Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Viva la company!... and fun with lionfish & lobsters.

Well, Cynthia is gone: my bird has flown north (well, her 2:30 flight is now planning to leave 4.5 hrs late), back to the world of wind and cold and work. Her time here was exceptional..... as usual.

First of all, I sailed to Lindberg Bay and anchored a quarter-mile from the airport, then paddled to shore and met her a few minutes after she had snagged her luggage. Exhausted by the red-eye flight following many hours of work, she swam and cleaned the boat bottom with me, then curled up on the bed and slept for hours and hours, finally waking enough to say she did not want to spend the night there.... so we hoisted the sail and headed east (I keep wanting to say “north” since it is upwind and feels like up...which translates as north in my map-mind). We spent the night at Buck Island, arriving just after darkness had fallen, making catching a mooring trickier than usual.

The next morning we headed out again, going as far as St James Island where, exhausted by fighting the intense winds, smashing through the turbulent waves, and dealing with hot sun and (surprisingly) chilling showers, we caught another mooring in Christmas Cove. We ate lunch (one of these days it might be fun to go over to Pizza PI, a well-known sailboat/carry-out-pizza-restaurant there), then went for a nice snorkel/hunt, finding and killing one lionfish.

Anyway, you get the idea: we worked our way up the islands toward home, cooking and hunting and sailing,
 woke Christmas morning at Haulover, where she gave me a coffee mill and beans,
 then we did an early fishless hunt in Haulover Bay, then a later one in Elk Bay,
she found a den in Elk Bay and shot six fish!
 then sailed to Salt Pond, arriving at the Christmas party in Kiddel Bay a bit late, but in time to enjoy the full moon, food, company, and music. That night we "slept" on a wildly rough mooring in Salt Pond and, at sunrise, got another lionfish hiding under a knob of coral.

On her final day (yesterday? Time flies!), we dove Elk Bay where we found three more lionfish in the same spot and she killed two. She also found a very cool slipper lobster...

Then we sailed to Rams Head where she got another two lionfish that had been reported a week earlier... and found many spiny lobsters.

I've never met a gal who can tire me out in her eagerness for the sort of adventures I love. Now I think I will rest for a day.... then off to hunt lionfish, capture and raise monarch larvae (I found at least twenty today), repair my boat, deal with a fungus gnat infestation on board, and dig away at my todo list.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Butterflies, so many butterflies! Every time I walk over the hill to Brown Bay they burst forth from the foliage. I saw one big black one the locals call a bat moth, but most measure about 2” across the wingspan, about the size of the white cabbage moths (really butterflies) so common in the states. Here, the most numerous species looks almost like those cabbage moths and I'm sure I see a thousand or more on each walk. I also come across a few groups of a half-dozen tiger-stripped species, often mixing with the white ones, but the white ones are the main show: hitting me in the face as I walk, easily caught in a one-hand grab. I don't know what has caused this enormous population explosion, but perhaps it has something to do with the several-month drought that just broke in October.
Found dying on the trail

When I arrived here two years ago, I noticed a species of something that appeared to be a milkweed shrub and, on closer inspection, found a monarch caterpillar upon it. No one else here seems to know about the monarchs and I haven't looked much since until last Friday, when I altered my path to walk past a milkweed. There, hanging from a leaf, was the first monarch chrysalis I have ever seen in the wild. And, nearby, a caterpillar busily ate its way toward its own oblivion and rebirth.

Very cool.

Good night, everyone. I hope that you find wonders in your days.

Contemplating.... leaking boats and beautful sunrises.

So, here I am in my little house on the waves, bobbing about on anchor in Lindberg Bay, waiting for morning and the flight that arrives at 8:30, carrying my gal to visit me. It seems so long since I've seen her and yet it is less than ten days. Hard to believe that just two weeks ago I was bundling up and taking the dogs for sunrise walks on the cold Cape Cod beaches.

I guess the days have been really full, but with what?

Well, I've certainly had my share of tribulations..............

I pulled the ancient and rusted refrigeration unit (yes, it was empty of refrigerant, but filled with rusty water), cleaned underneath it, and managed to find a very slight leak that I quickly exacerbated, finally calling Peter over to help lend an extra hand. I could have done it myself, but a level head and good mind is helpful and I hoped he would provide those. Anyway, it hasn't leaked a drop since, but I really should pull the boat and patch the hull there.... hmmmm..or should I? Alternatives swirl in my mind!

I figured out how to install the masthead lights and, at the same time, run the radio antenna and new wire in the mast wire channel so they don't clang all night... or clang far more gently. Unfortunately, I'll need ot climb the mast at least three times.

I wired up the engine and now can crank it with the key! The bad news is that I then found diesel in the bilges, so had to clean that up well and will need to track down the leak. Oh unmitigated joy!

A large area (18” square?) of the plywood core over the entrance to the aft stateroom seems to be missing, almost certainly decayed. Now I need to track down the source of the water, dry out the core, and fill it with epoxy. No wonder the teak handrail was rotten and loose and the dodger foot rusty and wobbling.

It rained for a couple hours today and water dripped in through multiple screws that punctured the void (see above) and from hatch handles and ancient portlight seals. At least I have seals coming tomorrow!

So many more, but who has time to list all troubles?

Plenty of good stuff, of course.........

Coffee in the morning with my neighbor Peter and occasional visitors: a nice way to start the day: good coffee from a French press, a bit of conversation and contemplation, a nice sunrise, then off to another day.
A few walks to hunt lionfish and exercise and explore. Got four more: confirmed kills are now up to 58, I believe.

Making progress on wiring, engine, etc. Very enjoyable.

My experiments with preventing rust on my stainless steel is working pretty well, although certainly not 100%.

I tested the park service assertion that boats do more damage to moorings if the boats are moored backward. It turns out that with my boat, the stern produces a strong, steady force and the bow swings from side to side, producing far larger momentary forces. I think that means that, for my boat, the park service should prefer mooring it backward!
Stern mooring leaves some slack in line
bow tension pulls bungees until line is straight

I experimented with adding a layer of styrofoam to a cooler. Now it holds a bag of ice for three or four days rather than one! More experimenting to follow...

I found weevils in a bag of oatmeal. “How is this good?” you ask. Well, the weevils are out of the boat rather than spreading to other foods (Yes, I KNOW I probably didn't get them all, but many are gone). And the wild chickens were a delight to watch in their excitement over a pile of oatmeal (“With bugs? Cool!”)

I dumped my composting toilet for the first time! Smelled like peat moss, I'm pleased to say. And I think I'm getting a handle on making it all work even better.

Both water tanks are full, as are four buckets in the cockpit. Showers and laundry!

I have lots of good, meaningful, adventurous repair to perform on my boat. I like doing things that matter!

Last and far from least: my gal is arriving tomorrow!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Neither a borrower nor a lender be?

(written 11/25)
Off to Cape Cod! I do love the cold weather, beaches, lots of dogs, good fresh veggies, and, of course, my gal. I will miss being down here: there are still so many things to do: a teak handrail needs replacing

and so does the micro-cracked gooseneck fitting (connects boom to mast).

I DID just install a second solar panel: 100 watts for about $2.50/watt. The dimensions match my old 75-watt panel, but I have SO MUCH MORE POWER! Now my battery fills nicely even on partly cloudy days and I don't have to be nearly as frugal and cautious. Still, I worry about letting others use the system: I recall getting panels on our camper and my wife turning on EVERY SINGLE light at night, as if she had to use every watt we brought in... I thought the extra power income would allow us to live a comfortable and frugal life without running out or damaging the battery through complete discharge. Ah, the metaphors!

I am often taken aback at how different people take care of things differently: is this why I am uncomfortable about letting others use my boat when I'm away? What makes folks ok with lending their tools, cars, homes? Is it the stability and foolproof nature of the setup? Is it whether or not things are easily replaced? Maybe some examples in my life might lead to some clarity...

I am quite willing to let folks use..
>my kayak and paddles: cheap and tough and generic. Same for my hammer: very hard to screw it up....although they MIGHT lose it.
>sail sewing kit, but would fret about my one and only needle. If I had several, I'd lend one out happily.
>Some tools... although I fret and like to get them back soon.

I am reluctant to let folks use..
>my boat for sailing unless folks show proficiency or leave a replacement deposit: I don't think most folks would handle it competently.
>my power system unless it has automated protection (and it may: I should check.). I think it has too many things to understand for me to expect others to care for it well... and Peter found his battery flat and ruined after encouraging a neighbor to use it while he was away.
>my water supply as it is often hard to replace (I COULD tell them they need to supply their own by catching it with bucket and/or buying it... or that they will need to pay $2/gal replacement costs... or just shut off the tanks so others can not use it). I even wince if someone else wants to wash dishes on the boat as most folks use at least twice the water.
>my composting toilet as it can be hard to turn the composting handle. (I'm still learning how to manage the system)
>my boat, even moored, as I worry that they will let things get moldy and moist by leaving things open when it rains.

I notice that I worry that others will not care for my stuff well, will not look at the aspects as well as I might, will leave me regretting that I lent things to them. I think that I often create systems that require a fairly deep level of care, knowledge, and attention to work well... and other people would likely be sand in the gears. I've always created systems around me that take tinkering and time and I find that it makes me feel more connected to my life support systems, but realize that this is very personalized and not well suited for casual lending.

Could I create far more robust or generic systems, ones that work well for anyone, ones that protect themselves from abuse, ones that work well for ANYONE? Well, there ARE commercial systems that do this, so it IS possible. I'll have to ponder.

Heck, one easy thing to do would be to give folks a quick open-book test on taking care of whatever they want to use. Does anyone else have ideas, other than just nicely saying "No, this is my stuff and I don't trust others to take care of it. Please forgive my little psychological quirk."?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friends and drinks on Jost Van Dyke

A few days after Cynthia left, I needed to get my butt out of the harbor and catch some wind, stir myself to have an adventure. A couple lionfish reported on the south side gave me a good purpose, so at dawn on 11/16 I raised sails, dropped my mooring line, and set off in the light morning breeze. As the boat began to glide away, my neighbor Larry called over that he and Laurie were heading to Jost around ten and I should meet up with them if I liked. I called back that I might just do that and continued on my way.

As the wind increased nicely, I contemplated... and thought of my predilection for turning away from new experiences that make me nervous, especially ones that involve paperwork and people and uncertainty... and I spun the wheel to the north instead of south. I sailed past Privateer Point and Haulover Bay, turned west and headed down-wind to Leinster Bay, then headed north across the international border with the British Virgin Islands, through Sopers Hole and Thatch Island Cut, then headed north across the sound toward Jost Van Dyke and the boats anchored at the nearby beaches of Sandy Cay and Green Cay.

When I reached Green Cay I turned back, heading for home, figuring I would either have a great sail under my belt or would run into Larry and Lauri on Gigi and follow them through customs, learning the ropes by watching. I had just crossed back into US Virgin Islands waters when the familiar colors of Gigi caught my eye, so I sailed over, had a brief shouted conversation, and headed back with them toward Jost.

We caught moorings* at Great Bay, then motored to shore and walked to the police station where we dealt with customs and immigration, paid fees, and got our passports stamped. Then back to Foxy's where we ordered Painkillers (the drinks, not the pills), and visited Foxy and others my companions had not seen since their last visit. I chatted to Rafael, the bartender, about fishing charters and catching dorado (mahi mahi), then we headed back to Gigi where we ate cheese and salad, drank red wine, told stories, and laughed as the stars came out.

The next day we piled into Gigi's dinghy and motored ten minutes along the shore to White Bay and the famous Soggy Dollar.
Lauri and Larry at the Soggy Dollar
I had heard that this bar & grill had been so named because people swam to it and had been under the strong impression that it, like Angels Rest, floated. Wrong! It is a perfectly normal land-based place and tourists sometimes swim from their boats to shore.... although most now pay with perfectly dry currency since they are ferried to shore. Well, this place would have had to be HUGE to deal with the tourists, so building on land works better. And it is far easier to grow shade trees...

We ordered drinks since it was nearly noon (painkillers, again: not as tasty, perhaps because the nutmeg was mixed in rather than left to float on top), then sat down and chatted with each other and strangers. We enjoyed chatting with Frank, Tom, and Mary
(they had been brought over on a nice catamaran that landed them in knee-deep water) and helped with their excess spiced fries. By mid-afternoon we had each had another drink and lunch and we headed home.... and lionfish, the breeze, and the open water called to me irresistibly.

I climbed onto Dorado, thanked Larry and Lauri, raised sails, and set off for Henley Cay, a small island in US islands just off the NW corner of St John. Mild winds tempted me to shake out my reef and gain more sail, but the impressive shower heading my way stayed my hand. It brought some decent winds and a little rain, but most hit Great Bay and I reached Henley at sunset, dark clouds and occasional distant lightning making things far darker than normal. Still.... the reported lionfish awaited, so I jumped in and hunted... without success... until darkness and the vertigo and nausea from a non-equalized ear drove me from the water.

After a long night, a beautiful dawn greeted me.

I entered the water again and swam to the reported spot.... and there was the 14" lion, lord of all he surveyed, choosing breakfast! One minute later, after a slow stalk and a meaty "THUNK", I placed him on my kayak.
 Ramgoat Cay tempted me from a couple hundred yards away, so I paddled over and swam around that, finding another large (12.5") lionfish and bringing it aboard. Most satisfactory! I dropped the mooring and headed for Coral Bay with fairly light winds. It took nine hours of mostly tacking (I did a lot of reading, sewing (new zipper),
 and listening to podcasts), but sunset saw Dorado back on its mooring.

Adventure, water, sailing, simplicity, learning, friends, laughter.... these are good.

*We could have anchored and saved $30 each, but the private mooring field for transients took up all the desirable anchorage area and offered security and simplicity. Next time I may scout the sandy shoals along shore and anchor there, in perhaps six feet of water.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lionfish with my lass!

OK, the chainplate has been replaced with one I ordered from Texas. Unfortunately, shipping went a bit wonky and it did not arrive before Cynthia did. In the meantime, I used my cracked one with a home-made reinforcing plate. According to Murphy's Law, one will experience extraordinarily rough conditions when least prepared... and this is when Tropical Storm Kate came through. Fortunately, we were mostly at mooring.... and I'm pretty darned sure the patch would have held even in a knock-down.

So... Cynthia arrived, completely worn out by work and trip preparations and the trip itself, so I brought her to the boat, gave her dinner, and showed her the bed. I've been informed that an essential ingredient to her visiting me here is decent sleep, so the bed has three inches of firm foam topped with two of soft. Pretty darned comfortable for me and I'm glad she seconds the opinion.... although it still took her four days to recover.

In the meantime, we sailed and hunted lions! First to Hansen Bay, where we snorkeled at mid-day and saw nothing. We continued to Leinster Bay, mooring by Waterlemon Cay, and took an evening dive and saw one of the four lionfish I had seen a few days before. In the morning, we paddled far upwind, then snorkeled back... and managed to kill an even dozen, including the three we could not find the night before! We fed two back to the lobsters and brought the other ten back for photos....
Checked stomach contents...
Then chopped up the remains and consigned them to the briny deep...

Then off to Henley Cay, a small island just off the north-west of St John, where a lionfish had been reported a few days before. We moored for the night nearby and then sailed ten minutes to get into the water at dawn there at dawn... and there was the lionfish... and another. And nearby were two more! After considerable searching, we found a fifth and called the hunt complete. The two big fish were the two largest we caught on the trip.
And had had not had time to get much breakfast before we interrupted them:

Well, we continued this way for the rest of her visit, snorkeling an average of two to three hours each dawn, often in places that no one else visited. Once we found a big underwater boulder with six lionfish around it.... as well as a tiny little baby drum. We left the drum undisturbed and with a much improved life expectancy. Our total for the trip was thirty confirmed kills, so we figure that should save the lives of hundreds of little reef fish each week.

My lass brought down an inexpensive underwater camera so we could identify fish. She spent hours upon hours taking photos of reef fish, especially at Salt Pond and in the Hurricane Hole mangroves (I spent part of that time fixing the sail and installing the new chainplate. Finally!).

Cynthia shot pics of so many interesting fish and other creatures and by the end of the trip our heads were spinning from all the new names and instead of thinking "hmm...another fish" we would think "nice french grunt... and there's a blue-striped grunt!...and a dog snapper! And what the heck is THAT?" Fun, but all that work of recruiting new brain cells tired me out!

We returned to my mooring on 11/11 to find Peter's dinghy had overturned when Kate blew through, dumping contents and outboard onto the seabed. NOT good. We flipped it over and bailed it out and gave him a call. One of the mitigations of the joy of boat living is that your house can sink.

On the 12th, we woke at 4am and caught the 5am bus to Cruz Bay where she caught the 6am ferry to St Thomas and the airport and home. I took the bus back home and the bus driver passed out nice sweet ripe star fruit: tasty!

Since she left, I've met some interesting folks and one fellow, Carl, told me about sea hares at the dinghy dock. These are huge and drab sea slugs, quite rare around here but, for some reason, mating in heaps by the dock. The eggs look like spaghetti and the slugs look like compost that breaths. Pretty darned cool! Here is a mating pile....

 I miss the gal and look forward to Cape Cod 11/25! Cynthia met some dog rescue folks at the airport and we may act as volunteer transportation winging them north to new homes, but details are yet unknown. And, of course, I look forward to having her down here again

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Back in the heat: fishing with Peter

Back home on Dorado, my sweet tiny floating home! I leave chilly, windy Cape Cod and emerge from JetBlue four hours later to warm & muggy, mild breeze. Low tourist season, so there are no taxis willing to take me on the last leg from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay... and no bus since it is Saturday. After 1.5 hrs of sweating profusely I finally hitch a ride.

My kayak was missing... borrowed... but Peter motored me out and we retrieved it. Both paddles were gone: one stolen and the other borrowed... and sunk. *grumble*. Well, I had a canoe paddle aboard Dorado, so got by until I bought myself new paddles a few days later. No worries.

We had lightning flashing in distant clouds most days and, even better, at night. Beautiful! None of it has passed over us, but plenty within five miles. Beautiful to see the thunderheads lighting up internally at night.

I took a walk over the mountain to Brown Bay to hunt lionfish.... and got ten! Another couple may have died from wounds, but the spear was too dulled by hitting the bottom to fully pierce them. Two days later I returned for the remaining fish and killed three of four (could not find the fourth). I love hunting lionfish: useful and applauded work that helps preserve the health of the reefs! And a very good reason to spend time in the water.

I found a very odd thing in the water being fed upon by a conch and several 3.5" gastropods. It looked like a pile of cream colored knitting, but on close examination is likely a cluster of eggs, probably already hatched. Each is about half the size of a watermelon seed. I placed some in my velcro pocket to bring home, but found it empty when I walked onto shore an hour later: the sample probably floated out when I stowed a cork marker for the lionfish.

Peter invited me over to fish when the last of his mahi mahi got spoiled. He pulled up the largest snapper he had caught on his mooring.... then I pulled in a black tip shark (which we released)... and then a tarpon that leaped twice and shook the hook from its mouth. A fillet of the snapper made a delicious dinner for us an hour later and I cooked the head for a large lunch for myself the next day.

I found upon inspection that one of the chainplates on the aft stays has a hairline crack.
 And when I used it as a pry bar the hairline crack opened up more:
It probably would have broken within the next couple years (even before I carelessly cracked it a bit), so I've ordered new ones. I could have gone to St Thomas and gotten some decent replacements at the cost of $80 each and several hours (or made my own for $80 total), but can get far better ones made up in the states for $110 each and delivered to me. Still a bit tempting to DIY as I like working metal, but the new ones should arrive in a week.

Some new bedding arrived, but is a bit too firm, so have ordered a softer topper. Without good sleep life sucks, so it is worth the time, effort, and $ to get it right! At least the blackout curtains around my cockpit keep the shore lights off me at night so I can watch the beautiful starry night sky when heat makes the cabin uncomfortable.

I climbed the mast yesterday (again) to remove some old rusting steel parts on a spreader and pull a cable that often tangles the sail and seems useless. I scraped bushels of oyster shells from the bottom of the boat. Hatches are leaking as are deck fittings. One LED strip died from moisture condensation or leakage. I AM going to finally tackle the engine, but first need to get the instrument panel fixed and install a coolant overflow tank. My list is endless! Get a sailboat and you will never have nothing to do!

Well, I suppose I will get started.... or take a brief nap and THEN get started.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Wrapping up in Cape Cod, preparing to head south.

The boats are out of the water: Andrew's Hobie on his trailer, the Rhodes 19 on Cynthia's spare one.

This was the first time that I removed the boats from the water without the help of the primary owner or a pro, but Cynthia and I did just fine and found it very satisfying... then found a deep puddle to drive through to rinse her car.

So much to do this winter on both boats: replace a connection point high on the mast of the Hobie, a long list of broken or stuck or loose bits on the Rhodes. Frankly, I am looking forward to working on both of them, but don't have the time now. I'll wait until after Thanksgiving when I am back here.

Yesterday we finished wrapping the Rhodes, bought 12lbs of cranberries at a roadside stand, then walked in the dunes near Provincetown and picked another 4.5lbs of wild cranberries! They look a bit smaller than the commercial berries, but a bit riper/darker. Can you spot the difference?
 The dogs delighted in the open dunes, sniffed the bogs in fascination, then competed with us to see if they could eat cranberries from the plants faster than we could pick them: no signs of indigestion so far.

The winds are strong, the skies changed from clear to thunderous in an hour this morning, the leaves are changing color, the mercury has been dropping for weeks so now seldom gets over 65degF... and will get down below 50degF today: fall is here. We waded waist deep a few days ago, important bits eventually and happily becoming numb in the cold cold water, but the few littlenecks we found taste wonderful.

I look forward to warm water, hunting lionfish, sailing in my little home, seeing Cynthia there soon. I already miss my gal and her pups.... as well as fast internet, unlimited inexpensive water, good fresh food, and shellfish.

PS: I wrote the above yesterday, before packing and seining for silversides... and accidentally putting on Cynthia's outfit. Well, these things will happen: at least she found mine old one quite comfortable as well, as you can see:

Now I'm sitting at the JetBlue gate, missing my gal & looking over pictures of our last adventures.... like sailing with Deb and Heather and the pups.

We collected a great quantity of delicious hard apples under a couple trees and Cynthia made them into wonderful apple sauce and hopes apple butter turns out as well. We shall see. I love having the tart tasty spicy sauce (better than commercial!) with no added sugar or the high fructose corn syrup so inescapable in commercial sauces.

 And we took a sunset walk recently with the dogs. They love the cool weather, although they are both learning to use the cool ocean when they get overheated in the summer.

 Ah, good memories! I look forward to creating many more.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Final Maine blog post: sailing in Penobscot Bay!

My folks have loved sailing this bay for over a half century, although they haven't gone sailing here for a decade or so, so when they invited us to join them in a 3-hour cruise on Bufflehead, we jumped at the chance.

This addition to our plans meant we needed to leave Lubec early, in the gray dawn twilight, in order to get to Rockland for the 10:30am charter. We had mostly packed the night before and, with only a little interpersonal flaring, managed to get onto the road and heading south-west, coffee in hand. The drive went uneventfully, other than my losing my google map while trying to get phone service (it turns out that AT&T does not serve Rockland), but used Cynthia's Verizon phone to get us the final quarter-mile. We dropped my folks at the dock, parked the cars, and ran to the boat with no time left on the clock.

No worries! Daniel, the captain, made us feel welcome and relaxed and navigated us out of the industrial harbor with a running commentary than encompassed history, fishing, news, etc. It covered the wooden one-off sailboat we sailed, the lobstermen who worked for harvest or tourists, the cement plant on shore, and people he had met on his boat.

Since his assistant, his 7-year-old daughter, had to stay ashore that day, I got to help raise sails, handle lines, and man the tiller. I loved the simplicity and authenticity of the old wood boat, even to the use of wood blocks with bronze sheaves and securing lines to a board with pegs rather than to cleats. I loved the simplicity and learning ways that one can build more things on a boat rather than needing to depend on manufactured items.

So, we sailed out of the harbor under blue skies, Bufflehead moved beautifully and easily, and the cold water tempered the fall heat to make us comfortable. We sailed out to the traditional first-night anchorage my folk's always used on their charters, said hello to the lighthouse there on the point, and headed back, sipping coffee and enjoying leftover wild blueberry pie Daniel's wife had cooked.

Very, very nice.