Friday, April 18, 2014

 

Marathon and Pat

Pat, the Patio Tomato Boat Plant
Meet our first boat plant! It's PAT the Plant. Since we'll be cruising on the intercoastal waterway where there aren't (supposed to be) big waves, we think (as in Terry really wanted it and Jonesy rolled his eyes and acquiesced) we can manage a plant onboard in the cockpit. This is a "Patio" tomato plant, thus the name Pat. Why did we pick up a tomato plant and not something prettier? Well, we've been paying about $1.25 for each tomato down here in the keys and they don't even taste very good. Pat was $2 so if we get 2 tomatoes we'll be ahead and happy. Yes, Pat will get a bigger home pot when we use up the coffee in the plastic Folgers container. I love to stick my fingers in the soil around Pat's roots and am excited to be "gardening" again. Jonesy will love the tomatoes in his salads, tacos and sandwiches too.

After a glorious month experiencing Key West it was time to move north if we are to get out of Florida before hurricanes threaten. That, plus our insurance agreement makes us have to be above 31 degrees lattitude which is into Georgia by the 1st of July. We left behind a new friend who is on a motorhoming adventure with his young family. Sometimes, but rather rarely, we meet folks who are simply on the same wavelength as us and are instant friends. We wish safe travels to Karl and family!

Jonesy in Crowded Boot Key Harbor
With just a short daytime motorsail we arrived in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon (The central Florida keys). This place is crowded with boats - as in hundreds of boats in slips, moored, and anchored. There were no moorings currently available for larger boats like ours and a long waiting list, so we've anchored. Unfortunately, there are a lot of anchored boats too - and many of them have put out TWO anchors so they don't swing in the wind like we do on our one anchor.

When the wind came up (as in 40 knots) during a recent weather front we got perilously close to another

boat and had to pull up anchor and find another place to go. Not fun at all in the wind, waves, tight quarters and shoals/shallows everywhere! I had a potty mouth about the whole thing (been watching "Dexter" shows and we've been joking about one of the character's swearing so that word just came out at a stressful time). Then, we had to re-anchor yet again the next day as we discovered that where we had landed during the high-drama was too shallow. Thankfully, one of the boats near us left (nice folks by the way) which gave us the room we needed to re-anchor AND put out a second anchor.

So, now we don't swing as much anymore. All it takes is one neightboring boat to set out a second bow anchor (or a stern anchor) to screw up the coordination of an anchorage. It forces everyone else to follow suit or else leave. I'm not sure I much like neighbors, but I'd better get used to it as that's how it's going to be for us over the next few years.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign...
We're getting adjusted to all the rules and regulations of living in the USA. For so many years we have depended on our own sense about what we should and shouldn't do. Now, we have in-our-faces signs telling us what to do. Ugh. Maybe it's just the Marathon City Marina that has so many rather unfriendly signs.
Brown socks in "Hug Me" pattern

The redeeming factor of the Marathon City Marina is that it has wonderful facilities for boaters. There are plenty of dinghy docks, wifi, laundry, showers, and a large community area for gathering together. We've already had a package delivered directly here (new walking shoes for me!) which made life so much easier for us. Now I have some needlework supplies on their way (tatting shuttle and needle).

Of course there has been a lot of sock knitting lately. A request for brown and grey socks for one of the teenagers at the orphanages in Kazakhstan went out and I volunteered. No, I didn't have the right colors onboard, but I did have a "sock blank" and dyes so I created my own hand-dyed yarn. Yes, the result was a muddy set of brown tones but that was my goal. I added some sturdy grey yarn for the cast on- heel and toes. Voila! Big boy socks.

Preknit sock "blank" dyed in browns
What? Another request for socks for a graduating teen in Kazakhstan? OK! I even had some yarns in the requested colors and they were so cheerful; spring green, white and pink. After working with the mud tones it was such a joy to work with some bright colors again.

How should I knit these socks? I started with a picot hemmed cuff, then a touch of stranded color work, and just like the last socks for a teen in Kaz, I'm working a touch of lace - this time a rosebud lace as an insert on the sides. Next up is more stranded colorwork. Here's a photo of the progress up into the lace on the leg.
Sveta Socks


We just bought our set of over-sized paper charts for the next couple of months of travel ($125! Yikes, that's a lot of yarn) and have started poring over them. Planning the day hops from harbor to harbor is a big part of the fun of cruising. Plus it's so gratifying to actually get to go where you have seen only on paper. Of course, Jonesy always "Google Maps" (that's a new verb) our future destinations to get a good idea of the lay of the land and sea, but actually being someplace new is what this cruising life is all about. We even get a kick out of the ugly places just because they give us a lot to talk about with each other. Life is good.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

 

Socks Underway

Sunrise approach to Key West
Socks, socks and more socks have been knit in the last few weeks. First, there was plenty of time to play with the double-pointed needles while we were underway from Honduras to the USA. It was too rough to do much else except sit down, clip on to the boat, and knit. But also, as we got farther north it actually got a little chilly out in the wind at dawn! Perfect conditions for playing with wool!

We went digging around in our cubby holes on the boat and found some old clothes that haven't been worn in a very long time. Proof? Here's a photo of me at the helm maneuvering through the ship channel on approach to Key West (yes we had to hand-steer that last leg) wearing a LONG-SLEEVED t-shirt! Yowza! And not only that - it was layered over another cotton tank top!

I'm still working on my "Knit 52 pairs of socks in 52 weeks" challenge so all these combined factors meant that several (as in 7) pairs have been completed since I last shared my progress.

Self patterning + white
Now, you might think I'm a little optimistic to think that I can knit that many (104) single socks in a year, but if you consider that these socks can be any size then perhaps you'll consider it feasible too. I may be nuts to try, but I'm not stupid. Many of the socks I've been knitting are in child sizes because they are not only needed at the orphanages in Kazakhstan, but they require far fewer stitches, thus hours to make.

Most of the yarns in this last batch come from the past donations from my fellow knitting retreat campers. I get a kick out of trying to combine the leftover yarns to make something that a kid wouldn't mind wearing.
Two tonal yarns combined

These first brightly colored socks were knit in one 24-hour period! I actually wore off the skin on one of my knitting fingers working these while underway at the helm.  It was a little challenge-within-a-challenge just to see if I could do it. No, my finger tip has yet to heal as I'm still in a knitting frenzy. The first solution was to use band-aids on that finger so that I could still knit.
But band-aids don't last long - I keep getting them wet as I wash my hands so often on this salty boat-house.

Finger sleeve
What to do? I tried to use a plastic & leather thimble for quilters but it was too thick and made knitting difficult. I even tried changing my knitting technique to not use that sore finger. It worked, but the knitting was slow and I got cramps in my fingers.

Glitter blue + white
Leather. That was the solution. I happen to have some scraps of leather onboard (what? of course I do, I'm a crafter) and so I made my own little finger protection. I cut a little strip of leather about 1/2" wide by a little less than 2" long. I punched a hole in each end and threaded an elastic cord thru them. A couple of knots tied in the ends and voila! a finger protection sleeve.

What I didn't do is share all of this with Jonesy, so when he found my finger protection loose in the dinghy he quickly tossed it overboard thinking it was some form of nasty organic trash. I sadly watched it float off. OK. Make another one. So I did.
Anyway, here's a photo of my newest knitting tool. By using this I was (and still am) able to continue on my knitting adventures.

5x1 Ribbed Socks
I'll just add the photos below of the finished socks. Although no patterns were used (other than what is in my head), I did write up a little pattern for the green socks with the wide ribbing for the Holiday Mystery Gifts group members. After completing our "Learn to Knit Socks Knitalong" some of the more adventurous knitters are yearning to add some stitch patterns to their socks. There are a couple of tricks that need to happen to properly line up the stitches for a visually attractive sock so I decided to start writing up some of these easier-to-knit patterns.

Big socks w/leftover solids
I like to show how the ribbing pulls in the fabric of the sock making it look way too skinny. But when the sock is worn, or put on a sock blocker, then you can see how it really looks and feels.
Cuff pocket socks

These pink/white/purple socks are a kinda wild combination of leftover self-patterning yarns with a little twist...there is a secret pock in the double cuff. The buttons are functional, not just decorative. Into this cuff you can slip a little treasure. I put a small coin from one of the countries that we've visited in the cuff as a surprise for the kid who selects these next winter.

Once these socks are knit and all the loose yarn tails are carefully woven in (using the duplicate stitch technique), they are washed, blocked, dried, measured, labeled with the foot size, recorded in the database of the Mittens for Akkol organization, photographed and finally put away in a special cubby.
Living on a sailboat does present a problem when it comes time to find a space to dry socks. My favorite solution is to simply hang them over the hand-hold rails on the ceiling in our salon. Heck, these are mounted so high that neither Jonesy or I can comfortably use them anyway so the socks are out of the way. The open hatch provides some breeze to help with the drying, and I get to admire all the pretties as I dream up other ways to use up the sock yarns on the boat.

Life is good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

Key West, Florida

Gibson Bight Key West Mooring Field
We've been so, so busy these past 3 weeks while tied to a mooring ball in Key West, Florida. Eat, sleep, knit, fix my hammock, sleep some more. This is one of the views from the hammock on the bow - if you look closely at the skyline you can see a cruise ship which is how a lot of the folks we see in the old part of town get here. There is at least one, and up to 4 cruise ships here each day.

But life hasn't always been so leisurely since our arrival. Oh no, not at all. We had a gaggle of official activities, chores, shopping, and urgent repairs that occupied our first couple of weeks.

After having both the boat and our bodies out of the country, we had to comply with the Homeland Security requirements and announce our entrance into the country. We had already applied for our "decal" by supplying all of our boat's and our personal information several months ago. Now we just had to telephone them and announce
Toes in the coral sand, Key West, FL
our arrival. Easy. Wait...we just got here from Central America and our cell phone won't work in the USA. So no phone. No problem! Buy a throwaway phone.

Walk, walk, walk, to the Publix grocery store to buy a phone. It was a lot farther than we thought, but being the good citizens that we are, we were on a mission to get a phone so we could do our official duties. After wandering around the store like 2 kids in a candy shop ogling all the amazing foods available with the drop of a few dollars, we bought our $15 no-tricks cell phone. Great! Oh wait. To get your new phone working you have to CALL an 800 number and enter the secret code.

But we don't have a phone to make the call! Easy - find a pay phone. Whoops. You should have seen the blank stare I got from a young gal when I asked where a "pay phone" could be found. Oh yes, the infamous deer-in-the-headlights look. Nope. No such thing as pay phones here anymore. If she hadn't
Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West, FL
been busy I would have entertained her with stories about putting a few coins in a slot and being able to talk to somebody without the burden of a 145-year service contract that takes possession of your first-born if you change service providers. But I digress.

We walked a little farther and borrowed a desk phone at the Verizon store while we arranged for wifi internet service. Yippeee! Then we hoofed it back to the boat to make the call (because that's where the telephone number was of course).

Our clearance into the USA next required a personal visit to the Customs/Immigration office at the airport in Key West. We were expecting this as this boat has never checked into the country before. Also, by this time we were much smarter and had found the bus system. Because we're seniors (I want you to know that I'm barely a senior) we can buy weekly passes for $3.75!
Jonesy rides the bus

Now, we consider the public bus to be our personal tour bus. It has big windows, A/C, and goes really slow through all parts of town. It takes a long time to get anywhere, but all we have is time. Our meeting with the officials at the airport went so smoothly! We are US citizens, not criminals, and the boat is US registered and we knew not to bring in any fruits & vegetables and we never went to Cuba. Yes, we were asked, and it was nice to be able to tell the truth about that!

Next up - we had to register our dinghy with the department of motor vehicles. So, we have a dinghy that we bought, used, in Guatemala that has never been registered or titled by a government. We knew that it would be tough, but armed with a Bill of Sale from the seller and a photo of the remnants of the VIN number on the transom, and Jonesy's internet sleuthing to figure out the manufacturer code, we got our title! It only took 2 trips to the DMV - by bus - with two 2-hour
Proud owners of Florida Plates
waits before our turn once we were there but the staff was friendly and made it happen. With the 1/2 hour dinghy rides to the docks each way, the wait for the bus, the bus rides, the waits at the DMV, the waits for a return bus this took TWO WHOLE DAYS!

Then we spent a day hiking around town to find the plastic plates, a different store for the stick-on letters and numbers. Back at the boat we installed grommets in our Sunbrella dinghy "chaps" (covers) and tied line through the holes. Voila! We got plates! Now we won't have to hide from the Coast Guard as we buzz around in our now-legal dinghy!

Jonesy also has had some rather unpleasant repairs - to both heads (the potty kind). It took him a lot of climbing into dark, smelly places and working with sewer hoses. After many hours and trips to the marine stores we now have two fully functioning heads and holding tanks. Holding tanks are mandatory here and we get pumped out by the sewage boat every week. Eeeeew.
Laundry and groceries at the dock

Our two sons flew into Miami for the Sebring 12-hour auto race. They invited Jonesy to come up and join them at the races so off he went on the Greyhound bus leaving me alone on the boat for a couple of days. I knit. They had a wild and wonderful time. After their race weekend, they all drove down the keys and our boys spent a few hours with us - took us out to dinner and we talked, and talked. Guess what? We were all so happy to see each other and blab that nobody took a picture of the four of us together. Well, we have our memories.

I can knit on canon balls, I can knit most anywhere.
To sum it up...there was a lot of work to complete after first arriving in the USA, but now we are done so we are having a great time in Key West! There's HOT WATER in the washing machines at the dinghy dock for cruisers, we don't need insect repellent, and the weather has been delightfully cool (in the 70's and 80's with low humidity - that's "cool" to us). I've finished many pairs of socks which I'll share next blog.

Life is good.

Friday, March 14, 2014

 

LAND HO!

Landing in the Dry Tortugas, FL
We made it! We're in the good ole US of A.

Our passage from Roatan Island, Honduras to land fall in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida took 97 hours of non-stop sailing and motor-sailing. We sailed past Belize, Mexico, and Cuba without stopping on some stiff winds and strong favorable currents from the Gulf Stream. This was our first experience traveling in the Gulf Stream current and in the Gulf of Mexico. Wow! We moved FAST. I saw 8.9 knots at one point.

The first 2 whole days and nights were pure sailing, but not of the relaxing type. Instead it was a wild ride. We had to close all the ports to keep sea spray from coming inside. We were dry though up in the cockpit in our hard dodger and new plastic enclosure. It was more than a ride, it was physically exhausting because we had to keep our bodies steady against the onslaught. This took a lot of work by those core body muscles that we rarely use. We picked a weather window with good wind at first so we could start out by sailing (save fuel) so all of this was expected. The final days we expected
the winds to drop down, which they did. So we finished the trip by motor-sailing.

My hands and soles of my feet were tender from gripping the hand rails so tightly while being knocked around and bracing my feet on the damp wood floor. Kinda like the beginning of the school year in elementary school and you overdo it on the monkey bars the first few days. My life jacket, which was always worn and tethered to the boat, rubbed my neck raw from the constant motion.

Whoa! The USA is certainly the land of the plenty. Plenty of buoys and channel markers that is. We were surprised not only at the quantity but also at how clearly colored (red and green) and different shapes (triangles for red and squares for green) so we could identify which color it was even with the bright morning sun in our eyes! Idiot proof! Within the first hour of arriving we witnessed the US Coast Guard installing freshly painted neon green markers on top of the buoys which were even more visible. That takes some monetary funding. We are used to looking for bamboo sticks in the mud and faded children's play balls or empty motor oil jugs being used for markers which is what we've seen for the last 7 1/2 years in Latin American waters.

Rounding the corner of the fort we came to the anchorage and saw the US National Park research vessel FORT JEFFERSON at the dock. Shiny as a new whistle – no rust! Now that costs a bundle! Soon the sea planes began arriving with visitors – and then the sparkling white ferry! Overhead, military jets performed aerobatic maneuvers for our viewing pleasure and we heard our first sonic boom in almost a decade! Yep. USA – the land of the plenty.
Goliath Grouper - almost as big as our dinghy!

So, below is a photo of us out in the anchorage (we're one of the boats with a mast) of Fort Jefferson National Park on the Dry Tortugas. What a great spot to stop and rest and explore! That big ship is the ferry that brings visitors over from Key West a couple of hours away.

The water was beautiful. When we finally lowered the dinghy we were visited by this GIANT fish - actually it is a Goliath Grouper and was about 5 to 6 feet long! Nope, I don't think I'll go swimming after all (and yes, we found out later that they do bite).

There were at least 4 of these monsters in the water. Why? Well, because they are protected here so they could grow to these sizes, but also because the local fishermen come into this harbor during windy conditions. As they filet their catch they toss the carcasses to these big guys. The groupers have learned to come in and take advantage of the easy access to food. Once the fishermen left, so did these big groupers.

The local pelicans were quick to notice that there were fishy handouts available and soon there was a flock hanging out in the water near the little fishing boats. Magnificent Frigate birds also tried to horn in on the feast - they are known thieves and are very agressive. Fights ensured and there was a lot of flapping of wings and squawking.

The feeding frenzy attracted the attention of the folks on several of the sailboats who also joined in the event. Here's a photo of our new best friend fileting some yellow tail snapper for us fresh from the sea. Yummy!

Greedy Pelicans
Thankfully, the Sooty Terns didn't join in the frenzy as they were way too busy with mating and nesting season over on Bird Key. From our boat we could see a constant "cloud" of hovering birds over the low scrub brush on the little island. Because this spit of land (it used to be a separate island, but storms have moved the sands to connect it to the fort) is protected during nesting season we didn't go close. But I did manage to get a photo of it from the top of Fort Jefferson.

Sooty Tern Bird Nesting Preserve
So we toured the fort and hung out in the anchorage for a couple of days to rest up for our last leg of the passage to Key West where we are now.

I'll leave you with a few photos of the sights from Fort Jefferson. Scroll on down.....
Jonesy at Fort Jefferson


Thursday, February 20, 2014

 

HARD TO SAY GOOD-BYE

Charlie, Terry, Saundra, and Jonesy
It's that time again. Time to say "Good-bye" to our cruising friends as we all go our separate ways. Yes, we've been doing this hello-goodbye thing for 8 years, but it never gets any easier.

Here's a photo of us with our cruising buddies Charlie and Saundra on s/v Island Sol at Temporary Cal's restaurant deck on the island of Roatan, Honduras. We first met these new cruisers in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala last summer. Well, that is met them face-to-face. Saundra and I had been corresponding via email for quite some time before that after finding each other on the Sailors forum of Ravelry.com. Saundra has been my crafty/fiber buddy and I'll miss her company dearly. S/v Island Sol has many more cruising adventures to experience, but in the opposite compass direction than the one we're taking. We did change our plans for these past few months to return to Roatan rather than head up to Mexico just so we could hang out more with these folks - and we're glad we did.
The infamous Derelict Dock

Last Friday, we tossed off the lines to the docks at the Roatan Yacht Club and motored over to West End. This move not only puts us 2 hours closer to our next destination but it also puts is smack dab in what we consider to be the primo location on Roatan! What's not to love about beautiful reefs to explore, cool breezes, fun bohemian village of dive resorts, and beaches to walk. We're BACK! We loved our times here in previous years, but there was some political nonsense and cruisers were turned away from the moorings.

Thankfully, there is a new mayor in town and the Roatan Marine Park is standing by ready to re-install the mooring buoys (pending legal paperwork)! We have picked up a private mooring because we know those folks have left the country - but there are also many sailboats anchored out here - like 15! That's a sufficient number for a traditional "Derelict Dock Party".

Over the years, we have gathered here on what used to be a nice, but never used, dock for a real estate development (that never developed except for the dock). At 5pm, we set up folding tables and all bring finger foods to share and our own beverages. Here we can chat without loud music and enjoy the last
couple of hours of the day and watch the sun set. Although the dock has continued to decay due to neglect, there is still enough square footage and strength left to support our event. Last night we had a couple dozen cruisers come share food, swap stories and celebrate the end of another glorious day in paradise.

Monster Socks
And it certainly has been glorious! I took a scuba diving refresher course and then went out for a dive on the reef. Lovely. Then I had to do my diving chores - clean the barnacles off of the prop and shaft and clear the thru-hulls, run a safety line to the mooring concrete, and inspect the tackle. We are in only about 15 feet of crystal clear water so all these chores were actually enjoyable (after all the physical effort of getting geared up that is - whew!). So our boat bottom is ready for the long passage up to Florida. We are heading out day after tomorrow!!!

Besides doing chores and eating out with friends in the village, there has been a lot of knitting going on (duh). Just socks...more and more socks. These child-sized monster socks were knit with various left-over and donated yarns. Again, I used a 2-round pattern of 1x1 alternating stitches each time I changed colors. I think it adds a little pizazz.

With the last little amount of leftover Socks That Rock Lightweight sock yarn, I added some plain navy blue Regia and knit up another pair of child-sized socks. The Socks That Rock yarn is thicker than the Regia and does not have any nylon added for protection against abraison. So that yarn goes on the legs and the tough-wearing Regia goes on the feet.

I'm still behind on my 52-pairs in one year challenge but I am catching up a bit. I'm at 30 socks in mid-February and I should have completed 32 by now. No worries...I have several single socks awaiting their mates and a few more socks on the needles. Sitting here in the cockpit of the boat at the West End and knitting while watching the dive boats on the reef is one of my favorite ways to pass the time.

Finally, here are another pair of child-sized socks knit where I combined that ghastly self-striping yarn with the soothing navy blue Regia yarn. I only used the green and white mottled stuff in the leg as stripes against the blue. Then I cut it off completely for the foot. Ah, much better.

Tomorrow will be a busy day for us. First we must clear out of the country with visits to customs, immigration and the port captain.
Then we'll head to the grocery store to finish provisioning for the long trip. We've read that there is nothing to purchase on the Dry Torgugas so we really need to have some shelf-stable foods aboard. Then, we have to get rid off (eat or toss) any fresh produce, meats, etc. that we have before we are boarded by US Customs in Key West.

Life is good.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

 

ROSA Socks

A few months ago I simply felt like knitting up some lace socks. Plus I wanted to play with some chevron stitch combinations because I LOVE how separating the increases from the decreases makes the stitches lean sideways. So out came the needles and after a few swatches I liked what I had. No, I'm not very creative with the name of these socks..."Rosa" is simply Spanish for pink and I used pink Opal brand yarn.

The new pattern is free during the months of February and March 2014 to members of the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group.

So that was my fiddly sock knitting. No, I haven't knit up the second sock yet. It's been cast on, but I've been distracted by other sock knitting including the Knitalong event on the Holiday Mystery Gifts group. Mostly, I've been working up socks for the orphanages in Kazakhstan.

First up is a pair of broken rib socks knit with Knit Picks Stroll in the caper color. I thought I was using a broken rib stitch pattern shared by a fellow knitter on Ravelry. But I messed up and reversed the knits and purls on Row 2 (of only a 2 row stitch pattern) and ended up with something totally different! But some kid will like the simplicity, ribbing, and softness of these socks.

From more (yes I still have more) of the sock yarn donated by the campers at Meg Swanson's Knitting Retreat, I selected this soft purplish colored yarn for a very simple pair of socks. I love how the plies of the yarn are different colors at some points. It didn't have a ball band so I don't know who the manufacturer is, but I did enjoy working with this yarn.

Now, the next pair completed is worked in a yarn color combination that I find GHASTLY (Online Supersocke Savanne). There is just something unsettling about the colors. Kelly green with burgundy red? It just gives me the shudders. But, I know that color appreciation differs from person to person so there must be somebody out there who won't mind these socks. Like somebody who is colorblind.

Unfortunately, I have 2 more full skeins of this yarn! I bought it online in a "grab bag" sale - fantastic price and good quality wool sock yarn. I'm pondering reskeining these so I can over-dye them with a soft grey to mute the colors. Otherwise I may just go blind knitting with that yarn again. I almost had to wear sunglasses for this first pair.

CAUTION - Wear protective Eye Gear
And of course there have been a couple of pairs of "monster" socks on the needles. I like to use up those odd balls of yarn hanging around the boat.

My current mixing method is to knit two rounds of a 1x1 mix (knit 1 first color, knit 1 second color) with stranded colorwork, switching the colors for the second round. This finished pair has the Knit Picks Stroll caper green, Sophie's Toes in blues, Koigu wool orange, and some ugly Opal sock yarn that I had overdyed with some brown years ago. The Koigu and Sophies Toes yarns are only used on the leg because they don't have that work-horse fiber - nylon - and will wear out quicker if used for heels and toes.

So now you know what I've been up to these past couple of weeks - what about Jonesy? Well, he's been filling his time up with boat chores of course!

Cruising in exotic locations means that he's had the opportunity to make boat repairs in scenic locals. The motor for our electric roller-furler actually arrived on time (!!!) and was exactly what we needed. You can imagine the joy we both had when he flipped the power switch for the first time and the roller-furler roared alive!!
This will make it so much easier and safer for our big passage from Roatan here up to Florida.

There's always something to tinker with on the boat. During our wait for the motor to arrive I mentioned to Jonesy that the rear toilet (head)
Build up in blackwater tubes
Monster Socks
wasn't flushing efficiently. More sea water was coming in than going out and I was having to turn off the inlet valve in order to clear the water from the bowl.

Well, it turned into a BIG project. Jonesy had to remove all the outbound tubing from the toilet - eeewwwy. This meant that he had to remove the paneling in the bathroom (head) because the tubes run way up high overhead to prevent siphoning. Then he had to pound the tubes against the dock to break up and shake loose the hard solid build up in them. Look at how clogged up these tubes were! There was hardly any space for black water to exit!!! That's because there is some chemical reaction that occurs when urine meets with sea water. Just another chore that live aboard cruisers must deal with that day-trippers never see.

As we all know, sometimes a simple job keeps growing into more jobs and this was true with the head. The plastic base had a broken bolt. Fortunately, Mr. Spares Jonesy had ordered a spare many years ago upon the advice of another cruiser. It only took us an hour to find which cubbie it was hidden in but we found it! Whoo hoooo! Anyway, I volunteered to clean up and sanitize after he was done. He'd done enough work.

Now, we have nothing on our "to-do" list except get ready for our next passage. Mostly, that will be special provisioning for foods to eat while underway while the boat is heeling (tipping on it's side). Because of the wind directions we're expecting, it will be very hard to get into the refrigerator/freezer because the contents will fly out if we open the doors. So we'll be packing coolers with drinks and quick-to-grab snacking meals. This means I need to do some planning, shopping, and pre-cooking and packaging. It also means that I'll have MORE TIME TO KNIT while we are at sea!

We've been enjoying life here on Roatan and socializing with our boating friends. The other day, the folks on the motor vessel Cabaret gave a Cruiser's Breakfast at Brooksy Point Marina for all of us. They served up biscuits and real Jimmy Dean Sausage gravy, eggs, french toast, strawberries, mimosas, and bloody marys. They made me a special plate which had some real bacon on it (because I can't eat the wheat in biscuits, gravy or french toast).
Then after we ate our fill and chatted with the other folks, we dinghy'd over to the Fantasy Island Resort and enjoyed some beach time. Biscuits and gravy and beach time - these are Jonesy's reward for all the jobs well done.

Life is good.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

 

PTSD - Post Traumatic Storm Disorder

Whats this? Niki Wiki at a dock during cruising season?
Another storm was racing down to us from the north too soon after that last big blow. Jonesy and I both were still feeling traumatized. We jumped at every breeze that was stronger than a whisper and kept checking our anchor chain. So we decided to swallow our pride (of anchorship) and headed into the new/old Roatan Yacht Club Marina where we slept through the night during the next storm.

The Roatan Yacht Club had fallen into disrepair the last time we were in Roatan. But some new folks have taken an interest in developing it and have added brand new docks including dedicated dinghy docks, refurbished the bathrooms and shower, and improved the walkways. They have lots of future plans to make this a cruiser destination and we applaud them! The price is right too!

Life is easier in a lot of ways here at the little Roatan Yacht Club. Not only do they have a reasonably priced restaurant with great food and a pool, there is also access to the main road and the Eldon's grocery store is just a few steps away! The other two marinas here in French Key/French Harbor are not within walking distance of shopping or taxi transportation.
Roatan Yacht Club

Our plan was to just stay a week. As so often happens (cruisers' plans are written in the sand at high tide) we changed our minds and are staying a full month. Why? Serendipity, that's why. It so happens that the skipper of another boat here used to work for the manufacturer of our Gulfstar boat (long out of business) and Jonesy eagerly picked his brain about our Hood in-mast furler motor. See, it stopped working so we were having to manually release and haul in the main sail. Not fun.

With these new tidbits of information, Jonesy decided to tackle the removal of the motor from the mast. This necessitated removing the boom from the mast which we would only do while safely in a marina. After several days of saturating the corroded and
Roatan Yacht Club
firmly stuck bolts with WD-40 he got them loosened! That's the good news. The bad news is that the motor is actually broken - as in the support for the "brushes" is in little pieces. Our new friend has the telephone number of a guy in Rhode Island who had a replacement motor! It can be very difficult to find certain parts for these older sailboats.

After a couple of phone calls back and forth to the states and the magic of PayPal (thank you everyone who has purchased my knitting patterns!) we now have a motor on it's way to a freight depot in Florida. From there a local air shipping and logistics business (RAS - Roatan AirExpress Service) will have it sent by air to us here on the island.
Roatan Yacht Club Restaurant patio
In the meantime, we are enjoying life in our new temporary home. Other cruisers come by to enjoy a meal or adult beverage in the restaurant which has a nice breeze and view of the harbor below. The $2.50 dinghy fee is waived with a purchase at the bar or restaurant. This is the easy way for folks to get to town or pick up a taxi to go to Coxen Hole, etc.

This has been a very rainy January so far which means that we've also spent a lot of time just hanging out on the boat. We are so looking forward to February when we expect the trade winds to start to pick up and to have long strings of dry days and lovely breezes.
Roatan Yacht Club path to restaurant

KNITTING CONTENT:
Beginning February 1st, I will be leading a Learn How to Knit Socks Knitalong on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group. So far there are over 200 brave folks signed up to participate! We will be using my Plain Talk Socks pattern, sock/fingering weight yarn and double point needles. We are going to take this very, very slowly and will knit a plain sock, cuff-down, with a traditional heel flap and gusset and a Dutch/square heel. I'm really looking forward to  this!

In the meantime, I've been finishing up some baby items for a submission to a future publication. Here's a little lace-trimmed hat and mitten combination worked up in Socks That Rock yarn - soft merino superwash wool.

I don't have a toddler available for a photo so this is one of my plastic mixing bowls wearing the hat. The flower topper is simply the same lace work as on the edging of the hat and the cuff of the mittens but then is gathered together to make the flower. The top of the hat is finished with a small amout of I-cord tubing. The tubing is inserted into the center of the flower, then tied into a knot for a bobble/center.

The sun is shining today - the front hatch is open over the V-berth to continue to dry out the cushions which got wet in the big rain storm (another item on the "to do" list is fix that dang hatch). It's time to get some lunch for Jonesy then head up to the Roatan Yacht Club for an art show at 2pm and a meet-up with my knitting and cruising buddy for some knitting time.

Life is good.

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