Tuesday, August 21, 2012

While Maya is our home on the water, our dinghy would be akin to the family car.  One rarely considers what a luxury it is to have a readily available mode of transportation until its unavailable.  While at anchor, without our dinghy we would be stranded onboard Maya, unable to get to shore.

Sometimes its just a short 50 yard jaunt from Maya over to a nearby beach.  Depending on where we are anchored, it could also be a several mile hike.  We like to anchor as close to the shore as possible, however because of the water depths its sometimes not possible.  The dinghy gives us the flexibility to move about wherever we happened to be parked.

We found ourselves at a beautiful spot near Staniel Cay called Big Majors.  In my mind, this is the epitome of what cruising the in the Exumas is all about.  Pristine beaches, clear blue waters and expansive views all around.  Staniel Cay is a popular spot for boaters as well.  It is a small community that boasts a grocery, marina and wonderful restaurant and bar.  We were able to access the internet, catch up on ESPN and have a beer, all at the bar.  It was really heaven on earth.

The only downside to Staniel Cay is that the anchorage at Big Major is about three miles away.  That meant that each time we wanted to go from Maya to the small town, we had about a 15 minute dinghy ride.  On top of that, the course to the marina where we tie up is exposed to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  That is no problem when the water is calm, but on a rough day (and we had a lot of those) it is no fun.

One morning after a two day maelstrom of thunderstorms, I found myself with a bad case of cabin fever.  We had been couped up on the boat for a long time and I needed to get off.  I decided to take the dinghy into the marina at Staniel Cay to get on the internet and catch up on our emails.  Because of the copious amount of rain we had experienced, there was about 5 inches of water in the dingy.  It really rained hard!  It took only a few minutes to bail out the water and I was on my way.  The winds were a little stiff causing the waves to really bounce me around.  I had to slow way down in order to keep the dinghy and me from getting beat up.  But, I was determined to get ashore and I eventually made it in.

I spent a couple of hours on the web, checking weather and generally just milling around.  I really like these very small villages.  Life really slows down to a more manageable pace.  Soon though, I figured that Kim was wondering where I was and being that it was nearing happy hour,  I decided to head back to Maya.  

I got into the dinghy and started to make my way across the three mile stretch between the marina and our 'mother ship'.  I was about a mile offshore from the marina when suddenly the dinghy motor just quit.  I mean it just died.  No running rough, no coughs and spurts.  It just got real quiet, real quick.

Generally when an engine is running and then suddenly dies, its a fuel issue.  Once you get them started,  engines like to run and run... and they will unless there is a problem with the gas.  So, my first course of action was to check the fuel.  The tank was over half full so I knew I hadn't run out.  I checked the fuel line to make sure there were no kinks or leaks and there were none.  I was running out of ideas.  I took the cover off the engine to ensure that no fuel lines were leaking or that perhaps the fuel filter was clogged, but all looked okay. Hmmmm.

So I sat down for a minute to contemplate my options.  As I looked towards the shore, I noticed that the wind and current had taken me farther away from land.  In the short amount of time I was working on the fuel problem, I had probably drifted another half mile away from where I wanted to be.  Not good.  So, I did what I probably should have done from the beginning and dropped the anchor.  No sense it getting farther away, right?  Well, the water I was in at that moment was about 20 feet deep and my anchor line is about 15 feet long.  That wasn't going to work.  I decided that maybe if I kept trying to start the engine, it might catch and I could limp back to shore.  

So for the next 15 minutes, I pulled on the start cord like there was no tomorrow. (and I was beginning to think that there may not be).  It wouldn't start.  Meanwhile I was still drifting away from land.  Now normally we carry some flares and a handheld radio when we are on the dinghy, just for emergencies like this.  However, because of the several days of storms we had just experienced, I had taken them inside Maya to keep them dry.  I forgot to put them back on the dinghy before I launched that day.  Duh!

The only thing I could find that could be of some help was Kim's plastic rain poncho.  We keep those on the dinghy in case we run into a rain shower or the waters are so choppy that the water sprays up into the boat.  Luckily hers is bright red.  So, I stood up in the dinghy and started waving her red poncho hoping to catch someone's attention before I floated further out to sea.

As it turns out, a fellow boater had been sitting on his back deck enjoying his afternoon tea when he noticed my signal.  He jumped in his dinghy and headed out in my direction.  I explained my situation to him and he was glad to help.  He tried to get my engine started by after a few minutes of pulling on the start cord, he gave up too.  We decided to tow the dinghy back to the marina.  We got the two boats tied together and readied ourselves for the short trip in.  However, when he went to start his engine, it wouldn't start either!  What was going on here?  Bermuda triangle?

Another alert boater also happened to be watching this all unfold and got into his dinghy to see what was up.  He arrived on the scene and we told him not to shut down his motor!  Anyway, to make a long story short, he towed us both into shore where we could at least sort this out on dry land.  I borrowed the radio at the bar to let Kim know what was going on.  She contacted Stephen aboard Tides In (one of our Bahama Bums sister ships) and he brought his dinghy into the marina to help me out.  We both knew it had to be some kind of fuel issue but we didn't know what.  He towed me all the way back to Maya where we could at least take our time and get the thing fixed.

The rest of our flotilla (about seven boats in all) had been monitoring the radio since I had made the call to Kim to explain the situation.  As it turns out, we had a lot of small engine experts to draw upon to get the thing running again.  We towed the dinghy over to the beach where we all could work on it.  Within 30 minutes, the diagnosis was clear.  There was water in the fuel.  

What we think happened was that during the previous days rains, water had leaked in and around some of the rubber seals on the fuel tank.  Eventually it got picked up by the fuel line intake and sucked into the engine.  Anyway, we dismantled the fuel system and dried everything out.  We changed the plugs and hooked up a new fuel tank and it started up on the first pull.  Woohoo!  Back in action.

Thank goodness for the help of perfect strangers and the crews on our traveling companion's boats.  Without them, I might be still floating, somewhere near Cuba, most likely.  After a long and trying day, we needed a break.  I went back and got Kim and we headed to the beach for some R & R.  We didn't go far though.  I wanted to be close enough where I could swim back.... if I had to.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

The next stop on our trip down the Exuma chain was at the Exumas Land and Sea Park.  The Land and  Sea Park is much like an interactive zoo.  All of the areas within the park boundary are protected, which means no fishing, hunting or even shell collecting.  It is a wonderful place to explore all the Bahamas has to offer.

The Park is run by the Bahamas Conservancy, which means by independent donors.  Luckily there are a lot of benefactors as this is really a jewel.  The Park is staffed by volunteers and is very well run.  For boaters, the Park offers mooring balls.  These mooring balls are spaced around the park so one doesn't have to worry about dropping their anchor over a coral reef.  Additionally, the balls are moored deeply into the sea bottom, so you don't have to be concerned that you are going to drag the bottom  and float away if a big storm were to come up.  The balls have a heavy line attached to them, so all one needs to do is to drive up to the ball, pick up the line and attach it to your boat.  Sound easy as pie, right?

Well the trip down from Norman's Cay to the Land and Sea Park started out as most of the days did on this trip.  Clear skies, warm temperatures and a light breeze.  A cold front had gone through the day before but the forecast called for diminishing winds and calm seas.  After our experiences the day before, we were ready to put Norman's behind us and start over.

Around eight in the morning, the Bahama Bums (Maya, September Song and Tides In) weighed anchor and headed south for the 25 mile run to the Park.  In boater's terms, 25 miles is around 3 hours or so, just about the perfect distance for an easy days run.  As soon as we got away from shore, we noticed that the waves were a bit higher than expected.  We are lovers, not fighters and we normally don't like to see any waves over three feet tall.  Even thought we have stabilizers attached to the boat, seas over that height make the trip uncomfortable.

But all in all, it was tolerable.  The forecast didn't say anything about the waves being that big, so we just figured that residual winds from yesterday's cold front were still kicking things up a bit.  The thought was that it would calm down some as the day progressed.

Well, it didn't.

It got worse.

For the next three hours or so, we got beat up.  It wasn't terrible but it wasn't fun either.  They say that the boat can take way more than her sailors can, and with that I would totally agree.  Maya, as all Defevers, is designed to be out on the high seas.  Three or four foot waves are nothing for her.  But, they are something for us.  

As they say, 'Hope springs eternal,' and I believe that sentiment is what kept us going that day.  We kept believing that it had to smooth out soon.  I mean, how could the forecasters have been so wrong?  Plus, we were only going 25 miles.  You can do anything for 25 miles, right?

Well, we made it down to the Park in one piece.  In some ways it was good experience for us.  At least now we know what we can tolerate and what we would not want to do again.  But, we were with our friends and soon all would be well.  All we had to do was to pick up the line on our mooring ball and all that was left for the day was to meet on the beach for happy hour.

Normally as you get closer to shore, the waves tend to diminish.  This is mostly because the surrounding terrain acts as a wall to block the incoming wind and resultant wave action.  Today was a bit of an exception as the island that we were going to be moored along side was on the wrong side of the winds.  In the Bahamas, 99% of the time the winds are out of the east.  That day, the winds were out of the west, and fairly brisk.  There would be no protection for us as the moorings were on the west side of the island.  There was nothing between us and the waves except open water.

We have picked up the line from a mooring ball several times in the past.  Generally what happens is that Kim drives the boat so that the bow of the ship is right over the ball.  I take a long pole with a hook on one end and snag the line that is attached to the ball.  I pull that line aboard and attach it to other lines that are connected to our boat.  Once all the connections are made, you can sit back and relax, knowing that you are safely tied to the sea floor and that you aren't going anywhere.

Because of the high winds and wave action, we decided that it might be easier if I drove the boat and Kim caught the line.  Maya has a high profile and in higher winds, she gets pushed around a bit.  It takes a little bit more finesse to keep the boat over the mooring ball while the other person tries to grab the mooring line.  It is not unusual to take several passes at grabbing that mooring line.  In calm winds, its a piece of cake.  With the winds and waves we were seeing that day, it was going to be tough.

The first pass was primarily a practice run for us.  I wanted to see how much the wind and waves were going to affect us.  Additionally, there are other boats right next to you, so you have to be mindful that you don't inadvertently float into them while you are trying to catch that mooring line.  The next run at it had Kim on the bow with the boat hook.  I brought Maya up to the ball, but because the waves were raising us up and down two or three feet at a time, it was hard for Kim to snag the line before the winds pushed us away.  Unfortunately for us, we were assigned a mooring ball that had a fairly short line on it.  (BTW, these lines are called pennants)  That meant that we had very little slack to work with in bringing the line onboard.  It also meant you had to be very quick in the handling of the lines as the waves and wind were constantly changing and I was having difficulty keeping Maya right over the ball.

The next time around, Kim was able to snag the line on the mooring ball.  But, because the waves were raising us up and down so much, she was unable to hold onto the line and the boat hook.  Something had to give.  Unfortunately, it was the boat hook. It departed the boat and splashed into the water.  Not to worry though.  We had three of those thing onboard.

So we went around again and I lined up Maya on the mooring ball.  Kim grabbed the line but once again, the wind and waves were too much for her.  The power of the water literally took the boat hook out of her hands.  It too hit the water.  Now we were down to our last boat hook.  We decided to change places and have Kim drive and me handle the boat hook.  Kim got Maya close and I was able to grab the line.  But because of the wind pushing Maya away from the ball, I couldn't hold it either.  I tried to disconnect the boat hook from the line but couldn't get it done before the hook disappeared from my hand and landed in the water.

Luckily for us,  September Song was moored just a few hundred yards away from us.  Bob had been watching us try to pick up the line (they got theirs on the first try). When he saw what was happening, he went to put his dinghy in the water so he could come over and hook up the lines from in the water.  Since our pennant was so short, it would be easier to take the longer lines from Maya and attach them at the ball in the water.  But it was not to be.  As Bob was trying to get into his dinghy, the up and down wave action caused him to lose his balance.  He fell on his swim platform (sound familiar?) and broke a couple of his ribs.  We didn't know it at the time, but he was very close to losing consciousness as the pain was very intense.  His guardian angles must have been watching over him as his wife Stephanie heard the last of his plaintiff calls for help.  She got him aboard just in time.

Once again, a fellow boater came to our rescue.  He was already in his dinghy and was also watching the show we were putting on.  He managed to pick up all three of our lost boat hooks and return them to us.  He also picked up some lines from Maya's bow and attached them to the mooring ball from his dinghy.  This saved us from having to reach over and grab that darned line ourselves.  What a lifesaver!
As it turned out, he was very busy the rest of the day as most of the other boaters coming into the mooring field were having the same problem as we did.  He was able to attach most of the bow lines to the mooring balls for the other ships that day.  

So a rough trip down from Norman's and a bad experience picking up the mooring line from the ball served to remind us that boating is not for the feint of heart.  The saving grace was the beautiful sunset that soothed our battered souls.  We thought to ourselves, 'surely today was the worst it was going to be'.  Had we only known.



Friday, June 1, 2012

Oh, so where were we.....

Our first stop in the Exumas was Norman's Cay.  This small island is about 60 miles southeast of Nassau. On the way there, one gets his first views of the diaphanous blue waters the Bahamas are so famous for.

We found the anchorage with no problems and couldn't wait to get our dinghy in the water and head to the beach.  We were anchored just a few hundred yards from shore so it was going to be a short ride in.

Getting the dinghy off the flybridge and into the water takes some effort.  One has to do a lot of climbing and lifting and hooking and unhooking of lines to make it happen.  I plan about a half hour
to get the boat off the lifts and into the water, ready to roll.  This time though, I had a problem.  Just as I was stepping into the dinghy from the swim platform, a rather large and unexpected swell lifted the boat and the dinghy.  Unfortunately for me, I had one foot on both vessels.  Something had to give and it was me!  I fell.  .....   and rather hard I might add.  

I landed on my ribs on the swim platform with quite a thud.  Along with that, I left several inches of the skin of my pinkie finger attached to the boarding ladder where I was trying to hold on.  The first instant I stopped moving I knew I was hurt.  I thought for sure that at a minimum I had broken some ribs.  It hurt to breathe.  Additionally, I saw a lot of blood around so I knew that something else must be amiss as well.  

Not to bore you with the details but I probably did have some broken ribs and I for sure could have used some stitches in my finger (I bled for several days afterwards), but I was going to survive.  What a way to start the trip!  So, Kim came running out and helped me inside.  I asked for some polysporin, bandages and a rum punch.   After about half an hour I was ready to go to the beach... very gingerly albeit.

We spent the afternoon on the sand with our Bahama Bums cruising buddies:  Bob, Stephanie (w/ their labs Godiva and Cassie) and Stephen and Pam.  They are fellow Defever owners and we would be traveling together on this adventure.  It was amazing to be on a deserted beach with sand like powder and water like glass.  I never knew water like that existed.

So anyway, we spent that first quiet night on the western side of Norman's Cay.  In the morning though, ominous clouds were gathering.  The first of many on this trip.

Prior to this, we had seen nothing but smooth and glasslike seas.  It couldn't have been any calmer.  We awoke that morning to a rocking and rolling motion, that while not uncomfortable, was not something we enjoyed.  Speaking to the other boats in our group on the radio, we decided to move the flotilla to the eastern side of the island.  Since the winds and waves were coming out to of the west, being on the lee side would allow the island to serve as a natural wall, blocking the bad weather.

It was a great idea, one shared by about 40 other boats.  No kidding, while we were one of the first to arrive on the east side of the island, within a few hours the anchorage was overflowing.  There were boats trying to fit in everywhere.

Most boaters like to have a buffer zone around them while anchored.  Much like driving on the freeway, you don't want someone right in front or behind you.  You want some room in case you have to maneuver.  Well, that was our plan.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way..... and that is how our first 'run in' occurred.

There we were, minding our own business when we heard some fellow boaters having some words of disagreement.  We weren't sure at first what was going on but we heard a lot of  F bombs and the like being exchanged.   Not wanting to pry, we laid low inside Maya with our ears pressed to the glass trying to figure out what was up.  Lover's spat?   Spousal mutiny?  It was all sounding rather juicy!

Suddenly on the radio, one of our fellow boaters called out to us and said, "Maya!  Maya!  are you monitoring what is going on?"   Not wanting to sound like a nosy neighbor I responded, "Yes, there seems to be some kind of commotion over there but I am not sure."

"Well" they said, those two boat have run into each other and are floating right towards you.  They seem to be out of control.  You better move .... and quickly!"

Turns out that in this crowded anchorage, two boats had gotten their propellors and anchor lines tangled up and as a result were floating hopelessly out of control.  Like a bull in a china shop they were going to do a lot of damage to whomever they hit and we were first in line.

I raced to try and start our engines and pull up the anchor as quickly as I could.  Normally this would take about 5 or ten minutes but with this hulk of fiberglass and metal coming towards us, there was no time for the checklists.  Kim was busy outside positioning our fenders for impact as it was clear there wasn't going to be enough time to move out of the way.  Bob, who already had his dinghy in the water was trying to act like a tug boat, using the nose of his inflatable boat to push everyone apart.  In the end, we did make contact, but luckily for us, it was just some scratches.  We were able to fend them off as they continued their journey of havoc downstream from us.

Whew, that was close.  It was decided that that event was going to be the highlight of our bad experiences and we decided to repair to the local establishment for some refreshments.  We all got into our dinghies and headed for McDuff's bar and grill, the only building on the island.

We drowned our sorrows and toasted the end of our misfortunes on this trip.  From here on out, it was going to be clear sailing.

When we got back to the boat that night, we noticed that it was tilting at a rather odd angle.  Was it just the rum punches we had been drinking?   Upon closer inspection, it turns out that we had anchored on the edge of a sandbar.  In our hurry to get out of the way of the two boats earlier in the day, we had repositioned to a spot further up the channel.  By that time it had become very crowded and we didn't have a lot  of spots to choose from.  The area we chose showed 14' of water under us which is great, but as the tide swung around during the day, that 14' went to 4' and we were then sitting on the sand.

Now, this is not a problem for boats.  The sand on the bottom is very soft and the hulls of boats like ours are virtually indestructible.  There was going to be no damage.  The only problem was that, all night long, the boat shifted every so slightly as the waves came and went.  The resulting sound was a little like fingernails on a chalkboard.  It was maddening.  

After a few hours though, the tide came back in and we lifted off the bar.  But, it was a long night.
Surely this would be the last 'un fun' event we were going to have.

Stay tuned..


Monday, April 9, 2012

We made the crossing from the Keys to the Bahamas.  What an adventure!  We prepositioned in Miami as we wanted to make the Gulf Stream crossing and approach to Bimini in daylight conditions.  It was amazing as the water changed from a green blue to a very dark navy blue as we entered the 2500 foot deep Gulf Stream.

Six hours later we could see the small island of Bimini, our first port of call in the Bahamas.  It was nice to be on land again!  We cleared customs there, had a wonderful Bahamian dinner and then hit the sack early in preparation for our pre-dawn departure for the Berry Islands.  It was over 12 hours from Bimini to the Berry's with nothing but water to look at.  But once we got there, the waters were stupendous.  We have never seen so many different colors of blue.

Another Bahamian dinner made with fresh Mahi that we caught and it was off to bed again.  We were off to Nassau the next morning.  Nassau was a great port.  Yes, its a tourist trap but we had a good time.  We are traveling in a flotilla of three main boats with another 8 in tow.  The other eight are good friends of ours and they are one or two days behind us.  Its a lot of fun when we finally catch up.  In Nassau, we were all at the same marina and spent several days there resting and hanging out at the pool.

Soon we were on our way to the Exumas!  Lots of adventures to share but the bandwidth is very limited here and they limit our internet time.  So, I have posted some pictures to give you an idea of what we are seeing.  Will fill you in with the details when we have better access.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In the famous poem Invictus, the last two lines say something like this: 

"I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Great thoughts to live by.     

Unless you are in the Florida Keys around Saint Patrick's day.

I am not sure how the patron saint of Ireland became such a huge influence on a few small islands four thousand miles away from his native homeland, but on March 17th, he grinds everything to a screeching halt.  One thing is for sure, after a few hours of celebrating dear Patty,  I wouldn't want to be the captain of anything.

Anyway, we were lucky enough to have our daughter Stephanie and her friend Jon fly down to visit for a few days.  Steph is on spring break from the University of Cincinnati (congrats!  Dean's List!!!) and Jon was able to sneak away from his new job to join us on the boat.  We didn't know that we would be subjecting them to the perils of St. Patty's day frivolity when we planned the trip but what the heck.  I am sure they have seen worse.

The first evening, Jon and Steph met our friends at Key's Fisheries.  If you are a sushi lover (like they are) its the best I've seen.  Couple that with excellent happy hour prices and you have a recipe for a fun evening.  I think they liked our friends.  Jon and Steph worked the room like political candidates in a tight race.  They didn't sit down the whole night.  As it turns out, Key's Fisheries was but a pale preview for the next evenings festivities.

The next morning, we all went to our favorite beach: Sombrero.  Quite frankly, its one of the best beaches I have ever been to.  Not too big, not too small.  Lots of shade (for me) and unfortunately for the kids, too much sun.  Despite our dire warnings, they got burned.  Badly.  Those one day tanning events never work out well and Jon and Steph would be feeling the pain for some time.  Ah...why youth is wasted on the young......

So that night we met up with our Marathon Madness group for a celebration at Dockside grill.  A favorite place for locals, they have killer food and wonderful drink prices.  We got there at five and the place was packed.  Luckily our 'cruise director' Bob had made arrangements with the ower to set up a table for 25 of us.  It took up almost the whole bar!  But we settled in for some food, fun and great music.

To say the least, a good time was had by all.  Especially our retired school teacher friend Candy.  Erin go Braugh Candy!

Yes, parents can still dance.

The rest of the evening's events must remain classified and have been redacted from this narrative.  But you can ask me about what happened later if you see me ;>) They kids had a good time and at some point in the evening mentioned that "your friends are more fun than ours!"  With that I totally agree.

At some point in the evening, as we were discussing 19th century poetry (LOL), I reflected on those wonderful lines from Invictus.  One should always be the master of his fate.   I thought we were on to a meaningful discussion of this poetic genre when someone yelled "My Captain!  My Captain!"

Apparently he was refering to his Captain Morgan rum, as he drained the last of his cocktail.

For at least one night near the ides of March, its fun to let karma have its way.   


Friday, February 24, 2012

A few years ago, Kim convinced me that our kitchen needed new paint and wallpaper.  It had been a few years since our last cosmetic update and the old stuff was getting tired.  Not being one to farm out any work that I can do myself, I forged ahead with the project.  I mean, how hard could it be to remove the old  paper, prime the old paint and simply replace what you had just taken off?  I was about to find out.

A few months and several 'kitchen units' later (one kitchen unit = five boat units) the project was complete. "What happened?"  I kept asking myself?  How did this seemingly simple project get so far out of control? It turns out, in my naivete, that you cannot simply change colors or remove paper.  Doing so would be like me getting a spray tan.  Looks good for a short time, but underneath, its still the same worn-out old guy.

To do it right and make it all work, its best to start from scratch.  So, as the kitchen project began to evolve, I discovered that paint and paper begat counter tops.  Counter tops begat sinks and fixtures.  Sinks and fixtures begat door hardware.  Door hardware begat cabinets.  Cabinets begat appliances.  Appliances, well they don't begat anything.  They are the top of the food chain.  Anyway, what started out as a simple weekend project for me, turned into a multi-month frenzy of major projects and check writing.  On top of that, I had to go shopping with Kim for door handles and such and I really hate that kind of thing.

So flash forward several years later and I am standing on the bow of our boat looking at the worn out paint.    Still smarting from my kitchen experience several years prior, I was hesitant to dive headfirst into another major 'cosmetic' update.  I mean, the boat didn't look that bad, and after all, its just a boat, right?  But after talking with several other boaters, checking out the internet and generally ignoring every voice screaming in my head "don't do it!", I bought some paint.

This should have been my first clue.  Boat paint is egregiously expensive.  Way over $100/gallon.  Plus, you need special rollers and brushes, lots of thinners and enough blue edging tape to circle the globe.  Still though, I kept telling myself... "its okay... think about how much you are saving by doing it yourself!"

So one fine morning in early January I began the process by removing the first piece of hardware.  Like any good paint job, the work is all in the preparation.  Removing as many impediments to a smooth finish is the key.  The idea is not to paint around (or god forbid... paint over), but rather to paint in a way that there are no edges or brush marks created by impediments to a smooth roller.  Anyway, there is a lot of hardware on the boat.  Removing and cataloging it took several days alone.  Next comes the sanding. Yes, the old wax/dirt/finish needs to come off lest the new paint not adhere to the surface...and its very messy.  Combined with breathing in the acetone and whatever carcinogens were floating in the air, the next few weeks of sanding caused me, I am sure, to lose millions of whatever brain cells I had left.  Next came the taping... and taping... and taping.  Anything that was remotely exposed to my unwieldy brushes and rollers had to be protected.  It was everywhere.  I had some in my hair at one point but I think Kim was afraid to pull it out.  I mean, I need every follicle!

As the days and weeks dragged on, I began to lose my energy and patience with this project.  Hey I am retired!  I didn't sign up for this.  But the end was coming into view and I was happy that I wasn't shopping for corian.   The boat was finally ready for some paint.

Now for as much as this paint costs, you would think it would be easier to work with.  While it will last for years under some extreme conditions, for that kind of money it should go on with less effort.  The key to a great finish is to eliminate any roller/brush marks and any 'bubbles' that come to the surface after application.  The window to do this is very small as this paint sets up VERY fast.  I am talking minutes here.  Even though it looks like milk going on, it handles like peanut butter.  At times, I felt like more the sculptor than the painter.  But after a few hours, I got the hang of it.

The whole job took a little less than two months but we are very happy with the results.  We even have people stopping by with their cameras to take pictures now and then.  One afternoon as Kim and I were admiring the fruits of our labor, Kim asked me about replacing the countertops in the galley.  "How hard could that be?"  she asked.  "You did such a great job on the outside, lets do the inside".   

I wasn't falling for that again.  



Friday, February 10, 2012

I can't lie to you.  We are really liking this retirement gig.  Life in the Florida Keys is very nice.  There is a real community here, a sense of belonging.  Even though the people here are passing through but for a short time, we have grown fond of the many friends we have made and truly believe we will be 'buds' for a long time to come.

I think one of the catalysts that brings people together is the proximity of one boat to the next.  Marinas are tight spots and you cannot help but get to know your neighbor.  As such, you are compelled to get out and meet each other.  Back home, our house sits back in the woods on a little over an acre of ground.  We can go months without seeing one of our neighbors.  Here on the docks, you see everyone almost every day.  And if that is not enough for you, there is a happy hour every afternoon at five where all the boaters gather on the beach, sharing a drink and some stories as the sun goes down.

One of the things we wanted to do this year while in Marathon was to try out a few of the different marinas on the island.  There are many and each has its own flavor.  The first place we tried was called Sombrero Dockside.  Probably in the best location on the water, Sombrero is known for its lively clientel and popular bar and grill.  Each night at the bar there would be live entertainment.  The genres ranged from country to pop with one night reserved for karaoke (ugh!).  Most times, the music was quite good, but sometimes it was just plain bad.  Unfortunately for us, we were two slips removed from the stage which meant we heard every note that was played.  It was if they were playing in our basement.  This is okay if it was only a few nights a week.  At Sombrero, in season, there is music every night.  I don't think we could have made it the whole winter.

Luckily for us, we were able to get a slip at one of the other marinas we were wanting to try out.  Across the road on the bayside of the island sits Banana Bay.  As loud and boisterous as Sombrero was, Banana Bay is quiet and serene.  With a scant 27 slips, Banana Bay is a tight knit community of boaters who value thier privacy.  While there are still the nightly gatherings on the beach for happy hour, the conversations are shorter and pointed more towards banal things like the weather and the tide.   We have made one friend here that we hope visits more often:

This is an eight foot manatee that hangs around the marina, looking for a kind soul to offer her some fresh water.  It is amazing how large and docile these animals are.  She lumbers in every other day or so, hangs around for an hour or so and then is back on her way.  Its fun to watch her as she roll over from her back to her belly as the kids squeal in delight.

So as the days amble by here at "shuffleboard city," we are spending most of our time working on the boat.  (theres a surprise!)  The big project this season is to repaint the 'house'.  The 'house is the part of the boat that is out of the water and not the hull.  It comprises the flybridge and foward decks, along with the dinghy deck.  It has been a lot bigger job than we thought it was going to be.  Maya was looking a little tired in the paint department and I am glad to say that her new coats have made a great difference.

We are gearing up for our big 10 week Bahamas cruise later in the year.  We can't wait for that!  For now though, we are enjoying the weather and all the good friends we have made.  I am going to make it a point to get out in the neighborhood a little more when we get back to Cincinnati.  I wonder what they would think if we had happy hour nightly out on Treeknoll?