Friday, February 23, 2018

We've got Wheels!

Although it seems to have taken FOREVER, we've been back to the boat for less than three weeks and we've got a car.

Before we could even shop for a car we had to get a South Dakota address, which took about a week. Then we had to get money out of Malcolm's retirement account to purchase it. Then we spent a whole exhausting day running around Jacksonville looking at every Odyssey within our year and price parameters. Then it took another five days to get the title because the seller had to wait until our check cleared.

On that long day in Jacksonville, we eventually went back to the first one we looked at and bought it. It was the cleanest one and that's what won us over. Honestly, some of these soccer mom cars were filthy, but this one looked like it was owned by a single woman and regularly garaged, and the title proved that. Look, here it is in Nancy's driveway:

So life has gotten a little easier here in St. Marys, Georgia. We can run to the store, or the barbershop, or the propane place whenever we feel like it instead of bumming a ride or renting a car. If we need to, we can just run on down to St. Augustine to buy paint at Marine Supply and Oil Co. and go to Ann O'Malley's for Cruisers' Happy Hour like we did Wednesday.
With the title finally in hand, this morning I scanned and emailed all the paperwork to our mail forwarding service in South Dakota to get the car registered. Hopefully in about two weeks we will be legally registered and have South Dakota plates. Thank goodness for our scanner/printer to email all the paperwork back and forth. It hasn't been easy, but I think we're almost there!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Never Ending Bureaucracy

I've always been a law abiding citizen; paid my taxes, maintained proper licenses, registered my cars. We were in business in California for over 30 years, so trust me, I know about bureaucracy, but I've recently run up against something I just can't solve.

We have been bobbing around on the ocean, footloose and fancy free, for over three years, but now we have decided we'd like to buy a car to use here on the East Coast. The problem is California is our mailing address and we are not in California. Here is just a short list of the roadblocks before us:

  • Generally speaking, when you purchase a car out of state, you have 30 days to get it to your home state and registered. Any time beyond that usually incurs large penalties. We don't want to drive right home; we want to use the car here for a few months before we drive home.

  • We can't register the vehicle in California anyway because the car must actually be in California to get an emissions/smog certificate.

  • To register a car in Georgia you need to have proof of residency (electric bill, lease agreement), and a Georgia drivers license. So Georgia won't work.

  • I'd been told you can use St. Brendan's Isle (a mail forwarding service) to help establish Florida residency. A lady named Anna there told me we could register a car in Florida without a Florida drivers license, but a call to the DMV quickly corrected that falsehood. However, we could still get "domicile" in Florida through St. Brendan's Isle, and get a Florida drivers license, but you still have to register your boat there (and pay a big tax). Not impossible, but expensive. And after Anna's whopper, I don't really want to deal with them.

Friends have told us that South Dakota is more lenient and will register vehicles there without a South Dakota drivers license. You need to use a mail forwarding service to get a South Dakota address, then provide clear title, and proof of your identity via your social security card. All this can be accomplished via Notaries and the United State Postal Service, so there is no need to even travel to South Dakota.

  • At first I thought I would do this, but my wallet was stolen years ago and I don't have my social security card any more. I was self employed so I never replaced it. Yesterday I sat at the Social Security Office for two hours and was finally told that I can't get a card because I'm not at home. They will not mail a replacement card to my home address in California. And the woman behind the thick plastic screen had no ideas or solutions for me. (I think I know why those plastic screens are there now, because I wanted to strangle her!) Seriously, I am so tired of banging my head against the walls of bureaucracy! It's no wonder that people in difficult situations sometimes just give up and end up jobless and homeless. Even when you try to do the right thing, various government agencies make it impossible to do.

Thankfully, the Captain has his social security card. So, guess who's moving to South Dakota?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

California's Gold

A man named Huell Howser used to have TV show called California's Gold. We watched it often and my favorite part was when Huell would say, "That's amazing!"

Well, California is kind of amazing and we certainly enjoyed our two months there. Our last day was spent in and around the Presidio in San Francisco. By driving out to the Golden Gate Overlook near Battery Godfrey, we were able to get this view of the bridge.

Nearby is the Palace of Fine Arts, on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. This beautiful pavilion is surrounded by the fine art buildings and is still a popular attraction for visitors.

At Disney's Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio, find the Yoda statue we did.

Here are the "Painted Ladies" a famous row of Victorian houses, and our transportation for the last two months: our daughter's 1971 VW bug. She never drives it and it's really nice to have a garaged car in San Francisco for our use. Thanks Katie.

And last but not least is a sunset from our sailing club parking lot, out across the channel with Mt. Diablo in the distance. We managed to attend a few Friday Night Dinners there and enjoyed catching up with old friends.

Just a few examples of California's Gold for you to enjoy.

Friday, February 2, 2018

E. Charlton Fortune Exhibition

We recently had the pleasure of seeing an exhibition of E. Charlton Fortune's paintings at the Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento,  California. The Captain is a first cousin twice removed of the artist. He remembers meeting her as a child, but she passed away in 1969, so I never got to meet her. What a pity; I hear she was quite a character and had a great sense of humor.

When Effie was 21, she and her mother survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. For several years she traveled, studied, painted, and exhibited her work in New York, Scotland, and France.
Returning to California in 1912, she divided her time between Carmel, Monterey, and San Francisco. This painting, "Afternoon (Waters Off Monterey)" was painted in 1912.

"The Pier (Late Afternoon, Monterey)" 1914

"Wharf, Monterey" 1915

"El Rancho del Carmelo (Hatton Ranch)" 1920

In 1921 Effie again went to Europe to paint and exhibit her work.
"Conversation Piece" Cromwell House, Scotland, started in 1921, finished in 1962

In St. Ives, Cornwall, UK she did several 12"x16" plein air studies of the harbor. Above is "Scavengers" 1922.

This one is called "Mackerel Season: Bidding on the Catch" 1922.

From these and other studies she did this large studio painting "Summer Morning, St. Ives" in 1923. This painting won a Silver Medal Certificate at the Société de Artistes Français Salon in 1924 in Paris.

"Wine Cargoes"  St. Tropez, France 1925

"Drying Sails"  St. Tropez, France 1926

"The Old Port"  St. Tropez, France 1925

Effie is recognized as one of the great California Impressionist painters. We saw a retrospective of her work at the Carmel Art Institute back in the 1990s, but there are more pieces here. I love her work and sure wish I could afford one of her paintings.

This is just a small sampling of the exhibition. It runs through April 22, 2018 at the Crocker Art Museum, 216 O Street, Sacramento, California.
From there it moves to the Monterey Museum of Art from May 24 to August 27, 2018.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Boat Yard Observations

Behind this beautiful view and peaceful sunset lies a typical DIY boatyard. For my non-boater audience, boats are put "on the hard" for various reasons, but mainly to do underwater repairs, store the boat safely for hurricane season, or just to put on a new coat of antifouling paint.

We've hauled out lots of times in various places and it's always an interesting experience. Since our latest haulout we've acquainted ourselves with the yard and the other boaters, and we've discovered that this yard has all the usual characters and quirks.

There's always a small percentage of forgotten dreams slowly rotting away. Sad.

There's also a few full-time-liveaboard-never-going-anywhere boaters. Seriously, I've lived on boats for extended periods of time, and living aboard at a dock is unpleasant enough; why would anyone want to climb a ladder several times a day, share the communal restrooms, and never feel the boat move beneath their feet?

Speaking of restrooms, these are typical. A little grubby, the drains are slow and there's always a puddle in the shower room. People leave their belongings scattered around and there's often a waiting line. (Yesterday a black bra with pink bows was hanging in the unisex shower room. It was still there this morning.)

And the shower heads are weird. They are these large square things with a random spray pattern, but the worst part is, one shower has it mounted on the ceiling! Its like trying to take a shower in the rain. Don't laugh, but as a cruiser, I've done that, and it doesn't work too well. I wonder who thought this would be cool? 

However, there are some bright spots here. The weather is perfect: sunny, warm, and no rain. There is a little laundry room, a kitchen area with endless coffee, a book exchange, and a large dumpster for the junk I've culled out. And lots of folks have cars and offer rides into town.

The best part though, is the other cruisers we've met. There are two boats from Germany, several from up and down the East Coast, and a few from the West Coast too. These boats are owned by people who are actively cruising or dreaming of cruising. The boats come out, get worked on diligently, and go right back in. The owners have a checklist and a plan, and they want to get cruising as quickly as possible.

New sails are being bent on, solar panels are being installed, fresh bottom paint is being applied, and soon those boats will sail south for the winter to pursue their dreams.
As boatyards go, this one isn't too bad. Just be careful who you start a conversation with. I made the mistake of asking a man at the laundry room this morning, "So, which boat is yours?"

A half hour later I knew way too much about him, including his money woes, employment history, political views, and his conspiracy theories. Since I never got a word in, he knows nothing about me. And that's okay with me; sometimes it's better that way.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cumberland Snapshots

Young Wild Horse
Horse Watching Malcolm Hunt For Shark Teeth
Rough Green Snake
Another Wild Horse
Fossilized Shark Teeth We Found
(Quarter for size reference)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Location Map November 17, 2017

On our new location map I've used an orange line to show our route from October 1st to November 17th; Rockland, Maine to St. Marys, Georgia. Except for our May detour up the Potomac River to visit Washington DC, this route virtually parallels our route up the East coast in the spring. Twelve thousand miles in three years. What a ride!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cumberland Island Again

We visited Cumberland Island National Seashore in April when we were heading north, and now we are back again as we head south. It's a great place to stop; really close to the ICW, good anchorage, and a wonderful dose of nature for someone who's been on a boat for too long.

Cumberland Island is known for its wild ponies and it's fossilized shark teeth. I was lucky enough to find a shark tooth this morning, and ponies are everywhere, so that's an easy find.
We also saw a wild turkey sauntering along the beach. I don't think he knows Thanksgiving is right around the corner or he'd be hiding.
We also saw an Ohio-class, boomer submarine coming up the channel towards the Kings Bay Submarine Base. Sorry this is such a bad photo, but it was far away and heavily guarded by big navy boats. 
If you ever happen to be cruising by Cumberland Island, be sure to stop and go ashore. There's always something interesting to see and do here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Depth Sounder Helps

Navigating a boat is a constantly changing task requiring different approaches and techniques depending on the area you're navigating and the sea and weather conditions. Mostly we use the "set the autopilot on a heading and check it every 15 minutes" method and ignore the depth sounder until we get near the harbor, but that method hasn't worked well for us in the ICW.

Below you see a little corner where we ran aground the other day. The dotted magenta line indicates the ICW centerline, but its not always accurate. The blue indicates sufficient water and the green indicates a shoal. The black lines are our tracks through this area.
Below is how the bottom really looks, so the chart isn't exactly accurate, is it? That jog is where we ran aground.
Since the charts aren't exactly accurate, and the depths are so shallow, the ICW demands a more intense level of navigation: constantly at the helm, frequently checking the chart for the magenta line and the deepest water, and using the depth sounder to determine if it's getting shallower or deeper as you turn.

Unfortunately for us, we were struck by lightning in August 2015, the cockpit read-out for our depth sounder was fried. The one at the nav station still works, but it's 10' away and poorly lit. Consequently we've run aground twice this week.
We've made some changes to our navigation method. First, we set the chartplotter to display "heads up" so turning towards deeper water is more intuitive. Then we zoomed way in so the details are bigger. And lastly, we taped a flashlight to the stairs and aimed it at the depth sounder. 
And guess what; using a depth sounder really helps! Recently we went through Hell Gate and the Mud River with no problems.
So now it's all beautiful sunsets and rum cocktails here aboard Thistle.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ocean Passage

We just made a passage from Beaufort, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina. It took 33 hours. The weather was calm. Persystence made an excellent buddy boat. This was the most exciting thing that happened. End of story.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cruising Into History

The Dismal Swamp Canal has a long and interesting history, and for cruising boats heading south it offers a peaceful and scenic bit of waterway. Unfortunately it has been closed for a year since Hurricane Matthew because of downed trees and shoaling. We were lucky enough to time our arrival on the very day it reopened (October 31, 2017), so we were the second cruising boat to enter the canal in over a year.Deep Creek is the scenic waterway where you turn west off the ICW to get to the Dismal Swamp Canal.

In about three miles you're at the Deep Creek Lock where the ICW's friendliest and nicest lockmaster, Robert, gives you a warm welcome, clear instructions, and a brief history of the canal.
Then you enter the narrow, shallow, peaceful canal. In some places persistent shoals are marked with stakes and the passage is maybe 50' wide, but generally the going is easy.
About 18 miles from the lock you arrive at the Visitor Center where you can stop overnight. Again, we were warmly greeted by Donna from the Visitor Center. She even took our pictures and posted them on their Facebook page. We spent a very peaceful night there; no wind, no current, no tides....
but plenty of duckweed to clean put of our strainer.

The next morning we made three and a half miles to the 65' tall highway bridge where we got a branch stuck on our rudder. It took a while to push it off with the boat hook, but eventually we got underway again. You can see it circled in the photo.
And then all too soon we were at the South Mills Lock, and on our way to Elizabeth City where we spent the night.
Believe me, there is nothing "dismal" about the Dismal Swamp Canal Route. It was delightful and we're so glad we were able to go that way.