Monthly Archives: January 2011

That’s how the pickle wrinkles

We have been on the go, having fun with Stephanie and it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and write any updates for the blog! So here’s what we’ve been up to the last few days….

On our way out to Bahia Honda Beach, right after I was commenting how we had never been stopped by any official in our boat before, we got stopped by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, who were in a scary looking powerboat with 4 giant engines of 225 horsepower each. It had to go as fast as it could with all those engines maxed in order to catch up to us under full sail. They pulled up next to our boat and one of the officials jumped over to our boat and checked our documentation. Good thing we had just dropped off the 4 illegal Cubans we had hiding in the v-berth! Satisfied that we were not criminals, the border patrol officer complimented our wee boat for being clean and went on his merry way.

After a rocky night anchored off of Bahia Honda beach, we went ashore the next day and did a photo shoot of my latest handwoven scarves. Stephanie was a great model, and the scenery was perfect too. Here’s a shot of her displaying the scarf that could be yours. (only $85!) Contact me for more info.

Luxuriously soft cotton scarf only $85

There are two of these available, don’t miss your chance to have a Dreamweaver creation.

In the afternoon we sailed over to the “bay side” of the Keys to check out some islands that had been recommended to us by our native Keys friend Katherine. We kayaked around a small island that was covered in roosting pelicans and other birds. We must have got a bit too close because all at once the island lifted up into the air and disappeared. That was WEIRD. Here we are kayaking near the island while it was still there:

the mysterious disappearing Pelican Island

Good thing the kayak only needs 3 inches of water to float, because most of the area we covered in the kayak was 4 inches deep!!

That night we tried fishing again, only to be disappointed. We were stunned, however, to see hundreds of bioluminescent worms glowing in the water around our boat. They seemed to emit a discharge into the water that also glowed. Crazy! Amazing! What strange things will happen next to the lucky individuals aboard Wee Happy?!?

Dolphin and 7 mile bridge

Here’s what happened next…..the next day we sailed back to Marathon escorted by a pod of jumping dolphins. Then we went to music concert where we were the only people there under age 50. The music was good, but it was not as exciting of a show as we had hoped, and so we managed to find a poolside bar where we enjoyed the sunshine and a few drinks.

On Stephanie’s last day, of course we wanted to show her the best time of her life and have the most perfect day ever. We decided to sail up to a nearby harbor to meet our friends Mel and RJ. It was the warmest day we’ve had in the last week and it was a great day to be out on the water. But there was NO wind and we ended up motoring to get there. Drag. Then we finally got there only to find that it was too shallow to get our boats into and we ended up turning around and coming back to Marathon. Major drag. But hey, it was glorious on the water, and we got to make pina coladas for each other, and that’s just how the pickle wrinkles. (this is a famous saying from Luck, WI)

Just for fun, here are a few more pics of Stephanie’s stay here. And 10 points for anyone who can guess which details of this post are true and which are fictitious.

Shallow water kayaking

bundled up in the dinghy

Mojo checks out the wee fish

We would post more photos but the computer is being weird and I can’t access the photos. Is anyone else having issues with these types of things? My phone wasn’t working for a few days, my camera died, computers are being difficult, etc. It must be the “marine” environment….

Anyway, we are off to make dinner on my sister’s last night here. Good night!

Fun with the Sisters

After a very short stay, K’s sister Sas, was whisked back to the cold north. She survived her stay without getting sunburned! We were sad to see her go so soon! We managed to pack in almost all the elements of a good Florida vacation…sailing, fishing, kayaking, and even some beach time. The beach we went to with Sas had palm trees and lounge chairs and pina coladas and white sand, AND they even had little Hobi catamarans to rent. These are entry level, easy to sail, mini racing catamarans that are basically a really fast wind powered water toy. We got one for half an hour and went screaming around the bay. It was a blast!!

Sas and K. enjoy the beach

When my sister Stephanie arrived, we all crammed into the dinghy and went to the Sunset Grill,a restaurant on the waterfront which we mistakenly thought had a dinghy dock We arrived in the dark and had to tie up our dinghy on some rocks underneath a private dock…somewhat of an awkward adventure, but we survived.
During the night on Tuesday, while all 4 of us were tucked in our wee bunks sleeping, a severe thunderstorm blew through the area, waking us all up with dangerously close cracks of lightning and frighteningly strong winds. The next day we took our dinghy to a beach and on the way there we saw hundreds of floating iridescent blue and purple jellyfish. We had never seen them before and we mystified as to what they were. A man saw us being tourists and told us that they were man o’ wars, one of the most dangerous jellyfish known to man. They have beautiful condom like bodies that float on the water looking like jeweled water balloons, but underneath are LONG stinging tentacles that can cause reactions ranging from major pain and welts to anaphalyctic shock and even DEATH. The man o’ wars had been blown to shore by the storm. The beach was covered with them, and we decided it wasn’t a good day to swim….

The next day we took Stephanie to one of the nicest beaches in the Keys, Bahia Honda. We sailed there with a cool north wind, and anchored in the bay right off the beach. It was unseasonably cool, and all the locals were warning us to stay warm and not freeze to death. Stephanie had to wear her down jacket she had on when she left Wisconsin! But there was still sun, and here she is rejoicing in it:

Steph basks in the sunset

The beach featured amazing shell hunting, and we enjoyed walking up and down the beach admiring the multicolored tiny seashells, coral pieces, and grasses (and some gorgeous but deflated man o’wars). We found a charming little oasis under a tree decorated with seashells…..perfect!

Bahia Honda Seaside oasis

Arrival of the Sisters

Since we put out the word that we were staying put in one spot long enough for people to catch up with us via airplane, we suddenly have a long list of people coming to visit! Now that we have braved 3 whole months of cold weather and tedious travel to get the boat down here to a warm climate, people freezing their butts off in the North wanna come visit!
The first to arrive is Sas, K.’s dear little sister, who came in Sunday from Plattsburgh, NY, where it was 15 degrees below zero. She is here for only a few short days, and so we are trying to pack in the warm weather activities while she’s here. Only the weather isn’t really cooperating, and even though it’s almost 100 degrees warmer than in Plattsburgh, it still wasn’t really bikini beach weather today. There was a blustery wind blowing all day with scattered showers…..but we still decided to go out sailing, and Sas is such a sailing trooper that she didn’t stop smiling the whole time we were out there getting rocked around and sprayed in the waves.

Smiling siblings

And we all were laughing hysterically when a “rogue” wave came crashing over the boat, completely soaking her brother in 20 gallons of water. Some dolphins even made a brief appearance just for her.

We finally got some basic fishing gear and a fishing license so that we can try fishing. We are both complete beginners at fishing, neither of us ever having fished before. So today, with Sas, we threw our lines into the water for the first time to see what we might catch. K. caught several tiny fish right away that were so wee they got lucky and were tossed back in the water.

A Wee Fish

And that was all we caught. No big boys for us, although some sneaky fish who figured out how to eat the bait without touching the hook got fattened up from our bait!

Tomorrow the second sister, arrives: my little sister Stephanie. For one night the sisters will overlap and we will have an all time record number of people sleeping aboard Wee Happy. We’ll let you know how it goes.
We’re really happy to see our sisters, who we’ve been missing a lot!!

Working, working, and sailing just for the fun of it

We are settling into our temporary life living in Boot Key Harbor. Every day we have been doing work projects on our boat. The things we have worked on so far include major structural improvements such as reinforcing the mast beam and the forestay chain plate, which is a weak point on the Vega and needed improving before we felt comfortable heading out onto the open ocean. K. has been working hard with all kinds of complicated and frustrating details of that and it is a whole story in and of itself. We have also been making new hatch boards and cockpit locker covers out of wood, and I’ve been busy in the workshop every day giving the boards 8 coats of varnish. And we’ve also been doing gross stuff like cleaning out the storage lockers and getting rid of months worth of gunk that had accumulated in there. Whoo Hoo, so much fun!
But we have been also managing to have some fun here and there with some new friends that we have met in Marathon. In an earlier post we mentioned the sailors that we towed out of a difficult situation when their engine died at the marina dock. These two Minnesotans, R.J. and Mel, have become great friends, and we’ve really enjoyed hanging out with them.

R.J. and Mel, with sweet dog Sam

A few days ago the four of us took our dinghy out to a tiny little island and explored, and we’ve also been enjoying making dinner together and playing cards. They left this morning to visit some other areas of the Keys, but we hope to meet up with them again in Feb. and possibly travel together.
We’ve also made a new friend who is not a sailor! In fact, we took her out on her first ever sailing trip on Tuesday. Kelsie works as a manager at a local restaurant and has been overworked for months, so she wanted to have a day off to do something fun. So we showed her a good time aboard Wee Happy! It was also the FIRST time on our entire voyage that we just went out sailing for the day, and returned to the same spot we started out from. We went a few miles out into the ocean to a reef and sailed around in circles just for the fun of it. Despite a near bout of seasickness from the rolling waves, she managed to enjoy herself just fine. The highlight of the day was when a pod of 6 large dolphins swam around our boat, following us and playing around the bow of the boat. They were so close we could have reached out and touched them! It was truly a visit from the dolphin world, and we were grateful for the gift! And check out the color of the water!! It was the most amazing shade of turquoise I have ever seen.

Kelsie and Lala out sailing!

And, there’s been some fun nights here at the marina tiki hut with wonderful live music, food, and drink going late into the evening. Our social life is so much more active since we have moved aboard our boat! Who knew?

Wee Happy with our new toy!

A few days ago we had the great pleasure of spending the afternoon with a friend we know from SpiritFire, the fire festival in New York we attend every year (also the place where K. and I met). Katherine, a warm and generous woman who is a kick-butt drummer, has connections in the Keys and had been here for the last few weeks. On her last day here we finally managed to connect up with her and she drove us around in her car so we could run errands that are difficult to do on foot or bike. So we went to Home Depot and got big pieces of wood we are using to create new hatchboards and cockpit locker lids, and tons of groceries, etc. She was an angel to us! We have been missing our “fire family” so much, and to make even a brief connection with someone from our fire tribe was food for our souls!! Thank you Katherine!

So Katherine is also a sailor, and a hardy one at that! She made an epic trip to Antarctica on a sailboat a number of years ago. Since then, however, she has been mostly kayaking, and we were talking about the simple pleasures of wee boats that paddle. A lot of people around here have kayaks on their sailboats, and we have been looking enviously at lots of them for awhile now. There are tons of very shallow areas around tiny islands here that are perfect for exploring in a kayak. The other day, K. went to West Marine to get a few bolts, and came back with a brand new tandem inflatable kayak that was on sale for half off! It’s a truly marvelous thing: it’s very lightweight, it collapses very small when not in use, it’s surprisingly durable, easy to use, and it was really cheap!….in short, we are absolutely in love with it and are going out this afternoon to paddle to our hearts delight.

Wanna come out and kayak with me? There are two seats!

AND, it’s an extra perk for anyone who comes to visit us! Stephanie, my sister, has just booked her flight and is the first lucky person to be coming to stay with Wee Happy! Stephanie, get your paddling arms ready –you are gonna love this thing!

What’s so great about Marathon?

Contrary to our last post, it’s actually not sunny here ALL the time. Today a freak patch of thick fog rolled through for about an hour. We were just getting in our dinghy returning from a trip to the store when it rolled in, and could barely find our way to our boat among all the boats in the harbor. A cold front is moving through and tomorrow there is supposed to be a low of 50. Whatever will we do?!?

Lala in the fog

So if there isn’t perfect weather 24 hours a day, why did we choose to sign up for a whole month in Marathon? You may be asking this, so here are a few of the reasons why we said “heck, yeah, sign us up for a month!”

Well, first of all, we have been traveling for 3 months straight and we need to just stop and chill out, as well as do some work on our boat. AND, it turns out this is the best place in the Keys to get work done on our boat, as it is THE SAILBOAT MECCA of the region. This is the winter destination of many snowbird cruisers, and most of the 200+ sailboats here in Boot Key Harbor are staying for anywhere between 1 -6 months. Some people have even just made this their permanent address and have been here for years. So there are tons of businesses that cater to boaters and any type of supplies or work that anyone could need are near at hand. At the marina here they even have a workshop available to boaters renting space in the harbor, where one can set up projects on a large table that is not rocking on the water. I think that is what really sold Capt’n K. on this place — when we walked in and saw they had a workshop available, his eyes widened and I think he even started salivating.
The Marathon City Marina decided to try a different attitude towards cruising sailboats than the attitude we have found in the rest of Florida: they are welcoming people who live aboard sailboats and making a space for them to exist well within the system. The marina has reasonable rates for long term mooring, and provides all the facilities people need; in addition to the workshop space, they have a community room that includes two mini “movie theaters” with televisions, a large library, internet access, a community bulletin board, etc. Awesome!
And then there is the supportive, grassroots nature of the boating community itself, which continues to amaze us. The Marathon boating community has set up a “net” on the VHF radio (the type of radio all boaters are required to have on board), and at 9:00 every morning, there is a “cruisers’ net” meeting that occurs through the facilitation of a volunteer moderator. During this time people can make announcements of all kinds, such as “does anyone know about wind generators because I’m having a problem with mine”, or “I have a used winch for sale”, or “I’m going to Rodriguez Island, does anyone know of a good anchorage there?”, to “This morning there will be a free yoga class at 10:00”. One person was even having a “yard sale” on their boat with all kinds of stuff for sale!

The mooring field is set up in a grid, so there are “neighborhoods”, and your address is your mooring ball number. Ours is P5, so we are in the same neighborhood as M’s and O’s, but “blocks” away from A’s and J’s.
There are two large “parking lots” for all the dinghys, and it is a fun activity just to watch the steady stream of people coming and going at the dinghy dock at all hours of the day.

Most of the people, as could be expected, are retirees: healthy, happy people in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. But there are also young couples with young children that are being home-schooled on the boat, and a few couples like us who are Gen-X’ers bucking the system. One such couple, Charles and Hilary, have been here “for a few days” since last April, meaning they arrived last April and planned to stay a few days, but have never left because they like it so much. Hilary befriended us our first hour here on the dinghy dock because she was excited to see another couple their age, and we have been enjoying getting to know them.
They have introduced us to lots of people, namely, the “long term live aboards”, who have been here for several seasons.

My first impression of this place when we arrived, was that it was like an RV park for sailboats, which turned me off. And the town of Marathon itself is nothing to brag about — it’s pretty much the same highway strip mall as the rest of the Keys….but the amazing community aspect of the Marathon City Marina is what is keeping us here.
Oh, and there are beaches! Actual beaches!
And another thing: there are friendly iguanas here!

Our new friend the Iguana

Marathon, Saving New Sailors from Injury and Embarassment, New Head, and sun every day in the 70’s!

The Marathon is over! (actually, just starting!) Marathon Florida! Over 200 sailboats moored here!

We’ve made it somewhere to stay for a while. Wee Happy is Happy on a mooring among over 200 other sailboats. She is well south of all of the closed airports and sliding cars. The winds are light and the days warm and mostly sunny.

That’s every day.

We see the weather maps show the terrible weather passing north of us, and we sympathize deeply, stop for a moment of solemn reflection and even prayer for all of our loved ones. Then we jump up and down and say “yay! We did it!” Only problem is when Lala does that in the cabin and throws her neck out! There’s only 5-feet 8-inches of headroom, you see. Capt’n K has a permanent hump on his back now.

So we have to have a permanently installed marine toilet with holding tank and external pumpout port in order to stay here. Marathon is a clean harbor!

Today we had Wee Happy on the dock for 15 minutes filling up her water tank, and a young couple who had been wandering around the hartbor in their new old used 27 foot Catalina sloop came towards the dock. The staff urgently came out and basically told them to turn around and leave and “Have you called in?” and all that. We on Wee happy were on the list for the water dock at that moment and they hadn’t called in! Just then their little 2-stroke Nissan outboard quit while they were in the middle of a u-turn in the middle of a tight area about 40 feet from dock to dock. There was no room on the dock anywhere and they were being told to leave.

A panic ensued on “Sail Away” that made all gather at the railings to watch. We cast off our lines and started up the motor and went out to get them. They were making good speed right towards a nice 35 foot sloop and a piling and the mangroves. We crabbed over through the wind to their aid and thhen backed down slowly to them while Lala readied to heave the stern line to the new bride-to-be on the foredeck on her third day at sea. Lala remembered vividly just a few short months ago when she was equally clueless as the new sailor she was throwing a line to, and felt proud to now be able to tie a line to a cleat of the boat like the best of them!

Towed them ever so gently away from danger and back out into the waterway. Told the skipper to radio in for a mooring assignment. left them into the safe hands of a stout mooring ball on the other side of the grassy shoal area.

Lita went to the beach on her gleaming gold origin-8 bicycle and fortified her vitamin D reserves while digging her toes into the sand and coating her skin in sun and salt.

Wee Happy has reserved a mooring for a month. Close friends are invited to wisit during her stay! It’s a 2-hour shuttle van ride from Miami and a 3-dollar ride from here into Key West. The Marquesas and Tortugas lie waiting to the west, just a daysail and an overnight away –with waters that change from aquamarine to true blue.

So if you read this then please let us know you were here! Post a comment every time and then check back to see our replies! This place acts just like an online forum that way! We supplement our diet of fish and rice with your comments for desert.

Thanks for checking in!

Now seriously! post a comment! If you are concerned about anonymity, your email address stays between you and us, and you don’t have to sign the post anyway. We just get it as an email, you see! You can send us an email simply by posting a comment.

can’t wait to hear from you or maybe talk to you about coming down for a weekend visit or something.

“All rights reserved. Copyright Wee Happy 2011.”

Capt’n K & Lala.

(Just joking about the copyright baloney..or is that bolagna…or balooneeey? 😉 Time for dinner. Talk to you soon Wee hope!

Strange Night in Long Key Bight

We have been anchored the last two nights in a large bay called “Long Key Bight”, (does anyone know what “bight” means?) where there are an unusual number of “flying fish” that leap out of the water. Pelicans, my favorite bird, seem to love these fish, and are busy diving for them here. These fish are most active at night, and last night we were startled by loud splashing outside on otherwise calm water, and went to investigate to find our boat surrounded by hundreds of jumping silver fish. We then went to sleep and both had very strange dreams all night….maybe it was the influence of the flying fish….They have been so enchanting, that I was inspired to write this wee poem that I am daring to share with y’all. Enjoy.

Long Key sunset

Strange Night in Long Key Bight

Darkness descends through a blaze of fire
New moon sliver rises higher
Flying Fish flash silver
splish splash splish splash
Silver flash of flying fish
splash splish splash splish

Darkness drives us into sleep
and dreamtime comes like a circus train
Vivid dreams flash in and out
and back in again

Strange night in Long Key Bight

Morning light rises through a blaze of fire
Warm breezes lift my spirits higher
Out of darkness dreaming

Another day dawns serene
surrounded by aquamarine