Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sick Pigs, Sand Fleas, Lawyers, 1,000 Words and Other Nuisances

Charleston SC:

Blog Trouble

Apologies for the reduced blogging cycle. We have been experiencing serious problems with our wireless broadband connection and found ourselves cut off for several days.

No Pictures of Charleston

A pretty little tourist trap in the mid south Charleston resembles nothing so much as our home city, London ON. No longer earning a living Charleston has retired and concerns itself with universities and gentrified housing.

It is so clean and well painted and hygienic and full of pay as you go attractions you feel like you are in Toronto. Sort of Toronto lite.

Many of our friends rave about Charleston. We find ourselves less impressed. Beaufort SC is nicer by far: less of everything and therefore more.

We took no pictures.

Sick Pigs

Wandering about Charleston we found ourselves in a Cigar store. Cigars not being an approved expense of the Budget Committee, we quickly closed a purchase in a vain effort to "fly under the budget radar".

As we were leaving the tobacconist insisted on explaining to us that one very good thing resulted from the current swine flu outbreak: A man later diagnosed with the flu had shaken the hand of the President.

There was still hope for positive change in Washington he finished.

Maybe this affected our view of the city.

Thin Water

As reported while enroute from Fort George River we encountered some thin water. This guy was a textbook lesson in spin:

As we rounded a bend in the waterway we were hailed by the skipper of this catamaran. "Be very careful at marker 161" he advised. "Stay well to the Starboard side of the channel".

This radio "pan pan" was a clever attempt by the skipper to mask the fact he was outside the waterway.

Three hours later, while in the channel we found ourselves stuck hard.
As a boat approached our stern we called to advise we were hard aground and that the water to starboard was the best bet.

The approaching boat, Madkat, approached at speed on our starboard side. As he passed, the captain offered his sympathy for our plight and his wife, standing on deck offered a line to help tow us out. Just then Madkat found the mudbar and came to an immediate stop. The poor lady almost ended up in the water.

Here taking comfort that at least we were in the channel the skippers of Meredith and Madkap discuss the poor sap in the catamaran that had run aground outside the channel:

Yup we were much better sailors.

Sand Fleas

Just south of Charleston on Sunday afternoon we came upon the local version of "going to the beach".

The sand spit was several hundred yards long and there were hundreds of boats, kids, scantily clad women. It was like a day at the beach but the beach was surrounded by water and you got there by boat.

Me and My Big Pen

Some of you will have read my blog on the Kingsley Estate and our visit to that plantation on the Fort George River. The "friends of Kingsley Estate" were concerned with my report and sent a nice but stiff email "clarifying" some facts:

  • Not all outside staff are black and not all indoor staff are white women.
  • Remnants of the slave quarters remain onsite but are not accessible by foot.
Well readers, I stand by my report. I observed that all the outside workers were black and the inside staff were white women.

I did not see any slave quarters and I looked, not least because my friend Ben had commented on the lack of "restoration" of slave quarters at these plantations and the reason therefore.

We enjoyed our visit to Kingsley and find no need to alter reported observations.

The Final 1,000 Words on BabyKiller B

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vero to the Border, Good Places to Drink in St. Augustine, Ben's Theory on Slave Museums, Running Aground Again in Fernandina Beach

The race from Vero to the Georgia border having been done 4 times is getting pretty tedious. Here is how it played out for Meredith:

Vero Beach:

Nothing more to say.


Nice Anchorage. Reportedly Good Mechanical Services. Pleasant Night.


A good anchorage right at the entrance to the municipal marina.

Met Radical Jack enroute from Cocoa to Titusville and heard all about the Tornado/White Squall while still enroute. Also were passed by Babykiller B:Presenting "Babykiller B"

Like all powerboaters the owners of Babykiller B have an irrepressible urge to show sailors how much money they waste just to churn up the water:

I know, the transom says "Snowbird" but
that was only until Donna Got ahold of it. Now it slays newborns.

And Yes: That is my lifeline in the foreground

Seabreeze Bridge (Daytona Beach):

Good Holding, nice weather. Ran into Steve aboard Searcher with whom we crossed to the Abacos. He too had his dinghy overturned in the squall. Trouble was his outboard was still on it. He just sat inside and watched it go.
St. Augustine:.

Great Anchorage, although not universally thought so. Lovely town.

Must attend places:

Tradewinds, the local bar
Stogies the best Fumoir/wine bar/jazz club
Some Martini bar with a good keyboardist, a great bassist and the sassiest bartender I have ever met outside of St. Marys GA. Sadly I cannot remember the name of the martini bar.

Connie could not remember the way back to the dock. It was water and aspirin all night long for both of us.
Ft. George River:

Meredith at Anchor in the Ft. George River
off the Timucuan Ecological Park Ft. George Island

A fantastic anchorage just off the intracoastal. Headed for the bush to get protection from the 20 kn wind and found the Timucuan Ecological Park and Kingsely Estate National Park:
The Kingsley Estate - Sans Slave Quarters

Now this is one of the weird bits:

The reconstruction is nice, tended by pleasant black workers and run out of an office staffed totally by white women. The office sells nice clean books about slavery.

The estate, a reconstruction of an old cotton slave plantation, is complete with barns, fields, owners home. It is however missing the slaves' quarters. This is odd because there were a handful of whites and 100 or so black slaves.

Our friend Ben Blangez on Douce Folie V explains it: The white people have nice antiseptic museums about slavery. They describe in nice clean monographs that slavery was horrible and conditions abominable. What they will not do is show you just how horrible.

Apparently most of the plantation restorations omit the slave quarters. Must be a reason. I am betting on Benoit.

Anolther of the weird bits is that one of the slaves at the Kingsley Estate, ultimately married by the plantation owner and freed, found herself single and fended for herself. She established a successful business with 6 of her own slaves. Go figure.


We got very stuck on the way to Fernandina from the Ft. George River. We were mid channel and the chart, both electronic and paper showed 20 feet of water. The keel however disagreed.

Would You Trust this Marker?
The Marker in Question marks the Right Hand Limit of the Channel
You can see the marker through the Rigging.

Now here is a question for you boaters: A thunderstorm had been forecast and had been brewing for about 4o minutes prior to our running aground. When did the thunderstorm hit?

Within 30 minutes I had two more boats for company. Everyone's charts showed lots of depth but none of us could move. Looked like a multicar pileup.

Fernandina is a nice town if you like pulp processing mills. For the other 5 billion humans it is a place to avoid. Some days it is hard to even sail past this odd little spit of sand.


Heading to the Fredericka River

Tornados on the Stern Deck: Getting Out of Vero

We were shamed into leaving Vero Beach by the arrival of BabyKiller bee bb the new sportfisher purchased by Toronto friends, Randy and Donna. We figured if a couple of city dwellers with a latte machine and air conditioning on their boat could get moving then Meredith was past due.

The night before we left we were celebrating birthdays: Connie's on the 14th and Randy's (the babykiller's husband) on the 16th. Connie was outside on the rear deck of Babykiller b bb with her espresso in hand (it really is pretty cool) when a Tornado grade squall hit Vero. Without warning she heard a freight train bearing down on her and grabbed hold for dear life. Literally.

Next day we left.

The day after that we met Peter and Heather on Radical Jack out of Yarmouth NS, also heading north. Heather told us about the tornado from where she had been sitting: on the deck of Radical Jack.

Radical Jack was on the water heading for Cocoa when the squall hit them. Again, no warning.

They knew trouble was afoot when the VHF sounded the "nuclear attack" siren and, in proper bureaucratic monotone, instructed everyone to "get to shelter NOW. You will not see or hear the storm coming until it is too late. SEEK SHELTER NOW".

This combo of siren and big brother, designed to instil nothing but confidence in those affected sounded endlessly as the storm they could neither see nor hear overtook Peter and Heather.

By the time they had pulled out of the channel the storm was on them. Zero visibility and a wall of water. Peter dropped the anchor blind with as much chain as fell out of the chainpipe. Peter figured it was not a tornado because the water did not seem to be going up.

Then to quote Heather "we hugged each other and agreed we'd had a good life."

As they watched the wind picked up their hard dinghy and turned it over.

Minutes later the storm had passed.

Radical Jack did not move for two days.

An aside about Peter:

Peter is English and wrote, in his words, "the good cruising guide to Nova Scotia". He designed and built Radical Jack himself and while still English docked at the same marina as Blondie Hasler and Francis Chicester (that or he is just another blowhard expat Englishman, which I doubt)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Things seldom heard on land, Water Roaches, Humanitees

Let's start with a couple of nautical discussions/excerpts that you just won't hear on land:

No. 1:

"Connie, did you see that bag of bolts I need to secure the autopilot?"
"Yes. It's on the bread board right beside the Pennzoil."

No. 2:

Excerpt from an email from erstwhile friends Randy and Donna, who are readying their new to them Bertram 30 for a ride North to Toronto:

"We now have hot water, heat, AC, TV, Espresso, Frozen liquor, enough battery power to light up Vero Beach"

Randy left out the inverter and the induction stove (which is way kule) which we tried out tonight with a nice mahi mahi dinner prepared with no announcement by Donna. And an excellent dinner I might add.

I will talk about the water roaches and the humanitees tomorrow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Boating and the Stock Market, Boating and Japanese Theism, Boating and Nomenclature

With the torrential rains we have endured here in Vero the past week Meredith's dinghy resembles AIG: it needs a bailout.

The autopilot arrived Friday afternoon and was installed and calibrated on Saturday. Installation was straighforward but rechecking the multiple power connections (4 in all) and circuit logic needed another 3hours, all of it in the lazarette/bilge on a day that reached the high 80's.

Boat repair and Seppuku have vague but disturbing similarities. Both are undertaken willingly, almost as a rite of manhood. Both involve the self infliction of cuts to the torso. Once in the lazarette/bilge you cannot move without impaling yourself multiple times. Cleanup after boat work takes more time than the work itself. All that blood...

All that is left for the autopilot debacle is for us to calibrate the compass. This is a simple 14 step process of setting up the calibration routine, turning around twice at a rate of exactly 6 degrees per second while Connie sacrifices a goat in a fire doped with eye of newt. Soon. Soon.

We have spent some time with friends Ross and Valerie from Toronto Island Marina on their Hughes 40, Mystic 1. This has caused some rumination on the whole issue of boat names.

Who names their boat Mystic 1? How does someone know, when buying and naming their first boat Mystic that there will be another boat and that they will want to name it Mystic as well thereby necessitating the addition of the numeral 1 to the nomenclature?

I mean it is sort of like naming your boat Never Again II.

Our friends Randy and Donna, also from Toronto, must name the Bertram 30 sportfisher they have just purchased down here in Stuart Florida.

With the addition by this pair of the Latte machine to the boat's essential equipment list we suggested the name Grande or Vente or some other Starbucks fantasy.

Donna however likes cute names: their last boat, a Limestone 26, was named Buttercup.

Randy found this unsettling and for the new boat he is promoting Killer B, which if you know Randy is sort of like the guy who names his pet Chihuahua "Brutus"; a sort of "Walter Mitty" response.

Donna arrived on Wednesday and sensitive to Randy's, well, sensitivities, she took a whole day before offering her suggestion: Baby KillerB. I coughed hard when she told us. More of a choke really.

In Donna's mind this name, I am sure, conjured up images of a cute little baby bumblebee swathed in diapers.

What filled my mind was a bit different: an overmuscled Norse Wasp warrior with a mace crushing little newborns in a berserker rage.

It is all in the emphasis you see: BABY killerb or BABYKILLER B.

I am sure Randy will approve of Donna's choice.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Exiting Life Aboard Ship

If you have been glancing at the blog you will know we came to Vero Beach to sort out some legal issues and get some broken equipment replaced.

The law suit, we were the plaintiffs, is settled but the parts have not come in. Well, until today.

Today we received shipments from 2 of the 3 suppliers who owe us stuff. A couple of days installation and Meredith will be ready to go.

A third piece of equipment has allegedly been shipped and should be to us by Tuesday. After that Meredith flies. We are not sure which direction but we just want to get some wind in her sails. She wants it too.

Both Connie and I have been as sick as we have ever been. This has gone on for a couple of weeks and we have each been on the verge of going to a clinic or emergency room more than once. Total body fevers, swollen glands or lymph nodes, sore throat, cough and lungs full of congestion, general all round exhaustion. It has been a trial.

A boat can be pretty small sometimes.

Being at Vero Beach has been good for recuperation so we have not minded our incarceration as much as we might otherwise have.

We must be getting better because we started mixing it up with recalcitrant equipment manufacturers and now we are trying to blog.

It sure would be nice to have something to say.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Buy One Get 6 Free at the Nut House Today

Riding public bus systems has certainly expanded our view of the universe. Each municipality has its own unique approach to public transit and the ridership varies by city.

Cruisers tend to use bus systems a lot and we have a lot of time to observe each system. Meredith likes Vero Beach transit.

Vero Beach has an unsurpassed bus system. It is free. You can get anywhere on the system in under an hour. Anywhere includes the Publix, the Walmart, the big mall and the airport.

Ridership in Vero shares common threads with most other American cities: largely black or elderly or cruisers, generally lower income. If you recall the story about the maids and nannies tipping the driver from an earlier blog you get a sense of our feelings on the quality of people we meet on the bus: we like them.

Vero Beach Transit has the friendliest drivers we have ever encountered.

It also wins the prize for most eclectic ridership.

Take today for instance:

Getting on the number 1 bus at the Publix we run into the one legged mother who is traveling with her 10 year old and her 2 year old and a big old baby buggy. This woman literally has only one leg. She travels on crutches and she and her children ask no favours from anyone. We always help this fascinating crew when we run into them.

On the number 2 bus at the big mall we ran into Spiky Head/Big Belly. This 6'4", 400 lb. behemoth speaks with a Basso Profundo. His hair, long and unwashed is done in, well, stalagmites. Today as a special treat he was wearing his shirt open so everyone could enjoy his expansive belly.

Spiky Head/Big Belly likes to look scary and he practices on passers by while waiting for the bus, putting on the old evil eye and rushing up on the innocents with a wild look. He always pulls back with laugh.

Spiky Head was joined today on the number 2 by Crazy Telephone Guy. CTG's thing is to ask to borrow some fellow rider's cell phone. You never give Crazy Telephone Guy your phone.

Once in his hands CTG opens his everpresent notebook to reveal a list of about 100 numbers which he starts to call methodically from first to last. On the rare occasions when someone answers his call he always has the same patter: "Hi. I'm calling on my cell phone. Yeah, that's right, I have a cell phone. Busy people need a cell phone you know? So, tell me, what's new?" Rarely does the call go beyond that. As soon as the person being called realizes it is CTG the call ends.

When he is done calling the list CTG returns the phone to its proper owner but first he labouriously copies the number from the loaned phone onto his notebook so...you guessed it...he can start calling the poor slob who gave him the phone whenever he tricks the next poor slob.

So Spiky Head and Crazy Telephone Guy are sitting across from each other when the number 2 bus gets to Walmart. There waiting just for us is our favourite passenger: the List Lady. List Lady has a touch of OCD.

She cannot walk past a piece of paper without picking it up, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down, picking it up... You get the idea.

Today she had her groceries in hand but as she approached the bus she passed a grocery cart which had a couple of what seemed to be receipts lying loose in the bottom. She stopped and looked at them. She ran her hands over them. She picked them up. She put them back.. She ran her hands over them. All the passengers had boarded the bus and the driver was waiting for her. She was panic stricken. She looked at the bus and then at the shopping cart. "I gotta get going" says the driver, "Are you coming or not? I can't wait no longer."

List Lady picked up the pieces of paper in the shopping cart and with herculean effort put them back, ran her hands over them one last time and ran to the bus, all the time looking over her shoulder at the shopping cart with the irresistible lists.

The bus got to List Lady's stop. As List Lady walked down the aisle of the bus, a misguided fellow passenger, misunderstanding the nature of the obsession offered List Lady her grocery receipt. List Lady took it and started out the door. She did not make it.

She ran back to the seat where the passenger was and placed the receipt on the bench beside the passenger. She smoothed it out. She stood up....and then she bent over and picked it up again. She placed it back on the bench and smoothed it out.

"Gotta go" yells the driver. "NOW".

List Lady was truly stricken. She really wanted to stay and pick up that receipt and put it back down again. But the driver had broken the spell and with a final long glance at the list sitting back on the bench List Lady left the bus. She was very unhappy.

And now I am out of time. I cannot tell you about Gimpy ("No one told me they added a new bus run at 5 p.m. Did they tell you? No one told me they added a new bus run at 5 p.m. Did they tell you? Why did they add...")

or the Veteran Hat Parade who won't talk to anyone not wearing a hat with an ex military pin on it

Or Red Headed Baby Machine, or the Blind Mover, or the Working Lady who takes the bus to work, all day long, changing from the 1 to the 2 to the 4 to the 6 to the 1. All day long she' s going to work.

Fact is we like these people. They are starting to accept us as we start to accept them.

Another 2 weeks in Vero and I am going to start riding the bus while wearing my lifejacket.

Just so I fit in.

Navico Steps Up, Cobra Steps Up, Meredith Dances

No more consumer whining.

Autopilot Returning

Cutting it short the Manager of Customer Service from Navico called us today to tell us he had personally arranged overnight delivery of our replacement autopilot and he apologized for the delay.

We appreciated this thoughtful gesture and it causes us to reconsider our earlier remarks. It was an appropriate response from Navico. Maybe, sometimes things just go wrong.

We are excited about the return of our autopilot tomorrow because we kind of liked it.

Chartplotter Returning

The screen on our chartplotter, a Cobra MC600i purchased new at the 2008 Toronto boat show turned dark while we were returning to Nassau from Allens Cay with Lindsay and Nick. We returned this unit to Cobra with only a note explaining the details.

Cobra called us 2 days after we shipped the item to confirm the date of purchase and indicated repair would be effected in 10 days. We did not have proof of purchase on board Meredith and indicated we would pay for the repair if this was an issue.

Today we contacted Cobra to see how things were coming and they confirmed the repaired unit (backlight burned out) would be shipped today and we would have it early next week. This was a no charge warranty repair even though Bob admitted damaging the watertight seal trying to see if he could somehow replace the backlight himself.

Kudos to Cobra. We like our MC600i, in fact we really like it. All the tidal information at one touch, all the depths at one glance.

We still believe Defender went to bat for us with Navico and we appreciate this action. Friends Randy and Donna from Toronto bought their new water heater from Defender in part based on our glowing recommendation of this mail order supplier.

So all the electronics are or soon will be working again.

Virus is Departing

On the viral front we learned that a fellow boater from Vero was rushed to hospital by ambulance last week with respiratory failure resulting from the same virus which has plagued Meredith.

It turned out the victim was our old acquaintance Doug aboard Murex with whom we spent a pleasant time during our downbound visit to Vero Beach last January.

Doug is much improved now but will be heavily fortified by prescriptions for the next couple of weeks.

The crew of Meredith is slowly and steadily recovering from this truly horrid infection and we are beginning to look forward to helping Donna and Randy work on Killer B, the new to them Bertram 30.

Meredith is Departing

Finally we are looking forward to getting Meredith underway to somewhere. Anywhere in fact.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Defender Industries to the Rescue

Last post dealt with the underwhelming customer support at Navico (Northstar) for expensive marine equipment that failed prematurely. Today deals with the stellar support offered by Defender Industries, a mail order marine service of outstanding merit.

Yesterday, more than a month after the unit was returned to them, Navico called to tell us the unit had been repaired and a "warranty replacement" would be couriered to us. We were elated.

Up to this point Navico could not tell us what had happened to our warranty return.

Six hours later Navico called to tell us the unit was back ordered and they had nothing to send us. "When would it be available?" we asked reasonably enough.

"I have no idea" replied the willing customer service rep. "They should have been here on March 23. No one knows where they are. If they come in I will call you".

IF they come in? Hmmm.

This is not ideal. Rumours are that Navico is reconfiguring its product lines and is dropping a lot of Northstar products. I guess the quality problems are so bad they can't hide them any longer. Word is the dealers are in open revolt.

This sounds like our autopilot may be being reconfigured out of existence and one wonders if there will ever be a "replacement" unit. Why order stock you have no intention of selling any more units? If a customer wants service just string him along until he goes away.

We called Defender Industries from whom we had purchased the unit. I did not expect Defender to do anything but I did want to alert them to the problems at Navico as experienced by us firsthand. And I wanted advice on what we should buy to replace the lemon we had just purchased.

The customer rep (Dan) was dismayed at the conduct of Navico and he got ahold of the Defender staff person who handles buying from Navico, passed on all the relevant information and this person is contacting Navico on our behalf.

This is outstanding service. We have come to expect this from Defender and we realized today that they never (NEVER) disappoint.

If you need marine products give Defender a serious look. Their prices are fair, not the lowest but fair. Lowest price has a cost to it. Their service is second to none in our extensive and growing experience and far exceeds that of land based dealers.