Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Ms Green Fingers and Mr Nimble hands

A dedication is due to a couple we met in Florida. They are called Cindy and David Weinstein. These two lovely people once set off many years ago for a prolonged weekend on the Bahamas only to return 17 years later to the US. I take my hat off! They raised their youngest child during these cruising years throughout the Caribbean. Cindy can make anything grow, I have never seen such an impressive nursery in my life ( I s'ppose when you have been living on a boat for 17 years you kind of miss the wonders of mother earth) and Dave can fix anything that has a motor or cables on. Cindy and Dave are now watching cows come home and are taking care of two horses, one of which needs an anti-bronchital treatment in the form of weed. They have recently bought a space in Zolfo Springs where they are hoping to establish a farm and of course they still keep the boat anchored up river. Their house has been in the process of being built for the past two years and we will not mention the incompetent masons, builders and contractors that for some unfathomable reason cannot seem to finish an easy job. I mean how difficult can it be to build a house. Cindy and Dave have had to put up with all the excuses and not to mention the squabbles between the different contractors about who is supposed to fill in the holes and cracks. That is why I think one should really be good friends with a handy man- you always need someone to complete a job some idiot left undone in your house. Oh additionally, a dentist(my south african one survived the Tsunami in Thailand), an advocate (we do not have one in any country), an IT geek (we know a very nice one in Denmark with a cool homepage, google crawfurd), and a financial investor/economist (I know a very beautiful one in South Africa) are some of the people one should add to a list of to-know-people. Dave is the first one-man-do-it-all I know, and Cindy is definitely the first one I know who has a nursery.

Ms Green Fingers and Mr Nimble hands

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Cabbage Key, Manatees

At the water tower that survived Hurricane Charly

A manatee at the harbour

We set anchor outside of Ussepa Island, a private island adorned with dull grey but rather expensive houses. We were not really interested in this island anyway, our eyes were keen on the island across called Cabbage Key. Mind you it is neither part of the famous keys on the tip of Florida nor will you find any cabbages in copius amounts. The word 'key' is apparently an english corruption of 'Cayo' from Spanish. Cabbage Key is also privately owned, it was bought in the 1920's for 2500 dollars! However it is a charming little island with a restaurant and holiday cottages and has resident hole digging tortoises, not quite the Seychelles or Galapagos size but big enough. Not to mention the oddity of tortoises that dig- I have never heard of that phenomenon before.

The bar leaves one salivating, not for its stock but for the 1 dollar bills pasted on the walls and ceilings. The room probably has about 4000 dollars worth of these authentic bills. It is tradition for patrons to leave signed dollar notes to mark their time at the island but how could they tempt a poor soul like me. I was already thinking how to stage a robbery, island style. Afika was quite excited as well and did not understand the reason for abandoning money on walls.

We were very lucky that day- we spotted a large Manatee. It is a large animal that resembles a seal but is much lazier. I did not even know what it was until I came to Florida. They are found all over here and in the Caribbean and in the Indian Ocean though I understand they go by another name there.

First sail, barnacles

We made first sail on Sunday the 9th, leaving the harbour of Punta Gorda for the southern part of Florida. As we were removing the last ropes from the pier, Afika suddenly felt very generous and gave the assistant harbour master, Randy (yes, that is his real name), one of her elaborate colourful drawings. As Mads was commanding the vessel steering her out of the slip, he noticed that she was rather slow on the uptake. After about a minute, as we are turning to face the exit of the harbour, I see a very worried Mads, who loudly exclaims that the engine is not responding as it should be. He revs the engine but no response and Double O is moving but rather sluggishly through the harbour waters. As we exit and head for the markers for the outer channel (one has to keep her wits about in these waters, there is hardly any water under the keel, therefore some hard concentration is required to stay on the channels with sufficient water), Mads suddenly shouts that I have to get ready to put the sails up as we do not have enough speed to steer Double O. In the middle of the channel, there we are unfurling the genoa/headsail and the main! Lo, people must have thought we are really cool. If only they knew that the boat had no power. We made it into the channel though a tortoise would have been faster than us. As soon as we had manouevering room, Mads promptly took the chisel and jumped into the water. His immediate suspicion that the propellers were covered in barnacles (bastard creatures that attach themselves fast on anything on water) was rather accurate. With snorkel and chisel, he started working on removing them- not an easy job without diving gear. After an hour of diving, scraping, going up for breath, he managed to scrub a thick layer of barnacles off. The engine responded accordingly after this cleaning venture of the props. Mads was once more a content captain. We had speed and since there was no wind to speak of, we could make way without dragging a whole colony of shell fish.

After a couple of hours of sailing, as dusk was setting in, we decided to set anchor in Charlotte Bay. The wind picked up at night making us a bit worried that we would drag during the night. To our relief we were still at the same spot at dawn. The journey continued south in the tricky waters of the Intracoastal- somewhat sheltered waters between mainland and the islands from the southern USA all the way up to Maine. Doing the Intracoastal means you don't have to worry about the wind in the Gulf and the Atlantic ocean but it also means you have to use your engine a lot more than your sails as some of the stretches are very narrow not leaving much room for movement. The second anchor was planned for Cabbage Key