Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Playing a new game: "hit the buoy"

Last time that Cynthia departed, we both hitched a ride from Coral Bay to the ferry at Cruz Bay and had a great chat with Danielle, a NYC escapee enjoying the low-key and friendly island life. We all hit it off and Cynthia (a truly wonderful gal!) encouraged her to go sailing with me. So, she has been out sailing once, working to learn better how to handle a boat with competence.... and a bit surprised that I have NO working engine.

Her good friend came to visit, bringing her boys, 6 and 9, and she wondered if I could take them out.


I like kids, being one myself, but.... had heard that these kids might not be outdoorsy, critter-seeking, clam digging sorts... and wondered if they would be bored.... especially since the winds were forecast to be under 10 knots. And nothing can ruin a day like unhappy, bored, seasick kids. They had not learned to snorkel and probably would get sick if we went out into the serious waves... and steering a big boat, admittedly, can be frustrating and boring, often at the same time. What to do?

Ideaphoria struck: we could go to the barrier reef/beach at Johnson Bay, a short sail in fairly smooth water. They could feed (or at least find) hermit crabs. Maybe we could find interesting flotsam there, like a big bundle of rope. And, even better: I've been looking for a good way to improve my mooring skills, so had pulled out a spare mooring pick-up buoy, figuring I could toss it out in the open water and practice with no other boats around. The kids might find mooring practice tedious, but what boy would not like to run over things? How about a game of "Hit the buoy"?

Well, the kids seemed to enjoy the sail and the new game with hardly any "motion discomfort", the gals got a chance to have some fun snorkeling briefly at Johnson Bay, Dash brought home a half coconut shell (I found the coconut under the palm the day before) to use as a cup, we all visited the hermit crabs,

Dash made a booby on a buoy very nervous as we returned to the harbor,

and I carried the youngest, Henry, on my shoulders as we went to dinner afterward.

A good day. Put enough of these together and one has a good life....

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Finishing up my drawers

Before I met Cynthia, I made all the parts for new drawers on Dorado (link), then brought them (with her help) back to Boston and checked them as baggage. Almost all the drawers were finished in the next couple weeks... except for the one drawer I use as much as all the others together, the silverware drawer. That one has been sitting, partially assembled, waiting for me to mate the face of the old drawer with the increasingly battered and stained new body.

Finally, with a fresh gallon of epoxy on board, I've been finishing up some projects. Here is the old drawer and new body,

a rotten corner from a long gone leak, 

and the shiny, new, slightly larger drawer. (Yes, that IS epoxy poured into the bottom of the drawer, so should be very tough and long-lasting).

There IS a certain satisfaction in carpentry, in a job well done.

And there is history: I cut this wood on an ancient cast-iron table saw that my dad used to make kitchen cabinets in our house in Glendale, OH; the same saw I used to make a centrifugal honey extractor that I spun with a egg-beater drill, the same saw Kenneth used to make a wonderful rowboat in our basement.

Well, that's all for this post. Next will be one about some friends I took out sailing yesterday to play "hit the buoy!"...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A fight to the death and a tasty brunch.

I've been doing a lot of diving in the last few days, since I ran away from home. Ran away? Well, sailed: I found I could not bear being on my mooring in the crowded Coral Bay harbor any more, so raised sail and moved to Johnson Bay for the night. The next morning I dropped that mooring as soon as I could see and headed for Rams Head, catching a mooring as the sun rose,
 then slipped into the water to seek lionfish.

Well, I found NO lionfish, but came across a large, hungry spiny lobster. I extended a hand and it eagerly moved toward the fresh meat, so I withdrew to get my thick dive glove from the kayak above me, took several deep breaths, then dove back down to engage.

The lobster moved to my hand, clasping it firmly between its two strong, spiny antennae.... but seemed quite taken aback when I grabbed one of them. It snapped its tail furiously to escape and the antenna broke like a brittle old branch. I grabbed the other, trying to grasp closer to the head, but things repeated. I reached in after it and it flicked its tail and shot off like a crayfish... and I pursued. After about three minutes of hide and seek, I pinned and secured it. It grasped my hand and arm tightly with its remaining legs and I brought it to the kayak and back to the sailboat... and invited it to brunch. Tasty, but very different from our Cape Cod lobsters. I have some ideas for experiments that may improve the taste.

These lobsters are really beautiful. I love the coloring of the underside of the body, and especially under the tail.

After breakfast, I sailed into Salt Pond and caught a mooring. The Bay and beach were so crowded with swimmers, snorkelers, and beach folks that I almost set out again, but decided to relax.... and, after about ten minutes, heard “lionfish” in an excited conversation between snorkelers. Interest perked, I snagged my gear, headed over, and managed to get the wily little devil. Happiness! At sunset, I sailed back to Johnson Bay.

This morning, I set out again, this time for Hansen Bay. I dived on the deep reef, sometimes finding the surface a surprising distance above me... up and up and up and up! I spotted one lionfish so deep that I could not hold my breath long enough to stalk it: probably near 40' deep. Still, I came home with three more lions... and felt completely tired and ready to nap. Another good morning!

Now I'm back on my mooring in Coral Bay. Tomorrow I will probably go hiking and hunting at Brown Bay, maybe even start from Haulover and make it a nice 3-mile swim! Right now, I am well fed and completely ready to sleep. Goodnight, all!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Taking a bite out of invading lionfish. Sailing adventures with new friends.

Cynthia remains in the winter cold and darkness in Cape Cod, but says the warm blanket of insulation in the attic makes a big difference: she used to have an effective thickness of about 2" of insulation and now has 16". Still, she looks forward to coming down here in March. I look forward to it, too... and look forward to heading north with her a couple weeks later.

A report in January placed seven lionfish at the deep reef between Hansen Bay and Haulover, so I sailed over at gray dawn, dropped anchor, and entered the water at sunrise. Nine spotted, eight speared shot, seven recovered. I also found the remains of a remote control drone.

The thing I found really interesting is that one of the lionfish had a clean bite out of its tail: I guess an eel or shark took a bite. I am very glad to know that predators are learning to recognize them as food and hope that this holds their numbers down eventually, allowing them to become a part of a healthy ecosystem rather than the current situation. 

In the meantime, Diane, a friend of hers is visiting the islands with her fellow, Steve, and I took them out sailing and snorkeling.... and then again two days later. We sailed from the mooring to Water Creek where we found an octopus too far from its den. In defense, the octopus clasped a rock and changed color to instantly become nearly invisible. I had to actually touch it to show it to Diane and Steve. I've never seen anything like it... but had left Cynthia's camera on Dorado. Sorry! We also caught a mooring in Salt Pond and enjoyed that, although the waves lately have been pretty rough and sloshed us about and diminished water clarity. A final snorkel took us from Otter Creek (where we found many large thorny starfish) to Princess Creek where we found a large live conch and a nice Nassau grouper, an endangered species that we like to report on a tracking website.

Diane and Steve also helped me re-set the speedometer through-hull that sprang a leak. I figured that I COULD do it alone.... and only let ten gallons of water into the boat.... but we three did it in under an hour with under a pint of water! Very nice, considering that we replaced a 2" fitting 3' below the water line! Nope, didn't take photos of that, either!

When Cynthia last departed, we caught a ride to Cruz Bay with Danielle, a gal who has traded a life of business in NYC for contemplative work maintaining a local property. Cynthia encouraged her to go out sailing with me and, when she returns, with us. We sailed to Salt Pond (where I repaired a park mooring), to Booby Rock (where we snorkeled and got sloshed about in the waves), and to Water Creek (where I showed her the feather duster worms(link) that, I'm sure, were the models for some of the jungle creatures in Avatar. And she really enjoyed rapidly gaining competence and confidence sailing.

Once I dropped her at the dinghy dock, I could not resist stopping by and chatting with my next-door neighbor Zack as he tested his new hammock strung high above his deck. He invited me aboard his old and ragged boat and I had to admire the fact that he focused on things like an excellent fridge and stove and mattress rather than on a glossy paint job. Good priorities!

Thoreau lived in a tiny house on Walden Pond and, rather than spending his time making money to build or support a big lifestyle, spent his time and money socializing with friends. So many folks I know are lonely, partly because they are too darned busy supporting their lifestyle and partly because our large houses allow us to live inside in isolated comfort, enjoying warmth and Netflix and TV. Part of the attraction of the whole tiny house movement is to make a house that pushes one out to visit with others, to sit in the yard, to go to a coffee shop. Making friends, sharing ideas and plans, enjoying serendipitous encounters: this adds to aliveness.

One thing I love (and love to share) is sunrise sails... and very few folks are ready to rise and shine before the sun does. Perhaps I am cheating since I live right here on my boat and need walk only about fifty feet to set sail. Still, this morning I did yoga and then waited a bit longer for enough light to see moorings, then sailed out of the harbor using cleats instead of winches for the jib so as not to disturb sleepers aboard boats as I tacked past them. By the time I cleared the mooring field, the sun neared the horizon. I caught a mooring in Johnson Bay, ground my coffee in the hand mill, and brewed up a batch as the first electrons started to trickle from my solar panels. Nice way to start a day. Can't wait to have Cynthia back to share it with me.