Together for the Holidays

     It's been a couple of years since we've all been together for the holidays, the last time being the Short Bus Tour to Mexico in '08, with my entire family, a total of 23 people.  This year it's just the 4 of us, a much easier group to feed and transport, although I do miss the gigantic family gatherings. So far we've managed to get in a walk on the beach in between meals.

    Christmas Day is also Amanda's birthday and this year she requested a Dutch Apple birthday pie as substitute for the traditional Birthday Cake. We ate and drank and sat and told stories and sang, a very good dinner on a chilly evening.

    The menu this year: Salmon seasoned and steamed from the grill; Scallops sauteed in an onion, garlic, and wine sauce; Garlic mashed potatoes; all followed with lots of wine, chocolate and of course the apple pie with ice cream. Walks required all around today.

    There has been a lot of talk of sailing but with a cold front blowing through today winds are cold and blasting from the NW at 20-25kts, gusts to 40. Looking at Tuesday...maybe a trip south for an overnighter, then back if the front continues to push through as forecast. No weather complaints allowed aboard though as friends and family continue to post about the large storms from the NE and huge snows from the Upper Midwest.

Merry X-Mass from aboard Celebration to all our family and friends!


Home Again, Part Deux

It's nice to think of St Pete as home, and we've actually lived here longer than anywhere else, so far, in our married lives, more than 5 years.  It's been really fun getting together with all the friends we made over the years here.  Last night Bob and Kitty , of Equinox fame, hosted a dinner at their new home (formerly La Casita Pepto Bismol and now La Casita Elegante) and invited a group of us over for delicious BBQ, salads and numerous desserts. Bob was even nice enough to taxi us there and back.  It was a lively evening, solving the worlds problems and talking sail trim, eating bread pudding and drinking wine. At some point, the wine obviously got the better of us and we ended up in the back yard playing on the zip line that Bob built for their very lucky grandsons. 
 I love this photo, Elise and Penny look like the neighborhood kids playing, and Elise standing there thinking "Auggg, no fair! It's my turn!"
This is Jeff, who lives in England, but has a boat named Jade at the North Dock.  He was here working and visiting his boat for a few days. He's a great guy, well informed and able to hold his own, and his wine, in our vocal crowd-another new friend! And he's a sailor.  A good night all around.


Home Again

It was an interesting trip from Vero Beach around to St Pete.  We had a variety of weather and sea conditions, from calm and cold to really crappy cold and rain and fighting a 20kt wind on the nose, with the accompanying  waves to slam into.  It was so rough that the anchor mount and two of the teak slats on the bow broke from the force of the water.  For one whole night it was: get up speed forward, to about 3kts, hit wall, bounce back, bounce way up, bounce down, have speed drop to 1.5kts, get back in seat, adjust hat, pick up speed, hit wall... Generally, I love overnight passages and the chance to enjoy the stars and sea, alone on my watches. On this trip, however, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about a nice warm RV.

We did have one wonderful highlight to the trip.  As we left Indian Key, we sailed off the mooring and the dolphins joined us by the dozens, jumping, flipping, zooming around, under and across the bow.  Hjlmr steered down the Hawk Channel while we both stood on the bow and watched. There were more than I'd ever seen at one time and most of the time I just stood there with the camera useless in my hand, just pointing and yelling "over there! oh,oh, oh, over there, more! Look! Look!" That, at least, was a great 'welcome back' to the Gulf of Mexico.
Almost close enough to touch.

They came by the dozens.

Mom and baby


Vero Beach, looking north, Celebration is almost in the middle of the photo, rafted with a 20' black Flicka.

We've finally ripped ourselves out of Velcro Beach and are making our way around The Keys.  Steve needed a couple of days to recover from the delivery trip, the lack of sleep, food, intelligence, took it's toll.  We took some long walks and stocked up on fresh fruit for our jaunt around the Horn of Florida. (I like to call it a 'Horn' because it's the only one I may ever round.) The Vero Beach mooring field was packed, we were 3 or 4 to a ball the whole time we were there.  It's interesting, you're expected to raft up at Vero.  If you're the first one on a ball, you just put your fenders off on the side you want boat #2 to raft to.  Then you both put fenders off on the outside and let boat #3 choose which side to go on. It's a novel way to meet new people, although with a boat on either side, privacy is non existent. We had many, many friends to catch up with and it was great fun to go to the Thursday Happy Hour and see who was there.

The marina grounds were very park like, covered with Live Oaks, which were themselves covered with moss and ferns.

From park like to cruise ships and air pollution.  Steve watched these 5 cruise ships enter port on his night watch off of Port Everglades. They look like birthday cakes at night, all lit up and twinkely. The air over the port was heavy and yellow.

Tonight we're on a mooring ball at Indian Key State Park.  The wind continues to blow and the temps are low.  We'll head north tomorrow and get to St Pete by Friday, ahead of the next Norther. We've reserved a space at Maximo Marina for the next month and we're really looking forward to seeing all our friends there and catching up with them. 

One final note to NOAA:  ahem, this here is My Yam Me, we don't do Ark-tic here, so could you quit sending it?


Boat Delivery 101

    Many of you know I went on a little “side-line” the past couple of weeks. Offered a chance to sail an older offshore Choey Lee 48 ketch from Moorhead City NC to St Thomas, and get paid to sail, I took it. The boat was a true joy to sail. She handled heavy weather beautifully, and a good thing as we had plenty. In all we experienced over four days of gale conditions with winds in the 35 – 45 knot range and seas over 20 (sometimes 30 feet) for most of it. The boat was designed by Bob Perry, had recently been re-rigged and with all new sails was well up to the task. Unfortunately no boat is perfect and she had her flaws, the first of which was the auto-helm so most of the trip was spent hand steering. Not an issue except that as an old off shore designed for a big crew, we were unable to adjust any sails from the helm…effectively making sailing a two crew job anytime the weather kicked up. Then the human factor kicked in.

    Regardless of the (loooooong) South Pacific sailing stories we were regaled with, one of the crew had difficulty handling the helm when the weather got tough, lobbied often for reducing sail (even when impossible as only the single smallest sail on board was flying [huh???]), steered us through an accidental jibe during an expected and observed approaching frontal passing, couldn’t/wouldn’t get adequate rest, and really didn’t seem to understand the concept of sailboat systems or operation. A distraction for the crew to say the least…perhaps so too for the Captain with whom she shared a bunk. For those sailors out there you know about running the engine to charge battery banks, and the importance of isolating those banks when charging is done. Say it isn’t so, but yes the batteries remained combined, selector on “Both” after charging. Discovering the mistake going into our second gale still 650 miles out of St Thomas it was too late…no engine for the rest of the trip. Oh…and no power, no fridge, no electric bilge pumps, stove, running water, auto-helm, chart plotter, navigation lights, VHF, etc. With just our personal head-lamps, one rechargeable GPS (with ½ power left), one hand-held VHF and an Iridium phone (1/2 power left), now it’s exciting! Interesting how you never really know how much a boat leaks until the electric bilge pumps don’t work and you must hand pump. In our case I estimate 5-8 gallons/hr. Eventually I found and stopped all the leaks allowing the last four days of sailing without pumping….and much better sleeping I might add. In short, we put into Puerto Rico hungry and needing showers for a jump start and a nights rest, then on to St Thomas. In total 15 days at sea, some great experience, a few “notables” for my own off shore checklist, realization that big swells are not a problem when the boat sails well, and mostly the confidence that we can do this….probably do it better and safer.