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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why Didn't I Think of That?... by John and Susan Rogers.

I like this book. It's not the kind of book one reads from cover to cover but rather one would prefer to open up at a random page to read one of the "1,198 tips from 222 sailors on 120 boats from 9 countries".

This book is a compilation of suggestions from fellow live-a-board mariners about how to make off-shore cruising more practical, less costly, safer, and enjoyable.

For instance... tip number 109. "Do not take paper bags or corrugated cardboard boxes onto your boat... ever". It goes on to explain to unpack the contents immediately in the cockpit and promply dispose of the cardboard.

Well... the lyrics of one of Paul Simon's songs comes to mind, "Whom am I to blow against the wind" and I certainly don't want any "cucarachas" onboard the boat so that fancy thick ply shopping bag from West Marine promptly gets unceremoniously disposed of.

Tip number 650... Fish Traquilizer.

"When you bring a fish onboard and want to stop it from flopping around, blow a mouthful of whiskey into the fish's mouth or gills... a trick made easier if you lift the fish's head by picking up on the wire leader and" ... okay, whatever. Wrong tip to illustrate the merits of the book. I believe I'd prefer to smack that fish with a 2 by 4 and sip that whisky myself after a bad day of sailing.

Tip number 116. How to repel "No-see-ums"... otherwise know by me as microscopic airborne piranah fish.

"If using Skin So-Soft as an insect repellent, be sure you get the oil, not the lotion. Dilute the oil with equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water".

Memo to self... purchase Skin-So-Soft oil. Puertorican skin tissue is not impervious to microscopic airborne pirahna fish.

Tip number... oopps, I can't seem to find it in my book... "How to hook-up with hot and not so hot chicks at a bar"... damned... surely it's in this damned book somewhere.

Alright... enough of this crap... I need to say hello to a fellow bar patron.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Salty Sams Marina, Fort Myers Beach

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I presently find my boat tied up at Salty Sam's Marina just across the bridge from Fort Myers Beach. There are but a few boats tied up here and I've yet to see any hired help out and about checking the goings-on at the docks.

This marina is somewhat pricier than the City Marina up the river some fourteen miles and is not quite as nice. I'm thinking that perhaps I could have waited out the stormy weather forecasted for the next couple of days and slipped on out of here without anybody knowing any different. But no, I just had to trek up to the offices first thing this morning and report my arrival and be socked with some hefty daily dockage fees.

Nevertheless there are a few water front business establishments nearby catering to both hungry and thirsty passers-bys including me... so I find myself typing away while sipping on a cold one after having a bowl of so-called "black bean soup" at the "Big Game Bar & Grill".

I did my best to spice up the bean soup with some Tabasco sauce but all they had was a weak imitation of some off brand hot sauce... Which brings to mind the time the car engine in my fully depreciated yet still functioning car was overheating and I was hungry and I had to go pee real bad and I needed a tank full of gas.

This was after driving through the backwoods of Louisiana on my way back to Ennis and after smelling the foul odor of the oil spill. The same foul odor which Rep. Joe Barton would most assuredly claim had the sweet scent of huge corporate oil profits and campaign donations.

However my bladder could no longer hold out before reaching Beaumont so I pull into a service station with a Bar-B-Que diner offering a lunch special. I get a full tank of gas but not before relieving my bladder and later filling my gullet.

Getting my gullet filled was another matter though. Upon entering I couldn't help but note that this was not your generic independently owned service station... as in owned and operated by someone from India but rather a Black establishment not that it mattered to me. Well it's just me walking in with but another patron or two when I walk up to the cash register to place my order.

Behind the counter were two of the largest, fried-food fed sistas one can envision. Both studiously ignoring me with their arms crossed over their enormous bosoms and making up bullsh*t chatter to better justify ignoring me.

Well this did indeed bother me. I don't seem to recall walking in there wearing a ball cap with some moronic backwoods Confederate flag on it declaring to everyone within sight that I disliked all those without a pasty white complexion.

Didn't these sistas know that Barrack is my homey and that we are best buds? ... and that if I were to set sail for Havana and later participate in the annual International Chess Tournament held each November in memory of the late Cuban World Chess Champion Jose Raul Capablanca, that the US State Department would not mess with me?

I finally had to politely interrupt the idle chatter and overlook their abrupt and hostile demeanor directed towards me when placing my food order... which finally brings me back to the Tabasco sauce mentioned somewhat earlier. I purposely pilfered a large bottle of Tabasco sitting on my lunch table because I was pissed-off at the hostile attitude of the two lard-asses behind the counter.

Yeah... I swiped your big bottle of Avery Island's finest hot sauce and I enjoyed every drop of the stuff. I would even splash some over my cornflakes in the morning. Next time I'll pilfer two damned bottles of the stuff if I get anymore of the same attitude.

Not that anyone gives a "fricking fried okra", but my bar-b-que lunch plate along with the mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, collard greens and corned bread was incredibly good and at a very reasonable price.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weather reports are a sailor's best friend...

Against my better judgement, I pulled up anchor and set sail for Marco Island without duly heeding the weather forecast. My first clue should have been when the power boaters alongside of me, while negotiating the narrow channel, were overheard to have said, "he's going the wrong way". Was he talking about me perhaps I wondered?

Soon after daybreak that morning I opened up the sealed packaging containing my snorkeling gear and most reluctantly dipped into the water with a wide plastic paint scraper and proceeded to scrape the barnacles off the hull of the boat.

The water was murky and scraping barnacles off is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind of what I want to do in the morning. Coffee is certainly the first thing that comes to mind and second is a quick rollover and ... oh hell, I'll let you figure this one out for yourself.

Anyway, I simply couldn't stand the thought of sailing some forty miles with a lot of crud slowing down my hull speed. I'm thinking that I scraped most of that crud off. The keel will simply have to wait until I reach clear, tranquil waters.

The overcast morning skies were a welcomed relief from the usual oppressive hot sun. However it wasn't long before I could hear some distant thunderstorm rumblings off on the horizon. It isn't without reason that Tampa named one of it's sports teams the "Lightning".

I was sailing south at a pretty good clip en route to Marco Island with Boot Key Harbor in Marathon being my next destination when the wind started gusting. I reefed the sails as the first of many "scattered thunderstorms" approached. The storm hit hard and it hit fast.

It was all that I could do to maintain steerage. There was a good two to three foot chop in the water by now as the boat plowed through one wave after another. I kept my wits about me and kept sailing ahead. It was one cold rain shower after another. My white long-sleeve shirt, worn to protect myself from the brutal sun was now soaked through and through. I did later find a moment to swap it out for a dry sweat-shirt and life jacket.

The rolling swells kept slamming the starboard side of my boat. I had to make an emphatic effort to concentrate on every movement made while reefing the sails. This included grabbing the toe-rails as hard as possible in case I were to be slammed by another unexpected swell. Donning the life jacket was, needless to say a prudent thing to do in case I should get swept off the deck.

By nightfall, I was exhausted and somewhere off the coast of Naples according to my GPS. There was no way I was going to risk running aground in the dark and there was no way I was going to attempt to continue sailing in that stormy weather. I therefore, dropped the sails and watched my drift to ensure I'd be drifting out away from shore. I secured the tiller with two long bungee-cords and went down below for some much needed sleep.

After a restless night of sleep with me continually climbing out into the cockpit to check my location relative to a distant radio tower, I once again set sail for Marcos Island at five in the morning. Curiously enough, the night skies had cleared somewhat to reveal a bright full moon.

Sometime around eight in the morning of day two, clouds started gathering once again and soon enough I'm once again being pelted with rain. It was one storm after another. It was a brutal day of sailing. I later came to the realization that it was insane to be sailing in this kind of weather and decided to turn on back to Ft. Myers which in hindsight was the wrong decision since I wasn't all that far from Marco Island.

There was one thunderstorm extending from one end of the horizon to the other. It was massive and headed my way. At one point I could see nothing other than a demarcation line dividing the clear green ocean water and the dark grey angry storm front making its approach. It was a surreal moment. I couldn't see anything past a hundred yards or so it seemed. It felt as if this just might be my last day on the planet. I was indeed apprehensive but not scared in any sort of crazy way.

A moment later my eye catches the sight of a dorsal fin swiftly gliding along the surface of the water... and no it wasn't the friendly curved shape of a dolphin's fin either. That was most certainly a shark. I watch the thing as it swims behind my inflatable dinghy that I was towing and then watch as it turns on a dime and speeds back towards the dinghy and then just like that it was gone and out of sight.

It occurs to me that my life vest is but a measure of false security since I'd simply be swept out to sea and most certainly be made a meal out of at some point before anyone would think that something was amiss.

I'm now serenely frightened with tears having welled-up in my eyes and talking to "god" of all things... not making any excuses of any sort and not asking for forgiveness of any kind but rather asking him to tell the mother of my children that I am sorry for not having been a more loving husband and to tell my daughters that I'm sorry for not having been the devoted father that they deserved and that I am sorry for not having "brought joy into the lives of others" as explained by Morgan Freeman's character in the movie, "The Bucket List".

As the storm engulfs me I'm once again pelted with rain coming at me sideways. Lightning is now striking everywhere within my vicinity and all that I can think about is of a bolt of lightning striking the mast and traveling down and out through the boom and then reaching out to strike me while I manned the tiller in the cockpit.

The storm lasted fifteen minutes by my count... not fourteen or sixteen but fifteen. I know because I had switched on the chronometer on my Ironman Timex watch as the storm hit. I could deal with the gusting winds, the ocean swells, and the pelting rain but the incessant lightning was absolutely terrifying.

As this thunderstorm began to finally subside, and the winds no longer gusting to what seemed hurricane strength, a small break in the thick cloud cover briefly opens up to reveal the sun. It was a surreal feeling to have what seemed like a heavenly spotlight beaming down precisely over my boat. It made me wonder whether someone was indeed watching over me for some unexplained reason.

Overhead I later observe what appears to be a military aircraft flying into the storm clouds... possibly collecting weather data or even possibly conducting a reconnaissance mission to see whether the sailing vessel that was showing up on some remote Coast Guard radar screen was still under sail.

I finally make it to Fort Myers Beach and dock at the nearest transient marina but not before misjudging my approach into the slip and aborting my entry after coming in too fast and then suddenly finding myself coming to an aburpt halt in the mud. Yes, I'd run aground of all things.

I gather my wits about me, and with my boat hook I grab onto the stern cleat of an old beat up fishing boat next to the slip I had intended to dock into and with all my might pull my boat back out of the mud and into deeper water.

That river mud certainly was not going to get the best of me after I having to endure two nerve racking days out at sea.

Departure Day from the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin Marina...

S/V Blondie-Dog has finally shoved off from her pier. Yeah... when I think about it, I very well could have set sail a good three weeks ago or so had I been more diligent in getting my crud together. But screw it... it's not like I've got to commute to some crappy job and deal with a ton of bullsh*t emails and conference calls first thing in the morning.

I had planned on shoving off yesterday morning but somehow a final few preparations did not get done in time. My ground tackle for my second anchor needed a shackle and both the water and gas cans needed to be filled and besides it had rained like hell all afternoon and I needed a few cold beverages to put me in a better mood.

Well, I may have possibly gotten in too good of a better mood and may have possibly found myself regretting having imbibed the last couple of cold beverages. I do know that I simply didn't feel up to shoving off first thing in the morning... so I didn't... and so what... and like I said... I don't have an itinarary.

Nevertheless I did untie the dock lines and pulled away from the pier this morning. There was but a dead calm out there so I motored the first four or five miles down the Caloosahatchee River before putting up the sails once a slight breeze kicked up. The river is somewhat shallow for the most part so I found myself checking and rechecking my nautical chart to make sure that I was following the right channel markers and what not. Consequently my maiden voyage was not all that enjoyable. I just wanted to safely negotiate the dredged out channels and get on out to Point YBell.

Well I now find myself anchored in about of fifteen feet of water about half a mile from the lighthouse on Point Ybell on a leeward shore. The easterly wind and the northerly current has made this an unpleasant anchorage. The houses onshore are all enormous and mansion-like as one would expect on Sanibel Island. I can count six houses up on shore and all appear shuttered up and dark with but only one having any lights turned on. It feels somewhat isolated out here.

I had wanted to donn my snorkeling gear and scrape the barnacles off the hull that had grown on it in the past six weeks or so but there was simply too much chop in the water. I certainly don't need the hull of the boat slamming down on top of my head while attempting to scrape barnacles off of the keel.

It is now dusk as I write this and I keep hoping that wind lets up some.