Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wildlife of the Florida Keys

Well, I had planned to write a stunning post of supreme awesomeness this morning, but I'm afraid it is not to be.  All weather predictions to the contrary, something nasty blew over us last night from the north.  Our lovely awning, which runs the length of the boat and is fastened by a hundred tiny ties, acted as a sail and blew us a few hundred feet before we could get it down and get the anchor to hold.  Morals of the story?  1.  Nothing good comes of being woken in the night.  2.  We always seem about to blow into something in Key West.  3.  I had a good third one, but my brain is fuzzy and I forgot.

The upshot is, I'm going to go easy on the writing today, and instead share pictures of cute and cuddly animals.  Cop-out, hooray!

First, we had dolphins beside us on the sail down from Miami:

We also saw this manatee yesterday in Key West harbour.  He has a long scar on his back, no doubt from a propeller.  People feed the manatees water, which is not only illegal but also a shame: these animals are easily tamed, and thus they come into the path of the aforementioned propellers.  Very bad.  Nonetheless, here is a manatee:

I also saw a nurse shark go by just before seeing the manatee:

And there we go!  Amy's animal round-up.  I'll do better next time, pinkie swear.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This is not my boat

One thing I've noticed about Florida, it is full of motor boats.  Little fishing boats, condo-like trawlers, Bond Villain speeders and floating palaces.  There are sailboats, to be sure, but we are severely outnumbered.

During our endless stay in Dania Beach, we passed by Paul Allen's boat, Tatoosh, a number of times.  You will not be surprised to hear that Tatoosh is somewhat fancier than Papillon.

Now, think back to your childhood.  Do you remember those pictures with the hidden objects?  "Find eleven hidden objects in this picture of an apple orchard."  Remember?  Good.  Let's play Hidden Objects with Tatoosh.

Did you find them all?  Let me help you out.

That's right.  Tatoosh has two extra motorboats, a big sailboat and a helicopter perched on top.  The mind boggles.  I cannot speculate as to why one would need these spare vehicles aboard one's floating city block.  Maybe Mr Allen likes to organize races amongst the crew.  Maybe they are even death matches. I can see it: the crew goes about their days in a state of tension, because the moment the big man gives three harsh blasts on his whistle, you'd better scramble into something, anything, because getting left behind means getting ritually maimed then thrown to the sharks.  Then it's down into the water or up into the sky, the navigator ripping open the sealed rally packet of gps waypoints, praying to win, because that means one less night in the hole...

Okay, that probably doesn't really happen.  But I also speculate that Mr Allen never has to clean Cheerios out of the cockpit floor or remove Barbie shoes from the bilge.  And I stand by that assertion.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Eat Onboard

Step 1:  If you want to eat it, first you have to catch it.
Reel her in, boys!
Step 2:  Pause to look triumphant.
Behold the majestic skipjack tuna
Step 3:  Butcher on the leeward side of the boat, preferably in a contained area.  Trust me on this.
Don't be so squeamish - it's just fish blood.
 Step 4:  Post gratuitous viscera shot.
Totally unnecessary.
Step 5:  Cut that baby up into steaks before the sun gets ahead of you.
Butchering is part of our first grade curriculum
Step 6:  Be sure to wear disposable nitrile laboratory gloves for maximum nerdy effect.
I heart science
Step 7:  Notice your steaks are nicely divided into quadrants.  This is a key feature for the bone-removing-challenged among us.
Step 7:  Pause for critical Adorable Offspring Break.
Stylish and Indy want fish!
Step 8:  Grill outdoors, unless you want to live with the smell for the next month.
Photo by Stylish
Step 9:  Enjoy!
Thank you, Mr Skipjack!

Friday, March 4, 2011

In which Erik's true heritage is revealed

Here is Erik.  He is a handsome young man of German extraction.
Don't doubt me and my winning smile!

...or is he?  Behold, Scottish Daddy!

Aye laddie!  Busted!
All of these trips to the Fatherland, all of these so-called relatives.  Learning German.  Pah.  A ruse to deny his kilt-wearing ancestry.  The good people at DK First Atlas have shown us the truth!

Still don't believe me?  Well, check out this side-by-side comparison, oh ye doubters!

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?

 My head is spinning.  Is it this one?  Or that one?  This?  That?  And what other falsehoods await exposure in our children's reference books?  I'll be sleeping with one eye open, friends.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

No, really?

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that we haven't moved in a while.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we've been fixing things here on Papillon.  A lot of things.  Many, many things.

But eventually the day came when I'd handed over the final cheque to the final contractor.  Erik and I rubbed our hands together and said "Let's get out of here!"  Time to head to the Keys, or Cuba, or Mexico, or anywhere we could drop anchor and swim every day.

So, we left.  La de da de dah!  There were were, sailing off Miami, when our brand-new autopilot broke.  I took the wheel, and Erik started troubleshooting.  Cords, computers, wires here and there.  Eventually we had to admit defeat.  We heaved a sigh, turned Papillon around and headed back to Dania Beach.

While our electrician was trying to figure out what had gone wrong (including a fix that almost had Johnny Depp's old autopilot computer come aboard), our freshwater pump broke.  Again.  And then the inverter starting acting up.  Again.

We sent the autopilot back to South Carolina.  We replaced the pump.  We gave the inverter pointed looks, and reminded it what happened to its old friend Junked Autopilot.  And everything was happy again.

Until the next morning.  When the new pump broke.  The inverter stopped inverting.  And the fixed autopilot died, too.

Every.  Day.  For a week now.

Every night Erik and I give each other the thumbs up.  Things are on the mend!  We're almost there!  Yahoodellyhoo!  And every morning: the pump whines and shuts down, and up come the floorboards again, before I have even had a cup of tea.

The water pump issue looks to be related to the water we took on in Bimini.  Or, should I say, the vast quantities of sand and shells in the water.  Yep, they gummed up the works somethin' awful.  Erik and I spent a delightful afternoon opening the water tanks and filtering the contents through an old t-shirt.  There were also accumulator tank/hot water/backflow issues that have been solved.  I know a whole lot about water lines that I didn't before (and wish I didn't now).  But I think we have skinned this cat.

Old Auto, as mentioned, was kicked to the curb.  We now have a shiny new model which we are going to test out tomorrow.  This apparently involves going out in open water and turning in a circle.  Really.  All this means to me is that maybe, if we're lucky, we can get a new berth when we get back.  F dock is bug central, and I've had enough of looking like I have the measles.

But the true issue, the dark and looming problem, is the inverter.  Technically speaking, the inverter tosses power around the boat, keeping the batteries charged and outlets working and everything in balance with the Force.  Sadly, our F07 and F08 errors suggest that something ugly is hiding in our walls, electrically speaking, and while the problem may turn out to be small, it may take a while to find.  Hopefully, once we do locate it, it will be quick to fix.

And then... then, we are going to find a nice place to anchor, and rest, and swim, and rest some more.