Monday, April 30, 2018

Catching those ZZZZZZzzzzz's

I have determined what is wrong with society today.
It's the King Sized bed.

We recently spent a weekend working on the fixer-upper, which is still on boat jacks in the yard waiting for its turn to be plopped back in the lake. (More on the weekend later this week!) Because we can't sleep on the boat while it is on the jacks, we spent the night at a local hotel.
The room was nice, nothing fancy but clean and had a king size bed. I spent half the night wondering if Rob was actually in bed. It took four rolls to steal the blanket.
This is just not right.

All marriage needs compromise and there is no compromise in a king size bed. There is no need.
We sleep on a queen bed at home. It is just large enough to allow for personal space but still small enough to smack the other person with a dream-fulled arm swing.

When we do sleep on the boat we have the option of the V-berth and the camper style table.
Actual size....almost....
The V-berth is exactly as it sounds. A berth shaped like a V. If you sleep with your heads in the V – you spend the night knocking around like coconuts. If you sleep with your feet in the V then you wake up periodically to untangle the knot your legs get tied in.
And don't even get me started with putting one head in the V and one set of feet in the V. 
I am pretty sure that is illegal in most of the lower 48.
We padded this with a comforter and sleeping bags.
I am in the process of making a cushion.
The camper-style table is better. The bench seats and additional flat surface allows for complete stretching. There is still danger of a midnight knee jab but if you opt for individual sleeping bags rather than actual bed linens, well, you can be sure the jabber is cocooned safely away from your lower back. Although personally I feel as if I am wrapped in a coffin when I try to sleep in a sleeping bag, so, sorry Rob.

Yet, even with these discomforts, there is nothing better than sleeping on the boat.
The dark sky and brilliant stars reflecting on the water combined with the random bits of music from distant radios invite reminiscing.
The cozy warmth of reading by the light of a lantern in the cabin relaxes every muscle and quiets every ridiculous worry racing through the brain.
The gentle rocking of the water lulls you into a hypnotizing sleep.
early morning is so peaceful
And when you wake in the morning and step up on deck with a fresh cup of coffee you are greeted by silent still water and bright fresh air...
Mostly because it is only 5am and you fell asleep at 8pm because you were exhausted from a day on the boat, a delicious dinner, an extra glass of wine and at least one jolt awake in the middle of the night wondering if that giant steel pole known as the mast would double as a lightening rod in the event of a pop-up thunderstorm...

And that is why I would put on a boat, every couple who recites like a grocery list those random complaints about their relationship. That one night on a boat would force discussion, listening and compromise.
At the end of the night there would be the shared experience of a night on a boat...or possibly a murder charge....
But either way, problem solved.

And just in case there is question over whether using 'Zzzzzz' counts as a Z word, I give you this:
Hemingway did not see this coming....
Zombies on a Rowboat.
Do not EVER spend the night with Zombies on a Rowboat.... 

This is my FINAL entry in the A to Z challenge for 2018!! I can't believe I actually did it this year! Thank you to Rob - without your encouragement and slight nagging, I would never have finished this year. And a great big THANKS to everyone who has taken the time to read this little blog. It makes me feel so happy when something I have written brightens someone else's day.
And finally THANK YOU to the folks at the A to Z Challenge. Your daily letter related rally posts were perfect and the time you take to manage this yearly event does not go unnoticed. It has reignited my enjoyment of writing daily and inspired me to continue posting on a regular basis, albeit not daily...or alphabetically...

H-Head to Heel
P-Points of Sail
T-Trade Winds
W-Weather Eye
X-Marks the Spot
Z-Catching Some...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

It's always Over the Yardarm Somewhere...

Well, the sun is over the yardarm....

Which, in nautical speech means it's around 11am and time for a drink...

the sun is NOT over the yardarm here. the sun was about 4 hours from being over the yardarm.
and it was stormy...

Actually, it's 8:47pm.
If I were to actually have a 'drink' at 11am I would be napping by 11:30am.
I need to finish up a load of laundry and pack as we are heading down to paint the hull of the fixer-upper. In pirate days that was called 'careening' – where they intentionally beached the boat, letting the surf knock the boat over and scrape it over the sand, knocking the barnacles off it.
We are just planning to scrub, sand then paint.
So the it's going to have to be much later than 11am round these parts..

But back to that yardarm.
The yardarm is the very end of a horizontal spur which holds a square sail in shape. The phrase 'the sun is over the yardarm' is believed to have originated in the north Atlantic where the sun would pass over the yardarm around 11am. And 11am coincided with the forenoon 'stand easy' when the officers of a sailing vessel would go below for the first drink of the day.
Running a ship is thirsty work.
this ain't no water purifying rum. this is some super fancy rum given as a gift.
its good to have pirate friends
Why rum?
Well, there was a lot of sailing around the Caribbean where rum was manufactured. And, there was always a liquor ration on board long distance ships. This was more of a necessity than a luxury. Water was difficult to transport as it tended to become infected with bacteria. Rum and other alcohols were added in small amounts to kill the bacteria.
On Navy vessels the rum ration was managed. Pirate ships were more democratic and consequently the rations were more of a suggestion.
And if you have ever had rum in the Caribbean, then you know how this ends...

Rum is the Reason, pirates never ruled the world...or got the next to last A to Z challenge post done!

This has been the next to last A to Z challenge post!! For more entries click here:

H-Head to Heel
P-Points of Sail
T-Trade Winds
W-Weather Eye
X-X marks the Spot

Friday, April 27, 2018

X Marks the Spot

It seems like a no-brainer, writing about sailing and NOT mentioning pirates or pirate maps.
a tower from Jean Lafitte's fort on Tortoa

Research shows that there are no existing pirate maps with an X on it.
Disappointing, I know.
But think about it.
Putting an X on a map marking your chest of gold doubloons is the modern day equivalent of pre-loading all your passwords into your money apps then leaving your phone lying around without a fingerprint unlock.

Yet, pirate bounty is real.
Thanks to a whole lot of bad weather, shallow water and some unscrupulous harbormasters who liked to move channel markers to enable the crashing of Spanish boats full of gold and jewels.
Apparently the Spanish enjoyed cruising around the Caribbean with their finiest finery on board...watching a show, having an endless buffet, taking short of boat excursions...

But, I digress.

X marking the spot on a treasure map has its history in the British Army, where soldiers would place a paper with a large black X over the heart of those to be executed.
Efficient, but not very romantic.

We have Robert Louis Stevenson to thank for the romance. It was in his book Treasure Island that the Pirate map with a large X became the dream of kids and adults alike.
And Mr. Stevenson had great inspiration.
'Treasure Island'
In 1750 the Spanish vessel Nuestra Senora de Gudalupe took shelter from a storm in North Carolina. The crew mutinied and stole the treasure of 55 chests of silver. Some of the treasure was taken to St. Croix. The rest was taken to Norman Island in the BVI.
Residents of Tortola got wind of the loot and made for the island, just a short 5 nautical mile row from Road Town.
The Lt Govenor got wind of this, as Lt Governor's do, and made a deal granting 1/3 of the treasure to the citizens for its return.
Most was foolishly returned.
But not all...

In 1915, a fisherman from Tortola took shelter in a cove on the West coast of the island. All through the night his little boat was bashed into the walls of the cave. The next morning he awoke to discover many large rocks in his boat and on the wall of the cave a chest full of doubloons...

No actual documentation of this find exists. No legal 'treasure trove' was ever filed.
But, shortly after this storm the fisherman and his family quit fishing, moved to St. Thomas and opened up several small shops.
Presumably to accomadate all those Spanish cruisers...

Now, here's the great part.
Norman Island does exhist.
It is part of the chain of islands in the British Virgin Island chain.
Norman is not inhabited, except by several goats. It does boast two restaurants as well as a replica schooner in the cove which serves adult beverages and is known for is piratey tradition of jumping topless from its top deck.
Pirates Bight
Pirates Bight and the Club are right on the beach.
Not very safe from pirates but easily accessed by hungry snorkelers.

Our snorkling expidition stopped there for lunch.
Which was delicious – Roti and Conch Fritters and a Painkiller.
Roti - a yummy meat and veggie pie

conch fritters and painkiller
And then the piracy happened.

Not knowing what the situation would be when we left our room, we decided Rob would leave the credit cards stowed and just take some cash.
Which was enough for our lunch, but not for a tip...

Thankfully, the 70 year old divers found it rather hysterical when I sweetly, laughingly suggested that they create a disturbance while Rob and I made a run for it.
Because you know,

The plaque on Jean Lafitte's tower.

*Here are the links to both Pirates Bight and Willie T.
(A 'bight' is an large indentaion in a coastline.)

*The nice 70 year old couple on our snorkeling trip were kind enough to lend us a couple bucks which we repaid to them at dinner that evening with a hearty thank-ee.
They offered their help anytime, and requested to let them know where we would traveling as we looked like trouble....
I have a feeling they will be placing a HUGE X on that spot...

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. For more entries click here:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Weather Eye? Yeah, right.

If you know even the tiniest bit about me, you know I am a weather junkie. I have been known to watch the weather channel like an award wining movie. And when the tornado sirens sound and everyone else seeks shelter in the basement or bathtub, I make a cup of coffee and go sit on the deck...
My husband blames the fact that I was born in Oklahoma...

I currently have TWO weather apps on my phone – the Weather Channel and NOAA weather which lets you track radar, rain, snow and any other weather maladies which might await. This handy dandy little app will also set off an alarm if you are under attack by rotating fronts and sheer force winds.

If only we had NOAA when on vacation.

It is always important to be aware of the weather when you are out on the water.
Especially when you are on the water in a non-motorized sailboat.
Or kayak.
Or a canoe with your husband's best friend. (There are no 'action' pics as I was afraid the camera would drown.)

Are you sensing a theme here?
I have been rained on nearly every trip I have taken.
And by 'rained on' I mean so soaking wet that the only dry area is under the life vest which is keeping me alive by keeping me warm.
oh look, it might be stopping...
It rained the first twenty-four hours we were at Key Largo. But, that didn't stop us from kayaking the mangroves. The folks at Key Lime assured us there was no severe weather pending, only the constant rain.
They assured us once we were in the mangroves we wouldn't even notice the rain.
Probably because our travel-buddies' kayak was filling with water and we were trying to convince ourselves the slap we heard wasn't an alligator.
But, have you ever been in a mangrove forest in a rainstorm?
It is the most incredible experience.
Silence except for the gentle drop of rain and the chorus of wildlife answering.

We tried to study the weather before our first trip to the Caribbean. Everyday of the week we were to be there had those drippy clouds and lightening bolts on the app page.
We were tropical newbies.
Island Rain. A beautiful sight and a beautiful song by Mac McAnally.
It did rain nearly everyday we were there.
For about 10 or 15 minutes, at which point the rain would stop and a neon rainbow would appear.
Except for that one morning...
I woke to rain gently plinking our shutters.
I had my coffee on my lounge chair shoved under the protection of the eaves. The lizards also took shelter there. I think they were hoping for a piece of my Jamaican Meat Pie breakfast.
the lizards have given up
We have been caught on our various sailboats in various volumes of rain. Usually because the weather app and the actual clouds said 'maybe in might rain' and then decided once we were a little too far to make it back to shore that 'yes. It is going to rain'.
If there are lightening bolts on the app we don't go out.
You know that mast? It suddenly becomes the highest point when out in the middle of the lake. And those lightening bolts love highest points.

And because of that, it is always important to have a healthy respect for the potential for weather.
Pay attention to the clouds, the humidity, the weather apps.
Always keep lifevests well within reach and if there is any question, PUT THEM ON. They may be a little uncomfortable, but running a man overboard in the middle of a pop-up storm isn't the best either.

As they say: Keep a Weather Eye.

(FYI – one of the first times the term Keep a Weather Eye was used in literature was in Robert Louis Stevenson's book Treasure Island. Stay tuned tomorrow for more on that topic...)

This is part of the A to Z challenge. For more entries click here:

H-Head to Heel
I - IC24
P-Points of Sail
T-Trade Winds

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Shut down the Volume

Close your eyes.
Imagine the breeze beginning to blow.
The snap as the sail billows out and takes hold.
The boat to skim over the water and the only sound is the water as it gently splashes against the bow.

This was the most surprising aspect of sailing.
The quiet.
Its as if the sails form a protective barrier around the boat and its passengers. Allowing only the volume of nature's voice to pass through.
Thoughts quite as the brain listens to the wood and the sails and the wind, waiting for an invitation and then responding to all that the boat needs. 

Power boats may zoom past but their motors are muted drowned out by the flock of water birds who have ignored the silent advance of the sailboat until the vessel is directly upon them. They burst upward with a flourish of flapping wings, an imitation of the sail as it catches the wind and once again moves ahead.

Today, 'V' is for Volume.
Or more accurately, the lack there of.
No motor grinding.
No relentless slap of fiberglass to broken water.
No chatter of those internal voices reminding you of all that life brings.
The peaceful, restful absence of noise.

This has been part of the A to Z Challenge. For more entries click here:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Underwater They can't hear you Scream either...


There are a wide variety of things in the water under a sailboat.
The keel – which helps stablize the boat.
The rudder – which helps steer the boat.
The ridiculously huge manatee who comes up to snort at you as you try to not crash the rental boat into the dock.

Before I continue, I must let you know, there are NO beautiful pictures of beautiful fish as I was too busy being simultaneously terrified and in awe.

A few years back, we took our 10 foot bathtub with a sail to Destin and piddled around in Destin harbor. We had many offers to 'help' get us back to shore, when we thought we were doing just fine.
We managed to avoid the gross of jellyfish along the shore where we put in, so we were feeling pretty smug.
Then the sea turtle showed up.
Rob noticed a shape under the water. We were hoping it was a dolphin.
Instead, a shell, the size of our boat, I swear!, came closer to the surface. His head popped up and snorted, decided we weren't some visiting turtle and took off.

In retrospect, a lot of sea life likes to snort at us.

Naturally, on our trip to Tortola, we knew we would snorkel. The sea is so clear. It was just inviting us to come in and maybe snort back at some of its inhabitants.
(This was a couple years before my ill-fated attempt at SCUBA.)

We caught the excursion boat from Fort Recovery with our borrowed snorkel equipment from the questionably clean storage trunk. The boat captain seemed less than confident in the motor on the powerboat, what with its sputtering and hesitation. Eventually the boat mangaged to cut through the beautiful blue water and we arrived at The Caves.
seriously. beautiful. as they say, #NoFilter. also, note the other boats in the picture.
They are not giving chase, only following to the Caves for some diving.
I should mention here that I am a decent swimmer. I am not afraid of the water, but carry a healthy respect. I have splashed around in the ocean before, generally along the shore. Our lake swimming was done off a dock. Occasionally with a life vest, if the goal was to just lazily float around. I had never swam with flippers and the only mask was a kiddie one borrowed from our kids.
One of  The Caves
So with much assistance, I managed to pull on my flippers, slip my mask over my eyes and place the snorkel in my mouth.
As I slid off the swim dock of the boat it occurred to me that I had NO life vest and was now past the point of stopping my decent into water reported to be MILLIONS OF FEET, or possibly twenty feet, deep.
It was so clear it was impossible to know for sure.

And here is where I learned a fundamental truth.
You can scream as loud as you want, but with a snorkel in your mouth, no one can here you.
Consequently, I exhaled in a variety of 'OH!!' 'HEY!''WOW!'
And then the pretties bright blue and yellow fish swam by....
I continued to yell – but now the Oooos and Aawwwws had an appropriate direction.

Later we powered over to The Indians, another formation jutting around 45 feet from the ocean floor. I was feeling pretty brave by now, until I swam close to one of these giant monoliths.
All I learned from earlier in the day went right out the snorkel tube.
The Indians. 
Once again I felt several screams coming on– directed at my husband, whose arm or maybe leg – I had grabbed onto.

We managed to snorkel several more times on the trip. 
Beware fish. I am not to be trifled with...
But rather than heading out on a boat, we waded out into the waters just off our beach at Fort Recovery where we were treated to a guided tour of sea life from Dominic.
Dominic, the 10 year old son of one of the resort workers, swam with no flippers, held his breath forever and could only get in the water if there was an adult around who knew he was there.
The large floating head is Rob. The smaller floating head is Dominic.
It was a win-win.
He pointed out the fire coral, which you should never touch. And tried to show Rob how to pick up a sea urchin, although that demo did not go as well as hoped.
This is really the best place for an urchin.
During our afternoons in the water we saw a wide variety of colorful fish, including a puffer fish whose bright blue eye looked more like a rock until he blinked at us. And that big 'leaf' on the sand floor was actually a pretty irritated sand shark who WAS sleeping but is now looking for a better nap spot.

Which leads me to that other fundamental truth.
ALWAYS reapply sunscreen to your back when your plan for the day is to float face down in beautiful blue water under a bright yellow Caribbean sun.

This has been part of the A to Z Challenge. For more entries click here:

H-Head to Heel
P-Points of Sail
T-Trade Winds

Monday, April 23, 2018

Wouldn't Trade you...

"...makin' for the trades on the outside...and the downhill run to Papeete..."
on way to BVI, not Papeete and by plane but still...
This line from the song Southern Cross, truth be told, never really meant that much to me. While I have always loved the romance of the song, the technicality of it was lost on me until my sailing life began.
The 'Trades' in the song are the Trade Winds.
that's a lot of arrow, so, you get the idea...
These winds blow consistently around the world – northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and southeast in the Southern. Sailors have depended on these consistent, predictable winds to guide their vessels as they ran goods from Asia to Europe and the Americas and back.
We used the dependablitly of the Trades during our sailing classes in Tortola. The consistent winds there make the islands one of the best sailing destinations.
Personally, to say I have 'sailed the trades' enriches the adventure, romance, mystery persona I have created in my head...

These days, shipping is not dependant on the wind but on what ever magical fuel used to make those massive vessels run. Yet, the Trade Winds are still important.

I won't get all meteoralogical on you here, but in a very shallow explanation:
Cumulous clouds form over islands, because of the warmth of the land mass and the temperature and moisture content of the air above.
The Trade Winds steer rainfall, with weaker winds causing an increase in rain.
The movement and temperature of the gulf stream effects Trade Winds. As the water in the gulf stream cools (from melting ice at the poles) the temperature difference between water and air begins to equalize and the winds stall.
A stalled Trade Wind makes rain.
And wind.

As in the massive hurricanes we have seen of late.
Hurricane Irma being a prime example.
We watched, safe in our Midwest home, as Irma moved through the US Virgin Islands, devastated our beloved Tortola, then moved on through Puerto Rico, and up to the Keys where we watched in awe as the water from the bay at Key Lime was sucked up by the wind, leaving boats beached on the sandy bottom where hours before they had been floating.
In an update – Tortola is moving forward with rehab well underway. The US Virgin Islands are also bouncing back. Puerto Rico has had the slowest recovery but reports from a March 2018 article in Travel stated that the island was around 90% functional with power and telecommunication up and running and over half of hotels and attractions open.
These islands still have a long way to go.
Toursim powers a good deal of their economy, so while I prefer to keep my favorite places relatively to myself, give these beautiful places a thought when planning your next big vacation.
I know we can't wait to go back.
There is something about the islands that exceeds explanation.

Maybe its the warmth, the lush foilage, the wonderful people, the exotic foods.
Personally, it has something to do with those beautiful sunsets...and that....
'reach before a followin' sea....'
the red sunsets are caused by dust, blown by the winds from the Sahara...
thanks, Science...

*Southern Cross by Crosby-Stills-Nash, lyrics used with the utmost respect.

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. For more entries click here:
H-Head to Heel
P-Points of Sail

Saturday, April 21, 2018

When the Boat gives you Sails...

We knew, when we got the fixer-upper sailboat, that she had been used for racing. It was no surprise, as we unloaded the sails that there were a mainsail, a jib and a genoa – which is an extra big sail which replaces the jib when you are hoping to catch even more wind. These are those beautiful big sails that billow out on the front of a sailboat.
We weren't ready for the two extra sails stuffed in the bag, giving us a total of FIVE sails! All with 'Cool Change' labeled on them and identical racing numbers.
What a bonus!
All were in moderately good shape, a little dirty and with a surprising number of wasp nests attached here and there.
All except one of the extra large jibs.
This poor sail was most likely original to the boat. It was still in one piece, with no tears or holes but it was as soft as a well loved blanket.
I a pretty sure I heard my 33 year old Kenmore portable sewing machine wimper when it was suggested that I use this old sail to make some tote bags, which sell on the internet starting at around $100!
my first expirement - the Train Bag -
big enough to hold ALL the stuff and a small child, but still fashionable.
Historically, sails were first made of 'duck', an evolution of the word Doek, which in Dutch means cloth. Duck cloth was cotton, linen or hemp.
Cotton sails were lighter but did not hold up to the sunlight and salt water like linen did. However, linen was heavy and as sails became larger, linen was less convenient.
It is important for sails to be strong, when pulled in any direction, without stretching, both in the moment and long term. That strength and stretch must also not be affected by folding. They need to resist breakdown under UV light and they need to be cost-effective.
These days, sails are made from nylon, dacron, kevlar and a few other man-made materials.
a pile of sail
From the feel of the sails for the Fixer-upper, I would guess these sails are nylon and maybe some well worn dacron.
Very different from the brand new dacron which Blue Skies' sails are made. That brand new material is a cross between plastic and steel.
A real challenge for my 32 year old Kenmore machine.

But this old sail material was so soft, and those bags sold online were so awesome, that I had to give it a try.

I learned to sew young, making Barbie clothes on a handcranked, kid size machine then graduating to 4-H circle skirts and shift dresses on Mom's machine. I have made a wide variety of items, from kid clothes to curtains and those very crisp sails.
The bags were a bit of a challenge, only because the construction process was so different. Time spent in a duffel bag in the boat yard left this sail pretty dirty.
Cleaning sails is a challenge. They stand up to water but you need to be careful what soap is used as you don't want to break down the fibers. We initially spread the sail out on the deck and hit it with the hose. I very gently scrubbed the bad spots with a Dawn dishwashing liquid diluted in warm water.
Train Bag pockets, the stitching was original to the sail.

interior pockets! next time will use interfacing for more stiffness

the back
Later, after a watermelon juice spill in my train bag, I threw the whole thing into the washer on gentle with Woolite, tossed it in the dryer for about 10 minutes then hung it to dry.
The fabric came out nearly like new.
Further bags have been prewashed prior to cutting and sewing.
Each bag I have constructed has been a little easier with the flaws from the previous being repaired in the next.
a lunch bag/tote

shopping bag size
where my topstitching shows, I try to use the same color thread and size of stitch as on the original.

pin-up girl interior of the shopping bag.
This was for our niece. The pin-up girls were in honor of
Rob's dad, whose WW2 plane had a pin-up girl, albeit less tasteful, on the nose. 

another lunch tote
I have also tried to incorporate as many interesting parts of that old sail as I can which means a very detailed process of lying pattern pieces to catch some of the old stitching or one of the racing numbers and in the case of my daughter's lunch bag, one of the hanks used to attach the sail to the forestay. 

every designer bag needs a label!
It adds a bit of character to each bag.
And that seems like a wonderful way to honor the character of Cool Change, and all those vessels that have gone before her.