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Getting Underway

Travelogue - February 7, 2011
A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to,
and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.

- Lin Yutang (1895-1976)

Boat Works and the Price to Pay

As usual, launching the boat was only the beginning. After Sea Gator splashed down on January 7 we worked hard getting her ready for cruising.

On the hard It was convenient to work on her hull at the boatyard, left, but boarding was difficult. At the boatyard one clambers up a skeletal folding ladder to reach the narrow swim platform, thence up the swim ladder to the sundeck, then around the narrow side deck to the helm door at about 12' above unforgiving ground.

At la Marina Assuming you're finished with the hull, of course, it's much easier to work at la Marina, right, where one simply steps from the dock onto the boat at the helm door. Although the easy access has its own hazards as I periodically bash my head on the lintel while rushing through.

The biggest job this year: replacing Sea Gator's battery banks. We removed her three 4D-size AGM batteries from the cramped engine room and at 130 pounds each they were a chore. Rick lifted from below while I hoisted a line from above and we maneuvered the monsters out one at a time, then trundled them onto a hand cart and around the house to the car. Rick loaded them into the trunk and we brought them over the bridge to the good folks at Cart City for recycling.

The Picture of Dorian Grey Over the next several days Rick installed a series of enclosed battery boxes for safety, three new "flooded lead acid" batteries, and an intricate cat's cradle of snaking black and red cables. Rick is very happy with the new setup for our house batteries and he has high hopes for its success.

I continued oiling and buffing all the interior teak and bringing in supplies as this is the year to do several maintenance varnish coats on the exterior teak brightwork (instead of taping and prepping for a single coat each year, I've been doing multiple coats on alternate years). It's looking pretty good.

And when the weather finally warmed up, we washed and Rick waxed Sea Gator's topsides and Bump Head's pontoons. And the "sumbrella" covers I stitched for the helm instruments and the outboard engine fit just fine and are nice additions to the boat's ensemble.

Sea Gator functions and looks better every year! All of our hard work is paying off and the clock is turning backward for our little ship. By contrast, Rick and I become ever more exhausted and decrepit by the effort. We age exponentially as the work wears on: we walk with a stoop and our skin turns grey and our hair becomes lank...

Sea Gator is the boat of Dorian Gray.

Taking a Day Off

I was so grateful to find Jazzercize every day right downtown from la Marina! I went first thing every morning then returned the car in plenty of time for its BINGO duties and my command boatyard performances. My fellow Jazzercizers were welcoming and the instructor, Lisa, was a lot of fun. One day it was surprisingly hot and humid in the room, and even more so in the changing room immediately after class. I hobbled out in my street clothes and Lisa said "I'll bet it was fun putting those jeans on." I told her "They squeaked!" That was a first.

Mickey Gary and groceries One Sunday Rick and I drove up to Cape Haze, near where Gary and Mickey were anchored with Little Mick. While there we had hoped to see Captain Moe, my ex-cousin-in-law, but he wasn't home. Nevertheless he had invited Gary and Mickey to use his dock which is conveniently located near the anchorage, so we met them there.

We enjoyed a nice visit with Gary and Mickey, as usual: we went to lunch at Placida's Fisheries restaurant and then did a little shopping in the neighborhood. I bought birthday gifts for my mom and Rick scored an anchor for Bump Head.

On the way back we stopped at the grocery store - de rigeur for boaters with access to a vehicle - then we went back to their dinghy. Moe and Pat still weren't home from their golf tournament so we didn't get to see them at all - though we did eyeball their new Gemini from the dock!

There go Gary and Mickey and their bags of groceries. Bye for now!

The Night Life

On Thursday, January 20, we were fully provisioned and we cast off from la Marina. "Bye!" we waved to Lu. We headed south through the harbor to Burnt Store Marina to take on more diesel fuel.

Gene aboard LIAT As we motored in to the basin there was Liat and Gene working on her, so he came over and visited with us while the fuel was flowing into Sea Gator's tanks and out of our wallet. What a treat! We had met Gene and Char at Ft. Myers Beach mooring last year, see The Too Long Farewell. It was good to visit with Gene and catch up on everybody's business since last spring - including the progress of Larabeck, who made it safely under sail to New Zealand!

We hope to see Gene and Char in the spring, unless they embark on a major cruise before then.

Left, Gene shields his eyes from the glare off Sea Gator's dazzling buffed topsides as we motor away.

Late that afternoon we dropped the hook in the sheltered northwest pocket of Pelican Bay. There were a couple boats in the anchorage when we pulled in and a few more arrived before too long. Everybody anchored in a seamanlike manner and we were soon settled.

Sunset over the mangrove island Here is Rick's first sunset photo of the season.

As the sun sank slowly into the mangroves Goldie settled into her routine. She regained her sea legs right away and by bedtime she had made herself comfortable as only a pampered cat can do.

It was harder for me. As a seasoned insomniac I dread the ordeal of breaking in a series of new sleeping places several times every year. Sea Gator's "master stateroom" offers many challenges to the relaxation challenged.

To begin with our berth, although it is encased in a convincing blue-and-white ticking cover, is actually a 6" slab of dense foam plopped on sheets of plywood atop two 75-gallon aluminum water tanks. Which adds luxurious cold and clammy comfort in cold weather, be assured! And again this year we increased the agony by purchasing new pillows.

So, what did I have to lose by trying a new and expensive brand of pillow? "How bad could it be?" I tempted fate by asking.

Well. I tell you it's bad.

The new pillow is like a giant smiling cottonball with evil intent. Picture the StayPuft Marshmallow man from "Ghost Busters" and you'll understand. The pillow is huge. It's sentient. And it's trying to kill me.

Demonic creatures of the night To begin the festivities each night I lie down on my back, but soon the pillow wraps itself around my head like a helmet, trapping heat in my hair and directing a cold draft down my unprotected neck.

Shivering, I turn onto my side, and a sinister depression appears in the center of the pillow. My head sinks into this hollow, and then the sides of the pillow silently inflate, encasing my nose and mouth...

Gasping for air I scoot to the edge. The pillow quickly re-inflates, ejects itself in the other direction and takes out my clock. Like Wile E. Coyote's, my head hovers in space for a moment before slamming down onto the thin mattress.

Thrash. Curse. Straighten clock. Retrieve pillow. Serve pillow a vicious punch in the face.

Sigh.

Repeat.

Add to the merry midnight antics a restless cat, loud windy nights at anchor and an over-the-counter bite guard and I don't know why I bother to lie down at all.

This nighttime drama has been going on with minor variations for years - "Beelzebub the Pillow" is just the latest addition to the cast. Unless you've personally experienced chronic insomnia you cannot comprehend the depression and psychosis that result.

Caveat emptor, friends.

The Moorings

Mooring field On Monday, January 24, we weighed anchor and motored south to the moorings at Estero Bay, sheltered inside the barrier island of Fort Myers Beach. When we arrived the place was full - everyone else was seeking shelter from the coming cold front as were we. The only available mooring was out in the south forty where dwell those boaters who are friendless and without hope. We bowed our heads and battened down the hatches.

But a couple of days later Gary phoned at the crack of dawn to tell us that there was a mooring now available near them, at the front of the field. We hustled, and moved Sea Gator on up to a much better neighborhood where the mooring equipment is better maintained, dinghy parking is more accessible, and the social life is more welcoming. We were surrounded by Little Mick, Blackfoot, Imagine, and Bookworm. The sun shines brighter on the west field, right.

Rick's new bank of batteries has been working splendidly! He now runs the genset for a mere 90 minutes per day - instead of the two and half to three hours when we first bought Sea Gator. One minor glitch starting the genset was addressed by holding down the preheat switch for 20 seconds instead of 10.

No worries.

Worries

Rick had some trouble breathing when we were anchored in Pelican Bay, and another our first night in Ft. Myers Beach. We conferred - "Why take foolish chances?" - and we hustled down the island to a walk-in clinic hoping for a prescription for a nice inhaler for allergen emergencies. We did strong-arm the P.A. into writing the script but Rick made the mistake of describing chest tightness as a symptom to a practitioner whose patients are all 80+ years of age.

Pizza night Gary and Mickey and I subsequently spent the next three days running Rick around the region for every cardio-pulmonary test imaginable, culminating in a five-hour "Exercise nuclear treadmill stress test w/ myocardial perfusion imaging."

Rick wasn't worried. He slept like a baby all week, despite the occasional demonic pillow sailing past his face like an escaped balloon. And he passed all his tests with flying colors. The P.A. joked, "If everyone had results like this they'd put doctors out of business." Exactly.

Our repeated experience these past few years confirms that an investment of $2,000 buys you a diagnosis of "We don't know."

Well. Our HUGE undying thanks to Gary and Mickey for driving us hither and yon in island traffic and for their fine company in lightening the stressful moments. Thanks, friends!

Out and About

There are fun things to see and nice people to meet in a well-established boating community. For example, Tuesday is Boater's Pizza Night at Surf Pie. Above right, boaters on the moorings pay a low flat rate for all the pizza one can eat. For those diners who had just received the results of their cardio tests, that was a fair amount. For some of us, less; for yet others, considerably more. It was a nice time and we reconnected with some boaters we had met last year as well.

Mike Janice Pat Rick On the weekend we were very happy to spend a day with Don and Pam! Gallivant is safely moored in Charleston for the winter, so Don and Pam rented a car and drove down to pay a visit to their Florida boating friends. When I hugged Pam "hello" on the dock she told me "You look taller and skinnier every time I see you." She's my best friend.

It was also a treat to visit with Pam and Frank of S/V Blackfoot. I had lunch with Pam one day, and on another evening Rick and I hiked over to see their land-base house and admire her wildlife-friendly plantings, and after the tour the four of us went out to enjoy a lavish salad bar. Safe sailing, Blackfoot!

Mickey Gary We spent our last evening aboard Little Mick with Janice and Mike (left) from S/V Imagine and our hosts Gary and Mickey, right. Gary was a little punchy, as that night he was self-medicating the wrenched shoulder and skinned shin which he incurred during a perilous dinghy vs. dock encounter.

A good time was had by all, although it's possible that not everyone can recall all of the details.

Beelzebub Sighting

While searching for inappropriate and/or copyrighted graphics to include in the travelogue (sorry, Joe) I stumbled upon Tom Wark's FERMENTATION blog ("where the media, the culture and I mingle"). As a slightly embittered ex-Utahn I have the bad manners to share it with you here. I believe it is mean-spirited to poke fun at Utah; it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Having said that, here I poke fun by sharing. The typos are entirely Wark's:

Travel poster You have to admit, it has to be one of the funniest and weirdest anti-alcohol laws in the country: "No Alcohol will be served or available for purchase on election day or when the polls are open."

...But wait the spawn of the Devil is on his way to rectify the situation and bring Satan back in control of Utah. State Senator Scott McCoy thinks this law should be repealed...

No doubt the political leaders in Utah will point out that Senator Scott is in the employ of Beelzebub and has it in mind to lead all the children and weaker souls in Utah to the gates of Hell, all the while chugging down cheap Chardonnay...

Utah happens to be one of those states that we look at from afar and think, "what pretty mountains...let's go ski." But upon closer inspection of the state and its inhabitants' proclivity to legislate the fun out of living, we almost always end up heading to Nevada. After all, if you are going to do the Devil's work, you may as well do it in his back yard.

So there you have it, a cheap shot. No one is the better person for that, shame on me.

Up the Lazy River

As soon as Rick received clearance from the medical establishment we were ready to leave.

Thursday, February 3, 2011. We delayed our departure because of fog, but by 7:30 we were underway. Yippee!!

Our intention this year is to circumnavigate the lower half of the State as indicated by the red line, left:

We'll go clockwise from west to east traversing the Okeechobee Waterway, which follows the Caloosahatche River past Fort Myers and winds up to and across Lake Okeechobee, then down the St. Lucie canal/river to the city of Stuart on the Atlantic.

Then we'll take a quick detour north to Vero Beach to visit Rick's aunt and avoid the Miami Boat Show congestion, then mosey back south through Miami (I don't really believe that you can mosey through Miami but I like the alliteration) and then we'll continue south through Biscayne Bay as far as Marathon in the Middle Keys, then across Florida Bay and back up the west coast to Sea Gator's home port.

So we'll see how that goes!

Take care, everybody! Stay warm...

Pat, Rick and Goldie

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