(Photo notes: I'm glad King Tut had a door through the transom, compared with climbing two steps to enter Tomboy, r. Tom Lazio, a retired English teacher from upstate NY, was the first to encourage my early writings. I'd mail him stories from Puerto Rico, which he reviewed, annotated and returned. Tom passed away last year and is survived by wife Pam, who cooked the most fabulous Christmas turkey dinner on their trawler. It was demoralizing at the time.)
We needed to eat healthier, for sandwiches were getting old. I was completely inexperienced with camp-cooking let alone on a boat, so Cap increasingly took over the culinary duties, his one-pot meals a specialty. He'd boil the elbow macaroni and ground beef together, drain it all, add Cheese Whiz, season with Tony Chachere's; and we'd wolf it down, yum. I was happy to play Swabbie, for my idea of gourmet cooking is sauteing onions and garlic. Single-hander Tim's beautiful thank-you gift was dropped onto our deck, and Cap made the most of it, including the lobster quiche, above. I could never...
"The place looks pretty good. We still discover better ways to pack and store things without getting wet. Better to find out while we're near land than out to sea."Trying to organize was making me crazy. Everything in a box which was brought on board had to be repacked to avoid roaches. I’ve never owned so many plastic storage containers in my life, and I kept discovering reasons we needed more.
And Czar? During the first few weeks, Cap doggedly tried to create Czar's poop deck; providing an on-board relief station, since there would certainly be times we couldn't take him, 'to the beach,' as we called it. Cap bought sod to line the tray from his Army footlocker (brought along for storage) and even tried priming the pump, in a manner of speaking, but Czar would have none of it. There were no other options, but Czar proved time and again that he preferred to wait until he reached terra firma.
"Cap's tools got wet so we have to de-rust them. His footlocker got soaked, so his dive gear needs a new container. Our emergency kit's coming along."I hoped I selected enough of a variety of items to keep us alive, should we have to abandon ship, Cap remarked more than once. It ultimately included: 2 washcloths and one shower mat (to keep Czar from sliding in the dinghy); hydrogen peroxide; first aid bandages; flare kit; small suntan lotion; Q-Tips; fishing line and hooks; one summer sausage; a Swiss Army knife; Wet Ones; Gas-X; makeup mirror; 4 safety pins; lighter and a few smokes; Clinique moisturizer; Tylenol; and of course a tube of toothpaste, as per Hillary’s harrowing portrayal of a family adrift for weeks.
"A quick overview reveals we've spent around $9,000 so far - wow!!"
"Just when I think I'm getting better about this whole thing, I slide back. I'm just not handling it very well. We've been getting ready to go and took (we thought) our last trips to marine stores. Chester hasn't been by in over a week, but stopped by yesterday while we were out and left Cap's computer. Apparently he couldn't do anything with it, either. Czar's been hopping off the boat regularly, like he knows something's up."
"Got Reed's Guide to the Caribbean but I can't get as excited as Cap about this. I thought we would be able to just hop from island to island but it's not that simple. Besides the normal shit of watching out for reefs and 'lights', each island has its own rules regarding cruising in their waters; guns; pets and fees. It won't just be a simple joyride, but Cap keeps telling me it will be easy and not to worry. I can't be like that. I don't understand how things seemed to go so well before we left Oregon, and now...maybe God is playing a cruel joke on me.
"The boat still leaks. Got the wills taken care of. Cooking is fine, but I'm afraid I'm not prepared enough, considering how infrequently we'll be stopping for groceries. Canned green beans, corn and tuna fish. Can you exist on that?"
The next morning a couple of Captains came over to help Cap with charts, directions and encouragement in preparation for our departure. As the hours passed I hoped we'd leave another day because I wanted to see Chester before we left and couldn't reach him by phone. How could we not? But Cap announced, “If we’re gonna go, let’s go,” so,
"Lo & behold, we were off from the marina at noon. I was nervous as hell; Cap was full of optimism, confidence and just happy as shit. All I could do was look for those stupid markers. Cap tried the autopilot (it worked), the VHF up above didn't, and the depth finder below wouldn't shut off, but oh well, nothing's perfect."
Cap disliked steering from the confines of the cabin and preferred the view 10 feet up. It was easier to spot Czar, too. As First Mate I’d head to the galley and precariously return with cups and plates in hands and teeth, rocking every which way, climbing the 5-step wooden ladder and staggering to the front. It didn’t take many trips to smarten up and simply step out the side door next to the galley to hand up or speak to Cap.
As we neared the first drawbridge, I took over the wheel while Cap went below to call the bridge tender to open 'er up.
"The Bascule Bridge." I had to repeat it a few times and finally spelled it out for him.
We motored for roughly 4 hours and anchored in Sarasota. It probably wouldn't have taken as long if Cap didn't insist I steer just a little. I fishtailed along and hated it the whole time, but at least I knew I could steer the boat in a pinch. Other than the bridge all had gone well, and our first night on the hook was blissfully uneventful.
Boaters usually wave to one another, as we did to the large power boat which raced towards us, bow raised, white foam spewing from either side. Ruff Life's 20-foot mast and cross beam rocked back and forth like a metronome from the resulting wake and I cursed while reaching for anything to grab.
Cap was gripping the spokes to steady us when the wheel suddenly came off in his hands. Momentarily stunned, he hollered for me to get to the wheel in the cabin as he frantically tried to put his back on. I scooted on my butt along the open deck and managed to climb down the stairs without breaking my neck; only to be blocked by the storage buckets I’d stacked on the furniture, now scattered across the floor. I had assumed that since we weren't at sea all should be calm, and kicked myself for not following Chester's earlier advice.
The books on the shelf were all over the floor and the sliding cupboard doors in the galley never stopped moving. Dishes, placed semi-upright to fit in the tiny space, rolled back and forth, and condiments were spilling out. The stupid hinged bathroom door was swinging and folding and making a racket, and the fridge door was also swinging open and shut, but luckily the contents stayed put.
I hopped over my strewn possessions and grabbed the wheel. Through the front window I watched Czar steadying himself and prayed he didn’t fall overboard. He wasn’t wearing his life jacket.
"A__hole! So much for being friendly."
Cap quickly put his wheel back on, and after we stopped rocking I tried to straighten up enough to make a path through the cabin. After that, we installed makeshift barriers. I'd brought along my Dad's 36" drafting ruler, which fit across the bookshelf beautifully. Dowels prevented the galley cabinets from sliding, Cap attached hook and eye latches to the freezer and refrigerator doors, and since the bathroom door never stayed closed, it was folded in half and kept in place with a rock. I began a list of things to secure prior to raising the anchor.
(Photo note: I painted a replacement floor after the teak one disintegrated; but the rock is still against the door. It's difficult to see what's what in this tiny space, but here you can see the split door a bit better. The two steps from the galley were removable, and the little latch on the left secures the trap door to the engine compartment. Underneath the carpeted floor was a separate bilge, so everything had to be removed to either inspect it or work on the generator.)
We picked up a new VHF radio for up top so we could make our sentiments known in the future, but it stopped working two days later. Cap said it was unrealistic to think nothing was going to break, but come on. We didn't buy another one because it would only break, too, and return it where? We ran across little more than obscure, independent marine stores, no major chains.
We were preparing to enter the Okeechobee Waterway, recommended for boats with less than 10-foot drafts. Ours was only 3 so Cap wasn't overly concerned; but we had a bunch of locks to pass through, and this would be our first real challenge.
"Cap went flying into the second lock (feeling more confident) and although he learned his lesson and slowly entered the third lock, the lockmaster had to repeat several times, You can stop now, Captain. Captain, stop, now! But in the fourth lock he was perfect."
"We moored in bug heaven - there were millions of no-see-ums on the deck the next morning," which I rinsed off using my new spiral hose, a luxury I was pleased was already of use. It stored nicely in the cabinet underneath the garbage can. The door to that cabinet also swung open and shut during wakes; as did most other cabinet doors, so Cap finally added small brass locks to them all. He hated marring his beloved mahogany, and my 'things to secure' list continued to grow.
"We had just read the night before how to 'unground', but when it actually happened, all that knowledge flew out the porthole. The only thing I could remember was rock the boat, which we tried; check where the water's low; and get in the dinghy. Big help. Cap got in the dinghy and tried pulling the boat off using the outboard motor, but that wasn't working either."
Between the two, and the passage of time, we eventually drifted off our mound, but ooooh, he was mad. We were trying to do something called 'kedging' but Cap needed to put a spare anchor into the dinghy before he took off.
"I can understand why everyone says boating will either make or break a relationship," something I heard early on in the First Mate's Club.
"Saw lots of birds, flying fish, a dead alligator, but hardly a living soul." It seemed surreal. The lake looked limitless, and as I watched a storm in the distance I was glad we were hugging the shoreline. From Stuart on the Atlantic we headed south and spent a couple days in beautiful Hobe Sound, relaxing and provisioning in what's know as Florida's Treasure Coast.
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