Monthly Archives: March 2016

We Didn’t See That Coming…

In our recent post OK, Now You’re Just Messing With Us, I mentioned some of the ways that fate seems to be toying with us as we try to implement our carefully orchestrated escape plan. Yesterday, we got totally blindsided by something completely unexpected. My birthday is April 18th. That means it’s time to renew the registration on our boat, something we planned to attend to before shoving off in a few days.  It should have been a simple task—just swing by the Tax Collector’s office and pay the fee to renew the registration on Eagle Too. So we were a bit puzzled when the smiling, helpful clerk developed a deep frown just a few minutes into the process.

“I’m sorry sir, but you apparently no longer own your boat.”

I’m not making this up. Apparently, sometime recently in another Tax Collector’s office in another part of the state, another (smiling?) tax clerk had transferred our boat’s registration to someone else. Without telling us. So we didn’t own the boat anymore as far as the state of Florida was concerned. And we therefore couldn’t renew our registration. Because it wasn’t our boat.

It took two clerks and a supervisor most of the rest of the day to make it right. Everything ultimately turned out OK (or so we’ve been told), but it ended up pretty much wasting much of a day, one of the few we have left before departure and for which we had significantly different plans. But at least we caught it while we could still do something about it. We could only imagine the situation we would have found ourselves in if we’d been trying to deal with this via email from Cuba or Belize.

“What would have happened if we had just mailed in the renewal?” we asked the clerk.

“Oh, there’s no way we could have fixed this if you weren’t here,” she replied solemnly.


We wonder if there are any other suspended shoes waiting to drop…

The Departure Dash

They say if you put off your departure until your boat is completely ready, you’ll never leave. There will always be something undone that will keep you at the pier. We’ve given up on the notion that we’ll have all the things on our list completed before we point our bow south. Even after 15 months of preparation, there are still some things that we know we’re just not going to get to before the tides and weather say it’s time to go. We’re in the midst of the last mad dash, trying to at least complete the projects that we’ve already begun or have parts onboard for. In no certain order, here are some of the things we’ve recently finished. In a calmer time, each of these would have probably been the subject of a separate post. But there just aren’t enough hours in the day anymore to deal with boat projects, personal errands, legal and health tasks, provisioning, and keeping up with the blog.

Wirie AP+ WiFi amplifier

Our Wirie AP+ lets us connect to WiFi networks from a distance. For example, when I open the WiFi tab on my laptop, I can currently only see about a half dozen local wireless networks. The Wirie on the other hand pulls in over 80! Several times when our local marina WiFi has gone dark (which seems to happen way too often), we’ve been able to continue feeding our need for data by connecting to more distant options, like the public WiFi at the local baseball stadium or the city’s waterfront park.

Wirie1 Wirie2

The Wirie uses the top-rated Ubiquiti Bullet amplifier, and has its own internal router. Once set up, it creates a wireless LAN aboard your boat. You connect all your WiFi devices to this network, and then point the Wirie to an external internet connection via its web-based management page. So Rhonda and I can now both sit and surf the web on our laptops, download updated charts to the tablet, run apps on our phones and wirelessly scan from or print to our onboard Epson WF2660 printer in a most civilized manner.

Barge Boards

I actually don’t know what these things are really called, I just know that they are the true hallmark of a serious cruising boat. They’re your on-deck storage racks for lashing down extra fuel cans, bicycles, water toys and any other miscellaneous gear which you just can’t live without but for which there is no good storage space below. Normally, these will typically be a set of wooden planks fastened to the stanchions on the port and starboard sides of the boat. But we’re quite happy with the fact that our Hunter 376 has virtually no wood topside (and requires none of the associated maintenance that comes with it) and the last thing we wanted to add to our boat were two large wooden planks to weather in the sun. So we came up with what we thought was a better idea. Our canvas guy had a couple of spare lengths of 1″ stainless steel railing, which we attached to span between adjacent stanchions with bimini fittings. We then U-bolted (stainless bolts, of course) a pair of Trex composite decking planks that we found at Lowe’s for only $15 each to the rails . They came in a pleasant gray color that didn’t clash with the boat, and had a scalloped bottom surface that mated to the stainless rail like they were destined to be together. The resulting structure is at least as solid as the 5/4 by 6″ pine plank that you typically see used, but which will resist weathering in the harsh tropical sun.

Rails1 Rails2 Rails3 Rails4 Rails5

Solar Port Shades

Our Hunter has the large “windshield” and long fixed side ports typical of late-90’s production cruisers. Made of deeply tinted acrylic, these ports get almost too hot to touch when in direct summer sun, and throw an enormous amount of heat into the cabin. Eagle Too came with a Sunbrella snap-on cover for the windshield, but while it would help shade the interior of the boat, it was such a dark navy color that it absorbed just as much heat and radiated it into the boat. So we placed another quick call to our canvas guy (we have him on speed-dial) and had him make some new port covers in a white vinyl fabric.Covers1 Covers2 Covers3

They reflect virtually all the heat away from the boat, while still allowing enough light in to brighten the interior and allow us to look out.Covers4 Covers5

Bike Tuneup

We’d posted a while back about the Back Bay folding bicycles that we wanted to take with us on our voyage. I knew both bikes needed some tweaking before we departed, so we dropped them off at the local bike shop for some TLC. Today, we took advantage of a brief break in our April showers to pick them up at the shop and ride them back to the marina. They’ll soon take up residence tied to the barge boards on either side of the boat.Bikes

We’ve loaded our Navionics 3XG chart pack into our chartplotters (Central and South America) and have loaded the accompanying chart app on our tablet (which seems like such an excellent tool that it will get its own post soon). Meanwhile, we’re almost done with clearing out of the storage unit we hoped to be done with by departure time. And apparently we’ll be renting a car tomorrow, as we’re supposed to be delivering my truck to its new owner on Monday. And next Thursday is our final round of vaccinations.

Yes, it has been quite a hectic month since Rhonda retired. But it’s the last dash to departure, and we can almost stretch out our arms and reach the finish line. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new set of cockpit speakers to install…

Our Fifteen Minutes Of Fame

This was so damned amusing that we just had to share it. LOTH has now had a Facebook post go viral. You may have noticed that we added a Follow Us On Facebook box off to the right side of the page a few months ago. We’ve been throwing little bits of this and that up on Facebook when we want to share something that doesn’t really merit a full-blown blog post. Typically we get between 50 and 100 views on a post. On a really good day, maybe 200. There aren’t any young women in bikinis on our site to drive traffic, after all (unless maybe they’re in the background). And that’s fine, because it’s really not important to us. We just want our friends and family to be able to stay up with what we’ve been doing. So it was a bit surprising when our recent post about seeing Daniel Craig shooting a new James Bond trailer at our favorite beach bar last weekend topped 500 views within minutes of posting.


We knew something was definitely going on when we checked again while stopping at Starbucks on the way home and saw we’d hit 1000 views. Before we turned in for the night, it was over 5,000. Next morning, over 10,000 people had seen it. It was really funny to watch. 25,000 views, 30,000. Now we’re waiting to see if we can make it to 50,000. All for a silly little post that was supposed to be a joke and which has nothing at all to do with cruising. Yes, the Internet can be a pretty strange place. But it has given us a few days worth of chuckles.  🙂

Farewell Old Friend

I remember like it was yesterday the first time we saw Rhonda’s car. It was late spring of 2000. She had been wanting a Sebring Convertible since they first hit the street a few years previously. We’d test driven one or two and she’d decided exactly which color and options she wanted, but at the time they were just beyond our reach financially, so it remained the subject of hopes and dreams, Then one sunny day as we were running errands, we spotted her car sitting on a rental car sales lot. I mean, it was her car, equipped exactly as she desired and in her chosen color. We stopped and looked. The price was still a stretch. But I said, “Honey, this is your car. We have to buy it.” And four hours later, it was sitting in our driveway.

That was 16 years ago. It’s been a tumultuous relationship. It is a Chrysler, after all, and it has therefore treated Rhonda to more than her fair share of trips to the repair shop. Oh, nothing major like a transmission failing or a serious engine problem, just a continual string of little things that would turn on the Check Engine light and make it temporarily undriveable. But like the mother of an occasionally troublesome child, she looked past its shortcomings, focused on its attributes, and loved it deeply.

Unfortunately, there’s no room on a 37 foot sailboat for a Sebring convertible. And at 16 (probably 17) years old, it was time to let it go. No sense in trying to leave it with a family member to care for. So last week, we listed it on Craigslist. Naturally, hilarity ensued almost immediately, since Craigslist was involved. Calls from numbers with California area codes offering to purchase the car sight unseen if we’d just give them our bank account information so that they could wire us the money. Uh huh, sure. A 15 year old kid who claimed he was looking for his first car. Can a 15 year old even legally own a car in Florida? Beats me. But I didn’t even have to ask Rhonda if that’s the type of home she wanted for her old friend.

Then later that afternoon, I answered a call from someone who said he’d been looking for exactly that type of car. Claimed he’d been trying for quite a while, but couldn’t find one in decent shape at a reasonable price. He said he was working that afternoon, but he wanted to know if he could send his brother over to check it out for him. And so we found ourselves a few hours later huddling under umbrellas in the middle of a downpour while the brother examined the car. Not the best weather for evaluating a convertible, although we could show him that the top didn’t leak. He gave the car a thumbs up, and shortly afterwards his brother called to tell us he’d be by the next morning with the cash. Oh, and shortly after he left, the rain stopped, naturally.

The next morning, we met the purchaser. I guess you could say he was about as close as Rhonda was probably going to get to finding the “right” buyer. He wanted the car as a weekend, sunny day driver. It would be entering a life of semi-retirement, keep washed and waxed and out of the weather until the conditions merited a topless driving day. We struck a deal, shook hands, and turned over the keys. He drove away. And Rhonda cried.


It’s funny the emotional toll that preparing for this Life On The Hook™ has sometimes taken. I would say that while not quite as traumatic as having to euthanize our cat, as described in A Hidden Cost Of Cruising, for Rhonda it was right up there with selling the house. She really loved that car.

But with the Sebring off to a new home, we’re now down to just 1½ major challenges that still tie us to the pier. The first is my truck. We still need to haul a few more things about, so I’ve been reluctant to list it for sale, but it will soon have to go as well. And the half? Well, we still have this little matter of a 10×10 foot storage unit we’re paying for that is almost, but not quite empty. It wouldn’t prevent us from sailing away, but it’s a $125 a month bite out of the cruising budget that we’d rather not have. But it seems that the smaller the pile of items remaining to be possessionally triaged, the harder it seems to be to finish the job.

One last thing. You know what the funniest part of all this was for me? We had two adult men examine Rhonda’s car for purchase, and neither of them ever opened the hood to look at the engine. Yes, it sounded nice when started and it ran and drove well. But never even looking under the hood of a 16 year old car? Seriously, who does that?

Why Fi?

In our previous post Rocking The Cellular World, I described Google’s foray into the cellular communications market, called Project Fi. At the time, I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger and switched my phone to their program (you can’t really call it a network, since it encompasses several different ones all bundled together). But their program just makes too damn much sense for someone with a lot of international travel in their future (which would be us). So I finally went ahead and completed my application.

Within two days, my Project Fi SIM card arrived in the mail.


The instructions said that after plugging in the new SIM, I could use data over WiFi immediately, but it could take up to 24 hours for talk and text to resume working, as my number had to be switched from my old carrier (Verizon) to Project Fi. Concerned about being out of touch for so long (we have a lot of things going on at the moment as we get ready to depart), I waited until early on a Saturday morning to swap my Verizon SIM card with my new Project Fi card. Well, they might have issued an ominous warning, but it actually only took about 90 seconds for my number to port and a cheerful “Your phone is now available for use on Project Fi!” message to appear on my screen.

So far, I don’t see any difference in call quality, which is naturally a good thing. The Project Fi app that installed on my phone is very informative, showing me everything I’d ever want to know about my account, billing, data usage, and customer service and technical support. And I even now have the visual voice mail (for no extra charge) that Verizon was always trying to sell me as a $2.99 a month upgrade.

So what ultimately caused me to make the switch after 18 years with Verizon? The $10 per day per device access fee and $1.79 per minute international roaming rate that Verizon charges for international calling. It’s absolutely absurd to think of paying $10,000 annual phone bills, and I didn’t really want us to have to keep buying local SIM cards and changing phone numbers every time we run a new courtesy flag up the mast. With Project Fi, we can keep the same phone number for all our international travel with no additional fees, and calling rates to the US that average 20 cents a minute. Check back in a few months for a review on how it’s working!

I just wish I knew how they came up with the name Project Fi. As far as we’re concerned, it should be Project Awesome 🙂

A Visual Voyage

Our courtesy flag order from Color Fast Flags arrived yesterday, and Rhonda had fun this morning laying them out in a visual representation of our planned itinerary for the remainder of this year.


Can you name them all? And which of these is not like the others?

For those who aren’t aware of nautical tradition, it’s considered a respectful gesture to fly a nation’s flag from your boat’s spreaders for the duration of your stay after you’ve been cleared in to the country. I don’t think it’s actually a requirement, any more than saying “please” and “thank-you” are, but it can earn you a few hospitality points while visiting foreign lands (foreign to us, of course. It’s home to the people who live there!) And you never know when a few hospitality points just might come in handy…

OK, Now You’re Just Messing With Us

I once mentioned in a previous post the old adage that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.  Well, He’s been having a pretty good chuckle lately. If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you may have noticed that we’ve been pretty quite for a while now. Trust me, it’s not for lack of things to talk about. We’ve simply been overwhelmed. Not since that day almost 16 months ago when our realtor called and told us we had three weeks to move out of our home of 18 years, as detailed in A Tempest Unleashed, have we been spread this thin.

We’ve known for quite a while that this month, our final one before departing for our Life On The Hook™, was going to be challenging. But we had over a year to put a plan together, and we felt we were ready to execute it.  Rhonda’s last day at work was February 29th, and I had picked up fresh mint and limes to make celebratory Mojitos once she returned to Eagle Too after her final day at the office. We planned to hit the ground running the next day and begin implementing our plan, with the goal of being ready to depart for points south the first week of April. First on the agenda—detail Rhonda’s car and get it listed on Craigslist.

I never had a chance to make the Mojitos. Less than five minutes after leaving her office for the final time, Rhonda’s car broke down. I thought when I saw her name on my caller ID that she was calling to share her feelings about her final drive home from work. Instead, it was a call for help. So instead of dropping her car off to be cleaned, we were having it towed to the repair shop.


It turned out to be a failed distributor. The good news is that we had replaced it once before, and the repair shop warrantied the part. The bad news is that it took them over a week to get the car back to us. And suddenly we’re ten days behind schedule.

Then there was our mattress. We knew we wanted to have a new bed made for our aft cabin prior to shoving off. It’s our “master bedroom,” the place where we always sleep. We learned when we previously had a new V berth mattress made that the foam and fabric shop could take up to a month to finish a project because of how busy they were. Trying to avoid having to do without our bed for several weeks, we scheduled the job a month in advance to hold a place in their schedule so that they wouldn’t need more than three or four days to complete the job.

Just as we were scheduled to drop off the mattress, the owner of the shop suffered an attack of appendicitis and ended up in surgery. It’s the type of business where nothing gets done when the owner isn’t there. They’ve had our bed for two weeks now, and at this point we have no idea when we might get it back. We’re getting pretty damn tired of sleeping on a 2″ mattress topper on a plywood deck. And the clock keeps ticking toward April 1st.

And then there are our eyeglasses. Rhonda and I wanted to get new prescriptions and update our glasses before leaving for the islands. We purposely put it off until the last month so the prescriptions would be fresh. It’s never taken more than a week to get a new pair of glasses made. Until now. Somehow, the ophthalmologist hosed up my first refraction, and when I got the glasses a week later, I couldn’t see. Another eye exam, another prescription, another set of glasses. Almost three weeks later, finally having a pair I’m happy with, I took the prescription to another shop to have new lens made for my RayBan sunglasses. “No problem,” they told me. “We’ll order the lenses, they’ll be in next week, and we’ll call you to bring in your old sunglasses so we can put in the new lenses. Shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

The first pair of lenses arrived from the factory defective. Another set was ordered. Another week goes by, and the second set of lenses arrives. They’re fine, except for the fact that instead of being gray tinted and polarized as I had ordered, they’re clear and non-polarized. “Not going to make very good sunglasses,” I told the optometrist (along with a few more colorful words). A third set of lenses gets ordered. And once again, something that was supposed to take a week took two and a half.

So we’re coping with the frustration of dealing with all the unexpected delays that are beyond our control and appear designed to frustrate our carefully laid plans. while making a final push to bring onboard all the gear that we chose not to purchase or have to find a place to stow until the time to departure grew short. Ordering charts, stockpiling guidebooks, putting together our final Defender order. Clearing out cold weather gear and starting our final provisioning. Sorting through personal papers. The boat hasn’t been this cluttered and disheveled since we first moved onboard.

And then we walk to the Post Office to pick up our mail, and I find I have a jury summons. For the 4th of April. And I just shake my head and say, “Seriously? Now you’re just messing with us!”

And God laughs.

Great Balls Of Ice

Ample (or at least adequate) amounts of power, water, and ice. It can mean the difference between a comfortable cruising life and a life of “tell me again what part of this was supposed to be fun?” We’ve described our efforts to ensure that we have plenty of electrical power in our More Power, Scotty! posts (still one or two more posts to go before that series is done), and we addressed how we’ll make sure the taps are always flowing in Making It Rain. But we hadn’t yet tackled the issue of how to ensure that there will always be plenty of ice to make frosty boat drinks.

Until now, the way we’ve dealt with ensuring we always had ice for the Mojitos has been simple. We walk up the to marina office and buy a 10 pound bag of ice, repeating as necessary. While that approach has served us well during our life on the pier, we knew it wasn’t going to support our Margarita habit once we depart for our Life On The Hook™. But what to do?

Fortunately, Eagle Too has a fairly large freezer (remember we’re talking about a boat here, so fairly large means about four or five cubic feet) and separate refrigerator, and since we do now have a more than adequate amount of power available, we keep them turned to their lowest settings. So it seemed like going old-school and getting some ice cube trays should work. Unfortunately, because of our freezer’s odd size, a regular ice cube tray can’t lay flat anywhere inside, and even it if could, it’s unlikely that the water would stay in the tray long enough to become ice, since boats have this weird tendency to rock and roll and pitch about and cause things to not necessarily stay where you put them. And there’s just no way we’d be willing to pay the obscene, highway robbery price (almost $80 each) that Adler Barbour wants for their vertical ice cube trays.

We were looking for a solution. We first experimented with these no-spill trays from OXO. They have a silicone rubber flap that in theory is supposed to seal the open top of the tray so that it can be tilted without losing the contents. But the problem with a lot of theories is that they don’t stand up to actual real world practice. When we received our two floppy-topped trays and tried to put them in our freezer, we found that they were too long to fit inside the evaporator box, which means they had to be slid underneath it. This meant tilting the trays nearly vertical to fit them past the evaporator and get them down to the bottom of the freezer compartment. And while the rubber flaps on top did sort of slow down how fast the water drained from the trays when they were tilted, you definitely could not call them no-spill. While not quite a total fail, we knew we needed something better.

I remembered reading on another sailing blog about molds to make round ice balls, which sounded like it could possibly be our solution. But I seemed to recall that their approach involved individual molds that made one ice ball each, and we knew we were going to have to fuss with a lot of individual little molds to keep the ice coming. But it gave us a path to follow. After exploring some twists and turns along that trail on Amazon, we found these:

Savvy Ice 2 Pack Silicon Sphere Ice Molds

Intrigued, we ordered a pair, and broke them out to give them a try as soon as they arrived. They seemed to be the perfect size for our freezer, and are stackable. The first thing we learned was to ignore the instructions, which tell  you to fill the lower mold with water and then press the upper mold in place. This just made a wet mess. No, we learned it worked really well to go ahead and press the mold halves together (there’s a satisfying click-like feel as the two parts engage) and then fill them with a measuring cup through the little holes. This way you get each ball completely full, with no spillage. Pop them in the freezer, and viola, several hours later we had ice balls!Ice2


It worked so well that we immediately ordered another pair of molds. We’re still experimenting with how long it takes to make a batch of balls, but we’ve started keeping two half-gallon plastic jugs in the freezer, and at least twice a day we can birth a batch of balls and put them in the jugs to stockpile a ready supply of adult beverage coolers.

It’s been said that ice is civilization. Eagle Too is now a most civilized place. 🙂

Typhoid – It’s What’s For Breakfast

Today’s post focuses on one of the less glamorous aspects of embarking on a cruising life—the epidemiology of it all. Now that Rhonda is retired and our breakneck sprint to our departure date has begun, the first item on the agenda was a visit with our family physician to obtain prescriptions for the drugs we wanted to have onboard and discuss the vaccinations we would need. If you’re preparing for extended overseas travel, the Centers for Disease Control has an excellent website that tells you exactly which vaccinations are recommended for the countries you intend to visit. You can find it here:

CDC Travelers’ Health

Plugging in our planned itinerary, it recommended that Rhonda and I receive inoculations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, along with ensuring that our tetanus and measles/mumps/rubella shots were current. Our doctor also advised us to get the Hepatitis B shot as well. The CDC says it’s only recommended for people who may be exchanging bodily fluids with others, and I pointed out to our doctor that that wasn’t really part of the plan. But he replied with, “It doesn’t matter, if you get in an accident and need blood, you can contract Hep B.” Apparently one of his patients had had just that very thing happen on a trip to Egypt.

So the following morning, we found ourselves at the Escambia County Health Department, shirt sleeves rolled up, performing our best impersonations of human pincushions.Shots1 Shots2

It could have been worse. They have a combined Hep A/Hep B vaccine that covers both with a single shot. And Rhonda was current on her tetanus, so she was able to skip that one. When it was time for the typhoid vaccine, they gave us a choice. We could either have a shot, which is good for two years, or an oral vaccine, which is good for five.

“Wait, you mean we can just swallow a pill instead of getting stuck again? Sold!”

The oral vaccine was even $20 cheaper than the shot. The only (minor) downside is that it’s not one pill, it’s four, taken every other day on an empty stomach. Which is why we found ourselves getting up to an alarm at 0700 today to have a typhoid pill and a glass of water for breakfast. And then we went back to bed for an hour, since we’re both retired now and we can do things like that even during the week… 🙂Shots3

Total cost for both of us ran a little under $350, which should be reimbursable as routine preventative care through our health insurance.

It’s a good thing we went when we did. As it turns out, the Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots. The second has to be administered 28 days after the first one, and the third one six months later. Twenty-eight days means our return visit to visit the puncturist  will be on or about March 30th, which is just a couple of days before our planned April 1st departure date (weather dependent, of course). And both our doctor and the clinician said that the third shot isn’t really that important, it’s the first two that build your immunity. So we’ll just get Hep B number 3 sometime later this year or early next year when we’re home for a visit.

Finally, there are a few places in the Caribbean where Yellow Fever is still a concern, and some countries require that you’ve had a vaccination if you’ve visited one of those areas (check the CDC site for more info). Since I’m former US Navy and Rhonda grew up a Navy brat, we’ve both been previously vaccinated for the disease and it’s reflected in our shot records, so that was one less needle we had to endure.Shots4

I sure am glad I married someone as meticulous (no, I did not say anal, stop putting words in my mouth!) about filing and record keeping. I would have lost these records years, probably decades ago!