Monthly Archives: December 2010

Smooth Sailing into the New Year

On the eve of the New Year, we begin a new phase in our travels. We have escaped the madness and congestion of southern Florida, we are off of the Intracoastal Waterway, we are no longer pushing to stay ahead of the cold winter. We have arrived in warm, turquoise blue waters and we are SAILING!

We are now in the Florida Keys. Yesterday we escaped from Miami and headed across the Biscayne Bay to Key Biscayne, the first of the Keys. Navigating through Miami was absolutely stressful. Every mile or two is a bridge that requires waiting for an opening. All around are speeding power boats and mega yachts. The waterway is narrow and congested. It was fabulous seeing all the high rise buildings towering above — Miami has some of the most unique architecture of any big city I’ve been to in the U.S. It was fun to see so many creative interpretations of the rectangular skyscraper: bright pink ones, blue ones, ones with curved archways on the top featuring gardens and patios and sculptured accents. After 3 failed attempts to get gasoline at crazy and crowded Miami marinas, we made a dash for the open waters of Biscayne Bay and had a gorgeous sail to Key Biscayne, where we tucked into a sweet but very crowded anchorage in No Name Harbor. (yes, that is actually the name). If we had been in a different mood, it may have been wonderful to spend some time exploring the city of Miami, but instead we got out as fast as possible. Here is our travel companion Good Goose dashing under the bridge from the Miami Madness:

Several of my friends and family “back home” have asked me recently “what is our plan”? What is our plan?
Well, our plan upon departure was to head for Florida and then see what happened from there. Our plan has always intentionally been left open. That was the whole point: open the door to allow God to work His plan. Meet the mystery of the world without a major agenda of our own. So now we made it to Florida and our “plan” looks like this: enjoy where we are. Because we worked really hard to get this far and it’s time to sit back and chill out for a little while until the next phase of our travels presents itself. So Florida Keys, here we are!

Wee Happy spreads holiday joy with new sail

Wee Happy got a colorful upgrade with the purchase of our new “gennaker”, an assymetrical spinnaker, which is a very large, lightweight sail that is employed only in certain light wind conditions. Regular spinnakers are primarily used when the boat is traveling directly downwind, but our version can be used in other wind conditions as well. It can be used like the genoa front sail but is ideal in very light wind. It’s like a cross between a genoa and spinnaker, which is why it is referred to as a “gennaker”. It’s easier to raise than a traditional spinnaker, which can be a complicated mess to put up. AND, the best part of all, is that it a rainbow of colorful beauty, billowing out in front of the boat, lighting up the faces of everyone who sees it.

Our new rainbow sail

We have had some delightful sunny days lately with just the right type of wind to test out our new gennaker, and we have been having fun sailing it for sure! (Except for the day when I had a total meltdown while we were putting the sail up, which was not fun, but that’s another story.) Here is a video of the first day we sailed it, while we were in the company of our friends on 3 other boats, who were all giving us helpful advice on how to sail it. It was truly a joy:

Hallandale, FL: Roberto’s Oasis

We made it past Fort Lauderdale and caught up with Sam and Roberto in Hallandale, FL. Roberto has a slip here where he keeps his boat, Dream Catcher, and he has a condo in a high-rise overlooking the ocean.

Sam, Roberto, Morgan, and Roark on the terrace

Sam just flew out to Vermont this morning to pick up his car and paraglider.

We went out to a fabulous Italian dinner last night as a reunion feast.

Roark’s mother flew out yesterday to go skiing in Vermont too. His daughter Ashling and her friend Morgan are here. The plan is to cruise to the first of the keys tomorrow: Key Biscaine.

We got to have some spinnaker therapy yesterday on our way here. After passing through the Fort Lauderdale inlet on the ICW and passing two humongous cruise ships, we inflated the new gennaker.

Wee Happy flying the new gennaker/asymmetrical spinnaker

Roark and I had talked about him getting a gennaker also, but he already has a symmetrical spinnaker. I said we should just try flying the symmetrical spinnaker like the asymmetrical gennaker that we have. After some research it turns out that other people have done it successfully. So we looked up the rigging in the Harken catalog, and then Roark decided to try it. After some trimming, tweaking, and fussing, it finally flew beautifully! It’s vintage 1972 also!

Good Goose flying her symmetrical spinnaker for the first time!

So we had some lovely spinnaker therapy!

Boca Raton

The day before, we ran through Boca Raton, which really surprised us! So many of the homes that were right on the waterway were spectacular creations! Seeing them from the waterway rather than the road was wonderful. One after another they amazed us. Here are a few that really stood out!


The Christmas Post

Here we are, spending Christmas while traveling. It doesn’t really feel like Christmas: there is no snow, we are far from family and friends. It’s just been another day on the boat. This year Christmas feels like an arbitrary date without a lot of concrete meaning. But we wish you all a warm and wonderful holiday nonetheless!! We really wish you were here!! This is a time to reflect on our blessings and appreciate our loved ones. We send our love to you all out there, wherever you are!

Here is a little glimpse of our Christmas: Last night on Christmas Eve we had a yummy dinner on our boat with our friend Roark and his mother Claudette. I made Oyster Stew, which was a Christmas tradition at my grandparents house as a child. Now that I’ve become a fan of oysters, I made this soup for the first time to carry on the family tradition. Everyone loved it! We woke up to a spectacularly bright morning of glassy water and blinding sun. It made me think of entering the gates of heaven.

Christmas morning

Roark gave us a wonderful book on Knots for Christmas, and we spent a good part of the day learning and practicing new knots. I am rapidly expanding my knot making skills beyond the basic bowline, and K. has already mastered several very complex braid type knots that are seriously impressive.

Tonight are going out for dinner with Roark, his mother, and his daughter who just flew in to visit today.
We are probably going out for Chinese food!!

You are all in our hearts today! Merry Christmas!

Car culture part 2, and the land of mansions

The other day we got to further participate in car culture, when we rented a car for the day in order to retrieve mail that we had missed picking up in Daytona Beach. Here’s my main observation about that experience: Driving down a highway in a metal box at 80 mph, surrounded on all sides by other cars going 80 mph, many of them paying more attention to their cell phones than the road, seems to me WAY more dangerous than traveling in a sailboat. People think that we are so brave to go on this trip, but it takes a certain insane courage to get on the highway every day as well. The split second decision making requirement while going at such high speeds is remarkable, and the potential danger at a moment of inattention is much more lethal than traveling in a slow moving boat. I was very happy to get back on our slow boat at the end of the day!

Today we passed through the section of the ICW that goes through North Palm Beach, where there are miles upon miles of palatial mega mansions. We have seen many gorgeous homes along the ICW, but this stretch definitely topped them all. We had clearly arrived in the exclusive land of the rich and famous. These were not your average cookie cutter McMansions.

One of a million mansions we saw today

Each was is uniquely stunning, and clearly designed by top notch architects. Each one was perfectly manicured, ready to be photographed for some magazine featuring luxury homes. And each one was empty. There was almost no sign of any human life in hardly any of them. For several hours we passed by dream home after dream home, and even on a major winter holiday, a time it would seem that people who have luxury vacation homes would be there enjoying them, we saw only two of them that had people around. Wow.

There were plenty of people, however, out enjoying their speedboats. One after another screamed by us with no regard whatsoever for the effect a huge wake has on a sailboat. We got rocked and rolled all day long. WhooHoo! Merry Christmas!

Car Culture

For several months now we have been surrounded by water, and by nature. Recently, we have been also surrounded by dolphins and an incredible number of birds: osprey, pelicans, terns, herons and more. Most of the time, the only “traffic” we encounter besides other sailboats going 5 knots, is the occasional powerboat or fishing boat. We have been completely removed from what I call “Car Culture”. The harbor towns we have been stopping at, for the most part, are old towns that were built BEFORE the advent of car culture, when the main form of transportation was BOATS, along with walking and horse drawn carriages. These historical towns have their center oriented on the waterfront, and they are easily navigable by foot. We have been delighted at the number of times we have been able to anchor for free in PRIME waterfront real estate, take our dinghy to shore and walk around some of America’s most charming cities, all without having to deal with parking, traffic, etc. (I guess we do have to deal with gale force winds and freezing cold…..but hey, who’s complaining?) Pre-“car culture” cities are built on a more “human” scale, and a person walking around in such places feels at ease and a part of the surrounding landscape. Other people in a “human” scaled city also seem more approachable and connected to each other. There is a coherent “Pattern Language” in the architecture that makes things feel balanced and harmonious.
In contrast, “car culture” cities are built to the scale of large American cars, and large American appetites. Yesterday we arrived in Some Florida Town, and anchored our boats in the harbor with dolphins swimming all around us. The local long term boat resident of the harbor (he has been living on his boat for 15 years in that spot) came over to our boats in his dinghy to introduce us to the area and tell us the lay of the land. Our goal was to go to the beach and get some food. The beach was not far away, and we figured we could walk there quickly. We found the “parking” area for dinghies and made our way ashore. Immediately we found ourselves on the side of a highway, with cars speeding by. We were near a large strip mall complex of big box chain stores. It looked the same as any other one in Anytown, USA. There were no sidewalks, or if there were they were partial sidewalks, that went on for a random length and then suddenly stopped. There were no crosswalks, for this place was not designed for pedestrians. It was not designed for humans, actually. Alienation and depression seem to be inevitable by-products of this style of urban design. We immediately felt like we had arrived on another planet, the culture shock was so great. Cars driving by honked and yelled at us like we were strange aliens to be actually WALKING. The beach was about a half hour walk down the “strip”. Normally that wouldn’t be a bad walk, if we hadn’t been out of place pedestrians in Big Car Land. Miraculously we stumbled on a bus stop with a bus arriving in a few minutes that could bring us closer to the beach. We all hopped on, and soon I was freaking out about how FAST we were going! We have been traveling at 5 miles per hour for months now, and 35 miles per hour felt unnatural and rushed! Funny!
Those of you who know me know that I have a hatred for cars: a car killed the person I love most in the world. I have always felt a frustration with the alienation and stress that seems embedded in the world we have built up for ourselves to accomodate cars. I remember a particular day right before we left on our sailing trip, when I was in my car in Big Box Store Strip Mall Land, and was absolutely HATING it. All of it. The cheap Chinese crap that is sold to us in all these stores, the pushing of stuff and more stuff that we don’t need, the waste and inefficiency of the whole system. I vowed to stop participating in this part of our economic system. (as much as one can, when it is so big a part of our way of life here). One of the big reasons I am on this trip is to STEP OUT of this part of American culture and live in a different one. And I’m happy to say that for now at least, we have. We have discovered an absolutely delightful culture of boaters who manage to live extremely well without cars. The norm in this culture is to talk to each other, help each other out, and to assume that a stranger is a friend. Having the comparison yesterday of what it feels like to be in Car Land, I am even more happy today to be waking up on a boat.

(And today was a particularly sweet morning as we woke up to find at least a dozen dolphins playing right next to our boats, and one of our sailing companions Sam brought us delicious hot oatmeal for breakfast!!)

December 19, 2010, Sunday, the day outside.

Sam & Roberto overslept after they were the ones who went on about getting up early!

Six sailboats sailed out that morning into the fog and darkness.

Heard from turbulence by email: they are still up on stands with a prop shaft rand cutlass bearing repair.

Weather heavier than expected. Thought about turning back but didn’t want to be the only boat. Wanted to stay with the flock.

Tried to just sail and cut our engine, but that made us fall behind and Good Goose and Dream Catcher went on ahead.

Worried and afraid, we regretted not staying inside and hanging out in St. Augustine for the day.

Sam stayed with us which helped calm us.

Couldn’t sail comfortably down wind but didn’t want to get too far from shore. It wouldn’t have been fine but we were afraid and scared. Just flew the jib and had to motor sail the whole time.

Towing the dinghy was hell. It filled with water from the huge waves and submarined and was constant worry for fouling the prop or breaking the tow line.

A little rain, a little fog.

Watched a coast guard rescue operation in progress with helicopter recovery. That didn’t make us feel too comfortable with the weather conditions.

Kept watch for right whales. No sightings.

Couldn’t eat, too nervous. Made new speed record: 11.2 knots surfing down huge swells.

Around noon we realized we were over half way! Then we took shifts and got to warm up inside for a while and stated to feel better about everything.

Never towing the dinghy outside again!!!

Inlet was difficult, to say the least. To enter it at night is to commit suicide. Met up with Roark and entered together. Roberto was ahead of us by half an hour and Sam was behind us by an hour. He had rigging troubles and came in drunk and stoned with no gps and no chart.

Sea tow talked to us on the radio before we made the inlet run, and he really saved our asses with local knowledge.

Had to round the north jetty inside the markers.

Rafted up on the nearest creek, all swinging on Dream Catcher’s anchor.

Sam couldn’t tell north from south, let alone use a gps or chart. We had to repeat directions sometimes up to a dozen times to him. We were all pretty pissed at him by the end, and Roberto was the angel that kept us on task of making sure he got in safely.

Met his passenger: the one armed pirate!

All had a good calming and processing dinner on Rob’s boat.

All’s well that ends well!

The flotilla the day after the run outside

Tucked in with Good Goose

Roark & Sherry on s.v. Good Goose, a Pearson Triton 28

Sailed for the rest of the day today on a nice reach in 15 knot west winds. Dream Catcher and Zarnista continued on ten miles farther to Fort Worth, but Good Goose and Wee Happy stopped here and got a mooring ball early–around 3:00pm. We dinghied over to the marina and got a ride to the beach.

There we met up with Lala’s friends Erin and Josh from New York. We’d met up with them early on our trip back in Troy, and they came out with us for a little sail on the Hudson.

Now we’re back on the boat, and the moon is rising over the calm waters. We’re about to grill up some steaks and oysters for Sherry’s last night. She flies out of Fort Lauderdale tomorrow. Then Roark picks up his mother at the same airport, and she’s going to visit him on Good Goose for a while.

So the time of our four sailboat fleet has unfortunately come to an end. Roberto has to fly out to Boston on Sunday, and Sam is continuing on to Miami.

We have yet to figure out where we’ll be for Christmas.

Steel Dreams passed us today. They are having hard times and are going to have to end their trip. We learned from them that Kimbel on s.v. Kestrel decided to stay here for the winter. So with Steel Dreams having to sell their boat and Turbulence still on stands awaiting repairs, that first four sailboat fleet that we traveled with has disbanded also.

So it is on the ICW. Not all boats make it. Many have mechanical troubles. Many have crew problems. Others have financial problems. We’re counting our blessings that we are still in the game and guided on our path, even though we know not where it leads.

We’re currently thinking that we want to cross to the Bahamas, but that is dependent on us receiving our Coast Guard documentation and fixing Wee Happy’s forestay chainplate. That’s coming in the mail as I write this, and hopefully we’ll have both by Christmas eve. If not, then we’ll probably continue south along Florida to the keys.

Capt’n K.

Not happy on wee happy

December 22, 2010
Launched from the rafted flotilla in Indian Head Beach by Dragon Point at 07:30. light west winds. Raised the main and unfurled the genoa since we’d be on a beam reach for most of the day! We still had to motorsail in order to keep up with the other boats. The winds were right at around 10:00 for flying the gennaker, so I doused the genoa.

Instant stress. 1st mate clearly wasn’t mentally prepared for the task. What was supposed to be beautiful turned out to be a disgusting mess that ended in her rather completely “losing it.”

The day is about 70 degrees, sunny, and warm with nice west winds at just the right speed for sailing, so you’d think that it would be fantastic. The complete breakdown of respectful communication has tarnished it for me, and I have not yet been able to enjoy the blue green waters and brilliant sun now. This sucks.

I just want off. The hell with this.

Not happy on wee happy today.
Capt’n K.

Saturday in St. Augustine / Day of the Gennaker


St. Augustine at night

Woke up slowly and tired after having quite a few drinks the night before with the crew. Sailors sure can drink! Made our way to the dinghy dock paddling our dinghy whitewater-raft style since we had the outboard motor stowed on the sailboat’s deck for safe keeping.

We had pulled our Genoa (front sail) down from Wee Happy and brought it with us in the dinghy. The foot of the sail had ripped out a couple of days earlier, and we had found a “sail loft” in St. Augustine that could fix it that day. Tom from Irish Sail Lady met us at the dock and picked it up from us. He is the “Irish Sail Lady’s” husband. I couldn’t help but ask him if he by any chance had an asymmetrical spinnaker (big multicolored front sail for use in downwind runs and light airs) for sale that would fit our boat. Lala and I have been wanting one for a while now to turbo charge our down wind runs, and they are just so pretty! He said that he actually did have one that might fit, and he’d check the measurements and get back to me.

Then we meandered through town to a little diner where the sailors were meeting for breakfast. It was the type of place where the wait staff gives you attitude and bad service and expects a good tip. Whatever! After waiting for half an hour I finally got up and got my own coffee refill. At least the servings were large!

We walked through town to a consignment & used sailing gear store called the Sailors Exchange. Along the way we met a couple of other sailors with the most delicious accent. Turns out that Martin and Johanna are from Sweden. They just purchased their boat, Snowbird, in one of the Carolinas, and they are new sailors like us. Of course they knew the pedigree of our boat, since the Vega is from Sweden! So while we reveled in listening to their wonderful accents, we hoped to get to spend some more time with them along the way south.

The Sailors Exchange was a dense packrat-warehouse of everything that is ever needed or wanted on a sailboat. It kind of makes you numb! It’s sort of like Wal-Mart in that there are shelves piles seven feet high or more and at least a foot deep with stuff everywhere the eye can see! There is simply so much stuff that it was hard for me to keep my focus and a clear head! We’d hoped to find a propane galley range (2-burner propane stove for the boat’s kitchen), and we found one that was brand new and 25% cheaper than West Marine. Sadly the stovetop would barely fit one large 10” skillet, let alone two pans. I suppose it could fit two 6” pans, but what use is that? So we passed it up and left empty handed. It was too bad, but we were happy that we hadn’t mail ordered that model only to find out that it was in fact too small.

On the way home we stopped at a “chocolate warehouse” named Whetstone Chocolates. In one building they make the fine chocolate, and in another building they have a sweet little cozy café where you can purchase the chocolates and coffee and gelato. YUM! The rum raisin gelato was delicious!

Next on the walk back to the marina was the Irish Sail Lady shop. Linda, the sail maker, had repaired the foot of our Genoa and it was ready to pick up. While we were there Tom pulled out the spinnaker for us to inspect. It’s an asymmetrical spinnaker (a.k.a. gennaker) from North Sails that came from an O’Day 27. It was beautiful and multicolored with the primary colors. The fabric was crisp and solid and tight. There was no visible damage or stress or wear anywhere on it. It looked like it had never been flown! Roark and Roberto looked it over with us. The sail came with a “sock” that is used to both fly and douse the sail. All the rigging and hardware was included. It was pristine. I bartered with Tom and put in an offer of $400 for it all, knowing that it was in new condition and would sell for $1,400 new easily. He called the owner, since it was a consignment item, and we settled on $475. What a dream! So Linda packed us all in her car along with our fixed genoa and new gennaker and drove us back to the docks. Awesome!

Back at the marina, we did laundry and got gas and a few groceries before sunset. Roark moved his boat onto a mooring right next to ours. Then we all got a dinghy ride over to Roberto’s boat, Dream Catcher for a fine dinner together.

Roberto's boat, s.v. Dream Catcher

Roberto is Italian, and loves to cook. He has a 44 foot sloop with an immense galley and main salon. Seating around the huge dinging table is for six adults easily. He made spaghetti (yay for Italians who make pasta for us Americans) and lamb, and we all swooned in appreciation. Everyone told tall tales and big fish stories until we noticed the wind pick up. Sam and I stepped outside to find a fresh cold wind from the north that was blasting in cold fog. Yuck! It was bitter cold as we watched the city dissappear behind the veil.

Never the less, the consensus was that tomorrow was the day to go outside on an ocean run down the coast. The forecast had the right wind direction and speed and wave height.: 15-20 knot winds and 2-3 foot seas. It was supposed to be cloudy and cold in the morning but to clear and reduce wind speed in the afternoon. The course would be a 55 mile run that we expected to complete before nightfall.

Turned out to be much more than we expected, and we listened to the wind howl that night from our v-berth in wee happy worrying that the seas wouldn’t have time enough to “lay down” before we took off in the morning. Six sailboats were heading out, so there was consensus among the flock.