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28 April 2017

Flashback Friday | Random Blogging Tips


Today is Michael d’Agostino’s Flashback Friday. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog three years ago and have lots more followers now then we did back then (thank you all!) so many folks may not have seen some of our earlier blog posts. 

I originally wrote this post on the first anniversary of our blog. It was a good opportunity to pause, reflect on what worked well and what didn't, and think about where I wanted to take the blog next. It's something I do now each year on Mr. Blog's birthday. {You can find links to more of my posts on blogging here.}

{This post was originally published in July 2014. You can find it here.}


****

 


I can't believe that we started this blog a year ago and that this is our 177th post! It all started because of my mom. Bless her cotton socks. Like most moms, I imagine, she wants to know what we're up to and wishes I would email a lot more often. So when we decided to move onto a sailboat and start cruising full-time, I thought starting a blog would be an ideal way to keep her up to date on our little adventures. And as an added bonus, it seemed like a great way to organize our photos and keep a record of our travels. So two birds, one stone. {Random side note: Isn't that just an awful little saying to use to describe an efficient action? Death to birds = efficiency. Do vegetarians use this phrase?}

I'm surprised that I've kept this going for so long - I usually get bored of things much more quickly. But for some reason, I find writing up these random posts to be quite enjoyable and, at times, cathartic. And when we go back and read them, they make us laugh. Oh, the stupid things we've done! 

I really didn't know what I was doing when I started this blog and I still don't. So I've been having a look at various tips about how to write a great blog - such as this one on Blogher, this one from Bumfuzzle and of course this one from Windtraveler. After having a little review, here is how I think our little blog stacks up against some of their criteria:

1. Write about what you love

Tick. I love traveling, I love Scott and most of the time I love sailing. There are definitely days I don't love sailing. But I love writing about those days because it is cathartic. And people feel sorry for you - which I love.

2. Do good, don't bash others & don't be a "misery loves company" blog  

We try to tick this box, but yes, there are times when I write about the miserable days (see point 1 above). But on the whole, I try to keep things fun, not complain too much and bear in mind the golden rule. Because let's face it, we're lucky enough to go cruising, we have way too much to eat and we have a place to sleep every night - so really what is there to complain about? All you have to do is pick up the newspaper on any given day just to realize how darn lucky we are. 

3. Be different

Yeah, we probably don't tick this box. There are exactly 1,357,546,079 sailing blogs out there already. So we're not exactly different. And surprise, surprise - lots of people have sailed in New Zealand already. And pretty much everyone writes about the stupid things they've done on their boat. So, no, we're not different. But my mom likes our blog and has never read another cruising blog in her life - so at least she thinks we're different.

4. Post regularly

Tick. We try to post three times a week - Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays. Except, of course, when we have difficulties getting internet access or charging our computers. But generally, I write a whole bunch of posts at one time and have them all lined up and scheduled to go out. Which explains the alternative timeline and universe that my blog lives in - things often get reported in blogland a month or two after they happen in reality.

5. Keep it short and sweet

Nope, don't always tick this box. I sometimes write long, rambling posts with lots of weird tangents. This probably isn't going to change. However, when I write a day-by-day log type of posts, I try to do a shorter intro section which describes the theme of those few days so that people can just scan that and then move on to someone else who keeps it short and sweet. My mom on the other hand, is retired and has plenty of time so I expect she is reading all the way to the bitter end of each post. You are, aren't you?

6. Use pictures

Tick. One of the main purposes of our blog is a place to store our pictures, along with our stories. Scott is our camera man. He desperately wants a Go Pro and thinks this would take our pictures to the next level. I know that I love looking at the great pictures other people share in their blogs so I think this is a really important criteria. We even have a whole series of "Going for a Walk" posts of the places we've meandered, hiked and tramped in, which are mainly photos. (If you're interested in checking them out, click on "Walk" in the labels section on the right hand side and it will bring them all up. Or click on the New Zealand tab on the top and you'll see a list of all of them there too.)

7. Use social media & make friends

Maybe 37% of a tick on this one. I recently started a Facebook page for our blog - something I never thought I would do. Clearly some sort of demonic spirit possessed me, took over my computer and set it up. And then I got sucked into the world of Pinterest. Who knew how much fun pinning pictures could be? I'm still a little bit unsure about this whole social media thing and a recent experience has kind of put me off a bit. However, one of the best things about blogging and reading other people's blogs is connecting with folks through email, comments and, yes, even Facebook and Pinterest. We love hearing from you - keep it coming! What do you like about this blog? Let us know and we'll try to keep doing it.

8. Write like you talk

Tick, kind of. When I write a blog post, it is basically a brain dump of what all the weird little voices are saying to each other in my head. So yeah, it is kind of how I talk. Except when I'm working. No one at work really wants to hear you talk about demonic spirits or zombie wallabies. Instead, you're expected to use big words like "paradigm", "fungible" and "hegemony" and corporate phrases like "think outside the box", "it needs to be sticky" and "transformational change". No one really wants to hear nonsense like that in a blog. Especially Scott. 

So there you go - another long, rambling post to celebrate Mr. Blog's first birthday. I have no idea why my blog is a boy. But then again I have no idea why boats are girls. Blog just sounds like a boy's name. You wouldn't really name a little girl, Blog, would you? But it would be a great name for a cat. Blog the cat - it has a ring to it doesn't it. We're not getting a cat on our boat, so go ahead, you can name your cat Mr. Blog. Send us a picture though. Maybe I should host a Mr. Blog the Cat competition - best cat wins the opportunity to guest post on our blog. I better go check email now, I imagine the entries are flooding in. Better hurry and get yours in - email to thecynicalsailor (at) gmail (dot) com.

Random tangent now over. We'll see you back here on Tuesday.


What blogging tips and tricks do you have? What things do you look for when you read blogs?

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26 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Bahamian Blue



Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Remember those big boxes of crayons you had as a kid with all of those wonderful sounding colors? I don't remember if there was one called Bahamian Blue. If there isn't there should be. 

2 - Actually, you could have a whole box of crayons dedicated just to the different shades of blue you find in the Bahamas. So many beautiful variations of blue in the water, not to mention the sky.

3 - This is a picture from when we anchored on the Little Bahama Bank after crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida. Nothing but blue everywhere you look. 

   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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24 April 2017

Smokey The Bear's Lair | Bush Fires In The Bahamas

Sun setting at Smokey the Bear's Lair anchorage.

“It must be trash burning day,” I said looking at all of the smoke billowing off of Great Abaco Island. “It’s strange how we bury our trash in landfills and people on the islands burn theirs.”

“That’s not trash that’s burning,” Scott said. “When I was at Sid’s Grocery Store on Green Turtle Cay, the owners told me that they’re bush fires which they just let burn. They might of started from a cigarette or something.”

“What a shame. Where’s Smokey the Bear when you need him?” I watched as we got closer to shore and the smoke intensified. “Wait a minute, I just thought of something. Are there even bears in the Bahamas? I hope not. I mean, Smokey the Bear is fine, but remember those bears when we were camping out west and all the damage they did. I don’t want to run into those kind of bears.”

Scott raised his eyebrows. “Now, you’re worried about bears? Don’t you have enough to worry about with all of the sharks and barracudas in the water when you’re snorkeling?”

I think he saw the fear in my eyes. “Don’t worry. There aren’t any bears, but even if there were, it’s not like they can swim out to our boat and bother us.”

“Ever heard of polar bears?” I asked, perhaps with a bit of a sarcastic tone.

“What you should be worried about is exactly where we’re going to anchor to hide out from this weather.” He pointed to a spot near some rocks. “How about over there?”

I got out the binoculars and had a closer look. “Okay, looks fine. I don’t see any bears.”

****

Smoke from the bush fires burning on Great Abaco Island.

After over a week cruising in the Bahamas, we finally made our way to Green Turtle Cay to clear in. Scott went onshore to the Customs & Immigration office (only the captain is allowed to clear everyone in, the crew has to remain on the boat). He had waited until 1:00 PM thinking that they’d be open after the lunch hour. Nope, they were closed until 2:15 PM, which really meant 2:30 PM.

Besides clearing us in, Scott had one other major task while on shore which was to get us some more milk and eggs. Since he had time to kill, he headed off to Sid’s Grocery Store. We had been there on our last trip to the Bahamas. They have a decent selection of provisions and the owners are friendly. They invited Scott to have a seat and take a load off while he waited.

As he chatted with them, they mentioned that there was some weather coming in and that there had been a steady stream of boats coming into the White Sound anchorage to seek protection from the forecast winds.

If you live on a boat, there’s one thing that you always pay attention to and that’s the weather. When it’s great, life is good and when it’s bad, life is…hmmm…let’s go with interesting. That sounds like a much more positive spin on things then how I sometimes feel when the weather is dicey.

Scott went back to Customs & Immigration when they opened up, cleared us in lickety-splitly and hightailed it back to our boat. He dropped off the eggs and milk and we headed over to White Sound in our dinghy to the Green Turtle Club Marina to “borrow” their WiFI and check out the weather forecast. Winds were due to be 10-20 knots from a southerly direction so we decided to head across the Sea of Abaco and anchor off of Great Abaco Island.

{White Sound was way too crowded for our liking. The boats that weren’t on mooring balls were on very short anchors. I’d hate to be there if anyone dragged.}

There aren’t any handy anchor signs on the charts telling you where a good place to drop the hook is over there, so we had to scope out the area ourselves. At first we got excited because our Garmin chartplotter showed a sweet little spot tucked behind some rocks. It would offered great protection from the wind.

Turns out our chartplotter lied. It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. That’s why you never rely on just one navigation aid, but use multiple sources where you can, along with your own eyeballs.

When we checked our trusty Explorer charts, we saw that the area behind the rocks dries out at low tide. Not really desirable in an anchorage, unless you like having your boat tip over on it’s side. There were also smaller rock formations around that weren’t charted.

Rocks we anchored near at Smokey the Bear's Lair.

So we anchored further out in waters a bit deeper than we would like, but that’s the way it goes some days. What we did get was a great view of the bush fires which made everything look spooky, especially as the sun was setting.

Spooky and smoky in the anchorage.
 
Now here’s the cool thing about anchoring someplace that isn’t on the charts as an “official anchorage” – you get to name it yourself. We decided to call it Smokey the Bear’s Lair because of all of the bush fires. For those of you who have Explorer charts, you’ll want to pencil that in so you know the official name.

Cruising Log – Tuesday, 4 April 2017 – Wednesday, 5 April 2017

4 APRIL

Anchor up 9:45 AM at Cave Cay. Tense moments coming through some skinny waters. Nothing worse than seeing your depth sounder flash 4.5’ when you have a 5’ draft. Didn’t ground {phew!}. Had the headsail up, happily sailing away when one of the sheets parted. Got it back on. Dolphins! Plan was to head to Allan’s-Pensacola Cay for the night. Jam packed in there, so headed over to Crab Cay instead. Anchor down 5:15 PM. Everyone seemed to be anchored on the lee shore. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because that’s where the anchor symbol is on the chart. We found our own spot further away. Nautical Miles = 38. Engine = 4 hrs 0 mins. Spending = Nil.

5 APRIL

Very gusty overnight. The crew monitored the situation closely while the skipper slept very soundly. And by crew, I mean me. Anchor up at 8:30 AM. Motored to Green Turtle Cay – the wind was not cooperating. Anchor down 12:15 PM. Had lunch while waited for Customs & Immigration to open. Got to watch a ketch ground in the channel to White Sound. It took them a while to get off. Everyone else had to wait to enter and exit until they did. Scott cleared us in and picked up some provisions. Headed to one of the marinas to use their WiFI and check on the weather that was due to come in. Headed across the way to Great Abaco Island to look for a place to anchor. Anchor down 5:15 PM. Very, very spooky and smoky. Nautical Miles = 23. Engine = 4 hrs 15 mins. Spending = $160.16 (clearing in to Bahamas – $150; 1 dozen eggs and 1/2 gallon milk – $10.16).

Have you ever seen a forest or bush fire burning? What's your favorite kind of bear - stuffed, real or imaginary? 

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21 April 2017

Our Very Own Deserted Island | Cave Cay, Abacos, Bahamas


“Come on, let’s figure out what your Myers-Briggs type is,” I said to Scott over our morning coffee. “It’ll be fun!”

“For the millionth time, Ellen, the answer is no. There’s no way I’m going to let you do that mumbo-jumbo psychology voodoo stuff on me. You can always go back and get a job in HR if you miss putting people into boxes based on personality type.”

While I shuddered at the thought of going back in working in corporate la-la land, Scott got out our Explorer Bahamas charts and pointed to an island about 30 nautical miles from where we were currently anchored on the Little Bahama Bank.

“What do you think about going to Cave Cay to hide out from the weather that’s headed our way. Lawrence told me about it back at Indiantown. You remember Lawrence, don't you? He said no one ever goes there. It will be like our very own deserted island.”

“See, I knew it! You’re an ‘I’ when it comes to Myers-Briggs. You have a preference for introversion.”

“We’ve been married for 25 years and you’ve just now figured this out?” Scott asked with derision.

“No, I’ve always known it. In fact I think I know what your type is already.”

Scott put down his coffee cup and shook his head. “I think I know what your type is too. The type that has to know what everyone else’s type is so that they can sort and catalog them.”

I didn’t like the turn the conversation was taking. It was time to change the subject. “Shouldn’t we get going? We’ve got a ways to go and I want to get the anchor down at a reasonable time.”

****

Yes, back in my days back in corporate la-la land, I worked in HR in the organizational development team and one of the things we did was help people better understand themselves, the strengths they bring to their roles, how to work more effectively in teams etc. Myers-Briggs was one of the tools we used which I really liked.

If you want to know more about it, I wrote a blot post about personality type and writing styles a while back which you can check out. Maybe one day I’ll do some musings on Myers-Briggs and different types of cruisers.

But you didn’t come here to read about personality, did you? You popped by to see what we’ve been up to since we’ve been cruising in the Bahamas. So here’s the high-level scoop on what’s been happening since we crossed over from Florida:

1 – The weather sucks.

2 – Stuff broke.

3 – Sugary treats help improve one’s mood.

4 – Noseeums are evil.

5 – Sharks are scary.

I bet you want to know more, especially about the shark.

Let’s start with the shark. Because we hadn’t cleared into the Bahamas yet, we couldn’t step foot on land, but we could snorkel. Which we did. On one of our outings, Scott pointed out a 6-7' shark to me. Very helpful of him. Here’s how I reacted:

“Shark! Shark! Shark!”

All said at the top of my lungs while I kicked furiously with my flippers.

Later Scott pointed out that perhaps this wasn’t the best reaction. Screaming and making a commotion in the water makes me look like an interesting snack to sharks. The better thing to do would have been to calmly swim in the other direction. I don’t do calm very well, especially when there are sea monsters involved.

Turns out it was a nurse shark and likely to have been more scared of me than I was of him.

On our way to do some snorkeling at Cave Cay.

Let’s turn to noseeums. They aren’t scary, but they sure are annoying. And they love me. They express their love by leaving tons of tiny, itchy bites all over me. For some reason, they don’t love Scott. That’s annoying too. Misery loves company, but turns out I was the only miserable one scratching away.

I did a lot of cooking including a delicious coffee cake. I love the idea of coffee cake – not only does it have sugar in it, but it’s topped with more sugar. Yum.

I also make more nutritious things, like pita bread and hummus.


Pita bread, fresh from the grill, with olives, carrots and a little vino.

There’s a saying that cruising is fixing things in exotic locations. I had to get out our sewing machine and fix a tear on our bimini. The cool part is that I did it without electricity, using our monster wheel to manually operate the machine. Our port water tank started leaking on our way to Cave Cay and Scott sorted that out.

Half the battle in repairing a bimini is getting the canvas positioned in the machine.
 
When we weren’t busy swatting at noseeums, fixing stuff, screaming at sharks and stuffing our face, we were listening to the wind howl (we measured gusts up to 26, but I think they got higher than that) and trying to keep our balance while the waves crashed into our boat on the beam from one direction while the wind slammed at us from another. Scott doesn’t have a problem with his balance. Me, not so much and I have the bruises to prove it.

On our last day, a big catamaran came into the anchorage. They took one look at us and anchored far away. I think they might have a preference for introversion too.

{FYI for those interested in cruising to Cave Cay, you go south from Great Sale Cay to the Sale South waypoint, then east to the West End Bars waypoint, head east some more and there it is to the south of West End Cay and Little Abaco Island. Heads up that there's some skinny water along the way.}

****

Cruising Log – Wednesday, 29 March 2017 – Monday, 3 April 2017

29 MARCH
Anchor up 8:00 AM. Anchor down 5:45 PM on the banks. Sailed for little over four hours. Slow going. Very little wind. Getting nowhere fast, so put the motor back on. Bimini starting to come apart on one of the seams I didn’t restitch before we left. Lots of flying fish skipping across the water like stones someone was throwing. Dolphin! Our sail cover is a pain to get on. Nautical Miles = 31. Engine = 5 hrs 30 mins. Spending = Nil.

30 MARCH
Roly-poly night anchored on the banks. Anchor up 7:15 AM. Put the sails up and turned engine off at 8:15 AM. Lovely sail. Checked bilge at 11:30 AM - full of water. Realized our port water tank leaking. Had to put engine on and take down the sails to keep from heeling so water would stop leaking out. Anchor down at Cave Cay at 1:15 PM. Greeted by a barracuda. Sorted out the water tank, cleaned out the bilge. Nautical Miles = 29. Engine = 6 hrs 0 mins. Spending = Nil.

31 MARCH
Another roly-poly night. Waves coming one direction and slamming into our beam, wind coming from other direction (SW 15-20, gusting to 26). Anchor well dug-in. Always reassuring. Made coffee cake and bread. Snorkeling. Watched Breaking Bad and movies. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

1 APRIL
Rain in the morning. Wind subsided. Wasn’t as roly-poly. Took bimini down and repaired with our Sailrite sewing machine. Used the monster wheel, so didn’t need electricity. Sewing took less time than getting Sailrite and supplies out of the v-berth. More snorkeling. Shark heading towards me! Scott scared him off and saved my life. Bobby the Barracuda and possible stone fish also sighted. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

2 APRIL
Lots and lots of noseeum bites. Spent the day trying not to itch them. Bobby the Barracuda hung about our boat. They’re curious little creatures. Too bad about their sharp, pointy teeth. Decanted some drinking water from our jerry cans into smaller containers. More snorkeling. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

3 APRIL
Even more noseeum bites. Stupid noseeums. I bet even their own mothers don’t like them. Made pita bread and hummus. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

Do you know what your Myers-Briggs type is? Would you like to spend time anchored at a deserted island or would you prefer to be around more people?

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19 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Sundowners



Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Sundowners are one of those cruising rituals. A drink at the end of the day in your cockpit while you watch the sun go down.

2 - When we bought Tickety Boo, she came with plates, dishes, cutlery, glasses etc. The glasses all have nautical themes, like fish or compass directions. 

3 - Scott usually has a gin and tonic. I change things up - sometimes a beer, sometimes a gin and tonic or sometimes a glass of wine. 

4 - We have a table in our cockpit which we can fold out for drinks and meals.  
   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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17 April 2017

Sailing In The Dark With Awesome Cookies | Bahamas Crossing

On our way back down the Okeechobee Waterway and heading to the Bahamas

“Come on, my little porcupine, it’s time to wake up,” Scott said. “Today’s the big day. We’re headed to the Bahamas!”

I rubbed my eyes and glared at him. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to glare at someone when you haven’t had any coffee yet. Especially when it’s only 3:30 AM. After a cup of coffee, I’m much more pleasant to be around. Fortunately, Scott knows how these things work and had a cup of coffee at the ready.

“Time to check the weather,” he said as he fired up the computer.

“The weather can wait,” I said after taking a sip of coffee. “First things first. If we’re going to head out across the Gulf Stream in the dark, we need cookies for the passage. Lots and lots of cookies. Now, where did I put them?”

Scott ignored me as he pulled up the weather files. “Hmm. The different weather forecasts contradict each other. This one says the wind is going to come from the northeast today. These others say it’s going to be all easterly.”

“Winds from the north?! We could die!” I said. “You’re never supposed to cross the Gulf Stream when there’s any north winds!” I gulped down some more coffee, burning my tongue in the process. I hate it when that happens.

“Whoa, calm down there, my little lump of sugar. We’re not going to die. At least not today. You look like you could use a cookie. They’re stashed in the microwave.”

I grabbed out one of my oatmeal cranberry cookies from Aldi’s. “Aren’t these the best cookies ever?”
“They are good,” Scott said. “But you know what would make them even better? If you were eating them while we’re sailing to the Bahamas.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Let’s fire up the engine and get out of here,” I said as I grabbed another cookie out of the bag.

****

Yeah, that’s not exactly how it went. First of all, I don’t glare at Scott in the morning. Okay, maybe he’d tell you a different story, but who are you going to believe – him or me? Second, I knew exactly where the cookies were. Honestly, do you think I’d ever lose track of where I stored the cookies? Third, we spent a lot more time reviewing the weather forecasts and making a decision about whether to cross or not that day.

What is true is that crossing the Gulf Stream isn’t something to take lightly. It can be a very dangerous stretch of water if the conditions aren’t right. We did decide to cross that day and the conditions were very benign.

{For those of you into the whole sailing thing, we looked at the National Weather Service forecast (which predicted light northeast winds, turning easterly at night) and at the GFS and NAM GRIB files on Passage Weather (no winds from the north predicted). We had our best passage ever. Light winds from the east, waves two to three feet, ten seconds apart. Sunny skies. Very smooth sailing. Well, not so much sailing as motoring. And we saw a whale!}

The other thing that’s true is that having cookies on hand for night sailing is a must have for me. I kind of get freaked out sailing in the dark. Eating lots of cookies helps. So does closing my eyes and pretending it’s all a bad dream. Unfortunately, closing your eyes when you’re in charge of steering the boat is kind of frowned upon. Go figure. {You can read more about my other experiences sailing in the dark with cookies here, here and here.}

We left at 5:00 AM and it was a new moon, so no help there. There were a number of fishing boats outside of the inlet. Of course, you don’t really know that they’re fishing boats because all you see are a bunch of lights (it’s dark remember) but you hope their fishing boats and not giant flashlights that horrible sea monsters are shining in front of them in search of sailboats with Aldi cookies on them. They’ve been known to smash sailboats to smithereens to get at the cookies.

After a couple of scary hours, clutching my cookies closely and keeping an eye out for sea monsters, the sun came up, we motored slowly across the Gulf Stream and crossed into the beautiful, clear blue Bahamian waters that afternoon.

So, so nice to have finally made it across, especially after we called off our last crossing. And even nicer to have made it across and still have some cookies leftover. I wonder how long they’ll last?

Our slip at Indiantown Marina. Look closely at the end - do you see something on the shore?

Yep, that's a gator sunning himself on the bank right across from our slip. Just a little reminder of why we needed to get out of Florida. There aren't any alligators in the Bahamas, are there?

Horses frolicking in the St. Lucie Canal as we motored past them. I wonder what they think of the alligators?
A sea monster that we saw on our Gulf Stream crossing. Could it be a whale? I think if an alligator saw this sea monster coming, it'd get out of the way fast.

****

Cruising Log – Saturday, 25 March – Tuesday, 28 March 2017

25 MARCH
Did laundry, bit of cleaning and topped up water tanks. Left Indiantown Maria at 11:55 AM. Anchor down St Lucie Lock at 2:30 PM. Nautical Miles = 12.2. Engine = 2 hrs 35 mins. Spending = $37 (slip & ebook)

26 MARCH
Anchor up at 7:10 AM. In lock at 7:15 AM. Anchor down at Peck Lake at 11:35 AM. Took three times before happy with anchor. Dragged first time, didn’t like how situated second time. Got very crowded. Wonder if all these boats are heading south for weather window to Bahamas. Nautical Miles = 16.7. Engine = 4 hrs 20 mins. Spending = Nil.

27 MARCH
Anchor up 8:00 AM. Tried to get diesel before anchored, but fuel dock full. Crazy boat traffic in Lake Worth. Probably boats heading out after Palm Beach boat show. Anchor down in Lake Worth 2:00 PM. Anchor up again at 3:10 PM. Got diesel at Riviera Beach Marina. Dock hand funny – thought we were going to kidnap him and take him with us to the Bahamas. Anchor back down at 4:55 PM. Got boat ready to head to the Bahamas. Nautical Miles = 29.7. Engine = 7 hrs 45 mins. Spending = $58.12 (21.3 gallons diesel).

28 MARCH
Anchor up 5:00 AM. Reached Memory Rock at 4:30 PM. Anchor down 5:45 PM on the Little Bahama Bank. The passage cookies were delicious. The other passage food I made, not so much. I need to up my passage cooking game. Other boats anchored on the bank. Think they’re staging to head over to Florida the next day. Our autohelm performed admirably on the crossing. So much nicer not to have to hand steer. Had a quick dip in the water – not exactly warm. Nautical Miles = 60.4. Engine = 12 hrs 45 mins. Spending = Nil.

When you're nervous about something, what do you turn to for comfort? Cookies or something else? 

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14 April 2017

What? WHAT?! Why? | Heading Back To Indiantown Marina

When I sent a Facebook message to one of my friends back at Indiantown Marina that we were heading back that way, she replied:

"What? WHAT?! Why?"

That pretty much says it all. When you tell people that you're heading off to the Bahamas the last thing they expect is to see you back at Indiantown a couple of weeks later.

Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), we're not alone in this. It seems like a lot of boats who head out of Indiantown on grand adventures end up back there before their adventure even starts. At least, we had two weeks of fun cruising in Florida before the gigantic, invisible rubber band attached to our boat snapped us back to the marina.

I remember when we were paying up before we left one of the guys who works at the marina joked, "You won't make it to the Bahamas. Something will go wrong and you'll end up back here. Happens to everyone."

Turns out it wasn't as much of a joke as his uncanny ability to see into the future. Or maybe he's the one that controls the gigantic, invisible rubber band and when he thinks you've had way too much fun, he snaps you back.

So why did we head back to Indiantown Marina? If you read one of our earlier posts, you'll know that we had some concerns about our bottom paint. Was it okay to continue onto the Bahamas or did we need to address it before then?

To assess this we needed to haul the boat out and have a look. We did look for other places in south Florida to haul out, but in the end it was cheaper and easier to head back to Indiantown. Not only are their rates more reasonable, but if we did have to go into the work yard for an extended period of time, we had our vehicle there which would make things a lot easier.

But we also had two other issues to deal with - our solar controller and our stove.

We've had an ongoing saga with our solar array and been through a few controllers over the past month. The folks at Blue Sky Energy had sent us a refurbished one to try out. We had thought we could get by with it, but it stopped doing it's controlling thing. That meant we had to keep connecting and disconnecting our solar panel so we wouldn't fry our batteries.

After talking to Blue Sky (and by the way their customer service is awesome, more on them and our whole solar saga at some future point), they sent us a new controller which we needed to pick up back at Indiantown.

Having our stove crap out on us was also an issue. We ended up having to heat water for our coffee on our grill and I got really good at making casseroles in the oven, but not having a working burner was really putting a crimp in our cooking routine. So we picked up our camping stove back at Indiantown, bought a whole bunch of butane cartridges and called it good. It's just a temporary solution. We'll have to do something about the whole cooker unit when we get back from the Bahamas.

The good news is that the new solar controller works like a charm and we can now boil water indoors.

Even better news is that while our bottom paint isn't ideal, it's good enough to last for a few months in the Bahamas. The bottom was pristine as well - nothing really to clean off. Such a relief to haul her out, have a quick look and then splash her back in the water right away.

But the best part of all was getting to catch up with our friends, even if it was only for a couple of days.

Making pizza on our Magma grill in Pendarvis Cove. Of course, I worried that the pizza would end up landing in the water and not on our plate. We use The Boat Galley's recipe - basil and garlic in the crust. So delicious!

One of the casseroles I started making - quesadilla pie. Also from The Boat Galley cookbook.

I don't spend all of my time in the galley. Editing my cozy mystery about a reluctant sailor in our cockpit. Seems appropriate.
 
Tickety Boo ready to be hauled out.

Turns out she needed to go stern first into the Travelift. Here's the awesome Travelift crew turning her around with boat hooks. These guys really know what they're doing.

It always kind of freaks me out that straps like these are what holds your boat up. They seem like they could easily break. But they don't.

Tickety Boo about to be lifted.


****

Cruising Log | Tuesday, 21 March 2017 - Friday, 24 March 2017

21 MARCH
Anchor up 11:45 AM. Anchor down 2:10 PM at Pendarvis Cove (across from Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart). Grounded at turn into St Lucie Rive. Wake from passing boats bounced us off. Made pizza on the grill for the first time. Super delicious. Nautical Miles = 10.7. Engine Hours = 2 hrs 25 mins. Spending = Nil

22 MARCH
Anchor up 9:45 AM. Anchor down 11:45 AM west side of St Lucie Lock. Grounded for the third time on our cruise. Powered off. Three times lucky? Festive atmosphere going through lock. Boaties know how to have fun. Made more pizza for lunch and dinner. We may eat this every day from now on. Nautical Miles = 6.1. Engine Hours = 2. Spending = Nil

23 MARCH
Anchor up 10:45 AM. Arrived at Indiantown Marina at 1:00 PM. New solar controller waiting for us. Finally, a controller that works! Were due to be lifted, but called off due to weather. Free night on the dock as a result. Nautical Miles = 13. Engine Hours = 2 hrs 15 mins. Spending = Nil.

24 MARCH
Lifted Tickety Boo at 8:15 AM. Splashed her again right away. Took a slip for the night and headed into Stuart for provisions and errands. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine Hours = Nil. Spending = Way too much to contemplate.

Have you ever had to come home unexpectedly from a trip? If so, why?

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12 April 2017

Wordless Wednesday | St Lucie Lock & Dam



Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - You have to go through the St Lucie Lock if you want to make your way eastwards from Indiantown Marina.

2 - The water drops around 14.5' as you leave the St Lucie Canal.

3 - 10,000 vessels go through a year, of which about 91% are recreational (like us).

4 - I was clueless the first time we went through the lock. I'm still clueless, but I hide it better.

   
What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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10 April 2017

Land Ho! | Stretching Our Legs At Peck Lake

Sunrise at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge

"We haven't been off of this boat in a week," I said as I did a few knee lunges and leg raises. "It's time to get out of here and find ourselves a place we can stretch our legs."

{There's a  big, fat lie in the paragraph above. Can you spot it? Yeah, I certainly wasn't doing anything remotely related to exercise when I mentioned needing to get off of the boat. The more likely scenario was that I was lounging on the settee eating chocolate at the time.}

After doing the splits and a backwards somersault, I added, "Besides, Trump is coming into town tomorrow and we have to get out of there because I think this anchorage is part of the security zones the Coast Guard sets up in West Palm Beach when he's at the winter white house."

Scott looked up from his Kindle and stared at me. I think he was amazed by my flexibility and ability to do gymnastic routines in such a small space.

{Time for another aside. Scott has completely brainwashed me into calling my Kindle his Kindle. He seems to have taken a liking to it and when I'm sleeping I think he plays a tape recording which has subliminal messages along the lines of, The Kindle belongs to Scott. It's his Kindle. You don't have a Kindle. You'd rather read paperback books than use a Kindle.}

"Yeah, you're right," he said as he closed up his Kindle and set it on the table. "Let's head up to North Lake Worth. Rumor has it that there's a spot you can land your dinghy at and walk into town in search of the Publix grocery store. We could probably use some more fresh fruit and vegies."

{Spot the lie there? What Scott really meant by "fresh fruit and vegies" was tonic water.}

"Okay, let's do it. Pull the anchor up and I'll expertly maneuver us around all of these super expensive powerboats in the anchorage without a care in the world."

{And the final lie...I was a bit panicked that I might hit one of the super expensive powerboats and made us wait for a while until some of them cleared out.}

****

If you saw our previous post about the shortest cruise ever to the Bahamas, then you'll know that we're slowly making our way back to Indiantown Marina to haul out and deal with a few issues. We're not in a huge rush. We're happy to procrastinate boat projects for a while yet and enjoy a mini-cruise while we can.

We spent one night in North Lake Worth. It's a nice anchorage, but doesn't have the same appeal as where we had been anchored in West Palm Beach (small anchorage, well protected, great city view). We had gone there in hopes of going onshore, finding the nearest Publix and getting some fresh vegies and fruit. But the public docks were closed due to the Palm Beach Boat Show, so we had to rely on cookies, pretzels and beer for nutrition instead.

On our way to North Lake Worth, we checked out the big boats. You don't want to mess with these guys.



This one reminds me of when we got married 25 years ago in Copenhagen or KĂžbenhavn as it's spelled in Danish.


We have friends who've taken this cruise ship over to the Bahamas.


The Coast Guard out doing their thing, which fortunately didn't involve doing a training exercise and boarding our boat. Did you know that the Coast Guard can board any US flagged boat at any time, anywhere in the world without probable cause? I think the Coast Guard are awesome - they protect our borders and conduct search and rescue operations, but the fact that they can bypass the 4th Amendment perplexes me. {If you want to know more about the history behind this, I did a blog post about it a while back which you can find here.}


Fancy apartment buildings, condos and houses at our anchorage in North Lake Worth.


More super expensive homes on our way to Peck Lake.


And finally, anchored in Peck Lake and stretching our legs after a week on board.



Cruising Log | Thursday, 16 March 2017 - Monday, 20 March 2017

16 MARCH
Lots of powerboats staging for the Palm Beach Boat Show. Anchor up 12:30 PM. Anchor down 2:45 PM in North Lake Worth. Loud spring break party going on in house on shore. Nautical Miles = 8. Engine =  2 hrs 15 mins. Spending = Nil.

17 MARCH
Anchor up 8:15 AM. Briefly grounded coming out of North Lake Worth. The usual nonsense trying to make the bridge openings. Some bridge operators are fun - one sang "I love a parade" as three sailboats went under the bridge. Anchor down at Peck Lake at 12:45 PM. Some boats like to anchor really close. Went for a walk. Big wakes while off the boat. Stuff everywhere when we came back. Nautical Miles = 19. Engine = 4 hrs 30 mins. Spending = Nil.

18 MARCH
More walks. Much lazing about. Our dinghy may have a leak. {Sigh} Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine =  Nil. Spending = Nil.

19 MARCH 
More walks. Lazed about. Baked yummy treats to counteract calorie loss from walking. Very gusty overnight. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine =  Nil. Spending = Nil.

20 MARCH
Much quieter anchorage during the week. Solar controller still acting up. The disarray with our solar array continues. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine =  Nil. Spending = Nil.

Could you stay on a boat for seven days without going onshore? What's the longest you've ever been housebound or boatbound?

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07 April 2017

March In Numbers

Caption – Clockwise from upper left: (1) challah bread; (2) our new solar panel; (3) shell shaped like a heart; (4) anchored at Peck Lake; (5) Sheba, the marina cat; and (6) trying to make my very first splice.

It’s time for the usual monthly recap by the numbers. We spent most of March cruising on our Moody 346 sailboat, Tickety Boo. We had hoped to head off to the Bahamas earlier in the month, but decided not to cross due to a front that we might not have been able to outrun or hide from once we got there. In some ways, it was a good thing that we delayed our crossing as we had a few issues crop up that we needed to deal with including our solar power set-up, our stove and checking out our bottom paint and zinc. So, we cruised in Florida for a while, headed back to Indiantown Marina for a couple of days and then ended up crossing to the Bahamas on March 28th.

  • $158 – How much our new solar panel cost. We drove down to Miami to get it. The drive was not fun. Some drivers in Florida could do with chilling out a little bit before they get behind the wheel.
  • 3000i – Model number of our new Blue Sky controller, which we picked up when we headed back to Indiantown Marina. Love the customer service at Blue Sky. Ryan is awesome! At last, our solar power set-up is functioning. After all the issues we’ve had with our solar disarray, it was such a relief to finally sort this out. We seem to be getting plenty of energy to meet our requirements, on sunny days that is.
  • 11,840 – How many words I wrote.
  • 3 – Number of times we made pizza on our grill. Seriously delicious!
  • 5 – Number of different types of bread I baked including challah, white, onion, honey oatmeal and focaccia.
  • 1 – Number of cats I wanted to kidnap from Indiantown Marina. There’s a lovely gray cat there who was abandoned by her owner. She’s since been adopted by the marina staff and has made herself at home in Indiantown. But I bet she’d prefer to live back on a sailboat though.
  • 23 – Number of days we were out cruising, including a brief return to Indiantown Marina to deal with a few issues.
  • 292 – Number of nautical miles cruised in Florida and the Bahamas.
  • 3 – Number of times we grounded Tickety Boo on the ICW. When we were making our way back to Lake Worth, we heard a boat we know from Indiantown hailing Tow Boat US for help. I think they had grounded. Fortunately, we got off the bottom quickly each time without needed to be towed off.
  • 20 – Number of minutes Tickety Boo was hauled out before we splashed her again after checking the bottom paint and zinc.
  • 11.5 – Number of hours it took us to get from our anchorage in Lake Worth to Memory Rock in the Bahamas. 
  • 4 – Number of days we cruised in the Bahamas.
  • 2 – Number of nights we anchored on the banks in the Bahamas. This is a weird experience. You can’t see any land so you feel like you’re anchored in the middle of the ocean, until you look down into the crystal clear water and realize you can see the bottom. 
  • 21 – Number of nights we anchored. Anchoring is free. We love anchoring. 
  • Lots – Number of episodes of Breaking Bad that we watched. Thanks to our solar power set-up, we can rot our brains with lots of TV shows and movies.
  • 3 – Number of days without cell phone coverage and internet access. In some ways it’s kind of nice to disconnect from what’s happening out there in the world.

In case you missed them, here are some of our favorite posts from last month:

Afraid of Heights? Mud Dauber Wasps are the Cure
The Time Traveling Cat
Morning Coffee | Rambling Thoughts & Oddities

How did last month go for you? What are you looking forward to this month?

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05 April 2017

How'd You Get So Full Of Yourself? | IWSG



The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

Since we have limited internet access, I have no idea what this month's question prompt is so I made up one of my own:

"How can you eat, considering how full you are of yourself?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below.

****

Image via The Graphics Fairy

Simon the Time Traveling Cat rolled over on his back. "Hey, lady. My belly needs scratching," he growled.

"Simon, I'm right in the middle of making cookies. I don't have time to pet your belly," I said as I stirred chocolate chips into the cookie dough.

Simon jumped up onto the counter and stared into the bowl. "Yuck. Why do you humans eat these things?"

"What a stupid question," I said as I started to scoop balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. "We humans need cookies when things aren't going well."

"Oh no, not this again," he said. "You're always whining about something. Maybe you should take up jogging or something when you're stressed out. Or pet my belly instead. That would be relaxing for you."

"But, Simon, you don't understand..." I said as I tried to pick gray cat fur off of the cookie dough.

"Stop right there, lady," Simon interrupted as he flicked his tail back and forth, getting even more fur everywhere. "You know good and well that unless it involves milk, cat food, scratches behind my ears and time travel, I'm really not interested. That's why I invited Esme over. She can listen to you whine."

"You did what?! You know I can't stand Esme. She's such a busybody. Those life coaches are always interfering in things that don't concern them." As I shooed Simon off of the counter, I knocked the bowl over onto the floor. 

"Now, look what's happened!" I wiped the tears off of my face and sighed.

"Just like a human, always crying over spilled milk. Speaking of milk, get me a saucer of the stuff." Simon jumped over to the settee and pushed my pen off of the table. He turned to me, narrowed his eyes and said, "Come on lady, snap to it! We don't have all day. She'll be here any minute."

"Yoo hoo, is anyone home?" Esme peeked her head down the companionway and spotted me in the galley. "Oh, there you are, dear," she said as she made her way down below and sat next to Simon. She sniffed the air. "Are those cookies I smell? How delightful." 

She took her colorful sunhat off, put it on the table and gave Simon a few scratches behind the ears. "Better get them out of the oven before they burn. And do you mind bringing me a glass of milk? Cookies always taste better with milk."

"Yeah, don't forget about the milk, lady," Simon added as he leaned into Esme's hand for more scratches.

I plopped a plate of cookies, a glass of milk and a saucer of milk down on the table. 

Esme grabbed a cookie and mumbled between bites, "Simon says that you feel like you might be getting a bit full of yourself. How do you feel about that?"

Questions, questions, questions. If she wasn't demanding cookies, Esme was always asking obnoxious questions. I glared at Simon. "Full of myself? Is that what you've been telling people?"

Simon slurped up the last of his milk. "Honestly, I don't know how you manage to eat, considering how full of yourself you are." He stared pointedly at his empty saucer. I ignored him.

"Well, dear. What do you think about what Simon said?" Esme asked as she grabbed another cookie.

I decided it would be easier to answer her questions. The sooner she was satisfied with my answers the sooner she'd be out of here. And maybe, just maybe, there might be some cookies left for me. 

"It's not that I'm full of myself. It's just that I've had to do all of this self-promotion and marketing for the IWSG anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, that's going to be published next month. It feels so weird to do things like write an author bio for the publisher, put up a profile on Amazon, ask people to support our Thunderclap campaign and blog tour, you know, that kind of thing."

I grabbed the last cookie before Esme could. She looked at me and didn't say a word. I wasn't sure if that was because she was hoping I would give the cookie to her or if it was one of her life coach Jedi mind tricks where you become so uncomfortable with the silence that you keep talking.

Simon looked at me too, slowly blinking his eyes, but it was clear what he wanted. Another saucer of milk.

I ate my cookie quickly and then blurted out, "Fine, you win, Esme. I'll keep talking. It's just so embarrassing. No one wants to hear about me or the anthology. People are going to think I'm bragging or, worse yet, that I'm some big egomaniac that constantly needs to be in the limelight."

Simon walked sedately across the table, jumped into my lap and sunk his claws into my legs. "Lady, enough about you. You answered Esme's question. No more of this life coaching mumbo-jumbo. Get me some milk, pronto." 

Esme looked at the empty plate. "Do you have any more cookies?"

I pointed at the bowl on the floor. "Nope, the rest of the cookie dough is ruined."

"Well in that case, I better get going. I've got other clients to see." Esme grabbed her hat off the table and climbed up the ladder into the cockpit. She turned and looked down at me. "I think you've made great progress, dear. I'll pop by next week and will continue our coaching session. Maybe some oatmeal raisin cookies next time though?"

****

Before you go, considering how full I am of myself, here's a shameless plug for the IWSG anthology,  <<Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life>>. It will be published on May 2nd, but you can pre-order a copy from these online retailers:

Amazon (US) 
Amazon (UK)
Amazon (Canada)
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

If you want to help us spread the word, please consider participating in our Thunderclap campaign or blog tour.




What about you - do you ever worry that people will think you're bragging? If you're an author, do you have any insecurities about self-promotion or tips for overcoming them?

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