Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #79 Little Things Mean A Lot

After a lovely week’s visit with Mom, Lauri, and Alex, tonight’s return was less-than lovely. Not because I didn’t want to come back. Because I HATE FLYING!! The flight itself wasn’t terrible. In fact, I found the “interesting” woman next to me who examined her countenance in her compact at least a half-dozen times on the 2-hr. flight rather amusing. No, what made this flight especially memorable was the hour-long wait for my luggage at the stationary—as in “not moving”—baggage claim belt. By the time I finally grabbed my bag and approached Jim at the curb I was stifling a scream. Being the sensitive good sport that he is Jim let me vent and spew as we drove to a restaurant for a relaxing dinner. Anyway, it’s good to be back on Caloosa Spirit.

We bought ice cream today. Not just a cone at the corner ice cream stand—ice cream that comes in a tub from the grocery store. And the best part is that it’s staying frozen!! Without running the engine!! A little thing that most people take for granted, to be sure, but a special treat for us. We’re loving this new refrigeration system.

We finally got to enjoy the amenities of this Holiday Inn Harbourside resort and marina complex by spending the afternoon at the pool. It felt like a small slice of vacation time.

“I think I can, I think I can. Maybe if I flap my wings just a little harder I’ll get higher in the air. Yessss!! I’m really flying!! Oh-oh. I’ve never been this high before, and my wings are getting tired. How do I land?? Watch out below!!! Sorry, guys. I’ll keep working on my technique.”

Such were the thoughts I envisioned running through the small head of a young pelican we watched and cheered on this afternoon. We’ve been concerned about this youngster (I’ll call him Patrick) for the last several days. Patrick seemed to have a malfunctioning wing, and we hadn’t seen him fly at all. He seemed to be on his own with limited resources for survival. We were considering contacting the local pelican sanctuary until we saw him finally taking off.

Patrick Pelican
Patrick Pelican

As goofy-looking as these birds are (another example of God’s sense of humor), we’ve long had a soft spot for them. Their gawky grace is always a wonder to behold. Rock on, Patrick. Pelicans rule!

Pelicans Rule
The fishing fleet’s in!

The days go by with a little work, a little play. Jim had sent our single-side band radio for examination and possible repair. It came back with the notification that it is working fine, so it’s back in place. Amazingly, it does seem to be working fine! We’ve communicated with the Cruiseheimers Net several times now.

Now we’re waiting (with bated breath) for our autopilot to return. You may remember that Otto II inexplicably and without permission took a nap on the only day we’ve been out on the water in the last month. He seemed to rouse himself, but while I was in Indy he expired permanently. (We hadn’t had him long enough to become attached, so no sympathies are necessary.) When Jim called Raymarine he learned that several of these units were defective and should never have left the factory. Wouldn’t you know that one of them would find its way to us? So Otto III is in transit and should arrive at any moment. We can’t really leave the Holiday Inn Marina without the autopilot, because our depth sounder and wind anemometer are both linked with it. We don’t ever want to be navigating Florida waters without a depth sounder.

The pool and the beach have been pleasant while we’re waiting, but we’re definitely ready to move on. We expect to be away from here by the end of this week.

Indian Rocks sunset
Indian Rocks Beach sunset

We were scheduled to leave the marina today, having gotten the autopilot re-installed and all other loose ends tied up. No, we didn’t have another equipment failure, there was no storm in the offing, and fortunately neither of us had any personal mishaps. But there’s a first time for everything, and today was the first time we’ve ever been delayed by fire. No, no, no! Not on our boat, thank God! The current drought has wildfires raging in north Florida, and today’s wind pattern brought the heavy smoke all the way down the peninsula. As we began to untie lines we realized the visibility was diminishing quickly, and we could barely breathe without coughing. We decided to be prudent and wait one more day for improvement. We actually went for a leisurely lunch in the restaurant just to get out of the smoke for a while. Amazingly, there were several people who chose to dine outside!

One side advantage to staying through today was that we were able to get one more task tended to. Jim had been concerned about the stuffing box and packing gland (the point where the drive shaft goes through the hull to the water), because it was leaking somewhat. But Jim had been unable to get the locknut loosened, so that he could then tighten it. He was able to schedule a quick stop by one of the guys who installed the new refrigeration. With the proper tools the packing gland is no longer leaking.

Aaaaaahhhh, the quiet, the peace, the serenity. Good things come to those who wait, they say. And we’ve done our share of waiting. Today we finally got away from the Holiday Inn and we’re anchored in Boca Ciega Bay. No one is around us, the breeze is light, the dolphins are playing. It was only a three-hour motor, but such a difference a short distance can make.

How pleasant to be back in one of our favorite anchorages. We arrived this afternoon at Longboat Key, a place we’ve missed since last year. The peacocks are still here, making their presence known with their raucous mating calls. Tomorrow we’ll go in search of them once more.

So by now you’re probably wondering why this log was started a month ago, was never posted, and is now long overdue. And now you notice that there’s a three-week gap since the last entry. Very observant of you. No, we didn’t have a technological meltdown, and yes, we’re still in the U.S. of A.

Call it busy-ness (partially true). After all, we spent a few days in Sarasota visiting with Mike, and then Lauri and her fiancé Alex came for a week’s visit. Between the preparations, cruising (yes, we actually did some), and re-provisioning we were pretty busy there for a while. We did have a fun time with our kids.

Call it writer’s block (even more true). Every time I’ve considered writing I’ve found myself avoiding the process. “What can I say,” I ask myself, “that hasn’t been said before?” The few days we spent in Longboat Key were relaxing but unremarkable. Sarasota was just as quirky and frenetic as usual. After Lauri and Alex joined us in Sarasota we had a lovely sail from Venice to Boca Grande. The sunshine was singularly cooperative throughout their stay, and after a couple of days at Pelican Bay and a couple more at Useppa the kids were looking tanned and healthy from much walking and sunbathing. Another great sail took us across Charlotte Harbor to Burnt Store Marina where Mike met us to taxi Lauri and Alex back to the Sarasota airport. It was only the second time Caloosa Spirit has ever been to her home port (and only the first overnight), and we were once again stirred by the sight and experience of one of our all-time favorite marinas.

Yet still I didn’t write.

Call it frustration and despair (the most true). There have been a few glitches in our equipment. Otto III has been a recalcitrant student in learning how to steer Caloosa Spirit, and sending him to the woodshed has been only marginally effective. Intensive tutoring may be required before we can make any distance passages.

And then there’s the watermaker. We began the procedure for starting it up just to make sure it was working properly, knowing that we would be “pickling” it for storage again in another month. However, when Jim turned the valve handle to open the thru-hull, the handle broke off in his hand. Obviously, a plan B was in order. Well, there’s good news about the watermaker: 1) the handle broke off with the thru-hull closed; 2) it turned on and worked so that we could re-pickle it to keep the membrane protected; and 3) we really don’t need it at the moment. We’ll get the thru-hull replaced this summer when the boat is on the hard again.

The equipment glitches pale in comparison, however, to the plague that we experienced for over a week. Lovebugs (so named because they usually appear coupled together) are a phenomenon known to motorists traveling on Florida’s highways in May and October. During those months vehicles’ front ends and windshields can be literally covered with lovebug body parts and fluids. It’s not a pretty sight. What’s even uglier, though, is a swarm of lovebugs littering our deck and cockpit—live ones, that is. For several days we were unable to sit in the cockpit without being inundated with them. True, they don’t bite—a blessing, to be sure. And they left us alone at night—another blessing. But from 10:00 AM to after sunset we experienced a daily plague of biblical proportions. The worst was the horde that descended in the middle of Charlotte Harbor after we left Burnt Store. I retreated to the relative protection of the cabin while Jim gamely remained at the helm, keeping his mouth clamped tightly shut. For me the lovebug horror ranked right up there with the stormy passage from the Dominican Republic to West Caicos almost four years ago. It was another of those times (too many of late, it seems) when cruising just isn’t fun.

So why today do I finally put pen to paper (or, more aptly, fingers to keyboard)? Well, life goes on and things are looking up. The bugs are gone for another four or five months, the dolphins and ospreys are cavorting nearby, and no equipment has failed in the last few days. We’re sitting out the first rainstorm in weeks in Pelican Bay, a favorite protected anchorage in our beloved Pine Island Sound. The boat desperately needed a bath, and the rain is refreshing to our spirits. Although the rain prediction is for 2-4 inches we aren’t preparing for a flood. But after raging wildfires over the last month and the recent plague of lovebugs, maybe God will be sending us more water than we expect. Could pestilence be on the horizon, as well?

Well, the writer’s block seems to be gone. And despite the frustration and despair we still anticipate each new day for what it will bring. We have no particular schedule for the next few weeks, so we hope to really be in cruising mode. This isn’t a recent photograph, but it’s one of my favorites. It was taken at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgins just about four years ago. It’s a great reminder of God’s promise of hope, and we’d never have seen it if we weren’t cruising.

Brand new day
It’s a brand new day!

The best part of any cloud isn’t seeing the silver lining; it’s seeing the cloud travel on by. Tropical Storm Barry (such a remarkably banal name) popped up in the Gulf and took us by surprise, so we’re happy that he’s now making his way up the Florida peninsula, headed for the Carolina coast. Barry dumped barrels of much-needed rain all over central Florida, but, given the drought conditions, flooding wasn’t a concern. Too bad Barry couldn’t make his presence known with just the welcome rain, but a tropical storm is so named based on its wind power. Despite a rather sleepless night, Barry has passed by without punching us with much over 30-35 knots. Pelican Bay is a protected haven to ride out a storm, so the night could have been much worse elsewhere. Now we’re waiting for Barry to plod on to the north and take his winds with him. The skies are clearing and the sun is beaming on us once again.

Fair winds and a faithful wake until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford
s/v Caloosa Spirit

Posted Saturday June 2, 2007

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