Living in a Land Yacht

Our Land Yacht anchored out at the edge of the Florida Everglades

Our borrowed Land Yacht anchored out at the edge of the Florida Everglades

by Christine Kling

I grew up camping. I have vivid memories of going to sleep in a musty smelling tent in various campgrounds around Southern California and Mexico. Whether it was Ensenada, Guaymas, Big Bear, or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the parents packed us up into the station wagon, and we took off during every school vacation.

1965 13-ft Scotsman travel trailer like the one we owned (photo from tincantourists.com)

1965 13-ft Scotsman travel trailer like the one we owned (photo from tincantourists.com)

In the mid-sixties, my parents bought a 13-foot Scotsman travel trailer like the one in this photo, and I remember the night in Yosemite when the bears were sliding their claws down the aluminum siding and rocking the thing on its wheels. We showered in the campground restrooms, washed our dishes in the creek and peed in the woods. And we all thought it was a great time.

Later, when I was just starting high school, my parents took us to Europe for over a month and we cruised around in a VW camper van. The kids slept in the tent and the parents got the van all to themselves.

This is me circa 1968. Get a look at those stylish pants!

This is me circa 1968. Get a look at those stylish pants!

So, all those experiences could be a very good reason why I took to cruising like I did. And in the early days of my cruising, our boat was simple and it was more like camping – especially when the single head failed on the passage from Hawaii back to Ventura in 1979. I have very few memories of staying in motels as a child, and we certainly never stayed in an upscale hotel.

One thing I remember Wayne telling me when he was explaining how he had Learnativity set up was, “I don’t want to be camping.” Not that he doesn’t love camping, too. And he did as much or more when he was a youngster. But for his everyday life on the boat, he wants to be comfortable.

So, when he told me we were going to be traveling in a borrowed RV on our trip back to Florida, I was thinking 13-ft. Scotsman trailer, not the 40-ft. luxurious ride we are living in (pictured above). So, we still aren’t camping. This lovely motorhome has a propane stove and fridge, a good-sized water tank, water heater, enclosed shower, holding tank, and a 12-volt electrical system. No wonder so many folks decide to get RVs when they leave cruising. This thing truly is a Land Yacht, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re still cruising.

We signed up for a membership in Passport America where we would get 50% off on their member campgrounds, and the first night in Fort Lauderdale we stayed in one of those. Yikes! It was worse than a marina. The RVs were jammed in so tight you could barely walk between them. After that we moved down to Topeekeegee Yugnee Park (known locally as TY Park) and paid $30 for a nice space next to the lake with water, holding tank pump-out, free wifi and nice air-conditioned showers. That was much cheaper than ICW transient docking of my old 33-foot boat.

Also, we have been enjoying what the current generation of RVers calls “boondocking,” otherwise known as free camping. This is comparable to anchoring out. You find places where you can park for free. We have been visiting our beautiful new grandson up in Boca Raton, and we found this great spot at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge at the edge of the Everglades. We get to watch the sunset and the gators and we’re only about 20 minutes away from the new baby.

While I’m not thinking that I’m ready to switch to land yachting yet, I have been getting a hint at the allure of it. At least we both feel more at home traveling inside our portable home than we do when staying in hotels.

It’s time to hit the road, now, so I’ll sign off.

Fair winds!

Christine

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It ain’t easy being the Duck Manager

C.E. Grundler

Yup. Duck Manager. That’s my new title, or at least it was in a typo-filled email addressed to me, but it works all the same. Our basin has it’s share of ducks among the docks, and they spend most of their time eating, pooping, and making yet more fuzzy little duckies. It’s just one more thing to deal with in the endless list of things that arise in a marina as large as Haverstraw. And it’s why, yet again, my day off finds me scrambling between groceries, doctors, assorted and endless errands, and in the end a day ‘off’ is anything but. The days and weeks have blurred past; it’s been non-stop since I signed on last July, and now that the mountain of winter contracts is beginning to slack off as hauling season moves along, I see (at last) quieter days ahead. The time I’ve scraping out for writing grows longer with each night, and it feels almost as though I’m finally reclaiming some of myself again. With any luck, I might even be posting regularly over the coming months — and oh, the tales I have to tell — because it’s rarely dull, managing ducks.

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Testing my patience

By Mike Jastrzebski

Sometimes I just loose my patience. Sometimes it’s because I put something off, and it sneaks up and bites me in the ass. This usually means more either more work in the long run, or life becomes a little less convenient. An example of this would be my putting off filling the propane tanks. I put off filling them because we had pulled the dinghy last week and I thought we could get through until next week. Surprise. The stove went out last night (Saturday) and I can’t get the tanks in to be filled until Monday. Mary’s not complaining because it means we had to go our for coffee this morning and we’re going out for dinner tonight. No cooking-no dishes.

Then there are the times that it seems as if the gods are against us. For example, this morning after walking Mary to work I rode the dinghy back to the boat and stated the engine, something I do every couple of weeks just to make sure it’s running right. It started right up and when I checked, water was flowing through the engine and life was great. Fifteen minutes later I went out to shut off the engine and temperature gauge was just about as high as you can get.

I shut her down and while checking out all of the possibilities I discovered that a small critter had worked its way past the through hull fitting and wedged itself into the intake hose just before the water filter. A half hour later I had the engine running, the engine temperature was perfect, and life was back on track.

For those who read the blog on regular basis, my plan is to continue posting every week from now on with a possible exception of the month of November. The reason for this is I am planning on taking part in the NaNoWriMo annual novel writing project. This takes place every November and the goal is to write a complete first draft of a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days.

This means I will have to sit down and write 1667 words every day of the month. I’ve done this twice before. The first draft of The Storm Killermy historical thriller, was written during a previous NaNoWriMo, and the first draft of Stranded Naked Blues, the third book in my Wes Darling Sailing Mystery/Thriller series, was written as a Camp NaNoWriMo project.

As a result of this project my posts will be skimpy or perhaps nonexistent in November.

 

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Departures and arrivals

Windyty

by Christine Kling

Say hello to the early arrival of the first tropical storm in the South Pacific this season. Just as the folks along the eastern Atlantic coast are sighing with relief that another hurricane season is coming to a close, here in Fiji, November 1 marks the start of the South Pacific cyclone season. Whenever we meet people off other boats now, the first question is always “Where are you going?” The most common answer is New Zealand, but some are headed down to Australia or up to the Marshall Islands. That first tropical storm is sliding down between Fiji and Vanuatu as you can see on the screenshot I took above on windyty.com. With this being an El Niño year, things are heating up around the equator. We’re hoping that the fact that the water temperature here in Fiji is colder than normal, will help us get through this upcoming season.

We, too, are facing our own departure time, but we are not leaving on board our boat—we’re flying back to the US and Canada. We decided some time ago that Learnativity would spend the cyclone season here in Fiji — mostly on the hard, and we will be gone for two of the six months of the season. What started with the decision to replace the keel cooler has turned into a major refit. We are having the boat painted, both the hull and the deck, remodeling the workshop in the engine room, and we are having all the interior woodwork refinished—including painting inside all the drawers and cupboards so we have to empty out everything into boxes. The labor costs here in Fiji are significantly less than in the US or Canada, so Wayne is working alongside a crew of guys to get all this work done. I’m helping with the packing and the inventory, but most days I spend off the boat working on book business.

As usual, things are not getting done as fast as we’d hoped. This is always the case no matter where you are on a boat, but here it is made a bit more challenging due to the concept of “Fiji time.” We love the culture of these island people who sing and dance and laugh, but that same culture means that they often don’t show up for work— and that’s not necessarily considered a bad thing here. This doesn’t mean they are lazy. The guys working on our boat work very hard. But their priorities are different. They understand that life is precious and we only get one chance to enjoy it. While North Americans work their frenzied lives away, Fijians focus on the moment. They see the beauty in life and family and stop to appreciate it. As much as we love the people and the culture, and we think we should learn from them, it can be frustrating when we are trying to get the work done. We had hoped to have at least one of the various projects finished before we left, but that’s not going to happen.

Vida Point Marina here is an official port of entry and when boats have been here for a long time and become friendly with lots of the staff, they get a singing send-off by a collection of marina, chandlery, and restaurant staff. The song is Isa Lei, the Fijian farewell song. I took a video of the departure they gave this Italian boat last week.

The main reason for our trip north is because of a new arrival. My son Tim and his wife Ashley are expecting their first born around Nov. 1st. Baby boy Liam will be our second grandchild, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to be there to welcome his arrival into the world.

Fair winds!

Christine

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We miss it.

By Mike Jastrzebski

St. Augustine is okay, but Mary and I both miss the clear blue waters of the Bahamas. So what are we going to do about it?

IMG_1997

Those of you who read this blog have probably noticed that I haven’t posted for awhile. In fact my last post was about our lightning strike. Part of the reason for the lack of postings is that nothing much has happened, except that I have been working on repairing and replacing the lightning damaged equipment so that we can get out of here and head south.

Here’s a list of what I’ve done in the past month:

Purchased and replaced the solar panel controller.

Purchased and replaced the battery monitor.

Purchased and replaced the the battery combiner.

Purchased a replaced the VHF radio. However, there was a glitch with this project. We hired a rigger to go up the mast and check the rigging and replace the antenna. Unfortunately, he discovered that the wiring was fried below where he could reach and it has to be replaced. Since this means we have to pull the boat and have the mast taken down I have decided to mount an antenna above the solar panels and run a cable from there to the VHF radio. We’ll loose a little distance on the radio, but we won’t be stuck in the yard most of the winter.

Our Icom Ham radio is also out and when I contacted Icom they said repairing damage from lightning strikes is iffy, but if I send it in and they can’t fix it there is no charge. If they can fix it and I decide the cost isn’t worth it for a ten year old radio there is just a $49.00 charge plus shipping to send it back to me.

Our auto pilot was not working and I thought it was due to the lightning strike, but after further examination I discovered that the outside electrical plug was bad and I ordered a new plug. Hopefully that will take care of the problem.

I’m waiting for the cooler weather to tackle the windlass. I’m hoping that’s just a connection problem.

In the non-lightning problem area we have a leak in our high pressure dinghy floor so this week we’re pulling the dink and patching it. Hopefully it will hold. With the dinghy out of the water I plan on changing the oil and the lower unit lube on the outboard.

Finally, (I hope) we need to replace out 11 year old Honda 2000 generator. The old one is literally falling apart and will no longer run at the top rated speed. We have decided to wait until we get to Titusville to replace it. That will give us a chance to see if everything else is running okay before we put out $1000.00 for a generator.

I’ve also begun work on outlining the next Wes Darling Book.

With all of this we hope to get out of St. Augustine before Christmas and head south.

Wish us luck.

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Loose ends…

2015-10-02 14.55.14

Watch your head!

 

C.E. Grundler

That’s how I’ve felt this morning, kind of at loose ends. It took me a while to figure out why. Thursdays are my day off, and today is one of the first days I’ve had entirely to myself, truly alone in my own head, for some time now. It’s a strange feeling, one I’d most forgotten. And though Joaquin was kind enough to spare the eastern seaboard, here on the Hudson we got our share of high winds and a substantial tide surge. To say that I’m looking forward to the quieter days ahead would be an understatement. And I’m looking forward to more than brief, always far too short sessions of just shutting out the world and writing, such as I’m doing today. Or at least half of today. Now it’s time to load up the Devious Diesel (yup, my lovely little Jetta is one of them,) and me and the dogs are heading down to the boat.

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Puppygate Fiji 2015

The quarantined hooligan stars of Puppygate Fiji 2015

The quarantined hooligan stars of Puppygate Fiji 2015

by Christine Kling

I mentioned in my post last week, “Tales from the boatyard,” that we have been having problems with Fiji Biosecurity due to our having hauled our boat out with two quarantined dogs on board. Because we have to laugh no matter what happens to us, Wayne have taken to calling this debacle Puppygate.

For those who are old-timers like me, biosecurity is the new name for what we used to call “agricultural” when they came out to the boat with immigration and customs to clear us in. Countries are trying, quite sensibly, to stop the importation of invasive species of plants and animals, pests like fruit flies, American iguanas, or zebra mussels, and in the case of a country like Fiji that is rabies-free, they don’t want to bring in any animals that might be carrying rabies. We have nothing against this process, and we were trying to comply with their regulations.

When we cleared in here, we had to show a certificate of health and paperwork demonstrating that the dogs had had all their shots including rabies, as well as that they’d had their Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titre Tests done. While we were allowed to enter the country here with them, they were quarantined to the boat. The problem started when we hauled the boat out — which was necessary since we literally had a hole in the bottom of the boat. As I wrote last week, they didn’t notice for the first two weeks, but once they did notice the dogs, the troubles started.

Misud, the Biosecurity officer here at Vuda Point Marina had recently been transferred here from the Nadi Airport. I guess he was more accustomed to an adversarial relationship from his experience there. The day Puppygate Fiji 2015 started, and they came and threatened to take away the dogs, Misud wrote us out a court summons saying we had committed an offense and fined us $1650 Fijian. He said we had forfeited our bonds of $3000.00 Fijian, and started us on daily monitoring which meant paying the $28.75 Fijian per day. We searched through their hundred some page document concerning bringing animals into the country, and it says nothing about hauling a boat out. It simply says it is the responsibility of the captain to make sure the animals on the boat do not have contact with animals on the shore. Since our deck was about 16 feet off the ground, there wasn’t much chance that our dogs were going to get onto the ground. But we decided not to go to court in a foreign country. We paid all our fines.

And then we decided to try to butter them up. We were nice as can be. We learned that in order to import a dog from the Marshall Islands, we would need to have the dog quarantined for 30 days. We suggested to them the dogs had been quarantined on the boat under daily monitoring for 30 days, therefore we should be able to bring them in. Another $150 Fijian and a visit to the boat from the official Biosecurity veterinarian, and Misud there smiling and telling us that it was only thanks to him that our dogs can now go ashore.

Puppygate is finally over—we now have imported our dogs. We got the official 15-page document three days ago, and our little Fiji dogs got to go for their first walk in over 2 months.

See how different they look now? These are Fiji dogs!

See how different they look now? These are Fiji dogs!

Traveling with dogs can be a challenge, but the joy we get from them is worth the hassle and expense. Now every evening when we go out to our little grassy patch to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset, our Fiji dogs get to come with us.

All's well that ends well

All’s well that ends well

Fair winds!

Christine

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It’s deja-vu all over again…

C.E. Grundler

Yeah, I really don’t like the look of this. Let’s all hope it follows the European model and drifts politely out to sea.

Screenshot 2015-10-01 16.14.38

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Havana Daydreaming

hotel-ambos-mundos
by John Urban

On location:Cuba. Okay, not yet, but soon enough this blog will dispatch one of our writers to report on the happenings 90 miles south of the southern tip of Route 1.

I, for one, would have several important stops to make in Cuba. Hemingway’s boat? Yes, indeed. High on my list is a trip to the writer’s former home – Finca Vigía – to see his 38-foot Wheeler, Pilar. A stop in town, as well. They say room 511 of the Hotel Ambos Mundos (pictured above) is kept as a tribute to the author. I’ll be interested in finding out.

Pilar
(Ernest Hemingway’s 38-foot Wheeler, Pilar)

Stop #2. Anywhere on that island nation that is known to serve a good Mojito. A few years back I joined a couple of writer-friends for dinner on Lincoln Road in Miami. That night I had the most amazing Mojito and I’ve been searching for an equal concoction ever since. So far, mine has been a travel guide of lesser Mojitos. Could the issue be that my mind was clouded by having more than one Mojito that night in Miami? Maybe, maybe not. But the search is on and I am certain the journey reaches its successful end on the island of Cuba.

Mohito

Stop #3. Live jazz-fusion music. When I was in my late teens I saw Chucho Valdés and the band Irakere. Castro let them make their way to the states as part of a diplomatic exchange and they were the opening act for Stephen Stills. A good friend and I were in the first row when a band member tossed me the large beaded percussion drum he’d been playing. I thought I had a souvenir. “Shake it and pass it,” my friend said. I did and I’ll never forget the electricity of that music. Ry Cooder re-ignited that same sense with his album Buena Vista Social Club. Later, friends invited us to see an older Chucho Valdés energize his piano with Latin sounds at an Emerson College performance. This is all but prep for the real thing – seeing jazz-fusion right there in Havana.

Stop #4. The marinas and boatyards. People frequently talk about the old 1950s Chevies and Fords that still bump along the streets of Havana. That will interest me without a doubt. Yet, I also want to search the marinas and boatyards for an old Cubavich sports fisherman. The name Cubavich is a takeoff on Florida-built sport fishing boats built by the Rybovich family near Palm Beach. Bernie Madoff kept a Rybovich (okay, so he had taste). Down in Cuba, they started making knockoffs, boats that became known as a Cubavich. They weren’t made as well as their northern counterpart, but they were good looking boats. Time to check them out.

Bull
(Bernie Madoff’s Rybovich Bull)

Stop #5. A Cuban sandwich and a cup of Cuban coffee. The last time I had a “Cuban” sandwich, it was a ham and cheese from Publix market in Florida. That’s roughly equivalent to ordering steak tartare from the canteen truck. Next time, I’m getting a real Cuban. Coffee, too.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Exotic even. Yes, until you consider that the place has been swarming with Germans and Canadians for years. And it’s not not nearly as exciting when you consider that friends have been going in past years, getting in via flights from Mexico, hoping that the Cuban customs officers wouldn’t stamp their passports. And then there are others who cross the Gulf Stream and tie-up their boats, keeping their legal status by not purchasing Cuban goods. Oh, and then there are the masses who have been visiting the island on cultural tours. Wait a minute. Is it possible that this embargo has been lifted because everyone has already been going to Cuba? Maybe.

Yes, but still, there is that search for the Mojito. Sign me up.

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Tales from the boatyard

Beer taps at the restaurant

Beer taps at the restaurant

by Christine Kling

Wayne likes to tease me about how fiction writers don’t have a hope in hell of making stuff up that is anywhere near as weird, crazy, or ridiculous as the truth. You know, the stuff that falls into the You-Can’t-Make-This-Sh*t-Up category. Lately, it seems like there is something that comes up almost every day, and we’re not even following the presidential election in the states!

Recently we had two boats in the yard here doing repairs because they had been hit by whales. One had his twelve foot long centerboard completely broken off when the whale pushed him along at 5 knots going sideways. The other had his shaft bent and ensuing damage to his transmission. Otherwise, both boats survived their encounters. But here’s the weird thing. Both boats were Swedish.  We don’t meet that many Swedish boats out here. Do the Pacific whales have it in for the Swedes?

OctoberfestThe restaurant here in the marina/boatyard is putting on a special event this weekend and next. It’s an Octoberfest party. Half in September. In Fiji. They have big vats of beer, frosty one-liter steins and German food. The Fijian guys who are the waiters are wearing lederhosen. Seriously.

We have been having a problem with Fiji Biosecurity. We had been hauled out for about three weeks when one day a Biosecurity officer came by and asked about the dogs on board. When we entered Fiji, we declared the dogs, showed their papers showing that their shots are up to date and they have had their Rabies Neutralizing Antibody Titre Tests done. Then we had to post a bond in the amount of $1500 Fijian per dog and promise that they will remain quarantined to the boat. But that day we eventually had three Fiji Biosecurity officers on board and they were threatening to take both dogs and destroy them. They claimed that by hauling the boat out of the water, we had essentially landed the dogs in Fiji and we had committed a crime. The head officer named Misud was very aggressive and threatening and I was in tears. We were fined and issued a court summons.

Dangerous boat dogs

Dangerous boat dogs

Finally, we got them to back off from taking the dogs that day, but we have been under “monitoring” ever since. The BioSecurity officers come by, often don’t even look at the dogs, but they charge us $28.75 every day. This has been going on for a month. Then Misud, the guy who was so mean and shouting at us that first day started to warm up to us. When he comes by now Barney crawls into his lap, (the dog he wanted to kill) and he pets the dog as he writes out our receipt for daily monitoring. Then one day in a complete and total reversal, he asked if Wayne would take a picture of him holding both dogs so he could show the dogs to his kids. Our bipolar Biosecurity officer is now helping us to do the paperwork to officially “import” the dogs into Fiji—which their own regulations say cannot be done via a yacht—and we’ve invited him to bring his kids by the boat some weekend.

Learnativity has a rat on board! You would think of all the boats in this yard the one on the hard with TWO dogs permanently quarantined to the boat—one of which is a terrier—would be the least likely boat for a rat to take up residence in. But you would be wrong! Our two dogs sleep up on the aft cabin bunk with us every night. Meanwhile, Mr. Ratatouille is having a fine time dancing on our galley counters and dining on our fresh bananas and papayas every night. Do the dogs every wake up and hear him or smell him??? Nooooooo. Of course, it doesn’t help that we have a big hole cut in the bottom of our steel boat with a length of big black 3” diameter sanitation hose providing a rat road ramp right up into the bilge. We are not sure if Mr. Ratatouille is only a night time visitor or a permanent resident. Tonight the dogs might find themselves chained to the galley table.

Finally, there is our singing welder. His name is Tui (which means bird) and he has the voice of an angel. He sings these lovely Fijian songs – which we don’t understand a word of – in this high tenor voice, and I think they all must be love songs. He sits on his little stool in the mud under our boat wearing his big black coveralls, holding his welder’s helmet in one hand and peering through the window (it’s too hot to wear the helmet) at the sparks flying from the arc welder, all the while he is singing his heart out.

We have been in the boatyard two months now and while hiking to the head and living in the dirt does get old sometimes, at least it’s always entertaining!

Fair winds!

Christine

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