Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Miami

Merry Christmas to all of you, no matter where you are! This is the season of the celebration of Jesus, our savior, and although it seems that we celebrate everything else at Christmas, it really is all about Jesus. We are suffering in sunny Miami this Christmas, and although it was overcast today, it was in the mid seventies. There was a wonderful pot luck Christmas get together today here at the marina. It was held at an adjacent island, complete with tent and tables. Transport was by dingy, or by some very nice elves in a marina boat! The Christmas feast was really good, and we were lucky enough to be joined by our son Christopher, who came yesterday and had to leave right after dinner. It was good to see him, he is really busy traveling and exploring the world in his own way. I just wish that I had done the same as a youth, I guess I figured that part out a little later than he did. We are proud of him, of course, as well as our other two children that we couldn't see this year. After dinner, the elves took us back to Saltrun, and we opened up the Christmas gifts before Christopher had to leave. It was good to see him, and we were sad to see him go. The Christmas spirit is a wonderful thing. It is a renewing time of many peoples faith, not only in religion, but also in their fellow man. It seems that every Christmas, people put aside their differences and stop to reflect on the year that is about to pass, as well as the year to come. We pray that next year is a good one for everyone, and that the year is more peaceful and prosperous too. The marina here has a killer Christmas tree, I bet the thing is 25 feet tall. It is coated in decorations and lights, a real nice thing to see when you first get here. It is very nice, but I think we got 'em in the tree department.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dinner Key Marina

Once we were in the calm waters of Biscayne Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean had stopped smacking us around like a life size sailboat version of the Wack-A-Mole game, we went up front to realize we had made a huge rookie mistake. We had not properly secured the lines that we use for our anchor bridle, and we failed to secure those long lines that I spliced for the Med Mooring setup they used in Key West. This was bad because in the raging seas, they were swept overboard, and were dragging through the ocean. This slowed the boat considerably, and even worse, the starboard mooring line was not able to be brought back aboard. It was wrapped around the starboard saildrive. Crap! The drive was still working, going both in forward and reverse, and luckily the rudder was not affected either, so the decision was made to keep on going the last few miles to the slip. We docked without incident, and the line was free the next day. No damage was noted, except the line was a fraid on the end. You bet it was fraid; fraid of the Delta Force! Once docked, Guincha was anxious to find some grass, so we let her off the salt covered boat for the first time in 26 hours! AHHH, relief.

The Delta Force

The Delta Force was an awesome movie from the mid 80's starring Lee Marvin and forever badass Chuck Norris, and was about a highjacking bunch of Palestinian thugs that ran right into the "Not on My Watch, Pal" Delta Force. Things went badly for the highjackers, go figure. If you never saw it, watch it. If you never heard of it, well, quit watching dancing with America or whatever that garbage is, and go watch something good. For us, since we aren't highjackers, or Palestinian thugs, the Delta Force I am referring to is the Delta of change. That is, the word Delta is used in the scientific world to mean change, and so the Delta Force we found ourselves being affected by was the undeniable realization that it was time to get moving. Key West is great, it was nice being there, but a lot has happened to us of late, and we were being called North to Miami for several reasons. When change is inevitable, and it sometimes is for each and every one of us, how this change is met is different for all of us. I know people that are still in their home towns, never left or even felt the need to. Or did they? Maybe they could have, or even should have, but never did for some reason. Call it their comfort zone or whatever, for some reason, some people just don't like change. We are not like that, heck, we never seem to stay in any one spot for very long. It's not that we don't want to settle down, after all we do have a small house that we are rarely at, it is more like we realize what it means to get moving. Whether to get ahead or just get gone, change for us has always been easily accepted and off we go to something new. And often something better. So, with Joyce still on the mend from surgery, and our Bahamas plans pushed back a few more weeks, we decided to move the boat to Miami. I would grab a quick temp job for a few weeks, and Joyce can heal some more, and organize some hired help to finish up a few projects around the boat while I am at work. Sounds simple enough. Miami was only bout a 24 hour sail as I recall, it should be easy enough. The decision was made, and we got lucky and secured a slip at Dinner Key Marina, in Coconut Grove. This is a great spot to jump to the Bahamas from, and we were really lucky to get a slip this time of year. The boat was pretty much ready to go, so we planned to leave mid-day to time our arrival in Miami around the same time the following day. We asked our friend Kevin, on Catchin Rays, if he wanted to come along, and get some sailing time in. He said yes, and even brought his son Brandon along. We even promised not to call him Swab. So our Delta Force was Joyce, Kevin, Brandon and myself. Be fearful Palestinian thugs, we are on the move, and we never take prisoners. Oh, and of course our dog Guincha, which Kevin now wants desperately to adopt. The forecast was for light winds from the North, 10-15 knots. That'll do just fine we thought, and left Key West around 1:00 PM. After motoring out past the reef, and all the lobster traps, up went the sails, and the motors were turned off. Perfect. The boat was moving along nicely, 6 to 7 knots, on a comfortable beam reach as we headed East. This lasted until just after dark, when things started getting windier. And Windier. Like pretty windy, and gusting too. No telling how windy though, the wind instruments still don't work, they are on the list for Miami though. Luckily, Kevin suggested putting in a reef before it got dark, and we did. We sailed on into the night, and Kevin and Brandon got their first time on night watch, with building seas and shifting winds. As we started turning North, following the Keys, we found ourselves heading into the building wind, and waves. The gulfstream joined us on our Northeast trek, and it too was running into these winds, and the waves kept building. We started the engines about midnight, and crashed our way though the night. By morning, we were in the northern Keys, and were still pounding it out into the swells. The boat would slow down to about four knots after hitting a huge swell and burying the nose, then gather itself up, getting up to about 6 knots before the next one started the cycle again. Nothing on the boat broke, but we found some leaks. Actually the first leak found me. I was taking a leak, in the port head, when i was hit on the head by a leak from the overhead port! Man ,that is weird, huh? That sucker was leaking right on my head and so I leaked right on it's head. Payback,I suppose! The wind and waves continued as we approached Miami, with the gulfstream opposing the wind. Not ideal at all, but, look at this way, no one got sick and nothing broke! Finally we turned into the cut into Biscayne Bay, and things calmed down quickly. We sailed through Stiltsville, a defunct collection of stilt homes that were built out in the bay in the sixties or seventies. I remember an episode of Miami Vice where Crocket and Tubbs were racing around these houses. Not looking too good anymore, most appear to be abandoned.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Boat Projects

Things on a boat are in a constant state of flux. By that I mean that a boat is always in need of maintenance and repair, in addition to the needed upgrades to electronics and improvements to systems. Our boat has nine batteries for example, and they need to be maintained at a proper level of charge or they will die a quick death. Nine batteries cost a lot of dough, imagine that. While at the dock, it is a simple process to keep them happy... just plug a big fat yellow power cord into the dock power, and our on-board battery charger takes care of business. Once we are out sailing though, it is a different story. Our power cord is only fifty feet long, so any long distance sailing requires a different solution. No, not a longer cord, the idea is to cut the cord. A sailboat has basically two options for this problem, a generator or a different source of 12 volt power. We have a generator, it runs on diesel, is kinda noisy, not too bad though, and generates 120 volt AC power that in turn powers the on-board battery charger. The other answer, is to install a source of power that does not use diesel and will still charge up those expensive batteries. A wind generator is one way to do this, and here in the dependable trade winds, the wind generator is a pretty decent option. They used to be pretty noisy, but the new ones I have seen around on other boats are really quiet. Imagine, a little wind and, BINGO you are up and running. The other popular option is to go with a solar system. Here in Florida, and in our future stomping grounds of the Bahamas and the Carribean, sunshine is in abundance, and we chose to go with solar. Solar charging really is a system of components engineered to work together, so that your boat's batteries are kept in the best possible state of charge. This requires the panels themselves, properly sized wiring between the panels, a charge controller, and breakers or fuses between the panels and this controller thing, and then between all this and the boats batteries. Properly mounting the panels so that they have air space beneath them is important, as they get hot in the sun, just like we do. We mounted our panels on a rail system, on our boats hardtop. This rail system really stiffened up the top, and our panels are about 2 inches above the top. The panels we chose are mono-crystaline 120 watt panels. There are 6 of them, so that is a lot of power for a boat system. We could have chosen poly-crystaline panels, they are only slightly less expensive these days, and the mono panels are supposed to be more efficient, especially on overcast days. Actually, solar has gotten so inexpensive these days, it is a really good option for boats, where everything is super expensive anyhow. Just several years ago, solar was four to five dollars per watt. So, an 80 watt panel was 350 or 400 bucks. Not so nowadays, decent panels can be found for less than 2 dollar a watt. What? No, watt . The charge controller is the smarts of the system, and because I wanted to do all this just one time, I got a good one. Our controller ls made by Morningstar, a leader in solar charging controllers. Our system should generate a peak of 720 Watts of power, and the charge controller will put a 50-60 amp charge at 12 volts into our nine batteries. That's a pretty healthy jolt of juice, like a triple, super, Cuban espresso in the Quart-to-go size. This should be able to power us back up in the morning, and then run our 12 volt water maker so that we can have so much water that we might have a free water fountain mounted on the back of the boat for passers by that need a quick drink. Probably not though. Get your own water maker. You can see the big black cables on the right of this picture, these come from the panels. They go straight into a box that has breakers inside. This is so the power can be disconnected from the system beyond here, in case something needs to be worked on. Our panels are 24 volt each, and three are wired together on each side of the boat for a total of 72 volts on each leg. These two 72 volt feeds go into this breaker box, and then out to the charge controller. It receives this charge and converts it into a 12 volt charge sending it to the batteries through another breaker to its left. This breaker is needed to isolate the whole system from the boats batteries in case of a needed repair. The power leaves the breaker and goes to the house batteries and then out to the other three batteries. All this trouble for a battery bank? Yep, it's the life of our boat. Once we are disconnected from shore, we are a 12 volt machine. We have an inverter aboard that takes 12 volts and turns it into 120 volt, to run the microwave oven and the television mostly. Our computer chargers are 120 volt too, as are some small items on the boat. But the work horse of the boat's electric system is the 12 volt batteries. Let's see... nine batteries, say 80 pounds each, that's 720 pounds of batteries. Yikes! That is like hauling around a piano, or a whale, or something else that weighs 720 pounds!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Do We Do It

Ever wonder what makes people do the things they do? I mean, really stop and wonder what could they possibly be thinking? Like, the guys that climb Mount Everest, in all that cold and slippery ice. Why? How about bungee jumping. Clearly these folks are deranged. How about ski jumpers, parachutists, and tailgaters. Yeah, I snuck that one in because I HATE tailgaters, and it's kinda dangerous. Who knows why these people do these seemingly insane things that most sane people would never consider. They have a passion for the adrenaline rush. They want to be noticed. They are crazy. All of these are great reasons why someone would do the very thing that might finish them off, all in the name of thrill seeking. But, hey, maybe they aren't crazy. Maybe bungee jumping really is fricking awesome. Maybe climbing an ice covered mountain freezing your butt off is really the bomb. It's not for us, but for them... well they just gotta go do it. We had a friend named Jerry, that we called Jumpin Jerry, because he loved to jump off stuff. Tall things mostly, so he could deploy his parachute just in time to keep from becoming Bouncing Jerry. A really nice guy actually, kept looking up a lot. He wanted us to take him out to the light that marks American Shoal here in the Florida Keys. It seems he had a dream of jumping off that light, from the very top, and floating down to the water. I declined. It's a warning tower, a lighthouse, owned by the Feds. The ones with jails. So, Jerry moved on to bigger things, and actually left here for Great Falls Idaho I think. They have a bridge there that you are allowed to jump off legally he said. Good luck Jumpin Jerry, it's not for me, but I get it. I really do. I mean, if that thing that you really like to do is that important to you, then go for it. I respect that in a person, no matter what it is. Except tailgating. Maybe when Jerry was a kid, had one of those GI Joe's on a parachute that you throw in the air and watch it float down. I did, and loved that thing. I will never jump out of a plane though. For me, it was the ocean. We moved to the beach when I was a kid, 5 years old or so. We would stay till it got dark, and we were freezing and wet. We didn't care, it was great anyhow. Later, I learned to surf (I really sucked at that though) and was a beach patrol lifeguard for a while. But thinking back, I remember how cool I thought Popeye was. Now here is a cool guy. He is a sailor, not afraid of water of anything. He smokes a pipe, very cool to a five year old. Had plenty of bubble pipes in my day as a youth, practicing up for my adult foray into nicotine addiction. They still make those things? And he had a girl. Well sort of a girl. I quickly realized even as a kid this bitch was trouble. I mean come on, she was always taking off on good old Popeye, and then getting into some trouble. Usually with Bluto. Give her up man, move on. But no, Popeye had a secret weapon that was always ready for rapid deployment. Spinach! THEN the action got started! I ate tons of spinach as a kid, that is why I am incredibly strong now as an adult. Old Bluto would eat a giant can of fist stew a few times, and good old Popeye would be right back on the good side of love! I dreamed of being a sailor some day myself, I really dreamed about it. And now look at me. A sailor. Still like spinach too. I used to watch a cartoon called Underdog too. He was an unlikely hero, who, like Popeye, had a girlfriend who had a knack for getting tied to railroad tracks and such. He had a ring with a magic pill inside, and when he took that pill... WHAM , he could fly and kick butt like a turbo charged Chuck Norris on super steroids. It seems that the cartoons of the day might have been written by a bunch of stoners actually. Anyway, there are those that would say that sailing off into the oceans on a tiny boat is a lot like climbing Mount Everest. It's dangerous and it's stupid to put your very lives at risk to do it. Just stay home, somethings on at eight. Why risk it, there are storms and pirates and God knows the perils. Well, I say GO JUMPIN JERRY ! I will take that risk! I want to go and do it anyway. Where is my SPINACH about now? For me, this is what makes it so good, the feeling of accomplishment, like when you sorta sail from Jacksonville to Key West in storms. Sure, it kinda sucked at times, but I wanted to stand out there, on the front of the boat, in the damn rain and eat some spinach. And if you don't get it yourself, then you can just go jump. Yeah Jerry, you too old friend.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fear of Splicing

It is a very common human characteristic, fear of the unknown. Xenophobia, or fear of the unknown, is so common that according to Psychology Today, it is actually hardwired into our makeup. It is a survival tool, carried forward from generation to generation. After all, a dark cave can be dangerous. So too, can that dark space under the bed, especially when you are about 7 years old. Some have postulated that we humans have a need for control, and the unknown is so out of our control that we fear it. I think I am afraid of being xenophobic, so that means I have xenophobiaphobia. Some common fears: Fear of Flying- Aerophobia Fear of Public Speaking- Glossophobia Fear of Heights- Acrophobia Fear of the Dark- Nyctophobia Fear of Spiders- Arachnophobia Fear of Dogs- Cynophobia Believe it of not, there is fear of string and ropes, I must have Linonophobia! That's 5 cents please. All this gibberish is because I needed another line forward to the mooring ball to properly complete my Med Mooring setup. The first line was given to me, already complete with an eyesplice on it! The new one, well, I was on my own for that one. That is when my Linonophobia started to kick in. Who knows how to do this stuff? What if it fails, then I am really in bad shape. Can I really rely on this splice? Maybe we should just sell the boat now, while it is still intact. Finally, someone else that obviously also has Linonophobia, told me about a cool website that has animated descriptions of knots and splices. It shows you how to tie knots like a pro, and has a section on lots of different splices. Go to and check it out. I needed an eye splice on the mooring ball end of my line, so I looked it up. I was pretty confusing at first, but the website helps by coloring half of the lines blue. This helps identify things, and keeps the confusion factor down somewhat. I had a piece of sisal rope handy, and some blue tape, so I gave it a try. I got off track once, and had to back up for a minute. But, in the short time of about 2 hours, I was finished with my first ever splice! With my newfound bravado, I quickly moved on to the real McCoy, and it was way easier than splicing sisal. Sisal rope is really stiff, and the fibers shed a lot of flaky bits and it generally made a mess of the place. It turns out that sisal rope is made from the Agave plant, and so naturally it comes from Mexico. The nylon rope I used was totally synthetic, and made in a factory somewhere, and so naturally it comes from China. Anyway, it took about 45 minutes, and looks awesome. I then lowered the dingy and spent another hour and a half fighting the outboard to stay running. I finally gave up, and tried to row out. The dingy was a little low on air, and this made the act of rowing pretty hard. The dingy would distort where the oar locks were, and I really could not get any leverage on the water. Add in a nice 15 to 20 knot breeze, and let the cameras roll. I was two boats away in no time. Cussing ensued. Sorry to anyone around that day that has Profaneophobia, fear of curse words. I finally pulled and pushed my way back upwind, and hooked the line up. Now we are all good with mooring lines, I forgot to take a picture of the splice, and I will. As soon as I finish the next project... rebuilding a carburetor for a dingy motor. I don't think I have Linonophobia any more. Just plain old Xenophobia, which means I am normal. Yes it does. It does too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

23 Year Old Encounter

I had an encounter with a 23 year old last evening, and it was everything I had hoped for. Let me rephrase that, because I know that some of you have dirty minds. I am talking about rum here, not a twenty something millenial. There are occasions when a great sipping rum punctuates that perfect evening, and last evening was one of those times. Cooler weather and clearing skies during the day gave way to one of those perfect evenings, and as the sun started to slip away, the high clouds to the West turned those beautiful shades of amber and red that signal the end of the day, and the beginning of night. It is that time of day that is neither day, or night, and with a nice breeze and perfect temperature, it seemed right to "See the Day Out" with a sip of something really special. I have a very good friend who was my next door neighbor once, before he and his beautiful wife disappeared one day for a better life in the Bahamas. His name is Steve, and it is this former neighbor that extolled onto me the virtues of a truly great sip of rum. Now I am not talking about rum in volumes here. The idea is that a great rum is sipped and enjoyed, maybe a shot or even a half a shot is plenty. It is all about the flavors and aromas. Oh, and Steve swears that a shot of rum now and then aids in digestion, by helping dissolve foods. Not sure on that one. Anyway, Steve and I sampled our way through different rums through the years, some were too sweet. Some harsh and bitter. Some rum just tastes like, well you know. But, a really great rum is something to be enjoyed, and Ron Zacapa Solera is about as good as they get. Ron Zacapa is a first class Guatemalan rum, that is made from a process where sugar cane is pressed, and the rum is made from these first pressings. No molasses is used, as molasses is actually a by-product of sugar refining. This watery sugar is boiled down to a honey, a thickened sugar that is more pure than dark molasses. This results in a very pure rum, finer and sweeter and more refined than a molasses rum. The rum is aged in a process known as the Solera method, and it is a slow process where the rum is aged in different oak barrels. The idea is that the rum is transferred from one barrel to another, and another, over time. Only half of the rum is ever removed from any barrel during this transfer process, and this helps "age" the additional newer rum that is added to top it back up. By the time the rum has been aged and moved four times in this cascading process, the rum has become very smooth and has taken on the wonderful aromas and subtle tastes of the sherry and wine barrels that are used. It has been described as a mahogony and copper, orange peel, citrus and clove and even honey like taste explosion. I am not that discerning, I just know it tastes good and the finish is pleasant and smooth. 23 years is a really long time, perfection can be a slow process. It was 1991, eggs were 85 cents and a gallon of gas was $1.12. The DOW topped 3000 for the first time, and operation Desert Storm was underway. Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, passed way from AIDS. Rodney King was arrested and beaten on film. The 911 system was tested for very first time. A million people are now on the internet. Thelma and Louise and Terminator 2, Judgement Day are in theaters. And, thankfully, in Guatemala, they are crushing sugarcane for my own bottle of Ron Zacapa Solera. So, go get some and try it for yourself. Or not, just means more for me. About 39 dollars a 750 ml bottle.

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Video Reborn

Our first video was, well, a little lacking. Lacking in that it was simply a video, and had no narrative... no story. Well, Saltrun fans, fear not. This video has been remastered with a complete narrative that makes it, well, better! Now it makes sense to everyone, not just us!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Windy and Cold and Gumbo Limbo

Its freezing here in the Keys. It is in the 60's and blowing up to 30, so of course it feels like 10 below. Sorry to all those who are really cold, but we are not used to this kind of treatment. We are total cold wimps and we are proud of it. So, we took a break and went to the flea market. Things are still a little slow here, it really picks up after Christmas, but it was interesting anyhow.
About 25 miles up the road from Key West is Big Pine Key, home of the endangered Key Deer. And the world famous Flea Market.
It is totally laid back, open air and very Keysey. Yes Keysey is a word, it is used all the time here. Trust me.
This is the place where you can find it, whatever it is. Painted coconuts? They got em. $4.00 T shirts? Yep, they got em. The most Comfortable Toe Rings in the whole dang world? Uh-huh, they got those too, with free demonstrations! But, the best part?
The best part is the Donut Man. He makes them to order, fresh and hot. 10 little piping hot sugar coated donuts for 2 bucks. Or the ever popular 20 donuts for just 3 dollars. I guarantee you they won't get cold before they are all gone!
They also have a little restaurant with a fish fry. I was told it was grouper, but not too sure on that, so we passed on it for now.
Even though there are lots of signs that say no dogs, they are all over the place. Know why? Cause dogs can't read. Told you it was Keysey there. Gumbo Limbo? What the ....? The Gumbo Limbo is a tree, it is not a contest to see who can gumbo limbo the lowest. It is a native Florida Keys tree that can grow up to 80 feet tall and the trunks of these tree are all unique. No two are the same, as they twist and turn to best capture the sun. They are sometimes called the tourist tree for the way their bark looks like a peeling sunburned tourist.
They have been used to plant living fences, literally cut into pieces and shoved into the ground a foot apart and bingo, a year later you have a fence. The bark is the only antidote to the poison wood tree, that also grows here. This tree has the same effect as poison ivy, except it spreads when you scratch. Peel off a little gumbo bark and rub it on the affected area, and all is better. Except that you smell like a tree.