Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Grand Finale with Some Sewing Yet to Come!

Our sailing trip this summer started with problems, ended with problems, and for some reason, beautiful, peaceful, and lovely St. Michael's, Maryland played a starring role each time. Come to think of it, two years ago St. Michael's was the scene of a very nasty confrontation between our sturdy Knotty Cat and a slutty french catamaran who dared to anchor within smacking distance of us, and even though our girl was victorious, I don't want to think about that right now.

On our last day, after anchoring, we took Wilbur ashore and had a wonderful (since Wilbur was permitted on the restaurant's outside dock)(yet horribly expensive) dinner at The Crab Claw.

Hans is happy to have survived two months on a boat with me.

I'm happy that we finally found a restaurant that allowed dogs (even if it was outside).

I'm wearing my silk Burda dress yet once again (I make very few of my clothes but when I do, I wear the hell out of them!). I'm just thankful that the record setting heat broke long enough to allow me to wear it. I'm not kidding when I tell you that I didn't even wear my watch this summer. It was just too hot!

When we left the next morning we saw tons of these boats. They were preparing for a race and even though there was virtually no wind they were still moving along as they are so light and have tons of exposed sail.
I'd just put down my binoculars when Hans informed me that one of them had dumped! I would have liked to see it (just because) but I felt very sorry for the crew because even though it wasn't a dangerous situation, there were tons of jelly fish in the water, and there's no way a lot of stinging wasn't going on.

As I mentioned previously, there was very little wind that day so Hans thought our final sail should involve the gennaker.
Being the lazy soul that I am; I didn't. And maybe the day will come when Hans listens to me.

In the end, getting the gennaker up turned into a bigger job than it should have, and when Captain Hans yelled back to me where I stood at the helm, to rev up the engines, I did.
Maybe one (or both) of us should have given some thought to the fact that our Knotty Cat had been at a virtual standstill for quite some time and our dinghy might want to cozy up to us (thus allowing its painter to slide under our boat).

By the time we limped into Kent Narrows on one engine Hans had been in the jelly fish infested water twice. The first time was to free our dinghy's painter from The Knotty Cat's rudder (oops!), and very soon after that to rescue our dinghy when we realized the painter had been cut by the starboard propeller. From the sound of the awful thumping noises issuing from said propeller, a huge chunk of painter was obviously hanging on, and we made the rest of the trip with only our port engine.

Luckily for Hans, I believe the jelly fish were so astonished at seeing him jump into the water two times that they were too stunned to sting!

We just had to shake our heads and laugh that last day on board when we realized we'd pretty much gone full circle. Our water pump was giving us problems yet once again and believe me when I say that little stinker will be ripped out and replaced before we set foot aboard the Knotty Cat again.

For now our girl is on the hard and anxiously awaiting the installation of solar panels, and rumor has it her stuffing boxes will be - well - they'll be restuffed (she leaks on her port side and it makes her blush so please keep this just between us!).

Some time at the end of October we're going to sail her to Florida where she'll bask in the sun until we get back there in January in order to take her to the Bahamas.

But in the meantime I've taken on an interesting task. I'm going to attempt to sew a crib that will fit into the bunk/berth of a monohull sail boat. A young cruising couple (they've already sailed around the world) had a baby earlier this year and want to head out to sea again. They need to make sure their little one will be secure in her bed, and I've gotta say, I'm thrilled to death to be a part of this whole alternative lifestyle of living aboard a boat.
It sure beats suburbia!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time to sew

Even though our boat was around 13 years old when we bought her, the salon seats were in excellent condition (and believe it or not the stove had never been used!) but this summer after just a couple of days on board with a dog, I knew we were in trouble.

Don't let the innocent face fool you! When this guy gets a case of the zoomies, he uses the settee as a combination catapult and padded cell.

He leaps to the floor, then springs back up on the settee, back to the floor... This means he uses his nails to gain traction, and combined with the slightly open weave in the fabric cushions, I knew it wouldn't be long before they would be in shreds.

The only solution at the time was to cover the cushions with whatever I had on hand which at that time was this yellow blanket.

After just one day of Wilbur zoomies, the entire salon area was covered in yellow fuzzies.

The yellow blanket wasn't big enough so I had to cover the remaining area with a red fleece throw. It too ended up covered in yellow fuzzies.

By the end of the trip I was sick to death of this awful combination and vowed I'd take care of it before we set sail again this fall. It wasn't until the day we were leaving the boat that I realized I had no tape measure and ended up using a dollar bill for all my measurements (that's 6 inches in case you're wondering).
So with these totally (I'm sure!) accurate numbers I finally got down to work today and started ripping the heck out of a couple of old king size sheets. I think what I found to be so satisfying was the fact that all I had to do was make a snip at the edge of the sheet and then rrrrriiippp!! Those sheets must have been well made and perfectly on grain because they tore into wonderfully straight pieces.

Of course the cushions couldn't be just simple rectangles and I won't go into their whole dynamic except to say that they are of the tongue and groove school of design. Meaning the back cushions have an extension that goes down behind the bottom seat cushions in order to create a secure hold.
See I went and got into too many details anyway!

Believe me, these are not fitted covers. They are gathered with elastic on the back and I only hope they will stretch fully across the front and not need to be constantly tweaked and adjusted!

I did get them sewn and even added corner 'tucks' for hopefully, a better fit.

Don't worry, if they aren't right you'll all be the first to know, and you won't even have to read about it here as I believe my screams of anguish will probably be heard around the world.

But just in case you think I had a totally successful day of sewing let me put your mind at ease. I also sewed elastic onto all four corners of two fitted sheets (that came with the boat) in order to keep them from constantly pulling out during the night. It wasn't until I'd sewn the last corner on the last sheet that I realized using clear elastic for this project was a complete failure.

The elastic ripped at the slightest pressure and now I'll have to replace all of it with the sturdy white stuff that I don't have enough of (and yes I often end sentences with prepositions!).
So in the words of Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about it tommorow!"

Friday, August 20, 2010

A pretty smart pitty!

When we decided to move onto our boat, a dog was the last thing we thought would accompany us.

I'm sure Wilbur didn't anticipate moving onto a boat either, and so became yet one more poor, exploited pit bull. At least that's what he told anyone who took the time to listen to him.

"Oh what the heck!" we said, "All you need to train a dog to go potty on a boat is a piece of AstroTurf." So off to Petco I went where I bought a very expensive item called The Potty Patch. PETS LOVE IT!! screamed the print across the front and their proof; plastered on the front of the box, a huge picture of a smug looking little ankle biter going tinkle all over their bright green product.

God, were we naive.

In the stern and right beside the captains seat, our boat afforded the perfect location for The Potty Patch, since if Wilbur ever deigned to use it, his waste could be very easily disposed of by sliding The Patch overboard for a good rinsing. But even though I saturated The Potty Patch with some sort of chemical that was supposed to make dogs want to go potty on it, Wilbur completely ignored The Patch , and we were forced to take him to shore where sometimes he pooped, and sometimes he didn't.

Our first week on the boat was trying, to say the least. In addition to nasty weather, dead batteries, and a faulty water pump, Wilbur, instead of pooping on shore, had an attack of explosive diarrhea in his crate.

Note: I was very disappointed to find that dragging dirty laundry behind a boat does not get it clean as promised in the many sailing articles I'd read!

Finally, well aware that I was suffering from a horrendous case of PMS and hoping to avoid what was sure to be a nasty mutiny, Hans asked if perhaps he should pee on The Potty Patch in hope that Wilbur would catch on. Believe me, he didn't need to ask me twice.

Wilbur was riveted with interest as he watched Hans and to our absolute shock proceeded to immediately go piddle on The Potty Patch.

I kid you not!

And winning an Academy Award can't even begin to compare with the elation we felt the day Wilbur finally pooped on his Potty Patch, an act that took a while longer for him to accomplish since for some reason Hans drew the line at demonstrating that particular bodily function.

Tons of cheers and biscuits ensued and then there was no stopping him; Wilbur became a peeing and pooping machine. There were times Wilbur would run to the back of the boat, we'd yank out The Potty Patch, and after barely squeezing out a couple of drops of pee, he'd be in the companionway begging for his biscuit.

Not a stupid dog.

But the icing on the cake (so to speak) was the day Hans and I 'missed the boat' (pun intended) and Wilbur ended up taking matters into his own paws.

I was in the galley whipping up another gourmet delight (hoping the eggs hadn't gone bad and wondering where the hell I'd put the powdered milk) and Hans was busy at the helm studying the chart plotter when I looked up and saw a very poopy Potty Patch lying in a rumpled mess beside the captains seat.

That's when we realized that Wilbur, tired of waiting for us, had gone back to the stern and with his teeth, pulled The Potty Patch from where it was hanging, tossed it onto the stern, and used it.

It reminded me of a story I once heard about a toddler who would hand its mother a clean diaper in order to get changed!

When later on he performed this feat a second time we knew we weren't nuts and that it wasn't just a dream.

In the end it only took Wilbur a week to catch on and after talking to other sailors we now realize how lucky we are. One man told us they had to take their dog ashore every morning and night for ten years! Another said his dog will pee on board but not poop, and we became the envy of the salty dog community!

Now that we're back on land we're trying to keep up The Potty Patch practice for our next trip and have installed it on our deck where Wilbur has faithfully kept up with the program.
But here's the kicker!

The other night I looked outside to see Wilbur having a massive struggle with The Patch. Using his paws and nose, he was pushing and shoving it toward the edge of the deck where half of it was already over the side. I ran out to stop him and Oh my God, he'd gone poop on The Patch and tired of waiting for me to clean it up, he was trying to dispose of it by tossing it over the side just like he'd watched us do it on the boat!

Next week he's taking his PSAT's and we're hoping for a full scholarship to Harvard.

Yes, we took a picture!
Like I've said before, with no TV, and limited internet access you'd be amazed at what you'll do for entertainment.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cobb Island

Because of its location in the Potomac, and the fact that it had a very nice market within dinghy and walking distance, Cobb Island, Maryland became a bit of a home away from home for us this summer, and we ended up anchoring there on three separate occasions.

The first time we showed up and anchored, I felt a bit like the main attraction at a freak show. For such a small town there was a surprising amount of traffic in the channel, and each and every boat slowed down to a crawl while the occupants stared at us with open mouths. After I checked to make sure I was adequately clothed (it was so hot, there were days when we wore next to nothing), we just didn't get it. The staring continued during our next two visits but by then we were used to it.

We finally decided it was because we were the only sailboat that ever anchored there. Everyone else had stink pots (very loud motor boats), tattoos, and cigarettes hanging out of the sides of their mouths (even in their cockpits where the smell of gasoline hung very heavy in the air), and if they didn't have slips, they tied up long enough to enjoy a visit at the Drift Away Bar and Grill (we ate lunch there one day and they have really great food) before motoring on.

During our second and third anchorages, a trawler (its name won't be disclosed here!) anchored beside us and even though to my absolute horror the captain and his mate spent quite a bit of their time sitting around 'in the buff' (I know this for a fact because I have binoculars you know!) they still didn't get the attention Hans and I did.
And believe me it wasn't a pretty sight!

So imagine how the stares increased when we finally broke out the red neck awning (purchased at WalMart a couple of years ago)! What took us so long to use it is beyond me but for the rest of the trip that awning was strung up on a regular basis and literally saved us from being fried like eggs on a sidewalk.

Life on Cobb Island is slow and we spent our days reading, drinking beer, staring at people staring at us, and watching Billie Joe McAllister jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

"That's not the Tallahatchie Bridge." Hans informed me (in his sensible voice) after I excitedly informed him of what I'd witnessed.

I told him to look for himself just as a couple of additional bodies hurtled over the railing and into the water.

Apparently during sizzling hot summers, a favorite past time for Cobb Island youths is to jump off the bridge. If I weren't such a coward at heart and not afraid of heights, jelly fish, or water of unknown depths, I would have gladly joined them if it meant keeping cool.

(This is a crappy picture but it's the bridge and those little dots in the water towards the bottom, are the kids)

It was during our third anchorage at Cobb Island that the Knotty Cat decided to test our sanity. Hans thought something didn't seem to be quite right after dropping the anchor because we weren't swinging properly into the wind, but after putting her in reverse a couple of times she held fast. The next day we thought our bearings were a bit off, but what the hell did we know anyway?

That's when I realized we were a lot closer to the 'no wake zone buoy' than we should be.

"We're a lot closer to the no wake zone buoy than we should be." I announced.

"No we're not."

"Yes we are."

"No we're not."

"Then why is the no wake zone buoy about to be rammed up our boat's ass?" I asked as our stern plowed into it.

"Oh shit! We're dragging!" Hans had to admit.

We fired up the engines and re-anchored thus giving the locals something more to stare at, but at least we held firm this time.

And finally, Cobb Island is where I witnessed the infamous cormorant fight. Hans had gone ashore and Wilbur and I were left to fend for ourselves. I was watching the morbid battle with my binoculars when I realized a passing motor boat consisting of an entire family of Dad, Mom, and kids was staring at me. Embarrassed at being caught with my binoculars I tried explaining myself by frantically pointing toward the gruesome fight. Dad laughed and shouted to me, "They're fornicatin'!" and I shouted back, "No they're not! They're fighting over a snake!" Only then did the bored family come to life and they all leaned over the side in excitement in order to see the battle, leading me to believe that fornicating is a pretty dull routine on Cobb Island.

I gotta tell you, this trip was way better than reality TV.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Wild Life

While things may have been wild on the boat, I'm talking about the wild life we met while sailing this summer.

Ospreys in the Chesapeake are a given and while I'm not bored with them, I'm used to them. It had been years since I'd seen pelicans and I was thrilled to finally spot some when we got a bit south into the Patuxant and Potomac Rivers. We didn't see a lot of them but just enough to make me happy.

It was in Oxford that I watched an adult swan beat the snot out of a baby swan. Having read The Ugly Duckling as a child I was appalled, and felt quite cheated.

I thought herons were rare but I saw so many of them during our trip that after awhile I quit grabbing the binoculars every time I heard one of their signature screams. And anyway, they sound just like Wilbur.

A couple of pods of dolphins zipped past us but never close enough to photograph, and seagulls were a dime a dozen.
Ducks are always fun and while one group loved the left over flour tortillas I tossed to them another group completely turned their bills up at them. I found it a bit odd though that there are a lot of female duck gangs out there. There always seems to be a female duck ring leader and I got the impression that there was a Mr. Duck out there who'd 'done her wrong' and she and her posse were out on a mission to find him and give him what for!

Possibly the most disturbing animal activity I witnessed during our trip was when two cormorants had a huge fight over a snake. Honest to God, it was beyond disgusting and I actually jumped up and down in the cockpit and screamed. I heard a commotion and grabbed my trusty binoculars just in time to see a cormorant trying to suck down a snake like a strand of spaghetti. Another cormorant tried in vain to steal it and a little game of 'keep away' took place. Cormorant # 1 kept trying to suck down the snake. Cormorant # 2 tried to steal it and #1 would jerk away all the while tossing its head around while attempting to disentangle the snake from its bill. Just when it seemed like the snake was a goner, it would erupt from #1's gullet and writhe crazily about. Finally to the snake's and #2's dismay, the snake finally disappeared from sight and I had to have a beer.

Jelly fish were a huge problem and they ran absolutely amok this summer. If it weren't for them Wilbur would have been able to swim a lot more and we all would have therefore benefited from the exercise. At each anchorage I would peer, ever hopefully into the water, and damn! all of a sudden there they'd be; tons of amoeba like creatures, undulating as they passed under our boat with the tide.
But my favorite creature by far was the blue crab. I had no idea how friendly they were! I know they scuttle sideways when running along the beach but I'd never seen one swim.
We had just docked at Tangier Island when I saw something in the water slide on past the boat. What on earth? Then another one. It was a crab, and it was swimming upright all the while happily waving its claws at us at it whizzed on by.

I've never felt so welcome!

Wilbur loves blue crabs too and here he is with his Crabby Cake.

I now have to wonder what kind of creatures we'll encounter this winter when we sail on down to Florida. I believe I've heard about these things called alligators.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We're home!

Due to an increase in work load for Hans we had to cut our sailing trip short by one month.

Actually it wasn't that big of a deal as we feel we saw pretty much everything that needed to be seen in the Chesapeake and Potomac.

Originally we were going to head to Boston but when we ran into so many issues our first week out, we decided to play it safe and stay closer to home.

I guess it was for the better anyway since we had to come home sooner than expected.

This is the Capital Yacht Club in DC. For a $15.00 docking fee you get full use of their very nice club.

Wilbur gained fifteen pounds during our two months out.

Our Chlorox kitty did not survive the trip. We have no idea why, but she jumped ship one night while we were at a dock.

It turns out she was clinging to the swim ladder of another boat and was only found after she started screaming. Unfortunately she waited far too long to reveal herself. We know she didn't fall off our boat because her head was completely dry and we think she fell in the water when she tried to climb onto the other boat.

She actually seemed to be doing pretty well and was very relieved to see us. She immediately fell asleep in our bunk (after screaming at Wilbur) but then woke up in distress during the night. I was holding her when she died a couple of hours later and I feel like a murderess!

If I'd had any idea that she could be so bold I would have tried to make it more difficult for her to go above board during the night. But she loved nosing around and was very sure footed when she did venture out. One puff of wind or any slight rocking and she would hustle down below in an instant, and she never came out when we were underway.
She was such a sweet kitty and we miss her.

Our plans at this time are to head back out in November and get the boat to Florida. Back here for the holidays and then to the Bahamas in January.
Subject to change I'm sure!