Friday, April 18, 2014
Marathon and Pat
|Pat, the Patio Tomato Boat Plant|
After a glorious month experiencing Key West it was time to move north if we are to get out of Florida before hurricanes threaten. That, plus our insurance agreement makes us have to be above 31 degrees lattitude which is into Georgia by the 1st of July. We left behind a new friend who is on a motorhoming adventure with his young family. Sometimes, but rather rarely, we meet folks who are simply on the same wavelength as us and are instant friends. We wish safe travels to Karl and family!
|Jonesy in Crowded Boot Key Harbor|
When the wind came up (as in 40 knots) during a recent weather front we got perilously close to another
So, now we don't swing as much anymore. All it takes is one neightboring boat to set out a second bow anchor (or a stern anchor) to screw up the coordination of an anchorage. It forces everyone else to follow suit or else leave. I'm not sure I much like neighbors, but I'd better get used to it as that's how it's going to be for us over the next few years.
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign...
We're getting adjusted to all the rules and regulations of living in the USA. For so many years we have depended on our own sense about what we should and shouldn't do. Now, we have in-our-faces signs telling us what to do. Ugh. Maybe it's just the Marathon City Marina that has so many rather unfriendly signs.
|Brown socks in "Hug Me" pattern|
The redeeming factor of the Marathon City Marina is that it has wonderful facilities for boaters. There are plenty of dinghy docks, wifi, laundry, showers, and a large community area for gathering together. We've already had a package delivered directly here (new walking shoes for me!) which made life so much easier for us. Now I have some needlework supplies on their way (tatting shuttle and needle).
Of course there has been a lot of sock knitting lately. A request for brown and grey socks for one of the teenagers at the orphanages in Kazakhstan went out and I volunteered. No, I didn't have the right colors onboard, but I did have a "sock blank" and dyes so I created my own hand-dyed yarn. Yes, the result was a muddy set of brown tones but that was my goal. I added some sturdy grey yarn for the cast on- heel and toes. Voila! Big boy socks.
|Preknit sock "blank" dyed in browns|
How should I knit these socks? I started with a picot hemmed cuff, then a touch of stranded color work, and just like the last socks for a teen in Kaz, I'm working a touch of lace - this time a rosebud lace as an insert on the sides. Next up is more stranded colorwork. Here's a photo of the progress up into the lace on the leg.
We just bought our set of over-sized paper charts for the next couple of months of travel ($125! Yikes, that's a lot of yarn) and have started poring over them. Planning the day hops from harbor to harbor is a big part of the fun of cruising. Plus it's so gratifying to actually get to go where you have seen only on paper. Of course, Jonesy always "Google Maps" (that's a new verb) our future destinations to get a good idea of the lay of the land and sea, but actually being someplace new is what this cruising life is all about. We even get a kick out of the ugly places just because they give us a lot to talk about with each other. Life is good.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
|Sunrise approach to Key West|
We went digging around in our cubby holes on the boat and found some old clothes that haven't been worn in a very long time. Proof? Here's a photo of me at the helm maneuvering through the ship channel on approach to Key West (yes we had to hand-steer that last leg) wearing a LONG-SLEEVED t-shirt! Yowza! And not only that - it was layered over another cotton tank top!
I'm still working on my "Knit 52 pairs of socks in 52 weeks" challenge so all these combined factors meant that several (as in 7) pairs have been completed since I last shared my progress.
|Self patterning + white|
Most of the yarns in this last batch come from the past donations from my fellow knitting retreat campers. I get a kick out of trying to combine the leftover yarns to make something that a kid wouldn't mind wearing.
|Two tonal yarns combined|
These first brightly colored socks were knit in one 24-hour period! I actually wore off the skin on one of my knitting fingers working these while underway at the helm. It was a little challenge-within-a-challenge just to see if I could do it. No, my finger tip has yet to heal as I'm still in a knitting frenzy. The first solution was to use band-aids on that finger so that I could still knit.
But band-aids don't last long - I keep getting them wet as I wash my hands so often on this salty boat-house.
|Glitter blue + white|
What I didn't do is share all of this with Jonesy, so when he found my finger protection loose in the dinghy he quickly tossed it overboard thinking it was some form of nasty organic trash. I sadly watched it float off. OK. Make another one. So I did.
Anyway, here's a photo of my newest knitting tool. By using this I was (and still am) able to continue on my knitting adventures.
|5x1 Ribbed Socks|
|Big socks w/leftover solids|
|Cuff pocket socks|
These pink/white/purple socks are a kinda wild combination of leftover self-patterning yarns with a little twist...there is a secret pock in the double cuff. The buttons are functional, not just decorative. Into this cuff you can slip a little treasure. I put a small coin from one of the countries that we've visited in the cuff as a surprise for the kid who selects these next winter.
Once these socks are knit and all the loose yarn tails are carefully woven in (using the duplicate stitch technique), they are washed, blocked, dried, measured, labeled with the foot size, recorded in the database of the Mittens for Akkol organization, photographed and finally put away in a special cubby.
Life is good.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Key West, Florida
|Gibson Bight Key West Mooring Field|
But life hasn't always been so leisurely since our arrival. Oh no, not at all. We had a gaggle of official activities, chores, shopping, and urgent repairs that occupied our first couple of weeks.
After having both the boat and our bodies out of the country, we had to comply with the Homeland Security requirements and announce our entrance into the country. We had already applied for our "decal" by supplying all of our boat's and our personal information several months ago. Now we just had to telephone them and announce
|Toes in the coral sand, Key West, FL|
Walk, walk, walk, to the Publix grocery store to buy a phone. It was a lot farther than we thought, but being the good citizens that we are, we were on a mission to get a phone so we could do our official duties. After wandering around the store like 2 kids in a candy shop ogling all the amazing foods available with the drop of a few dollars, we bought our $15 no-tricks cell phone. Great! Oh wait. To get your new phone working you have to CALL an 800 number and enter the secret code.
But we don't have a phone to make the call! Easy - find a pay phone. Whoops. You should have seen the blank stare I got from a young gal when I asked where a "pay phone" could be found. Oh yes, the infamous deer-in-the-headlights look. Nope. No such thing as pay phones here anymore. If she hadn't
|Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West, FL|
We walked a little farther and borrowed a desk phone at the Verizon store while we arranged for wifi internet service. Yippeee! Then we hoofed it back to the boat to make the call (because that's where the telephone number was of course).
Our clearance into the USA next required a personal visit to the Customs/Immigration office at the airport in Key West. We were expecting this as this boat has never checked into the country before. Also, by this time we were much smarter and had found the bus system. Because we're seniors (I want you to know that I'm barely a senior) we can buy weekly passes for $3.75!
|Jonesy rides the bus|
Now, we consider the public bus to be our personal tour bus. It has big windows, A/C, and goes really slow through all parts of town. It takes a long time to get anywhere, but all we have is time. Our meeting with the officials at the airport went so smoothly! We are US citizens, not criminals, and the boat is US registered and we knew not to bring in any fruits & vegetables and we never went to Cuba. Yes, we were asked, and it was nice to be able to tell the truth about that!
Next up - we had to register our dinghy with the department of motor vehicles. So, we have a dinghy that we bought, used, in Guatemala that has never been registered or titled by a government. We knew that it would be tough, but armed with a Bill of Sale from the seller and a photo of the remnants of the VIN number on the transom, and Jonesy's internet sleuthing to figure out the manufacturer code, we got our title! It only took 2 trips to the DMV - by bus - with two 2-hour
|Proud owners of Florida Plates|
Then we spent a day hiking around town to find the plastic plates, a different store for the stick-on letters and numbers. Back at the boat we installed grommets in our Sunbrella dinghy "chaps" (covers) and tied line through the holes. Voila! We got plates! Now we won't have to hide from the Coast Guard as we buzz around in our now-legal dinghy!
Jonesy also has had some rather unpleasant repairs - to both heads (the potty kind). It took him a lot of climbing into dark, smelly places and working with sewer hoses. After many hours and trips to the marine stores we now have two fully functioning heads and holding tanks. Holding tanks are mandatory here and we get pumped out by the sewage boat every week. Eeeeew.
|Laundry and groceries at the dock|
Our two sons flew into Miami for the Sebring 12-hour auto race. They invited Jonesy to come up and join them at the races so off he went on the Greyhound bus leaving me alone on the boat for a couple of days. I knit. They had a wild and wonderful time. After their race weekend, they all drove down the keys and our boys spent a few hours with us - took us out to dinner and we talked, and talked. Guess what? We were all so happy to see each other and blab that nobody took a picture of the four of us together. Well, we have our memories.
|I can knit on canon balls, I can knit most anywhere.|
Life is good.
Friday, March 14, 2014
|Landing in the Dry Tortugas, FL|
Our passage from Roatan Island, Honduras to land fall in the Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida took 97 hours of non-stop sailing and motor-sailing. We sailed past Belize, Mexico, and Cuba without stopping on some stiff winds and strong favorable currents from the Gulf Stream. This was our first experience traveling in the Gulf Stream current and in the Gulf of Mexico. Wow! We moved FAST. I saw 8.9 knots at one point.
The first 2 whole days and nights were pure sailing, but not of the relaxing type. Instead it was a wild ride. We had to close all the ports to keep sea spray from coming inside. We were dry though up in the cockpit in our hard dodger and new plastic enclosure. It was more than a ride, it was physically exhausting because we had to keep our bodies steady against the onslaught. This took a lot of work by those core body muscles that we rarely use. We picked a weather window with good wind at first so we could start out by sailing (save fuel) so all of this was expected. The final days we expected
My hands and soles of my feet were tender from gripping the hand rails so tightly while being knocked around and bracing my feet on the damp wood floor. Kinda like the beginning of the school year in elementary school and you overdo it on the monkey bars the first few days. My life jacket, which was always worn and tethered to the boat, rubbed my neck raw from the constant motion.
Whoa! The USA is certainly the land of the plenty. Plenty of buoys and channel markers that is. We were surprised not only at the quantity but also at how clearly colored (red and green) and different shapes (triangles for red and squares for green) so we could identify which color it was even with the bright morning sun in our eyes! Idiot proof! Within the first hour of arriving we witnessed the US Coast Guard installing freshly painted neon green markers on top of the buoys which were even more visible. That takes some monetary funding. We are used to looking for bamboo sticks in the mud and faded children's play balls or empty motor oil jugs being used for markers which is what we've seen for the last 7 1/2 years in Latin American waters.
Rounding the corner of the fort we came to the anchorage and saw the US National Park research vessel FORT JEFFERSON at the dock. Shiny as a new whistle – no rust! Now that costs a bundle! Soon the sea planes began arriving with visitors – and then the sparkling white ferry! Overhead, military jets performed aerobatic maneuvers for our viewing pleasure and we heard our first sonic boom in almost a decade! Yep. USA – the land of the plenty.
|Goliath Grouper - almost as big as our dinghy!|
So, below is a photo of us out in the anchorage (we're one of the boats with a mast) of Fort Jefferson National Park on the Dry Tortugas. What a great spot to stop and rest and explore! That big ship is the ferry that brings visitors over from Key West a couple of hours away.
The water was beautiful. When we finally lowered the dinghy we were visited by this GIANT fish - actually it is a Goliath Grouper and was about 5 to 6 feet long! Nope, I don't think I'll go swimming after all (and yes, we found out later that they do bite).
There were at least 4 of these monsters in the water. Why? Well, because they are protected here so they could grow to these sizes, but also because the local fishermen come into this harbor during windy conditions. As they filet their catch they toss the carcasses to these big guys. The groupers have learned to come in and take advantage of the easy access to food. Once the fishermen left, so did these big groupers.
The local pelicans were quick to notice that there were fishy handouts available and soon there was a flock hanging out in the water near the little fishing boats. Magnificent Frigate birds also tried to horn in on the feast - they are known thieves and are very agressive. Fights ensured and there was a lot of flapping of wings and squawking.
The feeding frenzy attracted the attention of the folks on several of the sailboats who also joined in the event. Here's a photo of our new best friend fileting some yellow tail snapper for us fresh from the sea. Yummy!
|Sooty Tern Bird Nesting Preserve|
I'll leave you with a few photos of the sights from Fort Jefferson. Scroll on down.....
|Jonesy at Fort Jefferson|
Thursday, February 20, 2014
HARD TO SAY GOOD-BYE
|Charlie, Terry, Saundra, and Jonesy|
Here's a photo of us with our cruising buddies Charlie and Saundra on s/v Island Sol at Temporary Cal's restaurant deck on the island of Roatan, Honduras. We first met these new cruisers in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala last summer. Well, that is met them face-to-face. Saundra and I had been corresponding via email for quite some time before that after finding each other on the Sailors forum of Ravelry.com. Saundra has been my crafty/fiber buddy and I'll miss her company dearly. S/v Island Sol has many more cruising adventures to experience, but in the opposite compass direction than the one we're taking. We did change our plans for these past few months to return to Roatan rather than head up to Mexico just so we could hang out more with these folks - and we're glad we did.
|The infamous Derelict Dock|
Last Friday, we tossed off the lines to the docks at the Roatan Yacht Club and motored over to West End. This move not only puts us 2 hours closer to our next destination but it also puts is smack dab in what we consider to be the primo location on Roatan! What's not to love about beautiful reefs to explore, cool breezes, fun bohemian village of dive resorts, and beaches to walk. We're BACK! We loved our times here in previous years, but there was some political nonsense and cruisers were turned away from the moorings.
Thankfully, there is a new mayor in town and the Roatan Marine Park is standing by ready to re-install the mooring buoys (pending legal paperwork)! We have picked up a private mooring because we know those folks have left the country - but there are also many sailboats anchored out here - like 15! That's a sufficient number for a traditional "Derelict Dock Party".
Over the years, we have gathered here on what used to be a nice, but never used, dock for a real estate development (that never developed except for the dock). At 5pm, we set up folding tables and all bring finger foods to share and our own beverages. Here we can chat without loud music and enjoy the last
Besides doing chores and eating out with friends in the village, there has been a lot of knitting going on (duh). Just socks...more and more socks. These child-sized monster socks were knit with various left-over and donated yarns. Again, I used a 2-round pattern of 1x1 alternating stitches each time I changed colors. I think it adds a little pizazz.
With the last little amount of leftover Socks That Rock Lightweight sock yarn, I added some plain navy blue Regia and knit up another pair of child-sized socks. The Socks That Rock yarn is thicker than the Regia and does not have any nylon added for protection against abraison. So that yarn goes on the legs and the tough-wearing Regia goes on the feet.
Finally, here are another pair of child-sized socks knit where I combined that ghastly self-striping yarn with the soothing navy blue Regia yarn. I only used the green and white mottled stuff in the leg as stripes against the blue. Then I cut it off completely for the foot. Ah, much better.
Tomorrow will be a busy day for us. First we must clear out of the country with visits to customs, immigration and the port captain.
Life is good.
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
The new pattern is free during the months of February and March 2014 to members of the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group.
So that was my fiddly sock knitting. No, I haven't knit up the second sock yet. It's been cast on, but I've been distracted by other sock knitting including the Knitalong event on the Holiday Mystery Gifts group. Mostly, I've been working up socks for the orphanages in Kazakhstan.
From more (yes I still have more) of the sock yarn donated by the campers at Meg Swanson's Knitting Retreat, I selected this soft purplish colored yarn for a very simple pair of socks. I love how the plies of the yarn are different colors at some points. It didn't have a ball band so I don't know who the manufacturer is, but I did enjoy working with this yarn.
Now, the next pair completed is worked in a yarn color combination that I find GHASTLY (Online Supersocke Savanne). There is just something unsettling about the colors. Kelly green with burgundy red? It just gives me the shudders. But, I know that color appreciation differs from person to person so there must be somebody out there who won't mind these socks. Like somebody who is colorblind.
Unfortunately, I have 2 more full skeins of this yarn! I bought it online in a "grab bag" sale - fantastic price and good quality wool sock yarn. I'm pondering reskeining these so I can over-dye them with a soft grey to mute the colors. Otherwise I may just go blind knitting with that yarn again. I almost had to wear sunglasses for this first pair.
|CAUTION - Wear protective Eye Gear|
My current mixing method is to knit two rounds of a 1x1 mix (knit 1 first color, knit 1 second color) with stranded colorwork, switching the colors for the second round. This finished pair has the Knit Picks Stroll caper green, Sophie's Toes in blues, Koigu wool orange, and some ugly Opal sock yarn that I had overdyed with some brown years ago. The Koigu and Sophies Toes yarns are only used on the leg because they don't have that work-horse fiber - nylon - and will wear out quicker if used for heels and toes.
So now you know what I've been up to these past couple of weeks - what about Jonesy? Well, he's been filling his time up with boat chores of course!
Cruising in exotic locations means that he's had the opportunity to make boat repairs in scenic locals. The motor for our electric roller-furler actually arrived on time (!!!) and was exactly what we needed. You can imagine the joy we both had when he flipped the power switch for the first time and the roller-furler roared alive!!
This will make it so much easier and safer for our big passage from Roatan here up to Florida.
There's always something to tinker with on the boat. During our wait for the motor to arrive I mentioned to Jonesy that the rear toilet (head)
|Build up in blackwater tubes|
Well, it turned into a BIG project. Jonesy had to remove all the outbound tubing from the toilet - eeewwwy. This meant that he had to remove the paneling in the bathroom (head) because the tubes run way up high overhead to prevent siphoning. Then he had to pound the tubes against the dock to break up and shake loose the hard solid build up in them. Look at how clogged up these tubes were! There was hardly any space for black water to exit!!! That's because there is some chemical reaction that occurs when urine meets with sea water. Just another chore that live aboard cruisers must deal with that day-trippers never see.
As we all know, sometimes a simple job keeps growing into more jobs and this was true with the head. The plastic base had a broken bolt. Fortunately, Mr. Spares Jonesy had ordered a spare many years ago upon the advice of another cruiser. It only took us an hour to find which cubbie it was hidden in but we found it! Whoo hoooo! Anyway, I volunteered to clean up and sanitize after he was done. He'd done enough work.
Now, we have nothing on our "to-do" list except get ready for our next passage. Mostly, that will be special provisioning for foods to eat while underway while the boat is heeling (tipping on it's side). Because of the wind directions we're expecting, it will be very hard to get into the refrigerator/freezer because the contents will fly out if we open the doors. So we'll be packing coolers with drinks and quick-to-grab snacking meals. This means I need to do some planning, shopping, and pre-cooking and packaging. It also means that I'll have MORE TIME TO KNIT while we are at sea!
We've been enjoying life here on Roatan and socializing with our boating friends. The other day, the folks on the motor vessel Cabaret gave a Cruiser's Breakfast at Brooksy Point Marina for all of us. They served up biscuits and real Jimmy Dean Sausage gravy, eggs, french toast, strawberries, mimosas, and bloody marys. They made me a special plate which had some real bacon on it (because I can't eat the wheat in biscuits, gravy or french toast).
Life is good.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
PTSD - Post Traumatic Storm Disorder
|Whats this? Niki Wiki at a dock during cruising season?|
The Roatan Yacht Club had fallen into disrepair the last time we were in Roatan. But some new folks have taken an interest in developing it and have added brand new docks including dedicated dinghy docks, refurbished the bathrooms and shower, and improved the walkways. They have lots of future plans to make this a cruiser destination and we applaud them! The price is right too!
Life is easier in a lot of ways here at the little Roatan Yacht Club. Not only do they have a reasonably priced restaurant with great food and a pool, there is also access to the main road and the Eldon's grocery store is just a few steps away! The other two marinas here in French Key/French Harbor are not within walking distance of shopping or taxi transportation.
|Roatan Yacht Club|
Our plan was to just stay a week. As so often happens (cruisers' plans are written in the sand at high tide) we changed our minds and are staying a full month. Why? Serendipity, that's why. It so happens that the skipper of another boat here used to work for the manufacturer of our Gulfstar boat (long out of business) and Jonesy eagerly picked his brain about our Hood in-mast furler motor. See, it stopped working so we were having to manually release and haul in the main sail. Not fun.
With these new tidbits of information, Jonesy decided to tackle the removal of the motor from the mast. This necessitated removing the boom from the mast which we would only do while safely in a marina. After several days of saturating the corroded and
|Roatan Yacht Club|
After a couple of phone calls back and forth to the states and the magic of PayPal (thank you everyone who has purchased my knitting patterns!) we now have a motor on it's way to a freight depot in Florida. From there a local air shipping and logistics business (RAS - Roatan AirExpress Service) will have it sent by air to us here on the island.
|Roatan Yacht Club Restaurant patio|
This has been a very rainy January so far which means that we've also spent a lot of time just hanging out on the boat. We are so looking forward to February when we expect the trade winds to start to pick up and to have long strings of dry days and lovely breezes.
|Roatan Yacht Club path to restaurant|
Beginning February 1st, I will be leading a Learn How to Knit Socks Knitalong on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group. So far there are over 200 brave folks signed up to participate! We will be using my Plain Talk Socks pattern, sock/fingering weight yarn and double point needles. We are going to take this very, very slowly and will knit a plain sock, cuff-down, with a traditional heel flap and gusset and a Dutch/square heel. I'm really looking forward to this!
In the meantime, I've been finishing up some baby items for a submission to a future publication. Here's a little lace-trimmed hat and mitten combination worked up in Socks That Rock yarn - soft merino superwash wool.
Life is good.