'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Social Distancing, Act two.

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Or three, or… I really haven’t been counting. But in these troubled time, we’ve been cruising in an entirely different way, yet again. Avoid the towns and cities, avoid (mostly) the places where Cruisers tend to congregate. Avoid, even, the friends we would love to see and spend time with.

Two days ago we blew (literally, it was howling out of the northeast that day) through Charleston, SC without a backwards glance. If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that Charleston is where I (Keith) had my second eye surgery back in November of 2016. We got to see quite enough of Charleston then, thankyouverymuch.

We would have liked to see more of Georgetown, SC this time, but we spent only one quick night at anchor, did a nessesities shopping (there is STILL no toilet paper in the stores, people!) at Food Lion…

Oh, discovery time!! Both Food Lion and Winn Dixie grocery stores carry REAL Liverwurst, not that nasty crap you can find at Hannaford and Publix. If you’re a fan of Liverwurst as one of your earliest childhood memories, you’ll understand my excitement. If you can’t stand the stuff, I pity you, but that leaves more for me!

Oh, and flowers. It’s spring, of course, so things are in bloom, the wild creatures all have but one thing on their collective minds, and the weather is – on the whole – mild. When Nicki and I made our southward pilgrimage in 2016, we called it the “Til the Butter Melts” tour, since we were trying to find warm weather. This one we were calling the “Azalea Tour, because we were resolved to move north no faster than the Avalea’s were blooming, thus experiencing an endless Spring.

Azaleas – Georgetown SC, April 2, 2020

Looks like we’re just about on schedule.

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Cruising and Social Responsibility

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What with the spreading Covid-19 pandemic and the concerns for both our health and that of the populous in general, we’ve been giving a fair bit of thought to our rather unique (to a small group) circumstances.

The guidelines for “flattening the curve” of the outbreak include eliminating all avoidable travel – but what do you do when your home is a traveling device, and the only way to get to your other “home” – a house in Maine – is to travel? Is that travel avoidable? Or not?

Certainly we’ve taken the social distancing and hygiene guidelines to heart. We cancelled all our planned and long anticipated visiting in St. Augustine, and except for a couple of brief outdoor’s forays ashore we stayed isolated on the boat, contacting others only to the minimum extent necessary to service the boat, provision, and get out of town.

But is that enough? Could we do better?

I don’t think we could do better. By staying aboard and continuing our travels, I think we’re obeying the spirit of the guidelines to the fullest, perhaps having even less significant contact with others than we could if we were in “lockdown” at the house in Maine.

There are still some question marks ahead, though. We do need to stop at a marina – or at least at a dock – every 4-5 weeks, just to fill the water tanks, buy diesel fuel, and restock the cupboards. Is that different than what we’d be doing from a land base? We don’t think so – and we have the advantage here of plenty of fresh air, and no other people within 150 feet or more.

I guess we’re doing ok.

But it’s looking to me like we may not see much of the Chesapeake on this trip, either. We missed it in 2016 because of my eye, and we may just fly through this year due to Covid-19. That’ll be a disappointment, but it sets us up for a future cruise, too.

Looking for that silver lining!

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We’re fine, really!

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Sionna is in St. Augustine, FL. It’s a pretty neat city, however the internet service is – well – Weird.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it LOOKS like it’s working, but things disappear. Sometimes they disappear right away, and sometimes they stay for long enough to fool you, and THEN they run for the woods.

And photos don’t upload. So it’s kinda a boring blogpost this time.

If you’re following along (and there are still a loyal few who are, thank you!) we just wanted to say we’re fine, we’re being careful of ourselves and others (we canceled all the visits with friends we’d planned for this stop – just didn’t feel right) and will likely be underway again on Thursday, headed north.

It’s an odd world to live in right now, that much is certain. Y’all be good to each other and yourselves, and we’ll do the same!

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Waiting it out again in Vero Beach

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It’s blowing. Again. Just for curiosity we tuned in the the local reports of marine weather, and sure enough, winds at Vero Beach are 15-20 mph, gusting to 35.

So we’re glad we’re tucked in here for a couple days, chillin’ out, cooking (Nicki made bread, and I did an experimental dish using sweet potato and Cristophene. Call it “Scalloped Christophene & Sweet Potato” and you’ll have the idea.

What’s that, you don’t know what Christophene is? Poor you! It’s a Caribbean/Mexican veggie, considered a squash. In Mexico they call it Chayote Squash. Crispy-crunchy fresh, still a bit of tooth cooked, not a lot of flavor of it’s own but fun to eat, and no waste – the single seed is eaten along with the rest, and you needn’t peal it, plus they keep very well un-refrigerated on the boat.

And we have neighbors, too. In Vero Beach, you share moorings.

In this case, we’re sharing with the boat Katy, and wonder-of-wonders, they’re from Maine too!

Steve & Judy have been fine company – we handed over some fresh bread, and Judy sent over some of her wicked (as we say in Maine) Lentil curry. And to make the day complete, I pulled the plug in the bottom of Sionna and

ALMOST SANK THE BOAT…

Well no, actually I didn’t. But it’s ratings week on the blog, and since we don’t have any pictures of me cavorting nearly naked in the surf like most sailing blogs, I thought just a wee bit of drama induction would help us in the ratings. And I really did pull the plug in the bottom. Our speed log sensor is mounted through the belly, and it stopped working on our way up here Thursday, so I pulled it out to clean it, replacing it with the replacement plug provided for the purpose. We’ve never pulled it when we were in the water, so I wasn’t actually sure how much water would come in during the exchange, but it turns out the maker thought of that, and there’s a little valve-thingy in the hole that stops all but a trickle of water while you do the deed. Total anti-climax, but a relief to we-who-hate-sinking. And now we should have a speed/distance log again.

Plus some mighty good lentils and bread.

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Waiting it out and dodging bullets

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Weather.

Really, everybody talks about it, but nobody ever DOES anything about it! So here we are, waiting for it.

When we arrived here in Tarpon Basin, off Key Largo, we’d chosen it specifically for shelter from the strong cold front that was expected to come through Florida, and sure enough, it was a doozy of a “Norther”, as we call them. Characteristically, Northers come with a major wind shift, often nearly 180 degrees, and such things are hard on anchored boats. When you set your anchor for, lets say, a southern wind, and then the wind suddenly starts blowing hard out of the north, the anchor has to either turn around (unlikely) or pull out of the ground and re-set in the opposite direction. And it’s that re-set that’s often the problem.

In the case of last Wednesday, about 11:30 pm, Sionna had no problem. Our “old fashioned” CQR anchor either turned or reset and we never moved from our spot.

Not so, one of our anchorage neighbors. (Sorry we have no photos of the exciting part – we were kinda busy.)

I never did get the boat name, but it was white with a red stripe, and missed us by MAYBE 3 feet as it slipped by, anchor dragging merrily across the bottom. And that was a worry too, because if his anchor had dragged over our chain, he would have hooked us loose too, and then there would be two boats drifting through the anchorage.

The term “Fuster-cluck” comes to mind, and it’s happened many times in many anchorages – though never to us. Yet. (Never say never!)

It’s also interesting and pleasing to me that Nicki answered the sub-conscious call from a sound sleep, suddenly waking with an uneasy feeling, and she got up to take a look around, in time to see the dragging boat headed our way, but still a ways off. She called me to put another eye on the situation, we confirmed he was getting closer, and then the drill kicked in: I dove below for warm clothes while Nicki started the engine and began trying to move us out of his direct path, pulling our anchor chain along the bottom a bit without disturbing the anchor itself. Soon as I was back she jumped below for clothing, turned on the GPS chart, depth sounder and radio and got out the spotlight and binoculars (surprisingly useful in the dark, actually), while I sounded the “Danger” sound signal (five blasts on the air horn) to alert the rest of the anchorage to the situation, and kept Sionna moving away from his path.

As for the dragger, it took those poor folks over an hour to get things cleaned up and get anchored again – this time way back downwind of everyone else. In the dark of a new moon, that is not a fun job, let me tell you. We sat in the cockpit the whole time, watching the boats around us, of course, but especially the three that were upwind of us, but nobody else budged as far as we could see.

So now it’s Friday morning, we’ve been here almost two days, and it feels like time to move along a bit. North is the goal, and north we shall go. Sunday the winds are forecast to go south and southeast, which will be our opportunity to cross the very wide and very shallow (which combination can stir up some wicked chop in a north wind) Biscayne Bay toward Miami.

Now our original plan had been to go around the Miami-Ft.Lauderdale area completely, go outside on the Atlantic for a night run up to Lake Worth, FL, and skip about 30 draw bridges. But looking at the forecast, there just isn’t a weather window to do that with any hope of a reasonable ride, so we’ve resigned ourselves to doing the bridge dance for a few days as we work our way slowly north. Here’s hoping we can hold on to our sanity for the next week while we get this stretch behind us!

Meanwhile, here’s our destination for today, which, with a name like “Long Arsenicker Island”, has a lot to live up to. And it’s depiction on the chart is, honestly, a giggle waiting to happen. Sometimes it’s the little things!

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More boat jobs in paradise!

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Because a boat is never done.

Or perhaps more accurately, a boat never STAYS done. Anyway, we’re in Marathon, Florida, enjoying some time with friends Russell and Lynn from “Blue Highway” who have so generously opened their home-dock to us for a few days. The weather has been blowing stink for two days, news on the VHF radio is mostly about boats dragging anchor out in Boot Key Harbor, but we’re safe and snug and last night had a preliminary rum beverage unveiling to introduce Nicki’s latest masterpiece – the “Keys Breeze”

It. Was. Awesome. And will be featured in the official “Rum-Off”, scheduled for tomorrow evening. She’s looking to repeat her first win, back in 2017, which would make her record a solid 2-out-of-three against the home court contestant, Lynn. Tune in for the results next week!

So people ask us “Don’t you get bored with just hanging out on the boat?

Maybe we would – if we had more opportunity to just hang out. But as I’ve mentioned, boats are just entropy looking for a place to happen. The last couple of days have included the following:

Completely disassemble, clean, and reassemble the carburetor for the dinghy motor.

Cut down the head of the dinghy’s rudder so it fits under the boom of the sailing rig.

Move 250-plus pounds of trim ballast out of the stern of Sionna and find places for it somewhat forward of mid-ship.

ABOVE: See those pretty gray trapezoidal shaped blocks in the photo? Those are 50# (plus of minus) blocks of lead, which used to be under the berth in the aft cabin.

Back before we added the davits and began hanging the dinghy off the stern, Sionna needed that weight back there to make her float level fore-and-aft – what’s called “on her lines”. But when we added all that extra weight aft, she became distinctly tail heavy (“Down at the stern” – don’t you just love marine terms? I do!). Not only did that make her look a bit odd, it also effected how she responds to waves, making her more prone to Hobby-horsing (there’s another one!), or pitching nose up- nose down repeatedly. It’s a really uncomfortable motion, and potentially risky as she could bury her bow into a wave and cause damage.

A close-up of some of that lead – these three blocks add up to a little over 150#, moved from well behind her center of gravity to slightly forward of it, and about 2 feet lower in the boat. The other 100-some pounds is slightly farther forward.

Meanwhile Nicki has been busily replacing and re-attaching our fine mesh no-see-um screens throughout the boat. We are mighty tired of getting chewed up every night by Florida’s copious insect life, and have high hopes this will make us less of a main course for the little buggers!

So that’s life at the moment – a little here, a little there and we’re getting Sionna back in shape for the next 1300 miles up the eastern seaboard. See you there!

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Let’s not forget why we’re out here

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I just realized that we’ve been back to the boat for a month now, and I’ve yet to share a single sunset picture.

Shocking – my reputation hangs by a thread…

It’s not that there haven’t been any sunsets. There have actually been several of note. The problem is that sunsets from a boat yard just don’t do the process of day’s ending justice.

Now that we’re underway, though (we’re anchored in San Carlos Bay, off Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers Beach) we have the opportunity to do some sunset-catchup.

So here you go!

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