Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Log #36 Rhythm of the Rain

We’ve been in St. Petersburg for about a week and a half, docked behind Cathy & Carl’s home. With a Publix and West Marine within walking distance and a bus stop at the end of the street, this is a very convenient location from which to do errands and boat work. So far we’ve accomplished getting haircuts, making a fenderboard, getting Florida driver’s licenses, grocery shopping, going to church, and some other odds and ends. We’ve also made flight reservations for a visit to Indianapolis from 8/17 to 9/29.

Mike and Stephanee left today from San Diego in a rental truck with all their worldly possessions, including their cats, with their car on a tow-dolly, bound for Sarasota. We pray that they have a safe and speedy trip, and we expect them to be in southwest Florida by the end of the week.

This was the fourth straight day of rain, and it’s really getting old. This is the season of afternoon and evening showers on an almost daily basis, but this is ridiculous! We feel like prisoners inside the boat, and the rain has made it almost impossible to start any boat projects. Today, though, Jim had to make a bus run to the Yanmar distributor in town for a new thermostat. We hope the replacement helps with some engine over-heating problems. And, yes, he did get wet in the process.

This was supposed to be another rainy day, but the meteorologists either dropped their crystal ball, or let their tea leaves dry up and blow away. Or maybe someone absconded with their dart board. In any case, the mostly sunny day was a welcome change. We started working on getting the wind generator installed. Mostly, that meant trying to understand the instructions on putting it together, and figuring out where to put the electrical boxes. We hope to have it up and running before we head north—provided the weather cooperates.

I’ve bragged before about the wonderful bus system here in St. Petersburg. But every gem has at least one flaw, and today we found PSTA’s. The bus stop at the end of Petersens’ street has been altered somewhat due to a detour on the route. So until we got the hang of waiting at the appropriate corner, we once missed the bus, and twice almost had it pass us by. Today, in attempting to take a bus to a laundromat, we experienced a new wrinkle. We knew we were in the right place at the right time, but long after the scheduled time the bus still didn’t show. After Jim called “Bus Central”, we learned that the bus had missed us, and was then some miles further down the route. Apparently, the bus driver had missed the turn to pass our stop, and went merrily on his way to the next intersection. The trouble was, that’s not where we were waiting! Not wanting to wait another half hour for the next bus, we started walking. When we passed the bus going back in the other direction and saw the bus number, Jim phoned in a complaint. The walk to the laundromat was about a mile in 90-degree heat, and then—the laundromat wasn’t air-conditioned!! Oh, well. At least we got off the boat, and it didn’t rain.

Let’s see—how does that saying go? “Some days you’re The Big Dog; other days you’re the fire-hydrant.” Or maybe it’s, “Some days you’re the bug, and some days you’re the windshield.” Well, whatever, today was a fire-hydrant/windshield kind of day. We got the wind generator put together on the top of the pole that fastens to the top of the stern arch. The wind generator (picture a wind mill) must be several feet up in the air, so that no one can do something stupid (like reach up to it) and get hurt when it’s spinning. So the pole is 5 ft. long, and the top of the stern arch is 6 ft. above the deck. Getting the pole with the 25-lb. wind generator fastened on its upper end up into its collars on the stern arch took some cajoling and manipulating, not to mention brute strength and a lot of faith, but we did it. All that was left was the wiring. Until—Jim went to bolt the pole in place in the collars, only to find that the threaded bolt holes didn’t line up! Leaving the 5-ft. long pole with the 25-lb. wind generator on top just sitting in the stern arch collars without being bolted wasn’t an option. So we man-handled the whole she-bang back down to the deck. Next question—WHAT DO WE DO NOW?? Answer—have a couple of drinks and sleep on it.

Mike had a better day than we did. He and Stephanee arrived in Sarasota safely last night, and got moved into their new apartment today. They’re exhausted, but glad to be here in south Florida. We look forward to seeing them soon.

The rain held off until we got finished with today’s fiasco‚Ķer, project.

A good night’s sleep contributed to a possible solution to our quandary. We think we’ll just cut an inch or so off the bottom of the wind generator pole, and re-drill and tap the bolt holes. A piece of cake, right? At least we were able to get the required tools at the Ace Hardware within walking distance.

That was after we went to church. We’ve been attending Lakewood UCC while we’ve been in St. Pete. We enjoy the relaxed yet meaningful worship style, the quality of the pastor, and the welcoming interactions from the members. It may be the only ONA (Open & Affirming) UCC church in the city, and the membership reflects the Open & Affirming statement. After today’s worship service we attended their monthly Table Talk—a round-table discussion and sharing of information about church concerns over lunch in the fellowship hall. We look forward to Sundays while we’re in St. Pete, and Lakewood is one more reason we like this city.

The rain was considerate enough to confine itself to church time, so we stayed mostly dry while walking to and from the bus. By the way, on the news tonight we heard that the area has flood watches, and rainfall is already 16 inches above normal for the season.

The wind generator is up!! Cutting off the bottom of the pole and re-drilling and tapping the bolt holes worked—not exactly like a charm, but enough to get the job done. Once more we wrestled the pole and wind generator up into the collars on the stern arch, but only after Jim made sure that all the holes lined up correctly. We strapped our boat hook onto the arch, raised it up higher than the wind generator, and threw a line over it that was attached to the pole. By pulling and pushing we got the apparatus in place. The wiring is even long enough to meet the control box below the deck. Positioning the blades will wait until we return to St. Pete in September. We’re beat, but we’re also celebrating.

Jim with wind generator

We thought we’d have the wind generator wired and running by now, but life happened while we were making other plans. Today we had to start making preparations for a coming tropical storm. The St. Pete area hasn’t been hit by a major storm in several decades, but this one has the potential for ending the grace period. So we must do many things to be sure that we and the boat stay safe while we ride it out. This morning we made a trip to the grocery store to make sure we can eat until we leave for Indy next week. This evening, after doing a few things to securely tie up Caloosa Spirit, we assisted another friend of Carl’s, who brought his boat into the other slip for protection. Tomorrow we’ll be busy with other preparations. Most of this same preparation we’d have to do next week, anyway, in order to leave the boat for several weeks.

Today brought a very different story. Tropical Storm Charley is now Category 2 Hurricane Charley, and is headed to St. Petersburg. We spent an exhausting day tying down, taking down, securing, and putting away. We even set two anchors in the canal to hold the boat away from the dock. When we heard the mandatory evacuation order, we knew staying on board Caloosa Spirit was no longer an option, especially after Cathy called and begged us to move into the house or further away. Mike and Steph graciously offered to let us stay with them in Sarasota, and Mike came to pick us up this evening. We don’t know that Sarasota will fair any better than St. Pete, but in their location they are highly unlikely to experience an evacuation. It was heartbreaking to leave Caloosa Spirit to weather the storm on her own, especially as winds of 100 mph and a storm surge of 10-14 ft. are predicted. Tears flowed as we packed a bag, emptied the refrigerator, and greeted Mike. We haven’t seen Mike in 8 months, and we had been eagerly anticipating our reunion, but not under these circumstances. At his and Steph’s apartment we’ll watch the continuous coverage on TV, as we attempt to cope with visions of possibly losing our floating home. We wish we had brought more of our treasured belongings with us.

Friday the thirteenth. Who’d have thought? None of us slept much last night, even though Hurricane Charley wasn’t due to arrive until later this afternoon. During the day we fearfully watched the coverage, as the upgrades to category 3 and then category 4 took place. In this technological age we’ve been able to watch the satellite and computer images showing this fierce hurricane approach and devour Florida’s southwest coast. Knowing that wherever Charley chose to make landfall chaos and havoc would rule, we nevertheless hoped and willed for the path to avoid the St. Petersburg area. With mixed feelings of relief and concern for the residents to the south of us, we watched breathlessly as the storm made landfall about 100 miles south of St. Pete. Through the afternoon we’ve seen some heavy rainfall and some wind, but certainly nothing beyond mild storm conditions that we’ve experienced many times in the past. The path has gone inland, and the devastation is spreading to towns far east and north of us. We expect to sleep more soundly tonight. I’d like to thank our Creator, but certainly our loving God wouldn’t want other Floridians to suffer any more than we have. God is still speaking and working to bring order out of chaos.

I can’t really describe our feelings as we gazed once more on Caloosa Spirit as she sat serenely at the dock, just as we had left her. Mike brought us back to St. Pete late this afternoon, and we found no damage at all. It appeared that the winds here had been as mild as we experienced in Sarasota, as no tree limbs or other debris were anywhere to be seen. Jim and I both wept tears of joy and relief. We hope to never again come so close to disaster, but we also recognize that cruising requires a fair amount of faith. We plan to take it as it comes.

St. Petersburg rainbow

We now look forward to our trip to Indianapolis in a few days—especially now that we have to crawl over our sails in the cabin! Caloosa Spirit will remain here in her stripped-down condition until our return. We hope to see many of you during our visit. Please don’t hesitate to call or email us if you’d like to get together at some time.

Fair winds and rainbows until next time,
Alice & Jim Rutherford

Posted Sunday August 15, 2004

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