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