Sunday, May 11, 2014


Hoist the Anchor, Anchor, Anchor, Beach Chair...

Anchor, anchor, beach chair, bimini frame
The day came when we had a great 3-day weather window for our travels north from Marathon up to Vero Beach. The winds were calm and the seas were small - just our style. It was time to hoist the anchor and go!

So, while I manned the helm in the cockpit, Jonesy hoisted the anchor - the electric winch groaned with the weight. That shouldn't be. What was up? Slowly, he pulled in the anchor chain until this mass appeared.

As we pulled in our anchor, we also hooked up and pulled in THREE other anchors, a beach chair and a large bimini frame!! This mangle of metal, rope and fabric could take a long time to unravel. We would have to put the dinhy back down in the water off of the back davits and get to work. Our trip would be delayed by hours, we risked getting ourselves injured on the job, and we may not make  it to our scheduled overnight anchorage spot before dark then.

Untangling the mess
As I stood on the bow looking at the snarled mess and realizing what we had caught, I noticed a neighboring sailboat skipper watching me struggle with this new dilema. Then I realized that one of the anchors was a beautiful 35lb CQR worth several hundred dollars. We'd gone treasure hunting and we didn't even know it! Hmmmm. We already have one onboard as one of our spares and really don't want to trip around another on deck. This is a great treasure though so I called out to our neighbor and asked if he wanted an anchor.

YES! He did want it - and he was just getting ready to hoist his (puny) anchor to sail off south. He jumped into his cockpit, started his engine as fast as a rabbit! Within only about 3 minutes he had snuggled his boat up to ours. Just as quickly our new friend got to work untangling the mess on our anchor chain. Working from below like this was the ideal way to tackle this job. He salvaged the 35lb anchor and lovingly placed it on his deck. Then he untangled the beach chair, the low-quality little anchor and the bimini frame and let them drop.
Easing his new anchor on deck

We would have preferred to remove them as they are hazards for future boaters, but we simply weren't in a position to bring it all aboard and we would have to take it ashore in our big boat. Bad timing. Both of us were drifting loose and needed to get underway during this morning calm. We thanked our new friend profusely - he thanked us for the anchor. It all worked out for everyone (except for the folks who lost these items).  As our anchor retriever motored away with a big grin on his face, we pulled in the last few feetof our anchor chain.

Yep. There was YET ANOTHER 35lb anchor on our chain, but this one slipped off as we pulled it in. So there are more anchors in Boot Key Harbor to be found. Why? We discovered that the rope (rode) was frayed on the one that we rescued so we have to assume that it snapped while in use at some time. The beach chair and bimini frame probably were blown off of boats during a big wind never to be seen again by their original owners. King Neptune claims a lot of our boating gear.

Sailing past Miami Beach with socks on the needles
The first leg of our trip was just a day-sail up to Rodriguez Key near Key Largo. Here we simply anchored to sleep that first night. But the weather had deteriorated so we decided to spend the day here just enjoying the peace and quiet and get a second night's rest. The plan was to leave at dawn the next day.

But Jonesy couldn't stay asleep and at 2:30 am decided that it was time to hoist the anchor again and sail north. I've learned over our 8 years of cruising not only to trust his judgement, but also that everybody is happier if I play along nicely when he's a "man on a mission". After all, the most I had to do was be awake enough to man the helm as he raised the anchor and then I could crawl back into the bunk once we were underway...which I did.

Sun setting over South Florida coastline
We motor-sailed along - right past Biscayne Bay, the big high rise hotels and condos of Miami, and Miami Beach. These are highly congested boating areas which we had no interest in seeing up close. I knit all day and when it was time for Jonesy to get some rest (7pm) it was time for me to don my headlamp, take over the helm, and knit some more.

The winds and seas were calm enough that Jonesy managed to sleep until 3am (only waking up about 3 times to ask "you OK?") My only source of entertainment was my knitting and the few large ships outside of Palm Beach which popped up on my radar. I did have to change course so as not to collide with one which was at anchor. This barely interrupted my knitting mojo.

Soon it was my turn to sleep and Jonesy took over the watch. He woke me up in the morning so that I could see our approach to the Fort Pierce inlet and our FIRST time on the Intracoastal Waterway!

It was certainly a day of "firsts". We called our first draw bridge operator and had him open the bridge for our first passage through a drawbridge - just for us! We were the only boat on this part of the ICW. Cars had to stop for us too!

But our thoughts quickly turned to the next two bridges as these were "fixed" bridges that we had to go under. See, our mast is about 61 feet tall off the water and these bridges were about 64 1/2 feet tall over the water. Remember there are tidal considerations too. We "knew" we should be able to pass under them but we still were filled with anxiety - especially as we approached the bridges. It just didn't LOOK like we would make it.

As we got closer, Jonesy hollered at me to "Hang On!" because I was dancing about the foredeck taking photos (the "before" photos as in before the mast was torn out of the deck and we destroyed state property). He was really concerned about the possibility that our antenna - or the top of the mast - would smack against the concrete.

What does it look like to you? Scary right? No matter what angle I tried to look up it certainly didn't appear as if we were even close to being able to pass under the bridge.
There are markers on the sides which show how many feet are between the top of the water and the underside of the bridge. These read 64 1/2 feet so we slowly crawled forward. We had to steer a little bit to one side as these markers don't include the foot or so of a lamp which hangs down in the center of the bridge. Cars were going over the bridge....would we cause a pile-up? Would cars tumble in the water with innocent people screaming? Would we have to watch when the people walking their dogs fell headfirst into the murky waters?

Stay tuned for next week when we see if Jonesy and Terry caused major destruction with the good ship Niki Wiki.

Nope. I wouldn't do that to you.

As I tightly gripped onto the boat to brace myself for the impact and held my breath, we silently slipped under the bridge. Not even our antenna tapped the roof. Not a sound except that of our trusty Perkins engine.

We had put our trust in the folks who built and manage these bridges and the ICW and our faith was well placed. Jonesy and I high-fived each other and giggled all the way to the next bridge.

The second bridge was also our marker for the place to turn into the City Marina of Vero Beach. This time we had more confidence that we'd clear, but it was still un-nerving. We motored right under the bridge and immediately turned into the mooring field. We radio'd the marina and they promptly
Turning into the Vero Beach City Marina
answered and assigned us to a mooring. Ahhhhh.


Socks, socks and more socks have been completed as I work towards my goal of 52 pairs in 52 weeks. Below are photos of pairs #44, 45, 46 and 47. All are smaller sized socks and are knit with yarns donated by fellow knitters. The kids in the Orphanages in Kazakhstan will have warm feet this coming winter.

Jonesy watches the US Navy's Blue Angels
Oh! The Blue Angels are performing right now for us. Time for me to join Jonesy out on the deck to watch our free air show again today.

Life is good.

Sunday, May 04, 2014


Drifting away in the keys

SVETA's Socks 
Where do the days go? Time seems fly by so quickly, yet we have no time pressures to get things done or go anywhere. I've been spending most of my days sitting up in the cockpit just watching the tides rise and fall around the mangrove covered key. It's easy to get lost here and just drift through days, months and even years.

As you can see from the photo, I have spent some of my time finishing up the socks for Sveta at the orphanage in Kazakhstan. I liked how they turned out so I wrote up the pattern for other hand knitters and it is being tested by my fearless test-knitters right now. I'm so humbled by not only their willingness to wade through my rough draft, but also by their superior choices of colors and application of these colors to their projects.

All 7 pairs of socks that I knit for the kids who are aging-out of the orphanages have been shipped to the organization's director in the states and will be hand-carried to Kazakhstan in a couple of weeks along with everyone else's contributions. Now it's time to concentrate on the other 500 needed pairs for December.

Local Pawn shop
We've been observing the people around us here in the Florida Keys with special attention paid to those who are also on boats. This anchorage in Marathon is restricted TO liveaboards. Boats must be occupied - no wet storage is allowed. This is unusual in the world of boating, but it does take care of the problem of derelict and abandoned boats.

So who lives on these boats? Well, there are some folks like us who are in transit and just passing through, but there are also boaters who live aboard during "the season" here. After the winter months they put their boats in dry storage and return to their homes up north for the nice weather.
City of Marathon Marina club house
But a large number of the boats here are permanent homes. These people are taking advantage of the relative low cost of being on a mooring compared to the high cost of land housing. Some are working folks, some have families, others are living on pensions, some are simply free spirits while there are a few just plain bums with the usual issues - it's a mixed crowd.

Here's a photo of the inside of the community club house for us boaters. There's free wifi, two TV viewing mini-theaters (at the back of the room), a large library and a mail distribution area. With the laundry room, hot showers and room to park your car and bicycle, this would be a nice place to live if you are on a limited income ($200/mo). So while some of us are on adventures, most of the folks here are simply living - living simply.

City of Marathon Marina club house Library
We've seen kids get dropped off here by the local school bus, and there's a large gaggle of home-schooled boat kids who congregate together in the TV theatres to watch their assigned Discovery channel programs. Oh, and of course they use the electrical power outlets to power up their gaming systems. The local Monroe county library is within walking distance and the marina itself is located in a large city park with complete sporting fields set ups. Not a bad life at all.

So you can see that this really is an interesting place. We attended a potluck get together, have done a lot of walking, and enjoy listening to the songs of the single male mockingbirds at night. At night? Yep. Bachelor mocking birds sing at night. During the day we see manatees occasionally, hear and see ospreys and even had a red-winged blackbird hang out on the boat. Once in a while a dolphin will surface to get a breath of air and continue the hunt for local fishies.

We've toured around a bit in our dinghy. There are many mobile/manufactured homes lining the man made canals and cluttering the islands. There are also big beach houses along the larger channels. We passed these on our way out to Sombrero Beach recently.

The beaches of the keys on this side are all protected by the reefs just a few miles out. This breaks the swells from the Atlantic ocean and makes the waves tiny - perfect for babies, dogs, and old folks.
Sombrero Beach
Naturally, it being April and the day, and water, was warm, there were quite a few of all three types at the beach that day.

We parked our dinghy at the designated spot and wandered along the white sands of the crescent shaped beach. Walking barefoot on wet sand provides us with free (and enjoyable) foot scrubbing!

Dinghy/Kayak parking
Although it was hot in the sun, all we had to do was slip into the shade of a palm tree and the cool breeze off of the ocean would quickly dry our glistening foreheads. We spent our afternoon watching the kids chase little fish in the shallows and dogs fetching toys. So it happened again. Time simply drifted by.

Life is good.
Dog playing at Sombrero Beach

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