Monthly Archives: November 2013

Packaging Rage – Part II

Warning – this is BLUE post!  Eva’s packaging rage inspired me to highlight a couple of the “packaging” challenges that I have to deal with as I try to keep Calypso happy and operational.  A sailboat (or any boat for that matter) is an exercise in using a small amount of space to its best advantage.  For us on Calypso, that means we have a pretty large galley (kitchen) and living spaces, both down below in the cabin and above decks.  But that does mean a few compromises.

For example, this is the sink and some of the counter space.  Pretty nice!

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But what do you think hides beneath?  That would the engine, that makes the power that keeps the lights on, the drinks cold, and gets us around when the wind won’t cooperate.  This is how you get in there to change the oil, fix the pumps, and all of the other fun stuff I do periodically.

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 As far as sailboats go, access is actually pretty good, but still requires a little contortion to get to a few or the more obscure parts.

Not so bad, you say.  Then lets move on.  

This looks like a nice part of the cockpit seating.

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But that’s the only way in to work back in this cave.

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See the flashlight all the way in the back?  That’s where I had to go to make a repair.  Getting there goes something like this.

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And then this

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Nice legs, huh?

So now back to that packaging rage .  .  .

Packaging Rage

One Christmas, about a dozen years ago, my brother Mark decided to give my nephew Sam, who was then just over a year old, an Abominable Snowman doll as a gift.  The rest of us were quite leery about this proposed gift. With his long claws, sharp teeth, standing hair and ferocious expression, we were quite convinced that Abominable would freak Sammy out.  Mark held his ground.

Come Christmas Eve — this is when my family traditionally opens gifts, after a few rounds of vodka shots — Sam is avidly watching everyone else open their gifts.  When it came time for him to open his gift, we all watched with bated breath.  He tore away the paper, and fairly quivered with … excitement.  He LOVED that snowman!  But he couldn’t get the doll out of its packaging, and soon grew frustrated with anticipation.  We could barely tear the box away from him so we could snip the wire ties, untangle the twist ties, rip away the tape, and open the box.  Finally, after much effort and sweat, we gave him his doll.

I know EXACTLY how Sammy felt that night.  As we’ve been loading up supplies and gear on Calypso, we’ve also been struggling with packaging rage.  On Sunday, I brought home 12 bags of stuff from Target; and then I threw away 4 bags of packaging.  Today, a run to Publix yielded more garbage to toss away.

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Cardboard packaging needs to be culled.  Roaches make their homes and lay their eggs in corrugated cardboard, and they eat the adhesive.

Not only is the volume of stuff galling, but it’s the absolute impenetrability of it that drives me nuts.  You need serious hardware to access some of those clamshells, and you risk injury attempting to get through the layers of security.

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You need the shears to release the shears from their packaging.  WTF?

I understand that some stuff requires tighter packaging to be theft resistant, but is anyone really going to make off with that “As Seen On TV” item from Walgreen’s?  I try to be mindful of packaging when I buy stuff — not just because it annoys me to wage war to get at the item I just bought, but because I’m trying to be aware of my impact on the environment.

Ironically, as much as I complain about packaging, yesterday it was the item that was least protected that resulted in mishap.  A newly purchased extra-large bottle of Hendrick’s gin broke in the trunk of our car, spilling all of its precious contents.

Anybody want to spill some tonic in the trunk?

Dodgertown

When I was a kid (chronologically, anyway), I was a baseball fanatic and had a huge crush on Steve Garvey.  I was going to marry him.  (What do you want?  I was only 11.)  As a result, I was highly interested in all things related to the L.A. Dodgers, including their spring training facility in Vero Beach, Florida.  I needed to figure out a way to get there, somehow.  I never got to Vero Beach until after the Dodgers moved elsewhere for spring training, never married Steve Garvey,  got over that crush and moved on to others.

I’m in Vero Beach right now — known to many cruisers as Velcro Beach because of the warm welcome it offers to sailors passing through on their way further south — a welcome so warm that some never leave.  Rick and I are busy working to get those last boat chores completed before we move on, once a weather window presents itself.

While ensconced in Loggerhead Marina here, we have a rental car and are spending our days hunting, gathering, installing and stowing stuff.  As soon as I think I have control of all of our stuff, we bring another load in and I despair of ever getting it all crammed in while still leaving room for use to live.

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We are constantly moving and re-moving bins and boxes and stuff.  And I haven’t even gone shopping for food yet.

While here, the weather has been mostly lousy, but when it’s been nice, we’ve been making a point of trying to have a little bit of fun, even though we still have a lot of work to do.  Yesterday, we spent some time hanging out with Skip and Harriet at their home (and their pool) before going out to dinner with them and Norm and Nancy (True Loev), acquaintances from the Cheseapeake.  Today, we spent a few hours at the beach, enjoying the November sunshine.

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A little sun, sand and surf are good for morale.

Next week, the pace of work will likely increase, since we’re hoping to head further south during the first week of December.

In the meantime, I’m still pinching myself.  I’m in VERO BEACH!  On my own boat!  That 11-year-old girl with a Dodger crush couldn’t possibly have imagined these circumstances.  In fact, as Harriet and I were talking today, we recalled last January, when Rick and I visited them while they were at the Vero Beach City Marina aboard Moondance, waiting to go south.  Neither one of us could have guessed then than Harriet would be living in Vero, and Rick and I would be here on Calypso.  You just never know where life will take you.

Reunited, And it Feels So Good

On Tuesday, I finally cut my ties to my land-based home and flew to Melbourne, Florida, where Calypso awaited — with some technical difficulties.  Skip and Harriet (ex-Moondance) met me at the tiny airport, and Harriet and I discovered, once again, that we are shoe (and/or foot) sisters,  separated at birth.

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This time, for a change, it wasn’t the shoes (though both were green sandals), but almost identical mint green toenail polish. It was good to be back with both Skip and Harriet, whom we hadn’t seen since Labor Day weekend.  Being with Harriet confirms that if my taste in shoes is terrible, at least I am not alone.

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Turning up in Puerto Rico with the same flavor of Keens (on the left), and turning up Labor Day weekend with another flavor.

Actually, it’s not just shoes; we also happen to have the same exact Henri Lloyd foul weather jackets.  And Harriet turned up in the lobby of a New Orleans hotel we were staying at wearing the same (now infamous) orange tasseled shirt that I also have.  Just a few examples.

What?  Did you think I was talking about being reunited with Rick?  OK, I’ll concede that I missed him a bit. Maybe a little more than a bit….

We drove from the airport to Melbourne Harbor Marina, where we found a dirty, grubby Rick, but that was good — he’d just finished repairing (for the second time) the raw water pump (this is a very, very important engine component, as it’s part of the cooling system — no raw water, no engine).  We’d be ready to leave for Vero Beach in the morning, but in the meantime, a few drinks and dinner at a terrific hole-in-the-wall Cuban restaurant (Ambia) in Melbourne.

My First Full Day as a Cruiser

Wednesday was my very first day as a real cruiser; Rick was already there.  But I caught up in short order.  Here are the highlights of my day, to prove my cruising bona fides:

– I went out in public without having put on make up or doing my hair;

– Part of my outfit consisted of clothes from the day before;

– When I started getting seasick as I tried to organize things below, I tried a non-chemical seasickness remedy — I stuck an earplug in my non-dominant ear (the left).  And it provided nearly instant relief.  (If you know my history, I get seasick easily, and have gotten in the habit of taking meclizine EVERY DAY that I’m on a boat.  This time I skipped it.  And survived.)

– I calmly helped Rick anchor the boat just outside the ICW as we left the Melbourne marina, as the raw water system failed for a third time, and handed him tools and provided moral support as he spent 3 hours fixing the damn thing.  (Props to our regular Annapolis-based mechanic, for providing an extremely helpful phone consult.  It did the trick.  Spares are now being ordered.)

– Once underway, we made the trip to Vero Beach in pouring rain, each of us going through 2 sets of foul weather gear, the first being too light for the combination of rain and wind.  They got 3 inches of rain in Vero Beach.

It was quite an eventful first day for me.  Harriet picked us up from our marina, and once we arrived at their gorgeous new Florida home, Skip met us with much-needed cocktails.  We had a great dinner, and a cozy night in their guest room.

We’re now set up on Loggerhead Marina in Vero Beach, which we’ll use as our base for provisioning and supply gathering.

From Mission Control

As of early this morning, the intrepid crew of Calypso — Captain Rick with Brett Smith, Jeff Weingarten and Charles Corbin — was within cell range off Port Canaveral.  At this point, they will likely go “inside” and make their way to Vero (aka “Velcro”) Beach.

A few images from Mission Control:

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Moonset over Cape Canavarel.

Everyone says that offshore sailing in cooperative weather is magical; this is certainly an indication of some of the magic (as well as the general navigational advice that reminds sailors to keep the land to starboard when heading south down the East Coast).  Here’s some more magic:

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I am such a sucker for dolphins!

As a follow up to other blog posts:

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Ensenada Sun Bay on Vieques, early in the morning.

This is what an iPhone panoramic shot looks like when (a) the boat is rolling; (b) the user is doing it for the first time; and (c) the user has a flexible interpretation of 180 degrees.  (You can click on the image to get a larger view.)

Finally, I can’t let my cute top continue to be maligned by Seinfeld fans and fashion critics.

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The infamous TASSELS.

As is said by many, “Nothing goes to weather like a 747.”  After finishing my long list of tasks (still a few days’ worth), I will be flying down to Florida to meet Calypso.

See you on the other side!

The Curse of the Black Pearl?

Sometimes, a charter doesn’t start auspiciously.

This one was preceded by the usual weather checks, including visits to hurricane watching sites.  Every day’s forecast called for some material chance of thunderstorms.  Over the years, I’ve learned not to take too much notice; after all, on the greener islands, it rains almost every day.  How many of us have escaped a week of tropical sailing without having a single 2 a.m. Hatch Drill?  Of course, when there is talk of hurricanes (none for us this time) or substantial accumulations of rain, I pay attention.  And this particular forecast called for more than an inch of rain in Fajardo shortly after we arrived.

We managed the drive from San Juan to Fajardo, and provisioning at the well-stocked Ralph’s, without any rain.  (Memorable comment from the supermarket: “Did you think that’s enough wine?” said Eva to Rick and Jeff, who bore only 6 bottles.)  Then we got to Puerto del Ray marina, and were greeted with this sight:

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Is it a good omen to share dock space with The Black Pearl?

Then came the rains.  Buckets and buckets of rain.  Thankfully, we’d packed foul weather gear and waterproof shoes, so we didn’t drown in the rain as we made our way to the tiki bar (Lally’s) at the marina, huddling under the overhang at the bar.

I had the idea to shower that night, so as to make a quick getaway Sunday morning.  But in the marina bathhouse, I hardly needed to enter a shower stall.  The rain, humidity, condensation and dripping ceiling turned the shower room into a sauna — except it wasn’t warm.  Ugh.

Sunday morning, the rain held off long enough to have our boat and chart briefings, and I optimistically made a run to Walgreen’s to buy extra sunscreen and beach towels.  But once we got underway, it wasn’t long before a drenching, blowing squall hit us en route to Culebra.  The boat was rolling so much, I didn’t even bother to go below to fetch my foul weather jacket, and soon we were soaked, though I had to wear sunglasses to be able to see through the rain when I took the helm.  At least one crew member chummed the waters.

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Not the view you want during a tropical vacation….

The rain eventually stopped, and we’d made it to Cayo de Luis Pena, across a narrow channel from Culebra.  We anchored off a pretty beach, and went ashore to explore and swim.  It was only moments before I felt one prickle, then another, than dozens more.  I’d woken the no-see-ums and was now serving as their buffet, scoring too many furiously itchy bites to count.  And on returning to the boat, I discovered my first aid kid had only ONE Benadryl.  Arrrgh!  If only my Walgreen’s run had pessimistically prepared me for insect bites instead of sunshine!

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This beautiful and calm beach harbors voracious predators: hordes of flying teeth!

Of course, we know about the Spanish Virgin Islands’ past as a military training ground.  Nevertheless, it’s never heartening to see warning signs about unexploded ordnance, and buoys prohibiting anchoring — right where you were about to anchor.

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So, where are the snakes?  Pirates?  Poison apples?

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Is that a manchioneel (highly poisonous)?  Couldn’t the no-see-ums eat them?

I am a vivid dreamer.  And my dreams are heavily influenced by my surroundings.  And I’m also quite blind when I take my contact lenses out for the night.  So I suppose it’s not surprising that days of skittering jelly beans (Confession #1: I discovered Candy Crush the night before we flew to Puerto Rico), hungry insects, threatening fish, ugly weather and buried mines would make my overactive imagination excessively suggestible.  One night in my bunk, at precisely 12:10 a.m.,I felt something raspy brush against my hand.  Semi-consciously, I batted it away, only to have it lick at my hand again.

My natural reaction: SCREAM!  Which of course drove Rick and Jeff out of their berths (Confession #2: Rick and I don’t always share a berth), turning on the lights.  “Something licked me!  Something in my cabin!  I don’t know … A rat.  A mouse.  Something!”  We stripped the bed, checked all of the corners with flashlights, and found nothing.  Other than racing hearts and raised blood pressure.  (Jeff and I are the same crew members who were convinced we were about to be boarded by pirates in Belize, so we have a little history of over-reaction.)

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That’s a remora, not a shark, hanging around off our swim platform.

I eventually calmed down.  And, in fairness, after that first rough and stormy day, our entire trip settled into a much more laid-back and pleasant routine.  In reality, the only rain came in brief squalls, mostly at night when our hatches were open and our laundry was pegged to the lifelines.

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Look how relaxed they look.  Are they even conscious?

Rick and Jeff and I know what a truly bad charter week looks like — like the week we spent in the British Virgin Islands with Hurricane Georges: (Rendezvous with Georges).  And Rick and I spent a soggy week in the Abacos on a charter that detoured our one-time plan to go cruising (which has now been revived, more than 10 years later).  This week doesn’t even come close!  In fact, it was one of our best charters ever; over three trips, the Spanish Virgins have delivered something awfully close to paradise.

But writing about paradise is kind of boring.  And paradise comes with a price.  So I’ll keep telling the stores, warts and all.

P.S.  That rodent tongue?  It was a tassel from a shirt.

The Whole Fish

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If there’s anything I’ve learned in years of travel to the islands, it’s that most West Indians are reserved to visitors; however, if approached correctly, they are warm and friendly.   For example, if you travel to a Spanish or French-speaking island, some minimal effort to speak the language goes a long way.  It need be no more than “Hola!” or “Merci.”  In Puerto Rico, I almost automatically get the benefit of the doubt because my first name, Eva, translates directly — as if there was any question of that, even normally stern TSA agents at San Juan airport were addressing me cheerfully as “Miss Ey-ba,” dispensing altogether with my surname.

Another way to endear yourself is to embrace the local cuisine — and not with wrinkly-nosed skepticism.  I don’t have to work very hard at that, because I truly enjoy West Indian foods.  Ordering souse and johnnycake in the Bahamas, or curried goat in Anguilla, wins over the hardest cases.  And, for some reason, whole fish is a barometer of culinary adventurousness.

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Does this mouthful of sharp teeth put you off?

When I ordered a whole steamed fish at Max’s Conch Bar on Long Island in the Bahamas, the bartender said Americans never bothered.   Last time Rick and I were in St. Martin, I was drawn into my favorite restaurant in Grand Case, Bistrot Caraibes, by the “whole snapper” special on the chalkboard.  The owner politely told us that the server would happily filet the fish for me, but I waved that off.  As soon as I did so, relations thawed noticeably — again with the observation that Americans rarely ask for the whole fish.  Which is interesting, since I’ve had whole fish many times in the US, from restaurants in Baltimore’s Little Italy, to Annapolis Yacht Club.

Of course, in American restaurants, you’re most likely to be served “refined” fish like bronzino.  Down island, in addition to snapper, you’ll be offered more exotic stuff like triggerfish (like we had at the late, lamented C&F in Roadtown, Tortola, after choosing the very fish we would eat) or parrotfish.

On this trip to the Spanish Virgins, I was lucky enough to indulge in my affection for whole fish at 3 of the 4 meals we ate out during our sailing charter.  The first arguably set the highest bar — whole grouper at one of the kiosks at Flamenco Beach, for a mere $10.  Both Rick and I indulged.

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Pico de Gallo may be the name of the kiosk, but the pescado entero (mero) was sublime.

On the same day, the Dinghy Dock restaurant in Dewey was offering a whole snapper.  After I picked all of the delicate white flesh off the bones, saving the fish cheeks for last, I had the “fish chips” for dessert.  Cooking the whole fish renders the fins and tail crispy and entirely edible.  After I was done, I was invited to toss the carcass to the carnivorous tarpon swimming off the dock.

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Feeding frenzy of demon-eyed (thanks to my camera’s flash) 4-foot tarpon.

Finally, at Duffy’s in Esperanza (on the malecon, in Vieques), the special was whole parrotfish.  We’d already warmed our server up by ordering Medalla, the local beer, and the local rum punch (the Viequense), so by the time we ordered parrotfish, we were very nearly family.  I’d never eaten parrotfish before, spending most of my effort admiring the rainbow colored reef-dweller while snorkeling.  Parrotfish sport an intimidating set of choppers because they feed off coral polyps; it’s the parrotfish’s … er … excretory process … that helps create those stunning beaches composed of pinky-white ground coral.  Needless to say, lunch was quite satisfying.

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Before and after, the little parrotfish died a noble death.  He was accompanied by tostones and beans and rice (this time, garbanzos — unless a specific type of bean is named, you’ll get whatever kind of beans the kitchen has handy, which is just fine with me).

Now that we are headed to the Bahamas, I’m looking forward to sampling the invasive lionfish.  These non-indigenous fish have been introduced to the waters and are the subject of an active attempt to eradicate them, as they have no predators and are wreaking havoc in the local ecosystem.  And I hear they are delicious.