Lost Bay Regatta 2015! Watch as we get heeled over with quite a few “puffs” crewing aboard s/v Hula Girl and get challenged to a true hula hoop throw-down. Enjoy!
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
I think I-mona WIN!
That probably needs some context. It was a legal conference, many moons ago. Phillip and I were listening to this speaker talk about, well, to be honest I can’t remember what his actual topic was, assuming he had one. He was this big, spirited man. He looked and sounded like James Earl Jones and had the same presence as a preacher at a Bible Belt revival. While his whole speech was entertaining, I only remember this one little bit. He was talking about handling what we call a “dog case” — one you know at the outset you’re going to lose. Everyone knows you’re going to lose, but then something happens:
“Now, I’ve told everyone from the outset–my legal assistant, my paralegals, my opposing counsel even–I-mona lose this case. I stand no chance to win. I never did. As we work the case up I continue these rants and tell everyone again. Then we start trying the case and somewhere in the middle, I get one little glimmer of hope. Things started going surprisingly in my favor–a witness unexpectedly cracks, some key evidence gets admitted, some … whatever. Little things start to happen and all of a sudden: I get delusional. I think I-mona win! I start walking around the office like I got something. But, what am I? Delusional. You know what happens? I lose. Big time. Just like I thought I was going to, just like I knew I was going to, just like I told everyone I was going to. Don’t let this happen to you my friends. You got a dog case. You gohna lose.
June 5-7, 2015:
After our rousing, rhythmic boat-to-dinghy Patron delivery, Phillip and I continued on our way down the ICW to Pirate’s Cove. We were headed there for the 9th annual Illuminating Autism FUNraiser hosted by High Hopes 4 Autism. We had never been before, but Bottom-Job Brandon had been telling us about it for weeks and encouraging us to sign up. The previous year, the event raised over $70,000 for High Hopes, which is pretty astounding. We learned it’s one big raffle fundraiser (excuse me, FUNraiser – because it totally is!) where they give away a ton of awesome prizes, one of which is a brand new Jeep donated by Chris Myers.com.
It is a two-day event with a silent auction, live music and all sorts of entertainment. The way they do the raffle, though, was really interesting. I had certainly never heard of this. Rather than drawing tickets that are winners, it is a “draw-down.” Meaning, they start with 500 raffle tickets and they draw down to the winner. If your number is not the last to be drawn, no Jeep for you! While they do give away several pretty nifty prizes (an ice chest, a Pirate’s Cove bar tab — who doesn’t want that?, etc.) for say the first ticket drawn, the 100th ticket and the 250th ticket, being the last number, the 500th ticket to be drawn, is what everyone is aiming for.
I’m not a gambling man, or a lucky lady, so Phillip and I pretty much spent the second day, the raffle day, lounged back enjoying all the entertainment, eye candy and people watching the Cove is famous for, hung some hammock chairs and just kicked back and soaked it all in. We only checked the numbers occasionally out of random interest as we made our way back to the bar occasionally for a refill.
Some friends of ours — John and Jody (you better watch out for these two, they’re trouble!) — gave us the inside scoop on the whole “High Hopes” part. “Don’t look to see if your number has been drawn until late in the day,” Jody said. “That way you can maintain ‘high hopes’ that you’re still in the running.”
So, that’s what we did. Phillip and I rarely checked the board. Instead we piddled, drank, partied and even took Brandon’s daughter, Ella’s, hand-made wooden 17′ sloop out for a sail.
Raffle, what raffle? We’re gohna lose. No need to worry about it. We didn’t even care that a little squall came through. Rain, what rain? We’ve got foulies. No need to worry about it.
It was a nice, easy day until we finally made our way, late in the afternoon, back to the bar for a refill and back to the board where we were sure we’d see our numbers drawn. I had to rub my eyes and look again. I couldn’t believe it. My number–lucky number 80–was still standing strong. I was one of the final TEN!
That’s when it happened.
I got delusional.
When they get down to the Final Ten at the draw-down, we learned that’s when things get real fun. They line the Final Ten up on bar stools in front of everyone and spend the last hour of the FUNraiser drawing down the final ten to see who wins the Jeep. But, there is some mad scheming that goes on during this time. Pirate’s Cove regulars had told us in years past some of the Final Ten folks will start auctioning off their tickets to the crowd. I mean, they’ve got 10-1 odds for winning a $25,000 Jeep. That’s worthy of some gambling. We had heard some offers got as high as $3k, $5k even $9k in the past. You see what I mean? Delusional. We were sick with it. They lined us up, I took my stool and started spending my daydream raffle dollars. I-mona WIN!
I had Elvis next to me (that’s got to be good luck) and my buddy Jody sitting down the way in proxy for a friend who was also in the Final Ten.
This cool cat, Tom, was the MC.
He was phenomenal. Okay, anyone who can pull off tails and a bowtie paired with shorts and flip-flops is phenomenal in my book, but he had such personality. He was smooth but saucy and took total control of the crowd.
[Bro-Lo, check it out. An “Alchies shot!”]
Tom got the crowd gathered and appropriately riled up while his striking lady-friend, Christy, got the top tenners seated and settled. They were FUNraiser masterminds.
My temporarily-appointed financial adviser giving me some advice:
Then the fun began. Before they even drew the first ticket off, Tom had the crowd shouting and heckling. “$1,000” someone shouted from the back, offering to buy one of our top ten seats. I glanced at Phillip but he had conceded all authority to me (dumb move), but no one thinks they’re going to be drawn first. I’ve made it this far, surely I’ve got some luck pushing me along, you tell yourself. Surely I won’t be the first to be drawn (although someone’s gotta be). But, it’s just too much fun sitting up there, being a part of the Final Ten. I held fast. Tom made me feel good about it. “That’s cheeap for a Jeeep!” he hollered. “Draw her down!”
Now, let’s recall. What was I?
You can’t catch me. I’m number eight-tee!
I lost. Big time.
“Number 80!” they said as they drew my number first from the bin. Dag-nabbit. First to be nixed from the Final Ten.
But, c’est la vie. If I hadn’t gotten delusional, I would have never even believed I could have won in the first place. I should’ve jumped on that grand, though … I blame my financial adviser (you know who you are John : ), and Tom. I blame him, too. And, Phillip. Might as well blame everybody for my failed delusion.
But, there was still the matter of watching the rest of the final nine duke it out. Jody was sitting in for a friend, Billy, who was reportedly on his way. She kept joking that he was stopping in at the church to pray!
Billy soon got nixed, too, though. After he was gone, the bids for the tickets started to increase as more numbers were drawn. Tom was certainly helping to up the anty, by scolding those who bid low with his same, shameful sentiment, “That’s cheeap for a Jeeep!”
One guy, and you had to feel sorry for him on this, offered to buy one of the final four seats for $3,800. I mean, it’s not a terribly risky bet. You’ve got a one in four shot of winning a $25k Jeep. But, before his rear even warmed the seat, his number was called, and he was out. That’s got to sting. I didn’t feel so bad about the $1,000 I’d turned down after that.
This guy hung in there till the very end. He was sitting proxy as well for his “Ma” on the other end of the line who actually held the No. 232 ticket.
Ma was sharp, too, always making the right call, sticking to her guns. After a few back-and-forths, Tom the MC would just look at this guy and ask “What’s Ma gonna do?” The guy would wait for Ma to decide and announce it. When he and one other guy were the last two tickets standing, Ma made the bold move to buy the other guy out for a smooth $9,000 — a small price to pay, really, for a guaranteed win. I’m telling you, Ma knew her stuff. But, the other ticket-holder held fast. He must have been delusional, too, because he lost as well. Big time. No nine grand, no Jeep, no nothing. Ma took the cake.
But, it was all in good fun and all for a good cause. I’m not sure how much they raised at the 9th annual FUNraiser, but I know the initial reports were it was more than the previous year’s $70,000, which is awesome. I highly recommend the event next year for any local cruisers in the area. Let me just warn you, keep high hopes for the autism research only, not the raffle.
Don’t let delusion happen to you!
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
Okay, who are we kidding? He doesn’t need the rum. He’s always a pirate.
May 1, 2015:
It’s B! Our buddy, Bottom-Job Brandon (who has rightfully reminded me anytime I mention his name, I should also mention his company — Perdido Sailor, Inc. — or he’s going to have to re-brand). He’s all decked out here for the annual Pirate’s Ball, the kick-off for the annual Perdido Wooden Boat Festival at Pirate’s Cove in Josephine (more commonly referred to as Orange Beach), Alabama.
Phillip and I had the event on our calendar for weeks — May 2-3, 2015. Not just because it’s an awesome pirate party, our friends were planning to sail over for it, too, and we really don’t need an excuse to get that boat out. No, we were really going for the book signing! The Point Yacht Club, the self-proclaimed “Little Yacht Club That Could” whose clubhouse-in-progress is right next door to the Cove, invited me over for a Salt of a Sailor book reading and signing before the ball. Pirate costumes, rum and salty book sales? Who says ‘no’ to that?
We were also curious to see how the fridge would perform without power for the weekend after the pancreas-splitting Great Stuff repair. We turned the fridge on on Wednesday evening to let it start cooling down. While it did take some time (and several cranks up on the fridge setting), we were pleased to see it finally reach 40 degrees Friday morning on the 6 setting and holding. We headed out that afternoon, planning to meet up with Brandon and his family on their Gulf Star at the Cove. But, we were surprised to have him cruise right up next to us in the ICW on our way over. Good timing.
That little 17′ sloop rig he’s towing is s/v Ellavday, a wooden boat he and his father-in-law built for Brandon’s daughter, Ella. Great name, huh? That thing is a beauty and so much fun to sail. If you want to really sharpen your sailing skills, test them in a little boat!
It was great to have Brandon cruising along next to us, too. I love when we see fellow boat buddies out on the water. It’s just “boat code” to snap pics of each other under sail. With s/v 5 O’clock leading the way, we made our way on over to the Cove.
In the weeks before the ball, Phillip and I had been snatching up some pirate attire and accessories and sending pictures to Brandon and his crew with a little light trash-talking as to whose costumes were going to be better. It must have worked because the Halls took the prize with their complete family pirate ensemble, from parents to little pirate run-a-mucks, even the gangly photo-bomber in the back.
Nice hat Uncle Russ.
I would say the doo-rag on their little pirate bundle (Kaitlin) was the cutest, but I just couldn’t. This little rapscallion (Ella) stole the show, unsheething her cardboard sword at every opportunity and poking the air with a fierce “AAAaarrrggghhh!”
You know it makes you want to do it, too. Go on. Who cares what your co-workers think. Close your door and unleash your inner pirate — “AAaarrrgghhh!”
The Captain and I came decked out in full costume as well, donning head-to-toe swashbuckler attire:
Jody Horner with the Yacht Club was instrumental in putting together this whole reading and signing, and I can’t thank her enough.
She literally dragged people over to my table by force, fished twenties out of their pockets and made them buy my book. It was awesome!
At Jody’s request, I read a fun passage from the book that describes our Second Mate for the momentous journey — the infamous MITCH! This was the passage she chose:
Now, let me take a moment to tell you a little more about our Second Mate–the infamous Mitch. Where do I begin? First, I must say, he’s an incredible friend to give up five days to sail across the open Gulf with us and help get the boat back. As fun as it is, remember what I told you about sailing, it is indeed hard work, and we were out of touch with the rest of the cellular world for days at a time. That’s a big commitment, and there is no way we could have done it without him. But, as I mentioned, Mitch is all of six feet, four inches. While that may seem pretty normal for a guy–on land–it’s a bit much on a 35-foot sailboat. Mitch lumbered and bumbled around that boat like an elephant going through a carwash. Each step of his foot on the deck sounded like Neal Armstrong landing on the moon. Ka-boom. I honestly felt sorry for him while I watched him bumble up and down the companionway stairs and through the hatch. He must have felt like he was crawling around on Playskool equipment. After a while, he decided to give it up altogether. Instead, each time I got up to go down the stairs, and I mean the minute I merely lifted my ass off of the cockpit seat, he would start in with “While you’re down there.” Sometimes I just had to screw with him. “Down where? I was going up on the deck to check the sails,” I would say as I walked up topside, knowing full well I had had every intention of going down below, but whatever it was for was now going to wait another fifteen minutes until the next time Mitch beckoned. I have to admit, it was fun, and Phillip and I had a good time christening him with the nickname–Mitch, While-You’re-Down-There, Roberts. But, to be honest, I’m sure it was a lot of work for him to lug that big body up and down those tiny stairs, and he did hold the helm for several shifts that day, so, the teasing was always followed with, “Sure buddy. What do you need.” Mitch was a talker and a screamer but he had a heart of gold. He taught me a great deal about sailing and he was a true asset on the trip.
The reading really was quite an honor and I enjoyed chatting with readers and fans afterward while Jody hustled them out of their hard-earned bills.
I also donated a few books and bottles of wine as a giveaway to help the Point Yacht Club raise money to finish their clubhouse-in-progress. They’re getting close!
After my Sharpie was worn to a nub, it was time for the much-anticipated Pirate’s Ball! We shuffled our way over to the Cove and stumbled upon this striking figure on the way in:
Lady BlackSquall!! Yowza!
And, do know that the bottle she’s holding was chalk full of home-made moonshine which she forced you to take a shot of before you could pass through to the party. Love that gal. But, the real treat of the evening? Mr. While-Your-Down-There himself showing up for the party, dressed in full pirate regalia with his trusty sea-wench at side!
Clearly we don’t need the rum to act like pirates …
After we petered out from the pirate party, we crashed hard on the boat. Having it right there docked up at the Cove always makes for an awesome boating weekend. That way you have easy access to all your amenities (which for us, was still a cold fridge on the 6 setting), yet easy access to the ongoing party at the Cove.
The next day we toodled around and checked out the exquisite wooden boats on display for the festival.
I set up a little table as an official “vendor” with my books in tow (Little Author Who Could here) in hopes of selling a few copies at the festival. Business was slow at first, so I busted out my ukulele and started strumming about in hopes of drawing folks to my sad little tent. Somehow, I managed to entice this interesting chap. Meet Gnarly:
He’s gnarly. He was also an awesome guitarist. He gave me his pick and taught me how to (in his words) “spank on the strings.” I had a great time hanging out with Gnarly. Life is so full of cool people.
With Gnarly’s magic touch on the uke, I was able to snag a few folks in my web and sell some books.
It was enough, at least, to buy us dinner and a few rum drinks that night. If sales ever start to cover boat repairs and maintenance, I think we’ll be all set. In all, it was another wild and raucous weekend at the Cove, with great friends and supporters of my author endeavors. I can’t thank the kind folks at the Point Yacht Club enough for hosting the book signing for me. It was fun being a celebrity for an hour. We had a great sail home, too, with the sun setting on our port and the moon rising at the same time to starboard.
Strange to think it really is the same sun and moon that set and rose back in the pirate heydays. Heck, I’ll bet some of the crumbling planks that make up the walls at Pirate’s Cove are from the same era. The swashbuckling behavior there sure hasn’t changed. They still drink, holler, spit and dance. I don’t think it’s the rum that makes the pirate, it’s the spirit.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
April 28, 2015:
No really, we do. See?
As good as that stuff is (tis me!), that’s not the really “great stuff.” We’ll get there.
So, we had been having a little trouble with our fridge for quite some time. Beads of condensation would form around the lid during the hot summer months and we were always battling a thick wall of ice that would form on the freezer after 4-5 days, which told us we had an air leak around the lid. We bloggled™ it and tried some commonly recommended cruiser remedies–a yoga mat on top of the fridge lid, a solar blanket inside the fridge, etc., which helped some but made access to the fridge a bit trickier and noisier. (The solar blanket was a complete crinkle fest!) This also did not slow the ice ring around the freezer, which was forcing us to empty the entire fridge and defrost it after every weekend trip. That was the real hassle, but, this was just for our condensation problem.
Knowing the fridge was likely going to be our next boat project, we threw a handy, dandy little fridge thermometer in during our Bon Buffett Voyage to see if we had a temp problem as well. Sadly, our suspicions were confirmed. It seemed our beloved fridge was struggling to maintain “fridge temp” (35-38 degrees Farenheit). Honestly, though, I wish we had never gotten that dastardly thermometer. Perhaps our chilled items weren’t quite 38 degrees, but they were perfectly chilled for me. We never had anything spoil before it’s time and we never got sick from any insufficiently-refrigerated poultry, so why mess with a good thing? “Because you want to catch a problem before it arises,” Phillip tells me. But, I’m still on the “if it ain’t broke,” wagon …
But, when we started monitoring the temps in the fridge, it was pretty appalling. We usually would click our fridge back on 24 hours before we planned to stock it for an outing. 24 hours later it always felt chilly, had a bit of ice forming already on the freezer, so we would throw in our provisions, thinking we were good to go. That is, until we started in with this whole thermometer business. With the thermometer in there, we learned even after 24 hours of running, the fridge would only get down to about 50 degrees. Yes, fifty. That made even me a little nervous.
So, we called in a professional. Cue Bill Nye the Fridge Guy. (Okay, that’s not his real name, I just like calling him that). It’s Bill Costello with Sea Air Marine and he’s awesome. He came highly recommended by several of our boat buddies as the most trusted marine fridge guy around, so we were happy to have him and his son come aboard and take a look.
He checked the temp in the fridge with a super handy laser thermometer.
Whatever you shoot the beam at, it registers the temperature. I wish he would have let me borrow that. I would have spent the afternoon taking the temperature of my eyeballs, tonsils and toenails. I wondered if the ricochet beam off the mirror would register temp. I was captivated by that little contraption.
Then Bill pulled out his wizard machine!
This was equally fascinating. You watch the bubbles in the cylinder to determine the level of freon in the fridge and how much freon has been added. Our fridge only holds 4 ounces of freon, and Bill, with his magic machine, determined two ounces needed to be added. Meaning, our fridge was running on half the freon needed to cool it. Bill advised that amount could have been lost over a long period time (we have no idea when the freon level in the fridge was last checked) or we could have a freon leak. He told us we would know we had a freon leak if the fridge still struggled to hold temp after he added the additional two ounces. We were hopeful Bill’s bubbles and lasers solved our temp problem, but we also wanted to fix our condensation problem as well. What was Bill’s suggestion?
Bill said he had seen this issue a lot when the top of the fridge is not sealed well to the cavity (or the seal has deteriorated over time), this causes an air leak around the seam. He suggested we spray some Great Stuff along the seam to stop the air leak. It sounded simple. It was anything but. To even see the seam, you essentially have to get inside the fridge and look up. And that’s just seeing it. That speaks nothing of actually aiming and spraying foam into it.
We followed the instructions on the spray can:
HANDLE RESPONSIBLY. PLAN, PREPARE, PRACTICE.
After running a quick practice line of foam on a paper towel, I set to it.
The seams where I could actually get halfway into the fridge to do the spraying were easier. The ones along the port side of the boat required some wicked circus bending that I’m pretty sure ripped my pancreas.
It took some maneuvering, but I finally got a solid bead around the seam. It wasn’t pretty, but I doubt any air will be getting through.
I’m lucky I didn’t get any of that stuff in my hair. I’m sure it would have to be cut out. That would not be so “great.” Phillip somehow managed to get some on the ceiling. Don’t ask.
Thankfully, we managed only a few extra swipes and puffs of Great Stuff in places we didn’t intend in the fridge, but I don’t think they’re going to affect our enjoyment of any chilled items. If anything, I take comfort knowing we’ve always got some great stuff in there!
And, we accomplished the fridge project just in time for another trip over to Pirate’s Cove. This time in full costume. Next up, a swashbuckling rapscallion adventure. Stay tuned!
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
I have to admit our night with the riff raff ended in a cloudy fog that I cannot adequately capture with written words (mainly, because I can’t remember it). I only know we made it back to the boat at some point and fired up the heater without burning any blankets or appendages because we woke up there, alive and surprisingly warm, despite the temp drop to the mid-30s that night. We blinked and squinted our way back to the ole’ Cove mid-morning to meet our buddy, the infamous Mitch, for a greasy cheeseburger (perfect hangover cure) and were pleased to learn from the friendly Cove Crew that Pirate’s Cove is reportedly the place where the reigning Parrot Head himself wrote the smash hit Cheeseburger in Paradise.
I have to say I’d agree with him. The cheeseburger was first rate.
I also found this fun review of the place, which I think confirms my rendition of the riff raff we found at the Cove:
“Cheeseburger in Paradise!”
“Best burger north of Sea and Suds. This is a locals hangout-don’t come here if you are in a hurry, have an attitude, or are an overbearing Yankee – you won’t like it!”
I think the same rings true for sailing in general, so the Cove was an easy fit for Phillip and I. We certainly enjoyed our time with the riff raff. Plus, being tied up to the dock near running water and restrooms is nice. We spent a few hours the first morning hauling several one-gallon jugs of water back and forth from the dock to fill our water tanks on the boat and by the fourth or fifth trip, one of the Cove Crew told us: “You know you can just pull around here and use the hose.” They really are a great bunch. We stayed a day or two at the Cove, but we knew we had a front coming that was going to bring some strong northeast winds (30 mph gusts were predicted), and we did not want to be tied up to the dock, banging around, when those winds hit. So, on Sunday, November 24th, we tossed the lines and headed over to Ingram’s Bayou to spend a few nights on the hook.
Several local cruisers had told us about Ingram’s Bayou and described the little inlet as a well-kept secret, preserved and pristine, like camping on some tucked-away river. That sounded perfect to us. We donned our sailing gear and headed west.
But, sadly, we were not able to do any sailing. It’s a tight, short passage on the ICW from Pirate’s Cove to Ingram’s Bayou so we had to motor. And, it was pretty chilly. So much so, we kept our hands tucked away in warm places and steered with other body parts:
Knocking me out with those American thighs!
Now, after the anchor fiasco at Fort McRae, we were prepared to drop 150 feet of chain this time if necessary. We were going to shoot for a 10:1 ratio – at least. I started layering on the Gorton’s fisherman outfit as we took a lay of the land, made some rough eyeball calculations of our swing radius and prepared to drop anchor.
Before it was all said and done, we had laid out about 165 feet of chain. We were not going to find ourselves jumping up and down again all night, watching the shore and worrying about our anchor. Or so we thought. Feeling firmly planted, we did what we do best when we drop anchor – made cocktails (some Oohh Shiiiiit!s) and toasted the sunset.
That last pic is about as good as Lyden’s Swan over a Crack – in my humble opinion. But, it’s easy to capture such brilliant shots when you have such an exquisite backdrop. Ingram’s Bayou was indescribably beautiful.
But, our first night there, the front came through and we experienced some of the most powerful, horrific winds ever to whip over our boat. Laying in the v-berth, we could hear the wind howl over the deck, the halyard lines would shimmy and vibrate and the anchor chain would groan and creak until the boat finally shifted resulting in a thunderous pop of the chain. It sounded deceivingly destructive from below, like the boat was surely cracking at the seams. But it was not. We checked several times during the first couple of hours that night and, although we were swinging around wildly, facing north one minute, and hurling around to the south the next, we were decidedly not moving. Our 165 feet of chain was holding fast. And, we had added some extra chafe guards to our snubber line that were doing their job as well. We were secure. And, thanks to Mr. Heater, we were warm, too. We hunkered down for three brutally cold and windy days in Ingram’s Bayou, with friends and family constantly checking in: “You guys okay?” “You staying warm?” “Are you still out there?”
We were definitely out there. “Out there” is where we always want to be, cold front of not. We spent three of the most quiet, relaxing, peaceful days I have ever spent anywhere bundled up in Ingram’s Bayou, reading, napping, cooking, eating and just enjoying the serenity.
Oh, and drinking. It appears we did a bit of that, too. We tend to. Reading was the favorite past-time, though. I polished off Gillian Flynn’s other novel – Dark Places (a deliciously twisted follow-up to the infamous Gone Girl) breezed through David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day (an entertaining perspective from a gifted satirist) and dove right in to Garth Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain (a dog-lovers’ dream – a true treat of a book). Phillip entertained me with hilarious, hearty sea stories from Frank Papy’s Sailing: Impressions, Ideas, Deeds, before he really dug into Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, which he devoured and described as one of the most engaging, honest renditions of the human condition he has ever encountered. It’s on my list.
We did venture out into the cold on occasion to check the depth of our swing radius and explore the little inlets and sunken treasures in the bayou.
My Gorton’s fisherman outfit continued to layer and grow with each outing.
The jacket doesn’t zip, so I strapped on a fanny-pack style pfd to hold it all together.
We had a slip reserved at The Wharf for Thanksgiving, so we pulled anchor Wednesday morning (November 27th) and headed over that way.
We were going to have to stop first at the fuel dock to pump out before we could tie up at our slip. It had been eight days on the boat, folks, think about it. The wind was really howling as we neared the dock so I bundled up some more (yes, more) and prepared to jump off to secure the boat as fast as possible. We were not going to have another Annie docking debacle. Not that day.
As Phillip inched the bow up next to the dock, I jumped off (line in hand this time) and clamored around furiously cleating lines off to keep the boat on the dock. It was a bit of a scramble but we did it.
But, when the fuel boy came out to see what we needed, the first thing he said to me was: “What’ll it be, sir?”
I can’t imagine why …
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?”
“A creek, Rick. It was a creek.”
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.
With Big Mom tended to and Alabama in our rear-view, Phillip and I set to planning our Thanksgiving voyage. Due to the rush trip to North Alabama for the funeral and the lost time from work, we both needed to put in a few days at the office to make up for it before we took off again, so we settled on a departure date of Wednesday, November 20th, which would still leave us 10 whole days at sea. Now, while a trip east to Carrabelle, Apalachicola and the like was still do-able, it would be a stretch as Carrabelle, alone, is a two-day passage, assuming good weather, and I can tell you what we did not have that week was good weather. A front was set to pass through, leaving us with 25-30 mph winds and a predicted 6-9 foot sea-state. Not something you want to jaunt out in just for fun. There were plenty of anchorages we had heard about on the western route, so we decided to stay protected along the ICW inshore and head west in search of (what else?) — women, whiskey and gold!
Here is an overview of our planned voyage:
We planned to head over to Fort McRae first for a couple of days on the hook, then ease in to Pirate’s Cove to dock up and hang out with the local riff raff for a day or two. From there, we would jump over to Ingram’s Bayou (a place many of our sailing buddies kept telling us was one of the most beautiful, pristine anchorages over that way) to drop anchor for a couple of quiet nights, before we made our way over to The Wharf in Orange Beach where we had reserved a slip for Thanksgiving. Phillip’s clan was also planning to rent a condo there for the holiday and we – as true cruisers tend to do – were planning to make full use of their facilities! There is nothing like a hot shower and a washer and dryer after seven days at sea!
All told, our trek out west was going to be about an 8-9 day trip and we had planned one last anchorage on the way back (likely Red Fish Point – just near Fort McRae) for one last night of solitude before heading back to the real world.
So, we set off on a brisk sunny Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 20th) and headed to our first stop — Fort McRae:
Now, we’ve been to Red Fish Point many times, so the passage across Pensacola Bay and through the little inlet by Sand Island was all too familiar territory. No sweat. We could make that sail with our eyes closed (assuming, of course, no other boats, bouys, or a shore). Stevie Wonder style!
But, we had never made the “uey” around the corner and into the inlet between Sand Island and Fort McRae.
And I’ll have you know I had to Google the word “uey” for the proper spelling. Urban Dictionary says:
Now, I’ve heard some people refer to this anchorage as “party alley” because it’s usually chock full of sailboats, power boats, trollers and the like. Hence the “party.” But, we were hoping that on Thanksgiving it would be pretty sparse so we would have plenty of room to spread out. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. There were three other boats in there, a marker for some sunken hazard, a bouy and a tight shoreline that we had to deal with. Enter the infamous Swing Radius. Now, most of you are smart enough to make a pretty good guess as to what that is, but humor me for just a moment for the newbies.
Imagine your anchor as the center of the circle. The radius, then, is the distance from your anchor to the stern of your boat:
Using the radius, you can then plot out a hypothetical ‘circle’ your boat could occupy depending on which way the wind or tide pushes it. Now, with several “obstacles” around us – three other boats, an immovable marker for the sunken hazard, a bouy, and a nearby shore with outstretched shoal, we had to be sure we dropped enough anchor chain (known as “rode”) to hold our boat secure while not creating a swing radius so large it would allow us to strike the surrounding obstacles. We typically like a 7:1 ratio. Meaning, if we were in 7 feet of water, with 4 foot freeboard (distance from the water line to the deck), that’s 11 feet total depth, so 77 feet of rode.
Now, while getting the anchor set right is important, making sure we had a proper cocktail at sunset easily trumps it. So, with the tight parameters, we dropped about 55 feet of anchor chain (an approximate 5:1 ratio with our ten feet of total depth) and set to our evening ritual. A book and cocktail at sunset. Could there be anything better?
But then another boat pulled up nice and tight near us and set us both on edge. We started looking around, running and re-running our calculation of the swing radius and speculating, once again, as to the approximate distance to the shore.
With both of us being born fierce litigators and each a few drinks in and, thus, a little more ballsy to boot, Phillip and I embarked on an exhaustive debate about the swing radius. I made a rough calculation and explained to Phillip my educated guess as to the radius, to which he naturally responded:
With no one else on the boat with us, a riveting discussion ensued, in which I had to drop some serious geometry knowledge on Phillip that, if translated to a demonstrative aid, would look something like this:
Length of Boat + [ (Rode )2 – (Depth + Freeboard )2 ]1/2
Simple, right? I thought so. Or at least I was sure, in my eloquent, unslurred, precise and persuasive frame of mind, that it was. And, I told Phillip as much. To which he responded:
Fine by me! I had made my peace with it. I offered my best pitch – full of reason and geometry and gin – and my plight had fallen on deaf ears (or ogling eyes – although I consider them to be synonymous). I set about to “banging out” another drink or three and resting my weary mind while Phillip got up about every hour to try and make out the markers and shoreline in the dark of night as the wind began to howl over the boat. I kept a shoulder turned to him, pretending to be sleeping soundly (lah-tee-dah) as he was checking GPS coordinates on his phone, but I was wide awake and just as worried as he. The sounds and motions of the boat from below were incredibly deceiving. What could just as easily have been the wind and a smooth shift of the boat in the water sounded, in the v-berth, like the keel wedging into sand and the boat preparing to tip over. Neither of our weary minds were resting. Phillip made one last trek topside, and I heard him walk up toward the bow, my eyes following the sound of his footsteps in the dark. Then I heard them pound quick on the deck above as he scurried back to the hatch and shouted down to me:
“Annie, I need you up here now. We’re moving.”