Friday, 18 February 2011

Gay Boys on a Gaffer............

A curious title and caused by a nearby sailor we rowed across to help unravel his snarled up anchor chains. Through out the time he insisted on calling us "guys" and as we rowed away implored us "Gentlemen" to let him buy us a beer...! No doubt his confusion was assisted by the fact that it was Bee who leapt onto the deck and wrestled with his anchor rode...perhaps the fact that we were both wearing pink crocs helped. Whatever we got the job done. But it isn't the first time that males have made assumptions based on the colour of my crocs and Bee's short hair; a fact that may have many of our gay friends cheering. Oddly enough it is males who are threatened by the pink croc; women have smiled or grinned and declared "they loved them" as they pass me in the street or store!

We're in Key West, the end of the drivable USA, having got down from Beaufort to here in 2 jumps. We spent a day in Beaufort, moving across to the free dock for the day as the rain pelted down. The following day we were startled to hear Blackthorn hailing us on the vhf and delayed our departure to say one more final goodbye after a quick wander around town together. We left about 4 thinking we would head for an anchorage some 10 miles down river but ended up motoring on and out to sea. We seemed to spend the night gybing as the wind shifted around and we wanted to stay close in. That night was the blackest we've known for a long time as sea and sky merged, no lights or stars were visible and the seas became lumpier. So lumpy that the following morning as I went to shift the, just boiled, coffee pot I inadvertently tipped half the contents over my left hand. "Oh Dear" I said as it rapidly blistered and went red, despite immediately running it under cold water.
Bee wrapped it in cling film and we plugged on. By Friday, the following day, it was more painful and we opted to stop at Fort Pierce for a break. A good choice as the anchorage is well protected from the north and not far from the entrance. Booked in via Skype - moving across State lines in the US requires foreign boats to report their position. Most states seem happy with letting them know you have arrived and don't require anything further - not so Florida which is a law unto itself and, at this stage of our feelings, should be avoided like the plague. Perhaps more on it later.
Sat 12 Feb and back out to sea; weather getting warmer, frigate birds could be seen as the water took on a pale green hue!! We must be getting south.... By Fort Lauderdale that evening our speed began to drop as the effect of the Gulf Stream (some 15 miles to the east of us) could be felt. Crossing the sea lanes of Ft L. and Miami is an interesting experience as, particularly at Miami, it seemed the ships were lining up like aircraft approaching Heathrow. By this time the current had changed direction a little and was forcing us toward the shore and the USCG were issuing Hazardous Seas warnings on the VHF as the northerly wind would run against the North going GS....we listened with some alarm as a tanker informed the CG that they would not be anchoring in the designated area because of the impending weather but cruise at slow speed in circles until the pilot was able to board them. Bee wisely argued against stopping in Miami and we left the brightly lit coast  
and began to follow the line of marks that mark the reef that separates the ocean from Hawk Channel. Cruise ships followed us, though further out to sea, as we hugged the reef line. By morning we were approaching the gap we'd opted to run through and into the Hawk. For some time now we'd been seeing Portuguese Man O' War drifting around and soon these numbers became an armada as we sailed through hundreds, if not thousands, of the things. Approaching Key West we turned into the wind and found another cruise liner moving rapidly up the channel toward us as it approached its berth. We beat, with the help of the engine, outside the channel, and watched amazed as this huge ship slid slowly by us and berthed, without fuss, ahead of another liner. No tugs involved either. And then we were anchored. Aaagh Key West how could we have forgotten the anchorage? Where centre console speed boats hurtle through the anchorage leaving wakes that throw small boats about and rowing into the shore, some half a mile away, is to take your life in your hands. Power craft skippers, taking punters out to and back from para-gliding, seemingly intent on looking cool but certainly not looking where they are going are bloody dangerous...surely if engine size was matched to IQ these folks would struggle to rate 2.5hp.

A trip down to KW, principally to meet up with friends from Belfast that, for as yet unknown reasons, didn't work out and we never actually met up. Apart from the sadness of it all we're now in a place we don't want to be, at the wrong side of the wind and currents. Well it ain't meant to be an easy life despite the magazines glossy photos and stories!!

KW is a curious place, a town populated by folks from everywhere else serving folks from everywhere else. Shady streets with wonderful looking colonial houses behind a tacky waterfront and a dockside crammed with boats of every size touting for business. Fewer schooners this year than we've seen before but no shortage of tourists; either arriving by plane or by the 5 cruise ships that have docked and left in the time we've been here. And in one of those great American contradictions given the Cuban Embargo that must be now in its 50th year; that American sailors if found to have spent money in Cuba may have their assets confiscated and so most are scared of entering the territorial waters and where 3 years ago the Customs and Border folks in this sweet little town threatened us because we had come from Cuba; well many of the streets have stores and kiosks proudly displaying and selling Cuban Cigars and Goods. Do As I Say Not As I DO.

And in one of those bizarre things that link us and Blackthorn together we get an email from Jac saying that she too had spilt boiling water over her left arm and suffered large burns.



Sunday, 6 February 2011

Paraffin tales

Well here we are poised in Beaufort South Carolina ready to return to the open sea having whittled off the miles as the weather was unfavourable outside. As ever its been an interesting few days where we met up with Robin and Jac, moved south on the ICW to Southport, went outside for 130 miles down to Charleston, spent a last few days together before going our separate ways; they will pootle on before leaving Blackthorn to go RV'ing and we head who knows where. We've been together, on and off, for the last 3 years so in cruising terms a lifetime. As ever with this sort of life we may well meet up again somewhere along the line (we have plans for a "dribble commune" at some point in the future where Bee, as the resident youngster,  gets to care for the 3 old gits....) but in the meantime we'll have to get used to missing them.

Taylors Cookers..........Don't you just love 'em? Well we get on tolerably well with ours for much of the time but recently we made a serious error and contaminated the fuel .....it took the best part of 5 days to find the problem, clean out the tank, replace the Racor filter, blow through the piping using a bike track pump, rebuild both burners and finally, finally after much depression getting the thing to work properly. Yes I know contaminating the fuel is our fault but somehow... As Robin Knox-Johnson so famously said "I swear by my paraffin cooker.....often" Luckily R&J (fellow sufferer's) were close by to offer solace, hot food and in the end some of the spares before we parted company.

We left Charleston or Wappoo  Creek, struggled through the cut with the tide hard against us and worked our way through the usual narrow and, to us, shallow channels before fetching up for the night in a deserted anchorage. Leaving the following day in fog and driving rain I had momentary doubts about the sense of it all but we persevered and were rewarded with an interesting "navigational" day as we tried to remain in the channel, watched with alarm as the depths plummeted to 1'9", about 50cms or so as we strayed from the channel before ending up in a sheltered backwater for the night. Lovely. One of the joys of this sort of thing is the day spent dealing with the cold is rewarded with an evening sat in front of the wood burner listening to the silence of the surroundings. We came into this anchorage on a falling tide but left this morning on a rising and consequently had much more water but no clearly defined channel. Cloudy to begin with, the day brightened into clear skies and sunshine and open water as we motored up the Coosaw River toward Beaufort S.C. A short day as the tides helped us and we slid into Factory Creek, close to a road but well sheltered from the wind. Forecasts are looking good for a long run down to Florida and if they hold we'll leave here tomorrow and head back out to sea.