Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 15, 2014: 1) scavengers?, 2) my seatmate (cute!), 3) cute blue eyes...and tentacles, 4) nice sunset!

Before I left the islands, I took my bag of trash to the dumpster and grabbed the opportunity to shoot these scavengers:

I forgot to mention the wonderful creature who sat beside me on the flight from St Thomas to Miami, a creature who immediately captured my heart and made me smile. I can't recall the name, but the experience....Fun!

Walking on the Mill Pond beach at a very low tide, I saw water arc into the air and had to investigate. In a puddle left by the minus tide I saw a little scallop, perhaps an inch across. I brought it up and put it in a glass dish so we could observe it for ten minutes, then returned it to the water. I had never realized they had tentacles.

Beautiful sunsets here, although the cloud formations (and, therefore, the sunsets) are very different. I'm pretty pleased with the new camera I bought a few months back.

Well, so far, so good. I've found friends, adventures, clams, and lots of sand bars..... but am still looking for the answers to life's persistent questions. I'll let you know when I find them....if only I can write them down before I'm distracted...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 7, 2014: back on Cape Cod with Hurricane Arthur, oysters DIDN'T die in polar vortex, my Tiny House meetup

I first met Arthur on my morning hurricane watch on, I think, June 28th. Merely a low pressure area moving south off South Carolina and Georgia, it showed a good chance of growing. I still had not begun preparing for my trip from Coral Bay to Chatham, but as time passed and my trip became imminent, the system strengthened, tightened, and turned north near Miami.

This reminder encouraged me to dive along my mooring and examine the chain, line, and anchor (an old engine block, I think). I added another anchor (45 lbs) and 40' of chain (maybe 100lbs) and a bit of hope and prayer (weightless). Sails are all stowed below, various leaks are caulked or sealed with epoxy, caulk, or gel coat, and the various hatches are closed. 

The flight was pretty uneventful.....if you ignore the minor catastrophe of setting up all my plans and coming to the airport a day early for the ticket I bought. Still, although I missed the last bus (11:15) and had to sit in the airport until the first AM bus (6:15), I survived. Andrew and Kathy picked me up in Barnstable and drove me back to the hot humid Cape on Thursday morning. I slept most of the rest of the day.

On Friday, Arthur came to town. The morning dawned foggy and warm with lots of sun shining through, but the forecast said 98% chance of rain by 2pm. We went for a walk on South Beach, News vans lined the bluff at the lighthouse, hurricane warning flags flapping gently above them. Andrew, Kathy, and I walked to the south break, then took photos of us with the flags in the background. 2PM came and went with not a drop of rain, but the radar showed the mass to our south and moving closer.

We went to the traditional 4th party at my uncle Bob's place....and the rain began. The grill was moved around to the lee of the house, just inside the open garage, rather than remaining in the usual spot where rising wind and increasing rain would have made things, well......problematic.... Ok, impossible!

Anyway, the party went off darned well considering the hurricane. Yes, the fireworks were delayed until the 5th, but we enjoyed the excellent company of family and friends, ate large amts of wonderful foods, and I, for one, found an incredible wave of gratitude come over me for the extraordinary blessings we often take for granted. In many ways it felt more like Thanksgiving than the 4th.

And watching the bay whip up into a wild frenzy was AWESOME!

The next day, Kathy wanted to swim and I thought that sounded crazy enough to be fun, so we donned wetsuits and swam in the waves and whitecaps of the Mill Pond. I tired and decided to poke about and look at oysters while Kathy swam further. It turned out that the oysters still survive in abundance, despite my fears that the polar vortex would kill the exposed oysters. Very nice!

So, Arthur brought us excitement and only minor damage.

Still darned windy yesterday and today, but Kathy, Andrew, and I launched the Hobie yesterday and went for two sails, one with Mollie and Kerry. Pretty wet, windy, and a few issues in setting up; but the sails were fast, wild, and fun.

A bit over a year back I created a Tiny House meetup group in the Sonoma/Napa area. Of course, shortly after that I bought my boat and moved, but folks have gradually been joining (up to 51 members today!) and one of the members has set up the first meetup! And Jay Shafer, the father of the tiny house movement, is going to the meetup! Whether or not I ever get there, I love that I have had a hand in creating this group that could make a difference to each other....and that supports people moving toward simpler living.

PS: Andrew and Kathy took all these pics. I haven't touched my camera since leaving Dorado.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 1, 2014: Leaving my boat and heading to Cape Cod

Tomorrow at 1:30ish I fly out of St Thomas and head due north, although there is a bit of a jog to land in NYC. I made my last sail this morning, pulled off my sails, pulled up my chain and found it worn (should have done this before!). I spent a couple hours using heavy chain making sure the mooring is fairly solid for the high winds that occur this time of year. I believe my mooring is an old engine block with a ring welded or bolted to it, but it is mostly buried and hard to see. Will cross fingers.....and, perhaps, when I return I will put in a much better mooring using chain and anchors.
Mixed feelings: eager to see friends and family on Cape Cod and to enjoy the wonderful foraging there, but not at all happy about leaving my tiny house, my sailing home. Well, life is a game of choices and we can either enjoy the upsides of the choices we make or fret about what we  do not choose, but still want. Heck, one COULD enjoy looking at all the wonderful things one could have with each of the different choices  and relish the wealth of opportunity...
In a favorite Pratchett book the main character's little brother screams inconsolably if there are too many sweets as he knows he can never encompass them all. I would prefer to think I am not like that..

So, what do I appreciate? Wonderful wind, opportunities to sail,
sargassum seaweed,
 and random beauty like the pattern of lentils, peas, and rice in my pan. I measured these into a cup, then upended it into the pan, then did a double-take and reached for my camera...

Well, this is me in Coral Bay, signing off!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

June 28, 2014: garbage collection, sunrise through Sahara dust...

Here I am, sitting in the boat as it tosses about, my normally sheltered spot on Flanagan Island made rough by the strong easterly wind. The sun sets, the birds shriek on their nesting rock, wind whistles in the rigging, and I am far from sure my anchor will hold or that I will want to eat much. (The photo is the rookery...on a much more peaceful day)

I really really wanted to try something a bit out of my comfort zone: sleeping out here in this lonely spot. I also wanted to test my wifi booster to see if I could reach any unlocked hotspots from out here. I am. And, obviously, the answer is "yes". (PS: wifi worked well enough to write most of this, but not enough to actually send it with photos.)

So....what has happened lately? I took a sail into the open and forgot to stow my paddle aboard, so it slipped off the kayak when I wasn't watching. Very, very irritating. I can still get around using the canoe paddle aboard Dorado, but it works poorly.

First step was to scan the shores (the next day) for the paddle (or another) with binoculars while sailing along. No joy, although I did sail as far as Salt Pond where I snorkeled into a school of about 100 baby squid about 2" long. Very cute. Also had a great chat with the sailors of a boy scout (I think) boat and admired the numerous conchs crawling about the seafloor.

Thinking that it might have washed ashore on a barrier reef, I decided to take a walk. I had visited this reef before and marveled at the amt of plastic garbage that has washed ashore. I walked the reef from end to end, about a quarter mile and saw no sign of a paddle, then turned around, pulled the garbage bag from my pocket, and started filling it with lines, nets, bottles, and other flotsam. I even found a comfortable floating bed and a nice foam seat that I kept for myself. I'll need to visit that reef again: perhaps I'll find other good stuff, but I can certainly fill another ten bags and I like improving even a little corner of the world.

This morning I went to the kayak rental fellow to try to buy(I MUST be desperate!) one, but he does not sell them, needing them to replace broken, he mentioned, the one that got broken just a couple days prior. My ears perked up: I asked if I could have it to try to repair. We took a look at it and he sold it to me for $10...and I can use it just fine, although I don't like it as well as the old one.

More Sahara dust has come and the sun rose like a disk through the haze. Not the nicest thing, but I'm told that the dust keeps the hurricanes away. Speaking of which, historical records show that we average one per year and about 90% come in August and September. I hope for none, of course, far preferring that the moist air dissipate energy through a bunch of little thunderstorms rather than a big, destructive, spinning monster.

Anything else? Well, my neighbor Peter wants to sell his Downeaster 45. Nice nice boat to live aboard if one is looking for a house (in one spot I can almost stretch my arms without touching ceiling! And there are three bedrooms and two baths!). Needs lots of work, but is liveable now and could be fully ready to sail and motor with another $10k. Asking $22k... but would go a lot lower.

That's all for now. Later!

Monday, July 21, 2014

June 22, 2014: legal issues, refinishing, first new island landfall

One of the things that has bothered me, one of the things I keep putting off, is getting my boat registered. Why do I put it off? Well, in order to register it I need to go all the way across St John, take a ferry to St Thomas, take a bus to the airport at the far side of THAT island, then walk the final mile the buses do not run (no competition for the powerful taxi drivers), then climb to the second floor of the airport to get to the Department of Permits and Resources. Then I need to deal with the bureaucrats who can, should they choose, make one's life miserable. And, so, I've been putting it off, hoping I could do it when catching or completing a flight.
Still, now that I am sailing and have put some more funds and effort into the boat.....and would like to consider longer sails....I decided the time has come. So I left one morning at a few minutes after 7:00 and got home before 1pm, my bank balance reduced (but not nearly as badly as I had feared) and my boat legal for the first time in nearly a decade! Then I spent the rest of the day on the web, filling out paperwork and getting it in the mail to complete the Coast Guard portion of my registration. Now I need to wait for a month or two to see if THAT comes through or if they want more $ or different forms. I wish there were someone to see or call, but when I dropped into the Coast Guard station on my way back from registering the boat they told me you can only do it through the mail. Alas...but such is life and these are very unimportant problems in the scheme of things.
Now I just need to put temporary numbers on the bow of the boat until I get my coast guard numbers....or should I bother? Or, perhaps, I can hang out my shingle with the boat numbers on it, then remove it when the CG stuff comes through...

I've been finally getting to work on refinishing the boat, sanding away the nastiness and refinishing with a single coat of a WestSystems epoxy finish created for the purpose. I've started in the V-berth so that my errors in learning will be in a less visible area, but so far am pretty darned pleased. I'm eager to see how the louvered door I'm planning to work on today comes out.


I've anchored at my first off-island anchorage: a little cove on Flanagan Island, about five miles from my mooring and less than a mile off St John. Beautiful and quiet little spot, although the second time I went there, planning to have it to myself for the day, some neighbors of mine from Coral Bay and NYC motored up, dropped anchor in fifteen feet of water, and went diving for lobsters around the north end of the island. I love it here: a school of 150 or so blue angelfish(?) sweep across the healthy coral, diving down to nibble voraciously on the algae that tends to smother the coral. A moray eel slides into a tiny crevice and disappears. Many species of corals, even some nice staghorn corals, rise from rocks or the sandy bottom. Very nice.

My anchor spot is northeast of this a hundred feet or so, much closer to the center of the sand:,-64.6513143,337m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0

And speaking of critters, I saw two turtles today on the east side of Coral Bay while swimming before breakfast. I had just climbed the mast twice (I don't want to talk about it) and needed to cool off. I found the first turtle, about 2' to 2.5' long (shell length) and backed off a bit so he would go back to grazing. I watched for a few minutes, then realized that his hind right flipper was....not. I don't know if a fish or bird got it when he was little or if a driftnet, fishing line, or shark took it when he was older, but it had a completely healed stub and he seemed to cope just fine. After a while he rose to the surface, took two breaths, and swam back down to continue grazing and I left to continue my exercise.
In another hundred feet or so I came across a much smaller turtle, perhaps 10" or 12" long, watched him for a minute, then continued on my way.
Well, that's all for now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

June 12, 2014: making progress

I drank too much yesterday and felt it today. I think my safe limit of St John mixed drinks is two: they sure pour them strong! I can't think of anything else that would leave me feeling so beaten-up today: I hardly accomplished anything other than repairing the kayak shackle, replacing the lens on one of the hatches, fixing a winch, taking down a kerosene lantern I really don't need (I only use it for hitting my head), cleaning some of the incipient mold off ceiling surfaces, and whipping some lines for the Lazer fleet.

Yesterday, though, I climbed the mast three times (only about 20' up) to replace the four lower shrouds. I had ordered new lifeline cables and six stays from a place just off the Cape and they made them to order and had them here in five days! I'm really impressed with that and am delighted to have replaced all the rigging that had broken strands waiting to cut me or fail disastrously. And those new stainless steel assemblies are just plain pretty and look like SO much better workmanship than the old.

I've also recently done some refinishing, replaced the macerator pump and ancient tubing for my waste system (nasty work!), replaced some leaky port-lights (windows),

taken lots of great sails to new and interesting places,

 learned more about the abilities and limits of my boat, been startled by a big barracuda watching me from ten feet away, sledded my kayak down a cobble beach and into the water,

 sailed while I waited for sunrise,

 and foraged for winged oysters.

Very satisfying....

but still missing something.

Friday, July 18, 2014

June 2, 2014: back in the heat and humidity...

Well, I'm back in Coral Bay and, much to my dismay, Comedy Central has blocked Colbert from streaming here. Grumble....but there are worse things than that mosquito bite. And, should I really need my fix, I can always find a file sharing site.

Also, the air is not nearly as clear as it used to be in fall/winter. According to Alan, this is because of Sahara dust, something that also diminishes hurricanes (I'm not sure I believe this). I DO know it diminishes sunsets (not a single good one yet) and starry skies, but they still beat most places in the 48 states.
 So many people are leaving, going to Montana or Alaska or other cold winter places. There are exceptions: many stay and Heather, the gal at Connections (Post office, etc), is off to Thailand for six months....or more.

Still, it is quite nice here. The sun has set and I am quite comfortable in shorts and no shirt. The trick during the warmest bits of the day is to swim until chilly (this can take a while), then sail or sleep...or soak a shirt with water and relax in the shade with a good book or some online shopping. I particularly enjoy sailing at the edges of the day, when the sun is just below or above the horizon and not so intense.
I've found bivalve shellfish shaped like mittens(atlantic winged oysters) and am wondering if any shellfish here are toxic. I've heard that toxicity is associated with luminescence and saw wonderfully glowing water near Vi's Beach a couple nights ago..... once, 4 hrs of sailing every day, lots of snorkeling, 3 drinks and lots of laughs in 3.5 days. Not too bad, even with a Pandora's Box of items on my to-do list. Tomorrow I get to mess with my waste tank!!! Not fun, but I am REALLY looking forward to putting that on my "done list".

Well, goodnight, y'all!

March 24, 2014: OK, I'm officially nuts!

Well, here I am, back in CA. In some ways it is nice to be back, but lots of physical symptoms are back: tinitis, tiredness, headaches, uncontrollable blinking. On the bright side, this narrows down the cause to stress and to local environmental factors (probably pollens and molds), so I am pleased.

So, on to the insanity bit....I went and looked at another boat yesterday and must admit that I am tempted. It is a Westsail 32 (something I've wanted to see for some time) and has wonderful headroom. The interior is similar in size to the Catalina 34, but lacks the aft stateroom (of course, I use that stateroom mostly for storage anyway...). The interior is in much better shape than mine. The exterior is in worse shape cosmetically, but better shape structurally.

The boat is $30k, “fairly firm”. Needs LOTS of exterior deck work on teak and gel coat. On the other hand, the boat is probably good for another twenty years or more and would take me confidently any damn place I'd want to go.

So, what does it have going for it? Good rigging, sails, hull, wiring, & engine. Far safer and more stable than the C34. Interior wood is in good shape. Easy to remove head liner, add 3/4” of foam insulation, and replace head liner for a BIG improvement in comfort.

Strikes against it?
Deck is rather ugly & could use lots of cosmetic work.
Has a far darker and slightly smaller interior than the C34.
Lots more teak(ie "work") than C34.
Old, small winches (single speed, not-self-tailing).
Small cockpit and lack of berths not really suitable for many companions.
Needs toilet (head is empty right now).
Is located on west coast (and I've been REALLY enjoying St John)
Mast is painted and will require continued maintenance.
Owner smokes and I do not know what it will take to make it less offensive (although I don't mind so far and figure scent will disappear in time.).

I figure the good rigging is worth $3k to me, the good sails another $3k, the functional lights and wiring and engine another $5k, the solid hull and nice rudder and anchor lockers is $10...or $15k. The small cockpit and tighter space and no aft stateroom and poor-condition decks are about -5 or 10k. I would not be able to sail this one into the Atlantic easily, something that might be worth $5k or so to me. So, the net is that it is worth about $25k to me.

On the other hand, the price of this boat is decent and I would love to sail it away and it would make a nice home. And it would be quite easy to sell later in the year. And it is the boat I was looking for last year before I found the Dorado.

I DID get a big kick out of the fact that he had seen the ad for and was impressed by the bargain price on the self-steering mechanism I bought.

I tend to think that I should buy it, ship the self-steering from St Thomas to here, sell the other boat after fiddling with it some more (or not), and......then what? Sail to Mexico and south? Go around the horn? Go up to Cape etc? I just don't know.....and am SO enjoying the Caribbean. I just don't know what to do next.
On the other hand, the boat is named Wanderer and I have very much enjoyed having the Wanderers in my life.....
Hmm......I tend to think I should wait... but am enjoying the temptation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

March 11 2014: Another good day

Here is an odd factoid: the US Virgin Islands do not observe daylight savings time. Not too surprising, I suppose, given that the days really do not seasonally change in length here. One odd effect, though, is that I may be 4 hrs away from California one day and 3 hrs the next. Very strange to live in a place that is not in a constant temporal relationship to the other places with which I interact. I realize that most of the world does not have daylight savings time, but I don't often deal with those places.

Random observation: being below the top of the food chain does odd things to one. So does operating in a 3-d environment. I find that I am MUCH happier snorkeling with companions, partly to share wonderful sights and discoveries and partly for what I assume is a need to have more eyes for danger...from various directions. Either way, when I moored off Johnson Bay yesterday morning and plopped into the water, I felt very pleased to have company.

I looked down 25 or 30 feet to the short grass covering the flat bottom until it disappeared into the misty water. We swam as a loose school toward the shore, where the grass gave way to sand and then to coral heads and reefs. Small fish hid in crevices or stayed close to shelter and food. Tube worms folded their fans and retreated in a blink when questing fingers or careless swim fins came to close. A 2' fish* with odd mottling, random electric blue lines, a long snout.....and a mouth on TOP of the snout nibbled at a branching soft sessile creature. And a large spiny lobster hid in a cave within the coral. And, on the long swim back to the boat, we spotted a 10.25" conch and a gal swam down and brought it up for admiration and a good photo shoot.

Still a hundred feet from the boat, I spotted a heavy chain snaking through the grassy meadow below from dimness to dimness....and followed it a way toward the boat. It changed to 1.25" nylon line and continued, joined by two others, converging on Dorado: the amt of hardware involved in this mooring really reminds me that this is a harsh place, with really nasty hurricanes and lesser storms fairly frequently July through November. Hmmmmm...

I've been loving being upon my boat. So many people consider it to be a huge effort to raise sails and lower them again. I, on the other hand, am used to taking out a small boat and raising and lowering sail at least a couple times in a day...and I've transferred this to Dorado. The corrosion is wearing off and the mainsail slides run up the mast more easily each time it raises and lowers. I love popping over to one spot to snorkel, another to swim, another to hit a wifi hotspot or cook dinner or visit friends. Sure, it takes a bit of doing and is a good deal of exercise, but I am in the honeymoon phase of sailing my new boat and all the efforts seem delights.

*found it: