Wednesday, December 28, 2016

There's No Turning Back Now!

There comes a time, when you own a twenty-year-plus-old boat, that the decks have been scrubbed, cleaned, scraped, and refinished too many times. When you can see the fiberglass peeking out of the thin spots you know it's time to do something about it.

Before we left California, we cleaned, re-plugged, and re-caulked lots of spots on the deck. We learned that it was originally 3/8" thick, laid edge to edge in a bed of epoxy with a V-shaped cauling groove at the seams. The epoxy sealed the whole deck and made it okay to remove screws over the years as the teak got thinner. And that method kept the deck water tight. We've had no leaks, but it looks horrible.

We could replace all that thin old teak like we did in the cockpit, but considering the cost of new teak, that's not an option here. So we've decided to remove the teak, refinish the surface, and paint the decks.

We started chiseling it off yesterday.
Within ten minutes I was having that panic attack feeling that I felt back in 2000 when we Sawzalled our house into pieces and loaded it into a dumpster. "What the hell are we doing? Will this really work? Are we doing the right thing? How long will this take? Will it ever be right again?"

This is how it looks after two short days. We can't seem to get started before nine, we take a good hour lunch break, and we never work past five. Everything is so much harder at our ages.

We figure we'll have all the old teak removed in about a week, then we'll remove the hardware, which might be harder than the teak. All the stanchions, cleats, tank fillers, windlass, and (the worst) the genoa track must be removed. All those bolts have nuts on the underside, behind the headliner inside the boat. I just want to CRY about that.

Well keep you posted.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Glitter Houses

Now that we're on a dock and not moving around so much, and it actually feels a little like Christmas (it was 47 degrees this morning), I am doing some artsy-craftsy projects; like these glitter lighthouses.

I made them out of cardstock, painted them with craft paints, and used a little battery operated tea light for the lamp. The top lifts off to access the light for turning it on and off. The hardest part was finding a clear plastic cylinder for the windows. I ended up using old spice jars which are just a bit bigger than the tea lights. (I had to trim off the top and bottom, of course.)

I'm really pleased with them, but I'm already beginning to debate the wisdom of glitter on a boat. I tried to be neat, but I see glitter everywhere now.

(BBB) or Back Before the Boat, I made a bunch of glitter houses for Christmas. I used a string of mini lights under some snow (batting) instead of tea lights. Here's a blog about them:

Monday, November 21, 2016

We have slipped the surly bonds of earth...

As some of you know, the Captain has been a pilot for many years. Starting in the 70s flying club planes, then later our own Mooneys, we spent many happy hours boring holes (sometimes literally) in the clouds. We made numerous trips to Mexico and around the western states and I'm sure flying contributed to our sense of wanderlust.
The joy flying brings to an old pilot never diminishes; the thrill and desire is always there; causing one to look up whenever an airplane flies over, making ones heart beat faster when a round engine roars by, calling out "Robinson" before the helicopter is even in view.

Since we've been here in St. Augustine we've observed a Waco biplane going over the marina on a regular basis and decided the time was right for a flying fix, so at 3:30 yesterday we hopped into this Waco and slipped the surly bonds of earth.
And it was wonderful!

We flew low enough to see Great Blue Herons in the marshes. We strafed the beaches and waggled our wings at the Fort. We circled the marina twice and flew by the lighthouse. During the tight turns I kept hoping we'd just continue right on over and do a roll, but that's not part of the deal, darn it.

We had a great time and I would highly recommend St. Augustine Biplane Rides.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Refinishing the Living Room Floor

Let's face it: people who live on boats don't do things the same way as folks who live in houses, and sometimes we probably seem just plain weird.

For example, if a house dweller wanted to refinish their living room floor they would move the furniture out, get a sander in there, sand and refinish it, wait a few days for it to harden up, then move back in.

However, we take the floor pieces out and live like this (walking around on the "joists") for a week or so while we refinish our floor. Then we varnish the floor pieces in our kitchen, and lay them on our bed to dry. Weird, just weird.

Other than the obvious difficulty of not missing a beam and falling into the bilge, all kinds of stuff falls into the bilge! So far we've had to retrieve glasses, tools, and napkins, and while I was cleaning I even found some Wasabi Peas! 

We applied the final coat of varnish yesterday, and decided to clean this section of the bilge before we put the floors back down. First I vacuumed and brushed all the dust and hair out of the nooks and crannies. Then I brought the hose down below and washed the lowest, dirtiest sections.
Finally we lifted the table up, slid the floors under, bolted it all down, and called it done.
Next we will tackle the galley area. I can only imagine what strange things will fall into that bilge while we have the floors up.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Castillo de San Marcos

We had a nice day out yesterday at Castillo de San Marcos, Spain's earliest foothold in the Americas. Under orders from King Philip II, an expedition arrived here in 1565 and quickly annihilated the French at Fort Caroline, just a few miles north.

Then after several years of increasing English control in the American Colonies, the Spanish wisely replaced the wooden fortifications with this impressive fort. Completed in 1695 and the site of British sieges in 1702 and1740, this fort was never breached. Only through treaties has the flag (and name) ever changed at Castillo de San Marcos. 

 While we were there, volunteers dressed in period clothing did a reinactment ceremony and even shot the cannon and it was the highlight of our visit!

From this aerial photo of the town and inlet, you can see how well Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sited the fort. With Florida's flat topography, the lookouts could easily see any ship coming towards the town.

As an added plus to our day out, the Captain qualified for a Senior Pass for the National Parks. With this, he can visit any National Park for free and bring me too for free! What a great deal.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


We enjoyed visiting Kilwins while we were in Stuart and we found one in St. Augustine today. Life is good.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My TSA Massage

We have traveled a lot; several international flights after 9/11 and dozens of Central American and Caribbean countries in the last two years; but when it comes to the TSA's new millimeter wave technology, you get no credit for being a "well behaved" traveler.

On our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando yesterday, AFTER ALREADY FLYING FROM COSTA RICA TO FT. LAUDERDALE, I was pulled over with two yellow squares on my scan.

I must say I was surprised, but as I waited there for the next level of pat down, I noticed the next five people behind me also got yellow boxes, which indicate non-standard substances on their bodies. I'm thinking those machines aren't that accurate and the TSA needs to evaluate their system better.

The agent then patted me down there in the screening area, swabbed her gloves, got another positive reading for "chemical residue", and sent me to the private pat down area.

By now I was starting to worry about making my connecting flight which would be leaving in 20 minutes. Nevertheless, I had no choice but to wait while they patted down the flight attendant in front of me!

Finally it was my turn, they took me into a private room with two female agents, and they delicately asked me if there was anything I'd like to discuss before they proceeded. I'm thinking they were offering me an "out" just in case I really did have six bombs taped around my middle.

It was rather ridiculous, but I kept my calm and said, "No, let's just get this over with so I can make my connecting flight." What I really wanted to say was, "This is crazy! I'm like the most honest person in the world."

So while one agent observed, the other agent gave me a thorough pat down including the bottoms of my feet! After being awake for 24 hours and doing a red-eye on a minimalist plane, I was actually kind of enjoying the free massage, but it ended too soon, and after swabbing her gloves again, she declared me clean.

As I ran to my gate I couldn't help but wonder how many people are subjected to this treatment while the pros, who really study the technology and know how to get around it, are plotting the next tragedy. I also wondered why the procedure varies so much from one airport to the next. Even within the US, our experience with the TSA has varied wildly. Shouldn't it be the same at every airport on American soil?

I think I'll stick with sailing into countries from now on.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Volcan Poás

We wanted to see Volcan Poás, but we'd heard that clouds obscure it by noon each day so the best viewing is very early in the morning. We left our lodge at 8:15 and started the 20 minute drive with clouds already creeping over the hills so I was a little worried that we'd already missed it.

A little about parking in Costa Rica:
There seems to be some sort of rule in Costa Rica about backing into parking spaces. And it seems parking attendants have a really strong union, because they are always there gesturing with hand signals how to turn your wheels to get you exactly aligned. Like we don't have mirrors? And don't know how to back in? It's just weird.


When we got to the gate the ranger said the volcano was still visible, so we hurried up the path to the overlook. Even though the elevation is over 8000 feet, we made good time and arrived about 9:00am.

And this is what we saw.
The crater is almost a mile wide and a thousand feet deep and contains a boiling sulphuric lake that frequently shoots up geysers of hot water (phreatic eruptions). This volcano is still active and has had more than a dozen phreatic eruptions since 2014. The lake is the second most acidic lake in the world with a Ph of near zero. It continually emits sulphuric fumes which kill all vegetation directly downwind from the crater.
We had barely been there long enough to take a few photos when the clouds rolled in at 9:12. And just like that, the show was over for the day.

We hung around a while hoping the clouds would part again, but they never did. We talked to one person who had been there three times and never seen the crater, so we felt really lucky to see it for those twelve short minutes.

On the walk back to the Visitor Center we took pictures of flowers...
and goofed around with the Poor Man's Umbrella plant, Gunnera insignis. Their huge leaves were indeed used as umbrellas by the ancient people. We have seen these in Golden Gate Park, but they don't allow you to crawl under them there. Too bad, because it was fun.

Villa Calas

Do you ever travel with no plans? Like you have no idea where you'll end up and no idea where you will sleep?

We do, and it has often led us to delightful places.

When we left San Jose Thursday the idea was to see Volcan Poás, so we drove up a road that resembled the roads in the hills above our hometown in California. The road curved through green hills dotted with cows and farms. The tree ferns and bromiliads reminded me that I was no where near California, though.

When we got close to the volcano we started looking for a place to stay. We saw a sign for Villa Calas, pulled in, and asked to see a room.

Their cute little cabins have fireplaces, excellent views, free breakfast, and (in my mind the best part) hummingbirds galore.

Every cabin has a feeder right outside the window and we spent several hours every day watching the hummingbird's antics.

There are lots of different hummingbirds here, and even after all this time we could only identify one: the Violet Sabrewing.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

If I had to recommend just one place to visit in Costa Rica it would be La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Set high in the rain forest near Poás Volcano, it's a wonderland of typical Costa Rican birds and animals.

The grounds look like Jurassic Park only with more flowers. The wide paved paths made it easy for the Captain to walk the whole park in his still-recuperating condition. Plenty of signs in both Spanish and English made it simple to find our way around.

Our first stop was the aviary. Inside were several species of birds and a few cages with special birds like raptors, macaws, and toucans.

When we were in Golfito a year and a half ago, I got all excited when I glimpsed a fiery-billed aracari in the wild, but I was ecstatic here because you get to hold the toucans!

These are Chestnut-Mandibled toucans, one of the two large toucans in Costa Rica. They seemed quite tame and readily came to the handlers for a treat. It could be because all the birds in this park were either pets or injured at one time, so they are used to humans.

Such charming birds with their fancy plumage and friendly ways. It was the highlight of the park for me.

There were also lots of these Black Bellied Whistling Ducks wandering around. They too seemed very nonchalant towards humans.

The frogs of Costa Rica were well represented too with four different tree frogs and three poison dart frogs. Did you know that tree frogs are nocturnal? We didn't but felt lucky that this little guy woke up and said hello for a few minutes.

The most un-nerving exhibit was the cats and especially this jaguar. When we walked by he slowly opened his eyes, stretched and yawned, then settled down again; the whole time keeping his eyes on us. I was thankful that I could have outrun Malcolm if I'd had to.

They also had a little farm exhibit with these oxen hitched to a colorful traditional cart and a milking and cheese making demonstration.

There was also a butterfly garden, a hummingbird area, a snake exhibit, a trout fishing area, a restaurant, and a gift shop. So, as I said, if there's only one place you can visit in Costa Rica, I would recommend La Paz Waterfall Gardens because they have everything a tourist wants to see all in a beautiful setting.

Butterflies Everywhere

If there is one thing that Costa Rica is famous for, it's butterflies. They are depicted everwhere: on t-shirts, purses, and all kinds of souvenirs. But the best way to enjoy them is in a special butterfly garden. We have toured three butterfly gardens in as many days and it is absolutely delightful to walk amongst these beautiful creatures. Some are so laid-back they will actually walk onto your finger for a selfie.

One of the interesting things about these gardens is the racks full of crysalises. We've seen many newborn butterflies here.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we have.
Blue-banded Purplewing, Myscelia cyaniris

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes

The Owl, Caligo eurilochus

Blue Morpho, Morpho peleides
Emerging from the chrysalis

The bottom side of the Owl shows how it got its name.

Orange barred Sulpher, Phoebis philea

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes feasting on fermenting fruit.

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