Friday, June 27, 2014


Storks, Cranes, and Blue-Tailed Skinks Oh My!

Our mandatory "Get out of Florida" date of July 1st is fast approaching. We aren't used to having to be somewhere by a certain date so it is looming over us like a tax filing deadline. Why do we have to leave? Because the insurance on our boat is not valid south of Latitude 31 due to the risk of "named storms" (tropical storms) and hurricanes during the summer months. We need to have safe harbor which we've stated to the insurers will be in a marina in Brunswick, Georgia.

But, we're doing our best to enjoy our last few weeks here in Florida (just like we used to enjoy Sundays when we had to go to work on Monday morning). You just have to clear  your head of the thoughts of what's coming next and enjoy the present. Jonesy loves life in a marina and I like to Go-See-Do and be on the hook. So, where are we now?

We're almost north enough, but not quite - we are in St. Augustine Florida. This is an ancient city (at New World standards), the oldest in the Americas. St. Augustine is a tourist destination due to the historic fort and beautiful old buildings and of course the shopping and dining experiences aimed at tourists to grab their dollars.

Now for us, it was a chance to meet new doctors (thanks Obamacare) update our meds, shop in (my first) Hobby Lobby craft store, and get our laundry done. We picked up a mooring ball at the City Marina and have been enjoying the sea breezes and chuckling at the tidal flows.

Usually, a boat will face into the wind which is why all the hatch openings face to the front of the boat. But the tidal currents are so strong here in the mooring field that our boat is pushed to face up "stream" regardless of where the light breeze is coming from. Thus, we struggle a little bit to get cooling air into the salon of the boat. We've experienced this before in La Paz, Baja California Mexico.
 A wonderful solution is to leave the boat and go somewhere cooler! That's not always as fun and relaxing as hanging on on the local beaches. The City Marina has a very nice AIR CONDITIONED coin-op laundry area and Cruiser's Lounge complete with free wifi.  There we met some of the crew from the 170ft. sailing ship El Galeon which is a replica of the Spanish ships that sailed this area in the early 1500's. This ship is a real working ship - it really sails

While out riding the bus on our many trips around this part of Florida we've seen a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a Wood Stork. Yep, they were just right there on the side of the roads for all to see! The large cranes winter in Florida, then migrate to points north for the summer months. I guess these were stragglers (like us). The stork stays in the warm south year round. We see blue-tailed skinks everywhere. Their tails are so brightly colored it's hard to miss them.

Here's some nostalgia - check out these engraved door handles on a bank in central St. Augustine - Woolworth's! These days there isn't a single store to buy general merchandise in this area as all the buildings have been converted into art galleries, restaurants, bars, and tourist cha-cha marts. This old city has gone through many changes over hundreds of years; changing nationalities in its colonial days, the most exclusive and expensive resort hotels in the nation at one time, to apparently to having a functioning middle-America downtown. Now it is a tourist spot - what will be next?
 Knitting Content

Yes! I completed my challenge to knit 52 pairs of socks in 52 weeks. In fact I finished a month early. What a relief! Here is pair #52 which is knit with yarn donated by Tina in Vero Beach (Knit Picks Simply Stripes). I used the slip-knot cast on for this pair because 1) Tina introduced me to it and 2) it is very stretchy and neat.

Now these diagonal patterning socks are from a brand new pattern from Linda Pahdoco that I test knitted for the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group. I love how they change the look of self-patterning yarns and they were really fun to knit.

Oh, and another pair of monster socks were completed. For these I stuck to yarns in the red/burgundy/pink color tones. At each change in
yarn I worked 2 rounds of simple 1x1 stranded color work.

And finally here are pair #53 which officially made me an "over-achiever" on the Ravelry group for the challenge.  Ha! I think that must be the first time I've ever been called that!

This last pair shown today was knit with a mystery yarn donated by Linda P. The pink/yellow/purple yarn was already very pretty so I didn't use any special stitch patterns and just knit a plain sock. This pair lived in my shopping tote that I carry with me everywhere. We spend a lot of time riding or waiting for the little Sunshine Buses so I get quite a bit of knitting done during our land travels. We've even got to know some of the other riders on the bus and had a nice beach outing yesterday with a local gal.

Yes. I do have more socks on the needles, but now that I've reached my 52 sock goal I am also joyfully diving into other fiberly pursuits. Like what?

Crochet! Hardanger embroidery! Tatting! I purchased a set of 4 bookmarks from Nordic Needle which provide a step-by-step guide to learn the art of hardanger embroidery. Each kit comes with the bookmark already made with attached lace, the needles needed, a needle treader, and both types of thread to complete the project. This is the way I needed a kit like this because I wouldn't have a clue as to what needle to use.

So, I've finished the first bookmark and am now working on the second one. The instructions are very clear and complete so I haven't had any problems (except for my own counting errors). I don't get to cut out the peek-a-boo windows for which hardanger is famous for until the 4th bookmark after I've learned all the stitches. That's fine with me - I think they are lovely just like they are anyway.

We'll be dropping the lines from our mooring ball early Sunday morning for our 3-day trip up to Brunswick, Georgia. This cruising on the Intracoastal Waterway is low-key compared to ocean cruising. We get to stop in the evening and drop the anchor to rest instead of staying up all night on watch. There are no big seas to contend with either. Of course it still does take a lot of planning and chart studying and yes, we have to pay attention to the channel markers all day and not stray. We're liking it.

Life is good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Knitters are the Knicest!

THANK YOU VAL of Vero Beach!
See these 100gr balls of delicious Regia World Circus sock yarn? Yes, there's four of them. Each ball easily provides enough yarn for a pair of adult socks with lots of leftover yarn to help me piece together a few pairs of smaller monster socks too.

This collection of yarn was generously donated to me by a knitter that I "met" online through Val (is her name) knew that I knit socks for my favorite charity, the Motherless Child Foundation and she had some yarn in her stash that needed a home. When she realized that I was traveling through her winter-home area of Vero Beach, and even though we couldn't meet up in person as she had already gone north, she had her friend hand-deliver these yarns to me! Yes. Knitters are the knicest.

But that's not all. I met Val's friend, Tina, at a knitting get-together (along with many other kind folks). Then, at our 2nd meeting, Tina surprised me with yarn donations from her stash! Not only did I get to sit and knit and chat with fiberly folks, but I went home with bags of yarn which were full of future entertainment for me and warm socks for kids in cold areas.

Tina also introduced me to a very unique cast on method that is SUPER STRETCHY and wonderful for the cuffs of socks. So many knitters make that one cast on row so tight that they can't even get their hand knit socks on over their heels. So sad. In the last few years I've been using the German Twisted (Old Norwegian) method with good results.

THANK YOU Tina of Vero Beach!
This Jeny's Stretchy Slipknot Cast On is a little difficult to learn at first and took me several tries to make it neat-looking, but it was well worth the effort. Not only can it be stretched over even the largest heel/instep but it also results in a nice edging which isn't sloppy loose like the results of other cast on methods.

The first ball I lovingly fondled from Tina's stash called out to me to be knit into mittens...soft, warm mittens. The kids in the orphanages of Kazakhstan need mittens too (it gets to -40 degrees there!) I was writing up the tutorial for my Mitten Knit-along on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo Group, and I needed a mitten-in-progress to photograph. How do these things all work out so great anyway?

The Mitten KAL is running right now through the end of June 2014 so if you've ever wanted to learn how to knit an adult sized mitten with fingering weight or sock yarns this is your chance! The pattern is free during the KAL and will be for sale later on Ravelry.

You know the old saying that things always come in sets of 3? Well the donations of yarn for my charity sock knitting really did just that. In the mail I received a big FLUFFY package of sock yarns donated by a friend of mine from knitting camp (Linda P.). I am overwhelmed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of these knitters who share from their personal stashes of woolly wonderfulness.

THANK YOU Linda P. of OK

The timing couldn't have been better! My personal stash of sock yarns is very low right now and I have just about worked my way through some past donations. The director of the Motherless Child Foundation just returned from another delivery trip to Kazakhstan and confirmed that the need for socks and other warm items continues and is greatly appreciated.

So I'm able to knit on because knitters are the nicest folks. Life is good.

Monday, June 02, 2014


All the way to the Moon

So, here we are now cruising the surface of the moon on our Lunar Rover. I knit.

Not? Oh. Well, we DID tour the Kennedy Space Center the other day which has been on our Bucket List for many years - more on that later.

We spent two weeks in lovely Vero Beach. We loved it there and now know why other cruisers have called it "velcro beach". You could really get stuck there.

The City Marina facility is the best that we've seen - shady picnic and BBQ areas, large, secure dinghy dock, friendly staff, and all the needed amenities for cruisers. The city of Vero Beach runs a FREE bus service that stops both at the dinghy dock and the cruiser's lounge every hour. The long white sand beach is within easy walking distance through a beautiful neighborhood, plus the bus also stops at the beach which is great when you get worn out from beach walking and need a lift back. There's a farmer's market on Saturday mornings, a charming yarn store (Knitty Gritty) and even get-togethers with friendly knitters at the Panera Bread cafe. What's not to love? We certainly are enjoying all the conveniences of life in the USA.
Niki Wiki on a mooring in Vero Beach, FL

Here's a photo of our boat taken from the big bridge we went under to get to Vero so you can see that there are natural areas too. We were in Vero during the beginning of the low season so we had a mooring all to ourselves and several even were unoccupied. During the high season they actually raft boats together to share a mooring ball because this place is so popular. Sounds a little too chummy to me.

But, we have to keep our eyes on the calendar to be sure that we are north of Florida (latitude 31) by the first of July, so too soon it was time to head up the Intracoastal Waterway to our next destination.
Vero Beach - walk, walk, walk forever
My view of the shores of the ICW for 2 days


It was a short 2-day trip up the Indian River (which makes up this part of the ICW) to the City Marina in Titusville. Cruising up the river is much easier and more scenic than doing ocean passages! All along both sides of this wide river are houses, many of them with their private docks. We saw small, older fishing get-away cabins right next door to sprawling mansions with manicured landscaping.

The waters were so calm because we were entirely protected from the ocean waves and most of the winds by the barrier islands or strips of land. The channel itself is well-marked so it was like driving on an open highway at 5 miles per hour. Occasionally, we encountered another sailboat but mostly we had motorboats of all sizes traveling with us.

And yes, we did drop the hook and spent the night sleeping during this passage unlike our big-seas passages. People have often asked us what we do at night when we sail from one place to another and wonder if we drop the anchor to sleep.
Osprey (Fish Hawk) nest on a pole and in the background

Nope. When out at sea that is impossible and we have to have someone awake and watching the helm at all times. On the ICW, we can stop at many different places and drop the hook. That's because it is very shallow water. We are loving this easy cruising!
Jonesy watching an Atlas rocket launch

Another reason why we were in a bit of a hurry to get up to Titusville is that there was a launch of an Atlas Rocket scheduled from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force station. There was no need to travel anywhere because we could see it right from our boat! The roar was exciting! Up, up and away on a secret mission!

So, I mentioned our trip to the Kennedy Space Center earlier. We had a wonderful day there! The space shuttle Atlantis is now kept there inside a special display building so that we had the opportunity to get up close to it.

Jonesy with the Space Shuttle Atlantis
As part of our entry fee ($46 for seniors) we got a very informative bus tour of the different launch pads. Along the way the driver pointed out an alligator lurking in a canal and a GIANT bald eagle nest that is ab out 50 years old and is still being used. And of course we saw plenty of osprey, egrets and herons.

Some of you may not know that Jonesy spend his early years on an Air Force base as his dad was a test pilot. This was during the time of the "Right Stuff" and some of these pilots went on to become the first astronauts. Then in later years we both worked in the Rockwell Intl. Palmdale, CA facility which also housed the Space Shuttle Program (we were on the B1-B program).

Jonesy and his rockets
When the space shuttles would land on the dry lake out at Edwards Air Force Base we could hear the double sonic booms from inside our little house in the desert! So it was fun for us to see these things up close at the Space Center.

All of the staff at the Kennedy Space Center were so friendly and helpful which made our time there even more enjoyable. It was like they wanted to be working there! We appreciated their positive attitudes and smiles all day.

Yesterday, while I was doing laundry in the marina's A/C'd laundry room we had a thunderstorm with some rain.
Check out this photo of the Titusville Marina - what is that in the water? See those grey lumps, one at the concrete wall by the center downspout and one sticking up out of the water?

Well - that's a manatee! His/her head is at the concrete wall and that's the thick, wide tail sticking up. These critters know that if it rains there will be fresh water coming out of the downspouts. They position their mouths right under the spout and drink the fresh water. This got me wondering how they do it out in the natural they catch runoff from rocks or trees? Obviously, they like the fresh water.

Here's a close up photo. He/she is so ugly that it's cute! The chin was covered in thick bristles. What a treat to see one up so close!

Anyway, we'll be here in Titusville for another couple of days and then we need to head north some more. Next stop will be a single overnight anchoring off of Daytona Beach and then in to St. Augustine for do some more go-see-do activities!
Next post: knitting

Life is good.

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