Thursday, March 27, 2014


Socks Underway

Sunrise approach to Key West
Socks, socks and more socks have been knit in the last few weeks. First, there was plenty of time to play with the double-pointed needles while we were underway from Honduras to the USA. It was too rough to do much else except sit down, clip on to the boat, and knit. But also, as we got farther north it actually got a little chilly out in the wind at dawn! Perfect conditions for playing with wool!

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
Now, you might think I'm a little optimistic to think that I can knit that many (104) single socks in a year, but if you consider that these socks can be any size then perhaps you'll consider it feasible too. I may be nuts to try, but I'm not stupid. Many of the socks I've been knitting are in child sizes because they are not only needed at the orphanages in Kazakhstan, but they require far fewer stitches, thus hours to make.

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.

Finger sleeve
What to do? I tried to use a plastic & leather thimble for quilters but it was too thick and made knitting difficult. I even tried changing my knitting technique to not use that sore finger. It worked, but the knitting was slow and I got cramps in my fingers.

Glitter blue + white
Leather. That was the solution. I happen to have some scraps of leather onboard (what? of course I do, I'm a crafter) and so I made my own little finger protection. I cut a little strip of leather about 1/2" wide by a little less than 2" long. I punched a hole in each end and threaded an elastic cord thru them. A couple of knots tied in the ends and voila! a finger protection sleeve.

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
I'll just add the photos below of the finished socks. Although no patterns were used (other than what is in my head), I did write up a little pattern for the green socks with the wide ribbing for the Holiday Mystery Gifts group members. After completing our "Learn to Knit Socks Knitalong" some of the more adventurous knitters are yearning to add some stitch patterns to their socks. There are a couple of tricks that need to happen to properly line up the stitches for a visually attractive sock so I decided to start writing up some of these easier-to-knit patterns.

Big socks w/leftover solids
I like to show how the ribbing pulls in the fabric of the sock making it look way too skinny. But when the sock is worn, or put on a sock blocker, then you can see how it really looks and feels.
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.
Living on a sailboat does present a problem when it comes time to find a space to dry socks. My favorite solution is to simply hang them over the hand-hold rails on the ceiling in our salon. Heck, these are mounted so high that neither Jonesy or I can comfortably use them anyway so the socks are out of the way. The open hatch provides some breeze to help with the drying, and I get to admire all the pretties as I dream up other ways to use up the sock yarns on the boat.

Life is good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Key West, Florida

Gibson Bight Key West Mooring Field
We've been so, so busy these past 3 weeks while tied to a mooring ball in Key West, Florida. Eat, sleep, knit, fix my hammock, sleep some more. This is one of the views from the hammock on the bow - if you look closely at the skyline you can see a cruise ship which is how a lot of the folks we see in the old part of town get here. There is at least one, and up to 4 cruise ships here each day.

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
our arrival. Easy. Wait...we just got here from Central America and our cell phone won't work in the USA. So no phone. No problem! Buy a throwaway phone.

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
been busy I would have entertained her with stories about putting a few coins in a slot and being able to talk to somebody without the burden of a 145-year service contract that takes possession of your first-born if you change service providers. But I digress.

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
waits before our turn once we were there but the staff was friendly and made it happen. With the 1/2 hour dinghy rides to the docks each way, the wait for the bus, the bus rides, the waits at the DMV, the waits for a return bus this took TWO WHOLE DAYS!

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.
To sum it up...there was a lot of work to complete after first arriving in the USA, but now we are done so we are having a great time in Key West! There's HOT WATER in the washing machines at the dinghy dock for cruisers, we don't need insect repellent, and the weather has been delightfully cool (in the 70's and 80's with low humidity - that's "cool" to us). I've finished many pairs of socks which I'll share next blog.

Life is good.

Friday, March 14, 2014



Landing in the Dry Tortugas, FL
We made it! We're in the good ole US of A.

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
the winds to drop down, which they did. So we finished the trip by motor-sailing.

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!

Greedy Pelicans
Thankfully, the Sooty Terns didn't join in the frenzy as they were way too busy with mating and nesting season over on Bird Key. From our boat we could see a constant "cloud" of hovering birds over the low scrub brush on the little island. Because this spit of land (it used to be a separate island, but storms have moved the sands to connect it to the fort) is protected during nesting season we didn't go close. But I did manage to get a photo of it from the top of Fort Jefferson.

Sooty Tern Bird Nesting Preserve
So we toured the fort and hung out in the anchorage for a couple of days to rest up for our last leg of the passage to Key West where we are now.

I'll leave you with a few photos of the sights from Fort Jefferson. Scroll on down.....
Jonesy at Fort Jefferson

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