November 28, 2013 – Day Nine: “And May the Odds … “

After we saddled up with the poor chum at the fuel dock who preferred to refer to me as a dude, we headed over to our slip at The Wharf to tie the boat up, secure her for the night and let the ole’ Rest rest.


Then we started snatching and grabbing everything on the boat that could use a good washin’ (which was just about everything).  I seriously debated taking down the curtains.  Like I said – eight days at sea.  We had sack fulls – clothes, trash, bottles, you name it.  Phillip and his eskimo sidekick looked like a ratty bag couple hauling all of our junk off of the boat.  We felt kind of sorry for Phillip’s folks when we kindly knocked on their condo door asking ever so politely to use their facilities.


I mean, were we really going to barge in, start washing every stitch of clothes we brought with us and eating everything in sight?


Of course we were!    “Pull up a chair Irene.”  (Although I have to admit, I have no idea if her name was really Irene. It seems fitting, but Cousin Eddie shone so brightly in that bit, I don’t think she was ever even anointed with a name – at least not one anyone would remember).

We started running the washer immediately, tore into the fantastic spread that was laid out on the bar and started jockeying for position in the shower line-up.  While we had heated some water on the boat and enjoyed a nice warm rinse-down several times during our trip, those “showers” had been brief (water conservation is always a concern) and a little cramped in the stand-up shower stall on the boat.  Now, with the full use of a regular-sized bathroom at our disposal and an endless supply of hot water on our hands (or so it seemed).  Phillip and I each took our turn and gave ourselves the royal spa treatment from head to toe before curling up in the main room to regale the groupies with our tall tales at sea.


Ahhh … that’s better.  

We decided to get out that night and catch the new Catching Fire movie at the theater at The Wharf.  For the holidays, they put on a light show every night where the lights, which cover every inch of the palm-tree lined main drag, pump and pulse to holiday music, and that was pretty awesome.  Or, psychedelic at least.


But, the best part was the complimentary movie!  Or so we thought.  As we started to walk into the theater, the ticket booths outside were all empty.  No lights were on, no tellers were standing behind them.  There was no one there to whom we could tell which flick we wanted to see and pay them for the appropriate ticket.

Catching fire

One for Catching Fire, please.”

A little stumped, we walked into the theater and, again, there was no usher standing at the little podium by the door, asking for our ticket to inspect and tear.  We started to look around and wander, but there was even a second podium before the entrance to the west bank of theaters with, still, no usher, no teller, no one in sight.  Phillip started to saunter toward the red sign reading Catching Fire  7:15 and we all kind of made a collective decision to saunter along behind him and not say a word.  And, so we did.  And, we walked right into that theater and sat our happy selves down for a complimentary movie, deciding they must have just decided to allow free showings for the holidays.  Lucky us!

Until Phillip’s sister, Kristen, came rumbling in.  We had apparently lost her during our saunter to the smell of butter, salt and the melted yellow plastic they drizzle on the tortilla rounds they call nachos at the concession stand.  She was loaded down with two nacho packs, the BIG BAG (patent pending) of popcorn and two large sodas as she shuffled and crinkled her way toward our seats.  She chucked a few popped kernels back and mumbled, “Man, these movies are expensive,” to which we all responded with raised eyebrows.  Expensive?  Kristen looked back at us with an equal stare of confusion.  “At the concession stand,” she said.  “They charge you at the concession stand.”  Whoops.  Figuring we’d settle up later, we curled up to enjoy us a mighty fine pitter show.


And, after the show, we went immediately to the concession stand to pay for our movie.  Naturally.  What kind of people do you think we are??

When we got back to the condo, Phillip’s mom started rushing to the back porch to get at the turkey.  Earlier in the day, Phillip and his mom had dunked the turkey in a cloudy bath of salt and spices, sacked it up in a Hefty trash bag  in an over-sized Igloo and set out on the back porch.  Phillip said we were “brining it,” which I had never heard of before.  Growing up, our Thanksgivings involved the thawing of a pre-cooked turkey and a Wal-Mart run for a jar of jellied cranberry sauce, the kind that sloshes out onto the plate with ring imprints on it, an exact replica of the can it came from.  Phillip’s “brining” looked, to me, like he was baptizing the turkey in a bath of murky salt water and Joe’s seasoning, but, with my canned-garnishes background, I wasn’t one to judge.  I was along for the ride either way.  But, apparently, they hard forgot to take the gizzard and some other little bag of giblets out of the turkey before baptizing it, so Phillip’s mom engaged in a rousing bout of what I like to call turkey wrastlin’ which I, naturally, filmed for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!


Video here.  And, you gotta love Paul’s comment at the end: “Now, Mary, go wash your hands.”  Priceless!

With the turkey officially violated, we set her back out on the porch to continue brining for the night and Phillip and I curled up on the sofa bed in the living room (agreeing through whispers that our v-berth was far more comfortable), but we knew we’d soon find ourselves back on the boat.  So, the sofa bed it was.

We woke Thanksgiving morning to a beautiful sunny day.  We decided to get out and putter around in the dinghy a bit and check out some of the boats in the marina at The Wharf.




But, we never expected what we encountered on the way back.  As Phillip and I were walking back from the boat, the smell captured both of us immediately.  We turned to each other in silence, eyebrows lifted and a mischievous grin growing on both of our faces.  It smelled like nuts and oil, cinnamon and butter, like pie but more savory.  Like a syrupy piece of pecan pie drizzled with rich turkey gravy, a symphonic concoction of scents, like an exorbitant feast of dinner, dessert, nuts, bread, oil and gravy, all laid out at once, a delectable cloud rolling into us.  I describe it like it was laid out as an endless bounty, a full Thanksgiving spread with all of the fixings, because that’s what it smelled like, but when we turned the corner, we found only two pot-bellied men, standing near some stained dumpsters and a rusty door that read “Employees Only.”  The men were leaning over a white fold-up table, with throw-away foil trays littered about and a couple greasy pair of tongs and were bundled up and staring into an over-sized steel vat of oil, bubbling and sputtering, and emanating that savory, succulent smell that had overwhelmed us.

They were frying turkeys.  Although a relatively new culinary phenomenon – I think the whole turkey frying revelation started about 4-5 years ago, it seems quite mainstream now.  You drop the whole dad-gum thing into a vat of peanut oil, completely submerged, and let that oily fried goodness soak through every pore of the turkey until it is utterly saturated, unable to hold a single more drop of fatty, peanut-drenched nectar.  A fried turkey is the best turkey.  Period.

Phillip and I salivated, swallowed, wiped our mouths instinctively and tried to make mindless small talk as we walked by.  “So.  You guys frying turkeys?”  I mean, really?  I was even embarrassed by the question.  The guys should have responded, “Nope.  We’re just standing around a vat of oil on Thanksgiving to fry us up a batch of Ore Ida crinkle fries.”  It was one of those “small-talk” questions that you regret later, but you can’t think of anything else to say in the moment.  Like when you’re on the elevator with someone you know lives in your building and while you have absolutely no inclination to talk to the person at all, common courtesy tells you have to say something, so you open with, “ Boy, it sure is getting cold out there.”  The weather.  That’s equivalent to commenting on the obvious.  Of course they were frying turkeys.

The larger man gave us a light nod and walked back inside.  I can’t blame him.  The smell had obviously brought us in, and he wanted no part of the lame elevator conversation that was about to ensue.   That left Phillip and I with the thick, stocky, corn-fed boy that remained, donning a long-sleeve Guy Harvey shirt stretched taut around his mid-section and a baseball cap shoved down over a shaggy,  dishwater brown mop that fell around his ears.  But the guy was friendly, thankfully, and seemingly looking for a distraction.  “Yep.  We’ve fried up several this morning.”  It was a kind answer, a patient one.  Phillip and I had sort of stopped, if only to bask for a moment in the nutty aroma, but once the mystery scent source was confirmed, we didn’t have much else to go on, except the weather.  So, we gave him one quick “Well it smells delicious.  Happy Thanksgiving,” and went about our way.  Guy Harvey held up some tongs and said, “Thanks.  Y’all too.”  We walked just a few steps in silence, thinking the exact same thing.  Damn, I wish he’d fry up ours.  “Ours” was currently swimming in the Hefty trash bag on the back porch, looking anything but appetizing.

We cracked the lid of our turkey cooler when we got back and stared down at the goose-pimpled skin of our white, veiny bird, trying to conjure the warm, nutty scent.  Phillip finally broke first, with what we’d both been plotting since we’d walked by that oily vat, “We oughta ask him if he’ll fry up our turkey.”  I hesitated for a minute.  Gave him a skeptical frown and shoved my hands in my pockets.  But Phillip had an idea brewing and there was no stopping him.  “I’m serious.  You and Kristen put on some lipstick and go sweet talk ‘em.”  I laughed, a little too casually, and wondered if Kristen had heard him.  Then, from down the hall, I heard a “Oooh, I’ll wear my skinny jeans too!” 

My eyes widened as a sly smile spread over Phillip’s face. This was happening.  I gave Phillip a quick wink and headed back to hustle up Kristen and all her accouterments.  I found her squeezing into a pair of dark, midnight denim pants and slipping a soft, purple cashmere sweater over her svelte figure.  She whirled around to face me with a devilish grin.  “What do you think?  Wait … what are we doing?”  I loved it.  The girl had no idea what we were about to be hustling, but she was ready regardless.  And, she looked flawless.  Thick, chocolate brown hair cascading around blue eyes and porcelain skin.  “What am I asking for?”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  It was clear Phillip had sent her on many a-similar errand and she easily jumped to the task.  But, she looked impeccable.  I started to think we stood a chance.  If she could entrance the two corn-fed boys near the oil vat long enough for me to blurt the request in or, if need be, throw the damn turkey in myself, we were going to be in business.  She looked at me with a frown, though.  I was still semi-eskimo, bundled, my hair having been smashed under a toboggan all day and donning jeans, a work shirt and still in my rubber rain boots.


Kristen had her work cut out.  She started in on me, throwing a sweater on, ratting and poofing my hair and smudging several different pink, powdery substances on my face.  I had to chuckle as I watched the rest of the clan stand around us, salivating and admiring Kristen’s handiwork.  The masses were hungry and she was making me over like Katniss herself to win over the boys at the Vat Capitol.  We were catching fryer.


Phillip packed up the turkey for us and a bottle of wine, intended as an easy sacrifice if needed to seal the frying deal, and sent Kristen and I out the door with a mischievous “And may the odds be ever in your favor!”  

November 21, 2013 – Day Two: Another Dinghy Debacle

Heeding Phillip’s shout for help, I scrambled out of the companionway hatch in my skivvies for a quick, chilly look-about, and he was right.  We had definitely moved.  The anchor light of the ‘nice and tight’ boat that had come up on us around sunset, which had once been inline with our cockpit, was now inline with our bow.  Gulp.  And, although it was dark, we could both make out the shoreline in the moonlight and it looked to be about ten feet closer than it had been when we had settled in for the night.  Apparently, the 5:1 ratio we had dropped wasn’t enough.

too short

You see the chart here where it says “too short – anchor may not hold.”  They’re sugarcoating it.  It should say, “you didn’t lay out enough rode, you dumbass – you’re screwed.”  At least that’s how we felt.  It was clear the boat was inching back toward the shore.  We were going to have to pull the anchor up, motor forward and drop her back down.  Snot was already freezing to my face, so I scrambled down below and started snatching every item of clothing I could find and throwing it on.  I probably looked like a bag lady when I came up.  I had on my long johns, Phillip’s t-shirt, leggings under pajama pants, a couple of scarves wrapped around my neck, a Christmas sweater, a tobaggan, my foul weather jacket and rain boots.  But, I’m sure I made it look super sexy and smoking hot.

bag lady2

High fashion.

I refuse to believe I actually looked like this:

bag lady

“Hey-haaay Cap’n!  Let’s drop us an anchor!”

In the blistering cold, the black of night, we did it.  We pulled the anchor up.  Now, if you recall, Phillip has told me before that two of the most entertaining things you can watch a couple do are dock and anchor.  Either is sure to be a catalyst for whatever tension might have been building between them during the trip.  The process usually involves a lot of shouting, subtle (or not so subtle) insults and accusations and eventually name-calling.  I am proud to say that Phillip and I have become pretty adept at it, and our process involves only hand-signals and code.  Particularly after this trip, where we gained a good deal of anchor experience.  Me, in particular, who works the bow.  On our boat, we’ve got a windlass which pulls the anchor up by motor.


It’s a nice luxury to have since our rode is entirely chain, with the anchor alone weighing approximately thirty-five pounds.  We also have a deck wash that hooks in at the bow and pulls in sea water to spray the mud off of the chain as the windlass hoists it up.  From the first time he used it, Phillip always said “The deck wash is king!”  And, while I agreed it was a handy little device to have when you’re pulling anchor, I wasn’t quite as enamored as he.  Until, I had to learn the hard way (it seems that is the only way I truly learn) when the deck wash got clogged one time, and I had to hoist approximately 20-30 bucketfuls of seawater up to the bow to wash each link of that retarded chain off via bucket slosh, cursing it the entire time.  Covered in sweat and my biceps and lower back screaming at me by the time I finished, I trudged back to the cockpit where Phillip made me reiterate it again.  “The deck wash is king, right?”

Yes, the deck wash is king.

But, the only bad thing about the deck wash is that it sprays water everywhere.  Particularly when the wind is howling and you’re spraying right into it, as we were that night.  While my “bag lady” look was warm when dry, it was anything but when wet, and I got soaked.  By the time we moved forward and re-dropped the anchor (100 feet plus this time, and nothing short of it!), I was frozen through.  My fingers were barely functional and I couldn’t even feel my toes.  I swore the next time we pulled anchor, I was busting out the Gorton’s fisherman outfit.  Head to toe.  And I did!


Misses Gorton ain’t got nothing on me!  I rocked that number.

With our anchor secure, we woke the next morning to find the shore at a nice, safe distance.IMG_5114


With 100 feet+ out, and a clean swing radius, we felt good about the anchor and decided it was time to go toodling around in our dinghy to explore our anchorage.  Now, while you all are familiar with our downtrodden dinghy that made it’s way back to us from the middle of the Gulf, while she was making that wayward trek, we had a very generous boat buddy, Bottom-Job Brandon, give us an inflatable dinghy we could use in the meantime.  The thing is awesome.  It packs down a little bigger than my stand-up paddleboard and fits nicely in the aft cabin on the boat for passage.  Once we anchor, we break it out, put the floorboards in, air it up – and GO!!

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Like Daffy Duck and the Abominable Snowman …


“I will love him and pet him and call him George.”  And, for those of you with too much time on your hands – video HERE.

all summer long, Annie loved on the dinghy, rubbed on it, cleaned on it, fixed it up and made it her own.

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We even got an outboard for her right before the November trip.

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After some research and debate, we decided to go with a 3.5 horsepower, water-cooled Tohatsu.  It weighs about 45 pounds and we lift it(by hand) from the dinghy up to a mounting board on the stern rail.


Outboards are not cheap and if dropped in the water, I’m sure they sink right to the bottom, either irretrievably so or, even if retrievable, they are likely forever ruined in the process regardless.  So, you can just imagine our first nervous, wobbly-kneed hand-off from Phillip up at the stern, to me down bobbing in the dinghy.  It was hairy and there were a lot of “You got it?”   “You got it?”  “You sure you got it?” ‘s that were exchanged back and forth – but thankfully we got her down safely and mounted firmly on the transom of the dinghy.  I don’t think I’ve ever gripped anything so hard in my life.  My knuckles were white and my fingers were gnarled tight around her.  I was NOT going to be the one who dropped the engine.  But, it’s now a fairly routine exchange and we manage it fairly easily, without all the nerves and tension.  Still a death grip, though.  The death grip is key.

With the sun just rising on our first morning of the trip, and our boat now securely anchored, Phillip hopped in the dinghy and fired her up for a morning ride.

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We cruised on over to Fort McRae first and poked around.  The fort is no longer standing, but there are some old barricade walls and tunnels to explore, and it does feel pretty empowering to stand up at the peak and look out onto the Gulf knowing this was one of three spots where massive barricades were erected so many years ago to protect Pensacola’s shores.

Fort McRae

We then dinghy-ed back across the chilly waters to Sand Island to go exploring.

Sand Island

It really is gorgeous there.  Pristine and untouched.  We frolicked along without a care in the world.  Like a goofy couple in a Kay Jeweler’s commercial.  Hands clasped blissfully together, we skipped back to the dinghy and patted her gently as we nestled in.  We both smiled warmly at the outboard and commented on how shiny and pretty she was and how well she was running that morning.  How well she was running.  She WAS running.  Had been anyway.  Phillip pulled the cord, had to have been 20 or 30 times, but she would not start.  Refused to start, or even to try.  That bitch!  She had turned on us.

We sat in the dinghy looking out across the water at our boat, and I know what you’re probably all thinking.  Stop your whining Nancy and row!  Sure, we could row.  Assuming the wind was light enough.  But, we still had nine days to go on our trip and plenty of little inlets and places we wanted to explore — in our dinghy — and we bought an outboard for a reason.  This was America dammit and we’d spent our hard-earned U.S. dollars on that foreign motor.  I wasn’t having it.  I shoved Phillip aside.  Let me at her!

March 8-10, 2013 – Road Trip: Part Three – The Hinterhoeller

Feeling refreshed from the coconut drinks in St. Pete, we headed down to Punta Gorda to check out the Hinterhoeller.

Pics from Phone 669

Hinterhoellers are Canadian-built with a reputation as solid, sea-worthy vessels.  We were looking at a 1985 Niagara that was primarily a one-owner.  The seller, Jack, had owned it since 1989 and you could just tell he loved that boat.  It was extremely well-cared for.  Polished and clean, organized and tidy.  She was most definitely Jack’s baby.  And, for good reason.  Jack had sailed the boat several times in the Mackinac race ( from Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, MI (a 290-mile freshwater course) single-handedly.  As a result, just about every system on the boat was streamlined and rigged for quick, easy, single-handed use.  He and his wife were now retired and and, as tough as it was for them, after decades of wonderful sails on the boat (from quick weekend trips to month-long voyages) they were ready to retire from the cruising as well.  Jack greeted us with a bright smile and big paw handshakes and jumped right on the boat with us to tinker around.

The Hinterhoeller had a spacious cockpit with plenty of room to kickback and stretch out at the helm.   To use the old cockpit/living room analogy – where the others had felt like the stuffy, formal “sitting” room you keep at the front of the house for show, this one felt like the comfy den in the back with the old, grungy couches where everyone piles in on Saturdays to watch the game.  It was just so damn comfortable.


We felt the same about the galley and saloon down below.




(And, a fun little boat fact for those useless knowledge junkies out there – much to my surprise, turns out the word saloon originates not from the old swinging doors, whiskey-busting joints you see in old westerns, but from boats!!  It’s true – it has to be – it’s on the internet:

It also came with a hard bottom dinghy and a 15 horse-power, 2 stroke outboard.  A rare find, and a bonus that had our broker salivating like a kid in a candy store.

Pics from Phone 668

Phillip and I felt the same (minus the salivating).  We were like teenagers with a crush, secretly doodling pictures of the boat in our Five Star spiral notebooks with little squiggles and hearts all around it.  It was all we could think about.  It was all we could talk about.  Looking back on it, it’s probably a good thing no one else made that trip with us, because they probably would have jumped right out of the Prius and hitchhiked home.  Phillip and I were enamored.  Images of the two of us with our hands on the wheel while the boat glided through crystal green waters filled our heads all the way to Daytona.

Pics from Phone 936

We still had one more boat to check out on this trip, the Tayana – a beast of a boat, but we both had a sneaking feeling we had already found ours.