Archive for October, 2011

My Gift #2

October 22, 2011

OK, the sail was wonderful (see the last post), but tied was this past week spent in Key West, Florida.

This was our second trip to Key West. As we did on our first trip, we flew into Ft. Lauderdale, rented a car and headed straight to Fish House restaurant in Key Largo. The fish is almost-right-off-the-boat fresh and the service is wonderful. Unfortunately, they do like their air conditioning. We also stop there for lunch on the return trip to the airport.

It rained most of the week. We arrived on Monday and drove down in the rain. Wednesday morning around 3:30 AM the area experienced a rollicking good storm. Rolling thunder that shook the house, lightning that lasted long enough for me to start scaring myself thinking about that William Shatner Twilight Zone episode when he’s on the airplane. This went on for several hours. John slept through the show and even now doesn’t believe that it happened. It stopped raining Wednesday afternoon. The rain didn’t stop us from having a good time, it only made it more of a challenge to get around flooded streets down which a few people kayaked.

Tuesday we began the day (a late start because of jet lag) with lunch at Havana 1, a wonderful Cuban restaurant located at mile marker one. We then toured the decommissioned USCGC Ingham. While on deck we watched yet another storm approach from over the ocean. There is a certain smell in these decommissioned Coast Guard boats that we tour that brings back good memories for John of his time as an electrician’s mate on USCGC Alert. As we walked below deck John educated me (once again. Maybe by the time we tour our fourth decommissioned cutter I’ll remember the difference between a “quick acting water tight door” and a “water tight door,” Honey, I promise) on all the fire response equipment, electrical systems, engine room apparatus, and protocol. John remembers his time in the service like it was yesterday. To me the ships smell like rusting metal and rotting wood but as an auxiliarist I appreciate the history of the ships and the men and women who served on them and I am glad that John has only good memories of his time on board.

We sheltered from the rain at Blue Heaven and chatted with some tourists from North Dakota and California before walking to near-empty Mallory Square and settling in at El Meson de Pepe for a few hours to watch the storm over the ocean and talk to more folks also seeking refuge from the rain, one of whom included the amazing “Dr. Juice,” a fun local personality who makes his living as a street performer.

Wednesday we headed to NOAA’s Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center and learned about the ecosystem in the Keys. The Dry Tortugas will definitely be on our list of sites to see during our next visit. Next door to the discovery center we found Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and spent some time walking around the fort and on the adjacent beach.

Thursday we once again began the day with crepes, this time at La Creperie. Next we visited the Little White House and took a guided tour. President Truman loved Key West and governed the country from this house at what was a sort of pre-Camp David. Because the sun was finally shining we headed to Bahia Honda State Park for a few hours of beach time. There are plenty of free beaches, but this one had some history behind it that included Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad.

That evening John was brave enough to try $6/dozen raw oysters. He loves oysters but the usual price is $12 (or more)/dozen. We were suspect because they were so inexpensive, but he loved them (and lived to tell). I, on the other hand, discovered that nothing beats a Chesapeake Bay crab cake. We ate dinner on the restaurant balcony overlooking the marina and watched a glorious sunset on our last evening. The setting for our last evening in Key West almost (but not quite) made us forget the phone call that morning from the marina telling us that Halcyon’s transmission is toast and our best and least expensive option is to do a total repower.

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My Gift

October 16, 2011

It’s a nice coincidence that the annual US Yacht Show in Annapolis occurs on or near my birthday each year. This year, for the first time, we sailed to the show. The plan was to sail to Eastport, stay in a slip at Watergate Village marina, eat lunch, go to the sail show for a few hours, throw back a couple of Painkillers at Pussers and then meet some new friends later for drinks and munchies.

C Dock at Watergate Village

C Dock at Watergate Village

Looking towards Watergate Village

Looking towards Watergate Village

As usual, the best-laid sailing plans are often thwarted.

The sail from Rock Hall to the mouth of the Severn River usually takes four hours. That Saturday was a beautiful day – for motoring. Mist clung to Eastern Neck NWR as we sailed south out of Rock Hall. As the morning advanced the sky turned a brilliant blue. The leaves on the shore were just beginning to change into their Fall colors. There was absolutely no wind. No wind is unusual for Fall on the Bay but since we racked up more sailing days than usual in July, perhaps things were balancing out.

Just as John and I approached the Naval anchorage at the mouth of the Severn River the sound of the engine changed and immediately slowed to less than 2 knots. The change was subtle but noticeable enough that we looked at each other at the same time. At first we worried that the prop became fouled. We moved as close as possible to a shallower area to get out of the main stream of boats moving towards Annapolis and to be able to drop anchor if needed. From that point, if nothing had gone wrong, it would have taken us 20 minutes to get to the marina. An hour later we puttered into the slip thankfully under our own power.

We didn’t get to the show. After having lunch at Davis’ Pub John took a few hours to look more closely at the engine and transmission while I tidied the deck. Later that evening we did meet up with some fellow sailors as planned and had a great time.

Sunday was another gorgeous day with no wnd. We left the marina around 10:00 AM and settled in for a long day. We anticipated our arrival time back in Rock Hall to be around 8:00 PM.

As we slowly left Back Creek under a blue, cloudless sky I looked at the other sailboats on the river. Most were new and out for sea trials by people attending the sail show. Most of the boats were either Hunters with their B&R rigs, J boats or catamarans. They all moved faster than Halcyon. They all had mirror-like waxed hulls with no scrapes or docking dings. They all had near-silent engines (that worked) and sails that weren’t yet in need of reconditioning. They all had smiling people on deck who weren’t worried about getting back to the docks.

We left the Severn and turned north towards the Bay Bridge. The light wind was on our nose, not favorable to get us home under sail power alone. Sailboats milled around the center of the Bay waiting for the start of a race with skippers who also probably hoped for more wind from another direction.

We hoped to sail home in order to save the transmission from further damage or additional problems. As it happened, we had to motor the entire trip (except for a brief moment off Love Point when the sails partially filled and brought our speed up to a whopping 3 knots). Fortunately, it wasn’t torturous. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to motor at a speed at which a person on crutches and with one broken arm could have passed us. They say that a skilled sailor can sail in light air so we took the opportunity to improve ourselves. We adjusted things we normally don’t fuss with – jibsheet lead, traveler, outhaul, downhaul, topping lift. Finally I decided that light air is one thing but having no air is impossible no matter how much salt has passed under your keel.

North of the Bay Bridge (and about five hours into the trip) John said to me “If it wasn’t for you, I would not have learned how to sail.” I looked across the cockpit at him wondering if he really meant “If it wasn’t for you, I’d happily be on the couch with a beer watching the football game with my buddies instead of watching every other boat on the Bay pass us not to mention worry about how I’ll get this transmission fixed and oh yeah, wind through the crab pots in the dark.” But no. With a contented smile, John looked out over the transom at the meager wake Halcyon made through the calm water and up at the wispy clouds slowly moving across the sky. Then he looked over at me and smiled. I could not have asked for a better birthday gift.

Sunset in front of Rock Hall

Sunset in front of Rock Hall