The Mishap Recap

May 20, 2014:

So, this sailing stuff?  Nothing to it, right?  It’s just ropes (which we call “lines”) that control sails which make the boat move.  That’s pretty basic.  But, then, there’s also the engine, the batteries, the thru-hulls and sea cocks, the water tanks and pressure systems, the propane and solenoid, the steering wheel and rudder, not to mention all of the instruments, gauges and meters.


Okay, maybe it can get a little complicated, but the good news is, when you get down to it, most of those complicated-sounding systems really are basic when you take the time to dissect and understand them.  Meaning, most of them can be fixed on the fly, as long as you have the right parts, or parts that “will do” (we call this improvising).


During our trip to the Keys, we found most of the “issues” that occurred on the boat were operator error (sorry boat!) and most were fairly easy to fix once we figured out what had gone wrong.  We chalked these up to “lessons learned” and felt it may help other cruisers out there to pass them along.

1.   The Lazy Jack Snap!   Before the trip, we had a new stack pack put on for the main sail with a new set of lazy jacks attached to the spreaders to hold it up.


The lines also cleated off at the boom, and our riggers had left some surplus in the lazy jack lines in case we needed to loosen them for any reason.  Good idea, we thought … at the time.  But, when the time came where loosening the lazy jacks would have actually been a good idea, thinking about the tension in the lazy jacks was one of the last things we were doing.  Unfortunately, during our first night offshore, when we were heading from Pensacola to Port St. Joe, we ran into some rough seas–winds in the high teens and rolling five-foot seas all night long.  Water was crashing over the bow, spraying us in the cockpit and the boat was beating into a steady southeast wind.  The sails were taut, full to the brim all night long, likely pressing hard on the new lazy jack lines, but we didn’t know it.  We heard plenty of cracks and bangs during the overnight passage, but it’s hard to tell–in the dark of night– if the sound you heard was just a normal ‘boat groan’ or something actually breaking.  You handle the boat the best you can and try not to worry about her too much (key word being ‘try‘).  But, sometimes you wake to find, in the rough winds of the night, that something did actually break.  For us, it was the lazy jack on the starboard side.

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Kind of a bummer.  But, we figured they must call it a “lazy” jack for a reason, right?  It must be the lazy way.  Surely people have been raising and lowering their sails for centuries without these “lazy lines” to help.  I mean, you have to ask yourself–What Would Columbus Do?  (Back in 1492).  He’d flank that sail the old-fashioned way, and keep on a-keepin’ on.  So, that’s what we did.  Until we got a little lazy …

Next leg of the trip, Phillip had the great idea to re-raise our busted lazy jack line with the topping lift for the spinnaker pole.

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You see?  Improvising.  Once you know how the systems work, you can then use them in all the wrong ways to achieve whatever result you’d like.  It’s a product liability defense lawyer’s dream!   So, what did we learn?  Be sure to check the tension in your lazy jack lines when your sails are full.  If they’re too tight, the wind in the main can bust the line.  And, if something breaks, don’t mourn.  Look around!  You may find something else on the boat that can serve its purpose.


2.  A Spun-Out Jenny  Much like the suicidal strung-out version in Forrest Gump,


just outside of Tamp Bay, we found our Jenny, too, was busted.  During a fairly mundane furling of the Jenny, you might recall the pop we heard, followed by a clattering rainfall of ball bearings on the deck.  Sadly, the spinning halyard for our Jenny broke in two while we were cranking her in.  One half remained at the top of the mast, and the other came barreling down the forestay, flogging our Jenny and letting her pile down in a useless heap on the foredeck.



Why did this happen?  After some serious research, troubleshooting and second opinions, we decided it was caused by pulling the halyard up too tight at the mast, causing the shackle to pull into the throat at the mast and putting tension on the bottom top part of the halyard, which should be allowed to spin freely.  A thorough review of the manual for the furling system was quite helpful in this regard (as most manuals are).  I’ve said it plenty of times but have no qualms repeating it.  Keep all manuals in a single, organized location and refer to them often.  It’s amazing what you can learn from … I don’t know … the folks who built and designed whatever Godforsaken contraption you are cursing at the moment.  We had dropped our Jenny prior to the trip to have the UV cover re-(re-)stitched and figured we must have pulled the halyard just a tad too high when we raised the Jenny back up.


Back then, we were also furling our Jenny in using the large winches in the cockpit.  It was easier that way, but it was also deceiving because the winch is so powerful.  If there is an inordinate amount of tension in the line, pulling by hand you’re going to feel it.  Pulling by winch, you may not, and you’ll power right through it, likely breaking something in the process.  I think there’s some appropriate saying I could insert here about a cannon and a mosquito.  However, I believe a more vivid example (sorry Confucius) would be a surgeon who operates not with his hands but with a remote-operated backhoe.  Are you going to let him in your abdomen?  There is simply no substitute for the human touch.  How does it feel?  How hard is it to pull?  Conway Twitty would agree.  Don’t be shy.  Sing it with me!  “I want a man with the slooow hands … “

Luckily, we were able to get the Jenny repaired in St. Pete by a talented and resourceful rigger, who ended up having the exact halyard we needed (which had been discontinued) in his self-proclaimed “Sanford & Son boat part yard” (a.k.a. his shop).  And, what did we learn?  Don’t tighten the Jenny halyard too much.  Refer to your manuals.  And, when feasible, opt for the “slow hand” over the powerful pull.


3.  Never Let Go of the Halyard!  Have I said that one before, too?  Then why the hell do we keep letting go of it?  I’m not sure exactly.  All I can say is when you’re up on the deck, riding your boat-of-a-bull as it’s bucking over waves and focusing all of your mental energy on the simple task of staying on the boat, you just kind of forget about that little thing that’s in your hand–the all-important halyard.  I guess think of it like this–have you ever accidentally poured a glass of something on yourself when you turned your hand to look at your watch?  Why did you do that?  (Because you’re brilliant like me, of course!)  And, also, because your brain just kind of forgot you had a glass in your hand.  Well, same thing can happen with the halyard.  When it comes to you grabbing something to keep your scrawny arse on the boat in the middle of pounding seas, your brain just kind of checks out of the whole halyard-holding process and forgets about it.  And, then …  You let go!  Of the halyard!  And, the minute you do and see that halyard start swinging around, you curse yourself!  Stupid brain!  Why did you let go of that?!  It just happens.  All told, we’ve done it four times, three of which required Little Miss First Mate to ascend the mast to retrieve it:


Once in Carrabelle (when we first dropped the Jenny to re-stitch the UV cover and pulled the halyard back up afterward, thinking it would magically drop back down when we needed it to–turns out we were wrong).  Up you go, Annie.


Once in St. Pete (when the Jenny halyard busted, it left half of a mangled halyard at the top of the mast, which again would not magically come down with a little (or lot of) shaking).  Up you go, Annie.


Once mid-sea, on our way into Clearwater when we accidentally let go of the main halyard while trying to raise the sail at night and it snaked its way all the way up the backstay to the top of the mast.  Up you go, Annie.

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And, the fourth time?  Well, that retrieval was more of a fall than a climb, but I did get it back!  Unfortunately, I busted the lazy jack line on the port-side (and a bit of my arm and knee) in the process.

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Moral of that story?  Never let go of the halyard.  But, if you do, don’t be a hero trying to retrieve it.  I guess the best advice would be to not do dumb things.  But, we are human, and I am a blonde, so … it’s just going to happen.  To lessen the frequency, we did come up with a better main halyard-rigging system in which we never un-clip the halyard from the main sail.  We just re-route it down and back up to maintain the tension when the sail is down.


And, thanks to the Captain’s spiffy fix of the lazy jack line on the starboard side, we knew just how to fix the one I’d busted on port.  This time with the halyard for the spinnaker.


Although I will say we were running out of spare lines to use to hold up our lazy jacks.  It’s a good thing we were headed home by then.


4.  Book Swap Mojo.  One final lesson–not so much related to rigging as reading–but just as valuable.  The Book Swap Mojo phenomenon.  If you uncover a great book at one of the free marina book swaps,


be sure to give it back to another free marina book swap down the line when you finish reading it.  If not, the Book Swap Gods will learn of your insidious hoarding and leave you with wretched book crumbs like this at every marina book swap to come.


Read it.  Enjoy it.  Then give it back.


While we learned plenty of lessons on the trip, these were just a few that stood out for us, particularly because of the valuable insight they provided in terms of rigging and equipment failure, and how to (try to) avoid them, overcome them, or improvise around them if we, or other sailors, found ourselves in the same predicament in the future.  But, the biggest lesson learned?  Mishaps are just going to happen.  No matter how cautious you are.  No matter how much care you take to try to prevent against them.  Things are going to break.  Things will have to be repaired.  Things are going to slow you down and hold you back.  So, what do you do?  Keep sailing, of course.  Keep getting out there and bumping into things.


And, in my case, keep writing about them.  You never know when you might just have enough colorful tales and Conway Twitty bits to cobble them all into, I don’t know, say–a BOOK.  One that might be coming out real soon.  Big things are happening over here, followers.  Be excited …


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I Wouldn’t Use the Word ‘Run’

I wouldn’t.  It just doesn’t quite capture it.  Jumped.  Landed.  Struck.  Those are all more appropriate.  But, run?  No.  I wouldn’t say we ‘ran.’

May 10, 2014:

After a wild, peanut-shelling, hatty-hour hollerin’ night at Bowery Station, Phillip and I made our way back Up the Stairs for one final feast in Apalachicola.  The braised pork shank appetizer, fresh baked bread and wedge salad were divine.

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Not to mention the quaint, cozy view of the town from the upper deck.  For dinner, Phillip enjoyed a perfectly cooked filet and I, according to the waitress, “put down some duck” (Caribbean style with roasted red peppers and mango).

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She kept warning me when I ordered it how big of a dish it was.  “That’s really a lot of food, ma’am.”  Good, I thought.  Because I didn’t come here for just a little!  She seemed shocked when I cleaned the whole plate, so we got real crazy and ordered some dessert just for the hell of it!  “Yes, we’ll have the homemade peach ice cream, please.”


In all, we thoroughly enjoyed our last night in that sleepy old Florida town.  We woke the next morning, bright and early,


and readied the boat to motor “the ditch” back to Port St. Joe.


I am thrilled to say it was one of our easiest “de-dockings” yet.  I am still prone to get a few heart palpitations when we pull up to docks and away from docks and near docks and around docks.  The whole process is just fraught with peril, but this time the river pushed us right off.  We waved a hearty goodbye to the friendly Blue Dolphin Crew anchored around us and watched Apalachicola shrink away in the distance as we headed up the channel.

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And, just as it was last time, the Ditch offered us up another beautiful motor day.  We eased along through old swamp-like pines, with Spanish Moss hanging the from the trees and birds swooping elegantly above the water.

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Rusty old bridges, worn-out shrimping boats and driftwood boathouses littering the banks make it feel like you’re trudging up the ole’ Mississipp.

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We even got to throw out the Jenny for a bit in Lake Wimico and do a little sailing.  Otherwise, it was just a leisurely cruise.  We read and wrote and enjoyed an incredibly peaceful five-hour motorsail over to Port St. Joe.

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Bringing you the very best, from the cockpit of the Plaintiff’s Rest!

Everything was great and wonderful and perfect, until all of a sudden it was not.  While we were protected from the weather in the channel (I’m assuming that’s why they call them “protected waters”), such was not the case when we came out under the bridge at Port St. Joe.  We were motoring the narrow channel and it was blowing about 15 mph right over our port bow.  With little protection from the South (only the thin sliver of Cape San Blas on the other side of the bay), the wind was picking up a lot of fetch across the bay and beating into us, bringing 2 foot seas along with it.  The wind and waves were pushing us around in the narrow channel and just as we were coming under the bridge and preparing to hang a left to come into Port St. Joe Marina, the boat made a wicked “WHAM!” sound and slammed aground.  Like I said, the word ‘RUN‘ would be incredibly deceiving in this situation.  We didn’t just ease up gently on the bottom and scooch up on the soft sand.  No, our boat lifted up on a wave and came crashing down on the ground underneath it.  I bolted upright and looked around, thinking we had actually collided with something.  We heard glass shatter below and looked down in the cabin to see that the globe from the lantern had popped off with the impact and busted into a hundred pieces on the cabin floor.

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Out of instinct, Phillip said, “What was that?”  Followed immediately by, “We’ve hit something.  We’ve hit the ground.  We’ve run aground,” as if his thought process was simply occurring out loud.  I looked behind us and in front of us and it looked like we were still between the channel markers.  Phillip revved up the engine to try and get us off, but we just kept hitting, over and over again.  The depth was reading 5.2 but it was hard to tell from the GPS which side the shoal was coming in from.  Meaning, we weren’t 100% sure which way we needed to go to get off of it.  Phillip thought it was on the starboard side, but the wind and waves were coming at us right over the port bow, pushing us back each time on the shoal.  We tried our boom trick, swinging the boom way over on the port side and having me hang off of it to try and list the boat to port to get off of the shoal, but it wasn’t working.  We could see the marina.  It was right there!  We were less than a half-mile away, but we were stuck.  Lodged on the bottom and beating it with every passing wave.


Phillip swapped places with me on the boom and gave me the wheel with instructions to keep trying to motor off the shoal toward port.  He had pulled up the number for the marina on his phone in case we needed to call for a tow.  I pushed the throttle forward and heard our Westerbeke struggling mightily into the weather while Phillip dangled and bounced his entire body weight from the boom hoping he could free us.

“Now?” he would shout between bounces.  “Anything?”

“Not yet,” I would shout back.  “We’re still hitting!”  Ugh, it was such a sickening feeling.

Just as we were about to call it and make the call to the marina, I started to see depth on the GPS.  First 6.2 then 7.0, then a joyous 8.3.  Finally double digits and the boat stopped beating.  Phillip could feel it and he bounced around a little harder as the boat finally started to ease off.  I gunned it, pushed her hard to port, and we finally started moving forward.  Once we settled out and got our bearings, we looked back, and it was clear the heavy wind and waves on the port bow had pushed us just enough outside of the channel to hit bottom on the starboard side.

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It’s surprising, sometimes, how easily you can run aground when you don’t realize how much the weather is really pushing you.  Our takeaway from this experience was to ensure the next time we find ourselves in a narrow channel in rough conditions, we’ll make extra effort to look both forward and backward and make sure we’re staying between the channel markers from both the rear angle and ahead.  It’s easy to just look forward and think you’re staying in the channel because your path lines up with the markers ahead.  But, we learned to look backward as well to make sure you’re not slipping out.  It doesn’t take much of a “slip” to slam aground.  We have never felt such an impact in the boat, and we never want to feel that again.

Thankfully, though, our trusty gal got us off and brought us safely into the marina where we gathered our collective breath, thanked and praised her profusely, promised we would do everything in our power to never let that happen to her again and then we hugged her.  Or at least I did.  A big bear one, right around the mast. Once again, despite our undeniable efforts but inevitable shortcomings, she had brought us safely in to port.


Thanks girl.

Hatty Hour’s Over

May 10, 2014:

We didn’t last long after the fun-loving Blue Dolphin Crew and their Roo showed us such a great time at the oyster warehouse and diner.  It was a few hazy steps back to our boat docked right in the heart of downtown Apalachicola followed by a solid, sound night’s sleep at the City Dock.  The sun creeped up over our sleepy little dock around 6:30 a.m. the next morning and made some exquisite silhouettes out of several of the Blue Dolphin boats that were anchored across from us in the Apalachicola River.

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“Morning Boat!”


“Morning Apalachicola!”

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We made a tasty batch of coffee in the trusty French press on the boat and ventured out, two piping hot mugs in hand, to explore Apalachicola in the early morning light.  Not too exciting, you might be thinking.  That’s never the case.  Ambling around, we stumbled across this new quaint little hotel in the historic Bowery District.

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Phillip cracked the front door open, popped a shoulder and a coffee mug in and gave me a little head nod to follow.

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It looked like it was built out of all reclaimed wood and metal.  Old wavy sheet metal pieces lined the bottom of the hall under a thick piece of chair rail.  Little antique trinkets and pieces adorned the walls, re-purposed in creative ways.  After creaking over a few floorboards, Phillip and I stirred someone in a back office and he stepped out and welcomed us warmly.  It was actually the owner, Poloronis himself,


and he eagerly gave us the grand tour.  They have four rooms, exquisitely decorated, each with a kitchenette, refrigerator and master bath.  And, most of the wood, countertops, furniture and decor are all reclaimed, refurbished pieces.  Just spectacular.  But, don’t take my word for it.  If pictures are worth a thousand words a piece, here’s like a-quarter-mil.  I give you the Riverwood Suites.  Enjoy!

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Poloronis also told us a little about the history of the building.  Built in 1908, it was first used as a boarding house for the numerous shuckers that lived in Apalachicola and then as a used car parts warehouse.

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The Suites were beautifully-done, rich with history, reasonably-priced, with a super-friendly staff and owners and located right in the heart of all the happenings in downtown Apalachicola.


Which, for future reference, here’s a great site outlining all of the amazing things there are to do in Apalach:  It’s mind-blowing.  One of which, our exceptional host on the Riverwood Suites tour told us about — BOWERY STATION.  But, we’ll get there.  I’m not sure you can handle Bowery Station just yet.  Shit gets wild at the Station.

After the tour of the Riverwood Suites, we huddled up in a cozy corner of the Riverwalk Cafe to get some breakfast and spend a few hours working.


A little post-breakfast shopping and tinkering around (I just love the old-Florida “look” of Apalachicola), then,

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also at the recommendation of our B&B tour guide, we decided to check out Up the Creek for lunch.  Balcony seating on the back deck with a great view of the river.

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We ordered up a half-dozen of their “Southern Fella” Apalachicola oysters (baked with collards, parmesan, garlic butter and bacon).  Do I even need quote the well-known philosophy on bacon?

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We’ve had oysters many ways, but the collards and bacon were definitely a unique addition.  For lunch, Phillip ordered the gator burger which was great.  The homemade coleslaw on the burger was a nice touch.

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But, my dish, the grilled conch cakes took (no pun intended) the cake!


The conch cakes were incredibly rich and quickly earned the title as one of our best meals of the trip.  We were also pleased to learn they were made with Tupelo honey, which we had discovered during our way down the coast was made right in our very own Port St. Joe!!  Well, Wewahitchka, to be exact.


(Pronounced wee-wuh-hitch-kuh, if you were wondering).

It felt (and tasted) good to be eating local!  The meal didn’t last long, though, and neither did the wine we ordered with it.

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Happy Girl!

Our bellies full, we sauntered back to the boat for a siesta.  This touring and eating is real tough work.


But it was a good thing we did.  We didn’t know it yet, but we were about to fall head-first into a rowdy, raucous party at the Station.  We ventured out around dusk to see what all the fuss was with this Bowery Station.  On our way there, we passed this packed-out antique store, appropriately-named the Tin Shed.  Trinkets, knick-knacks, old trunks, potted plants, anchors, port lights and other random items practically spilled out the door.

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We had to poke our heads in.  Just a quick breeze-through at the very least.  You never know what kind of gems you’ll find in a place like this.


You see?  “You said it, Annie.  You’re never fully dressed without a belt!”  So true.

But, this place was huge.  I lost Phillip within the first five minutes and found myself stepping from one room to the next, through a thick labyrinth of antique marvels.  There were entire rooms devoted to figurines, others to crystal, others to hats, others to old nautical pieces, others to antique Halloween costumes.  It was wild.  I probably could have spent another hour in there, thoroughly entertained, but I finally stumbled out into the first open area I’d seen since we stepped into this alter-antique universe and made my way toward welcoming music coming from the only outlet I saw available, a single open doorway.


I had to laugh when I blinked my way in and saw Phillip there at the bar, already ordering up two glasses of wine for us.  It was Bowery Station!  We hadn’t meant to, but we’d inadvertently stumbled upon the back entrance (connected to the antique warehouse).  The gal behind the bar laughed and told us they get a lot of stranded husbands that way.  Their wives drag them into the antique madhouse next door, and they eventually stumble their way in through the back entrance and enjoy a beer or two while the Misses continues blissfully poking around next door.  Perfect.  But, we had finally made it.  Bowery Station.


The bar was built out of the old Wefing’s Marina Supply store on Water Street.


They still kept all of the old cubbies that were built into the back wall, originally to house marine supplies, but it now serves as a very functional and full-scale wine-rack!


They keep a huge tin barrel of peanuts out, complete with little tin buckets that you can dip in, fill up and take back to your table (which are also stand-up barrels) to share with the whole group.


No surprise, you’ll find the floor littered with smashed-up peanut shells, but they don’t care.  It adds to the character “and helps with the acoustics” the barkeep said with a wink.  They’ve got some great antique decor of their own,


and just a great casual feel.  There’s even a gal out front with a nice rack who greets everyone that comes in.

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Their hours are from 12-8pm, “because no one in Apalachicola really stays up past nine,” the barkeep told us.


And we were excited to learn that the couple who owned and worked the place every day had moved up to Apalachicola from Key West to open this bar.  “Well, I’ll be … WE just came from Key West, too!”  We had a great time reminiscing with them about some of the more questionable joints in Key West they used to frequent–Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath, the Schooner Wharf Bar.  We had a great time chatting with the two of them as the place started fill up.

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Then she told us about the hat.  Yes, the hat.


See it there?  Just behind the fan.

It’s just a regular old Bowery Station ballcap that they’ve rigged up on a pulley system to the center of the ceiling.  This is Bowery Station’s unique version of “Happy Hour.”  They raise the hat up to the center of room at 5:00 p.m., when they’re aptly named “Hatty Hour” starts and they slowly lower the hat as the hours tick by to remind the patron’s to keep getting drinks while the getting’s good.


Uh-oh, that hat’s starting to come down now.  “Phillip, we better get another round.”   During hatty hour, you get one chip with every drink that entitles you to a free ‘nuther.

They have live music every night too.  But, at the Station, they don’t have a planned music act lined up every night.  No, no.  They prefer open mic night, every night.  Anyone who wants to step up onto their makeshift stage and play something, sing something, hell, snap something, they’re more than welcome.  The gal behind the bar told us they’ve just kept it open since they started and they have yet to see a night where the stage was empty.  I was thrilled when I saw a washboard/banjo band setting up.  We’re such lucky SOBs!

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They were actually really good, and incredibly entertaining.  Especially the chick on the washboard.  That takes talent!  We sat back on our stools, munched on peanuts, sipped our hatty hour drinks and had us a fine time.

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The hat started to sink,


and the locals started to balk.  It was all in good fun, though.  Each time the owner or her husband would turn the crank a few times to lower the hat, the patrons would shout “Noooo!!” (and then happily order another round).  Some of them protest, “Nuh-uh, Nancy, it’s not 6 o’clock yet on my watch!” they’d shout and the barkeep would give ’em a playful frown while pouring them another drink.  The “wine chips” are a great idea, too, because people lose those left and right.  You can find some on the floor, put yours down and someone will take it.  It’s hilarious.  But, the washboard band wasn’t the real highlight of the evening.  It was just before the hat hit the wall that this wild, fanny-pack boasting broad found herself the perfect stage prop and started to it.  Watch out now, she’ll sweep you right off your feet!

See?  I told you.  Times gets wild.  Washboards and peanut shells, wine chips and hat tricks.  Bowery Station has it all.

They’re Coming in HOT!!

May 2, 2014:

Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!   Okay, you probably have no idea what I’m trying to replicate here (but if you do – five gold stars!).

We rose the next morning before sunrise.  The sky was choked at first with soft, billowing blue clouds, covering every inch of the space overhead with only one sliver of light growing in the east.  As the sun rose, the blue canopy began to dissipate and everything turned a fiery shade of pink.

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Now you’ll understand — Naaaaaaaaa-suhWENya!  WanaBEEzeewhen-aaahhhh!

I went for a sunrise paddle that morning – left before the sun rose, and watched it taint the sky as it climbed the horizon.  I felt like I was the center of the Circle of Life!  Everything seemed to open, bloom and awake around me and change from a dusky blue to a golden pink.

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Pelicans were swimming and flying right along side of me.

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 


The water was rippled pink, purple and blue and the only sound I could hear was my paddle dipping in and out of the water.  (Well, other than the African Lion King chants I was wailing in my head).

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Hey whenyahhna.  Hey, heywhenyahhhna … 

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And then I emerged!



Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic in reality.  I just pulled up to the boat.


Hello Beautiful!

But, it was an intensely serene sunrise paddle.  Such a beautiful area right around our boat to tool around in.


I paddled around Bird Island.  I didn’t know – then- that the other was called Snake Island, but I’m glad, now, that I avoided it!  Since it was our first day in a new port, we decided to what any good adventurer would do … get out and explore!  We walked around the boat a bit and checked out the cool rock jetty (Venice Inlet) that leads out into the Gulf – knowing we would be headed out that way in just a few days.


We noticed it was both (1) very narrow:


and (2) very rocky:



A bit of a bad combination for entry and exit in a boat, particularly in rough seas.  The sea state was still kicked up with the storm rolling in to Clearwater, so we knew we would be hunkering down in Venice for at least a day or two.  But, I tell ya, it wasn’t a bad place to be!  We had the boat nice and secure at an excellent marina,

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and we had attracted some friends around the boat.

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And the jetty, inlet and Gulf waters were beautiful.  Lots of folks came out it seemed to eat lunch, sit and read, and just hang out around the jetty.  Excellent walking/meander grounds.

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But, like I said — we were ready to explore!  A little further than what was achievable on foot.  So, remember the free bike rental I mentioned at Crow’s Nest Marina for marina guests?


Suh-weet!  We checked us out a free pair and set to it!

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The area around the jetty was really nice, and it was a perfect sunny day for a bike ride, so we decided to make a day of it.  We biked … all … over!


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Adorable little condos and townhouses by Crow’s Nest.  Many of them had stairwells up to the roof where they had set up a little sunbathing area on top of their house!

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Quaint shaded streets and light traffic made for perfect neighborhood cruising among HUGE banyan trees.

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I almost crashed five times trying to look up at the Spanish Moss.  Well, I take that back, I almost crashed several times because I’m just well, accident prone, and I was shooting while biking, AND I’m a blonde.  So, I had a lot working against me.  But, I somehow managed to stay upright.  The biking was actually excellent exercise for the knee which still had a little pain and a pop, but was improving daily.  We found an excellent public beach access that appeared to be the perfect place to set up for kiting if we got some favorable winds while we were there.


We actually met a kiter who was out there setting up that morning and chatted him up for a bit.


He told us the thermal winds in that area were usually pretty steady, meaning you couldn’t trust the wind prediction.  It was always off.  Good to get the local wind scoop!

Wind scoop …


Get it??


We rode our bikes all the way to town!


Tis me!


Annnd, I didn’t crash taking that shot either!  You’re welcome.

We found this awesome 1950’s throw-back trinket shop – Nifty Nic Nacs!



So true …


Take an old photo, put a funny caption on it and BOOM!  I just love these things!


Apparently, the shopkeep didn’t LOVE my love of them, though.  He totally busted me for taking photos of his stuff.  Sorrryyy!  It’s just cause it’s such cool stuff!  The lengths I go to to capture our adventures for you all … I could have been arrested!

Having biked all morning, we set our sights on lunch.  A little research told us this Blue Island Bistro was the hot lunch spot in Venice, and boy were they right!

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Quaint little bistro atmosphere overlooking the hotel pool.

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A pile of hand-made shoestring onion rings, three chicken, avocado and lime salsa tacos and a piled-high pork & coleslaw sandwich later, and Phillip and I could barely walk, much less pedal!  It took us a while to roll out of our seats and ease back onto our bikes to make the trek back to the marina, but it was totally worth it.  That was a mighty tasty lunch!

We had good timing, too, because just as we made our way back to the boat, we got to see first-hand what that storm that was headed to Clearwater looked like.  Our marina was haunted with looming grey clouds and dark horizons.

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We hunkered down in the boat for a bit to wait for the storm to pass.


I actually love being on the boat when a storm comes through.  Granted, I don’t want to be buried in a wicked thunderstorm, but it’s a neat feeling to be on your boat, on the water, out in the middle of a torrential downpour, but you’re dry and secure, watching it all first-hand.  It’s kind of like getting a cozy, front-row seat to some of Mother’s Nature’s most amazing displays.  And, our boat needed the rinse, so we were fine to let it pour, pour, pour!

I tell you one thing that rain didn’t clean, though, was the paddle board!  Remember the new “friend” we had made at the marina?  The one I thought was so cute because he was hanging on our dock line?  I had been snapping shots of him that morning, telling Phillip “Look, Phillip, we’ve got a little buddy!”  Awww … how cute!

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Well, he turned out to be a real shitty friend, that bird!  He used our paddle board as his own personal hunting perch and he SHAT all over it!


That terd!  It took some serious industrial scrubbing to get it clean!

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But, we got it clean, and cleaned ourselves up as well.  The previous night, we had fine-dined at the swanky top floor of the Crow’s Nest Marina restaurant, so this time we decided to check out the casual, cozy tavern on the bottom floor.

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I required some serious industrial cleaning as well after the foul fowl discharge clean-up!  But, I think I turned out alright.  You can’t see the elephant arm at all!  We mozied around the marina a bit to check out this huge fishing boat that had pulled in for quick cover during the flash storm.

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And, just as we were walking the docks, checking the boat out, we saw this other sailboat come flying in.  The boat would easily qualify as a “work-in-progress.”  It had big, brown paint patches in places, no lifelines to speak of and a few buckets and board planks lying around on deck.  The boat made a quick u-turn near the fishing boat where we were standing and then started on a beeline back toward our boat – just hauling through the marina (which always makes you nervous).  It’s like watching a car up ahead on the interstate swerving and screeching around.  You’re either going to ease back and stay out of the way, or floor it when you pass them to make sure they don’t careen into you.  But, the problem was, we weren’t on the boat!  Meaning, we had no way of getting our boat out of harm’s way.  We both craned our necks up and watched with tight-lip frowns as the blazing boat made a quick turn into the slip right next to us (not on us, at least).  Whew!  It was clear they weren’t going to hit our boat, but they were still barreling into the slip, headed straight for the dock.  Phillip and I both started running toward their bow as one of the crew on the fishing boat shouted:


What’s the Worst Thing You Can Have on a Boat?

April 28-29, 2014:

I like to just ask it that way.  See what people say.  Most kind of look at you funny, scrunch up their brow (Yes, scrunch – how do you think a “scrunchy” gets that way?)


Rockin’ it!

and either ask “What exactly do you mean by that?” or start thinking on the possibilities.  But, ask several cruisers that question, and I’ll bet you get several different answers:

A fire perhaps?


Just tragic … 



That would also fall into the category of ‘Suck’

Phillip tried several of these when I first asked him, and then – to my pleasant surprise – threw out a wild guess of:

A nagging woman?”


Nice try, but …


It is a fun question because it can spark so many different answers (as well as interesting follow-up questions – Do you mean to happen TO the boat?  Or be ON the boat?, etc.) – and it usually leads to some really interesting tales at sea.  I believe I would have answered that question the same way before we ventured off to the Keys, but I certainly did not expect to experience my particular brand of “worst thing” on this trip!  But, that’s the thing about sailing you have to constantly expect the unexpected.  So, where were we?

Ahhh … yes.  The busted First Mate.  Perhaps not the worst thing to have on a boat, but it’s definitely up there in the list of not-so-good things.  So, we were heading across the Gulf from Key West to Ft. Myers, and I was icing the knee and arm, hoping for immaculate recovery.

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Pretty.  The swelling really makes my bi’s and tri’s look huge, though, doesn’t it?  Like a body-builder.  Think I’ll sign up for it next year!


Hell yeah!

Thankfully, once we took the ice off, the swelling had gone down some and, while the arm hurt, it was mostly numb and mostly purple, but seemingly fully-functional, so that gave me some relief.  The knee, however, was the real cause for concern.  It was king of popping and clicking when I bent and straightened it and causing some pain when lowering and raising while weight-bearing.  Knees are just such complicated joints.  One little strain or tear and it just doesn’t function correctly.  I figured there was some soft-tissue injury for sure, but I just decided to really baby it and see how things went.  Thankfully, it was a gorgeous sailing day.

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We were on a perfect broad reach with 10-12 knots of wind most of the day.  Otto was holding, so we kicked back, cracked open a few books (and the Kindle) and spent a leisurely afternoon sailing and reading.  I was digging into the second of what I called the “Dragon Lady” books.  I had read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the way down to the Keys, and now I was tearing through the second in the series – The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Both very good reads – elaborate, intriguing plots and characters that keep you invested to the very end.  We polished off the blue cheese gnocchi that we saved from 7 Fish the night before,


and also dug into Phillip’s ham salad that we had made before leaving Key West.



Other than the potentially-permanent limp, we enjoyed an exquisite afternoon/evening of sailing.

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There is just nothing like watching the sun set on the edge of a vast, blue horizon.  There are no buildings or signs or structures to block it.  You can watch every single pink inch as it drops out of the sky.  Just proof that – more often than not – real life is better than the movies.  But we love movies too …

Uh-oh, guess what day it is??  Guess!!


Mmmhhh-hmmm, that’s right.  It’s MOVIE DAY!   Or movie time, I guess.  Since we had such a steady sail going, such great weather and a perfect heading holding, we decided to crank up the laptop and put on a movie.  (And, yes, much to Phillip’s chagrin, I do the whole “Movie Day” camel bit EVERY time we put on a movie on the boat.  Every … time … )  By the way, if you think about it – a camel.  Also another strong contender for “worst thing you can have on a boat.”  Can you just imagine …

We decided to put on Leonardo DiCaprio’s J. Edgar Hoover that night.

Hoover pic

Trailer HERE.

Another captivating performance by DiCaprio (that man is such a chameleon), and a riveting look at the development of the FBI’s internal database.  It was a little slow, though, and after the morning scare, my body’s attempts at recovery, gnocchi, salad and a soothing day of sailing, I hate to say it, but this crew was starting to nod off.  That changed, though, about half-way through the movie, when we started to hear the beginning rumblings of a massive thunder-storm behind us.  We had just been joking, too, when we began the movie that “movie night” on the old Plaintiff’s Rest seems just a bit cursed.  You may recall the last time we tried to kick back and watch a movie in the cockpit and Armageddon struck – the winds jumped from 9 to 15 to 25 in all of 10 minutes, we battled another flailing halyard, broke out the Frankenstein-assembled butterfly net on a stick (a.k.a. a gaff) and eventually lost the halyard up the mast altogether.

And, now – we put on a movie and what?  Thunder??  Cursed, I tell ya.  Cursed!!  It’s funny how on the boat, though, when either of us hears that first guttural rumble in the distance, you kind of ignore it at first.  I mean, you heard it, you’re sure the other crew members heard it, but it’s like you don’t want to be the first to acknowledge it – as if you’ll bring thunder to life by mentioning it?  You usually kind of wait until you hear one more, and then you exchange that “look” with your fellow crew of — you heard that, right?  We both heard it.  We both knew what it was.  After a few rumblings, we paused the movie to look around the boat and – sure enough – a big, billowy cumulus thunderhead lurked behind us off the starboard stern and we watched as a vicious streak of lightning blazed through it.  It was pretty far off in the distance, so it didn’t worry us too much, but just as we were looking out past our stern, a huge bolt raced through a cloud that was just off our mid-ship, maybe a mile or so out.  That concerned us.


Okay, that image is *ahem* … borrowed, but I did try to capture a bolt or two while we were out there.  It’s just so hard to click fast enough to capture the light.  Here’s Phillip looking out, though, on the the only-intermittent darkness.


We kept watching the movie a bit longer, but the periodic rumbles and bolts were far too distracting.  We decided to turn the movie off for a bit and sit up on the deck to watch the lightning.  It was still a good ways off, but it was hard to tell which way the storm was moving – particularly the stack of clouds on our midship.  While the storm was kind of frightening, it was also invigorating.  The adrenaline woke us both up, and the sight was just breathtaking.  To get to watch lightning streak through the sky like that, time and again, really is stunning.  Thankfully, though, the mid-ship storm rolled past us at a safe distance.  While it’s not at the top of my list, lightning is definitely something I never want to see on the boat.

We finished the movie and transitioned into our now pretty-routine pattern of “night shifts.”  Aside from the occasional tricky ladder shuffle with my bum knee, the night went smoothly.  We cruised right along on our same broad reach under a thick blanket of stars and sailed right through to sunrise.

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Looks about like sunset, huh?  But, that’s one of the great things about life on the boat – you start to rise and set with the sun.  It was a rare day on the trip that we didn’t see both the sunrise and sunset, which is a really reassuring sign that you are truly enjoying every minute of every day.  We boiled up a nice pot of coffee and enjoyed the cruise toward Ft. Myers.

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A visual inspection proved not much had changed since the day before … my arm and leg were still looking … ummm … pretty.

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We had made such great time during the night, though, that we decided – instead of stopping at Ft. Myers Beach again, where spent an incredible few days before making the jump to Key West, to go ahead and motor on up into the ICW by Sanibel Island to check out the area around Cayo Costa Key that our buddy Johnny Walker had told us about.

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And, THAT’S when we experienced the worst thing think you can have on a boat.  Phillip headed down below to re-fill his coffee mug and re-up on the sunscreen (a regular routine on the boat) and fiddle around with a few things.  I was a bit of a slow-mover that day, so I didn’t get off my keister to investigate, but I heard him pull the cover back on the engine.  Not too abnormal of a thing to do when we find ourselves motoring for a while.  It’s always good to pull the cover back every couple of hours and make sure you don’t have any drips or fluids or water leaking out of the engine.  So, that wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  But, with the engine hatch still back, Phillip took a few steps up the companionway ladder and started looking around intently, as if he was trying to figure out exactly where we were, just how far we were from land.  That’s when my brow scrunched.

“What?  What, is it?” I asked him.  And, after a few solid seconds of silence, he finally let out a rough breath and responded.

“Well, we’ve got somewhat of a leak.”

SOMEWHAT?!?  You either have a leak or you don’t.  He confirmed what I feared was true.  We had sea water coming into the boat.  Now, THAT, my friends is the worst thing I think you can have on a boat.  A LEAK.

Book Swap Mojo

April 26, 2014:

You might think the ferry ride back from the Dry Tortugas was a little disheartening, having to leave those idyllic islands behind, knowing we had kind of hit the mid-point of our trip, geographically, at least, but it really didn’t have that effect.  “So, we’ve got to take this ferry back to Key West where our sailboat and more adventures are waiting?”  Yeah, not really a downer in our opinion.  We returned invigorated, excited to get back to our boat and tell her how beautiful it was on Garden Key and how much she was going to love sailing there when we come back to the Dry Tortugas.  We were excited to see Key West coming up in the distance.


Phillip and I could both feel it, like a steady stream of electricity buzzing through us.  There were still so many places on the island to explore!  There was still so much to see and eat and do!  We were itching to get off that ferry to grab our next adventure by the collar and shake it!  This was our time!  And, we still had plenty of time that day.  The ferry returned from the Dry Tortugas around 4:00 p.m.  Uhhh-huhhh.  I know what you’re thinking.  Happy Hour.  That’s right.  We’ve still got time!  

We jumped in the shower quick to make it to Alonzo’s for the 50-cent oysters.  I brought The Paris Wife with me to the showers so I could make my tribute to the marina book swap on the way.  I finished The Paris Wife on the way to the Dry Tortugas, which was perfect, because it is a sad, poignant book.  The kind that sinks into your chest and begins to swell into an ache.  I found myself mad at Hemingway, hating him, but understanding him at the same time.  It certainly resonated.  So, it was good to shut that book and step off the ferry into crystal-green waters filled with shimmery fish clouds.  The feeling the book invokes is something you want to feel, but it’s also a feeling you want to balance with fresh air and beauty.  It was a day of closure it seemed, as Phillip finished In Our Time on the ferry-ride back.  He said it was really interesting reading it after The Paris Wife, where you saw Hemingway create it from his wife, Hadley’s, perspective, and he liked watching the evolution of Hemingway’s writing style from In Our Time, his first book, to his later masterpieces.  That one’s definitely on my list (as are many!)  But, since Phillip was reading it on the way back, I dug into my back-up book swap book – a juicy little Lee Childs thriller – 61 Hours.  I made it one third of the way through by the time we docked at Key West – certainly a fun, quick suspense read.

When we returned, I told Phillip I wanted to keep The Paris Wife and give it to a friend of mine back home who is an author, knowing she would appreciate the Hemingway haunt it had left me with, but he was quick to scold me.  “You can’t,” he said.  “You’ll ruin your book swap mojo.”

My what?!?

Yes, mojo, the Captain explained, in his infinite marina wisdom.  Apparently, there is some unspoken rule in the land of marina book swaps, that if you get a good book from a marina book swap, you’ve got to give it back at another marina to ensure your continued good book karma.  “Oh, alright!”  I supposed I could just tell my friend about The Paris Wife and she could get her own copy.  If that’s what it takes to nurture my mojo!

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So, I put it back, but, I think the marina sensed my flirt with thoughts of infidelity, because I was left with the Fabio, ripped abs romance novels, and this hot little western number:



Clearly my mojo was tainted.  I’m glad I had a Jack Reacher number and a few other alternatives to get me to the next marina, where I hoped to find less whips and abs.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Once showered, we headed to Alonzo’s Oyster Bar to enjoy another dozen 50-cent oysters and some crisp white wine in the shade.  The perfect treat after a long day in the sun.

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I love building the perfect bite on each cracker.  A fresh oyster, just the right amount of cocktail sauce, with a little horseradish mixed in, and a squeeze of lemon on top.  Follow that with a sip of chilled sauvignon blanc, repeat five times and that makes for a pretty darn happy hour for me!  While I was still mad at the man for his heartbreaking treatment of Hadley, I have to say, Hemingway certainly knew how to describe the taste:


After oysters, we headed back out on the street and found ourselves once again, drawn to the breath of the Hog!  Cliff Cody was belting out another Lady Gaga number at the Saloon, so we decided to stop in for a bit to check out the locals and let Cody serenade us through our first cold one(s).

Love the people-watching at Hog’s.  We knocked back one or two and then made our way over to the La Trattoria for a big, Italian dinner.  I mean, we’d been to the Dry Tortugas and back today.  We had snorkeled with sharks!  We had required first aid!  Certainly, we were entitled to a decadent, four course Italian meal?  We decided we were, and breezed right in.


Table for two, please,” said the Captain.

We ordered up a great bottle of Montepulciano and the escargot.

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The wine had a great pepper finish that really cut through the richness of the escargot.  While it took me a couple of tries and several reiterations by the Captain for me to get the pronunciation of the wine right (had nothing to do with the alcohol intake I assure you), I finally nailed it!  Mon tae pul chee ahh noh.  And, I proudly showed off my Italian skills when I ordered our second bottle.  Teach me to pronounce wines, and you’re just asking for trouble …

It came just in time for our salad course – a homemade caeser with whole anchovies, fresh-grated parmesan and big crunchy, spiced croutons.  Superb!


But, the dish that really stole the show was the canneloni.  Fresh canneloni, made in house, stuffed with ground veal and spinach and smothered in a baked tomato sauce.

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Press fingers to lips and “muah!”  Our big, Italian dinner was the perfect treat after a long, adventurous day.  We had been to the Dry Tortugas and back – a definite milestone on our trip.  But, we still had so much ahead.  We still had to sail our boat all the way back to Pensacola from the Keys.  If the trip back was anything as exciting as the trip down, we were in for an incredible adventure.  We had one more day in the Keys, then we would set off again, back out into the open Gulf, back on night shifts, back OUT THERE!

Next Time by Sailboat

April 26, 2014:

I didn’t want to cause too much of a scene getting first aid for my coral collision back at the ferry.  To be honest, I truly thought if they saw the blood dripping down my leg, they might quarantine me in some cordoned-off locker on the boat.  I could see myself sitting alone on one of the boat benches with yellow crime scene tape draped around me.  And, you’ve seen how beautiful it was out there.

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There was no WAY they were keeping me off Garden Key any longer than necessary.  So, I tried to play a little coy with the ferry boy, but he was a wiley one:

Annie:  “Excuse me, sir?  I just need a little band-aid please.”

Ferry Boy:  “What for?”

Annie (thinking to stop the gushing river from my calf):  “Uhhh … it’s just a nick.”

Ferry Boy:  “Lemme see.”

Annie:  “No, really, it’s nothing.  Nevermind.  I’ll just … ”

Ferry Boy:  “Just let me see it.  We’ll get you doctored up and back out there in no time.”

Ahhh … Okay, I thought.  Whew.  They’re not going to banish me to the lower barracks.  The folks on the ferry were great.  They washed my bloody patch right up, smeared some Neosporin on it and sent me back out to play.  Phillip and I had just about an hour left on the island, so we kicked back in the sand and continued breathing in the view.

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I was really surprised by how many different types of people that had come over with us on the ferry tour.  I hate to say I fully expected to see only the plump-type tourists sporting their fanny packs and fanning themselves in the heat.


“Now ya’ll get together there Edna, and say cheese!”

And, while there were a few of them, there were also plenty of others from varying nationalities.  Two young ladies who rode behind us on the way there sounded like they were speaking Portugese.  There were two families who looked to be Pakistani or some other middle eastern descent, and there was this one couple on the beach that really caught our eye.  You know when you see beautiful people, you just can’t help but stop and stare for a minute?  It was like these two had just walked by:


They laugh because they know they’re prettier than you.  Ha ha ha!

But, the couple on the beach had to be European.  The woman had this almost inhuman hourglass shape, long cascading dark hair and a tiny string bikini.  And, the guy was sporting an even teenier speedo without an ounce of body fat on him.  I know, I should have taken pictures so you could see, but we were just kind of mesmerized.  And I didn’t want to play the role of creepy tourist that day.  They set up a little picnic spot next to us and fed each other little niblets of prosciutto.  Like I said, very European.  But, it was nice to see so many different types of people, all there enjoying the same breathtaking views.



After our last hour in the sun, the ferry crew started to herd us back to the boat so we could start making the two-hour passage back to Key West.  Finding the AC-chilled section of the boat to feel more like a meat locker than a luxury, Phillip and I snagged two sun chairs on the Lido deck to make the cruise home al fresco.  And, the best part about the ride home was the drink service!  For the cruise back, the friendly ferry crew opened up a full bar for these thirsty Tortuga go-ers!  (Well, and by “full,” I mean rum, vodka and beer – but hey, rum works just fine for this Mate, so no complaints here!).  

“Well, have two rum runners with an extra shot, please.”



We also found the view from the back deck of the ferry made the perfect backdrop for an all-out photo shoot of the Dry Tortugas!  Roll that beautiful footage!

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Okay, so there were SOME fanny-packers … 

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“Next time, we’ll be over THERE!”


“On the ole’ Rest, anchored out with the rest of the sailboats!”

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I know, we (well, and by “we” I mean I) went a little crazy with the picture-taking.  But, it was so frustrating trying to capture the beauty of the place, the electric green of the water, but finding the photos just didn’t do it justice.  I kept snapping anyway, thinking at least the pictures would at least remind me of what it really looked like to see it in person.

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There!  You see that bright, neon stripe on the water?  That’s how green it was!  Like what I imagine the color turquoise would like look, if you were on acid.  I can only imagine …

We watched as the last white spits of land disappear on the horizon,

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before settling into our sun chairs and kicking back for the cruise home.  We read, napped, ordered two more rum runners, read and napped some more while the boat cruised along at 28 knots.  While we will definitely be coming back to this pristine place someday on the s/v Plaintiff’s Rest, it was kind of nice to make the trip there and back in one day on the comfort of a big steaming ferry.

While the trip there by sailboat is typically about a 15 hour-passage, that is–as is everything with sailing–assuming good weather and a favorable sea state.  Case in point, the day after we came and went to the Dry Tortugas via ferry, our buddy Johnny Walker (there he is!)


who made the trip from Ft. Myers Beach down to Key West with us, headed out to the Dry Tortugas from Key West on his 38′ Morgan.  And while it was a quick, 14-hour sail there, the sail back turned out to be a 24-hour, 4-6 foot beatdown.  The auto-pilot wouldn’t hold and Johnny pretty much had to hold the wheel the entire time.  Did I also mention that Johnny is just a few months shy of 72 and still out there sailing like a hellion?  A total badass, that one!  But, he said it was exhausting.  A really rough trip.  So, while we do plan to make the trip from Key West to the Dry Tortugas on the Plaintiff’s Rest some day, we know we’ll have to plan at least a week or more to time the weather and sea-state right and really enjoy the trip.

Besides, an adventure like that is not something you want to rush anyway …


Next time!

And Then the Roosters Came

April 25, 2014:

Okay, I’m going to be honest.  We awoke from the previous day’s Big FOUR-OH in a bit of a drunken slumber.  The sun rose, we moaned and groaned our way back into the upright position and stumbled our way back over to the Cuban Coffee Hut,


to do more stupid things … but not faster.  With the vast quantities of rum and tequila still swimming in our veins, three Cuban coffee queens and we would still only be doing things at normal stupid human speed.  But, we were Day One into Phillip’s second forty years and still on the hunt for new adventures in Key West.  It seemed everywhere we walked there were plenty of interesting sites and scenes to take in.


“What the truck?!?”


“Don’t dredge on me!” it says.  You gotta love the quirky conch personalities on this little island.  Take this for example.


I know you see her.  That pirate-clad pixie up in the upstairs window.  What’s she sayin?


“Help me!”

Uhh-uuhhh Miss Sparrow.  You got yourself commandeered up there.  We want no part of your pirate drama!  But, do feel free to show us some pirate booty!  

I know, I know …


Speaking of, while we were mozeying around downtown, I got to show Phillip the little hole-in-the-wall bookstore where I stormed in during my first blaze down Duval Street to get his birthday book.  For some reason, the Captain didn’t think that story was funny the fifth time I told it …   “C’mon, that’s good stuff!  Wait till I write up the blog on it!”

But, a couple of coffees down and now on the hunt for lunch, right around the corner we found our haven.  A pink stucco gas station-turned-Cuban Caribbean eatery!  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Paseo’s!


Take it in …


Phillip ordered up a hot pressed Cuban sandwich,


and I got the Paseo’s Greens bowl.


Basically, a huge Carribean bowl filled with pickled beets, cabbage, and piled high with the most succulent chicken thighs I have ever put in my mouth.


And … I’m a champion wing eater!  That chicken was so moist I started to think they had to be wringing their necks out behind by the building upon order and roasting them up in house.  And, then my suspicious were confirmed!  Because …


... that’s when the roosters came!

They were clucking around all over the place!

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Even little baby ones!

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Right by my feet!


“Those must be the thighs I ordered!  Grab ’em Pedro!”

The roosters really started to rally the troops when our shared side came out – a whole roasted ear of corn (still in the shuck), slathered with seasoned sour cream and topped with fresh chopped cilantro.

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I mean … 

The Captain and I ate ourselves just about sick.  It was hard to sit upright after we finished. A good fifteen minutes after our meal, and we were still kicked back under the gas station awning, picking corn from our teeth and letting the misters spray us down.


Ahhh … 

After that meal, we were stuffed!  We headed back to the boat to nap it off.  Because that’s what you do in Key West.  Drink, eat and nap.  In that order.  Oh, and wash your boat.  We did that, too.  Since the previous day had been devoted entirely to celebratory matters, we spent most of the afternoon getting our boat chores done – filling the tanks with water, filling our spare diesel cans and giving the boat a good, long scrub-down.  She was literally caked with salt from the passage.  You could physically see it on the handrails and stanchions.  Our girl was itching for a bath.  And, it was a hot day to do it, but there’s just something about getting that boat all cleaned up, even in the sweaty heat of day, that’s truly rewarding.  We showered up afterward, too, and the boat and crew all felt better for it.

As you may recall, we had plans that night to have dinner with our buddy Postal Bob on his Catalina 34.  Remember, we had the mackerel, he had the shark, and Captain Ron was coming with the yellowfin tuna!

Bob invited us over around dusk to start with some sundowners and tall tales at sea.


“C’mon on board!”

And, there’s Johnny, too!  Mr. Walker and his son made the trip from Ft. Myers to Key West with us on his 38′ Morgan, the s/v Windwalker.  Bob’s boat was set up perfect for hosting.  A big spread was laid out in the cockpit, a full bar was opened to everyone below.  Bob had a specified “beer cooler” in the cockpit full of brewskies and he was working on a four-course feast when we arrived!  Not to mention his boat.  Gees!  It was like a condo at the marina.  He had A/C, a microwave, TV …  That’s living!  We sat down below in the A/C for about all of fifteen minutes before our teeth were chattering.  It seems we had fully acclimated and preferred to dine al fresco.  It was a beautiful evening out anyway, and the cockpit is just always a great place to gather.


There’s the Windwalker/Plaintiff’s Rest crew.  Johnny next to me, and his son, Jeremy, next to Phillip.  They were a lot of fun and, thankfully, they hadn’t yet heard all of my crazy stories.


“No, wait, wait.  Let me tell you boys about my bikini sprint to the bookstore … “

Bob was such a generous host, too.  He did all of the prep work himself down below and plated everything up while we were visiting in the cockpit.


“You keep passing drinks up here and we’re going to want some dinner to go with it!”  I call it the “Give a Mouse a Cookie” phenomenon.  But Bob had us covered.  He cooked up the mackerel we had caught on the way down to the Keys (yes, we still had plenty enough left over to feed the whole crew).  That was one big fish!


And, Bob taught us a great trick about mackerel, too.  We had cooked up a few filets our first night in the Keys and while it was good, it had turned out a bit more meaty, a little tougher, than other fresh fish we had caught and cooked up.  But, Bob said “just soak it in milk!”  He let the filets we brought over soak for a bit before he grilled them up, and that did the trick!


That mackerel was perfect.  And, Bob had made beans and rice, a salad with fresh grated parmesan and grilled zucchini and squash!  See?  A four-course meal … pretty much.  Certainly a fit feast for a boat.  We passed a few plates around and this crew didn’t wait to dig in!

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“Thanks Bob!”

It was a great night spent with great fellow sailors down in the Keys.  Phillip and I really felt like two of the group.  We were cruisers now!  We watched a beautiful sunset from the dock while we polished off the mackerel and another round of drinks.

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We decided to call it an early night because we had a big day the next day.  The biggest of the whole trip perhaps (aside from the Captain’s birthday).

Where were we going tomorrow you ask??   I’ll let you wager a guess …



Thursday – April 24, 2014:

A BIG day for Phillip.  And, a BIG day for us.  Waking up in the Keys.  Does it get any better?  After taking in the carnie sights and sunset at Mallory Square and cooking up our fresh-caught mackerel the evening before, we woke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Phillip’s birthday – ready to paint the island red!  Like any other thirsty sailor, we headed out for our first drink of the day – COFFEE!  Not a few blocks from the boat, we ran into none other than Postal Bob!  That man was everywhere.  He told us we needed to try this great little Cuban coffee stand just a few blocks over and we started putting together some plans to have dinner on his boat the following evening.  Still having plenty left from our hefty Gulf catch, we said we could bring mackerel.  Bob said he had some shark.  And, then this salty surfer looking dude …


Yeah, something like that

who was just randomly walking by said “Well, I’ve got some yellowfin tuna I can bring.  Where we meeting?”  You gotta love the Keys!

We bid Bob farewell and headed over to the famous Cuban Coffee Queen hut.


Not a bad little jaunt from the boat.  And, in addition to the yellowfin tuna guy, there were plenty of quirky little Key West sights to take in along the way.




Two hundred miles from everywhere!

The sight at the coffee hut certainly had that authentic Cuban charm.  There were roosters clucking around.  Coffee runners (each of whom seemed to sport the same style dreads and flip-flops) loading up mopeds to go make Cuban Coffee Queen deliveries.  A line of folks waiting for their coffee and breakfast sandwiches.  This was definitely the happening coffee spot!


The guy at the counter cracked us up, too.  We didn’t see any orange juice on the menu so Phillip asked “Do you have any OJ?”  The guy sloshed around a huge vat of juice for us to see, which wasn’t really an answer, so Phillip asked “Is it for sale?”  To which the sweaty Cuban coffee clerk replied, “Sir, everything’s for sale.  I’ll sell you the shirt off my back if you want it.”  I liked that guy.

We got two piping cups of Cuban coffee and an awesome pressed Cuban sandwich.

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Even the merchandise seemed to have a good sense of humor.


We were definitely pleased.  The coffee hut was going to be our regular stop every morning for sure!  After coffee we ventured back toward the north side of the island near Mallory Square, where we found some great sculptures and tourist pieces.

This whimsical number is located near the Custom’s House and is intended, I presume, to be a boy dreaming about … well what all boys dream about.


I decided to take some liberties and show him a little bit of the real deal …

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But he couldn’t handle it!

And, besides, this guy was painting the scene while we were there, so I didn’t want to taint his muse.

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But, being a sculpture too, he seemed to also be impervious to my charms.


Thankfully, this man is not!


There were a ton of great “touristy things” to check out near the Square.


Which makes sense.  That’s right where the cruise boats come in.


Not so big from afar.

After the Square, we headed over to the north side of the island to check out some of the houses and gated properties.  The other side of the tracks I guess you would say.  No roosters clucking around or grungy coffee runners on mopeds here.  This part of town was pristine.

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The houses were gorgeous.  Bright local brush and flowers spilled over every fence and seemed to reach out for you.  We scoped out a few lunch spots but decided to head over to Hemingway’s House and do the tour first.

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Come on in!

We got lucky and scored an exceptional tour guide.  This young, bright-eyed college-looking kid, but he was super knowledgeable about all things Hemingway, and he had a real passion for sharing the trouble writer’s story and pointing out so many little idiosyncrasies about the house and its former (and current!) inhabitants.

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Have you ever heard of the six-toed cats?  It seems some cats that came over on ships developed a sixth toe (making them polydactyl), and those that did were sought after for their improved mice-catching capabilities.  Apparently Hemingway also developed a bit of fondness for the finger-favored felines and started a small collection.  The house is now home to about 40-50 six-toed cats.  That’s like 1,200 toes!

The cats are lying around all over the house, completely oblivious to the hundreds of tourists passing through.

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I mean, I wouldn’t give much mind to us either.  We’re just walking around staring all of the time.  These cats have their own personal veterinarian who comes to check on them all, make sure they’re properly fed, cared for and maintained.  So, yeah, all they have to do is lie around and snooze.  What a life!

One of my favorite parts about the tour was the story of Hemingway’s “Last Red Cent!”  It seems Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, was none too pleased with Hemingway’s constant travels as a war correspondent, probably because it also helped to foster his philandering ways, so she had a $330,000 (in today’s dollars) pool built while he was away.

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Legend has it when Hemingway returned from the Spanish Civil War and learned of Pauline’s pricey pool, he threw a penny at her and said, “Well you might as well have my last red cent!”  Pauline was happy to.  She claimed that and plenty more when the couple later divorced, and she had the cent embedded in glass near the pool to show her friends when she hosted grand cocktail parties by the pool.

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Take that Hemingway!  Plenty more stories about Hemingway’s House if you’re interested HERE.

But, I have to say, my ACTUAL favorite part was Hemingway’s office.  He had a suite built out where he would spend the better part of the day every morning toiling away on this vicious craft.  Writing can be so exciting, so invigorating one day, and so draining and absolutely depressing the next.  It’s a terrible burden to know you’ve written something that can be better, but also a blessing to know that you can write it better – if you’re willing to sit down and push yourself there.  If you have it, which Hemingway, certainly did, it’s a torturous gift, and it certainly tortured him.  It was incredibly humbling for me to see the actual room where Hemingway chipped away at the same stone.

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After Hemingway’s house we were famished.  We decided to dine at a little Creperia we had passed along the way.  La Creperia.


And … Oh.  My.  Gosh.  The best crepe I have ever had.  By far.  Hands down.  No questions about it.   Not mine – I ordered the La Campagnarde:


(frisee, lardons, tomatoes, potatoes, shallots, egg over easy, with a red wine vinaigrette), which was good, but Phillip ordered one with chicken, spinach, mushrooms and this decadent bechamel sauce.  It tasted like creamy white country gravy melted with cheese and poured over succulent chicken.  I don’t have any pictures of it because we tore right into it and devoured it in seconds.  My phone never stood a chance of getting in there.  The crepes are still ranked to this day one of our top meals on the trip.  It was a perfect little bistro setting, too.  We sat outside at a cute little rod-iron table, sipped mimosas and ate our fill!

After our gluttonous lunch, we decided to do what any fat, full tourists in Key West would do — lounge it off, sipping cocktails at the pool all afternoon!


“Two cabana chairs, please!  And a drink menu!”

I did capture some fun shots on the way, of the Schooner Wharf Bar,

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(we’ll be stopping in there later in the week), the dinghy dock,


(yes, that’s just for the dinghies!), and some seriously old salts hanging out at the dock,


(watch out National Geographic, here I come!) before we made it to the pool.  But, make it we finally did!

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Ahhhh … that’s better!  We were on Cloud Nine all afternoon, just watching the people, reading (I finished The Paris Wife there!) and napping.

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Sexy beast!

And, we had some serious entertainment at the pool.  There was a noisy, bachelorette bunch near us that underwent complete military-style invasion.  There were five girls, hovering around the obvious bride in the center, all laughing and giggling and taking selfies, and you could see this bunch of Ed Hardy-type muscle-bound dudes behind them planning their attack.  First, the guys sent over a tray of shots to the ladies, who downed them no problem, with giggles and hiccups and a swipe of the chin (“tee heee!  I love buttery nipples!”) but still no penetrable chink in their armor.  So, the dudes then sent a drink over – to the bride – smart move and then they started to flank them, one-by-one, approaching with drinks in hand.  One guy came toward their circle via the pool and started distracting an obvious weak gazelle on the outer rim.  She engaged and started swimming around with Mr. Muscle which left an opening for Guy No. 2 to saunter over.  He made his way in and started trying on the next gal’s shades and complimenting her on her style.  That soldier fell fast too.  They were dropping like flies, leaving the bride pretty open and exposed.  We watched each tactical maneuver, commenting and narrating over the rims of our rum drinks – of course, until the guys had completely infiltrated.  We were actually impressed.  Maybe these guys had a chance, but Phillip called it.  “Please?  A bachelorette party?  Those are the worst odds.”  And, he was totally right.  A couple of hours later, having burned through a couple-hundred dollar bar tab, I’m sure, the ladies packed up shop, huddled around their bride and marched right off, leaving the chumps behind.  It was … awesome!

After a nice, relaxing afternoon by the pool, we decided to stop on our way back to the boat at Alonzo’s Oyster Bar for happy hour and try their 50-cent oysters Postal Bob had been telling us about.

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Nothing like a salty oyster and an ice cold glass of white wine to remind you you’re a sailor in love with the sea.

For Phillip’s birthday, we had made reservations at this place called Santiago’s Bodega that we had scoped out the previous day during our conch train tour adventure.  We cleaned up around dusk and headed back out on the town for more drinks, of course, before dinner.  A little buzzed and definitely feeling a little frisky, we walked the docks waving at all of our marina neighbors and eyeing all of the big yachts we would never be able to afford.


Phillip looked like a kid in a candy store, a goofy smile spread across his face, nudging me and pointing at each one, “Look at that one.”  “Hey, did you see this one?”  “Check that out!”  He was definitely spending some daydream dollars!


Maybe for your fiftieth Captain.  … Maybe.

Once we snapped out of it and made our way off the docks, we found ourselves strangely drawn to the scent of Hog’s Breath!


A big guy clutching a guitar was actually singing a Lady Gaga song, Poker Face, as we walked by and we knew this was going to be a treat.  His name was Cliff Cody.  We saw him there several times during our stay in the Keys, and I swear if you closed your eyes and just listened, you would think you were sitting three feet from Travis Tritt.  Cliff sounded JUST like him.  The guy was pretty incredible.

But, it was time for dinner!  We headed over to Santiago’s and started a seven course tapas feast!

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Croquettes, then salad, empanadas, stuffed dates, roast duck …  It was a feast fit for kings.  Or, fit for the Captain I suppose.  We had certainly made a day of it.  For a man that craves adventure, I think having sailed his boat all the way down to the Keys with a pretty rough-and-tumble First Mate, who can thankfully pass for pretty some days too, Phillip was feeling pretty content.  I know I was – it felt like it had been my birthday too.  It seems like we shared it.  Such an incredible feat to accomplish sailing down there and such a luxurious day of food, wine and fun to celebrate it.

But, did I say the man craves adventure?  I believe so.  Two bottles of wine behind us, and this man decides he wants to go on a mission to find the “BEST key lime pie on the island.”  “The BEST,” he says.  “It has to be the best.  Let’s GO!”

And, go we did.  We hit Duval in a drunken fury, dancing and singing and poking strangers.  We were a riot, and the night was young!!

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“Ceeee-lebrate good times, C’MON!”  Happy Birthday Captain!

Bonnie the Bunny

April 20, 2014:

Tomorrow was it.  We were going to head out around daybreak to make our final passage south to the Keys.  We were beyond excited.  We spent the morning cleaning and readying the boat for the next day’s passage – re-tying the fuel cans we had filled the day before, re-checking the fluids we had topped off, taking out the trash.  You know, real exciting boat stuff.  We were planning to meet our buddy Johnny and his wife Cindy around mid-morning to make a mega run to the store for provisions.  Cindy had driven down to spend the weekend with Johnny and had been nice enough to offer us boating bums a ride to the store before she left.  Don’t mind if we do!  Knowing we weren’t going to have to haul our supplies back pack-mule style, we made quite the luxurious list and even planned our attack from produce to paper products.  We were going to get all Supermarket Sweep on them – matching sweatshirts and all.



But, sadly … as ready as WE were to do some serious grocery shopping, it seems the rest of the world wasn’t ready for us.  We found Ft. Myers tends to take their Easter pretty seriously.  Every place was closed.  Every … single … place.  We drove by Publix.  No.  Target.  Closed.  Winn Dixie?  Shut-down.  I hate to say it, but we finally ended up at the all-American icon of convenience shopping.  Mmmm-hmmmm.  Wal-Mart.  You can always count on old Wally World to be open.  We each made our rounds and packed Cindy’s little car to the brim.  And, of course – what do you always want to do after grocery shopping?  EAT!  After planning for and picking up everything we would need to cook and eat for the passage and the following week, all we could think about was food.  We stopped at this little McGregor Cafe in Ft. Myers and scored pretty good.


A juicy Rueben sandwich and a lobster cake salad.


Yum!  But, the best part was our waitress.  Bonnie … the Bunny.


You see?  As much as I love to write fiction – I really don’t have to make this stuff up.  

Bonnie (“the Bunny”) pranced around the entire time sporting fuzzy purple bunny ears and offering up what she called her “Special Bunny Peeps Cake” to any poor customer who couldn’t turn her away.  She even suffered it on the entire wait staff like office birthday cake.


When I walked through the dining area to go to the restroom, there were ten of them in there, at least, all picking with plastic forks at pieces of neon peep fluff on their styrofoam plates.  They would stuff mouthfuls in their cheeks and give Bonnie an exaggerated “Mmmmm” smile-and-nod when she would walk by, telling them “It’s my special recipe!  I make it every year!

It was … hilarious.

After our big venture to all of the closed stores, we headed back to the boat and packed her up for the next day’s passage to the Keys.  We still had some beautiful afternoon hours left, so I decided to bust out the old inflatable SUP and get to it.

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See Annie pump.  


Pump Annie pump!


Whew!  I tell you.  I love that my SUP is inflatable (so we can break it down and stow it down below) but she is a chore-and-a-half to blow up.  By the time you’re done, the thought of paddling is exhausting.  But, somehow I managed!

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I tossed her in the water and set to it.

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Go Annie go!


Ft. Myers had lots of residential inlets where the houses are all waterfront along the seawall and you can paddle around in each of them, checking out peoples’ boats, backyards, pools, houses, etc.  I love paddling around nice waterfront homes.  I like to imagine all the costly upkeep and maintenance they must require and bask in the contentment of living on a boat!

And, I was feeling pretty content … that is, until I returned to the boat and Phillip told me the engine wouldn’t crank.  Say what?  We’re leaving for the Keys tomorrow.  Could you repeat that?

But, sadly, it was true.  The engine wouldn’t fire – at least not on its own battery.  Luckily, we have two different battery systems on our boat.  One battery system is dedicated to starting the engine while the second bank (the house batteries) is much larger and equipped to run all the other systems on the boat.  We also have a nifty device that allows us to combine the battery systems together if necessary by the simple flip of a switch.  When we combined the circuit and pulled from the house batteries, the engine would crank, but she would not fire from the starting battery alone.  Errgghh …  What did I say about those big waterfront mansions being more trouble than they’re worth?  Well, forget that.  We had boat problems!

We traced the connections and wires from the alternator to the battery combiner (which regulates which set of batteries get charged) and found the inline fuses for the starting battery had blown.

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This meant the starting battery was not getting a charge when the engine was running.  This was good news because it was an easy fix.  Replace the small fuses and we figured we would be in business.  Then, all we needed to do was run the engine for a bit to be certain the starting battery was in fact charging.

We replaced the fuses, combined the batteries and cranked her up.  Everything was running great.  We had water coming out of the back and plenty of gas to give the boat a charge, so we let her purr.  It was just about dusk, so we poured a couple of glasses of wine and headed topside to watch the sun set.

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Ahhh … Isn’t she beautiful?  We sipped from our glasses and drank in the pink horizon.  Life was tranquil and serene.  Everything was perfect … until the alarm went off.  Yes, the ALARM.  A high-pitched, shrill tea-kettle whistle rang out from the cockpit.  Phillip and I jumped up, knocking over our deck chairs and glasses as we scrambled back to the helm as she shrieked angrily at us.  It was the high-temp alarm.  Picture a car steaming on the side of the road.

Overheated Car

It meant our engine had overheated.  What next?

We immediately shut her down so she could cool.  But, we were stunned.  What in the heck had happened?  Our temp had been holding fine.  Water had been spouting out the back.  Then all of a sudden it overheated??  We didn’t know what to think.  After she cooled a bit, we got back down in the engine room and started checking out the heat exchanger, making sure the seacock (that allows raw water to pull in to heat the engine) was open and working fine, basically just troubleshooting … again …

But, while we didn’t find any obvious issue with the cooling system on the engine, I did notice something on the battery combiner that we had missed before.  There was a little green clip that plugged into the combiner that had apparently wiggled its way out of its slot.  This little guy:


Who the heck knows when that happened – likely when we were beating our way into Charlotte Harbor during our last horrendous night in the Gulf – if I had to wager a guess.  But, the good news is, we spotted it.  An easy fix.  Just push her back in.  *Click*  And THEN our engine battery would get a charge.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to know your own boat.  Tinker around on it, try to troubleshoot things yourself, try to fix things yourself (to the extent possible) and, basically, just piddle around with the systems.  I, personally, like to sing this while I do and recommend you do too:

Phillip won’t admit it, but he secretly digs that tune!  

It’s amazing what you’ll learn.  Most of the systems on the boat are really simple if you just take the time to figure them out, and the confidence you’ll gain in handling everything on the boat yourself is easily worth it.  So – take some advice from Julia Andrews and get to know her!

And, while I say that, as much “knowing” as were doing on our boat that evening, we were still totally stumped by the engine overheating.  Phillip jumped in and checked the seacock through-hole on the hull of the boat to make sure there wasn’t some trash bag or something caught up in it.


Nothing.  We let her cool completely down, checked the coolant levels and the seacock (again) and decided to re-crank and see what happened.  We both sat in the cockpit watching the heat gage like a hawk.


Still sipping our wine, of course.  I mean, we’re boat people, but we’re still cruisers …


Thankfully, though, she held at her standard operating temp of 180 degrees.


To this day, we really can’t tell you what happened.  The most likely explanation is that something got temporarily sucked up against the through-hole under the boat and the engine could not pull water in to cool itself.  Then when we shut off the engine, the suction stopped and whatever it was floated away.  We suppose …  That’s all we could do.  Was suppose.  But, it was getting late and, either because of, or despite, all our efforts, the boat was currently running great and was ready to get under way the next morning.  So, we supposed ourselves right to bed to get some rest for the passage tomorrow.  We were just a 24-hour run away from the Keys!