Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Time and Maintenance

Several land based projects are standing in the way of any cruising plans this year, but it does look like we'll be moving aboard soon. We're renovating our home in Jupiter and having lived amidst that before - we'll not do it again. Our new home port, The Bluffs Marina, is just a couple of miles down US 1 so the boat will be the perfect base of operations. The Bluffs is as good a hurricane hole as can be found in these parts, however we're hoping that's a non issue.

With time on our hands, we'll take advantage of it and do some needed maintenance.
This weekend we motored down to the new Seahaven Superyacht Marina in Dania Beach. From there we just eased across the Dania Cutoff Canal to Playboy Marine Center where we've hauled out to paint the bottom. There will be new transducers to replace the old, and other things that can only be done while out of the water.
Craig at Hogan Marine Systems in Ft Lauderdale will be busy for a week or so.

There's something to be said for sitting out a year and making the time to catch up on projects.
When all this is done Istaboa will be looking better, inside and out, than she has in years.

Cheers -

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Real Time & Recollections

I finally got around to updating the "About Istaboa" section of this blog. Istaboa's new interior inspired me to take a few photos and pictures often trigger an itch that only writing about them can scratch. I guess every picture does tell a story.

This is the final installment of a multi-part section that covers finding N57-26 back in 2006 and the years aboard Istaboa that have led up to now.
For those into 57s, there's a lot about N57s in general and Istaboa in particular — See the column to your left.

Real Time

10 Years After

It's now 2020: The economy is booming, everything's great, —however— the boats are getting bigger and the docks are packed with them. Many of our favorite marinas have been bought out by large corporations, gutted of their personalities, and it seems a knowledgeable dock staff is a relic from days gone by. Due to this current illusion of prosperity, the boat fixers are busy, most are arrogant, and they're all elusive. 

I'm getting older (and grumpier) and time is flying by, but it seems things have changed dramatically in just a short time —Flashback to 2014
I guess we miss the easygoing days of the plain old "good" economy, however... we tentatively adjust.

Still — life's good.

Now a decade since moving aboard and putting Tennessee behind us; almost 20 years since we first started traveling about in boats, Mel and I have covered a lot of water. And in all that time, at least one thing has become apparent, our boating lifestyle is never glamorous and rarely exciting, but it is the life we chose and for the most part it's exactly what we dreamed it would be  — probably in our DNA, but for sure our life aboard is not just a line item on a list of things to do before we can't.

Like us, our boating habits have matured, as has our boat. No longer full time liveaboards, we have a home in Jupiter, FL. (Mel and I finally asked the question, "wanna live here?", one time too many.) We love our little beach house and the simple life there we share with our dogs, nevertheless 90% of our time is devoted to boats/marinas, and still, 3 to 6 months a year is spent aboard.

Georgetown, SC
Our M-O

For us, and I'm not promoting our lifestyle as the boat life everyone should subscribe too, but — for us —  a good boat trip is to comfortably motor around till we stumble on an out of the way place that's interesting but not too crowded, then slowly blend in and make it home for a while.
That's the beauty of this boating thing: home is where the boat is.

Last year we spent 6 weeks in little Georgetown, SC and had quite a nice time, however, I don't think we would've felt that way 10 years ago. Georgetown's a very calm and tranquil little harbor town — at this point in our life, tranquility's a blast.


The Abacos
Years ago, The Abacos, Elbow Cay specifically, was home for a while. We once tied up at Sea Spray Marina thinking we'd stay a few days and 2 months later we left.
That year the late spring winds, as they often do, blew hard and incessantly into the summer months. The weather kept us tethered to the dock, however that didn't stop us from making the best of the situation.
Mel and I made lasting friendships during that long blow that have stood the test of time and in retrospect, if it weren't for those unfavorable conditions, none of us would've ever taken the time to get to know each other.
During that, "Whisky Wind" (as Junior Maynard, the Dock Master, called it), no matter what kind of boat you owned or what your socioeconomic status was, we all played a part in each other's good time: everyone dressed similarly, ate the same food, drank the same booze; we were all trapped in paradise together, and life was good..

Every Saturday night was a Junkanoo and a big celebration.
Every Sunday morning was breakfast with Brenda's Bloodies providing post party pain relief.

The Exumas

We once lived at Compass Cay in the Exumas. for a while. Life around the Pipe Creek area was simply special, and after some time we were welcomed to be honorary members of the Rolle family: an honor we're very proud of.
About two months into that stay, our stores of food and drink were depleted and we learned to get by as the out-island folk do. Departing friends and boaters would generously leave us their unused provisions, weather permitting and if the mail boat showed, we'd make runs to Staniel Cay where the Blue Store or the Pink Store might have some vegetables, and on a regular basis the local boys would bring us fresh fish.
Tucker taught me how to waste not, "Clean da head, don't tro it away, dat's da best part", he'd say. Tuck was right, fresh fish head, eyeballs and all, made an excellent stew. (I'd eat the eyeballs, but just for effect... they really have no taste)
Following a nice Bahamian lady's instructions, a few onions, potatoes, lady peppers, Bahamian thyme, a big clean Grouper head, thrown together and slow cooked in a big pot fed us all for 3 days. Spider crab, lobster, conch - as soon it was known we would cook, things just showed up on the boat and became dinner for those who wanted it. Tings to do wit fish

Maybe it was the overwhelming expanse of blueness, possibly the absence of complication, probably the combination of all that and more, nevertheless that long stay really was mind altering and forever changed my perspective. This is when we first experienced the zen of being  -or- How to exist in the Exumas and not lose your grip on reality.  It took a while, but eventually we settled into island think. Need food? Go fish, or conch: Don't worry about the small things, never get excited, find some shade with a good breeze, and in between naps, watch the tide roll in and out, and the tour boats come and go.
Kicking back in one of the ragged lounge chairs scattered around the shade of the Compass office overhang, it was amusing watching the many big charter yachts running pell-mell up and down the Exuma chain. Their crews were always busy picking up or dropping off charters at Staniel Cay then anchoring at Big Majors where their guests would take selfies with the pigs then, as they turned to walk away, have one of those cute pigs bite them on the ass.

In the mean time, back in the shade, (and disrupting my naps, I might add), the ancient VHF radio would be constantly crackling, "Compass Cay, Compass Cay"  and if Jamal answered, the yacht Caps would chat him up in hopes of scoring a slip and shelter from the impending storms.

There was good work done. We brought communications to places where there was none. Those projects took much longer than they would have in the states, but no one cared. Soon it becomes apparent, the aim of Exuma life is to make the best of the moment. You "be".

We'd take our little Albury to visit the other islands and do what shopping we could, and soon, Mel and I became acquainted with some remarkable and eccentric private island dwellers. They too were happy to have fresh company to get to know.

The Pickle Barrel Houses on Wild Tamarind Cay

Running up and down Pipe Creek everyday was like living in a dream. Sometimes I'd just stop the Albury, look in all directions, and take in the view, absorbing every shade of blue imaginable. Not a day went by without thinking how lucky we were to be experiencing all of this, and being part of it.
Like backstage passes to paradise.

Late summer, sans tourist, the place is really amazing.


As evidenced by the video below, Compass can become very crowded during season - gentrification strikes again - still a beautiful place, though.

Cat Stevens - Longer Boats
Longer boats are coming to win us
They're coming to win us, they're coming to win us
Longer boats are coming to win us
Hold on to the shore, they'll be taking the key from the door

All of this became the norm and soon I grew confident running the Albury around the little-known routes through the rocks and shallows; understanding which run to take at different tide levels, almost as good as the natives. Every rocky point, every shoal, the water color, it all means something. Like obscure road signs, you'd better pay attention to the details or you'd quickly end up on a coral head, high and dry, or worse.

Hurricane Sandy - Over Yonder Cay

This was a magical time for us, however the spell was broken by September and the peak of hurricane season. It became apparent that it was time for us to move on and we left just days before Hurricane Sandy blew hard across the Exuma chain.

Yes, that four months was an amazing experience and we still like to return "home" and fall back into Compass life on occasion. We understand and respect; it's not our world, it's there's, and we're thankful the Rolles share it with us.

We'll not wear out our welcome.

The Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake still holds a certain charm and we'll often bump around up there during hurricane season. Annapolis is our favorite city, Solomons and the Herringtons are our favorite hangs, but many of the historic, boaty little towns are cool.  

A bit like the panhandle of Florida, the food is simple and good. Think local crabs and oysters prepared so many ways.

We really like being around the folks on the Chesapeake. For the most part, they're an authentic live and let live, good natured bunch; they love the Bay and everything about it. We've made many memorable acquaintances and some great friends there over the years; we always enjoy going back.

Wherever we go - there we are

We feel fortunate to be able to take our time, keep plans open-ended, and become up close and personal with the many marinas in the many harbors along our way. From Tennessee to Nassau, too many places to list, we've made ourselves at home. In all our travels there's one thing we've always found to be true: *No matter where you go, there you are. (*credit either Confucius or Buckaroo Banzai)

If one has a curious eye and takes the time to look around, there's almost always something unique and compelling to be found. (almost)
Maybe a funky little restaurant that serves up the best shrimp and grits, like the Beaufort Cafe, the familiar comforts of Brunswick, GA, sometimes it's just simple naturalness and the transcendental "being" thing happens, think Compass Cay. It can be as contrasting as the helter-skelter of an urban harbor like Nassau or the stillness of the Sassafras River, it really doesn't matter where you are, if you're experiencing life from a boat, it's probably pretty good.
"And remember, no matter where you go, there you are."

We also love this verse from "The Boxer" — we too look for those places.
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know
Lie, la lie

So now we've become seasoned boaters, which is a kind way of saying we're getting older, (which is a kind way of saying we're approaching old AF) and the days of ambitious boat trips may be winding down for us. Never say never, though we're quite content bumping around familiar places.

So with all that said, I'll sum it up with this mental image...

At the end of a long day, there are few things more comfortable than following an old track line into a peaceful harbor and tying up in the sunset.

That's pleasure boating

Now hold on to that mental image and press play below

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Springtime For Elvis

April: For a dose of reality, it's good for us to leave the beach, the manicured seaside estates with palm trees swaying in the balmy sea breezes, and make the grueling 1000 mile drive up to funky old Memphis for some much needed contrast —and, to see what our old home town is up to.

We were pleased to find our neighborhood booming with cool new developments that have been squeezed into the renovated old buildings. The, circa 1909, Brewery next door has been transformed into luxury apartments and the old train station will soon be an upscale boutique hotel. An eclectic mix of restaurants are popping up everywhere and they appear to be busy, business is good. The area is thriving with young folks zipping around on those annoying little electric scooters and the trolley cars are running again. Yep, it seems like Downtown Memphis is finally enjoying a long awaited resurgence.

Springtime is the best time in Memphis

Springtime means Azaleas and Dogwoods are blooming everywhere you look and the locals are happily leaving their unpleasant inclinations indoors as they come outside with smiling faces and warm neighborly attitudes. I guess everyone's been held hostage by winter's grip and finally, spring awards them with a deserved respite from the cold, damp, river winds downtown Memphis has endured for months.

April is the month for local festivals before the massive Memphis in May International Festival cranks up and downtown is inundated with hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Our local fav is the Crawfish Fest - we can't seem to find Crawfish in Jupiter or anywhere along the east coast, but in Memphis, in April, they're everywhere, every weekend.

Loflin Yard, one of our favorite bars, is an indoor/outdoor watering hole that's the backyard for the many downtown urbanites who have no yards. Folks bring the kids, their dogs, the whole family and enjoy. Shade to chill in the summer and fire pits to sit around when it's cold.
Good music and good food = good times.

As we always do, we've enjoyed our stay. Hanging with our oldest friends and walking through the authentic funkiness that Memphis has an abundance of brings back the whole spectrum of memories — however, with some regret, we're sad to say, it's about time to pack up and bid adieu.
It's time head back to Jupiter.

There's a boat trip in our future.

Adios, Bluff City — See y'all in the Fall

Friday, February 22, 2019

Picking It Back Up

Nope — haven't written anything in a while, haven't taken any pics to speak of either, however, we've made the best of our time. Christmas in Jupiter was great; much better weather than Christmas in Memphis,  and it was cool hangin' out on the boat up in Georgia. Mel's been hankering for some fall weather and Brunswick/St Simons did serve that up from time to time.

St Simons Sound Sunset

We rode out the thankfully benign hurricane season at Brunswick Landing then moved over to St Simons Island and Morningstar Marina for their view and breeze. We like spending time in Glynn County, the local culture is comfortable and the local restaurants are good— especially after Labor Day.

Maggie Mae's downtown Brunswick serves a blue-ribbon country style breakfast and the service is sincerely old school southern. Fox's Pizza is good too, but never pass up Willy's Wee-Nee Wagon and their Pork Chop Sandwich. It's in the hood which gives it authenticity and street cred. (Some cruisers we spoke with scoffed at Willy's but if you're into geniune cultural experiences, you've got to go to Willy's Wee-Nee Wagon.) Out on the island is Southern Soul BBQ and it's truly fine. At the marina is Coastal Kitchen serving their version of Shrimp and Grits. The Half Shell, Halyards, Barbara Jeans, and Benny's Red Barn - All Good!
Though it's 350 miles up the boring and sometimes treacherous I-95, we made the trip several times a month to check on the boat and boater buddies. It was a nice break from S Florida's summer heat.

We took advantage of our time in Brunswick/St Simons and made a few interior changes. Nothing major but the slight update made a surprising difference.

The ladies at Overall Upholstery on the island did a good job of recovering our Salon bar stools.

We considered home-porting Istaboa at Morningstar Marina, and she will probably soon return, but several maintenance jobs are needed and it's great place to stay if we decide to take on the house project in Jupiter, so we picked a good day and started the milk run back south.

Last year on our trip north we ran outside in the ocean. This year on the way back down we took the slower more complicated route and stopped at several marinas to take care of a little business. A layover in St Augustine followed by a short run and a few days stay at Palm Coast Marina. (We really like little Palm Coast Marina, Rosey, the Harbormaster, is a kind person and a pleasure to be around. We watched the NFL playoffs there.)

Then with the purpose of finding warmer weather we pushed rather quickly to Daytona and Cocoa Village.
Leaving Cocoa was somewhat exciting. As was predicted, a nasty weather front was pushing through and in the blink of an eye a nice day turned into a raging storm.
Off to the west we watched the blow heading our way with a vengeance, soon dark skies covered us and blacked out all sunlight, the wind was crazy, and it was raining sideways; on board, our instruments were indicating gusts of 50+. Luckily we were in a wide area of the ICW and our electronics were working as they should — for an hour or so we couldn't see much more than the bow of the boat but with an eye on the radar and chartplotter we slowly followed our old track lines. Then as quickly as it started, the storm passed and the sun came back out, though the harsh northwest wind remained all day.
Next up was Harbour Isle Marina - Ft Pierce, a quick bite at Chucks Seafood, and the following morning we cast off for home, Old Port Cove.
All in all, a nice, comfortable little run. Istaboa seemed to enjoy it, she hummed along, never missing a beat. It was a pleasure to be aboard, cocooned in her warm dry wheelhouse, during the bad weather we encountered leaving Cocoa Village. She heeled a bit during the big gusts but nothing more.

So now we're home, Istaboa's tied up at OPC, we're diggin' the Jupiter weather, happy, and as far as we know, healthy.

Boat Projects
A new venturi windshield, new lifelines, new dock lines, and a new spare anchor rode hatch. I feel carpet will be replaced soon and there's a bottom job in our future.
Over the years, we've found that Istaboa treats us like we treat her - She's been kind to us so we reciprocate.

Good Music
On long beach walks, a favorite diversion, this guy has been in my ears lately. Michael Franti. Very positive, very kind, a good mash-up of reggae/jazz/funk/folk and hip-hop.
Feel good music with a cause.

Cut from Wikipedia
Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock. He is also an outspoken supporter for a wide spectrum of peace and social justice issues.

Worth a listen

So what's next for Crew Istaboa? We're not sure yet... surprised? After finishing a couple more boat projects, we sense a good stiff boat trip is in our future. In the meantime though... we're content.

Good beach, good music, good food, life's good.