Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #22 On The Road (Er…Water) Again

Yes, we’re back in the saddle, er…cockpit again. Well, at least almost. Tomorrow we head to sea. But, you say, you’ve heard that before. Well, we’ve paid up our slip fee, so tomorrow we’re really outta here. We won’t be sorry to say good-bye to Ft. Lah-Dee-Dah, er…Ft. Lauderdale.

We returned to the boat last Monday, 10/6/03, and blessedly found nothing amiss. That afternoon our live-aboard neighbors generously gave us a ride by car to the grocery store, and we were deeply grateful. We were later getting back from the airport than anticipated, because we complained about our luggage locks being broken in a security search. Apparently, the security people found the flatware in my bag and the tools in Jim’s highly suspicious. Our complaint fell on deaf ears, so take note—don’t bother locking your luggage when flying. Better yet, don’t fly with flatware or tools! We sure learned our lesson, by golly.

Anyway, to get back to the story, we were due to leave last Thursday, but one project led to another, and the next tenant for our slip isn’t due until the end of the month. So we stayed a few extra days to get ready to travel. Finally, the boat doesn’t look like a construction site! Today we needed to get a few grocery items before heading out, so, rather than bother our neighbors for a ride—we’re supposed to be self-sufficient, after all—we took the dinghy to where we thought we’d be able to get to the store. There are signs in the canal between here and the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) saying boats under 21’ and boats with water-skiers are exempt from the no-wake rule. At least, that’s what we thought the signs said when we read them. The marine police had a different take on the signs’ meaning, however. As we were zipping merrily along, noting that another boat in front of us was going MUCH slower, we heard the police officer on the marine police boat we were passing use his bullhorn to call us over. He quickly pointed out our inability to read signs, since the sign REALLY said that ONLY boats under 21’ WITH water-skiers are exempt from the no-wake rule. “You mean that we can’t plane in our 12-ft. dinghy, but a bigger boat with a water-skier can?”, we asked incredulously. “That’s the rule,” he admitted. How silly of us to think that the sign meant something that made sense! Mr. “Welcome-to-Ft.-Lauderdale” asked if we had any paperwork (meaning registration) on the dinghy—no, we didn’t—and where we were going in such a hurry. We said, “To the grocery store to get food. We don’t have a car.” “Do you have an emergency? Is your boat on fire?”, he queried. “Er, no, does that matter?”, we asked innocently. We quickly got educated. “You can only use the dinghy in an emergency, or, if you’re staying in the (one-and-only) anchorage, to only get to shore at the nearest marina. Any other use is considered recreational, and the dinghy must be registered for such use. If you have to go to the store or anywhere else, you’re supposed to take a cab.” Good to know. We humbly explained that we had just returned from the islands (three months is still “just returned”, isn’t it?), and that we didn’t know all the rules here in Ft. Lah-Dee…er, Lauderdale. Officer Krupke graciously gave us only a warning, along with a booklet of Florida boating laws. We idled the rest of the way to the store, which took about 45 minutes instead of 20.

Ft. Lauderdale—“yachting capital of the world”, as the sign says (at least, we think that’s what it says, but maybe it means…oh, never mind)—is THE place to be if you own a deep-sea fishing boat, mega-yacht, or even a ski boat. But cruiser-friendly? Not so much. We only found one place to dock the dinghy anywhere near the grocery store (that we had to idle 45 minutes to get to), and that was at a restaurant that charged $10 if you didn’t eat there. We decided to get something for our $10, so we had lunch. Since today was Sunday, coming back up the ICW was something akin to I-95 at rush-hour. In view of the number and size of the boats—recreational vessels all and nary a dinghy in sight—we appreciated the no-wake rule.

So tomorrow we leave Ft. Lah-Dee-Dah in our wake—with dry eyes, I might add—as we head south for the Keys. Our plan is to go part way down the island chain, then north to the Gulf Coast. We aim to be in Punta Gorda for a cruisers’ gathering on 10/25, and in St. Petersburg for a boat show around 11/1. So far the weather has been lovely, although still hot. The tropical storms have kept there distance, and we haven’t seen a drop of rain for a week. We hope the weather gods continue to smile on us as we head out.

The weather gods seem to have looked kindly on us, but apparently the wind god didn’t get the memo. Yesterday as we traveled to Key Biscayne south of Miami (yes, we did actually leave Ft. Lauderdale yesterday, thank you very much!), we had beautiful weather but either not enough wind or wind on our nose. We motor-sailed the entire 30 miles, but it was great to be out on the water again, nevertheless. We anchored at No Name Harbor (yes, that’s really its name!) on Key Biscayne. It’s part of Bill Baggs State Park, and Cape Florida Lighthouse is also in the park. So today we took a pleasant walk around the park and spent some time on the beach. This was the kind of day we’ve been waiting for—no work and all play! We especially appreciated the no work part, because we were awakened at 5:00 AM by a beeping from the cockpit. Still half asleep Jim went out and concluded that the engine alarm was going off for no apparent reason. The only way to stop the beeping was to turn off all our power. Since we were not yet up, that wasn’t such a big deal. But then we lay awake for the next couple of hours wondering what major project/expense was going to be involved this time. When it was light and time to try starting the engine for our refrigeration, we both held our breath. No beeping and the engine turned over on its usual first attempt. Jim then concluded that the beeping must have come from either the auto-pilot or the depth sounder. We still don’t know for sure, but the loss of two hours sleep was a small price to pay for the sound of the engine purring contentedly, and having a play-day.

Cape Florida Light House

The wind god finally got the memo, and made up for lost time. Today the wind blew at 15-20 from the northeast all day. That made for a pleasant downwind sail, since we were traveling southwest down the outside of the Keys. We had originally thought we might try going down Biscayne Bay and the inside, but local knowledge dissuaded us from that plan. Apparently our 4’10” keel is just low enough to have caused us some serious hassles with the bottom. So yesterday we left No Name Harbor to go down Hawk Channel (between the Keys and the reef), but the wind was so light we had to motor-sail the whole way to just outside Key Largo. This morning, though, the wind was blowing like the Trades. Because of using so much fuel yesterday, we opted to go in to a marina to top up the diesel tank. However, this particular marina seems to cater to sport-fishers and other power boats, and the depths were not conducive to our staying overnight. Maybe the wind god wanted us to stay there, because we got pinned against the dock by the wind. Finally, after some tactical maneuvers, Jim was able to get us turned around and headed back out the channel. That wasn’t the only navigational challenge of the day, though. We must have maneuvered around a gazillion crab- or lobster-traps. Jim loves to eat lobster, but neither or us is sure the navigational hazard of how they’re caught is worth it! We came through the Channel Five bridge and managed to find a breezy but protected anchorage for the night in Matecumbe Bight. We hope to see fewer crab/lobster-traps tomorrow as we head up toward Cape Sable.

We hadn’t exactly planned on two nights in Matecumbe Bight, but apparently the weather gods had other plans for us. We awoke at 5:00 AM to rain, lightning, and thunder. The skies didn’t clear by our outside departure time of 10:00 AM to head for Cape Sable, so we’re here for another night. We’ve had rain off and on all day, and the sun never did show its face until evening. So we’ve had a relaxing day that we hadn’t planned on.

Okay, that’s it! I’m never eating another lobster or crab! (Easily said by one who doesn’t like lobster, and who only rarely orders crab.) And I told Jim not to be surprised when I give him a funny look the next time he orders lobster. Those darn crab- and lobster-traps were all over Florida Bay. It was like bumper cars at the amusement park to weave around them—not so fun in a 42’ boat! To explain the problem: each trap is tethered to its own floating ball 8-10” in diameter. The balls are what we must avoid, because if we catch one of the tethers it can tangle our propeller and make us stall. As a matter of fact, in the mine fields we passed through, we did tangle a couple of the tethers—one seemed to get cut by the cutter we have on our prop shaft for just that purpose; and we dragged the other trap for several-100 yards before we stopped and it fell off. (If there was a live inhabitant in that trap, it must have been traumatized by the sudden take-off and flight!) I’m mystified by how many people it must take to tend the traps, and by how many people it takes to eat all the crabs and lobsters they catch!

With the wind practically on our nose we had another exhausting day of motor-sailing and trap-watching. But the weather was lovely, and the One True God always seems to have some reward in the offing. Ours was an idyllic anchorage at Little Shark River, north of Cape Sable. The mangroves are so primeval, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Caloosa or Timucuan canoe come paddling down the river. We watched egrets and dolphins while enjoying our sun-downers; the silence was profound. We managed to finish dinner in the cockpit before the mosquitoes gathered for theirs, and we look forward to a night of restful sleep.

Well, the mosquitoes kept the night from being as restful as we would have liked, but no anchorage is perfect. This was our longest (we hope) day of this trip—54 miles—to Marco Island. We had half a day of great sailing at 7 knots to windward, but again we had wind on the nose for at least half of the day. We keep waiting for the northeast winds that NOAA keeps predicting each day! But the weather was again lovely, and we didn’t have to dodge nearly as many traps. We’re anchored in another pleasant spot behind a small island with a pretty beach. After the splendid sunset as we watch the day-boaters clear out to return to home and job, we once more appreciate the freedom to remain behind.

We’re now in the Ft. Myers Beach anchorage. This seems to be home to a variety of live-aboards—some nice boats and some…er, not-so-nice boats. We’d like to explore the area, but we’ll move on tomorrow into Pine Island Sound—the place where we first fell in love with cruising some 25 years ago.

Pine Island Sound is as beautiful and inviting as ever. The water may not be as clear as in the Virgins or the Bahamas, but everything else suits us just fine. Tonight we’re anchored off Cabbage Key and are thoroughly enjoying the scenery and the many water birds—ospreys, pelicans, egrets, herons, and ibises, to name a few. We dinghied across the channel to visit Cabbage Key just to take an interesting nature walk. Even with the wind out of the northwest, in this protected anchorage it looks like it will be a peaceful night.

Caloosa Spirit went home today “to a place (s)he’d never been before,” as John Denver once put it. This afternoon we stopped at Burnt Store Marina for fuel, water, and pump-out. Burnt Store is Caloosa Spirit’s home port, although this is the first time for a visit. It was tempting to take a slip for the night, but we decided to come on up another 10 miles to anchor off Punta Gorda. This weekend there will be a cruisers’ gathering at the park just off the anchorage, so we thought we would come up early and get a good spot. Maybe no one else is here because they all knew that the anchorage would be rolly in the northwest wind. Oh, well. It’s not as bad as some others we’ve been in. Burnt Store would have been quieter, though.

What happened to all the days since 10/22, you ask? Well, here’s the story, so hope you’ve got a few minutes to read it all. The plan was to send this log on 10/23. However, as Alice sat down to compose that day’s thoughts, the computer screen went blank and never woke up. Computer healthcare was in order—something only slightly less traumatic than personal healthcare! The first step was to call IBM to find out how to go about getting some warranty work done. We were in Punta Gorda, FL, at the time (the cruisers’ gathering was really great; cruisers are wonderful people!) and called from the Best Western where we were dinghy-docking. Peggy, the front desk clerk, was an angel in helping us with our phone calls. IBM would overnight a box for the computer that we could then return with the computer in it for repair. Then, a few days later, they would ship the computer back to us. But the whole floating-address thing was a real obstacle! So we asked IBM for the nearest authorized IBM repair center. The tech’s answer? “I don’t have that information, but you can go to yahoo.com to find it.” To which Jim calmly responded, “Well, no I can’t, because my computer isn’t working!” When we got transferred to someone who could actually be helpful, the tech on the other end insisted on a local address to fill out his computerized form, so finally in desperation Jim gave him the Best Western address. We did manage to determine that the closest service center was in Sarasota so we decided to sail on and get the computer fixed there. The trip up the Gulf Coast ICW was a treat. The vistas were eye candy (including the bald eagle), and the weather was spectacular. Sarasota turned out to be a delightful place to spend some time, but we spent longer than we planned to. That’s right—trying to get the computer fixed. Jim had learned from the IBM phone tech what the suspected problem was, so that was the first thing the service center fixed. But that didn’t make the computer work! So they tried something else, and that didn’t work. The third time might have been a charm, but, since each part they tried required another day to order and install, we finally called a halt. We were running out of time to get to St. Petersburg for the boat show there starting 11/6. So we left Sarasota, still without our computer working. As it turned out, we had to spend an extra day in Sarasota for a different reason than the ailing laptop. The day we picked up the laptop and were preparing to leave, the new 65’ bridge was blocked by repair barges removing the old bridge. What luck! We made it to St. Pete, and even got into the anchorage that was adjacent to the docks of the boat show. Much better luck! The boat show was great, and Jim found a mail drop within walking distance of the harbor, where we could have the IBM box shipped, then send the computer to them. Computer health seemed only a few days away. But when the box hadn’t arrived at the mail drop after four days, Jim called to check on it, and eventually learned that it had been sent to the Best Western in Punta Gorda!! Apparently, whoever listened to the addresses Jim gave over the phone wasn’t able to override what was in their computer. Go figure—it’s only IBM!! Finally, the box arrived in St. Pete, and we made sure that the repaired computer would be sent to Alice’s mom’s in Indy. We left Caloosa Spirit in St. Pete while we came up to Indy for a wedding on 11/15 in which Lauri was the Maid of Honor for her college roommate, our “other daughter”. To our collective huzzahs, the computer arrived at Mom’s as hoped. BUT… the screen still didn’t work!!! Soooo, we sent it off AGAIN wondering where in cyberland it would end up. Miraculously, the computer arrived again here at Mom’s, and—lo and behold—it was healed. That’s why you’re getting this log now instead of last month. Aren’t you sorry you asked??? One more thing. The reason the computer didn’t work when it arrived the first time was that some cord for the screen part wasn’t connected, and the tech had obviously not tested or rebooted the computer before shipping it. IBM stock, anyone?

Wishing all fair winds and functioning computers,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Saturday November 22, 2003

* * *

name Remember
  Textile Help