Saturday, January 30, 2010

Delays, delays, delays ...

We were going to leave Daytona Beach on Wednesday the 27th, but I had to have a crown put on a broken tooth, which would not be ready until as late as the 29th.  Since we had this delay, I decided to have spinnaker, an old symmetrical one that came off Spindrift, re-cut a little to use as a cruising chute on Alizee.  Our sail maker friend, Rob Mundell at True North Sails, agreed it would work just fine as a light air chute, so through him I ordered an ATN sock and tacker, which were to have arrived on the 28th.  By this time we'd agreed that we would leave Daytona on Sunday or Monday at the latest, depending on how rainy and/or cold either day was.

On the 29th, Rob was to come over and help us set up the spinnaker and prime Pen for handling the foredeck duties when we deploy and douse the chute.  Then Rob called around 10:00 and told us the ATN order had not arrived.  It seemed lost in FedEx land, but he should have it late that afternoon and he'd get over with it then or before the weekend was gone.  If it isn't one thing, it's another!

Now, Saturday morning, I just spoke with Rob and he very dejectedly told me that the ATN order had arrived late yesterday, but the sock was 10 feet too long.  He'd already gotten things underway to get a new order sent up, but it wouldn't arrive until Tuesday.  What would we want to do?

We go off "live-aboard" status on Monday, but I suppose we'll be within the rules of the marina if we stay for a couple of more days.  We hate to wait too long, but the forecast is for rain showers on Monday and Tuesday, and it will clear up a bit as the week goes on.  So, it looks as though we may not get out until the 3rd.  I, for one, will be very glad to get going! 

Friday, January 29, 2010

January in Halifax Harbor ...

For the most part, it's been cold, sometimes rainy, and lately, thank God, warming.  So cold, however, that we watched the freezing waters kill hundreds upon hundreds of fish - tropical fish, needle fish, mullets (by the scores), snook and other game fish.  One of our neighbors took advantage of the early part of the freeze to harvest some snook which were freezing but not yet quite dead.  This was a good thing for him, since he's a carpenter and been out of work for most of the month.  But the sight of dead fish floating around the marina was really disheartening.

I'd hoped to get a lot of work done on the boat, particularly re-doing the exterior varnish, but the weather has just not cooperated.  So I've done a few little things in preparation for our leaving for the Keys the end of the month.  I got the dinghy down to run the engine and check it out, hooked up our new Honda generator and made sure it ran and charged the batteries, cleaned water strainers here and there, and defrosted the refrigerator/freezer.  I also bought some lines, deck hardware (snap shackles and such) and a spare 3.0 gpm fresh water pump, all of which I found at the local Marine Surplus store - prices always way below West Marine, often by 50%.  But most of our time has been spent indulging ourselves Netflix movies in the evenings and reading good books.

We particularly enjoyed Gail Collins, When Everything ChangedIt's a wonderfully written account of the feminist movement in America, and we highly recommend it even though her conclusion seems a bit tame.  Pen took the time to write her about it, which was a fun thing to do.  Another writer we both love is Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love, which we'd both read a year or more ago).  Pen read Stern Men, a solid novel about lobster fishermen in Maine, and we both read The Last American Man, which is the true story of Eustice Conway, who from the time he was 17 years old has lived life as though he were "Davy fucking Crockett."  It was really a fascinating book, and Gilbert is such a fine writer that we were both riveted by it.  Pen also discovered Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, her sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, and we both think it is well worth the read.  These, along with some novels by David Baldacci and Lee Childs, both great mystery/adventure writers, have occupied many hours.

We've done lots of good cooking and eating as well, and in the evenings when one of us is preparing dinner, the other reads aloud a bit of Julie Child's memoir My Life in France, while we each enjoy a cocktailIt is a perfect accompaniment to meal preparation, and we're about half way through it.  And, I think our cooking is becoming more creative and the results more scrumptious.  Who knew that drying mushrooms first and then cooking them in oil over a high heat and not crowding them would lead to the most delicious ones ever.  Do this for every dish you have in which you'll add mushrooms ... the results are wonderful.

Speaking of food, the past week has seen a lot of time devoted to going through our ship's stores and making up or provisioning list.  On Tuesday, we finished off purchasing all the canned and dried goods, most of the liquor and wine, along with condiments and household stuff.  Yesterday we purchased meats which we vacuum packed and have frozen in the freezer at Pen's house (Erin still lets us drop by once and a while).  Today we visited the Mandala Bookstore, owned by Pen's dear friend Victor Newman, who kindly gave us a big discount on our purchases.  Sadly, he is selling the business and in four months when we return it may not be there at all.  What a loss for Daytona Beach.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Internet connection and some thoughts on living at the slip ...

Now, if you're a cruiser, you know this shit.  You get one of Engenius's little EUB-362 EXT High-Power Long Range Wireless G USB Adapter.  This is what I did a couple of years ago.  It worked in Annapolis, Maryland, sort of in Alameda, California, and a bit along the ICW down through North Carolina.  Yet, all the while, I usually had to take out a subscription for a day, week or longer to hook into a site from the boat.

Now that might be just fine with you.  It was for me, for a while, but when I got to the Abacos in the Bahamas, I discovered that the only provider with which I could subscribe had just decided to upgrade all their tranmission sites, and the EUB-362 was obsolete.  

Don't you just love fucking technology?!?!  Obsolete!  Damn, spit!!  I sucked it up and bought the "new" Engenius ethernet wifi external antenna product, the Engenius 3220!  It seemed the ideal set-up, so I spent an inordinate amount of money (but, what the hell, everybody knows that boat owners have more money than God!) and let this lovely little internet provider in Marsh Harbor provide me with the unit.  I suppose I should have been a bit suspect when the "technical" guru of the business Out Island Information ( had a tough time figuring out how to hook it up on a Windows Vista OS.  I gave him a break ... Vista is for shit anyway, so why not.  And, what the hell, it worked ... until my hard disc crashed and I lost the set up information.

Now, I don't pretend to know much IT stuff.  I have a hard time following the instructions provided by even the most literate of the technical writers (not many of them out there, I fear), but trying to restore this Engenius set-up when I got my hard disc fixed up was not even close to the simplicity of restoring all the other programs and stuff I'd lost.  I fussed with it, had multiple conversations with Engenius techs, and the most I discovered was that 1) the 3220 was fucking obsolete and had been mothballed by the company, and 2) the techs who tried to tell me what to do didn't speak English ... or at least any version I'd ever heard.
So, what the hell.  Another $500 down the proverbial hole.  I've got more money than God, don't I?  I must!  I own a fucking boat!  On a boat ... I'm on a motherfucking boat!  (Are you young enough to catch that?)

Okay, assuming I haven't put you off with any of Henry Miller's nasty language (how dated is that, or am I just dating myself?), I decided to check out yet another system.  My buddy G.W., who just sailed over to the Bahamas, mentioned his new internet antenna was spot on, so I asked him what it was and decided, even though he is a rabid libertarian (which in this world means Republican), and it would be another couple of hundred, I can live with the opposite political view and it might just be worth a try. 

I ordered it, it arrived five days later (California to Florida), I got a rail mount for it, and lo-and-behold, it is actually working brilliantly in this god-forsaken slip in Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona Beach.  I am writing this and being very, very connected (in an internet sort of way) at this very moment.

So let me suggest: Radio Labs wifi antenna!  It is, for the moment, the most user-friendly, the easiest and perhaps the best wifi connection solution out there.  (If you read this down at Radio Labs, please credit my card with a nice rebate!)  I believe their boast of 5-6 mile pick up under the most arduous conditions is spot on.  Of course, the way the damned technology changes, it may be outdated in a year, but this is it for now, my sailing friends. 

*    *    *
Cruising is the good thing.  Living at the slip can be a bit strenuous ... well, perhaps trying is the better word.  We've been at the slip in Daytona Beach for almost a month.  We went through a bit of a transition from land life, and then we settled in.  Yet, even after settling in, the space becomes a bit tight after a while.  During the "snowy" period (yes, this is central Florida), we hardly wanted to leave the boat.

Gradually, as the temperatures rose, we slipped out into the cockpit or undertook an adventure to the shore for groceries, a movie, a meal with friends.Then the warm weather appeared.  Ah ha!  We actually have gotten out a bit.  Picking up a few things here and there at the local marine shops ... cleaning materials for fiberglass and stainless, new preventer lines for the mainsail, and any other number of little things.

Unfortunately, a night ago, at a wonderful dinner of chicken wings and a myriad of other Chinese dishes, one of my molars snapped into several pieces.  Thankfully, Pen has a good dentist, I got in to see her right away and, now with a temporary crown, I'll soon have a permanent one ... it only delays our departure by about four or five days, so thankfully "slip life" will soon be over.  At the same time, it gives just enough time for the cruising chute to be finalized for the trip ... thank you Spindrift for donating one of those unused spinnakers.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Shore leave is over ...

We definitely got used to being ashore.  Since moving aboard Alizee on January 3rd, we've felt almost a bit claustrophobic.  The first two days we headed out to the movies in the afternoon, and then, as we decided we really needed to settle in and get back to the boat-life routine, the Espar diesel heater quit on us.

I know what you're thinking: it's Florida, for God sake!  But this is the Florida of global warming.  A five day cold snap that is now in its seventh day (if I'm counting right), with night time temperatures in the high 20s and daytime barely above 50.  We hustled off to Deland and picked up an ancient little ceramic heater called "The Furnace" and it was enough to take the chill off for two days while I tracked down the fuses for the Espar heater.  I already had a fellow coming over to the boat to test my batteries and check out my Link 20 monitor system, and this turned out propitious, for the heater fuse needed a new fuse junction box, which he had and installed for me.  One nice side effect of my hunting for the fuse was that I checked all the other fuses around the battery and it turned out that the Link 20 was malfunctioning simply because one of the fuses was not set properly.

The cold made us both feel rather ambivalent about living aboard.  Pen is generally ambivalent about the sailboat.  She does love it when we're at anchor in the islands or on lovely, fair weather sails between anchorages, and she's even enjoyed a couple of our off-shore transits.  But she's a land-based gal and really enjoys that comfort.  I am, of course, not ambivalent about the sailboat, but I really don't like living aboard in a marina.  I think my preference would be 2-3 months cruising in the islands, then back on land for a while and so forth.  We may have to work on this to get it right.  Perhaps leaving the boat in the Bahamas or the Caribbean and going back and forth.  We shall see how it plays out after the cruise we are going to start in three weeks.

At any rate, we've managed to settle in, I think.  We watch Netflix movies at night, are getting some reading done, and have done some little things to make the boat a bit better.  A second spice rack added to one I put up in September makes storing our spices a snap.  A nice little teak knife and utensil rack in the galley makes easy storage with quick access to cooking and eating utensils we use all the time.  Small wall brackets to snap the flashlight in have stopped its rattling about and made it very handy, and a nice teak magazine rack in the aft cabin has added storage.  A second net hammock for storing foodstuff seems to work well and adds a lot of handy storage space.  And, I've replaced all but a couple of the interior lights with LEDs (both white and red), which will make our power consumption off shore and at anchor much better.  They are a bit dimmer than the regular 12v bulbs, but they'll work just fine.  And when we are on shore power, I can easily switch out the bayonet style LEDs in the interior reading amps with the brighter 12v bulb.

Three weeks and we'll head down the ICW to Miami, where I hope we can take in a couple of days at the "strictly sail" boat show.  Then we're on our way to the Keys and finally the Bahamas.   Meantime, we've got some inventorying to do, food and household supplies to stock up on, and a couple of spare parts to acquire.  What we really want, however, is warmer weather!  Seeing the blog posts from our friend G.W., who is now in the Abacos, is making us wish we could leave right now.