Thursday, January 6, 2011

Holidays on the New River

We've been here for three holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Thanksgiving was a treat when we cooked our first full turkey on the grill. We weren't sure it would fit, but it did. In the past we've done Cornish hens. Jen completed the feast with hericot verts (snobby green beans) stuffing, fancy sweet potatos and home made cranberry sauce.

In anticipation of our trip to Disney on the following Sunday, I picked up the rental car the Friday after Thanksgiving. Since I had a car and the weather was nice, I decided to do some quick shopping for Jen's Christmas presents. It says something for my current level of detachment from the normal US society that I didn't realize that I was venturing out into the evil cauldron of "TheDayAfterChristmasShoppingMadness". I made it home alive (and without much to show for my efforts) and told Jen how nuts it was out there. She just laughed and asked me why I would ever go out shopping on Black Friday, given my dislike of crowds. My response was a sheepish "Ooops, I guess I forgot about that.". Ah well. It's a good thing, really.

The Disney trip was a good holiday for the crew of Mirasol. We left the boat for five whole days of hotel living and gratuitous Quinn spoiling. We spent time at the Magic Kingdom (Quinn's favorite, of course), Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We did the Micky Christmas Party, which was a lot of fun and Quinn hung in there right up until they kicked us out at midnight. Going the week after Thanksgiving was perfect as the crowds were very light. We were able to avoid waiting in any lines longer than about 20 minutes, most much less than that. The only place where lines were a problem was Hollywood Studios. We always let Quinn decide if we would wait for a ride, and anything over 20 minutes to a half hour he always chose to find something else to do. That's my boy! Lines suck. ;)

Christmas was full of the usual excitement for Quinn and the whole family. Quinn now has great confidence that Santa will find us wherever we are. Jen outdid herself once again with the Christmas Eve Feast. We had a roast beef tenderloin with a delicious port wine reduction, asparagus, taters and a yummy cherry compote over ice cream for desert. Quinn set out the cookies and milk for Santa and went promptly to sleep after admonishing me not to stay up too late. It was good advice. Christmas morning came EARLY.

New Years Eve was a blast. We were joined by our friends Brian, Shannon and Cooper Hermann. The six of us wandered around the festival across the river from Mirasol for a few hours, stopped for some great burgers at Tarpon Bend Restaurant and then retired to the boat for a few games of Mexican Train. Once midnight rolled around we gathered on Mirasol's bow to view the ball drop and fireworks which were shot off directly across the river from us. Brian and Cooper spent the night, it being Cooper's first overnight on a boat. Quinn was very pleased to share his bunk.

We're hoping to be in the islands for the next holiday!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ft Lauderdale stay extended

December was a busy month with boat maintenance, visits with family, holidays, a trip to Disney and lots of provisioning.

As for maintenance, the problem with the fuel line turned out to be a severely cracked fuel pickup tube inside the starboard fuel tank. It is likely it's been cracked since it was installed and has gradually worsened as time went on. It took a lot of looking to find it. Pickup tube cracking wasn't on my short list of causes for a fuel problem. It is now.

Other maintenance chores included repairing and cleaning the grill in preparation for holiday feast grilling (love that Magma Catalina grill, we give it a real workout), some minor but useful enhancements to our navigation light switching, gear oil changes for Mirasol and the outboard, new wire harness for the dinghy, replacement of the cockpit cushion padding (worn out from too much loafing, I suppose), water-maker servicing, etc.

Family visits included a trip to Ft Myers to visit with my parents in their new home as well as a visit with my sister Anita, her husband Todd, and son Riley. Both visits were a lot of fun.

Provisioning the boat for an extended trip to the islands has taken up much of our time... and budget. We recently decided to spend the hurricane season of 2011 in Grenada, which is very exiting for us. This means we'll be out of the country for almost 18 months instead of 8 months, making provisioning more complex. Once we're out of the US, we'll spend 95% or more of our nights at anchor, with months between any stay at a marina.

Jen has stocked the freezer with vacuum-sealed meat, cabinets with canned goods, bow lockers with paper towels ($4 a roll in the islands) and our bilges are stocked with dozens of quarts of UHT Milk, Juice Boxes, and little soda and several cases of beer. At $80 a case for Heineken in the islands, it pays to bring a few with us! No need to stock rum, of course!

In the room remaining, I've stashed spare parts for every major system on board. It's impossible to carry enough spares for all possibilities without breaking the bank and sinking the boat, but we do have most critical systems covered as best we can. We're also loaded up with as much consumables as I think we'll need. Lots of filters... oil and fuel filters for three diesels, belts, gaskets, oil, gear lube, joker valves and rebuild kits for the heads (ick!) water maker filters, blah blah blah. I need a spreadsheet to track them all, and where I've stowed them.

Our current plan is to tour the out-islands of the Bahamas this winter. Come spring we'll work our way south through the Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the West Indies until we reach Grenada in late June. We're not sure which islands we'll stop at on the way down, but we'll be in the neighborhood of the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Bequia, and the Tobago Cays. We plan on staying in Grenada through November, and then begin a leisurely return journey north, ending up in Florida in early summer, 2012. We hope to enroll Quinn in school while we're in Grenada, but we're not yet sure if that can be arranged.

We selected Grenada as our home for the hurricane season as it is generally safe from hurricanes (or not), and is a very beautiful place to spend some time. Trinidad, 90 miles south-west of Grenada, is a better bet for avoiding hurricanes. However, it's not a desirable a cruising destination. It is a very good place to leave your boat on the hard for the summer season, but for live-aboards, it's not so great.

Well, that was our plan. At some point I must have forgot to say "or not". We've had a minor delay.

A little over a week ago, Jen hurt her elbow badly. Had she not hurt herself, it would have been a funny story. As it is, she has considerable pain and bruising and we're not allowed to laugh about it yet ;). It's unclear if there is a fracture involved, but the doc says she has to rest it for a few weeks or she'll end up needing surgery. When told of her plans to head for the islands, he said something along the lines of "you're not going anywhere for several weeks" as the work involved with sailing the boat is just about the worst she could do for her arm. We hope to find out next week if there is a fracture and get a better handle on how long we need to extend our stay here in Ft Lauderdale. It's a bit of a shock as we were all set to leave for the Bahamas this week, but at least we're stuck in a nice place!