Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waltzing Matilda arrived on Monday.

It's been quite a change from surviving off the sea and having the moon & tide as my most dominant timepiece, once one hears the siren of the sea her call is constant. I've been four months away from her, Waltzing Matilda arrived on Monday. Mr Yazzettie, my 1st mate and comrade in insanity who assisted in the first restoration as well as navigation duties, original sailing instruction, scared skipper encouragement and all around damn good hand to have aboard towed a trailer from NW Arkansas to Casa Valencia, Islamorada. The first time we pulled her out of the water the trailer had never held her, this was a similar situation but at least this time is wasn't 40F outside.

While she was at the dock a small leak went untended, since the automatic switch in the bilge pump didn't exist she took on water, just a bit of water, every day, for four months. Luckily it was not enough water to sink her and the stain is only 4” above the floor boards, just high enough to soak my cold weather gear half of my tools and all of the dry food stuffs. She sat about 4” lower in the water too so she has an ugly stain around her hull, currently Waltzing Matilda smells worse than the dog.

I was not on this tow from Islamorada to NILA, but it sounds like Yazzettie had quite the adventure, and I now know how much she weighs! (about 30% more than the trailer should hold). Yazzettie suffered minor mechanical difficulties and a bit of fatigue but just after dark on Monday, Waltzing Matilda was parked in my driveway. Even on a trailer she looks so grand. I made sure that Yazz ate a good local po'boy, I even let him taste my gumbo-n-mashed taters. I got some rum and with the green coconuts that came with Matilda we had a dandy time hauling stinking anchors and gear out of his truck.

There is plenty of painting and haul out work to be done, after all she was in the water for all but 24 hours of two years. The adventures are on pause, perhaps Matilda has had her last grand adventure and will be a daysailer for the rest of her life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The end of a chapter

EDIT: there is one more chapter coming, moving Waltzing Matilda to her new home, look for and adventure coming in November.

After almost two years vagabonding in a day sailer I've taken a great job in New Iberia Louisiana, I am writing this as my final dispatch in the tales of Waltzing Matilda. I set out with many goals when I sailed from Ft Smith, AR, I've achieved most of those except for making the Great Loop, not every goal has to be met on the first voyage, I still had a great adventure. I have taken Waltzing Matilda far beyond what she was designed to do and learned a huge amount about myself, about the sea, about weather and about people.

I couldn't sail Waltzing Matilda to her new home, neither she nor I were prepared for a 700 mile open water voyage. I had to leave her behind at a safe dock until I can ship her to my new location. It will be close enough to the gulf for me to get out for an occasional day sail and the marina's are much cheaper here than in the Keys. Waltzing Matilda needs to be hauled out and have her hull repainted, lots of other things too, I need a break and a larger boat, I met some wonderful people in Louisiana and have wanted to live here since I first traveled through.

So I am shore based, the noise of cars driving by wakes me up at night, the kids all like the bumping bass stereos and the resonates the floor of the little house I am in, I don't care for the street lights. Last night a friend took me to a zydeco dance out on the Atchafalaya basin, neat little bar in the middle of nowhere with muddy pick-up trucks all around. I saw several houseboats moored there and that was enough to cement my decision to build a house boat. I have to be on the water and in this area houseboat makes sense, plus it will get me away from the BOOM BOOM BOOOOOOOMM BABBA BOOM of these kids cars.

You kids, get off my lawn!

Thanks to all of you, my dear readers, for your comments and support on this grand voyage, please take a moment to make a comment on this post.

Edit: thank you for the kudos, especially the anon visitors, I had no idea so many followed. I've just re-read the posts and am amazed at the change in my writing, to sum it up.... condense, it makes a better read. view all the photos

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Waltzing Matilda don't do fast

I recently had a crew on-board Waltzing Matilda, a crew that could actually assist with deck duties instead of just laying around and pooping on the bow, this crew didn't poop on the bow and were much better conversion. A lady and two girls from Arkansas came to the keys for 18 days, we spent the first week and a half playing around at Casa Valenecia in Islamorada. We went snorkeling out on the Atlantic side, played with a friendly manatee that swam up the canal and spent make hours lounging in the air conditioning. Capt. Steve took us all out on his fast boat and made sure that we had a good time, he really enjoyed himself spoiling the girls.

After we pulled everything out of Waltzing Matilda and cleaned her insides we loaded up and headed out for Miami. Our first stop was in Tavernier near the Winn Dixie to get food stuffs, we dropped hook in Community Harbor and got our shopping done. The local bilge rats were quite happy to see a boat full of cute girls show up in the harbor, so excited that they showed up early in the morning with a dink full of beers and showed off their belly flopping skills. We left at noon and sailed to the Jew Fish Creek area where US Hwy 1 crosses from the keys to the main land. After anchoring overnight we headed up into Biscayne Bay,We had to do several hat overboard drills until finally one crew member was ordered tie her hat to her head, she never dropped another one overboard. I felt completely safe and comfortable but was cautious to follow the channel carefully and make the trip as smooth as possible, once the crew got used to sailing we heeled the boat over and made 7kts for a while. by this time every one on board had taken a turn on the tiller and I could actually relax and not man the helm, all the crew knew how to tack and the girls got very good at rope handling and tacking. We had a wonderful day sailing, we got becalmed right on schedule(14:00) and much swimming was done, with little breeze we played “shark bait” and the crew was able to feel how fast we were still moving. Darkness fell as we dropped the anchor near some other boats just outside of Miami, it really is a beautiful city from 5 miles across the bay, the electric jungle back light by the sunset was a grand sight but very hard to photograph

The next morning the girls were extremely excited to see the city in the sunrise and after a fast breakfast we motored Waltzing Matilda into the south channel of Government Cut, the industrial port side of the channel. We waltzed right along side huge moored ships looking up over 100' to the tops of the container stacks, it was pretty cool to see. There were 4 cruise ships loading tourists on the north channel but I would rather see the container ships unloading, the girls thought it was really cool and I think Lady took several pictures of the big cranes and ships..

We headed out to sea through Gov. Cut and turned hard North just after we cleared the jetty, we got as close to the swim area markers on the beach and anchored in 15' of water. The girls had cabin fever and were excited to see a place with more boys than buoys as buoys were boring by then. I told them to grab their towels and get to the beach, the girls both got my single man kayak and raced to shore. It was much easier to get everything prepared for a day at the beach with half as many people in the tiny cabin.

I got the dinghy ready while Lady was getting lunch, sunscreen hats and the usual mom stuff. The dinghy is a really good loaner but one of the oars is really crappy and there are no oarlocks, actually the crappy oar is just a mop handle, and no oarlocks. I rigged some simple rope oarlocks and loaded the lady and the dog aboard hoping to be able to control this little thing through a light surf, we didn't flip but we shipped plenty of water and slightly bent the mop handle. We flipped the dink on it's side on the shore with the wooden oar as a brace made a lean-to with a grass mat floor and towels to sit on, it was a great little hut and the day flew by. The girls had a blast playing on a beach for the first time, finding tiny shells and surfing the kayak in the 1 foot breakers.

After playing on the beach all day we found a really cool anchorage near a spoil island, we dropped hook about 50 yards off the island in 6' of water about 300 yards out of the ICW in a no wake zone in the dark. We were in the lee of the island and aside from a loud late night partier on the beach and the constant sound of jets leaving MIA it was peaceful enough to sleep, best of all there were no mosquitoes. The next day I was able to tie Waltzing Matilda up Tahiti style, stern to shore, with an anchor out and wade to the beach. I walked the shore line and found a spot on the beach where I could get Waltzing Matilda about 6' from the shore and still be floating at low tide, we used the dink as a gangplank and stepped from the deck to the shore. We spent the better part of the next two days camping on the spoil island, there was a family on a power boat that had set up tents on one part and they had kids the same ages as the ones on our crew.

The time in Miami was fun but extremely expensive, it a very modern downtown with canals and drawbridges, light rail on rubber wheels running on concrete paths overhead as well as heavier elevated trains similar to the kinds seen in Chicago and New York City. I was able to take Lady and the girls all the way up the Miami River, through a narrow industrial port to a tiny swing bridge. Many thanks to [company link needed] marine supply shop that was kind enough to let us unload the passengers on their dock. It was a great store and the staff had just made stout Cuban coffees, the manager of the store was kind enough to give them a ride to the airport. I headed down the river back to the bay after they went on their way happy that I had been able to get them safely through vacation and they had a great time.

I anchored out near a bridge and at dawn headed South under sail only firing the motor to clear the two bridges and headed south hoping to make Jew Fish Creek before dark. It was a wonderful day for sailing and running the inside channel into the keys is always so much fun with an east wind. I was making good time and it looked as though I was going to make my target anchorage a bit early. The wind picked up and began gusting as I entered Barne's Sound, I should have reduced sail but I was trying to go as fast as I could. Waltzing Matilda don't do fast, feet on the tiller sitting downwind side of the heel and dipping my lee rail in the water, I had her over steeply in a big gust pushing the tiller hard trying to keep her in a fast line when POW SNAP ….. the rudder ripped free, the pins holding the tiller into the rudder kept the assembly attached to the boat. I didn't hit anything, I put too much pressure too many times on fatigued metal and it finally gave up. I ran forward to drop my big head sail as Waltzing Matilda hove to in a hurry, while I was forward I heard another POP SNAP as the goose-neck broke free and the boom sheared off the mast causing the main sail to sag. Waltzing Matilda is not easy to control without a rudder, fortunately I had the wooden oar from the borrowed dink, it didn't work well but I could make her sail under a head sail. I got her as close to the channel as I could and with the wind and the tide drifted her into the channel before another boat came along, I hailed the passing power boat and they towed me into Jew Fish creek to a shallow spot where I could stand on the bottom and work on her. The guy who towed me was a former Tow Boat US Capitan and knew the area very well and knew how to tow a sailboat. He had me tie a 5 gallon bucket to a rope and tow it off the center of my stern to keep Waltzing Matilda from fishtailing under tow, it worked wonderfully and he was a really nice man.

On Saturday I was able to rig up a fix to get the rudder operational, at least enough to get to Islamorada, as long as I wasn't too rough on her. By the time I got it rigged it was mid afternoon and traffic had increased on the ICW, traffic had also increased on the beach and I decided to relax on deck with a book and binoculars. It was a good thing that I had binoculars, aside from the fact that there was a beach full of pretty girls across the ICW, I was able to ID the skipper of the boat that crashed into the anchored sailboat. Later that evening I found the owner of the impacted sailboat and gave him my name an number to be a witness.

I headed out on the ICW at dawn the next day and didn't have to fire the motor until about 10:30 when I turned around to help another small sailboat that strayed out of the channel and ran aground, they were really nice folks and having been towed by a stranger recently I felt that I needed to make a deposit in the black box. I cruised with a nice tailwind and as the winds began to die I decided to run my spinnaker. Those that have been following my tales may recognize that when ever I mention the spinnaker it's often preface of bad things happening, this one wasn't too bad just stupid, I think I am getting the knack of single handling a spinnaker sail. This time I got cocky and figured I was running fast and could beat the falling tide over a shallow grassy spot that showed 3' on my charts. Waltzing Matilda don't do fast, just like two days before when I tried to sail too fast she reminded me of that rule. It was two hours before low tide when I ran aground, it was just grass and mud but due to the sail pattern I had up we were not heeled at all, the rudder wasn't in the mud but the bow was buried into a bank in water so shallow that the water only came up to my knees at the bow. I spent the day tinkering with the Blackberry that was given to me and cooking good meals since there was no movement. FWC stopped by to ask me about the accident but couldn't get close enough due to the low tide, he asked me if I wanted to call for a tow and told him I would just float off at high tide. I did finally get her free 30 min before high tide.

I made it back to Islamorada and anchored in my favorite spot, called a friend to see if I could get a shower and paddled to another sailor's boat to say hello. I'll be anchored out here for a few days then I might be sailing about again, but I have to fix my rudder (again). Where am I headed next? The whether will determine that but wherever it is, Waltzing Matilda don't do fast.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer time, and the livin' is HOT!

After traversing the Mississippi River in the coldest of winters I promised myself I would never again complain about the heat , so I am not complaining, but I will say .... it HOT.... really hot. So hot the water is hot, the dock burns my feet, it gets up to 90 degrees sometimes. I know those readers living in other climates are thinking to themselves "I wish it was only 90 around here", but this ain't there, this is the Keys, it's supposed to be sunny and cool in the summer too.

Some Arkie friends are visiting for the next few days, they have never been to the ocean before and got a chance to stay with me for a bit, the owner of the house is really enjoying their company and insists on spoiling them. This gave me an excuse to pull everything out of the boat and clean her throughly, it's the first time since Oct 2009 that she has been this clean, I also slapped a coat of fresh paint on her so she looks sharp. There have been lots of firsts for my guests, first time on an airplane for one, first time at the ocean for two and first time sailing for all three of them. The shake down sail on Waltzing Matilda was more of an exercise in ghosting in 5kt wind, but that is better than taking them out during high wind and bouncy seas. Today they got to see their first manatee, a young manatee with no screw marks on it's back swam up the canal and hung around for a while, we took photos and swam with the creature in the canal. It was a first for me, the first time I have swam near a wild manatee. Such docile and playful creatures, I would dive and roll over, it would dive and roll over, it was curious about me, one of the girls swam above it and petted it for a bit then hung on while it took her for a ride around the canal. I think the manatees are very empathic, it knew we meant it no harm and was completely at ease with humans touching it and playing with it, and unlike fish and sharks the warm blooded eyes look warm and friendly.

It was good to take Waltzing Matilda out for a sail, Ive been on power boats too much lately, I miss the simplicity and peace of cruising slowly along with no worries. I hope there are no big storms coming here, I don't want to worry, but I do have a hurricane plan.

till next time dear readers,
Nate and Mattie

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bobby and Whitey in the Forbidden City Part 2

Ahoy again dear readers, here is the conclusion to the tales woven by Bobby and transcribed by Nathan, again I encourage you to not assume the two sailors are the same and enjoy the tales for what they are, a work of fiction told by a drunken sailor over the course of two days.

My notes were fair and now I believe this tale is complete, next month we will return to the regular story of Nathan and Mattie on Waltzing Matilda, till then enjoy

Here's some pretty pictures
Bobby and Whitey in the Forbidden City, Part 2

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bobby and Whitey Visit the Forbidden City

Ahoy hoy my dear readers! I have a tale worth telling but it is not proper to tell said tale on the side of this whale.Due to Waltzing Matilda not being involved I have posted it elsewhere and invite you to come live vicariously through the Adventures of Bobby and Whitey

Here's some pretty pictures

The Adventures of Bobby and Whitey

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back in the Keys

I left Morgan's Bluff early Thursday morning and headed North to the channel across the shallow bank, I could see a squall building above Lowe's Sound and hoped I could outrun it. The wind was from the East at about 10kts and the thunderhead was to the West, as the top of the clouds came over the sea and shaded Waltzing Matilda I thought about reefing my mainsail, just in case. the "rule for reefing" states "If you think you might need to reef soon, do it now". Never being too good with rules I decided I could outrun the squall since it seemed to be hovering over the island and not able to push out to sea, as I sat pondering this decision the clouds opened up for just a second to reveal the biggest water spout I have ever seen about 5 miles behind my lee side, but I still didn't reef. My gamble paid off and I was able to get a good deal North of the thunder head, as I turned West the winds picked up to about 15kts and I launched my spinnaker at about 13:00. I didn't drop the spinnaker until 22:00 when I turned to the South-West. I got my tiller lashed in a good position and laid down to sleep. I wasn't too worried about anyone being out where I was sailing and there wasn't anything to hit for many miles in every direction, before the moon rose the stars reached all the way to the horizon, there was no light pollution to diminish the view.

I sailed all night and day Friday and most of the day Saturday, around 15:00 Saturday afternoon I reached a place named "Castle Rock" and decided it was a good place to take Mattie for a walk as well and sleep on the anchor before I ventured out into the gulf stream. Castle Rock is a series of coral rocks that poke up out of the water marking the edge of the gulf stream, the one I landed was so small that I could stroll around it in about 10 minuets. The charts listed the terrain as bushes, there wasn't anything grown taller than 4 feet but the bushes were very thick and there were thousands of brooding seagulls nested there. Never one to miss an opportunity for an easy meal I set about collecting gull eggs from the bushes. The seagulls weren't too fond of my intrusion and would either run from the nest dragging a wing or stubbornly sit there and bite me when I picked them up, turns out that seagulls can break the skin when they bite. I collected 18 eggs and got 3 minor cuts on the backs of my hands, when I got back to Waltzing Matilda I heated up the skilled and made some scramble gulls eggs with pancakes. Seagull eggs taste a bit fishy and don't need to be salted, several of the eggs contained embryos so the fish around my boat got a nice treat too.

I slept from sunset till 02:00 and after a cup of coffee hoisted sail and continued on bearing 240° in 10kts of wind, I reached the Eastern edge of the gulf stream at 10:00 and turned to 330° as the wind picked up to 15kts gusting occasionally, I had a nice beam reach and a fast current under me, I flew North at 7kts, at one point my GPS showed 9kts! About 13:00 the winds died completely and the sea flattened out, I dropped to 4kts (the same speed as the current) and decided that I'd rather fire the motor than try to make an unknown entrance in the dark. I motor sailed the last few miles, at 15:00 the skyline of Miami came into view, by 18:00 I was in Biscayne bay headed south under sail in the ICW.

I made it back to Islamroada on Monday afternoon and took Mattie to a much needed shore walk, with beaches and fresh water, and cars, and traffic noise, and T shirt shops, and rude people.... after the silence and solitude of the last few days I felt a bit overwhelmed. Eating the biggest juiciest burger that the Lorelei restaurant can provide helped me feel a bit better about being back in civilization, but it ain't Red Bays, and I can't find any seagull eggs, and I'm not allowed to fish these waters.

pictures will be posted soon, I didn't have an underwater camera, but next time I go to the Bahama's I will, the reefs were amazing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Social sailors

I've had some great experiences since Waltzing Matilda and I first set out, most have been brought about by the wonderful people that I have met and who have befriended me. Recently I have crossed paths with folks that I have met before. A big fancy yacht came into the anchorage and hailed me on the radio to ask how intense the bugs were at night, we got to chatting a bit on the radio and the next day they came over to my boat to introduce themselves and get some tips about local services. They invited me to join them in a rented car and drive the length of the island to see the sights. I readily agreed and was able to point out interesting things until we got further south than I have been. We drove about an hour south and stopped at a yacht club in Fresh Creek for afternoon drinks. I mentioned that I was a member of Harbor Landing Yacht Club out of Ocean Springs Mississippi and the car was filled with laughter, turns out one of the crew members is from Ocean Springs and a member of Poor Boys Yacht Club, located right next to Harbor Landing. We got to chatting about Mississippi and the great folks in Ocean Springs, I was sad to learn that the folks that treated me so well and rescued Waltzing Matilda are closing their business.

Matti and I went to greet a ketch that sailed into the harbor and before we could get close the crew yelled out “Mattie!”, turns out they were a young couple that I met in Key West, they remembered Mattie and me as “the guy that walks Mattie”. They invited me on board for and we chatted about people we both knew, keeping up on other friends whereabouts. I knew that they had kin in Pensacola and they mentioned that they were going to meet up with his dad who was in the Bahamian Islands on his boat Valkyrie. I put things together and knowing that the first cruising couple I met sold their sailboat of the same name in Pensacola I asked if Valkyrie was a Pearson-Rhodes ketch, turns out this Valkyrie is a 75 foot power yacht that I first encountered in Marathon FL. I noticed it then not because of the gleaming bright work but the cute woman covered in sawdust working on it. When Valkyrie arrived in Morgan's Bluff we were invited aboard to cook the mess of fish and huge lobsters caught from the most amazing reef I have ever snorkeled. I caught a lobster that was so big I couldn't swim with the weight of it, the tail was longer than a beer bottle.

I've finally gotten better at spear fishing and found that snappers have blind spot directly over their heads, I wait above the hole that they are hanging out in and when they stick their head out to look around, WHAM, I spear them through the top of the head then get them out of the water and into the boat before the sharks notice the sound and smell of a dying fish. I haven't had to worry about the sharks too much, they usual aren't very big and fairly docile, but there was one big 15 foot shark that got into a staring contest with one of our fishing crew

I recently needed to get some metal work done on a winch that I salvaged from a wreck and I was directed to the Mennonite farm about 10 miles south of where I am anchored, I easily found the farm as it was the only one that didn't have piles of dirty disposable diapers and trash all over the yard. They had a great shop set up capable of automotive, truck and tractor repair as well as a small machine/welding shop. The work that I needed should have only taken a few moments but things never work out that way, it took about 45 minuets and the smithy only charged me $15. I've found that when metal workers discover that I am in the same guild they cut me a good deal, professional courtesy I suppose.

I really enjoy Morgan's Bluff but I need to be heading back to the states soon, hurricane season is starting in just a few weeks, Skatopia is beckoning, finances are dwindling and Waltzing Matilda is feeling smaller than ever. I'm quite proud to be the smallest boat in the anchorage and the other cruisers are amazed at my stories resulting in many free meals but I want to go further, deeper, into more remote areas and Waltzing Matilda is a day sailer. I'm starting to tire of single handing as well, so many things would be so much easier with a crew mate aboard, but the type of crew mate I want usually doesn't like using a bucket for a toilet and standing upright in the cabin would be an amazing feature to have. Waltzing Matilda is in such good condition now, lots of gear and good sails, but the amount of modifications I would have to do to her to make her blue water ready is so extensive that I feel it would be easier and more cost effective to get a larger boat that is closer to an ocean going vessel than this cute little day sailer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bahamanian Bohemians

I'm still in the Bahama's, Morgan's Bluff to be exact. There could be worse places to be stuck, the wind is not co-operating, I am ready to be underway. The krew I've been traveling with has headed to Nassau, it's been wonderful traveling with them, the Capitan cooked so well, and they always scored lots of fish. I still can't catch anything, even with my spear I'm a lousy shot, although on another cruisers boat with his rig and tackle I caught a 3 foot barracuda, I traded it for a nice BBQ chicken dinner, barracuda can be poisonous. The locals all trade fish for goods, I am amazed at the lack of shame they have in begging, the kids will walk up and demand that you buy them a soda, then demand a dollar, then start asking you for sunglasses. I taught a couple of the kids to make the things they need rather than rely on the US dollar to get anything, I did give those kids some fish hooks and line. I do understand that they think white skin means walking ATM but they have it wrong with me, I have already proved to several that I have less than them. Despite not having dollars I am good with my tools and there are fishermen around, fishermen always need things fixed and always have fish, which explains why I am craving beef, the other night I dreamed of eating steak.

The cruisers here are wonderful people, very friendly and kind, very bohemian too. I met a great couple from St Petersburg on a 27' catamaran, he is a retired theater teacher, she an actor. I went to dinner on their boat and when it was discovered that we were all theater geeks we began to tell jokes that can only be appreciated back stage. A few nights later we were all on a 47' power catamaran for a dinner party, using the fore deck as a stage and the ship's searchlight for illumination we were treated to a one act play. I've been missing theater and it was great fun to sit on the louvers over the cabin windows and watch a show. It makes me think back to the days before canned entertainment, I feel we have lost a great deal by industrializing our entertainment and not being able to make our own.

I scored winches for Waltzing Matilda! A cruiser and I went to a wrecked sailboat that I spotted and found that the winches hadn't been stripped off, everything else but the mast was stripped. I haven't sailed her with winches but it will make it much easier for me to trim my head sail now. According to the locals this sailboat showed up on the bank about a year ago with sails up and no one on board, there was blood on the deck and no sign of the skipper. I don't know if that is true, the locals are all fishermen, and fishermen don't have a reputation for honesty. Another interesting find was on a coral head near where several of us were spear fishing. I was getting tired and spotted what looked like a suitcase on the beach. I swam over and on a deserted island found a very rotted suitcase packed with rusted cans of corned beef, rusted away Vienna sausages, soggy ramen noodles, packs of new under shirts and shorts, and a Haitian passport. The passport was stamped for entry in Nassau in December 2004 with a mariners visa, the visa has been expired for 5 years, the passport expired in 2009. As much as I love a mystery I decided it was best not to poke my head into this business. I know that a mail ship went down a few months ago and the locals all went fishing for luggage, I also know that some Haitians were involved in some dirty business related to a stolen boat loaded with stolen drugs. Rumor has it there are more Haitians in the tongue of the ocean than in Haiti.

Mattie is quite popular with some of the locals, whenever we walk into Willy's Water Bar she gets greeted and given a bone to chew, I have to pay for beer and don't get such a boisterous greeting. Willy's wont take fish as payment.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alive on Andros Island

Waltzing Matilda is handling this part of the adventure quite well, Mattie is enjoying it and I am happy to be out of sight of the Miami lights. I am thrilled to be in the Bahamas.

After our Gulf Stream crossing we landed in Bimini exhausted from being underway for more than 24 hours. Matilda clogged a fuel filter 4 miles off the Bimini harbor channel but I got it fixed and rafted up to Gnar Krust an hour after they landed. We cleared in at customs, returned to our boats and hoisted hook bound for Gun Cay. We found a nice anchorage in the lee of Gun Cay and dropped hook, went swimming and snorkeling, I went to bed before the sun set.

I awoke about midnight and the wind had shifted 90 degrees, we were taking a little bit of wind but pretty big swells hitting on the beam, I let out more anchor scope and dropped my big #55 anchor, I wrote in my log that “I am not dragging into the rocks my first night here”. I got a few hours of rolling and banging that might be called sleep but as soon as I had gray light I got ready to split, I looked out to see if Gnar Krust was awake and they were gone! I popped my head out of the companionway and looked around spotting Gnar Krust about 300 yards offshore on anchor. I got underway and got on the radio, they had dragged overnight and slammed the coral razor rocks shearing off their rudder at the waterline, they used the outboard engine to motor off the rocks and dropped hook to wait for me to wake up. I suggested we run 1.5 miles to a marina and take shelter at the jetty to have breakfast and get a plan.

After breakfast the GK Capitan came aboard Matilda and we went back to Gun Cay to trey and find the piece of rudder that broke off, it wasn't till we were standing on the ricks that we realized how dangerous the situation had been, it's hard to see danger in the dark. After a few minuets of searching we found the rudder piece and took it back to the jetty wall. We rafted Matilda and Gnar Krust together and using material left over from my rudder build last summer we were able to fix the broken rudder and get underway.
We crossed Elbow Bank in NNE 15kt winds that clocked to the East and increased to 20kt, we coulnd't hold the course that we neeeded to make the North West side of Andros Island and wanted to get far from civilization and camp on a beach so we let the wind push us to the South East. We stopped at dawn 8miles off shore in 10' of water, dropped hooks and slept till noon, then turned NE and found creek that made it deep enough for us to get within kayak distance of shore. Mattie was thrilled to be ashore and we had a campfire and sat on a beach, no lights and no people in sight.

After a day of rest we continued North, Waltzing Matilda left at first light, Gnar Krust is 3 times my speed so I left early allowing them to catch up. There was no wind, I made 8 miles in 10 hours and spotted an island I wanted to spend the night at, I radioed my Lat and Long to Gnar Krust and they informed me that there was a town right where I was called Red Bay. Gnar Krust motored to the bay and took a hook closer to shore, I took Mattie to the island and had a nice evening walking along the beach of a wonderful uninhabited key with pine, palm and mangroves, sponges washed up on red sand beaches and a wonderful sunset.

The Capitan of Gnar Krust went to shore to do some reconnaissance and meet some locals, the next day the four of us from both boats went to shore and spent a day hanging around in the village, buying out all the beer in the little “convenience” store. The locals were really cool and the village reminded me of some of the poorer neighborhoods in Pueblo, like Dog Patch and the West Side.

We took a local on board with us as a guide and headed north, we wanted to find away through a bank to avoid having to sail all the way around it, one of the guys came along assuring us “Ya mon, I know de way true”. We departed Red Bay at high tide and spent the night laying on our sides in 1' of water, stuck in de mud. Our guide knew that there was a way through, he just wasn't so hot at keeping to the channel. Gnar Krust made it through and Waltzing Matilda got stuck in the falling tide, when Gnar Krust came back to pull me out they got stuck. So we made dinner and went to bed. At 02:00 the tide lifted us off and we ran the last mile to the North West Channel.
The next morning I left at sun up and Gnar Krust followed an hour later, I had just crossed into the Tongue of the Ocean basin when Gnar Krust called me on the radio and told me to warn them if I got down to 4', I looked at my depth gauge and watched it go 40, 55, 90, 200, 515, blink, blink, blink. I radioed back that I only had about 600' under the keel and the water had turned purple again.

We sailed until we lost wind, then 4 miles from Morgan's Bluff we began to motor sail in, Gnar Krust ran out of gas and I passed them 1/3 of a gallon that I keep on board for back-up cooking fuel, just as we made the anchorage they ran out of fuel again, I pulled along side and we rafted up while I dropped a hook. We cooked up the barracuda that our guide caught, gave him half of the fish and $20, plus I gave him a small bag with soaps, fish hooks and first aid stuff. We took him to shore and his cousins were at the local watering hole and was able to get a ride home, half the island is his cousin. I'd really like to gdt some goats to these folks, the environment is perfect for them and the people's diet is mostly chicken, fish, wild boar and conch. They use dogs to hunt the wild boar then pen them up and fatten them before butchering them.

We are headed to the Exumas next, not going near Nassau, no need to go to a big city where we will get robbed (or worse) when there are plenty of beautiful cays to visit. We've only met a few cruisers since we landed at Morgan's Bluff, we have been traveling just the two little boats so far.

There will not be much contact from me while in the Exhumas, there is not much civilization there, but lots of fish and conch to eat.

(Post Script Gnar Krust is a 27' Balboa sloop that is buddy boating with Waltzing Matilda)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mangrovia, Marathon and Mom

This is my first winter without snow, even when I was home for Christmas I didn't see snow. I was hoping to make last winter the first sans snow, but I got snowed on in Biloxi MS, I a bit further south now. Mattie and I are not on the dock anymore, after many weeks we are on the hook again, I took a few short trips in a big old trawler and learned that I am not a stink potter, I need sails to be comfortable.

It's been a month of Arkies on the Ocean, friends and family from the Ozarks found reasons to get out of the cold an down to the Keys in February, a temperature difference of 70 degrees was convincing.

I worked on the clean up and painting of the trawler Just Because at the house on Valencia St while staying in the apartment on the ground floor. She's a great old boat with a big comfortable stateroom, two heads and a bath tub, yes, a bath tub on a boat. She needed her bright work restored and needed a paint job, I gave her both. In the middle of February it was cold and snowy in Arkansas and I convinced mom to come visit Florida, it wasn't hard to convince her, while it was snowing there I was in shorts and 75 degrees here. The owner of Just Because loaned her to me to take mom out, Waltzing Matilda is not terribly comfortable for overnight trips with more than one person. A few days before mom was scheduled to arrive I still had lots of painting and a bit more sanding to do and knew there was no way I could get it done by myself. I contacted the crew of Ginger and they came to assist. After having been on the hook for 3 months a chance to get to a dock, take showers and sleep indoors was a real treat for them. We sanded, painted and scrubbed and got Just Because shining in time to take her out for a shake down cruise.

Ginger's crew and I motored six miles to an anchorage known to locals as Mangrovia, a funky little anchorage community that has some really great folks around, the local fishing charter captains hang out there and share the excess fish and beers donated by the tourists. Ginger was anchored there, we stayed the night and motored back to Valencia St. the next day while taking lots of photos of Ginger under sail, it was my first time piloting anything larger than Waltzing Matilda and I am proud of how well I brought her into the dock.
When mom got to the Keys she was quite tired from flying all day and a bit bummed out that she missed the sunset, I assured her that there would be more sunsets. We had a nice little jaunt down to Marathon, we only hit one crab trap! Actually mom hit it but is wasn't her fault, some inconsiderate crabber had placed his trap in the ICWW channel, and somebody else's prop had cut the float off of it so it was just a block piece of black line floating in the water, nearly impossible to see. Despite being cross waked at 04:00 by a very inconsiderate crabber, (they are ALL inconsiderate) we had a very nice night anchored out on the north side of the island. We motored under Seven Mile Bridge and through the Marathon anchorage to Sister Creek. I took mom kayak exploring the mangroves and taught her how to sail a kayak with an umbrella, I found a geocahce by chance and signed the log book, left a lighter but didn't feel the need to take anything. When we left the next day I though we should run the ocean side of the keys half way then cross under a bridge to the bay side, that way mom could get both sea and bay experiences. The weather had other ideas. As we headed out to sea I could see the 3' waves were not a big deal, at least not in a sail boat, but we weren't in a sailboat and 3' waves in a power boat are no fun at all. Mattie got sea sick, things began rolling and banging around and in less than a mile I turned around and went back into Marathon. We had a nice calm day returning Just Because to Islamorada, no crab traps were hit and mom got some photos of dolphins dancing along side us.

Upon return to the dock mom and I went out to eat a nice dog friendly place on the ocean, it was a great visit and mom had a good time, I made sure she left with a coconut in her carry on, I hope it wasn't more than 3 ounces of liquid.

With Just Because painted, a few dollars in the cruising kitty and all of my minimal responsibilities fulfilled the only things left to do were stock up with food and go to the Bahamas. I sailed Waltzing Matilda to Mangrove Marina and anchored out intending to spend two nights, the weather had other ideas. A huge high pressure front was coming across the Gulf of Mexico and I like being well protected in nasty blows, Community Harbor is well protected, shallow but has really poor holding. The harbor is 4.5' deep and surrounded 360 degrees by mangroves with a small marina and very few anchored boats. I was concerned about dragging anchor (I'm really good at dragging) and was going to move close into the mangroves to be sheltered from the wind. One of the locals that I met a few weeks ago in Islamorada offered to give me a 50lb danforth anchor, 50lbs is a lot of anchor for a little boat like mine but dragging into a marina and possibly scratching a fancy yacht is never a good idea, so I ran out the big anchor attached to 40' of heavy chain and 20' of rope just moments before the winds began to gust 40mph from the north. It's amazing what too heavy of ground tackle can do for a sailors sleep. I've read in plenty of sailing books the proper scope ratios to use in anchoring, these guidelines often come with disclaimers, one should be “anchoring anywhere in the keys is not easy, get 5 anchors that are too big, use too much chain, run too much scope and hang on, you're going to drag eventually”.

The weather has cleared, my boat is stocked, I am going to head up to Cape Sable to redevouz with a buddy boat and cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. I've wanted to go to the capes for quite some time but avoided it in October as that is the height of “mosquito season”, there are 17 species of mosquito in Florida, they are represented by the millions near the capes but this time of ear they aren't as thick.

I plan on being back in the states before the beginning of hurricane season in June, but I've never been south and I could island hop far enough to get under the hurricane paths, I've never seen the Southern Cross and am not opposed to crossing the equator. We'll wait and see, Waltzing Matilda is not the right boat for doing long journeys but I've made it this far.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rats, Skating and Marina Communities.

The rat has jumped ship, I guess it wasn't up for the cruising lifestyle, either that or being surrounded by food with no water got to it but I havent seen it since I dropped hook in Key West, of course I bought a rat trap, that may come in handy if the Fun Police come aboard.

I have returned to Islamorada from my week in Key West, I was planning on staying a week but only made it six days. Key West seems to have the moto of "Leave your dollars and GTFO", not a very hospitable town down south there. I was lucky not to be boarded by the Fish and Wildlife Commission (aka "Fun Police"). Two nights in a row they were out in the anchorage with three boats boarding everyone that had interior lights on and writing tickets like it was the end of a fiscal period. FWC is basically park rangers without jurisdiction so they take it upon themselves to be general water cops, in my few dealings with them I have yet to be questioned about fish or game. Fortunately Waltzing Matilda has black out curtains and red lights inside, so I went into stealth mode and they left me alone. If i were to get boarded there is nothing they could write me a ticket for but I have an aversion to black soled jack boots on my white deck, shoes aren't allowed, guns aren't allowed, thugs aren't allowed on board, neither are rats.

The trip back to Islamorad is always slower than the trip to Key West, Hawk Channel has a 1.5kt current heading SW and the winds tend to be from the NE, combine the two and you get to tack, lots and lots of tacking. My first day away I towed a nice vintage British bilge keeler to the northwest channel and hung around till he got his sails up, the owner was sick of getting tickets and despite a broken motor headed to better cruising grounds. I tack back and forth in Hawk Channel until an hour before sunset and took refuge in between Stock Island and Boca Chica Key in a well protected channel bordered with mangroves and inhabited by a few derelicts and one very (drunk) friendly live-aboard.

When I finally made it to Marathon I had been at a 20 degree heel all day, motorsailing with a dog that was unhappy as she kept falling out of bed and sliding across the deck, I was planning on going to a little gunk hole I learned about but it was 5 miles more, I was tired and the sun was setting in an hour. I stopped at the same friendly fuel dock-marina that I've frequented and met a pair of couples looking at charts on the dock. We struck up conversation and I was able to point to some great anchorages as well as warn some evesdropping sailors that were headed to Key West about the Fun Police. The younger crew are new to cruising, mid 20s with a really neat steel hull, junk rigged, mono hull that has a greatest motor of all time, a Sabb type G (same as me!). I towed their dinghy back to their vessel, Ginger, and rafted up with them, new cruising friends were made by the 2nd bottle of wine.

I was planning on leaving the next day but since I don't like to be in a hurry or make plans the skipper of Ginger and I decided to go skateboarding since we were anchored right by the city park. We took our boards to the Marathon skate park with high hopes, especially since I was so disappointed with Key West's skate park, turns out Marathon offered the exact same disappointment. Both parks are closed most of the day, they open at 3PM (presumably so kids will not ditch school to skate) and are surrounded by high fences, they have more rules than ramps and seem to be managed by the baseball commissioner. I guess they don't realize that grown ups skate, we don't want to do it when it's hot or when there are loads of little kids around, some of us like to hit the park early in the morning. Some of us have been skating fro years without some park's commissioner (Fun Police) lording over the key to the park, some of us might even have a good time.

I left late the next morning via Sister Creek out of Boot Key Harbor so that I could see if it is passable and make a waypoint on my GPS to find it again, Ginger's crew took the long route with another couple they met and we planned to rendevouz at a gunk hole I had read about, that is until the wind died. I spent an hour drifting sideways at 1.5 kts until I finally fired the motor and got into the channel entrance. Ginger and their friends went back to Boot Key Harbor.

It was a nice gunk hole, it would have been nicer sans no-see-ums, but I got a good nights sleep and was out with the crab boats before sun rise. The wind was still not co-operating, there was NO WIND! and hot, really hot, but I don't complain about the heat after the Mississippi River passage. As I passed the bridge on the north end of Long Key I watched the water change from mucky brownish green to the beautiful azure blue of the Atlantic, I finally made the bascule bridge in Islamorada at 15:30 and after docking Waltzing Matilda at the 104.9 Beach House I stowed her gear and dove off her starboard side to take a swim..... Ahhhh that feels good, afte two weeks of afraid to get in the water it was nice to see clear water again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stow away on the Waltzing Matilda

I have a stow away of the rodent variety aboard, not a cute little mouse or a squirrel. I have a smallish black rat that chews things up, has been into the dog food and tried to chew a hole through the companionway drop boards to get out. One night while sailing the rat came up on deck and ran right into Mattie's head, Mattie woke up and just sleepily looked at the thing as it ran back inside. My first trip to shore in Key West I went to a hardware store and bought a rat trap. It was odd looking at the trap section, they had all kinds of “humane” and live animal traps, there was even a selection of electric zappers but the good old fashioned spring one were stashed in the corner and hard to find, but they only cost $4 each. Since I set the trap I haven't seen or heard the rat, hopefully it left my boat and swam to some other place.

It was good to get out sailing again, I hadn't been sailing for two months and I missed the sea. The day I left Islamorada there was no wind at all, the Straits of Florida were mirror smooth and I had to run my motor all day, the only wind was after dark when a squall moved through. I dropped hook I the open to spend the night then headed into Marathon the next day, I knew a cold front was coming in and I don't like nasty weather. Boot Key Harbor is well protected and I stayed there for 36 hours. When I left I had a 6-10kt following wind, not much speed could be made with that so I decided to put up my spinnaker, I've only used it once and want to learn how to use it more. That big sail made a big difference, I was making 4kts during the day then as the sun set the winds picked up and with the tail current I was making 6-7kts! (very fast for Waltzing Matilda). I had already decided to sail in the dark so I had the tide to my tail as I entered Man of War Harbor,as I approached the Key West channel the wind had picked up quite a bit and I realized I had to get the spinnaker down, as I stared slacking that clew lines the spinnaker began to flog and then POW! I broke a halyard, the head of the sail dove into the water and the sail wrapped under my keel. That happened last time too. The moon came up as I made my final turn into the harbor, that made it easier to see the water taxi that almost ran me down, I had the right of way but he had a steel hull and was much heavier, rule of tonnage is one never to break.

I have a much better attitude about Key West this time and am having better adventures because of it. After buying the rat trap I went to Simonton Park beach and drank beer with the homeless guys, I bought the beer and they keep and eye on my bicycle and kayak, it's like the neighborhood watch program. While on the beach I spotted a really cute girl by herself on the pier, well she wasn't by herself when I spotted her, some guy was making really pathetic attempts to hit on her. Mattie was running around like crazy getting covered in sand and kept jumping in the water then rolling in the sand, the cute girl noticed this and as she was leaving I made certain that our paths crossed to get a closer look, she commented about my dog having boundless energy. I spotted her again later at an open air restaurant dining alone, I stopped for a moment and told her to find me when she got done eating and with in the hour she was sitting next to me on my favorite boardwalk bench. This woman was wonderful, recently graduated with a electrical engineering degree and was a great conversationalist, plus she hadn't heard any of my corny jokes. We wound up drinking $1 PBRs at a “No Dogs” bar with Mattie secretly on my lap. I wanted to show her this really funky little locals spot that got surrounded by hotels. We wound up wandering around in the courtyard of the Hyatt looking for the funky place but couldn't find it, we did find a really nice big swimming pool and I was feeling pretty sticky and dirty so swimming was in order. We spent the rest of the evening noisily hanging out on the finger pier near the fancy yachts, the security guard stopped by and asked us to keep our voices down but never kicked us out. We parted ways for the evening and made plans to meet up the next day. I took her for a sunset sail on Waltzing Matilda the next evening and she flew home to start her new job.

Temporary romances are a dandy thing to have and something that has greatly been lacking in this voyage, fond memories of grand adventures should have plenty of romantic interludes.

I'm here for a week then headed back to Islamorada.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back in the Keys

Oh my, am I ever happy to be back in the Keys! Despite how wonderful it was to be back in Arkansas and see family, friends and dirty bicyclists I am really fond of warm weather, clear water and the laid back atmosphere of the Keys.

I am once again at the 104.9 beach house in Islamorada, Waltzing Matilda is still bobbing happily on the dock and the sun is shining, the fish may be biting (I'm still not much a fisherman) and I am bare foot in shorts. I went to Key West via automobile yesterday and found that I have a bit better of an attitude about the place now that I am not as homesick and lonely as I was in October. I rode down with the program manager of 104.9 to install some new gear in the radio station and we walked about the water front, went to Turtle Kraals for dinner then, yawning at 8PM, drove the 88 miles back to Islamorada.

I think it is getting time for me to upgrade my sailing experience, I love Waltzing Matilda and I have done things with her that no one thought possible, but she is a day sailer, I am a cruiser and need a slightly larger vessel. Sea comfort is very important to me as is enough room to stand upright, storage for the plethora of tools I carry and deck wide enough to walk about.

I know exactly what I want so I am going to employ my tried and true method of getting it. Despite my lack of superstition I have found that a series of actions has consistently resulted in achieving the impossible and I will share these methods with my faithful readers, please keep in mind that the following method does not work for gaining money or women.

Step one: Write down exactly what you want.
Step two: imagine having what you want
Step three: ???
Step four: profit?

This has worked for me several times, it's how Courtney and I found PlanB and how I lived there for three years without meeting the landlord, it's how I found the school bus (wow that thing was fun) and it's how I acquired Waltzing Matilda in the first place. I know exactly which boat I want, not just the type but specifically which boat. I spotted her in Treasure Island in the summer of 2010 and fell in love the moment I laid eyes on her.

Time will tell, I am not changing my course or lack of plans but I am ready for a larger vessel, one with accommodations for myself, Mattie and an adventurous woman as I don't think I can carry on alone much longer. Applications to join me may be sent with a $20 application fee to:
Nathan Landry
General Delivery
82801 Overseas Highway,
Islamorada, FL 33036-9998

Please include height, weight and your rational (or lack there of) for joining the ranks of the impoverished, homeless and free.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Arkansas invades the Big Sleezy

Ahoy from New Orleans, better known this week as South Little Rock, I think half the state of Arkansas is here. After a few weeks in the Ozarks I am en-route back to Waltzing Matilda and temporarily delayed in New Orleans due to a football game. I like NO, despite all the bad press this town has gotten it is a really unique area with a wonderful culture and great people. Last time I was here was spent bicycling about and looking at the sights, this time I have no bike and I'm more interested in watching the people. I really wanted to get a pass and spend the day riding the electric trollies but little dogs aren't welcome on public transportation.

I spent most of the day hanging around the waterfront watching the barges navigate the hairpin turn in the heart of the city and enjoying the sound of the steam whistle aboard the Natchez. The Mississippi River is extremely low and there are sand bars exposed near the park, even with the water so low I can see the current moving. The current is deceiving when one is looking out over the water, it seems to be moving slowly, but the speed in which the vessels move downstream is a good indication of how mighty the river really is. After being spoiled by the clear water in the keys the Mississippi looks like viscous mud.

It's funny the way people in NO drive, in NYC or Chicago the instant a light turns green horns begin to blare and tires begin to squeal, here life has a little bit different pace. When the light turns green the driver finishes the text message they were sending, puts their cocktail back in the cup holder, waves a jay walking pedestrian across then leisurely motors on a few yards only to stop in the middle of the lane in order to chat with a person on the sidewalk.

Bourbon St. is touristy crap selling the same Chinese trash as Duval St. in Key West, I felt sorry for the tourists lined up to get in the Hard Rock cafe, surrounded by culture they retreat to the homogenized lest they step too far out of their comfort zone.

Heading back to the keys tomorrow, I miss Waltzing Matilda, this is the longest I have been away from her in a year and have worried a good deal about her, I will feel a lot better when I see her again. It was good to visit Fayetteville, nice to see old friends and meet some new ones, really good to see my family.

Post Script: I'm back in the Keys, Waltzing Matilda was waiting for me with about 3" of water in the bilge and the batteries at 12.5VDC, she fired up on the first rotation of the motor and blew a bit of brown water out the exhaust but is none worse for the wear. She doesn't seem to mind the temporary abandonment, unlike a certain little dog that I cannot leave alone for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ahoy from the Hills

I got a lift from Islamorada FL without having to stick out my thumb, we drove straight through swapping drivers and only stopping for fuel. We weren't even inside the Fayetteville City limits yet when we got pulled over by FPD on the interstate for a random search, I forgot how much police presence there is in this state.
Mattie and I are in Fayetteville AR catching up with old friends. It's nice to be back home for a visit, even if it is a bit cold up here. It's nice to see familiar faces and really nice to be around Arkansas women again but I've had to schedule my time and make appointments to see everybody. Since I have been home I've been eating very well (almost nonstop) and haven't paid for a beer yet.

Nothing much changes in Fayetteville, I compare it to ground hog day, a few changes I have noticed is the emptiness of Dickson ST, another parking garage and more bicycle trails. When I started out on this voyage I was happy to get away from all the sounds of the shore, the engines and car noises, and most of all the sirens, train horns don't seem to bother me too much.

I made a masthead light and hope someone else may benefit from my learning experience. There is not a lot of power to spare on Waltzing Matilda and I have wanted LED running and anchor lights for some time but $150 bulbs are not in the beer budget. In true cruiser fashion I have fashioned some lights myself and run into a few small difficulties I would like to share.

My 1st attempt was pitiful but free, I discovered a bar in Key West (Fat Tuesdays) sells these goofy light up plastic mugs with red, green and blue LEDs in the base, I scored a few from the dumpster, pulled them out of the original circuit board and soldered them parallel to a DIY board (used a safety pin to drill bits from the mugs) with some foraged white LEDs to make a tri light. I used a automotive cell phone charger to drop 12V to 4.5V, and viola..... not bright enough.

The second attempt was not free but less pitiful. I went to and purchased 16 70ma Piranha LEDs, after shipping it was a total of $20 worth of beer money. Since I am home for the holidays I have better tools to use than I can carry in the boat including a great adjustable power supply from a model train set.

I soldered 4 red, 4 green and 4 white in parallel arrays and powered them up to test. The red was nice and bright, the green and white, not so much. If I disconnected red the green and white lit up. Once the red was on it sucked all the power, so it seems, the red array draws twice as many amps as the green and white combined. Using a multimeter as an adjustable resistor I found I could get all three arrays to light up by limiting the power that went to the red array on the negative line but had no way to see how many amps were being used (I only have 1 multimeter).

I found a resistance calculator for LEDs online and according to it I need a 30ohm resistor to solve my problem and make all 3 arrays light. If anyone that reads this and knows more about LEDs than me I'd appreciate if you can contribute some info, I don't know much about electronics. I know what the markings on a the resistor I need look like, I'll just have to find a toy in the dumpster to find the right one.

I haven't encased the new lights in epoxy yet, but they will be before I climb the stick

I'm heading back down south in early Janurary, a few weeks recharging my internal batteries will be nice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Land Lubber Dog

It's been nice to be on land, I haven't left the property except to go grocery shopping and get beer, the bike has recovered from the flat tires acquired in Key West but I just haven't gone anywhere. There is a big old trawler that needs TLC and I am sanding the teak to refinish the bright work. Waltzing Matilda hasn't been getting any work done on her, but she isn't breaking anything as she is just sitting at a dock.

I've had several people have asked about Mattie lately, yes, I am fine, and so is the dog. She is currently snuggled up in a big comforter on a big bed refusing to get up since the temp has dropped to 65F. She is quite happy to be ashore after 7 days without a walk when we left Key West. She cannot seem to figure out that I don't have to take her on a walk for her to pee here, she can just go outside and go pee. Peeing has been a problem for her as long as she has been with me, she pees when she is happy, or sad, or hungry, or full, or wants to play, or is scared, she pees all over herself all the time. Not sure why but I know that when we get to Arkansas to visit home she will have to stay in a crate rather than pee anywhere in my parent's place. Did I just write a whole paragraph about my dogs urine habits?.... I cannot believe how much of my life has been taken up by the dog's toilet.

The laptop donated by Map Oil Tools a year ago is dying, I have to keep the case off and wedge my fingers between the main board and case to get it to boot, the keys y,u,r don't work, nor does the zero key, it makes typing very tedious I cut and paste missing characters in. I've removed ever non-essential bit in the machine, only a HDD, WiFi card and main board are left, I need to get a small net book and modify it to handle the rigors of sea life.

Headed home for Christmas, looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to fix a broken fuel line

I didn't make it as far south as Key West, I sailed all day and into the night and was headed to Marathon when I ran aground. It's been quite some time since I've been aground and it was time for it to happen.

It took 10 hours to back track four days of NE travel, I was running fast, 7-8kts on a broad reach and enjoying the surfing (didn't hit any crab traps!) as I approached Marathon I got the early morning lull in the wind and turned a bit. I'm not sure if I fell asleep or was just punch drunk from being at the tiller for 20 hours but I misjudged the shoal and didn't have my depth sounder on (DOH!). Due to battery problems I've been trying to use as little power as possible so aside from my running lights I had on a single red LED in the cabin, no VHF, no GPS and no depth gauge. Coasting along at 3kts I heard a soft swish and Waltzing Matilda slid to a stop. Earlier that evening I had had listened to the tide forecast and remembered something being said about 3AM, I assumed I was at high tide and guessed I was in a protected area, there are big fines for running aground in protected areas. I launched the kayak and rowed out '125 of anchor line and was able to get Waltzing Matilda turned 180 degrees before she stuck really hard, even with lots of sail up I couldn't get her free. I turned on the radio and the tide forecast told me that LOW tide was at 03:15, so I went below and made something to eat. She rolled all the way to rails underwater before the tide lifted her then; exhausted; I sailed to an safe anchorage outside the harbor and dropped hook before dropping to sleep.

I planned to head back to Key West to see if I could get work at the shipyard there, I called and left a message but still have not heard back (and don't expect to), meanwhile I texted Steve Butler, owner of 104.9FM in Fayetteville, AR whom I had met a few days before in Islamorada, FL. Steve invited me to come dock at the 104.9 Beach House and stay for a few days to take break (Fayetteville folks are great!). I turned back to the NE and with a nice East wind headed back tracking on my back track. That wind lasted until I made it into the bay, I set a course for 57 degrees and the wind began to blow at 15kts from 60 degrees (DOH!). After 3 hours I had made one mile and fired the Sabb to run closer to the wind, even with the motor running I had to tack as she didn't have enough power to fight it.

On and on and on I motor sailed, about 2 am the motor began to bog down and I assumed I had yet another crab trap in the prop, I killed the engine and opend the engine bay, thats when the smell of diesel hit me. I shined a flashlight into the engine bay and saw fuel, lots of fuel, everywhere. Immediately I shut the fuel tank off and assumed I had just lost all of it in the bilge, fortune was with me, I only lost about a gallon of fuel, that equals eight hours of run time. I then learned a valuable thing that I will share with you all, How to Fix a Broken Fuel line:

Step 1: determine why the fuel line broke; I didn't notice that the primary filter had vibrated loose from its mounting, but about two inches fore is where the fuel line broke.
Step 2: be in bouncy waves
Step 3: drop the tool you need in the bilge, the bilge that is full of fuel
Step 4: remove broken fuel line section (in this case it had compression fittings on both ends of a 1.5ft piece of copper)
Step 5: get sea sick.
I've heard of mal du mer but never really experienced it, in my zeal to solder the fuel line I hove to and tried to solder the copper back together, this consisted of filing the pieces clean, flaring one piece, pressing them together and using a torch to heat them up to soldering temp. The torch caused the residual fuel in the line to evaporate and fill the cabin with fumes, that combined with the bouncing and I got sea sick for the fist time ever, there was that time on Mississippi Sound but that was nothing like this.
Step 6: remount fuel line
Step 7: break fuel line while remounting it, this determines if it will handle vibration

I found some rubber fuel line left over in a can of junk from the infamous school bus that happened to be the right diameter and with a pair of hose clamps sleeved the fuel line and remounted it, bled the system and got ready to start the motor. Remember my earlier statements about the batteries being bad? I had to prime the motor via hand crank, fortunately I can spray WD-40 directly into the cylinder and that fires the engine fast enough to make starting very easy.
I finally made the channel entrance to Islamorada after 18 hours of motor sailing to cover 35NM, I waited for the sun to rise over the Atlantic before I had enough light to enter the channel and by 10:00 was docked at the 104.9 Beach House. It's been a long time since I watched the sunrise over the Atlantic and it brought back fond memories of Myrtle Beach with a crazy girl and great sand dragons.

I'm going to take a break, I like this part of the keys very much, 30' visibility in the water, less traffic, more mangroves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waltzing Matilda: Back Toward Key West

November 22, 2010

A year ago today, Nathan set out on his journey, launching in Western Arkansas, sailing the Arkansas River to the Mississippi, heading into the rivers and bayous of the Intracoastal Waterway in Louisiana and continuing on the Intracoastal to Western Florida, then across the open Gulf of Mexico to the Tampa area. After spending hurricane season there, he sailed to Key West. Last week, he set out sailing with another vessel up the Florida Keys, with an intention of heading east to the Bahamas. But he called yesterday from Key Largo to say he was turning back toward Key West.

The other craft he was sailing with has been using its motor a great deal, while the wind and current have prevented Nathan from keeping up. “He’s a good guy, but he’s not my kind of sailor,” Nathan said. As a result, he decided to part ways with the other craft and do what he had originally intended: winter in Key West.

Nathan had a job offer near Key West to work in a boatyard and he’s going to see if he can still get that job. Besides the different travel philosophies between Nathan and the captain of the boat he was sailing with, Waltzing Matilda has battery problems and Nathan said there are a lot of little things that need to be fixed on his boat.

Heading back down the Keys, the wind was more favorable: “It took two hours to backtrack what it took ten hours to cover,” Nathan said.

Actually, Nathan plans to winter at Stock Island, the key just east of Key West, since that’s where the boatyard is and Nathan has little good to say about Key West.

Thus ends the first year of the voyage of Waltzing Matilda. Nathan hopes to make it a three-year event, eventually ending up sailing the Atlantic seaboard, then into the Hudson River-Erie Canal-Great Lakes-Mississippi River and back down to Arkansas.
--Posted by official correspondent Dad Landry

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tally HO!

Forget all the advertisements you have seen about Key West, it aint like that at all. I am rather disgusted with the filth, lack of litter control, plastic bags in the ocean and general un-sustainability of this island. I can imagine what will happen when fuel becomes scarce.

This weekend is super-boat races, kinda like nascar on the water, fuel smell, oil slicks on the water and obnoxiously loud speed boat zipping around. I need the peace and quiet, I like the mangrove swamps (aside form the no-see-ums) and less light pollution.

Early next week I am headed out, sailing in tandem with We Don't Neaux out of New Iberaia, LA. The captian, Sterling Dore, has a crew of noob sailors that want to learn the ropes and have a sense of adventure. I am just ready to go. I have found some used peanut oil and amd stocking up as much as I can carry, fuel is only going to become more expensive, my finances are at $3.26 so fuel purchases are out of the question.

The exhaust line on Waltzing Matilda finally blew out, I knew it was going to eventually and with a wet exhaust it is important to not leak. I traded some labor for material and replaced it while only cutting the crap out of my hands about 20 times. Today I am climbing my mast to install the rest of my "new" LED running/anchor lights, I've been dumpster scoring lighted toys and things and have built my own lights that use very little power, the mast is now at 4.5VDC using a cell phone charger as a converter. Speaking of dumpster scores, I have stocked up some food gleaned from the fat of the land, I have to dry some of it but I still have a small stock of beans, rice and peanut butter. I need to go to the local charity and stock up on dry goods. I have been catching little fish lately, it takes 4 of them to make a meal but I can catch them on peanut butter and a small tri hook.