Monthly Archives: January 2012

Schooners and scooters

You know sometimes you go through periods where nothing seems to go very smoothly? Perhaps Mercury is in retrograde, or some other astrological alignment is misaligned, causing things to break down, go wrong, and be annoying. Or maybe it is just a little spell of bad luck, who knows. We have been going through one of those periods. Every day seems to hold some new complication to make life feel difficult. Thankfully, however, many of these problems COULD have been completely disastrous, but weren’t. Like the time last week when Cap’t K was going across the bridge on the scooter to a business appointment and noticed that our boat was missing from it’s spot in the anchorage. Yes, that’s right. Missing. Not there. Gone. WTF?!?!

Alarmed, he turned around and went out in the dinghy to investigate. He found Way Happy a ways away, aground on a sand bar. How did this happen? It wasn’t even windy. And we were on the mega anchor rooted to the bottom. It turned out that the shackle connecting our boat to the mega anchor had failed and Way Happy drifted off completey separated from the anchor. The biggest, heaviest chain in the world isn’t any good if the shackle breaks!! Cap’t K called me at work to tell me the news. Of course it was during a super busy time at the restaurant, and I was in the middle of taking care of 5 tables and rushing around like crazy. Not a good time to leave for a boat emergency. So somehow Cap’t K, managed to get the boat off the sand bar by himself (I still don’t understand how) and re-anchored Way Happy safely. The mega anchor and chain was now lost on the bottom again for some other sailors to snag on someday.

And then there was the time I was on my way to a relaxing yoga class and got in the dinghy and started zooming towards shore, only to notice that the dinghy was filling rapidly with water and the stern of the boat was starting to sink down into the water. Panic ensued and it was all I could do to get to the dock as fast as possible. When I managed to arrive safely, I realized that something had jarred the drain valve open and that’s why water was coming into the boat. Nothing serious, but by the time I had baled out all the water out of the dingy I was too late to get to class.

And maybe I shouldn’t even mention the time that Cap’t K accidentally put water into the diesel tank. Or the other morning when we had to get up at 4:30 am to deal with a fouled anchor line that was caught on the rudder of the boat.

But it’s not all bad. Some good things are happening too. For one thing, we had some friends come and visit us this weekend! Our cruising friends Roark and Sherri, who we traveled with last year on Wee Happy, came to see us in St. Augustine. They stayed overnight with us on Way Happy and they were so excited and impressed to see our new boat. Actually, “jealous” was the word Roark kept using over and over! It was fun to have people be so wowed by our boat, as the novelty of the bigger boat has worn off a bit for us by now. They also have a 27 foot wee boat, and they know as well as we do how challenging it is to inhabit a space that small. They walked around the boat in awe, saying things like “OMG, you can stand up in the bathroom!!”, and “look, they have a real sink!”

Aboard the schooner "Freedom"And Cap’t K has a new job opportunity. He is trying to get a job working on the Schooner Freedom, a 85 foot sailing vessel that does tours here in St. Augustine. He got to go out on it on Saturday, which was quite a treat. Hopefully he will be taking some shifts on it soon, keep your fingers crossed that it comes through. The temp job he is doing is not so great. In fact it is horrible. He is confined to a small cubicle in a large office building doing very boring computer work and I think it is really bad for his mental health.

Our new scooter still needs a name, but is doing well, aside for a few moody days when she dies for no reason. (must be Mercury again) I have started riding her too, even though I am scared of motorcycles.

So, on schooners and scooters we are moving forward.

Lonely in St. Augustine

I have said before that our lives became more social than ever once we became sailors. Granted, our cruising career is still young, however, we have overwhelmingly found that since we moved aboard our boat we have met tons of people and had a relatively full social calender to spend time with all these great people we were meeting. It has been one of our favorite aspects of the boating lifestyle. People have more time for each other, and are more open. Spontaneous encounters become the norm.

But we are sadly not finding that type of situation here in St. Augustine. As great of a town as this is, we are becoming weary of feeling like loners here. Most of the sailors who come through here stay for only a few days, stopping to re-provision, sightsee a little, and then head out. There are a few other liveaboards here, and most of them either live at one of the marinas (that we have so far deemed too expensive for our wee budget), or they are even more marginal than we are, leading an “on the edge” lifestyle that we don’t really aspire to.
The “locals” of St. Augustine are friendly enough, and we are starting to recognize a few people that we can say hi to on the street, but we have not yet found a group of people to hang out with or do things with. We have no one here to call if we need help. Interacting with the landlubber social scene seems to usually involve a motorized wheeled vehicle of some sort, which has prevented us from attending some things that may have helped us make friends.

We did, however, just get ourselves some wheels. Capt K needed a way to get to his new temp job, which is 20 miles away. He found a used scooter on Craigslist, and so we scraped together some money and got it, figuring that it would not only be transportation for him to get to work, it would expand our social horizons! And, when we do decide to leave St. Augustine, we can just sell it and get our money back. But so far we have just been going to work and coming back to the boat, too tired at the end of the day to rev up the energy for going out. Now that he is working full time in a cubicle during the day, and I work an erratic restaurant schedule that involves lots of nights and weekends, it is becoming tougher and tougher for us to even find the time to go out together and do things so that we can meet people.

We are finding this situation quite depressing. We are social people, and we need a social life! We miss our friends, and are missing many of the things (hobbies, space, etc) we let go of in order to be on this boat. We are starting to feel a bit like “slaves to the system” again now that we are both working full time. It’s not that we don’t want to work, but we want to find a way to do it that doesn’t completely sap the life out of us. I guess the quest goes on to find the right combination of variables for the Way Happy life.

Lala, Delilah, and the full moon current

One of the things I enjoy about living on the water is the daily connection to the moon. When I lived on land far from the sea, I was aware intellectually that the moon affects the planets waters and other things, but it was more of an abstract concept than a daily reality. But here in this harbor with a strong tidal current, I am aware every 6 hours of the moon’s pull on the tides. During the full and new moon phases, the current becomes even stronger, as the high tides are higher and the low tides are lower, creating a larger volume of water coming in and out of the ocean inlet. A few days ago was the full moon, as so we have been experiencing even stronger tidal currents than normal this week.

Delilah the Wee-est with Black Raven Pirate ship in the backgroundBecause of the strength of the current here, it has been challenging to take out my new sailing dinghy. It is so wee that it is easily overpowered by the current, and if the wind and the current are coming from the same direction, it makes it almost impossible to go in that direction, making navigation around the harbor difficult. As I found out yesterday.

Cap’t K was at his first day at his new temp job, and I had the day off and was hanging out on the boat. Cap’t K had taken the uber dinghy into the marina early in the morning and I was left with Delilah the Wee Sailing Dinghy as my only way off the boat. I decided to take her out for a test sail to check out the current before heading off across the channel for the marina. I’m still a bit nervous sailing her alone, as I don’t feel that confident about my solo sailing skills. It was slack water, the time when the tide changes and the current isn’t very strong. The wind wasn’t too strong either, but there was enough to sail, so it seemed like a good moment to take out the sailing dinghy. I circled around for awhile and did just fine. I managed to go upwind, downwind and all around. I was heading back towards Way Happy to get my stuff to bring into town, when suddenly it was as if a switch was flipped and the current turned ON. Full blast on! Both the current and the wind were coming from the south, and at that point I was trying to go south. No problem, I figured, I would just tack west and then zigzag back to Way Happy, which wasn’t very far away. But the current overpowered any forward momentum of the wee boat, and I was quickly being pulled farther and farther away. I decided to head for some docks on the nearby shore. There was one dock that looked accessible to me in my wee vessel, and that was the one I was aiming for. My intention was to tie up to the dock long enough to take the sail down and get the rowing oars set so that I could row back to Way Happy. The dock down current of the one I was heading to was not sized for Wee Delilah. It was made up of very large concrete pilings and the dock itself was 10 feet above the water. As it turned out, I was pulled by the current into the large dock, and it was all I could do to hang on to one of the pilings. I couldn’t hang on AND take the sail down and get the oars set at the same time. Then the wind picked up, and I could barely even hang on. Delilah was getting pulled under the dock and the mast was hitting up against the dock. This was not good. Not good at all.

Then some angels showed up. Two ladies from the house I was in front of noticed me struggling and came out and asked if I needed help. “uuuuuuhhhh, yes, actually, I could really use some help”. I managed to throw them a line and they pulled me and Delilah over to the sea wall where I could climb out of the boat and tie her up. I felt like a complete idiot! They apparently thought I was even more of an idiot than I did, however, because they kept saying things like “you know the current goes out to sea”, as if I wasn’t already highly aware of that fact. Thank goodness they were there, or I think that Delilah would have been dis-masted by the dock and probably capsized.
So all’s well that ends well!

I almost didn’t even want to write this story, as I feel quite embarrassed about my misadventure, but I decided to sacrifice my dignity and share it with you to provide you with a laugh on my account. So enjoy!

-.-. .- .–. – / -.- / .-.. . .- .-. -. … / — — .-. … . / -.-. — -.. .

I am married to a wonderfully handsome, talented, and very nerdy computer geek. Not only is he a computer geek, keeping up with the latest technologies, he loves gadgety machines and old school tools with a boylike enthusiasm that I find wonderful. Several years ago Cap’t K became interested in ham radios, and began learning the basics of being a ham radio operator. He was fascinated with the democratic accessibility of ham radio technology. If there was a major crisis and the whole grid and/or satellite systems went down (or you were just far out at sea), ham radios would still be up and running. With a minimum of equipment and power requirements, anyone can be in touch with people all over the world without relying on a cell phone service provider or a satellite system.
If you know how.
So Cap’t K is setting out to learn not only how to be a ham radio operator but how to use the original old school radio technology: Morse Code.
In an age where cell phone and computer technology advances at a staggering rate, Morse Code seems incredibly primitive and obsolete. I was super skeptical when he started talking about wanting to learn Morse Code. Why on Earth would you want to do that?!?!? It seems a bit like learning Latin — who actually speaks Latin nowadays? Why bother?!
But Cap’t K was not deterred. A mental challenge had presented itself and he is taking it on. He got himself some of the latest modern online learning tools and has started practicing Morse Code. And I, despite myself, started to get a bit curious. I listened in on one of his practice sessions (one where you start out trying to decipher the difference between two characters). I was amazed at how beautifully rhythmic it sounded. I am a drummer, and since I have started learning to play drum rhythms, my ears have become more attuned to the rhythmic patterns found in all sorts of things. Morse Code is a rhythmic language, formed with two basic notes put together in a specific pattern for each letter of the alphabet. It may be primitive, but I have to finally admit it is pretty cool! My next project might be creating Morse word codes into drum rhythms! How geeky is that!


But Cap’t K’s next project was to create a homemade Morse Code radio. He bought a little kit from a Ham Radio guy in the mail, and painstakingly assembled the tiny electronic circuit board inside of a metal Altoids tin. That’s right, an Altoids tin. Who knew you could make your own radio out of something as small and simple as an Altoids tin?


Cap’t K tried it out yesterday for the first time and was able to hear several Morse Code conversations going on, although he is a long way from understanding everything that is said. To my surprise there are actually people out there carrying on Morse Code conversations! Cap’t K was pleased: there is a certain satisfaction to be found in creating such a “homebrewed” tool from scratch for less than $40, and having it actually work! You can’t get that with a cell phone!

According to Cap’t K, one of the reasons he is interested in Morse Code is because it is the most energy efficient form of wireless communication there is. With one watt of power and the proper attenna, it is possible to communicate with someone in New Zealand. In contrast, the latest smartphone, like the one my co-worker just got the other day for $750, can communicate with someone in New Zealand at what energy cost? How much energy is required to build and maintain the cell phone tower here, the satellite out in space, and the cell phone tower over there? I’m not trying to say that the Altoid tin morse code radio is better than the latest smartphone, because really, there is no comparison, but I’m just trying to illustrate a point.

Stay tuned for updates on his progress…maybe a future blog post will be written in Morse Code! Or if any of you out there happen to know this obscure language, you can talk to him on his new radio!

Buried treasure

As I described in the last post, the anchorage in St. Augustine is challenging. It is the single most difficult aspect of staying here. We have been constantly experiencing nervousness and stress about our boat being on anchor in the strong reversing current. For example, when the wind and the current are opposing each other, it quickly creates a very uncomfortable and nasty chop that makes it very difficult to get an anchor set well. The boats tend to point in the direction of the current instead of the wind, so if the wind is coming strong from a different direction, it hits the boat on the beam which is awkward and very uncomfortable. Every week, based on the upcoming weather conditions, we have been going through a long debate about moving to a different spot to be in the most secure position for whatever front may be passing through. Yesterday we were having one of those conversations, and we were hemming and hawing over several options that all seemed equally bad. We decided to haul up our anchors and go check out a different spot for a few days. We have been using two anchors because of the reversing current, which presents an extra little challenge when we want to pull them up. Sometimes it takes awhile. Yesterday it took us over 4 hours!! When we started pulling up the first anchor, it wouldn’t move at all. We tried and tried, using the engine to try to break it free, but it would not budge. We realized that the anchor must have caught on something on the bottom and whatever it was, it was big and heavy and wasn’t moving. untangling the buried treasure
We have been hearing stories about all the ships that have sank here in this harbor in front of the fort over the last 400 years. Because of this current I keep talking about, divers have not been able to fully excavate the sunken artifacts that are down there. There is a lot of unclaimed booty just below us! We started fantasizing about some lost treasure that we may have stumbled upon. But meanwhile, we were stuck. We kept trying and trying to pull the anchor up, and after extreme effort, we got the anchor to the surface and found it was tangled up in someone else’s lost anchor chain. A lot of nice, expensive chain! Big deal, some of you may be thinking, but Cap’t K started salivating and suddenly got in a really good mood. We just scored a bunch of free anchor chain that was just the kind he had been looking at at the store for a few hundred dollars! The next step was getting the anchor freed from the chain and getting the chain up. After a few more hours of effort, we realized that chain that had caught on our anchor had in turn been caught on another, much bigger chain. This was 3 inch chain that must have belonged to a very big ship. This chain was attached to an anchor who knows how big, and and there was no way we were going to be able to pull this up. our new mooring chain
We got into an even better mood at this discovery, as it means is that we just scored not only some extra anchor chain, but also a free mooring! We can now attach a line to this mega chain and rest much easier on anchor! It seems that God just answered our fretting questions of where to go to feel more secure about the coming frontal passage….we are staying put right here!

New Year News

Happy New Year everyone!!

Even though we have adventurous lives as travelers, as far as New Year’s parties go, we are pretty boring. We didn’t really do much for New Year’s Eve, although the town’s festivities were all around us and we could see some of the fireworks displays from our boat. We strolled downtown and had a drink at our favorite bar, the Taverna del Gallo, and then enjoyed some romantic time together on our boat. Life is good.

I did, however, do one quite unusual thing yesterday. I mentioned awhile back that I have been scheming a costume in order to perform in the streets as a human statue. This is something I’ve done over the last few years for events and parties, but this is the first time I’ve done it on my own as a street performer. St. Augustine seemed like a great place to try it out, as it is teeming with tourists, so I had a costume made by some great people I met at the Farmer’s Market, and went out in it for the first time yesterday. I was very well received and people loved it. And the money wasn’t bad either, so I was pleased with it. People are so amazed that I can just stand still and not move, but compared to a lot of other things, standing still seems pretty easy to me. Lala as a colonial gypsy statue

Over the last month, we have been moving around to various places in the harbor trying to find the best place to anchor. This isn’t a really great anchorage, and the best places to be have all been taken up by the mooring fields that were installed by the City Marina a few years ago in an effort to discourage people from anchoring. We have spent a few weeks paying for a mooring ball, but since we are still really short on cash, we have opted at least for now to be on our own ground tackle. We just pay the marina a small fee to use the dinghy dock and facilities.

Aside from the relentless 4 knot current that reverses 4 times every 24 hours, and the cannons shooting in the direction of our boat several times a day, we have settled into a fairly calm routine here in the anchorage, with Way Happy being our wee floating home rather than traveling adventure vessel. We are working folks now, after all, with jobs and schedules just like all the landlubbers. There is still some minor excitement, though, that differs a bit from what you might experience in a house on land. For example, a few days ago Capt K and I were relaxing in the cabin with a glass of wine when the boat lurched so violently and suddenly that I honestly thought we had just been hit by a speedboat. I jumped up and looked out the companionway to see the mast of Wee Wee Delilah, my new sailing dinghy, lurch up and almost into the cockpit of Way Happy. The only boat we could see was a large fishing boat roaring off under the bridge. It had created a tidal wave sized wake that was similar in effect to an earthquake. Since we are anchored near the edge of the channel where there is a lot of boat traffic, we have been rocked by passing boats on a regular basis and are pretty used to it now, but this was an entirely new magnitude of power. Capt K got on the radio and scolded the guy, who seemed oblivious to his effect on us.

One of the much more charming aspects of living on a boat in an anchorage is the fact that we have an ever changing cast of international travelers for neighbors. A few days ago we woke up to find to our great shock a fabulously gorgeous 130 foot long schooner style tall ship with 3 huge masts right next to our boat. This is not the kind of boat you normally see around here, or anywhere for that matter. It was anchored right in the middle of the channel, where boats normally wait for the Bridge of Lions to open so they can continue south. We initially thought they must be waiting for the bridge opening, but on studying the size of the ship closer, we decided it looked too wide to pass through the bridge. And indeed, the bridge opened and closed while the schooner continued to just sit there in the middle of the channel. What was it doing there? Who on Earth owns a marvelous boat like this? the PeacemakerWe speculated and wondered and gawked until finally we consulted the knowledge guru who we call the Google- gi, who informed us that this boat (called the Peacemaker) is owned by the religious group known as the Twelve Tribes. We have been introduced to this group before, as they have communities all over the world and one of them happened to be right down the road from where we used to live. This group owned and operated our favorite cafe and we went there often and were always impressed with how nice the Twelve Tribe members were. Apparently they use their magnificent ship to transport members of the Twelve Tribes to and from their different communities, and as education program for the youth. Capt’n K overheard some discussion in the marina lounge and found out they stopped in St. Augustine because of engine problems. They anchored right in the middle of the channel because the boat is so huge there was no where else nearby that is deep enough for them to go. They were here for a day, and then disappeared in the night. Darn, we were hoping for a tour of the boat!

In other news, Capt K has found work. Volunteer work, at least. He is spending time with a sailmaker helping out with sail repairs and learning about the art of sailmaking. I guess you could say he is apprenticing with him, although it is not quite that official. The man he is working with is a super nice guy and a really good person to know, as he is very well plugged into the sailing community here and is already starting to make all kinds of helpful connections for Capt K. It is a great place for him to be hanging out, and he is learning some valuable skills.Cap't K at the sail repair shop

My waitressing job at the Cuban restaurant is going well. They are super happy to have me around, as the last few weeks have been so busy they can barely keep up. The other night the restaurant was so packed we ran out of food and had to close early! I love the people I work with, and even though waitressing is hard work, I enjoy being there. But I have been so busy working this week that I haven’t even had time to take my new toy boat out!

That’s the news for now, and in closing, I would like to share with you a random weird photo of a fish we saw in the Lightner Museum goldfish pond. 10 points to anyone who knows what kind of strange fish this is.

Mystery mutant fish