30 May 2016

It's Possible I Have A Problem Which May Affect Our Waterline

One of my dock neighbors called me a scavenger the other day. I'm sure he meant it in the nicest possible way. To be fair, he mentioned it when he saw me scurrying back to my boat carrying a printer in my arms, which was my latest score from the free table at our marina.

I've scavenged all sorts of useful things from the free table - like a dish drainer, egg containers, cans of tomatoes and jerry cans. But, some of my favorite finds are cruising guides and sailing books. Not only are they practical, but they're also books. I love books. I love to collect books. I love to look at books. Books are almost as good as chocolate. Almost, but not quite.

Here are just some of our cruising guides and sailing books.

I recently did an inventory to see what kind of cruising guides and sailing books we have on board. Turns out we have 84 of them. Many of them came with the boat, some of them we brought with us, a few were given to us and the rest were the fruit of my scavenging efforts.

It's possible that this might be a problem.

I know. I can hear you saying:

"Books are never a bad thing! Books are full of knowledge, ideas and stories. Collecting books is a virtue, not a problem. What's wrong with you?"

Well, true. Books by themselves aren't bad. But, when you have too many books and you live on a boat then they can affect your waterline.

Some of you might be wondering what a waterline is. Good thing I have so many books on board to answer that very question. Basically, it's the line where the hull of a ship meets the water. Below your waterline you have special anti-foul paint which keeps icky stuff (like barnacles) from attaching to your boat's bottom.

You can see the water line on our boat, Tickety Boo, below.

Still confused about the connection between books and the waterline? Think of it this way - it's kind of like when you eat too many chocolate brownies and your waistline changes shape and then the only way you can button your pants is if you wear them below your belly button. If you put too much weight in a boat (say with a lot of books or boxes of brownie mix) it pushes your hull down into the water past the boat's original belly button, or, in this case, its waterline.

I have a real problem getting rid of books, so I'm hanging on to all 84 of our cruising guides and sailing books for now. After all, they're just too much fun to look at. Like this one - Royce's Sailing Illustrated - the "Sailor's Bible since '56."

It's got cute illustrations. I'm not giving this one up.

At some point, I'll probably have to do a purge of our books and get rid of some, but, in the meantime, I've put them all in plastic bags (mold and mildew are not our friends) and stored them in the v-berth (the pointy cabin at the front of our boat). I've managed to get most of them tucked away in the cubbyholes on the starboard side.

But, not all of them.

The great thing about the v-berth is that you can close the door and pretend you don't have 84 books squirreled away in there. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

Do you find it hard to get rid of things? Do you have a big collection of anything, like books?

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27 May 2016

Flashback Friday | Living Without A Fridge On A Sailboat In New Zealand

Originally, I had planned on posting another installment of the tale of The Fair Maiden vs. The Great Machine on the blog today. But, two things got in the way: 

1 - I still don't have a happy fairy tale ending to the story. 

The Great Machine has fallen into an enchanted slumber and I can't seem to awaken it. I even tried kissing it, like the handsome Prince did with Sleeping Beauty. Yuck - that was really gross and had no effect. The Great Machine continues to lay in a comatose state in its chamber. Hopefully, some elves are going to come help me prod its belly next week, it'll wake up, things will end happily ever after and I'll have another installment for you soon.

2 - I'm feeling a bit lazy today.

As I was pondering what to put on the blog today, I stumbled across a Flashback Friday blog hop at A Life Examined (I do love a good blog hop). The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc.

We started this blog almost three years ago and have a lot more followers now then we did back then. I figure that there are probably a number of our earlier blog posts that many of you haven't seen before which might be of interest. So, I thought I would give this a whirl and share a blast from the past.

Like this little flashback to when we were getting ready to move aboard our 26' sailboat, Rainbow's End, in New Zealand and live full-time on her for a season. While she was a great little boat, she had one major drawback - no fridge! Like many new cruisers, I had been scouring books, blogs and articles for tips and tricks on food storage and cooking on boats and identified some things to try out on Rainbow's End. Have a look and let me know what you think.

By the way, one of the top things on my wish list for our next boat was a fridge and I'm happy to say that Tickety Boo has one.

{This post originally appeared in November 2013   you can find the original post and comments here.}


There are a number of things I'm going to have to learn to live without when we move onto our boat full-time in New Zealand next month and one of them is a fridge. Yep, that's right, no fridge. I figure it shouldn't be too bad. After all, I haven't had a clothes dryer for over ten years since we moved to Scotland and I still don't have one living in New Zealand. I thought it was strange, but I adjusted. People back in the States seem very perplexed by our lack of a dryer. You can only imagine their reaction to the news that we're also giving up another major appliance. But I like to prove people wrong, so I will adjust to not having a fridge and smile while I do it. Well most of the time anyway.

In preparing for my new life of room temperature food, I've been scouring various books and websites for some tips on food storage and here are eight things I'm going to try. I'll give you an update in a few months and let you know how it goes. Hopefully, we'll avoid food poisoning and the smell of rotting food.

1 - Eggs 

This one will be easy. In addition to not commonly finding clothes dryers in Scotland and New Zealand, it is rare to find eggs that are refrigerated. While it kind of freaked me out at first to find them on the shelf next to the peanut butter, I'm completely used to it now. The big difference is that these days I put them in my fridge when I get home. Going forward, I'll be skipping that step. Instead, I'll become an egg turner. Pretty much everything you read about egg storage talks about turning your eggs over every few days so that the inside of the shell remains moist. This keeps air from entering the eggshell which causes them to spoil.

2 - Milk 

Another easy one. I already use powdered milk at home for my coffee and cooking. I got tired of having to try to remember to buy cartons of milk and found mornings very challenging if I was out of milk for my coffee. So I switched to powered milk a few years ago and I never run out because it comes in a big bag. It is also much cheaper which is a plus.

3 - Lemons 

We like to have gin and tonics in our cockpit when the sun is setting and they are much nicer with lemon. Last summer on the boat, we bought one of those plastic lemons with juice inside thinking that would last longer than fresh lemons. Which wasn't the brightest move. You wouldn't normally leave orange juice out of the fridge for a few days and expect it to be fine. Doesn't work for plastic lemons either. So we'll go back to fresh lemons except this time I'm going to wrap them in aluminum foil. Theoretically this should keep them fresh for several weeks.

4 - Meat 

Despite my short-lived teenage vegetarian rebellion, I still like to eat meat. We aren't the biggest carnivores out there, but we do enjoy meat from time to time especially in tacos. Fresh meat is going to become a luxury for us and probably more something that we eat when we're on land. Instead of having beef or chicken on a regular basis, we'll rely on Skipper Scott's fishing prowess to catch us fresh snapper, as well as eating more vegetarian recipes. I am going to buy a few canned meat products to test out as well. We'll see how that goes. The thought of Spam doesn't seem too appealing (unless Monty Python are singing about it), but canned chicken might be okay.

5 - Cans 

I've become a big fan of canned goods the past few months. Not only will we not have a fridge, we also won't have regular access to the big Kiwi grocery stores such as Countdown and New World. There are smaller grocery stores in other parts of the Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand, such as in Coromandel Town and on some of the islands, but the prices are higher and the selection smaller. So I'm planning on stocking up on a variety of canned goods so that we can whip up tasty meals wherever we are and not have to rely on a fridge to preserve things.

6 - Leftovers 

One of the big things we use our fridge for is to store leftovers. We won't have that option on our sailboat. And although Skipper Scott seems happy to play Russian Roulette with his digestive system from time to time and eat things that have been left out overnight, I'm thinking we need to change how we cook instead. So we'll be looking to adapt recipes to just make two servings of things.

7 - Condiments & Other Jarred Goodies 

I currently keep the usual condiments like ketchup, mustard and mayo in the fridge. They leave ketchup and mustard out on tables in restaurants all the time, so I'm sure it will be fine to keep ours out of a fridge too. I'm the only one that really eats mayo and I do so rarely so I think we'll just go without. 

I know there are lots of people out there who swear that you can keep it out of the fridge without a problem but the whole idea of that kind of scares me so I'll do without. I love jam and you can definitely keep that out of the fridge. After all, sugar is a natural preservative and jam sure has a lot of it in it. We also eat various other jarred goodies (such as jalapeƱos, capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes etc.). I figure if they have oil or vinegar in them that should keep them preserved out of the fridge. Or at least that's the theory. Check back in a few months - hopefully there will be no tummy problems to report.

8 - Bread

We've only been able to keep a loaf of our favorite store bought bread (Vogel's) for a few days on the boat before it gets moldy. Since we won't be hitting the grocery store regularly, I'll be making our own bread. But in addition to not having a fridge, we don't have an oven either. So, I've been experimenting with various breads you can make in a skillet including scones, fry bread, naan etc. I'm also going to stock up on tortillas as they last a long time in the packaging that they come in.

Mr. Ketchup - you're in, welcome aboard!
Mrs. Mayo - sorry, you didn't make the grade and you'll be staying on shore.

Could you live without a fridge? What do you think would be the hardest part of not having a fridge? 

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You can find more Flashback Friday fun at A Life Examined.

25 May 2016

Wordless Wednesday | The Panama Canal

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - I love the free table at our marina. You can score some really great stuff, like nautical charts.

2 - Big ships go through the Panama Canal. Little ships too. Maybe one day, we'll take our little ship through the canal and head back to New Zealand. Or, maybe not.

3 - It costs a lot of money to transit the canal. I wonder if you get a discount if you wear a Panama hat when you go through the canal?

4 - If you want to see some amazing pictures of a cruise ship transiting the canal, including aerial shots, check out Rhonda's blog post at Albom Adventures.

What words does this picture bring to your mind when you look at it?

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For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here.

23 May 2016

Tea Towels & Secret Handshakes | The Moody Owners Association

I love tea towels (or dish towels in Americano). There's nothing quite as comforting as a pile of freshly laundered and neatly folded tea towels. I don't know why, but they make me feel like I can cope with anything that comes my way.

Okay, maybe they wouldn't be much help in sorting out a broken diesel engine or surviving an alien invasion from outer space, but they're awesome at wiping up spills. I'm klutzy. I spill things all the time. And, if the aliens ever do invade, I'm pretty sure I'd spill my glass of red wine absolutely everywhere in all the excitement and then I'd turn to my stack of trusty tea towels to save the day.

The previous owners of our boat left behind quite a few tea towels. They're nice enough and are up to to the task of cleaning up wine spills, but they lack any real pizazz. So, you can imagine how excited I was when fellow Moody 346 owners, Guy and Sylvia from Pura Vida, gave me this awesome tea towel, when they were at Indiantown Marina a few months ago.

This is a very special tea towel, honoring the 30th anniversary of the Moody Owners Association or MOA (complete unrelated to the Moa Preservation Society, which Scott and I founded a few years ago.) Guy and Sylvia told us that it would be well worth joining MOA. When Karen and John of Pascal, another Moody 346, popped by Indiantown Marina for a visit a month or so ago, they also mentioned that it would be a really useful group to join.

Who am I to argue with my fellow Moody 346 owners, especially ones as nice as these guys? So, we forked over £20 (around US$29) for an annual membership and joined hundreds of fellow Moody yacht owners in this exclusive organization. 

Only Moody owners can join, which makes it kind of neat. You feel like you're part of a special club. I had hoped there was a secret handshake that Moody owners gave each other which signaled something like, "Greetings Sister, I shake your hand in Moody solidarity." But, when I shook my fellow Moody 346 owners' hands, they were ordinary handshakes. Good, solid and firm handshakes, but pretty ordinary. 

Then I realized it was the tea towel that sets Moody owners apart, not a secret handshake. That's how you know a fellow Moody owner when you see one - it's the tea towel. Of course, you'd probably find their tea towel on their Moody yacht, but the tea towel is what really confirms it. 

Now, I just have to figure out what to do with my MOA tea towel. It seems too special to use for the actual drying of dishes and wiping up of spills. Maybe I'll turn it into a fabric bag which I can store clothes and bedding in, like my bloggy pal Melissa at Little Cunning Plan recently did. 

Well, that's enough for now. I need to put a load of laundry in. I've got a pile of dirty tea towels that need washing. For some reason, there's red wine stains on a bunch of them. Completely unrelated to an alien invasion. Oops. On the bright side, those Spartan green fleece slipcovers I made last year see resistant to stains.

Do you belong to any clubs or organizations? For those of you with boats, have you ever met the owners of your sister ships? 

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20 May 2016

Around The World In 80 Books | Update #7

I've just finished up another couple of months of the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. It's been a while since my last update as I was wrapped up in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge during much of April. I also found myself reading a lot of cozy mysteries, which unfortunately were all set in the States, so I couldn't use them to tick off any countries for this particular challenge.

The idea of the challenge is to read books set in 80 different countries, effectively exploring the world from the comfort of your armchair. Since my last update, I've read books set in six more countries – Germany, Greece, Grenada, Iran, Nigeria and Sweden.That makes a total of 35 books since I started the challenge. 45 more to go!

You can read more about the challenge here, as well as check out Update #1, Update #2, Update #3, Update #4, Update #5 and Update #6.


THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak | Germany

The Book Thief is one of those bestsellers everyone raves about, has won all sorts of awards and I'm sure Oprah has a copy on her nightstand. For some reason, I often hesitate to read popular books for fear that I'll be disappointed. I worry that it might be a bit like the popular girl at school. Sure, she's pretty on the outside and everyone wants to be her friend, but shallow is her middle name.

But, I happened to have a copy of The Book Thief  and it ticks off Germany from the list, so I went ahead and read it. Turns out it's not only popular, but good. Kind of like a cheerleader with a heart, brains and a quirky sense of humor. Just goes to show you that you shouldn't stereotype folks, including the popular girls.

Set during World War II in Munich, The Book Thief tells the story of a girl, Liesel Meminger, who steals books, her foster father who plays the accordion, a Jewish man who comes into their lives, Nazis, and my favorite character, Death.

Death tells the story of Liesel and her friends and family, offering interesting tidbits along the way, like his favorite color of sky - chocolate. See, Death likes chocolate - he can't be such a bad guy after all.

The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying? Personally, I like a chocolate-colored sky. Dark, dark chocolate. People say it suits me. I do, however, try to enjoy every color I see - the whole spectrum. A billion or so flavors, none of them quite the same, and a sky to slowly suck on. It takes the edge off the stress. It helps me relax.

You can find out more about The Book Thief on Goodreads.

THE OLIVE GROVE by Katherine Kizilos | Greece

I found The Olive Grove on the book exchange at my marina. I don't normally read travel memoirs, but this was one of two I read over the past couple of months. The author is a Greek-Australian whose father fled Greece during the civil war and emigrated to Australia. She returned to Greece several times, living in her father's village and traveling around the country. The Olive Grove tells the story of her travels when she went back in 1995.

There are several themes interwoven throughout the book such as the relationship with her father and his views towards his adopted country of Australia and his birthplace, the disappearance of rural villages and its impact on Greek life, the plight of Albanian immigrants and what it means to be Greek.

To be honest, this was one of those books that I struggled to get through initially. But, because of my self-imposed rule to finish all books I start during this challenge, I soldiered on and, in the end, was glad I made it past the first third of the book. I enjoyed the author's insights into Greek culture, as well as her other observations on life - such as this one on talking while you walk.

There is much to be said for talking as you walk. What you say is not the sole focus, so the pressure to perform - to impress - is off. If the conversation lags or is strained, the silence falls naturally enough; the compensations of landscape and exercise fill the vacuum. Listening can also be easier on the hoof. Expressions of pain or amusement remain private: no-one is looking at you. And if a story sends you spinning into a reverie so that, on emerging from the eddy of your thoughts, you find you have nothing to say, well, then it doesn't matter. The walking takes over.

You can find out more about The Olive Grove on Goodreads.

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF MANGOES by Ann Vanderhoof | Grenada

An Embarrassment of Mangoes was the second travel memoir that I read over the past couple of months and I loved it from start to finish. The author recounts her and her husband's escape from the rat race and sailing throughout the Caribbean. Even if you aren't planning on buying a boat and cruising the Caribbean islands, this is still a great read about a couple's courage to live their dream and enjoy life to its fullest.

There are a number of Caribbean islands that she describes in the book, but I decided to tick Grenada off with this book as a fair bit of the memoir covers that island. Plus, our boat (S/V Tickety Boo) has been to Grenada with her previous owners and spent hurricane season there, so I have a particular interest in the area.

I love the tone of the memoir - you feel like the author is telling you stories about their adventures over a cup of coffee or a tropical rum punch. And, I love the fact that she and her husband made the effort to get to know the local people, unlike some cruisers that they met along the way.

“To our surprise, though, we’ve discovered that not all cruisers are as determined as we are to get involved in island culture. Some aren’t only ignoring local events and music, they’re still eating much as they did back home. ‘They’ve got bigger freezers and more money than we have,’ Steve says, ‘but I’ll bet they’re not having as much fun.’”

You can find out more about An Embarrassment of Mangoes on Goodreads.

BRIDES OF BLOOD by Joseph Koenig | Iran

Crime, suspense and post-revolutionary Iranian society is a recipe for a fascinating novel. In The Brides of Blood, Darius Bakhtiar, the Chief of Homicide for the National Police, investigates the death of a young woman found on a bench in Tehran and, in the process, becomes embroiled in political and religious intrigue. The course of his investigation takes him to guerilla training camps, Evin prison, where torture is routine, inside the Komiteh, the paramilitary group who enforces their particular brand of the Islamic code, and into the midst of drug smuggling rings.

While I enjoyed The Brides of Blood as a hard-boiled crime novel, what I particularly liked was the insights into daily life in post-revolutionary Iran.

“Ghaffari’s small single-story house was set behind an ivy-covered wall in a neighborhood near the Azadi monument in the western part of the city that had not changed in twenty years. Its four rooms were furnished in the old style with cushions and pillows on the floor, which were layered with Hamadan carpets that had been in Ghaffari’s mother’s family for generations. A low table in the living room supported a twenty-seven-inch color television and a vase containing a single dog rose. The door was opened by a little girl in a floral-patterned indoor chador who ran into her father’s arms and was covered with kisses. Over Ghaffari’s shoulder she eyed Darius as though he were a child molester. Shahla was nine years old, the legal mature age for a female, and thus was obligated to wear the veil.”

You can find out more about The Brides of Blood on Goodreads.

I DO NOT COME TO YOU BY CHANCE by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani | Nigeria

This was another book that I might have put down after the first couple of chapters if it wasn't for my rule of finishing every book I start during this challenge. I'm glad I stuck with it. It turned out to be hilarious and fascinating. I Do Not Come to You by Chance tells the story of Kingsley Ibe who, as the eldest son, takes on responsibility for his family when his father passes away. Unable to find work in the field that he trained for at university, Kingsley become involved in his uncle's business in order to provide for his mother and siblings.

While his uncle, Cash Daddy, has a profitable business, there's one problem - it's based on scamming mugus (patsies) through Nigerian 419 advance fee scams. You've probably heard about these types of scams or maybe even been contacted by one of these dodgy characters yourself promising a very large sum of money if you help them with a transaction to release money that they can't access. It was fun to read the emails that Kingsley and his colleagues sent to their targets, as well as see how he struggles to reconcile himself to his lucrative "profession."

Dear Friend, I do not come to you by chance. Upon my quest for a trusted and reliable foreign businessman or company, I was given your contact by the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I hope that you can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude...Sometime ago, I deposited the sum of $58,000,000.00 cash (fifty eight million USD) of my late husband's money in a security firm whose name I cannot disclose until I'm sure that I can trust you. I will be very grateful if you could receive these funds for safe keeping. For your kind assistance, you are entitled to 20% of the total sum.

You can find out more about I Do Not Come to You by Chance on Goodreads.

DEATH ANGELS by Ake Edwardson | Sweden

I went from reading a book about sweltering Nigeria to reading one about freezing cold Sweden. Death Angels is the first in the series of Inspector Winter crime novels. In this book, Inspector Winter investigates a series of related murders in London and Gothenburg which leads him into the dark world of the porn industry and snuff films. It was an engrossing read, although the subject matter was rather unpleasant at times, and I'd happily read another one of the author's books.

To be honest, I don't know much about Sweden, although I've been there, so I was interested in the descriptions of various characters, including that of the division chief, Sture Birgersson who comes from Lapland.

Birgersson was a Laplander who had wound up in Gothenburg by chance, not design. Unlike everyone else from northern Sweden, he didn't go back and hunt in the fall...Birgersson had the peculiar accent of someone who'd grown up in a mining district near the polar circle and spent his adult life in the hustle-bustle of a European metropolis.

You can find out more about Death Angels on Goodreads.


If you're participating in the challenge too, I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what books you've been enjoying lately. If you're interested in participating in the challenge yourself or just looking for some book ideas, check out this list of A to Z suggestions from Book Riot.

COUNTRIES READ TO DATE: Algeria, Australia, Azerbaijan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, England, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Haiti, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Russia, Samoa, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, United States, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

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18 May 2016

Wordless Wednesday | Too Much Wine May Lead To Weirdness

I know Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo with no words to explain it, but I can't help myself - here are a few words:

1 - One of the nicest and most surprising presents ever.

2 - Undoubtedly, it will lead to more weird posts like this one.

3 - Who is Charles Shaw?

What words does this picture bring to your mind?

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16 May 2016

A Fair Maiden's Quest For A Filter Of Fuel & Magical Boat Spells

Thank you Graphics Fairy for the wizard image.

Let me just apologize now. I had some wine with dinner last night. Here’s the problem when you have a glass of wine, the voices in your head become very convincing. “Go on, Ellen,” they said rubbing their imaginary hands together, “Take that boring story about changing a fuel filter on your diesel engine and turn it into a whimsical fairy tale. Everyone is going to love it!”

I had another sip of wine, mopped up the rest of my spaghetti sauce with some bread, decided the voices in my head were right - it was a brilliant idea - and this is the result. You might want to have a glass or wine while you read this - it will probably make more sense that way.


Once upon a time, there was a fair maiden with mousy brown hair named Ellen who grew up in tiny hamlet near the Great Lake of Erie. It was a peaceful childhood. She frolicked in the brisk air, playing in the creek during the summer and building snow forts during the long winters with her younger sister, who had lovely flaxen hair which she secretly coveted.

She was surrounded by loyal companions who taught her the value of friendship, tolerating the quirks of others and the necessity of daily allergy pills. Sunny, a beautiful black and white longhair who suffered postpartum depression after her kittens wouldn’t stay in their box and then spent her remaining days sitting in a corner and wondering where her life had gone wrong. Alice, a petite tabby, who, although ladylike in appearance, suffered from terrible gas. And Scamper, a feisty tortoiseshell, who had been possessed by a demon which caused her to hiss and brandish her claws whenever anyone approached too near.

She was tutored in the fine arts of algebra, Ohio history and English literature. While there were times that she questioned the importance of knowing that there are 88 counties in the Great State of Ohio, how to use a quadratic equation and deciphering the ancient text of The Canterbury Tales, she came to have faith that this arcane knowledge would serve her well in the future.

As she came of age, she went off to pursue more arcane knowledge in the capital of her country’s land, learning about important things like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, fungible currencies and structural-functional theory. Later she met and married a prince from the kingdom of Dakota du Nord and traveled overseas to faraway islands with him. Their life was full of good fortune and happiness. She thought she was the luckiest girl in the world.

Years later, she found herself living on a boat in the middle of a swamp filled with alligators, turtles and fish. They reminded her of her loyal companions of childhood. The alligators were like Scamper – feisty and threatening at times. The turtles were like Sunny – they kept to themselves and retreated into their shells to ponder their lives. The fish were like Alice – sweet and good natured, but stinky on occasion.

She lived happily with her new friends of the swamp until one day a terrible tragedy befell her. An evil sorcerer cursed her boat’s Great Machine and caused it to stop working. Each time she tried to start the Great Machine, it would refuse to fire. She could hear the evil sorcerer cackle every time the Great Machine made sputtering noises. Without the Great Machine, she wondered, how would she move her boat when Mother Nature's winds were absent from the skies?

The Great Machine was a menacing creature made out of chunks of metal and rubber gaskets. Normally, it was locked away behind a door in a dark chamber in the middle of the boat, where it feasted on large vats of oil and diesel soup and muttered to itself about injectors and glow plugs.

One day, she worked up her courage to open the Great Machine's chamber and look upon it. She stared at the Great Machine and sighed as she recalled her studies as a young maiden. If only her tutors had taught her magic instead of algebra, she would be able to revive the Great Machine, but, alas, she was helpless.

In despair, she searched the boat high and low until one day she discovered a book of magic spells written by a great wizard himself, Sir Nigel Calder - The Encyclopedia of Magical Boat Incantations. Sometimes it was referred to as the Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual, so as to disguise its true nature from those who were ignorant of the magical nature of the watercraft who travel the seas. Sir Nigel was a truly clever wizard - a name like the Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual would be so dull and boring to the average mortal that they would never bother to open the tome's pages and discover the magical spells it contained.

Sir Nigel was so powerful of a wizard that he called the Great Machine by its true name – the Darkly Dangerous Diesel Engine. She herself didn’t dare speak its true name for fear that she would be beset by another curse, like water leaking from the stuffing box. She read through the magic spells by candlelight, while drinking glass after glass of wine, desperately seeking a spell that would remove the curse from the Great Machine and allow her to take her boat back out to the sea.


Here’s the other problem with having wine with dinner. It makes you sleepy. So sleepy that you don’t want to finish your blog post. Plus, it’s way too long already. So, I’ll just leave you hanging until another day. Will the fair maiden be able to successfully cast a spell and bring the Great Machine back to life?  Or, will she herself be cursed by the evil sorcerer and trade her sailboat in for a trawler with a brand new Great Machine crafted by elves from the realm of Yanmar?

Are you a DIY type of person? Do you fix things in your house, boat or RV when they break or do you call in an expert instead?

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13 May 2016

The Well Traveled Can Opener

How many can openers do you own? I own three. That doesn't seem excessive, does it? They're all top blokes. I can't imagine my life without them. Come on, let me introduce you.
I call this one Campbell.

Whenever I look at a can opener, it reminds me of when my mom used to make us grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's tomato soup for lunch. So, I thought Campbell seemed like a good name for this fellow. He’s a modern type of can opener which uses a rotating cutting wheel and a serrated wheel to slice open lids so that you can get at your tomato soup in lickety-split fashion. 

This fellow is called Billy, as in Backup Billy.

You can't see him very well because he’s sealed away in a plastic bag marked Open in Emergency. He's a more ordinary can opener than Campbell, but he still gets the job done.

I bet you're wondering why it says Open in Emergency? Well, if you live on land and your can opener breaks while you're making dinner, you’d chuck it in the trash, order some pizza and pick up a new can opener next time you were at Walmart.

But, if you live on a boat and Campbell the Can Opener breaks while you’re in a remote anchorage miles and miles from a store and the nearest pizza joint, you have a minor meltdown. Okay, maybe if you're me, you have a major meltdown.

You open all of the cubbyholes in your boat looking for something to make for dinner that doesn’t involve canned food. When all you can find is melba toast and a jar of olives, you have another minor meltdown. Then, you remember that you have a back-up can opener, wisely sealed in plastic so that it doesn’t rust. You breathe a sigh of relief, open up the bag and continue making a scrumptious dinner involving canned tomatoes, black beans and corn. Okay, maybe it isn't scrumptious, but it sure beats melba toast and olives.

I know about the whole meltdown thing from personal experience when our old can opener, Bruce, up and died on me in when we were anchored in the Bahamas. There wasn't a spare can opener to be found anywhere on board. It was pretty tragic. Then we bought a new can opener and it broke on us too. That was beyond tragic.

My bloggy pal, Jaye at Life Afloat, remembered the blog post I wrote about the tragic Bahamian can opener incident when she was in Aruba. Now, why she was thinking about me and can openers while vacationing on a tropical island is beyond me, but when she saw a can opener for sale without any moving parts, she picked it up for me.

I call it Funshi, after the fine folks at the Fung Shing Trading Company who made the can opener in China and then exported it to Aruba.

All of the instructions are written in Chinese on the packaging, except for the part that says, "Beware of sharpness. Keep out of reach of children." But, there are helpful pictures which show you how to use it, so even someone like me should be able to manage to open a can of cat food or even a beer with it.

Funshi might be simple compared to Billy and Campbell, but, because he doesn't have any moving parts to break, he more than makes up for it in reliability. Sometimes, simple is best.

After Funshi's long journey from China to Aruba, Jaye and her husband then took Funshi from Aruba and brought him all the way to me in Indiantown, Florida. This is one well traveled can opener. Maybe one day, we'll even take him back to his adopted home of Aruba or even back to his birthplace in China.

What are the top kitchen utensils that you can't imagine being without? Do you have a spare can opener squirreled away anywhere in case of the Zombie Apocalypse? 

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11 May 2016

A To Z Challenge Reflections

I know you all had hoped that I was done talking about Nancy Drew. Wasn’t it enough that she had to take over the blog for all of April during the A to Z Blogging Challenge? Didn't she just teach us three things about writing? Does she really need to make an appearance yet again?

Apparently she does. Nancy is a stickler for doing things by the book and one of the things she thinks is important to tick off of her very orderly “To Do List” (written, of course, with her Mont Blanc fountain pen in a hand tooled leather bound notebook, which a grateful client gave her after solving a case involving a missing Pekinese dog) is to write a Reflections post so that the A to Z team has some feedback on how the challenge went this year and thoughts for next year.

So, in no particular order, here are some random reflections.


Just Your Normal Increase in Blog Traffic and Followers

I know some people get an increase in visitors to their blogs during the challenge and an increase in followers on their social media channels. I had a look back at my stats and, while bog visitors and Facebook followers increased during April, the percentage increase was on par with what I normally see on a monthly basis. I didn’t see any astronomical jump in numbers as a result of the challenge.

I suspect that some people who normally read our blog stopped doing so during April because Nancy Drew wasn’t their cup of tea, while new readers popped by from the challenge to take their place. Some folks may were turned off that I did a story in installments along with some thoughts on each day's letter (which made for some long posts) and never visited again, while others enjoyed the approach I took and visited more regularly. You're definitely not going to please everyone.

I did the challenge to have fun, experiment with blogging and meet new bloggers. I didn’t do it to increase blog traffic and followers, so I was happy with having a normal increase in stats. But, I think the challenge can be a great tool for some folks to raise the visibility of their blogs and increase traffic.

Pre-Scheduling Blog Posts = Sanity

Last year when I did the challenge, I had over half of my blog posts written and scheduled in advance. This year, I wrote and scheduled all of my blog posts (except Z) in advance. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I often get in a groove when it comes to writing blog posts and will sit down and churn out a week’s worth or more in advance (we normally publish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), so it wasn’t all that different to churn out a month’s worth in advance.
Considering my theme was a Nancy Drew inspired short story broken up into 26 installments, it really worked well for me to write it all ahead of time in order to ensure the story flowed okay.

Also, my laptop broke towards the end of the challenge and I cannot even begin to imagine what I would have done if I hadn't had all of the posts already locked and loaded. Writing blog posts on your cell phone isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Hats off to people who can write their A to Z blog posts on the fly. I’m not one of them and neither is Nancy.

Any Interest in Special Interest Groups?

There were seven sailing and cruising types of blogs participating in the challenge this year that I know of (you can see a list at the bottom of this post). Some of them were folks that I cajoled, conned and strong-armed into joining in the communal insanity of the A to Z challenge. I think we formed a fun community and special interest group, visiting and commenting on each others’ blogs given our shared interest in sailing, cruising, liveaboard life and a nomadic lifestyle. Hopefully, they’ll all join in the challenge again next year.

I wonder if it might be useful to have a more structured approach to special interest groups next year? I know that you can indicate what type of blog yours is on the sign-up linky, but not everyone does that (I don’t think I did) and it might not be the most user friendly way to find like-minded blogs. Of course, there are a few downsides of doing something more structured: (1) admin work required; (2) not all blogs can be neatly labeled and put into a bucket; and (3) folks might get too focused on blogs similar to their own and miss out on the opportunity to discover blogs that talk about new and exciting things they didn’t even know existed before the challenge. Anyway, just throwing it out there as food for thought.

Commenting Takes Time, But It’s Worth It

I’m thrilled with how many comments I got on the blog this year. I love it when people comment! It’s so reassuring to know that people are actually reading the blog and are engaged with it. I tried to respond to each and every comment (hopefully, I didn’t miss any) and that took a lot of time. But, it was so worth it as I discovered a lot of other fun bloggers in the process.

Of course, it’s not just about comments on your own blog, it’s about sharing that bloggy love with others. During the first part of the challenge, I visited five or more new blogs each day to check them out and leave a comment. By the end of the challenge, I have to admit, I did less of that and stuck more with the blogs that had become my faves. Having a computer that kept acting up also made it difficult to visit as many blogs as I would have liked.


Nancy has got an exciting new case to solve (something to do with alligator trapping in southern Florida) and Bess has whipped up some triple chocolate brownies with cream cheese frosting, which I need to sample, so that's all for today. But before I go, I want to say a huge thanks to the A to Z team! You guys are amazing!

If you want to check out other A to Z Reflections posts, just hop on over here. It's the perfect thing to do while you're having your morning coffee and snacking on a brownie.

We'll see you back here on Friday to tell you all about can openers imported from China via Aruba all the way to Indiantown, Florida. Trust me, you won't want to miss this.

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09 May 2016

Boat Cat Adventures | Tales From The Crazy Cat Lady

If you’ve spent any time around here or over on our Facebook page, then you’ll probably know that I’ve got a reputation as a bit of a Crazy Cat Lady.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. It’s not like I have a dozen cats living on my boat. I don’t sleep in pajamas with an adorable print of cute kittens wearing fanciful hats on them. I don’t crochet fanciful hats for kittens in my spare time. I don’t drink my coffee out of a mug which says, Help, there’s a cat on my lap and I can’t get up. And, I don’t own a t-shirt which says, You’ve cat to be kitten me right meow. (In the interest of fair disclosure, if I had a t-shirt like that, I’d wear it all the time.)

So, why does everyone call me a Crazy Cat Lady?

Maybe it’s because I post pictures like these on our Facebook page.

Boats have some awesome places for kittens to hide in.

Come on…admit it. You think they’re pretty adorable don’t you?

They’re the latest batch of kittens to be born at Indiantown Marina. Some have tails. Some don’t. If you hurry, you might be able to pick one up for yourself and take it home with you.

Of course, that would make you a Crazy Cat Lady too. Or Crazy Cat Gent. Doesn’t matter. Cats don’t really care who’s crazy about them – male or female – as long as you provide plenty of treats and pets.

So, why am I the Crazy Cat Lady at the marina? I think it might have to do with the fact that I happily kitty-sit boat cats while their humans are out of town. I usually kitty-sit Georgie the Adventure Cat. We have a good time together. Turns out we like to do the same things. Eat and nap. Nap and eat. It’s a match made in heaven.

Last week, Georgie came over to stay with me while her humans, Matt and Jessica, headed off for a break. We had a grand time. We sat out in the cockpit watching fish jumping in the water and lizards darting back and forth.

Then, one day, we decided to go on an adventure with my friends, Greg and Duwan. We got invited to a sleepover at their house. We packed up all the important things like a toothbrush, pajamas (boring ones without kittens on them), the all important litter box and plenty of crunchy food. We got in the car and headed off adventuring.

Georgie wasn’t too impressed with the car ride at first.

Then, I promised her some treats when we got to the house and she stopped meowing and settled in for the ride.

She had a great time. Big houses are so much fun to run around in. Heaps better than tiny, cluttered boats. So much to explore! Dust ruffles on beds are the best thing ever!! You lie in wait under the bed in stealth mode, behind the dust ruffle, then stick your paw out and poke at an unsuspecting human’s ankle. They jump and scream. Fun!!!

As much as she liked the dust ruffles, Georgie told me that the Cat TV was the best feature. No special adapters or antennas required for this TV set. Just take one screened-in porch and add plenty of birds to look out at - the perfect TV for cats of all ages.

The next day, Georgie took me out for a walk to look at the birds up close and personal.

Then we had a bit of a lie down. Watching birds is exhausting work.

Georgie was so disappointed to have to come back to stay on my boat after her sleepover adventure at Greg and Duwan's place. I don't blame her, I was too.

But, we had some adventures of our own once we got back to SV Tickety Boo. More like misadventures, really. Georgie went to jump off of my boat onto the dock, as she does all the time, and landed in the water instead of on the dock. Yikes! The wind had pushed the boat away from the dock when Georgie was in mid-jump and then there was a splash. I ran over to see her paddling away and looking at me like, What the heck did you do? Why did you move the boat while I was jumping onto the dock?

Fortunately, she had her harness and leash on so it was a simple matter of hauling her out of the water and plopping her on the dock. Just for the record, Georgie doesn't like it when you try to dry her off with a towel. I could tell by the way that she hissed at me.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to decide that I wasn't such a monster after all (a few cat treats helped out) and she cuddled up for a nap next to me. I'm pretty sure she was dreaming about going back to Greg and Duwan's place. Can't say that I blame her.

{Photo Credit - All of the pictures of Georgie on her sleepover are courtesy of Duwan. I think she might be a bit of a Crazy Cat Lady herself.}

What about you - are you a Crazy Cat Lady or Crazy Cat Gent? How many of these Crazy Cat Lady signs can you tick off?

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06 May 2016

See Ya Later, Alligator

One of the nice things about living in a marina in southern Florida is watching the wildlife from my boat. I can see fish jumping in the water, turtles tapping on my hull and the occasional manatee floating on by. I can also see alligators swimming around my boat, which is both thrilling and scary at the same time.

I’ve actually gotten pretty used to seeing alligators lurking about. I figure if I leave them alone, they’ll leave me alone. Seems sensible, doesn’t it?

Apparently, not everyone shares the same philosophy. Some people at the marina had been feeding the resident alligators. That’s not really my definition of leaving them alone. Once you start feeding alligators, they lose their fear of humans and then they can become a big problem. A really big problem. The kind of problem with really sharp teeth that thinks a small dog or cat would be a delicious snack and that a 5 year old child would be a tasty supper.

So, it was time to call in the alligator trapper to deal with the problem.

I was walking back from the shower when I heard someone ask some of the kids running around the dock if they had seen the alligator being trapped. My ears perked up. Sure, I was eavesdropping, but this is why one should eavesdrop on a regular basis – it’s how you find out about exciting stuff happening, like alligator trapping.

I dumped my shower bag off on my boat and made my way over to see what was happening.

Turns out that I missed Fred being trapped. Fred is the smaller of the two alligators that made their home at the marina. Fred is a good name, don’t you think? My bloggy pal from S/V Smitty, who was here doing some work on their boat, named him Fred when she saw him swimming near the docks.

But, I did get to see the second half of the show, when the really big guy was trapped. He doesn’t have a name. I’m thinking Gus or Maurice.

It was actually a long and complicated process. The trapper hooked the alligator with a fishing line with a float on it and then tried to reel him in. Gus (I decided to go with Gus) was a clever chappie and swam over to the bank where he snagged the line around a tree root or something.

So, the trapper hung out and waited. I got bored and hot and went back to my boat for a snack and some sunscreen. When I came back, the trapper tried reeling him in again and the line broke. Then he hooked the line with another pole and went at it again.

“Are you relocating them?” I asked, while cautiously looking over the side of the dock to make sure that Gus hadn’t snuck under that when we weren’t looking.

“They’re going to be taken to an alligator farm,” the trapper said as he reeled the alligator in towards the dock.

I had visions of an alligator farm being a well fenced in area full of swamps for the alligators to frolic in and grassy banks for them to nap on in the afternoon sun. It seemed ideal – the alligators would live out their lives in a peaceful sanctuary and people could let their kids play and safely walk their dogs and cats along the docks at the marina without worry.

What I didn’t realize until later was that the trapper didn’t say that he was relocating the alligators, just that he was taking them to the farm. There’s a difference. Relocation, in my mind, is like the witness protection program. You go someplace new, leave your past behind and are safe from people who wish you harm. Taking them to the farm is entirely different. It’s a place where you farm alligators for their meat and skin. Sure, the gators went someplace new, but they weren’t safe from harm.

Turns out that Florida has a “healthy and stable” alligator population (1.3 million alligators live here!) and, as a result, nuisance alligators aren’t relocated. If you did try to relocate them, the alligators already living there would get pissed off and everyone would start fighting. Plus, alligators will try to return to their home base and be all that more difficult to trap again. When you read the Florida Fish and Wildlife website, it makes sense in a logical sort of way. Although, as we all know, logic can be overrated.

I’m kind of glad that I didn’t know on the day what the future had in store for the Fred and Gus. It probably would have made the day a bit less exciting and a bit more sad.

But, nonetheless, it was fascinating to watch as the trapper got Gus up to the side of the dock and, with the help of another guy, got a grappling hook onto him, hauled him up on the dock and sat on him to tape his mouth shut. I kept my distance while this was going on, naturally.

Then, they “walked” the alligator down the dock and over to the grassy area, where the trapper took a well-deserved rest (after all Gus was over 5’ in length and around 150 lbs, which wouldn’t have been easy to wrestle with), while we all gawked at Gus.

I’m keeping my eyes open, because I’m pretty sure some other alligators will move into this territory. Hopefully, nobody feeds them this time.

Have you ever seen an alligator (or crocodile) close up and personal? What do you think about alligator trapping and farming?

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04 May 2016

3 Things I Learned About Writing From Nancy Drew | IWSG

During April, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, where bloggers come together to indulge in a bit of communal insanity, by posting on their blogs every day during the month (except Sundays – even the insane need a day off). It’s a great way to discover new blogs, learn new things (like how to kill someone through ectopia), join in a virtual community of like-minded people, and have an opportunity to practice writing in a supportive environment.

When I did the challenge last year, practicing my writing really wasn’t the goal. It was all about surviving, about churning out 26 random blog posts during the month. But, this year, I wanted to focus more on my writing, as well as add an extra dash of craziness to the whole endeavor by using a theme. And that theme was Nancy Drew, America’s favorite teenage girl detective.

Basically, I wrote a short story featuring Nancy’s investigation into the perplexing “Case of the Missing Anchor,” and presented it in installments aligned to each day’s letter (A is for Anchor, B is for Boatyard etc.)

While it was a form of story-telling, I didn’t stress out too much about it because, hey, it’s a blog, and no one expects too much from a blog, least of all me. Blogs, in my mind, are meant to be fun, informal ways of expressing yourself and sharing snippets of your life. Yes, I do realize that there are more professional or business related blogs out there, but mine is a far cry from that, so I felt no pressure whatsoever about impressing anyone.

It turned out to be a great way to practice my writing without freaking out, as well as put it out there for others to read. More importantly, it was fun. Given the struggles I’ve been having trying to finish a decent draft of this mystery novel I’m working on, it was nice to just write something silly and have a bit of a laugh. Imagine my surprise when I realized that, in the midst of all this silliness, I had actually learned a few things about writing from Nancy Drew herself.

1 – Sometimes your main character isn’t as much fun to write for as you thought she would be.

In the classic Nancy Drew mysteries, Nancy is clearly the star of the show. After all, the books are named after her. Nancy is poised, charming, clever, kind, immaculately dressed and she always cracks the case. But, she’s a snooze. I can’t relate to her at all. Sure, I’d like to be more like her and have her wardrobe, but I don’t really get her and there were times I got bored writing for her.

Now, her friend, Bess Marvin, she’s my kind of girl. Ditzy, nervous, inept at most things and a serious sugar addict - Bess is fun to write for. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I wrote about Bess’s latest goof-ups and binge eating episodes. I secretly hoped that Bess would engineer some sort of coup d’etat, push Nancy overboard, steal her beau, Ned Nickerson, and take over the dastardly ring of thieves stealing stuff at the marina.

However, Nancy knew better (and doesn’t she always) and convinced me to stick to convention, letting Nancy solve the case while Bess remained in her role as faithful sidekick, along with her cousin George. Thankfully, Nancy did let me know that when it comes to writing my mystery novel, I should feel free to let my characters battle it out and if someone more interesting than my original main character comes along, a coup d’etat would be perfectly fine, as long as there were plenty of chocolate chip cookies to console the losers with.

2 – Third person can be rather impersonal.
Does third person ring a bell? Take a trip back down memory lane to your English classes at school. Imagine Mrs. Smythe scowling at the class and standing up at the blackboard writing down words like he, she, it, they etc. That’s third person – writing about things from the point of view of a someone who isn’t you or me. I wrote my Nancy Drew story in third person, because that’s the way they’ve always been done and who am I to challenge convention, what with Nancy at my side reminding me of the importance of convention, especially when it comes to matching shoes and handbags and demure hemlines. All of my earlier drafts of my mystery novel were in third person as well.

Until I had a revelation. Actually, it was less of a revelation and more of Bess shouting inside my head saying things like, “Let me out of here! Get rid of the Nancy chick! She’ll dull! She’s dragging this story down!” Bess talks with a lot of exclamation points. It’s annoying sometimes. But, once I gave Bess some brownies to shut her up so I could get a few minutes peace, I realized that it was almost like I was talking, not Bess. "I" as in the first person.

If Bess had engineered a coup d’etat during the “Case of the Missing Anchor,” I’m pretty sure she would have taken over the story and we would have been hearing from her directly, in a much more personal way.

I know how this works from experience, because the main character of mystery novel recently took control, demanded to be heard and now I’m writing everything in first person. Things are going much more smoothly. And, yes, I know that first person isn’t what all the cool kids use when they’re writing, but let’s face it, this isn’t going to be any literary masterpiece that I churn out, so the first person will do just fine. Plus, it’s a lot more personal.

3 – I don’t have a long attention span.

I found it relatively easy to write the “Case of the Missing Anchor” because it’s short (around 15,000 words). Granted, it’s an incredibly simplistic plot so I didn’t need a lot of words to get the case solved. Chunking it into letters made each piece of writing I needed to do even shorter and more manageable.

When I try to work on my mystery novel, it seems so overwhelming at times (I’m aiming for 75,000 words) and no matter how I try to chunk things up mentally, I still get blocked. Perhaps, I just have a short attention span or I’m easily distracted by shiny things and episodes of House of Cards.

Nancy told me that I just have to suck it up and get on with it. Of course, everything comes easily to Nancy. Did you know that she’s a New York Times bestselling author? She writes under the pen name of Carolyn Keene so that people in River Heights don’t constantly ask her for her autograph. Now, that you’ve seen this other side of Nancy, you can probably understand why I was hoping for a coup d’etat by Bess.

Tips on how to channel my inner Nancy and cope with writing a novel-length manuscript would be gratefully received.

Whether you participated in the A to Z Challenge or just enjoyed reading everyone’s A to Z blog posts, what was the best part of the challenge for you? Did you learn anything new and interesting? 

Linked up with the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

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02 May 2016

April In Numbers & Links To Cool Sailing Blogs

Clockwise from upper left hand corner: (1) Good wildlife at the marina. I'm kitty sitting Georgie the Adventure Cat while her humans are away; (2) Bad wildlife at the marina. It was a fine alligator who minded its own business until someone decided feeding it would be a good idea. That bad human turned this alligator into a nuisance pest and he had to be removed; (3) The insides of my computer. Hard to believe all of that junk in there lets you surf the internet and buy things on eBay; and (4) A picture one of the girls at the school I volunteer at gave me. Aww.

Although, it’s been all Nancy Drew on the blog during April, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t other stuff going on. It was an action packed month! Okay, well not exactly action packed, but some action happened. It was an action happening kind of month! If by action happening, one means that a few things got done at the sort of leisurely pace that a three toed sloth would find acceptable, then it was full-on.

So, what exactly did happen? Let’s find out, by the numbers.

  • 26 – The number of blog posts I published as part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I actually wrote most of them during March, so I can’t exactly take credit for it during April, but it took a sloth-like amount of effort to make sure they got published each day, so I’m counting it. If you missed the whole Nancy Drew Investigates series and want to find out if Nancy cracked the “Case of the Missing Anchor,” just hop on over to this page where you can find a list of all of the posts and a recap.
  • 150  – The approximate weight in pounds of Gus the Alligator, who was trapped at my marina in southern Florida, along with his buddy, Fred. You can read more about it on Friday.
  • 6 – The number of months ago when I last replaced the joker valve in our marine toilet. I had to replace it again during April. It’s a gross and stinky job. I thought these things were supposed to last for a year, if not two. Six months was disappointing. Did I mention that it’s a stinky job? Ick. You can read more about my first attempt in changing joker valves and the importance of turkey basters here.
  • 26 – Number of hours I spent studying up on diesel engines. Can you believe it? Okay, I may have made that number up, but it seems like I’ve spent a lot time thinking about diesel engines. Me, of all people, reading engine manuals and books on diesel engine repair. Messing about with engines is a lot less gross and smelly than fixing marine toilets.
  • 13.3 – The draft version of my murder mystery that I’m working on. I’ve metaphorically ripped up a dozen drafts already (deleting documents on a computer isn’t nearly as satisfying as ripping up paper), but I think I’m finally gotten this heading in the direction I want it. Yes, it’s set on a sailboat and, of course, there are UFOs, cats and chocolate involved. Would you expect anything less.
  • 2 – The number of Moody 346 owners that I met during April. It’s so much fun meeting people who have the same boat as you do. This is the third set of Moody 346 owners that have come to visit me in Florida. How cool is that! I’ll tell you more about meeting Karen and John and the Moody Owners Association later this month.
  • 2 – The number of bloggy pals I finally got to meet in real life! Jaye and her husband, Dan, from Life Afloat, came for a visit to Indiantown Marina. I’ve known Jaye virtually for a couple of years now and it was so much fun to meet her in person. She’s just as adorable as I thought she would be and she brought me an exciting present from Aruba. You’ll have to wait to find out more about the present. It will be worth the wait, I promise. (I’m just full of teasers about what’s coming up on the blog this month, aren’t I? It’s like going to see a movie and watching all of the previews, which turn out to be more exciting than the real thing.)
  • 2 - But, wait, there's more bloggy pals! Lucy, and her husband, Matt, from The Larks of Independence, popped by for a visit on there way to Georgia, via Orlando. I got to know Lucy recently through the A to Z Challenge and it was fun to get to know her in real life too. They live on their boat not too far from here and they plan on going to the Bahamas next season, so I know we'll get a chance to meet up again. Yay!
  • 11 - The number of mud daubers I've seen inside my boat. I think there's a nest somewhere inside the hull in a very hard to reach place (hard to reach if you're a normal sized human, not hard to reach if you're a mud dauber) and now it's hatching season. Every day, one or two of them awakens, like something from that Invasion of the Body Snatchers, crawls out from inside the hull into the main part of the boat where humans live and flies around madly wondering how they ended up here. I run up and open the hatch and encourage them to leave. Eventually they do. It's creepy.
  • 2 - Number of times I took my computer apart to give it a stern talking to. It kept turning itself off after a few minutes (a problem we had about a year ago). I took everything apart, looked around carefully, fixed absolutely nothing, put it back together and it started working again. Until...the keyboard stopped working. Some of the keys worked, but none of the really useful ones, like vowels. I took it apart again, monkeyed around with a cable, put it back together and restored all my consonants and vowels. The CTRL key doesn't work, but I can work around that.
  • 3 – Number of things I won during a giveaway as part of the A to Z Challenge, thanks to Michelle over at Writer in Transit. I was the lucky winner of Alex J Cavanaugh’s book, CassaStar. It was right up my alley – spaceships, aliens and telepathy. Plus, it made me teary-eyed in parts. Always a sign of a good book. I also won a copy of The Partners’ Progeny, a short story by Shelly Arkon, and Writing in a Nutshell by Jessica Bell. I haven’t had a chance to read either of these yet, but I’m looking forward to it. 

Hopefully, your April was full of chocolate chip cookies and bacon cheeseburgers (if you like that sort of thing), meeting up with old and new friends, and working engines. And, here’s hoping your May is full of more of the same.


Normally, at the end of my “By the Number” posts, I list a few of our blog posts from the previous month that you may have missed. But, since I did “Nancy Drew Investigates” during April, I thought I would flag up my favorite posts from each of the sailing blogs who participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge last month instead.

I read a gazillion other blogs during the challenge, which I loved, but it would be impossible to list all of them (and my inner sloth would revolt at all of that work), so, instead I’m just focusing on just sailing blogs (can you believe it there were seven of us, that I know of, participating!). Check them out – they’re fascinating, even if you aren’t a sailor. Probably even more so, if you’re not a sailor, because it’s kind of a weird way of living.

Larks of Independence

Lucy’s goal during the challenge was to provide tasty boat tidbits, washed down with a shot of snarky British slang. Not only can you read about what it’s like to live on a boat, you can also learn all sorts of great words and phrases like palaver, mind the gap and collywobbles. Lucy’s blog posts brought me right back to my days living in Scotland and New Zealand. My favorite one has to be Knickers in a Twist, because, honestly, that phrase cracks me up.

Life Afloat

Dan and Jaye have been living on board their boat for 14 years. My favorite post during the challenge was FAQs, Flat Surface Syndrome & Favorite Things about Living Afloat. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to live on a boat, you can find the answers there. Even if you’re not a boat person, you’ll want to check it out just to find out what “flat surface syndrome” is all about.

Little Cunning Plan

Melissa is a practicing psychotherapist who did an amazing series of posts on anxiety, illustrating each topic with stories from her cruising and sailing experiences. I like how she aimed to “normalize” anxiety, as well as offered tips and tricks on how to deal with one’s anxious brain. My favorite post during the challenge was R is for Reality Checks & Relationships, which talks about the effect of anxiety on one’s partner and vice versa. Melissa did a great job injecting her trademark humor into a serious subject matter and making it digestible and fun to read.

Roaming About

While not strictly a sailing blog, Liesbet lived aboard a boat with her husband for eight years, cruising down the East Coast, around the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and over to the Pacific Islands. Her A to Z series focused on life as a nomad, drawing on many of her sailing and cruising experiences in her posts. My favorite post during the challenge was H is for Health, where she talks about the links between good health and living a nomadic life. Liesbet experienced this firsthand when her husband was diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively young age (yes, it can happen to men). In H is for Health, you can find a link to an earlier blog post about how this changed their cruising plans, which is well worth a read.

SV Cambria

Stephanie and David have been living on board their boat for 15 years, first in New Zealand and now in the Pacific Northwest. Another long term liveaboard couple! Stephanie and I made a boggy connection due to our love of New Zealand and she’s another one of those bloggers (like Jaye and Melissa), who I’ve known online for a few year. My favorite post during the challenge was B is for Boat. Stephanie takes you on a virtual tour of their Westerly Ocean 43 sailboat. I’ll confess it – I’m nosy and like to snoop around other people’s houses, so it was fun to see their gorgeous boat.

Til the Butter Melts

Keith and Nikki are planning to sail their boat down from Maine to Florida later this year, store it at Indiantown Marina during hurricane season and then make their way south, to where the butter melts. My favorite post during the challenge was Learning Styles, where Keith talks about some of the differences between how men and women learn (generally speaking) and how this relates to sailing with his wife.