Friday, January 30, 2009

Key Hopping

Originally Posted January 22, 2009

I don't usually talk about politics in this blog, but Tuesday was a pretty awe-inspiring day not just for the country but for the gypsies!

Tammy here...

We had stayed another day in Coconut Grove due to really high winds and bad seas, so about 11:30 am, Colleen, Doug and I made our way back to Mr. Moe's Bar and Grill to watch the inauguration. We certainly weren't going to head north to brave the cold on the Mall like so many millions, so since Mr. Moe's has 34 ounce beers and about 20 TVs, it sounded like the perfect place to see history unfold and celebrate. John had to leave that morning to fly back to New Hampshire for that work thing, so unfortunately he wasn't with us to wave a fond (OK I'm trying to be nice...) farewell to the old, and give a very enthusiastic hello to the new! Despite the fact that I had been looking forward to this day for a very long time (I did after all have one of the very first 1/20/09 hats and I'm very sure it was the first in Kennebunkport), I was truly surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by the emotions! The three of us watched with rapt attention first Biden being sworn in, then Aretha Franklin singing, Obama's oath of office and finally the inaugural address - there wasn't a dry eye in Mr. Moe's. We felt a little better when Al Roker confessed to the same thing. What we watched was not only history being made, but renewed hope, energy, youth, compassion and above all leadership - all of which have made this country great over the years but which have been lacking for some time amidst the pains of war, terrorism, partisanship and recession (yes, its past January 20th, so we can actually call it that now). Our gypsy hope is that our new President can live up to such lofty expectations and set this great country of ours on a better, stronger path (of course being cruisers we wouldn't mind universal health care and the opening of Cuba either!)!

But enough of politics....we left Coconut Grove the next morning at sun-up despite some heavy winds and cool temps (OK - I know it wasn't below freezing like up in New England but its funny how quickly we have adapted to warmer climes). We weren't going far - just across Biscayne Bay to No Name Harbor - so we bundled up (Colleen even got her winter gloves out!) The morning got off to a tough start, though - as we exited Dinner Key Marina, we saw a sailboat in the anchorage engulfed in flames. As a boater, few things strike more fear in your heart than the thought of flames onboard!!!

Over the next 15 minutes we saw and heard SeaTow and the various fire and rescue boats responding - unfortunately they couldn't save the dog aboard. I quickly hugged our two boat kitties - they are 21 so I know we won't have them around forever, but for now, we cherish every day we have with them (and if we feed them way too many treats and spoil them rotten, well they'd tell you its just what they deserve)! Even Auntie Colleen has gotten into spoiling the girls!

Since there was nothing we could do to help the sailboat, we continued on to No Name Harbor, a very cute, protected harbor at the southern end of Biscayne Bay.

The wind was whipping and the harbor was pretty full so we decided to just tie up to the seawall in back of a couple other boats so we could go ashore for the day to explore Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

We walked around the park along the water's edge, found a very cool restored lighthouse, hit the beach even though it was definitely not swimsuit weather and wandered through various nature trails. We found some great flora, saw a huge green iguana (which was too fast for me to get his picture) and came across a beautiful mangrove swamp. [To see an enlarged picture double click on the thumbnail]

Five miles later we were parched and ready to head back to the boat for some coldies.

As we were sitting beers in hand watching the sun go down, a couple whom we had met in Charleston before Thanksgiving happened to walk by the boat - did we mention how small a world it is!! We first caught up about where we've all been since then, compared notes about future plans and then swapped some boat stories as cruisers often do. We felt pretty good about ourselves when they told us they had run aground 3 times requiring a tow and had stopped counting how many times they had just hit ground - ouch!! So far (our fingers are crossed) but we haven't required the services of TowBoat US for going aground (no that's NOT what happened in Northport) and have only really hit a couple times. We both will be in the Bahamas in March so hopefully we'll be able to meet up with these guys again - of course, if we do, we'll let them go first!

We left this morning again at sun-up on our first leg down the Keys - we wanted to get out of dodge before the park rangers came to work since we never left the sea wall to anchor after we got back from the state park yesterday afternoon - in our defense, the winds were still humming, the harbor was crowded, the boats in front of us didn't move and the beers were too cold and good. Sometimes they don't really care and we just told ourselves this was one of those times!! We had a beautiful steam this morning down the Hawk Channel and as you can see, the boat kitties have gotten their sea legs back after a rocky run for them from Pompano to Coconut Grove.

We are now anchored off of Rodriguez Key - the water is that wonderful shade of blue that you see down here and in the islands which makes you want to just dive off the back of the boat!!! Not going to happen today though as its still pretty cold and windy, although Colleen did find a place to sunbathe....I think she was last heard uttering, "I'm in the islands, darn it - I'm going to get some sun..." Sounds like something sun pig would say!!

Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer and we are headed further south to Lignumvitae or Shell Key where they have some moorings and more state parks to explore. Hopefully we can drop the dink and the kayaks and start living da life again in the sun!!!! Tonight I guess we'll just have to suffer through another beautiful sunset in paradise - this one over Key Largo!

To see a Google Map of our locatin in No Name Harbor click here.

To see a Google Map of our location off Rodriguez Key click here.

Coconut Grooving...

Originally Posted January 19, 2009

Well, we are back on the water and moving south again.

Doug here.

Gypsies in the Palace spent 27 days in Pompano Beach (but who's counting). We arrived two days before Christmas so we could drive down to see Scott and Michelle Kirby in Key West for Christmas. On January 1, Colleen and John left the boat to spend 12 days with her folks at their winter place in Pompano Beach. We got to visit with a couple other DeFever couples, we got reprovisioned and we got a lot of work done on the boat. It was a great time but we were ALL ready to get back out on the water. Well, almost all. Puss and Boots had lost their sea legs since we spent 2 and a half months in the ICW or at dock. They were not happy boat kitties today when we went outside in 2 to 4 foot seas but by the time we completed our 6 hour trip they were back to normal.

The weather wasn't too bad today so we decided to go outside for the trip from Pompano Beach to Biscayne Bay (Miami). We had 25 knot winds most of the trip but they were from the southwest so the chop was not bad. We didn't make very good speed today due to the edges of the jet stream which travels north so the 42 nautical mile trip took 6 hours. We made the 7:00 AM opening of the Hillsboro Inlet Bridge and went about 3 miles off the coast. The sun was just coming up as we looked back at Hillsboro Inlet and forward toward our next adventure.

The jet stream was so strong there, we were only making about 5.6 knots so we came back in to about a mile and a half off shore getting the speed up to just over 7 knots.

About 7:30, I went down to make my first engine room check and found that the gages on the stabilizer system said they had no pressure and they were, therefore, doing us no good. I spent 15 minutes checking everything to be sure the power was on and none of the hoses had leaked. The system was full of oil and had power. So, what could be the matter? Well, when all else fails, ask someone for help. I called my friend Captain Steve (Steve Koch - who put in my electrical system upgrade). Steve mentioned that the system has a fail safe that consists of switches on the two transmissions which, if both engines aren't in forward gear, will shut down the system. Now, even I knew that both engines were in forward gear since we were making 7 knots. I went down into the engine room and took both switches apart, checked the wires, tightened them and put the switches back together. Sounds easy when you write it, but remember that the boat is in 2 to 4 foots seas without stabilizers and the switches are down on the side of the transmissions, right beside the shafts which are turning at 1700 RPM...and the engine room is about 120 degrees. It took me nearly an hour to take the switches apart and put them back together. But, low and behold, after the switches were back together, I turned on the stabilizers and they worked perfectly. Now many of you are saying, "what's the big deal, he fixed a couple of switches". This is, however, the first time that we have had something happen underway, that we were able to fix underway. It was a time for great celebration by the crew of Gypsies.

The approach into the Miami harbor was very interesting.
Tammy was at the wheel and had to dodge several car ferries and a bunch of other boats, all in 25 knot winds. She did a masterful job as usual and got us into the harbor and back onto the ICW. After traveling south several miles on the ICW, turning over the controls to me part way, we approached the very narrow channel into Dinner Key. As I started into the channel, with 25 knot winds on my port beam now, two wind surfers decided that the only place in all of Biscayne Bay that they needed to be was in the middle of the channel that we were in. Now a wind surfer needs about 6 inches of draft and I need 5.5 feet, and the water on either side of this very narrow channel is less than 4 feet. So we were having trouble figuring out why they needed to be in the channel so badly. However, after a nice loud sounding of the horn on Gypsies, they decided they didn't really need to be in that channel after all.

The dock in the Dinner Key Marina had about 25 knots of wind across the dock pushing Gypsies away from the dock. With the help of a couple dock hands and a fellow from the boat right next to us we were able to get Gypsies up against the dock. It wasn't pretty but no one got hurt. My definition of a successful dock!

The four of us decided to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Coconut Grove. Now Coconut Grove has special significance to our traveling companions, Colleen and John, since they got engaged here about nine years ago. We, of course, had to return to the scene of the crime and had beers at the Barracuda Bar and Grill.

This bar has exactly the ambience I would expect of the place John would pick to propose to Colleen (she put her foot down at Hooters). The bartender was really excited when he found out why we were there. My guess is that it is not a frequent occurrence for him!

We, of course, couldn't have only one beer today so we tried a couple of other bars. Mr. Moes was a great bar with a really "old west" motif. But the drinks were good as were the apps.

As we walked back to the boat at 5:30 PM, we remarked that it was great to be watching the very beginning of a sunset at 5:30 with 70 degree temperatures. Where we all came from it was in single digits and got dark at 4:30 today.

Back on the boat, we all went our separate ways (which isn't very separate on this boat) while Colleen prepared dinner. Tomorrow our crew drops by one again as John has to fly back to Manchester for a week for that work gig. Well, I guess someone has to do it. The rest of us head across the Bay to No Name Harbor for a couple days and then off to the Keys.

Click here to see a Google Map of our Coconut Grove location.

Semi-True Stories

Originally Posted January 14, 2009

A dragon, three snakes and a cock go into a bar...sounds like a joke right? But it actually happened the other night in Pompano Beach...

Tammy here.

How so you might ask? We had a mini-cruisers reunion with some good friends of ours, Vicki and Norm from Tide Hiker, whom we haven't seen since our bon voyage party in New Hampshire back at the beginning of September. They have been cruising the East Coast like us but always seemed to be about two weeks behind our schedule - until now! Tide Hiker arrived in Pompano Beach on Sunday along with friends and cruising buddies of theirs, Lynnie and Rick on another DeFever named Rickshaw. After helping them into their slips, not such an easy task with the ripping current and really low tide (Rickshaw hit ground and had to actually go bow into the slip and for anyone who knows powerboats, thats so embarrassing!) and figuring out how to climb off their boats with no finger piers, the reunion began!

Minus two gypsies (Colleen and John were still visiting Colleen's parents), the festivities kicked off that evening with drinks and apps on Tide Hiker at 5:00 pm - soon the wine and the boat stories were flowing wild and freely. We even told the Northport story which we swore we'd never do (albeit late in the evening - wine could have been the culprit) - if you can't tell your cruising friends a good boating disaster story, who can you tell?? As the wine continued to disappear (we think it was gremlins), we sat down to a wonderful dinner Vicki had cooked. We soon felt like we had know Lynnie and Rick forever - that's how good friends are made in this cruising life (over wine and stories!!) Not wanting the night to end, we wound up on the cockpit with yes, you guessed it, more red wine and a truly decadent desert Vicki had made. Everyone got back on their respective boats without anyone falling in, so the night was deemed a resounding success!

I know, I know - what about the dragon, snakes and cock....the next night drinks were on Gypsies, after which we decided to have Chinese food for dinner. Across the street from our marina is a little Chinese restaurant - it had all of two tables which we promptly put together and took control of. Colleen and John were back aboard so the eight of us formed a "lively" party in what was an otherwise very quiet little restaurant where few people spoke english (probably not such a bad thing). Over beers (they didn't sell wine much to Vicki and Colleen's dismay), we all started discussing the Chinese calendar and the animal representations of the years we were born. You all know those paper placemats in dive Chinese restaurants all across the country that describe the animals in the Chinese Calendar - the year of the "Snake" for instance and if you were born in that year, you are supposed to have certain characteristics and be compatible with certain other animals. Much jocularity ensued about the "animals" we were and our supposed characteristics - but the prize went to Rick, who at a particularly quiet moment, beamed and rather boastfully (or so the other gentlemen in the party felt) declared "I'm a cock!" Now it turns out that Lynnie, John and I are snakes and the cock is very compatible with the snake - after several somewhat off color comments, we settled on the fact that John was just out of luck! So anyways that's the story....

Too much fun - but eventually the night had to end as Tide Hiker and Rickshaw were leaving early the next day. They are both heading south so hopefully we will meet up with them again soon - I see lots more wine and maybe even more Chinese food in our future! After helping them off, the gypsies spent the last couple days doing some last minute work on and around the boat since we are hoping to head south ourselves by the end of the week (although at the moment mother nature seems to have other plans for us).

We finally saw a manatee today - right here at the dock!!!!!

After traveling the whole way down here on the ICW in Florida and traversing untold numbers of slow speed manatee zones and not seeing one, we were starting to think they didn't exist but were just some fictional creature made up by the boating authorities to force boaters to go slow (OK I know we don't go real fast, but even we had to slow down in the manatee zones). But they do exist and are actually really cute, in a big, ugly Vince Vaughn sort of way. We actually turned on the hose and had him (or her - tough to tell) drinking from the hose like he was a baby sucking on a bottle - it was unbelievable.

When we had to turn the hose off, he was bummed and swam away off under all the boats but not before we got a couple pictures of him!! We all just waved and watched him go - who knows if or when we'll see another one of these elusive creatures. Maybe in the FL Keys....


Originally Posted January 10, 2009

Well, we're still in Pompano Beach but we're starting to think of heading south again!!

Tammy here....

We have gotten tons of work done around the boat in the last couple weeks while Colleen and John have been visiting Colleen's parents - we are re-provisioned with enough food on board for a couple months (hopefully now that we are in FL and heading south we will be able to catch fish for dinner!!!); we have ordered all the spare parts we think we need (of course, the first spare we will actually need will be one we don't have - murphy's law of course); and we have oiled, fixed, polished and cleaned most systems on the boat. We still have some work to do but there is starting to be an end in sight, although on a boat there is really never an end to the maintenance - its amazing what salt water does to electrical and mechanical systems!!

This of course makes us want to be on the sea again not just in a marina on the ICW - wanderlust was a main cause of this trip to begin with after all. However, we've changed our plans slightly based on the weather patterns so far this year and lots of advice from our cruising friends. Instead of heading directly to the Bahamas which are subject to lots of nasty cold fronts in the winter (this year thus far has been even worse than usual), we are going to take at least a month and work our way down the Florida Keys. As everyone knows, Key West is just about one of our favorite places so how can the rest of the Keys be a bad place to spend a month - they are warm, on the water, have lots of cool little beach bars and cays to explore and did I mention the weather is great!! Sorry to rub it in (not really...) to all our family and friends back home in the snow - sounds like we got out just in time to avoid a really cold and snowy winter!! Did we really used to love to ski??? Seems like so long ago! We just had a cold front go through here the other night and it dropped the temp to just 73 yesterday....sorry again!!

So that you don't think Doug and I have become all work and no play (as if anyone would) .....we actually spent a whole day at the beach a couple days ago (before the cold front when it was about 80!). We had dinner one night with Colleen's parents at a great Italian restaurant and drinks another night at their condo (or the asylum as they refer to it) with some of their friends. Doug and I have also found what has become our favorite bar in Pompano - Flanigans - where we had dinner and watched the National Championship game with all the other Florida crazies. What a great night! Somehow they already know us by name - kind of like our Cheers in the south although neither of us looks like Norm or Cliffy yet! We'll head back there on Sunday to watch some of the football playoffs - with pitchers of cold beer and just about the best ribs ever, can't see why we wouldn't!!

We just heard from some cruising friends of ours, Norm and Vicki on TideHiker ( a 49' DeFever just like ours) whom we first met in Delaware back in May on our trip bringing Gypsies up to Maine for the summer, that they should be in our neck of the woods in the next day or so. Whenever they get here, a grand cruiser reunion will take place - we haven't seen them since our going away party up in NH. They have been cruising the East Coast as well but have always seemed to be a couple weeks behind where we were - we have the boxes of wine ready!! They are traveling with some friends, also on a DeFever, so hopefully we'll get to meet them too! This is actually part of the lifestyle that is so much fun - you meet people and in a fairly short period of time, you get to be good friends since you are experiencing so many of the same things and lets be honest, it takes a certain type of crazy person to just chuck everything and go off for points unknown in a boat - so we bond!! Then you might not see them for months at a time, but when you do (and you usually do!), its like old home week and the party picks up right where it last left off. Speaking of friends, now that we'll be down in the Keys for a month, we'll be able hopefully to hook up with Brett and Jill on Muircu, our friends from Alligator River and Belhaven, SC who we last saw in Fernandina Beach, FL - they are wintering in Marathon so we'll get to surprise them!!

Lots of people always ask how the cats are doing so I figured we'd post a couple pictures of them doing what they do best!

Have no fears, both Puss and Boots are doing just fine - they have totally adapted to the boat and seem to love having us around all the time. They have completely commandeered our love seat in the salon - one or the other if not both are always on it.

But what the heck - they are 21 years old and deserve the best seats in the house. They have both recovered from the trauma of going to the vet for their rabies shot - we'll have to bring them back to the vet for a health certificate before we head to the Bahamas but they have earned about a month's reprieve on that one. So they remain happy and healthy and lots of fun - even the boat rooster has calmed down somewhat which the human gypsies appreciate - a lot!!!!

Key West Crazies Hit Key West

Originally Posted January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! from all the Gypsies from Pompano Beach, Florida, where we are tied up in a little marina just past Hillsboro Inlet on the ICW. Sorry for the gap in the blog but we were doing some serious holiday partying down in Key West which then merged into Doug's birthday and New Years Eve (which are one and the same), but we're back and almost recovered from our adventures.

Tammy here by the way...

We made it down to Pompano Beach from Lake Worth via the ICW about a week ago (but who's counting since days really don't mean anything to us living on the boat) - the trip was relatively uneventful except having to maneuver through about 15 bridges, most of which we had to have opened before we could go through. What a pain!!! Had the weather been better we definitely would have traveled outside but Mother Nature as usual had other ideas (9 foot seas!). We got a hoot going through the George Bush Boulevard Bridge, which happens to be one of the smallest bridges on the ICW with just 9 feet of vertical clearance - coincidence? I think not!!!

Colleen met us at the dock so the gypsies were reunited once again.

The next morning we headed out to Key West to visit our friend Scott Kirby (who played at our bon voyage party and who we last saw when we crashed his gig in Kent Narrows, Maryland). We had a great drive down through the Keys and were sitting sipping a coldie with Scott and his wife Michelle by noon on Christmas Eve! We stayed across the street from Scott's house on Catherine Street in a wonderful little home owned by his friend Brook (thanks so much Brook!) - it even had a pool so we were in heaven, especially since it was hot enough to enjoy a pool! We headed down to one of our favorite bars Schooner Wharf to hear Michael McCloud sing and to eat some Wharf wings (my all-time favorite wings anywhere!!)

A couple of buckets of Kalik later, it was time to mosey over to Hog's Breath (our other favorite KW bar) to hear Scott and Dave play. If you've never heard Scott's music (it plays a lot on Radio Margaritaville), you should check out his website - he's a really talented guy and a great friend!

After they got done playing, they were ready to hit the party scene so we were all invited to an Xmas Eve bash at one of the bartender's of Louie's Backyard (our other favorite KW bar - think I'm seeing a trend here). From there it became somewhat of a blur... and stories diverge but no one was hurt. Next morning though Doug and I had enough energy to celebrate Christmas morning by walking down to Pepe's for breakfast and mimosas - what a great start to the day!! We did some Duval Street crawling (ie, pub crawling) and found our way back to the house in the afternoon. Colleen the night before had been volunteered (we won't say by whom) to make gumbo for Christmas dinner, which we were planning to spend with Scott and Michelle, so she spent the afternoon playing chef. The gumbo rocked as did the rest of Christmas - we headed to the Kirby's around 5:00 and were met at the door by their dog Badger.

Badger is a great dog who just makes me laugh - it always looks like he is smiling - kind of like a dolphin only furrier. That morning he had tried to climb into my lap over by the pool - I tried to tell him that dude, you're not a cat!! He didn't get it. Right after we got there Christmas evening Badger grabbed Colleen's santa hat from her hand and proceeded to run around the house chewing on it. No one could understand why Colleen didn't want it back on her head - can you say dog slobber!! He kept us entertained much of the rest of the night.

Aside from Badger, there was a wonderful group assembled for Christmas dinner - friends of Scott and Michelle's from all walks of life it seemed - a tennis pro, musicians, a hotelier, and even another cruiser who was without his family for the holidays.

The champagne, warmth and fun flowed freely throughout the evening and dinner was eaten out on the porch under a gentle KW breeze.

Not only did we enjoy Colleen's gumbo, but we had a whole cajun theme happening complete with Turducken and sweet potato pie - Michelle outdid herself! Not wanting the evening to end, we cranked up a great James Taylor dvd (OK - maybe a little too loud - sorry Michelle), heard a couple new tunes Scott wants to record and headed back to Brook's house for a couple more cocktails. All in all, it was a memorable Christmas spent with great friends!!

The next morning, although a little hazy, Doug and I set off again for breakfast at Pepe's - it really is the best! Once we left, it started to rain so we ducked into Schooner Wharf - seems they have 2 happy hours a day, one from 7 am to noon and then again from 5-7 pm (do you get why we love this bar??) At first I felt a little funny drinking beer at 9:00 in the morning, but I got over that real quick - funny thing was, the bar was packed and some of the people were in the same place that we had seen them the day before! You really just have to love KW!!! Another day well spent Duval crawling led to an afternoon nap, something I don't often due but when in KW it is often necessary before round 2 starts. Round 2 for us started at 5:00 pm when we met Scott and some of his friends at Louie's for drinks. We had some cocktails, watched a great sunset and generally just luxuriated in the warmth of the friendships and the island. Michelle met up with us and dinner (which was very necessary at that point) followed at a fun little Mexican place on Duval. We ate too much, we drank too much, we laughed tons (never too much) - our trip to KW had been a resounding success.

The next morning we had to say goodbye to KW and to Scott and Michelle, but not before making plans to meet up with them soon in the Bahamas. Thank you Scott and Michelle for a wonderful trip!! It was a quiet ride back to the boat, broken up by one last fish sandwich at the Islamorada Fish Company (our favorite bar on the way down to KW!)

We were entertained by a steel drum player while we soaked up our last time in the Keys and enjoyed the Best fish sandwiches ever (and a couple coldies).

Back on the boat, it was time to start working to get ready for the Bahamas crossing...but not before we hit the Briny Pub to watch the Patriots beat Buffalo - unfortunately the freaking Jets didn't show up and Miami won, knocking us out of the playoffs. We were in a bar in southern Florida so you can imagine that no one was feeling bad for us!! Bummer and then depression set in - but it was short lived. There is too much to do! Colleen and I spent several days provisioning and Doug became an engine room rat. While we still had Colleen's parents car, we also made runs to West Marine (they now know us by name - not a good thing), Boaters World, Home Depot, etc.... you get the picture.

Yesterday was Doug's birthday - he is 39 with a whole bunch of years of experience!! Unfortunately we spent the first half of it bringing the cats to the vet to get a rabies shot. We just found out that the Bahamas require pets to have a rabies shot more than 30 days before entering the country - so that changes our timing a little. We will be in FL at least for another 30 days before we can cross but I'm sure we'll be able to have some fun!!! The cats not only hate the car, but they did not have a good time at the vets - it was nearly as traumatic for me (although I don't think they would agree)! They were very glad to get back to their "home" - the boat has become home for them too! We spent the afternoon feeding them treats and telling them how brave they were!!

Last night for Doug's bday and for New Years Eve, we decided to have a great dinner on the boat complete with champagne, big steaks and key lime pie for desert instead of braving the crazies out here in southern Florida. Knowing we wouldn't make it to midnight, we had our official Happy New Years before dinner with a ceremonial dropping of a tennis ball. OK - we don't do things on the boat in traditional fashion but we've started our own new traditions and if every New Year is as great as this one, then we'll be happy. Today starts the "second year" of our cruising adventure and our only hope is that it will be as full of fun and discovery as our first!!!! We hope this new year brings much happiness and success to all of our family and friends - we are with you in spirit!

In Search of Electrical Independence...

Doug here,

One of the most complicated and critical systems on a boat is the electrical system. Complicated because you must maintain a system that uses 110 volt alternating current (like general household current - "110 VAC") and 12 volt direct current (like a car - "12 VDC"). Some things on a boat such as refrigerators, air conditioners, hot water heaters and miscellaneous appliances use the 110 VAC and most marine systems such as navigation equipment use the 12 VDC. The second reason it is complicated is that you need 110 VAC to charge the batteries on the boat that produce the 12 VDC. A boat gets access to 110 VAC in three primary ways. One, by being connected to a dock and plugging into what is called shore power. Two, by running a diesel engine onboard called a Generator or Genset for short. This generator is connected to an alternator that creates 110 VAC power. Three, each main engine has an alternator connected to it that takes power from the engine and converts it into 110 VAC. The third complexity is that at times you don't have access to 110 VAC power so you have to convert some of the 12 VDC power in the battery bank into 110 VAC using a device called an inverter so that you can keep the refrigerator and, more importantly, the ice maker working.

When we bought Gypsies in the Palace, she was very well outfitted for general use where you are frequently tied to a dock with access to plenty of 110 VAC power. However, our plans are to spend long periods of time on anchor where we have to produce all of our own power. So let me review the setup of Gypsies originally. She had 12 6-volt batteries, every two in series to create the equivalent of a 12-volt battery and the 6 resulting 12-volt pairs in parallel. This bank of 12 batteries held 1320 AMPS of 12 VDC power and is called the House Bank and is used to run the main systems on the boat. Gypsies also had 4 6-volt batteries that held 440 AMPS of 12 VDC power called the Engine Starting Bank used to start the big diesel engines and 1 battery used to start the generator's diesel engine. The work horse is the House Bank. Gypsies has a 12.5 kilowatt generator that creates 110 VAC power but burns diesel fuel to do so. Attached to each main engine is an alternator. The port engine has a 150 AMP alternator that charges the House Bank. The starboard engine has a 120 AMP alternator that charges the Engine Starting Bank. She had a Xantrex inverter that takes 12 VDC power from the House Battery Bank and converts it to 110 VAC when we are not tied to the dock and do not have the genset running. The inverter also is used to charge the House Bank when we have 110 VAC from shore power or are running the genset. When we bought Gypsies, we thought that she was very well setup and seemed to have all of the electrical systems that we would need. When we were tied up to a dock we got all the power we need by being connected to shore power. When we were underway the big diesel engines would produce enough power to keep the House Bank charged. When we were on anchor, the generator could be started periodically to recharge the batteries. The House Bank would produce the 110 VAC power we needed when we were not connected to shore power and the genset wasn't running.

After the first 60 days of living on the boat, it became clear that Gypsies was under-powered in several important ways. First, the inverter, which doubles as the charger for the House Bank when either the genset is on or we are connected to shore power, took too long to charge the battery bank causing us to have to run the genset about 6 to 8 hours a day to produce enough power. That is both expensive because of the diesel fuel used but also ties me to the boat for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the evening. The second issue was that the alternator on the port engine was under-powered for charging the House Bank if we had started out with the bank partially discharged. It was fine to keep the batteries charged if we started out charged but not if we started with the bank run down from power usage over night. The third issue was that the 1320 AMPS in the House Battery Bank was enough for normal usage but meant that we had to recharge twice a day.

So what to do... I read lots of stuff so I began to understand the issues but not how to solve them. At this time, I was lucky enough to get some posts from the DeFever Cruisers Forum which I am a member of that dealt with this very problem. The DeFever Cruisers Forum is a group of people that post questions and answers regarding DeFever boats. Since Gypsies is a 49' DeFever, I joined the forum and have met a bunch of people through the forum that own DeFevers. I have also learned a lot from the questions asked and the resulting answers. So the discussion that happened at about this time was about how to charge the House Battery Bank faster, one of my biggest issues. The basic answer was that you needed two inverters charging the battery bank rather than just one. The one was enough to create 110 VAC from the battery bank but not enough to charge the batteries quickly. As part of this discussion, I also met a guy named Steve Koch who owns a 49' DeFever Raised Pilothouse named Aurora. I was introduced to him by one of the other forum members. He does mechanical and electrical work on boats. Everyone I talked to said he was great, and he certainly knows our boat since he has owned a similar boat for 13 years. I got in touch with him and, as it turned out, he and his wonderful wife Diane were only about an hour and a half by car from us and we were both stranded due to weather. So, Tammy and I rented a car and drove to where he was and met he and Diane. First, it turned out that they were two of the coolest people we have met on this journey so far and, second, Steve was unbelievably knowledgeable about all of the issues I was struggling with. We discussed my issues and he showed me how he had resolved them on Aurora. We agreed that he would do a project on Gypsies to upgrade our systems. He would swap out the one Xantrex inverter for two new Magnum inverters, wire the two engine alternators together to charge the House bank with nearly twice the power when underway, and add four more batteries to the House Bank increasing the power storage by 33% to 1760 AMPS.

As Tammy mentioned in her recent post, we spent the last week in Stuart, FL, so that I could work with Steve on Gypsies' electrical upgrade. We got started Tuesday morning and finished up Friday afternoon. We spent a few hours on Saturday testing the system. I won't try to describe the whole project but it was one of the most fun times I have had since purchasing Gypsies. Steve proved to be not only knowledgeable but also a great teacher. I learned an incredible amount during that 4 day period. We installed the 4 new batteries
and wired them into the system to increase the House Battery Bank from 1320 AMPS to 1760 AMPS, we ran all of the wiring needed to run the two inverters connecting them into the main wiring system,
we installed the two inverters
and put in a switch to allow me to select which one acts as the inverter
and installed two new replacement engine starting batteries. In addition, we installed two remote control devices for the inverters up on the pilothouse.

I have to tell you that I am incredibly excited about this new "electrical independence". Since our plans for the next 2 to 3 years is to drop anchor somewhere for a week or more at a time, the ability to exist on the boat's internal electrical system and not be tied to a dock allows us to do just that. Without this upgrade, it really was not feasible to spend more than 3 or 4 days on anchor without needing to go into a marina to "fill up" with electricity. In addition, this upgrade should save about 200 gallons of diesel fuel a month during that 2 to 3 year period.

On the Road Again....

We are currently anchored in Lake Worth which is right off of Palm Beach in 25 knots of wind - it's howling and we're rocking and rolling!! Great first day to be back on the water, but the outside was even worse - 9 foot seas!

Tammy here by the way...

OK so the conditions aren't ideal but it did feel good to be back underway today after sitting at a dock for a week - the dolphins picked right up where they left off playing in our bow wake!
We had a great time in Stuart and it was very productive as well. Doug and our friend Steve accomplished a major upgrade of Gypsies' electrical system which will make things much easier when we are on the hook for long periods of time (as we will be once we head for the islands). I'll leave the details of the upgrade to Doug's blog entry (which I'm sure will be coming shortly if he can manage to stand up straight after a week hunched over in the engine room!!) but suffice it to say, we are now enjoying the fruits of electrical independence!!

Our stay in Stuart was lots of fun - after spending a day with John and Francesca Spain at their new wonderful home in Sebring, we settled in to get some work done on the boat.
However, that didn't mean that we didn't also have time for some happy hours at Duffy's sports bar and some afternoons at the BEACH!! Now I know it's not real nice of me to talk about going to the beach when so many of our friends and family are back in New England digging out from feet of snow, but why do you think we are on this trip if not to make our friends jealous! Just because I'm so sensitive, I won't dwell on the fact that it has been sunny and about 75-80 degrees here in Stuart for the last three days, or that not only did we go to the beach but we went swimming in the ocean - now try and do that in Maine in December and you'll understand why we just had to leave!!

While we were in Stuart, we also went to a party at our friends Steve and Di Koch's - now this warrants an explanation. They are staying at a friends house in Stuart and decided that was reason enough to have a party - a real life Gypsies in the Palace situation!! So it was only fitting that Snake (Doug), Everlasting Mooney (Colleen), John and I (the groupies) all showed up at this amazingly beautiful house armed with a bottle of my homemade spice rum! Despite the fact that no one got thrown into the pool and we didn't have to shoot the lock off the liquor cabinet (thanks Jimmy for the use of your lyrics), a great time was had by all! The owners of the home, Karen and Chuck, even wound up being home and joining in the festivities! All in all there were about 20 cruisers there, all eager to swap boat stories and advice - not only did we learn lots but we met some great people who we hope to run into out there living 'da life!!

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in shorts and a tee shirt and bare feet - shoes and socks have become a thing of the past and Colleen has finally put away her wool sweaters and long johns! Unfortunately, speaking of Colleen, we were one Gypsy light on our voyage today. Because we have had Colleen's parents' car for the past week, she is following us down to Pompano Beach in the car (or leading us because she got there in an hour and a half and we will get there tomorrow early afternoon!) - that way we can have the car to drive down to Key West for Christmas, which is still the game plan.

Tomorrow morning we lift anchor early and head for Pompano Beach where we have a slip at a little marina just south of Hillsboro inlet. Wednesday morning early we will set out by car and hopefully arrive in KW by about noon! Our friend Scott isn't playing at the Hog until 5:00 pm so that gives us plenty of time to have some beers and wings (my favorite in the world!) at Schooner Wharf while listening to Michael McCloud and to visit other select KW drinking establishments! We need to save ourselves somewhat though for the big Christmas Eve party that we will be attending with Scott - yeah right, this is KW!!! After 5:00 on Wednesday all our friends and family can go on the Hog's Breath raw bar webcam, give us a call on our cellphones and we can say Merry Christmas in person (well kind of)!!

Wishing all our family and friends much happiness, love and warmth for the holidays - we miss you all but you will be in our thoughts as we raise at least one toast to you all KW style! Warmest wishes from the Gypsies to you and yours!

A Kennebunkport Reunion - Southern Style!

We just got back to the boat in Stuart, FL where we left it for a night while we drove to Sebring to see our good friends from Kennebunkport, Francesca and John Spain (owners of Maine Art Gallery and The Gallery on Chase Hill - if you are ever in K'port, make it a point to stop in!!). Francesca and John just bought a magnificent house in Sebring and were gracious enough to let the Gypsies come hang by the pool for the day and crash for the night!!

Tammy here by the way...

Last post we had just left Daytona Beach - so how did we wind up in Sebring?? It's a funny story and one fairly typical of cruising life - things are just more complicated on a boat! We needed to be in Stuart on Sunday, December 14th since Doug and a friend of ours that we met along the journey are doing some work on the boat to upgrade the electrical system. So we made a long run on the 13th down to Vero Beach. Fairly uneventful run until the wind started to really pick up, of course right as we were heading into the port - thank you Mother Nature. We were planning on picking up a mooring ball for the night at the town dock and Doug had Google-Earthed the harbor which looked pretty empty - NOT!!! We headed into the harbor and were told by the habormaster that we would be rafting up to another 43 foot boat - OK that was going to be a challenge in the newly blowing 25 knot wind in a narrow little harbor with a gizillion other boats! Obviously Google Earth is not real-time!! So the Gypsies crew adapted to the new change of plans and redid our lines and fenders - we found the boat we were supposed to raft up to and there was even an old salt on board to help take our lines. Unfortunately as Colleen and I both quickly realized as he stood up, his fly was completely open for all the world to see. Just what we needed in a tight situation!! I must say though that Colleen and I held in our laughter until we had thanked him for his able assistance and gone below to have a beer! You really just can't make this stuff up - I'm telling you! If I could, maybe I'd give Carl Hiaassen a run for his money!

That night we were treated to a lighted Christmas boat parade throughout the harbor which was really very kewl and a moon that was so unbelievably huge it lit up the sky!
We read that it was the largest full moon of the year - no doubt but really, who figures that out?? We told our next door neighbor that we were getting up at the crack of dawn to head out and since our lines were tied to his boat, he offered to help us again in the morning. After the show we'd already seen, Colleen and I were a little afraid of what the morning would bring, but having no real choice we accepted his offer. Morning came around pretty quick (when you're getting up in the dark!) and our neighbor emerged in his pajamas - OK not great but at least everything was tucked away this time!

We headed out to execute on our plan - pick up Colleen's parents' car in Pompano so we could then drive to Sebring. Now this was no simple feat - there are no buses running from Stuart to Fort Lauderdale or Pompano. So we decided to drop Colleen off at Ft. Pierce, have her take a bus to Fort Lauderdale, have one of her parents' friends pick her up and drive her to Pompano so she could drive back and meet us in Stuart - only the Gypsies could come up with such a convoluted plan - but it worked!!! The one variable that made it all pretty challenging was the weather - of course Mother Nature didn't cooperate and we had gale force winds all day that kicked up such a nasty chop on the ICW that John commented on the white caps in his coffee mug!! The chop was so bad that we took spray all the way up on the flybridge - now that is impressive. Oh and did I mention the maximum flood current we had when we were trying to dock at the Ft. Pierce marina to let Colleen off the boat? That was a fun twist but Doug did an admirable job at the helm and got us tied up so Colleen didn't even have to jump!

Doug, John and I continued on our windy journey, making it through yet another Hell Gate (the third of the trip and they are never good!) and into the St. Lucie River. The slip we are staying at for the week is in one of those quintessential Florida housing developments with a canal out back for all the boats
- let me tell you how interesting that was to get our 49 foot boat through the twists and turns of the canal!!
But all is good - we were safely tied up by the time Colleen got back with the car. It being around 5:00 pm, we promptly got in the car and headed in to Duffy's Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Stuart to watch the Patriots annihilate the Raiders (OK it really wasn't much of a fight!).

The next morning we set out to see John and Francesca's new house - we wound up driving through cypress swamps, alligator alleys, cow and horse farms and we saw enough roadkill along the way to last me a lifetime! There's something about seeing a squashed armadillo alongside the road with the vultures circling to make you lose your appetite! The trip was well worth it - John and Francesca's new home is spectacular!! We hung out by the pool and jacuzzi for awhile
catching up on all the latest news and events since we left (believe it or not, over three months ago) and then we went to Highlands Hammock State Park, which is just a couple miles from their house.
We walked first through a cypress swamp
where we saw egrets, raccoons
and lots of enormous spiders, one of which scared the living you know what out of me since I wasn't expecting something that large, hairy and ugly at eye level as I came around a bend!! John, John and Colleen decided to try and feed it, while the rest of us decided to forge ahead, not in any way needing to see that miracle of nature! Next we headed to a trail that went through virgin Florida hammock - the flora was breathtaking and the huge spiders kept the boys entertained - what do they eat down here anyway to get that big and ugly?? We passed by lots of orange and grapefruit trees with our mouths watering
- Francesca had served us some of their own oranges for desert at lunch (they have an orange tree in their backyard - how kewl is that?).

Having gotten some exercise and feeling good about ourselves, we headed back to their house for a leisurely afternoon and evening around the pool and hottub with some coldies! The hospitality was unrivaled as John BBQ'd us a spectacular dinner on his new grill - we even had fresh mango and strawberry shortcake for desert!!! Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end (I'm convinced that's only so you can get excited about the next kewl thing) and we all turned in early since we had to be up at 5:30 the next morning to head back to Stuart. Francesca and John have to head back to Maine today for the holidays but they will be back to their new paradise in FL after Christmas and plan on staying until the beginning of May. Hopefully we can catch up with them again before we hop to the Bahamas! We all want more of their oranges! Just kidding - we had a wonderful visit and were honored to be their first guests. After us, who knows if they will want to have more.... It was great to see them in their new home which we know has been a dream of theirs - given what we are doing, we love to see people following their dreams - I know they will be as happy with their new "semi-retired snowbird" life as we are with our new life!

As I write, Doug and our friend Steve are down in the engine room working on the electrical system upgrade. We expect to be here for the rest of the week and want to get lots of provisioning and other work done so that we can take several days off around Christmas to go to Key West to visit our musician friend Scott Kirby! What better way to spend our first Christmas away than on a bender in Key West????

Here Comes the Sun...

Well I'm not sure we found the fountain of youth in St. Augustine but we did find the sun!!!! Oh yes, we also found a very charming, historic Spanish town that we had a ball exploring.

Sun Pig (Tammy) here - which is why the sun was noted first up above! Hey, cut me some slack - we haven't been able to wear shorts and flip flops in months (I know I'm not getting much sympathy am I?)

As we headed under the majestic Bridge of Lions (which is undergoing a massive repair) and docked at the Anchorage Inn, Marina and Fish Camp (you just can't make this stuff up!), we were completely thrilled to have to shed clothes!! The four knot current and 15 knot winds didn't phase us at all - you know you kind of know what you are doing when after a perfect dock the dockhands start telling you stories of all the boneheads that come in without lines or fenders ready and you just smile - if you're out here for long, you've seen them slamming into the dock and occasionally taking out a pumpout station or one of the dockhands!

To take advantage of the sun, as soon as we secured the boat we headed to the "best happy hour on the island" (at least according to one of the little flyers we got upon checking in!) at the Conch House! With a name like that how could we go wrong?? We almost missed finding it because the Conch House Lounge (not to be confused with the restaurant) was a little wooden shack sitting out on stilts over the water - just our kind of place. The free popcorn and wings only made us love it more! The crowd was eclectic ranging from bluehairs to Pat Benatar look-alikes to working dudes, so we fit right in in our Buffett attire. The common thread was the fun everyone was having and the easy, laid-back atmosphere.

The next day after a morning of work on the boat, we set out to explore St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US, founded in 1565 as a Spanish military outpost. So it seemed only fitting that we first walked to Castillo de San Marcos, which was built in 1672 to protect the harbor.
En route we were so excited to be in shorts again with the sun shining warm and bright, we used the delay feature on John's camera to catch all four Gypsies along the waterfront.
Next it was on to the city gates
and the Spanish Quarter - what a treasure we found! Traces of the city's Spanish heritage are everywhere in the architecture, 'architecture-2.jpg'
the gardens, 'garden.jpg'
the fountains 'fountain.jpg'
and even the layout of the streets and parks. 'park.jpg'
We of course were interested in the local Spanish watering holes and partook of several - the Milltop Tavern in the Spanish Quarter being the first stop for sustenance (and several coldies).
We got to sit outside atop an old oak tree and listen to live music as we soaked up the sun along with a few pitchers.

On St. George Street, the hub of the Spanish Quarter, we passed the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the US as well as numerous funky shops of all colors and styles!
For local flavor we were entertained by a street musician who really should have found a different occupation, but we were on to Scarlett O'Hara's so we didn't care! How do you go to St. Augustine and not go there??? We walked the length of the Spanish Quarter and then found ourselves wandering in the Colonial District - by some miracle we wound up at OC White's Tiki Bar
which was not open due to the hour, so we settled for happy hour inside at the bar where Colleen got to meet a real pirate! Our trip to St. Augustine was much too short and while we didn't find Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth (or maybe we did sipping coldies at the top of the Milltop tavern - who knows?), we did see Ponce as he sits looking over the harbor and that was enough for us!
On the way back to the boat, we had to stop for the Bridge of Lions to lift so a sailboat could get by but with the sun setting behind the bridge, it was a sight to behold - we didn't mind the wait at all!

Before we knew it, we were off the next day to Daytona Beach - no, none of us are gearheads, it was just a convenient place to stop for the night. The trip down was unbelievable - on numerous occasions we had families (including babies) and pods of dolphins playing in our wake.
It was as if each was trying to outdo the others with their backflips and jumps out of the water;
some we even caught swimming upside down and sideways!
These creatures are so wonderful and fun - they constantly look like they are smiling
- I hope I never take them for granted!!

As we headed south the wind and the water picked up and the weather report took a turn for the worse, so instead of anchoring as we had planned, we headed into a marina for the night. Nothing for us to do but explore Daytona Beach a little - so off to RedTail's we went for happy hour. John has become our unofficial scout - whatever new location we hit, he is in charge of finding maps and scoping out places of interest (ie watering holes with good music and happy hours and occasionally other "have to see" sights...). He doesn't know it but I just made his title official!!

I woke up the next morning to a really horrible weather report so we decided to hold over in Daytona rather than risk the squalls, thunderstorms and gale winds predicted for that day - you know you should sit tight when NOAA says the ICW is going to be "rough". After a morning of work, we headed out in the pouring rain (we're boaters, we have foulies!!) for lunch and found a great Irish pub called McK's - lots of corned beef and several coldies later, we headed back to the boat and a relatively early night as we had a 6:00 am wake-up call for today's steam.

When we headed out at daybreak this morning, it was overcast and dark so the weather could have gone either way. Luckily for us the sun decided to break through and even though it was too windy and cold (again!!) for us to drive from the flybridge, the sun was a welcome relief after the torrential rains of the day before. From what we hear, we're just glad we weren't back up in New England with the ice storm - hope everyone's OK!!

I don't think I've ever seen so many dolphins in my life, let alone in one day as we did today - we had them playing in our wake, jumping across our bow and even doing pirouettes for us as we came in to anchor this afternoon - very kewl!!
But despite being in manatee zones most of the day, 'manatee-zone.jpg'
we never did spot one - I guess that's something to look forward to tomorrow or the next day....