based America and the rest of the world.

We’re still determined to learn cricket but I think it’s going to take more than Louise to get us there. We said goodbye when we turned onto “the concrete road,” as Louise called it, and continued to Budget Marine and the tent sale. Turns out it wasn’t worth the trip. But meeting Louise was.

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Waiting game

We hightailed it out of Belhaven and its digital isolation for an uneventful motor to Oriental. We were last here during the sweltering week of the 4th of July and enjoyed the small town hospitality and Croakerfest. Now it’s the quiet off-season, and while the people are still friendly, the town seems a little less colorful.

We pulled into the fuel dock and — surprise, surprise — there was a Manta at the adjacent dock. It was Sunshine, whose skipper we’d met at the Annapolis get-together. Mike and Margaret were waiting for a package which arrived as we were fueling up. They disappeared below to replace their water pump, and the next morning I watched them leave the harbor at first light, heading for warmer waters. We will be too, but first there’s the little matter of our mainsail.

We would have preferred to take the sail off in a little less breeze, but we didn’t want to wait for what could be days. So we bundled up and pulled the sail off the boom, trying to flake it carefully on deck while the breeze fought back.



Fighting the wind and the weight of the sail, we couldn’t manage to bag it neatly, but we dumped it and the battens into the dinghy and went ashore.


Our chosen sailmaker met us at the dock to save us a long walk with an awkward bundle. He was able to get the replacement battens ordered and on the truck before the end of the day which will help us a lot, since next week is a holiday. On the other hand, the weather doesn’t look too good for a departure south any time soon, so we might as well enjoy what Oriental has to offer.

This morning we went to the little farmers market along the street in front of the Bean Cafe. There wasn’t much produce, but I did get a couple of turnips, some collards and mustard greens. We’re definitely in the south.


Jack got the story of how Oriental got its name from a local on our way to the cafe for our morning pick-me-up. http://www.towndock.net/about_oriental



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The view from the side deck



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South but colder

I awoke at 5am to a cabin that was 39 degrees Fahrenheit. I could see my breath. I tried to stay under the covers a little longer but even Jack “The Furnace” wasn’t putting out much heat. Eventually I went upstairs, started the generator and turned on the little space heater, then began the coffee-making process.

Here’s how I maximize the use of water and BTUs. First I boil a kettle of water and fill the empty thermos pot to warm it up. I refill the kettle and when that water is boiling I pour the hot water from the thermos pot into our two thermal coffee mugs to warm them, then use the fresh boiling water to make coffee in the thermos pot. Finally, when the coffee is made, I empty the hot water from the two thermal mugs into the dishpan so we can wash the dinner dishes without getting chapped hands.

Don’t we have a hot water heater, you ask? Why yes, we do, and when we’re motoring all day as we do in the ICW the water gets plenty hot. But in these temperatures, by morning there’s not much heat left. It’s a little too much like camping in this climate, but we look forward to the temperature inching up day by day. And when the sun is shining, it’s glorious.




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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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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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