Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lovin’ the beach

We’ve spent the last few days at the beach.  Yep, we just want to reiterate, that after months of traveling through brutal cold, we are now livin’ it up on the BEACH in the SUNSHINE, while most of the rest of you freeze your butts off in the cold winter.  And we are loving it! 

we be happy in the sun!

Believe it or not, we haven’t really had that many “beach” days since we got down to Florida.  We’ve mostly hung out on the beach when we had visitors, so we could show them a “real” Florida vacation, but we haven’t done much of the beach thing ourselves.  But here we are, on one of the nicest beaches in the Keys, and we don’t feel like leaving anytime too soon. 

We anchored on the far end of the point, where there is a small anchorage between two bridges that has a reputation of being difficult holding in a strong current.  We had to try 7 times to get our anchor set!  That was an all time record for us!  Cap’t K. built up some muscles pulling that anchor chain in 7 times!!  Once we got set, the current and waves didn’t roll us too badly, although we have gotten spoiled being in the ultra calm Boot Key Harbor for so long. 

Yesterday and today we took our dinghy over to the far side of the beach and got K.’s kites set up to try kiteboarding.  We set up “camp” (hammock, picnic food, shade, etc) in our favorite magic spot that we found a month ago when my sister Stephanie was visiting. 

The water here is really shallow and extremely warm.  You can walk WAY out and still have the water only be thigh deep.  It’s delightful!  I enjoyed watching the pelicans practice their “syncronized diving” techniques.  They float aimlessly in small groups, and then they will simultaneously start flying around, then they dive into the water at exactly the same moment. There didn’t seem to be any fish where they were diving, so I couldn’t help but wonder if they were just practicing diving for the fun of it or what. Maybe no one else cares about this, but I love pelicans dearly and so here is a little video of them diving. I think it’s quite amazing.

Taking our Albin Vega to Bahia Honda

Bahia Honda & Old Railroad Bridge

Well the wind is out of the southeast and east for the next few days. Temps are forecast to be in the upper 70’s and mostly sunny. We’re planning to go to Bahia Honda State Park for the weekend.

It should be a two to three hour sail from where we are currently anchored in Boot Key Harbor. The park has good facilities and cell-phone signal (e.g. internet access), so we will be all set.

Our friends on s/v Major Change say that they plan to come and join us, which would be the first time their boat has been off the mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor since they tied up to it months ago. Other friends may take the bbus or drive cars down to the park to join us and fly some kites and try some kite boarding if the winds are right.

The anchorage at the park is only “protected” from East to South winds, and there is a decent tidal current that runs through the channel. Also the anchorage is between an old railroad bridge (see photo above) and the highway (route 1), so there isn’t too much room if you drag anchor.

The benefits of dealing with the difficulties are that you get access to the beautiful beaches, tiki huts, picnic tables, bathrooms, and showers. If the winds are good, we might even get to try kite-surfing!

Our Fire Performance at the Sunset Grill

Lala and our friend Kelsey worked out a fire performance gig at an awesome local restaurant called the Sunset Grill. Our friends Kurt and Kristina from sailing vessel Drifter and our friend Amanda from the Happy Valley came with us and backed us up with drums and vocals. We danced two sets, one at sunset and one after dark, and both went great!

The owner even requested that we come back to perform again!

the Miami boat show

Well, we thought we would be heading to the Dry Tortugas by now, and the weather has been mighty fine for it, but we are learning that plans are “fluid” when you are living on a boat. Cap’t K. has had the good fortune to get some consulting work that he is doing on the computer, and the job is extending into next week, so we decided to postpone our trip so he can focus on the job in a place with a reliable internet connection. So we are still in Marathon. I’m getting a bit ansy here and needed a little change of scenery, so when my friends Hilary and Charles invited me to go with them to the Miami boat show, I decided to hop in their car and go with them to the big city.

Hillary and Charles

For those readers who are not boaters, let me explain what a boat show is. Once a year several major boating cities around the country host boat shows, where the latest and greatest boats and products relating to boats come together in a huge boat shopping party. Boat people from around the world come to gawk at boats, talk about boats, and spend money on boat stuff. I had never been to a boat show before, so I thought it would be a learning experience to check it out.

Sailboats all dressed up in flags for the show

At the Miami boat show the entire downtown marina is devoted as the “Strictly Sail” section, and is the exclusive domain of sailors. Powerboats and fishing boats are in another part of town. Of course we are strictly sailors and went to stroll the docks, which were mostly full of very large and very fancy sailboats that K. and I can only dream about. So I went on all the dreamiest sailboats there — 60 foot sailboats with pristine teak decks, 3 bathrooms, and enough room for me to have an entire weaving studio on board. Sailboats so big our cats would get lost for days exploring them. Sailboats with million dollar price tags.

60 feet of teak decks

And then there was all the high end, high tech stuff to put on these huge sailboats. Complicated gadgets galore. Winches that are bigger than our galley. The newest innovations on anchors and life jackets and ropes. It was all pretty overwhelming.
It was an interesting contrast to the book I’ve been reading: Cruising in Seraffyn by Lin and Larry Pardey. This couple has been cruising the world for 40 years in very small and simple sailboats. Their motto is “Go small, go simple, go now”. Their first boat Seraffyn, was a 24 foot handmade wooden boat without an engine, and they sailed very happily around the world in it for years. Not only did they sail successfully without an engine, they also did not have any electronic equipment other than a radio. Again and again they emphasized that all the extra equipment and gadgets cost money upfront and down the road for maintenance that could be better spent traveling. Of course it must also be mentioned that they are excellent sailors with amazing navigational skills which allowed them to travel this way. Their story has inspired me to pursue more aggressively a better knowledge of navigation and sailing, and I have now begun to work my way through the American Sailing Association’s “Coastal Navigation and Piloting” Course. So far on our trip it has been too easy to rely on the GPS.

Anyway, back to Miami.
After the boat show we went back to our 5 STAR HOTEL ROOM at the Doral Resort and Golf Club to relax in the hot tub. What was I, an unemployed budget conscious sailor, doing at an exclusive, fancy 5 star hotel, might you ask? Well, the other reason I decided to jump ship and go to Miami is that my friends had managed to score a free hotel room at this resort through a business deal with their company, and so I got to enjoy it as well. And enjoy it we did! The hot tub and pool were AMAZING, with giant waterfalls cascading over fake but very convincingly real looking cliffs into both the swimming pool and hot tub. The waterfall over the hot tub was positioned so you could sit under it and enjoy the pounding hot water on your shoulders as a massage. Excellent!! Oh, and a real bed and a TV and a bathroom! After living aboard Wee Happy, I’m easy to please and this was pure luxury!
And all this time that I was partying it up in Miami, my poor sweet husband was home on the boat recovering from having a tooth pulled. It obviously hasn’t been a fun experience, so send some healing wishes his way.

Oh, and one more thing! Some of you know that my camera has been broken for awhile now. Maybe you’ve noticed we’ve had less pictures lately…that’s why. Super K. miraculously fixed it and it’s back in action again! Here is the first picture I took with the newly resurrected camera:

Planning trip to Dry Tortugas via the Marquesas

We’re free for the next two to three weeks. We’re starting to plan a trip to the Dry Tortugas via Boca Grande key in the Marquesas Keys (not to be confused with the Marquesas Islands in the south Pacific. We have one potential buddy boat for the trip (RJ & Mel on Kinfolk), and are open to others also (in case you or a friend may be interested).

We have significant coastal cruising experience, but this will really be one of our few times out on open water with no protection from the reef. We’ve done the New Jersey coast and northern Florida coast outside before, but that’s all for open ocean sailing. Bite sized pieces are right for us at this point.

Here’s what I’m thinking so far:
50 gallons of water
30 gallons of gas (for our 8hp 4-stroke Honda outboard)
Tethers, harnesses, jacklines, foul weather gear, etc
Dramamine (started 24-48 hours before the trip, along with no alcohol for 2 days prior)
Collapse our inflatable dinghy and outboard and store in the v berth
Have our compass calibrated before the trip
Plot and track our gps coordinates on paper charts every 10 minutes
Consider renting a satellite phone or getting a SPOT gps tracker

Our primary instrumentation is a bulkhead compass and garmin self-contained bulkhead mounted small color gps. We have a digital depth sounder also.
Our radio is a good old VHF that has good signal.
Backup gps navigation on a laptop with gps receiver and also on iPad.

I have not yet had the chance to talk to any local charter captains or fisherman about the Marquesas Keys and the currents and shallows, etc. This is a top priority before we leave. I especially want to ask about uncharted shallows and the entrance to Mooney harbor in the Marquesas Keys!

Being out of communication in case of emergency
Unexpected current from north or south when beyond the reef’s protection, which might push us off course
Running aground when trying to anchor in the Marquesas
Unexpected storms of course
We do not have a life raft (our boat is our life raft!)
The east winds that are prevalent this time of year. It would suck to get stuck out in the Tortugas for a few weeks of nonstop heavy east winds or storms!!!

Maybe we should head to the Tortugas at the tail end of an easterly and then hang in the Tortugas while the winds are south, and then return to Key West when they clock around to the west. That’s been the dominant weather pattern here for the last month, but still you never know!

I don’t want to have to reply on communication and the coast guard in case of emergency, but I’d like to be able to contact someone if something huge happens like losing our rudder or running hard aground, etc.

I suppose we could leave the dinghy behind, but it could come in handy to have it in case we ran aground and need to kedge off or if we want to dinghy over to loggerhead key, etc.

Capt’n K

Chocolate Success!

The chocolate tasting party was a huge success! Everyone loved it, and the weather cooperated! We almost sold out in one little event!

Here’s a short video that our new friend and fellow cruiser David Royall (from sailing vessel Shibumi) took of the event.

What Happiness Tastes Like

Since we left on our journey, we knew we were going to have to create money making opportunities for ourselves to fund our trip. We’ve had many more ideas than we have had concrete results, but one of the bright ideas we have had is now coming to fruition. A few weeks ago K. and I were enjoying a very special bar of dark chocolate that we had purchased in a specialty chocolate shop way back in Palm Beach that we went to with Sheri and Roark. As we lay in bed moaning and ooohing and aaaahing over this incredibly delicious bar of coconut macaroon sea salt chocolate, we knew that we had found our calling — to sell chocolate to deprived sailors who mostly can only shop at whatever store is in walking distance of the marina. We felt we had discovered a niche market waiting to be tapped. And it’s almost Valentine’s Day.
So the next day we set up a wholesale account with this same chocolate company –Seattle Chocolates, and placed a huge order of chocolate to arrive by Valentine’s Day. The chocolate arrived yesterday and now we have begun our new jobs delivering happiness in the form of chocolate to Boot Key Harbor.
If you, too, would like to experience this happiness AND feel good about supporting the travels of two crazy sailors, you can place an order through us and we will mail it to you!
Our special deal to you, dear readers of the Wee Happy blog is:
3 bars of chocolate for only $10! The flavors are Coconut Macaroon with Sea Salt, Rainier Cherry, and Cappucino Crunch. They contain 55% dark chocolate, except for the Cappucino Crunch which is a milk chocolate.

Our other money making venture is performing our fire dancing, and we have our first paid gig TONIGHT! tK. and I have been practicing a little choreographed staff routine, and we have pulled in our friend Amanda to play drums for us along with our new friends Kurt and Kristina who have been creating a special drumming chant just for us.
We will post photos tomorrow!

Enter the Ginger Love

Skipper Ginger

After a wonderful, although too short, visit with my mother, we now welcome aboard the last of our string of visitors from the snowy and cold north. Our dear friend Amanda from Northampton, MA just arrived last night and is here to spend a few days with us. YAY! When she arrived last night we managed to have what we have been CRAVING for months — a fire! A little fire circle with our friends Kurt and Kristina. We busted out the drums and some chanting and made some music around the fire. Aaaah! Medicine for the soul!

Today Amanda and I explored a new section of the mangroves. An enchanting tour through a maze of roots, led by fearless kayak leader Lala.

Mangrove Mamma

Then we took Amanda out for a sail on Wee Happy.  We happy on the water with Amanda!


Later, while Amanda and I went to the beach to swim and lounge, Cap’t. K was braving a fierce army of no see ‘um bugs in the mangroves while fishing for our dinner. Those little bugs were fierce!! All mouth and no visible body! K. caught 3 snappers for our dinner and had a major process when it came time to kill and fillet the fish. A true existential crisis. Thank goodness our friend Kendall came by and helped him fillet the fish. We cooked them up for dinner and it was absolutely delicious!

In the next few days we will be planning and practicing for our first official fire performance in the Keys. We have a gig on Saturday night at the Sunset Grill, and luckily for us, Amanda showed up at just the right time to be our little drummer bitch. Getting punchy, I think its time for bed. More later. (for those of you who don’t know Amanda, she is an excellent drummer).

Mom’s first sail

Today we took my Mom out for her first sail aboard Wee Happy! It was a beautiful warm and sunny day with great wind. Not too much, not too little. We went out by the 7 mile bridge and towards Bahia Honda beach. Mom took it all in with a smile on her face and didn’t mind the waves rolling us around a bit at all. Here’s a quote from her when asked what her favorite part of the day was:
“I liked watching you guys operate, and seeing all the details it took to get the sails up and down.” She got an inside look at the work it takes to sail!

the expert sailors

We anchored near the beach, and wanted to take the kayak in to the beach for a walk, but the waves were rolling us around so much it made it too difficult to get in and out of the kayak from the sailboat, and we did not bring our dinghy with us today, so unfortunately we were stuck on the sailboat….so we just had a little lunch at anchor while rolling back and forth like crazy, and then we set back towards the harbor.

Skipper Mom

On the way back Mom tried steering the boat. It’s a good thing the water isn’t a road — there isn’t much to hit out there and you can’t run off the road….we just veered around the water while she got the hang of steering. And she got it! By the end of the afternoon she was steering like a pro! Steering the boat is counter intuitive because if you want to go right you push the tiller to the left, and if you want to go left you push the tiller to the right….it takes a little while to get it right!

When we got back to the harbor we took the kayak out in calm protected water around the mangroves just before sunset. We watched pelicans and birds and got a little arm workout with the paddles.

Out in the Kayak

Then we went out to dinner to our favorite place in Marathon, the Keys Fishery, where we stuffed ourselves on shrimp quesadillas and key lime pie.

In Paradise with Mom

Sunset in Boot Key harbor

Here we are, me and my mom, drinking pina coladas while watching the sunset on our boat. Life is good! She arrived last night safe and sound from chilly, no make that FREEZING South Dakota. We are experiencing nice and hot weather to thaw her out for a few days!

This morning we ate breakfast at a local breakfast joint that makes omelettes with seafood. At the restaurant we saw this sign that Mom wants to share with all her Northern friends that wish they were here:

Free Snow Removal!!! Great deal!

We hung out at the marina and talked to other sailors, so Mom could get a glimpse of all the stories that abound in this harbor full of sailing adventurers. There were a few of them who had donuts and really made K.’s day. He has been having donut withdrawal since we left Dunkin’ Donuts territory way back in New England.

Sombrero Beach

Then, since there wasn’t much wind today, we took our dinghy over to Sombrero Beach and hung out on the beach. Mom had a miserable time on the white sand with a mixed drink in her hand. (just kidding! she looked pretty happy and relaxed the whole time!)

Then we went on an adventure out to the coral reef, which is 3 miles out in the ocean from the beach. We flew across the water at a whopping 10 miles per hour bouncing over the waves and screaming. We finally made it out to the reef, unfortunately without our snorkeling gear. So we peered over the edge of the dinghy to see waving fans, sea sponges, fish and all sorts of other unidentified aquatic life just under the surface of the water. K. and I got in the water for a short swim, and then we headed back towards land. While we were passing a lighthouse tower where there were lots of birds perched, we noticed a bird dangling from the side of the tower. It looked unusual and strange, so we went closer to take a look. It turned out to be a pelican who had apparently eaten a fish that had a hook and fishing line still attached to it. The pelican had become completely entangled in the line, and the line was entangled in the tower, and it was hanging in the air struggling to get free. Since pelicans are currently my favorite animal, I couldn’t bear to see it suffering like that, and we tried to figure out how we could help it. It looked awkward, as if it had been seriously injured in it’s plight, and we weren’t sure if we could save it. But K. bravely volunteered to climb up on the tower to cut the line free so at least the bird could be released. When he cut the line, the pelican fell to the water and did not move. But it was not dead.  It floated upside down with it’s head lying in the water as if it’s neck were broken and it couldn’t lift it’s head. I turned it over and it still couldn’t lift it’s head, so we assumed that it’s neck was broken and sadly decided there wasn’t any more we could do. Even though we put forth a valiant pelican rescue effort, we didn’t save the bird. But we did lay it to rest in the arms of the sea. May it go to bird heaven in peace.

The lighthouse tower where we tried to save the pelican

On another note, tonight is the Super Bowl. But we don’t really care (although we are rooting for the Packers!!!) and we are going to make fresh fish on the boat. But there is a big gathering going on at the marina for the game and we will probably go over and check it out….

Bad news….K. just checked the weather report and it is gonna be cold tonight –lows in the 70’s.  Hope Mom can handle it.