“I’m Okay!” … sort of (Viewer Discretion Advised)

April 28, 2014:

The first thing I remember seeing after the fall was the big, white meat of my arm.  Between the time I hit, opened my eyes and blinked several times at it, it had grown twice the size.  I knew it had hit, something, and I knew it hurt, but to see it so swollen, so suddenly, just mesmerized me.  I really thought it might be broken.  In all of the wild antics of my youth – gymnastics, barrel racing, cheerleading, jello wrestling and other numerous, countless stupid decisions in college – I had yet to break a bone (knock on wood) and I was thinking this might be the end of that lucky streak.  I clenched my first a time or two and rolled my wrist and, while my entire forearm was numb and throbbing, everything seemed to be working fine, so I decided the bones were at least intact.

“I’m okay … I think,” I said.  “I, … I think I’m okay.”

I heard Phillip set the auto-pilot so he could come on deck to check on me and I noticed the main halyard (that bleepin’ thing) was now dangling at about his waist-level on the deck.  Before thinking about how it got there, I grabbed it (that bleepin’ thing) and began to surmise that I must have pulled it down, at least in part, during my fall because it was now so much lower.  But, I couldn’t recall exactly, grabbing it or letting it go.  But that got me thinking about the fall.  Why had I fallen?  What had snapped?

As if hearing my thoughts, Phillip said “the lazy jack snapped,” as he stepped up on deck.  I didn’t even look up (assuming I even could turn around to see it), I knew exactly what he meant.  We had busted the lazy jack line for the stack pack on the starboard side during our passage to Port St. Joe.

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That time it was because of rough wind and weather that had caused the sail to put too much force on the starboard lazy jack line, causing the rivet on the spreader to rip clean off.

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And, what we gathered from that incident was that the lazy jack lines are not intended to hold extensive weight.  We have since learned (from our trusty rigger, Rick Zern) that this design is intentional so that the rivet for the lazy jack line will fail before excessive strain is placed on the spreader.  Makes sense.  But, clearly this riveting (no pun intended) fact somehow escaped me as I was doing my circus act up on the boom, reaching with all my might, one strained, out-stretched hand to the halyard, the other with a mighty death-grip on the port-side lazy jack line.

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And, then SNAP!  I’d done ripped the one on the port-side off, too, and suffered a mighty fall as a result.

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Dad-burnit!

It all made sense–now–as I lay in a crumpled heap on the deck.  But, what’s done is done.  At least I hadn’t broken anything, or so I thought.  As I started to stand, though, to re-secure the halyard, I discovered a new pain–my knee.  It seems it, too, had hit something and it, too, was already swollen.  Phillip frowned at me and laid a sturdy hand on my shoulder, which told me to sit tight for a minute. He secured the halyard then helped me to my feet so I could hobble back to the cockpit.  Like my arm, my knee was numb and throbbing, but it appeared to be working.  Phillip seemed to be comforted, slightly, by the fact that I was somewhat satisfactorily mobile, but I hated to see such a look of worry and anger on his face.  While I had managed to get that bleepin’ halyard down, it was at a serious cost, and it was clear the Captain was not impressed with my … heroism.

We set me down in the cockpit for a good once-over (I warn you, this is not pretty):

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The arm had developed some gnarly purple streaks where (I can only assume) it sheared down the lifelines on the way to the deck.

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It was fat and painful, but, like I said–working.

The knee had developed this very strange ping-pong ball-shaped lump on the left side of my kneecap:

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I wasn’t sure what to even make of that.  Why the perfect round lump?  Why swelling in such an isolated spot?  I had injured my knee before–well, this knee (the left) actually, years and years ago.  I tore my ACL while tumbling in high school and had it surgically repaired back in 2000.  But, just last year, I sprained the MCL in my right knee during my first attempt at skiing.  It had swollen then, too, almost instantly, but it was a global swelling of the whole knee–not just a perfectly segregated ping-pong ball lump–and it required a massive needle and surgical suction for that swelling to eventually dissipate.  (You may recall the removal of the spawn of Satan from my knee!).  This lump was strange …   We did all we knew to do at the time–ice everything and see what developed.

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As I sat there, looking back on it, I can’t promise I wouldn’t jump back up on that boom to try and retrieve a swinging halyard–it is such a monstrous chore to retrieve it once it inches its way out of your reach–but I guess the best I can say is I hope to never let go of the halyard again.  We already knew this lesson, we’d learned it several times, but it just happens, sometimes as a result of rocking waves or other hazards, but other times just as a result of a senseless human error (it’s entirely possible to just accidentally let go of something).  I mean, you have hands to hold things, but they’re human hands, so they err.  I am hopeful, at least, that we have now sufficiently modified our halyard-shackling procedure to eliminate the frequency of the latter.

We always secure our halyard away from the mast while at anchorage or the marina so as not to be “that guy” at the party.

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Yes, that one.  If the sun’s just starting to set at the anchorage, folks are just starting in on their second cocktail or dinner,  kicked back in the cockpit for a quiet evening on the hook and you’re the one whose halyard is banging, trust me, you are that guy.

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And, to make sure my internet scouring for the perfect “that guy” images does not go to waste, do know that there are various websites on the web devoted entirely to helping you NOT be “that guy”:

1) “Avoid Being that Guy (or Girl) at a Party” (you gotta love Wikihow’s gender equality – no one wants to be “that girl” either); and

2) “Office Holiday Party – Making a Good Impression

Rather, we like to come to the party real quiet-like, nice and smooth and subtle.  The svelte gentlemen in the black attire, if you will, the guy that everybody likes.

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Yeah, that guy.  So, when we drop our main sail before dropping the hook, we have made a habit of securing the main halyard to one of the lazy jacks that holds up the stack pack.  Here:

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After this incident, we decided to snap the shackle back to the sail before leaving the dock or anchorage, but we found this occasionally allows the sail to start bouncing up a bit, particularly in rough seas, putting slack in the main halyard line which may cause it, if the wind is on your stern, to get wrapped around one of the arms of the spreader.  Recall, this is exactly the incident that caused me to climb up on the boom in the first place.  And, this is true even with the stack pack zipped closed as the rocking and bouncing of the boat can cause the sail to inch the zipper open and try to climb.  This does not happen often, however, so we chose the lesser of two evils–that is, securing the main halyard to the sail before leaving the dock/anchorage so that we are not doing it up on the deck, while underway, potentially in rough seas.

But, we have since learned an even better trick from a trusted boating friend and the knowledgeable fellow that did our bottom job back in May of last year (thank you Bottom-Job Brandon with Perdido Sailor).  We still remove the shackle from the stack-pack line and attach it to the main sail prior to leaving the dock/anchorage, but we now bring the line down and wrap it around the winch on the port-side of the mast so that the tension is pulling the sail down (not up) to prohibit any slack from forming in the line.

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See?  In sailing, you learn something new every day.  And, trust me, you will find a way–every day–to do something you’ve been doing for years in just a little better way.  It’s all about getting out there and doing it, making mistakes and learning, but continuing to do it.  A fine example is our stack-pack lazy-jack fix!  If you recall, when the lazy-jack line on the starboard side busted, the Captain came up with an ingenuous way to raise it back up using a somewhat-of-a spare line (the staysail halyard), so that we still had a functioning stack pack for the remainder of our trip to the Keys:

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He’s kind of smart like that sometimes!

But, since we had had to improvise and rig up a busted lazy-jack line before, we now knew how to do it again.  With another somewhat-of-a spare line on the port-side–this time, the topping lift for the spinnaker.  But, as it seemed we were running out of “spare” lines to hoist broken things, we vowed – “no more lazy-jack snaps!” – for the rest of the trip and hoped it would stick.  For the time being, I was numb but not broken.  We decided to hold the ice on for the first hour or so to attack the swelling, then we would remove it and have me move about a bit later in the day to assess the real damage.  I was sure there was going to be some (potentially severe) soft-tissue injury to my knee–and what an annoyance on a boat!–when it’s always up and down the companionway, kneel down here, squat there.  I couldn’t imagine losing the full function of such a crucial joint.  I was nervous and anxious about my limbs and my ability to fulfill my duties as First Mate for the remainder of the trip.  I mean, we had just left the Keys.  We still had 500 nautical miles to sail …

But, what’s done is done.  I had fallen, and I couldn’t change that.  And, we were still on the best sailing voyage of our lives.  I laid back on the ice, the Captain handled the sails and we set out for a beautiful day of sailing across the Gulf.

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Zeee BEST Key Lime Pie on zee Island

April 27, 2014:

I’m not sure why I kept saying it like that, but I did.  “Zee best, Phillip.  We must find zee best!”  It just seemed to give it a little more urgency with a thick Italian accent.  We had went on the hunt for the “zee best” key lime pie on the island the night of the Captain’s Big Four-Oh celebration, but I’m sad to say we didn’t find it.  Not that night (although we tried more pies than I can remember, and it seemed more pie made it on my dress and shoes than in my mouth – or so we discovered the next morning), but none of them really blew us away, so we were back on the hunt.  I mean, this was our last day on the island.  Our last chance!  Tomorrow, we would be tossing the lines and heading out (literally, heading out as we were sterned in at the slip at A&B Marina) and sailing back across the Gulf to begin our journey back up to Pensacola.

But, we had made it a long way.  While one of our original sail plans was to make the jump from the West Coast of Florida straight to the Dry Tortugas before heading over to Key West and then back north toward Pensacola,

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such is the nature of “plans,” that’s all they are until they come to fruition.  And, it seems in sailing, they often do not, which actually is what makes it so much fun.  Every day seems to hold a new, unexpected adventure.  Instead of sailing straight to the Dry Tortugas, though, we had made the jump from Ft. Myers beach straight to Key West,

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and then took a ferry over to the Dry Tortugas and back.

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Although we will definitely make the trip to Garden Key by sailboat next time, the ferry ride over and back was still a great way to experience the islands.  But, having rounded the proverbial “corner” of our trip, tomorrow marked the day that we would get the boat back out there and turn her north.

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So, this was it.  Our last day to mozey around the quirky little backroads of Key West and explore.  We set off early in the morning and deemed the hunt for “zee best” key lime pie on the island our mission.  The day started out, as many on the island had, with a stout shot of Cuban coffee at the Cuban Coffee Queen hut.

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Then it was off on foot!  To see and experience anything and everything we could!

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We walked for miles.  Okay, maybe two.  But, that’s still plural.  Starting to feel the first hunger pangs of the morning, we knew we had a big decision to make.  Where to eat.  Seriously, it was a tough one.  Do we take a chance on one of the many new places we had seen on our epic hike, or do we eat again at one of the places we already knew we loved?  We often face this dilemma when we travel to places we’ve been before.  NOLA is a prime example.  Things start to get dicey when we’re trying to decide whether to eat at Domenica or MiLa again (knowing every dish will be exquisite, savory, heaven on our pallets!), or do we venture off to that new little eatery that just opened in the Marigny that everyone’s raving about?  Decisions, decisions … 

We decided, for lunch, to go back to the place we had deemed our favorite restaurant in Key West – Paseo’s!  That little converted gas station that cranks out bowl after bowl of the sauciest, cheesiest Cuban wonders.

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Yeah, that place.  We definitely had to do that one again.  While we would have loved to bask under the misters outside, this time the place was pretty packed (a good sign for one of the many little eateries in Key West) so we plopped down at the bar inside and lavished in a little AC while we were putting in our order.

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You heard the monkey.  “Stop staring at my banana!”

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Love that place …   Phillip got the hot pressed Cuban sandwich again,

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which was excellent, just like last time, but (in a rare, glimmer or good-ordering luck) my pick was way better!  I decided to get really wild with it this time and order up the West Carribean bowl.

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Uhhh-huh.  That one.

And, it did not disappoint.  That was probably the best meal of the trip for me.  Flavorful beans and rice covered with homemade salsa, layers of melty cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro and pickled jalapenos, with a big succulent, roasted chicken thigh laid on top.

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Tortilla rounds for dipping and eating.  Every bite was cheesy and savory.  The perfect balance of mexican/carribean flavors.

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Yum.  But, it was HUGE.  If we had to do it over again, Phillip and I both agreed we could have easily shared the bowl, which means our favorite restaurant on the island (and ultimately our favorite meal of the trip) was also the cheapest.  (Although the Captain is not too keen on my use of that word – I guess mostly when I’m referring to wine – “Wow, this wine is really good, Phillip, and so cheap!”).  I’ll say it was the most economical.  We could stuff ourselves to the gills for only $6 a piece!!  I can assure you we paid more than that for each glass of wine we had at the fancier places.  But, it’s all about the experience you’re craving at the time.  We were in the mood for a cheesy pile of Cuban goodness in a rooster-pecking, misty gas station that day, so Paseo’s was the perfect choice.  After lunch, it was time to fulfill our ultimate mission that day … that’s right.  Say it.  With the accent.

“Zee BEST key lime pie on zee island!”

We set off.  We tried a bite here, a bite there,

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and they were all good.  Each one a little different.  Some a little more tangy, some a little sweeter.  Some with meringue, some with lime shavings, some plain.  But, we hadn’t felt like we had quite found the BEST piece piece when we stumbled upon this little gem.

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Kermit’s Key West Lime Shop, where they offered:

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Not just key lime pie, but frozen chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick??  Could this be it?  

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And, not only did they promise it was the best key lime pie on the island, no, no.  This was boasted as one of the “10 best desserts in America!”

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You can’t be serious.  But, they were.  Phillip didn’t hesitate.  “We’ll take it.  One frozen chocolate-dipped key lime pie, please.”  The key lime shop boy held up a frosty piece of pie and we both eyed it intently, the air swirling around it like dry ice, and the first few little droplets of sweat forming on the chocolate.  Phillip held it out to me, “ladies first,” and I took my first chilly bite.  Frozen, the lime seemed to take on a bolder, richer flavor that paired perfectly with the decadent dark chocolate coating.

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It was easily, hands down, the undisputed holder of the title Zee BEST key lime pie on zee island.  We had found it!  Frozen, dipped in chocolate, and waiting for us in this quirky little key lime shop right near the marina.  But, that was just the beginning.

More

Yes, there’s more.  After we moaned and mmmmhhhh‘ed through our first few bites, knowing we had found it – zee best! – the shop boy told us (perhaps because we were making a bit of a scene in the store) that there was a “little veranda out back” where we could enjoy our pie.  We looked up at the boy with chocolate-covered faces and then looked back at each other.  A veranda?  Sounds great.  Let’s check it out.  

There, tucked behind the shop (completely hidden from the street) was the perfect little shaded terrace where one could sit daintily at the rod iron bistro style tables, overlooking the coy pond and waterfall and nibble on the frozen decadent treat that had been deemed one of the 10 best desserts in America.

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Yes, this, is where we ate “zee best” key lime pie on the island.  And, the pond was filled with beautiful Chinese fish.

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I just noticed the whopping pie-on-a-stick in this shot when I sat down to write this blog, and I had to laugh.  Trying to get all artsy with it.  Nice try, Captain!

I sat and watched the fish tool around in the little pond while the Captain ate most of the pie.

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We found a poster on the wall, too, with each of their head shots and names – Darth Vader, Carrot Top, Cagney and Lacey …

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Our hunt for the best key lime pie had lead us to the coolest little place!  This was one incredibly happy First Mate!

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But, the leisurely strolls through the streets of Key West had to be balanced with the work we knew we needed to get done to ready the boat and crew for the passage tomorrow.  We headed over to Fausto’s to provision up for the trip.  Our buddy Postal Bob had recommended it as the best stop on the island for food, provisions and supplies, and he was right.  We stocked up, and headed back to the boat to wash clothes at the marina laundry, fill the water tanks, and make some easy, filling food for the passage.  We decided this time to make a hearty ham salad.

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Diced ham, cheese, tomatoes and celery, tossed in a light Italian dressing.

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Hey, check it out!  I’m cooking and blogging!

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Bringing you only “zee best” of zee Plaintiff’s Rest!

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Once we finished our chores, we cleaned and got ready to head out for our last night on the town.  We’d spent the afternoon whipping up some goodies for tomorrow, so we felt it was high time we whip up some goodies for to-DAY.

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Oh yeah.  That’s happening.  “Hey, Annie.  You want an Oh Shit?”

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“Yes, please!

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A little coconut rum, a little dark rum, some pineapple and just a splash of OJ and it’ll make you say “Oohh Shiiiiit!”  We love that drink!

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Cheers!

We made our to-go drinks and began our last saunter along the streets of Key West.  We decided there was another place on the island that we had to frequent twice before we left -to pay a little tribute I suppose to the legend – Hemingway’s old haunt, Sloppy Joe’s.  We ordered up a couple of ‘Ritas – the Sloppy-Rita for me, and the straight Mara-Rita for the Captain.

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Good stuff!

But, that was just the beginning of our cocktail crawl.  It seems that’s what you do in the Keys.  Don’t worry – we packed spare livers.  We decided we wanted to fill our first stomach (we packed a few extra of those, too) at the Schooner Wharf Bar.  We had walked through the outdoor dining/live music area before and had vowed to come back one afternoon to try out the oysters and happy hour specials there.  Well, this was our last chance, so we nestled in at a little table for two and began one of our favorite hobbies — People Watching!

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And, friends, let me just tell you the scene did not disappoint.  They came from all walks of life.  From salty, scraggly sailors that looked like they’d just rowed in from Cuba to wide-eyed ritzy Mr. and Mrs. Howell-type tourists that seemed simultaneously appalled yet oddly excited by the loud, schooner scene.

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Oh my!

Not only were the people great to watch, though (I know, I really should have titled this post “But wait!  There’s more!“) they put on quite the show, too.  There was this loud party of six next to us that looked like they’d been there for hours.  Three empty foamy pitchers and a dozen dirty Schooner Wharf solo-like cups were laid out on the table before them and they would intermittently bust out in song or raucous laughter, seemingly oblivious to the other patrons around them.  I was, of course, eyeing them closely (knowing they were likely going to provide a gold-mine of fodder for the blog – this is rich stuff, people!) and they did not disappoint.  One of the women clumsily scooted her chair back, burped visibly and started to stand up to stumble to the bathroom when she let out a high-pitched little “whoop!” and stepped back really quickly (showing more dexterity than I thought she was capable of her in condition).  I leaned around to try and see whatever it was that had caused her to jump back.  She stood there for a moment with her head cocked to one side looking at it, too, but I couldn’t quite see what it was yet.  The woman wobbled down to a crouch and scooped it up and started massaging whatever IT was in her hands.  I still couldn’t quite make it out, but she started walking towards us with it so I knew I would get a glimpse.

Turns out it was a bird.  Looked like a pigeon.  And, she was stroking and massaging its chest, saying “Awww, c’mon now biddy.  It wasn’t so bad.”  

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She had stepped on it.

You would think, birds being so agile and dexterous, this one could have managed to find its way out of the path of this inebriated broad, but perhaps he’d been nibbling too many beer-soaked oyster crackers that fell from that party’s table to get his hide in gear before she – “whoop!” – smashed his poor little pigeon pride.

I did feel bad for her, and the bird.  She seemed genuinely sorry about it, but she was holding him on his back and giving him little timed chest compressions as if she could revive him.  “C’mon now … ”  Bird CPR, if you will, except for the mouth-to-mouth, or beak, I suppose.  Yes, that’s what we saw — bird CPR.  (I’ll have you know that was another raging contender for title of this post as well – it’s so hard to choose!).  She sat him down near the fence, and the poor little guy kind of sat there with his head wobbling around on his pigeon shoulders and blinking his eyes.  He didn’t move much at first, but when she came back to check on him, I think he heard her King Kong footsteps and big squawk voice coming – “Here biddy!”

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because he sprouted his little pigeon feet and high-tailed it, wobbling his way through a hole in the fence and out for cover.  We were cheering him on quietly from behind.  “Go, go, GO!”  What a show!  I’m telling you, I really can’t make this stuff up …

After the pigeon show, the cocktails (yes, more) and oysters came and we settled back for a great afternoon of entertainment at the old Wharf Bar.

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Yum.  

The guy playing music was very entertaining as well.  He was a singer/song-writer with a very dry sense of humor.  He said one of the songs he wrote was inspired by a gal who used to wait tables there at the bar, and right before he began the number, which was aptly titled She Got a Butt, he said “I’m glad that ____ doesn’t work here anymore.”  I’ll let you fill in the blank.  He was a riot.  We had a great time listening to his music and knocking back a few cocktails and a raw dozen.

We had made dinner reservations that night at another restaurant a fellow cruiser at the marina had said was his favorite on the island – 7 Fish.  It was very good, excellent fish, but just not our favorite – particularly for the price point.  And, unfortunately, it was very dark in there – made it difficult, even, to see what you had ordered.

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We started out with some mushroom quesadillas that ended up being our favorite part of the meal.  Super moist and flavorful.

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I got the blue chesse gnocchi with snapper on top, and the gnocchi was a big hit.  That is so hard to do well (trust me, we’ve tried!).

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And Phillip got the thai snapper.

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Excellent meal, but – you see what I mean – hard to see!  Our bellies, hearts (and livers!) full, we mozied on back to the boat to enjoy our last night in the slip at Key West.  Tomorrow morning, we would be getting up early (sunrise, likely), to ready the boat and begin making our way back across the Gulf up toward Ft. Myers.  We were ready to get back out in blue waters!  We were ready to make another passage!  What we weren’t ready for, was another debacle on the boat, a fall that ended with a sickening thud.  I warn you followers – next time, viewer discretion may be advised …

The Dry Tortugas!

April 26, 2014:

That’s right, the westernmost point of the Florida Keys, the furthest island out, the Dry Tortugas!  This was the day!  When we set off some three weeks prior from Pensacola on this maiden voyage to the Keys, we had originally planned to sail to the Dry Tortugas.  We really wanted to make it all the way there via the s/v Plaintiff’s Rest, but we knew when we set off that it might not happen.  The Dry Tortugas are another 70 miles west of Key West, so about another 15-20 hour passage there, depending on the sea-state and weather, and then another 15-20 hours back.  So, to spend a few days anchored out at the Dry Tortugas would add another 5-6 days to our already-extended trip.  All evidence to the contrary (and until we hit it big with the Powerball), we do still have day jobs we had to get back to.  But, we weren’t going to let that stop us from seeing one of the most pristine islands in the states.  We booked a ferry and set off:

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And, you may laugh at this, but I have to say, riding on that ferry kind of blew my mind.  We had just traveled some 550 miles at the average speed of 4.5 knots.  If we “broke six” on the sailboat, we were making some real time.  And, now, here we were on this big ass ferry doing 29 knots.  We were flying!

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I looked like a goofy dog hanging his head out the back window as we ripped across the Gulf.

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“Jeepers, Captain!  Look at us go!”

I couldn’t stop staring over the side of the boat!

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It really was a strange sensation, though, to be moving SO fast across the water when we had been harnessing the power of the wind for most of our voyage, slowly cruising across the Gulf, picking our way along the coast to avoid the shoals and crab pods.  Oh, and the crab pods!  I had been so trained while we were sailing to keep a squinted eye out along the horizon for them, that the first one I saw as we were rushing through the water on the ferry, I nudged Phillip and pointed it out.  But, before I could get out the words, “Look, Phillip a crab … “   zwhoop!  There it went.  Sucked right up under the ferry.  Dodge crab pods?  Please.  These people had places to go!  It was crazy to see the ferry just mow a path right through them when we had taken such care all through the Gulf to gingerly pick our way around them.  Big.  Fast.  Motorboats.  That certainly was new to us.

But, cruising on the ferry was pretty nice.  We left around 8:00 a.m., and they had a little breakfast buffet spread out for us.  The typical kind of hotel continental breakfast food (bagels, cream cheese, toast, bright yellow fluff eggs) but it was air-conditioned inside the galley and there were plenty of places to curl up with a book and just relax.  I finished The Paris Wife, which we had picked up at the book swap in Port St. Joe.  It was somewhat of a tragic, but touching read.  Incredibly creative historical fiction viewpoint through the eyes of Hemingway’s first wife.  Highly recommend it.  And, Phillip dug into In Our Time – the bikini sprint birthday book.  We enjoyed sipping our coffee and reading while we cruised along.  Around mid-morning, we started to spot some islands on the horizon.

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And, then she started to come into view.

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Fort Jefferson.

I couldn’t believe the color of the water around her–so bright it was almost electric.  This piercing, neon green.  These photos can’t even begin to capture it.  It’s hard to take your eyes off of it, it’s so striking.

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Just as we were pulling in, a sea plane landed.

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And, then I saw the sign:

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Ha!  What a laugh.  It should just say:    <—  Poor Folk       Millionaires —>

When the ferry docked, we were free to explore.  Both Phillip and I were a little hesitant when we first booked the ferry because we really would have liked to have come to this beautiful island on our own sailboat and explored at our leisure.  Having to follow the rest of the fanny-pack clad tourists along, brochure in hand, being lead every step of the way by a verbose tour guide, is not how we wanted to experience this pristine landscape.  But, I will say, the folks running this ferry tour did a great job of allowing us the freedom and flexibility to experience the island on our own terms.  The ferry docked around 11:00 a.m. and a lunch spread was laid out.  You were then given the choice to either follow the formal tour guide, brochure in hand, and get a detailed history of the fort or you could explore on your own.  And, you didn’t have to eat lunch on the boat.  (You could if you wanted to, and many did because it was air-conditioned.)  But, you were also free to pack your own sandwiches and snacks up and set up your own picnic style lunch wherever you wanted on the island.  Snorkel gear was available in all sizes.  You could just check it out and bring it back at your leisure.  It was really a great “hands-off” approach to a tour.

Once the ferry docked, we set off for the Fort.

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It reminded me a lot of Fort Pickens back in Pensacola.  Lots of underground artillery bunkers, windows set up with a swivel gun for firing, twisted corridors and barracks for storage.

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We came across some neat finds while we were down there:

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One of the makeshift boats they used to cross from Cuba.

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An old Fort tower, lighthouse-slash-lookout.

We also learned some really interesting history about the Fort while we were poking around.  While I had a sinking suspicion that the name of the island had something to do with turtles (and I envisioned a Sir Francis Drake-like character stumbling upon a sea turtle-infested spit of land), I also know I have a tendency to make these type of silly connections on my own initiative that have nothing to do with reality, so I never spoke of it, but alas it was confirmed!  We learned that Ponce de Leon discovered the islands in 1513 and named them the Tortugas (which does mean turtle in Spanish) because of the hundreds of sea turtles he and his men found along the islands and shoals.  The Dry was added to let other explorers know there were no springs here.  It was a pretty rough environment for voyagers.  After 30 years on Garden Key, and due to an excruciating lack of sufficient supplies and provisions, the U.S. decided to forego the completion of Fort Jefferson, and it remained abandoned until the late 1800’s when it was used as a prison for a brief stint.  I could totally see that.

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The place was pretty barren.  And, there’s not really anywhere you could go assuming you did escape.  It is kind of out there on its own in the middle of the Gulf.

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We made it up to the top wall and found a great view of the entire island.

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We could see out to the anchorage, too, where we would someday be dropping our hook.

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The Captain looked out across the boats, a sigh and a dreamy glaze in his eye.

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“We’re going to be right there,” he’d tell me.  “Right there … ”  And, we will.  I can assure you.  Next time we come to the Dry Tortugas, the Plaintiff’s Rest will be resting her tired hull right there!

But, we were thrilled also to be there by ferry.  No matter how we got there, it was too beautiful not to enjoy.

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The water, again, is what continued to captivate me.  A glowing turquoise.

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Being the rogue travel rebels we are, we decided to pack up a lunch and eat on the wall that forms the moat around the Fort.

“Moat seating for two, please?”

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With a view like that, I don’t think I’ve ever had a ham sandwich that tasted that good.  We were fine dining al fresco!  You could lean over the wall and look down at the water and see all kind of fish and marine activity.

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We saw so much wildlife that day.  Even whales!

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So tame they would just float right by!

We had a great time picnicking on the moat.  We could have sat there all day …  But, you know us.  Not much for sitting.  We like to go, see and do!  So, it was time to see what this crystal green water was all about!

“Lose those clothes, Mate!  It’s time to get in!”

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“Roger that, Cap’n!”

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We snapped up some snorkel gear and set to it.

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I have only snorkeled a handful of times in my life, so I’m positively spoiled now.  Sorry Captain – you created this monster.  Because, the snorkeling there, at the Dry Tortugas, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  Not six inches below the waterline and you could see a whole spectrum of colors and coral and wildlife.

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There were tons of coral heads just teeming with life.  Many of them had these little (I’m struggling to describe it) swirly poof things, kind of like a flower blossom, that stuck out of them and when you swished your hand by them, they would suck back in to the coral.  You wouldn’t even have known they were alive, until you awakened them with a swish of water.  It was the coolest thing.

We snorkeled around the moat wall and then headed out about 100 yards off the western side of the island to the coral heads.  Phillip had a real eye for the wildlife and he pointed out a huge grouper, even a nurse shark.  I know what they say about sharks – don’t bother them and they won’t bother you – but I’ll say I kicked away slowly and steadily, keeping my eye on that guy.  This is one Mate who had no desire to be shark bait that day.  We snorkeled around for an hour or so and then kicked back on the beach to bask in the sun.

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After a short rest, we decided to walk along the moat wall around to the south side of the island to snorkel around the pilings.  The walk alone was beautiful enough,

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but, I got really excited when I saw the pilings.

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Can you imagine the marine life we’re going to find in there?  Let me tell you, you can’t.  You just have to see it.  We dove in, and it felt like we were swimming in a dream.  Clouds of fish would swirl around you until you poked your finger out and swished them apart like a puff of air.  There were hundreds, thousands of them, swimming together and swirling around like some chained piece of jewelry.  It was mesmerizing.

So much so I forgot I was even human.  Legs?  What legs?  I don’t have appendages, I’m a fish!  The sting of it surprised me when it struck and I snorkeled around for a bit in denial.  Throbbing leg?  What throbbing leg?  There are fish to be seen and poked!  But Phillip rightly pulled me out when a light, murky cloud started to form around me.  I did mention the shark, right?

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Break out the old first aid kit …   First Mate done got into something again!

A “Sloppy” Sunset at Mallory Square

April 23, 2014:

It had been 20 days, 5 overnight passages and 550 nautical miles, a busted Jenny shackle, a beat-down outside of Charlotte Harbor, and we were finally here – KEY WEST.  We were ready to take that town by the cahones!  All hail the fighting conchs!  And, it seemed fate wanted us there.  She’d been expecting us.  Because the minute we backed in to our slip at the A&B Marina, we had a buddy there to greet us – Postal Bob!  No, not because he is – or had ever – gone “postal,” because he used to BE postal.  Bob retired from the good ole’ USPS and now sails his 34 Catalina down to Key West and beyond every year.  A sharp sailor, super generous and knowledgeable about the area, and just all-around a great guy.  Here he is:

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Bob was the perfect tour guide for our first steps off the boat.  He showed us around the marina and gave us the inside scoop on the best dives, the coolest beach bars, the marina and the facilities (four free washers and dryers and four locking bathroom/shower suites) – Suite!  He also made sure to point out the place where they serve 50-cent oysters at happy hour.  I mean …   is there really anything better?  You’re right – a cocktail … perhaps:

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That was certainly on our radar.  We spruced up immediately and hit the closest food joint we could find – Alonzo’s Oyster Bar – not 100 yards from the boat!

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“We’ll start with mojitos and your oyster platter, please.”

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The oysters were delicious – they did them up three ways on the platter – rockefeller, baked with garlic and parmesan, and buffalo style.  The mojitos weren’t too shabby either.

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Cheers!

But, that was, of course, just for starters.  I mean, we HAD been sailing for about 30 hours.  We were ready for a full-on, three-course landlubber meal.  The catch of the day – Mahi Mahi – done two ways – grilled with rice pilaf and garlic green beans, and

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in a juicy wrap with fresh tomatoes and some secret Alonzo’s sauce – YUM!

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Full of fish and rum, we were ready to explore!  We found the famous conch train tour and decided it was probably the best way to get a good layout of the island right out of the gate and learn some interesting facts about the architecture, tourist attractions and history of the area.

All Aboard!

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Our tour guide really cracked me up, though.  He had the most smooth, buttery voice, and every old house or monument he pointed out in the town was “just lovely,” “divine” or “quite keen, don’t you think?”  I would bet if someone lit themselves on fire on the back of the train and started jumping around, he would reply calmly, “Please be sure to contain your flames and exit carefully off the back of the train.  Oh, and have a lovely day!”  He cracked me up.

But, he was an excellent tour guide.  Along the way, he showed us the Southernmost Point of the United States:

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Point

Hemingway’s House (that was definitely going on the list):

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And some of the most picturesque houses on the island:

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Once we had our bearings, we set out on foot and found Mile Marker Zero – the Southern End of U.S. Highway 1.

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We also found some not-so-famous, but just-as-fun, monuments as well.

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Oh my!  Is that the REAL Marilyn, or are you just blowing smoke up my skirt?  

Well, you know how us sailors like wind!

We walked to several end-points on the island just to admire the view of the coast.

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It was particularly liberating looking out at the Southernmost Point – to look across the water and know the next dry shore was a-whole-nother country.  Cuba!  We had really brought our Niagara 35′ all the way to the southern tip of the United States.  Certainly that was worth celebrating!

And, you know how the Crew of the Rest like to celebrate … that’s right.  With a hearty drink!  It was time to get sloppy!

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We’d heard a lot about this place.  Sloppy Joe’s Bar.  It was apparently Hemingway’s Hangout back when he used to traipse around Key West, a sloshing drink in one hand and the wadded clutches of a fiesty chap’s collar in another.  While we weren’t planning to get that sloppy (at least not yet!) we were hell-bent on stopping in to have one or two, or a few!

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Sloppy’s was definitely our kind of salty, sea-bar place.  It reminded me a lot of Pirate’s Cove down in our neck of the woods.  You remember Jerry Garcia and the Riff-Raff?

We settled in nicely at the bar, and I found the “Sloppy Rita” suited me just fine.

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And, Phillip had no qualms downing a pink drink!

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Probably because this chick poured it:

Tender

How you doin’?

We had a great time hanging at the bar, watching the Key West wildlife and cheersing each other on making yet another successful passage.  We ordered another round and then things got … well … a little sloppy:

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Nice drunken pic!

Still upright and mobile, though, we decided to stumble on over to Mallory Square where the Captain knew they put on quite a carnie sideshow show every evening at sunset.

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It reminded me a lot of Clearwater and the panty-dropping time we had there!  It was literally just a few blocks from the boat:

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With loads of street performers, tourists and lookie-loos.  Total entertainment.

The sunset was “quite keen” as well:

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It was a great first venture out in our new locale.  Key West …  What a sight!  After watching the sun dip out of sight, we made our way back to the boat and decided to grill up the massive king mackerel we had caught on our way down there.  You remember him:

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What better way to honor the poor fish we’d ripped out of the Gulf than to haul him all the way to Key West and grill him up on our boat our first night there!

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I guess you could call it a moveable feast!

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The mackerel turned out excellent.  The Captain grilled it to perfection and we just added a little butter and lemon.  With fish that fresh, that’s really all you need.  We crashed hard on the boat that night, thankful to have made the overnight passage safely to the Keys, and grateful to be, now, safe and secure at the dock, able to sleep through the entire night.  No night shifts tonight!  We had made it!  And, tomorrow was going to be a big day for us.  Day two on the island, Hemingway’s House on the agenda and a pretty significant leaf for the Captain to turn over.  The big Four-Oh.   So much in store!

You’za Fine Sailing Vessel, Won’t You BACK That Thing Up!

April 23, 2014:

Well, now you are familiar with our night shifts, and my goggle-wearing, Cookie Monster, dance party antics up in the cockpit in the middle of the night.  (But, really, does such behavior from me in any way surprise you?)

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She’s just a tad cray … 

But, thankfully, our night passage from Ft. Myers Beach with Johnny to the Keys was our calmest yet.  No beating our way across the Gulf, no fighting for every inch of ground, no pulling out and making a risky night entrance into a difficult pass.  Thankfully, none of that!  It was a perfect night.  The wind held all evening and we were on an easy broad reach, averaging six knots, until daybreak.  The stars that night were mesmerizing.  There really was no need for dancing or snacking.  You could just sit and look out on the twinkling sky and think all night long – in complete contentment.  It was such a rewarding, peaceful passage, it almost felt unfair to have it followed by a breathtaking sunrise.

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We were definitely in our element that morning, watching the sun creep up over every inch of the boat.

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Johnny was behind us – bringing up the rear!

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We sailed until around 7:00 a.m. when the wind finally died out and we had to crank up.  But she cranked just fine and was running like Rocky Balboa that morning.

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We were so proud of that engine!

That boat was cruising right along.  And, so were the dolphins!  We had a pack of them racing each other up at the bow as we were making our way in.

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I did attempt to take some fun footage, but I believe there was a bit of operator error.  It’s just a little blurry, and just a little upside down.  No big deal.  For your viewing pleasure – the dolphins are definitely worth it:

Johnny lead the way as we motored into the channel.

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It was about an hour and a half through the channel in to Key West Bight.

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KWB

There she is!  The Bight!

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We were going to be staying at the A&B Marina.

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The only problem with the A&B Marina was that you had to back in.

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See?  All of the boats are backed in.  It was a “stern-to” configuration.  There are no finger docks between the boats, nothing to space them apart other than the tie-up poles.  The boats are literally about two feet apart.  It was definitely going to be tight!

While the stern-to docking definitely has its perks (easy boarding and loading of supplies via the cockpit, easy access to power, easy leaving), it was definitely not going to be so easy coming.  We were going to have to make a backwards entry!  Yipes!

Yipes

The A&B Marina even had a whole section on their website devoted to the stern-to approach and docking, complete with a diagram:

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and video:

This was serious business.  Phillip dropped this little nugget on me somewhere between Ft. Myers and Key West and, I have to say, I was a little uneasy about it.  With my history of docking debacles, I get a little apprehensive when we’re about to attempt a bit of a hairy one (okay, attempt one at all).  But, I mean, I feel like I try really hard.  I jump around a lot and move real fast and squeal.  Like a …

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But somehow it doesn’t qualify as very helpful for the whole docking process.  

In all seriousness, though, I am getting better.  But, it doesn’t mean my heart’s not racing the entire time (or that I’m not jumping a little and squealing – I still do that).  This time, though, I was determined.  I was going to nail it!  I was going to lasso those poles while Phillip backed her in.  No problem.  I grew up country remember?

Horse

I can lasso anything!

Lasso

Yee-haw!

Unfortunately, despite the similarity in the name, I certainly wasn’t clad in fringe and leather, and didn’t look quite so badass in my lasso attempts.  Let’s just say I did try.  Very hard.  But those poles are like 50 feet out!  I’m not kidding.  Every slip at A&B is set up for an 80-foot yacht, if not bigger.  We seriously had to tie two dock lines together to make a springer that would reach those poles!  But, the Captain did an incredible job of backing her in.  It was his first time to do that, and I was able to hold on to the guide ropes and catch a pole later so that we could get her nice and secure.

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There she is!  The ole’ Rest, resting her tired lines at Key West!  What a treat!  We had made it all the way down there.  And she was easily the smallest boat in the marina, but she had, by far, the biggest heart!  She wasn’t shy at all.  It seemed she kicked back and inched her mast up just a little higher to fit in with the Big Dogs.  We were so proud of her!  We couldn’t wait to get out and explore — well, shower first, we HAD been at sea sailing, fishing, and what-not for a day and a half — but after that … we were going to take the Key by storm!

The Car Won’t Start

April 17-18, 2014 (Keys Log – Day 16):

I’m happy to say we survived the epic flooding in Ft. Myers.  I’ve never seen rain come so fast and so hard.  But, as fast as it came, it went.

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The sun came back out and we found ourselves high and dry, safe and secure.  Which meant it was time to do what we normally do right when drop anchor (or snag a mooring ball).  That’s right … make a cocktail!  Or three.

Now, typically I would have snapped a few shots of us mixing our drinks, toasting the sunset, smiling like happy sailors, but if you recall, after our horrendous night in the Gulf, the harrowing entry into Charlotte Harbor under nightfall and the approximate one hour nap we had that morning, we … were … beat.  That silly little selfie above is all the photo-taking I could muster for the evening.  It was the last shot of the day.

And, I believe it was somewhere in the middle of his second rum drink that the Captain started to nod off and dip his head into his glass.  I can’t blame him.  The man had held the helm of our beloved boat for about 12 hours straight.  And, then motored us all the way over to Ft. Myers in the same day.  It was around 6:00 p.m. and we were both fading fast.  Phillip kicked back on the settee to “close his eyes for just a minute” while I threw some dinner together – one of our go-to’s on the boat – chicken tiki masala with naan.  The funny thing was, though, I was banging around, clanging pots, opening cabinets, shutting doors, doing a great number of things any one of which would usually have the Captain sitting upright, looking around, but none of it phased him.  He was OUT.  Gone, done for.  Knee deep in REMs.  I roused him for supper and watched with a wicked grin as his head bobbed and wobbled above his plate and he shoved clumsy mouthfuls in, barely taking the time to chew before swallowing.  His entire plate was gone in under six minutes, and he was back in a deep sleep within the seventh.  I have to admit it was pretty entertaining.  I have never seen him that tired.  We both fell asleep around 6:45 p.m. and slept till about 8 the next morning.  It was glorious.  Now, did we wake to a sticky, caked-up tiki masala mess?  Sure!  But it was totally worth it.

We woke slowly, took our time sipping coffee and reading and just absorbing the morning.  One thing we had noticed intermittently during the night – although it didn’t really phase us, was that our mooring ball kept going underneath the boat and scraping loudly from one side of the hull to the other.

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The balls at the Ft. Myers mooring field were rather large and ours made a raucous sound every time it trudged its way from one side of the boat to the other.  Now, usually the boat pulls away from the mooring ball because of the wind, so the ball going under the boat is normally not an issue, but the current in the mooring field was strong and it kept pushing our boat up over the ball.  The Plaintiff’s Rest was literally on the ball.  But, as we started to look around at the other boats in the field, we noticed that unlike us, they had connected the line on the ball directly to their bow cleat.  We had used our dock line to make a bridal which we connected to the ball, but that certainly gave the mooring ball a lot more room to play with.  So, we decided to take a cue from our fellow moorers, nix the dock line and just tie the ball directly up to our boat.

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Then the ball was too close to the the bow to make its way up under the hull.  Problem solved.  On to the next!

While we didn’t anticipate one, as it seems is always the case in boating, we certainly got one.  We had big plans that morning to dinghy to shore, go exploring, get some lunch, check out the facilities.  You know – get the lay of our new “land.”  But, unfortunately, when we decided to leave the “house” that morning, the “car” wouldn’t start.

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I mean, that’s pretty much what your dinghy is when you’re living on a boat.  It’s your car.  Your means to shore.  While we probably could have rowed to the dinghy dock, it was about 200 yards away, against the current.  And, we were planning to stay there in the mooring field for a few days.  Sure would be nice to have a car … 

So, Phillip set to it.  He cranked and pulled and yanked and cursed that thing – for half an hour at least.  I laughed and took pictures.

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He hee hee.  

Then we decided to really troubleshoot it.  When Phillip looked in the oil window, he could see the oil in the outboard was murky, which meant it had probably taken on water, somehow, during our horrendous night.  To this day we are still not sure exactly how that happened.  But, c’est la vie.  So, he changed the oil in it.

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And, boy was he right.  It was murky.  The oil almost looked like chocolate milk.

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He ended up changing it three times before it began to look like oil again.

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Then he tried to crank her again.  She would sputter and fire and run for a bit and then die.  So, he would crank her again.  She would sputter and fire and run for a bit and then die.  So, he would crank her again, and so on.  What was I doing, you ask?  Laughing and taking video of course!

I mean, it wasn’t really comical, but what else are you going to do?  The great thing was, all of our boat neighbors started to get in on the action.  They had been watching Phillip jack around with that engine for about two hours now, listening to her crank and die, crank and die, crank and die.  Several of them would throw their arms up and cheer when she cranked and heckle her when she died.  “Booo!!”  It was better than football.  And, when the outboard would crank and Phillip would get going a bit, other boaters would circle the wagons and check on him to make sure he didn’t get stranded.

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Boater:  “You got her running there, partner?”

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Phillip:  “I believe so, but don’t go too far.  Thanks.”

We even had some folks swing by and drop off what they called their “magic juice” – some special lube they always spray on their outboard when she gives them fits.  Because everyone’s outboard gives them fits.  It should just say in the manual: SOMETIMES SHE WILL CRANK, SOMETIMES SHE WILL NOT, AND THERE’S NO REASON WHY.  That would at least squander the hope that she’s going to run like she’s supposed to.

But, the Captain was persistent.  He stuck with it and finally got her purring.  Then he started zipping around all over the field, lavishing in the cheers and hollers building around him – the roar of the crowd!  Haaahhhahaaa.  It was hilarious.

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We packed that puppy up while she was running and made our way to shore!  We stuck a little thank-you note to the “magic juice” can and dropped it off on our neighbors’ boat.

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Finally the car had cranked and we were on our way.  To Ft. Myers Beach baby!  It’s time for a margarita!

The Back Door Marine Supply Guy

April 15, 2014:

After our leisurely stroll through the Dali museum in downtown St. Pete that morning, it was time to focus on some boat chores that afternoon.  We were in the market for a portable oil change kit.  While we certainly hadn’t planned on motoring as much as we had already on the trip, you know our philosophy on plans.  With the various mishaps we had experienced with the sails (losing the main halyard and the failure of our Jenny swivel shackle – both of which we had decided were the product of operator error – poor boat!), we’d had to motor more on the trip than we would have liked.  But, that’s what she’s got a motor for I guess, so …

The manual for our engine recommends changing the oil every 50 hours.  We knew we were going to cross that threshold soon, so we needed to have a pump and canister ready when the time came.  While we have an oil change kit at home, that thing is a bulky, messy, metal beast that looks like an offspring of the Tin Man:

Oil

Face it Man, he’s definitely yours.

Tin

We keep it in a big rubbermaid container because everything in it is covered in thick, sticky oil.  It just wasn’t an item we really wanted to pack on the boat for a month-long trip to the Keys.  But, we now found ourselves in need.  Phillip had been researching and talking to some marina supply folks in the area to see if we could find a local shop that carried a portable oil change kit.  We were either going to have to pick one up there in St. Pete or down in Ft. Myers for sure.  The cleanliness of the oil in the engine easily trumps the inconvenience of a big oil change tub on the boat.

Luckily, Phillip found a local marine supply shop in St. Pete that had one.  And, since we had the afternoon off after our journey through the incredible world of Dali, we decided to venture out and get it.  And, as it always seems, our ‘venture’ quickly became an ADventure.

As you know, we traveled to the sensational city of St. Pete by boat.  Which means, when we venture away from the boat, we have to travel by foot, bike or cab for supplies and provisions.  Sadly, Google maps steered us wrong that day and we ended up walking about eight miles to and fro across the city searching for an Auto Zone that no longer seemed to exist (at least not in the prior location).  And, ignorant of the monumental trek we were about to make, this dumb mate wore a cute little pair of summer flip-flops that weren’t really up for the task:

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I know, cute right?  Perfect for the museum, noooot so much for the Million Mile March.  These dogs were barking!  About mid-way through the trek, I finally just kicked them off and resigned to sport some wicked Wal-Mart feet for the rest of the venture.

And, don’t pretend you don’t know what those are …

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Yeah, I’m not afraid.

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But, we did finally make it to the marine supply store.  Wait … I’m sorry.  Warehouse.  The Marine Supply Warehouse.  Yep.  There it is:

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A small door in a duplex with a sign that read:

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Well, the Captain wasn’t afraid.

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He marched right in there.

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And, man, when they say warehouse … what they really mean is … 500 square feet and three aisles:

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It was no West Marine, but they did have the oil change kit we needed and plenty of other boat goodies.  And, while the Back Door Marine Supply Guy that ran the shop was pretty knowledgeable,

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he’s one of those types that will always answer your question with a question:

Customer:  “Hello, sir.  We need an oil filter, a Puralator L30001.  Do you have one?”

Supply Guy:  “What are you going to use it for?”

Customer:  “To change the oil on our boat.”

Supply Guy:  “What kind of engine do you have?”

You see what I’m saying.  It’s like you have to answer his three magical questions before he will grant you the wish of the product you’d like to purchase.

But, nice guy – after the inquisition – and he did hook us up with the oil change kit we needed, so he’s tops in my book.  After the epic pilgrimage to his back door, though, it was clear there would be no more walking for this crew.  The Captain called us a cab, which arrived a prompt forty-five minutes later (speedy!) and we hitched a ride back to the other side of town to pick up the oil and filter and some other provisions for the next passage.

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“Auto Zone, please.”

Once we made it back to the boat, we were pleased to find the new oil pump fit nicely in a locker under the vberth.  No more big, oily rubbermaid container for this crew.  We now travel full-time with oil change kit in tow.  So, the St. Pete pilgrimage really paid off.  We checked the radar and forecast for the following day and decided we would head back out into the Gulf tomorrow and try to make the approximate 24-hour run down to Ft. Myers, this time, hopefully, without any sail issues.

We ventured out one last time to the downtown strip in St. Pete for some drinks and dinner.

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I ordered up the namesake “Tryst” cocktail at the Tryst Gastro Lounge, a fun, up-scale contemporary bar on the downtown strip.  Both the drinks and the atmosphere were superb.

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We then enjoyed a hearty St. Pete last supper at the British Tavern, The Moon Under Water, which began, as any good British meal should, with a stout painkiller and a beer,

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We then devoured a tabbouleh and lamb starter,

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and polished it all off with a shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.  This crew was going to be full (stuffed actually!) and well-rested for the trip tomorrow.

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And, in case you didn’t know, a fun aside about the origin of the name “Moon Under Water”:

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Accept the Queen’s Shilling by “fair means or foul” and you’re recruited into the British Army?  And, they bury it in the bottom of a drink?!  I would have been a goner for sure.  I always make it to the bottom of a drink!

After several ‘bottoms,’ we made our way back to the boat and tucked in for the night. Having had our fill of downtown fun in St. Pete and feeling extremely lucky to have stumbled upon such a quick and affordable fix for our furling Jenny (thanks again Steve!), we were excited to get back underway.

“Phillip, do you hear that?”

No, what is it?”

“It’s the Gulf calling.  She wants us back.”

Hellooooo Dali!

April 14-15, 2014:

After our visit with Walter White and his ingenious meth–od for fixing our Jenny, we were ready to get out and do some more exploring in St. Pete.  There was some weather rolling through the Gulf that we knew we were going to have to wait out,

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so we started planning our attack on the city!  Like I said, the mooring field in the North Vinoy Basin is pretty sweet.  It is maintained by the city, so showers, captain’s lounge and laundry facilities are just a short walk from the boat, and at $14/night, we were happy to spend some time having a ball on our ball!

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There she is, nice and secure.  Always waiting on us! We decided to shower up and hit the town.  And, I have to say, thankfully, the showers at St. Pete are not too truck-stoppey.

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They had a massive fan blowing in the bathroom that could pretty much blow-dry a sheep dog!

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It was awesome.  Just step out of the shower and *snap* you were dry.

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Thumbs up for the fan!  I was a big fan!  (I know, I’m a comedic genius … you can thank me later) After working in the hot sun most of the day working on the Jenny, we decided a big, lavish Italian dinner was just the ticket.  We hit up Bella Brava for some amazing margherita pizza and chicken marsala.

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Not to mention an incredible bottle of Sangiovese.  A new wine for me, and the beginnings of what I’m sure will be a life-long addiction.  Sorry Phillip. But, he’s got a little addiction of his own …

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Kilwin’s.  “Two chocolate turtles, please.” But, while we certainly enjoyed the dinner and wine and sweet treats as we strolled through town that night, what we were really looking forward to checking out in downtown St. Pete was the Dali Museum.

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It was right there off the main downtown strip.  A complete shrine to one of the most significant artists of modern time, and it’s literally a five-block walk from our boat!

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Have I said enough good things yet about mooring in St. Pete?  Well, it bears repeating … So, the next day, we set out for the Dali Museum, which was certainly a highlight of our trip.  Like many, I only knew him as the “melting clocks” guy going in,

Clocks

but I was exposed to a mind-blowing array of massive (I mean 20 foot tall) paintings that Dali did that I found I could stand in front of and stare at for hours.  Seriously. The “Lincoln” painting really blew me away.  Up close, it’s big blocks and colors and a woman standing in front of a window, but then from 60 feet, it transforms into a portrait of Abe Lincoln.

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I mean, how do you do that close-up?  I tried to imagine how many times Dali must have stepped off of his scaffolding, walked back 60 feet only to walk back toward his painting to make one little brush stroke.  His ability to create images from a distance was mind-boggling.  He was mind-boggling!

Dali

Dali was like a mad scientist.  Completely devoted to his craft, but just … out there.  We got to learn some interesting history on him while we were there.  My favorite was when he was expelled from the Art Institute.  Apparently, when he came in to take his ‘final exams’, he simply told his instructors they weren’t “smart enough to test him.”  Decidedly true — his talent was simply beyond comprehension.  But with that snide comment, they sent him packing.  Looking back on it, though, I’m not sure the man really needed the degree.  He seemed to do just fine without it.  I can’t say enough about his talents.  If you haven’t checked out a Dali museum or watched a documentary or learned anything about him other than the “melting clocks” bit, I highly recommend exploring further. The last one I’ll mention is the “Matadore” painting – Phillip and I’s favorite.  Again, another 20-or-so foot tall painting just littered with insane features.  Take it in:

Matadore

www.madamepickwickartblog.com/2010/06/the-bull-lies-down-on-broadway

First, I’ll ask if you can see the matadore (whose bust fills the full size of the frame but whose face and shoulders are made up of other individual items that, up close, do not compose a man’s face).  Amazing!  But, there were so many other aspects of this painting that amazed us when we really took the time to look at every small detail – the flies, the pond at the bottom with the sunbather, the tribute to Dali’s wife, Gala, in the upper left corner, the two capes of the matadore on his shoulders, (red and jeweled), not to mention the “invisible” dalmatian at the bottom:

Mysterious-Dalmatian-Optical-Illusion

www.edlieze.blogspot.com/2010/06/pattern-behind-self-deception.html

Do you see it?

Yeah, let’s just throw that in there at the end, as if that’s not a complete mind-blowing painting all it’s own, it’s just a tiny little add-on at the bottom of this Dali masterpiece.  An after-thought, really.  The Matadore really stole the show for us. But, the museum itself was incredible, too.  Unique architecture and lighting.

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A wonderful spanish-inspired cafe by the gift shop, Cafe Gala (named after Dali’s wife and life-long muse):

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An aspiring heli-staircase leading up to the exhibits:

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A hedge maze by the garden:

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And, many other “melting” objects lying about, in tribute to Dali’s most notable work:

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“Seating for two please, preferably in the non-melting section.”

And, they had a Warhol exhibit they were featuring while we were there that was really cool, too.  Warhol was intriguing to say the least.  Both artists lived and created in the extremes.  They were radicals.  They were rebels, and they pushed the boundaries of modern art.

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I think I accurately captured his scowl!  

They had some great Warhol pieces on display, and you could even shoot your very own Warhol screen shots.  It was hard to hold still for that long, but the end result was pretty cool.  I had a few that turned out alright, considering the subject matter.

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In all, we had an amazing time at the Dali Museum.  Still one of the most visually-fascinating displays we experienced on the trip and certainly a highlight.  While stopping in St. Pete was not originally on the agenda, we were thankful, in the end, that things happened the way they did, because we will definitely go back.  Isn’t that always the case, though?  The wind just sort of takes you where you really need to go.

But, we stepped out of that surreal world into what seemed almost another.  The wind was howling and the rain whipped around us as we sprinted back to the boat.  It was clear we wouldn’t be doing any sailing that day.  We planned our passage for tomorrow when the weather was expected to lay down.  The rain cleared up that afternoon, and we decided to venture out to pick up a few boat items we needed for the trip.  But, we had no idea we would be going from one radical to another.  Dali in the morning, and the Back-Door Marine Supply Guy in the afternoon.  Just wait …