Coming straight to you from Isla Mujeres, footage from our very first kite-surfing sessions of 2016! What can I say? With the shipyard work and ocean-crossing, it’s been a busy year, but Phillip and I absolutely love kite-surfing and we seize any opportunity we can to get out, pump up our kites and take advantage of the wind (even when it means knocking a little kite rust off and crashing here and there). Hope you all find a sport on the water that you enjoy this much. Have fun kiting (and crashing) with us.
They say for a sailor, wind is more valuable than money. If that’s true, we were filthy, stinking rich when we woke that morning. It was blowing 20-25 knots and gusting in the 30s! If we wanted kiting wind, we certainly got it. It was time, finally to bust out the kites! Phillip and I quickly donned our kiting gear and got out there!
First suit sighting of the trip! Finally!
And … then we cover her right back up! That water was still a little cold, though. There is one thing I do not like to be when I kite, and that is chilly!
Once we were geared up, we headed over to the cove we’d sighted the day before and pumped up!
Phillip took a spin first to see what the conditions were like. He is by far the expert and can usually give a pretty good assessment of whether the wind or conditions are too much for me.
Once we got the kite pumped up and launched, we had a few lookie-loos stop by to see what we were doing. I always get a kick out of what people think about kiting – some examples:
Onlooker says: “Man, I can’t believe you guys are doing that in this wind!”
We think: Well, you kind of NEED wind to kite. We wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t.
Onlooker says: “I bet you have to be SO strong to not blow away!”
We think: Not really, any lightweight can learn to kite. It’s just about how you fly it.
But, I understand why they’re often so taken and intrigued by it. It is a pretty novel act to watch – powering yourself across the water with a kite. And, Phillip certainly makes it look easy.
Video HERE. (But he always does!) I was chomping at the bit to get out there, but I stood by on the shore, like a faithful kite groupie, snapping pics and footage and fielding questions from the peanut gallery. We had two guys keep coming out in shifts, one then the other, to check us out. Once I struck up a conversation with them, they told me they ran the local tavern there and were taking turns leaving the bar one-manned so the other could come out and watch Phillip kite. They were really captivated by it. We also had a gal from the Gulf County Visitor’s Center, which was right down the road, stop by to snap some pictures. Phillip seems to attract onlookers like the paparazzi. I sometimes feel like his big-shot manager on the shore – “No pictures, please!” But, the Gulf County gal, Kelli, got there just as Phillip was coming in to deliver the bad news. It was really picking up out there – blowing probably 28-30 knots – and Phillip said it was probably too much for me. He could barely hold down the 9 meter kite (our smallest). Unlike money, sometimes the wind is just too much. But, my time would come.
I told the gal from the Visitor’s Center that I had some footage and pictures I could send her as I helped Phillip pack up the gear. She was grateful and told us to stop on by the visitor’s center while we were there for some freebies and good info on the area. We’re always game for good local info and anything free. So, after we got all the kite gear cleaned up, we set out to find the visitor’s center. And, find it we did! They had a great facility there.
Our newest kite groupie – Kelli!
The gals there were really nice and invited us in for a tour of the facility. They told us about the annual scallop festival they host where they send several travel writers out for a day of scalloping in the St. Joseph Bay so they can do a write-up on the festival and the area. Guess who will be coming back in September! Sweet! They also gave us some free samples of Tupelo honey which is made right there in Gulf County. Sweet-ER!
In all, the gals there were very nice and gave us some good tips about motoring the ditch through Lake Wimico, some good anchorages near Carabelle and some lagoons to look out for.
We thanked them for the info, left the facility to stroll around town a bit and stumbled upon The Thirsty Goat. They had some awesome t-shirts there. Thirsty? Get your goat on at The Thirsty Goat. Ummm … yes, please! I snagged one and slipped it on. And, it was some kind of stroke of luck because I had it on when we made to the next stop on our impromptu pub crawl – The Haughty Heron.
I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wearing the competitor’s logo proudly as I strolled around the place, eyeing their t-shirts and almost wishing I’d saved my one “bar shirt buy” for this place!
Haughty or Naughty? “Naughty! And, do you have that in a small?”
But, the cool thing was when the guys came out from the back to help us out and offer a drink, they turned out to be the very same oglers from the kiting cove. THESE were the two blokes who were taking shifts at the tavern to come out and check us out! Recognizing us as the local kiters and spotting my Goat shirt, the owner, Blake, quickly said he wouldn’t stand for it. He hooked me up quick with a good ‘goat cover’ – one of his own Haughty Heron shirts – for free!
He also poured us two free glasses of Healdsburg Ranches merlot to try.
I’ve told you our position on freebies …
In all, it was a very “fruitful” venture. We didn’t even mind that it started dumping buckets as we were walking back to the boat and we got totally, completely head-to-toe soaked. (It certainly didn’t hurt that our ‘spirits’ were nice and high by then … we were literally singing in the rain!). We made a make-shift drying line in the cockpit to hang up our sopping threads and tucked in for the night.
And, friends, while the day was done, I had one more deed yet to do, and I feel I have to share it with you. It’s certainly is a significant milestone in my sailing career and easily a very blog-worthy event as I feel these guys have sort of developed into their own character on the blog over the course of this past year. You’ve seen them time and again, keeping me warm and dry and highly visible in fashionable raincoat yellow. Yes, that’s right, the Gorton’s Fisherman Pants.
The ones, actually, that came with the boat. Plaintiff’s Rest’s previous owner had left them for us, knowing, probably, what a true sailing asset they were.
It was time to say goodbye, though. They were huge and clunky and completely cumbersome to begin with, but I used them all the same because they served their purpose. But now, they had started to flake and crumble and leave little yellow flakes everywhere I went on the boat. We were also coming into summer and they were an extremely hot, constricting foul weather cover. We had picked up some new Frogg Toggs at Port St. Joe, and I had to retire the Gorton’s pants.
So, put on some nostalgic, sentimental song – I recommend Joe Crocker’s raspy theme song to the Wonder Years – With a Little Help From my Friends – as you scroll wistfully through these photos. They certainly were friends to me, and we hated to see them go.
I heard a light little shuffle up on the deck, a gentle swish of a bag and then the warm scent of fresh-baked muffins filled the cabin … Okay, they weren’t fresh-baked, they were wrapped, but the gesture felt the same. We woke on Sunday morning to find the Sunday paper and the two darling little banana nut muffins laid lovingly on the deck of our boat by the friendly staff at Port St. Joe Marina.
When they say they are the “friendliest marina in all of Florida,” I have to say … I believe them! We sat and read the paper, and drank coffee and nibbled on muffins all morning. After two nights in a row of two-hour shifts at the helm, a nice, leisurely morning on the boat was just what we needed.
Yes, we took pictures of it. We’re just that devoted to the blog …
Around noon, or even a little after, we finally ventured out to see what the ole’ town of Port St. Joe had to offer. We were thrilled to find beautiful, breezy walking paths around the marina,
a potentially perfect cove for kite-boarding,
a quaint little downtown strip with several quirky bars, unique restaurants and other delightfully tacky establishments. Definitely our kind of place!
Now, I don’t know about you fellow cruisers, but when Phillip and I eat out on our sailing ventures, we like to try and scout out the little local places that offer food we can’t really replicate on the boat. Something unique to that area, or unique altogether that we haven’t had in a while – like some great middle eastern food, or a decadent french meal, or some funky little taco hut that has a line around the corner. Not knowing at all what we were in the mood for, we stumbled upon this colorful little Mexican place – Peppers – and decided it was definitely worth a go.
And boy, was it! A hot basket of chips and salsa hit the table as soon as we did, and didn’t stop coming the whole time we were there. A hot, piping basket even came out with the check that Phillip and I tried to wave off, but that we actually ended up putting a pretty serious dent in anyway. We split the “California Burrito,” which was about the size of my right calf (yes, the right one – it’s a little bigger than the left).
It was bursting with flavorful beans, rice, corn, chicken, cheese. You name it. A perfect combination of savory flavors and crisp greens, and it was doused in this addictive queso. It was awesome!
Clean Plate Club! We are card-carrying members.
We made a few more stops on the way home to provision up (milk, cereal, coffee and the like) and scoped out a few more eateries for the next day’s outing. We saw a pizza place that some folks at the marina had been telling us about – Joe Mama’s Pizza – but found it was closed Sunday and Monday, and we were planning to leave on Tuesday. Bullocks! But, in all, we congratulated ourselves on such a fortuitous stop. We had never been to Port St. Joe by boat and we were thrilled we’d landed here. Everything was within walking distance of the boat – bars, restaurants, the Piggly Wiggly. Whatever you needed. And, while a storm brewing in the Gulf is bad news for sailing, it certainly was promising for some awesome kiting in the St. Joseph Bay. We kept an eye on the wind, hoping the storm would bring us some great conditions for kiting while we were there.
On our way back to the boat, we met some great fellow cruisers that were docked up right next to us – David and Mary Lucas on Liza. David and Mary were headed down the west coast of Florida to make the cut through the Okeechobee. We invited them over for sundowners, shared some tall boat tales (although our harrowing dinghy debacle seemed to take the cake – as it often does), cooked up a great grilled chicken salad for dinner and called it a night.
Well hello there. You’ll be thrilled to know I’m back. LASIK certainly was an adventure. One that I thought you might enjoy from m(eye) point of view. The funny thing is it took all of twenty minutes and it was done. Finished. Finito. My vision repaired instantly. The science fiction of it all kind of baffled me. Like I could stand in front of some laser wizardry machine and have all my ails cured, my imperfections fixed instantly, in a snap. I mean, I really did let them clamp my eye open and shoot a laser into it … But, thankfully, I did not become that one person that goes completely blind from it. I’m proud to say the surgery worked brilliantly. And, Phillip was nice enough to document it for your viewing pleasure. Why? Because I look great in a hairnet. That’s why.
See? Great, right? That’s the only word that can describe it.
The only real downer about the surgery was that I was grounded for a month. No water-sports, which meant – no kiting. Bollucks! But, the day before my surgery we were grateful to find the wind blowing so we got out and hit it hard.
I even caught Phillip in a nice jump series:
Since I was benched and the weather was chilly, we decided to buck up and tackle a major project on the boat. One of the most fundamental, visually appealing items. The thing that gives the boat its breathtaking, classic look. I’m talking about the finest material of all, the tree of life, the great provider. THE WOOD.
We had been meaning to do it for quite some time and we had finally run out of excuses. While we will never tire of sailing, having just returned from our big Thanksgiving voyage, we at least had enough of a ‘fill’ to tide us over for a while. And, with no other trips on the agenda until NOLA for Christmas, we knew we would be in town for a few weeks, so we had a perfect window of opportunity. Window of opportunity … Ran out of excuses … To-MAY-to. To-MAH-to.
So, back to the wood. Thankfully, on our boat, we feel we have just enough wood to really accent the classic lines of the Niagara, but not too much to require excessive maintenance. The exterior wood items on our boat consist of the following:
1. Hand rails and eyebrows on the deck that run the length of the cabin:
2. A grate that sits beneath the helmsman’s feet in the cockpit, as well as the cockpit table and drink holder:
3. Teak steps on the swim ladder (six) and a strip beneath the stern rail.
After doing some research and talking with a few of our fellow boat buddies, we decided to go with varnish. Keep it au naturale. While there are some synthetic products out there (Ce tol and the like) that are easier to apply and – reportedly – require less maintenance (i.e., re-application), we wanted to keep the natural beauty and hue of the teak. So, varnish it was. Upon recommendation from friends (and because it was the varnish our previous owner had used on the boat), we went with the Interlux products, specifically Schooner gold.
And, upon recommendation, we also decided to really bite the bullet and apply ten coats. Yes, ten. Assuming good weather and the time (daily) to do it, that translates to roughly one coat a day, so we knew “the wood” was going to be a two-week project, at least. Hence, the delay, and the many excuses.
Some of the items, however (the steps, table, drink holder and grate) we could remove from the boat and bring them back to the condo to prep and varnish, which was nice because we could keep coating them regardless of the weather. But – it also meant our guest bedroom looked like an eighth grade shop class for a few weeks.
Although I think anyone who has owned a boat understands the necessity of a ‘project room.’ I do think we did a pretty nifty job, though, of rigging the steps on a string so we could do a complete coat every time. It was the season, so, instead of stockings, we had steps hanging ‘by the fire with care.’ Thankfully, the guest bedroom/wood shop made the ‘indoor’ items fairly easy to prep and paint on a daily basis.
It was also highly gratifying to put those first few coats on and immerse the soft, dry, sanded wood in a slick, wet coat of varnish.
Ahhhh … shiny, wet wood. Is there anything better?
The wood on the boat, the exterior wood, however, was not nearly as easy. You see, all of the wood had to be prepped first before we could even think of applying any varnish. That meant sanded down completely, every last speck of varnish off, grinded down to soft, bare wood. Every inch of it. The steps and grate and such were fairly easy because we could at least detach them from the boat and sand them by hand. The handrails, eyebrows and companionway on the boat, though, were an entirely different story. Our friend, Bottom-Job Brandon, recommended we use a heat gun to remove the old varnish. Blast the old varnish with a little heat (20 seconds or so) and then it scrapes off pretty easily. Video demonstration here. While the heat gun certainly made it easier, the handrails were a real chore. All those friggin’ nooks and crannies! Me and my bloody knuckles and sore fingers cursed them every step of the way.
And, the more crap you scrape off, the more crap you have to clean up! We broke out the ole’ shizz vac and finally came up with a pretty good routine. Phillip with the heat gun, I with the scraper, and stopping every ten or so minutes to suck up the mess.
We made a day of it, though, and finally got her all sanded and cleaned up. And, then we started coating her!
Psych! You thought it was that easy. Tssk, tssk. It’s never that easy. We spent the next day taping her up for the varnish job. Little blue strips around every stinking hump and pedastal of those handrails, all along the eyebrows, and the stern rail.
But, she was finally ready. Sanded, prepped and primed, dry as a bone, and thirsting for that first wet coat of varnish. All that work, and now we would get the gratifying rush of that first stroke. The wet, slick finish. The wood glistening and glimmering the sun. Can you just imagine it? Smell the varnish? Feel the glossy teak under your fingertips? Smooth as glass?
Good. That’s right where we want you. Just like the wood. Thirsting for it.
After some serious Annie muscle, what I believe to be a minor rotator cuff injury, and — Phillip’s infinitely better idea — a little patience (turns out we had flooded it), the outboard finally cranked. It seems even when you buy a brand new one, outboards are just finicky critters that you have to baby about. Go figure. But, chilled to the bone, we puttered on back to our boat and hunkered down with Mr. Heater.
Aside from the oven, engine and long johns, it is the only heat source on the boat and this little guy cranks out some serious heat. As chilly as it got during that trip, I never found myself cold on the boat with this little heat machine running. We cooked up a feast (lamb chops, sauteed mushrooms and kale salad), set a kerosene-lit table for two and curled up for another night at Fort McRae.
The next day, we pulled anchor around noon and headed on over to Pirate’s Cove, which was about a 3-hour jaunt west:
We were able to sail for a couple of hours before we made it to the tighter parts of the ICW that require the motor and actually passed some friends on the way who were out kiting at Johnson’s Beach.
We made it to Pirate’s Cove around four-ish, secured the boat and settled in at the dock.
Instead of a cozy night in, we decided to get out and throw back a few with the locals at the Cove. Now, anytime we pull into an old salty harbor, we always expect the local riff raff to provide some mild form of amusement, but, what we got at the Cove was — aside from that random midget burlesque show we caught back in the spring — one of the most entertaining and bewildering nights of our lives. I swear to you – every bit of this is true. And, thanks to the Pirate’s Cove live webcam (I’m serious: www.piratescoveriffraff.com) and my phone – it was also documented in vivid detail by yours truly for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy:
We walked in around 6:30, I guess, looking for a drink and an outlet. The place was littered with a few run-down looking regulars. Hell, we probably looked like a couple of run-down regulars. Without saying a word to anyone, we started roaming the perimeter for a usable outlet so we could recharge our laptop and phones. Living on the boat, we had no qualms plugging in anywhere. Well, I say we, but Phillip is actually worse. I threw a shy smile to the bartender as I mozied around each wall, subtlely, or so I thought, looking for two available prong holes, while Phillip unabashedly started shimmying behind the soda machine and shaking the cords that ran from the back of the machine and the coffee pot, shouting loudly enough for anyone to hear, “Which one is this?,” as he shook it violently. “Trace it back. If it’s the coffee pot, unplug it.” I looked around suspiciously, thinking the electricity Nazis would surely come and kick us out, but Phillip, who was half bent over the soda machine by now, one leg kicked up in the air for balance, said “They don’t give a shit, unplug it.” So I did.
With the computer juicing up, probably coincidentally so I could memorialize this tale the next morning, we finally made our way to the bar. And, as it always seems to turn out, Phillip was right. They didn’t give a shit at all. They could have cared less whether we walked the perimeter five times, spat on the doorstep, barked and walked away. It was unlikely anything we did could interfere with their “atmosphere.”
We were at Pirates Cove, which I believe is technically in Josephine, Alabama, but by reading the haling ports on most of the dilapidated old boats in the slips there, I took it for a “place” all its own. The building itself was basically a pile of driftwood and sheet metal fastened together in some manner with rusty nails and caulk. I was actually surprised they had electricity at all.
The floorboards leading in and out of the main door were worn down at least an inch by foot traffic alone. Well, let me take that back, mammal traffic. They were at least four dogs roaming around at all times, one of whom was equal in weight and stature to a small pony with black, wart-like growths the size of baseballs formed at each of his elbows from years of laying on wooden floors. His name was Tiki, but the bartender repeatedly referred to him (yes, him) as a “needy bitch.”
Rick, the bartender, looked like the lead singer of the Grateful Dead—that Jerry character that I believe is since long gone. He kept pushing sweaty, wavy hair back from his face and stroking his white bushy beard. He wore a purplish luau-like shirt that buttoned down, although I don’t think it would have reached around the massive beach ball of a belly that protruded from his mid-section. It seemed to function more as a wearable handkerchief than anything as he would occasionally pull the tail end of it up to his face and blow his nose in it without ever missing a beat. But, for a bartender, he was exceptionally well-spoken and delightfully entertaining. Engaging each of us at the bar only when provoked and even then, only ever so lightly, with an interesting tale or observation. He was, by far, the best “soft-sell” barkeep I’ve ever encountered. He had greeted us with an appropriate “Hey guys,” when we walked in but had left us entirely alone while we walked the walls of his establishment suspiciously and fiddled with his drinking equipment, but it was as if he sensed it when we started to turn his way for a drink. His salutation then changed to “What’ll it be?”
You gotta love the live webcam. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to refresh it throughout the night on my phone and capture these shots:
Here’s Rick – sporting his luau shirt-slash-hanky:
We ordered two rum runners and settled in on two of the sturdiest damn bar stools I’ve ever had the privilege of resting my rump on. They were made out of exactly four pieces of wood, two sides, a seat and a support bar/footrest about halfway down. Each piece was at least eight inches thick and the whole stool weighed about forty pounds, a design I personally believe was intended to prevent stool tippage and usage of stools as weapons as we later witnessed a 300-pound patron who went solely by the name ‘Bama’ teeter on one repeatedly but not fall over. Phillip and I wrestled two stools up to the bar just about the time Rick Garcia slid our drinks in front of us. He then let us be to soak up the banter that was already brewing up nicely and acclimate to the atmosphere.
There were two regulars seated next to us who had clearly had a few but their slurred small-talk was still incredibly entertaining. The man next to Phillip had a full, blonde seventies shag and liked to try to speak with an Australian accent (although they both attempted German and Brittish throughout the evening). His comrade to my right was a clean-shaven, crew-cut gentleman who I believe actually was German, or at least had mastered the accent far better than his “I’m okay, you’re okay” compadre.
As Phillip and I perused the pizza menu, I heard the Shag say “We need a really great toast, something like ‘To the Fuerher!’,” which appeared to please the German. They shouted the sentiment with raised glasses and downed their shots with fervor while Rick Garcia was already making them another round.
Intrigued by the Hitler exchange, I had missed the stringy pizza man that had snuck up on Phillip. He was holding a pizza box open as if it contained some illicit substances, looking back and forth quickly over each shoulder and speaking in low tones. I leaned in to get a better listen. “Now, you want to get the MaryAnn’s mess with extra artichoke and spinach. Always extra spinach,” he said to Phillip in a whisper. The kid was probably all of twenty-one, with a grungy toboggan hat slid to one side on his head, cheek bones jutting out from underneath it and bony prominences sticking up along the back of his neck like a rooster’s mane. As quickly as he had appeared, he slipped a quick peak over his shoulder, closed the lid to the pizza box and slinked away. I asked Phillip what had sparked that encounter and he responded with only a slow shake of the head and a long pull of his drink, but with a smile slowly stealing over his mouth. We knew then and there we were definitely staying. We were certainly not going to find any entertainment better or free-er than this.
The whole crew:
We followed the junkie’s advice and ordered the MaryAnn’s mess – extra spinach – and another round of “rummers.” The Shag and the German were debating again over some previous exchange they had had at that very same bar last week, the Shag apparently recalling it one way, and the German, another. As the Shag was clearly making up details, “Yes, yes, I recall, I was wearing my flannel shirt and sipping a bourbon, when – yes, that’s it, I can see it clearly now, I’m having a flashback to … ”
“Your other personality obviously,” the German pitched in, “because you don’t wear flannel and you sure as hell don’t sip bourbon.” That did me in. I couldn’t then hide the fact that I had been watching them unapologetically like a movie. Blissfully staring. But, I couldn’t help it. The German was sharp and witty and the Shag was a perfect stupefied surface for his comments to bounce off of. But, unfortunately, as it happens, laughing at an old drunk’s joke at a bar is like feeding a dog at the table.
You’ll never shake him then. The Shag turned to me and widened his eyes, like a flower blooming before me. “Oh, what do we have here?” Oh boy, I thought. Here we go. But, he and the German both turned out to be incredibly smart and wildly entertaining. It was the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination and they both recalled, with vivid detail, where they were and what they were doing when they got the news. Although the Shag claimed it it must have been the memory of his other personality because he wasn’t actually that old. Rick Garcia piped in with an entirely inappropriate but perfectly-timed joke about someone who, legend had it, asked Jackie-O upon her return, “So, aside from that, how was your trip to Dallas, Jackie?” This quip garnered a roar of laughter from the bar-seated audience and was repeated, re-hashed and utterly used up by the time the night was over. The Shag would come back from the bathroom saying it smelt of copper and cat urine, to which we would all respond with “So, other than that, how was your trip to the men’s room, Shag?” The German griped about the piss-poor drink he had got on his last flight, and we would all respond with a “So other than that … ”
What we had failed to notice, however, during our bonding with the regulars was the bond that had been forming between the junkie with the pizza box and Bama, who had been stumbling in and out of the joint all night. Bama and the Junkie had somehow found each other in that sparse, dusty bar and were now hunkered together at a sagging picnic table behind us, one arm draped over the other’s shoulder as they belted out “on the cover of the Rolling Stone, the Rolling Stone, the Rolling Stone … ” Bama was a smooth baritone and the Junkie, a raspy alto, but they made a decent duet and us bar hounds raised our glasses and swayed a few times in honor of their harmony. This was entertaining, at first, buy they repeated this verse every nine and a half minutes, approximately, throughout the night and by the fourth rendition we all began a collective eye-roll when they would strike up.
Two drinks in, our pizza finally came, a heaping, melting mozzarella-covered miracle and Phillip and I dove in, dipping whole slices in ranch, wiping swaths of grease from our face and washing it down with rum drinks that seemed to get stronger by the pour. The Shag had hunkered down and was scribbling something on some receipt paper he had pulled from the register.
I figured he had fallen prey to his intoxicants and was reaching that head-hang stage where one finds himself capable of only mono-syllables and drool. But, mid-way through another “cover of the Rolling Stone” revival, he emerged with a snap, flipping his blond wig back mightily and shoving his receipt paper drawing before me. “Ahhh .. a Lyden original,” Rick Garcia said, eyeing the piece. The drawing was actually an incredible sketch of a woman’s face, exceptionally detailed and shadowed, particularly considering it was drawn with only a ball-point pen.
Original, I thought. Rick, ever the ‘reader,’ sensed my inquiry and responded, “He’s an artist. Won something up in Fairhope for painting that … what was it Lyden? The swan over a crack?”
The Shag, now known as Lyden, handed me a business card that boasted the incredible swan over the crack with his name and website on the back. He was indeed an artist.
And a handsome one at that, pre-shag:
I fumbled the card around a bit, trying not to utterly destroy it with the massive quantities of pizza grease that coated my every finger, while I watched Rick Garcia use his purple luau cloak to simultaneously wipe the grease from his own face and blow his nose single-handed. “It serves many a-purpose,” Rick said completely unapologetically as he continued splashing together another concoction for Bama and the junkie at the other end of the bar.
While they were momentarily silent, enthralled by watching the mammoth Tiki eat a piece of cheese, the German engaged Rick in yet another riveting topic: employee theft. “So, how did you stop them?” He was asking about the apparently many-preceding bartenders who had managed to, night after night, sneak a few key dollar bills from the register, to which Rick Garcia responded by merely pointing up toward the corner of the bar to a camera. “We filmed them,” he said. “It’s amazing how accountable people get when they know they’re being videotaped.” Phillip and I eyed the camera intently while Rick continued. “We just put it on a live web cam so we could watch from afar, and we haven’t had a thieving ‘keep since.”
“So, we’re live right now?” Phillip asked. “Well, live, in a sense,” Rick Garcia responded. “It refreshes every two minutes. Here, let me show you.” He started fumbling around with his phone trying to look up the website, grumbling to himself that his “smart phone” was in fact “retarded.” He looked up with a frown and told us, “It seems I don’t have enough lapband.” Lapband? Phillip and I shared a confused look. “Lapband. Band-lap. What is it?” Garcia asked. “Bandwidth?” Phillip and I said in unison. “Yeah, that. I’ve had the lapband too – didn’t seem to have enough of that either – but bandwidth, that’s it.”
Luckily, it turned out I did have enough “lapband” and I looked us up on the old riffraff webcam. The first image that came up was of Phillip and I, eyebrows raised, watching the junkie/Bama band in yet another encore of “the Rolling Stones … ” an event that had occurred two minutes earlier, and so, by our calculation, was then set to occur again in approximately seven minutes and thirty-four seconds, give or take. When we refreshed again, I was pointing vigorously at Rick Garcia, making, I’m sure, a refreshingly witty comeback to his Lapband mishap.
We continued to refresh the webcam throughout the night, reliving each moment, exactly two minutes later, and enjoying immensely the greasy pizza, recurrent Stones revivals and the engaging banter of the Shag, the German and Garcia.
After three hours at the bar and four rummers in, Phillip and I found ourselves immersed totally in their “atmosphere.” I watched intently as a new couple sauntered in, keeping their distance, initially, from our group. The woman wrestled a massive barstool into place and nudged her partner when she first noticed the mammoth Tiki, a sight that was now normalcy for us. The Bama/Junkie duet struck up again, and I watched the couple share the same look Phillip and I had shared only hours prior. Oh, we are definitely staying. I knew, in just a short amount of time, they would join us at the bar and, before long, feel we just as we do now – like part of the local riff raff.
We spent the day Friday working (despite all deceptive blog content to the contrary – we do, in fact, have day jobs, which we certainly needed to keep in light of our impending boat-related bankruptcy) and recovering from our kite session the day before. (Kiting has a tendency to make you sore in places you didn’t even know existed!). Particularly when you master tricks like this:
Which I can assure you I did NOT. I’m about 834 lessons away from it though (and still sore all the same).
We finally got a call from Eric the mechanic in Carrabelle with some good news and bad. Doesn’t it seem that’s always the case. He had taken the engine apart and it didn’t seem the problem was with the engine. A big whopping “Whew!” from the Plaintiff’s Rest crew! He initially had thought that water on the heads was preventing the engine from turning, but he had taken it apart and found no water. He then found what he thought could be metal shavings in the oil filter which he told us was a particularly bad sign. That meant something in the engine had likely failed and locked up. He examined the entire engine, top and bottom, but nothing. That left the transmission, which he planned to take apart and have a look at in the next few days.
We were a bit relieved that it wasn’t the engine. Replacing those puppies can be very expensive with the cost of a new engine running in the $10k range. Of course, that’s just the cost of the engine, not the labor to put it in and actually install it (we’re talking thousands in labor). Anyone know a good bankruptcy attorney? (I do!) Not a small chunk of change, and not a price anyone is happy to pay, particularly so right we had just shelled out some serious change to buy the dang boat. But, we were not pleased to hear about the metal shavings and likely failure. The repair was likely going to require a rebuild or replacement of whatever part had failed. We knew we were going to have to put up some more dough.
Depressed and downtrodden, we did exactly what I did when I didn’t get asked to prom: made some comfort foods and ate our feelings:
Yum! I’ll have three please, but with a Diet Coke … I’m trying to watch my weight.
We did make some dough of our own, though (pizza dough) and put together some killer home-made thin-crust pizzas.
The trick is to keep pressing and spreading it until it’s paper thin, almost see-through, to get that great crispy thin crust.
One grilled chicken and home-made pesto with mozzarella.
The other – fig, prosciutto, arugula and bleu cheese.
Un-friggin-believable. Trust me. And, with plenty of wine, of course.
Ruin this savory Italian feast with a Diet Coke? Please! We settled on a nice pinot and didn’t stop until the bottle was empty and every morsel was devoured.
We relished the feast, toasted the sunset and called it a night
We hoped for some “good-er” news about the engine next week. We were all bad news-ed out.
So, we left the boat in Carrabelle and made the last leg of the trip back to Pensacola in some non-descript Ford Festiva-like rental car. And, poor car, if my best recollection of it was some model that could only aspire to the level of a Ford Festiva. I mean, perhaps they’re not that bad.
Okay, it seems they are that bad. But, it couldn’t have been a Festiva, because Mitch would have looked like this in it:
But, we did get a rental from the Apalachicola airport/car-rental/coin-operated laundry mat, and the guy who brought it to us turned out to be not only the airplane mechanic but also a pilot, the air traffic controller and a rental car extraordinaire. They really know how to double up in ole’ Apalach. But, the drive back was long and lackluster. We were leaving the boat behind. With no answers. No timeline. No clue as to what was even wrong, how long it was going to take to get her fixed or (worse) how much it was going to cost.
So, Phillip and I did what we do best: found solace in the wind. We got a great kiting session in that week while waiting for word on the boat. And, you might be thinking … kiting?? Awww, in a wispy, wheat field with a rainbow kite?
All father and son-like? How sweet!
No, not Hallmark kiting. Really? We’re talking kite-boarding. Some real bad ass stuff. If you’ve never heard of it, seen it or been introduced to this fine sport, this is what I’m talking about:
It’s kind of awesome. Phillip’s been doing it for years and (while I’m completely impartial and unbiased – Phillip who??), he’s pretty freaking amazing at it.
No, that is not photo-shopped. He’s just that good. Neither is this:
That is totally me. Big, long lesbian shorts and all. Okay, it’s not, but I hope it will be, soon (minus the WNBA outfit). Phillip’s been teaching me, and I’ve got about 4-5 lessons under my belt. Kiting is definitely not a hobby for the impatient. The learning curve is steep and it takes a while to get any good at it (if you ever get good at all). Plus, it’s hard to line up the weather, the wind and the opportunity to drop everything and run to the beach for a session. It’s a perfect past-time for total beach bums, and we’re just not quite there … yet.
But, let me tell you a little bit about it because you’re going to hear plenty about it on this blog and I don’t want you conjuring that Hallmark image again. As Phillip explained it to me, kiting is a lot like wake-boarding, except you’re both riding the board behind the boat and driving the boat at the same time. The kite is your power, which means flying the kite is the most important part. Even when you’re getting smacked in the face with waves, you’re being dragged across the ground, you’ve lost your board, your shades, your dignity and all hope, you must still, at all times, fly the kite. And cursing the kite for not doing what you want it to do is also a futile endeavor. It is always operator error. YOU are in control of the kite.
So, harnessing the wind. The kite is flown in what is called the “wind window”:
Think of it as a big bowl over your head, cut in half. The wind is to your back, and the top of the bowl, right above your head is “noon” with the edges of the wind window to your left (9 o’clock) and your right (3 o’clock). These are the areas where the wind essentially blows across the kite and it doesn’t have any real power. But, once you fly the kite down into the bowl the kite’s going to have enough power to pull you to Cuba. This is known as the “power zone”:
Once you’ve mastered the art of flying, you can then hop in the water, strap a board to your feet (while the kite’s at noon) and then fly it into the power zone (preferably around 10:00 or 2:00) to pull yourself up onto a plane and take off. Sounds simple, right? Trust me, it’s not. The “water start” (getting up on the board) is usually the hardest part to learn and takes many lessons to master. But, then that’s just cruising along the water. There’s a whole world of hops, jumps, tricks and flips to master after that. For a preview, here’s the one-and-only Jeremie Tronet showing us all what we will never be able to do on a kite-board:
Kiting most definitely rocks. And, it at least gave us a nice distraction from our sailing withdrawals while the boat sat in a watery grave four hours east of us in Carrabelle. The mechanic (Eric, not Bailey) was still in the process of taking the engine apart and diagnosing the failure. We had no idea what he was going to find or how big of a problem it was going to be. We braced ourselves for the possibility of having to replace the whole engine. *gulp* In the meantime, we strapped on some kites and caught some air (while we still had enough money to take the time off from work).